“Yes.” Keane nodded.
Robins had spent his earlier years in the military with Old Brew and they were sworn brothers from the same squad. They complimented each other on the battlefield; Old Brew was ruthless while Robins was steadfast.
The blacksmith studied the familiar sword. His stature was intimidating in its muscular glory but he seemed almost vulnerable at the thought of his chaotic warring days. He slipped into a daze. Keane mirrored his silence. While he was an adult, Robins was still his elder by default. Keane had been taught to be respectful to his elders.
Robins phased out of his thoughts half a minute later, reaching out for the sword in Keane’s hold. “The sword is nice and light. It’ll be a pity if I incorporate its metal for farming tools. Guess its next master will be one of the passing travellers.”
Keane listened on quietly. He was confident that his Uncle Robins would never deceive him. The blacksmith shared an unseverable bond with Old Brew, after all.
“Iron prices have been on a hike ever since the new king’s metal prohibition. Your sword can fetch a good price but you should prepare yourself for an underwhelming price.” Robins cleared his throat, “Six silver thalers, that is the most I can offer.”
Keane gaped. “Uncle Robins, that’s too much! There’s no need to…”
The older man waved, effectively interrupting him. “I’ve been a blacksmith for ages, I know how to run my business.”
Keane made a mental note to bring the blacksmith some crops on his next visit. Robins’ generosity had his heart in knots; Keane felt incredibly indebted. He’d expected five silver thalers at most so the blacksmith is most definitely offering a price at his own expense.
The bond between comrades was not to be underestimated. Life was difficult, forcing most of the Sharka peasants to hustle for a living. They couldn’t afford to celebrate festivities, safe for the annual Beer Festival. This was the largest event in the area, where the six surrounding villages and Sharka Town would gather around and drink to their hearts' content. Keane was always tasked with dragging his hangover father home the next morning.
They may be in their thirties and forties, which was close to being six feet under by their standards, but they had little to no reservation when it came to downing alcohol. Near a hundred elders would sit together, acting almost as if they were back to being their younger militant selves and depleting at least a third of the festival’s booze.
Frankly speaking, Keane could barely comprehend such a bond. Present-day Faustian was blessed with peace and prosperity. Young men were no longer drafted into the military so Keane was fortunate enough to not live through his father’s hardships.
“Anything else? There’s no need to be shy, boy.” Robins refused to believe that Old Brew sold his longsword without a good reason.
“A silver ring, please. There’s no need for it to be heavy and any design is alright as long as it’s pretty,” Keane stuttered with a blush.
Robins cast a meaningful glance over. “Keep the two thalers. Four silver thalers are enough to smelt a ring.” He retrieved a few coins from the back of his workshop and pressed them into Keane’s palm. “It’ll be done in a week.”
Robins returned to work, returning the rhythmic hammering to the ambience. He shouted from the back just before Keane could leave. “Boy! Treat your wife well and make sure Old Brew doesn’t go around busting his bad leg!”
His words were vulgar but they left Keane’s heart warm. The younger man shouted back his gratitude and finally left the workshop.
The strong hammering grew faint. Robins couldn’t help but think of his son in the baron’s city, who’d been studying as a tailor’s apprentice. He thought to himself, I should probably visit him soon. He has no children despite being married for two years, he should be a little more like Old Brew’s kid. He huffed, and the intensity of his hammering returned.
Everyone's lives were different. The simple villagers like Old Brew and Keane would tend to their fields upon waking and feed on dense grains for meals; this was their norm. Ideals were abstract concepts for them and hope was the main fuel that kept them going. In Keane’s case, he was excited to bring home some textiles and a silver ring to his wife. Old Brew, on the other hand, hoped to live long enough to watch over his grandson.
Further away from Sharka Town, Felor City was doused in joy. Their bright king had just passed a new law: taxes for the second half of the year and next year would be reduced by 30%! That was splendid news that sent everyone into a jovial fit. While a discount of a few silver thalers was insignificant for the royal capital, it meant being able to enjoy dozens of bread outside of special occasions for the peasants.
The Felorians began to gossip fervently. They’d heard that the king’s decision was made in celebration of the princess’ return. Everyone rushed to the streets to welcome Angelina home but the Faustian princess was far from happy. She could barely smile.
She’d locked herself in her chambers ever since arriving in Felor yesterday morning. She was in agony. Locke had done his best to comfort her but Angelina was too heartbroken to speak. All she did was hug him and sob. Locke could only offer her some company.
Kenzir sighed before her chamber’s door, dressed in the king’s regalia. His fingers tightened around his sceptre, inevitably overwhelmed with emotions as he stared at his late father’s possession that he’d inherited. Angelina’s return was meant to be celebrated but she was quickly reduced to a sobbing pile upon learning about King Faustian’s passing last year. His strict but kind father began appearing in his mind.
A servant approached to murmur, “Your Majesty, the officials and nobles await you in the hall.”
Kenzir swallowed his emotions and steadied his composure. “Very well then, let us head over now.”
The high-rank Knechts that’d left for years had finally returned with the level-one Ritters of the two largest Margrave clans. A few clans had lost their pillars in the planar war and some had thrived with steep improvements in capabilities. They’d even brought back an array of precious materials. Things were growing chaotic under the faux peace of Faustian, there was bound to be movements among the knights soon. Kenzir was about to face a major crisis. He’d just consolidated his influence not too long ago after inheriting their throne a year ago.
“Have the cooks prepare and serve the princess and Herr Locke meals in her chamber.” He was already a distance away from Angelina’s room but all he could think of was his sister.
The servants and maids that’d entered the palace two years ago finally realised that their king had truly cared for his sister as rumoured.
There was a large commotion in the hall and the noise was already giving Kenzir a headache, even from a distance away. He had to admit that it was difficult being a king; it was more challenging than leading a war. Kenzir braced himself.
The noise died at the appearance of their king, not out of respect but out of fear. Everyone in attendance was intimidated. Felor City had reeked of blood for a whole month when Kenzir executed several aristocrats and officials shortly after Kenzir’s coronation. He was a king with an iron fist; one that was even more brutal than the previous king's.