I decided to once again go with my new original fic fantasy universe. I'm experimenting with a new character in this one, kind of... testing her out. The piece is still from Dove's POV, but he's a passive observer in this (I'm using the cliched eaves-dropping device.) Anyway, yeah, here I introduce Maeve, who is actually an old D&D character of mine that was originally much more like Dove, but I've re-conceived her here as a slightly different class.
For those who have been following along with this 'verse, let me know what you think. (And I apologize for any typos, I don't have time to edit.)
Today's Prompt: "No, I work today."
(original fic, fantasy genre, ~1437 words)
Dove woke to voices - Nenver’s quiet voice and a costumer’s... she was speaking louder, because she did not know about the sleeping Shadow in the corner.
“Have you had this forge long,” the customer asked, as Dove tried to re-enter the world of dreams.
“I have been master of it for a few years, but apprenticed here longer.” Nenver answered, his voice a soft. “If you could keep your voice down, I’d be thankful .”
“Why?” there was no change in the volume of voice.
“I like to listen to the birds,” Nenver answered. Dove nearly laughed. They had their jokes between them.
“Birds?” She asked, and her voice had actually quieted. She seemed, unusually interested. Dove felt his pulse quicken and suddenly sleep was the last thing on his mind.
“Aye,” Nenver answered. Dove wondered if he had picked up on the strangeness too. He hoped so.
“Do they nest in the oak tree?”
Dove shifted position by dissolving and reforming, so that his clothes made no noise against his bed. He leaned up against the wall now, peering through the small hole he had left in the woodpile.
Nenver shrugged. Dove could tell that Nenver was uncomfortable, so too could the stranger, no doubt. She was a Warrior, though Dove could not tell her rank. She wore simple mail, and the standard blue short cape around her shoulders. A sword hung at her belt, but her posture was relaxed, hip cocked with one arm at her waist and the other hanging loose.
“I’ve gone about this wrong,” she muttered and looked out the window past Nenver’s shoulder, the one that showed nothing save the shady green space under the oak tree. “I am not your enemy.”
“Of course not,” Nenver smiled, but even Dove could see it was brittle. “I’ve no business with the Warriors.”
“No,” the customer agreed. “No, but I may have business with you. My name is Maeve.” At this Maeve held out her hand, Nenver barely hesitated.
Good Nen, Dove thought, act as though you have nothing to hide.
“Your forge came recommended to me by someone I trust very much,” Maeve said, after releasing Nenver’s hand. “I’d like you to make me a sword.”
“Weapons are not my specialty, My Lady. You’d find better smiths for weaponry closer to the Fort, I believe.”
“I’m a Warrior, not a Lady, you may call me Maeve, just as I said,” Maeve spoke, and Dove could see her glancing around the forge – taking in the candle-holders, horse-shoes, and... “You make daggers.”
“Those aren’t for sale,” Nenver said, a little too quickly for Dove’s liking.
“Daggers are a nasty weapon,” Maeve said. “I’m not looking to buy. I only mention it, because if you can make daggers, than you could also make a sword – it’s not so different, and a sword is a much nobler weapon.”
Dove was offended.
“Daggers are a fine weapon,” Nenver said, back straightening. Dove smiled.
Maeve frowned and the two humans seemed to stare at each other for a moment. Dove could not tell if they were frustrated or confused, he himself felt both.
Finally, the warrior sighed, and seemed to deflate.
“Forgive me,” she said. “I was never good at speaking around topics – subtlety, you may have noticed, is not my strong suit.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest, and Dove realized that she was indeed frustrated, but with herself, not Nenver.
“I will speak straight,” she continued, “and pray that you are an honest man.”
“I am,” Nenver assured.
“I was told, by someone I trust, to come to your forge. They said that I would know the forge by the oak tree..." Her brow wrinkled, "...or, possibly, the oak tree by the forge.”
“That’s not unusual,” Nenver said. “It is known as Oak Forge. The tree is how everyone identifies it.”
