Chapter 2: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The captain had been correct; it did only take a short while to walk up to the top of the switchback. The river was only one of many small ones. A lake had formed because the stream had dug its way out of the soft dirt that had once been a marsh. The rocks that closed in the lake were harder and taller than the marsh around it and this same bedrock lead up the river, holding it for the most part, fully on its course.
Looking at the land as he stood by the south side of the river, Melnor could see that the north side of the land tended to slope down to the marsh and would probably never see use by farmers. The land south of the river was high off the water and had a hill well into the shore. That hill was exactly what he was looking for and would be exactly where he would build if only some spot on that hill was in line with the forces of nature. Sailors knew that there were lines of force everywhere because their magicians used those lines to find their way. For the best navigators and Captains, it seemed a matter of instinct. Winds followed patterns just as migrating birds and herds do. On land, there was sufficient confusion that few men could tell where the lines of power lay but there were always a few people that would never be lost. Melnor was one of these and as he strode up the hill, he could feel that the hill was not only on a line of power, but on an intersection of two lines. Marking the spot with a cut staff, he began to circle the area. He checked out every step along the area, Melnor began to collect rocks to mark his location and build precisely on that location.
So far, the only help he had was from the kids in the area and people that he did favors for that had no other way of paying him back. Melnor had his magic to help him move things and the ability to heal small problems but most of his abilities were of little help to his new neighbors. Besides, spring was coming and the farmers would have less time to help him.
The ship would return soon. Captain David Jones had promised to bring more supplies, trading and work materials along with some trained builders if he could find them. With any luck, his men would have spread the word and he might get other volunteers or better yet, other ships. The farmers had saved grain and other foodstuffs preserved in pottery jars and stored them in their root cellars. Melnor had also had them pick fruits, vegetables and tubers from the woods surrounding them for the same purpose. His long life of experience living in the woods and dealing with many different peoples of varying experiences had taught him how to find food and materials of many different types in many different places.
He taught to the children and any other person that helped him, how to spot the spices and tubers. It added a variety in their diet and provided them with a much needed, emergency supply to their storage cellars. Over the winter, he found that he had made many friends, few of which truly knew just how powerful he really was. It was enough that they thought him just an eccentric with a lot of knowledge and experience.
“Sir, we have a ship coming in. What kind of supplies do you think they will have?”
“It’s not supplies I need, but manpower and someone that can manage the building of my tower. We’ve got a lot of stone set aside and I’ve done what I can to clear the area, so what I need now is someone that can manage building my tower for me.”
“Why don’t you just use your magic?”
“Magic will do a lot of things and with some imagination, even more than most people know but I would fail unless I know exactly what I am doing. When you are building something, it can fall apart if you don’t build the structure exactly right.”
“So you need someone that knows how to build things?”
“And someone to make trades, so that we can have the materials to build with.”
The ship had come in and three men came walking up to join them. They had to have come from the ship. The short man in front spoke first. His missing front teeth gave his speech a slight lisp. “I am told that you need a builder here in Red Valley. Are you the man that we are looking for?”
Melnor looked over the men. The two in the back were nondescript even though the younger tall one was rangy and had an eye patch over his left eye. The other one was average; dead average and quite beneath notice.
“You don’t look like you can handle the stone. Are you sure that you are a builder?” He asked the first man.
“Ya! I can build you whatever you want, wherever you need it. How many Masons and Carpenters do you have for me to manage?”
“None! All that I have is a few helpers and temporary help. What do you call yourself?”
The small man winced, turned a little white and looked back at the ship that he had just came in on. “Call me Sean. Show me what you have.”
Melnor waved his hand back at the pile of rocks and the cleared area on top of the hill. He then turned his back on the builder and looked to the other men. “Gentlemen, how can I help you?”
Instead of the dangerous looking young man stepping forward, the other plain looking man stepped to one side and drew his attention. “Sir, you are building a large house, home or some such in the middle of nowhere, are you not?”
He sat on the grass and the sinister looking man backed off and stood on guard at a slight distance. The builder was off looking at the site and the rocks. “Pardon my man Patch. He works for me as my guard. As a team, we negotiate and handle trades. We take profit and use it to make more profit. Along the way, we help a few people and we have also been known to eliminate a few problems.”
“What can you do for me?”
The man looked him in the eye. “We can handle your people, make sure that you are not cheated and work with your traders to make sure that the right people and materials make it to your project in good time and in proper form.”
“What do you get out of it? Do I pay you or do you skim off of the top?” Melnor asked him with a self-indulgent smile.
“Call me Cappy. Over time, we will make our own place in town and there will be no need for you to pay us unless you have a specific task for us. In fact, once we are established, you probably will not need us for anything specific. We have lived and worked in other towns like Oman and see a possibility for profit here in your new town.”
Melnor stepped back and returned the straightforward look. “This not my town; in fact it is not even a town or a port.”
“This port will grow fairly quickly.”
“Do you need help until you are stable?”
“We have more than enough and if you find anybody that is in need, send them my way. I may be able to find something for them to do in a few weeks.”
Melnor gave him another look and nodded again. These men were possibly dangerous, but they also seemed open if not actually honest. Time would tell.
“I am trying to build a Tower. It must be built on a hill in a specific way. I need skilled workers, trade and materials. This area has farmers with a store of herbs and stored foods that they have been gathering under my instruction for two seasons. Raw materials are here for the taking and lastly, I have command of some powerful magic and the imagination to use it creatively. Let me know what you can get me and I will support you however I can.”
“Good will is more than I usually have to start with.” Cappy put on a hat that Melnor hadn’t noticed before then and walked off. Patch joined him, ever watchful.