Mithril was one of those mythical elements. That fantastical metal that could slay armies, build fortunes; that treasure of treasures. Swords forged of the fabled substance were supposed ultimate weapons; unbreakable and powerful beyond belief.
Civilisations fought over grains of the stuff.
What deposits that people knew about were said to be hoarded within the vaults of palaces and banks. Or that was what people were told to believe.
Since the dwarves mined the last of the great veins and closed their borders, few people knew what mithril looked like.
But Vanasher did, and so did some of her supporters.
Those who witnessed and small drop of liquid touch the pea sized peace of silver-like metal held their breath.
The reaction was violent. Violet smoke breathed out of the glass and there were gasps from the Dean’s tent and from the mirrors as the proof of what this was became clear.
This was mithril and a large and incredibly pure amount of it. A king’s ransom, a dragon’s hoard; the solution and cause of many of their future problems.
“It’s real.” Chin’era said excitedly.
“I’m rich.” Sorie said not believing the words that escaped her mouth.
Her tiny words did not escape Vanasher’s ears.
The promised five-hundred kilograms of pure gold had been more than worth the weeks and the subtle games with Techscope. The Dean had proved to the Techs that she was someone to take note of, that she wasn’t afraid of them, that she could in fact be a tremendous ally.
That gold was going to change a lot of lives. However, that mithril was going to change a lot more.
“I should remind lady Kingsbrew that her youthful lover might have very well have just inadvertently caused her future death.” Vanasher said bluntly.
Sorie looked at her mentor, confused.
Vanasher decided to elaborate. “You hold what has to be the most sort after elements in the world. Chin’era. How much would you say that this single block is worth?”
The alchemist crossed her arms and stared at Vanasher, her expression said that she expected that the Dean knew the street price of mithril better than she did.
“Current market?” Chin’era shrugged, “I’m guessing, maybe… 17000 gold coins.” she turned to Sorie, “Would milady like a list of the available mansions, or would you prefer to be paid in young princes, assorted by penis size?”
Sorie looked as though she didn’t know if she should have a heart attack or blush at Chin’era’s comment.
Vanasher blamed herself for asking one of the Academy’s strangest ex-students for an opinion.
Chin’era was an odd one that was for sure. Due to an experiment involving a watermelon, Chin’era had permanently lost her eyebrows and suffered third degree burns on her hands.
After years of being teased, Chin’era had come to some sort of epiphany and decided to one day shave her head.
She was one of the… Well. She wasn’t the most eccentric elf to have graduated from the Academy, but she was somebody, who Vanasher, thought of as peculiar.
Peculiar enough that Vanasher had brought her along as one of her many consultants, in the blind hope that the she-elf’s eccentricities would earn the Tech’s attention..
“Thank you, Chin’era.” Vanasher said sarcastically. “Miss Kingsbrew. Do You know where to sell such an item? Are you prepared to fight for it? Are you aware that everyone in this tent has thought of killing you and taking the mithril at least once? Yes, Sorie. I have. I am sorry to inform you, but I am not made of stone.”
Sorie looked as though she had seen her own grave. She had yet to contemplate all the wonderful, imaginative things that her friends, and yes, even her own family, were willing to do to her, to hold such a valuable item.
She had been too overwhelmed by allure of the fabulous metal to contemplate the danger she was in.
The clerk looked to see that Chin’era had pulled out a wand. The bald alchemist wasn’t even bothering to hide what she was prepared to do.
Seeing that her previous student was nearly ready to piss herself from fear, Vanasher held out her hand, more to stop herself and her thoughts. “Be at ease, girl. Give the metal to me, and I will have every student in the Academy perform arduous coping of our master library.”
Sorie appeared about ready to complain, but wisely stayed silent.
Vanasher knew that the clerk was out of her league. This was not a subject up for debate, Sorie was no naïve child, nor was she a powerful battlemage. Her screaming about the unfairness of the world would only result in her colleagues slitting her throat.
“Think about your new library.” Vanasher recommended. “Think about a new little home out here. Two kilograms of gold is not a pittance. And coping hundreds of thick tombs is costly.”
Cowing the rightful owner of the metal, the next course seemed to be directing where this new found wealth should be diverted to.
Whispers began to circulate between Vanasher’s supporters, however, the Dean was not yet ready to celebrate. The look on Chin’era’s face caused her to have doubts.
“Do you have something you wish to discuss, Chin’era?” Vanasher accused.
