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The Saga of Leo

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Tossing a wad of metal ore into the forge built into a hill, Leo, one of the taller dwarfs of the village of Deerhelm, wiped the sweat from his brow.

Adventure / Horror
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Tossing a wad of metal ore into the forge built into a hill, Leo, one of the taller dwarfs of the village of Deerhelm, wiped the sweat from his brow. Wide black leather bracelets covered his forearm. His hands were calloused and his fingers looked like hard sausages with burns and scars from his metalwork. His dark chestnut hair was tied in a short thick braid to keep it out of his face when he struck the metal. His miss-matched eyes of pale gray and blue watched the flames turn the wad of ore into a ball of yellow-white heat. Licking his thick lips and rubbing the sweat hanging off his wide nose, he used tongs to pull the ball of white heat out of the fire.

His corded arms brought a heavy square hammer down on the wad, dulling the white heat with every blow until it flattened black and crackling red. Shoving the flattened wad back into the fire, Leo looked up at the workshop that he inherited from his father and smiled. A roof overhang jetted out from the hill about twenty paces, thick wooden beams supported the grass covered roof. A rune spell was carved into each of the nine beams, a different spell and prayer for the blacksmith and prosperity. The overhang covered three holes cut into the hill and the three work benches and anvils that sat near the great forge.

It was said that Leo’s great-great grandfather, Thorbjorn, was challenged by a demon to hallow out a hill in a day. The demon would grant him one wish if he accomplished this great task. If he failed, the demon got to own his soul when he died. When the sun slid over the edge of the earth he dug. When mid-day started to slip into twilight, Thorbjorn only had half of the hill dug out. Knowing that the demon would inspect the hollowed hill, Thorbjorn filled the half-hole with coal, lighting a massive fire. When the sun slipped into the void, the Demon found Thorbjorn waiting to show his hollowed hill. The demon peeked his head into a small hole in the hill, and Thorbjorn pushed the demon into the fire, killing it. The forge-fire has since been burning for 500 years. With his back to the heat spewing forge, Leo looked out at the village of Deerhelm.

Among the rolling hills, houses were dug into the hills. They were similar to Leo’s forge-overhang, but with wooden walls built into the dirt. Goats, sheep, dogs, and children ran, played, and ate on these grassy roofs. Each house and Leo’s forge connected to a web of stone paved streets leading down the hill onto the beach. The bigger longboats were pulled far up onto the grass where they lay waiting to split the ocean and return with gold. Decades had passed since these warships touched the salt water. Deerhelm had left the raiding lifestyle of its ancestors behind when several in the village found gold in the caves at the top of the hill. Their last foray into the old ways of their father’s southern raids was a disaster. Leo was one of the lucky, only suffering a huge scar dug deep across his back. The Jarl’s son, Gorand Helblade, had saved his live. He had lugged Leo back to the longboat, thus binding Leo to an oath of friendship and loyalty. Since the last of the raids, the men and women folk of Deerhelm had allowed this misadventure to fade from their memories and converted their longboats to into commercial vessels that exported their finely wrought metal-goods, a use much more profitable. It was the last time—nearly ten years earlier—that Leo had left Deerhelm and began prospering under this new vocation.

The need for gold and other precious metals was ever more relevant. With their short stature and powerful bodies, the villagers could dig deeper and father into the earth than any man or elf could ever dream of digging. The miners dug up gold and jewels by the basketful. For each basket of gold, they pulled out, they also retrieved three baskets of iron. Leo was one of the seven blacksmiths who owned one of the six forges of Deerhelm. They took the gold and jewels, crafting fine square jewelry rings, necklaces, bracelets, helmets, and ceremonial sword—for presents and sale to neighboring Dwarven communities, elves, and mankind. Deerhelm also produced the best dwarvish swords and dwarven armor, selling out every time their goods were brought to the Althing or the far and fabled cities their merchants found. Leo pulled the square wad of metal out of the fire and hammered it dull, bending the metal onto itself and heating it again.

An old wrinkled dwarf shuffled into the forge and lumbered up on a stool near Leo’s workspace.

