In the air was the sizzling of blue steel in the white water, the crackles of red flame on dark charcoals, and the rumble of hammer hoisted above the ironsmith’s chestnut hair. Orange sparks flew every time the hammer struck the hot iron on a black anvil.
It had been half a moon since the meeting was concluded and Leo found himself occupying the ironsmith’s carpentry table. While he rested, a pig-tailed, red-head knight in full ironclad entered the forge and quietly claimed the spot on the adobe floor next to him.
Her back leaned against the carpentry table. Her hands rested on the cross-guard of a sheathed sword spanning across her lap like a bridge across a trench. A large circular shield laid upside-down to her left. The name was Katherine. Her hobbies were crushing rocks and manhood.
She greeted the inventor. Her voice, friendly and informal, filled his chest with nostalgic warmth.
“Long time no see, Leo. It’s been like what? Four years?”
“We met last week when you and your friends threw my belongings out of the Alchemist’s quarter…”
His monotonous voice and blank expression told the knight that he did not appreciate the joke. It soon became clear that she did not mean to offend him.
“Off duty, I mean. I have not had a real vacation for years! Now that I’m assigned to you, I can finally get back some of my youths.”
“First, we’re going to hit a tavern and have some good old meady fun. Then, we’re getting some of that sweet, sweet honeyed ham in Sandoval for breakfast next lunar daylight. Oh, we’ll need buttered bread across the street before we go back to your shack too…”
“Hate to break it to you but the store in Sandoval went out of business,” Steve chimed in.
The pace at which the ironsmith hammered the hot iron slowed down to accommodate a conversation amid the swings.
“Did you just call my workshop a shack!?” the inventor protested.
His protest was drowned out by the knight’s cry over honeyed ham on hot bread.
The knight was an acquaintance from a simpler time; a time before the plague, the witch, and the dragon. These days, she served as the princess’s bodyguard and trusted messenger. From what he could gather so far, she did not come to deliver a message. She came to guard him on the princess’s behalf.
This was the part of the deal he should have turned down but decided it would have been too suspicious. At least, he hoped, having a red-helm knight around would make a good excuse to boot the witch out of his place. Unfortunately, it seemed all he managed, in this case, was trading a pet hydra for a pet chimera.
“Ready for the tavern now?”
The ironsmith shook his head.
“Can’t go anywhere until I’m done with Joshua’s greaves,” Steve curtly replied, “about a quarter moon, more in case of troubles and I’m expecting some right about…”
He dipped a red hot armor plate into a liquid ice barrel. Frost began to form and climb ups the black tongs holding the plate. When the ironsmith forcefully drew the plate, all the liquid ice on the metal surface crystallized and were molded into a shimmering funnel made entirely of black ice along the plate’s extraction path.
“Oh, nothing went wrong,” the ironsmith mused, sounding somehow both relieved and disappointed at the same time.
He put the plate aside and picked up another plate from the furnace. Hammering impurities out of the new plate, he once again turned down the knight’s invitation:
“As you can see, I’m quite a busy body and no thanks to Leo over there, it’s about to get worse.”
“Haha, poor you!”
“It’s fine. I was just at Brown’s earlier anyway. Bloody Gerath charged me two pris for trying to haggle down the price. The bloody song was lame and his breath stank of old cheese.”
“Heh, poor you!” the inventor mused, mimicking the knight but in a markedly more sarcastic tone.
“How about I tell the captain that you’re making an urgent fix for me? Then you can postpone his greaves by a moon or two,” the knight offered.
Upon hearing the offer, the ironsmith grinned from ear to ear and dipped the hot metal into a tub of cold water. He then shut a thick shutter to the hearth, hung his ironsmith’s apron on the wall, wiped his blackened hands in a piece of cloth, and headed to the water barrel.
“Quite good. Gimme five minutes,” the ironsmith said.
“Just to be absolutely sure, Kate. I’m still your boss, right?” the inventor asked.
“Aye, aye! You are the boss. Unless you’re in danger, then I’m the boss,” she gave him a hearty thumb up and a pretentious grin.
“Good, then you will camp outside tonight.”
“I can’t stand your snores. Also, that armor reeks of oil.”
“That is in no way how you should treat a lady! Steve, say something!”
The ironsmith had just come around for a change of clothes. He was topless when Katherine called.
“Well, I have a tent I can lend you in the back.”
“My pal!” the inventor grinned and bumped fists with the ironsmith.
“You councilors are worse than a swamp giant! I can’t believe it!” she exclaimed and threw up her hands in resignation.