The steady clang of metal on metal filled the smithy. The heat of the fire poured out onto to occupants, sparks flying in every direction when the hammer came down.
“Got another order for you, Thora.” The owner of the smithy told the girl.
“Alright.” She said and plunged the red hot metal she’d been pounding on into a near by bucket, causing the water to bubble as a hiss came up with the steam. She placed the unfinished weapon on the work bench and took the ax from the owners hands.
“He just wants it sharpened.” He told her.
The owner was old, many would say he’s almost on his death bed. He could barely lift a sword anymore. But his apprentice was more than ready to take over for him. Many of the villagers wondered why he didn’t just retire already.
Thora shifted the ax in her grip a little and headed for the sharpening wheel. She spun the handle and let the blade touch the rock.
She’d been the apprentice of the village black smith since she was about eight. She had no taste for homemaking, farming, or slaying dragons despite who her parents were. But they were understanding and set her up as an apprentice.
She was smart and tall for her age. She didn’t say too much so the black smith liked keeping her around. She caught on to everything fast, and if she made a mistake she would be in the forge long after the owner went home to fix it. Her hard work and dedication had payed off for her, Thora was now regarded as the best black smith on Berserk, and one of the best in the Archipelago.
Many would come here just to get a weapon made or tuned up by her. But there was still one person who would never accept her skill regardless of how good she was.
“There you go.” She said and handed the ax back to the owner.
“Thank you, Thora.” He said with a toothy smile.
She nodded and went back to heating and hammering the weapon she was before.
“Old man!” The chief of the Berserkers called as he entered the forge.
“Lord Dagur,” He greeted, “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“I need my ax sharpened and my sword repaired for battle.” He told the man and dropped the weapons in his arms.
The old man could barely keep them all up. Thora threw the metal in water and grabbed them from the man before he could topple over.
“When do you need them back by, my lord?” Thora asked looking at the owner of the weapons.
“Let me think,” Dagur said as he tapped a finger to his chin, “NOW!”
“Coming right up.” She told him with a smile.
Thora moved quickly and put the sword in the fire to heat up as she turned the sharpening wheel to sharpen the ax. When the ax was sharpened, she carefully set it aside and grabbed the sword from the fire and her hammer from her side she began hammering until there weren’t any cracks or chips anymore. Then she dipped it in water before turning the sharpening stone again.
She glanced over at her hardest customer who was currently occupied by playing with another sword she’d made earlier that week as the owner talked to him.
Thora ran her thumb over the edge to make sure it was sharp enough. She was satisfied and picked up the polish. She went over them quickly and thurowly. When she was done, the Dagur was just finishing up.
“You really know your stuff, old man.” Dagur commented as he turned a sword over in his hands.
“Thora actually made that.” He told the chief, “She has talent.”
Dagur just rolled his eyes and turned around, he was about to call to see if his weapons were ready, but the black haired girl was standing there with them ready in her arms.
He just looked at her coldly, they both knew the routen. Dagur picked up the ax an thumbed it over.
“Your sharpening is getting better.” He muttered and strapped it to his back before reaching for the sword and carefully inspecting it.
“It’ll do.” He sighed after a few minutes, “Thank you for your time and work, sir.” He said turning his attention back to the owner before leaving.
Thora sighed in frustration when he left.
“What is it girl?” The owner asked as she fished the metal out of the bucket.
“I pour more heart, soul, and sweat into his weapons than anyone elses and he still treats me like I’m not even there.” She said as she heated the metal again.
“He’s not used to seeing a woman as an equal.” He said and placed a gentile hand on the girl’s back.
“Whatever.” Thora said and pulled the metal out of the fire to start pounding again.
“Trader Yohan’s here!” Someone ran through the village yelling.
Thora looked at the owner who nodded.
“I’ll give numbers, you take your time.”
Thora smiled and picked up a sword she had planned to trade before heading to the docks.
“Thora!” Yohan exclaimed when he saw the brown eyed girl climb onto his ship, “What goods have you for me today?”
She held out the sword she had at her side, she crafted a sheath for it too.
“Ohh!” Yohan all but squealed, “Anything you want just name it.”
“I’d just like to brows right now if you don’t mind.” She said quietly.
“Be my guest!” He told her with a bow.
Thora looked over everything, nothing really caught her eye, until she found a box of clothes. She dug through for a moment before finding the most beautiful dress she’d ever seen.
It was was long and white with long flared out sleeves and a lower collar. It had trim along the bottom of the skirt, at the waist, the end of each sleeve and the collar of a dark blue with gold embroidery. The top of the dress also had a leather corset that accented it.
Thora swallowed. She worked everyday in the smithy. Her hands were worn and rough and covered with burn marks. She was small in the chest and more on the muscular side. Her black hair was short and pulled back into a pony tail always. She was always looked at as a boy, and she didn’t mind it, but she felt something in her telling her to get it. She couldn’t even pin point it, but she stood up right and turned to find Yohan only to see him negotiating with Dagur.
