Memories of Ice
The hammer flattened the metal on the anvil.
Jarns focused on the task, lost to the rhythm.
A year as an apprentice, today Master Trage would judge his final piece. The sword for Sir Hamna.
He shoved the metal back into the kiln to heat it again. Though it was a simple piece, he still worried over the final quality. This blade would buy his freedom and allow him to work for pay. A long year as little more than a slave was more than enough for him.
Jarns pulled the metal from the kiln and examined the glow. Unsatisfied he shoved it back in.
“How goes your efforts, boy?” Master Trage asked. He waddled into the forge and leaned on the bench beside the anvil.
“I am close, sir,” Jarns said. “This will be a worthy piece.”
Trage chuckled. “You boast. I have heard this from apprentices in the past, yet I have not seen a first solo blade turn out adequate.” He picked up a file from the bench and scraped it across the tip of a fingernail. “You wager your blade will be different?”
“No wager, nor a boast,” he said. “You have trained me well. This blade will reflect your efforts in my skills.”
Again the laugh, deeper this time. Trage wiped a tear from his eye. “With this blade you either insult me or honor me. Soon we may see which one.”
Jarns pulled the blade from the kiln and placed it on the anvil.
Trage left him to his work, with one last look from the doorway.
Jarns held the blade to the light to examine the shape. Satisfied he quenched the blade in a bucket of water. He did not feel the steam that burst up against his arm, chest, and face. He placed the cooled blade on the table to rest before tempering, then searched for the pieces he would use for the hilt.
The pieces came together, each made and assembled by Jarns. In the future he would be able to hire a cutler for the hilt work, but this test was one he must face alone. He saved the polish and sharpening for last. He wanted to make sure it was perfect and ready before Trage would judge his work.
With a pumice stone and oil he worked the blade to scrape and clean the soot and grime from the forge. He wiped and smoothed the rough metal, until it gleamed with a high shine. He then worked the edge of the blade, sharpened to a razor edge.
Master Trage returned to the forge as Jarns finished the final stage of sharpening. “You are finished.” It wasn’t a question. Jarns ran out of time and could do nothing further to ready the blade. Trage snatched it from his hands and held it to the light. Without a word he spun it through different angles as he examined the play of light along its edge and spine. “The balance, is decent,” he said. “It could be better, but this will suffice.” With the sword in hand he waddled to the main doorway. “Come and we shall test it.”
Younger apprentices had prepared the courtyard for the tests. Tightly woven staves of hay and reeds were set in place for stabbing and slicing. Though not exactly what one might encounter in combat, if the sword failed to cut or otherwise perform as it should, Jarns would fail.
Trage examined the blade in the sun before he offered the handle to Jarns. “You have seen what you must do?” he asked. “Work through the staves and show me that the blade works.”
“Yes sir,” Jarns said. The first obstacle, a bundle of three staves, he swung the sword and it sliced clean through the bundle. With a return he sliced through again with the back edge of the blade. At the next target he stabbed through the material, the point severed the stave in the center. Jarns sliced through the targets, and the blade performed well.
He returned to Master Trage, who had a sword in his hand, point down. “Defend yourself.” He lunged at Jarns the point of his sword aimed at his throat.
Jarns didn’t think, his sword flashed and parried the blade away. A flash of steel as Trage’s blade sliced the air toward Jarns’ head. He sidestepped and parried the blade away, then brought his sword up in a ready position.
“Look at the blade,” Trage said. “Show me the marks.” He sheathed his sword, the battle ended.
Jarns flashed the blade in the light to scan across its surface. “I see nothing.” He passed it Master Trage.
“Hhmm, no, here. Your eyes are not yet sharp to see the flaw in your work. But no matter that comes with practice.” He showed the marks on the blade to Jarns. “They are small, minor. Flaws that will not harm the blade in the long term. But they show you have room for improvement. Improvement you will earn as a journeyman.”
Jarns almost missed the pride in Trage’s eyes. He expected to be held back, another year as an apprentice. The shock of the announcement took moments to catch up to him. “The blade is good enough? Even with the flaws?”
“Few have made a blade as fine as this in their tests. Sir Hamna will be lucky to have this.” He rubbed his sleeve over the surface of the blade. “Though you might wish to polish it again, and maybe sharpen the edge before he comes to claim it.”
“Yes sir,” Jarns said as he accepted the blade. “I will do that now.” He rushed back to the forge.
“You have grown soft, Master Trage.” Arlock Burl walked into the courtyard. “I remember a time when you failed an apprentice for less than a single flaw in a blade.” He tipped his hat back to allow more light on his sun darkened face. “Is it possible that age catches up with you?”
“You mistake me for someone else good sir,” he said. “That boy has grown into a fine swordsmith. Something I think eluded you so many years ago.”
“Which is why I made a much better merchant than smith. How I ever would have survived without you to guide me in the error of my ways…”
“I ask that same question all the time,” Trage said. “But then I look at the sales your skills have made for me and this house.” He took Arlock’s hand then pulled him in to a bear hug. “You have been missed. What news do you have from far off lands?”
“That will be something we will talk about later. For now I need to find food and wine, maybe a bath to wash the road from my soul.” He studied Trage’s face. “How have things been here? I have heard talk of changes in the council.”
Trage chuckled. “Changes, you could say that, but not all for the better. Serna Drusk, has taken a seat,” he said. “She staked her dead husbands land to leverage her position. But like you have said, this may be talk for a later time. Need I have a meal prepared for you?”
“No need to go to such lengths. I have already laid claim to a room. I will return when I have fed and rested.”
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