Mentally berating himself, he pushed the thought of her from his mind. She had no place in his new world, and he did not need to dwell on her. The woman noticed he had entered, and wiped her small hands on her leather apron before coming to greet him. “My name’s Jade. How can I help you?”
Phoenix did not offer his name, but simply stated his wish. “I need armor.”
The woman cocked her head to the left and raised an eyebrow. “What kind of trouble will you be getting into?”
Phoenix broiled inside. Who was she to ask his intentions? He could burn this city to the ground, along with every soul in it in a matter of seconds. He did not say this, but simply said, “my business is my own.”
“Not from around here, are you?” the woman laughed, turning from him and going back to the bellows.
He followed her, glancing at the tools hanging from hooks on the walls. Tongs, pliers, hammers of all shapes and sizes, and many others he did not recognize. He grabbed one, working its small lever, making the hook on the end spin slowly. “So can you help me or not?”
The woman grasped the handles of the bellows, and pushed them closed with a grunt of exertion. “I can,” she breathed. “But the question is, do you want a female blacksmith to make the very thing that will save your life?”
“Male or female matters not,” Phoenix said, still working the small lever. “Armor made correctly is still armor.” When Jade did not respond, he looked up to notice the woman had stopped working the bellows, staring at him quizzicly. “What?” he asked.
“Most in this city, and others who pass through, do not trust the workings of a woman. To place your life in my hands, woman’s hands, would be folly to some people in this village.”
“I used to fight alongside a woman,” Phoenix replied. “And she was the fiercest warrior I know of.”
Jade left the bellows once the fire was high, and grabbed the tool from his hand, hanging it back on the wall. “We women are an underestimated species.”
Phoenix raised an eyebrow of his own. “Not by me.”
Pulling a flexible ruler from the workbench, she strode back to him. “If you say so stranger. Now, raise your arms and turn around.”