They call him the Smith.
Some say he’s been around forever, just wandering the lands and doing as he pleases. Others claim he’s a dozen different men with a dozen different faces. Don’t rightly know about that, but there’s one story I’ve heard that had a ring of truth to it. Maybe it’ll give you an idea of what the man’s about.
Growing up, the Smith didn't get on with people. He was quiet, watchful, always paying attention just a little too well or not quite well enough. But people put up with him, because he had a good eye when it came to fixin’ things.
Cart threw an axle? He could fix that. Fence needed mending? He could fix that too. Sure, he always looked a little bored; maybe like it wasn't all that challengin’ for him, but most just wrote it off. Like I said, he had a good eye for finding problems and fixin' 'em.
Then there was a hard year, and old Tom down the road went bandit and killed a few people, and the Smith, well… he fixed that too. Some folk saw him right after and, sure enough, he still looked a little bored.
Now, I mentioned how people didn't get on with him before. I reckon you can conjure up how they felt about him after that. So one day, calm as you please, the Smith packed up a few things, walked out his door and down the road to the edge of town, and he just kept on walking. Some say he’s been walking ever since, an I don’t know that it’s a lie.
Now, the way the story goes, the Smith wandered far and wide. He fixed things where he found ‘em broken, earning his keep in the world doing jobs where jobs needed doing. He learned the value of a good day’s work and saw many wondrous things. Luckily, he was just a young man without much more than his own two hands and the wits the gods gave him, and there wasn't all that much trouble he could get into.
Well, that changed on a gloomy day when he met up with an alchemist who was down on his luck. The poor fella had a donkey with a bum leg, a wagon with a cracked wheel, and a canvas cover that was ripped right down the center. On top of all that, it looked like it was about to rain.
“Help!” the alchemist cried when he saw the Smith passing on the old road. “My luck is down and my donkey’s lame! My cart is bad and it’s going to rain! Many gifts I could bestow on a sharp man with a clever soul!”
Now The Smith had been wandering the world for some time. He’d seen the marvels of fire and light they’d cooked up out in the East, and he recognized the mark of a trained alchemist on the side of that cart clear as the nose on his very own face.
“I can fix your cart and get your mule moving. I can mend that canvas up so as you’d never know it was torn to begin with. I can fix things for you, but in return I’ll have you teach me the secrets of fire that only an alchemist knows.”
The alchemist gave a start at this, as it wasn't the kind of thing that he expected a young man on an old road to know of. But there was something about the Smith, about the way the miles rested on his shoulders, that maybe it wasn't so surprising after all. Then again, he was just a young man, and the alchemist saw an opportunity in that. With a sly smile on his face, he agreed to the Smith's terms.
True to his word, the Smith bound up the cracked wheel and corrected the cart’s alignment so it rolled smooth and easy as you please. He found some berries to dull the donkey’s pain, and even fixed the beast’s shoes while he was at it. He got the tent mended quick and clean, and even added in a little weatherproofing to keep off the elements. The alchemist saw him work and just stared in awe; he’d never seen a man quite as apt at fixing things as the Smith.
When he was done, the Smith dusted off his hands and turned to the alchemist. “ I've fixed your cart, your donkey, and your canvas. Now you owe me the secrets of fire, and no trickery.”
“You've done most everything I've asked,” the alchemist said slowly. “Completed nearly every task. But I don’t think I should explain…” He grinned, a mischievous look in his eyes as a large drop of water fell from the sky, landing right between them. “Despite all that, it’s going to rain.”
At this, the Smith scowled. He knew a problem when he saw it, and he saw that the alchemist had never planned to make good on the bargain. A second drop of rain fell, and the Smith looked up at the sky, scowl deepening. And sure as the hair on my chin, the rain stopped right there and the clouds cleared themselves right up.
Now the alchemist saw this and he was sore afraid. Trying to short change a wandering vagabond, that was one thing… but trying to cheat a man who could stop the rain with a glance? Well, you don’t become an alchemist without a healthy dose of superstition, and despite his turn of bad luck, he was a very good alchemist.
“Wait, wait, wait, I just misspoke! I’m sorry sir, it was a joke!" He rifled through a stash of documents behind his seat, hands shaking. "I have it here, right on this scroll!”
The Smith took the roll of paper, inspecting the careful notations before nodding to himself. He looked up and gave the alchemist a very hard look. And in that moment, the alchemist saw something in the eyes of the Smith, something of a man almost resigned to fix things when they were broken, even though it brought him no joy. Something of a man who had fixed old Tom down the road when he went bad. Something of a man so practical it was terrifying. And the alchemist knew, this was simple not a man you tried to short change.
“A-and for your time, another toll!”
Now, as I said, this alchemist was a very good alchemist. He’d collected a regular treasure trove of rare and exotic loot from the four corners of the world, and when he saw that look in the Smith’s eyes he dove for the heavy chest in the back of his cart. From it, the alchemist drew an artifact the likes of which has rarely been seen on this world.
“I noticed you have many tricks and thought perhaps that you could fix this thing I’ve had stashed in my trunk. To tell the truth, I think it's junk.”
The Smith had traveled near everywhere. He’d seen many things that needed fixing, and he’d known what to do with most of them. But this… this was something different. With trembling hands, The Smith took the battered, beaten object, little more than a tube rigged with a few gears and levers. Cracks ran along its surface, the brass finish was scratched and scuffed, and the trigger was loose. Even still, it glinted in the afternoon light.
“What do you call it?”
The alchemist considered the question for a moment and shrugged. “I've only ever seen that one, but I think that it was called a gun.”
At this, the Smith smiled and, possibly for the first time in his life, he didn't look bored. No, not one bit.