“I think someone knows,” I said in a hushed voice to Crom. My mind had been preoccupied this last week so I hadn’t worried about the stranger that followed me. At first I had convinced myself, it had bounced around and was lost in the dark, but the more I thought about it the more I worried.
I watched Crom curl his eyebrows in confusion. “Know what?” He asked.
“I was using my powers to hunt giant moles in the sewers. I think someone followed me down there. Someone took my weapon.”
“I told you not to use your powers,” hissed Crom.
He began pacing the apartment, clearly nervous. I could tell he didn’t want to end up locked up again or more likely killed.
I stayed silent. I wasn’t in any position to give advice and I wanted to hear what Crom had to say first.
I was worried about Crom when he kept mumbling to himself. He fell into one of his trances, the ones where his spiders moved.
When he came out of the trance, Crom seemed like a different person. Gone was the frantic man I had just witnessed and in his place a calm and collected one.
“I’ve looked into it. At least for now we’re fine. You’ll have to promise me that you’ll stop going in the sewers and stop fighting. I don’t think you realize the danger you put us in.”
—- It had taken nearly a week to weasel my way out of Hedvor. I enjoyed my new sword, the one I had stolen from that sewer boy. My buyer had been told to meet me out here, away from Obran’s influence.
I thought back to my delve into the sewer. The kid was weird. Not the kind of weird you find in an empty pub. No, truly strange. I saw his skin turn black. Not a soft black but a hard black. I had thought hard about what I’d seen but didn’t have anything to compare it to.
It didn’t matter. What mattered was the man with my gold. I could picture the long arches and wooden frame of the town house I was about to own.
I was extensive in my search for the perfect home sitting atop of the perfect hill. The river next it wasn’t perfect, more of a small creak in my opinion but it would certainly work.
It was situated on the outskirts of SukenCrest. I had already contacted Lord Cresten and had found him very agreeable. My dream hinged on this transaction. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.
A cloaked figure slowly sauntered towards me. He looked majestic when his cape rustled in the wind.
“Hey, are you Dirk?” the cloaked man asked me.
“Yes,” I responded. I pulled out my sword handing it over.
The cloaked figure tossed me a pouch. I looked inside and smiled. Today was a good day.
— Obran was busy making orders for customers so he paired me off with Kade, another one of his apprentices. Kade had worked for Obran for 2 years and was nearing the end of his time with Obran.
“Look we got a contract for supplying the city guards with various goods. I think a good task for you is to smith some horseshoes for the guard’s horses. We need about thirty of them.”
“Alright,” I said.
When I looked up Kade was gone. I wondered where he went. An audible sigh escaped my mouth. I would have to figure out how to make them on my own.
I bent the iron, squeezing it until is was shaped like a boomerang. Eventually I was able to form something that resembled a horseshoe. I could tell by looking at it that it was crude. I pitched the horseshoe is a bucket of scrap. I knew this quality wouldn’t be good enough so I didn’t even bother showing it to Kade.
I grasped a new ingot and put it into the flames. I banged on the heated metal softer than I had before. I was more methodical in my approach, creating a smooth elongated strip of metal. I took my time shaping the metal, until its edges were defined.
I looked at my work and smiled. I had done a much better job this time. There were no notable nicks in the metal and the shape was nearly perfect. I picked it up with my hands and put some pressure on it. Sure enough it was sturdy as well.
I was proud of my work and decided to show Kade what I had made. I didn’t know if my work was passable or if I would have to remake the horseshoe. After some searching I managed to find Kade rummaging through some boxes.
“I made a horseshoe I was wondering whether you would take a look?”
Kade grabbed the horseshoe from my hand, looking it over briefly.
“The quality is more than enough. The guard contract only stipulates that horseshoes need to be of moderate quality. You can check the quality of something you smithed by thinking the word examine while staring at the smithed item. “
I did as Kade instructed and a prompt appeared in front of me.
Horseshoe - Quality: Great
“Item complexity makes it harder to achieve higher quality thresholds. Also the higher thresholds are magnitudes harder to reach. Many smiths strive to reach the pinnacle of quality and never create a superior item. Sometimes it’s best to just settle with mediocrity,” Kade ranted.
I didn’t agree with this sentiment. Sure, you could get carried away trying to make one item but it was ok to strive for greatness. Striving had already gotten me this far.
I nodded as If I agreed and headed back to the smith. I created 3 more horseshoes all of which were Good quality. It was frustrating that I couldn’t repeat my great quality horseshoe but I was overall happy with my progress.
If I hadn’t taken my time I probably could have completed the order but I was in no rush. Kade told me I had several days to complete this task so I took my time. While Obran wouldn’t get paid more for higher quality horseshoes, I hoped that others would appreciate the extra quality.
My goal the following day was to create another great quality horseshoe before the day had ended. I found smithing exciting so I got to the forge early, well earlier than most people. Obran and few older apprentices had already begun working the forge.
Instead of rushing into bending iron I decided to carefully plan out what I was going to do. I measured the amount I would need, rehearsed the movements I needed to make. My goal was to remove any unnecessary movements from my smithing process.
