Tales tell of a blacksmith at the top of the mountain. He knows the future, but says nothing. He only makes you what you need. (Credit for the original prompt goes to those at /r/writingprompts, you can find the original thread here!)
The Mountain's Smith.
“Bring it around!” Havelock whipped his fist in a circular motion above his head as he exited the great cabin and strode to the middle of the ship. Crewmen heaved on various lines, reefing the sails while the blustering wind settled into a sporadic moment of relative calm. This looks like the right area. Images of the maps he’d had sprawled out over his desk flashed through his mind.
The Autumn’s Dawn groaned, listing port side. Havelock’s lungs burned, stabs of ice scraping his throat as he drew breath, ready to bark more orders. The morning air was laced with scents of the pine trees which bristled on the mountainside, wrapped in white powder coats of snow which glittered under sunlight spilling across the horizon from the east.
“Aye Cap’n.” The gruff voice of Havelock’s First Mate answered from the helm of the ship, standing upon a raised dais that jutted forward from the aftcastle out over quarterdeck.
“That’s it.” Havelock nodded, satisfied. He wheeled toward a flight of stairs which curved up past the side of the ship before turning back into the aftcastle. Through his gloves he could feel the smooth wood of the ship’s railing which, despite his fur-lined gloves, radiated a coldness that bit through his flesh and seeped into his bones. The sooner we get back to the Lowlands the better. Havelock glanced over the ships edge, they drifted a few hundred yards above the mountainside which cut a steep decline toward grassy fields a mile or two below. A gust of wind lashed up beside the ship, Havelock recoiled, reflexively clamping a hand down atop his tricorne hat before it was snatched away. He was met with a warm smile from Azar as he bound from the stairs up to the helm.
“Morning Cap’n.” Azar tugged at one of his beards auburn braids. The dwarf a near four feet tall, almost matched by the height of the ship’s wheel. Bound in a fur coat, he looked closer to a bristlebear than a dwarf. Frost had formed along the fringes of his beard, and above the bushy brows which overshadowed sunken hazel eyes. “A lit’l chilly, but nothin’ too bad, eh?” He sniffed, his nose reddened by the cold.
“This is the one day you’ll hear me say I envy your beard my friend.” Havelock smirked for a moment before a lash of wind stung his cheeks and harried his eyes.
“I’d say flight goggles would help.” Azar guided the wheel of the ship slowly right as they followed the curve of the mountain, “but that won’t help here. Fog up in an instant. We’ll have to snag ones better suited for cold weather next tim—”
“No we won’t. Tell the Great Library we’re never going to a region this cold again. Damn the Professori, if they’re so curious about folklore and myth, they can come out here themselves.”
“Taleferon better be right about the location.” Havelock studied the valley which spread from horizon to horizon ahead of the ship, a beautiful patchwork of cultivated wheat fields, swaying plains of heather, a few grain silos and farmsteads. The hinterlands just past the fields, stretching from the coastline to the west, visible past the mountainside, gave way to marshes and rolling hills that vanished at the horizon. He watched a trio of skyships—likely merchant craft given their bloated hulls—running a course over the coastal bluffs, likely bound for one of the monastic cities that laid somewhere past the hinterlands.
“He’s your elf.” Azar grunted. “Don’t know why you keep him aboard.”
“He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.”
“An’ most arrog’nt. There ain’t a spot on the ship I can’t hear him whine about somethin’ or another.”
“He can come off as a little condescending.” Havelock admitted. He strained his ears for a moment, and even past the clank of ratlines, the snaps of fabric, and the groaning of his ship, somewhere below deck he could here the shrill intonations of Taleferon, likely berating himself over a perplexing book, or disagreeing whole-heartedly with an Professori’s faulty thesis. “Chalk it up to cultural differences. Is that our spot?”
A plume of thick smoke rose from a break in the pines, where the rocky mountainside separated to reveal a clearing nestled in relative obscurity.
“It may be.” Azar turned the wheel slightly sharper, angling the ship nearer. “Bring ‘er to a stop!” Azar commanded, shouting out across the deck as well as into the mouth of a communications tube that ran to personnel below deck. The crew moved in a near-immediate response to the orders, tossing weights over the side and stretching counter-sails at just the right angle to catch opposing wind.
