A Start

by James W

he first thing that the Mastersmith had thought when they stepped into the forge was that Marcello Cristofori had sent his cousin, along with some muscle, to register a characteristically physical complaint about those damn horseshoes.

It was not a conclusion that the Mastersmith had stuck with for long, though, because Jake's face – or just Anvil's, now – tended to draw attention away from immediate concerns. He didn't have one any more. That was to say, the troll-blood now had a steady wall of black fire licking around the front of his head where a face used to be, forming themselves haphazardly into shapes that, if you looked for long enough, resembled momentarily eyes, a nose, a mouth. The shock of seeing his young apprentice mutilated like this hadn't been the worst part. The worst part hadn't even been watching the flames part and speak and hearing Anvil explain that he had given his face so that the Lord of the Forge could use it when he was completed. The worst part had been noticing some of the apprentices nodding, concerned yet thoughtful, as if this made as much sense to them as it evidently did to Anvil. Then the young noble had approached the Mastersmith, shook his hand and stared into his eyes, and said: “My name is Lucius Cristofori. I need you to teach me how to be a blacksmith.” — Several hours later, and it was becoming rapidly apparent that Lucius Cristofori would never be a blacksmith. The man was clearly unused to physical labour: he was too young to have developed a paunch, but his bare torso had the muscle tone of a rubber band: he could barely swing the hammer he had been given. His skin was smooth and devoid of calluses, and the grip of the thing was biting against it. Blisters had already formed and broken in several places, and the boy's own blood streamed up his forearms. And he wasn't giving up. He'd started off with a grim, silent determination. This had rapidly given way to quiet grunts of exertion. Now Lucius was screaming in pain each time he swung the hammer, from the cramping muscles in his arms, from the hot red agony in the palms of his hands, and he wasn't stopping. Some of the apprentices had gathered round to watch: some curious, the Mastersmith suspected, to see if he would actually work himself to death. Not all of them, though. Some apprentices were kneeling in prayer, mouthing litanies that he didn't recognise but which had the same sort of shape as the words Anvil had been heard saying. Finally something gave. The hammer, greased by his blood, slipped from Lucius's grip and caught the crude iron knife he was forging a stray blow. It leapt up into the air and clattered onto the stone floor; even if it hadn't been dropped, the thing was still clearly useless, battered out of shape by his inept hands. He staggered backwards against a wall and slowly slid down it, gasping from breath and closing his streaming eyes. — Lucius winced as he smeared some of the green ointment over his palm and then tied the bandage tight. Anvil had assured him that this would help the damaged skin heal, but it wasn't much comfort. This had been important. It had felt like a test. And he had failed, thanks to his weakness – thanks to too many years of having nothing more important to be able to do than be witty, charming, and know which fork to use. These people had talent, they had skills which were useful while he, Lucius Cristofori, was talented at being a Cristofori and nothing more. Just as it had in the North, his heritage stood out, plain for all to see. Just as it had in the North, it had betrayed him. The people of the forge had been kind. Deferential. That had been the worst of it, as if this were some sort of whim that would pass, as if he were just playing at this. They were humouring him. He was brought out of his reverie by a clang, a clatter, and a cry of “Bugger!” from one of the anvils. He looked up. There was a useless lump of twisted metal on it that might have once been becoming a helmet. “Forge-welding.” said Simon, the apprentice who had been hammering the thing, in response to Lucius's curious stare. “You make the bits of metal really hot and hit them, and it sticks them together. But you has to do it quick, before they cool down or they get too hot and burn, and you has to hold them still in the right place” Lucius thought about this for a second. “I have an idea.” he said. Simon brought the hammer down again and again. Each time the new piece was in place where it should be. The downstrokes beat it into shape, fused the metal together, and quick as a flash Lucius moved the next component from the forge to the anvil ready for a beat, another beat, then into the water trough with a hiss – and before it had cooled, even before Simon had finished the backswing Lucius was ready with the next pieces arranged on the anvil. He smiled as he worked, and he spoke – to Simon, to Anvil, the forge, to anybody who would hear: “The things we create are forged from many parts. Their components hold together, give them strength. So too the Forge, so too its followers. As the sturdy hammers of the Forge strike hard and strike tirelessly, as the burning fire of the Forge burns bright and burns long, so too the nimble tools of the Forge work quickly and work with precision.” It didn't come out quite as well as he'd hoped, but it was a start.

misc/fiction/astart.txt · Last modified: 2011/04/05 19:40 by osj01
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