It was a serviceable blade, not perfect by any means, but remarkable for a weapon crafted by the wiry arms of a boy not yet fourteen.
He hated it.
And the look of pride in young William's eyes, when the boy hung it carefully with the rest, made him hate it all the more.
Were he a cruel man, he could point out all the flaws, but he bit his tongue and took a small drink from his flask. The peppery taste of the rum lingered at the back of his throat, warm and comforting like the arms of a woman. A pleasure, he thought miserably, that he'd not enjoyed in quite some time.
"Don't stand around, boy, get started on the next."
The flask in his hand seemed heavier somehow, but it was lighter still than the weight of his worries. Brow creased, he sat himself down in a simple chair to oversee his apprentice place a new piece of steel on the anvil. Will went about the task with care, the same he showed when his master was to hold the hammer.
How long would it be until the boy's skill surpassed his own? Not very, by the look of the increasingly smooth swings Will took with the heavy hammer. A few summers would give Will the strength of a man and the experience to use it to his advantage.
Putting his lips to the mouth of his flask, he considered what to do. The craftsman in him was loath to squander the boy's talent, but the artist in him was vain and feared the loss of his already dwindling reputation.
It was troublesome. Very troublesome. Even moreso than that the liquor was nearly gone and he had just bought it at the start of the day. He wiped his mouth with the back of his arm and brushed away the nagging worry that he was becoming too fond of the bottle. "Let the weight of the hammer bring most of the force."
Will nodded, absorbing the instruction studiously. The next swing of the boy's arm was true.
The ring of the anvil, once soothing to his ears, now resembled a primitive drumbeat. A distant echo of something fearsome headed to shore.
Closing his eyes, he downed the remainder of his drink. Tomorrow perhaps he would buy two bottles to save himself a trip the day after, and he could save his worries for then.
With a private sigh, he pushed himself out of his chair to retire for the night. As he stood, light from the forge winked off the newest blade in his shop. He caught a quick flash of his own reflection in the gleaming steel and glanced away swiftly.
Sighing audibly this time, he went to Will.
"Here boy, you're going about that all wrong."
He took the hammer from his apprentice's fingers and set his reservations aside. Like it or not, he'd make certain the next blade would be a little less flawed.