Lee Pelham Cotton
Hear the metal sweetly ringing, high up on the mountain’s
Aye, this Tuyere was a smith who dwelt in a snug little cottage high upon a rocky crag. He wrought fine tools for the folk in the valley below and, in return, they tended to his needs. But all was not entirely peaceful between the mountaintop and the valley, as will be seen.
Old Tuyere did labor day and night; his toil was all his joy.
It perchanced that Bride, the Queen of Smiths, cast her eyes down from the heavens and espied with pleasure the fine and nimble work of Tuyere. She resolved that such skill should not go unrewarded. But, first, Bride determined to test this mortal's mettle. Early one morning, she descended upon a cushion of rosy clouds to the mountaintop.
The goddess Bride is fair and wise; she's called the triple blest.
The lovely young woman turned up her plump pink palms in entreaty, beseeching, "A little water, I pray thee, smith. My mouth’s parched and my road’s a long one."
Without a moment's loss, Tuyere the smith hastened to fetch a dipperful of cool, clear water from his well. The maiden drank silently. As silently, she favored him with a sweet smile. Then, wrapping her white woolen cloak about her, she walked over the crest of the mountain to disappear in a flash of sunlight.
Now Bride, she was well pleased with Tuyere; he'd given aid
Tuyere helped the weary woman settle herself on a bench. She smiled at him and said, "The babe I carry makes me thirst always for fresh, rich milk. If thou hast a swallow to spare, I’d not refuse it."
The blacksmith hastened to skim the cream from a pan of milk to offer his guest.
The mother sat wrapped in her red cloak. She sipped the rich drink, watching the blacksmith labor upon the forge. Tuyere, as was his wont, lost himself in his work. When next he looked her way again, the woman had vanished.
Thus was the goddess gratified; the blacksmith proved his worth;
The stars shone down on the little cottage as the blacksmith answered the knock at his door. Outside in the shadows, a frightful crone leered up at Tuyere. He made her a place by the fire to warm herself.
The old woman cackled and pinched his cheek. "A cup of wine, fellow," she demanded, "and mind it's your best!"
The blacksmith, without hesitation, brought forth a skin of deep red wine which he saved for celebrating the completion of an especially difficult piece of work.
Tuyere poured and the crone gulped wine with gusto. She drained the cup and held it out. He refilled it, not once but twice.
The old woman, made merry by the wine, rose on her toes and began spinning in a private and abandoned dance before the fire.
The hag did jig and bounce and whirl around the little shop.
The crone’s dark cloak swirled out around her, a crow’s wings flapping in the night sky. Suddenly, its edge caught fire from the forge. Tuyere leaped forward to snuff it out, but the old woman had burst into flame as if she were an image of pitch.
As the blacksmith stood by, helpless and cringing from the heat, the blaze slowly died down and the charred form, still upright, began to shine with a golden light, like the sun through a jar of honey. Tuyere hid his eyes, so bright was the glare.
Soon enough, however, the light was but a glow and the smith could bear to look upon the figure standing before him. Tuyere dropped to his knees, for he beheld none other than Bride, the Queen of Smiths, the mistress of healing, she who brings poetry to the lips of bards.
And then Bride's triple mouths did ope; from them these
words did fall,
Tuyere the smith could have wished all manner of things. But he said to the Bright One, "Lady, my work’s all to me, but it’s often interrupted. I ask that when any folk pluck the blooms from my rosebush, the canes might snarl and tangle the wicked ones, holding fast until I exact their promise to leave me in peace."
The goddess Bride, she went outside; the thorny canes did brush.
Bride smiled upon the smith and said, "Thou’st yet two wishes to spend, Tuyere. Tell me what thine heart doth desire."
The blacksmith replied, "Lady, within my stable resides a fine little horse named Ferrus. He carries me up and down the mountaintop when I’m pondering my next task. His life would be easy if ‘twere only I who rode him. But youths of the village often steal into my stable at night and gallop Ferrus cruelly. My second wish is that whoever rides my good little horse without my leave must go on a wild gallop that won’t end until I give the word."
To the stable Bride did go and fondled Ferrus' nose.
Tuyere grinned, well content with his two wishes. The Patroness of Smiths, however, urged him to beg one last boon.
The smith led the way into his workshop and showed the goddess his stout and ancient anvil, on which he worked metal into shapes both fine and strong. He hefted a hammer and let it ring upon the anvil, then told Bride, "Plucking my roses and riding my horse is wicked enough, Bright One. But some jesters call it fun to creep into my workshop while I sleep and beat upon my anvil to wake me. My sleep’s disturbed and my fair dreams of future undertakings are all disrupted."
The goddess nodded her three heads, serene and waiting. "Here’s what I wish for," the smith said. "Anyone other than Tuyere who beats upon this anvil will end up with a sore arm, for I wish that the wicked one must pound and pound and pound until I release him."
