Anders flagged a nearby burly workman and got him to add his strength to the task of getting the unit off of the cart and down the stone steps to the basement. One man on each corner made the job almost easy. They gently lowered it to the floor off to one side of the roughed-in framework intended to hold the bathing tub. He hoped they wouldn’t need to move it again, but if so it was at least possible.
They all went back up the stairs, thankful to have finished the task. The workman, dismissed, returned to what he’d been doing and Anders, Wyll, and Ray pitched in to help unload the wagon Samir had brought. That was a pretty fast trip, if it included loading all this onto the wagon and hitching up the horse. The animal looked relieved to be standing still, if a little resentful to be still in harness.
When all of the wagon’s contents were on the ground Samir led his long-suffering mount around, parking the wagon up near the western end of the property. It would probably go back to its owner on the next trip. But for now the horse was unhitched, rubbed down, and tied to a fence rail with a feed bag strapped on. It sighed contentedly.
The Suite crew returned inside to see how Sorine was doing, and reported to her that a load of pipe had arrived. “Excellent!” she exclaimed. “I’m almost done with this. Let’s see if we can get some of the pipe hooked up at this end.”
“If you don’t need my help here, Sorine, I think I’ll volunteer with the crew outside,” Ray said. He’d become seized with enthusiasm for the project. It was so nice to be doing something besides lounging around, for a change.
She gave him a sweet smile. “Thanks, dear. I’ll see you in a while.” Sorine and the two remaining men went out for a conference with Hegmar and Argis in the yard. “I see that you have the entire bottom floor of the water tower built and the trench dug for the pipe between the cistern and the house,” Sorine said. “While I’m here, I’d like to run the pipe through the trench and into the house, install the tee for the water going to the bathroom, and bring the pipe in through the house wall to the sink area so I can hook up the heater system. Then when you get your cistern up, you can just run the pipe down to connect with what’s already in place.”
She peered at Hegmar and Argis, to see whether they were in accordance with this plan. Argis hadn’t yet done any pipe work and didn’t have a lot to say, but Hegmar frowned. “Hmm, well really, I suppose there’s no reason not to do that. It’ll let us close up the trench, which’ll make it less of a hazard in the yard. ’Course we’ll have to cap the pipe at the tee and over at the tower. I had my man fabricate some fittings, but they didn’t include any caps.” “Why not just tie a square of leather over the stub end with some wire?” Sorine suggested.
“Yeah, that’ll work. I’ve got the lead on site… Sure, let’s go ahead and do it.” They conferred with the crew member who was tasked with laying the pipe. Pipe sections were joined by fitting lengths into the swaged ends of other lengths, or by fitting two pipe sections into one of the special fittings the fabricator had run up. The ends were cleaned with an abrasive cloth and brushed with an acid flux, then a hand-pumped blow torch was applied to a length of soft lead which flowed into the joint – fusing the pieces together.
They all assisted as they could, while Ray was off with the crews that were raising sections of wall. After watching the procedure with the lead, Anders had an idea and asked if he could try to make the next joint. Instead of using the blowtorch, however, he used only a fire spell – no dual wielding with sparks, this time – but focused and concentrated as he had done when cutting the pipe section deep in that Dwemer ruin. It melted the lead wire in a trice, as effectively as the blowtorch. While a helper held the pieces to be joined in place, he moved around the joint with fire spell and lead, creating the join in no time.
By quitting time pipe was laid from the water tower to the house and the trench covered over, the ends of the line had been stubbed off, and Sorine’s kitchen water heater was in place. She was unable to demonstrate its operation, unless they were going to pour enough water down the water tower end of the pipe to run to the kitchen (into a bucket, there being as yet no sink); but she’d showed Anders the operation of the sonic sphere that turned the heat on and off. Elsewhere on the project, the frame walls had been erected around the entire foundation, and roof beams had begun to appear. They were supported in the middle by uprights that would form part of load-bearing interior walls flanking the central corridor.
