Part Twenty-Nine August 20, 2016
As he walked to the blacksmith shop Bran started to sing some of the verses he and the others had been working on. He sang Valley of Solitude:
They rode along the road of despair
Lost in land emblazoned with grief
Where no fertile soil lay,
Their crops grew only to wilt away
But in their hearts was a plan
For with them they brought along,
Knowledge of the Earth
They rode night and day
Over desert land they sought a greener place
Over ruined fields and waterless ponds they sought to find grace
Over the windy field, many fell
Exhausted they could ride no more and fell to die
Over a hill the horses climbed with riders aboard
A hill with a healthy waterfall
Climbing this hill took them high
Those cracked lips and shallow cheeks never smiled so broad
‘Can you see the green valley bellow?’ they cheered with hoarse voices
‘We’ll begin our plan here’
‘A new place to begin’
The valley stood as a solitude place,
Green in the midst of dust
A place for the men from across the sea to begin anew…
He couldn’t remember the rest of the song so he continued in silence towards the blacksmith shop.
Just outside the shop he saw a tall man speaking to Master Kadar. The man had long grey hair. His face was covered in a well-groomed moustache and imperial beard. The man was dressed in a tabard that loosely covered his armour. The tabard was embroidered with multiple depictions of a bull and doe deer. The chainmail armour sparkled from the lantern light peeking out through the shop window. The Master and the man stopped talking as soon as they heard him approach.
“As many as you can make Kadar,” the soldier said as he turned towards Bran. “Good evening, sir,” the man said with an eloquent voice as he stepped onto the log path.
“You too, sir,” Bran replied, somewhat awed at the man’s appearance. A sheath containing a sword with a silver hilt slapped lazily against the man’s right thigh as he bobbed along the log path. Bran turned to Master Kadar with his mouth open.
“Never mind,” the Master hissed. “Tonight we begin making shortswords. Keep this to yourself.” The Master glared at him. “You understand?”
“Yes,” he replied uneasily. He opened his mouth again to ask why.
“Don’t bother asking, I won’t tell you.” the Master said, as he turned abruptly around and headed into the shop.
Inside Bran saw a small hill of refined iron. “To make the swords we first melt the iron into large strips. We hammer the iron strips into the shape of a shortsword blade. Let the iron cool in a pale of water, reheat it, and cool it again. The cooling has to be swift or the metal will lose its strength. The hilts have to be made separately. I will do this because the ends must have a pommel to keep the hand from slipping off and the handle must be just the right width.”
The Master shovelled a large amount iron onto a long, metal pan. “The end where the handle attaches to the blade must have a thin protrusion called a tang so the hilt has something to attach to. Normally we hand pump the bellows but tonight I’ve affixed pedals below so we can get more heat in less time.” The Master started pumping the bellows by pedalling. “Do you understand all of this?”
Bran stepped forward to see how the melting of the iron was coming along. “Yes,” he replied.
“If you’re sure, you can go back to your chestnut tree. If there were two hearths I would let you stay, but there isn’t. Tomorrow I will need your help to make as many as possible.” The Master wiped the sweat from his forehead and ignored Bran.
“Yes,” Bran replied hesitantly. He waited a moment longer to see if the Master was just testing him, but the Master said nothing more. “Good-night,” he said before leaving. He stepped out of the shop and shook nervously. He wondered why they were going to make shortswords, and why he couldn’t tell anyone.
Bran walked to Cleansing. He undressed and plunged into the cool water. For awhile he stared into the sky. Its distance was too far for him to grasp, but it gave him a sense of ease. He wanted to ask Peter if he thought war was coming, but he could not. If he asked Peter, Peter would ask him why he wants to know. He stepped out of the water, re-clothed, and headed towards the chestnut tree.