Boundless Imagination

Like most dwarves growing up in Barlagtelen, Boundless Imagination had three parents. There were home parents, Hansel and Petro Lagarban, her two fathers who had adopted her when she was just a baby, and there was Hilda Silverspine, her guildmother who instructed Boundless Imagination in the ways of tinkering, fixing, and building since she was could swing a hammer.

These parents loved her. They housed her. They taught her.

She loved back. She lived. She learned.

One day, when she was a young woman just leaving Rustblood Academy for Apprentice Craftsmen, Boundless Imagination summoned her parents to the rugged studio in which she worked. They arrived curious as to what she’d have to show them, silently hopeful it was some long-gestating masterwork that would grant her entrance into The Forge of Dwarvenkind. After all, the girl was talented, if a bit distracted. With some focus, she could be a dwarf of legend.

In the back of the room, a plain cloth was draped over a section of the wall. Far too small to be a mural, far too thin to be a statue. When Boundless Imagination unveiled it dramatically, the expected gasps and awe were nowhere to be found, replaced instead with a certain feeling of flatness.

“Oh. It’s…a hole.”

“What are we looking at, Tagitha?” Petro Lagarban asked.

To their eyes, they were now looking over rocky hills of Ungertawn, specked with stone gardens and half-submerged homes, which was precisely the image one would expect if Boundless Imagination were to, say, carve a hole in the back of her studio.

But it wasn’t a hole. The young woman proved as much when she reached just beneath it, and pulled the hole off the wall, revealing it to be a pane of glass framed by etherad, a luminescent blue stone.

“It’s a portable window!” Boundless Imagination said. “You place this on any surface, and presto!” She placed the glass on her front wall and, sure enough, it became a window. “New window. So far I can only make it look like a hole in the wall, but I think if I rework the carvings in the etherad, I could probably-”

Hilda Silverspine cleared her throat. “This is very lovely, Tagitha,” the guildmother said, “but while artificery is impressive, shouldn’t you be working on your Journeyman Masterwork?”

Boundless Imagination furrowed her brow. “This is it.”

“Well,” Hansel said. “Like Hilda said, it’s very impressive. But, well…” He looked to his husband for help.

“There’s already such things as windows,” Petro finished. “These kinds of things, they aren’t what the Braszok look for in a young builder.”

“But…not portable windows. This is cooler.”

“They seek beauty,” Hilda went on. “Or practicality. This is neither beautiful, nor practical. Inventive, yes. ‘Cool,’ yes. You could market this, you could sell it. But we dwarves are craftsman, not merchants. Leave industry with the humans, where it belongs.”

Boundless Imagination did not want to sell her window. She only wanted it to exist. To leave her mind and enter the physical world. She thought she would be more excited when it did.

But unfortunately, while her parents loved her, and housed her, and taught her, they did not support her. Nor did the dwarven masters who judged entry to the Forge of Dwarvenkind. Nor did the teachers at the Rustblood Academy for Journeyman Craftsmen, who gave Boundless Imagination low marks at every turn, which shocked her parents because she “used to be so intelligent.”

Hilda spoke the truth of it. All of Boundless Imagination’s mentors wanted beauty and practicality. Turn in a copper-a-dozen crystal statue of a water tiger? “Top marks!” A crossbow with perfect joints and decent size-to-firepower ratio? “You’re a prodigy, Tagitha!” But her moving-picture tops and her evercool frostglass? “You’re nearly an adult, Tagitha. Now’s not the time for games.”

They weren’t interested in her, so Boundless Imagination quickly lost interest in them. After working at a boring blacksmith for three years, Tagitha packed her bags, and she left Barlagtelen for the city of Skymoore. She knew nothing of the city, other than that people thought it peculiar. People thought her peculiar as well, so it seemed a natural fit.

The road to Skymoore was long, taking her from one corner of Penscarop to the other, but Boundless Imagination did not travel alone. As she made her way through the nameless forest where the Dol elves dwelled, she came across a most peculiar sight. Drinking from a river which was made purple by the luminescent fruit of nearby trees, was an enormous pig, larger than a horse. Not far from it was a brightly-covered wagon attached to a smaller wagon with a tarp over it.

Downriver an elvish woman bathed, her copper skin drinking in the strange light and shining like a gemstone. She was reciting poetry aloud in dwarvish. Boundless Imagination forgot the words as quickly as they came, but she didn’t forget the procession of feeling. Her stomach fluttered, then tightened, then she laughed, then at last she cried a single, potent tear.

