The Blacksmith's Daughter
by Little Black Raincloud
Years ago, in a small dukedom on the outskirts of Waterdeep, there lived a young blacksmith named Angus McClellan. He was well looked upon by the community and unsurpassed in his trade by mortal hands. Since he had come to the village some five years ago, Angus had repeatedly been called upon by the old Duke himself to forge special pieces.
Being so close to Waterdeep, the merchants were invited each year to set up shop in the city square for the ten-day Brewfest each fall. During the festival, the city's population swells to nearly one million persons of almost every race imaginable. It was during one such festival that Angus met and fell in love with a young Elven girl, named L'irrillyn.
As chance would have it, L'irrillyn's family had set up a bowyer's tent next to Angus'. A quick respect for each other's craftsmanship arose between Angus and L'irrillyn's father Tor'quil, and customers were passed from shop to shop.
By the end of the festival, Angus and L'irrillyn had become close, and both were pleasantly surprised to discover how close their homes actually were to one another. When the festival finally ended, the two parted to return to their homes, but promised to keep in touch.
Over the next year, the friendship grew into love, resulting in numerous secret meetings and the occasional night of passion. The affair continued for almost a year, when one day L'irrillyn discovered she was pregnant. Upon hearing the news, Tor'quil was outraged and banished her from the village. Determined to be responsible and prove his love for her, Angus took her in and for the next year, the pair pretended to be husband and wife. The following autumn, L'irrillyn gave birth to a beautiful, healthy daughter, but gave her own life in trade. Angus, against the advice of all his friends and peers, decided to keep the child and raise her himself. He named her Caitlyn.
About the same time, the old Duke's young wife bore him a son, the heir he'd longed for. The town celebrated for a full week and the Duke once again called on Angus. His request was for a sword and shield fit for a king, and no price was too high. Once again, Angus accepted.
For the next three months, Angus spent his days toiling over the forge while his nights were spent caring for his daughter. Finally on the brink of utter exhaustion, he proclaimed his masterpiece finished. The sword, "Eagle Claw" would come to be known in Legend, it's quality and bite rivaling Excalibur itself. The shield, "Sanctuary," would also find it's place in history.
When the Duke returned to pay for the set, he was speechless. His hands trembled as he held up the set to get a better look.
"Angus, my good man," the old Duke whispered, "You've outdone yourself. Truly, you are touched by the gods! Name your price lad, anything I have is yours!"
Images of immense wealth teased Angus' imagination, but he pushed them aside. The old Duke had always been more than fair.
"My Lord," Angus said quietly as he sank to one knee, "The honor is mine. You've always treated me well. I trust you to determine a fitting payment for my services."
The old Duke chuckled softly, gently shaking his head. "Very well, Lad. You'll receive your payment on the 'morrow." With that, the Duke turned and left the blacksmith's shop carrying his new treasures.
The next morning, Angus was awakened by a heavy knocking at his door. Still groggy, he pulled on a pair of pants and went to answer the door bare-chested. Angus opened the door warily, only to be greeted by the old Duke.
"Ah, good morning, Angus! I hope I didn't wake you?"
Angus blinked confusedly, "Uhm, it's nothing, m'lord, but what brings you out at this early hour, sir?"
The old man gestured to his guards and turned back to Angus. "Your payment, Lad. I decided one hundred thousand gold sovereigns was all I could afford if I ever wanted to hire your services again."
Angus just stared dumbly as the two guards carried in sack after sack of gold. I must still be asleep and dreaming, he thought.
"A hun ... but M'lord, I ... this is far, far too much!" Angus sputtered.
"Nonsense, lad!" the old man laughed. "For years I've felt I've been taking advantage of you. Now I'm balancing the scales."
Angus turned and sank unsteadily into a chair. "M'lord, this is more money than I'll ever need!"
"My boy," the old man began softly, "take a holiday. The Gods know you've earned one. Take a pilgrimage back home with that beautiful daughter of yours. Take as long as you like. My 'smiths can take care of the town's needs while you're gone."
Angus simply stared at the old man and let everything sort of sink in.
"Well, what do you say?" the old man asked smiling.
"I think I need to get packed! Thank you, M'lord!" Angus seemed to finally come to life again.
