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, in a fit of rage, Corrigan made a new decree.
One foggy spring morning, Angus awoke to a heavy knocking at the front door. On his way to the door, he peered out a window and spying two castle guards, was instantly wide awake. Calmly, Angus opened the door and greeted the young armored soldiers.
"Good morning. I'm sorry but we're not yet open."
"It's collection day, Angus," the young guard said, lowering his gaze.
"Of course," Angus said, "don't look so down lad, it's not as though you're the one robbin' us blind," he said chuckling as he handed the sack of gold through the door.
The young guard looked up questioningly. "You've not been told?"
Angus stared at him warily, waiting for the forthcoming explanation.
"The Duke's imposed a new tax. One household a month must send their daughter in addition to the normal taxes. I'm sorry, Angus, he said to start wi' Caitlyn."
Angus' eyes blazed and his beard fairly bristled, as he snarled, "Never! You tell that bastard I'll see him in hell before I let him lay a finger on my daughter!"
"Angus, please!" the guard said, "Be rational! Corrigan'll have you arrested or maybe worse. Listen," the guard softened his tone, "we'll give you some time and come fetch her after supper."
By now, Caitlyn had come out and was listening. Finally, she spoke.
"Father, wait," she said softly, causing Angus to turn and look at her, "I'll go. I'm no better than any of the other girls. Besides, maybe I can convince him to stop this horrible tax."
Angus looked as if he were about to speak, instead, he let out a long sigh and his shoulders dropped visibly. "All right," he said.
That evening, Caitlyn and Angus said good-byes and she rode off into the fading sunset with the guards. Once at the castle, she was shown through the huge stone halls to a beautiful bedchamber where a magnificent black gown of a soft, shimmering material lay spread out across the bed.
The guard waited at the door while she went in and set down her things.
"Dinner will be in one hour. If you need anything at all just tug on the cord beside the bed." With that said, the guard closed the door and left. Slowly, Caitlyn changed into the dress and waited.
Shortly, there was a knock on the door. The same guard from before had been sent to escort her to dinner. As they walked, Caitlyn chatted politely, gently prodding for as much information as she could get. The young guard was nervous but anxious to answer all the questions this young goddess had to ask.
Dinner went smoothly, with very little conversation. The food was excellent, as was the wine, but Caitlyn made sure not to drink too much. She wanted all her wits about her tonight.
Once dinner was over and the dishes were cleared away, Caitlyn was escorted to the master bedroom and instructed to prepare for bed. Corrigan would be along shortly.
Caitlyn undressed quickly and slipped between the silk sheets, their cool, smooth texture bringing goosebumps to her soft, tanned skin. She hoped her apparent vulnerability would get him to lower his guard that much quicker. She hoped. Slowly, she relaxed and stretched out beneath the sheets, folding her hands behind her head and began to doze softly.
Not long after, Caitlyn awoke to the sound of the heavy wooden door opening, but did not move. Corrigan could not help but give a quiet gasp at the sight of this beautiful creature lying in his bed. Though covered, the sight of her heaving breasts rising and falling in a gentle rhythm, caused a stirring in his loins. His gaze moved up her body, taking in the smooth, creamy complexion and the firm, muscular arms exposed to the evening air.
Just then, Caitlyn's eyes fluttered and opened. Seeing Corrigan standing just inside the door, she smiled, her eyes sparkling, and reached out to him, beckoning him.
For a moment, Corrigan stood motionless. He couldn't understand these feelings! He'd had several women more attractive than Caitlyn in his bed, but this one had a certain seductive quality about her that intoxicated him.
Sensing his apprehension, Caitlyn summoned her courage and gently threw back the covers, exposing herself completely, and stood up. Corrigan's mouth dropped open slightly as this magnificent, statuesque figure slowly advanced on him. As she closed the space between them, Caitlyn's heart hammered in her chest as adrenaline surged through her body.
