Wyll and Anders sat eating cold sliced beef with bread and cheese. They had some potato chips on the side and washed the food down with chilled ale, a satisfying repast. Neither of them knew Wilmuth’s friend Hegmar on sight, but as he had not appeared by the time they’d finished their leisurely lunch Anders volunteered to keep an eye on the door. He knew Wyll had some project going in the basement, though he didn’t know what it was.
Anders fetched a book from one of the shelves on the mezzanine and sat reading it. It was one of the many volumes of The Real Barenziah, being the story of the near-legendary Dunmer princess whose exploits had changed the world centuries ago. He was more often to be found reading books of genuine lore or practical how-to manuals, and this stuff sounded a bit like a fairy tale; but it was enjoyable enough without being so engrossing he would fail to keep an eye out for Hegmar.
He’d finished that book and started the next volume before the door opened to reveal a rather short and weedy-looking middle-aged Nord with thinning brown hair. He was clutching a roll of paper in his hand and peering around expectantly. This must be the man! Anders walked over to him where he stood on the landing just inside the doors and said, “Hegmar?”
“Aye,” the man replied. “And you might be Anders?”
“So glad you could make it,” Anders told him, shepherding him across the common room to the table he, Wyll, and Kat most often used when dining or just relaxing in the Suite. There were a few people soaking in the pool, and Hegmar leered appreciatively at a couple of the younger women.
“Heard about this place,” he said with a smirk. “Cor, they weren’t kidding!”
“Please have a seat and I’ll just go fetch my associate,” Anders said. Their lunch dishes had long since been cleared and the table was clean and ready for their conference with the builder. “Can I get you anything from the bar?” he asked before turning to leave. “A nice bottle of mead, perhaps?”
The little man’s grin got wider. “That’d be most kind of ye,” he said, pulling at the front of his soft cloth cap in a gesture of respect.
Anders opened the trap door behind the bar then knelt on the floor and stuck his head a little way into the opening. “Wyll! You down here?”
“Yeah,” came the bass reply.
“Hegmar’s here!” Anders shouted, then waited until he heard “Oh! I’ll be right up,” before getting back on his feet. He snagged three bottles of mead out of the washtub they were using for a cooler and added three from the nearby case to replace them. Then, after assessing the state of the ice, he applied a few moments of Frostbite to the tub until the melt water had gone solid again.
Striding back to the table he proffered one of the meads to Hegmar, setting the other two on the table and taking a seat. “Wyll should be here in a moment.” Indeed, as he glanced over toward the bar he saw his friend’s blond head and massive shoulders rising up behind it like a breaching golden whale. Wyll closed the trap behind him and, spotting the bottles sitting on their table, came right over to join them.
Hegmar was dumfounded as he held the bottle Anders had handed him. “This’s cold!” he said in astonishment.
“Try it, I think you’ll like it” Anders assured him, popping the cork on his own bottle and taking a satisfying swig. Wyll, too, eagerly uncapped his own. Hegmar shrugged and did the same. Mead was mead, he supposed, and this was the familiar Honingbrew mead from the brewery he’d passed on his way over here from town.
Steeling himself, Hegmar took a hesitant sip. Those who knew him well would have been surprised to see him sip anything, let alone Honingbrew mead. He let it wash down his throat, clean and refreshing. Hey, this was good! Very quickly, he took a couple of swigs and exhaled sharply in satisfaction. “How’d you do that?” he asked. “Get it cold, like?”
Wyll smiled at him. “Anders is a powerful mage,” he told the little builder. Seeing the man’s alarm he added, “He just used his magic on some water to make ice, that’s all. The ice keeps the mead cold. We chill all our mead and ale here now, and it’s getting very popular.”
Hegmar blinked at him. Then, shrugging, he downed most of the rest of his bottle of mead and said, “I’m a convert. Now, you wanted to look at some drawings?”
Wyll and Anders exchanged glances. “Wilmuth gave you our rough sketch, right? And you’ve seen the farm house. We thought we’d just discuss hiring you to make some drawings that the construction crew can work from.”
“Oh aye,” Hegmar said, with a sly smile. “But happens I’m good at my trade. And your sketch was none too bad. Might I ask who made it?”
“That was our friend Argis, who lives at Breezehome. He’s got a knack for drawing and painting, but he said he’d never done any architectural drawings,” Anders explained.
