TITLE: The Heartsmith
GENRE: YA Steampunk Fantasy
I carry my heavy basket of hearts down the crowded cobblestone road. Business men in top hats look down their noses at me while women in long, muslin dresses pick up their skirts as they pass me by. The warm sunshine shimmers off the brick buildings lining the street like stalwart soldiers and illuminates their colorful doors. I’m looking for the red one.
Red, and all its color variants from crimson to pink, is considered garish, almost rude. It’s their color and the people of Ager City don’t like their type. My pink pinafore is probably what made the women skirt past me. I mean, who do I think I am, wearing pink? It pays to stand out in the business, though. Everyone in Talier Marketplace knows where to get the best hearts- the girl in pink.
I’m not going to the square to hawk my wares quite yet. I need to see the man at the red door, The Heartsmith. Hearts aren’t much good if they are broken and even less good if they aren’t imbued. A regular, old heart is worth only a single gold piece, while one imbued with purity is worth one hundred. The Snatchers always go for the purest heart in the room. It’s helpful to have one on hand at night. Children squeal with laughter as they run by me playing Snatcher and Knight. Until five years ago, Snatchers were thought to be the heart-stealing, soul-sucking monsters of the past. Now, they are all too real.
The red door materializes out of the wave of people rushing home for lunch, perched between a cobalt door and a canary yellow one. It always makes me smile, especially when the nobles wrinkle their noses or turn their heads. They’d most likely form a committee to remove or repaint the door, but heart vendors are untouchable. We’re needed too badly. I make sure to smile at a woman barely containing her disgust at my dress before bouncing up the stairs and knocking on the red door. A few moments later a clatter comes from inside, followed by a loud oomph. The door bangs open.
“Alessa, you’re early.” Bernard’s wiry, gray mustache sparkles like an opal as sun glints off the heart soot gathered in his hair.
“No, I’m on time. You’ve just forgotten to check the clock.”
I barge past him, brushing the shimmering dust off my shoulders. The house is surprisingly sparse for a man of Bernard’s station and age. The parlor is empty with white walls and a set of dark wooden stairs leading up. Heart soot sparkles across the wooden floor, clinging in knots and crevices. Bernard trails behind me muttering under his breath about time as I traipse to the back of the house. At the end of the parlor hall is another red door, this one heavy and made out of metal. I grip the door and give it a big heave. It groans as the hinges give way and the door slowly swings open.