Barrett wasn’t the first to get to Kail- there were a number of others crowding around him. However, once they found out that he was already affiliated with the Immortal Berserker Sect, most of them lost interest. They would have liked to get their hands on a young talent, near the peak of second tier at seventeen years old. Not that there hadn’t been others like him- but one could never have too many talented people.
“Congratulations,” Barrett said, clapping Kail on the shoulder.
“Thanks,” Kail grinned briefly. “I can feel how much stronger I’ve grown, thanks to you giving me a chance to survive.” He looked off into the distance for a moment, “It’s still not enough yet.”
Barrett nodded, “It’s hard. There are always more enemies… you might find that the Macaio clan also has other backers. However, winning today means more than just you have grown stronger. Perhaps other survivors of your clan will find their way here. News like this can find people anywhere.”
Kail nodded. He had paid to have messages posted at various points around the Southern Metal Sea directing his clansmen towards Stredo- but it was entirely possible they would not see them, or believe them. However, news of his victory in the tournament could spread, and would be easy to verify. “Let’s hope it helps.”
Barrett came to look at his tree in one of the sect’s orchards. Mistress Abels did most of the work in taking care of it, along with the normal gardeners, but Barrett would still occasionally drop by. It actually took earth magic to have the tree grow properly, and sometimes he would get in a bit of practice that way. The soil had to be just right, and the tree itself responded to earth magic. The tree had a wide base, along which wide grey thorns jutted out from every point of the bark along the trunk and up into the branches. The leaves were likewise grey but darker and nearly black. During spring it had reddish-brown flowers which stood out against its colorless exterior. However, it had not yet produced any fruit. That wasn’t strange- it was a very special sort of tree, and only a few years old. Mistress Abels surmised it needed more time to mature, and possibly some special circumstances before it would actually produce fruit. For example, there could be particular types of insects requires to pollinate it- though the orchards were full of many such beneficial insects.
Barrett placed his hand on the tree- though the thorns grew over almost every bit of the surface, his hands were tempered to a great degree of toughness. The thorns could actually still pierce his hand if he was careless, but a careful placement let him feel the life of the tree. While he could generally feel how other plants were alive, this one was different. This particular feeling was through earth magic, as the tree was not like most other trees. In a way, it was most similar to the plants around the Metal Sea, except instead of being metallic, it was more rocky. The difference was mostly in the purity of the elements and their particular composition, but the tree also survived off of water and not the liquid metals from around the Metal Sea. They had tried other liquids, but it seemed to do just fine with water, which was encouraging.
One strange behavior it had was that it occasionally wrapped up stones in the ground with its roots, pulling them up into itself. This wasn’t a quick process- sometimes it took weeks or months- but Mistress Abels had kept track of what sorts of rocks it devoured and provided more of them.
Barrett poured out a bucket of pebbles, then used earth magic to bury them around the roots in various places. It was best they weren’t too close to the main roots, but they had to be near enough for the roots that pulled them in. Barrett hoped whatever fruit this tree eventually produced would be useful. It certainly should be amazing- if a fruit from it could have a viable seed after hundreds of years- but amazing wouldn’t necessarily be useful.
The light shone through a piece of quartz that was cut thin- perhaps the thickness of a piece of leather. Barrett checked it, not worried about the imperfections in its structure. In fact, those were quite useful. It just needed to hold together. If it could, it would be able to function as a talisman with a little bit of work. At his current point, he would at best be able to prevent a curse by an amateur, but it would at least slightly inhibit someone of second or third tier. It was like armor- well made armor that wasn’t out of good enough materials was still better than nothing.
He’d been studying the book on charms and curse removal magic. As Crenthor had stated, it was pretty basic- but everyone had to start somewhere anyway. With the book and his observations of Crenthor, Barrett was much more confident in dealing with any future curses. That said, if he was trying to remove a curse from anyone else, it would have to be first tier at best- which would probably fade on its own given time.
Even if Barrett hadn’t progressed far, a few people associated with the Immortal Berserker Sect had started taking curse removal studies seriously. Those who had the skills around Stredo had been reluctant to share their secrets, and in Ogloni one would usually pay a dear price to obtain any information- and it was likely to come with a number of things that would be forbidden in Stredo. While a knowledge of curses was important for their removal, it didn’t require practice placing them to remove them. It was just that Ogloni didn’t care- and it was sometimes easier the other way. Master Hykel and Barrett had been lucky to find Crenthor, who had charged a reasonable- if still somewhat expensive- price for his services. The book was rather cheap- though neither of them were sure what it was supposed to cost. That was for Crenthor to take up with his master.