As I tinkered on the stability linkage on my iron defender, Byron, I heard the hrrumph of my father behind me. I didn’t turn around. If I didn’t get that damned assembly to engage on my pet, Byron would literally run in circles.
“Ayvanna, why can’t you just find work with the Cannith guilds? Stay here and build pets for the city?” my father said slowly. I could hear him settling into the leather armchair behind me. The poot sounds that erupted from that chair made me cheer in laughter as a kid, as if my father was some Warforged with steam leaks blowing out of his butt. Today, I could only roll my eyes.
“You’ve heard the rumors, father. The Coin Lords. The Stormreach Chronicle. War is coming to Xendrik. We need to prepare.”
“Prepare?!” My father hrrumphed again. “House Cannith has some of the finest soldiers we can build. Our constructs can easily stand against any aggressors.”
“But House Cannith is too busy infighting with its own creations, father. The Warforged are afraid, too. They fear a new war will cause the rescinding of the Warforged’s freedoms, return them to slavery and be fodder to our enemies. By law, we can’t make any new living constructs. As much as I love Byron here,” I continued, patting the little shiny dog on his head, “We’ll need more than just robots to fight a new war.”
The stability assembly finally settled into Byron’s backplate with a satisfying clink. I bolted it in place, reattached and checked the harmonic conduits before switching Byron on once more. The dog’s thin red eyes illuminated as it said, “Online and ready, mistress Ada.”
“That’s ‘Ayvanna’, Byron. Begin diagnostics, please.” The little dog always remembers me but never gets my name right when he starts up. I turned my back to my pet to wait for father’s reply.
“The Warforged will come around,” my father answered, and not quite convincingly. “We just need to get that miscreant Toven out of the magistrate before anything can be done.”
“And if we can’t, father, we may still have a war to fight.”
“So what do you plan to offer to Stormreach, hmm? There’s plenty of Artificers out there. You’ll just get lost in the pack.”
I picked up a small bracer with a handful of controls on it. It may had been the ugliest thing my father had seen, from his expression on sight of it, but aesthetics will have to come later. I held out the bracer and said, “I believe I can bring more than one construct to the fight.”
“More? What? By splintering your attention through some arcane art? We’re engineers of Cannith, Vanna, not some spell-wielder that tries to charm his way to victory.”
“No, father. I plan to use my devices to control two iron defenders at once.” I touched a button. Byron immediate ceased his muttering of diagnostic checks–
–While simultaneously, a covered bundle right next to Father sat straight up, the leather blanket sliding off a 2nd iron defender as it showed “DEFENDER 2 READY AND ONLINE.”
Father sat straight up, too, practically flying out of his seat in surprise at the sudden appearance of Defender 2. “What? How are you doing that? The concentration it would take! There’s no way you can manage two defenders unless…no, you didn’t…”
I nodded and took down my ball of hair and rolled up the sleeve on the arm where the bracer sat. I could see the tears in my father’s eyes at the sight of the small adamantine plating covering tiny patches on the side of my head and arm, where skin and bone should be.
“You–you’re self-forging?! Why?” my father stammered.
Despite the obvious emotional bewilderment on his face, I chose to answer scientifically. “It was necessary. Soon, not only can I repair myself faster from damage, but the new circuitry should also help me reinforce any of my summons’s abilities, making them stronger and more durable, too. All of this may work on special summons from other devices, too…I don’t know yet.”
“But why would you…why chop yourself up like a construct like this?” Father’s eyes began to water but I kept my gaze back. I felt my knees wobble.
“Because, Father, if we are going to set an example to the Warforged to fight, not only do the humans of Cannith need to fight, but show that we, too, will enslave ourselves to metal and magic if necessary so that all can be free. The demons of Shavarath, the monsters of Drooam–they don’t care if they see humans or ‘Forged. They just want to see everything we have, everyone we know, destroyed, dead and buried. So…I may be only one human, but I may be able to fight against two, three or even four times the number of foes than an ordinary Artificer.”
The tears flowed heavily from father’s face, his hands shaking visibly. I stepped forward to try to wipe his tears with one gloved hand while taking his hand with my other, but he pulled back, his back straightening.
“I won’t have it,” my father said, a defiant foot stomping in protest. “I will not let you leave. I will call the constable to have you arrested.”
“You can’t. The Cannith Apprentice Council has already approved my credentials and the Coin Lords expect me on patrol in the city center by noon tomorrow. You know what that means.”
Father did know. He stepped backward again and fell back into the seat. Cannith rules of apprenticeship are clear. While a parent’s responsibility is to a child’s welfare as they grow to adulthood, so a child must be responsible as an apprentice and be all but servile to their master until the Cannith apprentice authorities approve their skills through a battery of tests. I passed all of my tests with flying colors days ago. I was 19 now and didn’t need my father to care for me. Now, I was an official Cannith citizen, and my father, my master, had officially completed my training. He could not stop me from leaving.
“Ayvanna…please promise me that you will stay safe,” was all my father could say between his sobs.
“Father…what I’m trying to do is to make sure that you stay safe, too. But if I stay here, we may both be swept away from the approaching war. Cannith’s already lost the city of Cyre. We can’t lose Stormreach. There’s nowhere else for us to go. You’ve taught me what I need to know. I need to use it, for the good of Stormreach.”
Father wiped his face on his shirt sleeve and held out his arms, just as he has for years to entice me to jump to him for a hug.
The trick worked again as I closed my eyes to feel my father’s hug once more. I could tell he didn’t really want to let go, this time.
For a few seconds, I didn’t want to let him go, either.