Chapter 16: THE INN
The building of the new Inn began three days later. It was sufficiently cold now that the construction in the Gorge could only be done by a few men at a time at a very slow pace and the rest of the men had taken to working in the shipyard. Hunting parties were bringing in food, lumber and many other necessities for the town and while the weather was good, every available hand was out hunting anything that Melnor and Cappy said was worth trading for. Most of the money would have been in their hands except for Armad’s new project and the grocery. Everyone liked reasonably fresh food. He also paid top wages for man hours of work on the new Inn.
“Fallon, we have the ground prepared and a sufficiently large basement dug with stairs, bricking and a floor but I forgot to ask you what arrangement you want for rooms.”
She stood there and thought for a minute. “If you are asking, may I presume that you will try to accommodate me and not just build a big box? That is usually what happens and then my family usually has to make do with what we have.”
Armad smiled. “I am not your usual man. I suppose that you will want a large kitchen and a large dining room. What else?”
The small woman sighed. “It would be really nice to have rooms that fit me and my kind but on the other hand, we wouldn’t get much business if the rooms were that small.”
He smiled. “I believe I understand what you are talking about. Would you stand still while I take some of your measurements?”
She cocked her head at him and nodded her acceptance. He pulled off his belt as she looked on wondering first of what the entire belt was normally used for and again what he was going to use it for. It was only moments before she found out that it was a measurement transfer for her height at the waist, shoulders, arms and hand span. What he could want all of that information for, she couldn’t tell. After marking the measurements on his belt, he put it back on and excused himself. She didn’t see him for several days.
“Melnor, I have a problem. I need some drawing materials so that I can plan the floor plan of the Inn.”
The magician looked at him closely. “You actually draw out and plan what you are building. Why? What good does it do?”
“With plans, I can design without as many errors. I save materials and I find that I can do more within a small space. In this case, I am going to build the kitchens on one side with rooms fit for Fallon and her family. I believe that she will bring them here to help run the inn. The other side will be the main room with normal sized rooms. I have to be careful in the way I join both sides. I am correct, am I not, in assuming that she is not the only one in her family that is short?”
“Absolutely, I will enjoy seeing her reception of your ideas. When will you tell her?”
“I won’t tell her, I’ll show her. It will take about two weeks to construct the Inn and a few more to finish out.”
The early winter was kind to them. No ships came in as travel this time of year was too risky but light dusting of snow kept the work unburied. The Docks were nearly done and Armad pulled a crew of select men to help with the new Inn. The wood work on the bridge was well on the schedule that Armad kept in his head. On windy days he had the extra men report to the Inn as well.
Fallon did a brisk business in meals while the men dug her root cellar. The cellar was a full basement in size, something that few people considered necessary. Armad had the stone workers use stone that was too small for the docks or bridge in the construction of walls for the basement and half of the first floor. On windy days once the digging was done, the carpenters set to in building the floors. By mid-winter, the stone workers had no part in it and everybody was camping out in the shell of the building. The old dining hall was turned into a real dining hall with permanent tables and benches.
“Armad, we have a small problem. The head stone mason was speaking of the fact that all of the stone work was all but done and his men had no work at the docks remaining.”
Joe Armad nodded. “I know. Have your men been paid for their work to date?” He nodded.
“They are well paid. We could easily wait out the winter, but they are also getting bored. This would lead to drunken brawls if we had plenty of drink. A brawl leaves hurt feelings but rarely broken bones. If they get sufficiently bored, however, there will be major fights.”
“Melnor, Cappy, Blackie and I have been talking about another project, but it will only last until very early spring. Also, someone is going to have to make a trip out to the hills where we got the stone for Melnor’s tower to cut enough rock for a very specific project.”
The man’s interest peaked. ”What is this special Project?” Every time Armad did something different, he built another skill, and every skill added to his value.
“Blackie needs a fireproof building to put a new forge in.”
“And the forge is the special project?”
“Correct! While one part of your workers builds the walls, stalls and floor, the rest of them can go get the stone for the forge.”
“That won’t be challenging nor will the job take long. I could probably do the job with half the men, but they also deserve a rest. Maybe some of the farmers could use some help. That is the problem with big crews. You work yourself to death trying to keep all of them working. Perhaps I should form some kind of membership and dues to support keeping only the best of them working.”
