Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile PenUltimate Productions Website Previous Previous Next Next
Poem: "A Wanderer with a Purpose" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "A Wanderer with a Purpose"
This poem is spillover from the July 4, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and [personal profile] kyleri. It also fills the "experimentation" square in my 5-29-17 card for the Pride Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] mama_kestrel. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Note: This poem is mostly positive, but sometimes Shiv's head goes to some pretty warped places. Tolli is actually doing better at managing the relationship lines than some other folks have done, which means that Shiv's damage shows in a little fussing rather than a big meltdown.

"A Wanderer with a Purpose"

The thing that bugged Shiv most
about Simon and Tolliver was
that he never really understood
what they wanted with him.

Oh, he could ask them
and get an answer, but it
never made any damn sense.

Tolli had invited him to see
the blacksmith shop, though,
and Shiv had to admit that he
was curious even though it
didn't seem to serve a point.

"Hello?" he called as he
stepped through the doors.

"I'm in the back," Tolli said.
"Watch your step, it's packed."

Inside, the shop was dusty and dim,
crammed full of metal blocks and bars
between various tools and machines that
Shiv didn't even know what they did.

He could recognize the big brick forge
in the back, though, which looked like
a pizza oven, so he headed toward it.

"Line!" Tolli barked, just as Shiv's toes
sensed a change in the flooring.

He looked down and saw
a shiny band of diamond steel
marking where the gravel turned
into concrete. It looked as if it had
been scavenged from running boards.

"What about it?" Shiv asked,
wondering what the fuss was.

"That's the safety strip," Tolli said.
"It defines the boundary of the forge area.
The front part of the shop is no more dangerous
than any other workshop, but the back part has
a bunch of stuff that can kill you if you're not
careful. So nobody crosses the line until I
am satisfied they know the safety rules."

"I suck at rules," Shiv reminded him.

"Maybe so, but you seem to do
just fine at staying alive," Tolli said.

He talked Shiv through the safety rules,
most of which actually made sense like
not touching metal with your bare hands
when it had been anywhere near a forge.

Turned out, there were actually two of them --
the thing that looked like a trash can on
its side was a modern propane forge.

Then Tolli showed him some terrifying pictures
of what could go wrong in metalworking.

That made Shiv realize that he knew
fuckall about how to stay safe in
a blacksmith shop, and he took
a couple of steps backwards.

"Don't worry, the line marks
where you need safety equipment
just to watch," Tolli said. "Sparks won't
fly beyond that range, so you're pretty safe
up front as long as you don't pick up things
and start screwing around with them."

Well that sucked, because the shop
was just full of fascinating things.

"Then can I go back in the house now,
away from temptation?" Shiv said.

He was a supervillain. There was
a limit to how long he could go
without messing with something.

"Don't you want to watch me work?"
Tolli said, waving at the brick forge.

It glowed with a fierce orange light
that attracted Shiv like a moth.

He licked his lips. "Yeah."

"If you're thirsty, there's water
and sport drinks in the minifridge
over there," Tolli said, pointing.

Shiv grabbed a water bottle,
because it was broiling inside
the blacksmith shop even with
the front doors wide open.

"You can take off your shirt if it's
more comfortable," Tolli added.

He was wearing a tank top,
a kilt, a leather apron, and
a pair of steel-toed boots
with drawstring cuffs.

Shiv peeled his shirt off and
hung it on a hook, leaving only
his t-shirt on. "So now what?"

"Now you watch me work,"
Tolli said. "I'll make something
simple so you can see how it
takes shape. Be careful with
your superpower until you know
how it responds to hot things."

"They're more difficult to feel,"
Shiv admitted. "It's kind of like
watching something melt away,
but it doesn't feel like burning."

"All right, then, here we go,"
Tolli said, and poked a metal rod
into the glowing coals of the forge.

Shiv could feel the metal soften
in the heat, and when Tolli
pulled it out of the forge,
the tip glowed yellow.

The hammer chimed,
sound echoing on the walls
and spilling out through the doors.

The metal flattened, pointed,
curled -- and suddenly Tolli
was holding a leaf made
out of solid steel.

"Wow," Shiv said.

