His next day at the forge brought another trainer looking for him by name to sharpen his collection of swords. While he wasn’t surprised that news spread quickly of a competent and relatively cheap blacksmith, he wished that Dante and his daughter wouldn’t glare at him across the forge and trade angry whispers as he worked.
“Is that what he said? We shall see about that.”
Finally, sometime before the man was supposed to pick up his swords, Dante’s daughter who had yet to introduce herself sauntered over to his station.
“This station isn’t yours alone, someone else has the right to use it.”
“Do you just make up things to talk to me about?” Percival glanced at her as she gasped in shock, “Wouldn’t another forge hand have to have independent work in order to need it? Surely you know how your father set up his own contracts as an administrator.”
She glared at him and leaned over his workbench as he inspected the last sword he was working on.
“You watch yourself, German. I’ll be formally auditing you on suspicion of sabotage and poaching.”
Percival rolled his eyes and settled the sword into the rack as the man strolled in, “Do you know what those words actually mean?”
“Percival,” the trainer asked, “Are they done?”
“Polished and ready to go.”
He pulled a blade out and gasped at his own reflection, “My word, Monsieur Beauregard was quite right, you have a talent. Have you been at forge work for a long time?”
“You could say I cut my teeth on a forge hammer.”
The man laughed and slipped the blade back into the rack.
“Absolutely wonderful, I’m completely pleased. I shall not forget this, dear Percival. The Black Hammer will make a regular of me yet.”
“Excuse me, monsieur, but I’m the administrator of the Black Hammer, and I’m conducting a routine audit of our patrons,” Dante’s daughter said, “Could you tell me how you came to hear about the Black Hammer?”
“Monsieur Beauregard is an old friend of mine, he referred me to Percival here after having his training sword serviced by him.”
Percival signed the order sheet and stamped it before handing it to the man to sign, “I am glad that you are pleased. I am sure your students will mess them all up again in due time.”
“They will indeed, and I know just where to return. Good day to you both.”
He tottered off with his rack of swords towards Aurora’s desk and left the forge as Percival dialed down the regulator to a regular fire and wiped his hands. He opened his own tally book as a young woman approached the station. Dante’s daughter glared at him.
“Would you happen to be Percival?” She asked as she nervously glanced around.
“I am, mademoiselle, how may I help you?”
She sighed with relief and glanced at Dante’s daughter, “Have I caught you at a bad time, monsieur? It is a rather delicate matter.”
“Not at all,” he said, “I was just going to take my lunch. Let us speak outside.”
He gestured toward the main doors of the forge and followed her out. When they reached the free air of the street she relaxed and he could smell the expensive soap she used to wash her clothes and the better parts of Paris in her hair.
“To be clear, you are the Percival who worked with Anya Hevereaux at Le Belle?”
“She told me that you would be able to help me. It is meant to be a gift for my father, and it absolutely has to be authentic Black Forest Leonhard-made.”
Percival swallowed around the tension in his throat and the spike of pain in his chest, “Well, I am a Leonhard of the Black Forest of the Leonhard family you’re referring to. Will that suffice?”
She nodded hurriedly as a blush stained her cheeks, “Of course! It’s just that there are so many counterfeits going around Paris since Leonhard work stopped coming down from Germany. It’s so hard to trust someone, but my father said that Le Belle’s Leonhard pieces were authentic, so I, of course, had to ask her. Here is what I had in mind.”
She smelled of chronic anxiety, honey, and milk baths beneath her expensive laundry soap. She knew what she wanted in the pocket watch case and signet ring, her father’s size, and style. He thought she could have taken it to a watch-maker or a ring-maker, but given the detailing that she wanted and the fact that she wanted it to be a true set, it made sense that she wanted it made by one person. Percival had a feeling that he would have a lot more clients like her in his future as the Leonhard family was known to make a variety of things.
“As a matter of curiosity,” he said as he reviewed the notes, “Why not take it to any other blacksmith?”
She laughed, “My father only owns Leonhard pieces. He is a man who would not have that changed if he could help it. I would rather have him keep what I give him for his birthday.”