Thora folded up the dress quickly, not wanting to be teased for getting such a thing and advanced to the men.
“What do you mean you wont accept it?” Dagur demanded. Thora had chosen the wrong time to come over.
“My apologies lord Dagur, but that small amount of gold isn’t going to cover it.” Yohan said with his arms up for defence.
“Then will your head?” Dagur asked pointing the sword Thora just reworked the other day at the older man’s neck.
“Would this cover it, Yohan?” Thora asked butting into the business.
Both men looked at her as she offered up the sword she had planned to trade for the dress.
“Why yes it would.” Yohan said trying to get away from the blade.
“Who said you could but in?” Dagur growled at the girl.
“No one.” She told him, “But it would seem kinda bad if our chief either offed the trades person, or couldn’t afford to trade for what he wanted.”
Dagur only straightened up, pulling he sword from Yohan’s neck and stared at her.
Thora offered a small smile and tried not to shrink into herself too much.
“Take it.” She told Yohan.
Yohan took the sword hesitantly. Dagur still stared at the girl as she put the cloth she found back in the box and left the ship.
You’re an idiot, Thora. The said girl thought as she pounded the metal she’d been working on the past little while, people could now tell it was an ax.
You shouldn’t even think about stupid things like that. It’s not like a dress is going to change you. It’s not like it’s going to get you noticed at all by anyone. And it’s not going to make you happy. You know what will? Becoming the best black smith in the Archipelago. That will for sure.
It had been about three days since trader Yohan had come and gone. Thora was still thinking about what had happened.
“Can I get some service?” Someone’s voice boomed in the smithy gaining the girls attention.
Thora put the metal in the water and turned around to see the person.
“What may I do for you?” She asked as she looked at Dagur.
“Fix it.” Was all he said as he held out two pieces of a broken sword for the girl.
She took them and looked them over closely.
“Do you need it back desperately?” She asked the older man.
“Why?” He countered and crossed his arms eyeing the girl, “Can’t the great forger fix it?”
“She can.” Thora told him, “But it will take about a day or two to fix it fully.”
“Too long!” Dagur complained, “Scrap it and give me a new sword.”
“Are you sure?” Thora asked, “I know how much it means to you.”
Dagur chuckled darkly, “A weapon is a weapon, if it can’t do it’s job it’s not use to me. I need a new one.”
Thora nodded and threw the pieces in the scrap pile and headed over to the sword rack.
“Pick one.” She told the chief.
“Oh goody!” Dagur basically sang as he rushed over and looked over every item on the rack.
Thora watched a minute, but after realizing he was going to be a while she went back to heating and pounding the ax.
He picked up a long, thick sword and admired it.
“Thanks.” Dagur said when he realized he wanted this sword.
The hammer almost flew out of Thora’s hand when she heard that.
“For what?” She blinked.
“The new sword.” Dagur said and shot her a smile, “And for the trade with Yohan the other day.”
“Don’t mention it.” She told him, “It was nothing.”
“No it wasn’t.” Dagur said calling out her bluff, “You had something you gave up for me.”
Thora shrugged as she continued to work, “It probably was a spur of the moment thing. I didn’t actually need it. Besides, Yohan is always in demand for my weapons so it was a win for everyone.”
“I see.” Dagur said as he looked over the sword and shrugged, “Thanks again.”
And he left.
“I’m home.” Thora called quietly as she entered the house. She didn’t want to wake anyone up. Besides, she knew that her mother kept some stew and bread aside for her.
“Welcome back.” Her father said from where he sat at the table.
“You’re up late.” Thora commented, “Both of you.” Her mother was sitting next to him knitting.
“We’d like to have a word with you, Thora.” Her father said.
“Alright.” She said, “Just give me one second.”
“I’ll get your supper dear.” Her mother said hurriedly and practically raced to the kitchen before her daughter could get there.
“Okay.” Thora said as she slowly took her seat at the table across from her father, “What’s up?”
He father just stared at her until her mother came back and set a bowl of stew, a bread roll, and a cup of water in front of her daughter.
Thora took a bite of her dinner still waiting for a reply from either of her parents.
“This came for you today.” Her mother said and fetched a small parcel.
Thora stared at it dumbly, frozen as she was about to take a bite from her bread. She blinked and looked between both of her parents.
“It was hand delivered by the chief himself.” Her father told her sternly.
Thora ripped the mouth full of bread off and continued to stare as she chewed.
Her father slammed his fist down on the table making the entire hut tremble.
“What did you do to the chief, Thora?” He demanded.
She swallowed hard and thought, “Nothing I can think of.” She said, “I fixed his sword, I sharpened his ax, I gave him a new sword when he didn’t want to wait for the repairs on his old one. I don’t know.”
