Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 53

The smithy Welikro recommended was called Big Hammer. Rumour had it the first owner had the same nickname and had moved to Whitestag to avoid the war. He came to town a pauper, he could just barely afford a kiln and a few kilograms of iron. His workmanship was excellent though, and he was soon the favourite blacksmith in town.

His grandson, Mike, a burly and spirited man with a thunderous voice, ran the smithy now. The loose-standing kiln was now a massive, four-story furnace, and several smiths were constantly hammering one thing or another around it.

Welikro dragged Mike out of his corner. They couldn't have a normal conversation in that racket.

Claude handed his models to the man and described what he wanted to do with them. The blacksmith wasn't very interested, he only asked one question: whether Claude had the gun legally.

His attitude changed drastically when he heard who Claude's father was, however. He was suddenly very interested and smiled crookedly the entire time.

He meticulously inspected the previously-ignored models and made a few adjustments so they'd better fit the musket, and reassured it wouldn't be a problem to make them.

He cast plaster moulds of the models. He said it would take a week for the plaster to set and for him to cast and polish the final product. He quoted them a thale and seven riyas.

Claude just barely had enough to pay the man, and was now completely broke again. He had just three riyas left. Riches made for rich spending. He had one solution to his problem, however. He went and found Borkal later that afternoon and all but begged him to find a way to sell his shaliun.

According to what the others knew, he had two shaliuns, but he only wanted to keep one, so he was fine with selling his other.

"I've been spoilt with too much money!" Claude almost literally cried, "I didn't think much about it when I'd never had any money, but now I can't live without having some!"

Borkal rolled his eyes.

"Who asked you to buy so many things? You bought a bunch of useless trinkets for a whole thale. And another thale and seven riyases on useless bits of metal for your gun… No wonder you're out of money! Your father should give you a good scolding! Haven't you ever heard of a 'budget'?"

Claude covered Borkal's mouth.

"Fine, fine! It's my money, anyway! And you'll understand how useful those sights are when they're done!"

Borkal slapped Claude's hand away.

"Yeah right..."

"Why would I lie? You'll see when they're done! Just think about the targets. You weren't impressed with them either, until you saw them in action!"

"Fine, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. But I'm not selling that shaliun if your sights don't prove every bit as useful as you've been bragging!"

Claude didn't practice with his guns for the rest of the week. There was no point training with the old sight if he was going to switch and have to get use to a new sight all over again in a week. And, now acutely aware of his poverty, he didn't want to skip his riding lessons and waste the money he'd spent on them -- even though it wasn't his money he'd spent.

Welikro wasn't too happy. He scolded Claude for lacking perseverance. Claude understood his view, but didn't share it. Welikro was even more frustrated by Claude's wimpy attitude because he thought the boy had a decent talent for musketry. It wasn't helped by the fact that he'd all but given up on Borkal. The little shit only wanted to hit the target somewhere, he had no interest in being any more accurate than that. He lamented that his father had bought him such an expensive musket, instead of he himself getting one.

But he could do nothing about Claude. If there was one thing Claude was, it was stubbornness. And Welikro was timid when it came to getting people to do things they didn't want to.

So, instead of heading for their private firing range after school, the four boys went to Eriksson's family jetty. It was very quiet, the only movement was the dancing shadows at one end where Eriksson's wreck was being baked.

Claude at first thought it was stupid to hang the boat over the fire directly. The smoke would stain the wood and affect its quality, but he noticed a thin metal sheet underneath the boat when he got closer. He heard a sizzle every now and again as the melted glue dripped from the boat onto the near red-hot metal sheet beneath.

No wonder it was considered a high-skilled job. The fire had to be kept at just the right temperature. Too hot and the glue burned into the wood, too cold and it didn't melt properly and drip away.

"Here, Claude," Eriksson shouted, standing next to his partly disassembled ship, covered in sweat and soot.

"Help us scrape the rest of the adhesive away before it cools. There's a scraper for you by that toolbox over there--" Eriksson jerked his head towards a small metal box on the ground about three metres from the group, "--Help me think how we should divide the ship inside as well. I want to put the tall mast on it, but the fore- and after-castle come up too high, so I don't know how to handle the folding."

Eriksson casually tossed them his huge conundrum.

The wavepiercer was seven meters long. Its mast was four tall. The mast was made in two pieces so it could be folded in two when being stowed. The flipper was just five metres long, however, and its fore- and after-castles came up much higher, which got in the way of the folding mast.

They couldn't cut the mast a bit shorter, however, since the sail wouldn't fit if they did.

"Best not use a folding mast on such a small ship. It's just going to cause problems," Claude said.

Eriksson really wanted a folding mast though.

The wavepiercer had a folding mast so it could be stowed away easily while having a bigger sail area for sailing at sea. It didn't need it, however, since it was only going to sail on the lake.

"Fine, we'll do a fixed mast," he caved unwillingly.

The four worked on the ship for the rest of the week.

"It's been a week now, Claude. We should go check on your 'sights'," Welikro said one afternoon while they were on their way to the dock again.

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