Blacksmith

Remy had relied heavily on each and every member of their ragtag mercenary crew, for on his own he could never have explored the depths of the ruined woods without perishing, or becoming otherwise indisposed for eternity.

As a blacksmith, Remy’s work occurred at the outset of their journey. He forged the tools and weapons necessary for the others to carry out their various skills without worry for the quality of craftsmanship. Any blade Remy forged lasted longer, held its sharpness far beyond the average lifespan of what one could purchase from a generic smithy, one whose main goal was to provide endless quantity, with little care for quality.

But these adventurers, along with a handful of others, had found Remy. His work was slower, and his prices were considerably higher than his competition. Though this resulted in some colder nights and an occasional empty stomach, Remy cared not. He would not sacrifice quality of materials or patience in labor just to line his pockets. His work was all there was, and it had to be done right.

This is why he was out here with them, this time around. His work required something more. Something many other blacksmiths has long since forgotten, or cared not to speak of it beyond hearsay and faerie tales.

Remy knew better. He could feel it out here. It called to him.

It had been an uncomfortably long stay in the ruined woods, the tattered forest. Thankfully, his party understood his need for their continued support. He helped where he could—using his skill with tools to administer needed repairs, his strength of arm to collect what wood could still be touched by the heat of flame. Occasionally he would stand alongside the warriors of the crew with his forge hammer, crushing the foul creatures that pursued them in the deepest hour of night.

But even without all of this, even if he did nothing, he believed these brave few would yet stand by his side. His work had lengthened their lives, saved them countless times. The armor he forged caused death strikes to glide off of their chests and shoulders, leaving them light enough to then counter with a definitive blow. The pots and pans he made were crafted specifically for adventuring parties, his signature light iron holding fast and cooking cleaner than other, more crude brands.

They trusted him. Their gold never went to waste, and if he felt his best work had not been done, he would quickly and easily apply a discount. “Fairness of friendship, to all that arrive, and thus may all friends, in darkness survive.” The very thesis of his being, branded into his shop’s outer wall.

And so they were six. Remy the Blacksmith, forger in flame. Terrin the Quick, tempest with blade. Aerin of Way, seeker of light. Denter the Bludgeon, boaster of might. Then comes Sayrin, the silver-tongue dagger. Last along, Vane—hunter, trapper.

Together they journey through forest grown thick, against all foes and shadow-borne tricks. As one in pursuit, for hammer and anvil—they seek Remy’s fame,

the glamour, Mythril.

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Lost Pup

The pup barked, its voice bouncing between the willows. It strained itself, attempting to morph the shrill yipes into a strong howl. None such howl resulted, and the pup shivered.

A breeze came from behind, causing the young creature to stumble. Whistling through the wood, it caught the attention of a large, full grown wolf. She cocked her head at the odd sound of the twilit wind, and only then noticed she was short one child.

She released a frightful whine, leading it into a distressed howl. Echoing, it died out, falling and dissipating among the dusty underbrush.

She swallowed…waiting…

A strong, high pitched howl rang out in return.

The mother took off in the direction of it, the pup’s kin stumbling along behind her, playful still in the autumn chill.

Car Ride

TW: abuse

I remember riding in the car with Zane, thinking what a fantastic gift it would be to have him as a father.

With his bright blue eyes, receded hairline and prominent mustache, he looked plucked from the very ether of the 70s. I’ve never met a man since with such a distinct combination of quick wit and sure fists. His tongue could cut your mind into pieces, and if that didn’t dissuade you from whatever crime you were committing against him, Zane wasn’t afraid to take it outside and settle it the old fashioned way.

He would teach his sons how to box, how to play basketball, chop wood, work on cars. But there was a balance to him as well—he also taught them how to garden, and how to cook simple meals. He would share his love of gardening with confidence, in such a way that you could tell his words were an invitation, a more subtle way to stick his chin out, daring any to take a swing at his masculinity. If they did, he’d be sure to challenge them on their notion of manliness.

