Number nine in the series of Flash Fiction challenges.
I is for Iron
Iron comes up a lot in mythology, especially in the British Isles. Blacksmiths turn up time and again in legends, often saving the day with some arcane piece of knowledge or ability. It shouldn’t be surprising — without a blacksmith, you have no horseshoes, no weapons, no ploughs, no tools… so they’re vital to a community’s existence. Add to that the knowledge of how to shape and form solid metal, mould it to your will, and in a time before the understanding of metallurgy, a forge with its hellish fire and constant noise was the most magical thing most people would ever encounter. So iron became intertwined with the magical world, and was often portrayed as our only weapon in a battle against the fae.
I is for Iron
The shackles burned like ice.
Water dripped, frigid and stale, down his spine. He writhed again, arching his back from the mouldy stone walls for a moment’s respite before his muscles failed.
Everything was agony. Wrists, where the manacles pinched and scorched his skin with iron. Arms threatened to pull out of his shoulders, even though his body was barely a shadow of its former self. Stomach growled in fruitless hope. When had he eaten last? Time was nothing here, but he knew it had been years. Eyes throbbed with the attempt to pierce the pitch blackness, ears strained to hear something, anything.
He had given up wishing for freedom, for a visitor, for death. For the first dozen years, he entertained a hope that he might have a trial, argue his case. Then he wished for execution. Now he wondered if anyone survived in the castle above him.
Even the rats had died, cannibalising themselves into extinction. Their corpses had stunk for a while until nothing remained to decay. Now the dungeons smelled of nothing.
Nothing but the iron.
But even that scent changed, he noticed. No longer as needle-like, not as shiny and piercing as it had been. Now it was duller, redder. Older. He scoured his memory for the word, dredged it up from a life almost forgotten.
He grit the stumps of his teeth, hauled his feathery weight up with one matchstick arm, and shook the other. A faint rattle, and a gentle powdery hiss as dust reached the flagstones beneath. He smiled to himself in the darkness. Even iron crumbled in time.
He just needed to wait a little longer.
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