The eyes. Blazingfist couldn’t help but stare at their sunkenness, how the swollen corpulent parts of his eyebrows drooped over the outside corners. Or the way the fleshy lower eyelids sagged in layers over knotted and malformed cheekbones. Maybe it was the way bushy eyebrows encircled the sockets far beyond the outer corners, blending with wiry, disheveled tufts of hair extending over his ears under his splotchy bald crown. No, Blazingfist decided, it was the dark circles under the eyes, between the whites and the sagging cheeks. They were dark, not just because the shadows and hollowness of the sockets prevented light from reaching that part of his skin. There was an inner darkness, borne from years of torment and bitterness of soul. It came with sleeping in the gutters for years. It deepened from self-loathing. It was, to Blazingfist, the anathema of what he would become if he continued Thrusting.

Like Chin Windfinger, who stood before him—the embodiment of his future—Blazingfist knew nothing of the art, nor of the science of Kyan and the power, it unleashed. He only knew that it felt marvelous to channel the stone’s energy. From the tingling in his fingers as they glowed milky blue, to the streaks of topaz that shot forth from his palms. Energized by the vibrations emanating from the shale so small it hid in the folds of his clenched fist, he walked lighter, a pep added to his steps. He stood taller, straighter, more confident. He felt… powerful.

But that power came with a cost, a terrible price when mishandled. The misshapen visage that stood in the center of the alley, unable or unwilling to venture out into the afternoon sunlight, echoed the tales told by mothers and midwives for centuries.

“Yofth,” the old man said. His voice was harsh, dry, and throaty. The sound rumbled from his chest and through his throat like a cave-in, the Kragdigger incident, the only mine disaster Blazingfist had ever witnessed. The horror of watching the rocks and boulders tumble down into the shaft where his father and seven other minors dug, impotent to help them even though every vibration in him screamed at him to try.

Blazingfist looked at the withered, and crooked finger pointed at his face, and felt the Thrusting enter his chest.

“C- c- come on, B!” Kragfury pulled on Blazingfist’s arm, holding on to it with both hands, dragging him away from the alley and the unkempt man who guarded it. “He’s just a harmless swain. He’s not worth it.”

After a moment of allowing Kragfury to pull him down the street, he turned away from the horrific presence and faced the town square once more. He shook off the grip of his friend and sneered. “What does that old fool know, anyway?”

“Where are we going?” Kragfury asked.

“To forsakener’s perch. I want to try something new, something that came to me after supper last night, while the men sat around the campfire.”