Armad nodded, “Do you mean some kind of Masons Guild?”
The man nodded. “Cappy seems to work well with different types of people. Maybe I’ll get him to work with me on it.”
Armad reached out his hand and the man joined him in a handshake. “I’ll be your first member and I’ll give you my support with a handshake. I think that the Masons Guild should also look after the widows of their workers as well until they find a place for themselves.”
The man nodded. He wouldn’t forget this discussion or the men that set him on this path as a Head Mason. Armad saw the masons draw together as a group and instead of watching lone men depart one at a time, he saw something unusual. Teams of men departed for different destinations as if they had a plan. The men were beginning to think for themselves. Good.
The wood workers finished the structure of the Inn and some of them began working on the detail work of building stairs, walls for the rooms upstairs and kitchen work area. As the work petered out for the Masons, they went as groups and offered their assistance to farmers in building better fireplaces and low walls that would eventually become the foundation levels for barns. Few farmers would or could afford a whole building of stone, but just having a level and square building started, saved time and money for later. They didn’t know it at the time, but the Masons were supported from other sources as well and the work didn’t cost as much as it could have. When spring came, the farmers saw their crews on their way with gifts and thanks as well as invitations to return some time. Not the usual sendoff of laborers.
The first ships of the spring saw the first of the Masons leave. As work on the Inn and the Blacksmith barn finished, the carpenters began to leave. The crews that remained were the best of the best and they were the ones that stayed to finish the bridges since the dock work was done.
Of the bridges to be built, the rope bridge was repaired from winter ravages first and the wood bridge next to it was swiftly constructed to a new standard. Both of these bridges were no more than one expected for the crossing of a river although they were longer than most others if not all.
The stone bridge had all of its major spanning beams and the stone supporting them was laid in place with the keyhole stones placed well before spring. The weather had been agreeable to the hearty stone workers and there was very little to do except to surface the bridge. Armad again had a hand in this.
He explained to his men, “I’m telling you, that this mixture of pitch and cement will form a covering on the bridge that will last for years.”
Armad had done well in school when it came to chemistry. It was the main reason he enjoyed cooking so much. “Look. The strength still comes from the stone, but the surface will be smooth if we use the tar. With this added powder, it will stay hard and shed water like no other material you’ve ever seen.”
“I agree that it will shed water. I dropped a cloth in the mixture and I can’t wash it now. Of course dirt doesn’t stick either so I don’t have to wash it but I don’t see how it will stand up to horses and wagons as well.”
“Melnor assures me that he can take care of that. Besides, we can always add another coating every few years.”
“Plain stone doesn’t need special care.”
“Plain stone will cause horses to slip and requires a Mason’s touch for maintenance.”
“You are right, but nobody else bothers. Of course, nobody else builds bridges like you do.”
Armad smiled, “Do you have anybody that plans on staying here?”
The Head Mason nodded. A couple of my best are staying well into summer. One of them has met a farm girl that he wants to settle down with. I suppose that he will keep busy building farm houses or such and Parry Cooper is planning to set up a trade route to the West Kingdom. He has learned how to make barrels from one of the other carpenters. Funny thing is his barrels seem to turn out better than the man that taught him. He also has a fair head for trading and business. He has done well this winter with his little wagon carting people back and forth to the bridge.
` Armad nodded. Three tall men walked into the hall of the Inn that they had been using as their planning room.
The full bass voice of Grimley boomed as he entered the room. “Bright morning, all!”
“! Called out the small Fallon as she ran up and jumped into his arms.”
“Now that is a strange pairing,” Nodded the Mason towards Fallon and the big man.
The two other large men stopped behind him and Barrett said in a whisper, “They care for each other, but I don’t believe it is a match.”
The whole group of them watched the odd couple hugging. Each in their own way was forced to agree with this assessment. Armed knew from sessions spent in the kitchen with both of them that the friendship went very deep but did not cross the boundaries of private interaction and as time would prove, they would be correct.