The Autumn’s Dawn began to slow.
“Have the hull lift readied. I’ll take it down.”
“What size compliment do you want to accompany you Cap’n?” Azar stepped away from the wheel, “shall I fetch my gear?”
“Stay with the ship. I was reading some of the notes from the library. Man up here’s a hermit, doesn’t speak to more than one person at a time—or, at all. Apparently.”
“If he don’t speak at all, why’s it matter if anyone comes with?”
“I’d rather we not cause more of a stir than we have to. Let’s just see if this guy exists, and we can bring our reports back to the Professori and the Great Library. I’ll be fine.” Havelock tapped his fingers along the four garnet castingstones embedded in the knuckles of his glove and jostled the hilt of his cutlass, “I’ll be fine.” He repeated, a bit of reassurance in answer to Azar’s suspicious gaze. “Tell them I’m coming down.”
The square platform rattled and jolted as it separated from the hull of The Autumn’s Dawn, lowered by four heavy chains, thick as some men’s torsos. Havelock held to the railing which lined three of the platform’s four sides, watching the interior of the hull raise away from him and the ruddy face of the crewman at the lift’s controls shrink from just over the lip of the hole. The scent of pine grew more intense, Havelock caught the minty taste of the air. The lift squelched to a halt, rocking in the hands of the wind just a foot from the snowy ground.
He flashed a thumbs up and stepped down from the platform, his boots sinking a half foot into the snow to firm ground below. An eagerness filled him, fueled by mystery and curiosity. The papers the Professori and Great Library had left him outlined a legendary blacksmith who called these craggy peaks home, blessed in craft as well as the ability to see ones future—and give them what they’d need.
“So what do I need?” Havelock muttered as he trudged through the snow, up a slight incline toward a stone structure which sat wide and low to the ground, from wall to wall of the clearing formed by the mountainside, a single black door at its center. The rattle of chains behind him signaled the ascent of the hull’s lift, and the loss of any quick escape should something prove wrong.
As Havelock left the shadow of The Autumn’s Dawn, the door to the blacksmith cracked open, squealing on large hinges as a large figure stepped into the light. Havelock glanced back toward his ship, seeing the squat form of Azar, contrasted with the lanky silhouette of Taleferon back-lighted by the sun. Half a dozen crew manned the railing, rifles in hand.
That won’t really help. Havelock sighed. A bald man had appeared, soot stained high cheeks, and a thick smock clung to his heavily muscled form. As Havelock drew closer, the cold air vanished, replaced by a wall of heat radiating from the entirety of the structure. He looked up at the blacksmith who stood at least a foot taller than he, and realized he had no eyebrows.
“Hello there.” Havelock gave a polite wave, pine mixed with the scent of smoke and oils now, the snow had given way to a patch of reddened earth. “I’m Captain Havelock Stormbound of the—”
The blacksmith held a finger up, quieting Havelock, before extending a closed fist.
Havelock reached a hand out to receive whatever he was being offered. A silver key dropped down into his glove, its shaft faceted with what Havelock recognized as the five known casting stones, each color contrasting with the next. Red, green, white, blue, and black. Havelock looked up at the blacksmith. “What do you expect me to do with this?”
The blacksmith shrugged, turning away and retreating back into the confines of his smithy.
“So?” Azar called from above, his words echoed off the mountainside. Havelock sighed, noting the position of the three skyships further inland since he’d first spotted them, before he looked up toward his first mate.
“It’s a key!”
“For what?” Azar turned toward Taleferon who’d evidently said something the dwarf hadn’t liked.
“Winds know!” Havelock shrugged, starting for the lift being lowered back down.
I decided to share some of my work from past writing classes. Keep in mind none of this has gone through almost no editing, so mistakes in both spelling and grammar are probably in there. But try some of these prompts out on your own, share it below!
Green: Describe something green.
Caitlin peered through the glass vial dangling an inch from her face. Her gloved fingers pinched the vial’s neck, at a point right before it bowed out into a small bulb. Inside, a viscous green liquid swayed and splashed, fluctuating between a deep emerald at its center and a virulent, poisonous, lime green near its edges that clung to the sides of the glass before slowly absorbing back into the greater mass.
