The alarming calls of the roosters can be heard from afar as they awaken the blacksmith’s apprentice.
He is met by the amber glow of dawn, on a misty autumn morning.
He wakens, and smells and hears frying meat. The roosters’ call is now joined by the squeals of pigs as they are fed their breakfast.
The mother of the apprentice races to his bedside and falls upon her knees in gleeful jubilation.
“Grayson, my darling son have you heard the news that met us but yesterday? The news that fills the citadel!”
With slowly blinking eyes the apprentice simply shook his head.
“Grayson, awaken quicken boy! The King needs a new sword! He hath taken the employ of your master!”
Grayson shot up to his feet, his eyes now widened with shock. He took a gulp of his own nerves and looked to his mother.
“Well, not by looking at me shall the work be done! Away! Away to your destiny!”
Grayson dressed in his working garments. A long and opened cloth vest, and his black knee-length nickers.
He kissed his mother’s head and as he managed on his black working shoes, he rushed out of the house.
His and his mother’s quarters were within the further walls of the citadel. He only had but a half-day’s walk to the castle, and shorter still to his master’s working station.
His stomach was fastened into the lumps and knots of worry and excitement. He walked by the baker, and fetched a loaf for himself and blew a kiss to the cooking woman. She held great affection for his mother and allowed him free access to her food. She knew the importance of being fed and fit with his occupation and growing age.
“Grayson!” shouted a familiar voice from the crowded bazaar.
Then out walked Estelle, his beautiful friend with whom he was smitten.
He immediately broke his bread and offered her half. She giggled and politely declined.
“You need the sustenance more than I, Apprentice. I am sure you have heard the mighty deed that awaits you.” Her soft voice danced among the breeze and flirtatiously kissed his ears. Like song, was her voice, especially to him.
“I am honored to work for anyone who may keep my master in his trade.”
“Oh hush Grayson, you must be giddy! The girls and I were braiding each other’s hair only yester-noon when I heard the Lady Aquaine of the King’s ward speak of the mighty battle our King faces! It is said that he requires a sword so mighty, that it may with a single swipe slay an entire army of one thousand men.”
Grayson’s fear now gripped his throat. He simply nodded and bowed his head to Estelle.
“My goodness me, I am keeping you! I mustn’t be as selfish! Good strength to you!” Estelle curtsied and ran away.
He watched her as her hair danced and played from side to side as she grew further away.
He continued his walk, long enough to have finished his bread.
He passed the cows and nodded to the man whose bucket collected the milk. Grayson gave a nod to the farmer whose business found himself selling milk that day.
The farmer knew the boy’s father, and waved him over.
“Grayson can that be you? My how you have grown! Apprentice to the royal blacksmith! What an honor! May I offer a bowl of milk?”
Grayson nodded in polite acceptance and awaited the bowl.
“Goodness boy! Seems like your master has quite the task on this fine day!”
“Thank you sir!” Grayson said simply.
“Tell me! What must you use to fashion such a sword that it’s might alone would slay an entire army?”
“I cannot imagine sir.”
“Well you mustn’t use the iron from the mountains! Good enough for kitchenry that is. Legend has it that the Stoned Plains is where you shall find the right stuff.”
“Thank you Farmer! I am honored to have your wise words.” Grayson then set out for a horse and chariot to take to the Stoned Plains, a three day’s ride. Very dangerous.
He arrived at the Horse Keep, only a hundred paces to his master’s working station. He bowed his head to the Horse Keep and asked,
“Have you yet heard of the mighty sword my master must fashion?”
The Horse Keep replied deviously,
“I have heard the whispers of the spirits of the great beyond! They speak of an army of men, two thousand men; not one thousand, and not three. Lay in wait they must, just as far as the furthest tree. See ye to the end of our fortress, at our doors awaits the many who shall slay woman, child, and men alike.”
“Then you do know! Please sir, your horse! I must ride to the Stoned Plains!” Grayson begged.
“Boy, you know not what you ask! You haven’t a lump of dirt to spare, never mind the payment I require.”
“Please Horse Keep! I will pay whatever you ask of me!”
“Whatever I ask of you?” Asked the horse keep with greed in his heart.
“I shall require the jewel encrusted in the walls of the Cave of Adalaine.”
“That is beyond my means!” Grayson gasped with disbelief.
“That is my payment. Be warned boy, the spirits say it protects he or she who must wear it from the acts and weapons of man, but it takes a man of truly noble intentions to harvest.”
“The jewel has magic?” Grayson asked in a loud whisper.
“Aye, and you must approach it with a bouquet of water lilies, that way it knows your heart is true.”
“Where do they grow good Horse Keep?” asked Grayson.
“The lake of The White Flower where men rarely dare go, and women bathe as goddesses.”
“The horse? I’ll need it to fetch the flowers, I’ll pay you with the jewel Horse Keep, you have my word.”