The man had apparently scoured all of France and parts of Germany for a Leonhard pocket watch but had been unable to find one. Leonhards didn’t make pocket watches unless they were making just the casing for them, and they only made them for Langs for the last two generations of his family.
It was the Black Forest style of watches that had dual cresting thanks to his father and mother. He remembered the box of watch boxes his father took with him to Paris to deliver. It felt like a lifetime ago.
“As I am asking you this,” she said, “Would you happen to know a good watchmaker? I know that the men of my family have always favored German pocket watches, but it doesn’t have to be German obviously.”
Percival wondered for a moment if these coincidences were what Juliette meant by a favorable hand. She pulled out a photo of a watch that nearly stopped his heart.
“This is my grandfather’s pocket watch,” she said with a fond and melancholic sigh, “It was lost with him at sea, but I know my father has always wanted one like it.”
“It’s a Lang,” Percival said.
“You can tell?” she asked, “You have a good eye.”
“I… My grandfather made this watch’s casing,” Percival said, “It was the last watch he and my father worked on together.”
He remembered sitting in the room with them as Hans finished polishing the pieces of the watch. Wolfgang taught him how to put each cog together with nothing more than the control of his magic and the wind. He remembered thinking that he wanted to have control like that one day and being amazed that a man as large and as powerful as his father had been could do such delicate work.
He wanted to be like his father one day but had never seemed to grow any taller until they began the trek to Freiburg.
You’ll be as big as Dad looks like, Odette had teased with a sad smile as they sat beside the fire scouring through books, Kristoff would be so jealous.
She looked up at him, “Your father?”
“Yes,” he said, “Wolfgang Lang was my father, he made the inner workings of the watch, but my grandfather, Hans Leonhard, crafted the outside. I was a child when they made this one.”
“Are you… a watchmaker?” She asked, “Could you… remake this watch?”
“I am, among other things, and I could.”
Her eyes lit up, “That would be fantastic actually.”
They made the appropriate changes to her request, and he told her that he’d have pricing and full schematics to her within a week. On the way back to the Black Hammer, he folded the pages up and tucked them into his toolbelt.
He would have to open one of his trunks tonight to get access to the Leonhard and Lang archival book. They were each linked to one of the two large family vaults that held a copy of every custom schematic the Lang and Leonhard families had ever worked and sold as a matter of tradition and competition.
Most family gatherings ended with arguments about who had gained the most fame for their respective families before they finally added the latest schematics to the family vaults. When his parents married, there had been talks about merging the family archives, but both sides had been staunchly against it as a matter of tradition.
It was a little ridiculous considering that the Leonhard and Lang family houses were right next to one another in his hometown and the family vaults were beneath the houses, but they were all stubborn and set in the ways of tradition.
When he left for the day, he stopped off by the nearest watchmaker and repair shop to peruse the cogs they had available. They were all very delicate, but not quite what he was looking for, so he would most likely have to cast them himself depending on what the original schematics entailed.
He arrived home and made a list of things to procure while eating dinner. To his surprise, he entered the closet, and no ghosts seemed to be waiting for him there. He had long since moved the Leonhard and Lang family record books out of the large old trunk into a newer, more accessible trunk and had never been more grateful for it as he pulled out the two tomes and carried them downstairs to the second parlor he’d turned into a workspace.
It took a while to find the corresponding schematics for the pocket watch, but when he had them he went about designing a signet ring to accompany it. Between working at the Black Hammer and other orders he had taken on, it took a week to finish those drawings, find the proper materials, and work out the logistics of delivery to price it fairly. In that week, he finished Anya’s order, delivered it to her, and had four other members of the French elite come into the Black Hammer looking for him or contact him via scrye.
I’ll need a better chair, he thought as he left the Black Hammer after another long day of consulting and sharpening swords.
Other forge hands and blacksmiths had begun to notice the slow trickle of patrons that wandered into the Black Hammer looking for Percival simply because they would not be deterred from finding him even on his days off. Dante’s daughter who everyone only called “Mademoiselle” had taken to harassing him every day and “auditing” every new face at the Black Hammer. While tiring, he would dare say it was amusing to see her struggling so hard to learn more about what he was doing and how he was doing it.
