Today’s witch is brought you to by the prompt Blade.
A broken sword jingles in my pack, overwhelming the scuff of my boots against worn stone. I check the map on my phone again, pretty sure the internet has failed me. I turn in a circle, shadowed by cottages and the nearby Aviary towering high above the city. Overlooking the west is Syorini Lake, catching the evening sun on its beautiful surface. Certainly not going to find a blacksmith there.
“Ai, need some help?”
I startle, throwing my phone into the air. The vampire that had once been a little farther down the sidewalk is now right before me, my phone cradled in their outstretched hands.
“Oh my goodness, thank you! Yes, I’m looking for Tessa’s Smithy, happen to know where that is?” I breathlessly take my phone back and return the smile given to me by the blue haired vampire with striking violet eyes.
“No problem,” They nod with a quiet chuckle, pointing to a narrow side road that diverges from the sidewalk we stand on. “Follow that path there, it’ll lead you right to it.”
“Oh, thank you so much. Have a good night, friend.”
The vampire smiles, then dips their chin and parts ways with me.
I straighten my shoulders, clutching the strap of my pack, then carry on. The side path is quiet, flanked by frogs, crickets and water lilies. Small trees and decorative bushes, along with endless amounts of wildflowers in their full summer bloom, follow the road which easily switches back and forth until folding in on the lake proper. Something flies overhead, too big to be a bird. A wyvern, perhaps?
How I didn’t see it before I’m not sure, but the small island sitting a little way off shore is plain as day now. A small boardwalk connects the island to the grassy shoreline of the mainland. Lanterns hang from the tall wooden posts and beckon me to come closer. I swallow hesitantly, not sure if I want to edge towards the island. I didn’t expect the smithy to be on the water, and paired with the fact they hold odd night hours, I’m uneasy.
The clinking of shattered metal grounds me. I sigh, reclaiming my courage. I’m doing this for Alice. She deserves this —by Gods does she deserve this— and so much more.
I take a step, then another. Even when my boots thud against wooden decking instead of soft grass, I keep walking. I distract myself from the water licking at the beams holding up the bridge, focusing on the little cottage nestled onto the little island.
Both are small, but somehow … Infinite.
Wind chimes catch my attention first. They hang from the fruit trees surrounding the back of the cottage, intricately knotted hemp cord dangles in the soft breeze. More come into view when I step onto solid ground, the soft clattering and ringing chases away the heartbeat in my ears. Some are metal while others are bone, or of the driftwood and shell variety. They make an appearance in the open windows of the house, bits of beads and glass shine under the setting sun and call to be known. My favorite are the ones made with simple things, like spoons.
The cottage has been beaten down by time. The only paint to be seen frames the numerous and misshapen windows which are close to the ground. Perhaps the color was blue at one point, but now it’s mostly a dull gray with a hint of what it once was. A rhythmic clang joins the wind chime symphony and my heart stutters in response. My path curves around the corner of the cottage, ending in what is undeniably a front yard.
The anxiety of stumbling upon someone’s home by accident is softly dulled upon finding a sign that is remarkably newer than the front porch it hangs from.
‘Tessa’s Smithy; Open by Appointment’
I pry my fingers off the strap to my pack one by one, then flex my hands open and closed at my sides. I follow the sounds of a workshop, picking up on a radio that’s screaming metal into the warm evening air at a surprisingly low level. I duck beneath overhanging tree limbs, around low tables filled with clutter, and between piles of metal that at first glance appear haphazardly placed. They are organized according to size, though, and material.
I shake off my snooping habits and come to a stop in front of an open garage.
In fact, everything stops.
Thousands of bronze and gold scales reflect the coals blazing in a forge set low to the ground. A thick, muscular arm flexes as the smith turns their work this way and that in the heat. Sweat infringes on the collar of their white tank top, causing the fabric to stick to their gleaming, deeply tanned skin. Dark brown locs are tied back with a strip of ragged fabric, but a few have escaped and dangle before the smith’s pinched eyes.
