clank, clank, clank
The hammer struck the thin bar of gleaming-hot refined steel on the anvil that should soon become a simple dirk.
Satisfied with the tapering point, Jack took a break, wiped the sweat off his brows and sat down on an old and well-proven stool which creaked under his weight.
In this time of rest, he thought about the recent, far-reaching changes in this world he was living in. Changes so severe that some even called it a revolution of nature.
He himself happened to be present on that faitful day, right at the starting point of this new age.
It all began with a rather old man called Bernard. A gaze like granite and a belly like a barrel, that´s what he was famous for. His story of life seemed to be that of a simple man:
He had had two wifes, fathered two sons and three daughters and worked in the local mill since the start of his adulthood.
However, after the second divorce, he decided to take a different path. Suddenly, he searched for wisdom and guidelines by reading some of the century-old, forgotten books from the town´s library and meditating, preferably a bit off-center on the town square, sitting on the bare cobblestone.
First belaughed, then ignored, he soon became a common sight to the residents.
Jack almost would have entirely forgotten him if he hadn´t noticed a slightly malicious smile on Bernards face during the last few weeks. Some locals noticed it too and feared that the queer books and rites had made the once-respected member of the community go insane, but Jack never listened to those rumors, for he knew Bernard since his childhood, wich meant for about twenty years, and did not believe that a puny book could rob this righteous man of his sanity.
One day, just after Jack had bought a loaf of spicy walnut-and-parsley bread, his favourite sort of bread, he casually looked at Bernard, who was sitting at his usual position, about four meters apart from the southern end of the town square. Bernard looked just like he looked the day before, and basically the whole year. Eyes closed, calmly breathing. However, he suddenly opened his eyes, and the wicked smile widened until his face seemed to resemble an odd mask. Jack kept staring at him and then quickly walked back to his house, for he had seen or felt something strange. He couldn´t quite explain if it was a sudden gust of wind, an odd smell escaping the backery, a weird shade in the sun-litten clouds or cracks in the cobblestone that seemed to have suddenly appeared, starting from the meditation man, but there was something that had made him feel extremely unsettled.
After heat-treating and grinding the dirk to a sharp edge, he dropped it on his workbench where he would fit it with a wooden grip later and instead continued to forge an iron strap for the lorica that Sir Wobblington, a knight of mediocre importance, had requested.
It was an odd request for almost all knights prefered the rock-solid protection of a classic, full plate armor, but Sir Wobblington had not listened to Jack´s proposals and insisted on having forged a light, flexible kind of armor. Later he explained that he had not seeked a battle-worthy hunk of steel, but rather something that was easy and comfortable to wear thorough the day, for he feared that he might be attacked by the assassins of a political opponent, or even worse, by a member of the Shrazière, a dubious clan of warriors that only lived for the glory of battle. Of course Sir Wobblington completely ignored that said clan had his territory about 40 days of ride in the west and had remained relatively calm in the last century. However, Jack did not reject the request, for he had never forged a lorica and gladly took the chance of improving his craftsmanship.
After hammering the iron strap into an u-shape, he took it off the anvil and quenched the hissing iron in a barrel of oil to increase its hardness. While waiting for the gleaming-hot metal to cool down, he proudly looked at a pile of metal in a small wooden box under his workbench.
To the common man it might have looked like an assortment of leftovers, spare parts and flawed pieces of steel, but he knew that it represented his dream. It was his own, personal, customized armor. Every piece of experience he had gained in the last eight years, he had used to improve it. It had evolved from the most crude iron shell to something a noble would not dare to reject. He had reforged it several times, but the basic material had been the same for eight years, although it had been modified beyond reckognition.
The first improvement was done by adding carbon and heat-treating the peaces to a higher hardness. After that, he reforged the whole set in conformity with a method he had learned from reading a book from the far east which explained that one should take an ingot of soft steel, drive a bar of hard steel into it and fold said fusion as often as desired. The result was a steel of an impressive combination of hardness and flexibility, which he used as base material of his personal armor. On top of that, he forged a layer of well-hardened steel. If a blade clashed onto this combination, it would probably just bounce off the hard outer shell without leaving a mark. Even if it would be shattered by a tremendous amount of force, the second layer of rather soft, flexible steel would keep it from breaking apart. The result would not be quite as beautiful, but still perfectly serviceable.
Now there were some disadvantages with this kind of armor, namely the added weight and increased cost of the materials, but Jack was the only blacksmith and armorsmith within a range of at least four days of travel and business went well. The wealthier people around usually carried a set of bracers with them, for the local robbers prefered to use falchions, and those clumsy blades could quickly inflict wicked wounds even through leather armor, but be stopped with ease with a good bracer and even a small amount of training. Lost in his thoughts, Jack suddenly jumped up and cursed.
He had left the iron lorica strap for too long in the oil barrel and now it was way too soft to serve as a piece of armor. Angrily throwing it next to the dirk, he decided that he had done his work for today and stormed off to prepare for the night.