Story 9 of Tales of The Wandering Blacksmith
by Vaughan W. Smith
Vincent open his eyes slowly and gradually took in the scenery around him. A mostly white room, and he was on a bed. As he tried to rise he felt his arms restrained. Leather straps had locked his arms in place.
I’m no danger to anyone, and I only pushed my body too hard. Why am I here?
“What’s the meaning of this?” Vincent cried out, looking for help. Captain Brady ran into the room.
“Oh, you’re awake. How are you feeling?”
“Like a prisoner,” Vincent grunted. Brady looked around and leaned in close.
“You’re a bloody hero.” Brady paused and shook his head. “Damn politics though, they’re starting to spin it.”
“Is that why I’m restrained?”
“I assume so. I’ve heard multiple stories. Some say it’s an embarrassment that you dealt with the killer and not the authorities. Others are trying to suggest that you were in cahoots with him and you had a disagreement over the final blades.” Brady sighed.
“Madness. Absolutely madness.” Vincent struggled again at the restraints. Brady put a hand on his chest gently.
“Don’t do anything rash, I’ll help you out.” Brady stood up and strode out of the room. Vincent could hear distant conversation, but couldn’t pick out any words.
I need to get out of here. I can’t hang around any longer.
Vincent felt his blood boil again. For the second time he was being unjustly punished for doing the right thing.
Cool it or else you’ll look crazy. Brady can’t help you then.
He remembered the look in Brady’s eyes. It was a sincere one. Of a man struggling to reconcile the wrong that he was witnessing. Within a few minutes Brady returned with another soldier. This one had a different uniform, with white and red accents.
“See, he’s awake and has only superficial injuries. He should be released,” Brady said. The soldier looked uneasy.
“I was ordered to keep him confined since he killed a man.”
“In self-defence. And we have good reason to believe that man was a criminal behind a string of thefts and murders.” Brady put his arm on the soldier’s shoulder and softened his voice. “You’ll be releasing him into my custody. I’m an Officer, and decorated in the field. It’s safe. If you cop any backlash, just blame me.” Vincent watched the solider’s reaction. He was struggling.
“I’ll even remove the restraints myself.” Brady slowly stepped over and started removing the leather straps from Vincent’s arms. The relief was so strong he had to withhold a sigh. He did subconsciously rub his arms though, relishing in their new freedom.
“See, he’s fine. Go get some lunch and I’ll take him out.” Brady guided the soldier gently to the doorway then returned.
“Let’s get you out of here.” Brady offered a hand. Vincent accepted it and stood up. Thankfully he was stronger than he felt.
“I can’t stay here, not after that.” Vincent looked Brady in the eye. The officer didn’t flinch.
“I know that. Come on..” Brady turned to leave. Vincent reached out and caught his arm.
“There’ll be a price for this. You don’t have to suffer on my account.”
“It would be an honour. And you’re welcome.” Brady brushed off Vincent’s arm and started walking out with purpose. Vincent rushed to catch up.
They received a few strange looks as they wound their way out of the medical wing, but nobody challenged Brady. Vincent tried to walk as normally as possible, but it felt uncomfortable with so many eyes on him. Any of those men could call for assistance and Brady’s stunt would be shut down. But so far, none did. It was with great relief that he started to recognise their surroundings. And in a few more corners, he was brought back to the secluded workshop he shared with Balzar.
“Come find my sword, I don’t want to leave without it.” Brady spoke louder than required, as if he were announcing it to the room.
I sure hope it’s here.
Vincent rushed off, panic starting to set in. He had no idea what they had done with his swords. Anything was possible. As he closed in on his workspace he saw Balzar standing over it.
“You’re back.” Balzar’s gaze went from Vincent and back to Brady.
“Yes. I need to retrieve Brady’s sword. Do you know where it might be?”
“I returned them to your lockbox.” Balzar gestured with his hand. He never took his eyes off Brady. Vincent rushed over and unlocked the box, swinging it open. He let out a relieved sigh and stood cradling one of the swords.
“You saved me, I owe you.” Vincent bowed to Balzar and then turned to present the sword to Brady. The solider accepted it carefully.
“It’s my best work, and I think after all this commotion it will become quite valuable.”
“I expect it will.” Brady buckled the sword on his belt and extended his hand. “Vincent, it has been my honour. I expect we won’t cross paths again.” Vincent grabbed his hand and shook hard.
“I expect not. Use it well.”
