Today’s excerpt comes from an old ‘character sketch’. There is more to her story, and perhaps at some point, I will edit the whole thing and see what comes out. For the moment, I just thought I’d share ‘The Forge’.
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Her earliest memory was of the Forge.
Distant, metallic clanking grating on her sensitive ears. Searing heat in the darkness. The hiss of a red-hot blade thrust into a cooling pan and the eerie bloody glow of the forge. The gaping maw of that same forge, horrible with flaming breath and the sour-sweet scent of ebonmoss burning to maintain the fire.
She was aware that she was not alone, curled like a kicked puppy in the corner, her long, coltish legs drawn up to her chest and arms wrapped around her shins. There was the monster at the anvil, beating the spirit of the metal out of it as he bent raw elements to his will. He bellowed at the apprentince boy, one tenth his size and no more than ten years of age, and raged at the metal to assert himself as its master. There was another like her, though despite her keen vision she could not see very well through the dim, smoky, cavern, and she did know who it might be.
Vaguely, in the farthest reaches of her half-dead mind, she recalled a handsome woman with hair like a hearthfire, all golden orange and gleaming in candlelight, who had held her to breast and stroked her own hair to comfort her. Those days were gone, why and how, she was not sure. With dim recognition she found herself fingercombing her own filthy mane of firegold locks, so dingy and caked with grime as to be more gray-black than orange-yellow.
“Brat!” The monsterman at the forge growled. When the other did not stir and she felt the burning cold of the monster’s black eyes upon her. She leapt to her feet and nearly spilled to the floor again, weak from hunger and faint with exhaustion. Timidly she half-crawled half-walked, her fingers brushing the ash laden floor to ensure that she did not tumble forward, toward the massive iron anvil. He barked something in some rough tongue and the apprentice, who was nearly as anxious in the monsterman’s presence as she, stepped forward and braced himself, taking hold of her. Immediately, she was overcome with terror and though she had no idea what was coming, her arms flailed and she kicked for all her young body was worth.
The monsterman spat a curse and threw his tools down furiously. In an instant he was upon her, her nostrils filled with the thick, rank stench of man sweat, sulfur, and whatever half-rotten meal he’d eaten that day. His hands were enormous, each as large as her head, and when those iron-hard fingers closed around her thin arms, she was sure that he would kill her. He would shatter her bones in his bare grip and then dash her skull against the wall and let the red and grey bits slip down until they made a splut on the rough stone floor.
He slammed his fist into her chin, snapping her head back on her and then tossed her, barely conscious with a mouthful of blood, to the floor. She was crushed beneath the thick, filthy sole of his boot, her cheek mashed to the stone, his heel digging into her spine so hard she was sure it would snap. And then he was howling at the apprentice boy, who returned to thrust a tool into the burning mouth of the Forge. Her tears and screams fell upon deaf ears as the monsterman yelled impatiently and the apprentice cowered, whimpering.
From the corner of her eye she caught sight of the other like her, a vicious scar marring a proud, handsome face. One elongated elven ear was cruelly sliced from its head and the left eye had been put-out by the same blade that left its mark across its face. There was a glimmer of recognition as one fine curl of glimmering firegold slipped down, hanging limply before the terrified hazel eyes. Mother! And the memories flooded her being in that single moment. Home, safety, warmth, love. The stern gaze of her father as he showed her how to hold a wooden sword and the comforting embrace he gave when she skinned a knee in her feverish climbing of trees. The handsome face that was all things to a child, a mother’s smile and tender ministrations. She knew only a heartbeat of anguish as she saw what the butchers had done to ravage her mother’s face, and recalled in the blink of an eye the chaotic destruction the Raiders had brought upon the tiny village in the trees. Young eyes had seen her father gutted like a pig for the spit, her elder sister raped and then her throat slit and her dead body abused still further. She had watched them dash her infant brother’s brains against the Heartwood, the clan’s sacred tree.
But in the next moment her young body was lanced through with agony. The scent of burning flesh pushed past the monsterman’s foul odor to filled her head. Her vision burst into a field of white, as hot and searing as the branding iron he ground into her shoulder. The pain was such that she could not even cry out, that the tears dried in her eyes and her struggling went still.
Only after the monsterman yanked the iron away, leaving a hideous, red mark in her flesh, did blessed oblivion finally take her.
When she awoke, there was no memory left in her head of the tender home she had once known, nor the brutal destruction of it. The loving visage of parents and siblings was torn from her mind by the excruciating heat of the branding iron and whatever hope may have bubbled forth from one so young was smashed beneath the weight of the thick iron slave’s collar that coiled around her neck when she awoke.
They had stolen everything from her; home, family, freedom. The girl had nothing to cling to in the steaming, fetid hell they had thrust her into… Nothing except for the name given to her at birth.
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And that’s it for today’s snippet. What did you think? Comments, questions, suggestions appreciated – let me hear about it below!
Love & Rainbows,