“You’d better think hard.” Her father said as he rose, “If he comes here again you’ll regret it.”
Thora nodded and shrunk back into her chair as her father and mother left the room to go to bed.
Thora sat there staring at the package a moment before she wolfed down her dinner and rinsed her bowl. She grabbed the package and brought it upstairs to her room she shared with her two brothers.
They were both a sleep on the other side of the room, so she carefully lit another candle and placed the parcel on her bed. She undid the strings and opened the paper. The first thing she saw was the dress she didn’t buy the other day from Yohan. The second thing she noticed was a piece of paper on top of the dress.
She opened it,
I talked to the old man at the forge, unless there’s an attack it’s closed tomorrow. Meet me at the clearing in the forest where we used to play hide and go kill as kids at about noon. I think you still remember it. And wear this, I’ll be waiting.
He didn’t have to sign it for Thora to know who it was from. She put the dress and note under her bed before she went to sleep.
“Give it back you idiot!” Thora shouted and raced down the stairs after her oldest brother, whom currently had her hair band in his hand.
“Not until you tell me why you’re dressed like a girl!” He shot back and ran around the table.
“I already told you it’s non of your business!” She shouted.
“What’s going on?” Thora’s mother said as she entered the room.
“Thora’s got a date!” Her brother tattled and pointed at the girl.
“He wont give me back my hair band!” Thora did the same.
“You want it so bad,”Her brother teased with a devilish smirk, “Go get it!” And he threw it into the fire pit.
Thora glared at the older boy, and as he turned to gloat to her, she lifted the dress she had on and kicked him hard in the knee.
“You bitch!” He cursed and clutched the injured appendage and hopped around awkwardly.
“What’s going on?” Thora’s father asked as he entered the room. His eye brows instantly raised wondering why his daughter was finally in a dress, “Care to tell us Thora?”
Thora sighed, “I’m going to meet the chief. He wanted me to wear this. I’m going to find out what it was I did. I think it’s better I go according to his specifications rather than he be made at us with one of the strongest weapons I’ve ever crafted.”
They all looked at the girl, she wanted nothing more than to hide.
“Home before dark.” Her father finally said, “And if anything happens both of your heads are mine, understand?”
Her father moved aside to let his daughter past. She grabbed the ax by the door before leaving. She had crafted it for him after all.
Thora came to the clearing and realized she was alone. It had been a long time since she was here last, and she smiled as she took a seat in the grass and placed the ax next to her.
She waited, the wind blew her hair into a mess. She growled as she tried to fix it. Stupid brother for burning her hair band.
Let’s see if he’ll think twice next time when she puts worms in his bed. She thought.
Thora turned her head to look over her shoulder when she heard something behind her. Dagur advanced towards her. Thora stood and picked up the ax.
Dagur couldn’t say a word before the ax was thrust towards him.
“Happy birthday, my lord.” Thora said not looking at the red head in front of her.
Dagur took the ax she offered gently and looked over it.
“Good work.” He told her.
“I knew you wouldn’t- wait what?”
“Good work.” Dagur repeated unamused.
“Thank you.” She said and grasped the material of her dress in an attempt to calm herself down, this was the first time Dagur had actually said anything positive to her directly about her work, “And thank you again, for the dress.”
“Don’t mention it.” He told her as he continued to look over the ax.
There was a long pause.
“My lord?” Thora asked after swallowing.
“Hmm?” Dagur replied as his eyes stayed on the weapon.
“If you don’t mind me asking, why did you ask me here?” Thora was apprehensive about this, she heard the rumor of Dagur killing his father, and he had a weapon in his hand. And he knew how to use it.
“I don’t mind.” He told her and took his eyes off the ax, “This is why I asked you here.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out;
“It’s beautiful.” Was all Thora said as the pendant dangled in front of her eyes.
“I thought you’d say that.” Dagur said with a smile, “Here.” He shoved the necklace into the girls hands, “For you.”
“I can’t accept this!” Thora said very flustered.
“Yes you can.” Dagur told her, “It belonged to my mother, Yohan tracked it down for me.”
“Then I really can’t take this.” Thora said as she tried to give is back to the boy in front of her.
“Yes you can.” Dagur told her more stern than the last time as he pushed her hands back to her chest.
“But-” She started and was cut off.
“Would you please stop talking and let me finish?” Dagur exasperated.
Thora stayed perfectly still and stared directly into Dagur’s forest green eyes.
“That necklace was my mother’s, Thora. She lost it a long time ago, but Yohan managed to track it down for me. When she was sick she said I should give it to the girl I really like. But before I could get it my father sent it away because it reminded him of her too much.” Dagur explained before he sighed, “I’m not going to try to sugar coat this in any way. I like you, I’ve always liked you, even back when you looked like a boy. But like then, today I have no idea how to show it to you. So I’m just going to ask, would you be my girlfriend and eventually my wife? And I’m not going to lie, that’s probably going to be hard but I’m going to try my best if you give me the chance, what do you say?”
