By: Paul Hein
Clank! Bonk! Clank! Bonk!
The hammer rose and fell, beating on the piece of glowing metal.
Clank! Bonk! Clank! Bonk!
The smith, hard at work in the high heat of the forge, took a short break. He raised a hand to his head, a dirty rag clutched in his grip. He wiped his sweat drenched brow, and tossed the rag to the side. The old smith returned his gaze to his work, admiring the burning hot lump of metal. To some, the ore would appear useless, but not to him. He could see the beautiful piece of craftsmanship that lay within.
He reached out, once more gripping his faithful hammer. He briefly reflected on the tool, held securely in his strong, beefy hand. Normally, he would use spells or some other arcane means to forge his wares. Today, he would not risk such potentially unpredictable methods. Today, he forged something special.
The smith tightened his grip on the hammer, and once again, he beat on the glowing metallic blob. The constant pounding at the hands of the skilled smith was slowly forcing a shape to emerge from the metal, where previously, there had been none. He smiled as his work took shape, rewarding him for the hours, nay, days of work he had already put into this project. It would all be worth it, in the end.
Though he tried to keep his thoughts on his work, the smith could not help but think of the day that he had first been given the job. It had been a strange request, but still, strange things had a tendency to happen when you lived in the far world. A strange and shadowy buyer had asked all the smiths of the far world for the same tool; a sheath for a sword. Not a sword and a sheath, but merely a sheath.
The smith had thought little of it at first, thinking that the buyer had merely lost, or broken his own sheath, and was looking for a replacement. Though as the cloaked figure had turned to leave, the smith had reached out and stopped him.
“Sir! I do believe that yer forgettin’ somethin’.”
The hooded man turned around, his face almost entirely concealed in the shadows.
“What would that be, Mr. Starflare?”
The smith, long known by the name Ferago Starflare, stared curiously at his potential buyer.
“Well sir, if I’m ta make a sheath fer ye,” Ferago scratched the back of his neck, “I need ta know how big the sword is.”
The hooded man smiled, his mouth barely visible in the depths of the cloak.
“Make it however big you want it, Mr. Starflare. So long as it is finely crafted, it will work for me.”
Then, the shadowy figure turned away, and disappeared. Behind him, the bewildered Ferago still stood, wondering about the strange request.
The smith laughed as he worked, remembering that odd day. Things had gotten odder still, as Ferago learned that some of his long time friends, and competition, had gotten similar, and equally shadowy requests. As he had worked on the sheath, it had occurred to him more than once that he might be a part of some bizarre contest. Then, the mysterious hooded figure had returned.
His visit was very short, he merely collected the sheath from Ferago, gave him his payment, and left without another word. The smith didn’t hear from him again, and as far as he knew, that was the end of the ordeal.
The smith chuckled, dousing the now long and narrow hunk of metal into a trough of water, creating a huge burst of steam. How wrong he had been! Carefully, he lifted the steaming piece of metal out of the water, and moved it back to his anvil. He began to hammer it again, though these strokes were gentler, and more controlled.
Cling! Clang! Cling! Clang!
The rhythmic beating of the hammer on metal calmed Ferago, and slowly, he began to hum a tune. His thoughts drifted towards the day the man had returned, though he no longer wore a cloak.
“My Lord!” Ferago exclaimed, immediately setting down the knife he was working. He hastily rose to his feet, kicking over his chair in the process. He bowed to the elegantly clad figure that had appeared in his doorway.
The prince merely smiled, and opened his mouth to speak. “Ferago Starflare, it is a pleasure to see you again.”
“It has been a long time, my prince, to long fer me ta like.”
The prince’s smile grew, and took a step closer to the smith. “Really? Well, I’d say you’ve grown impatient then. I do believe that It was only two weeks ago when I last came to your shop.”
“Two weeks?” Ferago exclaimed, knitting his brow in concern, “I dare say that I must ‘ave missed ye then. ‘Erhaps you spoke ta one of my apprentices.”
The prince shook his head. “No, it was you all right. Perhaps I can spark your memory. I came here to pick up a sheath that I’d ordered.”
“That was ye!?” Ferago’s eyes widened in amazement, and then he burst out laughing.