Tuyere did watch while Bride did lightly smooth the anvil's shape.
She whispered to it, "Blacksmith's friend, this spell on thee I drape: The next who hammers without leave Must to the task not ever cleave Until good Tuyere does him relieve."
The blacksmith, in his gratitude, knelt at the feet of the triple goddess. When he raised his eyes, the bright and golden vision had vanished.
Early next morning, Tuyere was already at his forge when he heard a shrill, squeaky voice call his name. At his feet stood a small green person, sprouting wings the color of the rainbow.
Tuyere recognized his visitor as one of the Good People, the Faerie Folk who resided in the dense forest on the far side of the mountaintop. Tuyere greeted the Kindly One courteously, asking, "Good sprite, what brings you to call upon a humble mortal blacksmith? Your people are known for their fine metalworking; surely you can need nothing from me."
The Faerie, which stood no higher than Tuyere’s knees, waved its shimmering wings and sang in delicate, whispering tones,
"Mortal man, thy fame's spread far, e’en unto our land,
To the Kindly One's consternation, the blacksmith refused. "I'm content where I am," quoth he, "and I’m under the protection of the Queen of Smiths, so you’d best not meddle with me. I’m fixed in my ways, and here I shall stay."
The Faerie spread its bright wings and buzzed about the blacksmith's head, threatening shrilly, "Thou must needs obey. I’ve all the power of the King behind me. I can blight thine anvil so ‘twill bring forth naught but clinkers."
The blacksmith hung his head, for he knew all too well the power of a Faerie curse. He told the sprite, "I can see I’ve no choice. I’ll come. Just let me pack a few tools."
The messenger readily agreed, and waited outside the door while Tuyere rattled around in his workshop. Presently, the blacksmith called, "Does the Queen of the Faeries like flowers?"
The Kindly One replied, "Certainly she does!"
"Well, then," suggested Tuyere, "why not pluck her some of those sweet-scented roses beside my door?"
The blacksmith heard a mighty squeal and peered outside to look.
Tuyere and peered down at the Faerie, caught fast and still in the cage of rose canes.
"Do you want out?" asked the smith.
"Yes, yes," panted the herald, "Please set me free."
"I shall," replied Tuyere, "if you promise to depart in peace and never to return."
The Kindly One agreed with alacrity and Tuyere forthwith released it.
The Faerie herald winged back home, bruised and torn and sore.
The outraged King demanded, "Does this foolish blacksmith not know the honor on him we do bestow?" It clapped its hands together and ordered, "Fetch out our champion!"
The ranks of the Faerie court moved aside to form an aisle for the tall, glittering figure which strode to the King's dais.
The King said, "There is a certain stubborn mortal blacksmith whom I wish to bring to court to work for me. Hasten thou then to his holding and bend him to my will; subdue him as thou wouldst subdue any of thine opponents."
The warrior knight unsheathed its sword and let the keen blade whistle so that all might hear. "My king," the Champion rumbled, "your command will be obeyed."
Tuyere heard a beating on his door; he ceased his work and stared.
The Champion of the Faerie King growled, "Enough of thy nonsense, mortal man. My king’s taken a fancy to thee. Pack up thy sorry possessions and make haste, for my king's commands will not be defied."
But to the Kindly One's consternation, the blacksmith refused. "I'm content where I am," quoth he, "and I’m under the protection of the Queen of Smiths, so you’d best not meddle with me."
But the Faerie warrior was not content with this reply. It ducked under the doorway and clanked to the smith, who barely came up to its belt. It hunched over him and threatened in the softest and most frightful voice, "Then if thou’lt not go with me, I’ll leave thee in such a pitiable state that thou’lt never lift thine hammer or work thy bellows more."
The blacksmith knew this was no idle boasting. He told the Faerie messenger, "I’ll come. Just let me pack up a few of my tools."
The messenger agreed, and waited outside the door.
Presently, Tuyere heard bellowing laughter echoing off the great gray boulders that dotted his clearing. He came outside and saw the champion in the doorway of the stable, pointing and laughing. "What's the jest?" asked Tuyere, although he could guess what had sparked the warrior's amusement.
Ferrus was an ancient horse; he had no pedigree
Tuyere pushed past the Faerie knight and into the stable, where he began to stroke the neck of his old gray steed. The blacksmith whispered over-loudly to Ferrus, "Ah, proud one, do not take offense. Little does this ignorant knight suspect that thou’rt the equal of any war-horse, mortal or Faerie, and would be the pride of any king's stables. I'll wager this fellow would be hard put to mount thee, let alone put thee through thy paces."
"Stand aside," ordered the Champion of the Faeries.
Tuyere complied, murmuring, "Gladly."
