Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
Brons crested the hill, and looked down into the ash-ridden valley. The land was desolate and remote, the traveler exhausted. His journey had been long, but its end was in sight. Before him lay the Forge.
Legend had it that its fires burned hotter and brighter than any other, and that its cooling waters invoked magical qualities. Working the Forge was a giant of a man named Alexander, blessed with long life and incredible strength. His was work fit for the Gods, and whispers told he had been chosen by them. The Gods had long since departed this world, but a few of their wonders remained. The Forge was one of them, now in the service of lesser beings.
Brons entered the workshop, fierce heat washing over him. Blinking away scalding tears, he saw the mightiest of weapons lining the walls. Jagged war blades that would cut through the thickest of armor, razor sharp battle axes that would slice the mightiest of men in half and heavy crossbows that could kill an enemy from miles away were only the start.
“What do you need?” came a low, rumbling voice. Brons staggered back at the sight of the living shadow that had emerged. Alexander was indeed a giant of a man, one blackened so much by soot that all that stood out were his bright blue eyes. One of his hands held a hammer the size of which you would expect on a battlefield. Brons could tell his steel would be mighty.
“What did you come for?” Alexander asked again, starting to sound impatient.
Brons knew exactly what he had come here for, but in the shadow of a man so mighty, his confidence shook. He was a master of war, an artisan of weaponry, capable of and known to slaughter entire battalions single-handedly. Alexander, however, could crush him with one blow, and it wiped away his arrogance, but not his objective. Sufficiently humbled, he finally spoke up.
“I am here for a blade,” he said. “A blade fit to overthrow a king.”
The smith stared down at Brons, his cold blue eyes calculating, but seemingly indifferent to the politics of the world. “And what is your offer?” he finally said.
“Gold!” Brons said. “Make me a weapon this mighty, and you shall swim in it!”
The smith immediately answered. “The offer is denied.”
That took Brons off guard. “What? Denied? Why?”
“I am bound to my forge. Gold has no meaning here.”
“Then I shall bring you feasts. You will eat like a king!”
“No,” Alexander said. “I do not require food. My heart is a molten core, my veins are ablaze with fire. My heat sustains me.”
Brons thought hard, then laughed out loud. “Then I shall bring you women, a virgin for every night of the year!”
The smith slowly shook his head. “I have known love, and I lost it long ago. I have my memories.”
Brons grew desperate. He had run out of ideas. “Is there anything you desire?” he asked.
Another one of these long, calculating looks. Brons was certain a man could be driven mad by these eyes.
“Yes,” Alexander finally said. “I will forge you a blade fit to kill not only a king, but a God. I desire to be set free.”
Brons’ voice suddenly became very quiet. “You want me to go up against a God?”
The smith nodded. “But they have been gone for ages!” Brons cried out. “And besides, how would I ever stand a chance?”
“You will,” Alexander said calmly. “The Gods are mere ghosts of what they once were, blended in with the common folk, weakened by the lack of worship. You will track down the one who made me, Pyrri, and drive your blade through his heart. Do that, and I will be free. Do that, and you shall kill your king.”
The price had been set. All possible outcomes flashed through Brons’ mind, but there was no denying that this was his only option, even if it would result in his death. The king had to die. Glory had to be his. If he could slay a God in his quest, his triumph would be sung of for ages to come. Destiny eluded the greatest of men, but it was laid out now before Brons, his for the taking. There was no other answer.
“Fire up the forge,” he said, an inferno growing in his own eyes. “Let’s bring down a God.”