It was said by some that the ex-blacksmith Ainstio had gained incredible powers overseas, perhaps on crusade or as a pilgrim. His skills with a forge were well-known, but the legend was given further credence when claims began to circulate that he could forge not only metal but flesh.

Rumor held that, for a fee, Ainstio would work with hammer, tong, and anvil to reforge a person into whatever beauteous shape was desired. People came from leagues around to offer gold and silver to the blacksmith to rework a supposedly homely spouse or loved one into a radiant beauty. His isolation on a headland only increased the illusion of a skillful ascetic, and even the local duke was soon a customer as Ainstio’s coffers grew rich.

After all, he did produce results.

Not long after, though, suspicions began to circulate. Ainstio had warned that the process was injurious to mind and memory, as anyone who has ever suffered a hammerblow to the head can attest, but the inability of the newly reforged beauties to recall key events or languages was nevertheless deeply suspicious. Eventually, the local duke resorted to torture to extract the truth from the beautiful young woman supposedly reforged from his homely political bride.

While it’s possible that the young woman lied under duress, her tale was damning: she spoke of the “reforged” being given to Ottoman slave traders in exchange for younger, more attractive captives taken elsewhere and a cut of the profits. Fear of being returned to the Barbary markets kept them in line, and each was given a small amount of personal information gathered from the “reforged” to memorize.

The duke led an army against Ainstio, seizing his lands, family, and confederates. The blacksmith was hung from a gibbet while the duke attempted to trade the others in exchange for those who had been sent to the Barbary slave markets.

There are still those who hold, however, that Ainstio was undone by lies and that his skills were real.

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