Red Steel

for Monica before she moves

Midway through the last of his life’s three great craftings, the god came to Alexander Hammil wearing the shape of his long-dead brother; came to tempt, to test. “This will not be enough. The curse still runs red and willing in her blood.”

“What is enough?” asked Alexander Hammil. “Enough is more than enough. This is what I can do. Others may yet do more.”

“You might do more yet, if you had the mind.” The god worked the bellows while he turned the steel, hair electric with forge light. “You are clever, you are kind. Steadfast and loyal. He is a good man, but only that. You might yet be more.”

Alexander Hammil said nothing, but kept working.

“Listen, brother: you cannot still this curse. She will fall upon her people like a wolf on the fold. But you, only you, might turn it. You might be the rock that turns the stream aside. Only speak, and he will fall aside. She will see your true worth at last. Lay down your hammer and your tongs! Speak, while still you can!”

“Begone, specter,” growled Alexander Hammil. “We need no more words between us. You think we have not spoken of this, as we speak of every other thing? Leave me to my work. I need no god to hold me to this forge.”

And the god was gone, much pleased, much angered. The work continued.