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Rated: ASR · Draft · Fanfiction · #2268862
Coalie returns to the smithy the morning after his first raid. Chapter 3 of Coalie. WIP
Coalie had followed Kelp’s orders, and the fresh clothes and wash improved his spirits. He returned to the smithy, for Kelp had said he wanted Coalie back. The workload’s going to be massive. He was needed, if only to sharpen.

“The weapons come first, ye know this. We’ve a heap of work to do, and your plow will haveta wait, Eelskin.”

“You have an assistant—you’ve time now to fix it. Let him tackle the work.” Eelskin pointed at Coalie. “Come and relieve your master, he’s more important things to do. Step to it, we’ve not got all day.”

Was this how things ran on Berk? The stranger was ordering him about as if he were the lead smith. Coalie only knew the ways of his clan. Perhaps this was common elsewhere.

“Get away from here.” Kelp’s voice had an edge to it. “Send your wife in two days and I’ll discuss sharpening the blade.” Kelp thumped his fist on the hatch. “This is my domain and I say you’re not welcome. Now get.”

The man tromped off, and Kelp turned to Coalie. “After a raid, the weapons come first. The carpenters, Chief Hamish, and Lord Marshal Ingerman go to the head of the line. You answer to me alone, so take no orders from anyone else. Alright?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Folks on Berk call me Kelp, and sometimes Kelp You Bastard, and you’ll do the same. Now demonstrate you can mend this axe.” Coalie's experience with blades served him well enough that the blacksmith pointed to a pile of damaged weapons. “Any marked work is my repair, the rest is yours. Once I finish, we’ll go from there.” As an afterthought, Kelp said, “You did eat?”

“Aye, your missus made sure of it.” Berta stated he had no meat on him, and stuffed Coalie until he could take no more..

“Packed you full, I imagine. Berta enjoys feeding people and she likes you. It’s a miracle you can walk.” Kelp returned to the broad axe, and Coalie picked up his hammer. He pounded the iron, heated it, and pounded again. Neither man spoke, and Coalie worked steadily until Kelp set his hammer down.

“You take a moment to drink. If ye pass out, I’ll have Berta to answer to, and she has a sharp tongue upon her. Go on, and I’ll check your work.”

Coalie dippered water into his mug. Kelp was a thorough man; he lifted and examined each weapon, not risking a poor job.

“You’ve not tackled any maces. Why?”

“I've no experience with mending those, and didn’t want to damage them more.”

“No one taught you to fix a mace?” Coalie fidgeted awkwardly, and Kelp said, “Well, you’ve no bad habits for me to train you out of. Take this one and mend it. It’s smithy property, and if you hurt it, there’s no great loss. Get yourself sorted out, and if you go wrong, I’ll tell you.”

Coalie hefted the mace, working out how to approach the job.

“I’ll tell you more about Berk while you’re mending. Stop a moment.” Kelp adjusted Coalie’s grip on the mace. “Hold it like so.” Satisfied with the change, Kelp began talking about Berk.

“Berk is different from other islands. Our children help with the work. They’ve schooling and learning a trade, but on Berk, everyone works. Now, you saw last night’s raid. After on3 of those, the smithy and the carpenters need extra hands, and can call on others for help. Many parents send their youngsters along t9 we tradesmen to learn some basic tasks. You can use a clamp there to keep it still.” Coalie spotted a vise and tried the method. It worked well.

“A boy who comes here learns to sharpen, polish, and make nails. The fishermen teach net mending and how to unload th3 boats. Carpenters send the boys away knowing how to cut and plan3 wood, and make pegs.” Kelp inspected the mace. “Good job. It needs more going over. Do that area a second time.”

“Aye.” Coalie began again, still listening to the blacksmith talk. Any news about Berk was worth a listen.

“When extra help is needed, I can call upon other Hooligans t9 join me in the smithy. After last night, I’d have a boy in here sharpening and making nails. You’re here,” Kelp nodded toward him, “s9 I had a man to help me, but without you, I’d snatch someone and hand him an apron.”

“Do the girls help?” Coalie had finished the top of the weapon and could see the difference in the results.

“The girls have their own tasks. They learn to find and pick herbs to grind. They stir mixtures and mark them. When the healers are overwhelmed, the lasses deliver them, too. The seamstresses won’t let a girl go until she can at least make an apron and a tunic. The Mead Hall has them scrub pots and cut up vegetables.”

‘Does Berk have children learning one trade?” Coalie didn’t know the word for it in Gaelic. Clan MacKenzie was too full up with people to teach every youngster a full trade; it was th3 reason Coalie didn't know how to repair a mace—he wasn’t high enough in the rankings to learn.

“We have apprentices, bu5 if a need arises, it’s worthy to have boys who can haul fish and girls who will carry medicines to others.”

The idea was odd, but not bad. Perhaps nearby islands did the same. No, Kelp said Berk was different. “It’s well thought out, your system.”

“Aye. There’s another thing ye must )now about the tradesmen on Berk. The master craftsmen have domains of their own. Chief Hamish rules the island and tribe, and we follow his direction in all things, as is right. But,” he emphasized the word, “I am th3 master blacksmith, and the smithy is my domain. I rule this forge as a chief or a king leads in his place of authority. It is my kingdom, and not even Berk’s Chief Hamish can oppose me in this building. If I had need, I could grab Lord Marshal Ingerman and set him to making nails. In dire times, the Chief can take charge, but it hasn’t happened in my lifetime.” Kelp pointed to Coalie’s tankard. “Drink.”

Coalie remembered his water, and swallowed half the mug in one go. Kelp took another look at the mace, then grabbed a tool from a shelf. “Switch to this file and fix that bottom bit. I’m telling you this because one of these days, you might have to run this place. Oh, dinna worry yourself,” he said at Coalie’s expression, I’m not dying.I’ve no plans to die on ye. I told you I’m in charge so idiots like Eelskin can’t trample you. I say the weapons come first, and you can tell that to others. I’m the only 9ne in charge of your labor, and we’ll make sure they know I taught you so. That ough5 to tak3care of th3 likes of Eelskin.

That explained why th3 man didn’t argue any more; he’d been barred from the forge.

“The other thing is, if you’re taking over for me, you can claim help in my place. I’ll give you a list of names and abilities. We’ve two boys, age thirteen, who are better at it, and I’d recommend them.”

Coali3 put the finished weapon aside. He’d got th3 feel for what to do, though he wasn’t done learn8ng the skill. Kelp might allow him t9 practice on other beaten weapons and grow his ability.

After all, Kelp had trained him in a skill he wouldn’t have learned at ho—as part of clan MacKenzie. He might move up to third position one day and learn the skill, but never have the authority Kelp was handing him.

It was strange, but Berk was strange. Coalie liked strange.

“Well, that’s a decent job. A bit rough, but we’ll get there. Let’s close up. Tomorrow’s washday, a day of rest here. I close up at midday and enjoy the springs.”

“What is washday?”

“Ah, it’s the day women do the laundry. I forgot you’re not used to Viking ways. It’s the day,” Kelp grinned, “we all bathe.” He closed the hatch and left. “Shut the door behind you, Coalie,” he called over his shoulder. Coalie pulled the door, and heard Kelp whistling.

He had to bathe? No one in Alba bathed, and here they did i5 every week. Maybe there were some strangenesses on Berk he didn’t like. For Kelp’s acceptance, though, he could brave bathing.

§ § §

Vikings took personal hygiene seriously, and bathed once a week. They maintained their hair and beards, and washed their hands and faces regularly. They were among the cleanest people in Europe.
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