“Master, please tell me this is almost over.”
“You know, back in Truset, we had forgers who just specialized in what we’re doing now. It’s these steps that define what a blacksmith can really create. No matter what you make, it’s the metal you forge with that decides the potential of your work. If the metal is bad, the smith needs to work extra hard to create a masterpiece. Only by knowing these steps can you inspect metal properly.”
“You’re right master. I’m just excited to see what the crucible did.”
“That’s ok, but you need to be careful. Even letting the crucible cool overnight, someone with your stats will burn themselves when we remove it.”
Master Del moves over to the forge and grabs the crucible with his hands. Standing next to him, I place my hand an inch above the jar. He’s right, it feels like there’s a fire still inside the crucible.
With master’s strong fingers, he peels off the black clay sealing the lid.
With the lid removed, I can see the gleam of the glass on top. In one quick motion, master punches the inside of the crucible.
“If you’re doing this by yourself, you should use a chisel to break the glass.”
I can only nod my head as I stare, watching Master Del pour out the crucible’s contents. Pieces of shattered glass tumble out first, followed by a solid chunk of steel.
“Are we going to forge something with that, now?”
“Almost, we treat the steel by heating it up, hammering it into an ingot, and letting it cool slightly. We need to repeat this about eight times. This helps reduce any structural flaws that can still be hidden in the metal.”
“Couldn’t you just fold the metal? Wouldn't that make it better?”
“Humans might need to do that, if they can’t smelt good quality metal. You only fold metals if you have too many impurities mixed in with the ore. Folding steel once or twice is ok, but why would you need to improve your steel if you smelted it correctly? Sometimes folding metal too much can do more harm than good. Strike the forge, and get the coals burning.”
Grabbing some dried brush, I start a small fire in the forge. As the fire grows, I add the charcoal to the mix. While watching the fire grow, Del moves his anvil closer to the forge. Once the anvil is set up exactly where he wants it, Del starts collecting different hammers and tools he has scattered about. The hammers have different sizes of heads, ranging from ones that look like mini pickaxes, to something that looks like Thor’s hammer.
“That’s good Aaliyah, but watch how I spread the coals. I want the coals spread even for only part of the forge, while another section needs to be hotter, so I usually place one of my blacksmithing logs. Different techniques require you to change the temperature of the metal.”
After Master Del has the fire structured the way he wants it, he places the puck of steel into the forge. Even Master Del is using some short tongs, so he doesn’t need to stick his hand directly in the fire.
“Stand next to me.” I move closer to Del so I can see directly into the forge.
“Yeah, right there.”
“You can use these longer tongs, but I want you to control the metal as I tell you. Watch the color and when I say, PULL! I want you to grab the chunk and hold it on the anvil.”
Giving me some tongs and switching spots with me, I’m now directly in front of the forge. I can’t help but meekly say; ‘You want me to hold it?!”
“Of course. That’s how you will learn better control. I want you to pay attention to the color of the metal as it heats up, as I hammer it outside the forge, and when it’s cooled to the point it has to be reheated.”
Watching the metal turn different shades of red and yellow, Master Del points out all the little details to look for. With over 100 years of experience, I don’t think I could find a better teacher anywhere.
With the signal, I grab the metal out of the forge, using the tongs to position it over the anvil. Del picks up the Thor hammer and his hand seems to start swinging in slow motion. Four hammers continuously strike the metal one blow after another. The force from his swing travels through the metal, and up the tongs, sending a shocking sensation throughout my body. Before he can swing again, the hot metal tumbles to the ground. I can’t even grip the tongs anymore.
“You ok?” Del asks me.
“My arms won’t stop shaking.”
“Don’t worry, it will stop soon. Let me get the steel.”
Grabbing the cooling metal with his bare hands, Del cleans the dirt off with a wire brush. Once the metal is cleaned properly, Master Del leaves the cooling steel on the anvil and turns to check on me.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have used Multi-Strike without warning you.”
