Clang. Tink, tink.
Clang. Tink, tink.
Æstella picked up the hot metal and thrust it back into the burning embers. She stared into the embers as the metal heated back into an orange glow. As she stared down into the coals, waiting for the metal to glow the right color from the heat, she saw glimpses of the nightmare replaying in her head.
Æstella turned and closed her eyes as she attempted to banish the blazing forest from her thoughts. She couldn’t understand why the nightmare unsettled her so much. While she lived in the back of smithy, she had never been caught in a fire or seen anyone engulfed in flames.
Then there was the girl. She was young, only half as old as Æstella if that, yet she couldn’t help but feel connected to the girl in some way. As she waited for the metal to heat, explanations tossed through her mind. Was she a past life? Or maybe a future one? Maybe it is my inner child or my inner self projecting as one?
She pushed away all of those thoughts as she saw the metal was ready to be struck again. Æstella pulled back the tongs and set the brightly burning metal onto the anvil. She picked up her hammer and brought it down in one strong hit, Clang, followed by two softer hits, Tink, tink. Æstella’s father had been a smithy for as long as she could remember, and the now familiar strikes of hammer on metal was a welcoming comfort.
“You are up early,” a voice called from across the large room that served as the smithy.
Æstella thrust her working metal back into the forge and turned to look at the source of the voice. “There is nothing wrong with getting an early start to a good day’s work,” she replied in a tone suggesting she was reciting a familiar speech.
“Ha!” the man replied as he made his way around varying workstations and across the room. “And here I thought my speech was going in one ear and out the other,” he added jokingly.
“Dad,” she said with a hand on one hip. Her father just smiled and hugged her.
“Is everything okay? I’m always the one waking you up with the ringing of hammers, not the other way around.”
“Yes, everything’s fine, Dad.”
“So you don’t want to talk about whatever is on your mind?”
Æstella looked up at him curiously. Her father wasn’t looking at her, but into the forge where the metal was slowly heating. “What makes you think there is anything on my mind?”
“Well for starters,” her father said as he grabbed the tongs and pulled the metal out of the forge, “I’m going to have a hard time finding a horse to fit this shoe.”
Æstella looked at the brightly glowing metal held out in front of her. She had been working on a simple horseshoe, something she had made countless times. The metal in front of her, however, looked more like an M than the typical U shape.
“I’m sorry. I—“
“Don’t worry about it.” Her father had already set the malformed horseshoe back in the forge and was now looking at Æstella with obvious concern. “You’ve been working too hard lately,” he finally said. “Why don’t you take the day off and go relax somewhere?”
“I can’t leave you here alone. How are you going to get everything done without any help?”
“I had been handling things fine before you started helping out. Besides,” he continued with a sly smirk towards the forge, “it doesn’t look like you’d get anything done. Well, correctly that is.”
Æstella put both hands on her hips. She knew that he was only joking and she could use some time alone, so she threw her hands around his neck in a tight hug. “Thank you,” she whispered into his ear before walking out of the smithy.
Æstella had already been walking for half of a day. She had already known where she would go when she accepted her father’s offer to take the day off. Once when she was young, her father had shown Æstella a secluded waterfall that emptied into a small pond.
She hadn’t been to the secluded pond in a long time and this was a rare chance to visit it again. The pond, as she remembered it, was one of the most peaceful and beautiful places she had ever seen, and not once had she seen anyone else there, which was exactly what she wanted.
As she was reminiscing about her destination, a massive shadow quickly passed over the open field ahead of her. Æstella had stopped walking, but by the time she had casually looked up into the sky the shadow’s maker was already flying past. She had only caught a glimpse of the creature before the trees behind her obscured it, but a glimpse was all she needed to see.
It was a dragon and it was flying towards her home town.
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