The second the sun rose, Pather was up and running. He went straight to Gaja's workbench. To his surprise, the stone master was already awake and working. "Late," Gaja replied. "Late and we still have much work to be done before the ceremony today. Fetch me the polishing powder, coarseness of one."
"The ceremony?" Pather asked in confusion.
"Yes, the ceremony in which the daughter of Íglisa arrives. She is being used as a peace bargain, and will be given to the cheif's son to marry."
"That's cruel!" Pather exclaimed.
"It may be, but it is how things are. Now get me the polishing powder, and tie your tongue in the process!"
Pather required no more prompting before he dashed off.
Gaja carved and Pather fetched for most of the morning. When it was almost time for the ceremony Gaja beckoned. He handed Pather a plane, and a piece of granite.
"Carve this so that it is flat," Gaja ordered. "When it is perfect, I will train you to make weapons. Now change and bathe before the ceremony, you're filthy!"
Pather clutched the gifts to his chest and ran back to his tent, smiling the entire way.
The line was long, so long that Pather could scarcely see the end. He knew what was there, or course. The baby princess, cheif's daughter. Piles of gifts rose up on either side of her, and they were only growing. Pather's offering was a small bowl of stone. It was etched with fantastic scenes of leaves, trees and forestry. Gaja had given it to him right before the ceremony began, with the words "I don't pay you enough for you to buy something yourself."
Pather had just bowed and nodded, choosing not to argue, it would save him some coins, after all.
The line slowly advanced, and at last Pather was at its front. He stepped forwards and turned out his toe as he had been taught. The servants waved him forwards, not taking their eyes of the pieces of parchment they were checking. Elegant, vinelike script covered the brittle paper.
"Pather Flintsong?" A servant read out in a bored voice. "Step up."
Pather walked forward. He placed the small bowl on the pile of gifts, and then walked forward to the cradle. The baby lay there, sleeping calmly. A shock of red hair lay on her was, and her tiny fists clenched on the pillow. Wonder filled Pather. She was so tiny, and yet every little thing was absolutely perfect. He stared, entranced, until one of her caregivers cleared his throat.
"Move along, son." he said kindly, "Others need to see the babe too."
Pather nodded, and stepped back. He waited near a tree for Gaja. As soon as his mentor reached it, Pather asked: "Is Samah truly going to marry the girl?"
Gaja blinked in surprise. "Of course. She was brought here for that very purpose."
"But does she have a choice?" Pather asked.
Gaja shook his head. "Those in power rarely get a choice."
"I don't think that's fair," Pather complained, "we should all get a choice!"
"Then we'd all stop working and have the islanders overrun us. Come on, you need to start working on that granite I gave you. "
Pather bowed his head and followed Gaja, feet trailing in the dirt.
Pather sat back to survey his handiwork. The piece of rock was flat; all he had left to do was polish it. He stood up and stretched, pulling his muscles with a groan. Then he walked overtop the storage cabinet and grabbed the first jar of polishing powder. He applied it to a cloth and began scraping at the stone beneath. In this manner, he proceeded until the final level was finished. Then, he took his work to Gaja. The old carver took one glance at him and sent it back.
"It is flat, but it is not square. It must not have a slant, and should be able to lie across a table flush to its top. Back to the file."
Pather grumbled and began to rasp the file over the stone. The granite was incredibly hard and it took all of his strength to even knock it. The file left jagged slashes in his already completed work, and it seemed that Pather was working backwards with every stroke he took. Finally, he threw the instrument down in exasperation. Gaja looked up.
"If you give up, then you might as well go off to the cliffs and throw yourself over the edge. The tribe doesn't need a laggard."
"The task is impossible!" Pather cried out.
"Not impossible. I did it once, you can do it. Calm yourself and try again. Or, take my advice. It doesn't mean anything either way."
Gaja's words stung, but Pather picked the file up again. After a few minutes he went back for the polishing powder. This time, Gaja deemed the work "acceptable", and told Pather to clean the tools.
"I'll teach you what I know of making daggers once you have finished." Gaja said.
Pather hastily filled the bucket and quickly wiped off the plane and the file. Gaja just stared at him in amusement. Pather finally completed the task and ran over to his mentor, stopping in front of him.
Gaja picked up a slab of brown flint. "Blades are always made of this," he said. "Their guards are granite. You must be careful that you do not make it too thin. If you do, the weapon will shatter the second it is hit." He demonstrated, slamming the two rocks together. A chip came from the granite, while the flint burst apart. The myriad fragments scattered through the air. Pather looked at it, concealing his face behind a mask of non-emotion.
"Alright," Gaja said. "You may begin. Use the plane to smooth the edges from a central point, once you have found the rough shape."
Pather took a piece of flint from the bin beside him. He began to chip away at the stone, creating the general shape of the blade. Gaja watched for a few moments, and then turned back to his carving.
Once Pather thought he had the general shape, he began to use the plane. He smoothed the rock from the centre outwards, thinning the edges. Pather alternated sides so they were both smooth. To his astonishment, the shape of a blade grew from beneath his fingers. It was still rough, but it held the same deadly beauty as that which Parher had seen the warriors carrying. He took the polishing powder and finished it off, before showing Gaja. The stonemaster's eyes went wide with shock.
"Is it bad?" Pather asked with trepidation.
"No," Gaja replied slowly, "In fact, it is the best work I have ever seen done. It rivals that of Moragl and Urin."
Pather didn't understand what he was saying, so he chose to simply sit while Gaja studied him.
"Here," Gaja said, handing him a piece of granite. "Carve the grip."
"What? You aren't going to show me how?" Pather asked in dismay.
"I don't have to."
Pather took the piece and began rounding it with the chisel. His first few strokes didn't make any useful mark, however, so he moved to the rounded edge of the file. It took less time then the blade, and Pather finally sawed a groove into its top. He fit the blade inside. The two melded so seamlessly together that it appeared they had always been that way.
The whole time, Gaja had only stared at Pather. "Trûthnun," he gasped, "I have been blessed." To Pather, he said, "It took me twenty years of apprenticeship to reach that level of proficiency. Getting it so close to perfect on the first try is incredible. You have a gift. There are still a few things to improve on, but then gain there always is. I will sell this knife and you will get the full profit. That is true of everything you make, from now on."
Pather smiled. "Does that mean my apprenticeship is almost over?"
Gaja clapped him on the back. "No," he laughed, "Stonemasons make a lot more than just weapons for warriors to bang together. One of these days I will brig you to the baths, and we will work on those together. Bowls, pots, cobblestones to fit together into roads, statues of our totems... You will learn to carve them all from stone. Stone flows through our veins with our blood, Pather Flintsong. Never forget it."