Godwin Olafsen had not allowed his forge to go out for over a week. Sir Mathewos had told him from the start that his job was not on the walls, not fighting with his grandfather’s great ax, but keeping the weapons of the others serviceable. And there had been so much work to be done! In a city with twelve thousand fighting men struggling day and night, there were always swords, axes, daggers, shields, helmets, and hauberks in desperate need of repair.
The young Armenian soldier who pounded on the door, dragging Godwin from an exhausted sleep, was desperate. The head of his ax had become loose when he used it to hack away at the bridge of one of the siege towers that had dropped on to the wall. Now it wobbled uselessly. The terror of the nearly successful assault made just before dusk was audible in his voice, and detectable in the stench he gave off as well. Godwin guessed the young man hadn’t been out of his clothes since the start of the siege and that he’d lost control of his bowels at some point.
Godwin nodded and let him into the forge, telling him to sit on the bench by the door while he stoked the fire. “When was the last time you had something to eat?” he asked over his shoulder.
“I don’t remember,” the soldier mumbled.
“If you work these bellows, I’ll go fetch you something,” Godwin offered.
The soldier numbly took over the bellows while Godwin went into the kitchen and rummaged around until he found an old loaf of bread and a bit of hard cheese. He put these on a wooden cutting board and brought them back out to the soldier. He then took the ax and examined it. Nodding, he put it down, and went back to the bellows.
The door from the kitchen banged open, and Sven stood in it on his crutches. He was wearing nothing but his nightshirt.
“Sven!” his father called. “Go back to bed! I can manage.”
“No,” Sven answered stubbornly and swung himself over to his stool, where he sank down, dropping the crutches. The Armenian soldier gaped in amazement as the little boy took over the bellows and his father set to work on repairing the ax.
It didn’t take more than a half-hour, but by then the Armenian soldier had fallen asleep and was snoring loudly with his head against the wall. Godwin smiled and hesitated to wake him, but then he realized he’d sleep more comfortably in his own bed. He shook him by the shoulder and handed him the ax.
The Armenian came out of his deep sleep disoriented and still half-dreaming. Seeing a man leaning over him with an ax, he mistook Godwin for the enemy. He reared up with a roar, lunged for the ax, lost his footing, and fell headlong onto the floor with a groan. Then he realized where he was and apologized profusely as he pulled himself onto all fours and then to his feet, dusting himself off. “Sorry, sir! Sorry! I was dreaming!”
“No harm done,” Godwin answered with a weary smile as he handed him the ax.
“Thank you! Thank you! How much do I owe you?”
Godwin shook his head. “Go with God, young man. What good is money to me now?”
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