As Del places the cooled metal back in the forge I have to ask. “Was that one of your skills?! Can you teach me that?”
“It’s a physical tier 4 skill, so you probably won’t be able to learn it till you level more. Are your arms doing better?”
Flexing my hands, most of the pain is gone. “I think I’m good now. But I’m curious, how heavy is your huge hammer? The force I felt was incredible and I don’t think it was just from the multiple strikes?”
“This hammer? It’s 50 pounds.” Del takes his place by the anvil again.
“Amazing! Wait, why is it only 50 pounds when you could easily lift more?”
“Even with incredibly high physical stats, people have a hard time wielding anything more than half their body weight. I can lift and carry extremely heavy objects, but swinging a heavy tool or weapon will drag the user with it, no matter how strong they are. Of course, there’s workarounds, I knew some Stone Kin that would wear weighted shoes so they could wield heavier hammers.”
I almost forgot about the metal! Picking my tongs off of the ground, I move the hot steel back over to the anvil. This time, master only uses plain strikes. Well, plain as in using the same force as a hydraulic press. With each blow from Del, the metal moves from a circle to a shape more resembling a square.
“What?” What does he want me to do? Looking at him, he only chuckles at me.
“Too late now. Let it cool for a little longer then put it back in the forge. When I say “FLIP”, that means I need you to turn the metal over so I can work on the other side. When it becomes more of a square, I’ll say “SIDE.” So I can hammer it into a rectangle shape. Watch carefully with each of my strikes. When two blacksmiths work together, they should be able to read each other's intentions without talking.”
He wants me to read his mind!
“Close your mouth. I don’t expect you to know everything after I only showed you once, I just want you to pay attention. In the future, we will be able to tell what the other needs us to do by the strikes of our hammers.”
“By hammers, do you mean the 50 pound one? I don’t think I could use that.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll work your way up to it. I have plenty of hammers for different occasions. This big one, I only use when I’m making ingots. My detailing hammers are around 20 pounds and after some practice, even you could swing them with your stats.”
The metal still looks a little hot but it’s no longer red. Carefully I maneuver it back into the forge, trying to place it exactly where I pulled it out from.
“So, how many more times do we need to do this?”
“Probably another 15 times. I realized how much I need to hold back, so I can teach you properly.”
I should have known. With each new thing I learn, I’m reminded how labor and time intensive blacksmithing is.
Two hours later, my arms feel like jelly again. After the treating and shaping process, I think I can finally tell fairly accurately when the steel needs to be taken out of the forge. Del even switched with me once and let me try wielding one of the 20-pound hammers. I missed half my strikes, and burned most of my Stamina in only a minute of hammering.
After all our work, we have a two-foot rectangle ingot. One day of mining, three days of smelting, and we got roughly 70 pounds of workable metal for our hard work. Well, my hard work, I don’t think Del is that tired. Stanley told me a large steel mill produces over a 1000 tons of steel a day. That being said, looking at this ingot I feel really proud of myself.
“Looks good. Put it back in again.”
“I thought this is how it’s supposed to look?”
“It is. Now we need to cut off a portion so we can forge something with it. We don’t need the whole ingot to make smaller items.”
“Oh, so we’re actually crafting something today?!”
“Yep! I was worried you might quit if I don’t show you some real forging today. Make sure the metal is a little hotter than usual.”
Pumping the bellows, I watch as Master Del grabs a one-sided axe in one hand and his Thor hammer in the other.
Waiting till the metal is good and hot, I pulled it out of the forge when I thought it was ready.
“Good timing.” Del’s compliment, makes my work over the last couple of days feel worth it. “Pay attention, hold it tight.”
Steeling myself, I hold on to the red ingot as Del places his axe 5 inches from the end and swings his hammer down. He’s still not using any major skills, but he slices the chunk of steel off in only five swings. The ingot was roughly three inches thick by three inches wide.
“Leave the big piece out and heat up the metal again.”
“Ok, but are you turning it into something now!?”
