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Broken Branches: Chapter Three

Chapter Three

Knowledge of his true parentage was kept from Philip, and he did not give any thought to the fact of him not looking at all like his adoptive parents.  They ran a small café near the docks, and Philip worked as a server of food and drink.  He also cleared the tables of dirty dishes and washed them when he did not have an order to serve.

Hearing tales of exotic lands like Egypt, Malta and Spain had Philip longing to see them for himself.  Just after he turned ten, he was given an opportunity to do so.

There was a big problem, nonetheless.  For the man Philip thought of as being his father had never wanted him.  So, when it started looking like he might lose his café because of being unable to pay his debts, he sold Philip to the captain of an Arabian ship, who was delighted to have a young boy as a slave to pass long hours with while out at sea.  I will not provide any details, but I can tell you that the abuse Philip suffered was very hard for me to take.

Thankfully, the years seemed to pass by in a matter of seconds, but having to spend even just a second in a situation like that would be way too much for my comfort.  At least the captain came to actually love Philip, and he killed three of his crew when he caught them trying to rape him down in the forward cargo hold one night.

By the time Philip turned twenty, he had been released from his bondage and made a regular member of the crew.  When he saw that not all of the sailors were willing to recognize his new status, he decided to jump ship as soon as he could.

While the ship was anchored in the harbor of Tunis awaiting its turn to dock, Philip made his escape by diving overboard and swimming ashore.  He slept in an alley on the opposite side of the city from the waterfront that night, and he awoke the next morning to see a man looking down at him with a kindly expression on his face.

His name was Ajai, and it turned out that Philip had slept near the back entrance to his silversmith shop.  Since he had been considering employing a helper, he looked at Philip as maybe being an answer to his prayers.  The feeling was mutual between him and Philip—be assured.

It did not take Philip long to start making life much easier on Ajai by cleaning up around the shop and running errands around town, but it was in dealing with customers that he proved to be the most valuable.  For he was soon fairly fluent in speaking and understanding several languages just from interacting with the different people coming by to see what items were for sale.  This freed Ajai from having to stop making something whenever a potential customer came by.  This delighted him, and Philip truly loved helping the customers buy something when he could.

Oh, but then there were the Scots.  They were friendly enough, but an acceptable price to both buyer and seller could never be reached until at least an hour of haggling was endured.  Making it even worse was Philip starting the negotiations with a very low price, which left little room for haggling without selling the item below cost.

Philip soon came up with a solution to the problem with the Scots, though.  For when one would come in and take a fancy to something, the price Philip would quote him would be double what the item would be normally sold at, and even when a Scot would give in too quickly during the required haggling, Philip would still sell it to him at the normal price, which would make the Scot think that he was getting a really great deal.

These were very happy days for Philip, but he wanted to do more than merely sell Ajai’s wares.  For Philip wanted to also help in their creation.

When Philip told Ajai about him wanting to learn how to make the things he did, Ajai jumped for joy.  For he thought of Philip as being the son he always wanted to have, and he had been hoping that he would want to follow in his footsteps.

So, Ajai asked his friend, who had a blacksmith shop a few doors down, if he would mind letting Philip get his hands quite literally dirty learning the basics of working with metals.  For Ajai rarely had enough silver on hand to allow for practice runs and keep the shop stocked with finished items.

The blacksmith was happy to have the free help, and Philip was soon working the bellows to the furnace, pounding out impurities in heated iron bars and shaping them into everything from simple chain-links to scimitars.  With him being a very fast study, it was not long before Philip was back in Ajai’s shop making silver inserts for the handles of some of those scimitars.

Philip even made his own sword, which was quite unique in design.  For it had a long, straight blade that started tapering considerably around two feet from the handle.  This gave it the advantageous length and strength of a broadsword without so much of the weight, along with moving the center of balance closer to the handle, which made it much easier to wield than a traditional broadsword.

When word of Philip’s innovative sword design spread across the land, swordsmen from as far away as the Arabian Peninsula came by to offer challenges.  Several broken scimitars proved that Philip’s sword had more than enough strength to defend against the hacking motion most commonly used by those wielding scimitars.

Philip also displayed a great deal of skill with his sword, and this did not go unnoticed.  However, since Philip always offered to repair the broken scimitars without charge, he became much more highly respected than greatly feared, which is just the way he and Ajai wanted it to be.

There was one challenge that did not end well at all, though.  Well, at least not for the challengers.  For four former shipmates of Philip’s were waiting for him next to the back door of Ajai’s shop one night, and as soon as he opened the back door to leave for the evening, one of them tried to sever his head drom his body with one slash.

If Philip had not wrapped around his neck part of the iron chain he was headed out to give back to the blacksmith after Ajai had finished using it, he would have surely found himself without a head attached.  Instead, he stumbled back into the shop and came out with his sword firmly in hand.  Less than a minute later, four of Philips former shipmates lay dying at his feet.

Philip was quite distraught over the attack.  For it was the first time he had seen someone die—let alone killed someone, and he seriously considered destroying the sword to stop the challenges from coming.

Then it came to Philip that the attack of his former shipmates had very little to do with his famous sword.  For Philip did not doubt that they were sorely jealous of his success, but he figured that they were actually more focused on robbing Ajai than depriving him of receiving any more accolades.

News of Philip’s successful defense of Ajai’s shop reached the court of the ruler of Tunis, and he sent for Ajai and Philip to appear before him.  They were both very worried about possibly being in great trouble, but it was soon made clear that they were there to be honored.

Ajai was asked to become the exclusive silversmith for the ruler, and Philip was made an offer that he could not refuse.  Okay, I am employing a little artistic license for dramatic effect here.  For Philip was actually asked to train the ruler’s troops in swordsmanship, and what it was about the offer that he felt like he could not refuse was the hand of the ruler’s youngest daughter, Fatima, in marriage.

Oh my, Fatima was a beauty beyond compare, and she soon proved to Philip that she was as every bit as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside.  Furthermore, she had been longing to become at least closely acquainted with Philip since the first time she had seen him while on a shopping trip to Ajai’s shop not long after Philip started working for him.  In fact, Philip had actually waited on her group, but since they were in disguise as visitors from out of town, with Fatima pretending to be the consort of one of the men in the group and covered in veils from head to toe, he had no idea who she really was.

Philip and Fatima were soon married in an extravagant ceremony, and the celebrations lasted for well over a week.  Exactly 266 days after their wedding night, Fatima gave birth to their son, who they named Hannibal in honor of one of her ancestors.  Three more sons and four daughters followed Hannibal.

After Ajai died, Philip took over as the head silversmith for the ruler of Tunis, and he soon became highly renowned for his work with all sorts of metals.  The weapons Philip made were especially prized, but he refused to make another sword like his own.  The ruler of Tunis respected his decision, and those desiring one eventually stopped asking.

It was a generally blissful life that Philip and Fatima lived for the rest of their days in Tunis.  As if it was not already obvious enough that they had been made for each other, they died on the same day, with Fatima passing less than an hour after Philip.  There were some problems along the way, though.

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