Forge Hardening

High in the Grey Mountains the air is still crisp, even on the first day of spring. Blue brocade brushes against the frost still on the groundcover. A black cloak edged in yellow hugs her shoulders. She doesn’t notice the cold, for she’s brought all the steel she can carry up into these hills. It is her birthday.

She hears the welcoming howl of the minogons as she comes around a rock outcropping, but watches them hacking at the giant only for a moment before slipping behind the waterfall and into the Rooms of Ruin.

Deep in the Rooms, she puts on her gloves. She sets the first of the steel bars to heat in the hearth of the forge. She arrays her tools, readies a bucket of clay slip, puts water in a trough, notes the look of the steel, thinks about the talk she had with Card. She doesn’t need to think about the hearth being too hot–she adjusts the dampers a little, and knows that the steel will heat at the rate she wants. She wonders what her parents would think of /this/ forge, heated by magma under the isle, and larger than her mother’s entire workshop.

This isle, these people. Was it really that different from home, though? It irked her, not being taken seriously, but Card was right. Why concern herself with a few people who didn’t respect her? There was so much to do, after all. Seven years on the island and she felt as though she’d just brushed the surface of all there was to learn.

Lost in thought, she forms the blade of a long knife almost unconsciously. One blade anneals to be worked some more while she folds the metal for a larger blade, a core of soft steel inside the higher carbon steel. She works for hours at the forge, stepping back to drink water, to set metal on the hearth, to murmur an automatic greeting when a patrolling golem steps into the forge room. Metal cools from straw-colored to orange to dull cherry. It flows under her hammer into graceful curves.

It is past midnight by the time she scrapes clay from a few heat-treated blades. She applies a file to the edges to look at the grain of the forged steel, a tale of transformation written in the crystalline gradations there. A laminar failure betrayed by a crack on one, an unpleasing temper line on another, but some of the blades might work. If anything would.

In draconic now, she speaks. The warm light from the forge seems dimmer as magics light up the room. Directing her spells at blades, she tries one then another. A cantrip first. Spells of protection, of flame and lightning. She caresses the Weave for enchantments, invocations, and banishment. At long last she stops, unsatisfied, and fatigue from the long day takes over.

After she naps, she leaves the Rooms to find fallen scout minogons. Performing field repairs when she can, she welds and patches the maltreated units, realigning them as Jeri has shown. She dresses their axe blades and makes sure their sensors are polished and unobstructed. She can’t help but smile fondly at the automatons. These scouts were the first she worked on; simple compared to most inside, but that made them easy to work on. She salvages critical parts from the more damaged golems to bring back into the Rooms. Maybe she could make a power hammer for the forge using a golem core… But that is a project for another time; already she thinks about the materials for her next set of experiments.

She is twenty-four.


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