Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 54




He was right, a week had passed, Claude thought. He apologised to the two for being unable to help out today and headed for Big Hammer. All three of his friends joined him on the carriage, however. The last week had piqued their interest in his 'sights'. It was fine, he guessed, it wasn't a big deal, really. But his heart still pumped a bit faster, and not from excitement.

Mike saw them coming a block away and disappeared into his portion of the workyard. Mike was a burly man, less scrupulous people called him a brute, but his hands were dextrous when it came to his profession. The sights were the dark black of treated cast-iron, filed to smooth surface and sharp edges.

The front sight's pin didn't look perfectly straight, however, but a quick measurement dispelled Claude's suspicion.

Mike sighed more than smiled when Claude smiled happily and thanked him for his work. He always took payment before he worked, which ensured he didn't do work for nothing, but it also stressed him to get it right and keep the customer happy. This time he was working off the kid's designs, but the stress that relieved was made up for by who the kid's father was.

Both were happy this time, however. Claude with his sights, and the other that his customer was an easy one to please, and the two parted on excellent terms with promises of good prices and future patronage.

Eriksson couldn't wait to see the sights in action, and convinced Claude to go get his musket immediately so they could try the sights out at the jetty while they worked on the boat. Claude wasn't at ease with that, however. The jetty was pretty quiet right now, but there were still feet moving back and forth, plus it was still technically in town, and he'd promised his father he wouldn't fire the musket anywhere near town.

"Are you guys stupid? My house is by the lake! Can't you just shoot to the lake?" Eriksson asked angrily.

"But we won't have anything to shoot at..." Borkal objected.

"Just toss a piece of wood in the water you loghead!" Eriksson jolted.

Eriksson's house was far enough out of town to satisfy Claude's honour, so the four did just that.

Borkal was the one forced to pay the carriageman this time. The poor boy was the slowest to get off of the four and was caught by the carriageman. He wasn't too happy. They were supposed to split the fee, but the other three darted off to the shore almost before the carriage came to a stop.

Borkal finally waddled over, four sunars poorer, nagging in shouts and complaints as he went, but the three ignored him completely, Claude fiddling with his musket, and the other two watching him intently.

Claude oiled the barrel first, then slipped the rings on and tightened them with a screw at the bottom of each ring. He only tightened it enough so the sights wouldn't move at first. He had to zero the sights before he could do the final tightening. He did a bit of fine tuning, then tightened the sights a bit more. They were still not fully tightened, however, he wanted to shoot a few times and make any final adjustments before giving them the final tighten.

Welikro tossed a piece of wood into the lake, nearly losing his footing as he spun around after letting go. It was about 20 metres from the shore, so if they shot from a spot 30 metres further inland, they could hit the 50 metre mark.

"That's fine," Claude said, loading his musket.

The four assembled a haphazard rest for the musket out of stacked logs, and Claude got into position.

Claude was happy with his purchase. Even if the sights did nothing for accuracy, he felt much more comfortable shooting with them than the awkward, horizontally offset rods that came with the musket. He adjusted the rear sight to its lowest setting, which was incidentally the 50 metre mark, and took aim. A moment later the flash pan hissed and smoke billowed out of the barrel.

The shot splashed a thumb's distance behind the board. He cleaned the barrel and reloaded, took aim, and fired.

The first three shots all missed, but the fourth was on target. It shoved one end of the plank under the water and it bobbed backwards for about a metre before it stabilised again.

He turned around with a bright smile to his slack-jawed companions.

"How..." Welikro started, but his voice caught in his convulsing throat.

Even if he used his own musket, the one he knew like the back of his hand, he serious doubted he'd score a hit in just four shots. How then, did Claude do it with a gun he'd hardly fired fifty times, and with a brand new targeting system he'd only used for four shots?!

The only thing that could explain it, was that Claude didn't have to account for such a substantial offset between his 'sights' and the barrel. He had no doubt he would hit the plank in the end, probably in no more than seven shots, but he was damn certain his first four wouldn't be anywhere near as close as Claude's first three had been. Those were only near misses, and damn near ones at that!

"It's all the sights," Claude said, his voice dripping with pride.

He stuck his finger into the loose ground and drew a crude sketch.

"Just line the two sights up so the single pip in the front is in the back after you've adjusted the rear sight for the guessed distance to the target. Then just point them at the target and pull the trigger."

"Try it out, Boa," Claude said as he shoved his musket into the boy's hands.

The plank bobbed back another metre a few seconds later.

"Haha, I said I had talent for musketry, but you didn't believe me! I got it with the first shot! Hahahahahah!" the boy laughed exuberantly.

A damned fluke! Claude shouted in his head.

Eriksson was next, and he restored Claude's confidence in himself. He shot seven times... and missed them all. They were all only a thumb off though.

Borkal tried to play instructor, but he'd already forgotten how he'd scored his solitary hit. Claude jumped in to save the poor Eriksson's brain from melting at Borkal's conflicting and convoluted explanations.

It took him three more shots to finally hit the plank.

Welikro was last. He shot only once, and it splashed into the water a full two metres to the left of the plank.

"What's up?" Claude asked as Welikro handed him the gun, his face smushed into an awkward frown.

"I'll lose touch with how to aim with my gun if I use yours. It's easy and effective, mind you. They look horrible though."

"Sorry for teasing you, Claude," Borkal said from the side, "What did I call them again? Oh, right, these tights aren't a waste of money after all. Can you have Mike make another set? I want to put them on my musket, too."

"They're sights, not tights. Take your musket to Mike and ask him for the same things he made for me. If you want I can go along, but you're paying for the ride."

"You already skipped out on this one!" Borkal exclaimed, reminded of his involuntary poverty.

His eyes shone again a moment later however.

"Why don't you sell these sights? I can just imagine how people will scramble for them once you demonstrate how effective they are to the hunters."

Claude shook his head.

"I don't want to. You can if you want, but it'll be a big fuss."

"Why?"

"They're expensive, for one. They're not easy to make, either. Even Mike said it was quite challenging, and he's damn good at what he does. You think people who can already shoot pretty well with the sights that come with their muskets are going to pay for these new sights to have to learn to shoot all over again?

"Not to mention that my design only works on this particular model. You'll have to redesign the sights every time someone comes with an older model. And then because every individual musket is slightly different, you'll also have to calibrate and test the sights on every single one you fit. I'm damn sure not going to spend my whole day every day calibrating other people's sights.

"And then you have the issue that the older models have flaring muzzles. You can't get the rings around them, and the pips won't work on them either, you'll just be staring into the flared muzzle. It won't work until the new model muskets are more widespread, and even then I don't think it'll be worth it."

"Fine..." Borkal deflated.

Claude just shrugged. Everything he'd said was true, but his real reason for not wanting to propagate the new sights was that the biggest client would be the army. The sights were much easier to learn to use, which made them perfect for the military, who wanted to push recruits through training as quickly and cheaply as possible. It would also make marksmen more accurate, he he didn't want to make war any more deadly than he had to, and right now he didn't have to at all. In fact, the less he could affect how wars were fought right now the better, since he was probably going to find himself in the midst of one at some point in the relatively near future, and the less accurate his enemies were, the better.

And there was also the matter than the army was most likely just going to confiscate the design, or buy the rights to it for cheap, rather than do proper business with them.







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