“What you forge is up to you. Whoever forges the better overall item will win the contest. You’ll have a week before the showcase, stated Obran.
The forge resumed work, everyone going back to what they were doing.
“You’re not going to win,” said Kade. “I’ve been doing this much longer than you.”
Kade leaned towards me. “And when I win you’ll be making horseshoes for the entire time you’re under me.”
I wanted to punch the grin off Kades face but restrained myself.
“We’ll see about that,” I said before storming off. I would have a lot of work ahead of me if I was going to stand a chance of beating Kade.
While the forge was open, I was in no mental state to continue working. I headed out of the forge, towards the apartment I now called home. I hadn’t lived in the city long and I according to Crom I wouldn’t be staying here much longer.
Crom had nearly save up enough money to take a visit to the Nexus, which the city used for growing a lavish garden. Very few people knew about the Nexus’ true purpose, so all they associated with the Nexus was the abundant plant growth surrounding it. The mana leaking from the portal had a tendency to expedite plant’s growth. The Duke would let people visit his elegant garden for a fee.
Crom was seated on the couch when I entered our small apartment. I sprawled out on the chair that accompanied it.
“How’s the forge?” Crom asked.
“Fine. I got myself into a competition so I’ll be busy next week.”
“I’ve finally saved up for us to visit the Nexus. I was planning on leaving in two days time but I’ll let you wrap up your work with Obran before we leave.”
“Thanks,” I replied.
Today was beautiful. The house was finally in my palms. I had just headed over to the estate agent, bringing my gold with me.
“The price on the manor is 70 gold. If you have any relationship with the Bank of Ardania, we’re allowed to offer a ten year fixed mortgage.”
“There will be no need for that,” I said as I handed my bag of gold over to the estate agent.
“It’ll be just a moment before I can get the magic documents you’ll need to sign.”
Any other day or time this would have annoyed me greatly but not today. I looked over the multiple fliers and requests that hung on the wall to occupy myself. Most fliers were job requests, most of which paid poorly or were exceedingly dangerous.
A couple coupons hung on the board for artisanal bread made my stomach growl. I would have to go eat after I had settled everything. Something caught my eye below it, a warrant of sorts. It was titled Escaped Fugitives. On it were two individuals, one was a complete stranger to me, the other I had only met once.
It was the boy, the one who I had stolen the sword from.
“Is it alright if I go for a walk? Will you be able to hold the paperwork for me until I get back?”
“Certainly.” replied the real estate agent behind the counter. -----
The sun had not peaked over the horizon when I left for the forge. I was the first to arrive, which made sense since I had gotten up much earlier than I had previously. If I was going to beat Kade, I would need to work much longer and harder than him.
Maybe I would forge something useful like a claymore sword, or an axe, or maybe some armour that I could give to Crom. I had exhausted my brain trying to devise the perfect object to forge, something the judges would take great interest in.
Sitting on the floor was a neglected horseshoe. Maybe I had crafted it. Maybe I hadn’t. It was a reminder of my first day working for Obran as an apprentice. I knew what I was going to make in that moment. It wouldn’t be fancy, nor would be particularly impressive, but I knew I would smile when I beat Kade with a horseshoe. Not physically. I wasn’t that cruel.
If this was going to work, I knew the quality would have to be perfect. Kade had said that many smiths had never crafted a pinnacle item, but I was certain if I spent every hour this week in the forge I might be able to do it. Horseshoes were relatively simple to make and I already had experience making them.
I banged the metal with as much precision I could muster. I took more time than anyone would spend forging my first horseshoe of the day. I kept reshaping the pliable metal until I was satisfied with its shape. Steam rose from the water I plunged it into. I examined the horseshoe.
Horseshoe - Quality: Excellent
I took half an hour to root out the small errors in my horseshoe. I spent another 15 minutes brainstorming to come up with a more efficient design. Smithing, examining, and brainstorming was the routine I repeated throughout the day. It took longer to create a horseshoe as the day progressed because I had knowledge of more flaws I had to fix.
Creating the perfect horseshoe had become an obsession, one that I prioritized over sleep. It was dangerous to work in the forge unrested, but I didn’t care. I would be able to sleep when this competition was over.
