The Mage-Smith Makes a Collar: Preparation

by Rachel Friedman
read the suite from the beginning


Paul was beginning to think that he had severely undercharged his newest client for the collar. Getting prime-quality steel might have been one of his more minor concerns, but he hadn’t anticipated it being an issue. Unfortunately, the mage-smith several counties over had been hired to build a steel cage for one of those rare fire-breathing swamp beasts, which meant that he needed all of the prime iron that he could get. Naturally, this had made a limited and expense resource even more so.

It was difficult to make a collar. Metal was malleable in a way, but it would only bend it so far. If you wanted to produce something that was uncanny or abnormally strong, you had to use all of your skills in magic to persuade it, and magic and metal did not naturally mix. Sometimes sacrifices were involved, and the problem with a sacrifice is that no one wants to pay for them.

Given the especial difficulty with collars, it was not particularly surprising for Paul’s wife to arrive at the forge to find him passed out from lack of blood.

“I wish that there was something else that you could feed into the meal,” she said after about a week of this. “This isn’t good for you, and I’m running out of bandages.”

Paul watched as her skilled fingers bound up his latest wound. Those who married mage-smiths usually had a feel for the work, if not the talent, and Meg was no exception. She would no more attempt to stop him than he would to retire, but she could still be unhappy about certain aspects of the situation.

“Don’t worry about it,” he told to her. “I’m almost done. And of all things to sacrifice, a mage-smith’s blood is the one that I can most afford to lose.”

She didn’t ask him what he meant. After all, there were sacrifices of every type. Some mage-smiths had even become mental and used people in their work. Their artifacts came out powerful and dark, and no one wanted to use them unless they too were insane.

“Just be careful,” she said.

Paul gripped her hand with his bloody one. “I will.”

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