BLOOD OF THE WOLF 2
This is another excerpt from my book, Blood of the Wolf. Not too spoilery but if you've already committed to buying the book, maybe skip this and enjoy the story chronologically.
The first thing Robert did was light the furnace. The laboratory was dark and cold. He’d been absent all day so the fire had never been lit. His visitors stood dumbly behind him, perhaps wondering what sort of viscount gives his time over to metalwork. Indeed the strange room teased other mysteries. While Robert hunched over the incipient fire with an oily taper, Skerret took the initiative and lit every candle he could find. The room appeared to be part forge, part kitchen and part library. The floor was lined with straw and the scent of harts horn recalled the privy but the large central table was covered with kitchenware and herbs. Meanwhile, the furnace Robert tended might have served as a blowing house. If anyone in the county could forge a silver musket ball at short notice, it was clear this man could. Robert had been explaining his plans since they’d left the dining room. He intended to make the required silver musket balls there and then. As they’d passed through the kitchen, he had grabbed a large meat pie, some plates and a handful of cutlery.
While the furnace warmed up, he encouraged his visitors to eat the pie quickly as he intended to melt the cutlery once the fire was hot. He stuffed a large slice into his own mouth and pumped the bellows vigorously. “It’s not like casting lead,” he said, “Silver needs much more heat but we’ll get there within a few hours.” He turned to Manning, “Do you know what a bullet mould looks like?”
“Good. There’s one around here somewhere. I want you to look for it. I’ll also need tongs and a large crucible.”
Manning got to work. Then Robert turned to Skerret who was licking his fingers, “Looks like you’re nearly finished eating, can you take over at the bellows?”
Skerret swapped places with Robert and started pumping. The room had taken on a rhythmic red glow as the bellows fed the flames. Manning quickly found the crucible and handed it to Robert. It had recently been used as a plant pot so Robert started cleaning it meticulously. The priest took in his surroundings as he worked. He quickly concluded that the room showed signs of two separate personalities. There were two handwriting styles in evidence on the carefully labelled bottles and jars that filled every surface. There seemed to be two distinct workspaces too. And he noticed Robert seemed to gravitate exclusively to just one of them. The other workspace was dominated by herbs and medical paraphernalia. It reminded him of his mother. As the initial flurry of activity gave way to tedium, Skerret’s curiosity brimmed over into conversation.
“You share your workshop with a doctor?” he asked.
“A chymist – my sister, Katherine,” Robert answered. He had finished cleaning the crucible and was using a vice to fold the cutlery into more manageable shapes for the furnace. He seemed reluctant to say more.
Skerret was undaunted. He had been given the most boring job so he wanted distraction. “She’s not here?”
“No,” Robert answered. Manning had found the tongs and delivered them to the scientist. Robert seemed glad of the interruption and turned to the wolf-hunter. “Thank you. Keep looking for that bullet mould. We’ll get nowhere without it.” Manning went back to his search.
“My mother was something of a… chymist,” Skerret said. “Always grinding herbs and cooking some foul-smelling poultice…”
“Really.” Robert had opened the furnace door and was using the tongs to lift the crucible and its silver contents inside. He could do without the conversation.
But Skerret continued, “did your sister attempt any treatment on Mr D’Arcy?”
Robert shut the furnace door and stared at Skerret. But there was no malice in the priest’s face. The scientist dropped his voice low and answered, “Yes. But to no avail. The werewolf was beyond her help.”
“I found it!” Manning’s head popped up from a corner of the laboratory. He was carrying a two-handled device like a nutcracker.
Robert held Skerret’s gaze for a moment then melted, “Excellent! Bring it here.”
I’ve upset him, Skerret thought. And where is this sister? He was curious but he decided to drop the interrogation for the moment. Manning delivered the bullet mould to Robert who explained its workings to Skerret. Once the furnace was hot enough, the silver would become molten and they could start the moulding process. “We’ll need a bucket of cold water to cool the metal,” he remembered, “Would you mind, William?” Manning nodded and left.
Robert felt he needed to explain his attitude to Skerret, “My sister tried to help Mr D’Arcy and failed. She felt bad about this. She wanted to help somehow so she went to Galway to seek his family’s help.”
Skerret let go of the bellows, “Saints preserve us, she hasn’t gone to Richard D’Arcy?”
Robert looked alarmed, “if that’s the father’s name, yes.”
“Then she’s in terrible danger,” Skerret said.
A look of horror contorted Robert’s face.
“First Mary, now this man’s sister. We can delay no longer. We must go to Galway.” Manning stood frozen in the doorway with the bucket sloshing in his hand. He had heard enough.
Robert looked at him. “But my sister has one of the fastest coaches in the country. We won’t catch her by road.”
“So, we sail.” Skerret turned to Manning.
The wolf-hunter nodded, “I know a man.”