|The ominous sound of bells as they rung of danger sent shivers through Stoian and urged him to rush outside. A hand grabbed his shirt and pulled him back inside.
"Stephen readies to lay siege to the city. The scoundrel, to think he is cousin to our voivode. Come, we have to prepare the cannons."
Stoian struggled to hide his excitement as he realized he would have free access to the astounding black powder. How much would it take to reach the heaven? He smiled. Oh no, he wasn't ready to reach heaven that way, as he was well aware of the dangers of the gunpowder. He knew exactly how much of it was needed to send a cannonball one hundred paces away without blowing up the soldier handling the gun in the process.
"If I could only figure out how much powder would it take to send a little box up to the sky." he mused while filling small satchels with the foul smelling powder.
The satchel from his palm slid deftly under a shirt too large for his frame. On rare occasions the hand-me-downs he had to wear proved useful. At twelve years of age, master Bruno was the only family he knew, and he was content wearing gun-master's discarded garments. He used the break he was allowed for personal matters to hide the satchel with the others.
Returned to the monotonous job of filling the cannons, he could continue dreaming and planning. Today was the day, as the noise of the battle would cover the sound his heaven boat would make when starting its trip for the skies.
"We have ten more cannons to fill, and then we wait until they bring them back to be filled again." his master woke him up from his thoughts.
Soon the cannons were filled and the gun-master sniffled:
"You can go, eat and take a nap before the mayhem starts. You'll not have the time after."
Stoian marveled at the gun-master's calm in front of the impeding war.
"Aren't you afraid the city will be taken?"
"No matter who runs the city, they'll always need someone who knows the ways of the powder."
"Aren't you afraid you'll die today in the siege, master Bruno?"
His master looked around him, at the hundreds of satchels of gunpowder and the tens of handguns neatly arranged on the racks. He fixed Stoian with a stare and asked back:
He turned and left towards the kitchens, and Stoian knew the gun-master will not miss his nap.
This suited him well, and he went to the almost deserted warehouse where he hid his experiments. He pulled the long iron tube and studied carefully the regular dents inside. He smuggled enough black powder to the merchant ships docking in Kilia in exchange for the tubes made by the German craftsmen. They were well-made, and his experiments in the forest helped him find out how much powder will send the box higher without blowing up the tube.
The box always came back, and Stoian sighed in disappointment.
"Maybe this time, since this tube is the largest, I could use more powder without fear it would blow up."
He needed to get ready then find the best time for the experiment. He looked at the roof and easily found the hole that leaked when it rained, a pail marking the spot on the ground. He moved the pail, dug a deep hole and pushed the iron tube inside. Stoian poured the black powder and stuffed it well with a thick wooden stick and then threaded the flax rope through the specially made orifice. He covered both the tube and the hollow ball holding the box with the pail and left the warehouse. He needed something to eat as his master's nap would soon come to an end.
The cannons wrought havoc on Stephen's ranks, however, rather because of their deafening clamor since they were hard to handle and imprecise. It was time to launch the heaven boat for it wasn't difficult to sneak out covered by noise and smoke.
In the warehouse, he pushed the hollowed cannonball down the iron tube and lit the flax rope. He rushed outside, in time to see the ball soaring through the air, and his heart thundered in his chest expecting to see the cannonball coming back. It didn't.
He looked for the ball through the smoke and craned his head until his neck hurt. He ignored the pain and still waited for the ball to fall. He watched the skies until a painful thump on the back of his head restored his skull to its normal position. Master Bruno stood in front of him with a scowl on his face.
"Come, the battle is over since voivode Stephen is wounded. A cannonball hit his heel."
Then the man unexpectedly put his hand around his shoulder instead of scolding him:
"It was a trying day for both of us, I'm glad the siege is over. Rumor is the cannonball fell from the sky, and I wonder how far these balls can fly. Some say one hundred feet, but I know some of those cannonballs can fly farther. I'd like spending some time outside to find out."
Stoian's heart soared thinking of more experiments as his master's voice dimmed into the background.
"... and there is also a rumor the cannonball shattered and a box fell out. Stephen found a small crucifix in the box, and that's when he called the end of the siege. ..."
Stoian's heart came tumbling down and sunk in disappointment.
"So it came back..." he thought silently and let an audible sigh.
He would need now a really big iron tube and an incredible amount of the black powder to reach the heavens.