In the beginning of the day I had started crafting excellent horseshoes and by the end I could consistently make superb ones. It took much longer to craft these though, so I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to finish my plan before the week was out.
Over the next two days I had only been able to craft a handful of horseshoes. All being superb except for one. The fatigue had started to get to me and I had trouble concentrating so I shouldn’t have been surprised that my last horseshoe had turned out to be excellent.
I decided that I needed some sleep so I rested on the cold dirt floor. Going into this competition I had been worried about Kade but my worry had dwindled since I had yet to see him enter the forge.I found it likely that he hadn’t bothered to put in any work, but a small part of me doubted that, maybe he had gone someplace else to craft his item.
Only hours later I woke up to continue my relentless work. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the next horseshoe I crafted was of extraordinary quality. I was so close and I was only halfway through the week. I pushed on like a workaholic with focus potions.
I’m sure anyone without a magma core would have succumbed to the heat, skin burned from the molten metal and steam. What I was doing wasn’t sustainable.
Three days had passed, all with very little success. I was stuck. The lack of visible flaws on the horseshoe’s surface drove me insane. I had no way of knowing what I was doing wrong. Now I understood Kade’s words. Now I knew I would most likely lose.
I needed guidance. I felt shame carrying my horseshoe for Obran to examine. Nothing forbade me from reaching out to him but I felt like receiving advice wouldn’t be in the spirit of the competition. With only hours left before the showcase, I held in my pride and went looking for the big man.
“Hey, Obran can you look at this!” I shouted.
“Aye, I can do that. Not sure why you need me to look over a horseshoe though.” said the puzzled smith.
I handed Obran my horseshoe and watched him while he looked it over. A genuine look of surprise flashed onto Obran’s face.
“How’d you manage this in only a week. It’s impressive. Why’d you decide to pick horseshoes though?”
“It was the first task given to me. It was also simple enough where I thought I might be able to reach pinnacle quality if I spent every waking minute in the forge.”
“Well, I’ll give you a tip boy. Sometimes an item is more than the design. Sometimes you need to pick the right type of metal as well.”
In my entire time forging I hadn’t thought about the type of metal I used, only ever using basic iron. Now I sat on the floor wondering what material would be best for a horseshoe. The metal would have to be strong and hold up to the weight of the horse while also being light and easy for the horse to carry.
I thought back to my time forging my spear with Obran. He had mentioned various materials that he could use to make the spearhead. I remember talking to him about sky iron, a light and durable metal. It would be perfect for a horseshoe.
“Obran, can I have some of your sky iron.”
“Not for free. You’ll have to buy it off me,” Obran casually stated.
“How much do I need to pay?” I asked.
“About forty gold.”
I looked into my measly pouch. Once I had thought 11 gold would be a fortune but here in the city it didn’t seem to buy you all that much.
“I’ll be back!” I shouted before running off. I zigzagged through the maze-like streets. Further and further I went into the heart of the city, back to where Crom’s apartment stood. I had little time, especially since I didn’t know how long it took to smith a pinnacle quality item. Thankfully, Crom was home when I got there. I had been worried that he was on a field trip with the city advisor. He liked to guide Crom around the city.
“I need 30 gold.”
“Why?” asked Crom, looking a little shocked.
“No time to explain. I need it now.”
Crom reached into his bag and handed me the gold I needed.
“You know this going to set us back,” Crom grumbled.
I didn’t wait for Crom to finish before I bolted out the door. I worked my way back to the forge.
Obran had already set out the sky iron. All I had to do was hand him the money. I quickly moved to the forge and began heating the metal, taking in deep breaths to calm my nerves. I couldn’t be jittery while forging.
I slowly worked the slightly more malleable metal, carefully bending into the right shape. Each hit was deliberate and was a result of lots of preparation and days of tweaking my techniques. I could tell at this pace it would take me longer to forge the sky iron. I didn’t worry about it. All I could possibly do was finish the product.
I was nearing a finished product. I carefully pulled out the hot metal and placed it into the pool of water. I brought it up to me, grabbed it and inspected it.
Horseshoe - Quality: Pinnacle
Smithing has reached Journeyman 1