Remembrance of the Wood
Copyright© 2014 by Tamalain
That evening Tama was as excited as she could ever remember being. She had just had her seventh season celebration and she continued to grow at a steady pace. She had gained some size on the other kids in her age group as well. Her big gift though had been a simple woodworking tool. It was a used drawknife. A good drawknife is the tool of choice when making a basic bow. Bowyer Greenstave had explained to her how it is to be used. He also had shown her examples as part of her lessons in woodworking. To help her get the feel of the drawknife, he had her strip the bark and soft outer wood from a large number of logs for the other apprentices to use on their projects. The drawknife, a whittling blade and a wood rasp were all she needed to make a self bow.
After dinner, having completed her chores around the house for the evening, she sat on her bed and went over in her mind the steps that she would have to perform correctly in order to make a self bow. The wood selection would be first, it could not be fresh cut, yet not dry through to the core. She knew of several raw strakes in the curing shed that might work for what she wanted to do. By her current size, it needed to be one of her hand widths wide, and the length about her size in height. The thickness had to be enough for two hand lengths to start with.
She pulled her drawknife out and studied it carefully. A really sharp blade was not good for the purpose of bow making. It could cause gouges that would ruin the spine and weaken the arms. She felt the edge carefully, they did not feel to sharp, but were not smoothly dull either. This should be about right for her to start with. If it needed to be a little sharper, she would need to ask Master Greenstave to sharpen it on the stone a few strokes for her. She just did not have the strength yet to use the sharpening tools safely for the best results. She then used a string to measure her own height, took back one of her hand lengths, this would allow her to mark and cut the board to the length she needed to start with.
The next morning she helped around the house and finished her chores early. She then spent two hours out behind the house working out to continue building her muscles. Then she went to the park, her pack loaded with stones and proceeded to jog around the park several times. After the laps were completed, she headed up the hill behind town. She started at a steady jog then pushed harder as the ground sloped upwards ever more steeply. The hills had a path that stopped at four separate switchback ledges. Today she made it to the second ledge without slowing for the first time. She did just about lose her breakfast as she tried to get her breath back though.
Tama waited a few minutes then continued up the path to the next ledge. She walked part way to the next ledge, then switched to a slow jog to the third switchback. She repeated this to the last ledge and then to the top of the hill. From up here she could see down across the valley and as far across the Greater Faydark valley as the rising mist would allow her to see. She was just able to see the top of the old Combine spires today. Tama nor anybody else knew, this was almost the exact place in an earlier age, a group tired explorers first looked down on the valley and to their peoples future.
After resting a few minutes and drinking from the water bag in her pack she was able to let gravity have its way and run back down the slope. The downhill run while easier, worked different muscles in her legs and back.
When she reached the bottom of the slope, she walked the rest of the way home to cool down. Once home she would stretch some more to ease the strain she had just put her young body through. She wiped herself down with a damp cloth to get the worst of the sweat off. She then donned her lightweight cloths, a long tunic that came down to her knees, and a rope belt to hold it close to her body that she liked to wear during the summer months. As she put the over tunic on, she noticed it was getting a bit tight on her as she was out growing her older cloths.
Throughout the rest of the day she worked with her mother to fix things around the house. When not busy she would ask her father about trees and the differing properties of the different breeds. Which wood is the hardest yet can be flexible. It has to be soft and easy to work, yet resilient to be used for furniture and weapons. Willow and Axemen taught her everything they could when ever the opportunity arose. They knew she was excited about the upcoming woodworking test and hoped she would not rush things and make mistakes.
The next morning had Tama up early and doing her chores before her parents had gotten up. She even went so far as to start breakfast for her parents, which was a pleasant surprise for them. After cleaning up the kitchen area, she changed into her workshop cloths. The fabric was a light grey, and made of a heavier weave with leather padding so was better able to resist the wear created by sawdust and wood chips. She retrieved her pack from her room and jogged to the woodworking shop. She arrived just as the Master Greenheart was opening the doors for the day.
"Well good morning Tama, and how are you this fine looking day."
"I am quite well and thank you for asking. And you Master Greenheart, how are you today."
"I am as well as one can be expected to be once you get to my age. When you pass that third century, things start going downhill fast. Are you ready to start your big project today?"
"Yes sir I am very much ready. I have insured that my tools are ready for the task and my measuring strings are cut and set to length. The only things I don't have at home are a bench vise and wood."
"Well those two shortcomings will be taken care of shortly I should think," He said with a smile.
Master Greenstave arrived a few minutes later to find Tama was studying several cut wood strakes. He watched as she hefted each one and found the center of balance. The first one he could tell she rejected since the center of balance was well off the center of the length. The second seemed better so she started tapping it lightly with a wood mallet and listened for hollows. About three quarters of the way down, she stopped and frowned. Tama tapped all around the section then pulled a long string from one of her pouches on her pack. She measured from just before the hollow to the long end, it was not going to be long enough.
Tama pulled another piece of wood out and started over. This one balanced even better than the second strake, and the tapping test did not reveal any flaws to her sharp ears. She set up her standing stool to give herself the height she needed at the worktable then lifted the wood into the vise. From her stool she was able to set the wood and firmly clamp it in the padded jaws.
The next part of the task involved removing the bark and sapwood layers. Her drawknife allowed her to manage this task with little difficulty. All of her working out had finally started to work for her. Once the sapwood was clear, she was able to remove the upper pithy layer. Here was a point that could ruin the bow before she could get started. She was now beginning to uncover what would be the spine of the bow.
