The Sting of Chance

Posted: July 26, 2013 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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Almsah lifted the arrowhead off the sharpening wheel. He kept pushing wheel’s pedal, in case he wasn’t done yet. The glow within the wheel receded. So did the heat that rose off it. Almsah checked the edge in the light of the coal fire nearby. The rough, blue-green stone was already sharp enough to pierce any armor he’d ever made.

The masked one leaned forward. “Is it done?”

There were bumps in the edge. Almsah’s forehead creased. The corners of his mouth turned down. “No.”

Quickly, he lowered the arrowhead close to the wheel and pumped up the speed. Toward Almsah, the wheel pushed cool air up into his face as it rose. Away from him, the coldstones of the smithy wall barely kept up absorbing the heat coming off the wheel.

The creature sat back. He grumbled. Almsah lowered the arrowhead toward the wheel. “You know what happens if I finish too soon,” Almsah said.

“Another broken stone,” the warrior said. A bucket of them – three days of work – sat next to him.

When the stone was about a finger’s thickness away from the wheel, the air hissed. Fire sizzled between the edge of the arrowhead and the wheel. Almsah breathed. He lifted the arrowhead away and turned it over. He worked the other side. The stone softened; its crystals stretched. As he lifted the stone away, they reformed to an edge thinner than any steel.

Almsah checked the stone again. Nothing. Completely flat, smooth as paper. “Almost finished.”

The creature jumped up. It leaned next to Almsah, looking at the blade. Almsah glanced at the creature’s forearm, where its purple, pruny skin stuck out between its sleeve and its gloved hand. “I’ve never seen such fine work. You are truly a master, Almsah.”

“Don’t thank me until you’ve slain the dragon.”

“All things come with risk. You’ve given me a chance.”

“Speaking of chance… give me that bucket,” Almsah said. He pointed to one with a lid. The creature’s eyes glowed in reflected light from the coal fire, or so it appeared. The creature opened it. At first it looked like there was nothing inside but vapor. When Almsah lowered the arrowhead into it, the contents churned like boiling water.

“That’ll wake the magic up!” Almsah said.

“What is that?” the creature asked, leaping back. Its voice hissed on the ‘is.’ It always hissed when it got nervous.

“Essence of chance.” Almsah lifted up the arrowhead and blew on both sides. “Dragons are creatures of air, and fire. This is a sea stone.”


“We used fire to sharpen its edge. That’s all I know. If the stone and the dragon are kin, the stone might not wish to cut its brother.” Almsah held up the arrowhead. He saw it in silhouette against the coal fire’s light. Around its edge, he saw little streaks of spectra light. “Chance is the most razor-edged thing in the universe. Essence of chance is the finest sharpener. Sometimes it does nothing. But when it takes… ohhh… when it takes, it’ll cut the bones of the earth.”

The creature stood in reverent silence. Then it clapped its hands. “Bravo, Almsah! I’ve crossed many worlds. You’re still the most inspired smith I know.”

“We can take this to the fletcher soon. You should have your arrow by moonrise.”

“Excellent.” In a hushed voice, the creature added, “Full moon. The dragon will hunt tonight.”

Almsah smiled. “And so will you, my friend.”


‘The Sting of Chance’ was based on this roll of Rory’s Story Cubes. Here’s my interpreation. A worried man crafts an arrow for slaying a dragon. The last touch is the arrowhead, using shaping fire to make its edge. The alien warrior who asked for it comes in. It’s hopeful, but it understands that all things come with a risk. The magic may not work. The arrowhead is made with stone from the sea; dragons are creatures of fire and air, and water and earth are their enemies. Using fire to hone the edge may deaden its magic. To counteract this problem, the man stings the stone with essence of chance, the most razor-edged substance he has. It should counteract the shaping fire. The alien is pleased.


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