Wisdom increased by 1.
I realized that I wasted a lot of time flipping the hot metal rather than finishing one arm of the horseshoe before moving onto the other. After gathering my materials I began.
In and out of the forge the hot iron went. My hammer smashed into the metal with confidence I had lacked the day before. I was confident that the few changes I made would turn a good item into a great one.
My speed had increased greatly and wasn’t long before I had smithed my first horseshoe of the day. I examined it:
Horseshoe - Quality: Great
I had done it. I had matched my best creation from yesterday on my first try. I decided to create an excellent horseshoe before the day had expired. It was a lofty goal but I thought it could be done if I took the time to correct my mistakes after each attempt
I smithed a couple of great quality horseshoes followed by a good horseshoe. My frustration grew as well as my fatigue. My form was getting sloppy as my arms became stiff from the back-breaking work.
I had time for one more, one more before Obran closed the shop. I took a brief moment to rest my arms before committed to my final attempt. My movements were precise, hitting the metal with the right amount of strength. All of my focus was on the heated metal in front of me.
I lost track of time but eventually I finished the horseshoe. I dreaded the moment before I examined it, not knowing if I had succeeded or not. I finally brought myself to do it.
Horseshoe - Quality: Excellent
Smithing has reached Apprentice 2
I was overjoyed. A large smile slid across my face. I yelled in celebration followed by carefully putting my creation on my anvil. I had forgotten it was in my hands. I didn’t want to damage it.
I collected the horseshoes I had made over the last couple of days. It was time to turn in my work to Kade, who was responsible for overseeing my job.
Kade stood by an anvil lazily pummeling some metal. I could tell he wasn’t putting much effort into what he was doing. I had little respect for people who were completely lazy. I never had a lot opportunities growing up so the idea of wasting one was a very foreign concept to me.
“I finished the task,” I said while handing Kade my large stack of horseshoes.
“I’ll have to check these individually to make sure they’re all up to standard,” mumbled my advisor.
I watched as he went through the pile. His face showed no emotion as he analysed each individual Horseshoe. Nervousness overtook me as Kade grabbed my excellent quality horseshoe.
A look of surprise was plastered over Kade’s face.
“Wow. You got pretty lucky. All of these are of good quality and you got one of excellent quality.”
It angered me that he viewed my work as a fluke: something I had no control over. I had put a lot of effort into perfecting my technique, precise movement, and figuring out what made a good horseshoe. I didn’t let my anger show however. I still wanted to be on Kade’s good side since he was technically my boss. I’m sure he could make my life uncomfortable if he felt like it.
“Great,” I mumbled. “Can I get a new task?”
“Sure, the guards need belt buckles.”
“When will I able smith weapons and armour I asked?”
“Well you are the newest. Leave the big tasks to the men,” Kade said while puffing out his chest.
I frowned. I took the belt buckle contract from Kade and headed to the forge.
It didn’t take very long forging 40 belt buckles so I decided to only use great quality belt buckles and above for the order. When I was done I had 34 great quality belt buckles and 6 excellent quality ones.
Once again I brought them to Kade.
“Wow, You should buy a lottery ticket with your luck. Too bad they’re only belt buckles.”
Again I was annoyed at being belittled.
“That’s great Kade. Now can I get a better task,” I asked while holding in my anger.
“Yeah, I guess I can do that. Tent stakes do sound better than belt buckles. You’ll need to make twenty of them.”
I barely controlled my rage as I stomped away from my worthless supervisor. I had to speak to Obran. I wasn’t going to work under Kade. He didn’t show me any respect for my work and blocked me from taking any good contracts.
The pay I got for the first two tasks barely paid any copper. Kade may have been an apprentice longer but I knew I would surpass him eventually. I, unlike him, actually put effort into forging.
“Obran I need to speak with you,” I said.
Obran put down his hammer.
“Alright what do you want to say boy. Spit it out.”
“I was wondering if we could speak in private.”
“No, need for that boy. We’re all brethren in my forge.”
“I can’t work with Kade anymore,” I stubbornly stated.
Obran stared at me and the forge around me went quiet. I looked around and could tell that most of the other apprentices agreed with my perception of Kade. It didn’t make the silence any less awkward.
“And why’s that,” harrumphed Obran.
“He belittles all my work and won’t let me pick any decent tasks”
Obran turned to Kade. Who had quickly walked up to us when he heard the discussion was about him.
“Is that true.”
“Absolutely not. I’ve been really accommodating. I’ve been guiding him through all the processes he needs to know.”
“No, that’s not true. He hasn’t even talked to me outside handing me my contracts.” I fumed.
Obran looked lost in thought. A smirk appeared on Obrans face slowly forming into a large smile.
“I can only think of one way to solve this issue.”
Everyone eyed Obran intently, waiting for the words to flow out of his mouth.
“Competition!” Obran bellowed.
Cheers broke out from all the other apprentices. It had been quite a while since Obran had thrown one of his famous competitions. They were always exciting to watch.
I looked over at my opponent. His face had gone pale.