“I promise.” Brady bowed and strode away. Vincent watched him leave and waited for the sound of footsteps to fade away completely.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what’s going on?” Balzar said. His face was a picture of concern and his eyes were tightly focused on Vincent.
“I wish I knew. I’m starting to develop a dislike for Runesteel. It seems to bring out the worst in people.”
“No, that’s just weapons.” Balzar sighed. “But Runesteel, more than most. I’m afraid we are in the minority, valuing the weapon for the artistic excellent and craftsmanship and not for its deadliness.”
“I may need to stop making weapons, I don’t want this to be a constant theme in my life.”
“You’ll have to disappear for them to let that happen.” Balzar chuckled, then stopped abruptly. “You don’t mean to?”
“No, I would never. Don’t be silly.” Vincent returned to his lockbox and retrieved his own Runesteel sword. Next he fetched a harness and strapped to his back and started packing his bag.
“Off to demonstrate your blade to drum up another commission?” Balzar said, his eyes taking in the whole scene.
“Yes. You can’t be too prepared these days, I’m not sure what I’ll have to deal with.” Vincent kept his eyes locked on Balzar’s. The blacksmith nodded.
“Good luck out there. I hope we can one day work on something together.” Balzar extended his hand and Vincent grabbed it. The other smith’s grip was strong and reassuring.
“I look forward to it. Well, I best leave now to avoid being late.” Vincent nodded to Balzar and walked over to the main entry. He pushed the doors open with confidence and glanced at the two soldiers guarding the doors.
“Off for a demonstration to the upper brass.” Vincent kept walking, hoping they wouldn’t follow. One of the guards did. Vincent turned around and confronted him.
“My apologies, but that won’t be necessary. Personally I would appreciate your protection, given what’s been happening. But my sponsor requested a certain amount of discretion, he doesn’t want to be targeted another crazy.”
“And your sponsor is?” the guard began.
“Fond of his privacy. Trust me on this, why else would I be back out here?” Vincent dared the guard to challenge him. Instead the man shook his head slowly and returned to his post.
“Appreciated. I’ll be back soon.” Vincent strode away, assuming an annoyed demeanour. He needed the guards to believe it.
The last thing I want is a scene. Everything is already bad enough.
As Vincent passed through the lane into the bustling street his chest started to feel lighter. His steps quickened more and more.
Just don’t run.
The lightness spread throughout his body.
I can’t believe I’m free again.
The thought was soon counteracted by something else.
I’m leaving so much behind.
Vincent’s footsteps slowed. He thought on his weaponsmith friends, and how he’d probably never see them again. Sylas too. Mason, well he felt bad about that. Mason wouldn’t hear the end of it when they discovered Vincent had left. There were things left undone, his life at Valrytir wasn’t properly closed off.
There’s nothing I can do. Just go. Don’t look back.
Vincent forced himself to keep on walking. He took the most direct way to the gates. Keeping his head down and his pace steady, he just forged on ahead. The site of the gates did create a wave of nervousness. One that increased when he recognised a few of the guards. But they were busy looking at the people going in, not the ones going out.
The large number of people slowed everything down, and Vincent had to slowly approach the giant gates. He felt tightness across his chest and swore that there were eyes on his back. He forced himself forward, step after step.
“Vincent!” a voice called out. He froze and turned around, looking for who it was. At first he didn’t see anyone at all. But then he spotted her. A friendly face making her way over.
“What are the odds I would see you here? Off on a trip?” The woman offered him her arm and he took it quickly, letting out a sigh and a hearty laugh.
“Glendel, you gave me the fright of a lifetime!”
“I do apologise, but there aren’t so many young and respectful men around. I’m always on the lookout.” Glendel gave him a grin and continued shuffling along.
“Did you make it as a weaponsmith?” she asked as they passed through the gates. Vincent cautiously glanced around at the guards before answering.
“Yes, I did well.” He paused and sighed letting his shoulders drop. “A little too well.”
“If that sword on your back is your own work, I can understand the problems.” Glendel gave an approving nod.
“How much do you know about smithing?”
“Enough to know an amazing piece of Runesteel when I see it. You should have covered that up, you know. Didn’t you hear about that Runesteel killer?”
“I did. Somehow, doing the right thing only made things worse.”
“No good deed goes unpunished. You’ll learn that in time.”
“Where are you going?” Vincent asked.