Thora blinked, “Wow.” She said and let out a half laugh, “That’s a lot to take in. I mean girlfriend, sure, why not. But we’re also talking about marriage and I’m sixteen. And let’s not forget about the fact my father is about to have both our heads. You have a lot of responsibilities as chief of Berserk, and me at the forge. I mean Magnus is thinking of retiring and giving it to me, so there’s that. I don’t know what to say, my lord.”
“Well for starters, call me Dagur.” Dagur told Thora and then forced her to look at him, “And what’s this about your father having both our heads?”
“He said if anything happens he’s going to have both our heads, and I believe it.” She told him with a laugh, “I mean he IS Loyd the Treasure Taker.”
Dagur just stared at her with no emotion on his face.
Thora suddenly got serious and looked at the ground, “What do you even see in a girl like me, Dagur? As the chief you can have any girl at the wave of your hand. Why go for the apprentice black smith? You’d have to be crazy to pass up all the other girls on the island.”
“Deranged counts as crazy, Thora.” Dagur finally said.
Thora raised her head to look at him.
“You’re pretty.” He told her, “You really are. And you’re smart, and dedicated, and passionate, and I trust no one else in the world with my weapon. That’s why.”
Thora licked her lips before saying, “I’ll happily be your girlfriend, Dagur. But I’m not sure right now that I can be your wife, maybe give me a couple years to figure that out.”
“Okay.” Dagur said with a shrug.
“You’re okay with me being unsure?”
Dagur nodded, “It’ll keep the elders and the council off my back to the next little while anyway. Now,” He said as he took the pendant from the girl’s hand and clasped it around her neck, “Let’s see if your father can take my head with this new ax.”
His tone was teasing, and his smirk was a dare and he wrapped his arms around Thora’s waist and pulled her close. Thora’s hands went up to Dagur’s shoulders, as he closed the distance between them.
Thora smiled as she walked down the street of the village and pulled her hair into a pony tail. Her father couldn’t get mad at her, or Dagur, he was the chief after all. Her brother’s ate their words, but her mother fainted when she found out. And when she came too she said that she just expected her daughter to marry a nice farmer or something like that, not be the girlfriend to the most deranged warrior and chief of the village.
But her smile seemed to fade as she received dirty looks from many of the girls.
Thora shrugged it off when she got the forge and opened the shop.
Hours passed as she worked, it wasn’t until almost her lunch break when the owner came to her and said,
“Thora, there’s a group of girls here to see you, and they don’t look very friendly.”
Great. She thought as she headed to the front of the smithy.
There was a group of maybe thirty girls gathered around, and all eyes landed on Thora when she appeared.
“Well, let’s see it.” One of the girls, presumably the ring leader of them all demanded.
“See what?” Thora asked.
“The precise stone Dagur gave you to be his, duh.”
Thora took a half step back in defence, before the ring leader rolled her eyes and started her advance.
“Never mind, I’ll find it myself.”
Thora backed up until her back hit the wall of the forge. The girl was only about two feet from her now, but the Gods must have heard her silent prayers.
“What’s going on here?” Dagur asked the group of girls. All eyes changed from Thora to Dagur in an instant.
“My lord!” The ring leader yelped in surprise, “We were just, uh.”
“Thora?” Dagur called.
Dagur motioned for her to come over to where he stood, she didn’t have to be told twice. Thora actually restricted herself from running to the red head.
“What happened?” He asked as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders as stared at the group of girls to make sure non of them were trying to get away.
“They wanted the necklace you gave me the other day.” She mumbled sunk deeper into the crook of his side.
“I see.” He hummed and patter her head, before he snapped his attention back to the group of girls, “If I hear anything about you so much as talking to her as anything other than a forge transaction I’ll have all of your heads placed on pikes around the square. AM I CLEAR?” The last part he almost yelled.
“Yes!” They all squeaked out and scurried off in different directions.
“Are you busy at the forge with any orders or anything?” Dagur asked softly to the nervous girl nestled into his side.
“No.” She almost whispered.
“Good.” Dagur said and started pulling her down the road, into the forest and to an isolated piece of beach. They both sat down in the sand. Thora in between Dagur’s legs leaning against his chest, Dagur leaning against a near by rock, his arms around Thora’s waist.
“Anyone ever messes with you, don’t hesitate to tell me.” He told the girl.
“I wont.” Thora said as she pulled out the pendant and started playing with it.
“I’d kill anyone for you, Thora.” Dagur told her and rested his chin on her shoulder.
“I love you too, Dagur.” Thora told him as she relaxed fully in his embrace and watched the waved.
“Thank you for understanding me.”
“Thank you for loving me.”