Kristyn K. Rose
'Improvisation 35' by Wassily Kandinsky
"I said no! It's insane," the blacksmith yelled, pushing the larger man toward the shop's open door.
"Dugan! You are the only one who can do this," the knight protested, shoving in return. Dugan relented, and stumbled to a bench in his shop. A frigid, damp breeze skimmed over his beard, delivering a welcome chill. "Gaelin," the blacksmith panted, "Do you realize what such a failure could do to my business?"
"Failure?" the knight exclaimed. His immense stature half-filled the sparse room. "A suit of armor like this will send knights from every kingdom galloping to you!"
"Who says they don't already," Dugan replied, glowering his disapproval of the knight's slim view of his bustling business. This singular fact fueled his resistance to Sir Gaelin's proposition. Dugan had toiled for too many seasons to see this one endeavor extinguish his successes. He smeared perspiration from his face with a soot-stained apron.
"You'll be rich enough to hire a fleet of apprentices to run your fires." Dugan studied him, considering. Gaelin offered relief from a life of sweat and cinder-stink. My daughter could afford to dress in clothing made by other hands, instead of pricking her weary fingers in an effort to prolong the life of tattered garments. Lungs soiled with a lifetime of ash heaved in his chest, begging him to reconsider. "You'll pay half now and half after your duel?"
"As always, Dugan," Gaelin said.
With a swiftness that shocked the grand soldier, the blacksmith leapt into a defiant posture. Dugan wagged a blackened finger at his nose. "But this duel is different, Sir Gaelin. You fight the county's most clever dragon. Who says you'll be alive to give me my other half?"
"Your finest armor says so!"
Dugan snuffled, distinctly unimpressed. Gaelin sighed defeat, counting a pile of shimmering coins onto the bench. "It'll be ready Friday?" Dugan grunted his agreement. The task challenged his mind and body as he labored to meet the deadline. In the pressing blackness of night, he defied crushing pain in his back and limbs to forge his finest work yet. Blistered hands throbbed even in his dreams.
Friday morning, Sir Gaelin rode proudly into the rising sun, clad in the grand suit. The sky itself celebrated Dugan's triumph with a lavish display of dawn splendor. Within the shop, his tools lay thankfully silent in the aftermath of his creative frenzy. Recover well, my friends, Dugan thought. Customers will line the streets to own armor formed by your edges.
Thud! Thud! Dugan rushed to his door. On the threshold, he froze in his tracks, stunned. His spirit melted into the stones.
"Excuse me," the dragon's voice rumbled, "But I have need of a can opener and you come highly recommended."
Kristyn K. Rose is a writer, wife, and mother living in Lubbock, Texas.