when the gods of war come calling - Chapter 2 - Anarchy_and_Piglins (2024)

Philza Craft was a man who enjoyed a challenge.

If anything, he relished them. Life could get unbearably tedious without something to sink his teeth into. Phil had known from a young age there was nothing as powerful as devotion, and nothing as mind-numbingly incapacitating as boredom. Growing up as a noble meant he never had to work hard to get anything he wanted as a child, or even as an ambitious teenager trying to make a name for himself within the social circles of the capital. With a grin and a wink, it had been easy to earn the favor of many and the envy of few. Money could gain you a lot in this world, patience and knowing when to hold your tongue even more so.

As soon as he came of age, he was promoted to a captain ranking within the royal military on the merit of nepotism. Phil's mother had died in childbirth and his father passed away a few years before, leaving him in the care of an obnoxious uncle, but it seemed the old man's reputation was good for something after all. Despite the lack of experience, he got a pretty decent gig with minimal risks attached.

Phil could have probably lived out his days like that and found reasonable happiness in it. Bite his tongue within the military for a few years, find a woman of high birth who he could stand to be around and share his bed with, then have a few kids and retire early on his accumulated wealth so he could move to a manor in the countryside and spent the rest of his time hunting and reading. It's what most men in the same position as him would have done.

The problem was that Phil would rather be shot in the f*cking head than live that way.

The mere thought of such a mundane existence was enough to make him violently appalled. So he started to train, and he rose in the ranks not on fame but on skill. He watched for every opportunity or position that he would be denied and then fought tooth and nail to earn it. Sure, some of the esteem he had gained turned into skepticism or even disdain as Phil grappled his way into having things that weren't handed to him on a silver platter, but that only made it all the sweeter when he closed his fist around them.

And by the time the war broke out, Phil was standing side by side with the Queen as one of her most trusted generals and strategists.

Phil thought back on that time fondly. Warfare would cause a thrill unlike any other, and say what you wanted but boredom was not an issue anymore. Most of the military logistics fell on Phil's shoulders to keep track of and ensure a prompt execution of the Queen's demands. She was a fair ruler, but merciless to those that opposed her. She knew very well that sometimes, the end did justify the means. She realized that sacrifices were an essential part of peace. Phil admired Kristin a lot for that. Not once had he regretted that - out of all the people in this world - she was the one he turned his devotion to.

The war was also where Phil met Techno.

He wouldn't say they had a great amount of familiarity with each other. Their acquaintanceship was one made in passing. The crown first employed Techno's former blacksmithing master during the early days of the scuffle, a man known for his own great talent at the craft and a tendency to bend and play with the flames in such a way that he almost seemed to be able to make them spew forth from his very lungs. Techno was at the end of his apprenticeship and it made sense for the crown to take him on too. The war was bad enough that any additional hands were appreciated.

It didn't take long for them to realize the true treasure they had found in employing Techno. His blacksmithing was unlike any Phil or his generals had ever seen before. Techno's own master admitted that his apprentice had far surpassed him and was showing more talent by the day. Techno was an incredibly fast and dedicated worker, churning out orders that Phil had calculated would take most men weeks if not months to complete in a matter of days. The first time that happened, Phil had gone to inspect the shipment himself, wary that the speedy delivery meant they'd received weapons of subpar quality. But nothing could be less true.

The weapons Techno created were sturdy, sharp, and made of the finest materials. Phil knew as soon as he picked up one of the battle axes Techno had crafted for them that the weapon was perfectly balanced. The handle was smooth and allowed for a flawless grip. It was exemplary.

So Phil had promptly ordered for Techno to be made the military's main supplier.

They had infrequent run-ins with each other over the years that the war dragged on. Techno divided his time between his forge and going onto the battlefield with the troops sometimes, for last minute repairs and longer campaigns. Phil was mostly removed from the actual thick of it. He joined battles when needed or when he got bored from being cooped up, but most of the time he was pulling the strings from a safe distance. Whenever they did meet, Phil had found Techno to be remarkably averse to small talk. He'd hesitate to even call the two of them friends. But both of them had been busy with other tasks to focus on, so Phil could hardly say he cared. When the war ended, he returned to the Queen's side. He hadn't spent more than a few idle thoughts on Techno since.

Until the man was bold enough to refuse their order.

"Only a visit?" Techno asked. Phil would be a fool not to notice the obvious hostility dripping from him, or the way Techno kept looking at him from the corner of his eye even as he returned to his blacksmithing.

"Only a visit," Phil lied.

