She took a sip of mead and began to speak again: "After passing the door, a long stone staircase led them deep, underground. There was no light in the area, without the torches they had with them, they would not have been able to continue. They followed the sound of a hammer slamming into an anvil, realizing that the blacksmith's story was real, not just a legend. When they completely descended the stairs, they saw a man on his back, who with his hammer struck a piece of metal still red-hot. That man was Vegard, the blacksmith of the Gods".
"Blacksmith of the Gods?!" exclaimed Dag, raising his voice, and making Eirik move, stretching out in his chair and starting to sleep again with his mouth open.
"The two brothers drew their weapons, believing they were in danger for some strange reason. The man stopped using the hammer and turned to them. He was bald and had a long grey braided beard, with two golden rings closing his braids. He didn't have an eye and his face was completely scarred. The man looked up at Brann and Eirik without saying a word… until they spoke."
"Are you Vegard, the blacksmith?" said Brann, pointing his sword at him.
The man turned again to the anvil, put the hammer on the ground and took the red-hot piece of metal, dipping it in a bucket of water to cool it.
"Old man, my brother asked you a question" Eirik said.
"Oooh... two brothers!" the man whispered as if he was waiting for them.
Eirik and Brann looked at each other in amazement.
"It's been a long time since that door opened. I didn't think I'd get any visitors" the man continued.
Despite his age, his physique was toned and sturdy, he seemed to be well trained and nourished.
"What do you mean? The door opened after knocking. Anyway, you didn't answer my question. In the village, there are rumors that you can forge extraordinary weapons. Is that true? Otherwise, we have nothing else to say to each other" Brann continued, determined.
Eirik remained silent.
"Extraordinary weapons... you know, my weapons aren't just things to handle. They're much, much more" Vegard said, turning back to Brann and Eirik and getting close to them.
Brann lowered his sword and ordered his brother to do the same.
"Not everyone can walk through my door. If you're here, there must be a reason. Our Gods think you are worthy" he continued.
"Worthy of what? What are you talking about? There were inscriptions on the door in a language we had never seen before. We were born and raised on Earth, we studied various languages... but not that" Eirik said.
Brann looked at him with an expression of superiority, as if to explain to his brother that he could wait before telling the blacksmith that they were two earthlings.
"Ooh, I understand. And you're part of the Hammers Of Thor Clan, right?" replied Vegard.
"Yes. Show us your weapons" Brann interrupted, as Eirik was about to ask the old man how he knew all about them.
"Well, then. Follow me."
The old man approached a door at the back of the room and moved weapons and armor that blocked the passage.
After opening the door, the two brothers followed him.
There was another staircase: even though they were already several meters deep, it was not possible to see the end of that path.
"Brann, I'm starting to dislike this story" Eirik whispered, fearing it was a trap to lure them somewhere.
"My curiosity prevents me from giving up and going back. But you already know that, bro" Brann replied, continuing to follow Vegard down the stairs.
Brann still held a torch, to illuminate the path. The old blacksmith, on the other hand, walked undaunted in the dark, as if he knew every single step of that staircase to perfection.
All three continued to walk for more than half an hour, descending deeper and deeper. The corridor of the staircase was very narrow, surrounded by high stone walls.
Brann noticed that as the depth increased, the flame of his torch became brighter and more powerful.
He marveled at this: increasing the depth and therefore the pressure, air quantity and quality would have to decrease and the flame would have to fade until it extinguished.
When he was on Earth, Brann was an excellent student in all subjects, unlike his brother, a little less perceptive of him.
"It's a hot fucking thing down here" Eirik said, breaking the silence.
"How much longer, old man?" he continued, untying the top of his armor, trying to lower his body temperature.
Vegard did not answer, he continued to walk.
In front of him, there were only other stairs, plunged into darkness.
"Listen to me, brother. We're just wasting our time. Our teammates will be looking for us. Let's go away, this man is just an old fool" Eirik replied.
"It's possible that you're right. But what if it's not? What if this old man can really get us weapons that can defeat every enemy? We would become the strongest warriors in Skjold. Where did your ambition go, little brother?" replied Brann, in a smart-ass tone.
Eirik did not answer, he merely puffed out and continued to walk.
More than two hours passed when a light began to appear in front of Vegard, illuminating the path, coming from the end of the stone staircase.
The temperature had reached very high, the air was saturated with carbon dioxide, so much so that the two brothers began to breathe with difficulty.
By now they had both stripped off their armor, because of the incessant heat.
"We're here, warriors" Vegard said.
The old man did not seem to blame the fatigue of that long descent and not even the heat.
"But... what the fu..." said Eirik, who gasped after dropping the last step.
Brann remained silent, observing the wonder before his eyes.
The old man continued to walk: in front of him, a huge cascade of red-hot magma spilled out of the basaltic wall and poured into a depression below, forming a large lava pool, in the middle of a huge circular room.
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