The Ashenguard Saga Part 3: Brokk Highwall
The Ashenguard Saga
Part 3: Brokk Highwall
Chapter 1: The Lone Smith
In the snowy mountain village of Falfnir there was born a boy. A boy whose calling would not reveal itself until much later in his life. He was born to two poor parents who could not afford to support their newborn son. His parents could much less support themselves however and the little boy was orphaned all too soon. Barely able to walk, the boy wandered the village, scrounging off scraps of food left by patrons of the local inn.
One day, after finishing the last piece of discarded bread he’d found, a cold wind blew through the village. The boy had not known such a harsh winter before. It bit into his skin, like little pinpricks or needles. He needed to find warmth, if he was to survive. There! A soft glow coming from a house made of stone. The house had a rhythmic clink coming from inside, the beat calmed the boy. He slowly crawled his way towards the house, the hunger and the cold setting in. Even moving his legs was excruciating. As the boy arrived at the house, he peered round the corner to see the source of the noise. There was a tall muscular man striking away at an anvil holding an ornate hammer in one hand, a glowing lump of metal in the other. He was singing quietly to himself, striking with every beat of the song. The boy spotted a small space, under a table, to crawl into where he should go unseen, but close enough to the forge to be warm. He crawled forward with each stroke of the smith’s hammer, making sure not to be heard. He reached the little alcove, buried his head in the scraps of clothes he had, and listened to the song the blacksmith was singing.
The forge is my home
Fan the flames high
Ingot turn’d red
Shape the steel
Bring the sword to life”
Brokk fell asleep faster than he ever had, the blacksmith’s song and the metallic rhythm of the hammer resonating within his soul.
The boy stirred, he rubbed his eyes and the world slowly came into focus. So did a face. A few inches in front of his. The boy recoiled and bashed his head on the bottom of the table he’d fell asleep under. The smith from the night before was sat in front of him laughing so much he’d fallen backwards onto the floor. After composing himself the smith stood up and waved a hand under the table.
“Come out lad, don’t worry, I won’t turn you into the guard for wanting out of that dreadful cold.”
The smith’s gravelly voice instilled calm in the boy. It was like what he could remember of his father’s.
“I’m really sorry mister. I was just so cold…” The boy looked down, not wanting to meet the man’s eyes.
“Listen here lad.” The smith rested his hand on the boy’s head. “I’m going to assume you’ve got nowhere to go. Am I right?”
The boy nodded. “My parents died when I was young.” He muttered sadly.
The smith let out a little sigh. He felt sorry for the boy.
“I’ll tell you what lad. I could use another hand around here, to tidy up and what.”
The boy snapped his head up, he could not believe he might have a home again.
“I’ll let you stay with me, but you have to do chores every day. Maybe someday, I’ll teach you to work metal as I do..”
The smith barely had time to finish his sentence as he found the boy had suddenly embraced his leg. The smith reached out and patted the boy’s head.
“My name is Ival Highwall, what’s yours?”
The boy shook his head.
“My parents passed away before I could understand words. I don’t know”
Ival rubbed his stubble with his hand.
“I know! I’ll call you Brokk.”
The boy went silent for a moment, absorbing his new name.
“I like it.” He eventually said.
“It’s after an old smith of legend.” Ival explained.
“I hope that one day you will become worthy of it.”
Chapter 2: The Legend
“Good, strike it like that!”
Brokk was forging his first dagger. He’d been doing chores for a few years now to build up his strength. When Ival found him he was malnourished and weak. So he made him do manual labor to help out around the forge.
Brokk finished flattening the piece of metal at the end.
“Now make the other end smaller and use a nail to make three holes in the hilt.”
He continued to hammer away at the piece of metal. It was starting to resemble a dagger now.
“Good, now use the tongs to quench it in the water.”
Brokk dipped the glowing piece of metal in the saltwater, it expelled a large cloud of steam into the air much to his surprise. Finally being able to see again Brokk brought the now cool lump of metal over to Ival.
“Now we’re going to shape the blade. What you’ve got there is a blunt knife. We need to sharpen it.”
Ival brought him over to a large round stone. He had seen him use it before to make the swords sharper.
“Now sit down here and…” Ival stopped. Brokk’s feet couldn't quite reach the pedal to make it turn. Ival picked him up and placed him on his lap and chuckled.
“You can turn the wheel yourself when you’re older.”
He took Brokk’s hands into his own and guided him in sharpening the blade. He had never seen the little boy looking so happy. This filled Ival with pride. Was this what it was like to have a son? he pondered.
Brokk finished sharpening the blade and Ival lifted him back down again.
“Now it needs a handle. I carved this one for you earlier.”
Ival handed him an ornate wooden handle with two letters carved into the side ‘B.H.’
“What are those symbols?” Brok asked.
Ival paused. He’d forgotten Brok hadn’t ever been taught how to read. He’d need to add that to the list of things to teach.
“They are your initials Brokk. B.H.” he explained.
“H?” Brokk asked.
“Highwall! You are practically my son after all.”
Brokk gave his biggest smile yet and hugged Ivan.
