Story 4 of Tales of the Wandering Blacksmith
by Vaughan W. Smith
Vincent threw himself into the work, trying to learn as much as possible. But at the same time, he knew that he was trying to avoid thinking about what had happened to Tony. William too seemed to have an unnecessary focus on making the workshop as organised and clean as possible.
“You need time, I guess this is as good a way as any to pass it,” Vincent thought. He didn’t have any words to say to William, but he couldn’t help but feel somewhat responsible. He had no hand in Tony being infected, but it was because of him that Tony returned the way he did. Even William’s kind words about seeing his son again didn’t completely change the way Vincent thought about it.
“Vincent, do you mind holding the fort? I’m going to go see Arthur,” William said.
“Not a problem.”
“Thanks, be back soon.”
“Take your time,” Vincent said. He watched William go and then looked for something else to do. He didn’t want to be left alone with his thoughts. The door opened again and Vincent was about to speak, but it wasn’t William coming through. It was someone else.
“I passed William on my way in, he said you would be able to help,” the man said. He was dressed in rough working clothes and removed his hat as he entered.
“For most things, I certainly can. The name’s Vincent.”
“George. I run a farm at the edge of town,” the man said, shaking Vincent’s hand. He withdrew his hand and heaved a heavy object onto the workbench.
“Can you do something with this?” he said. Vincent could see that it was a broken shovel. It was thick and heavy but had obvious damage. There were some rusted holes and dents from impacts.
“I don’t think we can do much to repair it, might have to replace the head. What’s it made out of?”
“You tell me,” George said. Vincent lifted the shovel and felt the surface of the metal. It was too heavy for steel and had the wrong colour.
“I’ll have to consult with William on this one if you want it replaced like for like. Otherwise, I can just make a new head for it.”
“It’s too heavy for my liking anyway, why don’t you just remake whatever you need to,” George said. He was about to leave but noticed Vincent’s gaze.
Vincent wasn’t staring at the shovel, but at George’s arm. The farmer’s shirtsleeves were raised higher than normal, and Vincent could see the beginnings of a black mark. It was quite distinctive. He looked away quickly.
“What did you think of the light show we had before? Pretty strange wasn’t it?” Vincent said. George stared at Vincent, his eyes hardening.
“Didn’t notice, I must have slept through it. I’ll come back tomorrow for the shovel,” he said.
“Of course, I’ll have it ready,” Vincent said. George turned and left. Once the door closed, Vincent relaxed and let go the breath he was holding.
“There’s only one way to get that mark; he was infected. And I think I remember Milna mentioned him too. I’ll have to ask her,” Vincent thought. But he couldn’t shake a bad feeling. He had been too obvious asking George about the lights as soon as he spotted the mark. Nothing he could do now though, so Vincent threw himself back into the work.
William returned with his usual jovial energy a few hours later. However, he seemed to be more excited than usual.
“Did something special happen today?” Vincent said.
“Not yet, but it may yet do. There’s a special visitor in town.”
“A wizard. He’s trying to find someone and the trail has led here.”
“Really? Who is he looking for?” Vincent said quickly. He feared the answer.
“A young man, similar description to yourself now that I think about it. Goes by the name Andar.”
“Wow I wonder what that’s all about,” Vincent said.
“It wouldn’t be you?” William said.
“No, I have no business with wizards. “
“Are you sure? You had some interesting theories about the Blight and the recent lights,” William said. His eyes were fixated on Vincent, holding his gaze.
“As long as you’re sure. Now, what did George want?”
“He wants this repaired. But I have no idea what it’s made out of. I said that I would probably need to remake the head in some other material,” Vincent said. He guided William over to the workbench and pointed out the shovel. William carefully lifted it, turned it over several times and tested the weight with his hands.
“Now this is something else. I can’t say for sure, but it does remind me of the stories.”
“I had always dismissed them as fairy tales. Blacksmiths do tend to gossip more than you would expect. I think it’s driven by a passion for the craft. Anyway, there’s tales of many different types of metals apart from your standard set. One of them is called Darksteel,” William said. He put the shovel down carefully.
“Yes, that’s the one. They say it’s created by adding Blight during the forging process to produce a new material.”
“Adding Blight? How?”
“Through some sort of liquid. I wouldn’t know if it was blood, or something else. Just that it’s jet black. Just stories I suppose, but there’s something about that shovel that seems odd. Maybe I’m just being superstitious!” William said, shrugging his shoulders.
