Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 50

"Wait, one second," Borkal said as he pushed Eriksson out of the way, "What are you thinking, Eyke? Why would you buy a broken flipper? There's such a huge hole in the middle and the entire bottom is broken! Even if you're buying it for cheap, you still have to repair the hull. Only the frame can still be used!"

Eriksson nodded. "That's exactly what I'm after."

Eriksson raised two fingers at Wakri.

"Two thales. If you don't like it, pretend I didn't bring it up, Uncle Wakri."

Wakri smiled painedly.

"Just a little more... You can't let me make such a huge loss..."

"I don't have the money," Eriksson said, shaking his head, "Two thales is the best I can do. If you don't want it, forget it. I only want the frame. It isn't worth fixing. You'll only get two or three thales if you dismantle the thing and sell the wood, and that doesn't even count the cost of doing that. I doubt you'd earn more than half my offer."

Taking boats apart was a skilled profession in Whitestag. A shipmaker usually brought two or three apprentices with him to dismantle boats as a side job. But only with their skills could one reuse an intact frame. A common, unskilled brute would, in the best case, remove an essential part when dismantling a ship or break something off.

Usually, only larger vessels were worth dismantlement. A flipper was a small vessel, but the frame was still useful. Wakri was worried that if he tried to dismantle it himself without hiring a shipmaker, the frame would be turned into nothing but junk. But it would be too expensive to hire a shipmaker. It was as Eriksson had said, the amount he could sell the material for would not even cover the costs.

"Just sell it. Others will eventually find out you made a bad trade if you keep this here. You'll lose reputation. If you can buy such an invaluable flipper, wouldn't it cast doubt on everything else's quality?" Claude added.

It must be exactly what the man was worried about, because he was ash-pale. He waved his hand in surrender.

"Fine! Two thales. But please, take the thing away as soon as you can."

"Will do. I'll get someone to pick it up in the afternoon," Eriksson said as he handed the man two thales, "I have to go back to class first, though. If someone asks, tell them I bought it and am just leaving it with you for a while."

The four returned to school.

"Eyke, why did you buy that old thing?" Borkal asked, unable to contain his obvious curiosity..

"You've seen the wavepiercer at my family's jetty, right?" Eriksson asked, drawing out the moment.

A wavepiercer was a common fishing boat. They were mostly carried on bigger ships and dropped at the deep-sea fishing grounds. They were usually seven meters long and two meters wide. Each had a small mast and sail, and it was normally crewed by ten people, usually, one helmsman, six rowers, a sailsman, the commander and a netter.

The boats were only deployed once fish were found and were responsible for casting the nets. The larger ships had two, while the smaller just one.

Altronis' jetty had one, broken, wavepiercer. It had apparently rammed into bedrock near the shore because of the strong currents. Nobody was harmed, but the keel was cracked, completely useless. It was in the same state as the flipper, and it would cost too much to repair it.

"So you want to use this one's keel to replace that wavepiercer of yours'?" Borkal suddenly asked. "Wait, the frame is only five meters long. Isn't it a little too short?"

Eriksson shook his head.

"No. I'm not trying to fix the wavepiercer. I want to build a third small fishing boat from parts salvaged from the two, one like Old Sunny's."

"Actually, you didn't realize that, apart from the flipper's keel, its whole frame is still intact. I just have to take off the boards and use the better ones from the wavepiercer," Eriksson explained confidently.

"Well, we'll need to install a wheel, folding mast, split the boat in three, add the roofing, and so on. But we have old materials in the storeroom. If we need to, we can also use the parts from the flipper or the wavepiercer and resize them to our needs. There's no need to buy them. The only thing I have to think about is the work.

"I'm sure you don't know that Uncle Pegg used to be a boat repairman in his younger days. He stopped working on it when he hurt his leg on the water. He's still handy with the hammer though. He's even offered to fix up the wavepiercer for free if we can just find him a keel. He can't stand watching broken ships just sit there on the shore.

"My dad had already bought a new ship though. I'm sure Pegg will be glad to help out."

"Will your dad not scold you?" Borkal asked.

"No... If I ask him to buy me a gun, he might just ignore me. But I'm sure he'll approve of me building a fishing boat. I can even get him to pay the manpower to remodel it for me."

Claude laughed. Captain Altroni's love for bragging meant he would definitely let himself to that. If Eriksson succeeded, the captain could brag about his son's capabilities in town. Which ship captain actually had a son that owned his own fishing boat at just sixteen? If Eriksson really managed it, his father would definitely show it off for a long time.

They got back into school and Claude hid his purchases in his desk's drawer and got ready for fencing class.

The class taught the three basic swords, namely, the rapier, the two-hander, somewhat like the claymore or zweihänder back on earth, and the shortsword. This world's rapiers were not that much different from their earthen counterparts. They were light and focused on stabs. The two-handed swords resembled Chinese seven-star swords. Their handles were a foot long and could fit closer to three hands than two. The shortsword was sharp and used mainly as a secondary weapon by the military.

Most of the academic students choose the rapier since it was favoured by the nobility as a 'weapon of grace and finesse' and didn't require great physical strength to use.

Physical students, on the other hand, leaned more to the latter two. Since the courses covered only the basics, most learned at least some of all three before choosing a specialty. Most of the refinements beyond the basics were learned through spars with coaches giving hints from the sidelines.

Claude preferred the two-handed sword since he had the strength to use it and liked its somewhat arrogant swings. Welikro was the strongest of the four, but he preferred the shortsword, like Eriksson, for its versatility. Eriksson used it because his father said it was the most useful aboard ships.

At least part of Welikro's reason was simple habit. He'd been playing with his father's military-issue shortsword even before he could walk properly and it simply felt the most natural in his hands. Not to mention that that meant his father could help him with his training. For both boys, the fact that the shortsword could be both weapon and tool meant a lot.

Borkal had yet to choose a weapon. He'd trained some with all three, but he was only barely average.

Their day ended with two periods of equestrian. But Claude and the others weren't attending. Eriksson was heading to the docks to get a few of their sailors together to fetch his new wreck.

Welikro went with Borkal to his home to fetch his gun. They would also go to Borkal's warehouses for a few targets before they were to pick Claude up with a carriage and head out of town to practice.

When Claude got home, he took the case out from under his bed and removed his musket gingerly. He'd forgotten to buy slow-match as well. He still had a couple good burns left in the one he had right now, but he should buy a new one within the next week or so. He also took out and refilled three powder horns.

The powder horns were exactly as their name suggested, the hollowed horns, usually of goats, used to store loose powder. They were ubiquitous before prepacked paper cartridges were invented, but they were still used quite widely even now. It was largely a matter of guesswork and practiced muscle memory how long the horn had to be tilted over the barrel to get the right amount of powder down it, but most of the horns could hold about one package of powder. The three horns thus gave him enough powder for thirty shots, if he didn't over powder the shots, which still happened more often than not.

The horns each had a carry sling attached via two copper rings burned into the horn which allowed them to be slung over the shoulder, ready for use at a moment's notice. Claude remembered Welikro had been wearing two small black cow horns on him during the trip. He only now knew they were his own powder horns.

The musket's box also had a large leather sack that looked much like a money pouch. A live knot closed off the top, and it was the rough dimensions of the gun.

Claude put 30 rounds into the sack. Best not to overdo his training until his shoulder got used to the recoil.

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