Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 38

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Don't worry, daily chapters will continue through the holidays as well!

Eriksson and Welikro took their share of the shaliuns as mementos after Borkal finished his lecture. Few things could be as memorable as a shaliun, magic or not.

Claude himself didn't shelter any sentimental feelings towards his two shaliuns, he had thirty more on hand. He'd initially wanted to get Borkal to sell them, but it seemed that was not going to happen. He suspected Wakri's shop had to have other magic items. Now that he knew a bit more about what for which to look, he intended to give it a thorough combing.

Unfortunately, Borkal was not going to sell it, which made Claude rethink his intents. He was worried that if he traded his coins, the three would realise he'd hidden them.

The human mind is hard to predict. It wasn't that he was paranoid, he just didn't want to risk ruining his friendships. Luckily his excuse had worked. Even if he were to get Borkal's help, they might not necessarily suspect him. He knew it would eat away at his friend, however, so he chose not to do it.

He was most amused that the three most reliable people of whom he could think were three kids. They were more reliable than even his parents, as far as he was concerned. He was not about to trade the coins himself, either. The whole town would know before the sun set.

Borkal was the only one on whom he could rely. He would not just come up with a cover, he would also do his best to get the best price. Both the others knew his financial situation well, however, and they'd noticed the moment he started spending anymore than he usually did.

He needed to figure out how to keep his friendships in tact whilst simultaneously getting the money he needed to buy any other magic items he came across.

"Boa," Claude said finally. "I only want to keep one. Can you help me sell the other? I need normal money more than shaliuns. You know my dad and my older brother won't let me keep a fenny if they find out. And they would never give me any money. It was already a miracle that I got the money out of them this last time."

Borkal gulped his mouthful of wine down before he answered.

"Okay, I'll ask around and get you a good price. I think a few of dad's friends might be interested."

Claude smiled.

"Great! I'll treat you all to a good meal if you can get a buyer."

Borkal and Eriksson downed most of both of the bottles on their own, then collapsed, dead drunk. Claude and Welikro only took a few small sips.

They tucked the two in, and returned to the bonfire. The night breeze gusted quite strongly and brought the night air down to a nippy cold and the two added the drunks coats to their own.

"Why didn't you drink more?" Claude asked.

"Didn't feel like it. I was careless today and it damn well nearly got you killed. I'm not about to make the same mistake tonight."

"Going to be on watch all night?"

Welikro smiled wearily.

"Yeah. Look at those two. They're dead as pigs. You sure you want to count on them to keep you safe? I'm even afraid they won't wake up until we're halfway back to town! And I'd actually prefer it that way. You know how bad blackcurrant wine hangovers are. I'd much rather do all the packing up and sailing home myself than have them up and about -- as much as one can be under those circumstances. I didn't see you drink much either."

"Never liked drinking," Claude said, slowly twirling his snake skewer, "I just wanted to taste it. It wouldn't be good for all four of us to be drunk, now would it? And I have no intention of turning this camp ground into a vomit fest like what happened with my dad's dinner. I've seen -- and cleaned up, mind you -- enough vomit for one lifetime."

"My dad likes to drink a lot and he gets drunk often. But he's fine when he's drunk. He won't puke or make a mess. He's a sleepy drunk. But my sister hasn't let him drink since she decided she was in charge of the house. Dad has to sip from his secret stash in the attic, and he can only secretly save up for a bottle every couple of months."

Claude was speechless. That said, he had no mind to criticise Welikro's sister.

"You better get some rest early, too. I'll keep watch, don't worry," Welikro said, patting his musket.

"I'm not sleepy yet. I don't think I could sleep even if I tried and wanted to, anyway. We made the right choice to come. It's too bad the break is so short. I don't think we'll have the time to come back again anytime soon."

"It doesn't look like you almost died today."

"Don't get me wrong. I'm scared. But it won't do to just shiver in a corner muttering to myself. Besides, I'm the one eating."

"I suppose… Anyway, how about this; if you can get your family's permission, I'll ask my dad to let you come with us on our hunt this winter."

"We'll see. It's only end of the 5th right now. It's still half a year before winter comes. Who knows what will happen? We shouldn't make our plans too early. Besides, my dad might be a dignitarian, but he's forbidden any of us to own a musket, or even just a bow. I can't practice regularly like you can. As for school... Well, our musket training only starts next year. Sigh, if I didn't have Eyke's musket..."

"Actually, there's a way," Welikro teased, "You can get someone else to buy you a musket. Just register the musket on their name. He'll basically be your guarantor."

"If my dad finds out, he'll freak out," Claude warned, "And I don't have the money, anyway."

The two gave up the idea for now. Welikro knew Claude's father would never let him get a gun, and Claude couldn't finance one on his own. Not to mention that he was not likely to find someone willing to risk crossing his father even if he could finance it.

Claude stood up, washed the pot again, and put it to the boil with some water. Best to make sure their drinking water was clean. He waited for it to come up to a boil, and let it sit for a few minutes before taking it off. He waited an hour or so for it to cool enough, then filled their water sacks. He filled the pot again, then dumped some bones into it.

"Making bone soup again?" Welikro asked.

He had some flour left. Each bag of flour weighed five catties. Claude poured everything into an empty bucket and filled it with some cold water.

"We'll have soup tomorrow. I won't have time to make breakfast, so this way we'll at least have a decent meal before we leave. How about some pancakes as well?"

Claude didn't have a proper round pan, so he instead used the other pot. Once he had a decent batch, he cut up some of the goat meat and grilled it and wrapped it in the pancakes. Now they had lunch as well. He pinched the leftover kneaded flower into little balls, then tossed them into the water pot.


The drunkards woke up later than before, but still pretty early, to Claude's surprise and Welikro's disappointment, and they were just as moanful as both had feared. Claude gave them the soup and they slurped as quietly as they could. They actually just turned around and slept again for another hour before getting up for good, looking no better.

Claude and Welikro had already packed everything, so they immediately prepared to set off for the boat. The four didn't know how they were going to handle their haul, however.

"Two buckets, four sets of plates and bowls, a pan, and a pot. They all go back to the boat. The two tents and four blankets come as well. How are we going to handle the kills though?" Welikro asked.

"We can't forget to keep an eye out for trouble while we do it, either. Let's cut a few branches and tie the meat so we can carry them on the poles? Two will carry and the other two will keep watch. We can switch as we go, too. We're going downhill, so it shouldn't be too bad, either," Claude offered.

It took them two hours to get to the top, but they were much lighter, so it took them as long to get down. Half the reason was that Eriksson and Borkal kept having to stop to nurse their poor heads. In the end, Claude took the clattering metalworks off them so they wouldn't die every time someone took a heavy step, leaving only Welikro to keep watch.

The drunkards slept for another hour when they reached the boat before they set off. They would have left sooner, letting the two sleep on the boat, but Eriksson had to take the helm to get them through the shallows and shoals. They very nearly forgot the nets, but Eriksson was kind enough to notice their absence just as they were leaving the shore.

They didn't, however, find the net. It had simply vanished.

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