In that way, as well as others more generic, he was rather progressive. I loved him for that. I felt as if my small world was safer when Zane was in it. I imagine many felt that way, even his sons who had experienced Zane’s darker side.

Certainly with so much anger, even one so gentle and balanced as Zane had to have some issues. He would get wound up in his rightness. So confident he knew how his children should be spending their time, such that their disobeying, their rebellious teen nature…well. His tongue did not suffice. He knew no other recourse beyond his fists.

Soon though, his sons became strong. He had taught them as much. I remember one day, John telling me how he had fought his father and this time had won. There was a mix of unease and relief about him as he relayed this to me. Finally, that much of his nightmare was over. As much as he respected his father, and as much strength Zane had instilled within him, there was that darkness. When it crept up, it would leave him scared and in pain.

People like John and Zane don’t like to be made to feel helpless. It can be said that no one enjoys that, which is certain. But these two had no coping mechanism. Especially John, only ever brought down by the one man who taught him to never be brought down.

John would call me when he was scared. He would only ever cry over the phone if he could help it. Maybe he didn’t hold me in as high regard as I held him at the time, but there was a trust there. A knowledge that I had been through enough to help him process these emotions. Enough to be able to confidently tell him that it would be okay. Maybe not right away and maybe only in a way that is slightly less violent, but it would be okay, and a greater light was waiting for us beyond the confines of our familial entrapment.

I enjoyed when he trusted me in that way. He only ever had to reach out further when it was explicitly clear he needed to share with someone who had abusive father issues. It was difficult for me to relate with that in more concrete terms of shared pain, since my father took a more long distance approach to his neglect.

I asked Zane about his day. Trying to glean anything I could from such a brilliant man. (Forgive my younger self, for abuse was all he knew. The terrible acts of this man were no different than, I assumed, those of every adult.)

Zane was upset. He told me he had a court case to go to, because he had fought with a referee at a basketball game and charges had been pressed. He knew it was foolish and that he had to stop acting like a child. He had kids and a wife, he has a teaching job. People depended on him, and he couldn’t get himself thrown in jail at 47 for fighting over a bad call.

What is it with men and sports?

I remember that moment almost as well as Zane housing me, yelling about how he was going to beat the shit out of Bob for hurting my mom. Such an array of emotions I felt. Yearning for that fight to occur, the ecstasy I would feel when that piece of shit I lived with finally got his. Anger at myself for not being strong enough to do it on my own. Sadness that, deep down, it was all talk either way. No one ever did anything.

Three men threatened to do something to Bob throughout my teens and three men did nothing. Even when I called the police when it got too terrible, too violent, my mom and I had already fled the scene. Even when I prayed for Bob to die in his sleep, old fucker that he was, nothing happened. I was trapped forever in this eternity of anxiety and fear and sadness, and no being would lift a finger to make it stop.

I remember listening to Zane talk about his failing, in that voice of weakness and self-hatred. I remember thinking that, just because he was stronger and more confident with better hand-eye coordination, it didn’t mean he was someone to aspire to be.

I felt lost in that moment, but also glad. I knew I could never really be a Zane and it became more clear why in that moment. I thought too much. I thought about the consequences of killing Bob. I thought about how he would get more violent if I jumped into the fray, and would cower in angry fear if I called the police instead. I thought that I was weak, but really I was just an abuse survivor, doing the only thing I knew how to do—survive.

Last I heard of Zane, he had beaten cancer, and continued to teach history at my old high school. That was years ago. Since then the closest I’ve been to him was my falling out with John, who drunkenly revealed his racism and wanted to fight when called out on it. Instead of driving 50 miles to fist fight someone from high school, I ended our friendship.

Naturally, this inadvertently cut off the closest thing I had to a father during my teens, which is probably a good thing.