“He’s got a knack for that as well then, I think,” pronounced Hegmar sagely. “I’d consider taking him on as an assistant, if he’s not otherwise engaged.” Anders considered thoughtfully. Argis was a warrior, and of course he was sworn as a servant of The Reach on semi-permanent assignment to Kat. But he might be needing a trade that would keep him closer to home after he was wed.
“I’ll mention it to him,” Anders concluded. “Can we see what you’ve got?” Hegmar spread out his roll of paper, which proved to be Argis’ drawing rolled inside of one he had made. Argis had captured everything they had discussed with a detailed floor plan, notes in a careful and legible hand delineating the special features of the piped water system, the planned waste disposal system, the kitchen, and so forth. Hegmar had taken this concept and transformed it into something that looked like it was ready to roll off the page and become reality before their eyes. With skillful strokes of pen and brush (and straightedge, Anders guessed), Hegmar had produced views of the transformed house as seen from the road to the east, from the south, and from the north.
Both he and Wyll were gazing avidly at Hegmar’s drawings, the dreams they nurtured for their future together with Kat somehow made manifest on that roll of paper. “This is amazing, Hegmar!” Anders exclaimed.
“What he said,” Wyll added.
“Now this isn’t final, you understand,” Hegmar said. He seemed to go from being a scurrying rat of a man to a consummate professional in the blink of an eye. “If you approve what I’ve got here, I’ll get a surveying crew out to the site tomorrow morning. I hear you’re in a hurry, like. We’ll take all the measurements and I’ll do a materials list and order what we’ll need for the building. Then we can get a crew out maybe later that same day to start grading and digging for foundations and that septic system you want. That’s going to add quite a bit to the cost, though, you realize?” The man’s folksy accent seemed to come and go; but Anders and Wyll were starting to think they’d put the job into the right hands.
“Do you need some kind of a deposit?” Anders asked. He realized that the final cost of their planned renovations was likely to be sky-high, but there would be no way for Hegmar to provide them with an estimate until after the list of materials had been determined, at the earliest. He knew Kat had tens of thousands in gold stashed, but he didn’t see any way they could ask her for the money without blowing the surprise. Well, they had several more thousands coming in from Warmaiden’s in the next week or so. He could only hope it would be enough.
“Five thousand gold will get me started,” Hegmar said. He seemed to regard the money as secondary to his excitement with the project at hand. “You’ll notice,” hr went on, gesturing to his elevation drawings, “that I’ve got the cistern up at the top of a new building on the upper slope of the property. You’ll get more height and more water pressure that way, and you can use the inside of the tower for storage, drying herbs, whatever you want. That means a bit more pipe getting into the house, but you don’t have to mess up the architectural lines by putting in a flat roof in the middle of the place to hold the cistern. Lots less risk of roof leaks inside the house that way, too.”
Anders was impressed, and sold. Clearly this Hegmar, however dubious he might seem as a person, really knew his stuff. And he was prepared to work quickly, giving them half a chance to meet their as-yet somewhat nebulous schedule. Still carrying the remnants of their haul from yesterday, he pulled out his purse and deposited 5,000 septims on the table before them. “We’ll need some kind of written contract, I think” he said, not yet shoving the money across the table.
“Right with you guv’nor,” Hegmar said, reverting to his sometimes accent. He pulled another roll of paper out of his pack. On it, in his own neat penmanship, was laid out a clear and simple contract. He would provide the drawings and the building crew, and acquire the materials necessary for the work. The work to be performed was listed in detail. A full estimate of the total to be paid would be delivered after the materials list had been determined and costed. In addition to the deposit, a further payment would be due at the stage where walls were rising, with the remaining amount due on completion to the satisfaction of the contracting parties. Adjustments to the total might be made if the customers decided they wanted any changes to the original plan.
Hegmar had just gone up several notches in Anders’ estimation, and he could see from Wyll’s expression that he too was impressed. Wyll had more experience than he did in hands-on craftsmanship, really, and he made sure that they had both studied the contract before signing it and paying over the deposit. Hegmar shook hands with them both and thanked them, saying he expected he would see them tomorrow up at the farm. As he went out, he made sure to ogle the naked ladies in the bathing pool.
After the little man had exited the Suite, Anders turned to Wyll. “I think,” he said, “that Wilmuth has found us the Real Deal.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Wyll responded. “You want one?” Anders smiled and nodded, and soon the two of them were sipping a couple of deliciously chilled bottles of mead. Their discussion ran on well into the afternoon.