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Chapter Sixteen

Parlen stoked the fire while Ewan—their father—smashed his mallet against the anvil. Red hot metal flaked and slithered from the pressure of the anvil at its base meeting the slam of the blacksmithing tools. Parlen, like both of his brothers, had been fascinated with the raw power of the flame as it stretched thin and blue before folding into the heat of the orange center and the white hot tip.

The work that Ewan did was rudimentary; repairs to a plow, or trinkets and metal work that could be traded for food or bedding. Work that he and his three sons could do in their sleep.

Parlen stoked the fire again. His eyes burned amber while the bellows moaned and creaked above the flames. A thick sheen of sweat covered his face, but he didn't wipe it away, instead he let it fall onto the red bricks surrounding the white-hot fire, or soak into the collar of his shirt. He didn't complain. Jascha and his brothers had grown up under the tongue of these fires. The pound of the mallet against the anvil was in their blood just as their grandparents had once felt the velveteen fire surge through their own veins.

Jascha worked away from his father— it wasn't that he didn't want Ewan to see the work that he was doing, it was just that he knew his father would scoff at the long blade that Jascha had spent tedious years trying to duplicate it. Ewan didn't understand Jascha's need to recreate the only weapon of humankind that had survived with them. But as Jascha reasoned, it was the only link any of them had to the outside world.

Jascha had studied the workmanship of the original weapon many times. He had drawn a sketch of its shape and mechanisms with charcoal on raw hide, and he was sure that he could recreate, if just given enough time to make sure it was right.

He had made many attempts before, but now as Jascha pulled the steel from the mold and set to pounding it into a sharp point he knew that he was close.

There was only one sword in the village. It was owned by his father but over time it had rusted and cracked; now it sat in a trunk in several jagged pieces. If legend was to be believed it had belonged to a foreign king that Antonius had once fought before Elin cast her curse and the curse winds came. It was said that Antonius had swallowed the sword in his dragon form and that when he turned human the blade still rested inside the body. It was only when Antonius died years later as an old man that the villagers cut him open to find the rotting weapon.

When steel got hot enough it almost looked like water, but even in his delicate state it resisted shape and contortion. Jascha pounded his mallet, throwing his whole weight into each movement. Remembering the shape of the rusted relic in the other room he knew that the hilt would have to be broader so that his grip could be stronger. The point would need to be sharper to invoke its deadly purposes.

"That's enough, boys." Ewan remarked. He put his hand on Parlen's shoulder in commemoration of the day of hard work and wiped away a glistening layer of sweat from his forehead.

Parlen dropped the billow and stepped out into the cool night, taking deep drafts of the cold air into his lungs.

Jascha stepped away from his work, admiring the fluid point of the weapon that he was still crafting. He could feel the fire from the hearth in his very veins like his ancestors had. His mouth was warm; he was sure that if he could just breathe the hot air in deep enough he could create the flames and mimic nature as his dragon blood called out for him to do.

Ewan clasped a warm hand on the shoulder of Jascha's wet shirt. "The work is good, son," he said, meaning the unfinished blade. "But in the end it will come to nothing. The time you could be using for other things will be wasted by your dedication to this one thing. It is folly."

Jascha did not speak. Inwardly he did not agree or disagree with his father, but continuing to forge the sward was something that he felt that he had to do.

"I'm to bed, boys. Don't stay out here too long." Without another word Ewan left Parlen to his silence in the shadowy doorway, and Jascha to his work.

"Where is Callum?" Jascha spoke up from the forge.

Parlen turned back to his brother. "Just there," he said pointing out toward the still night. Not even the smallest of breezes crept into the stifling workshop. The heat permeated like the top layer of wax on an overcooked stew.

"Just there?"

"Aye, he is with Audra in the shadows again—just a ways away in the field."

Jascha raised an eyebrow at his younger brother. "You can see them?"

Parlen shook his head slightly. "I can hear her."

Jascha chuckled at his brother Callum's foolery. He was playing a dangerous game with Audra. A game that Jascha had warned Callum about several times in the past.

Easing out of the conversation Jascha struck his mallet against the hot metal again. The blade was red hot again and it complied with his force easier now, like wet mud under a heavy boot. He thought about Taja as he worked, wondering if just now she was setting the plates to table for her families supper. Or if she was holding a small spoon to her round lips and blowing the steam away before the liquid slide down her pink tongue.

His thoughts of Taja made him clumsy at his work and he stopped to rest a while and eyed his brother in the doorway suspiciously. "Is there no one that you admire, Parlen? No girl yet who has caught your eye?"

Parlen did not address his older brother's question. He still stood with his back to Jascha, slightly out in the darkness. The night was all around him, and a thick pathway of stars had pulled across the sky. Daylight was completely snuffed out. "Should I call Callum in now?" Parlen turned his head slightly to gage his brother.

Jascha looked up from his work again. "Give it a few more minutes."

Parlen gave an annoyed hiss, but he and Jascha continued to wait.

"Brother!" Callum said in greeting to Jascha when he finally emerged into the forge. He turned sheepishly toward Parlen who was still standing in the doorway with his hands folded over his chest. "Twin," he greeted Parlen.

Jascha put away his work as quickly as he could.

"And how is Audra this evening?" Parlen spoke, mocking his twin brother's actions.

Callum didn't blink before responding. "Well! Quite well indeed. Shall I have her call you in from the work field next brother? You could use a good romp."

Giving half the chance Parlen would have struck his brother then and there, but Jascha stopped their bickering with an angry call.

"Let's walk," he continued. Moving between his two brothers and guiding them onward with a hand on each of their shoulders.

Parlen calmed quickly once they got farther away from the forge. "What did you want to talk to us about?"

At the edge of the field Jascha stopped them. They were close to the boarder and from where they stood they watched as a Nymphling darted into view from the darkness of the trees. It clung from a tree limb with its tiny hand. Its fingers twitching like a spider spinning a web. It waited for them. It was ready if any of them got close enough to the edge.

Jascha continued, "The stranger—"

"—Wylliam d'Arienzo!" Callum finished for him, his tone was curt. There was a dangerous gleam forming in his eyes at the name. Jascha wondered if Audra, like many other girls in the village, had become enamored with the handsome wanderer.

"He calls himself a troubadour; a merrymaker; a magician."

Parlen cut in, "Magic— do you think he is like the Eidolon?"

"I do not know," Jascha told them truthfully. "But something is not right. Something changed when he came here. I can feel it on the wind. The comet. The song he sang in the meeting hall. He knows something more about us that he is not saying."

Callum spoke quickly, "Do you think he means us harm?"

Jascha shook his head. "I am not sure." As an afterthought he added, "I wish I knew." Jascha turned away from them and walked a few small steps closer to the boarder. "There is something more," he went on to his brothers, although he back was now turned to them. "Something you need to see."

"What is it, brother?" Parlen enquired.

Jascha turned back to them. His face was a mirage of curves and shadows in the darkness. The stars overhead gleamed as if giggling from the revelation of secrets long thought abandoned. Jascha breathed as deeply as he could. Taking the tepid air deep within, feeling his chest expand to the point of bursting. When he let the air back out it did not come as warm air to plume overhead but it escaped him in quick gasps of fire. His lips parting wide to allow the flames room to grow up from his throat.

When the flames ceased Jascha licked his lips, and his mouth felt thick from the heat. "I can feel it in my veins, my brothers."

Parlen and Callum were equally stunned.

"It has always been inside my veins, brothers. But now I can call it to me and release it at my pleasure."

All work by D.J. Wilson (FictionPress id. 350994) is copyrighted under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.