The job was done. I had brought the old dwarf his load of adamant ore. “Ahem, about my payment?”
For a moment the dwarf looked like someone had just killed his puppy. But he responded, “Aye lad, follow me.”
I followed the old curmudgeon into his smithy and over to his forge. As he relieved an apprentice, I had to take two steps back from the heat.
Donning gloves he then used tongs to remove a billet of iron from the forge. The apprentice had attached a wedge to the the anvil. After series of hammer blows and a few twists and he two pucks of metal. These he he promptly flattened into two rough squarish “coins” about 2″ in diameter. An awl was used to place a hole in each, not far from edge.
The dwarf removed his gloves and left the “coins” for his apprentice to reheat. He gestured for me to follow as he walked to a neat and well lit workbench on the far side of the room. From a shelf above the bench he remove a sheathed knife, a small shallow bowl, and a small elaborate chest. He placed the chest on the bench lastly, and paused a moment, head bowed, and hand was resting on chest as if in prayer.
I admit I was curious as he opened the chest but I had only the briefest glimpse inside as he withdrew a short rod of black metal and laid it upon the bench. It was a work of art. Hexagonal in shape and eight inches long. One end was flattened while the other ended in a design, no a rune. It was as black as wrought iron but gleamed like polished silver or gold. It’s surface was inlaid with tiny perfect runes in what could only be mithril. The damnable dwarf had a kings ransom in that chest.
“Give me your hand.”
I was so mesmerized by the fact that this treasure had been use to create a set of metal working tools that I had completely ignored the dwarf unsheathing the dagger.
“You’re gonna have to bleed elf.”
“I see. Does it have to be my hands?
I explained my idea and his only response was “G’damned elves. It’ll do. ”
That done, I followed the dwarf, carrying the small bowl of my blood back to the anvil. The dwarf dipped the runic end of the die into my blood and placed it sizzling on the red hot coin and mumbling, struck it once hard leaving clean impression of the rune in the coin. He repeated the procedure as the apprentice took the first and with bare hands looped a leather thong through it. After both were done the apprentice handed them to the dwarf who placed them in my hands and said, “There, you’re paid.”
As I looked at the two roughly worked, unpolished, ugly medallions, with their plain leather thongs, and a single rune for ornamentation, the only words I could manage were, “Excuse me?”
“For a bunch of know-it-alls you bards don’t know shite. He grabbed one of the medallions, sat it on the anvil and struck it with a hammer.”
I’ll admit I jumped as the other medallion twitched and vibrated briefly in my hand. I was so distracted I didn’t notice the dwarf toss the first medallion in the forge. That is I didn’t notice until mine started burning my hand and I dropped it on the floor. The dwarf laughed, which I admit was a bit unsettling.
Though he used tongs to take the medallion out of the forge, he quickly dropped it in his unprocted hand and then handed it to me. It was cool to the touch and so was its mate when I picked it up.
“Satisfied?” the dwarf asked gruffly as he tossed me another rough leather thong.
“I think so. Thank you master dwarf.”
“Then you know the way out.”
“Oh, and elf, careful when you cast spells. You wouldn’t want to affect the other wearer by accident.”
I put the medallions on, tucked them into my vest, and tried to think of the possible uses. A messaging device seemed obvious. I would, of course, have to see if the range was limited and what signals could be passed. A strike and heat had already been demonstrated and I wondered about cold or a mild shock.
I left the walled grounds of the dwarf’s “smithy in a hill” and began the short walk back to the city gates. I kept turning the dwarf’s warning over in my head. Again some testing was in order but if they worked as I assumed I should be able to heal an ally over any distance. Likewise if I gave a medallion as a “gift” I just might be able to deliver some more potent spells. Assassination wasn’t exactly my style but one took the jobs that one was offered. I would, of course, have to keep the nature of the medallion secret as I would be vulnerable to a similar attack from my foe.
The walk was short but it did get the blood pumping and my thoughts were distracted by the pulsing of my wound. I winced as my fingertips touch the crude bandage and moved the small loop of silver wire underneath. I began to hum a small tune to heal the injury, but it was minor and one never knew when a more urgent need might arise. I let it be, determined to ignore the pain. As I entered the gates I made my way, not back to my inn, but to a jeweler I knew of.
To be honest, I had never before fancied an ear-ring as it was more of a human custom, but one did as the circumstances dictate and it seemed appropriate. That made me think of the tribal tattoo on my left arm and shoulder. A close call that. Singing for one’s supper was expected. Singing to keep from being supper, not so much. Had I turned down their initiation and ceremonial tattooing I more than likely would have ended up back on the menu. I have found that cannibals are just as easy to offend as nobles.
Walking into the magically lit shop of the jeweler, my eyes eyes were bathed with the glint of gold and the sparkle of gems. I appreciated their beauty despite knowing that the items displayed were of marginal value. The true treasures would be kept hidden and under lock and key. Still, despite being cut glass and common crystals, they were beautiful. I thought once again of the medallions. Yes, dwarf, I was satisfied. But why did they have to be so damn ugly.
The dwarf and his apprentice made a show of cleaning up as the elf departed. But, as the elf left the outer gates, the apprentice worked the bellows and the dwarf returned the iron billet to the forge. Over the next half hour they repeated the process the elf had seen, ending with the Adamantine die being dipped in the now coagulating remnants of the elf’s blood, placing it on the red hot medallion and being struck hard by the dwarf’s hammer.
At that moment the elf let out a yelp of pain that one jeweler would have described as “girly” had he not been taking money from the elf at the time. For his part the elf grabbed at his chest through his clothes. He pulled the medallions away from his chest but by this time the moment of intense heat had already passed.
The apprentice cleaned up in earnest. Placing various hammers back where they belonged. The dwarf carried the medallion and runic die back to his workbench. He pulled out a large sheet of very special clothlike paper and using a quill and inkwell he wrote the elf’s full name in perfect flowing elvish script, his name as said it this human city in common script, and today’s date. He sat the paper aside to dry and pulled out a plain cloth and a flask of pure alcohol.
He was using the cloth and alcohol to thoroughly clean the adamantine die when Demetri brought his now clean ritual bowl over.
“Master, you had mentioned the bard was a good man when you hired him. Why then the need to create a third medallion?”
“Demetri, understand this. However good the hearts of our clients are, they are all killers in one form or another. They come to us for tools to make them better killers.”
He reverently placed the die back into its slot among its brothers and closed the lid. He pulled a smaller chest off the shelf and opened it. It was divided into 15 slots, padded, and lined with the same type of paper he had just written the elf’s name on. As he did so he continued to address Demetri.
“When dealing with killers there are two things that are invaluable, knowledge and an insurance policy.”
He placed his hand on the medallion, bowed his head and softly spoke the words of a small prayer. As he did so the sounds of the idle smithy faded away and he heard the following exchange as if he were in the same room.
“Thanks my lord. And I do apologize I could not split the pair. Though if you wish, I could do your other ear. A clean piercing and not the mangling you received …”
“Not necessary. I shall consider it a spare and I appreciate the discount. In fact, bring your wife by the “Sparrows Nest” after dusk tomorrow and I might mention you commissioned a special love song for the light of your life…”
Satisfied the dwarf ended the spell and wrapped the medallion in the paper with the elf’s name on it. Safely shielded from any magical effects he placed it in one of the few remaining slots in the chest.
“Mangled indeed.” the dwarf mumbled “I’ll show that glorified broom pusher.” And then addressing his lead apprentice, “Demetri, I think we need to discuss what we are charging the shopkeepers for raw materials and your finished goods.”