Edward makes a new sword. My stab at what advertising would be like in the past.
|The length of iron glows bright in the flame. I bring my hammer down steadily against the metal.
“Do not forget the four key factors in making a sword, my son,” my father said. “First, hardness, which comes from the iron.” He paces around me and the fire pit in the center of our working station. We are in open air, but it is as if Hell has opened its fiery gates.
Ching! Sparks fly as I hit the sword again.
“Strength comes from the specific dimensions of the sword and the requirements desired by the owner. Do you remember the other two?”
Sweat is beading on my brow, and I huff in annoyance. “Flexibility as the sword requires some give to slice through objects, and the perfect balance in the right hands. I am not a novice, Father.”
My father was taught by his father and his father before him. Sword making is an art, but one that has not changed for centuries. I crave more.
When my father leaves for a meeting about the heavy taxation the nobles have imposed on us, I dash to the new kiln I have built. One day in the cool breeze, I fell asleep and left my iron sword in the fire on top of some charcoal. When it cooled, it was harder than the original iron sword. I devised the construction of a small pit with a chimney to create this new metal on purpose.
Suddenly, I go flying with a cuff on my ear. My father has returned early. “Edward, this is a waste of your time! Do your work so we can keep a roof over our heads. With what’s been going on, we are making nothing as it is!”
“Father, let me do this. If I can convince the nearby villages to purchase these new swords, maybe I can help our cause against the nobles and earn extra money to support our family,” I say, rubbing my tender skin.
“Let me see this sword,” he grunts, rolling up his sleeves.
I hand it to him, my brown eyes flashing defiantly. His gaze softens as he touches the blade and slashes a few times in the air.
I hold my breath.
He shakes his head. “Fine. But if you cannot convince them, and you will not, you promise to do as I say and never speak of this again.”
I cannot believe he is giving me a chance. “Yes, Father, I promise.”
Over the next two weeks, I forge several swords of different sizes and weights in the new material that I dub Ironfire. Daggers that the ladies can use and hide in their skirts. Imposing, shining weapons for the hardened soldier. A light, but sharp middle sized sword for the everyman.
Next, I recruit my best friend, Thomas, the son of a tailor.
“What do you want me to do again?” he asks dubiously.
“We have to show them that the Ironfire swords are better than what they already own,” I say. “We need to perform a sort of play. Maybe we can display a miniature swordfight with an Ironfire sword and a regular iron sword.”
Thomas’s eyes widen. “It can cut through iron?”
“Yes, Thomas. Watch.”
After my demonstration, Thomas offers to make costumes.
In two more weeks, we are ready. We travel to the first neighboring town with Thomas strumming a lute and I, dragging a small cart containing my precious new swords across the bumpy road, since I cannot afford to take our old horse. I may be faster than he is.
“Hear ye, hear ye! Arm yourself with swords fit for a nobleman,” Thomas calls. We are wearing colorful cloths around our necks. Townspeople stop and stare in the street and start to gather around us. Thomas passes out scraps of leftover cloth from his father’s workbench with a sword handpainted onto it. We cannot write, but I hope the picture will be enough to spread the word.
The staged fight is thrilling at least to me, and I hear several gasps from the audience when the regular iron sword is lopped in two by my Ironfire one.
But no one buys a sword.
The next town is the same. I cannot understand what I am doing wrong. All the townspeople who see the demonstration are interested and even in awe of my presentation.
Finally, one man at the final village speaks to me. “I am sorry, son, these swords seem fine, but we trust our local sword maker, and you are just a stranger.”
How did I ever think that promoting my swords with a ridiculous show, handing out pieces of cloth to spread the word about my new swords would have ever worked? Only an idiot would attempt such a fool’s errand.
“Can someone tell me one major reason that the Peasants’ Revolt in England in 1381 failed?” Miss Hornsby asks.
Several hands shoot up in the air.
“The peasants didn’t have good enough weapons. Their swords were made of iron, not steel."
“Can someone tell me what steel is? Mary?”
Mary sits up primly. “Steel is an alloy of iron and is created by combining the carbon from charcoal and iron.”
“Correct.” Miss Hornsby peers over her glasses pointedly at each of them. “Take note, class. If they had only understood this steelmaking technique back then, their superior weaponry might have won them the war.”