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By Michael J. Pineda

Adventure / Action

Beware the Maelstrom

It was springtime in the kingdom of Arendelle. Birds chirped and crocuses bloomed throughout the fertile plains. The fjord glistened under the cloudless, sunny sky and the kingdom's people were awakening. Across the homes far passed the castle...just around the corner from the baker and the tailor, dwelled a blacksmith. His forge was smaller than most, but teeming with the finest weapons and armor.

A blonde maiden just stood there, watching the blacksmith hammer away at his forge. She let out a deep, amorous sigh. "Can I help you?" asked the blacksmith.

She shook her head, "Just keep doing what you're doing." Her eyes darted from his flexing forearms to his robust face.

"You're not going to buy anything, are you?" huffed the blacksmith, causing his short beard hairs to rise.

The maiden shook her head again, "Just browsing."

"I'm sure you are," the blacksmith muttered.

"You must be new to Arendelle," she hummed. "Where do you hail from?"

"You know...that one place."

"Real specific."

"Yep." The blacksmith finished his newest sword and hooked it on the rack.

"Oh I get it...Add some mystery, a little intrigue. I like that in a man." The blacksmith simply raised his brows in acknowledgment, and kept his brown eyes fixed on his forge. "When do you...close?"


The maiden smirked, "You know, when are you free? The ice harvester's tavern is always a good time. I'll be there tonight."

The blacksmith groaned, "Look, lady. If you aren't going to buy anything, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

"I see," she huffed. "Well, handsome...If you change your mind, you know where to find me." The woman turned for the door and slid through, but not before winking.

The blacksmith rolled his eyes and finished forging his next sword. Hours passed, and his shop received little to no visitors. His primary customer, Queen Elsa herself, had already made a huge purchase a few days ago. He kept her army wielding the finest blades and shields. While the queen of Arendelle kept him well paid, the blacksmith was so dedicated to his craft, that he had already overstocked again. But something kept him working. He lost himself in smithing. He was there...but he wasn't. He'd hammer away at whatever weapon he desired, and turn it into a lethal work of art. He kept his wavy brown hair brushed behind him and wiped the sweat from his forehead. Nightfall was fast approaching, and he had a choice to make. The blacksmith would either pull an all-nighter and overstock on weapons and armor...or accept the maiden's offer. After prolonged thinking, he chose the latter.

The ice harvester's tavern was boisterous and rowdy. The log structure glowed up in the snowy hills overlooking the kingdom itself. The blacksmith entered, allowing the rambunctious atmosphere to sink in. He spotted the blonde maiden laughing obnoxiously with two other women. She noticed him, took a chug of her beer and yelled, "Ahaaaaa! I told you he'd show!" Her friends cooed and squealed at the sight of the blacksmith, who just sat sat the nearest table. He looked around, observing the hardy ice harvesters and travelers alike. It wasn't long before the maiden took a seat across from him. "I knew you couldn't resist my charms," she giggled, her blue eyes fixed on him.

"Hmmm," he faintly smiled back.

"So what's your name, blacksmith?" she leaned in. "And what brought you to Arendelle?"

"I came for the snow," he huffed.

"Of course you did," scoffed the maiden. "You wanna dance or something."

"Not really."

"Oh come on...it'll be fun!" The blacksmith simply glared at her, flustered. "How can a dreamy hunk like you not want to have some fun?"

The blacksmith huffed, "This is a nice place."

"Ugh," grumbled the maiden. "We don't have to dance...We could just...go back to my place. I live alone." She winked. "Hmm?" she exposed one of her shoulders through her dress.

"I live alone too," sighed the blacksmith.

"Wanna change that?"

"Not really."

The maiden rolled her eyes. Just then, the tavern doors swung open and she gasped, "I don't believe it. Look! It's Princess Anna." The blacksmith looked over his shoulder to see the redheaded princess entering. She danced for across the tavern and made her way to the bar. "I bet if I was her, you'd dance with me." whined the maiden.

The blacksmith ignored her comment, "So that's Princess Anna? I've never seen her in person before. I haven't even seen the queen in person. I just get her weapons orders." He examined Anna's smiling face as she sat at the bar. "She is very beautiful."

The blonde maiden hissed, "Well tough luck! She's taken. But I'm not." The blacksmith sulked.

Princess Anna sat patiently as the barmaid asked, "What brings you here, princess?"

"I thought I'd surprise Kristoff for when he gets off of work," she smiled.

The barmaid chuckled, "Oh that boy will love that. Can I get you anything to drink?"

"I'm alright for now," she nodded. As the barmaid left, an ice harvester took a seat next to Anna. "Hello there," she said.

"Hello," he nodded. "You're Princess Anna right? Kristoff's gal."

Anna giggled, "Yeah. It'll be almost seven months soon!"

"That's beautiful," grinned the harvester. "Say...you see those boys behind me?" Anna looked over to see a table of harvesters eyeing her.

"Yes?" she asked cautiously.

