Little Ton sucked on his fingers as he sat in the arms of his father. Rone tugged at a pant leg and watched his mother work. It wasn’t glamorous work being a smith, but at the end of the day it was satisfying. Rone always like watching nails being made it was actually something he could help with too. The finished nails were laid on a wide steel tray and he got to pour water over them. From there they would be poured into a bucket and sold for countless uses in the city.
Ton stared obliviously into space. He was far too young to appreciate the art at three months old. Their father watched with pride as their mother worked, she was hardly down a month after little Ton’s birth. She insisted on taking up a portion of the work even though they had hired help. He was content to be held by his father and being bounced intermittently.
Rone stepped forward and peered into the large shallow dish with a few glowing nails. “Hot, mommy. Hot.”
Mother laughed. “Yes honey. It’s too hot to touch.”
Rone was a stout boy of four years but by no means a small child. He already stood over four feet tall. He was a thick and burly from his habit of carrying the heaviest objects that he could find. It was his idea of fun. He was a dim witted boy , not stupid per-say, but he lacked grace and tact. Whenever he stormed across the room excitedly loose objects would shake and rattle.
“Be patient Rone,” father said. “We don’t put water on them immediately. We need to let them form and set properly.
The boy’s eyes were fixed on the little glowing nails. He had a habit of fixating on his parent’s work.
“You know dear. I think it’s your fault he’s like this.” Mother inspected a nail carefully before tossing it calmly with her pliers.
“Oh not this again,” father chuckled. “I’m telling you there’s not harm in it.”
“Sword!” Rone perked up from the pan and looked back at him.
“See? He even knows what we’re talking about,” she said with a sigh.
“Of course he does. He’s a little boy. A sword likely is a toy to him at this point.” Father shifted to put little Ton in a better position. “Besides maybe he appreciates the fact we made him a birth sword.”
“Sword!” Rone nodded again he reached up at his father with grasping hands.
“It’s a desert tradition. Not one of ours.” She scoffed. “What proper Gelban smith would take up the tradition of savages?”
“Oh come now. Those ‘savages’ taught me everything I know.” Father laughed. “We were married a year after I came back from Dendarg.”
“You were just a sweet talker,” she said smugly. “You had strong arms too. Stronger than mine even.”
“Had?” Father let out a bellowing laugh. “I’m as strong as ever.”
“That pot belly says otherwise,” mother said.
“Daddy is fat.” Rone nodded.
“Hey now,” father frowned. “I can’t help it if I enjoy my food.”
“You have no excuse. I’m in fine shape despite little Ton doing a number on me.”
“You’re as beautiful as the day I met you,” father rocked Ton thoughtfully. “But I suppose I’ve slipped a little. Business has been going so well, I was thinking we could hire more apprentices and retire. There’s no reason for us to break our backs our whole lives. After all we have these two to think about.”
“These two will likely take up the forge after us,” mother said with a stern look, “it’s in their blood after all.”
“Perhaps, but we don’t know that,” father smiled and prodded Ton in the belly. He sent the infant to giggling. “They could be carpenters for all we know, or bakers.”
“Bakers,” mother shuddered. “No son of mine is going to be a bloody baker.”
“Now love, just because you don’t like sweets doesn’t mean the world doesn’t,” father laughed. “I happen to be fond of the stuff.”
“Your belly told me that already,” she wore a fierce scowl.
“I hate sweets,” Rone said with a nod, “Mom is right. Sweets make your belly fat.”
The boy thought a moment. “Does this mean Ton is a sweet?”
“Huh?” mother paused from her work and looked down at the boy.
“Mommy. You had a big belly. And then Ton came.”
“Oh! Ha…” mother set aside her pliers and walked over to Roan rubbing his head. “Mommy had a fat belly ‘cause daddy didn’t know how to keep his worm in his pants.”
“Dear,” father frowned. “He’s far too young to hear that sort of talk.”
“He’ll hear it eventually. Besides it’s not a bad thing right? It gave us two beautiful boys. Goddess be praised for that.” She walked over to father and gave him a kiss. “We can always push our luck and try for three children, yeah?”
“Well I’m certainly not going to complain,” father laughed.
“Another Ton?” Rone scrunched up his nose.
“Well we wouldn’t name him Ton too,” Mother rocked back and forth in her embrace with her husband and younger child. “But not yet sweetie.”
“But…” Rone stepped towards his parents and put a hand on his father’s belly.
Mother laughed. “That’s not how it works Rone. Your daddy is just fat. That’s not a baby.”
Father couldn’t help but laugh, despite his attempts to frown.
A knock echoed on the door as three sets of eyes turned towards it.
“More business huh?” mother snuck another kiss on the tip of fathers nose and fixed her eyes on the entrance to their shop. “Come in! We’re open!”
