Virtue’s Forge – Chapter 3 & 4 – by Ulf Berht – narrated by Asclepius
Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with more of this wonderful story from Ulf Berht, entitled Virtue’s Forge
Background music by Smartsound.
Chapter 3, “Underway”
“The captain has determined that trying to sail further south is futile. We call these currents Polars. It is rare to be becalmed at the same time as a Polar, and because we are, we can no longer fight the current. Once the Northern Polar flow has started, it can be weeks before there is any slackening. As soon as we alter course, we will go with the current and no longer need your help at the oars. Once around the headland, Port Graff is but two days sail. The only way now for you to get to Ardoris is overland.” With that said, the crewman returned aft.
“A relief beyond measure for my blistered hands and abused muscles,” said Ulf.
“Overland travel in Novia is fraught with danger. You may not be so enthusiastic in a few days,” said Merlin. “I do believe this will be a grand opportunity to learn more about some of the fantastic creatures so often talked about.”
“It was my understanding that you were aiding me in escaping danger, yet you now have a change of mind. Are you now suggesting some benefit in seeking out hazards? I must also point out that whenever it was your turn to row, the captain invariably found a need to consult with you at some length elsewhere.”
“My dear Ulf, I have no influence over the captain’s schedule,” Merlin said.
“I wonder. After some careful observations, I cannot help but to notice the degree to which others acquiesce to your wishes. It is apparent to me that you have some secret powers of persuasion and, in turn, I ponder the degree to which such powers have been directed at me.”
Merlin said, “I have no wish for others to overhear what I am about to say. Our very existence may depend upon secrecy. The crew is currently busy with this course change, so I must be quick. It is true that there are spells that can influence unprotected minds and that I did use them to encourage you to accompany me, but only to save some time. I cannot magic you into doing what you would not ordinarily do, nor into going against your moral code. Distance yourself three arm spans from me and the influence fades to none. In addition, I have prepared an amulet infused with a counter spell. Wear it and be protected. Why it is imperative that I have your trust I will tell you, once we are away from prying ears.”
“If I believed it to be possible, I would plunge my dagger into your black heart, wizard. I sincerely doubt that anything you will say will cause me to remain in your company, but I will hear you out before we go our separate ways.” Ulf snatched the offered amulet and did his best, no matter how difficult, to get more than three arm spans away from Merlin.
Chapter 4, “Enterprise”
The wind was now strong over the aft quarter. With a full, expertly trimmed sail, the longboat hummed with vitality, slicing through the waves. All on board revelled in the aliveness of wind and wave.
“That is an ingenious mechanism, Captain. What nautical term does it go by?” asked Ulf.
“A rudder,” was the Captain’s gruff reply. “Don’t tell me you did not know this.”
“My apologies, sir, but while in my youth I spent many weeks afloat in longboats similar to this fine craft. We used a steering board affixed to the right hand side of the boat and such placement was, as I recall, often problematic. Why we did not solve the difficulties in this manner is beyond me.”
“Mariners are by nature suspicious of innovation. We carry a steering board in the hold as the mechanism can and does fail. The gudgeon gets worn quite through.”
“Gudgeon refers to which part of the mechanism?” Ulf asked.
“Those circular parts that are attached to the rudder blade itself. There often be two or more. Upon the hull, pins are affixed into which the gudgeon fits, hinge like. The two parts rub on each other and the cost of replacement is often a deterrent and they fail at the most inconvenient of times.”
“My people’s enterprise was mostly trading up and down rivers,” Ulf explained, “therefore rowing consumed the much of our time. The oarlocks wore in a similar fashion, a problem solved by inserting an easily replaced bronze sleeve into what would be, in your case, the gudgeon.”
For the first time Captain Anton showed genuine interest in the conversation. “You are, I understand, a blacksmith of some talent. Could you undertake such modifications?”
“Certainly I could but I would need access to a smelter, a forge, tools and the metals,” Ulf replied.
“If successful, there is an excellent chance this may lead to a lucrative venture. My brother-in-law now lives in Port Graff and has all that you need. He would, with profit in mind, be eager to accommodate you.”
“I believe a hand shake is now in order,” said Ulf, extending his hand.
“Indeed it is,” said Anton gripping Ulf’s hand firmly.