"I'm glad you like it,"
Tolli said as picked up
a length of leather and
stepped across the line.
"Come here and --"

Shiv was out the door
before he even thought
about what he was doing.

"-- let me measure you?"
Tolli finished. "Oh, wait.
Leather belts are bad? But
I've seen you wearing one."

Leather belts were bad
if someone else was
holding them, but Shiv
didn't care to explain that.

He slunk back indoors, though.
No point making even more
of a fool of himself.

"Okay to loop this around
your waist for a minute?"
Tolli asked, showing him
the plain black leather.

"Yeah, I guess," Shiv said.
It made his skin crawl a bit,
but he could live with it.

Tolli was gentle and quick
about taking the measure, and
then he went back to a workbench.

There he knocked a row of holes in
the leather, then used a V-shaped punch
to make the pointy end of the belt.

Finally he polished it up, attached
the leaf-shaped buckle, and handed it
to Shiv. "Here you go, a souvenir of
your first day in a blacksmith's shop."

"Thanks," Shiv said. His fingers
traced over the delicate vein marks
and the curl of stem. "It's beautiful."

"You're welcome," Tolli said.
"Now it's your turn." He picked up
a box of scraps and placed it on
a workbench. "Choose something
that you want to experiment with."

"I uh ... have no idea what
to do with a forge," Shiv said.

"I know, that's a later lesson,
if it interests you," Tolli said.
"I meant with your superpower.
I have some new ideas that
you might enjoy exploring."

"Like what?" Shiv asked.
Tolli was full of fun ideas.

Tolli brought out a handful of
little metal things. "These are
pilgrim badges," he explained.
"A lot of blacksmiths in the SCA
make these things, and sometimes
people use them as site tokens."

"Like mine from Pennsic,"
Shiv said, remembering
the pretty brass plate with
a handshake design on it.

"Exactly," Tolli said. "Now,
there are several ways to make
these things. They can be cast
by pouring liquid metal into a mold,
like this one." He pointed out
one of a little shrine.

"Some are stamped."
Tolli showed Shiv a badge
and the die that made it, both
with the same dragon's head,
but one sticking out and
the other sunken in.

"They can also be forged,"
Tolli said, bringing out what
looked like a tiny hammer with
a twisted handle. "It feels like
I made a million of these for
an event last summer."

"That's really something,"
Shiv said, touching it with
a fingertip. He could feel how
the forge had changed the metal.

"Now let me show you some tools,"
Tolli said. "I know you took shop
in prison, so tell me what you
recall about workshop safety."

Shiv rattled off what he could
remember of the rules, starting with
"Don't hurt yourself or anyone else."

"Good job," Tolli said. "I'll introduce you to
my portable kit, some basic metalworking tools,
then give you a just a few things to try."

"Okay," Shiv said. He knew
the value of starting simple.

Tolli's kit came in a leather duffle
with his gloves, goggles, and apron
plus hammers, tongs, punches,
and other odds and ends.

"This is what I take with me
to SCA events," Tolli said.

"I remember watching you
work at Pennsic," Shiv said.

He'd only been there for one day,
but it had been an amazing trip,
and the bright song of the hammer
on anvil had stuck in his mind.

"These are metalworking tools,
for cold work, not forged," Tolli said,
bringing out the next batch to set on
the workbench in front of them.

There was a different hammer,
several measuring tools, and
a bunch of metal files.

"These aren't all the same,"
Shiv said, picking up the files.
"Some are harder than others."

"You have good senses," Tolli said,
and it still felt weird whenever anyone
talked like Shiv was smart. "These are
meant for working different metals."

"So if the metal's soft, you don't need
as hard a tool to work it," Shiv guessed.
"But then why not always use hard ones?"

"First, because the better steel costs more,"
Tolli said. "Second, because some metals
need a different density or texture in tools,
or else they tend to shred on you."

"Like trying to grate soft cheese," Shiv said.

He'd learned that lesson the hard way,
and Cook had made him clean the grater
with a toothbrush to get all the gunk
out of the zillion little holes.

"All right, let me find a few things
for you to explore," Tolli said.

He offered Shiv a handful of
punches, some with round ends
and some flat like screwdrivers.

