The Workshop at the End of the World
by Kristin Janz
The workshop's bright interior felt like a sauna after the numbing midwinter cold outdoors. The old man immediately took off his fur-lined hat and gloves and started unfastening the buttons of his greatcoat. His workers glanced up from benches and forge upon his entrance, but they took too much pride in their work to set it aside and rush to greet him.
Their work was remarkable in its craftsmanship. Hand-turned wooden pull toys, sanded to a silky sheen and polished with real beeswax; stuffed animals with button and thread faces so real that he caught himself looking twice; wooden and iron puzzle games that he knew would have him scratching his own white head for hours if he attempted them. Genuine steel swords scaled down to fit an adolescent hand, some with jeweled hilts.
That last had him shaking his head. He hadn't been able to use swords as Christmas gifts in over a hundred years, and the quantity produced had always far outstripped the number of appropriate recipients. He had to trade for or purchase the toy guns he needed, because as far as the elves were concerned, gunpowder projectile weapons did not exist.
At the far end of the cavernous workshop, Lord Mitharnior stood in conference with his two cousins, all three tall, dark-haired, solemn in their agelessness. Mitharnior had led these others here long ago, refugees from a distant land that no longer knew or welcomed them. The north was cold, but they had found solace here: warm hearth fires to light the long nights, a renewed sense of purpose. Meaning.