“Almost, I have to separate the metal a few more times. First, I’ll make you a dagger, then the rest of the metal I’ll save and let you practice with making nails tomorrow.”
“I get a dagger, really!?”
“Pay attention to the metal!”
“Yes, you need something to defend yourself with if you’re going to be working out here with me.”
Dang-it, I was paying too much attention to Del that time. Pulling the smaller chunk out, I place it on the anvil. This time Del uses that Multi-Strike again, but before I drop my tongs again the chunk of steel is cut into four parts. 2/5ths is left as one chunk and the three other pieces are evenly sized as well.
“How did you cut them so evenly, Master Del?”
“Tier two skill Measuring, getting it over 50 lets you measure things accurately with your eyes. I want you to switch spots with me. We only have a few hours left before your father comes, so I’ll forge these last few things by myself. Watch carefully.”
Master Del takes one of the three smaller chunks of steel first. He places it in the hottest part of the forge.
Once he knows it’s ready, he removes the glowing steel. Master’s hands move in a way I can only describe as a conductor beautifully orchestrating a piece of music. With his left hand, he uses the tongs to shift the metal every second. With master’s right hand he hammers the steel in to a thin steel rod. He has such control of his hands; he switches hammers without looking.
Master Del only has to reheat the metal once before he’s finished shaping it. I hardly blink as he manipulates the other two remaining chunks of metal into identically long steel rods.
Neither of us say a word, as Del picks up the final piece of steel. Examining every inch of its surface, an idea seems to pop into his head. With a look of inspiration, Master Del places the last chunk into the fire. I can’t help but mumble a question, breaking the rhythm he’s created with the flames hissing throughout the forge.
“What did you decide on master?”
After I start talking, realization dawns on master’s face. Looking at me, I can tell he forgot I was there. He was completely engrossed with his work, like a true artist.
“Sorry. I’m used to focusing everything on my work. If you see me like that again, just call out my name to remind me to explain what I’m doing.”
“It’s ok Master Del, I was marveling at your work too. Don’t take this the wrong way, but what you just did was magical. The way the metals moved so precisely as you hammered them, it looked impossible to me. You are amazing Master Del.”
“Oh-stop, you haven’t seen anything yet. I’ll take my time with the dagger, and I’ll try to do my best at explaining what’s going on with the metal.”
With his tongs he places the metal back on the anvil. “The first thing you need to do is have a solid shape in your mind. You need to hold the image of the final product so strongly; you can overlap your progress with the metal with the image in your mind.”
Without any skills, Master Del starts banging away with one of his 20-pound hammers. “With the image in your mind set, you have to know your metal. You can always shape metal in any direction if you work hard enough. But truly great tools and blades follow the metal, not working against it. You need to be able to read the grain of your metal, as well as be able to identify the patterns that naturally form during the smelting process.”
As master Del explains his techniques, I watch as the metal methodically turns into a dagger. “Knowing how the metal needs to move and while knowing how it wants to move, only then can you craft with the best of your ability.”
“See this metal I’m drawing out, that’s going to be the tang. The tang is used to attach a handle or make one. I was thinking we could make you a handle out of the farkas bones in my hut.”
As master moves on to the blade, my excitement bubbles over. “Next we make the blade. This dagger will be slightly curved and will have a cutting edge on both sides.”
With each strike of Master Del’s hammer, the dagger moves closer to perfection. Watching the perfect shaping of metal, I can’t wait to try making something like this myself.
When the blade looks completed, master tosses it back into the forge. “Is your mana full right now?”
Master’s question catches me off guard. “Not completely, I used some of my mana on one of the logs when we first started the forge. I think I could use another 300 mana if I need to.”
“That should be enough. I’ve watched how you pour your mana into objects, and I’m going to have you do that to your knife. We Stone Kin call it mana quenching. Fire mana is the most volatile, but it is also the easiest mana to influence. If you inject your mana into the blade it will rapidly force the fire mana out, making the blade stronger, and making it more responsive to your own mana. Remember to force the fire mana out! Don’t try to mix your mana as it will make it even hotter. We had techniques to mana quench back in Truset, but I haven’t seen it performed since I left. When I pull the dagger out, pump as much mana as you can into the metal.”