Tuyere pressed himself against the wall, protection for to seek;
Tuyere waved farewell as Ferrus and his unwilling burden cantered through the stable door, with a wind that ruffled the blacksmith's hair. "Quite a creature, isn't he?" called Tuyere after the Faerie Champion, as Ferrus galloped spryly down the mountain top, nimbly avoiding craggy outcroppings by leaping them or by balking suddenly and lurching around them.
A few hours later, when he was eating his mid-day meal on his stoop, Tuyere heard the clatter of hooves coming nearer and nearer. He heard the voice of the Faerie Champion, raised in a pitiful howl, "Make him stop, friend smith. Make him stop and I swear never to discount a mortal beast again!"
Tuyere shook his head. "Not good enough, sir knight. Give me your oath that you’ll depart in peace and never return."
Tuyere heard the knight's reply, echoing amongst the rocks, "I swear, I swear!"
The blacksmith called out, "Ferrus, enough of thy dashing about in the heat of the day. Becalm thyself and come get a measure of oats for the good beast that thou’rt."
The old gray horse stopped suddenly and the Faerie knight was pitched over his head. The Champion sailed through the air and, before he hit the ground at Tuyere's feet, vanished.
Once more a Faerie messenger returned unto its band;
Tuyere was grooming his good gray horse when he heard a crash and then another. "What now?" he asked his mount and hastened to the house, where he found a hulking, muscular Faerie roaming the room, taking tools from their places and flinging them, willy-nilly, into a coarse canvas sack.
"Here," cried Tuyere, "This won't do! Return my tools, you pointed-eared thief!"
But the Kindly One continued its work, telling Tuyere, "Little man, I’m doing thy packing for thee. My king’s had enough of thy tricks and delays."
But to the Kindly One's consternation, the blacksmith refused. "I'm content where I am," quoth he.
The Faerie shook its head in bewilderment. "Foolish fellow, why stay in this lonely, lowly place? The metal in our kingdom is finer, our fires are hotter and our tools are more cunning than thine. Why linger here?"
"Faugh! Better tools than mine you Faeries never could possess," Tuyere the mortal smith contested. "This anvil, for instance. Search the whole world over and you couldn’t find its equal. Why, when I strike it, ‘tis as if Bride herself sang a lovesong to the iron." He held out a hammer, saying provokingly, "But you likely could not make it sing so."
He stepped back as the Faerie smith seized the hammer, strode to the anvil and flexed up its massy arm to give a mighty blow.
Ping and Ping and Ping and Ping the hammer sang its song
The Faerie smith was both strong and stubborn. It assured Tuyere, "Wait and see, little man. My good right arm’s stronger than any spell of thine."
The mortal smith shrugged his shoulders. "Very well, I can wait. But I’ll leave you to your work; Ferrus and I shall ride forth and watch the sun set."
The stars were winking in the sky when Tuyere returned to his little cottage. The ringing of metal on metal filled the air, but even louder were the woeful, exhausted cries of the Faerie smith.
"Let me go, mortal man," it pleaded, "Let me go. I’ll gift thee with gold and silver and metals such as thou’st never worked before."
Tuyere gave his reply, "Not sufficient, brother smith. Swear me your oath that you’ll depart in peace and never return."
Tuyere heard the Faerie smith's exhausted reply, "I swear, I swear!"
The Faerie King had stayed up late to welcome smithy Tuyere;
And thus it came to pass that the blacksmith Tuyere worked happy and unhindered for many long years. Somehow the tale of his testing and trials had spread to the village below and it served as a caution to the youth of that place. One should not trifle with a man who is protected by the Queen of Smiths and who has confounded the Kindly Ones.
When there was a thunderstorm, mothers would tell their children, "See the flashing in the sky? Those are sparks flying from Tuyere's anvil! Hear the thunder rumbling and crashing overhead? That’s the pounding he makes, beating at the metal!"
Lee Pelham Cotton, in addition to writing and publishing her own articles, stories, poetry and book reviews, is the agent for several of her characters in a multi-volume historical fantasy entitled ShadowDance. She and her faithful readers, who receive a chapter every month or so, refer to it as "the neverending novel." At present, the first 55-chapter volume is done and she is well along with the second volume. There’s no end in sight….
Agent for her characters? Well, the people in ShadowDance spend a great deal of time telling stories, performing rituals, singing songs and doing dances. Although ShadowDance is a work in progress, Lee decided to offer these selections by the characters to publishers. So far, Sophia, Julian and Beanpole have all had work accepted.
The selection above is a tale told by Beanpole, who has shamanic skills that enable him to contact the dead. He tells this story to a Celtic queen and her host of warriors below in a barrow.
The tale is based on an Appalachian story; the form is derived from "Aucassin et Nicholette," a verse-prose romance Lee studied in Arthurian literature class.
Published by permission of the author.