"Cannae sleep, lad?" Markun asked me.
"No. Every time I close my eyes . . . you know."
"Aye. It'll pass in time."
Markun frowned at me, then turned to the forge fire he had created. "See, lad, ye cannae look at life as for trying to be safe all tha time. Tha dinnae work well, just be asking tha poor souls what huddle in their homes when tha nightmares be comin' out."
Markun pulled up Alistair's sword, which had seen better days. Its time in the forge fire made it glow a deep yellow. "Ye be seein' the sword?"
"This's life. We get scraped and knicked and beaten, sometimes broken. No amount o' polish be helping this sword, now. Sure it'll make it shiny and neat, but tha don' mean a thing. Sooner or later she'll break."
He shoved the blade back into the forge fire. The priest would often repair armor and weapons for the group, free of charge so long as we put them to the right use.
"Now, if'n we put ourselves in tha fire, we can work out the knicks and bends. By really working, by experiencin' life, we make ourselves whole an' stronger."
He pulled the sword and began striking it with his hammer, tossing red-bronze sparks with each blow.
I watched, entranced, as Markun folded the metal onto itself, reshaping the blade to return it to its former strength, completely unblemished. The steel smelled hot, like the forge itself, but gave off no other smell. I had expected it to smell metallic and heavy, to make the air thick, but if anything the heat sucked the air out of me, making me light-headed.
I snapped out of the fiery trance when Markun plunged the sword into the water, unleashing a bubbling hiss and cloud of steam.
I backed away from the cloud, a visceral reaction, but I checked it after a moment as it dissipated and I smelled clean air, like after a rain.
Thoughts of rain brought memories of Rina, some of the few memories I had managed to lock away from the creature. I drifted in those thoughts until I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"Get some sleep, son," Alistair told me. "You've done your watch with Markun. I'll take over."
I felt his strength in that squeeze on my shoulder, and he wore a faint smile, calm, reassuring; the scar didn't make his face scary, despite cutting through one of his eyes.I nodded dumbly, already half asleep, and shuffled off to my blankets, hoping to dream of Rina and the rain.