(This entry is in reference to Session #12)
Memories of a dream, already distant and nearly forgotten.
A sense of connections made, lessons learned, journeys traveled… then a moment of self inverted, great pain felt and inflicted. Then peace?
No, there is no peace. There is anger, an anger that had always been. It was before, through all the dream, waxing and waning, an ebbing flow at times, but never gone. Even when all was reversed, it was there, consistent, reliable, and strong. It remains, even as all else fades away.
Anger. I anger. I am. This is the thread that plunges into darkness, the continuity that follows further into darkness. It seems to descend forever, passing through spaces alien and familiar, foul and divine, but never stopping to ponder, never recognizing, never at rest. It goes on, and on…
There is a light in the darkness. It is a world of anger, a universe of conflict, writhing in the darkness. It is a workshop, windows blackened by soot, and there is a fire in the forge, casting a red glow over everything.
There is a form in that workshop, hands holding tools, eyes reflecting the light of the fire, no flesh showing on this Man in Metal. There is the Lord in Iron. All here is the Lord in Iron. This place, this feeling, is reflecting the red light of his eyes. He seems to tend the fire, not noticing the thread that has settled in is presence.
A sword lies on the anvil, broken into pieces. The body of a woman lies lifeless on the anvil, bones broken, skin bruised. It is both. It is neither. There is a pull of familiarity, confusing, and quickly lost.
The Man in Metal turns around, and as he picks up the fragments of the sword his eyes rest on the emptiness where the thread lies. From beneath his helmet a roar emerges, incomprehensible, indistinct, indiscriminate. The Lord in Iron speaks, smoothly, calmly, as he easily cradles the woman with a single gentle hand. “Sometimes, a weapon cannot be repaired or worked any longer. It must be reforged.” The sword, the woman, are placed in a crucible and lowered into the white-hot heart of the flame.
The fire surrounds the blade, and soon the metal glows red. The fire surrounds the woman, consuming her flesh in moments, and slowly crumbling her bones. Soon there is only molten steel, only ash. Hers is not the only body, not the only ash. There is a man with his nose twisted from many breaks, the scars and weathered lines on his face running together until indistinguishable. There is a man of perfect build, his look wild enough to run with the wolves, regal enough to lead legions. Their lives spent, they continue to fuel the fires of battle. All three, their lives, their deaths, their ashes mingle.
“The mystery of steel,” intones the Lord in Iron as he works the bellows. “Pure iron has strength, but taint that iron with coal baked by fire, and you’ve an impure iron even stronger. Coal, ash, iron, and fire, forging a strength that would be sundered rather than lose an edge.” The ash grows white.
The Man in Metal sits silent, motionless, waiting for the metal to glow red.
A mold lies before him.
It is the form of a great sword, the blade almost as wide as its massive guard, a improbably square profile coming abruptly to an obtuse point, as though the realization that merely hacking through an obstacle might not always be the best approach were a late realization in its crafting, or that acceptance of the finite length of all swords was only a begrudging one. The edge seems almost that of a flambard from the roughness of its definition. Any blade this size should have a ricasso if it were meant to be used with any sacrifice of power or reach for control, but the wicked sharpness continues right up to the hilt.
It is the form of a young woman, petite in build, neither particularly beautiful nor graceful in appearance, but with a robustness that comes rarely even in men. Again, there is a sharp pang of recognition and loss, an alien feeling that is quickly washed over again by anger.
But something seems missing. Without voice, this cannot be spoken. And yet, it is. “Something is missing.”
The Man in Metal continues to stare at the fire. The Lord in Iron tilts his head slightly. “I’ve built this weapon just as I need.”
Something is missing. “The record of battles won and lost, the scars, the history written upon the face.”
The Man in Metal begins to grumble, restless in his seat. The Lord in Iron tilts his head further. “There is only battle now, forever.”
Something is missing, and something returns, a fragment of the dream. “There have been battles before. To remember the battles of the past is to swing first and best in those to come.”
With a bellow, the Man in Metal grabs a chisel and lunges across the room, hacking into the mold, recklessly marring every unblemished surface that had snuck into the work with a thoughtless flourish.
The Lord in Iron arises, and smoothly, deliberately, begins to craft imperfections into the woman. Each brings a vibration of familiarity, somehow. As he works, he ponders aloud “Strange, this weapon that would bear the marks of a past, though they be false. Does it consider itself special?”
The thread is nothing, less than the smallest particle of soot on the floor, ephemeral, insignificant before the might here. “Legendary.”
The Man in Metal throws his head back in laughter, a terrible noise that shakes the room to its very foundation. The Lord in Iron does the same.
Both grab a cone mandrel from atop an anvil, walk over to the forge, and plunge the tip onto their palm over the crucible.
A drop of blood sizzles as it is cooked into the softening metal.
The tiniest splinter of armor falls into the pile of ash, scattering flakes into the billowing air.
The Man in Metal returns to his prior place, seated before the forge. The Lord in Iron lets the flames reflect the light in his eyes, the crackling sound the only disturbance for an interminable time. “There are those who would bring an end to my battle. To battle itself. They hide behind their magic, weak flesh hidden by walls of illusion, frail body guarded by minions of no substance. This weapon shall be my answer to these cowards. It will chop through their pitiful incantations, pierce their protections, and slice deep into their flesh. They will know to tremble when they witness it drawn from its scabbard.”
Finally, the time comes. The molten metal gives off a warm light as it is poured into its mold, discrete masses slowly rolling forth from the crucible and fitting to the shape of the blade it was, and once again would be. The air in the room ripples with heat, sending cyclones of ash and soot dancing across the floor. In a short time the edges darken, leaving only the core glowing red as the blade is callously flipped through the air and clatters onto the massive anvil.
Finally, the time comes. The ashes are stark white as they tumble into their mold, clumping together along the bottom before crystallizing into discrete units, these developing the protrusions that come with a backbone. Pristine lines of ribs and limbs branch off the spine, while a hemisphere of bone swells up before cascading to form the fine bones of the skull. The Lord in Iron clasps this skeleton delicately, transferring it to the massive anvil.
The first blow rings out through the workshop, and in that instant the thread feels itself at once expanded and confined. There’s no way to tell which it is anymore, but there’s no mistaking the sight of the coming hammer’s face.
The second blow strikes true, a reverberation that sends a lifetime of memories through the thread, forming a mind. A pulse, separate from the ringing of metal, begins to course through. Somehow, it’s possible to hear a heart beating, slowly at first, but soon quickening to a pace and intensity that surely would make any burst.
A third blow, and sensation flows out from the point of impact. The pain and rage of death return, the last state of that life being the first state of this one. I have a mouth now, and I must scream, and I can, and I do. All babies cry out with their first breath, and I think I finally understand why.
Another blow hits me, and another, and another, and I cannot keep track of hammer’s strikes anymore. I bellow without pause as images of my life flash before me, images fond and frequent, painfully recent, and so distant as to be utterly alien, with no pattern. Images of my newest friends, grouped before me, looking on from some distant place.
Finally there seems to be a moment of respite, but then I see the Lord in Iron reach for what I know, somehow, to be a Maker’s mark. With a mightier swing than any I’ve seen, any I’ve dreamed of, the stamp strikes my face with the sharp song of metal on metal, driving my head through the anvil, through a void, and then striking a stone floor with a much meatier thump. It kinda hurts.
I am. I’m Emma. I’m back! And I’m, like, totally naked!