Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Jern Bøyer og Pauser, Men Mannen Ikke.

Iron bends and breaks, but the man doesn't.

Chips of carbon fleck away from the metal. The father strikes, and the son watches. This is the first time he has been escorted inside the forge. It is hot in there. Like a swamp, it is sweltering and disgusting. Putrid fumes of sulfur and body sweat mingle in the air. But like this, it has always been, and will always be so in the ancient arts.

Long ago, when the ancients came to the land, they would take the earth and heat it in their kilns made of clay. Things were much simpler then, but the father is no longer simple.

But he remembers.

“A good sword must be firm in your hands,” the father says. “Keep your eyes up here now. Look there. It bends in at the base. That is a fine sword.”

The son watches as his father raises the pein hammer once more.

A loud crash and then splintering, the blade shatters!

“Damn it all!” The father exclaims, cursing. He throws the hammer into the wall of the forge and exhales. A days work, in one fell strike, wasted. But the father is humble. A good craftsman must learn from his mistakes.

“Look here, there,” the father says directing the boy's eyes to the end of the jagged edge, “the way it curves like that, you see? The metal burned too hot and grew brittle. Never heat your forge too hot, otherwise you will bring trouble on yourself.”

“How do I know that?” The son wonders how to measure the heat. It is an honest question, but the father knows his son can do better.

“That is for you to decide for yourself. I cannot show you, but you must learn. Remember how the metal bends? It is not for you to know immediately, but you must learn on your own.”

A large pot of ore glistens in the flickering mouth of the forge. The iron was collected this morning and is kept cold by the dew. With a shovel the father scoops a large pile and tosses it into the pot of molten iron. Fumes of sulfur rise up out of the pot, and the son covers his eyes.

“Go,” says the father, pointing towards the door, “Take this to Drustan. He has waited too long now for it. I must clean this up.”

Eager to help, the son takes the parcel and runs out the door and into the streets of Strom, the largest city in Main. A crowd of people block his way, but he knows his steps and moves around them deftly like a rabbit. The package is heavy in his arms, but Drustan's hovel is close by, and the son knows the fastest way there.

Drustan is a simple man, so says the father. He is an older, wiser figure in Strom. In his youth he was a famed traveler and swordsman, and no mercenary or foreigner could best him in single combat. He was the sword of the king then. Little remember now what it was like in those days. Conflicts ebb and flow like the sea, but go on and on. The father is keen to remind the son of this. When men were simple, they settled their differences well. But men are no longer simple, not any more.

Drustan has kind eyes when he sees the son. He rarely sees visitors these days, but when he does it is always a matter of celebration. Taking the parcel, he opens it and takes out a long dagger, its handle etched in stone. It is older than Strom, older than the world.

“Ah, Donwald's blade,” he says admiring it with fascination. “It has been a long time since this has come by. It is famous, you see.”

“Why is it famous?” the son asks. His heart pounds with excitement. Drustan's stories are always the best.

“Long ago, it was known for killing kings,” he said, setting it down on the mantle over his hearth. “You see, there was once a kingdom with three brothers, each set on the throne. When the father died, each of them conspired to take the crown for themselves.

“The first was cunning, but foolhardy. He ascended the throne before them all. But on the feasting night this blade slit his throat. And the whole realm mourned him, for he was also a man of peace.

“The second was villainous, for he killed his own brother to be king. And as the land fell into darkness, he fought and brought war to the land, until the third brother stole his dagger, and took vengeance for their beloved brother's murder.

“And so the third ascended the throne, and lived a long charitable life. That was until the day he married a jealous woman, whose eyes were set on ruling the kingdom for her own. One midsummer's eve, in the night, she took this very dagger and ended his life. Blaming the servant, she rose to the crown, but the kingdom mourned, for, like the first of them, this brother had been a fine king.

“But evil deeds do not go unpunished. In the festival season, whilst the queen was enjoying the splendor of her kingdom, the daughter of the servant she cruelly dealt with rose up and killed her in the streets, but ended her life before the guards could arrest her.

“Thus on the ground the blade of Donwald lay, and the people thought it cursed. So they buried it.”

“And that is all true?” the son asked, looking hard at the blade.

“Aye,” Drustan said, taking a seat in a large leather chair.

“But how do you know it's true?” the son asked, curiously.

“The servant whose daughter avenged her had other children. I was one of them, and the servant who took her life, was my sister.”

“So that very dagger really did kill a king,” the son said with wide eyes.

“Indeed, but it is not wise to admire things that court violence.”

“And why is that?” the son asked.

“Because daggers and swords are only remembered for what they have done, but not for those that wield them. It is an old saying, but many forget.”

“Here,” Drustan says, “Take this back to your father. Give him my thanks.”

Smiling, the son nods eagerly and runs out the door, leaving the old warrior behind to his own thoughts. Taking the blade, he stabbed his heart, letting the blood run out.

“Soon, good sister,” he said choking on his lifeblood, “soon we will meet again.”  

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