"Good," chuckled the man. "Now...you see the knife I'm holding?" She looked down to see a hunting knife in his hands. Her eyes widened as he quickly leaned in, discreetly grabbing her arm and holding the knife to her side. His fur coat obscured the action from view. Anna's heart began to race as she felt the blade's tip press against her waist. "Listen very carefully, my dear. I won't repeat myself. You're going to get up nice and easy, and we're going to go for a sleigh ride. Got it?"

Anna felt a lump in her throat as she nervously nodded, "Yes."

"Good girl." he smirked. "Now...let's go." The two stood up, and he carefully led her through the tavern. His friends left their seats and walked beside him.

"Come on, just one dance." pouted the maiden.

It was then that the blacksmith noticed Anna being escorted out. He could see the anxiety in her eyes, and stood up. "Wait here."

"What?" huffed the maiden. "Where are you going?"

The blacksmith approached the men and said, "Evening gentlemen. Everything alright?"

"Yeah," said the lead harvester, keeping his arm around Anna. "We're just taking Anna over to her boyfriend Kristoff. He's been hurt on the job and she's very nervous to see him."

"I wasn't talking to you," affirmed the blacksmith. "I was talking to her." He looked down at the youthful redhead. "Is everything alright, m'lady?"

She remained tense. Sweat rolled down the side of her face. The harvester's eyes kept peering down at her waist and back up to her. "I.....I......Yes. Everything is fine."

The blacksmith ignored her words and looked the man in the eyes. "This is your only warning. Let her go, walk away and never return...Or I will kill you."

The harvester smirked and looked at his fellows. "Are you serious?"

"I won't ask again."

The man sneered, "Go to hell."

"You first," said the blacksmith before quickly grabbing the nearest bottle and bashing him over the head with it. The man staggered back with a face full of glass as Anna ran free. The leader's hunting knife clanged on the ground. The rest of the crooks lunged forward. The blacksmith kicked the first away as two grabbed him. They held him down and punched at his torso repeatedly. With a powerful roar, the blacksmith threw both men off of him, grabbing one of them and slamming his face on a table. He slammed it twice more before shoving the harvester into another. He picked up a shard from the broken bottle and slit the same enemy's throat with a quick swing of his arm.

"Kill'em!" grunted the main harvester. At this point, bystanders were panicking. The blonde maiden hid under a table along with Anna as the fight continued.

One man smashed a chair over the blacksmith's back, bringing him to his knees. The blacksmith growled, picked up a table leg, and jammed its tip into his attacker's jugular. He elbowed the next man before getting tackled by another. One harvester punched the blacksmith as hard as he could. The man turned like it didn't even hurt him, spit out some blood, and headbutt the foe back.

As he fought them, their leader crawled around the tables and found Princess Anna. He shoved the blonde maiden out of the way and grabbed the princess.

The blacksmith uppercutted an attacker with a bottle, smashing and slicing him to death. He then turned, put the last man in a headlock, and snapped his neck. He then picked up the hunting knife and saw the leader with Anna. He held the princess close, holding a glass hard to her neck. He stared at the blacksmith with his bloodied face. "I'll kill her, dammit! You know I will."

The blacksmith took a deep breath while clenching the knife by its tip. Anna noticed a tattoo of angel wings exposed through the blacksmith's torn sleeve. In the blink of an eye, he flung it at the leader. The blade met its mark right between his eyes. Anna stepped away as the man fell dead. The blacksmith walked across the ruined floor and held out a hand. Anna took it and rose to her feet. "Thank you," was all she could say.

The blacksmith nodded. "Are you alright?"

"Yes...Who-...Who are you?"

"I am Tomas." he faintly smiled before walking his bruised self out the door. He walked out into the snow just as an ice harvester rode in on his reindeer. The two met eyes for a moment before parting ways.

Kristoff barged in and gasped at the carnage. He ran to Anna and held her, "Anna! What happened? What are you doing here? Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine Kristoff." she peered out the window, watching Tomas head back down to the kingdom. "He....saved me."

"Who was that?"

"Just the local blacksmith," answered the blonde maiden, still in shock.

Anna kept her eyes fixed on him. "No...he's much, much more."

In the darkness of the night, the blonde maiden made her way up a flight of stairs. There was a loud cawing that echoed throughout the tower. When the man reached the top, she fell to her knees before a crouched figure. "Master...." she whispered fearfully.

The figure was one of the most bizarre sorts. It donned shining black armor, and brandished an inky hood. His arms were covered in black feathers, which stretched from his back and down to his torso. A wave of tailfeathers trailed behind him, ominously looming over the ground. Around this fiend, were swarms of ravens, cawing and feasting on decaying vermin. He stretched out his "wings", allowing several ravens to perch atop of him.

The maiden trembled, "Mmmm-ma-master?" The fiend simply craned his hooded neck towards her. "The kidnapping has failed."

The being growled, "A minor inconvenience....depending on HOW it failed."

"Yes my lord....the blacksmith."

The master fully turned, his ravens fluttering away with irritated squawks. "Yes?"

"He alone decimated our men within minutes. I have never seen someone fight as ferociously as he did."

"Then the plan has worked to perfection. Keep an eye on the blacksmith."

"Yes, master." The maiden scurried back down the stairs.

He chuckled, "After all these years....I've finally found you.....Tomas."

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