With a heavy sigh, Hagon wiped the sweat from his brow. He set down his smithy's hammer and leaned back against the hard stone wall behind him.
"I've been thinking about what you said the other day. You're wrong." Hagon said bluntly.
Tristan was taken aback. It was so rare that Hagon ever spoke that he was surprised to even hear the man's voice. On top of that, he could not think of a single time that the smithy had ever voiced outright disagreement on anything short of a mistake in his metal working.
"How do you figure?" Tristan asked after a moment of stunned silence.
"You spoke of how a man cannot change. That from the moment they are born, they are born to do a single thing. To perform a single purpose or sets of purposes throughout their life." Hagon closed his eyes as he spoke. "You're wrong."
It was only then, looking at the smithy, that Tristan suddenly realized just how old the man looked. Covered in sweat, dirt, and metal grime, Hagon was a wall of meat and hard muscle from his years in the forge. But, in this instant, Tristan could see the many decades of wear and tear plainly upon his mentor's face.
"No man, or woman for that matter, is born to die in some damned cave because some fucking priest wrote it down a thousand years ago." He continued.
Tristan set down his own hammer, his gaze fixated on Hagon.
"I have to g-"
"Boy." Hagon said with a familiar sternness. Tristan shut up.
"You might choose to go. You might choose to throw your life away in the dark and the damp. But do it because you choose to, because that's where life has brought you, not because someone told you that you're supposed to."
The smithy's gaze fell to the mass of molten metal before him.
"You know what I've found out about life, boy? About humanity?"
Tristan didn't answer.
"Humans are much like this metal here. At birth, they are molten. It doesn't matter what type of metal they are made from or what they will become because they burn with passion. As time rolls on though, they start to cool. They start to take shape. Everything around them acts as a hammer or a mold, forming them into what they will become. You start to realize that perhaps one is made from iron or another is gold. You recognize that one might be a sword while another is a hammer. But as they age, they take shape. They became who they are meant to be."
"But as time goes on, that metal begins to cool. The strikes that once shaped them now begin to warp them unless they can rekindle that fire. Some are lucky. Some have another who comes along who relights that fire inside them. Makes them hot. Makes them soft again. Allows them to be shaped into something better...or worse."
Tristan swallowed hard, his thoughts drifting to Elowyn.
"But just as before, most will begin to cool again. Life continues to try to shape them, but they've become hard and cold now. They aren't willing to bend or change.Their fire has gone out. Each hammerfall weakens that which was once strong. Blades are blunted. Hilts are broken. Steel is cracked and bent. As you get older, unless you have something to keep you warm at night, life will freeze your insides and destroy you one hit at a time until you're nothing but a shattered pile of what you once were."
For a moment, they both sat in silence, watching the molten melt in front of Hagon slowly cool. One moment turned into two. Than two to three. Finally, the reddish tinge of the molten melt had begun to turn leaden gray before Hagon spoke again.
"Remember, boy: you are what life has made ya. If that means you need to go down into that cave, so be it. But don't let someone use you as a spear if life has mean you into something else."
"And what would that be?" Tristan asked quietly.
"I don't know, boy. I'm just a tired, old hammer." Hagon said as he went to reheat the cooling metal before him.