He took a step, but then stopped because the wolf at Techno's feet sat up and growled at him. Phil stared back, though the animal did not seem very intimidated. Phil flicked his wing at it in annoyance, subtle enough that Techno wouldn't notice.

"It's been over a decade since I've seen you," he said casually enough, walking so he could lean against the wall in front of Techno instead. "Call it nostalgia, but I was hoping to see how you've been."

Techno made a noise that was not entirely dissimilar from his wolf's growling. A deep hum with just the slightest edge of sharpness to it. Techno was as keen as his blades. Phil assumed he wouldn't be easily believed by him.

"You seem to have done quite well for yourself," he added, pretending to look around the forge in admiration.

"The entire world runs on ironwork," Techno said. "Every horse, every farmer. Even the cups our Queen drinks from." Technically, those would be silverwork. But Techno wasn't wrong that a blacksmith would have a hand in them. "Especially during times of war."

Ah, Techno must be trying to bait him into revealing his real reason for stopping by. Two could play that game.

"I suppose that's true," Phil said with a small chuckle. "Don't mistake my intentions. I never doubted that a man of your talent would find some sort of work. But if my job takes me to this town, why not see for myself, right? If curiosity is my worst vice, I'm better off than most."

Techno made another noise, something closer to a barked laugh. Phil decided not to comment.

"You took an apprentice?" he asked. The blacksmith looked up at him, so Phil indicated the crude metal bell that sat on one of the workbenches. "Your creations are not usually that sloppy."

"Most blacksmiths pass on their craft," Techno said.

"Sure, you just never struck me as the teaching kind."

The silence that dragged on between them was broken only by the sharp ringing of a hammer against steel. Techno was pretty damn good at ignoring Phil completely. Left without anything to work with, Phil tried not to sigh. Techno wouldn't give him an inch without struggle, that much was clear.

"Well, I don't want to disturb you for too long." Phil pushed off the wall again, stretching his wings back out. "It was good to see you, mate. My business might make me linger in town for a little while, so maybe we can talk more later."

Another hum, Techno turning around to submerge the red hot iron into a tank of water to the sound of a loud hiss. Phil shook his head but left the forge the same way he had come. Directness was often the preferred method to get what he wanted. Rarely was it the easiest. Phil wasn't worried. If anything, this would make his job a lot more interesting.

War was brewing along the borders with Enderia once more. To be honest, Phil hadn't been this excited in over a decade. Kristin made certain he always had something to entertain himself with, knowing how fickle he could get otherwise. And running a country was hard labor anyway, Phil was very adept at making himself of use to her in any way he could. When Techno refused their order for weapons to be made, Phil had been surprised but also intrigued. He wanted to know exactly why Techno wouldn't join the war effort, what it might take to sway his mind. How Phil could make it just so.

Phil liked a challenge. And he hated being told no.

At the town square, he looked around so he could find the most approachable person among the lot. He settled on a young man of a lanky build and medium height. His fiery red hair was not what made him stand out to Phil as much as the small pouch around his hip with a letter sticking out of it.

"Hey, you, do you have a minute?" He reached out to grab the man's elbow.

The man jumped a little at Phil's forward approach - usually gentleness was the better road. When trying to catch a fly, one better fill the trap with honey than vinegar - but since Phil was in a hurry to get something to latch onto before the sun set so he could report back to the Queen, he had little patience. The man's eyes widened when they caught sight of his wings. Avians were more common in the capital than in small towns.

"I'm wondering if you could help me out," Phil said, offering the man his most charming grin. "I'm traveling through on royal business but one of the axles on my cart broke just outside of town. I won't be able to make it to my destination like this, so I'm hoping there's a blacksmith around who might be able to fix me up a new one?"

"A blacksmith?" The man's face lit up. "Oh yeah, we got the best one in a hundred-mile radius right here in town!"

"Really?" Phil allowed his eyebrows to rise a little. If anybody else had said the same thing, he'd probably be filled with a healthy dose of skepticism. As it stood, he knew that Techno very likely was the most skilled craftsman in this country so the man was pretty spot on with his assessment.

"Yeah, definitely. You should tell him Fundy sent you, then he knows I helped you find him." The man smirked, showing his teeth. "Or, you know what- I could take you there right now!"

"Oh, no, no, I wouldn't want to bother him this late," Phil said quickly. "Besides, I need to find an inn to stay at first. I'll go see him in the morning. Where does he live?"

