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The Debt

It was late, and Mr Tenk had hitched a ride on a sleigh full of holiday revellers rather than take the icy walk across the port. He lept off as it neared the building housing his forge, and, as fate would have it, promptly got his foot wedged into the stones.

“Are you alright?” A drunken voice called from the retreating sleigh and they saw him fall.
Tenk waved them off. It wasn’t the first time it had happened. But to have it happen on the street, and in the path of a tram, was most inconvenient. He grabbed at his leg and pulled, twisting it this way and that, in an attempt to dislodge his foot. He untied the laces of his boot, and tried slipping his foot out, but also to no avail. There were tools in at his forge, but there was no one to fetch them for him. When suddenly, a voice behind him said:

“Are you alright little sir?”

“Go to my forge and get a crowbar! Hurry!” Tenk said without turning.

The voice hesitated. “Um, alright. Where is your, um, forge?”

Tenk pointed diagonally across the street to the old chandlery complex without stopping his struggle to free his leg. He turned his head, seeing a man in a pickelhaube helmet. The man had not moved.

“Can’t you see that my foot is caught under” Tenk coughed through a couple of words, “under the track?”

“Your forge is under the track?” the man asked, twirling his mustache.

“No!! My foot is under the track! I need my crowbar! Now go get it!”

“Yes. We have that established, I believe. Now where is your forge. Is it near?”

Tenk twisted himself around to get a good look at the man. He pointed again. “It’s right over there!”

Tenk watched the strange man stroll across the street towards the archway that lead to the old blacksmith shop. Seeing there was no one else in sight, he crouched down onto the icy cobblestones and whispered to them in his own language to let him go. When that did not work, he returned his attention to where his forge lay. “HURRY UP WITH THAT CROWBAR BEFORE THE NEXT TRAM COMES!” he yelled.

The strange man in the pickelhaube helmet appeared on his other side and held out a screwdriver. “Is this a crowbar?” he asked.

Tenk startled to find him so near. “That is a screwdriver you nincompoop!’

The man in the pickelhaube helmet sputtered.

“Listen carefully,” said Tenk. “A crowbar comes up to my shoulder, with one end like a screwdriver, which is what you are holding.”

“Well I am hardly a handyman sir,” the strange man protested. “I happen to be a BLUE BLOOD. What, pray does a bar crow look like?”

“A crow bar looks like a giant screwdriver. But without the handle. And a hook on one end. How the hell do you expect to survive in this town without knowing your way around a toolbox?”

“So like a giant screwdriver.”

“Yes. With a hook at one end. Now go get it! It’s hanging on a peg in the wall to your left as you are looking at the forge!”

“To the left… ” The strange man grumbled and wandered back diagonally across the street.

“And hurry it!” Tenk called out, then returned his attention to freeing his foot from his boot and while whispering to the stones. When he looked up again the strange man was standing nearby holding out a crowbar.

“How’s this?” he asked.

“Give me that!” Tenk thrust his hand back into his glove and snatched the tool from his hands. The man did an awkward jig to recover his balance. Tenk jammed the straighter end into the ground by his foot and leaned on the hook. “Put your weight on this!” Tenk demanded.

The strange man sniffed. “I shall stop the tram driver if he advances.”

“They’re automated you moron! Give me your weight!”

“They are? Oh dear.” The strange man considered carefully, then gingerly pushed on the crowbar.

“Lean!!!” grunted Tenk. The strange man rearranged his footing and leaned forward a little.

“I must admit sir, I am rather lean. I may not be much help.”

“Just do it or there will be blood will be on your hands!” This seemed to disturb the man into action. He leaned his full weight on the crowbar until it bent.

“Almost there…. little more…” Tenk gasped between breaths. “Come on man, push!”

The strange man posed heroically. “I’ve been told I have a puma-like physique!”

“Did you just hear a trolley bell?” asked Tenk.

The man looked up. “Oh! Here it comes sir!”

“Lean with all your might!” yelled Tenk. The man, finally seeing the seriousness of the situation, put his full weight into it. Tenk let go of the crowbar and used both his hands to pull on his trapped leg.

“Hurry!” urged Tenk.

“Stop, Trolley!” cried the man, feebly.

In a blur, the tram moved relentlessly forward. The strange man jumped sideways, losing his pickelhaube helmet in a drift of snow. Tenk felt the stones open, and rolled backwards just in time. The filthy snow along the tramway quickly melted through his jacket, chilling him. The tram lumbered away on its predestined track.

“That was too close,” muttered Tenk.

The strange man was using the crowbar to poke around the snowbank for his helmet. Tenk snatched it back from him. “Good day sir!” he said angrily, and left to return his tool to its place at his forge

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  1. Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon December 22, 2015

    Those trolly tracks can be tricksy! *nods*

  2. River Falcon River Falcon December 22, 2015

    An interesting story. I’m glad you managed to escape from the tramlines before the tram passed by. I notice that the picklehaube helmet was never retrieved – I’m sure  one of city’s urchins will discover it before the snow melts.

  3. Caesar Osterham Caesar Osterham December 23, 2015

    I see that that blood thirsty piece of mass transit almost claimed another victim.  Must we take arms against the forces of trolledom again?

  4. Count Bologna Count Bologna December 23, 2015

    Count Bologna recovered his helmet and looked around with the distinct feeling that he had missed something. Brushing the snow from the spike of his helmet, he placed it smartly under his arm and marched toward the forge that the little man had disappeared to.

    “Ah, sir…” the Count started. He had to admire at the deft manner with which the little man could place his tools onto hooks that were set much higher in the wall than he was tall.

    “It occurs to me,” the Count started again. “I believe I saved your life just now.”

    The little man looked up, staring him full in the face. “I believe you nearly got me killed with your incompetence.”

    “Nonsense,” insisted the Count. “If it were not for me… you’d still be there. Yes? Yes? Surely that warrants, some, um, reward?” The Count coughed discreetly.

    The little man put down his work and crossed his arms. “Well?”

    “I shall be rewarded,” said the Count, drawing himself to his full height.

    “Well?” The little man said again.

    “No, I don’t want a well,” said the Count.

    “Then don’t waste my time.” The little man turned and left the smithy by a back way. The Count hurried to follow.

    “Land. Or treasure, or a title, or something.. something good.” The Count looked down at the snow, hoping for a clue on which what the little man had gone. “Wait, where did you run off to?” he called. “I will not be ignored! I am a Count!”

    • Garnet Psaltery Garnet Psaltery December 23, 2015

      Beware you are not rewarded with a position in city hall.

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