Avron loved working the forge and the dwarves had the best forges. Sure, it had taken a while for him to get used to being underground every day. He had tried to keep a normal sleep-wake cycle but eventually gave up. As long as he had his orders filled on time it didn’t matter when he slept.
– – –
The clanging of hammers at the Forge of Time was loud at all times of the day and night. Nobody lived in the same cavern. People only visited to work, place a work-order, or pick up a work-order. There was no housing within the cavern…except for Avron’s house.
The house stood in a secluded section of the cavern where most of the hammering had fallen silent. He needed no food or drink so he rarely left the forge.
“M’lord?” A child dwarf stood next to Avron at the forge. She had waited until Avron was between items to speak.
Avron turned to face the dwarf. “Well, what is it, little one?” He bent over to be more on her level.
“An automaton is here. He says he needs your help. His name is Slapper.” The girl paused for a moment. “Well, he wrote it down, anyway. He’s an older one. He can’t speak.”
A smile spread across Avron’s face. “Yes, Slapper. I remember him.” He set down his tools. “Well, lead me to him.”
– – –
An ancient automaton stood in the corner of a small tinker shop in the citadel. The tinkerer kept glancing over at him in a distracted manner.
After a few more moments of silence the tinkerer set down his project and walked over to the automaton. “Look, I know you can’t speak and you aren’t trying to distract me, but you’re distracting me just by being here.”
Slapper nodded and slowly walked to the door. His gears groaned as he moved. As he was about to reach the door it opened.
“Ah, Slapper. So good to see you.” Avron stood stooped at the door and glanced at the tinkerer. “I trust he was no trouble?”
“No, but he was a little distracting just standing in the corner. I need to get back to work if you don’t need me.”
Avron looked Slapper up and down then chuckled. “You don’t want the opportunity to work with a god and fix up an ancient automaton?”
The tinkerer turned to his workbench and shoved everything to one side. “He’s not distracting if he’s a patient.”
Slapper nodded at Avron and sat on the bench, squeaking the whole way.
“Hmm…when’s the last time you had an oil bath?” The tinkerer asked handing Slapper a parchment and quill.
Avron turned to the girl and gave her a gold piece for her troubles. She smiled at him then turned and grabbed a tool set. “My grandfather will be happy to be paid.”
– – –
Avron was back at the forge, this time building parts for an automaton. He knew just as well as Slapper did that if Slapper wanted to he could let the wear and tear take him and he would get a fresh, new body. If he was not willing to do that then there must be something else going on and Avron aimed to find out what.
He pulled round disk from the fire and hammered it into a sprocket. He quenched the sprocket and added it to a pile of cooling metal. Slapper was getting a new chassis. Hopefully, the soul that was Slapper would remain even after replacing 90% of him.
– – –
The dwarven tinkerer pulled the face plate off of Slapper’s head. “You original models can’t talk. I have some newer parts, but they don’t run off clockwork anymore. They run off of something else. Difficult to explain. Anyway, I digress.” He held up a small box with gears on the outside. I reverse engineered this back when I worked with Zdenko at his workshop. The Tinkerer himself. Well, you probably know him too. I’ll hook this up and you tell me if it works.”
There were a few screeches as Slapper attempted to speak in the first time since the incident at The Fount of the Gods. “I thiiiink theeere’ssss aaaa proooobleeeem.”
“Ah, one of the sprockets is the wrong size. Let me see if I have something for that.” The tinkerer walked behind his counter and started rummaging through some boxes.
The door swung open and a cart pushed through it. The child dwarf rode atop the metal pieces. Avron peeked out from behind her. “How’s it going buddy?”
“Theeeere’ssss aaaa hiiicuuuup.”
“Oh, that’s great!” Avron shooed the dwarf off the pile of metal and started sorting it. “I mean it’s great that it’s even to that point. Here, why don’t you help me arrange this stuff?”
“Ok, leg pieces there, arm pieces there, and main chassis pieces there.” The tinkerer pointed in three cleared areas. “I’ll start assembly as soon as I finish with the talk-box.” He motioned at Slapper. “Lemme see it again, please.”
– – –
Avron began to disassemble Slapper’s chassis. He unpinned the front from the back and shook his head. “I was the best smith in the land even then, but this was my first time working on parts so small with such precise measurements. I’m surprised I did as well as this. I’m even more surprised you’re a legitimate mkI that’s still functioning.” He looked at some of the pieces and saw some wooden replacements. “Hmm. No wonder you need repairs so badly. They did a good job, but wood is not a good replacement when everything else is metal.”
The dwarf tinkerer slotted the talk-box back into Slapper. “Give that a try while he roots around inside you.”
“Testing one-two, testing one-two. I am Slapper, the one who slaps dwarves.” Slapper nodded. “Not today, of course. You’re amazing.”
Avron smiled. “Ok, sorry old friend, but I need to detach your head from your chassis. I don’t know what this is going to do, but it needs to be done.”
A few grueling hours later The Smith and the dwarven tinkerer slotted the last cog into place. Slapper slowly sat up and started moving all of his parts. Now he had a much slimmer chassis and looked more like a human. He smiled at Avron.
“My friend. I haven’t felt this good since the explosion in the palace. Thank you.” Slapper shook Avron’s hand then turned to the tinkerer. “And thank you. Next time I see The Tinkerer I’ll let him know about this amazing shop.” Slapper rummaged through his pack and pulled a pouch of coins from it. “Here, keep the change.” Slapper picked up the pack and walked out the door. He glanced back and waved at the dwarf girl trying not to cry then the tinkerer and the girl never saw him again.
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