“Toothbane,” Leo greeted. “How does the day find you?”

“Fine, fine,” the old dwarf waved the question away. “What are you working on?”

The old dwarf leaned forward to look into the open forge. Toothbane’s face was scarred and wrinkled, his left eye was milky white, blinded by a sword slash to his face. His balding hair was covered in a floppy pointed hat hanging down the back of his neck, wisps of white hair slipped from under the cap. His arms and shoulders still bore the carved muscles from a century of hammering metal. Only his face and hair revealed his age.

“Jarl Alf’s son needs a sword made. He has to pay compensation for that revenge killing he took part in,” Leo breathed, taking the metal to the anvil.

“Rumor says he killed that man for love.”

“Be careful what your old pointed ears would hear, master blacksmith. Gorand Helblade killed that man in self-defense. He was well within his rights. All he needs to do now is to present a sword and gold as compensation to the man’s son. I wouldn’t swear an oath of friendship to a man who would kill unjustly.” Leo finished his point with the last hammer blow then he threw the rectangle of ore into the fire.

“When will he be back to collect his sword?” Toothbane asked, standing up from his stool. Pipe in hand, he found a long stick and poked the tip into the forge-fire, catching a flame. Lighting and puffing at his pipe, he waited for his answer. Leo took a ladle full of water, refreshing his throat.

“They just sent a crow. The Quarter Court is almost over, and they should be back in a fortnight.”

Circles of smoke floated over Leo’s shoulder as the old master watched him work. Soon the rectangle of metal started to look similar to a sword.

“Here comes that pretty thing that has your eye,” Toothbane muttered sourly.

Leo plunged the metal that resembled a sword into the flame. Twisting around, Leo saw the daughter of Jarl Alf the Strong, Freyja, walking with her two sisters, closest to her age, and three more girls from the village.

“Freyja,” Leo called to her. She looked over at his direction and parted from her group. They kept walking until they notice she had broken off from their group. She entered his overhang and protected herself, from the heat by standing behind the thick log supports. Peeking her head around the log she answered him. “Good morning, Leo.”

“Good morning, princess,” he said with a short bow. She rolled her eyes. She was not a princess, just the daughter of the chief of the village—close but not a titled princess. She had met princesses on diplomatic trips with her father. She was nothing like those girls. She was a head shorter than Leo and had the thick strong arms of her father and the soft, round face of her mother. Her strong arms juxtaposed with her soft face didn’t hinder her beauty. It didn’t help, but worked. She wore her blonde hair in two braids on either side of her head, decorated with jeweled beads and flowers that were in bloom. The fringes of her yellow dress were speckled with mud.

“Is that all you want, good-caller?” Freyja said, “To taunt me?”

“No,” Leo smiled. “Will you be at the great hall tonight? Will you save a dance for me?”

She smiled at him and started walking back to her group and said, “We’ll see.”

The sun slipped over the sky, and the sword started to take shape. Watching the old dwarf slipping into an uneasy slumber in his stool, Leo took a moment to open a small drawer on his work bench. A golden snake biting its tail was the only thing in the drawer.

“She’ll love it,” Toothbane said with one eye open peering over Leo’s shoulder.

“Come on Toothbane. That’s enough for today,” Leo said, sliding the drawer closed then helped the old dwarf to his feet. Leo took his red wool shirt off a peg on a pole, and put it on. He walked with Toothbane down the cobblestone road to his daughter’s house. They greeted their neighbors with respectful nods and waves, and the neighbors returned the favor before they continued their last tasks before night fall. Toothbane opened the door to a house that looked very much like the others but his rune symbol was carved into the door. “Thank you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You’re welcome,” Leo said, taking the old dwarf’s grasp. A little dwarf girl ran out of the door squealing with excitement and wrapped her little arms around the ancient leg of her grandfather. Toothbane scooped the little girl into his arms and kissed her face. His beard tickled her soft round face. A young boy ran into Toothbane, shoving his face into Toothbane’s stomach. Toothbane laughed. “Come on you troublemakers. Good night, Leo.”

Toothbane shuffled into the house and Leo walked up the hill.

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