It was finished. After hundreds of hours of labor, sweat, and fury, the weapon gleamed in the rising moonlight. Infinitesimal dots, red, yellow, blue, shone a crisp reflection of the cosmos. Years of study and exquisite work had not adequately prepared him for this moment, for the ocean pride swelling through him as the fog of frustration lifted. The sixth attempt had yielded perfection. As the sweat collected in his eyelashes and the crevices of his elbows, he reveled in the satisfying smell of dying embers. With a crack of his neck, he removed his gloves and used them to fling extra shards onto the ground. Those would be cleaned tomorrow. It was time for a presentation.
The bear pelt had been saved for his son's wedding. With his fate in the hands of the enemy, that day was, sadly, unlikely ever to arrive. Today existed. Today was worth this fine pelt. Enclosed in the snowy fur, light glinting off of the crimson silk bow, the hilt appeared plain. It did not need detail. No one would ever get close enough to see it. If they did, they wouldn't be bragging about it anyway. This blade would sing from a mile away, call across a battlefield, illuminate the darkest barrow. It would bring him more work than he could handle. The normal smirk on his face opened to a grin as he imagined passing off orders to the lady down the street. What a reversal of fortune!
Since the warrior had arrived and joined their order, the ale was crisper, the wine was older, the cakes were sweeter, and the meat was finally something that they could afford to serve at dinner. Sometimes, they even had meat at lunch! A few months ago, that would have been as crazy as a giant wearing a goat for a hat. The new maid was paid well, so her level of work was far above expectations. She actually worked! Tables didn't smell like last week's soup any more. Floors lacked embedded mouse droppings. Life was good.
The main hall was quiet, despite the late hour. Piles of unfinished flagons reminded him that despite their increase in wealth and status, he was still at home. He paused to snitch a half-eaten honeybun when he realized that the grumbling noise wasn't coming a particularly disgruntled hog out back. Smithing is hard, and pastries are tasty. Careful not to dump crumbs on his masterpiece, he washed down his snack with some mismatching brews abandoned by his comrades. Living in one building was their way for centuries, and though his wife and daughter resided across town, he had opted to follow tradition. He loved it. The youthfulness of the fighters kept his dreams for the future alive, his muscles active, and his belly full of leftover beer. A bench seemed to move in the dim light. One of the twins hadn't made it back to his bunk after the night of debauchery. He would probably drag himself there by noon if the other youngins didn't wake up first and do him the favor. That would be an unmissable moment.
Making his way downstairs, the old smith cradled the weapon with both hands, pushing all doors open with his back or hip in order to keep the blade level. His back was always straight, but his carriage was uncharacteristically graceful, excited with the anticipation of presentation. This would be the moment he'd dreamt of since he began smithing forty years ago. Delivering a great blade to the region's fiercest warrior, the one he, and most everyone, believed would end the wars and usher in a new age. This moment would be truly satisfying.
At the end of the long hallway, he was so flustered with nerves that instead of knocking on the door to her chambers, he pressed it with his back, just as he had with the others. Yelps escaped from the next room. As he turned, he was surprised to find the space illuminated by a single, drawn fire arrow. The woman wielding the bow wore a nightshift riddled with holes, and a scar that rendered her right eye useless. Luckily, her left was the one she used to aim.
"Uh, I did… the thing," he gulped as she lowered the bow and used the fiery tip to light a lantern. "This wasn't how I pictured this going".
"The thing? Do you mean knocking?" she giggled in her low, raspy alto, "Knocking is a thing. A thing you didn't do".
His spine curved gently as his shoulders tried desperately to hide his heart. Maybe if he shrunk enough he would be invisible and this wouldn't have happened at all. Bad posture was the most effective form of time manipulation magic that he knew. "I would never shoot you," she mused as she placed her bow on a rack on the wall. "I legitimately like you, but if someone walks into my rooms unexpected in the middle of the night, I'd be a fool not to be prepared. I was abducted in my sleep once and it was pretty awkward and terrible, so pardon me if my reaction was a bit much".
"That… makes sense, I guess…" His forehead felt like a fountain he was sweating so profusely, and his palms might as well have been oil dispensaries.
"You didn't chose me to be your leader because I lacked violent tendencies, old man". Her hand was on his shoulder, then, readjusting his posture as she stared into his eyes, her one comforting his two. "Now, let's try this again, shall we? I'll put on a robe. You go walk outside. Knock. I've taken the liberty of not looking at what you're holding so I won't have to pretend I'm surprised. It'll be great".
"Uh, okay. We can do that".
"Fantastic," she smiled. The door closed without a thud. The hinges were not squeaky. It was closed. Everything was uncomfortable.
He tucked the precious bundle under his arm in order to knock when he heard, from within, "What in the blazes was that? Did I hear a bowstring?" That voice did not belong to a woman. It was the other twin. "I'm coming out there to save you!" the male voice yelled.
Crashing noises followed on the other side of the door. He recognized glass, clay, and wood sounds and then the unmistakable sound of skin on skin. After standing speechless for a few moments, he raised his fist to finally knock, when the door opened. The mighty warrior, the savior of their people, poked her face out of the crevice. "You heard nothing. Nothing happened".
"There isn't a man passed out on your floor under some vases and pots right now?" he asked. Now, it was his turn to laugh. Whereas she was a giggler, the smith had a penchant for letting loose a true belly guffaw.
"Definitely not. Why would you think that?" She squeezed through the door, closing it behind her carefully, so as not to reveal anything on the other side. "That's just crazy. A man in my room? What nonsense".
"What kind of nonsense was that? Why did you hit me? Where are you, my love?" bellowed the twin from the other side of the door. She bit her lip and gazed down at her toes, which tapped rhythmically on the hardwood floor. Twice, the warrior opened her mouth as if she was about to say something, and then closed it again in consternation, before she finally smiled widely and shrugged.
"I've got nothing. It's exactly what it looks like. I'm so sorry about this." she admitted.
"Milady, this is the sword you ordered. It took me days, and multiple tries, but it's the best blade I have ever smithed. You'll never find another this sharp". His pride had returned, and it was evident in the tone of his voice- the crisp words singing from his soul, true artisanship present in his work. He held out the package with two arms, entire self beaming. She gently took the package and unwrapped it, gasping with joy as she saw the weapon. It was better than she could have hoped. She turned it, examining the edge, feeling the weight, and sighed loudly, her smile growing ever larger.
"Thank you so much. It's amazing," she embraced the smith carefully so as not to touch either of them with the blade, and gave him a long, heartfelt kiss on the cheek.
On the other side of the door, an angry voice accompanied pounding, "What the hell is going on out there? You're making weird noises. If that's my brother again, I'm leaving".
She peeked inside, and whispered, "The smith is here, and you're being an ass. Get back in the bedroom now, or you will never be invited into that room again, ever. Do you understand me?"
The smith was laughing so hard that he had to depend on a wall for support. This wasn't the moment he had hoped for… but somehow, it was perfect.