And probably more order sheets at my station.
He hadn’t been using Dante’s order sheets unless it was work handed to him from a blacksmith of the Black Hammer, but he was running low on the basic order sheets he had been using since working with Le Belle.
If he remembered correctly, there was a standard order form sheet that the Lang and Leonhard family used that he should have copies of somewhere in his things. He used the Lang and Leonhard family crest on every piece he created, so it would make sense to use the same branding for all of his receipts too.
As he thought about it, it had never come up since he hadn’t made anything custom aside from Anya and that receipt had been branded, he thought.
When he arrived home, on the last day he’d scheduled to work on the pocket watch and signet ring, he searched through his records and found that Anya’s receipt had in fact been on a traditional Leonhard receipt.
Why don’t I remember doing that?
He shook his head and turned the dial on his small regulator. Things randomly appearing on his person, missing pieces of time and details, it was all just adding to the growing list of things he was learning about himself and while he should be concerned, he was much more content to get to work on finishing the signet ring. When he deems it finished and finished polishing it, he placed the Leonhard family crest on the inside of the ring as was customary. On the pocket watch, he placed the Leonhard family crest on the inside beneath the delicate clockwork and the Lang family crest on the back face so that it appeared as just a part of the design of the outer casing.
He assembled the box for delivery with a signed copy of the receipts on both Leonhard and Lang stationary and settled the pieces in a bed of velvet.
He can’t explain why he did it for every piece since he still had living relatives who all practiced their respective family’s trade; perhaps, using the brands that his parents used made him feel like they were still with him. Maybe if he used them enough he could ease the sharp pain that was their absence, but he found that there was nothing quite like seeing his clients’ faces as they marveled at their completed order. He closed the box, embossed the top with the crest, wrote her a note to inform her and set up a time to deliver it to her the next day.
For the delivery, he dressed to look the part of a wealthy, well-established merchant and took a carriage to the young woman’s house. A servant of her family opened the door as she came down the stairs.
“Fantastic!” she said, “Father isn’t here yet and we’re setting up for his celebration. My mother’s here, please come this way.”
He followed her politely down the hall to where the older woman was busy fiddling with a place setting. She looked up and smiled. The family resemblance was absolutely uncanny from their slight frames to the curve of their eyelashes.
“Hello, I’m the Lady Caron,” she said. He bent his head to kiss the back of her hand lightly.
“A pleasure to meet you, madame.”
“Your sister should be here any moment,” she said, “Would you like something to drink, monsieur?”
“Water would be wonderful, thank you.”
She sent a servant to the kitchen for a glass of water as another voice rang through the hall. A pair of heels clicked quickly across the hardwood floor and with it came the light early March air blowing in.
“Mother? Elizabeth? Is he here yet?”
She walked in and froze as she saw him. Her stunned expression turned into a warm smile.
“You must be Monsieur Lang!” she said, “Such a pleasure to meet you.”
“A pleasure,” he said, “And it’s Leonhard actually. Percival Leonhard.”
“A pleasure indeed. Have you opened it yet?”
“We were about to,” the Lady Caron said, “Patience, Sarah.”
Her smile spread wider, and she hurried around to hug her mother and sister, “I’m sorry, I can’t contain my excitement, especially knowing that Ellis’ gift can’t compare.”
“Be nice to your elder brother.”
“He should be nice to me!” Sarah huffed, “The vagabond.”
The servant returned with his glass of water as he set the box down. The Lady Caron and her daughters went speechless at the sight of the box.
“It’s… beautiful,” Elizabeth said.
“He hasn’t opened it yet,” Sarah said with a laugh.
“But it’s beautiful,” she said again, “Do all watches come in such nice boxes?”
“When you order them from the right place,” the Lady Caron said, “Now to the main event.”
Percival opened the box and watched the look of surprise on the women’s faces.
“It looks just like grandpa’s watch.”
