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The Hammer of Fire

by Tom Liberman

Copyright 2012 by Tom Liberman

Smashwords Edition







Prolog

Udor Firefist sat at his workbench, in his private chamber, and stared at hammers, axes, shields, armor, swords, and various other implements of war that lined the walls. His bench-top was clear of his work tools, they hung neatly on wall-hooks, but the stone table retained the stains of thousands of jobs, tens of thousands, who knew how many? He looked longingly from one implement to the next and then put his fire-blackened right hand to one of the four platinum and gold bands, encrusted with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds, which circled the gray beard that he spent over fifty years cultivating since he gave up his apprenticeship robes all those years ago. It seemed like a blink of the eye to him now as he gazed at five thousand years of work produced by the finest metal smiths of Craggen Steep. “Five thousand years,” he said with a quiet voice, and he frowned deeply although his heavy beard hid most indications of such.

The title of metal smith was the most prestigious in all of Craggen Steep and the most common. Young dwarf boys of promise generally applied to the Guild at the age of eight and worked their way through the various stages of apprenticeship and then on to craftsman and, hopefully, eventually arrived at the class of fully invested Edos, or First Class Metal Smith. Even then there were levels of delineation as the various metals within the great mountain, iron, copper, steel and more, were of greater or lesser esteem. The pinnacle of achievement was to become the Master Edos of the Deep Forge, or the First Edos. Udor was now in the thirty-fifth year of his reign at the top of the heap and yet he still felt restless, eager.

His room, as he thought of it after so long, was not the only place where the relics of the great dwarf citadel resided. There was the Hall of Relics, the Chamber of Hovslaag, the High Council Chamber, but this room, the chamber of the First Edos, technically the most powerful dwarf in the mountain, was his and his alone. The others were for the public and for ceremony where the great relics of the realm were displayed. This place, his room, was the spot where the weapons of war created by previous office holders rested. Here resided weapons crafted by his predecessors, the dwarves who sat in this very chair over the last five thousand years. Near the end of their reign each chose a single item to hang on its wall before he retired. The room itself now housed a dozen side chambers built solely to accommodate the ever growing armory. Nowadays Udor spent very little time in the workroom. His days were filled with management of the Deep Forge, concerns about which craftsman should be promoted to edos, which apprentice should move to craftsman, and all the other mundane tasks of his job. It was perhaps once every two years of late that he had time to come to this room to design, to plan, and then to the Deep Forge to create. In the last ten years this glacial pace slowed even further, and Udor spent most of his time wooing the powers that be in Craggen Steep as he tried to achieve one political goal after the next. He sighed deeply once again and his hidden frown deepened.

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