Starting Stories: The Cyborg Who Looked

The streets were a mixture of fog and firmware. Anywhere he looked, he could just as easily have brought the sight to mind and stored the wasted energy for more pressing activities. With so much to do at the factory, any bit of inessential endeavor reminded him of his shortcomings. His attention wandered, where other’s simply did not exist. They did not see a tree, or a street at all. They saw purpose before them, and so they walked. They were strong, and he was weak. He would never hit ^2500, let alone ^1500. Mediocrity clung to him like the day’s birth dew to his cold-steel shoulder.

Morning rose further, and with it, the sun. Its light would power him for the day–he could tell by its brightness. He already knew what it looked like, and knew there was nothing to gain for looking again. If he could just keep his head down, perhaps today…

But, he so enjoyed to look.

I’m Sorry, Home Depot Guy With the Crackers

Long ago, in a distant land, a young boy was incredibly grumpy. He was hungry, and he was bored. To top all of that off, he was in the one store every child with moderately handy parents dreads..

Home Depot.

Yes, it was in this gray and orange, smelly, musty establishment, that we find our hero. He is whining, moaning and groaning. Nothing, nothing in the world will fix his mood. He is beyond help.

His cry for sustenance is met only with impatience by his mother. She does what she can to keep him quiet enough for her to be in and out of the dreaded depot as quickly as humanly possible. She wishes should could stuff some food in his whiny little face and shut him the hell up, but she cannot. Alas, she is a mother who takes care of this little brat all on her own, and spends every penny making sure the two of them keep a roof over their heads.

An employee, probably on his way to save some cats from trees or babies from burning buildings, stops to try and reconcile the increasingly irritated child. His heart is pure, despite the dust and must present atop the vest of his chest.

“I’ve got some crackers you could have,” he practically sings. He is a golden beacon of hope for the mother, who just wants her child to, for once, shut the hell up.

“I don’t want CRACKERS,” the child screams indignantly.

“Get over here, you do not talk to people that way! Sir, I’m sorry,” the mother does her best to remedy the situation. The hurt on the man’s face is small, but present. The child, remorseless, continues on his way, convinced the world is out to starve him right to death.

 

Sir. I’m so, so sorry. You were so nice to me. I can’t believe I was so rude to you. You offered what you had, to someone you had no connection to. I tear up to this day, thinking about how incredibly kind you were to me that day, when I gave you less than a single reason to do so.

You deserved better, and I hope you got it from every other waking moment of your life. The world needs people like you. People who simply want to help, just to help. People who do not care if the person in need seems to deserve it, they try anyway, just to make the world a little brighter.

 

Thank you so much for offering your crackers. I’m sure they were very delicious. That little brat I grimly think of as past-me didn’t deserve a smile from you, let alone a nice package of salty, crunchy crackers.

More than anything, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I hope I didn’t ruin your day. I hope you forgot about me, and kept on helping, with that big, dust-free, pure heart of yours.

Pizza and Depression

As a teen, there were many days I would get off the bus and just be crazy depressed. Usually for no good reason beyond the fact that I hated home. I mean, who didn’t?

For a long time, my mom would be all like, “do you want to stop and get a pizza from Little Caesars?”

For a while, I was like, “*sniffle sniffle*…yeah…”

It worked, man. I loved that pizza for whatever reason. Didn’t feel guilty either, because that shit was cheap.

Then, a day came when my mom asked, and I said, “No.”

I remember her silence. I can imagine her thoughts at that moment. “Shit, this kid might be really depressed today. I don’t know what the fuck…hmmm…”

I feel bad for her. There was nothing she could have done. I was a moody asshole. Simple as that.

I never appreciated her enough. I mean she’s still alive, so I tell her now. But, at the time…God, dude. Thank your fucking mom for being such a trooper.

I don’t know why that moment sticks out so much in my memory. I haven’t had a Little Caesars pizza since.

It’s like…is that good, or bad?