Unsteady Hands

The soft tinkling of bells mixed with the hard breathing and grunts that filled the alleyway next to the forge. Hard muscles worked to lift the bulky frame of the blond-haired man they belonged to. Down, hold, up, hold. "One hundred." The man’s voice was deep, rumbling, through melodic. As if played by an instrument. Finn Einarson stood and used the scrap of cloth he’d tied into a skullcap to mop his brow. Running his fingers through his hair, the sound of bells increased in intensity. Dozens of small, silver bells had been neatly braided into his hair and beard. Finn retrieved his doublet and pulled it on, covering the deep blue runic tattoos covering his upper chest and shoulders. He took a long drink from his water skin and splashed the last remaining over the top of his head before retying the skullcap across his brow. He picked up and shoot out his cloak, picking the grass and twigs from it before gathering his meager possessions into a bundle and slinging it over his shoulder, tied to a nearly-worn pickaxe.

His feet became unsteady, a solid hand shooting out to brace himself against the doorway. Dizziness washed over him, leaving him light-headed and dazed. His vision blurred. A woman stood before him, a fur-lined leather apron hiding her near-nakedness. Two braided pigtails were neatly tucked into the strings behind her neck, keeping the nearly knee-length braids of hair from falling into the hot forge she stood over. He blinked, shaking his head as the heat from the forge washed over him. It was comforting, chasing away the chill from his bones. She looked over a hot piece of steel in the coals, before pulling it from its pit to check its color. Satisfied it was hot enough, she worked quickly to set the piece on the anvil, tons holding it steady as she lifted a large hammer. Molten flux flew from the piece as she brought the hammer down, working fast and hard to set the weld. She lifted the piece to inspect the joint, and stuffed the piece back into the fire. She turned her glacier blue eyes to him, looking right through his flesh to see his soul. "You’ll do. You aren’t one of the chosen, but you’ll do." Her eyes seemed to see deep into him, as if looking for anything she’d dismiss before finally turning away to the steel once again. "You’ll work the bellows for now, and when I go to the hall to eat, you’ll make nails. When you can turn out a decent handful of nails faster than you can put on your skivvies in the snow, you’ll be allowed to touch anything other than iron." Her voice was hard, despite being of a pleasing timbre. The copper circlet that held back her hair glinted in the light, taking his attention for only a moment. Worked into the gold-hued wire were runes, naming her the Steelsmith and Hearthkeeper of their settlement. A position of high esteem. He closed his eyes and shook his head, the vision faded.

Looking down, the hands that had once been solid and made for hard work were shaking, wracked by small tremors. He flexed them, open and closed again. As the vision faded from his mind, the shaking faded, eventually leaving him firm and strong once again. What had sent his hands shaking? He couldn’t remember. Why was he standing here and not getting to work? He swore again, low and long, picking up the fallen pickaxe and bundle, slinging them over his shoulder and heading toward the mine.

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