“Thank you, but don’t hug me with an expertly sharpened dagger in your hand.” He jested.
“Now, line up the holes in the wood with the ones you made earlier in the blade.”
Brokk carefully adjusted his new creation.
“Take these and hammer them into the holes.”
Ival passed Brokk two ice cold small circular bits of metal. Brokk lined them up and hammered them into the holes.
“There we go! Not bad at all for your first piece of work.”
Ival picked it up and examined the dagger. He then handed it to Brokk.
“Here it’s yours. It’s a useful tool to have.” Brokk took it and looked up.
“Thank you.. Father.” He was going to have to get used to saying that.
As time passed Brokk graduated from doing chores, to helping out with pieces of weapons and armour, to forging his own pieces and selling them in the little shop they ran. He had picked up the art of blacksmithing faster than anyone Ival had ever seen before, he’d said. Brokk loved it, he had a natural rhythm and focus that were meant for blacksmithing, when he was creating something he’d be in his own world, and would focus on nothing else the whole time.
Unfortunately this would often lead to him missing customers passing by the shop and it became somewhat of a running joke that you’d have to wave something in front of his face to get his attention. Having been taught blacksmithing from a young age had turned the scrawny young boy into a fairly muscular man, ruggedly handsome, but not interested in anything other than blacksmithing, to the dismay of a couple of ladies.
Brokk was just finishing his latest sword as Ival came back from the market in town. He peered round the door to see Brokk deep in concentration, humming a song. He brought in the supplies he was picking up for the expedition he was going on. Ival had intended to go earlier however the sudden arrival of Brokk one night changed his mind. Ival wanted to wait until Brokk was good enough to sell his pieces so he could support himself while he was away.
Brokk finished his sword, set the hammer down he’d been working with and plunged the red hot sword into a bucket of ice water.
“What were you humming?” Ival asked.
“I think it was a song I heard you sing as a boy. I don’t really remember.” Brokk turned to place the newly forged sword on a rack.
As Ival offloaded his haul onto the table a gold coin on a chain slipped out of his coat and hung around his neck. Brokk had asked about it before. He had told him it was from a group of heroes his ancestor had been a part of. When the gates had opened into this world of magic again, he had rejoined the others who held the coins, then travelled off to refine his art to be of more use to them. He didn’t talk about them much though, he’d wanted to keep his membership quiet, he never liked the attention. Ival tucked the coin back into his shirt and rebuttoned his coat.
“I think I’m almost ready to go.” He lamented.
“Are you really going to go chasing that legend?” Brokk protested.
A few months prior Ival had heard tell of an enchanted blacksmith’s hammer that was housed in the mountain. A few adventurers had seen it through a large metal door but they could find no way to open it. Ival was determined to try. He thought with the hammer he could make arms and armour better than anyone ever had. That was enough reason for him to try.
“I have to try Brokk, imagine what we could make with such a legendary hammer!”
Brokk knew every time where this discussion would lead. He would never be able to talk him out of it and quite honestly if Ival wasn’t going after it, Brokk thought he probably would himself.
“I know Ival, just promise you’ll take care okay?” He smiled at that.
“Don’t you worry Brokk, we’ll be making the best crafts the world has ever seen soon enough!”
Ival gathered his things and set off the next day.
That was three years ago.
Chapter 3: Following the Footsteps
Brokk had tried not to think of his mentor and where he was now. He’d devoted himself to his work. Absorbed with every stroke of the hammer, perfecting his craft. Often between projects, he’d stand at the window and stare at the mountain where Ival had gone. One day he swore he even saw a flash of light enter the mountainside. He knew that one day soon he’d have to find out what happened to his mentor and hopefully, as well, claim the hammer that Ival had so desperately sought.
A week later, he’d gathered the same supplies as Ival once had, ready to set off for the mountain. He informed the town guard of where he was heading and that if he did not return, to give the forge to someone who could make a living off it. To give someone a chance, as his mentor had once done for him. He set off on the road towards the mountainside. It was a long trek and if he had not developed higher than average stamina from smithing he would not have gotten far in the first day as he had.
Arriving at the mountain he stood back and appreciated its sheer magnitude. He took a deep breath and reluctantly started the treacherous trek up the mountainside. Fighting through ice and blizzards to reach the alcove the adventurers had spoken of. They had talked of an outcrop in the mountain, barely visible from the regular climb of the mountain. A significant upper body strength was needed to hoist oneself across the sharp drop of the side of the slope. It was almost as if this journey was meant for a blacksmith. Reaching the other side of the mountain he spotted a small opening in the side. Crawling through he reached a large golden door with a clear crystal set into the centre. Through the door he could see an altar. Golden and intricately decorated with a hammer set into the stone above it. It was clearly the hammer that he sought.