The four friends met as the crews were stowing their tools and preparing to return to their homes, and stood in the front yard admiring the project. Sorine expected that this might be the last look she and Ray would get at it for some time, since likely Katja would be here either this evening or early tomorrow and they’d be traveling to Dawnguard. This was very nearly the first time she’d applied her considerable knowledge of Dwemer technology to something nonviolent, though weapons were the least of what the ancient Dwemer had achieved. It gave her a good feeling, and it triggered in her a peculiar sort of itching, as if a part of her soul had just been bitten by a mosquito. She felt there was something missing in her life, something she wanted. And it wasn’t just the plans for a new and improved crossbow.
They journeyed the short distance back to the Suite in camaraderie and good spirits, and as soon as they were in the door they all made a beeline for robes and the bathing pool. They were all hungry as well, but a day of working construction had left them grubby and sweaty. In the pool, Sorine was anxious to relay all of her thoughts on the project to Anders and Wyll, since she would not be here to assist them in putting all the pieces together.
“Anders, have you ordered the kitchen sink yet?” she asked.
“Not yet,” he admitted. “I hadn’t decided what construction I want. But I’m afraid I’d better get going on it.”
“I think,” she suggested with as much tact as she could muster,” that you ought to have it crafted at a smithy and made out of Dwarven metal. It should only take a little more metal than a suit of armor with a shield would, and you’ve still got plenty of Dwarven scrap downstairs. That will last you a lifetime, and you can pass it on to your children. It’ll look nice, too.”
“You’re right,” he agreed. “I think Warmaiden’s should be able to produce it without much trouble. I was thinking a double sink, one side shallow for dishes and the other deep for soaking pots and doing laundry. I’ll see if Argis can do me some drawings I can give to Adrianne.” Sorine smiled at him, pleased that her suggestion had been so readily accepted. Beneath the water Ray, who was sitting quite close beside her, gave her thigh an encouraging squeeze. She appreciated the gesture, but found that the encouragement was a bit of a distraction.
“When the Dwarven pipe gets here, you’ll need to run it between the bathing tub and the water system. You can put the stuff together using the same technique you used on the pipes today. But what’s the tub going to be made of?” Oh, what am I doing? Anders thought. Details were getting away from him. Their wedding was only a few weeks away, and he had not even figured out how they were going to make the tub – an element of their new home as vital as the gigantic bed.
Most people in Skyrim did with a washtub set on the floor before the fire, water added by the bucketful. In the wealthier homes there were sometimes bathrooms with a handsome tub set on the floor, made of copper or possibly cast iron coated with a ceramic finish. Anders’ plan had been for their home’s bathroom to have, in addition to the water privy and a basin for washing hands and faces, a tub set into the floor and kept permanently full of hot water – big enough for at least two, perhaps three adults to enjoy at one time. The hole in the floor had been roughed in to a size of four by six feet; but what would fill it?
Anders’ mind raced. He was supposed to be relaxing after a day well spent, but now found himself put on the spot. “I had been thinking masonry, like the pool here,” he gestured to the water they were sitting in. “But I don’t know. The distance from the main floor of the annex to the stone floor of the basement is 8 feet. The bathing tub doesn’t want to be more than 4 feet deep. That would mean putting 4 feet of additional stone underneath it to support the weight of the tub floor, its walls, and the water inside it.”
Sorine, too, seemed caught out as she tried to work out the best solution to the problem. Ray gazed at her admiringly. There was something so sexy about watching a smart (and beautiful didn’t hurt either, mind) woman applying her mind to something. He was getting half-hard just watching her in action, and that certainly wasn’t appropriate under the circumstances. He put a lid on it.
After considering all the factors, Sorine said “I think you’re right, Anders. No matter what the tub was made of the weight of the water will be so great that you’ll need full bottom support. Better just get your masons to lay a four-foot-tall platform under there. We can run the pipes in from the side, near the bottom of the tub. Probably you can use brick and face the inside with stone. You want something that will hold the heat.”