She quickly came to know the woman was Desdemona, a traveling actress. She was alone, for the time being, and took a fast liking to Boundless Imagination, whose oddities and knack for inventing reminded her of old friends. Desdemona had spent a lot of time in Skymoore herself, and the memories were mostly fond. She said people had a way of finding themselves there.

On the road, Desdemona told Boundless Imagination all sorts of stories. She enjoyed most all of them, but found herself most fixated on the ones that were true. These ranged from Desdemona telling her own stories about escaping the Orichalcum Wars, to more fantastical stories about legendary figures like Druidlona and the Suntouched.

One in particular struck Boundless Imagination. It was the story of the Suntouched trying again, and again, and again to slay the enormous wolf which slept in Berthen’s Crater in the Frostlands, and which guarded the asteroid that lay within it. He pleaded with the wolf to leave, but the wolf would not, and became hostile each time the hero visited. Each time, the hero failed narrowly, and each time he nursed his wounds and tried again.

In the last of these matches, The Suntouched managed to run past the wolf, and toward the asteroid he sought, when he made a discovery: eight wolf pups, each huddled near the asteroid for warmth. The wolf became more vicious than ever, and The Suntouched barely walked away with his life.

The next day, he entered the crater unarmed, tired, and wounded, humbling himself before this wolf he’d tried to kill over and over. He asked the wolf for forgiveness, and for passage into the heart of the crater, for a piece of starmetal, after which the wolf would never see him again.

The wolf did not like these terms, for the wolf wanted to continue seeing the Suntouched. Motherhood was rewarding, she said, but boring. The Suntouched was to become her hunting partner until the pups were old enough to hunt for themselves. He agreed, and for two months he journeyed the Frostlands with the enormous beast, and with her help became the peerless fighter the world came to know.

From the starmetal, The Suntouched forged the sword Fang, which he later used as a lightning rod to absorb the power of lightning, granting him supernatural reflexes. He gained experience and power from his time with the wolf, and the wolf gained only the pleasure of his company and the knowledge she had made him better. Each was deeply grateful for the other’s time and attention.

She’d have Desdemona tell it again and again as they traveled across Penscarop. Boundless Imagination couldn’t say why it charmed her so, why the image of lightning traveling through The Suntouched’s blade and his nerves and into his heart stuck so deeply in the back of her mind.

Then one day, she could say.

The day came a few years after she had parted ways with Desdemona just outside Skymoore’s elevator, each deeply grateful for the other’s time and attention those three seasons on the road. It was the first of Autumn, in the year 1677, and the magic shop Odd & Ends was having a big sale.

“Good morning, Miss…Imagination,” Donovan Allman greeted her. The dwarf had arrived first thing that day, waiting outside for the store to open. “Nestor’s not here until tonight.”

“Oh, that’s okay, Mr. Allman, I’m just looking,” she said. “Or, was I…” She plucked the tightly-rolled scroll she’d placed behind her ear and unfurled the paper. “Oh, right! Oh right. Yes. Right. Actually, I am looking for something. Do you have anything that…” She trailed off as she began examining the shelves and displays that had been freshly furnished for the coming day.

Boundless Imagination was one of the few regulars at Odd & Ends, and Donovan was used to her scattered nature. He simply went back to preparing for the day and waited for her questions, which she shouted across the store.

“Do you have anything that, um, like, sparks? Like a, like a spark? Lightning?”

“What do you need it for?”

“It’s top secret.”

“Well, it’s going to be a little difficult to help you if I don’t know what it is you want.”

“Just use your instincts.”

Donovan scoured the shelves and produced for her a lighter, which she declined; then from the practical joke section, he produced a Ring of Static Shock, which she declined; lastly, he offered her a Storm Jar, a mason jar containing a lightning storm, which she accepted eagerly.

“I must warn you, this took Nestor some time to make. It isn’t cheap.”

“Money is no object,” Boundless Imagination insisted. “As long as, you know, I can, you know, afford it.”

And she could, barely. She saved a significant amount of the money she’d earned at one of the three dozen jobs she’d been fired from over the years. Everyone told her You’re Brilliant, Tagitha, But You Need To Keep Your Head Out Of The Clouds, then she pointed out that that was sometimes difficult in Skymoore, to which they usually replied You Know What I Mean.