The door slid open and pair of figures appeared in the doorway. They were cloaked and hunched. Mother made a face at the two.
They stepped in silently. Both of them stared at the family gathering.
“May I help you? You are customers right? We don’t serve drifters,” mother said.
“Dear,” father handed her Ton gently. “Welcome to the shattered hammer. How can I help you today?”
The two figures looked at each other for a moment and then back to father. In unison they pulled back their cloaks. It was a man and a woman. Both of them were fairly tall. But one of them was unmistakably an Erdaki. Father’s eyes shifted to her with a quizzical look.
She was gorgeous. The woman had dark green eyes and a tall graceful manner. She was the very epitome of Erdakian beauty. The man next to her looked plain by comparison. He looked like he was a Gelban, but there was something off about him. His eyes hair was a dusty sort of blonde and his eyes the color of cooled steel. It was a color father was well associated with.
Mother flushed with irritation. She was a fiery sort and didn’t appreciate her husband making eyes at another woman however brief. She stepped forward to give her minds worth when he raised a calm hand back to her to halt her.
A moment of silence passed and the man spoke to the woman candidly. “I told ya. This is a waste of time. We should get outta the city.”
“Clayton, let me handle this. Please,” she said without looking at him. “Sir. I will not lie to you. We are on the run. We did not want to trouble your family, but we had no choice but to enter your shop.”
“Just great,” mother said.
“I see. So you just need a few moments then? Are you hungry?” father said.
The man known as Clayton raised a brow. “Why are ya being so nice?”
“You’re a guest,” father said calmly, “it doesn’t matter who you are to the law. You’re a guest in this shop. You look tired and hungry.”
“Sounds like hooey to me doll…” Clayton said.
“I think he’s being earnest,” the woman said, “I am Beatriz Adakasin. This gentleman here is Clayton Cobb. I humbly accept your kind hospitality.”
Father nodded. “We don’t have much, but you’re welcome to it.”
Mother glared at him but returned her gaze to her guests. “Welcome. Sorry for my attitude, but I’m not too keen on suspicious people. Just protecting my lads is all.”
“That’s understandable.” Beatriz smiled softly. “I hope our child is as beautiful as yours are.”
Mother blinked and let her eyes fall on the woman’s midsection. She was pregnant.
Father didn’t need to see her swollen belly to tell. He was all too familiar with the illustrious glow his wife had when she was with child. He looked back at her.
“Right. I’ll go get you some food.” Mother stepped forward and offered Ton to her husband. She hurried to the back room.
“My name’s Gerarr,” father said, “My wife goes by Ane. These are my sons: This bundle of joy is Barton, and the brute of a boy there is Barone. We like to call them Ton and Rone for short.”
“A pleasure.” Beatriz nodded.
Rone stared at the two strangers, and locked his vision on Clayton. He calmly raised a hand and pointed at him. “Monster.”
“Barone! That’s rude,” father said.
The Edaki woman chuckled. “Smart child.”
“Little crumb…” Clayton folded his arms tightly. “…you’ll see who’s a monster.”
“What do you mean by that?” father asked.
“Since you’re being so kind to us, I’ll tell you. This man is a Dimanagul.”
“A…” Gerarr’s eyes went wide.
“I assume you know what that means. You were wise to give us refuge…” The woman stepped forward and placed a hand on his stomach. “I apologize, but you will need to cooperate unconditionally. A spark of light flashed in front of father. An unfamiliar stinging sensation coarse through him and the hairs of his arms stood on end. He could feel power surge through his body and it made his body stiffen like stone. The energy was hot like fire, flowed through him like water and cut like the wind. In his years he had never encountered such a sensation.
It was over in an instant and he could feel smoke roll off of his flesh. He could place his hand on a red hot blade and not get burnt thanks to his Gelban blood but this energy seared him absolutely. He panicked and looked down at Ton sleeping in his arms, but the child was unharmed. He was sleeping peacefully.
“…I am something much, much worse.” She smiled wryly.
“What are you then?” father said in a faint tone. His eyes returned to Beatriz.
“A Managul,” she said. “That was you penance for your brat calling Clayton a monster. You should really teach him some manners.”
Clayton chuckled to himself
Father nodded quietly as the woman backed up calmly.
Ane came back into the room with hard rolls, sliced meats, and mustard seeds. “I hope this’ll do it. I was craving the stuff when I was carrying around little Ton.”
“It will do fine.” Beatriz walked past Gerrar. She placed a hand on his shoulder and he twitched involuntarily. The simple action was more threat than any sword.
Rone watched quietly. He didn’t understand what had happened. He had no idea his father had even been harmed. But he knew one thing.
These people were dangerous.