“Why, ye were dressed up like some wee little pirate rogue from the Dashian seas!”
The prince laughed as well.
“Yes, I suppose I was, wasn’t I?”
“Ye certainly fooled me, my prince!”
The prince shook his head, a smile on his face. Slowly though, his smile shrank.
“I’m afraid I have come to talk about more than just costumes though.”
He produced the sheath that Ferago had crafted from behind his back. His face was serious now, as he held the casing for a deadly weapon in his hands.
“This is a fine sheath, Ferago, I have never seen its equal.” He paused for a moment, allowing the words to sink in. “But as fine as it is, a sheath is useless without a sword.”
Thus, Ferago the smith had been commissioned on his current project. He carefully put in the final hammer strokes, and these were the gentlest of all.
Clink! Clack! Clink! Clack!
He set the hammer aside, and took a step back from his creation. He ran his eyes across the glistening metal, admiring the fine blade. Careful not to cut himself, he scooped up the blade, cradling it like you would a new born child. He walked it over to his work bench, where he would complete the more detailed work.
Ferago slowly picked up the hilt, which he had already assembled for the blade, and prepared to join the two. Carefully, he continued his work, taking great pains not to damage to sword in these final steps, after he had come so far. The finishing took hours of painstaking work, but it would be done by tonight.
It was a rare honor that had been bestowed upon him, and yet, he felt the need to finish it hastily. Ferago felt as though the blade might simply vanish if he were to stop working on it. After he had been given the order for this sword, he had slowly realized that none of the other smiths had been asked to make weapons for their own sheaths. They had never seen the hooded man again. A bizarre contest indeed.
Ferago worked quickly now, though he was still as careful as ever. He had put so much thought into this, and even more work. It was hard to believe, as Ferago carefully put the last symbol on the blade, that… he swept it up in the air, gripping the sword with both hands, a smile plastered across his face.
He swung the sword, experimenting, listening as it zipped through the air. He felt the balance of the shining blade, admiring its light weight, and knowing that it possessed strength above all other weapons. Satisfied with his creation, he lowered it back to the work bench, sliding it into its sheath.
He carefully lifted the sheath, and sword within, carrying them over to his vault, and sealing them inside. No one would lay a hand on that sword, not without Ferago’s permission. Then he walked back to his bench, grabbing a quill and parchment along the way.
Ferago heaved himself down, suddenly realizing how tired he was. Still, he had one last thing to accomplish tonight. He unrolled the parchment, and carefully began to write:
Dear Prince Aethelbald…
Ferago smiled, the sword and sheath gripped in his hands. He had wrapped them in a long and narrow cloth, hoping to surprise the prince with the quality of his work. His forge lay silent behind him, there would be no work today. This was far more important.
Ferago’s eyes shifted to a figure that seemed to materialize in the distance. It walked down the main street towards his shop, moving at a quick pace. The sun had just peaked over the horizon, and the first of the population were just beginning to emerge from their houses. Ferago’s shop was at the edge of the city, near the forest. The figure drew closer, until he was clearly recognizable as his prince.
As Prince Aethelbald walked up to Ferago, the smith bowed.
“It was my honor ta make this fer ye, my lord.”
“I am glad that you enjoyed the task, Ferago.”
He took a step closer to the smith, and held out his hands.
“May I please see it?”
Ferago beamed at his prince, and then carefully unwound the cloth from the sheath, working his way up, until the entire thing gleamed in the early morning sunlight.
“Aye, tis for ye, ‘course ye can.”
Ferago gently set the sword in Aethelbald’s hands. Aethelbald’s hand tightened around the hilt of the sword, and he whipped it out of the sheath, holding it up in the air. The metal seemed alive in the Prince’s grip, made whole, now that it was united with its master. Aethelbald smiled, his face reflecting the joy in his heart.
“Thank you Ferago, though I’m never sure that I could repay you for such a magnificent weapon.”
As Ferago watched the prince with his new sword, he knew he would never need to be paid. His prince had already done far more for him than he could ever hope to give back. He was simply glad to have provided his master with a suitable weapon.
A weapon that would never fail, even when it might seem useless. A weapon that would never break, even against the strongest of foes. A weapon that would be used to save nations, and all who lived in them. A weapon that would kill dragons.