Coalie experiences his first dragon raid on Berk. Work in progress.
|Conrad woke to the sounds of a horn and men shouting. Someone was shaking his shoulder, and he heard, “Get outta bed and to the smithy—the dragons are here.” The man grabbed him by the arm. “Dinna waste time, Coalie!”|
Dragons? Coalie? In a rush, he recalled abandoning Conrad in favor of Coalie and learning about Berk’s three hundred year dragon war. He threw on his shoes and found his way to the forge. Kelp was setting bolas and maces on the hatch beside the warhammers. “Bring the swords. We'll use them and sharpen them to be used again.” The smith addressed him, still in motion. “Tonight’s a bad one. Hand out weapons and grab any that return. Your job will be finding the least damaged ones, and fixing them to go back out. In a choice between sharpening and mending, sharpen. Keep moving and watch for fires. Go!”
Coalie did as ordered, handing swords and axes forward, then dragging a barrel of spears within Kelp’s reach. “Bring shields next, they’re crucial.” Coalie thrust the shields at Kelp two at a time, and saw him line them along the walls before the smithy went insane.
People charged to the forge, dumping weapons and grabbing for new ones. Coalie sharpened blades, replaced spear heads, and manned the hatch alongside Kelp. No one cared who he was as long as the smithy kept going.
A woman shouted “Skrill! Take cover!” The hair stood up on the back of Coalie’s neck, and heard the clattering of lightning strikes. A dragon was striking the ground with lightning bolts, and struck three men. Kelp began cursing.
“Any more shields? Bolas? Whatever we have, we need now.” Coalie snatched items from the newly mended pile and thrust them forward. “Sharpen blades until they’re usable and hand them over. We’re not letting the monsters win.”
Coalie dug in, running the grindstone over bent swords and thinking about the forge, the weapons, the heat.‘Twas better than thinking about the chaos outside. Heat from the forge was right and honest, as dragon fire was wrong and ruinous. If he focused on the smell of coal and iron, he might ignore the scent of burnt flesh. Think about the work. He willed himself to ignore the burning homes and bleating sheep, the swarming beasts above them, the man with a long spike stuck in his arm. It became a blur of activity, and the sky was beginning to lighten when the dragons flapped away.
“Coalie. It’s over. Put down the axe and step back from the whetstone, lad.” Kelp turned him until Coalie’s back was to the hatch. “Take a slow breath.” Coalie inhaled and the reek of burnt bodies made his gorge rise. He bolted for the exit, but wound up spewing his guts over a heap of coal. He tottered, then fell to his knees as another wave of nausea struck, disgorging what remained in his stomach. After that it was bile and tears and Kelp’s palm against his forehead, the only connection to the smithy around him.
The heaving stopped, and Kelp said, “Close your eyes. Breathe with yer mouth, short breaths only.” Coalie did as instructed; having to concentrate on inhaling and exhaling soothed him, and he thanked good St. Andrew for Berk’s blacksmith.
Kelp left, returning with a mug. “Wash out your mouth and spit it to the floor. Dinna trouble yourself over the mess, the smithy’s seen worse.” Coalie looked down and saw the sick on his apron and his knees in the puddle, him helpless as a babe.
Never had he felt so small.
Coalie took the mug and rinsed, spitting out the sour water until the taste was tolerable. He’d need to find the next trade ship leaving and negotiate with a different captain, but a man who couldn’t look at battle and blood was no man at all. Berk had bairns enough without him.
He heard a thud, followed by “Ahh. Not again.” A boy, all long bones and no balance, ducked into the forge. He was wide across, and tall enough to touch the smithy’s roof. “I’m here, master Kelp.”
“About bleeding time you showed up, Hal. I want you at the hatch.” Kelp’s apprentice perked up, and Coalie suspected working the hatch was a rarity. “Take the weapons one at a time and mark each one with the owner’s name and the work needed. Leave them on the hatch. Any job that doesn’t come from the raid, refuse the work.” Hal opened his mouth to speak, and Kelp cut him off. “Dinna say you can’t. I’m giving you a command, so tell any grumblers you’ve no choice. When the carpenters come, give them anything they need. Can ye manage that?”
“Aye.” Hal’s eagerness had come back. “You can depend on me.”
“Good. Get to work, lad.” The boy glanced at Coalie, but took his place at the hatch. “Now, young man,” Kelp began, “you need to tend to yourself. The missus left bread and you’ll eat it. Then back to the hut to wash and change clothes and put something more in your stomach. I’ll want you back, the workload’s going to be massive. Unless,” Kelp said, eying Coalie, “you need more sleep.”
The exhaustion caught up with him, and sleep sounded glorious. Closing his eyes and escaping from the aftermath of Berk’s war appealed. Coalie could have pleasant dreams or no dreams at all.
He might have nightmares, too.
Through the rush of the smithy, Coalie had fallen into a rhythm of labor, and every weapon he fixed Kelp reached for instantly. The smith told him what he wanted, and trusted Coalie to do it. Repeatedly, Kelp said “we.” We're not letting the monsters win. Coalie shook his head.
“Nay. We have much to do, and even with Hal the Dependable here, there’s plenty of work.”
“Probably more than without him.” Kelp chuckled, then grew serious. “You did well with the raid, better than I expected. No Hooligan could do better, and we know about the dragons. You learned yesterday.” He handed Coalie a chunk of day-old bread. “Take pride in that.”
“I’m here, what do ye want from me?” A boy, all long bones and no balance, ducked into the forge. Coalie reckoned him at fifteen years, broad of build and tall enough to reach anything in the smithy, if not on the rooftop. The lad’s eyes darted to Coalie, the stranger on his island.
“Ye took yer bleeding time, Hal. Alright, man the hatch. Take the weapons one at a time, and mark each one with the owner’s name and work needed. Leave them on the hatch. Anyone who doesn’t want mending and sharpening from tonight can bother me later. Whatever the carpenters need, hand over. Can ye manage that?”
“Aye, sir.” The lad stepped forward, then tripped and fell in a tangle of arms and legs, nearly impaling himself on an errant spear. “Sorry. I wasn’t looking where I stepped.”