A flourish of warm pride went through him as they inspected both the watch and the ring. Percival explained that the chain attached to the watch would grow and shrink as needed, never break, and the clasp would never unclip from the wearer’s belt so it couldn’t be stolen. The watch itself would go on ticking for at least seven generations before needing to be serviced which could be done by any Lang watchmaker, and it would never rust or tarnish.
“Is it to your liking?”
“More than to it,” Elizabeth said, “Thank you. I think he will be quite pleased.”
“If I may?”
They nodded and allowed him to set the ring and the pocket watch back into the box to properly display along with the receipts before closing the box and casting the final sealing spell that made the embossed seal gleam with gold and silver. He handed Elizabeth a copy of the receipts in a sealed envelope once she paid him the rest of the money, finished his glass of water, and left them to finish their arrangements.
When he exited the house, he let out a breath of relief and wiped the burning tears from his eyes. His heart ached more than he thought possible, but it was well worth it to see the way their expressions lit up at the work he’d done.
The pain was well worth it if it meant that the Lang and Leonhard family reputation and name would be alive in Paris. That feeling was worth every day that Dante’s daughter harassed him too. He went home with a sense of accomplishment and the feeling that he was going in the right direction. Perhaps, it hadn’t been about the Royal Forge, but what he was meant to accomplish outside of it.
His mother had always told him that Leonhards were always in the right place at the right time. A wave a futile melancholy washed over him. He would dare call it mutterseelinallein because it was so apt. He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to make sense of that or anything that he was doing now.
And I’ll know when I am meant to.
The words had been his mother’s response Percival’s questions about what she saw in her visions. Helena had been a Seer, someone who was granted visions of the future and possessed an innate ability to discern and, sometimes, affect the movements of fate.
He had never shown the gift, but Odette had at the very end. The jolt of pain struck him and made him stumble. As he looked up at the sky and panted into the spring air, he wondered if he would ever be able to think about them without the pain and the weight of their deaths in his hands.
Though I walk slowly, pray I never walk backward, he thought with a shake of his head.
At least he could think of them, and that was progress he should have been proud of.
When the next Monday arrived, he wondered what today’s nonsense would possibly be. Dante and his daughter were probably at their wit’s end now that they knew Percival was practically using the Black Forge as an office space.
“Fix the other regulator since you have such time on your hands,” she said gesturing to the forge hand banging a hammer on a length of steel at the regulator he usually worked at, “I wouldn’t expect that one to be free for quite some time.”
He looked over to the regulator that hadn’t glowed since he started working there and noticed that the chair near was much nicer than any of the others and bolted to the floor.
“No problem,” he said and walked into the back room to find the schematics and the handheld blow torch.
When he entered, he felt rather than knew that the schematics for the oldest regulator were not in the back room. Instead, his instincts took him to Aurora’s office.
She smiled up at him, “I heard you’ve been causing trouble, Monsieur Leonhard.”
“Only as much as I can, Signora Caflisch. You wouldn’t happen to have the schematics for that regulator at the back of the forge, would you?”
Her eyebrows drifted up, and she hummed, “I’m not sure. What makes you think that I would?’
“A feeling,” he said with a shrug, “They’re usually right.”
“Well, if I do, they would be in those old file cabinets over there. Have a look.”
He nodded and walked to the row of file cabinets. Skimming his fingers over the handle until it felt right to open the drawer, he stopped at the third drawer from the bottom. It was practically empty, but there was something off about the space inside the drawer. He tapped the bottom of it.
It sounded hollow, so he ran his fingers along the edges of the drawer until he found the latch to open the false bottom. Inside was a collection of photos and a scroll. He opened the scroll and nodded.
“That regulator is far older than I first thought,” Percival said.
“What makes you say that?” she asked.
“The schematics,” he said and reassembled the false bottom of the drawer, “I don’t know if you’ll need anything else out of that drawer, but there’s a false bottom in it with legal and accounting documents at the bottom.”
She tilted her head curiously as he read the schematics and shuffled the pages around.
“What kind of regulator is it?”
