Harp and Hammer

All fables, all legends have a beginning.  Heracles got his start strangling snakes in the cradle, Cu Chulainn by killing Chulainn’s hound, Darmok by meeting Jalad at Tanagra.  Indeed, mankind’s own start came from proto-hominids discovering fire..   This, however, is the beginning 0f my Legend.

I was born the daughter of Irish immigrants, and raised from birth to respect my roots.   Most of my early years were spent learning the old songs from my mother, or in the smithy, learning the secrets of iron and fire from my father. Most importantly, I heard the tales of our people, of the Tuatha de Dannan and their protection of the irish people, and our respect for them.   It was only natural, as I grew into being my own woman, that I discovered my own faith in the old gods, specifically worshipping Brigid, the goddess of the smith, and patron of poets.

Ren Faires were a big part of my life and that of my family.  Indeed, most of our family income came from my father’s forgework, making armor and trinkets for tourists, or my mother’s performances.   As I grew, I began doing my own part, performing duets with mother, or working the bellows for father.    In fact, working the forge is where this tale -truly- begins.

Sometime, in my 21st year, I was pounding away on a sword blank, working in carbon to harden the metal, when I heard someone ringing the bell at the front of the stand.   Tossing the blank into the quenching trough, I saw that the caller was a middle aged woman, dressed much like the rest of the tourists who came in, admiring the light plate we made for reenactors, but ignoring the actual fighting gear we made for not being “flashy”

She was different though, as she came in, her eyes immediately went to the wall where we kept actual battle swords, and the dummies with actual armor on them. I watched, with no small amount of pride as she traced the hammer marks on a thick bit of field plate I’d beaten out myself

“Aye, not at all bad.. for an amateur” The woman said, a smirk in her eye.   Suddenly, my pride turned to anger.  Who was this woman, a total stranger, to alk into -my- forge and call my own work amateurish?

“I’ve had a hammer in me hand since before I could walk, what are you talking about?” I said, trying to keep my anger in check.  It wasn’t, after all, like she came in here looking for trouble.

“So you forged this armor, did you?  I suppose these swords on the wall are yours as well?  Don’t get me wrong, they’re good work, but hardly worthy of a master smith.  They’re balanced well enough, and the tempering is good, but you could do so much better, here, let me show you.”  She said, quickly walking into the forge like she owned the place.

Pulling the sword blank from the quenching trough, she thrust it into the furnace, which seemed to flare up as she came close.  After getting the metal white hot, she quickly pulled it out of the fire and began hammering, which was when I was really in awe.  the metal seemed to shape itself to her will as she hammered away.  It must have been an hour, but it only felt like minutes when she produced a finished blade.

“Like I told ye, lass, you’re right good, but you can surely do better.” The woman said, leaving the finished blade on the anvil.  My head was still spinning from watching an obvious mistress smith at work.

“Wait, wait.. I watched you work,  I’ve worked with iron for the better part of my life,  I’ve -never- seen it take shape so quickly.. that’s impossible.” I said, in disbelief

The woman sighed, throwing up her hands.  “And that’s your problem, you limit yourself by only seeing what is possible and what is not.  The mark of a true artisan is that they’re constantly pushing their limits and pushing the limits of what is possible.  I’ve seen your work, and you’ve got the talent.  It’s in your blood,   I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t.”

By this time I’d had enough.  Within the course of two hours, I’d went from feeling proud of my work, to having it belittled by a complete stranger, to having that stranger offering me encouragement?

“Now look, ma’am.  I don’t know who you are, but it’s bad manners to come into someone else’s place of business and do everything you’ve done.   How would you feel if I’d done the same?” I said, crossing my arms. “Now please, tell me just who you are that you come in here, disrespecting me and my father’s work.”

“Very well, lass, you’ve humored me.” she said, pulling the shades down on the stand, cutting it off from outside view.   Then as if drawing the veil off a covered piece of art, her face and body melted away, revealing a figure I knew all too well, indeed, it was one I worshipped daily.   Quickly, I fell to my knees, uttering a Blessed Be.

She smiled and pulled me up to my feet.  “Now now, I’ll have none of that while I’m here, Fianna,  or do you prefer Fanny?”

“Fi, please” I interjected, still stunned at who I was speaking to.

“Alright then, Fi, here it is the truth of it.   The Irish are sacred to the Tuatha, even those who have left Eire.   Long have I watched your parents and saw how they kept the old ways alive, so I saw fit to give them a blessing.    I took over your mother’s body one night and 9 months later, nature took it’s course and one Fianna Pella Murphy was born.   You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?”

I stared blankly.   Surely she wasn’t trying to say I was her daughter.  It would be pure arrogance to even consider such a thing.

“Ah, humility” She said, a bemused smile on her face.   “Is it really humility if it’s true?   Fianna, you -are- my daughter, and yes, you’re special.   You’ve seen that your own skills have started to surpass those of your mother and father, yes?  that’s because you’re more than human,  you’ve got my blood in your veins.”

“So you’re telling me all of my work, all of my accomplishments are yours, and not mine?”

“Certainly not.  Even with ichor in your veins, you’ve had to work for all of it. and that’s how it will always be.   But that’s not why I’m here.  I need your help, lass.”

I nodded.   I was unsure how I could be of any help to the Goddess of Craft, but I knew my duty.

“It’s like this, the Titans, yes, from Greek myth, I’ll get to that, are breakin’ out of their prison, and threaten everything we gods have made for humans here on the world.    We gods cannot act as openly on the world as we used to.  Fate’s a right bitch about that.  You’re different though.. your Legend is not yet written, and you have more freedom to act in the world than we do..  I’m sorry I can’t fight these battles for you, but I’ll see to it you know how to use the gifts in your blood.”

It was then that she rested her hand on my hammer, in an instant, it grew to the size of a full sledgehammer and back to it’s own size  “The power of fire and earth are yours, use them well.  Also, I’ve heard your prayers and watched your rituals, and know you play your harp to call on me.   you’ll find that your magic will have actual power to it now, more than faith.   as well…”  She pressed her palm against my harp, causing a small wave mark to appear on it.  “Fire and water go in balance, and you need both to work the steel.  Water too shall heed your call”

“Blessed be the Mother who gives life and limb.” I said, in reverence.

Brigid smiled. “That’s a good girl, for now though, live your life and hone your crafts, all of them.  Someday soon, you will come across a group of others like yourself, godschildren.  Join with them on their travels.  THey will benefit from your gifts as you will benefit from theirs, and always remember, protect the world,  We give our children strength so that the children of the world can see another tomorrow.

“You have my word, Lady Brigit, that I will see it done.” I said, clasping my hands and bowing deeply.

“I’d ask you to call me mother, but I wasn’t the one who raised you.   Someday I hope to earn that title from you.” Brigid said,  once again assuming her mortal form, and making her way out of the forge.   As for myself, I picked out another sword blank and got to work.

The rest of my tale you shall hear another time.