“Maybe you are, but you never know. Clearly, we can’t repair this material if we don’t know how to forge it,” Vincent said.
“Exactly. You should continue as you planned, just make a new head to fit the existing shaft. Leave the handle as is; it seems fine. Do less work, and if he wants more done he can instruct you in that,” William said.
“Sure, I’ll get right on it,” Vincent said. William clapped him on the shoulder and walked off to inspect the other workbench. As Vincent started work he thought that William was looking at him. But whenever he turned around, the master blacksmith was busy in his work.
Later that day, Vincent stepped away from his work. It was progressing well, and he’d be able to finish it the next day.
“Hopefully before George comes in,” he thought.
“Good day’s work. Let’s go feed,” William said. He led Vincent out of the shop, locked up and they walked back to the house.
Over dinner, Vincent spoke up.
“Milna, I met George today.”
“Oh, how is he doing? I’ve heard a lot of stories about him recently. That he’s a lot friendlier,” she said.
“I don’t really have anything to compare with. What did he used to be like?”
“Oh, I very rarely saw him. Kept to himself, only came into the town proper when he needed supplies or services. Always seemed especially secretive.”
“I don’t think that’s changed,” Vincent said.
“That’s just some folk. But he does have a good network of friends. They’re all farmers though, probably prefer each other’s company.”
“I have noticed a change in him. He seems a lot more aware of himself. For the longest time he seemed focused on other things, and not really paying attention to you,” William said.
“That’s interesting,” Vincent said.
“What are you getting at?” William said. He had stopped eating and was watching Vincent carefully.
“He just seemed a little off today, I wanted to see if that was just how he was or if it was something I had done.”
“Fair enough. Milna, have you heard about the wizard in town?” William said.
“Oh yes. It’s terribly exciting, I can’t remember the last time he had one here. It’s not like there is much here to warrant a wizard. Have you met him?”
“Not yet. I was thinking of introducing myself tomorrow. Would you like to come Vincent?”
“Not really. I need to finish off the work for George. I don’t want him to be disappointed. Especially given everything you’ve said about him.”
“Suit yourself. I’ll put in a good word for you,” William said. Vincent shifted on his seat but said nothing.
“I’ll come with you. I would like to meet him,” Milna said.
“Fantastic! It’s settled then,” William said, returning to his meal.
The next morning Vincent busied himself in the work. He didn’t think about William’s plans about visiting the wizard, although he did start considering how to keep himself hidden from the wizard. He wasn’t ready to be dragged back into his father’s world so soon. He needed more time. But he didn’t want to turn and run. There was still so much more he could learn from William. And he had to admit that he was really enjoying himself.
Before he could get back to his work the front door swung open, and Vincent’s train of thought was cut short. He saw George entering the shop.
“Hello, George. Unfortunately, I’m not finished,” Vincent said. He stepped forward to greet the farmer.
“That’s fine. I was hoping you could come out and look at something else for me,” George said.
“Certainly,” Vincent said and followed George outside. As he stepped out, two pairs of hands grabbed him.
“This way,” George said, pointing to the rear of the workshop. Two imposing farmers held Vincent firmly, half dragging and half escorting him. Vincent stayed quiet and assessed the situation.
“I must have hit a nerve yesterday,” he thought. Nothing good could come from the situation. He kept quiet and waited to see what happened next.
The two men holding him shoved Vincent forward and he stumbled. As he recovered Vincent spotted a ring of men surrounding him. They all looked to be roughly clothed, like farmers. There was no other common element between them.
“Here he is. The nosy one,” George said.
“So what’s your story?” one of the men said. He stepped forward and pushed Vincent back.
“Nothing much to tell. I’m just another man trying to make his way in the world.”
“I asked around Alan, he arrived only days after the strange lights,” George said.
“I heard you were asking about those lights. Is there something you want to share with us?” Alan said.
“No, what are you after?” Vincent said.
“Strip him down, I want to see for myself,” Alan said. Vincent was forced down and his clothes were removed. The man examined his skin closely.
“Look at this,” one of them said. He held and pointed at Vincent’s foot. Alan squatted down and peered at it.
“It’s minor but it’s unmistakable. Get dressed,” Alan said as he rose. Nearby men threw Vincent’s clothes back at him, and he dressed as quickly as possible.
“So you were infected. There’s more to your story than you’re letting on,” Alan said.
