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The Forge

Mari Ness has published many stories, including several at Daily Science Fiction. Find these on our website, dailysciencefiction.com.

The blacksmith has several objections. For one, he does not make shoes. Oh, horseshoes, definitely, but that is an entirely different matter, and something that he does with a local farrier, quite an expert, if the prince is in any need. Human shoes, however, are an entirely different matter. He is not even certain where to begin; surely a cobbler would be of more assistance? Those shoes, too, could be heated, if really necessary. For two, as surely the prince knows, it is one thing to get a shoe on the foot of a calm horse while others hold the horse; the horse, after all, has hooves. And as a purely practical matter, his forge is nowhere near the prince's hall. He will not be able to keep the shoes red hot, as requested. He does not think the fires in that hall--he bows, with the utmost respect--will hold the same heat as his forge.
He swallows as the cold iron brushes against his throat.
In the end, they compromise.
His throat is already bleeding, after all.
It does not take him long to forge the shoes. The iron is already paid for and available; his forge is already burning. He adds flower designs to the sides, and burnishes the shoes as best he can: they will be seeing these at court, after all, and it is possible--just barely possible--that a wealthy courtier might need a fine iron lantern, or a fragile seeming screen for a fireplace, or a delicate looking fence.
Assuming they even look at the shoes, and not the woman who will dance in them.
He has made such things before, he reminds himself. Many times before. Not everything in the torture chambers is his work, but enough of it is. And the woman deserves this. No one questions that, not after what she did to the child. A young woman now, to be certain, but still. He had seen the girl, after she had been rescued from her coffin. He does not question this.
Still, when the prince's men come for the shoes, he refuses to go to the hall. He is tired, he tells them. His lungs are full of smoke. Of course he has said nothing. He agrees with the prince about the girl, after all. Wicked. Cruel.
And the line around his own throat is still red as blood.
He does not speak of that night, either. Not because of his still stinging throat. Not because of his dreams of apples and iron, fire and death. Not because of the girl, or the dead look in her eyes. But because of his feet, blackened and blistered, as if someone had come to him at night and placed coals on his feet, just to see how long he might dance.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Author Comments

What most intrigues me about fairy tales is what isn't said, and what happens afterwards.

- Mari Ness
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