Pants: Describe pants.
Michael yanked a navy blue pair of Lucky Brand jeans out with the flair of a magician presenting his greatest trick. He set them on the rosewood table that separated Sofia and himself, taking mental notes of each rip and stain. Iraq… he guided a finger down to a spot that had been bleached white, girl from Australia…
“No.” Sofia threw her hands up, “throw them out.”
House: Describe a house.
Caitlin brought her wagon to a halt outside the large plantation house her family had owned since before she’d been born. Age had not been kind to the building. Coal-colored shingles clung to the hipped roof two stories above where a plume of thick gray smoke ascended into the overcast skies above. A disheveled mess, the shingles hung off the eaves of the roof at odd angles—like snaggleteeth. Simple Greek columns which supported the covering over the porch and the balconies above contrasted with elaborate floral friezes that decorated the exterior. Paint peeled from around the frames of windows that stared out onto the fields like soulless eyes. A gust of wind elicited a belabored groan from the structure wafting the familiar scent of her fathers cigar smoke in her direction. A scent which had become baked into the foundation of the structure itself. Caitlin sighed, it’s good to be home.
Girl: Describe a girl.
Whoever this Wild Bill Hickok is—he’s going to lose. Caitlin bound her hair back behind her in a ponytail she had made on hundreds of different occasions, auburn wisps dancing before her eyes. She grimaced as she caught a whiff of herself, she hadn’t been able to bathe for the past two weeks on the trail into town. But what was the point really? She had already found that no amount of scrubbing with the most potent soap she could find would get the smell of gunpowder and whiskey off of her … it had become her body’s natural scent.
Horse: Create a horse.
“Goddamn you Faron!” Caitlin threw her gloves into the brush off the trail in a fit of frustration as Malcolm and Leon keeled over in boisterous laughter atop their own horses. Rain had begun to fall, mixing the scent of sagebrush with precipitation. In the half-second Caitlin had taken her eyes off Faron—a breed of horse bigger and leaner than the average Quarter Horse which Malcolm had provided—he had managed to wander off across a stream to devour the grass on the opposing banks. As soon as the musky scent of wet horse had faded, Caitlin knew she’d lost him once more and readied herself for the tug-of-war that would ensue as she tried to pull him away from his meal.
“He does it every goddamn time.” Caitlin glowered.
“His name means wanderer for a reason, gunslinger.” Malcolm smirked.
Vehicle: Describe a vehicle.
What a sexy car. Jax Jensen stepped slowly around the unmarked, gunmetal-gray cruiser that had just been delivered to his apartment. The UVS200-I was an interceptor model that packed more thrust than a space-bound rocket and had sleek curves usually reserved for the centerfold models of adult publications. It lent the vehicle a sleek predatory look. He was in love.
Said: Describe a character’s voice.
“So let me get this straight,” the middle-aged barista behind the register said, looking up at me as she drew a deep breath. She enunciated each word near-perfectly. Her voice was grandmotherly, and as sweet as the laundry list of artificial sweeteners this drink was about to be filled to the brim with. I hated her. “You’d like a triple shot, skinny vanilla latte, soy milk … half pump of vanilla, quarter pump hazelnut, three Splendas, add shot … so, a quad-shot then, not a triple.” Her voice took on a haughty condescending tone that only Starbucks employees, and wine snobs seemed capable of.
I will do my best to be posting new content every Wednesday. Tentatively dubbed "Workshop Wednesday" I will relatively unedited practice pieces I create to work on certain aspects of the writing craft. Bear in mind military service and training schedules are unpredictable and may be cause for the occasional late post.
In the future I plan to have a set schedule for posting about other writing-related things, or topics in my interest field such as Table Top War Gaming and Video Games.
Thank you for your support and feedback!
Matthew Taylor was born February 13, 1991 in Simi Valley, California. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from California State University Channel Islands, where he served as treasurer and briefly President of one of the campus's two political clubs. While earning his degree he continued to write and hone his craft, eventually releasing an initial few short stories on Kindle.