With a pile of scales now locked tightly in the register and a Storm Jar now clutched tightly in her hands, Boundless Imagination made her way to her workshop. And as was often the case, her way was the longer, stranger way.

While Boundless Imagination did not care much for fresh air or the sights and sound of nature, nor for the act of people watching, she was quite fond of walking. Something about the repetitive motion kept her mind going and her gears turning. It was on these aimless that she had her best ideas, like glasses with reversible lenses on a hinge that corrected either near-or-far-sightedness depending on which way they were turned. Or sometimes she just played games, like calculating the speed at which a cloud would drift across the sky below, and try to get to the edge of Skymoore just in time to see it pass out from underneath. Sometimes she just recounted the stories Desdemona had told her.

No matter what, she thought. She was always thinking. Sometimes about interactions she’d had that day, and whether she’d conducted herself well, but mostly about inventions and abstract concepts and what lied beyond the stars. A lot of people thought her odd, but she thought that the only thing that separated her from the rest was that other people stopped thinking sometimes, and she never did. And that wasn’t a bad thing, the not thinking. Sometimes she was jealous of it. Thinking was not good when the thoughts were bad. But she couldn’t stop, and so she made the most of it.

By the time she arrived at her friend’s blacksmith, it was dark. Not because it was close to evening, but because of an aftermaj storm. She hardly noticed the wind or the rain, because she was too busy being excited by the fact that the storm in her hands was suddenly quite active, spewing lightning like an ill-kept secret in response to the storm.

In fact, she only ever noticed the wind when she realized that the enormous stone tablet onto which her friend was carving his magnum opus had fallen outside of his blacksmith. Unfinished Portrait, a fellow dwarf, stood over it, in the rain, and looked solemn.

“Oh no!” Boundless Imagination shouted over the rain. “Are you okay? Did it fall on anything important?”

Unfinished Portrait shook his head. “Nah, it’s fine. Everything’s fine. I was running out of room on the other side, anyway. And the action of being toppled over adds more me into the stone, you know? Like how my soul is tossed by the wind from time to time, you know?”

“Yeah,” said Boundless Imagination, who did not know.

It was the tablet that brought the two together. When she asked about it one day when buying materials from him, he explained that the weird symbols carved onto it and the pictures of geese and the upside-down dwarvish alphabet were all part of his attempt to render his essence unto the tablet, and bare it for the world to see. To create something that was entirely his own, without filtering it through some common understanding. It didn’t make much sense to Boundless Imagination, but that’s what drew her to him all the more.

Over the years he’d been a constant supporter of her various projects, and even supplied her with her new name. She never would have had the courage to do what she did that day without him.

“So, did you get what you needed?” Unfinished Portrait asked.

“Yep,” she said, holding up her Storm Jar.

“What is it you’re making again?”

“A light.”

“But there’s already light,” he said, gesturing to a dim lantern hanging from the ceiling.

“Yeah, but this light won’t need fire,” she said. “Less chance of, you know, burning your house down.”

Unfinished Portrait gestured to the other dim lantern hanging from his ceiling, fueled by magic.

“Okay, yeah,” Boundless Imagination said, “but not everyone, you know, has access to magic. You’re sounding like my parents right now.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Unfinished Portrait said, holding up his hands defensively. “I’m just trying to understand your process, you know?”

“I know,” she said.

In the center of the mostly-dark forge was a cloth concealing a bulky mass. Boundless Imagination unveiled it with a flourish, revealing a mess of tubes, wire, and steel that vaguely resembled a very fat, headless person shrugging. On what might have been the end of one of its arms was a glass sphere.

With a few wires and bolts, she attached the jarred storm to the other arm of the machine. And then, she waited.

After a moment, the machine sputtered. It vibrated. It quaked. The motion was so violent, the room shook, and the glass of the sphere cracked just a smidge.

But she didn’t notice any of that. She was focused, completely, on the process. Why was it taking so long? Did she route the wires incorrectly? Was the machine too big to maintain the charge? Was this even possible?

And then, light. Miraculous, glorious light, flooding the sphere and then her eyes and the room, dwarfing the lanterns entirely. Boundless Imagination shook at the possibilities suddenly laid about before her.

Electric elevators that weren’t so noisy, heating systems to help the poor survive the winter, boats that weren’t so reliant on wind.

It was just a light now, sure, but Boundless Imagination knew that wasn’t the end of it. From her mind, something new was born.

And that’s the story of how electricity was discovered on Solkin.

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