Two’s body lay disassembled on the floor, and its head sat atop a nearby crate, watching Rakel work. She sat cross-legged by Two’s knees, a shin piece and a thigh piece in her lap. Her eyes were closed, hands resting on each piece, and she murmured to herself. Under her hands the metal slowly shifted, and a few minutes later the knee joint had knit itself back together. Rakel moved it carefully through its full range of motion, and, satisfied, pushed it away.
She scooted over to start on the other leg and let the magic flow. She watched the metal move with a painful lack of speed, willing herself not to lose patience without much success. She could have had Two together in five minutes if she didn’t have other magic to work today; taking Two slowly was disproportionately easier on the Weave than taking it fast. She toiled onward, keeping the part of her mind that housed her growing desire to finish the rest with a snap of her fingers strictly separate from the part of her mind working the magic.
Despite its leisurely pace the work was still exhausting, and when Rakel slotted Two’s head back into place at midday, she did so with a long yawn. She put her hands on the neck joint and focused, and a handful of heartbeats later she gave the head a tug to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere. There was one more step, though; Kajsa would have had to fiddle with the truebinding if she didn’t want Two’s bound spirit flinging pieces of the construct around the shop. Rakel stretched out her senses and felt it, the old familiar spirit straining against the bars of its prison. Rakel worked slowly and carefully to expand the cage; it was one of the few things she could claim to be conscientious about. Once, she had witnessed a truebound spirit make an uncontrolled escape. The crater was still there, and the conjurer wasn’t.
She wiped away the sweat that stood out on her brow, gave her work one final once-over, and let Two’s spirit into the newly expanded cage. A few seconds passed, and Rakel let out a breath. It wasn’t as if she’d ever pay so little attention as to get it wrong, but it never hurt to be cautious.
Two stood up, radiating a faint air of malevolence. Rakel paid it no mind. Every truebind went that way until the spirit probed its prison to the extent that it could and resigned itself to servitude. Two had existed in one form or another for almost a decade now, and quickly lost heart. Rakel sent it to the other room while she started her second project.
Rakel was, in many ways, a nontraditional conjurer. She chalked it up to getting all the practicality her fellows at the Guild seemed to lack. It was fair to stereotype them thusly: a conjurer’s entire life consisted of producing talismans for the Guild to sell, making weapons and armor for themselves, building a couple of constructs, and then taking them on glorious charges into armies of hiisi and falling back only when their constructs were so clogged with gore they could barely swing a weaponized arm. It was a simple life, though not, Rakel would readily admit, one without its attractions. It was also very dangerous, and Rakel had had the luck to train under a conjurer with a healthy sense of self-preservation. He had pointed out that even if a conjurer could account for ten thousand hiisi before, inevitably, he stayed in the fight for a moment too long, found his retreat cut off, and was himself cut down by the savage brutes, he wouldn’t have come close to paying for his training. In short, a dead hero is still dead.
It was a point Rakel had taken to heart, and, when working for the army, she had always fought with her brain first and her martial skill as a last resort. Along the line she’d had an epiphany about her talents: they weren’t an end but a means, nothing more than a way to make tools which could keep her alive.
By contrast, most conjurers saw their creations as something more than that; many of them treated their constructs as friends, or at the very least comrades in arms. Either way, a construct was something owed great respect, and building one was an act of great gravity.
Smiling cheerfully, Rakel wondered if they would be more shocked that she’d turned the abomination before her into a construct, or that she had such a menial task for it in mind. It was a creature of boards, nailed and lashed together into a very roughly humanoid shape, one arm tipped by a claw just small enough to grasp the handle Rakel had nailed to the bar across the door, and the other a massive unbalanced club of a limb that probably outweighed Rakel herself.
“Welcome to the land of the living, Doorman,” she said.