“An adventurer from beyond The Veil! Interesting…we haven’t seen one of you in a while.”

“The Veil? Is that what you call it?” Arian asked as she walked around the smithy’s workshop, not stopping her scrutiny of everything around her, but definitely still paying attention to everything being said.

“Do you have another name for it on the other side?”

“Swirling purple portal…thing.”

“So articulate, you are,” she laughed; a loud, booming laugh that tinkled in the air around her. Arian turned to her, smiling at the woman before digging her hands into her pockets.

“Well, you called me an adventurer-”

“Yes, even if you are more like a Child Crusader, you runt,” she teased, sitting down heavily on a chair near the window, crossing her legs at the ankle.

“Yeah, so I was wondering if you could help me? I mean, from one weapons enthusiast to another. I need a sword and shield if I’m gonna do anything in this world worth doing, you know? And…well…we’ve been hiding out in that tree for three days now, and we’ve gotten bored.”

“We?”

“My…companion and I. At least, I think companion is a good word to use for her?”

There was a silence that fell, palpable among the tools and the smouldering coals that sat close to Arian’s left hand. She itched to touch them, but a part of her mind told her that she only wanted to because she needed to do something with her hands.

“Where is she?”

“Hiding in the canopy we made,” Arian blushed. “We’ve not done much since we arrived apart from eat berries and drink water from the river.”

“There are cleaner rivers than the one that runs through these woods!”

“Oh, it’s fine; the river where we’re from is really dirty, so.”

The blacksmith stood up, walking towards her table full of tools, and staring down thoughtfully at the hammer. Arian noticed for the first time the way the strange symbols on the hammer’s metal head seemed to glow ominously, as if infused with some sort of magic.

In this world anything was possible, after all.

“Luckily for you, I have a sword and shield lying around just waiting for finishing touches,” the older woman said, gesturing at a blank sword, hilt and all, and a clean, smooth shield, almost ready to be worn. “I shall make you a weapon and shield, little runt, if only because nobody should be left unprotected in this world.”

The smile on Arian’s face soon disappeared when the woman tossed a pair of gloves at her.

“And there is no better way to know your weapon than to help the smithy make it.”

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