Anders smiled at her. It was nice to have validation for his own thoughts. He didn’t much like being put in the role of expert when his expertise was so wanting, but sometimes you just had to shoulder the load and push on through. “It’s beginning to look like we’ll be going to Fort Dawnguard in the morning,” Sorine said. “Let’s be sure to drop by the site before we go and let Hegmar know the details. He’ll need to leave circular openings in the side of the tub where the system is sitting, as close to the bottom as possible, to accommodate the pipes.”
Wyll and Ray, meanwhile, were just taking this all in. Neither of them had any magical ability to speak of so they were used to having to work to make things happen. But the details could be daunting. They were both happy not to have the burden of those details on their shoulders. “Is anybody besides me starving?” Wyll asked hopefully. A day of physical labor had worked up a big appetite, and they’d skipped their early evening snack.
A general affirmative chorus went up, and they all got out. During the day the new Owner’s Table had been delivered by Arngeld and his two strapping sons, the old one having been moved to fill some open space and provide more seating for Suite guests. The party of conspirators had been so busy during the day they had completely missed it as it went past them; nor had they noticed it before getting into the bathing pool. Now, as they put on robes and made their way to the usual spot, all but Wyll were astounded.
Wyll grinned. “I told you it was amazing, didn’t I?” He was as pleased as if he’d more to do with its creation than simply walking down to Whiterun and ordering a table made. But its magnificence was entirely due to Arngeld’s artistry. The four clustered around, exclaiming at the inlaid artwork. They were almost sorry to sit down and eat at it, possibly marring the beautiful surface.
Igmund and Raerek were down for supper, as usual. The two spent much of each day wandering around the place, napping, reading, or chatting up the young and pretty women Lane had hired to help around the Suite. But they never missed a meal, and they fully expected to take it at the Owner’s Table. They’d been personally invited here by The Dragonborn herself, after all. Now, however, there was plenty of room for all of them. And the old Nords joined the chorus of excited comments about the new table.
Tonight’s menu included fresh chickens, sliced in half and marinated in a mixture of oil, wine, and herbs before being grilled. This was served with the traditional oblong bread rolls, halved and toasted with butter and garlic, and a collection of mixed greens that had been chopped with tomato and dressed with oil, wine vinegar, and more herbs. Apple pie was offered for dessert.
A light, chilled white wine accompanied the food, and gaiety reigned as the party at the new and magnificent table enjoyed the food and the evening. Sorine and Ray were seated close together, and before the meal was over they were touching more and more, giving each other smoldering glances, and generally behaving in a manner more appropriate to people half their age. Nobody else at the table, even the old men, was surprised when they excused themselves right after dessert and disappeared down the ladder behind the bar.
Anders exchanged a look with Wyll as they disappeared once again. “Huh? Huh?” he said somewhat smugly, elbowing his friend in the ribs. Wyll shook his head, smiling. Two nights of lust did not make a lifelong love affair. It had taken weeks before he’d realized how Kat had wrapped herself around his own heart. But the signs were positive; and it would have been mean, spiteful, and pointless to burst Anders’ bubble.
“Perhaps you’re right,” was all he said.
The night life of the Suite came alive around them, and the men around the Owner’s Table sat back to enjoy it. There was song and dance, and for a rare treat, a real minstrel was passing through and regaled everyone with a tale of Ysgramor and the Five Hundred Companions. It was enjoyed by all, but had special interest for Anders and Wyll – who had met the man himself in the Hall of Valor in Sovngarde when they were there helping their beloved in the quest to defeat Alduin.
After the story had concluded Igmund and Raerek excused themselves and headed up the stairs to bed. The wine and food had dulled their senses, and they were struggling to stay awake. Though they’d worked hard today Wyll and Anders were still young enough to enjoy the evening, and they lingered at the table – nibbling on bites of apple pie and continuing to sip the wine, which had a sweet, fruity taste to it.
The minstrel had returned from a break and was now singing one of the familiar Skyrim standards, giving Lane a well-deserved rest, when the front doors of the Suite opened and Katja strolled in.