Story: Infusion

((With a bit written by Janilyn. Took place just before the Whispering Tide.))


When Mel opened the door to his small smithy for the first time since returning from his honeymoon with Jani, he was expecting to find two weeks of light dust. Possibly less, as Kaspu and Samsu, the shems of silver and gold, tended to keep things tidy.

What he was not expecting to see was all ten of his shems dancing in a circle, stomping their stubby legs and waving their short arms in the air, all surrounding something glowing the color of honey.

Mel called to Jani, silently, in his singing telepathic voice, to come see this ritual in his smithy. As quietly as he could, he moved closer to the dancing circle, to see just what it was the shems were up to. With the new vantage, he saw that the little elementals were dancing around his Anima focus ■■■■■■■ sword and the claws he had made for Jani. The weapons weren’t quite in the same state they had left them; the honey-light shone from a sizable piece of amber which now comprised the pommel of the sword, and both claws had smaller amber cabochons attached to the back. No ordinary amber, this; the light inside it was the biomechanical pulse of the Immaculate Machine, and out from it pale green vines wrapped their way slowly up the grip of the sword and the handles of the claws. As the vines grew, tiny leaves unfurled, moving to the rhythm the dancing shems set.

Soon the whole grip of the sword was wrapped, and the tendrils grew up the blade’s ricasso and around one of the guards, forming a hand guard. Then the tendrils thickened and stiffened into golden brown wood, shot with pulsing lines of Anima. The vines growing on the claws wound themselves tightly on the handle and hand guard; when the tendrils hardened into wood, it became a thin protective shell with the glowing amber set like a jewel.

When the growing was done, the shems all stopped dancing. The tiny leaves turned to red and gold and dropped off both weapons. Halibu, the forest shem, toddled over to gather up the fallen leaves with great reverence. Kaspu and Samsu, the lunar and solar shems, stepped into the center of the dancing circle to pick up the weapons. And then, Isatis, the lava shem, happened to look around and see Mel and Jani, who had slipped in quietly, standing nearby, watching them in awe. The elemental performed a full-body double take, looked over at the other shems, and suddenly all ten stopped and turned Mel’s and Jani’s way. Ten startled little elementals acted as if they had been collectively caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

Mel gave them a gentle smile, stepped closer to their circle, then lowered himself so he could look the shems eye to eye. He asked Isatis, in his silent voice, What have you been doing?

Isatis had a voice like rumbling, bubbling hiss of magma. It rumbled about gifts.

Kaspu tinkled and chimed about preparations for strife.

Samsu’s solemn church bell voice tolled of the need for defenders.

Halibu’s voice, soft as wind through trees, murmured of the light of the chosen.

Pitiqu slopped and bubbled about a worrisome calm.

Anzanunzu’s concerns about the future crashed and receded like ocean waves.

Basi’s sun-baked and gritty voice whispered of hope and faith.

Erbu’s existential worries squirmed like maggots and buzzed like flies.

Kasu’s voice fell light as snow and clear as ice, vast and all encompassing.

Abnu spoke of closeness and family in the deep, distant groaning of the earth.

Mel simply looked at the shems, unable to formulate any proper reply. It was rare for them all to gather together, rarer still that some of them spoke, much less all of them. The shems were clearly worried about something, but just as clearly determined to do something about it. While he sat on his heels, dumbfounded, Samsu carried his sword over and offered it to him. After a moment’s hesitation, Mel reached out and grasped the newly grown hilt of his blade. The wood was warm to the touch with just enough texture that he didn’t feel he would lose his grip. It felt right, like it belonged there, more than ever. And he knew there was life and power in his blade now that it hadn’t had before.

Kaspu carried Jani’s claws over to her, while Halibu finished picking up the fallen leaves and presented them to her. She knelt down and carefully accepted the claws from Kaspu, slipping one on and gripping it tightly for a moment as she admired it. From the smile that played across her lips, it was clear that she was pleased with the shems’ gift.

She set aside both claws with care as Halibu approached her. Holding her hands together and cupping them beneath the forest shem’s green and brown-vined appendages, the bright leaves cascaded lightly into her hands, catching the air and the light as they drifted down. Jani carefully shifted the leaves to one hand and closed her fingers above them, her smile broadening. She gave Halibu a slow nod and said quietly in a near-whisper, “Thank you.”

Halibu bowed its whole body and then shyly shuffled away, returning to the company of the other shems.

After a long moment, Mel stood and bowed to the shems in thanks for their gift, not trusting himself to say anything else.

Samsu and Kaspu looked pleased, then they too returned to the company of shems. Finished with their work, the shems scattered to the winds, leaving Mel’s smithy empty with remarkable swiftness.