There had been no magic in his making.
At least not that he knew of. He wasn’t sure when he had become aware of being, it seemed to come to him between one beat of the hammer and the next. One moment he was nothing. A lifeless lump of ore slowly being given form, and in the next, he existed. Still, he was a long time in the making. Just a drifting awareness as his body grew around him, caught between the fire and the hammer, between existing and living. There were times when he became aware of the world, usually when the heat gave way to cooler air, and he lay there, spared the hammer for a time, and trying to take stock of what he was and where he was. There was no answer to the first. Not really. He was a sword; he knew that as intrinsically as he knew that he existed now. That he lived. But he still didn’t know who he was, or what he was supposed to be.
Even the world beyond him was narrow. A small room of blood and heat-worn rock, and in its centre was the sun. No, not the sun. A forge, he heard it called in a lull between hammer blows. But the sun it remained in his head, too bright and too warm, but essential. It was the sun that marked his path to existence, as he was slowly formed in the long hours of its light, forged between anvil and hammer, guided into being by the Bladesmith. He remembered that time with both fondness and terror, unable to forget the way the flames had licked at his sides, edges dancing over the rough surface of his skin, and the bruising force of the hammer against his growing form. That had shaped him and scarred him in equal measure, but then had come the long hours of coolness.
That was his first experience of kindness, as calloused fingers ran across the surface, tracing rough edges and imperfections without hesitation or judgement. He memorised that touch, sensing that there was something hidden within it. Something that he would need to remember, and then something soft and warm was wrapped around him. It muffled the world, and he was alone. No, not alone, because beyond the material that had been wrapped around him, he could still hear the Bladesmith moving about the room. At some point, there were other voices. Harsh voices. And the sound of metal against metal, and metal on something softer, a scent in the air that called to him and repulsed him in equal measure.
It had faded with time, and the world had turned silent and still. It had shaken him, a fear that had taken root in his core. He didn’t want to be alone; he hadn’t been created to fight on his own. He needed a guiding hand. Those calloused fingers that had shown him such kindness, the voice that had reached him between the sound of the hammer.
A voice that was silent now.
He had lost track of how long he had lain like that, or maybe he had never known. He knew that time passed, had felt it as he had been called into being, but he didn’t know how to measure it. Maybe that was a good thing because he could pretend that the long, cold dark had passed in the blink of an eye, and maybe it had. Either way, he was relieved when from the darkness came movement, and then the hands were there, easing away the material, allowing sound and light to rush in around him. The sun was there again, not as hot as before, and casting the world in reds and oranges.
And there he was.
His view of the world was strange. He saw the sun, the fire and heat that had birthed him. And he saw him. The Bladesmith he had heard the other voices calling him, but he had already known the name the title, but now it felt wrong. Perhaps it was the touch, the fingers that were running along his edges, grounding him after the long loneliness, or maybe it was the apology in the wizened features, the eyes that saw his existence within the rough form of his body. That saw what he could become, what he would become, and cared. “You are being made for the wrong purpose, but you don’t have to follow that path.” The words held little meaning to him, but he drank them in all the same, letting them sink in as the Bladesmith bore him away.
There was pain in the next step of his making. He was soft yet, not fully formed, and the world spun around him, as parts of him were sheered away. He would have screamed had he a voice, and it was there in the darkest moments, as metal was scraped away, his body taking on its true form that he understood the apology he had seen in the Bladesmith’s eyes. He had known that this was coming. That his existence was not yet complete. In those long hours, as he was wrought into something more, he learned of anger and pain. He hated the latter, wanting nothing more than for it to end, and yet some distant, half-formed part of him realising that it was necessary, that he needed to break before he could become complete. The former gave him strength, and he drank deeply of it, and now he remembered the scent from the night before and hungered for it.
Perhaps that was why he slipped. There was a pause in the pain, and he could feel the difference in his form, and he lunged, chasing something that he didn’t fully understand. The Bladesmith cried out, his voice high with something that both excited and terrified him. It was the sound he had heard the night before, and now he faltered. You are being made for the wrong purpose? He had been warned, and now as something warm and wet decorated his new-found edge, he knew that he had found that wrongness.
That he had sought it.
“It’s all right.” The fingers were on him once more, gentle despite the pain he had inflicted, and the touch grounded him, even as the words soothed him. There was no judgement. No disappointment. As though this moment had been inevitable. “I understand your anger, your lust for blood.” There was grief in the words, a sorrow that ran as deep as his anger had moments before, a truth that couldn’t be denied. They were the same. Shared souls in different bodies. It helped, and he was still and silent, as the dampness was wiped away, and he was laid out on something solid.
He felt vulnerable and exposed, as though the Bladesmith had seen some part of him that should never have been exposed to the world. “There is more to the world.” He wasn’t sure if the Bladesmith was speaking to him or not, but still, he listened, letting the man’s voice wrap around him, distracting him as something sharp was pressed against his surface. He was being marked. A story told in straight lines, and swirling motifs being etched into him, but that wasn’t the story he cared about, because the Bladesmith was still talking. And while the work was giving him form, it was the words that were shaping him.
That were giving him being.