Garrett pointed out, “She has ample reason for loving many of the men here. Armad, you have given her a home, Blackie has made her cook pots, and Cappy seems to back all of you with his organizing skills. Even Cappy’s enforcer seems to get along with her well. It is such a shame that he hurt his eye.”
“Melnor fixed that but he has to use one eye or the other, hence the patch.”
“Yes, he has gotten a new nick name out of that, hasn’t he?”
“Patch isn’t a bad name for a man of his capabilities.”
Hey!! Come over here! Lessa, can we get a meal over here?”
Lessa dropped out of his arms and waved in their direction as they pulled up chairs for a more formal meeting. Except for Melnor and Blackie, everybody that was in charge of the projects was here.
Pulling up a chair, Cappy called over to the enforcer. “Patch, I want you to go get Melnor or Blackie. If you see them both, ask them both to come by. We have some business to discuss.”
Patch made his way out the door and Cappy gathered the others close. “I have some plans that I would like to offer to you.”
Each of them gave him close attention. Cappy had been coming up with ideas for necessary things for quite some time now. “Patch needs a new job and we need some sort of official to keep the riff raff in line. He is a bit lazy but he has a strong sense of right and wrong that I’ve been cultivating for quite some time now.”
Blackie walked in at this point. “If we make Patch the Law, then what do we do when he wants to enforce laws that we don’t want? I’d also like to know what you are going to do about Parry.”
Cappy chuckled. “You don’t know Patch very well do you?”
Shaking his head, Blackie admitted that he didn’t. “By the way, you will have to give up on recruiting Parry. He has bought a wagon and is using it to transport the workers to and from the bridge as a job.
“So Patch would be perfect. Once we put a wall around the town and man the gates, we can give him a few men to help watch the gate and chase down the thieves that get a little too greedy.”
“He is already pretty good at keeping me informed as to who is coming into town and what is going on. The job of commanding others can be trained into him and the responsibility of long quiet watches at the gate will fit him well.”
Melnor came into the room during the discussion and asked, “Do we need someone watching over the town folk?”
Cappy turned to him and replied, “We already do so ourselves and the sooner we have someone representing the town folk as a ruling power, the sooner we will get more respect down at the docks from the sailors. I’ve been talking to the captains of each of the ships and they all want this and a jail so that they will have a place to go looking for their boys when they don’t come back to ship on time.”
“If it is good for business, we had better do it. “Insisted Blackie. Now that the bridges are done, do we have some other construction plans?”
Armad looked up at this question. “I think that I am going to build a few more ships and expand my grocery.”
“What is a grocery?” Asked Melnor.
Armad gave him a penetrating stare. “From where I come, we keep a separate building for buying foods. That is what I have my trading shack for. I have noticed that the only time you can get fresh food around here is if you grow it, pick it or trade for it in season. I know for a fact that there are islands out there that have fruits and vegetables that we never see here. If I own my own ships, I will be able to keep a supply of fresh food that will trade well with all comers the whole year around.”
Grimley asked, “Do you plan on doing this just for profit? If so, you are likely to fail for others would have done it before if it were profitable.” “I will make a profit, but not at first. I will begin this just because I like fresh food but I think that all of you here will find it extremely profitable. How many of you wish to join me in this venture?” Armad looked around the table.
Melnor looked his way and smiled. “We’ve built my tower, docks, a shipyard and the bridges. We haven’t had time to show profit and now you want to start another project?”
“Let me ask you, do you have anything else to do with your efforts and time?” He looked around the table and saw a bunch of puzzled looks. “Let me explain it to you this way: There is no profit to be had as of yet because the trading season has yet to begin. If we had profit, we would either save the gold, buy something expensive, eat better or reinvest it in order to make more profit. We eat well enough, none of us are collectors and this is just a form of reinvestment. Am I doing this alone or do any of you want in on the plan?”
Melnor looked at the others. Seeing what he wanted to see, he answered, “I’ll join you, but you run the store. You will have to hire on some captains. I remember that you said that you like to sail. Will you be taking one of the ships out?”
“Sadly,” Said Armad, “I can’t take a ship out unless I have a magician aboard or unless I learn magic myself, according to M’Lady. I can’t sail on my own unless I take magic with me.”
Melnor looked at him and frowned, “Come by my place and we will see if you have any ability.”