Chapter 1 – Gentle Snores

The hammer pounded at the glowing metal, merciless as the rain. Its clanging echoed through the pouring night, as the moon looked down with subtle disapproval. In the storm and strong gales, it would have been easy to think it was Thor himself, wielding the mighty Mjölnir.

But no, the time of the Old Gods was long passed. The figure in the rain was but a blacksmith they called Smith. Nobody knew if that was his real name. A giant of a man, Smith commanded the caution and the occasional fear of those who laid eyes upon him. The wild beard, and his huge fists, inspired a strange sense of awe.

Still, Smith was no Thor. Some say he was born to be a blacksmith; others thought he had a warrior’s blood. In truth, Smith was more blacksmith and more warrior than anyone would have imagined.

Raindrops sizzled into vapour as they fell onto the red-hot alloy, as the fire in the furnace wilted slowly into ember. It was a chilly night, and the winds blade-sharp; Smith pulled his coat tighter. The cold spared no one with the fire extinguished, not even someone built like him. He had allowed it to snuff out, now satisfied with the sword he had crafted. He laid it in the barrel with the others, and retired to his hut.

Smith did not head straight for his room, but instead turned quietly into his daughter’s bedroom. She laid on a rug skinned from a snow leopard he had slain seven winters ago, as a birthday present for his little princess. Her head rested on the dead beast’s, which she had been trying to coax into speech ever since she had learned to talk. The dead leopard, however, had proved to be less linguistically-inclined. Her gentle snores were definitely not inherited from Smith, whose own snores rivaled the thunders in majesty.

He smiled lovingly down at the most important thing in the world he had left, and wondered if in her dreams, the leopards did talk.