"You can use these to make
all kinds of things, including holes
for hanging," Tolli explained.

"Yeah, I see how these work,"
Shiv said, poking at them.

"Now choose one mold
and one die," Tolli said,
offering him three of each.

Shiv picked a Viking ship
for the mold, but hesitated
over the dies. "Can I make
a pirate flag?" he asked, pointing
to the skull and crossbones die.

"What do you think?" Tolli said,
and waved a hand over the tools.

"I dunno," Shiv said. "I'm
not really supposed to ..."

"Does it break any of the rules
we just discussed?" Tolli said.

"No?" Shiv replied.

"I wouldn't have put it
in front of you if it wasn't
something you could use,"
Tolli said. "Take it if you want."

Shiv wanted. He added
the pirate die to the row of
tools sitting in front of him.
"Now what?" he asked.

"Pick out some metal.
Play with your superpower.
See if you can duplicate the effects
that I get with hot metal or a hammer,"
Tolli said. "I gave you a variety of things
so that you can compare them."

Shiv started with the mold,
pressing a piece of metal
over the surface and trying
to squeeze it into the hollows.

That sort of worked, but left gaps.
"It won't go all the way down,"
he complained, frowning over
the partially formed pendant.
"I don't think this is going to work
with a superpower instead of heat."

"Actually, you tend to see
the same kind of mistakes and
discoveries as my forge novices,"
said Tolli. "Those gaps can come
from metal that's too cool or a mold
that's too hot. You can experiment
more with this, or try something else."

Shiv pushed the mold away and
tried the pirate die instead. If he used
the hammer and really put his shoulder
into it, he could make a mark just fine.
He had a hard time making an imprint
without using force, though.

"What's the problem?" Tolli said,
leaning over to examine it.

"I can't get it to mark without
hitting it harder," Shiv said.
"The metal feels too much alike."

"Hmm," Tolli said. He brought Shiv
a piece of black iron. "Try this instead.
It should be much softer than tool steel."

This time Shiv found it easier to feel
the difference between the die and
the metal beneath it, so he could
push the design into place.

Then he used his fingers
to make little ripples in
the iron so that it looked
more like a real flag.

"I did it!" he said, grinning.

"Yes, you did," Tolli said.
"Good job. Check your energy."

Shiv felt inside himself, but it
wasn't taking a lot of power.
"I can go another round."

"That's good. Try faking
my forge work," Tolli suggested.

Shiv picked up the hammer pendant
and studied it, but couldn't figure out
how it had been made. "I'm stuck,"
he admitted. "I don't know how to go."

"Examine the piece that I made,"
Tolli said. "When you understand
blacksmithing more, you'll learn
the order in which things are done."

Shiv turned the hammer in his hands
but said, "I still can't see it."

"That's okay, it takes practice and
observation," Tolli said. "For now I'll
tell you that I twisted the shaft first, then
closed the loop, and used that to hold on
while I hammered the head flat."

Explained like that, it made
more sense to Shiv, so he tried it.

The results frustrated him.

Every time he made the metal
soft enough to shape easily,
it smooshed in his hands.

If he left it harder, then
he couldn't bend it well.

"I can't get this," he said.
"I'm too stupid. I can't do
anything right, never could."

"I don't agree with that," Tolli said,
tapping the pirate flag with a fingernail.
"This is a lovely little piece. I don't mind
telling you that my master had me
making nails for a week before she
let me try anything more challenging."

"Then why'd you give me more?"
Shiv said, utterly baffled.

"Because I've already seen
some of what you can do with
your superpower, and it would be
wasted on nails," Tolli said, then
reconsidered. "Well, unless we
needed to nail dymondine to a wall."

Shiv shook his head. "It'd smash,"
he said. "Dymondine is really brittle.
It flakes great though. I could put nails
through krevel if you wanted it."

"I am now fantasizing about
a krevel blacksmith apron,"
Tolli said. "I like mine with
pockets, and krevel is hard
to get rivets through."

Shiv quietly filed that idea
in the side of his mind.

He picked up the wrecked bit
of metal that was meant to be
a hammer. "Can I start over?"

