Ripped from the pages of an age-yellowed penny blood, the page stained and smeared, the cover lost and the author dead to time, yet from these half-writ fragments forms a story in the mind…
Peter watched the whetstone spin. The candle on the shelf had burned low; it was early in the morning. He eased off the pedal and watched the whetstone slow.
Peter had learned the trade from his father and, in the decades since, had sharpened many blades—but none such as this. It was a mighty cleaver, of a size you might expect to find in the kitchen of a giant. Peter did not believe in giants, of course, for Peter was no fool.
Now, in the flickering candlelight, Peter studied the edge of the blade. He knew the most important part of his job was to ensure the tools he shaped were “fit for purpose”; he only wished that he didn’t know what purpose this blade was meant to serve.
The Customer had told him, without hesitation, that the blade must be sharp enough to sever a human head. Furthermore, it must leave no doubt to the fact that the blade cut all the way through on the first try, for if it did not, he would not get a second chance.
A weapon then; a tool for murder.
A younger Peter perhaps, would have felt some pride at the idea. Such was the romantic lure of the blacksmith’s hammer, beating swords to fine points. But the military used guns now and those were manufactured downriver. The soldiers who did carry blades did so only for ceremonial reasons and thus their sharpness could not be considered essential.
Peter’s mind spun like the whetstone and he wondered what he was going to do when the Customer returned. By sharpening it so had he become an accessory to murder? No, for surely it could not be considered murder if the victim was already dead…
On the previous night, as Peter was sweeping the floor of his workshop, Father McCafferty had arrived and along with him—the Customer.
“Listen to him, Peter,” Father McCafferty had said. “And do not rush to judgement.”
The Customer had bustled in and set aside two heavy travelling bags, but left on his long brown coat and wide-brimmed hat. Peter offered the men tea, which they refused and then the Customer began to speak:
“Had I not been passing your faire village, I might not have known,” the Customer began. “Yet I bore witness to a crying woman who claims her son was taken from her and was pleading for the help of whomsoever happened to be passing by.”
“Miss Sally,” said Peter, unimpressed by the Customer’s story. Everyone knew that her son Sammael had gone missing a week ago and that Miss Sally had gone mad with grief. Peter did not know the woman well (Miss Sally Norton had little need of a blacksmith), but felt bad for her nonetheless. It was sad, yet not entirely unheard of, for people to vanish into the misty moors surrounding Easthill.
And now: the Customer had appeared like some ghoul to prey on the woman’s sadness, insisting that the boy had been taken. He spoke in rushed, disjointed sentences, telling Peter about a strange malady that persisted even unto death. A sort of demonic possession, the Customer had attested, that dwelt in the bodies of the dead and thirsted for the blood of the living. He spoke, of course, about vampyres.
“Do you do this often?” Peter had asked the Customer.
The Customer’s eyes glinted. “Indeed,” he said. “I am a vampyre hunter—it is my true calling, the responsibility passed unto me from my father.”
Peter scoffed, but the Customer ignored him. Instead he reached into one of his travelling bags and took out the cleaver. “Can you sharpen this?” he asked and then proceeded to tell Peter exactly how sharp the blade needed to be.
“I fear Miss Sally’s son has been taken in thrall by a vampyre residing in the Chargraven,” he explained. “I have already visited the graveyard and witnessed the evidence, but if my suspicions are correct I will require aid…”
“Of course, we will help,” said Father McCafferty, answering on Peter’s behalf. The blacksmith thought it clear the Customer was mad, but was willing to defer to the priest for now, at least.
“A holy man is most useful indeed,” said the Customer and then crossed the room to grip Peter by one thickly muscled arm. “Your arms Peter. A strong man like you would also be of great assistance.”
Which was how Peter had agreed to not only sharpen the Customer’s blade but also help him slay a creature of darkness. But now: as the barest sliver of daylight turned the horizon to a thin straight line, Peter realised how foolish he had been to agree. And Peter was no fool, for he believed in vampyres even less than he did in giants.
Giants, at least, he had seen the footprints of, preserved in peat.
The story continues here.