Fundy nodded eagerly, pointing in the direction Phil had come from about five minutes earlier. "Can't really miss the giant forge, trust me. It's a red brick house, with a green door. There's always smoke coming from the chimney too. You can knock on the front door but if nobody opens, just walk around back and somebody will be in the workshop."

"He has more than one person working there?" Phil asked. Acting stupid was real f*cking easy if this Fundy basically set him up for it.

"He's got an apprentice named Ranboo. Tall guy, Enderian so he sticks out like a sore thumb. And Tommy usually hangs around too."

"Tommy?"

"Techno's brother. Kind of? Long story, honestly. Techno is the blacksmith, I mean, and he took Tommy in not long after moving here. Thick as thieves, those two-" Fundy snapped his mouth shut. "Sorry, Niki always does say I ramble too much."

"No, you've been of immeasurable help to me," Phil said. "I know exactly where I'll need to be tomorrow." He dug some gold coins out of his pocket. "Here you go, for your trouble."

Fundy perked up again, quickly swiping the money from Phil's palm. Thank f*ck for the town gossipers, it made Phil's job so much easier.

He went back to the inn where the Queen had already arranged days ahead of his travel for the loft to be his as long as he needed it. The accommodations were a little less lavish than what Phil favored, but they would do for his purposes. He sat down at the desk, lit a candle, and started to compose a letter.

His Queen wanted him back soon. The war made her restless, hungry to strike. And when she did, she wanted Phil at her side where he was of the most use. Phil wanted that too, more than anything.

However, the Queen also requested the best weaponry hands could craft for her army. Techno was the only one who could provide that. Phil would not leave before he could return to his Queen with all her heart's desires.

Phil was still deliberating what his next move should be when another opportunity threw itself into his lap.

Truly, Phil was not the sort of person to believe in any superstitions, but the way fate itself seemed inclined to tip the scales ever so slightly in his favor brought a smile to his face. He knew Techno wouldn't easily be convinced to change his mind. The thrill of pushing him until he did was going to be a lot of fun.

And Tommy would make that a lot easier.

Happenstance had them running into each other. Phil was mapping out the rest of town, making sure he knew the layout in case it ever would come in handy. He knew Techno would surely be suspicious if Phil went back barely a day after his first visit, he needed to allow some time to pass so Techno could reasonably think Phil was occupied with whatever royal decree had sent him out to this place, and that him checking in had only been a courtesy call.

While he was there, he might as well check the draft notice.

Since the war was not a certain thing yet - not in the minds of the people, Kristin's mind was another matter entirely - there was only voluntary military conscription at the moment. There could be made an argument that what the crown offered in exchange for loyalty was a prize steep enough that most saw little choice than to take it. But it remained an offer all the same, one that could be refused. Much like Techno refused to make their weapons. Only when Enderia kickstarted a full assault, would a mandatory draft go out. It was a matter of time.

Phil was looking over the draft notice on the town square when a blond teenager stepped up beside him.

"You're the Crown's Angel," the man said.

"Among other things." Phil turned around to face him. "And you are?"

"Tommy." Surprisingly, the boy stuck out his hand. Phil shook it. His skin was too unblemished to be that of a true blacksmith, but the ash clinging to his collar told another tale. Tommy was not the most uncommon name, but Phil would bet some money on this being the person Fundy mentioned.

"How did you know who I am?" Phil asked, pretending that the noticeboard caught his attention more than the slight changes in Tommy's expression, small shifts that told Phil a whole lot of things.

"Uh, have you noticed the huge black f*cking wings on your back?" Tommy said, not having learned his abrasive attitude from Techno if Phil were to guess. In the capital, Phil could have sentenced a man to death for speaking to him so briskly.

In this situation, it was quite telling.

"There are many avians in the world. Maybe not around these parts, but I hope you don't think anybody with black wings is the Queen's herald, mate."

"Of course not, I'm not stupid," Tommy said quickly. "But Fundy told me you're here on royal business, so who else could you be?"

Fair enough. Phil should have expected that the town gossip thing would work both ways. He'd cast the net to be extra safe, also the fewer lies he told the easier they were to keep straight. He didn't know it would prompt Tommy to stumble into conversation.

"You're clever," Phil said, watching how it made Tommy puff up in pride. So obvious. Flattery would be easy with him. "Too clever to sign up for the draft, I bet?"

Tommy's expression fell fast enough that it was almost comical. Phil fixed his pale blue eyes on some point over Tommy's shoulder, lest he burst out laughing on accident.

"Why would you say that?" Tommy asked.

