Saturday, September 19, 2015

Beyond the Rim Installment 15

Oorgo awoke to the seventh loud clang that echoed into Thurgod's common room. The boy stood up and brushed off the straw that had seeped into his sleeping space, simultaneously rubbing the parts of his body that had grown cold against the ground. Oorgo stepped out the back door of Thurgod's abode and crossed the courtyard outside, heading for the building from which smoke poured. The clang, Oorgo had already learned to guess, came from the chains on the deep well which Thurgod had dug himself. It was not properly a well, feeding in fact from a great underground lake and not merely from groundwater. By a screw-like mechanism, Thurgod could pull up water as much as he needed.
Oorgo pressed lightly on the door, and it swung open. This was what Thurgod called the First Mortals Forge. It was the smallest of his smithies, and so named the First. It was also lightly constructed, with many windows and light doors, so that whatever wind would blow so low in the valley might allow the heat from the forge to dissipate, and there mortals might live. To Thurgod the heat was not pain; it was merely heat. He knew it in every degree and measured it precisely as it related to his smith work, neither fearing it nor withering under its oppression. The Last Forge, the Forge of the God, as it was called in the capital, was for Thurgod alone. There resided machines so heavy and heat so great that only his own stone golems were of any use. And there he could practice his craft undisturbed. In days past he had been known to labor in that chamber for days without ceasing, when he forged his greatest wonders. It had for over a decade now sat locked and cool.
Oorgo had been shown these forges in the first days of his serving Thurgod. Into each of them he had stepped and been shown the machines, made of progressively tougher materials and filled with harder and longer tools.The strongest forges required a great amount of fuel to burn, and so it was impractical to fire one of them up for a routine task. Thurgod was the only golem-maker in the valley, a monopoly enforced by Cyllgod. When not building or repairing golems, Thurgod might be called upon to forge any tool or weapon for a government, and occasionally one of the treasures that Cyllgod gave as gifts to her most valuable supporters. The greatest mark of wealth and prestige was to wear a trinket forged by the smith god.
Thurgod was at work on a small part of a mining golem. One of the living metal joints had gone into disrepair when the golem that used it had swung its pick askew. It was delicate work, but did not require much heat. For this, Thurgod would use the lightest forge. In days past he had had more mortal servants, but for a century now Cyllgod had only allowed him one.
"I am awake, Master."
Thurgod swung his hammer again from the elbow, bending back a red hot beam of the joint.
"That is good. The time for sleep is over, child."
"What will you have me to do?"
"You should pump the bellows so that we may have more heat, and I may focus on the shaping."
Oorgo stepped to the bellows, the upper handle of which was over his head, where he could just reach it. He tossed off the latch that held up the heavy handle, and immediately began to pump the bellows. Thurgod replaced the defective part in the fire with his hand, where it slowly began to redden. When Thurgod placed it there, he would stand motionless waiting at the anvil, his face pointed towards the glowing heat, waiting for it to be ready, while Oorgo continued to strain at the bellows.
Within a few minutes, Oorgo could no longer pull down the upper handle of the large bellows without merely holding onto it and slumping towards the floor. With a whimper his hand fell off the handle and he drooped to the floor. "I cannot pull it anymore, master."
Thurgod did not respond, but merely stretched his right arm over to where the child had stood, and began pumping the bellows with that one hand with twice the speed that Oorgo had managed. The fire blazed yellow and red, imparting its color to the metal. "This is the final round, Oorgo. Recover breath and strength."
"Why do you make me do it?"
"You need to become stronger, child." Thurgod reached into the fire and pulled out the red hot metal, setting it back on the anvil. He released the bellows and took up his hammer, making a few last adjustments to the joint.
"How much stronger?"
Thurgod struck the fastener one last time then set down the hammer. "To answer your question, I need you to come closer."
Oorgo did not understand but did obey. Thurgod's outstretched hand found the top of the boy's head then dropped to his shoulder, sliding down his arm an inch. The god's fingers formed a full ring around the boy's arm. "I would say it must be much stronger. That is the smallest of the bellows, and the way of humans is already on you."
"The what?"
"You are already tired."
"But if you wanted me to do hard work you shouldn't have taken me."
"I did not take you to make you do hard work. I do not dislike hard word. You see that I do it with one hand, and so have I done for ages beyond your count, and I have two hands."
"Then what did you take me here for?" Only by reason of his youth could this question went unasked in the first few days of Oorgo's apprenticeship
"You are an apprentice. For what is an apprentice?"
Oorgo grew nervous. Not understanding a grown-up's statement was regular course; he knew there was usually trouble if he did not understand a question.
"Your father. Why does he make your sister bake? Is it because he cannot?"
"Because she must learn."
"Because she must learn to be a baker. And there is the same for you."
"But he's not my master, he's my father."
"The second is the first and more, as I may be, in time."
Oorgo flattened his lips, nervous again.
"I am sorry, Oorgo. I forget that for children not all things are easily seen."
Oorgo's expression did not change.
"You are my apprentice so that I can make you a master smith."
"But that would take years!"
"I have many of those, and you are a child, so you do, too."
"Why would you want a master smith? You are the smithing god."
"And what if I am not here? Then who to fashion golems to do dangerous work which men cannot?"
"Where would you go?"
"Gods may die. You will have heard that one did."
"Cyllgod killed him."
"Indeed, and the world was worse that he had only ever trained one servant among humans. I will train many, so that smithcraft cannot be lost. Men must shape metal, or they shape nothing at all."
"Master, why is your hammer bent?"
This time Thurgod was silent for a moment. "What do you ask, child?"
"Your hammer. The handle is not straight. It is bent like a circle at the end. Why?"
Thurgod pointed his face at the hammer still resting in his hand. His head jolted to a side and Oorgo back, but Thurgod instantly regained composure. Taking a deep breath the smith god said, "Because I bent it, Oorgo."

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