It was an unusually cool spring day in Ingervale. Douglas Smith was working in his father’s smithy; fixing a brooch for Marian Baker and a plow coupling for Abigail Farmer. His father and brother were making a delivery to the south and his sister was working in the back. He watched two travelers approach from out of the northern valley. They were on horseback and towed a heavily packed mule. The man on the left was heavy set and wide in the shoulders, with a horse to match. The other was slight, and rode without stirrups. The style of their beards and clothing made Douglas think they were likely from northern Brevoy. He put down the pliers he was using to fix the brooch and walked out into the sun to approach the riders as they entered the smithy yard.
“Can I help you gentlemen?” He asked.
“We’re looking for smith,” said the larger man.
“This is a smithy. I’m a smith,” Douglas replied.
“Not a jeweler?” The man asked gesturing toward the brooch in Douglas’ hands.
“Not a jeweler,” Douglas replied.
The men laughed to one another.
“But I can fix a clasp for your brooch or bodice if you like,” Douglas added.
Only the smaller man laughed. The larger man shot him a look then nodded to Douglas.
“Thank you, no,” he said with a half-smile. “We have some weapons that need sharpening, however.”
“Sure thing,” Douglas replied. “You can wait here if you like. It’ll just take a few minutes.”
The two men looked at one another as they climbed off of their horses.
“Oh, it might take more than that,” the larger one said.
They began to remove weapons and place them on a nearby table. They each had a sword on one hip and a dagger on the other. One had a smaller dagger in his boot and the other had one on his back, hidden by his cloak. Then they pulled weapons from scabbards strapped to their saddlebags, and from the saddlebags themselves. They set those on the tale. Then they pulled weapons from the mule’s packing, and set those on the table. All in all, they set twenty-one weapons on table of all varieties. Some were recently worn. Some appeared to have centuries of neglect.
“That’s it?” Douglas asked. “There aren’t any you fed to the mule and we need to wait for?”
“Sharp witted question, but no,” the larger man answered.
“Well…I can do the lot for fifty copper,” Douglas offered, “but it’ll take a couple of hours.”
“I was thinking something closer to thirty,” the man countered.
“It’ll mean no money for lunch for me today,” Douglas said, shaking his head, “but I’ll do it for forty.”
The man scratched his head, pulled at his beard, and looked toward his friend.
“Forty it’ll have to be,” he finally conceded.
Then he pulled open his coin purse and Douglas saw that it was filled with gold and silver. The man had to sift through it to find coinage small enough to pay.
“Mind if I ask a question?” Asked the smaller man, speaking for the first time.
“Depends on the question,” Douglas answered, visually counting the coins that had just been placed in his hand.
“Those statues at the entrance to the valley, were those real trolls once?” the smaller man asked.
“It depends on who you ask,” Douglas replied. “Do you have time for story? It’s not too long.”
They both nodded
“Those statues,” Douglas began, “there are twelve of them, they’ve been here since the first Inger home was built here. First thing you should know is that there was an Inger community before this one. It’s another story; but suffice to say, we were given no choice but to leave. Cole Inger was sent to lead a scouting party to find a new land for an Inger settlement. He eventually came by this valley. The popular legend is that a small tribe of trolls was already living here. He and the men that accompanied him attacked one late night, while the trolls were out hunting, and before they returned to their caves. The trolls were nearly victorious. Cole found himself alone and fleeing up the side of the valley, desperately trying to lure the trolls up into the light of dawn that was touching the lip of the valley. The trolls didn’t bite. They turned to flee back to their caves before the sunlight reached the valley basin. But Cole’s party had not been idle the day before. They had spent the day hammering and polishing all the metal they had. Cole rolled out a large polished disc from the bushes and reflected the sun’s rays down at the trolls. That was that.”
“Is that what you believe?” The larger man asked.
“I once did,” Douglas answered. “Now, I don’t know. Some say the statues were here when he got here, and could be trolls or could have been carved. Some say Cole Inger carved them himself.”
“If any of those are the truth, what happened to the rest of the party that he left with?” Asked the smaller man.
“That’s a mystery, isn’t it?” Douglas agreed. “Cole Inger took up masonry years later and changed his family name to Carver. He was the last with the Inger name. So, personally, I tend to suspect he carved them. But I couldn’t begin to guess what happened to those other men.”
“He was the last with the Inger name? So there are no Ingers in Ingervale?” The larger man asked.
“There are no Inger-Folk with the family name Inger anymore. That’s right,” Douglas confirmed, “but we’re all Ingers.”
“You’re an unusual lot, you Ingers,” the large man said as they started to walk off.
“We like it that way,” Douglas muttered as carried the first sword over to the grinding wheel.