In answer to the daily prompt If I Had a Hammer: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/hammer/
Her mother whipped around hands on her hips and a scowl on her lips that meant trouble. She knew what was expected of her; she lowered her head looking down at her feet. The hand on her arm was strong though not ungentle.
“Really? Emeline. That isn’t acceptable. Why would you do that? Thank you Geoffrey.”
“Ain’t no worry, really. The forge ain’t no place for a lady.” He didn’t sound convinced but her mother’s orders had been clear; she was to stay away from the blacksmith’s place. She was too old to be there; she was no longer a child whose every whim could be indulged.
“I’m no lady,” she whispered before she could prevent it. That would bring her mother’s wrath upon her alright.
“Emeline.” The tone was forbidding; Geoffrey heard it and left the room. He knew it was better; her mother was a frightening sight when in anger. To most people… “Emeline why the forge?” She was contained; probably not for long. And she knew; she only expected a different answer this time. She wouldn’t obtain it.
“Mother, I like the fire. And creating things.”
“You can create things: embroidery, clothes. Steel, weapons: this is the trade of men. We trade in beautiful things, not things of war.”
“No. That is enough. I don’t want to hear it. You are to be wedded in a few months and we have your trousseau to finish preparing and ensure you are ready to take care of a house.”
She sighed; she had only met the Duke once. He seemed to be a kind man although somewhat intimidating with the scar marking his face. He was said to think in much the same way her mother did when it came to a woman’s duties. Running the household and carrying children while he was away hunting or warring for the king. But what was so wrong about wanting to work metal? She loved the smell of the hot iron, enjoyed the tension in her arms when she used the hammers or the tongs, revelled in the sensation of the steel bending to her will taking the shape she wanted. And nothing equalled the elation and sense of accomplishment she felt when the sword or dagger finally finished met the smith’s approval. For sure in the past months both Geoffrey and his apprentices had been wary and careful; and just a few days ago her mother had forbidden her to go there. She didn’t want them to be in trouble but she couldn’t stay away, not for long. At least she had succeeded in creating one more object before her dream was taken away. She would never belong to the guild they had said. Even if her mother allowed her to continue her training she was a woman and they weren’t allowed to work the metal. Only because she was the King’s ward had they indulged her. But if she were to be anything it was a pawn in a game of thrones; her father wasn’t satisfied with his small holdings. He rebelled against his newly anointed king thinking the rashness of youth weak. Instead he lost the war and forfeited his life as well as that of her two older brothers’. And his women’s freedom if there ever was such a thing. Both she and her mother were brought into the King’s household. Their lives changed for the better and they should be content and consider themselves lucky. Her mother did. But her father allowed her to learn the craft; he hadn’t always been kind but he wanted her to be strong. Now she must be ladylike and a marriage was arranged… at least one last thing before she went back to her studies of the ladies’ crafts. She was adequate at most, good at some; she excelled at others but she never enjoyed any quite as much as bending iron to her will.
The vows had been spoken in the early evening and they were now in the room granted to them. He gazed at her with something akin to kindness; it softened his look. It didn’t change the fact that he was ten years older than her. He was the king’s man and an intimidating presence. And he was her husband: there would be no forge for her only the duties of motherhood. In fact it might even start this night: she knew what should happen next and maybe there wasn’t anything she could do to change her fate. She was scared. Still…
“I have a present my Lord.”
“You do?” He favoured her with a smile; he was indulging her, his new bride, his prize. She was just a woman to carry children and heirs that would stand to marry the king’s children when he had them. But for tonight he could let her try and seduce him. There’d be no seduction afterwards. She nodded. “Fine.”
She gathered the object from where it lay; Geoffrey’s youngest apprentice was kind to leave it in the room for her or rather convince his lover – one of the maids – to bring it here while she prepared the bedroom. She presented the object wrapped in a cloth of green and sable – the colour of his coat of arms – to him, hands extended. He smiled.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“I cannot guess what you think my Lord.”
“A dagger truly?” He answered even as he removed the layer of protection and uncovered the weapon; she had spent days trying to find the perfect shape, the appropriate adornment. Geoffrey kindly helped her when after several tries she almost gave up. But she was proud of it. Looking at it now was bittersweet; the last she’d ever make. “That is an odd wedding present. You are a peculiar bride Emeline. I might have expected a quilt.”
“Oh I also embroidered the cloth,” she whispered. “But I am not particularly skilled.”
“Also? Do you mean to say you forged the blade?” She couldn’t say whether he was surprised or angry.
“I did.” She lowered her head. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” He replied forcing her to look up into his eyes with a finger under her chin. “It’s unexpected. I had heard you had some talents; I thought they would encompass music and embroidery. But I can appreciate the craft here. It is beautifully made.”
“I am glad you like it.”
“Maybe you will like it more in our estates than here. It is not as stifling and everyone needs to work where there is need. You may like our forges.”
“Forges?” She felt her heart leap.
“I… we live at the margins of the kingdom. It requires weapons and they demand attention and care. What use is a rusted weapon to a knight?”
“You would allow it?”
“As long as you fulfill other duties why would I forbid it?”
“Thank you.” It might not be so difficult after all. And there would be heat, pain, love and satisfaction. Maybe even in her marriage.