MELNOR’S TOWER

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Chapter 24: BLACKIE

“Is this barn to your satisfaction?

“Aye, it is far better than I could have obtained on my own. Armad, what is it that I will owe?”

“You will be in debt for life doing projects for the betterment of the town. That is the beauty of this place. I have a place to live and plenty to eat so I don’t need anything in return for the things that I supply others. Cappy and Melnor have backed my projects and the projects themselves provide a living for many others. I know that Melnor will get supplies for his researches but I haven’t yet figured out what Cappy gets.

Blackie thought about it a bit and guessed, “’Cappy seems to be all about stability. He has a little network of kids that have no other parents, run errands and return with information every day. He pays them in food and treats of one type or another. When the kids grow up, they will be totally dependable when it comes to getting things done. A lot of the older ones have shipped out on trading vessels and done quite well.”

“Does that mean that he is running the port and town?”

“No, Armad, it means that the town is run between him, Melnor and you.” Blackie crossed his arms in satisfaction at surprising this most talented man.

“Me?” Armad was as shocked by this prospect as Blackie had hoped. Armad was happy to manage the projects but to help run a town? That was beyond the scope of his abilities! Wasn’t it?”

“Yes, you. Haven’t you noticed the respect that you demand? If someone stands up and gets people to co-operate in creating something then, it stands to reason that he is a leader. Melnor, as a wizard has power. Cappy draws on his long time experienced in handling people and you are a source of many ideas. I have no idea where in the world that you get them but they work and that is all that Cappy, Melnor and the people care about. Was there something else that you needed from me?”

“I need to know how you are coming on those hinges that I have you making.”

“They are finished. We’ve made the gates in the way that you described them but we didn’t use them yet because you told us not to.”

“Good! Let us take them over to the docks and install them. I expect that the hole behind the gates is pretty wet?”

“Very.” Blackie looked a little apologetic. “We had to do something that was not according to plan.”

Armad settled against a table. With obvious concern, he asked, “What did you have to do?”

“Well, the walls were constantly falling in and water kept trying to fill in the dig, so we dug down below the depth of the river, laid some stone on the floor to that level. We filled in the gaps with that ‘cement’ you taught us to use and then did the same thing to the walls everywhere except where you told us that the gates would be. I looked at the hinges, made sure that they were strong enough and then sealed the gates as well. We then placed the gates in position to hold the river out. We may have to move them because we didn’t know just what you wanted to accomplish with the gates but we don’t constantly have to drain the hole.”

“Excellent! Very good! Let us go look at the gates and see what we need to do.”

Blackie and Armad marched over to the docks with the tools they would need to install the hinges. Armad had seen the storage buildings when he came in, but he hadn’t closely investigated their ability to hold things. They passed near the buildings on their way to the dry dock and the quick look inside, Armad told him that his master carpenters had outdone themselves once again. The storage sheds would be perfect for many years.

Arriving at the gates, he found that the Carpenters were not the only workers that had outdone themselves. By lining the bulwarks, they had successfully accomplished what he had intended to direct. The gates were properly in place and the hinges could be installed as they sat in place. It only took a short while to line up their placement and later, they could clean out the silt so the doors could be opened and closed. The next thing they had to do was to arrange for the removal of water from the dock after the gates were closed. This was going to be the fun part.

It took a few days to get the right men together. They got everything cleaned out and cracked the gate open to let the water in. It was very difficult as the gate was opening into the river, but the water was low and with time, they were able to open and fill it. He operated his dry-dock as locks are operated. Water comes in; the gates are opened and closed. Water is expelled out. This method would work for now until they had better pumps. Armad had Blackie building a pump but it would depend on his skills as a teacher, Blackie’s skills as a metalworker and yet again, Cappy’s skills in arranging manpower. As a team, they would build a pump that could be used to fill and empty the Dry Dock. After the construction of a ship, they could refill and launch the boat. From what he understood, this was new to the shipbuilders in this land.