"Sure," Tolli said. "That's
the great thing about metal --
there's no waste. If you botch,
just drop it in the scrap box
and try something else."

"No, I meant --" Shiv
pressed the metal between
his palms, flattening it. "Can I
just do like people do with clay?"

"I don't know," Tolli said.
"Why don't you find out?"

Shiv might not ever get used
to the way Tolli encouraged him,
but it was cool while it lasted.

He squeezed and pressed the metal
until it was more-or-less hammer shaped.

Then he picked up a punch and
used it to knock three holes near
the end for hanging, and a couple of
rounded dots along the shaft just for fun.

Carefully comparing it to the one
that Tolli had forged, Shiv made
a few adjustments to his.

"They don't have to be identical,"
Tolli said. "You should develop
your own artistry, not just
copy what I've done."

"I'm not an artist," Shiv said
for about the millionth time.

"That's your choice," Tolli said.
"You can be an artist, or
a supervillain, or both."

"Why do you keep teaching me
this stuff?" Shiv said. "You gotta
know that I'm just gonna go
make trouble with it."

"Also your choice, and that's
why I'm teaching you," said Tolli.
"Why did you decide to become
a supervillain in the first place?"

"It's what everyone said," Shiv replied
with a shrug. "They always say I'm bad
and that I'll come to no good end."

"I can see why you'd want to make
lemonade out of those lemons, but they
still shouldn't have said it," Tolli grumbled.
"You need choices, Shiv, everyone does.
If you have skills, then you can decide
what you want to be, not get railroaded
into what someone else thinks you
already are or should become."

Shiv liked choices, even though
he didn't get many of them and
hardly knew what to do if he did.

It made him uneasy, though, so he
went back to stirring the pilgrim badges
with his fingers, looking at the designs.

"How's come you got a hammer and
a boat in with the real ones?" he said.

"Those are real religious symbols too,
they're just from a different tradition," Tolli said.
"The Viking ship and Thor's hammer are Asatru,
since that's who hosted those events. Back in
the house I have some Islamic, Jewish, and
Pagan ones if you'd like to take a look."

"Maybe," Shiv hedged. "I'm not religious,
I got drug to enough fuckin' churches already."

"That's fine," Tolli said. "Religion can be
a handful of thistles, and I will never
push it on anyone who's not into it."

"I dunno what people see in it,"
Shiv said, idly flipping the badges
using his superpower. "I mean, why go
all that way to see some dumb shrine?"

"Why do you think people go to see
the Tree Circus?" Tolli asked.

"Because it's cool," Shiv said.

He'd seen pictures of that. There was
a fig tree in his Desert Dreams video game,
and it had links to more information, which
had led Shiv to the Tree Circus website.

"Well, some people feel the same way
about religious shrines -- and you know
tourists, they always want souvenirs,"
Tolli said. "Hence the pilgrim badges,
now repurposed as site tokens, jewelry,
or apprentice practice projects."

"Huh," Shiv said. "These are
fun to play with." He pocketed
his pirate flag and the least awful
of the Viking ships, then tossed
the miscast ones into the scrap box.
He pushed his hammer at Tolli.
"Here, you should keep this."

"You know that your work is
more valuable than mine,"
Tolli reminded him.

"Nah, you're an expert and
I'm just goofing around," Shiv said.

"Superpowers raise the value,"
Tolli said. "I want you to know how
to put a fair price on your work."

"I'm not that good at math,"
Shiv said. "Besides, I want you
to have it. You put up with me, and
you made the leaf thing for me."

"Thank you," Tolli said, looking
closely at the hammer pendant. "Are
you sure that you want to leave me
a copy of your thumbprints?"

"What?" Shiv said, startled.
"It hasn't done that before."

"You're treating the metal like clay,
and this piece is showing parts of
your thumbprints," Tolli said.

"Well, fuck," Shiv said.

"Just smudge them a bit and
it should be fine," Tolli said,
handing the hammer back.

Shiv pressed his thumbs over
the ends of the hammer head
and wiggled them a bit. That did
the trick, so he returned it to Tolli.

"All right, let me put this where
it belongs," Tolli said. He took
a couple of nails and then tacked
the hammer to the wall amidst
a variety of small objects.

