Edited by Entelechy
As Darius left, he scanned around: there was nothing. He stood in an empty field that extended for miles. This seemed to be the only part of Sahid unilluminated by glowing lights. Darius looked up, the moon’s faint glow dimly illuminating his surroundings. His first thought was that he had been taken to the wrong place, but just before he called for another taxi, he realized where he was: an empty, expansive field without bystanders. The pebble-sized anvil felt rather heavy and warm, meaning that it was time for Darius to strike it again.
“As good a place as any,” he muttered to himself as he withdrew the anvil from his pocket and placed it on the ground. He stepped back as it expanded to its original size. Darius stared at the anvil, his disdain evident yet mixed with a hint of hope. Ever since he had turned twelve years old, it had been his burden to strike at that anvil ten thousand times a day. However, only now did he realize that he was close to something: he could feel its approach when the hammer vibrated in his hands after each strike. He heard it in the way it sounded each time he struck, the comforting buzz and howl that had been spoken of. Yes, it sounded more and more like how the old man had said it would.
Darius reached for his hammer, releasing it from its strap. He sighed and took a deep breath, slowly raising the hammer.
The sound of Darius hammering relentlessly at the anvil echoed throughout the night. Waves of energy radiated from the continuous collisions, blasting ferocious heat waves that gusted through the weeds covering the field. Many thoughts passed through his mind, but he pushed them away. Now was not the time for that; he needed focus. If only he’d known what this routine was really turning him into…
Far away in the night sky, Darius failed to notice the silhouette of an old man wearing a long martial robe. The old man stroked his long beard and hummed the word ‘interesting’ the whole night until long after Darius finished…
Darius woke up later that day, his hammer lying next to the large anvil where he’d left it. He finished all ten thousand strikes before the sun had come up, but had fallen asleep after assaulting the anvil. Now that it was bright and sunny, the light hurt his bleary eyes, and he wondered what time it was. His eyes took a few minutes to adjust, but once they had, it took him mere moments to find a sign he hadn’t noticed before. It was quite the distance away, so it wasn’t strange that Darius had not seen it at night even with his impeccable eyesight. Engraved on the sign were the words: “Spiritsmith guild.”
The sign itself was shaped like an arrow, pointing to the direction the guild assumedly was. Darius walked up to the anvil and once again shrank it to the size of a pebble before placing it in his pocket. He picked up his enchanted hammer and slid it into its strap. Donning the strap, he slung his duffle bag over his shoulder and followed the sign’s direction.
As Darius walked, he noticed he was climbing uphill. Although it gradually steepened, yet Darius hardly took note; his mind was teeming with expectations. As he approached, a humming noise gradually arose. The humming noise grew louder and more defined the closer he came to the guild. Despite that it grew near deafening, he still couldn’t quite make out what it was.
Finally, Darius crested the hill. A large, barren plain stretched a few hundred meters before him. Far off in the distance, an enormous castle supported by four crouching metal giants stood looming and adamant. It floated directly above what seemed to be an incredibly large anvil. The structure was about the size of a middle-sized city. Each of the giants had one hand supporting the platform that supported the castle while the other hand held a large hammer in mid-air as if about to strike at the massive anvil in the center.
As Darius approached the Guild he hardly breathed. He stopped in front of the castle, wondering how he was supposed to climb up there.
As he stood there in complete awe of what he saw, the giant in front of all the others moved, slowly rotating its massive head to stare down at Darius. Its sheer size was more than enough to completely intimidate him. As the giant gazed upon him, Darius felt quite insignificant.
It opened its mouth. Although the giant didn’t actually speak, a loud voice rang in Darius’ mind: “Why have you come here?”
Darius tried his best to speak, but he found that he had completely lost his voice.
“You would do well to answer me now. Why have you come here?”
“I-I have come to apply for the position of Spiritsmith” The words were barely audible as Darius said them with even the silence seeming to oppress his meek speech.
“Very well. You may enter.”
Several wide platforms emerged from the giant’s mouth. They arranged themselves like the taxi’s, stacking all the way up to the entrance of the Spiritsmith castle.
Darius made his way up the stairs, each step little different from a drunkard’s wobble. The giant had scared the young man witless. He could still hear a humming sound coming from inside the castle, that magnificent architecture that seemed capable of withstanding the winds of time and countless armies. It had an archaic feel, and from a glance, one would guess this structure had stood for millennia, and when everything else had turned to dust it would continue to stand for countless more as graceful and imposing as now, lording over the mortal planes.
When Darius reached the top of the stairs, he finally recognized the sheer size of the castle that took his breath away. Great columns reached mind-numbing heights, and long, imposing windows stared out across the castle’s domain. The walls were made of pure marble that stretched into the clouds.
Taking a deep breath, Darius passed through the front entrance, which itself was a great marble gate roughly twelve meters high held open by chains with links the size of his wrist. ‘Reception’ was engraved on the arch above it.
As he made his way to the front desk, countless people stood in several lines that stretched beyond the fathomless halls. Darius walked quickly through the lines, apologizing whenever he bumped into someone, following the lines to what he assumed was the front desk. He was in a white hallway, the roof so high that simply seeing it was enough to make Darius feel dizzy. At first glance, one would feel like they were in some sort of sacred library with thousands upon thousands of scrolls embedded in countless diamond shaped holes that had been punched into the walls.
Darius wondered what all those people were doing there as he walked on, oblivious to the sad truth he would soon swallow.
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