Slowly, Caitlyn reached out her hands, placing them gently on either side of Corrigan's face, and drew him in as if to kiss him. He could smell the light natural scent of her as he closed his eyes for the kiss that would never come.
A flash of bright white light exploded behind Corrigan's eyes as, with a sudden jerk of her powerful arms, Caitlyn snapped his neck like a dry twig. Slowly, she lowered his lifeless body to the floor and drew his sword from it's scabbard. With a single powerful stroke she removed head from body. Next, she quickly, but thoroughly and meticulously cleaned the blade, hilt, pommel, etc., taking care to leave no trace of blood or hair, then resheathed it. Carefully lifting the severed head from the cold, stone floor Caitlyn walked out onto the broad balcony and set her grisly trophy on the ornately carved stone rail, facing East. To finish the effect, she made sure the eyes were wide open.
Her last chore was to clean herself up and get dressed again, this time in her own, more practical, clothes. Once dressed, Caitlyn crept through the old castle, using the information she'd wormed out of the guard, and made her way to the stables.
As quickly and as quietly as possible, she saddled her pony and guided him out into the night.
It was sometime well after midnight when she reached Angus' Forge. He was still up, unable to sleep for thoughts of his daughter. Though she startled him when she burst in, Angus jumped to take his daughter in a fierce embrace, asking if she was all right. Caitlyn quickly explained what had happened. When she had finally finished her tale, she hung her head.
"I'm sorry, Father," she said, "I've brought ruin down on us all." Angus reached out a rough, callused hand and gently wiped away the single tear that coursed down his daughter's cheek.
"No, Caitlyn," he started softly, "You've freed us. The worst that could happen is if the king decides to place another tyrant on the Dukal throne. But, for your own safety, you must leave the village. It's possible you could blend in among the folk of Waterdeep, but it's still too close." Caitlyn fought back the tears that stung her eyes as she listened to her father's somber words.
"As much as it pains me, you must ride far away, maybe to Westgate would be far enough. Before you go, though, I have something for you."
Angus stood and walked to the back of the shop to a large chest. After a moment of rummaging, he straightened and turned back to Caitlyn carrying an object about four feet in length wrapped in cloth. Sitting down, he reached out and placed it across Caitlyn's knees.
"What is it?" she asked, looking puzzled.
Angus smiled thinly. "Just open it."
Slowly, carefully, Caitlyn unwrapped the object. All at once the cloth wrappings fell away to reveal a magnificent sword. The dark leather scabbard was a work of art itself, covered with ornate workings and ancient Dwarvish runes that spelled out the name "Valkyrie's Hammer." Atop the scabbard sat a beautifully carved hilt, painstakingly wrapped in the finest suede. Each end of the crossguard was fashioned into the head of a stallion with small rubies for the eyes. Grasping the hilt, Caitlyn drew the blade free with a fine scraping sound. Curious, she inspected the scabbard. From the inside came a glint of steel.
"The scabbard is special," Angus explained, " it's lined with steel designed to clean and sharpen the blade each time you draw or sheath it. That blade should keep its edge long after your grandchildren's grandchildren are returned to dust."
Caitlyn was impressed, but simply nodded and turned her attention to the blade itself. It seemed unusually light, and in proper light, seemed to shimmer almost like...
"Mithril," Angus said, smiling wolfishly. " 'Tis a special blend of metals I had the dwarves make for me. It might have magical properties, it might not, but it's light enough to wield accurately with one hand."
Caitlyn could no longer hold back the tears and let them flow freely as she threw her arms around her father's thick neck.
"Thank you, Father," she sobbed.
Angus simply held her and stroked her hair. Finally, the two broke apart and Caitlyn began to pack. Nearly an hour later, she stood ready at the door. Angus came to her and handed her two sacks of gold and a pouch of food. "This will help keep your belly quiet," he said softly.
The pair embraced one final time and Angus kissed his "little girl" on the forehead before sending her out the door. He stood in the doorway and watched as Caitlyn climbed into the saddle and with a last glance back, and a quick wave, she was gone.