“Your word, eh? How about that royal crest upon your shoulder?” Asked the Horse Keep as he licked his lips. He knew the value of royal adornment. A simple crest could afford him any house he desired. The jewel, well that would afford him the kingdom.
With great hesitation Grayson unclipped his royal crest; a gift from his master, and handed it to the Horse Keep.
The grease-mannered Horse Keep then with a smirk upon his face said,
“Take the horse boy.”
Grayson then mounted the steed and commanded it to gallop to the palace exit. This would take him to the thick forest behind the castle and then just the rest of the day to where the Horse Keep said lay the Lake of the White Flower.
He rode past his master who saw him and shouted out his name. Grayson could only follow his mission.
In utter stupefaction of the boy’s evasion, the blacksmith mounted his own horse and made way to follow his apprentice.
Grayson, however, did not make it past the guards. They demanded his explanation.
He could only speak the truth, for his heart was noble, but his mind still too young.
“You are telling us, boy, that you wish to go to a lake to gather flowers to entice a jewel in a cave to know your heart, that way you can pay for the horse you already have, so that you can gather iron from the Stoned Plains?”
“Aye! You understand! My mission knows not any patience good guards!”
The guards looked at one another perfectly confounded at how the apprentice before them could truly believe his own words.
“Boy, you have had enough dreaming for one day! Maybe a night in the dungeons will clear your mind!”
They gave him not additional utterance, but hastefully dumped him behind the same iron bars that his own master fashioned.
The blacksmith saw from afar his apprentice get dragged into the dungeon. He then decided to request a word with the King.
The King gave his trusty blacksmith a word.
“Your Majesty, my apprentice on a fool’s errand has unwittingly ended up in your dungeon. I assure you; I will have him with a hot switch across his back. I beg your pardon noble King, he is just a boy, and his craftsmanship is improving promisingly to one day take my place.”
“I will require no such thing as to cause a boy as gentile as your apprentice to lose any more blood than he has his own wits. I care not what foolishness he has enacted, it dangers me not, and Robin; have you and I not aggravated enough guards of my father’s rule when we were boys?”
Robin the blacksmith chuckled loudly along with the kind King.
“Guards, free the boy! and do return the horse to the Keep.”
That night, the blacksmith and his apprentice built a fire to begin their work.
“Are you ready to speak boy?” Asked Robin with great authority.
“Master, I am a fool, I am not worthy, lay me to the pigs and the dogs.”
“Be calm boy, I am interested in this story. Here, toss back a cup of mead.”
Grayson took the mug and shot his head back and gulped the liberating libation.
“Well, I was sent to fetch water lilies from the Lake of the White Flower to convince the jewel of the Cave of Adalaine that my heart it true. The jewel was to be payment in addition to my royal crest, for the horse I had from the Horse Keep. With the payment completed, I was to heed the advice of the cow farmer and harvest iron from the Stoned Plains.”
“My goodness Grayson, why on earth would you harvest that iron?”
“Master, for the King’s mighty sword you have been employed to make.”
Grayson stiffened his lip so as to not let a tear shed, but his lip only quivered and still a tear managed to fall from his eye.
“You are a dreamer Grayson, but a better apprentice I know not. But boy, there is no mighty sword that the King has asked for.”
“Master! Everyone is talking about the mighty army that awaits at the gates that means to kill everyone! They’re saying how awe struck they are that you will fashion a sword that will be spoken of for generations to come.”
“Now, here, Grayson I must show you something. You see that ingot of steel there? Blow on it.”
Grayson blew a thin stream of air onto the ingot.
“No sword yet? Try commanding it to be a sword, a great sword!” Robin now sat back amused and watched his apprentice learned.
“Be a great sword!” Grayson commanded loudly as he pointed his finger down to the ingot. He knew only to do as he was told, especially by his master.
“Still no sword. Now Grayson, listen carefully.
Rumors, no matter how convincing they may seem, cannot actualize or influence reality. The Lake of the White Flower and the Cave of Adalaine are but fairy tales and do not exist. The Horse Keep wished to steal from you, and he did. Those who may be titillated by gossip have no real responsibility to the truth, or the process through which one must harvest the truth.
Indeed the Stoned Plains is where iron can be found, but the mountains have the purest form and have served me, and my forefathers bountifully in providing the royal guard with the mightiest swords, weapons, and armor.
There awaits no army of any amount of men at the gates. Rest easily knowing you are safe. When a war does arise again, you and I are to be of the first notified in a private meeting with the King. You would have been summoned to the castle by the guard and delivered there with me.”
“Master? My mother, and my friends, along with the others were speaking of how you are to make the mighty sword!” Grayson struggled to grasp the truth.
Robin confidently, calmly continued.
“Words are just air, and one cannot imbue a sword with air.
Come now, as we shall make your first sword.
And you’ll learn how to manifest balance, structure, and integrity.
These are also the three necessities of truth.”