“Oh, not far. There’s a little town called Meena not far from here. I’ll arrange a carriage there. Would you mind escorting me there?”
“Not at all. I don’t have any plans.”
“Good. Now, if you didn’t already realise, I’m a terrible gossip. I need to know everything. I bet you’ve got a story or two to tell.” Glendel went quiet and looked at him expectantly.
“It all comes back to Runesteel…” Vincent began.
Glendel kept Vincent talking the entire time. Even at their slow pace, the town of Meena rose before them soon enough. There was nothing much to it, everything seemed to be on a single street. What dominated the small town was a giant building housing stables.
“I take it this is a bit of a travel hub?” Vincent said, pointing to the stables.
“Oh yes, you saw all the people streaming in and out of Valrytir, it’s no good for carriages and the like. Regular folk like me have to hike out here to get anywhere else.”
“Should I take you over?”
“No, let’s go to the inn. You can leave me there and plan your next move.” Glendel said nothing more, and Vincent guided her through the relatively busy street. The inn was called The Tanked Thoroughbred and had an image of a horse-head downing a large tankard of ale.
“I hope you don’t get that horse.” Vincent pointed to the sign and Glendel barked out a laugh.
“I’m all for a more interesting trip, but I fear that would be too interesting. And have a terrible conclusion.” Vincent pushed held open the door for Glendel and looked inside. The inn was relatively busy, it being just after noon.
“Over here will be fine.” Glendel pointed to a small booth in the corner that was unoccupied. They wove their way through the tables and she eased herself down with a big sigh.
“Ah, that’s better. Now, you’ve done your duty. Now, I’m sure you’re in a big hurry to get nowhere at all. But, I have something to tell you.” Glendel leaned in closer.
“Sure.” Vincent leaned in too.
“A few towns over, there’s a smith called Rohan. He’s a good man, he can help you out.”
“Thanks for the advice.”
“Oh and just promise me one thing.”
“What’s that?” asked with a bit of hesitation.
“Make sure you end up at Brangtur.” Glendel leaned back into the chair and made herself more comfortable. “Yes, that’s where you need to be. You won’t have the same problems there. Good luck young Vincent, take care.”
“Thank you Glendel, you take care too.” Vincent gave her a bow and made his way over to the bar. Within a few minutes he had some food and water and directions to the next town.
Time to have a wander.
After five different towns, Vincent was started to doubt there was even a blacksmith called Rohan. Each town he asked he, he got nothing but blank stares. It shouldn’t’ have bothered him, but the lack of a Rohan kept nagging at him.
She was a bit elderly, did she forget?
As he came across the sixth one, he decided to just let it go. He was far enough from Valrytir that nobody had any recent news, and he doubted there was enough reason to pursue him properly.
Maybe she just gave me a reason to go from town to town. Why shouldn’t I just rest at the next one?
The next one, he soon discovered, was called Alterone. And from the look of it, this one had a decently sized smithy.
Don’t even get your hopes up, just find yourself a room at the inn.
Vincent slowly made his way over to the inn. He looked up and saw that it was called ‘The Napping Nomad’ which earned it a slight chuckle. Vincent pushed the doors open and stepped inside, looking around the main room. It was completely empty. An old man stood behind the bar, polishing glasses. He had thick white hair and a pleasant, albeit rather plain face. Seeing as how the room was empty, Vincent walked up to the bar and eased down into one of the stools, letting his bag sink down to the floor.
“Long journey?” the bartender said.
“I’m not sure yet, I’ll let you know when I get there,” Vincent quipped. The bartender laughed easily.
“I like your style. What brings you to town…?” The bartender paused, holding out his hand and waiting for the introduction.
“Vincent. And you are?”
“Rohan. I’d be pleased to meet you any day, but today doubly so.” Rohan pointed to the empty room.
“I’m hungry and looking for somewhere to stay. I think we’ll be friends.” Vincent grinned and Rohan let out a hearty laugh. Rohan poured an ale and placed it before Vincent.
“You have my undivided attention. So, Vincent, what brings you here?”
“Well I’m just travelling around. But I did get a tip to go visit a blacksmith called Rohan. But here we are, and you’re the first Rohan I’ve met.” Vincent didn’t look up, instead taking a long sip of the ale.
“It’s not that common of a name. Why are you looking for a smith? That sword won’t need any sharpening that’s for sure.” Rohan look uneasily up to the Runesteel blade.
