Part Eighteen August 4, 2016
The Master stood slightly lower than Bran’s shoulders, but the thickly muscled body more than made up for his lack of height. Bran glanced into the blue eyes; they seemed to have a tinge of silver in them. The ruggedness of Master Kadar’s face looked as if it had been chiseled from granite.
Master Rennell winked at Bran. “This is your man, Master Kadar.”
Master Kadar looked him over. “A little haggard, but he looks like Calwind’s son.” The Master turned towards the log path. “Come on, I’ll get you started tonight.”
“Don’t keep him too late,” Master Rennell said. He slapped Bran on the shoulder. “I’ll understand if you’re groggy tomorrow.”
“You need to understand some things,” Master Kadar began as he moved easily along the logs. “The Druids do not allow coal, or iron to be brought into the campus, so I melt the iron on the outskirts. Another point you should always keep in mind is if you come in here without my permission, or with your friends I’ll break your arms, and your Bard career will be terminated.”
Bran felt a little shaken by Master Kadar’s words, but his uneasiness turned to excitement when he saw a lantern, swaying in the night wind, illuminating a shack much like his father’s.
The Master fiddled with a padlock. “The shack is built on a mass of dirt, the kind you see in swamps. Used to be a termite hill,” Master Kadar explained. “I’ll show you where everything is.” The Master pointed at a short bench with a tapping hammer, steel toothed brush, a variety of files, and prongs. Below the bench were shelves containing different metals. “The bellows is getting pretty old, and she needs to be patched occasionally. There’s some entente glue in a jar on the bench and some waterproofed canvas in a roll above the door. Anything you’re not familiar with?”
Bran looked around. Nothing appeared new until he looked over at the metals. “The metal!” he exclaimed.
“You’ll get to know the different types and their strengths. For now though, I need you to shovel coal into the furnace while I handle the bellows.” The Master pointed to a pile of coal. “The coal should make the fire hot fairly quickly so don’t put too much in it.”
Bran grabbed the shovel and began dumping coal into the furnace. He could see a large iron pot hanging over the coals. The pot must be where the Master melted the iron and other metals.
“Seen the pot? Look inside,” the Master said.
Bran looked into the pot. He could see what looked like charred ceramic. “Does the ceramic stop the liquid from gripping onto the pot?”
“Yes, but I also have different ceramic bowls for each of the different metals, so watch it when you poor it into the moulds, the bowl might slip.”
The Master began making horseshoes. First he heated a bar of iron until it glowed red. He beat the bar until it bent into a U. Finally, he put the horseshoe into a bucket of water and held it under the lantern with the prongs. Once again the horseshoe was put into the furnace, re-heated, and cooled. The Master followed this procedure two more times. “She’s hard enough,” the Master said knowingly. “Alright Bran, tomorrow get here earlier and we’ll try to do two more.”
As Bran washed off in Cleansing he looked into the centre of the pond. The moon’s reflection stretched over its surface. The gentle waves of silver seemed hypnotic to him. Too tired to re-clothe he wandered to the chestnut tree naked. As he walked he subconsciously grabbed a hold of the jewel.
He fell asleep quickly, but unlike deep sleep where there are no dreams, he dreamt of standing on a cliff watching a giant sphere rise up from below. The higher the sphere came the larger it seemed. He could see now that it was made of bone. The sphere drew in and the front became more elliptical. Two apertures appeared half way down. He could see now that it was a skull with slits for the nose, teeth, and a jaw. It seemed to smile at him. The skull began moving back, as if coaxing him to follow. He lifted his right foot. His foot began to step when a slight pain in his chest stopped him from going on. He woke up and looked around to make sure his sleeping comrades and the surrounding trees where real.
In the morning he felt lethargic. The dream left him with a feeling of disquiet. He had never had an unrealistic dream before and everything around him seemed real one moment and dreamy the next. By night he was beginning to feel more at ease. He worked hard in the blacksmith shop with Master Kadar and they finished three horseshoes instead of two, but as he walked back from bathing in Cleansing an eerie feeling chilled his bones. He had flashbacks of the cylindrical monsters, and the woman of the pond. He needed to speak with someone, just so he could feel safe.
“Peter,” he said, shaking his comrade awake.
“What?” Peter replied groggily.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Bran said.
Peter looked up at him and groaned, but the tall red head got up and wrapped himself in his blanket. They walked back to Cleansing, where Bran stopped to look at the moon’s reflection in the water. “Is the campus ever attacked?” he asked.
“No.” Peter said with a yawn. “The Druids are very protective of this place, my father made sure of that before bringing me.”
“Why do the Druids allow the Bards here?” Bran asked.
“An eon ago the Bards gave the Druids money to buy their own land, so the Druids made this place and others like it, for the Bards.”
Bran looked around at the campus. “So the Druids now protect the Bards, because the Bards protected the Druids.”
“You will have to ask Master Rennell, I don’t know much of the story. Are you ready to go back?”
They went back to the chestnut tree and Peter fell asleep as soon as his head dropped onto his cot. Bran remained awake for a little longer holding tightly onto the jewel.