Autumn – Chapter 1 – 01

            Matt stared at the metal laid out on his makeshift anvil, frowning at it slightly.  He could hear Thom cursing about something back on the construction site.  Probably something going wrong with his plans, Matt thought with a wry smile.  Either that or he tripped over something.  That’d be a yelp, though, not swearing.
            At least the pipework was done for now.  They’d laid the last of the metal heating conduits yesterday.  Old-fashioned radiant heat, Professor Doyle had said with a grin.  It’d make sleeping on the floors more attractive.  After nearly four and a half weeks, they’d grown increasingly used to that.  At least now they were starting to have walls around them rather than just the tent, though most of them still slept there for the time being, and all of them still ate there, clustered around the fire.
            Twenty-some survivors against the wild, changed world.
            “Are you trying to bend it like a spoon?”  Matt jumped, startled, then glared at Phelan.
            Too damn quiet.  “No.  Where did you come from?”
            He jerked a thumb back over his shoulder.  “With Greg, planting holly along the back edge of the settlement.  Wandered back when Brandon showed up to relieve me.”
            The settlement.  Is that what we’re calling it now?  I guess it’s better than camp.  Matt nodded.  “And you came here?”
            Phelan cocked his head to one side, then shrugged.  “Seemed like a good idea at the time.”  He pointed at the iron laid out on the anvil.  “What’s all this for?  If you try to cold-hammer that, it’s not going to be pleasant, you know.”
            Matt stared at him for a moment, eyes narrowing.  “What do you know about forging?”  Do I tell him I want to find a way to make us some kind of weapons, so we’re ready in case those things come back?  Something iron, not steel?  He glanced back toward where he’d leaned J.T.’s claymore against a pile of boxes and other supplies.  That was beyond his capabilities—right now, anyway.
            Phelan followed his gaze and smiled briefly.  “I might know a thing or two,” he said lightly.
            You know, Marin might have the patience for that, but I really don’t right now.  The image of his sister flying through the air, thrown by something Matt could only perceive if he didn’t try to look at it straight-on, was still fresh in his mind, still froze his heart inside his chest.  “Cut the bullshit, Phelan.  Do you know something about forging and blacksmithing, or not?  Because if you don’t, I’ve got a lot of experimenting to do.”
            The red-head winced, rocking back against his heels.  “Sorry,” he mumbled.  His voice took on an almost distant quality, though his tone was serious and firm.  “I know quite a bit.  Used to be one in another lifetime.”  He shook his head.  “You’ll need a forge, something enclosed so we can get things good and hot.  In time, a better anvil than this.”  He rapped a knuckle against the one that stood between them.  Matt’s nose wrinkled again.
            Tell me something I didn’t know, Phelan.  “What else?”
            “Technique is more easily shown than described.”  Phelan nodded to the metal on the anvil.  “Tools, or weapons?”
            “Both,” Matt said.  Phelan kept right on staring at him, almost looking through him, and Matt sighed.  “All right.  Weapons first.  I just keep seeing my sister getting hurt—keep seeing that fight over and over again.”  He set his jaw.  “We can’t rely on the birdshot forever, because at some point we’re going to run out and have a hard time making more.  Besides, the scatter’s dangerous if we’re shooting into melee.  We need something hand-to-hand, something for when they’re close.”  He glanced down at the iron on the anvil and shook his head.  “You said that the iron or steel would be good.  I’m not sure I’m ready for steel, but we’ve got the scrap iron to work with.”
            Phelan scratched the back of his neck, where his tattoo lay.  He’d cropped his hair short within days of his arrival here, revealing intricate green and silver knotwork inked there.  The only one who hadn’t seemed surprised to see it was Marin.  That was par for the course as far as Matt was concerned.
            “Working with the scrap’s going to be a bitch,” he warned.
            Matt snorted.  “You act like we’ll have something else to work with.”
            “Point taken.”  Phelan sighed, meeting his gaze head-on.  “You’re sure about this?”
            “I’m going to do it with or without your help.  Does that answer your question?”
            A faint smile tugged at the corner of Phelan’s mouth.  He nodded.  “Pretty much.  Come on.  Let’s see if we can find some bricks and concrete.  Then we’ll figure out a good place to put up your forge.”
            They left Matt’s makeshift workspace and checked on their supplies.  There were still a few bags of concrete that hadn’t gotten wet or otherwise damaged in one of the tents.  Phelan grumbled and fretted as he looked over the array of bricks they had available, but he did it in his native tongue so Matt could only catch snatches—and those snatches were mostly curses, since apparently cursing in English was a more exquisite expression of his displeasure than in Erse or whatever Phelan’s native tongue actually was.  Matt just crossed his arms and waited, frowning.
            “Are we going to be able to do it or not?” he asked after about ten minutes of impatience.   “Do we need to go cannibalize something to make it work?”
            “Maybe,” Phelan said.  “There was an art program here, right?  Maybe we can take apart the kilns.”
            Matt grimaced.  The truck didn’t really work anymore, and it’d be a long haul with heavy pieces of the kiln from Calder all the way over here.  He nodded anyway.  “Yeah.  It’ll be a bitch, though.”
            Phelan looked at him innocently.  “Why?”
            “Because the kilns are at the far end of campus,” Matt said, still grimacing.  “If we’re lucky, the building’s still standing.”  If we’re unlucky, the whole thing’s collapsed into the ravine.
            He studied him for a moment, then shrugged.  “Eh.  We’ll sort it out.  Everyone here knows how to get there, right?  I’ll just have to have a look when we go to do the hallowing.”
            He says that like it’s of no consequence.  I’d swear he lives in a dream-world half the time.  Matt made a face but nodded.  “Yeah.  Right.”
            Phelan clapped him on the shoulder and gave him a devil-may-care grin.  “Cheer up, deartháir.  Hate to see your face freeze like that.”
            Matt glared at him and Phelan laughed.
            “Come on.  Let’s find a place for your forge.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  You’ve got the will.  I’ll find the way.”

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3 Responses to Autumn – Chapter 1 – 01

  1. Antonious says:

    Now we are getting into my kind of territory. Blacksmithing. Phelan’s comment on cold working is oh so accurate. It has its benefits, but hot iron is much more pleasent to work with. Just to give you an idea, it took me about 30 min with a 3# sledge and a piece of railroad rail to put a point on 3/4″ rebar, but when done the point would go through most sedementary type rock like a nail through wood. Once hot, it might have taken me 5 min to make the same point, but then I would not have had as hard of a tip even if I had heat treated it.

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