The Tally Master, Chapter 3 (scene 12)

In the copper smeltery, the sergeants were dusting the now-emptied ingot molds with chalk powder, while the scullions scattered the charcoal in the forge with their rakes, preparing it for the overnight cooldown.

The smith, a practical fellow with none of his neighbor Martell’s flamboyance, was examining the stack of copper ingots one by one, no doubt checking that they contained no inclusions where the metal had failed to penetrate the mold completely or where air bubbles had tainted the pour. Copper gave far more trouble than did bronze, although both required care and precision in their handling.

Gael rapped his knuckles on the waist-high counter between the privy smith and the copper smeltery.

The smeltery smith glanced up from his ingot stack, saw Gael, and beckoned him over.

“Keir told me of your schemes for greater efficiency yet,” he said. “Do you have similar plans for the mines?” The smith—Randl—looked skeptical.

“I know it is lack of raw materials that limits your output,” Gael assured him. “And, yes, I do have ideas for the mines.” That was actually true. The magus—his old friend and enemy, Nathiar—had visited the copper mines at Gael’s request, relayed through the regenen, and returned with news of a richer vein of ore, nearer to the surface. Gael had detailed one of the military engineers with determining how to safely access it, and the miners had switched to the new rock face last deichtain.

Randl nodded. “Welcome news, Secretarius.” He tilted his head. “Keeping quiet the clamor that echoed in all four stairwells earlier today would help, too. One of my sergeants landed in the hospital with severe burns because of it.”

Indeed. The copper smelter was already the most efficient of all the smiths, and a demon for work besides. There was a reason he moved over to the tin smeltery on the days that tin arrived in Belzetarn.

“I have another matter on which to consult you,” said Gael.

Randl gestured for him to continue.

“I need to melt down a disk of iron, roughly eight pounds in weight and”—Gael moved his hands—“two palms in diameter, half a finger in thickness, but with concavity of one palm’s depth.”

Randl knit his brows.

Gael continued. “The iron is inset within a disk of bronze of perhaps one hundred pounds and an ell in diameter.”

Randl shook his head. “I cannot melt the iron boss using my forges, Secretarius” he said.

Gael’s innards sank. “You cannot?”

“Tin melts easily,” said Randl. “Heat scarcely hotter than a bread oven takes it liquid.” Yes, Gael knew that. He wasn’t a smith, but one learned a great deal when managing smithies. Randl continued, “Bronze requires heat fourfold that of tin. And copper yet more again.”

Gael nodded. He knew this too.

“But iron . . .” Randl’s lips pressed straight. “I might be able to get the copper furnace hot enough to bend iron, but melting it to liquid . . .” Randl shook his head again “. . . would require more than sixfold the heat for tin. I could not do it.”

Randl intended his explanation to be discouraging, preventing his superior from wasting valuable time and effort on a wild gos chase, no doubt. But Gael’s heart rose at the smith’s words. Perhaps warping the gong would be sufficient to prevent its weakening effect. That was an avenue worth exploring.

“Bending the iron might be sufficient for my purposes,” said Gael. “Will you—”

A cacophony of shouts echoed from the stairwell at the back of the adjacent blade smithy—the Regenen Stair.

Gael and Randl frowned at one another.

The shouts grew louder.

Gael waved Randl back to his copper ingots, himself stepping away.

“I will speak with you more on this matter of iron,” said Gael.

Randl nodded, and Gael strode toward the shouts as their excited tenor gained hostility.

* * *

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The Tally Master, Chapter 3 (scene 13)

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The Tally Master, Chapter 3 (scene 11)

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The Tally Master, Chapter 1 (scene 1)