After five years in the business, Arlo still couldn’t get used to the incessant banging sound that came with being the only blacksmith west of Harmony River.
He never meant to take over the family business, but after his family died of sickness, he felt he had to keep it going for them. Never dreaming of staying in their small village, Arlo did most things on his own, much to the chagrin of his father.
A loud creaking sound brought Arlo out of this daydream, as he turned towards the one responsible.
“How can I help you” Arlo looked at him quizzically, he had never seen him before. All of the other blacksmiths were on the other side of Harmony River, closer to the King’s Village, so any new face raised questions.
“I guess I’m in need of a sword, preferably one already made, for I’m not in town very long” he replied smoothly making eye contact with Arlo.
Arlo was confused but nonetheless needed the business. “I’m finishing one up right now, will you be in town for another five minutes?” Arlo jokes, trying to read the mysterious man's demeanor.
“Aye, I guess so,'' the man reached into his pocket to present a bag containing enough money for three custom made swords. “I hope this will cover it.”
“That’s way more than necessary, I really couldn’t accept that” Arlo pleaded as he laid down the sword to cool.
“It’s no bother really, consider it a thank you for your quick service.” After a few minutes, the man approached Arlo to pick up the sword. ”Now I meant to ask, you mark your swords with a personal symbol, do you not?”
Arlo panicked that he did not warn the man earlier, “I’m afraid I do, did you want one unmarked? It’s more a bit of fun for me really”
“No no, what you have is perfect, I’m sorry for the rush but I really should be going.” The man took off towards the door.
Arlo stood there confused as to what had just happened. He finished up around his shop before calling it a night and returning to his monotonous life the next day.
It wasn’t until a week later that Arlo remembered the strange interaction he had with the man. He was walking towards the village square one morning to read the week’s postings when the town’s bookkeeper was gathered around by a large group of people. Arlo approached the group unsure of what was happening.
“What are you going on about?” Arlo asked the group.
“Have you not heard, King Adgar was murdered, stabbed to death in his own chambers!” the bookkeeper replied.
Arlo looked around at the other villagers, trying to see if what the bookkeeper said was true. Everyone in the village resented the King and his village for not doing more to help out those west of the river.
Once back inside his shop, Arlo paced around and thought to himself, if the man he had met last week was responsible. Surely Arlo could explain the situation to the King's Knights.
Arlo was hammering an ax, when a familiar creaking sound came from his door. He turned around to see two of the King's Knights.
“Are you the blacksmith here?” One knight asked while the other man walked around.
“Aye, how can I help you?” Arlo said nervously.
The man walking raised one of Arlo’s swords’ handles up towards him before asking, “is this your mark?”
Nodding in agreement Arlo’s gaze followed the man’s other hand as he reached for his own sword, and raised it up even with Arlo’s. “Then you can agree that this sword is also yours, yes?”
Arlo immediately tried to reason with the men, telling them everything he knew, and that he wasn't to blame.
The other man walked over to the counter to see a large sum of money behind a stack of paper. “So you’re telling us, this,’ mysterious man’ didn’t pay you all this extra silver to keep quiet?”
The men looked at each other before approaching Arlo and grabbing him. “How much do you want to bet, he helped this man and saw an opportunity to get rich?” The knight asked his friend while escorting Arlo out.
“If it wasn’t clear, you’re being arrested.” one of the knights stated as he pushed Arlo towards their horses.
“Say what is going on?” One of the villagers spoke up from the now growing crowd of people.
“Your blacksmith is being charged with aiding the murder of King Adger. Stop by the King’s Village in a few days to witness his execution,” laughed the knight as they sat Arlo on the horse and took off.
The last thing he heard were gasps and sobs as they soon became faint noises, almost indistinguishable from the sounds of the horses connecting with the ground.
The ride to the King’s Village took two days, and one night Arlo awoke to hear the men talking. Pretending to be asleep he listened.
“Does that mean the King's bastard son will take over now?” one of the men asked, poking at the fire they had built.
“I suppose, although he never seemed interested in continuing his father’s legacy. What a shame to that family.”
“I can’t believe some nobody from west of the river could have done this. They should be grateful we even consider them a part of the kingdom.”
“That village should have been burned down years ago. Truly a disgrace.” The man spit.
The next morning, the ride into town was filled with cursing as the King’s villagers threw anything they could get their hands on, at Arlo.
In the holding cell, Arlo had a sudden moment of breathtaking clarity, and realized there was no way to avoid his fate, and that he would die tomorrow.
The morning of, Arlo was escorted into the halls by two knights wearing helmets. An uneasy silence came over him as he was walking down the dimmed hallway of the building. One of the guards turned back to him and raised his sword, perhaps sparing him the horror of the gallows, before turning it and striking the man next to him, falling unconscious.
Arlo looked up at the man, gasping for an explanation for what had just unfolded.
The man grabbed his arm and pulled him into a secluded hallway, removing his mask looking to Arlo, “to be quite honest I never thought we would meet again.”
The mysterious man, from days before was now moving towards the back of the building. Lost for words, Arlo followed him, careful to be quiet.
Once in the woods, “why?” was all Arlo could ask, hands still bound by rope.
“I was going to frame you for the murder and be done with it, but I actually felt bad,” he replied, undoing Arlo’s ties.
“So you really did murder the King, why? I thought he treated everyone in the King’s Village like royalty,” Arlo muttered.
“That was exactly the problem,” he replied, pushing further into the woods.
“But why do you care? And where are we going” Arlo finally asked.
“I promise I will explain everything soon, but for right now, I’m taking you to a hideout, for as long as it takes to make things right.”
Arlo followed the man silently before asking, “Say, what is your name anyway? I’d hate to refer to you as the man who almost got me hanged.”
Pleased with his jocular manner, the man responded, “the name’s Fionn.”
They kept walking for what felt like ages, growing closer, even though Arlo felt there was something Fionn wasn’t telling him.
Arlo could hear the sounds of voices before they came upon a clearing in the middle of nowhere.
A woman saw them and yelled out to the group, “the King has returned!”
Startled, Arlo looked behind him expecting to see the allegedly dead King Adgar, before gazing to Fionn, who was instead embracing the woman who had called out just moments before.
It was then that all of his questions were answered. He found himself standing next to not Fionn the mysterious man, but next to the new King and bastard son of King Adgar, the one responsible for his murder.
It was a surprise to all the villagers when Fionn, took the throne a few days later. After pardoning Arlo for his accusations of treachery, and appointing him as his first in command, King Fionn made a decree that the village west of Harmony River would be receiving supplies, and aid from the King’s Village from now on. Arlo took his place not amongst royalty, but among his friend, watching over the land and making it a better place for all.