The plinking sounds of the metal links being attached must have sounded like water to my sleeping head. I was dreaming of a waterfall. My body and limbs were utterly exhausted from pumping the bellows that stoked the forge for nearly twelve hours straight. In my dream they were dead weight; immobile grey rocks below the cascading waters. I was shocked that it was the setting sun streaming into the windows that hit my eyes. I had slept all day.
The smith's daughters and wife sat around their kitchen table working the metal, and showed no reaction to my blinking eyes and groans of sore muscles. They joined the links into chains, and chains into fabric with small pairs of tongs in each hand. I could see by the bloodstained bandage on the youngest girls finger that she learned the hard way. The short barbs that twisted to form each link were sharper than snakes fangs. The patern they used to weave the metal fabric had been carefully demonstrated by Nicodemus. It would produce a suit that was as smooth as river stones on the inside, but on the outside, a seamless field of slicing titanium barbs.
At the thought of the old man, I asked the women where I could find Nicodemus. They only motioned out the back door of the house, away from the market street. I felt the strong need to complain to him about the pain his work had inflicted on my body. As I stepped out into the late afternoon warmth, I couldn't see him, but I heard his familiar maniacal laughter. It sounded as if it was coming from the four stall stable at the back of his property. They were somewhat dilapidated from lack of use, and it wasn't until I approached the farthest stall that I saw the blood seeping into the dusty yellow hay on the ground.
I rounded the corner with a feeling of dread. The old man was hunched over sobbing, not laughing. His young grandson lay prostrate on the ground with a knife burried to the hilt in his chest. The old man's hand rested on the knife's handle. In shock, I asked who had done this. I had brought no enimies in stealty persuit. I was sure of it. I felt even more shock when Nicodemus proclaimed that he had done the deed, plunging the knife in again as punctuation to his statement. I breathlessly stated the obvious that he was the man's own grandson. Nicodemus affirmed the fact by stating between sobs that he was his only grandson. He further explained that the young smith had betrayed his family and his ancestors. He had revealed the family secrets that he had learned the night before. The secrets of the barbed armor had been given to another; to a woman. He had heard the betrayal with his own ears.
My rage now focused on this yet unnamed woman, this woman who had caused the family extinction of one of my greatest and oldest friends. I inquired her identity in a solemn voice. Rachel. Her name was Rachel.