Construction was accomplished on dry land until the hull was strong enough to roll down a hill and into the water. Once in shallow water, packing material was stuffed in the chinks that leaked and sealed over in various ways. Some ships used clay; others prepared saps or other materials that were used also in the building of houses. After being sealed, they were bailed out at low tide and pulled over to a building dock to be further prepared for sea worthiness. There were other methods for building and launching ships, but he had the knowledge and manpower to do it efficiently. After all, ships had been his primary hobby as an architect.

Armad gathered his carpenters and stone workers from all of the projects for a meeting. They sat down in the main room at Lessa’s boarding house. Not surprisingly, it was standing room only.

“Gentlemen, there are too many workers in town for the work that is available. The least skilled of you are probably better workers than the best in other places, but it won’t put food in your belly if there is no work. Those of you that also have both wood and stone work abilities are probably equal to the best and those of you that have mastered only one skill are probably without peer. Our techniques will keep you at the peak of your profession for the rest of your life, or until everybody else learns your secrets.

One of the stone workers standing in the back stepped up, “How much work for stone workers do you have?”

“To be honest, there won’t be much more work in town except for building stone fences. Maybe in a few years, I will need to add on to the dockyard or we might get another magician in town that wants a taller tower than Melnor, but the years between might be fairly lean.”

The same man who seemed to speak for all of them asked, “There are too many workers here for us shipping out to the nearest big town. Most of us would still be out of work and out of money. Have you any suggestions?”

Armad looked the men over. Some of them were good friends but the nature of their jobs kept them on the move, especially the best of them. “I called you in here to ask for volunteers. I need some men to act as traders on my behalf. I will also need men to build ships. From this group I wish to man my new ships as they are built and send you to new places to find new trade items.”

“What do we do while we wait?” Moaned one young fellow.

“I want all of you to make a few trade trips in teams of woodworkers and stone workers. I will send you in all directions at sea and over land. You will visit every port and town that can be reached. For those of you that find opportunities for work while on your travels I would offer that you take the job or pass it on to someone else. When you are not on the road, I will employ you in the shipyard. Some of you, especially the older men, will find the work different, but easier than moving stone or logs.”

“Some of us don’t want to be traders.” Complained one of the wood workers. “We have a craft and do not wish to change it.”

Armad nodded. He understood their need to be true to themselves and had tried to help them do so. “Look upon these trips as a cheap way of traveling to different places while you hunt for new work. I expect to lose most of you to opportunities elsewhere. That is fine. I wish you well in your fortunes. Offer to build better bridges over smaller rivers, better walls and stronger buildings. All I ask of you is to send information back. You will not be a trader, but a friend to your Guild.”

Most of the men were quietly absorbing information given to them by a well-respected employer and teacher. From Armad, they had learned much about stone work, woodwork and the construction of structures that none of them had ever seen before, much less dreamed of. Now he was telling them that he was not of the trades but a lowly trader. How did one man master so many skills? On top of that, he was now saying that they had a Guild?

The top man of the combined trades spoke from his seat. “We have seen your skills and are awed but we have seen none of your skills in trading. What do you know of the ship captain’s trade?”

Armad gave a disarming smile. “I do not come from here. In my life, I have done many things and been trained in many more. I have already begun to develop my trade routes. Most of the Captains simply await my request for business and the land routes that I will be using have planned and marked. If any here wishes, they may ask Captain Jones what my Sailing skills are. While you look for work at my expense, you will be my agents in searching out new trade opportunities and finding out places where we should not even bother. We will all profit from the arrangement and nobody will be the loser.”

He looked out on a sea of nodding heads. There were obviously going to be a few that would be a problem, but this way there would be few of them that would show any hardship. To their benefit, they would probably be able to take their time and get better positions than they would if they had to take the first thing that came along. Armad would probably be able to employ the best of them at the docks and quite a few of them would likely become his best contacts wherever they ended up living and working. A working Guild of Construction people backing up his trade routes would be better than paying other traders to do the same.

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