“Technically, yes. But it wasn’t for long. Those strange lights saw to that. But you know all about that, don’t you?” Vincent said.
“Yes, we do. Not that we understand it. But I must say it is a relief to see that you are marked. It explains your behaviour,” Alan said.
“I’m not looking to cause trouble,” Vincent said, looking around. He had to assume that all these men had been infected by the Blight previously. But not as Blighters, they seemed too normal.
“It might be a coincidence that the wizard is here too,” George said.
“We can’t take any chances. You need to leave town tonight. If you don’t we’ll beat you within an inch of your life and expose your secret,” Alan said.
“That’s quite an offer.”
“I need an answer now.”
“I’ll leave. I meant what I said about not wanting to cause trouble. But can I least ask you one question.”
“Speak, and I’ll consider it,” Alan said.
“Do you remember anything? Of the time before?” Vincent said. Alan looked away. Vincent looked around and none of the men made eye contact.
“I think you have your answer. Now leave,” George said. Vincent nodded and walked away.
His heart felt heavy as he made his way back to the workshop. As much as he had not wanted to get attached, as much as he wanted to flee to avoid the wizard, he didn’t want to go. The town had its hold on him, and the good nature of William and Milna and the blacksmithing work were rejuvenating. He felt like he had found what he needed to do, and yet now he had to leave it just as he became comfortable.
“Hello Vincent,” William said. Vincent almost jumped. He hadn’t expected the blacksmith to be back so soon.
“Is everything alright?”
“Yes, I just ducked out so that George could show me something.”
“I see,” William said. He didn’t ask any further questions and walked over to the front door of the workshop and locked it.
“I had an interesting conversation with the wizard this morning.”
“That’s great. What did you discuss?”
“Many things. Theories about those strange lights, what his purpose is here.”
“Does he agree with you?”
“You mean does he agree with you? It was your theory. And yes he does. Funny that ” William said. He was giving Vincent another strange look.
“That’s just logic for you. What’s magical is that we’re on the same page as a wizard,” Vincent said, trying to lighten the mood.
“Indeed, quite an unusual occurrence. The wizard also said that the man he is trying to find is the son of a great wizard. And that he urgently needs to communicate with him.”
“I certainly hope he finds who he is looking for.”
“You don’t know anything about this?”
“No? Why would I?”
“Perhaps it’s just my imagination. Several elements of your story seemed to align with his. Never mind then. I should let you finish off George’s shovel.”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to,” Vincent said. William stopped dead still.
“Why is that?”
“I need to leave. As soon as possible.”
“Why? Are you running from something?”
“Something like that. I’m sorry I can’t explain it. I really wish things didn’t turn out this way. I was really starting to enjoy it here,” Vincent said.
“Is there something I can do to help?”
“No, it’s best that you don’t get involved. There’s no danger I just need to move on. I wish there was some way to repay you both for what you have done for me. You’ve given me a new purpose.”
“I can’t change your mind can I?”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
“Whatever you are running from, one day it will catch up with you.”
“I know, and that day I’ll be ready. But not today; not now. And I’m not going to involve anyone else,” Vincent said. Part of him wanted to see if they could deal with George and his friends. But it wasn’t worth it. Especially with the wizard hovering around. He walked over and offered William his hand.
“It’s been an honour. Send my best to Milna,” he said.
“You can’t say it yourself?” William said. He left his hand hovering.
“It’s for the best. Trust me.”
“Very well,” William said and took Vincent’s hand into a strong grip. He pulled the young man into a hug. After a second he clapped Vincent on the back and stepped away.
“At least let me give you a parting gift,” William said. He retrieved his best hammer and offered it to Vincent.
“I can’t take this,” Vincent said.
“You’ll refuse me?”
“No,” Vincent said, after a pause. William nodded and thrust the hammer into a leather sack.
“Treat it well and it will treat you well. Good luck on your travels young Vincent. Don’t forget about us,” William said.
“I won’t. Perhaps I’ll find my way back one day.”
“I look forward to it,” William said. Vincent nodded and looked over at the door. The sooner he left the better. He gave the blacksmith a quick wave and went straight for the door. He choked back a tear as he emerged outside and took his first step away from the workshop.
These stories have been through only minimal editing to make them available for free online in a timely manner. Eventually they will be taken down and compiled into a book so please take this opportunity to read the story as it unfolds.