"Since that's what I came to check in on. War is dangerous, it's always such a tragedy when young souls lose their lives in it, even if it's needed for the country," Phil said. He drenched his voice in just the right amount of fake sorrow to make it come across as sincere. "After that whole nasty business from a decade ago, I hoped it would never come to this again."

Tommy swallowed, lips pulling tighter together. "My father died in the old war."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Phil said. "All the more reason not to sign up, right?"

"Yeah, not to mention Techno would have my f*cking head if I did."

Hook, line, sinker.

Maybe Phil should not have gotten so excited, this would simply be too easy.

"It's normal for us to want our loved ones to be safe," Phil pointed out.

"I guess." Tommy frowned at himself, nose pulling up a bit with some internal worry Phil wasn't privy to. The things he did say out loud were more than a little enlightening though. "So that's what you're in town for? The draft, I mean?"

Ah, was that why Tommy addressed him?

A boy itching to go to war, to follow in his father's footsteps and defend his country even if it meant dying a hero's death. And the man taking care of him, who had the blood from the old war sticking under his nails still, who wanted to prevent that at all cost.

Child's play. People could be so horribly predictable at times.

"Partly. I'm also here because the Queen has requested some… assets. Assets only this region can provide us." Phil winked at Tommy for good measure. He wanted to make the boy feel comfortable, as if Phil was letting him in on a little secret.

Tommy did not let him down, eyes brightening. "Like what?"

Phil clicked his tongue. "I'm afraid that's confidential, mate. No matter how clever you are."

Tommy hid his disappointment well. But not well enough for it to completely pass Phil's notice. He smiled, inclined his chin a bit, and tucked his wings against his back.

"I probably have to go now. It was lovely talking to you, Tommy. I hope we'll get another chance to chat."

"Oh, yeah, see you around!" Tommy even waved at him.

Phil decided two more days of waiting would be more than enough before he could set his plan into motion.

Fundy had not been lying, Ranboo did stand out like a sore thumb.

His Enderian heritage showed in the darkness of his hair and the paleness of his skin. He had striking green eyes, bright in a way that almost seemed to make them glow. Phil knew the rumors that would claim Enderians were descended from dragons. They even plastered the creature all over their gaudy banners and shields. Nothing Phil witnessed during border skirmishes would have him suspect there was any truth to the rumor, but the persistence of the belief was undeniable.

He lingered around the bakery for over three hours waiting for Ranboo to show up.

Phil considered his trick for a long while, judging it to be more effective on Ranboo than Tommy. The teen basically exuded nervous energy. He came across as the type of person Phil would have kicked out of his recruits instantly because he couldn't be trusted on the battlefield. What Techno saw in him was a complete mystery to Phil, though he supposed one didn't need to be good at handling weapons to make them.

When Ranboo left the bakery, Phil stood up.

A small amount of quick footwork was required, but Phil managed to walk into Ranboo in such a way that it really would appear more like the boy bumped into him rather than the other way around. If Phil then stumbled, and dropped onto his knees, it was quite convincing. He allowed the bag he was holding to slip from his hands, spilling the contents over the ground. Two of the puffy pastries he bought at the bakery earlier, while Ranboo's own load remained in his arms.

"Oh- Oh, f*ck, sorry." Ranboo started to trip over his words immediately, kneeling down to help Phil up. "I'm so, so sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"It's alright," Phil said brushing himself off but allowing the younger man to hold his arm, resting some of his weight on Ranboo to give the illusion that he couldn't get upright as easily by himself. "It's my fault, I wasn't looking where I was going."

"No, I'm very sure it was my fault," Ranboo said softly. He looked down at the pastries, completely ruined. Especially since Phil purposefully ground his heel into one while getting up.

Phil followed his gaze, allowing his wings to droop. "Ah, crap. There goes my dinner."

"I'm so sorry," Ranboo said again, getting more flustered. Guilt was such an easy thing to exploit.

"Never mind." Phil patted his elbow. "I'm sure skipping a single meal won't kill me."

"I can give you some coins to replace them-" Ranboo began, already digging into his pocket.

"Don't you dare. How old are you, seventeen, eighteen? I'd feel terrible taking money from a kid at my age," Phil said sternly.

"Then let me share some of my bread with you," Ranboo said. "You don't want this to keep me up at night, do you?"

Phil let out a real laugh at that, vaguely amused. Things were definitely going according to plan. "Why, if you insist but… but that's a lot of bread for one person, you're buying it for your family right?"

"I, well- Yeah?"