Hours passed like that, and soon he had forgotten all about the distant discomfort of the work, instead losing himself in the Bladesmith’s voice. In the tales of a world that he had seen. A world that existed beyond the burning sun beside them. No, not a sun… a forge. A forge in a small room that he came to realise was a beginning and an end for both of them. The Bladesmith had sounded sad then, but there had been anger too, and this time he had been careful not to let it sink into him too, but still, he had listened, and he would remember. Then the words had flowed onwards, out into the world beyond these four words, and he had lost himself in the telling. In the tales of a world of warriors, good and bad, although the distinction escaped him still. In stories of knights and dragons, and bloody wars.
He learned from those tales. He learned of life and death, of honour and duty. He learned to fear what he was and what he could be used for, but also to dream, to long to be used for the right reason. To become one of the swords of legend that the Bladesmith spoke of with reverence as he worked, patient and tireless, as the sun burned low, and other voices came and went. There was a pause then, and the Bladesmith rested and ate, but even then, he talked. No longer about great heroics, and terrible deeds, but of smaller, simpler things. Of a tiny shop in the marketplace that sang with fire and metal, of laughter in the shared rooms beyond, the patter of little feet on stone floors and the warmth of a wife waiting for him to come home. There was longing in those tales and grief, and the dampness that fell on him towards the end was cold, and silence crept in for a time.
However, whether the Bladesmith was as afraid of loneliness as he was, or whether there was something to the feel of time trickling away from them, the tales returned as he returned to the etching. Now, he spoke of injustices. Of laughter cut short, and lives lost without reason, and he absorbed it all, turning the grief and righteous anger to strength. He was being forged in these tales he realised, as much as he was beneath the Bladesmith’s tools, and even when they slowly faded, leaving their lasting message on his skin he listened and learned. He learned of loss and grief, but also hope, a light in the Bladesmith’s voice as he was lifted towards the ceiling. “You will make a difference.” It was a command, but also a plea, and he hummed, practically vibrating with the force of it as he made it a promise.
I will make a difference.
He clung to that promise, to that purpose as the heat returned. Only this time he was thrust into the heart of the sun until it felt as though he would be consumed by it. In those seemingly endless moments, he told himself the stories over and over, no longer able to hear the Bladesmith’s voice as the flames roared around him. And just as he thought that he would be lost, he was removed, and then he was submerged in water. It was shockingly cold after the fire, wrapping around him, but even as it soothed him, it changed him, his form taking hold. Hardening. Until he knew that he would never again break so easily.
That wasn’t the end.
For some time, he alternated between the fire and water, but now neither were so intense. And the Bladesmith’s voice was there once more. However, there were no stories this time. Instead, his voice had taken on a different cant. “Duty,” he murmured, and he echoed the word as he slipped beneath the surface of the water once. “Honour,” came as he was thrust back into the flames, and he took it to his heart. “Justice,” followed in the pause, as he was turned in the air, and those fingers that had been so gentle before turned demanding now. Running along the edge, feeding him blood as he was found ready, and then across the story etched into him.
“Mercy.” There was a finality to that last word, that scared him, and yet still he listened and absorbed the word into himself, letting it fill his core.
The last of his forging was more peaceful.
The Bladesmith seemed sad now, his voice wavering in a way that it hadn’t before as he spoke once more of that tiny shop, and the family that waited for him, and somewhere deep inside the sword trembled. However, the hands were as gentle as ever, making him into something more than just metal, as he was given a hilt. It was a simple affair after the complexity of his making, but he understood. It was his blade that let him keep his promise. The edge that would allow him to carve out his own legend.
Then he was complete.
A sword without a name, but with life and existence. Honed with flame and water, and brute force, and yet formed by love and shaped by words. He was strong. He was alive. The Bladesmith held him aloft, and then he was moving, an elegant dance where they moved in tandem, and he sang through the air. It was a glorious song of life and joy in that fact. A song cut short, as he found himself resting against the Bladesmith’s chest, the fingers on his hilt trembling slightly. “All swords must be blooded once, a life must be given for a life,” the Bladesmith said, and he hummed now, vibrating as he tried to wrench himself free of the hands holding him in place. Duty. Honour. Justice. Mercy. There was none of those at this moment, and he willed his edge to dull, to hold himself still, but the hand on his hilt was steady now. “Mercy. Please, give me mercy and let me join them.” The sorrow was there now, the man who held him a broken, fractured echo of the Bladesmith, and as tears landed on his surface, the sword understood. He remembered the tales, the sorrowful telling of that tiny shop, and pattering feet and loving wife, and he understood, feeling the weight of blood he hadn’t shed and lives that he hadn’t taken.
They moved then. The Bladesmith striking true, and him no longer fighting it. He bit deep, just as he had been forged to do, and blood washed over him, his world stained crimson. Then they were falling, the Bladesmith pulling him free and smiling at him as they hit the ground, flesh and metal in tandem for one last time. The fingers around his hilt failing, and falling, shifting to lay against the story etched into his blade. The lines and swirls now filled with blood, giving them bright, terrible life. He glowed with it. But it was the fingers against him that held his attention, the final gentle touch. “B-blooded…mercy…Elior.” The voice that had guided him for so long cracked and broke, giving him one last gift. A name, and the beginning of his own tale, with a purpose formed by word and deed, as the Bladesmith’s voice faded, and his breathing disappeared in the stillness.
I am called Elior.
I am mercy.