“It shouldn’t, from all my tests Runesteel is nigh on indestructible.” Vincent watched the man’s face. For the briefest of moment’s Rohan looked shocked, but then the smooth expression was back. “It wasn’t my supply, it came from Valrytir.”
“Interesting. Not many get to work with Runesteel these days.” Rohan seemed to be reaching under the bar for something. “Who did you say gave you the tip?”
“A woman named Glendel.” Vincent watched Rohan’s reaction. The tension left him completely and he started to roar with laughter.
“You really had me going for a moment there. Glendel? Ha!” Rohan glided over to pour himself an ale.
“Here’s to close encounters.” Rohan held up his mug and they clinked them together, Vincent taking a deep drink afterwards.
“I take it I avoided something nasty?”
“Nasty is a kind way of putting it.” Rohan slowly revealed a heavy crossbow that had been sitting under the bar. It was loaded with a dart, and the tip had something on it.
“Is that poison?” Vincent asked in horror.
“Yep.” Rohan admired it, then carefully returned the crossbow. “Don’t worry, I have plenty of antidote around.”
“I have to ask, why the extreme measures? You’re just a former blacksmith, right?”
“Blacksmith is putting it lightly, lad. I could make anything. And unfortunately, I had the poor sense of letting them know it. Soon enough, I was being forced to make anything, whether I agreed with it or not.” Rohan had a steely look to his eyes.
“So you disappeared out here to become an innkeeper? Isn’t that a little cliche?” Vincent chuckled.
“There’s something to be said to be hiding in plain sight… in the middle of nowhere.” Rohan downed the rest of his drink and wiped his mouth.
“Why would Glendel suggest I find you?” Vincent said.
“You’ve worked with Balzar haven’t you?”
“Yes, how did you know that?”
“I think we have a lot in common. How about you tell me a story, and I’ll piece together the connection.” Rohan poured himself another drink and pointed to a bar stool. Vincent eased himself down and began to talk.
Hours later, nobody else had entered the inn. Rohan had laid out a spread of cheeses and bread and they snacked while continuing to talk. Apart from the odd question to clarify, Rohan was quiet and let Vincent tell his tale the way he wanted to.
“And then I ended up here. Almost shot by a poisoned crossbow bolt.”
“Well, can’t blame a man for being too careful. There are a lot of parallels to our stories. For starters, I think Glendel is more connected than you realise. It was unlikely a coincidence that you bumped into her again on your way out of the city.”
“Perhaps. So you were forced into service by the Military?”
“Something like that. Same story, but a few minor variations. Let me sleep on it, and I’ll consider your proposal.” Rohan stood back from the bar and stretched.
“What proposal?” Vincent said, alarmed. Rohan roared with laughter.
“Oh, you’re good value. Glendel must have had a delightful time.” Rohan grinned at him before continuing. “Your proposal that we travel to Brangtur together.”
“Alright.” Vincent let the idea sink in. “Think on it.” Rohan smiled and pressed a key into Vincent’s hands.
“Room number three.” Rohan’s attention turned then to the door, and he watched a woman walk into the inn.
“Duty calls,” he quipped and he stepped aside to give the woman his full attention. Vincent pocketed the key lifted up his ale, taking it to a corner table. He sat there mulling it over and trying to puzzle out Rohan’s story.
I can’t figure him out, I really can’t.
The next morning Vincent arose early and packed his things. He looked over the small, but functional room, and appreciated the quiet simplicity of it. It revealed something of Rohan’s character. As he began to leave he heard footsteps in the hallway.
“Ah, good you’re up.” Rohan approached the doorway.
“Did you come to a decision?” Vincent asked. He felt a lot more nervous than he expected. Rohan had put him at ease during their conversation.
It would be a shame to travel so far alone.
“You’ve twisted my arm, but I’m going to come with you. I can tell you’ve got more stories to tell, and somebody needs to keep you out of trouble.”
“If you’re sure, I could use the company.”
“Plus, I’ll introduce you to some senior blacksmiths. I reckon I still know some heavy hitters back in Brangtur.”
“That would be amazing.”
“Don’t worry, you’re funding the trip. You can do some smithing work as we travel to fund it.”
“And what will you be doing?”
“Supervising. And ale tasting.”
“No more weapons. I’m done with that.” Vincent noticed Rohan’s grin instantly dropping away.
“Good, that’s something we agree on.”
“Good.” Vincent nodded and followed Rohan down the hallway.
Here begins another adventure.
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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.