"What's all that stuff up there?"
Shiv wondered, looking at them.

"Apprentice work mostly,
plus a few by guests," Tolli said.
"Usually guests prefer to keep
their practice pieces."

"Could I be an apprentice?"
Shiv asked him idly.

"No. You are nowhere near
ready for that," Tolli said.
"If you're still interested later,
you can ask me again in a year."

"What ... why?" Shiv said,
stung by the unexpected rejection.

"I just explained that," Tolli said.
"Apprenticeship is a big commitment.
You don't like commitment. You have
no experience with long-term relationships
of any kind. You don't do very well with
planning on a large scale either. I won't
let you get in over your head."

"I'm up to a monthly budget,"
Shiv protested. "Dymin taught me."

"That's good progress," Tolli said.
"If you want to work toward becoming
an apprentice blacksmith, there are
other things you can do meanwhile
to get ready. How serious are you?"

"I dunno," Shiv said. "I just saw
the wall, and you've been teaching
me, and it got me thinking about,
well, where do I even fit?"

"Right now, you're a family friend
and a casual student," said Tolli.
"This is working. We can keep
doing it as long as you like."

"Yeah," Shiv said. "I talked with
Dr. G about some stuff ... I hate school,
but an afternoon workshop might be
okay, or even a whole weekend one.
But if I think about longer courses,
let alone college, I choke up."

"You need to work your way up
slowly, not try to do everything
at once," Tolli said, "and think
about what you want and why."

"Like pilgrims with the prayer thingies,
um, milagros? That said what they
wanted to get," Shiv guessed.

"That's a good example," Tolli said.
"A pilgrim is a wanderer with a purpose.
The goals you choose are up to you."

Shiv thought about being an artist and
being a supervillain and being Tolli's friend.

It wasn't as scary as it used to be.

* * *


"A pilgrim is a wanderer with a purpose."
-- Peace Pilgrim

Tolliver has a blacksmith shop at his home. The interior includes a traditional brick forge and a modern propane forge. The power hammer and swage block offer more ways of shaping metal. The minifridge holds sport drinks and water.

Diamond board is metal such as steel that has been stamped with a pattern for traction. It's often used to make running boards for trucks, which may later be scavenged for other projects. Here it makes a conspicuous divider between the more safe and more risky parts of the workshop.

(Some of these links are graphic.)
Blacksmith safety includes basic and detailed instructions. Wear appropriate clothing. Tolli likes kilts, so he wears tall muck boots with a drawstring top to exclude sparks and swww.lionheartreplicas.co.uk/pilgrim-badge-making-demonstrations.aspxplinters. Even with precautions, graphic injury can occur.

Tolli shows Shiv some small crafts that he has made.

These are some of Tolli's SCA pilgrim badges in lead-free pewter. His Battlemoor IV site token has a stag on one side. Tolli wears some of his pilgrim badges on a felt hat. Brass ones include a helmet, fleur-de-lys, and the rune Tiwaz. This is Tolli's Pennsic War 43 site token. (See a history of Pennsic tokens.) Note that in T-America, people often collect things and display their collections. SCA site tokens are typically fastened to a board or inside a frame, usually in order obtained, but some people organize theirs geographically instead of chronologically.

Pilgrim badges come in many styles. Some are made with molds, like this shrine. Others are stamped, such as this pendant. A few are wrought iron, as in this hammer by Tolli. Shiv made this similar version.

Tolliver forges leaf-shaped belt buckles. Here is the one he made for Shiv. Learn how to forge a leaf and a scroll, and how to make a leather belt.

Basic blacksmithing often involves junkyard steel, as described in this guide. Watch a video on types of steel. Tolli keeps boxes of scrap metal for practice.

Blacksmith tools span a wide variety, many of which a blacksmith can make himself. See Tolli's portable kit. These are some of Tolli's metalworking tools. Metal files can be identified in various ways.

Metal punches may be made by hand. Some are used to punch holes or slits.

Molds can be made from a variety of materials. This page talks about lost wax casting. Read about casting pewter and brass. Learn how to make pilgrim badges. This pendant was for a Longhouse feast.

