Sword and ShieldMature

Erik slammed the hammer down onto the white-hot metal once again as it still cooled, beating it into a sword. He was trying to build a new one to replace his old, weak blade. As he brought the hammer down again, a voice startled him.

"This is our local blacksmith, Erik. He usually stays here most of the time -"

Erik's hammer came down in just the wrong place, and the blade cracked, shattering into two pieces. Half of the blade clattered to the floor, and Erik jumped out of the way to avoid nearly burning his foot off on the hot metal. "Damn it, Zane! You can not just come walking into my forge whenever you please! This is delicate work, and now I've got to start all over - Ah, hello," Erik said, as he turned and realized that Zane had a girl with him. "Is this the one from the scouting expedition?"

"Yes," Zane answered. "As I was saying, this is Erik. He can be a bit touchy about his work, but he really is a nice guy." Erik realized Zane was cutting him some slack for getting upset.

"Yes, well," Erik responded, "I simply like to put out the best products I can, that's all. After all, not much more than a bit of steel stands between a man and his enemy, and that bit of steel has got to outmatch theirs. However, I do realize I can get a little carried away sometimes." Erik pulled off one armored glove and offered his right hand to the girl. "Pleasure to meet you..."

"Layla," she answered quietly. "My name is Layla." She shook his hand and then stepped back behind Zane once more. She was shy, then.

Replacing his glove, Erik looked around his forge and, grabbing a piece of steel, went right back to work. "If you'll excuse me," he said apologetically, "I have still got one more item to get done before dinner. Perhaps we can speak more then?" He realized he was talking more to Zane than to Layla, simply out of habit.

"Sure," Zane said and began to walk away with the girl.

Erik turned back to his work and set about making the beginnings of a new shield. The old blade, he decided, would serve him alright for just a bit longer. It felt ungrateful to simply throw away his father's sword, after all.

As he worked on and eventually finished the shield, he thought about the girl. She reminded him - if only a little - of himself when he had first arrived after fleeing the city. He'd carried that same sword even then, all those years ago.

The End

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