"Then I feel you should at least bring it home first. I can't let them go hungry over your mistake." He noticed Ranboo flinch slightly at that word. "Dry bread is not much of a meal anyway."

"That's definitely true…" Ranboo considered it for a moment.

"So unless you're offering to also share the rest of your dinner, there's not really a point in offering to share. Don't beat yourself up over it." Phil pulled back to brush the last remaining dirt from his clothes. He knew the suggestion was ambiguous enough that Ranboo wouldn't question it. That he'd think the decision was one he made himself, not one Phil snuck into his thought process by implying it was what he should do.

This kid wouldn't last a day at war. Another notion Phil filed away for later.

"Maybe we could? Share the rest of our dinner, I mean. Techno probably wouldn't mind, he always lets Fundy steal our food anyway." Ranboo was more so talking to himself than to Phil at this point. Phil clapped him on the back, already steering him in the direction of the forge.

"Really? That's kind of you. I appreciate it, mate."

The walk only took them a handful of minutes. Phil wasn't entirely sure what Techno's reaction would be to him showing up on his doorstep unannounced a second time in less than a week, but he had a fair idea that the other man wouldn't completely bar him from entering. Wouldn't be happy to see Phil either.

They went around to a small door at the back of the forge that opened up straight into a chaotic kitchen slash dining room. The space was pretty cramped, Phil instinctively tucked his wings down in preparation for having to squeeze in there. He was so preoccupied he barely noticed that Techno was standing at the stove.

"Hey, guys, I brought the bread. And also uh, this guy?" Ranboo had to duck his head while entering too, lest he hit it on the top of the door.

"It's you again!" Tommy pointed at Phil from where he was sitting at the table, working on some small pieces of metal with a hammer. He seemed to be straightening crooked nails.

"Tommy?" Phil fitted surprise on his face with ease.

"What is he doing here?"

Techno was staring at him with an amount of coldness Phil had never encountered. Before he realized it, his lips had already pulled up into a wide grin.

"Your clumsy little apprentice here cost me my food so he had the decency to invite me over for dinner. I thought it was a great time to continue catching up too." Phil did not wait to be offered a seat, taking one on the other end of the table, furthest away from where Techno was standing.

"You two know each other?" Tommy asked, leaning onto the table.

"We served in the war together," Phil said.

Techno slammed a large ironcast pot of stew onto the table with significantly more force than was necessary, some of it sloshing over the edges.

Ranboo very, very hesitantly sat down on Phil's right, wincing at Techno's ire. "I thought you weren't in the military."

"I wasn't," Techno said sharply.

Phil waved his hand. "Right, forgive an old man for forgetting the details. You never were officially enlisted, were you?"

"If I was, I'd be enjoying a military pension right now," Techno said. Phil laughed.

"I seem to remember the Queen paid you graciously."

Techno plucked the bread from Ranboo's hands before grabbing a knife from the counter so he could cut it. In the spirit of not wanting to get stabbed, Phil decided to drop the subject. He couldn't push Techno too hard already, or it would all fall apart.

So for the remainder of dinner, he was very careful about what he said.

He did tell some stories from during the war, usually abbreviated versions of battles that were already immortalized in history books and Phil had the pleasure to be present at. He briefly spoke about the time their entire regiment got delayed when a flash flood turned the road along the border into a mud slope. Techno's quick thinking and some wooden boards had brought the solution that allowed their carts to carry on - when Phil told this story he swore he could catch Techno smirk, just slightly - and Phil remembered being impressed at the blacksmith's application of farming techniques in a military setting.

But he did keep an eye on Techno's body language. Sometimes, he would hold back on saying something at the last second because he could see Techno tense up, could see the small crease in his brow and the sharp glare thrown his way. Often, this happened when Phil talked about the more unpleasant aspects of war, the casualties and the famine.

Or whenever he mentioned how coveted Techno's weapons were.

Phil got the odd impression that while Techno's apprentices did know he used to work on weaponry more, they never got the full story of Techno's role in the war, or how skilled he was at making instruments of bloodshed. Especially from the way Techno dismissed Tommy whenever the younger man started to gush about his wish to make weapons someday in the future too.

It was an intriguing dance, one Phil found he enjoyed immensely. He talked and skirted along Techno's boundaries and watched for any signs the man would push back, only to pull away himself at the last second. There was a measure of elegance to it, of control. But a challenge too, because Phil knew a single wrong move would solidify Techno in his belief that Phil could not be trusted.

At the same time, he could plant his own seeds and build some rapport with the more easily swayed apprentices.