She scraped gently, yet with enough pressure to cut the pithy and reach to the heartwood. She saw the first sign as the color became a slightly darker rich yellow. She also felt the blade slide across the cleared surface rather than dig, a very good sign. She stopped and looked at the exposed heartwood, smiled then using the whittling blade scraped the pithy off the cleared spot. The wood was smooth and the color was even all the way across.
Tama kept at her work at a steady rate. She cleared the heavy sapwood layer then lightly scraped away the remainder soft pithy. Master Greenstave came over after several hours to see how Tama was progressing. He nodded in satisfaction and had her stop. "It is time to clean up your work area and head home for the rest of your day."
Tama looked around in shock that time had passed so quickly while she was working. "Yes Master Greenstave. I did not realize what time it was."
Tama quickly cleaned off her tools and put them in the drawer that was marked for her. She placed the plank on the table and covered it with a lightly oiled cloth to protect the cleared surfaces from excess moisture. The floor she swept with a straw broom, gathering the shavings and bark in to a pile then scooping them up and then dumped them in the barrel that everybody in the shop used for chip disposal. It was good fire starter and good ground cover to keep bugs out of the gardens.
After bidding her fellow wood workers a good day, she quickly made for home. About halfway she started to get a funny itch in the back of her head. She scratched the spot but it was not on the outside. She felt as though there were eyes spying on her and she did not like the feeling. She stopped and slowly turned around trying to spot who might be watching her. She didn't see anything and only a few town folk were out at this time of day.
By the time she made it home the itch had faded away so she thought that somebody had been looking out of their window as she was passing by. Once home she put on her workout shorts and shirt. She took the woodchip and sawdust covered cloths to the backyard and shook them off. Tama quickly found out her arms were already tired from scraping the wood all morning, but decided to do a light lift session anyways. By the time she finished the weights, her arms had started to shake from the strain on them.
After she cleaned up from her workout, her mother had a small meal prepared and Tama told her about the progress on her first bow. "It is much harder starting from the raw strake than anything I have tried before. I see why all the others arms are so big now. Even with my workouts every day, I am no where near as strong as the older apprentices."
"Well my darling little girl, you will just have to keep growing up and then you will have big strong arms as well."
"Yes, I know I will need them. To use a bow in battle or even to hunt requires powerful arms and chest muscles. Not to mention using swords, those are just plain heavy."
Willow looked at her daughter and felt icy chill in her heart. She knew Tama was a warrior spirit reborn. "Well, if you are done eating, you need to get off to school now. I will finish cleaning this up."
Tama gathered her school items in her pack before heading out to school. A quick check showed her a goose quill pen, two bottles of ink, a roll a clean parchment and finally, her ever present water bottle. Sliding on her leather sandals, she gave her mother a hug and headed to school. She thought about her project and how much harder it was proving to be when working alone. Even with her daily strength exercises, she knew that she was barely strong enough too properly handle the drawknife.
As she walked, the faint itch in her head came back. Tama stopped and looked around. This time she thought she saw a faint wavering of light near the entrance of the cloth weavers shop. Somebody is using a form of camouflage and is following me, she thought. 'I had best get to school and let Elder know.'
As she walked to the school, the feeling just stopped. Rather than turn to look, she picked up her pace to a full sprint. When she entered the schools ground her anxiety faded completely, like a chill breeze fading in the warm sun.
Before she entered the wood and stone school building, she stopped at the door. Inside, she heard Elder speaking with someone who's voice she didn't recognize.
"You were right about her. Her sensitivity is unlike any I have ever encountered. The invisibility potion kept her from seeing me this morning, but she knew somebody was watching her. On the way here, I may as well have not bothered using the camouflage potion. She was able to spot me as I was moving away from her."
The Elder chuckled a bit, "I keep telling you folks that her abilities are unlike any seen in a generation. But you just don't want to believe a senile old teacher now do you. In fact, she is right outside the door waiting to be noticed and invited in. Come on in Tama, I know you are out there."
Tama entered the classroom not knowing if she was in trouble for listening as they were speaking. She entered and looked around and then focused on the stranger for a second, quickly looking down at her feet.
"No Tama you are not in trouble for waiting to enter the classroom while we conversed." said Elder. "Tama, I want to introduce you to your shadow. This is William Basier from the City of Qeynos rangers group. You seem to have caused him some concern over his talents young lady. Tell him how you knew he was watching you if you would."
"Well sir, this morning I just felt an itch in the back of my head, like eyes were on me, watching me, hunting me. I was not able to see the source, but I knew it was close by. Later I felt the same itch, but in a way I have felt before. I was able to see a faint outline of you as you were standing near the door. I ran as fast as I could after that to tell Elder a stranger was in town and spying on me. How did you beat me here by the way?"
"I ran here with this Tama, A Spirit of the Wolf totem. It gives the user a boost to their running speed. It allows you to cover long distances in a short time. You do pay a price later with being very hungry, sore and worn out." explained William. He took a small wolf shaped black woodcarving out of his pack and handed it to Tama.
She looked at it and examined it carefully. "I think you need to keep your blade just a touch duller on the final steps to make the surface come out smoother. Otherwise this is a very nice piece of wood carving."
William looked at her in disbelief. "You are a wood worker as well then?"
"I am in training at the woodshop in town. I am currently working on my first solo project, a self bow."