“Oh, it’s Italian: a Bianchi.”
Her eyes widened and then narrowed, “You don’t say…”
Something pricked at the back of his mind, but he ignored it. Then, a wave of dizziness overcame him and sent him leaning into the wall.
“Are you alright?” she asked and stood up.
“I’m fine,” he said shaking it off, “The heat must be getting to me.”
He looked over and saw a little girl standing in the doorway no more solid than the air, but she smiled at him and went skipping away into the forge. Her features were reminiscent of Aurora who occupied the office. He followed her to the back of the forge and watched her climb into the seat that was bolted to the floor. Her legs swung back and forth but no one appeared to work at the forge. The longer he watched her, the sadder she grew, the older she grew, and soon enough she got up and vanished back into nothing.
Okay, he said and added the moment to the growing list of oddities that he didn’t know about himself. He unfurled the schematics and weighed the pages down with files before starting to get to work.
The schematics were far more complex than the other regulator, but that was something he expected. Bianchi regulators were as old as Leonhard regulators and only a tier apart in quality. Aside from some of the other features that were near exclusive to Leonhard regulators, Bianchi regulators were some of the only other regulators that came with safety keys.
They were meant to be used by one blacksmith only or under one blacksmith’s supervision. They’d come about in a time when magical blacksmiths were accused of forging a myriad of horrible things in the wars. People would trace the items back to regulators owned by a myriad of people even if they hadn’t forged the items themselves.
Without a safety key, the regulator would not even turn on, but such magic made the cost of a regulator much higher, so most people did not own a regulator with those safety features. Regulators with safety keys tended to be more complex to work with and the ability to work with one set blacksmiths apart in skill as did the ability to repair a regulator. He had a feeling that Dante and the rest of the blacksmiths knew how to use regulators but not much else.
His mother would have laughed at all them as would the rest of the Leonhard family.
He searched the drawers and looked through the hooks to find the safety key and attached it to his belt. Following the schematic, he unlocked the cover of the regulation wheels and turned his head at the scent of rust, cobwebs, and stale air.
He flicked on the blowtorch to see into the regulator’s chassis and found that while it was all rusted, all the wheels were in place and accounted for, so it would be a much easier fix than he had first thought.
“Doesn’t seem like you’ll have much work today, German,” Dante gloated, “Not that you’ll have anywhere to work it if you can’t get that old rust bucket going.”
Percival opened the rest of the protective panels and blew away the dust inside, “I don’t imagine this will take too long.”
Dante sucked on his teeth and made an obnoxious sound before laughing, “Right well. We’ll see about that. It’s about time that some of my regulars come through. Shame that all the other forge hands will have to take those jobs. I heard you’re relatively decent at sword maintenance.”
And only the person working at the spare regulator will actually get paid, Percival thought as he removed the large, heavy wheels from within the casing and set them on the worktable. With them all removed, he found a metal and a bottle of shop vinegar. Slowly, he scrubbed off the rust until the old black metal gleamed.
As it dried, he cleaned the wheels. More blacksmiths came into the forge and turned on their regulators as more forge hands came in to start the day as well. The heat of the forge was welcome as he worked quietly.
Once the wheels were all cleaned, he set to fixing their shape until they all gleamed like new flat discs. Checking the schematics, he turned on the blowtorch and re-etched the sigils on each wheel until the wheels began to glow appropriately. By his guess and the sounds of the forge, he had been working for about two hours before he was ready to reassemble the regulator.
As he slid the wheels into place, he noticed the sigils etched into the casing and refined them with the blowtorch. Another hour had passed before every sigil required glowed dimly and he could place the wheels back inside.
He heard someone’s footsteps coming up behind him. Different, questioning, lingering as if they were simply watching him and enjoying the view. No doubt it was someone who was curious about what he was doing, or perhaps just curious about Percival.
Either way, the person didn’t seem to be dangerous, so Percival didn’t turn to address the person.
As the faint scent of spice and male drifted past his nose on the hot air swirling around the forge, a warm, rich voice spoke, “Are you Percival?”