Authors: M.L. Forman
“Don’t worry,” said Andy, slapping him on the back. “You’ll learn quick enough as we travel. We all know this is your first adventure, so everybody will help explain things to you. As far as not knowing about how magic works, not many people really do. Just accept that it
work and try not to worry about the
“All right,” Alex replied. “I guess I’m ready to go then.”
“Not quite,” said Andy, leading him down a narrow road, away from the Golden Swan and the center of Telous. “You still need a weapon. And I know just the place.”
“You can’t go on an adventure without one,” said Andy. “No telling what we might run into on the way. And there’s always the dragon at the end of our journey as well.”
“I . . . I suppose so,” Alex agreed nervously. “But I don’t know how to use a weapon. I mean, I’ve never had to, and Mr. Roberts would never allow—”
“It’s all right,” Andy interrupted. “Mr. Blackburn will know what weapon suits you best. There will be time for you to learn how to use it on the road.”
“Yes, but I—”
“It will be all right,” Andy said again. “You need a weapon if you’re going on this adventure, it’s as simple as that.”
Alex could see that Andy was right. He thought about the different kind of weapons he knew about as they walked toward the edge of town and wondered what kind of weapon he, or anybody, could use to kill a dragon.
“Blackburn’s Smithy,” said Andy, pointing to a fair-sized building that stood a short distance from the rest of the town. “One of the best smithys you’ll ever see.”
Alex didn’t reply because this was the only smithy he’d ever seen. He could smell coal smoke as they walked toward Blackburn’s and hear the ringing of hammers on steel. A new burst of excitement filled him as they entered the building, pushing all of his worries to the back of his mind.
“And what can I help you lads with?” asked a large, bald man in a leather apron as soon as Alex and Andy had closed the door. “Looking for something special, are you?”
“My friend needs a weapon,” Andy replied. “First time on an adventure, so he doesn’t know what suits him.”
The bald man eyed Alex and rubbed his chin. “Got any money?”
“Thrang Silversmith will stand good for him, Mr. Blackburn,” replied Andy.
“Thrang sent you, did he?” Mr. Blackburn walked toward Alex and Andy. “Well, then, we’d best measure and see what’s needed.”
Alex felt out of place and nervous, but the feeling of excitement kept growing inside of him. He was amazed and dazzled as he looked around the smithy. The walls were covered with an incredible variety of weapons and armor. There were swords and axes of all sizes. Bows, spears, crossbows, hammer-shaped weapons, and knives hung on the walls. There were strange curved weapons with blades, metal disks that looked like Frisbees, solid-looking plate armor, shiny chain mail, metal-covered gloves, and several other things Alex had never seen before. He wasn’t sure everything on the walls was even a weapon, but he didn’t have time for a closer look because Mr. Blackburn started giving him orders.
“Hold your arms out,” said Mr. Blackburn. “Out to the sides. Now in front. Stand up straight. Now—feet apart.”
Mr. Blackburn gave Alex a series of orders to stand in different positions and poses. After each one, Mr. Blackburn would take a measurement and jot down his notes on a small pad. This went on for several minutes, and Alex’s excitement was beginning to fade before Mr. Blackburn was done giving him orders.
“Interesting,” said Mr. Blackburn, walking away and leaving Alex with one foot in the air and one hand on top of his head. “Oh, you can relax now.”
Alex let his arms drop to his sides and resumed his normal stance. Being measured for a weapon seemed odd, but he didn’t know anything at all about weapons so he didn’t say anything.
“Very interesting,” said Mr. Blackburn again, scribbling on his notepad. “Not seen one like this in years.”
“Like what?” Alex asked nervously.
“Oh, nothing to worry about,” Mr. Blackburn replied. “Just that you measure different than most.”
“Is that a problem?” Andy asked, the slightest sound of concern in his voice.
“No, no problem,” said Mr. Blackburn, taking a large book from a shelf on one side of the room. “Not a problem at all.”
“What type of weapon should we be looking for?” Andy questioned, looking more than a little concerned.
“Just a moment,” said Mr. Blackburn as he flipped through the pages. “Want to make sure before I say.”
Alex looked questioningly at Andy, but Andy only shrugged in reply. Andy’s concern, though, made Alex more nervous as he waited to hear what Mr. Blackburn would say.
“Ah,” said Mr. Blackburn at last, snapping the book shut. “Just as I thought.”
“What is?” Alex asked.
“According to the measurements, you’ll do well with most any weapon you choose,” answered Mr. Blackburn. “Book says you’ll do best with a sword or an ax . . . or a staff.”
“A staff?” Andy jumped in surprise.
Alex looked from Andy to Mr. Blackburn and back, wondering nervously what the big deal was about a staff.
“That’s what the book says,” answered Mr. Blackburn,
putting the book back on its shelf. “Book’s never been wrong neither.”
“He’s not trained for a staff,” Andy said quickly. “We’d better look at swords. Maybe an ax or two.”
“As you wish,” said Mr. Blackburn. “If he’s not trained for a staff, it’ll do no good looking at them.”
“What’s so special about a staff?” Alex asked.
“Staffs are a wizard’s weapon,” said Andy, a look of wonder on his face. “Only a wizard can use a staff, and there aren’t many wizards around these days.”