Stepping back Brokk examined the door. There was no apparent way to open it. No handles or holes in the door at all. If the treasure inside was indeed a blacksmith hammer, then this must be some kind of test, to prove that it was a blacksmith trying to retrieve it and not just some common thief. Metal beams ran along the door, in a diamond shape around the glass with one more beam facing down at the bottom point. Brokk noticed they were shaped in such a way to allow the most vibration through them, enough to create sound when struck. He reached into his bag and pulled out his blacksmith’s hammer. He struck the bottom beam, then carried the vibrations around the diamond by striking the beams in turn, then back to the bottom. He heard a clunk as the vibrations reached the final tip of the bottom beam. The doors started to shake and parted to reveal the path to the altar. Brokk smiled, only a blacksmith would have known the perfect shape to make metal to carry the most sound. He stepped through the doors and took a moment to regard the altar. He was jolted out of his wonder however as the doors slammed shut behind him.
“Well. No going back now.” He muttered.
Chapter 4: The Contract
Brokk turned round from examining the door, there were no beams this side, no obvious way out. He gave up on the door and made his way to the altar. Nearing the altar Brokk spotted a slumped skeleton near the hammer. He recognised those clothes! He ran over and dropped to his knees. It was as he feared. This was as far as Ival had made it.
“Damn it, old man. I told you to be careful.” Brokk took a moment to gather his emotions.
He steeled himself, got up and turned to stand in front of the altar. The hammer was beautiful. It had intricate patterns covering the surface, a handle wrapped in white straps and wings carved into the top. He could sense something coming from the hammer. It felt like it had its own desire, a desire to create, to craft. To make something wondrous.
Brokk reached out for the hammer and was suddenly stopped by a silken voice coming from above the altar.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Brokk looked around for the voice and was suddenly taken aback as a woman dressed in a robe with long white hair dropped down from above.
“Look what happened to your mentor.” She continued. “He tried to take it too.”
Brokk slowly reached back his hand. He turned to confront this mysterious lady.
“Who are you, did you follow me in here?” He demanded.
“Calm yourself.” The lady soothed. “My name is Sylkana and I am the angel of magic.”
Brokk didn’t know how to respond. The shock of finding his mentor dead to being told he’d run into an angel was too much for him. She continued irregardless.
“The divine tool your mentor tried to get is one that was sealed away when the greatest weaponsmith of my brethren perished a few thousand years ago. It is called the Hammer of Haphaistios.”
Brokk was shocked by this knowledge. Ival had told him tales of Haphaistios. The legendary blacksmith of the angels. He had crafted the weapons of the world’s greatest heroes and if one came up for sale, not even the richest nobles could afford one.
“I can’t believe it..” He muttered.
“When we sealed the hammer in the mountain, it was Haphaistios’ wish that only the most dedicated blacksmith be allowed to wield the hammer. It would require one who had nothing else but dedication to the craft.”
The angel waved her hand, tattoos briefly shone on her skin and words appeared above the altar, in a text he could not read. He had seen these characters before however. They appeared on one side of the coin his mentor wore around his neck.
“To master the craft, one must be dedicated. Let only one who is true in purpose take up this hammer. Be warned. To take the hammer means to forsake all else. You must rid yourself of violence for rage has no place in the forge.” The angel translated.
“So if I want to use the hammer I cannot ever use any of my weapons to fight?” Brokk questioned.
“Yes and no, you may take up a weapon in defence, but you must never seek out a fight. If you do, then the hammer shall return here once again.” She explained.
Brokk nodded. The angel waved her hand and the barrier began to glow, so did her tattoos and her eyes. Wings burst from her back and she stretched out her and towards him.
“Do you accept this contract?” She asked, her voice like a choir all on its own.
He reached out and took her hand. The barrier shattered and the shards transformed into a chain. The chain attached itself to the hilt of the hammer, pulled it into Brokk’s hand, wrapped around his arm, then disappeared.
“The contract is sealed.” The angel stated.
Brokk looked at the hammer in his hand. It felt immediately natural to him, like he’d been using it his whole life. It was light as anything but felt stronger than diamonds. It was a peculiar feeling, but more than anything he had the greatest urge to forge something new.
He looked up from admiring his new divine tool. The angel was knelt down, examining the Ival’s body. Her tattoos began to glow again. She touched the skull of the skeleton and a misty image of his mentor appeared in the air before him.
“I see you have succeeded where I failed, son.” Ival said in his comforting gravelly tones.
“Yes father, I will show you weapons and armour like none have ever seen before.”
Ival smiled and gestured to his body. The angel removed the coin from the chain on the skeleton and offered it to Brokk. He took it and examined the surface. It was just as he’d remembered. One side, a crest with the words ‘Ashenguard’ and their motto ‘United through worlds anew’. He flipped it over. It was a picture of the divine gateway with a small blue shard set into where the portal stone would be. Underneath Brokk recognised the same symbols that had appeared over the altar a few moments ago.
“Take my coin son.” Ival continued. “It will prove who you are. Seek them. Seek the Ashenguard.”
“I will father and I will make them the best crafts they’ve ever seen.” Brokk promised.
Ival’s apparition faded into the air, leaving just Brokk and the angel. After a while she broke the silence.
“Come, Brokk, It’s time you got to meet your new family.”
Brokk nodded and clutched the coin tightly, it was time to craft his own works that would arm the heroes of today. It was time for him to become the next legendary blacksmith.