A place for prose:
Willow Loveday Little

The Tools We Make

By Willow Loveday Little

This one would be steel. He lifted great handfuls of carbon and iron, and smelted them together until they bloomed into an alloy. No need for measurements—the feeling came, just as it always did, and he knew what to do with his hands.

His forge was located somewhere that was both sky and the molten core of the earth: a place of friction, between the sensations of things touching, at the definition of metallurgy. He was known by many names—Hephaestus, talented Creidhne, Gobannus, Wayland, and green-skinned Ptah. He was all these and others, and he looked like the quintessential blacksmith: built like a boulder, dark-haired and shovel-handed, his very sweat soot-stained. Nameless though he was, his signature was evident in his craft.

Creating a sword was a delicate process. Between anvil, furnace, and bellows he laboured, holding the blade sharply by the tang as he quenched it in water and tempered it with heat. He had access to newer equipment—an electric sander and kiln—but liked the old ways. He had used them to forge Kusunagi, Legbiter, and the Sword of Goujian, which resisted tarnish, despite its age. He handled the glowing metal deftly, barehanded.

Sometimes he worked on commission, but most of the time, he made the blade and the world took care of the rest. Usually, he just got the feeling and knew it was time. Then he’d leave it embedded in a stone somewhere or buried in a field.

He had brought Glamdring to Tolkien and the Vorpal sword to Carroll while both slumbered, slipping unsuspected amidst dreams.

Occasionally, there was a dull hissing sound when he plunged the blade into the quenchant and he knew it would be warped. He did his best to soothe the distress away, but there was always a mark. This happened with the sword of Saint Peter—a dull, ugly thing, barely capable of nicking the ear of a servant boy. It happened with Excalibur too, despite his workmanship, and look at the fuss that had caused. Warping was bad for the blade—bad for humanity. The quenchant hissed, but he merely shrugged. Whether the blade was weapon, boon, or idol didn’t matter; he just forged things because he was supposed to. He was the man behind the curtain, not the puppet master.

He hammered it. Sparks flew as his fists pounded the blade until the distortion was barely visible. He sharpened and polished it until it shone. He attached the hilt, slid it into a sheath, then a box, and pulled out a pen. Where would he send it? He closed his eyes. Slowly, the knowledge took form in his mind like a lump of clay. He smiled when he knew, then scrawled the shipping information onto the cardboard in broad strokes.

It came back three days later, an envelope stapled to the packaging. He frowned. This was unusual. Ripping it open with his cutter, he read the following: We have no use for museum artefacts. Send us something practical. Send us a gun.

The fire in his eyes flickered.

Feature image: Hans Splinter via
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Willow Loveday Little is Montreal-based writer and poet whose work has appeared in The Dalhousie Review and on Write or Die Tribe. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University and is a contributor to Graphite Publications and Medium. You can find her on Medium, or at Instagram handle @willowloveday

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