D&S: To Be A Knight - Part Six

  • No matter how hard she pressed her pillow against her ears, that demonic shriek still echoed in her head like a sword on a bad grind. She shut her eyes tight, uttering all the prayers she knew to whichever of the gods that would listen.

     

                   But the rooster crowed again.

     

                   Bloody bird, she thought, grinding her teeth. Keep crowing and I’ll have Mrs. Moorsley roast us a capon for breakfast!

     

                   The rooster crowed again; in defiance she was sure.

                  

                   Aeda finally opened her eyes, stifling a scream with a long, drawn-out groan. The day was still dark.

     

                   I miss Hammer. She sighed. At least the birds there only made noise when the sun was actually shining.

     

                   She pulled herself up and looked at the firepit. Snuffed but warm. As for everyone else… everyone else was soundly asleep, little Aran was even snoring. However, Aeda only counted four heads, herself included – one was missing.

     

                   Father, she noticed. Where could he be? His bedroll was made, so that meant he had awoken. It was unlike him to leave a mess.

     

                   Aeda threw her blanket over her head and rolled over. For now, there was peace, sleep was about to take her-

     

                   The rooster crowed again, certainly to taunt her.

     

                   That’s it!

     

                   Aeda jumped to her feet, slipped on her boots and strapped a dagger to her belt. Before she left their tent, Aeda turned and tucked Mrs. Moorsley’s blanket in; Nan never was fond of the spring chill.

     

                   Barring a few legionaries making their rounds and that blasted bird, all was quiet at camp. Mostly. She had overheard some murmurs from one tent and to her displeasure, sounds of love from another. Even when she stopped at her destination, the very ground quaked at Uncle Markus’ snoring – that meant that father wasn’t here.

     

                   Where could he be, she wondered. The fort perhaps? Aeda shrugged and turned to the smith section; for what business would father have at the fort, at this hour even?

                  

                   In the smith section, Aeda heard the sound of metal hitting metal in the air. Precisely. Rhythmically. Beautifully like words on a poem or melodies to a song. She looked round and saw… no one. It was still far too early for the smiths to prepare their forges, so where-

     

                   A faint glow and a plume of smoke emerged by the Martellus wagon.

     

                   Two men worked the forge; one pumping the bellows, the other hammering away at the anvil. Their faces were hidden with a thick red cloth and a pair of tinted goggles. Aeda walked to the rear of the wagon and pulled open a small drawer revealing stacks of cloth and goggles. Father always was insistent that anyone going near a Martellus forge be wearing protection – her childhood was filled stories of smiths going weak and blind with age.      

     

                   The working smith then pointed at a fresh bucket of coke by her feet. Aeda nodded and as she approached, the cold gave way to the warm embrace of a healthy forge. Gorggnak gave her a wave and it was now Aeda’s turn to man the bellows.

     

                  She pushed and pulled with all her might and the embers glowed with life. Not too fast, she reminded herself – fires need not be too hot to work metal. Not too slow, she remembered – a dead forge is of no use to anyone. The pace needed to be steady, exact. Smithing was more than shaping metals – it was a science and so there was a formula.

     

                   Father however… he made it an art.

     

                   First heating. Father pulled a glowing stock from the forge and struck it, precisely four times. He turned the stock and struck it again; precisely four times. He repeated the process for ten more cycles, three rounds for each corner until the round stock bent flat and tapered to a point of precisely four sides.

     

                   Even with his face covered, Aeda could still see his eyes – Calm. Focused. As any blacksmith worth his iron should.

     

                   Second heating. Father pulled that same stock and hammered it on a cutter, timing his blows precisely as he turned. Back to the fire.

     

                   However, what made his worth as a smith has not his focus but his hands. They were steady. Controlled.

     

                   The third heating. Father snapped the stock with a pair of tongs and slid the metal in the pritchel hole, hammering the orange top flat. Three strikes were enough and a quench.

     

                   The perfect nail.

     

                   Three heatings when most smiths needed at least five and sides so smooth and exact that only a carpenter could only imitate this with a knife on wood. But it was just that – an imitation. Unlike wood, metal is stubborn. Metal does not yield easily and if one had neither the strength nor the mental fortitude to do so, metal was a hard material to master.

     

                   But father made it look easy.

     

                   Father reheated a stock and made another nail and then another. He hammered away until it was the sun, not the forge that burned brighter and by his side, hundreds of nails, each identical to the last – all perfect. A testament to the years, no, decades of practice and the thousands of thousands of metalwork in his lifetime. Hers on the other hand…

     

                   The rooster crowed, hoarsely, like a whimpering surrender.

     

                   ‘Gorggnak,’ he said, voice muffled. ‘Prepare the wares. Aeda, head back to camp and wash up. I’ll have this cleaned up.’

     

                   ‘Yes father.’

     

                   By the time she returned to camp, a small crowd had gathered – they had nailed the brackets while she was gone.

     

                   Soot covered and sweaty, Aeda squeezed her way to the front and found that there were four lists; two seedings. Two for the adults and two for the juniors. She skimmed the lists; Reynald de Aquilos, Ser Gerald Goldwine, Ser Selina Fortune, Uncle Mark…. and there, Ser Albus Martellus at the second seeding. He’s matched against Guillaime Lonacque, a name she did not know of.

     

                  Now it was her bracket that caught her interest. Silus Vorenicci, Brien Goldwine, Isabel Renoux, Tara Cossinica… more names she did not recognise and they were of Imperial Knight houses. She found herself, also at the second seeding facing Triston Cordelier but her eyes were more interested with one name.

     

                   A ‘Tiberius Symmachus’.

     

                   Tiberius Symmachus? The name was Imperial yet she never recalled seeing that name in any scroll of arms nor in the official census… Yet the name sounded oddly familiar.

     

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