“But I don’t know if I’m supposed to go to the forge or the oak tree,” Maeve muttered.
“An oak tree is less likely to forge you a sword than I am,” Nenver laughed.
“He knows that I am no good at riddles, yet still it is all he speaks in,” Maeve was glowering now, staring out the window again, as though addressing someone else. Then her attention turned back to Nenver. “I will tell you plainly what he said, and if means anything to you... please tell me.”
“The message was unclear. He either said that I would recognize the forge by the dove that rested under the oak tree or I would recognize the dove that rested under the oak tree by the forge.”
Dove shrank back, heart hammering. He felt suddenly as though everyone must be able to hear each of his breaths.
“Who?” Nenver asked. “Who said this?”
“Do you know what it means?” Maeve pressed.
“Who sent you?” Nenver asked again.
“I cannot tell you,” Maeve answered, in a voice that brokered no argument. “Can you tell me what it means?”
There was another long silence, in which Dove calculated the distance between his bed and the window, even though he knew it was in her line of sight, but she stood blocking the door.
“I will fashion you a sword,” Nenver said. “Return in a week’s time.”
“So you know what it means?”
“No,” Nenver replied. “I do not know what this could possibly mean, but I will make you a sword and give you a fair price, and that is all I am offering. Be satisfied.”
There was another silence, and Dove lifted his eye back to gap in the logs. Maeve and Nenver seemed to be locked in a staring contest, both of them with their arms crossed in front of their chests and jaws clenched tight.
“Speak of this to no one,” Maeve said, pointing a finger warningly at Nenver, her other hand resting meaningfully on the hilt of the sword at her belt.
“I ask the same,” Nenver replied.
Maeve nodded, and then turned on her heel and strode out into the sunlight.
Nenver seemed to deflate, his nerves now showing. He put a hand to his heart, and took a deep breath. Dove dissolved and crossed the space of the Forge in a heartbeat, reforming to stand against Nenver’s back so that their voices wouldn’t carry. He did not know if the Warrior was clever enough to wait and watch Nenver’s actions.
“Who did you last kill?” Nenver whispered, as soon as Dove took his first solid breath.
“No one connected to the Warriors,” Dove answered. “Who do you think sent her?”
“I was about to ask you that same question,” Nenver sighed. “Dove – I don’t like this.”
“I like it even less, I assure you,” Dove muttered. “Do you think they mean to drive me out of my home? I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m a hand, not the judge – if it were connected with my work, they would be visiting the guild.”
“I’m not sure she was here officially,” Nenver mused.
“Why did you agree to make her a sword?” Dove asked.
“To delay,” Nenver replied, “to make her think that I may still give her what she wants, and that she only needs to wait. And while she waits, you have time to find out why she is looking for you and...” Nenver turned, and looked at Dove sadly, “and to give you time to leave the city if you must.”
Dove nodded, but he knew he would never leave. Nen’s forge was his home. He could not imagine spending his afternoons anywhere else.
“Not today,” Dove said, raising his voice above a whisper. He cast his eyes out the door to the lengthening shadows. “No, I work today.”
“Talk to Essya,” Nenver said. “Consult Nero even... but find out what trouble you’re in, and promise me you’ll flee if you must. I don’t think it’s safe in this city for a Shadow, Dove. Not anymore.”
“I can look after myself, Nen,” Dove said, whirling away to inspect his new daggers. He smiled up at Nenver, giving a nod of approval. “You’ll make her a fine sword to run me through with.” And then Dove dissolved into the shadow of the forge.
“Dove!” Nenver said through clenched teeth, still clever enough to keep his voice down.
Dove loved him fiercely in that moment, and he couldn’t help but travel up and over him, a dark breeze against the sweat of his neck and through the soft hair that curled at his ear. Nenver shuddered.
And then Dove was sprinting from shadow to shadow across town. He had a throat to slit.