So Phil ate the stew he was offered - a little too salty for his tastes, Techno was a fine cook but after years of being fed only the best delicacies the royal chefs could whip up, Phil had become a bit spoiled - and allowed Tommy and Ranboo to talk his ear off. He sat through all of Ranboo explaining how he fled Enderia after the war. He nodded as Tommy showed him his cruddy metalwork. He answered all their questions about avians. He came up with all the needed responses to show his compassion and his interest.

By the end of it, both the younger men were practically hanging on every one of Phil's words. Steve continued to growl at him whenever he drew near, but that was a loss Phil was willing to stomach.

And when finally, finally, Techno was the one to open the door again and see him out, Phil could only smile pleasantly when he was stopped once they were outside by a hand on his shoulder, turning him around.

"Why are you really here?"

"I told you, I have business in town." Phil narrowed his eyes an inch or so. "Should there be another reason?"

Techno sighed. "Do you think I'm stupid?"

"I think you're probably one of the smartest people in this town," Phil said. And as he did, he realized it wasn't even a lie. "Which is why it boggles me that you wouldn't take our order, considering how much money is involved. Though that's still not the reason I'm here."

Techno squinted at him. No matter how smart he was, deceiving people was a skill that Phil had practiced since his first tutor wanted to tell him what to do and Phil didn't feel like obeying.

"I'm here because the war effort is having trouble finding enough men willing to enlist." A bold-faced lie if Phil ever told one, the barracks were teeming with fresh soldiers. But he hoped Techno wouldn't know that, living a secluded life. "I genuinely wanted to see how you've been, mate. Is that so terrible of me?"

"I-"

"But I won't pretend I'm not curious to know why you rejected our offer?"

Techno crossed his arms over his chest. "As I wrote in my letter, I've got too many orders to fill as is."

"None of them pay as well as we do," Phil said.

"I'm not short on money."

"What about not wanting Enderia to invade and kill us all?"

"Are you admitting the army is that cringe? They don't need my weapons to win."

"Everybody could be called to join the war effort. If it's not making weapons, it'll be forced enlisting eventually."

"Yeah, I'm sure the Queen is going to be looking at the disabled blacksmith first to fill out her precious army ranks. I'll take my chances."

There it was. Phil smiled, a cat that caught a canary in its claws and knew it would die, it just wanted to prolong the suffering first. "You're right. The military is going to be looking at young men recently coming of age. No time to learn to craft a sword if you can be put to better use wielding one."

Techno's expression was unreadable, Phil would give him credit for that. Perhaps it would be more impressive if he didn't already know he won.

Because when he reached out for Techno's wrist, the man did not yank it away. Phil squeezed it gently.

"If you are as smart as I know you to be, you'll take my advice. The Queen wants to employ the best our country has to offer. You could come to the capital, and live at the castle. You'll be safe there. And you could take your apprentices with you, of course, no questions asked. They'd never even come close to the border if they were under the Queen's protection."

Techno didn't answer, mulling over his words for a good ten seconds or more. Phil had to make a deliberate effort not to allow his smile to slip into something closer to mania.

Until Techno looked straight into his face.

"They'd enjoy the same exception when working in a forge employed under the crown too, wouldn't they?"

Phil blinked in bewilderment. "I'd assume so, yes?"

"Then there's no need for us to move to the capital. Send me your order again, I'll see what's manageable for me to produce on my own. The crown doesn't care which one of us three is actually making the weapons. As long as our forge is working on your orders, my apprentices stay."

Techno was absolutely correct in how he had judged the situation.

When Phil was little, his father sometimes tricked him into biting a lemon at the dinner table, so he and his noble friends could laugh at Phil's sour expression. A nasty prank, that was. But Phil had used it as training to learn how to keep a straight face. Even though this burned in the back of his throat just as bitterly.

"You'll have a new order by noon tomorrow," Phil said, letting go of Techno's wrist. Techno nodded. Phil's eye was close to twitching.

When he walked back to his inn, he had to keep in a sincere round of laughter so loud it would probably wake up some of the villagers if he let it out.

Phil had wished for a challenge. Techno knew how to deliver.

The Queen would be satisfied that their weapons were to be made, their army supplied once more by The Blade's magnificent steel. Enderia would never be a threat to them again once their army was through with them this time.

But Phil was allowed some personal enjoyment too.

And he would not be satisfied until Techno was forging those blades from within the safe confines of the royal palace, where he belonged. Phil would make sure of it.

when the gods of war come calling - Chapter 2 - Anarchy_and_Piglins (2024)

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