An Inheritance of Steel
By Everett A Warren
Brilltown was once known by the quality of the steel it produced. If ever in the lands there was a smithy whose name was well known by other than those who passed by his fires daily, then the man was either a Brilltown master or he had learned his trade from one. After many years and many twists of fate, not all of them pleasant, Brilltown found itself known for its grand parties and courtly balls. All those years where the Brilltowners manufactured their own wealth had left them far removed from the source of that wealth. They became a society of elite benefactors, waving lace kerchiefs in front of their faces to hide the smell of the forge, as they passed out their wealth and gathered more unto themselves. In short, they became a nation of lawyers and bankers, and they had but one smith left, where once thousands joined in the song of the hammer and the anvil.
Perhaps Seffrot would have gone too, when all the others of the old Brilltown line packed up bellows and tongs and left for more honest realms. The truth of it was that the others had offers from realms that still valued steel, that knew it was worth more than it's weight in gold. This one left-over, this Seffrot, he did not receive any of these offers, despite his boasting on and on about how many he refused each day.
Seffrot was of the old Brilltown line, true enough. Molten steel flowed where blood would in most mortal men. He created beautiful implements for the perfumed and powdered folk that ruled him, and there was the difference. The others of the old line did not bow to overlords. Perhaps they created for this one or that, at this time or another, but never did they bow. Neither did they shirk from farm implements or decorations, nor did they base their business upon such works. For the Brilltown steel was most famous in a number of incarnations, all of them designed for war. But Seffrot could not, despite his every effort, create a sword or dagger that was anything but average. Oh, some were pretty enough, but those had poor balance. Some were balanced like a dream, but hideous in appearance, so that only the lesser foot-soldiers would deign to carry them, and then only because they had nothing else to use in their stead.
No, Seffrot was a fine smith, but he never was a weapons-smith. To his great shame, for he was the last of the Brilltown line that remained (he disowned all others for having left), he could not pass on his smithy to his sons, for he had never sired any children, and he drove off his wives one by one with his anger and rage at his impotence.
It was thus with a seemingly open heart that he contracted the young foundling as his apprentice. His temper well known, and stronger than his blades – but just as liable to shatter – no one of the city would chance their own young in his charge. After the second mysterious death, and after the third runaway, and after all had seen him driving them forth to their chores with ceaseless abandon, none would think it of their enemy, for the Brilltowners had become too effete, too polite for such a sentence. A foundling, however, was another matter.
Copyright (c) 1993, 2000 Everett Ambrose Warren