This was written as only a part of a larger story delivered weekly in a serial format.
Previous episodes: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6
Sweat slicked Colt’s long black hair, ran rivers along his face, and stung his eyes. Droplets flew across the small shop with every blow of hammer against steel. He wore a leather apron over a bare chest that hung low to cover his knees. He worked a bellows with one booted foot, keeping the furnace raging hot while placing the metal into the hottest part of the flame before pulling it out, pounding down with the sledge, and tempering the metal in the barrel of water to his side.
He had been at it since before the sun rose over the Great Sea in the cool of morning. That cool had burned away as the sun climbed overhead turning the day steamy and encouraging the salt wind to blow in from the sea. Still he pumped the bellows, pounded the metal flat, rolled one thin layer upon another, and tempered the blade again and again in tireless automatic motions.
If the piece came out, it would be a masterpiece. Both sword and ax, it would be a front heavy weapon as the blade turned from a long thin shaft expanding at the end into a sort of triangle with only one point, the point of the sword. It would be heavy enough to split a shield or skull, lite enough to carry with ease on one’s back or hip, and stand up well against a sword wielding opponent. Colt had taken to calling the thing a swordax and had thoughts of making another for himself.
Master Crandall would be by early tomorrow morn for it, and Colt was running behind. If he could get some help from the blasted fool who called himself Master Blacksmith, perhaps he would not be. But perhaps he would be behind and more at that.
Master Blacksmith Hammer, called Ham by everyone, was more a business man than a blacksmith now. There were lots of goods moved through his shop, but his hands seemed not to touch any of them except to pass them over the counter. True, he had a keen eye and could spot a flaw a mile off, and was always happy to tell his now only apprentice to fix what he saw, when he saw it. “The hammer no longer fits my hand boy, but I’ve still got the eye for it,” he would say several times a day as he instructed Colt to redo one piece or the other without mention instruction of how. That statement was often followed by a remark of how Colt could maybe one day turn into a passable smith himself if he would do something around the shop instead of just standing around. It was as if he wasn’t swinging the hammer all day and half of most of the nights.
It was maddening!
Colt wanted nothing more than to get away, but there was no way out that he could see. He could climb aboard one of the large fishers that sailed clear from sight before coming back with their catch. They always came back though. Almost always anyway. If he ever left, he would never return.
Sam, the latest apprentice to abandon Colt followed the coast to another city, saying that he could ‘prentice somewhere else and be better off. Colt had his doubts, and why leave only to do the same thing somewhere else?
He looked out at the mountains in the distance and shivered despite the heat. The stories said they were wild, dangerous things that no one ever returned from. Beast roamed those slopes, large enough to make an easy meal of a man. Colt had seen one such creature brought into town by a peddler looking to sell its coat. The wagon, surrounded by large men with bows and spears, creaked beneath the weight of the huge black creature. Colt thought that it must have weighed as much as ten men.
But it had been killed. Could the mountains hold some hope for him. He had heard that people lived on the far side of the peaks, in a fertile valley where they farmed and lived away from the constant heat and the salt wind that blew in from the sea.
That thought alone was enough to set his mind racing, if not his feet. He had nothing. Nothing except an apprenticeship to a man who would set orphan ass back on the street the moment he stepped a foot wrong. Colt feared that would happen everyday, and so he swung the hammer hard and without complaint.
Colt pulled the swordax from the water barrel and held it before him looking for faults. Master Hammer took the piece and scowled. “The storms take me and hurl me into the sea, but I can’t see what this thing is good for save chopping wood.” He swung it in an awkward arc. The weight on the tip of the swordax caused the old blacksmith to stumble forward. He appeared ready to throw the blade into the dirt, but thought better of it. “If that’s what the man wants, who am I to judge. Long as he pays, it’s all the same to me.”
Colt took the weapon back from his master with ease, giving it an easy twirl before hanging it on the wall. Ham gave him a look, and Colt did his best to look abashed. He stared out at the mist covered peaks as his master stomped off.
This is the seventh installment of a serial lovingly named Warriors. It is my goal to have a new episode every week or so depending on life. Please bear with me if I’m not as punctual as I would like. Another portion will be posted soon with a target word count between 500 and 1,000.
If you would like to read the previous episodes, I have links at the top of this post!
I hope you enjoyed this portion of our story! I look forward to seeing you as we continue the journey and welcome any comments you may have.
Thanks for visiting!