Chapter 34 – Pieces of Separation
Tools. That was the first step. Without the proper tools, the refined ore could not be worked. Stone hammers were already a tool that saw normal use, and something like an anvil could easily be substituted with a large flat rock. Thankfully the lizards already knew that adding air to fire helped increase the temperature and spread of the flames, and things like communal bonfires were fairly common place at night. Building something like an oven or furnace wasn’t quite within the realm of possibility yet, but I hoped it would come soon in the future.
That meant the main issue layed in what tool to use to hold the red hot metal that would easily burn through scale and flesh. Something like tongs, or even the swiveling mechanism that made tongs able to clamp and release, was not yet known to the lizards. When it came to needing to grasp items, a hand was perfectly suitable, thus such tools that enhanced grasping had not yet been thought up. No matter how strong their scales were, however, it would not be able to withstand the heat needed to make metal malleable, not even a softer ore like copper.
I spent the day thinking about what could possibly substitute for tongs while the Collector went about procuring a stone hammer and finding a nice flat rock just like he had seen in his moment of inspiration. However, I still couldn’t completely lose myself to thought. As the Collector ran his hand over the relatively smooth surface of a rock, with all its minute points and divots, I was lost in evoked feelings of nostalgia. Days when I had been young, climbing on every surface I could get ahold of, a slip from which could easily injure my unscaled fleshy hands. Even the memory of pain and blood was a welcome one, for those were still precious and happy memories.
Despite all the memories I had regained about my people, and the few I had come to know about myself, I still didn’t know who I had been. The only truly intimate memory with others of my kind had been one of suffering and loss. The faces and even bodies of those that surrounded me in my memory were always mere blurs of moving shapes. I understood what they were, that they were people like me, but I could never get a good look at them or myself. When I tried to imagine what they looked like beyond the veil of obscurity, I could only liken their features to my lizards, even though I knew our hands had no scales. The shapes of my people and my lizards had become further blurred as I kept invading the strong and scaled bodies. I was losing sight of who I had been. And maybe that was okay. From what I had seen of myself, I probably wouldn’t like myself very much anyway.
I left my internal introspection at that, and enjoyed the warm twinge of heat against the Collector’s scales as he sat by the bonfire with close friends. They inquired into his spirited mood, and he tried to explain as best he could the flash of inspiration he had gotten concerning his small hunk of shining rock. But without seeing that vision for themselves, they found it hard to understand. Once again, the Collector was further separated from others who did not understand him, nor his vision.
But this time, he could show them what he had seen. This was something tangible that he could teach them, and if it all worked as he had hoped, perhaps this piece of separation could turn into a link that would connect him more closely with others. That was the hope he felt inside. To the Collector, this was more than simply learning to shape metal, it was what might finally connect him to others, that connection he always seemed to be lacking. Even if they didn’t understand his strange tastes in decor, nor his familial preference, if it was something they could hold in their hands…
His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden crack in the fire. A log a split apart, causing a small chain reaction of shifting wood that sent up sparks into the night sky. A small piece of burned wood escaped the fire, landing close to the Collector. It was warm but cooled quickly, and from the looks of it, it was only charred, not completely burnt into charcoal. He was about to throw it back into the fire, but at the last moment stayed his hand. Or rather, I was the one that stayed his hand. The more I looked at the charred wood, the more I understood.
The Collector was throwing it back into the bonfire because it would be useless at starting another fire. Wood that had already been charred was hard to reignite, since wood doesn’t burn twice. About the only way to reignite it was to throw it into the depths of the bonfire and let the flames lick it until they finally found a fresh area to burn.
But wasn’t that exactly it? The charred wood, that was the answer I had been looking for. It certainly wasn’t the most refined tool, but once they mastered the art of metalsmithing they could make better tools. All it had to do was be a catalyst for the future. As I made this connection, so too did the Collector. He turned the warm piece of burned wood over in his hand, once again seeing the possibilities it held.
This was it, we could do this. The pieces were all assembled, and come morning light, the real work would begin.