Waiting for master to pull the dagger out, I sink into my Meditation and Sense Mana skills. While meditating, I use Mana Manipulation to speed up my mana flow. Usually I practice by slowly injecting my mana into items, but this time I think the faster I fill the metal the better.
Pulling the dagger out of the forge and holding it in front of me, I start pouring my mana out of my hands as fast as I can. The only reason I can do this properly is because I reached the next levels in Meditation and Sense Mana. I wouldn’t have been able to use all my mana skills like this a week ago.
Master Del said fire mana is easily pushed aside. So, I take a risk, and while expelling my mana through my hands I grab the hot metal. For a split second I think I feel my flesh melt, but after a moment, I realize my hand is fine. With both my hands I inject my mana quicker than I ever have into the steel.
100, 150, 200, 250, 300
I can feel the heat being forced out of the dagger into the surrounding air. I can hear a sizzling sound, coming from the metal. Watching the mana inside the dagger, I notice a current my mana is taking through the metal.
In only six seconds, I empty my mana pool to 15%. I was nervous about how much I needed so I went under my usual 20% safety limit.
Luckily the blade stopped hissing after four seconds, and with my mana sense I can tell all the fire mana was properly forced out.
“I can’t believe that worked.” Del smiles down at me.
Bent over breathing a little deeper than usual, I quickly look up at Del.
“What do you mean, I can’t believe that worked! Were you not confident I could do it!?”
“Well… maybe 70/30.”
“70, that it would work!” I exclaim.
“No… 70, that it would fail. Don’t worry so much there was only a 10% chance you would really hurt yourself.”
Staring at each other, the silence only lasts a minute before we both break into laughter.
Holding the tang of the dagger in my hand, I marvel at the blade. This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, in either of my lives.
While being escorted back home by father, I hold my new dagger up explaining how awesome it is.
“After it cooled, Master Del taught me how to cut up some farkas bones and pin them to make a handle.”
Waving my new dagger around, I try and show the handle off to dad.
“That’s nice sweety, it’s a beautiful knife.”
Dad doesn’t look excited yet. “Then Master Del showed me how to sharpen the blade and polish the handle. You have to take different stones and slowly sharpen the edges. Master Del had to finish mine, but after I practice some more, I could sharpen your axe for you!”
With that dad finally smiles down at me.
“I’m very proud of you, sweety. I’m happy that man is doing his job.”
Watching dad’s face go from smiling and congratulating me, to one of pure distaste at the mention of my master, I’m reminded how much father hates Del now.
I was bragging about Del since father picked me up. I forgot to think about dad’s feelings in all of my excitement.
Moving alongside dad, I hug him with my left arm and hold my dagger away with my right. I need to have mom help me make a sheath later. I have a new reason to level my Sewing skill.
“Thanks for coming and picking me up Dad. I love you.”
“Always sweety, love you too.”
Walking close together, feeling the joy of the day, I look at the beautiful trees and shrubs alongside the path home.
Did that bush just shake?
With screams filling the surrounding forest, goblins come flooding out of the underbrush.
Before I can react, father swings his axe in a quick horizontal motion. Four goblins that were running straight at us are cut in half at the waist.
Faced with such brutality, the other charging goblins falter.
In the distance, I hear the horn the village uses to signal an attack. This must only be some of the goblins if the village is already signaling an attack.
The horn further freezes me and the goblins. Father looks calmly around us, like he’s mentally mapping the surrounding enemies.
Looking around, there’s over 20 goblins surrounding us. With eight behind us, separated with five on the right side of the path and three on the left side. I think there’s almost double covering the path ahead of us.
The short creatures are brandishing stone knives and basic spears while snarling, showing us their misshapen yellowed teeth.
“Aaliyah, stay close to me.” Dad has the same serious face he had back during the karhu attack.
