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They walked to a familiar red-brick three-story building of the Blacksmithy. Even this early in the day, it still radiated heat like the bedroom of a slumbering fire god. It was quiet at the moment, but Xan remembered fondly the rings of hammers on metal during their last visit, ping-ping-ping. He thought of the first time his grandfather exposed him to blacksmithing. Grandad had a little coal powered forge no bigger than a trash can lid. Xan cranked the little hand crank on the blower, forcing the air through the coals to get them hot enough to shape steel. Their first project was a chisel. Grandad had quenched the metal in a bucket of water. He handed Xan the newly quenched chisel with his bare hand and said, “Here, hold this.” He cackled when Xan had cried out from the hot metal and dropped it on the dirt floor of the shop. Xan smiled, thinking he could hear his grandad’s laughter in the ring of the hammers.

“You okay?” Cho asked him, concern etched into the lines of his face.

“Yeah, just remembering the time grandad had tricked me with hot metal.” Xan said softly. “Come on, let’s head inside.”

The front area of the building was the training area. There were easily enough anvils that each student could have their own. Around the outside of the room were twelve forges, coals banked for the night. In the center of the room stood a six and a half foot tall, massively muscled man with skin as dark as night. His amber eyes glowed almost as bright as his white toothy smile. “Come in, come in.” He moved back a little to give everyone room to get into the area. “My name is Moto and I am here to show you blacksmithing. In this cycle you are learning metal. Strangely enough, this is the crafting skill aligned with metal.” He smiled broadly at his own joke. “No one? Fine.” He shrugged his substantial shoulders. “In the creation cycle, earth creates metal as all metal has to come from the earth in which it resides. Metal captures water as a cup captures a drink.”

“In this cycle I will show you the tools of the forge. I will explain the various metals and show you how to use elemental Qi to tell the difference.” He moved over to the center wall and gestured in the area they were all gathered in. “This front area is the training area. Until you prove yourself, you are not allowed to the other side of the smithy.” He pointed over the wall. “That side is reserved for people serious about the art of moving metal.” His expression grew stern, “Are we clear?” He looked around the room until everyone had indicated assent. “Great!” he clapped his enormous hands together.

“Why blacksmithing and metal, you ask? Well, when a smith uses Qi during the forging process, the metal objects created in this fashion can take on the symbols of power you have been learning in calligraphy. Imbued with the fire glyph, you can make a brazier that can cook food faster or a flaming sword. Imbued with wood, you can make an arrow head that pierces armor. Imbued with earth, you could make a shovel that could dig the deepest hole in minutes. The possibilities are endless, only limited by your imagination.”

“Your father’s spear.” Xan whispered to Cho, who nodded thoughtfully.

“Instructor Moto? What if we aren’t strong enough to lift the hammers?” one student asked.

He laughed a big hearty laugh that was infectious. Everyone smiled. “You will grow stronger.” He clapped rough, calloused hands. “Now, let’s talk metal. Different metal can take on different aspects of magic. It isn’t just the quality of the metal, rather it is the specific blend of metals that creates an alloy that can hold the power.” He pointed at a canister containing a variety of metal rods, each painted with a different color on the end. He selected one with blue paint. “Let’s start with basic iron.”

They spent the remainder of the morning learning about metallurgy.

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About the author

MarkStallings

Bio: I’ve been in Colorado since I was a young teenager. I live in the foothills of Pikes Peak with my wife, two children and various dogs and cats. I have a crazy technology background having founded several tech companies centering around human machine interfaces before I discovered a passion for writing.

When I’m not slinging the ink and trying to get paid to fabricate tales that entertain, I like to shoot competitively, drink craft beer, ride motorcycles and play games with friends.

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