By mid-day, Angus and Caitlyn were on their way with their belongings strapped to the two horses Angus had bought just that morning. "This will be a grand adventure," Angus thought to himself.
The weeks blended into months, and from there into years, as the pair traveled North to the highlands, sailed almost every known sea, and met nearly every kind of creature imaginable. To Angus' delight, Caitlyn turned out to be a sturdy child, enjoying rough and tumble activities.
The last two years of their trek were spent with the dwarves of Minas Tyr'yth, an ancient Dwarven stronghold that had only recently been reinhabited. Angus spent as much time as possible in and around the forges, learning as much as he could. Meanwhile, the dwarves took an unusual liking to Caitlyn, getting a low chuckle out of watching her play with the smaller hammers in the forge. She took great pride in even the most minimal tasks set for her by her Dwarven "uncles." The baby fat melted quickly from her small frame and was quickly being replaced by muscle. Caitlyn's father and a couple of the older dwarves eventually began to teach her the basics of smithing, an activity for which she showed great potential.
Just after Caitlyn's twelfth birthday, she and Angus bid farewell to the dwarves and began the long journey home.
One foggy morning early the following spring, the town awoke to the nearly-forgotten sounds of Angus' hammers ringing on the anvils. Soon, the entire town was gathered at Angus' shop to greet them back.
Eventually, word reached the castle and the old Duke himself came round to pay a visit, and with him came his son, Corrigan.
Over the next week, many tales were told and old friendships rekindled. Angus made plans to rebuild his forge and restart his family trade, using what he'd learned from the dwarves. Construction of the new forge continued on through the summer and well into autumn, 'til finally, at long last Angus was ready to reopen for business.
The benefits of the knowledge passed on from the dwarves were visible almost immediately. As remarkable as his talents were before, word of Angus' newfound skills and increased quality in his work, spread like wildfire. Very quickly he and Caitlyn had orders for enough work that even with both of them working nearly sixteen hours a day, it was still difficult to keep up. As the months rolled into years, Angus watched his daughter grow into a ruggedly beautiful young lady. As for Caitlyn her reward for the long, hard, hot hours spent at the forge, was a powerful, muscular frame, easily as strong as any man in the village, even stronger than most. Caitlyn was not quite twenty when word came that the old Duke had died in his sleep. The village mourned the old man's passing for more than a week, but this was just the beginning of their sorrows.
Almost immediately after taking the throne, young Duke Corrigan began increasing taxes and abusing his power in every way he could imagine. One of his favorite schemes was to tax a family nearly to starvation and then offer them a deal. In exchange for one month's taxes halved, he would take one of the family's daughters, of his choice, into his bed for that month. Most families grudgingly agreed, and would invariably take that time to make arrangements to leave the duke's jurisdiction the moment their daughter returned. Many didn't wait at all, and disappeared from the tiny hamlet before the young duke could get to them. Within months, the village began to look like a ghost town.
Then came the day that Corrigan caught a glimpse of Caitlyn, her long blonde hair matted to her sweating brow, her skin glistening under a thin sheen of perspiration as she hammered away at a piece of steel. Something stirred in his loins, and he had to have her.
Not yet twenty, Corrigan was full of the brashness of youth as he slid from his saddle and strolled arrogantly to the shop's entryway.
"Can I help you, m'lord?" It was more of a statement, almost a warning, as Angus' frame filled the doorway.
"Angus," the young man started, feigning indignation, "you misunderstand. I'm here to help you." Corrigan finished with a thin, wolf-like grin.
"And how's that m'lad?" Angus asked gruffly.
"Well, Angus I'm sure you've heard of my standard offer for saving ... taxes... ," Corrigan's voice trailed off as Angus began strumming his fingers against the head of the massive hammer in his hand.
"I don't need your offer, m'lord," Angus growled, "I'm more than capable of payin' yer taxes wi'out sellin my daughter's virtues. Good day to ye, m'lord." Without waiting for a reply, Angus turned and headed back to his forge.
Corrigan just smiled thinly and returned to his mount. "I can out-wait you, Angus," he thought to himself, "just you wait and see."
However, as the scene replayed itself over and over again over the following months, the less patient Corrigan became. Finally, i...