I refuse to be a burden again. “Dad, I’ll distract the ones behind us while you take care of the ones in the front.”
“No! Just stay close to me and I can…”
No time to waste. I take a deep breath and scream, charging the three behind us on the left.
The three goblins look terrified at my reckless charge, and only the closest one reacts to my approach. The naked goblin starts flailing his spear in my direction. With his panicked movements, he over extends his arms trying to skewer me before I can reach him.
Moving to the right, I grab the wooden shaft with my left hand. I can feel the goblin trying to pull it back but I’m bigger than him and probably have higher physical stats.
With the spear secured in my left hand, I take another step forward and drive my new dagger into the goblins left side. I’m close enough to smell the horrible stench of the creature. I can feel my hand being drenched as the goblin's blood gushes from the stab wound.
As I start to relax the goblin looks me in the face and starts screaming like I’ve never heard before. The sound is echoing in my mind. The screams sound of pain, anger, and a fear of death! They tear at my soul.
Please stop screaming!
Before I know what I’m doing, I use the curved part of my dagger to slit the goblins throat. As the dead goblin hits the ground, I can still hear the screaming in my head. I look up at the two still shocked goblins.
Their faces of fear tuns to rage, so they charge me together. I can vaguely hear screams behind me, but I focus on the charging monsters.
With my left hand, I swing the back end of the spear, striking the left one across its head. With one dazed, I step in towards the third one who is rushing me with a knife. Getting in close so he can’t stab me, I push him towards his dazed friend, with my knuckles still gripping my dagger.
As they tumble to the ground together, I twist the spear in my left hand bringing the spearhead forward. Running towards the grounded enemies, I slam the crude spear tip into the goblin on top. I feel a resistance as I drive the spear through the goblins flesh and feel the snapping of the spear inside its body, or maybe I drove through some bone.
With the spear stuck in the goblin, I throw myself on top of the pile of goblins and stab the bottom goblin with my knife repeatedly.
Time seems to slow down as three of the creatures tackle me while I’m stabbing recklessly. As I tumble with the new goblin group, I think I stabbed them once or twice but I can’t pay attention anymore. My adrenaline is through the roof. I manage to free my left hand when the grip of one goblin falters. Prying off the goblin holding my right side, I stab its chest a few times before another three goblins have me pinned again.
The last goblin is readying a spear to stab me, as the others hold me down. I won’t die again!
I continue to thrash, refusing to give him an angle to stab me. The screaming in my head is gone and the whole world sounds quiet.
As he the goblin standing over me lines up his thrust…
An axe severs the goblin in two.
With a quick blur two of the goblins fly off of me. I can’t tell what struck the bodies, I only heard their bones crackle inside them. The two goblins fly through the air, one hitting a tree and the other landing on the ground.
Neither are moving a muscle.
With only one left holding me, I roll on top of the goblin. Its claws are trying to scratch my face, my arms, anything it can get a hold of. I’m surprised I’m still holding my new knife, as I keep stabbing the flailing goblin in the chest.
It won’t stop moving!
Seven stabs, eight. Its eyes won't stop blinking, as its arms continue to reach for me.
With a shadow covering me, a hand grabs my right arm. I have to free myself! I won’t be caught again!
With a quick motion, my body is wrapped by a strong arm. I have to escape!
“It’s ok Aaliyah, they're all dead.”
“No, it’s still moving. It needs to die!”
“It’s dead already, sweety. Calm down, it’s ok.”
I suddenly realize it's dad holding me. Looking down at the last goblin I was on top of, I can see the body twitching. Dad’s right, it’s dead, the chest area looks like carved beef.
As my adrenaline drops, my body becomes harder to move. I refuse to drop my knife, but dad releases my arm, letting my clutched fist fall to the side.
Still holding me in his arms, dad turns around towards the village. Two men are running towards us shouting something I can’t seem to understand.
The last thing I see before I pass out, is all of the bodies dad hacked apart, before he came to my rescue again.