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Armad met with the brick workers that morning at the docks. He walked up to the lead foreman and asked, “Your work looks good here. How long will it be before you can start laying brick?”

The foreman looked at him with a shrug of his shoulders and answered, “I don’t know. The sooner we start, the sooner we finish and I don’t know where I’ll go next. I hate leaving a good job.”

“Are you married?”

“No. Very few of us are.”

Armad patted him on the shoulders. “You know that I am not from around here?”

“I can tell by the things you know. You are as well taught as a wizard, merchant son or a prince. You know things that even their teachers don’t know. How?”

“We have different schools and we’ve been learning things a bit longer than you have here. We don’t have magic in our world and we always have to do things the hard way.”

Armad continued. “Do you have a foreman working with you that is capable of taking over here?”

The foreman looked shocked. “Do you want to replace me? Have I done something wrong? I’ve memorized and double checked all of your instructions and had others double check my work.”

“No. In fact it is because you are so dependable that I need you. You have the right instincts for construction. I need you to separate out some of your top men. Leave some of the best here to continue, but bring the best with you. Have your new manager bring in some of the new men that need training and put them to work. Bring the men that you select out to the Gorge. We are going to build a bridge. Keep in mind that your men here will train more people for the next job.”

“Impossible! I’ve seen that span.”

“No. It won’t even be difficult. It will only take time.”

“This, I’ve got to see.”

Armad crossed his arms and leaned up against a run of stone. “No, you will not just see, you will do. You are going to help me build this bridge from the ground up and we are only going to spend a year doing it. We need stone masons, drivers and muscle right now. We are going to be working with small stones and our cement mix. You should be done with the masonry here by the time that the digging there is done, so bring all of you masons but leave a few drivers.”

“There are too many projects and not enough men.”

“I agree. Work will slow down a little bit, but you will spend a lot of time training your men and they will get paid for it. It is late summer now and about as dry as it will get. We need to get our footings poured before the rains.”

“Where in the Gods are you going to get the gold to pay the men?”

“A magician, a King and several merchants will help pay for it all. I also have money of my own, a trading ship and partners that are very successful and most of the ship owners that come this way will help.”

“Why in the world would a bunch of ship owners invest in land trade?”

“Ship owners depend on the land trade to get the same things to the docks that they trade everywhere. With this bridge, they will be able to trade more materials faster to yet another kingdom that they don’t trade with now.”

“Sure they do. All the stuff that they trade makes it across the Gorge, it just takes longer.”

“You are correct! It takes longer and less is traded. The materials pass through more hands and more is stolen. The ship owners are working together to increase their sales in that area many times over. Our port already has the reputation as an honest port. Melnor and Cappy enforce that notion. The more trade we have, the more the people involved with this port will see in profits. We have barely scratched the surface,”

“I hope I’m alive in twenty years to see how this works. I’ll be there in the morning. My second has already taken over my work and I’m just watching and teaching.”

“Good! I have to go talk with the woodsmen. They are going to be cutting wood for a long time after we are done with brickwork here or in the Gorge. We will have to bring in masts from other areas. The woods on this side of the river at least, don’t have the correct types of wood.”

“The shipwrights that I work with say they can work with all the wood here and it is some of the best they’ve seen.”

“I’d have to agree with you, but they don’t seem to travel very much and I have word of a source that is far better than the local wood for masts and I’ve actually seen some of the wood. We have to get these masts for our ships. The wood that I have seen is almost alive even after it is cut.”

For days in and days out, Armad worked between the two construction sites. Once the rope bridge was finished and the pilings for the cart bridge set, he had them set the forms for the base of the stone bridge. Winter was coming and only the docks would be worked on as the woods around the bridge site was too open and exposed. A fast moving storm could trap men too far from the safety and warmth of town.

Ships slowly came in from all directions and Armad worked with the captains to make sure that they went in different directions so that they weren’t competing with each other. Not having high-speed communication made it harder so he had his captains take turns making time dependent long trips and short trips of only a few days. This allowed him to maintain stronger communications with the ships and the ports that they serviced. It was true that some of the captains did not have as good a relationship in different ports as did others, but it all evened out. Some of the new relationships were stronger than the older relationships. He made the best of the new situations and then re-routed new ships to the ports where things didn’t work out so well. The only reason that the captains put up with his meddling was that he put money out first and gave them prearranged trades in a much more expeditious manner. Armad actually bought shares of the shipping manifests and took part ownership of ships that would have otherwise failed. He had them repaired as part of his costs and finally supplied sailors that actually knew how to sail and navigate with some of the new navigation tools that he taught them to use. There seemed no end to his knowledge of sailing. He slowly converted all the ship masters to his way of thinking. Lastly, he provided for them a compass that didn’t depend on magic that would last far longer and cost far less than did the often undependable magic that it took to sail long distances from shore. The real problem was finding a way to tell time in a more precise manner. That was the way navigation advanced. Perhaps the stars would have an answer.

Captains and navigators taught him the unfamiliar stars and their patterns through the seasons. They also explained what they could about the magic. So far, Armad didn’t have a bit of ability where magic was concerned. He wasn’t sure that he wanted any. Not so curiously, all Captains had to be a navigator before becoming a captain and their navigation talents were particularly primitive by his standards. They made up for their lack by the use of magical navigation aids. You could own a boat or be first mate but not captain or navigator without the command of a small bit of magic. This disappointed him and made him all the more determined to change it!

Joe Armad Ferguson had one passion that didn’t require a profit for his interest. A gardener might grow edible food or flowers and reap the profits of food but usually grew flowers for pleasure. Sailing was Joe’s ‘Flower’. Sailing was what he worked for and if he was a young boy, he would have shipped out as a cabin boy just to ride the seas. To his disappointment, if he couldn’t find a way to learn or replace magic in this world, he would not be allowed to sail with a crew. There was no such thing available as a personal sailboat like a sloop or a catamaran and the bigger boats required a crew. He now had the equivalent of a construction company and a port where he could construct his own ships the way he wanted to. One way or another Joe would sail again!

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