This is Tolli's skull and crossbones die, which Shiv uses to make a pirate flag.

Tolli has site tokens for various traditions. This Jewish one has a six-pointed star. This Islamic one has writing from the Quran. This Pagan one has runes and a pentacle. Why use religious themes on SCA site tokens at all? Because it's so period. The Christians were doing it, the Muslims were doing it, everyone did it back then. Terramagne-America has retained more of this custom than local-America has. So in areas where people are smooth with it, the hosting group often uses their own religious motifs, especially if it ties to the theme of the event. More mixed or less tolerant groups tend to use generic tokens instead.

T-America has many interesting roadside attractions, including the Tree Circus. Some of these were created as part of government programs, others by municipal or private enterprises. It gives creative people a job and adventurous people something to go see. Explore them in a lesson.

Desert Dreams is a video game about growing dryland plants. Many different succulents are available. You pick out seeds or seedlings, and a pot, then arrange them however you want. They need water, sunlight, and fertilizer. It's very educational, with names and other information about the different species. As you tend your pot, the plants grow. At the lower levels, they're perfectly safe, and it's a very peaceful meditative sort of game. At the higher levels, pests and herbivores arrive to provide more challenge. You begin with a modest selection of plants that are easy to grow, and as you advance, you unlock new species which are more difficult to raise. If you take care of your plants well enough, they bloom and pollinators come to visit.
Desert Dreams is similar to the local-American game Viridi, but more complex. It was created by a gizmologist who works in horticulture. The sound effects consist of music from various desert cultures, with the default set to come from the same region as the first plant selected, although users can change it.

(These links are harsh.)
Childhood abuse leads to distorted thinking patterns such as catastrophizing. The mental health industry basically considers this a type of delusion. However, it is vital to assess the accuracy of a belief before condemning it as delusion. Previously, Shiv had correct distrust; his problem now is that he is under-trusting, because his environment has changed so much that his old model no longer generates reliable predictions. He believes that horrendous things will happen because they have happened to him, that people will abandon him because most folks did that. This isn't delusion; it's an ugly couple decades of lived experience. It is, however, now out of date due to major improvements in Shiv's circumstances. He needs to stop catastrophizing and recalibrate to the current probabilities, which are better. It is possible for abused children to learn how to trust adults, if they join a healthy family. Here are some helpful reminders for abuse survivors.

(Some of these are touchy too.)
Attachment describes the relationship between parents and children. The less-secure versions can be described as attachment disorders, and the more severe form as reactive attachment disorder. These carry into adult relationships. More accurately, attachment disorder is framed as connection disruption. Until recently, Shiv had very few opportunities for healthy connection and a great many people mistreating him. That kind of abuse tends to mangle attachment. As a result, he pushes people away to minimize his chances of getting hurt even more. There are ways to heal from attachment damage and help someone with disordered attachment.

(These links are difficult.)
Abandonment issues produce a vast array of symptoms that can cluster in quite different ways. This can lead to "outer child" issues with behavioral problems. Shiv acts out a lot. Foster children and abuse survivors often end up with PTSD of abandonment, which has its own laundry list of problems. They may develop emotional anorexia, where they cannot take in affection. Tolli deals with Shiv's inability to handle relationships by regulating the distance for him: not too close, not too far, and especially minimizing sudden movements. That emotional buffer helps keep Shiv's reaction at a slow roil rather than a fast meltdown. But then, Tolli is used to handling hot stuff. Know how to heal abandonment issues or support a friend with them. Foster children and abuse survivors often need extra help to form healthy bonds with a family, and their are programs to support this process.

(Some of these are intense.)
Trust has multiple aspects and stages. Shiv has a lot of trust issues from past trauma, but he is slowly learning to trust again. Learn how to recognize a trustworthy person, become trustworthy yourself, and build trust with other people. Here are some ways to help an abused child learn to trust adults, which can prove quite effective.

(These links are sad.)
Low self-esteem may come from various causes, particularly child abuse or other trauma. Understand how to cope with low esteem or help a friend who has it.

Milagros are small religious tokens. They may be obtained individually or in bulk. See an assortment of them.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

Leave a comment