The sun had risen over Whiterun several hours prior, yet long shadows still covered the entrance to Warmaiden’s in darkness. For that, Adrianne was thankful. Long hours in front of the forge and furnace were not pleasant under the heat of the midday sun. Though she’d never seen herself in any other life.
She wasn’t the best blacksmith in the city, but she was proficient at it, honing her skills to always improve. She had good supplies and good pieces of equipment to use as well. It was doubtful she’d ever run out of business in Whiterun.
Wiping her brow, she stepped back from the tanning rack to look at her latest piece of leather. It would do well for some armour or perhaps a shield. But it could wait until she had some rest. It had been an exhausting morning, as orders had arrived from the Jarl’s court for additional equipment for the city guard. She likely had her father to thank for that. After all, what Steward wouldn’t promote his own daughter’s handiwork to his Jarl? Proventus had been a strong proponent for her work, and she’d never been found wanting for contracts once he had been made Steward to Jarl Balgruuf.
As she dabbed a rag across her brow, she looked north up the long street towards the market of Whiterun. It was a busy day. People milled about here and there; children ran through the city playing with their friends. She smiled to herself, thinking back to her younger days when she had no cares and did the same. But that was a long time ago, and she could no longer afford to have such flights of fancy. She continued to stare up the street until a door opened at a neighbouring home. It was the home of the city’s newest Thane.
The woman, Marieka, frequented her shop quite often enough; selling various weapons, or purchasing armours. They never spoke very often however, as she typically dealt with Ulfberth, her husband. She loved him with all that she was and he worshipped the ground that she walked on. Her father had worried about her when she decided to marry the man – not every Nord was willing to put up with an Imperial such as herself. But the two were madly in love and overcame the many obstacles that their partnership placed before them.
Before her thoughts drifted too far into memory, she saw the small Breton exit her home and look around. The woman immediately noticed Adrianne was outside and waved. She waved back, thinking it odd that she’d acknowledge her at all. Stranger still, she began to walk in her direction. She was coming for a visit.
“Lovely morning, isn’t it?” she said when she arrived at the door of Warmaiden’s.
“Certainly is,” she replied. “Listen, Ulfberth is inside if you need—”
“Actually, Adrianne,” she interrupted, “I’m here to see you.”
“Well, you might have noticed that I travel quite a bit,” she said.
“Yes, you do,” the blacksmith replied. “And you bring us some interesting pieces upon your return.”
She smiled. “I face some interesting foes. But the reason I’m here is…well…”
Adrianne waited while she hesitated. She looked nervous.
“I wanted to ask you for some help. Maybe…train me a little at what you do?” she finally blurted out.
“You want me…to teach you how to be a blacksmith?” she asked, skeptical at the suggestion.
“I certainly don’t want to replace you, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Marieka replied. “I just…I want to know enough for when I’m out on the road. Enough to be able to take care of my equipment. Repair it if necessary. Things like that. I’d still come here whenever I’m in Whiterun. Oh! And I’d pay you for your time, of course!”
Adrianne mulled the idea over for a few moments. It couldn’t hurt. And in slim times like these, extra coin was always welcome. She shrugged.
“Why not?” she replied.
The Breton squealed with glee, as if she were a child receiving a present.
“This is fantastic! When can we start?” she asked.
She had expected the woman to be excited, but her enthusiasm was a little overwhelming.
“Tell you what,” she began. “I’ve got several orders to complete this afternoon, but you’re welcome to come back after dinner. The forge will be cooler by that time, so you won’t be overheated.”
“That sounds perfect! Thank you Adrianne! I look forward to it,” she replied, hurrying back home.
As Adrianne stood and watched the woman leave, she hoped that she wasn’t getting in over her head. She’d never trained anyone before, and was concerned that this whole thing would be a disaster.
An hour had passed since Marieka had returned to Warmaiden’s for her first training session with Adrianne. She suggested they start from scratch – melting down ore to create an ingot. Simple enough.
She demonstrated the smelting process, melting down some silver ore and pouring it slowly into the mold to create the ingot. Marieka watched intently as the woman showed her what to do. Though when it came time to pour the melted liquid into the mold herself, she allowed it to fill too quickly and the mold overflowed to the ground.
By the gods! This girl is daft!
“Perhaps smelting isn’t your strength,” Adrianne suggested, pulling her away from the furnace just before the hot liquid silver that was pooling up near her foot reached her boot.
“I’m sorry,” Marieka said. “I…I’m really nervous about this.”
“It’s okay,” she replied. “You’ll get the hang of it.”
She performed marginally better with the forge. At the very least, she was able to produce a blade from it. They started small – a dagger of steel. She heated the ingot, poured it into the mold – at a much more acceptable rate this time – and then hammered at it to form it properly.
“Not bad,” Adrianne said. “Now try sharpening it.”
The two women moved towards the grindstone. She showed the Breton how to carefully hold the blade’s edge next to the stone while pressing the pedal to spin the wheel. Unfortunately, the blade she created herself was not strong enough to stand up to the stone, and it snapped in half as she attempted to sharpen it.
“This is hopeless,” Marieka cried out in exasperation. “I knew this was going to be a challenge, but this…”
“Now just wait a minute,” Adrianne interrupted. “Did you expect to be able to do this all on your first try? That’s a little insulting. It’s taken me years of practicing…of honing my skills to get where I am right now.”
Marieka sighed. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to imply that I could pick the skills up so quickly.”
“Here,” she said, handing Marieka a blade that she had created earlier in the day. “Try sharpening this one. Just go a little slower. You’re in too much of a hurry with everything.”
Ashamed, she took the blade and sat in front of the grindstone. She began to press the pedal to spin the wheel, and as the woman advised, slowly applied pressure to the blade against the grindstone. She dragged the blade along the stone a little at a time, sharpening the edge roughly. When she had completed both edges, she handed the blade back to Adrianne to inspect.
“Well now,” she replied. “See, this is an improvement. Right here on this side, it’s quite rough.” She pointed to the first edge. “But as you move to the end, and then on the other edge, the blade becomes finer…sharper. There’s definitely improvement here.”
Marieka’s face lit up at the positive comments. “So, I’m not hopeless then? You think some practice will help?”
Adrianne smiled. “Yes, I think you might be able to sharpen your own blade for yourself when you need to…one day.”
“The sun’s going down quickly,” Adrianne said. “And I’ll need to get inside to help Ulfberth close up the shop. Perhaps we’ll call it a day?”
She nodded in agreement. “Thank you again, Adrianne. Oh, and as promised…” She held out a coin pouch with the agreed amount. “There’s a…little extra in there for the materials that I was quite certain I would go through. Please let me know if you require more. I know I was a bit of a disaster.”
“Of course,” the Imperial replied. “I’m sure I’ll see you soon.”
“That you will,” Marieka replied before hurrying home for the night.
Adrianne chuckled to herself. Now that was an experience…
As the sun’s rays filtered into Adrianne’s bedroom window the next morning, she stretched and tried not to wake her husband as she exited her bed. She wrapped a robe around herself, poured herself a mug of goat’s milk and headed downstairs to step outside to greet the morning.
When she opened the door to step on to her porch, she heard a strange noise coming from the side yard where all of her equipment stood. She grabbed a dagger from the wall inside the door and inched her way across the porch to see what the noise could be. As she reached the end of the porch, her eyes fell upon a small form in front of the grindstone.
“Marieka! By the gods! What are you doing?” she exclaimed.
The Breton spun around with a large smile upon her face.
“Practicing!” she called out happily.
Oh for Zenithar’s sake!
Today was going to be a long day.