Their breathtakingly elegant and long tail sweeps back and forth, slowly, across the mossy floor of the garage. I’m surprised that their movements are easy and not at all unhindered by the lack of water. Tiny scales cover their thick body from the hips down, catching the light and my attention. Even without seeing their face, I can feel that they are the most heartbreakingly beautiful person I’ve ever met.
The smith removes their work from the coals, moving a short ways to an anvil where they begin to hammer upon the metal like it owes them a life debt. Their body shudders with the impact and despite the distance, the forge’s heat is getting to me.
“Well, come in.” They call out over the violence of hammer against metal, scaring the shit out of me. I manage a squeak and a step back, which finally draws the siren’s attention. Sirens are the beautiful counterpart to mermaids, all beauty and less teeth. They stop hammering and say, “I don’t bite.”
I pull myself together and inwardly chant, ‘Alice is going to love this, Alice is going to love this.’
“H, Hello.” I step inside the garage, very much feeling like I’m intruding on a personal sanctuary. “I’m Ori, with the birthday present?”
The smith closes the distance between us, their tail smoothly glides across the moss not unlike how a snake moves. They extend a hand towards me, a demon, like it’s nothing.
I take it. By Gods, do I take it.
“Florence Quintessa, at your service. How would you like to be addressed, Ori?”
“Oh,” Heat flushes my cheeks at the forward question but I appreciate it. “I prefer she/her, thank you. And you?”
“Any, all, none? Whatever you like. Now, let’s see that blade.” Florence shrugs, the peripheral fins of their lower body flutter with the movement. The translucent, gold tinted fins at the end of their tail are gorgeous, reminding me of frond leaves.
After Florence raises a brow, I remember myself. “Oh, right.” I sling the pack off my shoulder, then gently remove the three pieces inside it and hand them over. I feel off balance, dazed and smitten.
Oh Gods, I’m smitten.
Florence takes the pieces and lays them out on a workbench, then heaves into a rolling stool and leans over the table to inspect the sword, tail dragging alongside them. Their eyes flare the slightest bit, enough to reveal the bright red magick swirling around their irises. I inhale sharply at their side and Florence’s head jerks up. Sparks simultaneously fly from the coal forge on the opposite side of them, all but confirming the gossip.
“Problem?” Florence asks, unmoving while awaiting my answer.
I shake my head. “No, nothing.”
Florence stares at me for another moment, then goes back to evaluating the sword. The magick in their eyes doesn’t die, but the forge simmers down. I wait, trying not to fidget and interrupt their analysis. Eventually they murmur, “You’d be better off requesting an all new blade than repairing this one. It’s imbued with witch’s magick, but then again, I’m sure you already knew that.”
Panic throttles my heart. “I was assured you’re the best when it comes to repairing magickal weapons.”
Genuine surprise ripples throughout Florence’s face, ending with a tick in their strong jaw. They fold their arms across their chest, pushing together an ample amount of cleavage that piles over the top of their tank top. Sweat instantly tracks down my spine.
“And who says that?”
He did say it was alright to share his name, that the smith is a trusted friend, but the recent attacks on witches by witches has deemed trust a brittle thing. I have little choice. I don’t tear away from Florence’s intense gaze when I say, “Arlo Rook. He said you’re trustworthy, and exceptionally skilled.”
Like a balm to a festering wound, Florence instantly relaxes, but their curiosity piques.
“Is that so?” Florence looks back to the sword, contemplating. A soot covered finger taps the bench once, twice. I take a step closer, looking down at the sword scarred with time and battle.
“I know it’s impossible. I’m … desperate. My daughter,” Emotion thickens in my mouth and I clear it away. Alice. Alice. Alice.
“It was her father’s. She’s taken on swordplay, for recreation, not … necessity, like he had to, but I thought … well, I don’t know what I thought. You know what, I’m sorry for wasting your time like this, I–”
I reach for the discarded pieces of my husband’s life, but Florence stops me with a gentle hand to my wrist. “I never said I couldn’t do it.”
I lock tear filled eyes with the siren, unable to remove myself from their grasp, or question why they haven’t let me go. “Really? You can fix it?”
Florence smiles then, and I can’t help but smile too, just a little. Oh Gods, it’s been so long since the expression came without burden.
“I can fix it.”