Hope may be the wings,
but courage is the belief
you were born to fly.
~Tyler Knott Gregson -- Anon Guest
Is there any greater motivation to the heart, mind, and soul than the words, you can't? The tinkerer known as Steelfoot didn't think so. She lost her feet to the cruelest winter that had ever cursed the northlands, and her legs below the knee with them. She was told she would never walk, she would never run.
She studied the metalworkers in the forges and made her first feet, then studied mathematics and natural philosophy and made herself springs that made her run faster than any horse. She worked for years on clever connections that meant she could swap out her legs in only minutes.
When her eyes began to fail at looking further, she made clever sets of lenses on hinged frames. Levers and latches that could keep them in place. Some children called her 'the insect' and many said she would never marry. You can't marry a freak like that. It's unthinkable. As unthinkable as a woman going adventuring. You can't do that. What about the men who are incapable of looking after themselves and the children you're expected to bear?
Steelfoot went adventuring anyway. It was much more fun than listening to people telling her what she couldn't do. Far more profitable, too. Hanging around in a workshop or storefront and waiting for other adventurers to come by... that didn't seem like the way to go. Too many chances for boredom mixed with too many opportunities for the villagers to tell her that she can't do the things she loved the most.
Coming back to the village, to her workshop and house, where they could catch up with their allotment of haranguing, wasn't exactly a bowl of figs, either. Therefore she crafted up her Mobile Laboratory, her mechanical steed, and left the little town of closed minds forever.
"You can't leave," they said. "What if someone needs you?"
"For what?" she demanded. "Being told how every one of my choices is wrong? No thanks." She left anyway, with nobody trying very hard to keep her there. No outcries of please stay, but plenty of you can't.
It was in the Mines of Malthoria that she met Marvin. Washed into the wrong part of the labyrinthine tunnels and winding her clockwork lantern to see how bad the damage was. He came, following her soft curses, with Light cast onto the end of a broken-off stalactite. Other figures were there in the darkness. Glowing eyes at varying heights. They were almost a joke party. An Elf, a Kobold, a Tabaxi and a Human walk into a bar...
Still, she didn't know what their motives were and experience points told her that caution was the best. It also told her that her Roman Candle Gonne was likely the best of her gizmos to still be operational. Five shots of flaming phosphorus per round aught to make them all think twice. "Let's talk in a calm and reasonable fashion and nobody try any horseshit," she warned. "These things all work in spite of Dispel Magic." Which was the truth. They didn't need to know that they might not work after a thorough soaking.
All four of them made sure they were inside the light. "Peace, please," said the Human. "We heard you cursing and came to see what the trouble was. That's all."
"What happened to your feet?"
She glanced, aim never wavering, and -aw crap- her left Auto-piton climbing claw was almost completely shredded. She sighed. "That's what I get for building delicate mechanisms so I can put 'em through a pair of trousers..." she grumbled. "Gotta learn to put my feet on after I get flamin' dressed..." Good thing she had long ago learned to do foot swaps left-handed. She kept her aim true as she fumbled with her pack and brought out the left runner foot. Unscrewed the ruined climbing claw, and screwed on the simple spring with a rubber pad on the bottom that almost doubled her move. Not that that would count for much with mixed feet. Still, she could stand without having to fret about fatal structure flaws, and soon did so.
All four of them had their gazes riveted on her feet. She never bothered hiding them any more and usually kept to sturdy versions of knickerbockers to keep the fleshy parts of her legs protected from the elements.
"Draw a portrait, it'll last longer."
She expected a flood of apologies. She expected some mortification. What she got was awe and excitement.
"Those. Are. Amazing!" The Human announced. "That has to be Kraghammer steel for the spring... is it re-enforced with Starmetal? And is that a Teslan magnetic auto-hammer on your piton extension? That has to pack a punch if you use it to kick someone."
The Kobold was next to speak. "I see you're already adept at overcoming obstacles," she introduced herself as Lady Anthe, and the others as Marvin, Wraithvine, and Rumtum Taigr. "We... need... adventurers like you. I presume you're proficient with Tinker's Tools?"
Steelfoot lowered her guard. "My home village of idiots called me Steelfoot so long, I think I've forgotten my real name. What's the pay like?"
"Terrible," said Rumtum.
"A fair share of the loot and you get to call dibs on anything you can demonstrate as useful," said Lady Anthe. "We're on the trail of a death cult that's stolen a village's worth of children. You in?"
Well. They'd already won points by not saying the words, you can't. Given the choice, she'd much rather be given the choice. "Count me in, but most of my gear is in a wagon back up out that way," she pointed up the tunnel by which she entered.
Wraithvine left a magical mark and said, "That will aid us later. Do you need anything for now?"
"Nothing that a rest's worth of tinkering can't cure. Let's get on with it."
No comments about her limp. No assumptions about what she needed help with. Occasional offers to point out ores in the tunnels. A team of misfits eager to welcome yet another misfit. Steelfoot smiled. She could get to like these people.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / uatp1]
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