“That’s a fact,” said Mr. Blackburn, nodding. “I haven’t sold a staff in ages out of mind.”
“That can’t be right,” protested Alex. “I’m no wizard. I can’t even do a card trick right.”
“Be that as it may be,” said Mr. Blackburn, shrugging. “Measurements don’t lie, and the book’s never been wrong.”
“We’ll just look at the swords and the axes,” Andy said again.
“As you wish,” Mr. Blackburn said.
Mr. Blackburn showed them dozens of finely made swords. He took great pleasure in pointing out the special features of each sword, and he insisted that Alex hold each one to get a feel for the balance. Alex felt a little awkward because he’d never held a sword before and some of them were surprisingly heavy. Others didn’t feel right in his hand, though he wasn’t able to say why.
Mr. Blackburn also showed them several large axes, each with a different shaped head. Once again Alex held them all and tried to decide what an ax should feel like. After what seemed like a long time to Alex, Mr. Blackburn stopped bringing new weapons for him to look at.
“Made a choice then?” Mr. Blackburn asked politely.
“I don’t know,” Alex answered. “They are all so well-made that it is difficult to choose,” he added quickly for Mr. Blackburn’s benefit.
“You’ve got to choose something,” Andy urged. “And if you don’t hurry, we’ll be late for dinner with the others.”
Alex closed his eyes for several minutes, thinking. He wasn’t thinking about which sword or ax to pick though, but about wizards and staffs. He was certain Mr. Blackburn’s book was wrong about his being able to use a staff. Finally, he took a deep breath and opened his eyes.
A sword with a blue-black blade seemed to stand out from the others as the room came back into focus. The sword had elegant gold inlay on the hilt, and Alex thought he could almost read something written in the gold, but he blinked and the words disappeared.
“I’ll take this one,” said Alex, picking up the sword.
“A fine choice,” said Mr. Blackburn with a smile. “Not one of mine, but still a fine piece of work.”
“It’s not one of your swords?” Alex asked, liking how the hilt felt in his hand.
“No, but it’s an excellent piece of work, that’s for sure,” Mr. Blackburn replied. “This sword was sold to me by an adventurer, much like yourselves, but he couldn’t tell me anything of its history.”
“And you’re sure it’s a good sword?” Andy questioned in a serious tone.
“Good as any I’ve ever made,” Mr. Blackburn admitted. “Maybe better. But I’ll ask you not to repeat that.”
While Andy and Mr. Blackburn discussed the price of Alex’s new sword, Alex examined every inch of the sword. Mr. Blackburn’s price seemed high to Alex, but Andy seemed to think it was fair and agreed to pay in Thrang’s place.
Mr. Blackburn brought the sword’s scabbard to Alex and bowed slightly as he handed it to him. The scabbard, like the sword, was inlayed with gold. Once again Alex thought he could make out words mixed in with the swirls of gold, and once again when he blinked, the words were gone and only the golden swirls remained.
Alex put his new sword in its scabbard and, with Andy’s help, he managed to get it inside his magic bag. They both thanked Mr. Blackburn for his help, and then they walked back into Telous.
Alex couldn’t stop thinking about his new sword, a sword with a mysterious past. Mr. Blackburn had made it sound like a sword’s history was important to know and it bothered Alex that his sword had no history, or at least none he knew about. He also thought it seemed a little odd that he had chosen the sword after closing his eyes and thinking about wizards.
At the back of Alex’s mind, the strange little voice was talking again. Mr. Blackburn had said he could use a staff, and that meant he could use magic. The idea of using magic and being a wizard excited Alex’s imagination, though he knew almost nothing about magic—other than it actually worked—and even less about wizards. His thoughts circled endlessly in his mind, before he decided finally that it was pointless to worry.
“Get everything you need?” Thrang asked as soon as Alex and Andy entered the Golden Swan.
“Everything,” Andy answered, handing Thrang the bundle of receipts he’d been collecting. “Hope we didn’t go too far.”
“Or damage Master Thrang’s hoard too much,” Skeld laughed from behind Thrang. “But that would take more time than you two had.”
“Your tongue does more damage than anything else,” said Thrang, glancing over his shoulder at Skeld. “Though it looks like these two tried very hard to break me,” he added with a wink and a grin.
“I’m sorry,” Alex started.
“Not at all, not at all,” said Thrang before Alex could add anything more. “As long as you got what you needed, there’s no damage done.”
“I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to repay you,” Alex managed to say, but Thrang simply waved his hand and laughed.
“It’s nothing,” said Thrang, tucking the receipts into his belt. “Your friendship is payment enough.”
Alex saw Bregnest come down the main staircase and Andy walk quickly to his side. Andy leaned close and whispered something to Bregnest. He glanced at Alex, his eyebrows raised, and then nodded to Andy. Alex suspected Andy was telling Bregnest what Mr. Blackburn had said about his being able to use a staff. He wondered what Bregnest would think, and more important, what he would do.
“Come on then, dinner’s waiting,” said Skeld happily. “Best eat well while we can.”
Alex followed Skeld down a hallway toward the back of the Golden Swan with Thrang at his side. Alex wasn’t sure if he should thank Thrang again for his generosity or not. He decided not to say anything more, mostly because of what Andy had told him about dwarfs.