Chin’era bit her lip. “I do not claim to be an expert. I know only a few obscure tricks passed down through the ages. Shite. The experiment I just used was utilised by Avalon, 5000 years ago. I didn’t know what I was looking at until you told me to try the test.”
One of Vanasher’s supporters sneered, “Fox trickery.”
“That’s just it. I don’t know.” Chin’era confessed. “It’s real. No illusion could withstand the bombardment of dispelling that Lady Nickell smacked it with.”
“More tests?” Sorie said making her contribution.
Chin’era rubbed the bridge of her eyes. “That’s the wonderful thing about rare metal that cost ten times more than gold. They don’t exactly bring in a clunk of mithril into the classroom for us to have a play with.”
“Experts?” Someone said.
This time it was Vanasher who answered. “The only experts are the dwarves. Who, I might remind you all, have such a tight monopoly over the metal that they so much as smell this,” The Dean pointed at the ingot. “and we will have every assassin after us.”
“Not to mention that Techscope will be tipped off as to how rare the stuff is.” Chin’era said. “If they can produce mithril, we might as well raise our bums now and ask them to be gentle.”
“Thank you, again.” Vanasher sarcastically said at the crude she-elf. But it was an apt description of future events.
If Techscope could produce this aluminium as they called it, it could dramatically change the balance of power in the world. It was still unclear as to how much the other kingdoms knew about the new organisation, but that could quickly change.
“Should we warn the Techs about the dwarves?” One supporter asked, her mirror seemed to tremble as if in fear.
“Stupid fool.” Another she-elf shouted. “Why do I need to spell it out for you? We need to get somebody inside that bloody jungle. Hold that demon boy hostage.”
“The alchemist’s guild should have this.” Chin’era argued, “We might be able to duplicate this level of purity.”
“Might.” Vanasher echoed, not reassured that Chin’era or any other non-drawf could pull such an act off.
“No.” One female wizard in the tent said firmly, she took a step closer and frowned at everyone. “The Techs are but one problem. We should worry about the immediate one. What to do with the metal. Lady Nickell, I suggest we build a new Academy wing.”
One of the female elves who were forced to communicate viva magic mirror pointed her painted fingernail at the metal. “That is what the gold is for. Let us forge this gift into a relic. Vanasher. Why sell it or let it collect dust in some vault? Let us use it.”
“Your victory will be a short one.” Another elf called out. “What will you make it into? A sword? A crown? There is only a kilo block. It is barely enough to play with. If the Techs begin to produce large scale amounts of mithril, the block will become less and less valuable. I say that we sell it quickly before they destroy the market.”
As if some great damn had burst, a river of comments flowed forward.
Sorie looked to have sunken deeper into depression. For a brief moment she was one of the richest she-elves in Un Neill, now she was once again, Sorie Kingsbrew, the clerk to librarian and someone who had gotten a reputation for sleeping with younger men when drunk.
Chin’era turned on Vanasher and was halted in place by the piercing gaze of the Academy Dean, “So. You are not even going to discuss this?”
“We are discussing it.” Vanasher said.
“No one outside of dwarf culture has an idea all the qualities mithril processes. No alchemist has been given anything, but a few scratches. Do you understand the discoveries I…”
Chin’era stumbled and rephrased her wording, “How our understanding of alchemy could be greatened by this small block? We don’t even know if this some alien alloy that mirrors mithril.”
Vansaher pretended to think about Chin’era’s rant. “It being made by other worldly means would make the mithril incredibly rarer. Do you think we might be able to add another zero to its worth?”
Disgusted, Chin’era stood, and if expecting the alchemist to start a civil war the she-elves in the Dean’s tent went to their wands, ready to send the alchemist to Morrigan to judge. But instead of uttering a spell the alchemist stormed over to Sorie who panicked.
“You. Child plougher.” Chin’era said griping Sorie’s dress in an iron grip and forcing her onto her feet. “You got the metal for sleeping with that funny horned boy, right?”
“I don’t…” Sorie said, but was interrupted when Chin’era shook her violently.
“Don’t you try lying. The whole bloody area heard how you got drunk and that Jessy boy did some weird Tech sex ritual.”
“What weird sex ritual?” Sorie asked not liking the sound of that.
Instead of answering, Chin’era burst out of the tent.
“Where are you going.” Vansahser growled having not dismissed the lesser scholar.
“To get more.” Chin’era called back. She then almost immediately came back inside the Dean’s tent, “Forgot my stuff.” she said and packed up her alchemy set before she exited the tent for a second time, this time carrying an assortment of volatile ingredients strapped to her back.