Reddit Writing Prompt #14: King In The Forge

A prince can never inherit his father’s throne until he has spent at least two years living among the common people. –TerriblePrompts

The blacksmith’s apprentice struck the orange-hot metal with the heavy hammer, sending up sparks and pounding the metal into shape. After hitting the metal, the hammer bounced up, and the apprentice brought it back down on the bare metal of the anvil. The hammer rebounded, came back down on the hot iron, and was bounced off the anvil again. Like a drumbeat, the rhythm continued as sweat dripped off the apprentice’s nose.

After half an hour of hammering and reheating the metal, the apprentice noticed that he was being watched. He didn’t dare distract himself from his work, and so kept hitting the metal, the anvil, and again the metal.

Soon, the metal cooled to an orangeish-gray, and the apprentice returned it to the fiery mouth of the forge. Using his tongs, he selected another piece, and brought it out. The curved head of what was soon to become a shovel. The apprentice began to tap out tiny imperfections with small strikes of the hammer, and when he was satisfied, plunged it into a bucket of water.

“Edward,” his audience finally spoke. “We have to talk.”

“Yes, sir,” the apprentice said, wiping his face with the sleeve of his tunic. Even in the wintery months, the forge was sweltering.

The blacksmith, broad arms crossed over his chest, loomed over Edward like a mountain of muscle and burn scars. The sign of a true smith, he had always said, wearing the scars like badges of honor. They were signs of failure, and of a lesson learned. Edward’s hands were covered in such scars as well, but nowhere near as many as the smith’s. “It’s almost time,” the smith said.

Despite the heat, Edwards felt a chill overtake him. “Yes, sir,” he said. “Can’t believe it’s been two years already.”

The smith pulled the completed head of the shovel out of the water using the tongs. He turned it over a few times, his experienced eye seeing things that Edward could never hope to understand. “Is it good?” Edwards asked.

“It’s rubbish,” the smith said. “I wouldn’t dig up my mother-in-law’s grave with this thing.”

“Yes, sir,” Edward said, smiling.

“But, all things considered,” the smith said, putting the shovel head back, “You’ve learned well.”

“Thank you,” the young prince said.

The smith sighed. Two years ago, the young man had been dropped at his doorstep, ready (if a tad unwilling) to undergo his trial. Two years with a princeling as an apprentice. Bah, he had thought. For the first few months, ‘bah’ was foremost in his thoughts as he struggled to turn the prince into somebody that was fit for the throne.

Creating a king was a lot like forging a tool, he came to realize. When the prince first arrived, he had been raw metal. Brittle, useless, all the muscles of a six-year-old and the pampered hands of royalty. He had griped about every little thing that displeased him, and there was a lot that displeased him. The smith had believed the prince to be a lost cause, but he had forgotten that raw metal would take time until it was hot enough to shape.

When the prince finally grew tired of complaining, he was ready to be hammered into something better.

The forge taught him patience. It taught him humility. It taught him to learn from his mistakes. It taught him respect. The young prince, turned molten by the heat of the forge, now resembled a man who was ready to rule a kingdom. A man who could understand his duties, and respect his subjects.

How the smith wished he had two more years with the boy. Then, he could forge him into something truly great.

Three months later, Prince Edwards was crowned as king, with a crown made of iron.

When asked for his opinion of the craftsmanship, the smith said that he wouldn’t use the damn thing to scratch his bottom. The king laughed.

One thought on “Reddit Writing Prompt #14: King In The Forge

  1. Enjoyed this. It’s like an Aesop’s fable with a funny rather than moralistic ending. Very original. Wow, you’re good!


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