MELNOR’S TOWER

By Matt Wellheuser All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 8: THE TOWER’S BASE

Joe Armad Ferguson started by walking the area for a few days and finding out what kind of approaches there were. With a city built here, it would be quite defendable. The technology was basic. Better than camping but not quite as good as most third world countries that could buy specialty tools from the outside. Here, you could get a dozen of each type of hammers, axes or knife like cutting implements. Saws, drills and other finer tools were impossible. Stone would be the easiest to build with, but he would have to make cement from scratch and the raw materials for that might take some doing.

It took a few weeks learning exactly what tools came to hand and how they were used for even some of the basic wood working tools that he grew up learning to use were not available although he knew that these old tools did exist back on Earth. They had to exist since there were ship builders. Fortunately, or perhaps, unfortunately for them, cement was non-existent. Mud would do almost as well for their low homes, and often, building with rock and mud was the norm. It was cheap, replaceable and withstood weather for years. He set to, having the men collect rocks of all types and bringing them to the site, breaking down the abortion that was supposed to be the tower. He then took a few men out into the woods to find suitable trees for cutting.

The trash rock, which he taught them to identify, he had them set out in a perimeter. Once he had enough stone and a good idea as to which of them were potential managers, he had a few men at a time begin collecting the raw materials for cement and building a short, wide, knee-wall with the trash rock.

`By the time the wall was finished with proper facing and an entry that was easily negotiated through a single ornamental gate, he had enough quality stone to begin building the tower that was requested. Two of the men were also well enough trained as stone masons to be able to do a credible job of working on the stone tower and the trees that he would need for bracing and basic backing. The trees were cut and dressed. He next needed a few tools, a few more men and some rebar. The thing was; it didn’t exist!

“Blackie! I’ve seen you around, but I don’t really know you. I think that I might be able to use your services.”

“Me? I don’t know the slightest thing about construction.”

“No, but you do know metal. How much metal do you have that is scrap?”

“I have some. There was a ship wreck on the shore when we started building and I’ve got a vein of ore that I work from time to time, but I need to construct a better forge. For that, I need a stone worker and you have all of them working for you, such as they are.”

“Cappy tells me that you need a place to work and I need some raw stock for reinforcing the walls of the tower. The stone is not going to be strong enough. I know something about building ovens and forges. If I can build you a better forge, will you be able to supply me with the stock?”

“That depends on the forge you build and how hot the flame gets. I trust your word as a man, but you are new and nobody knows the quality or range of your ability. Also, we are coming into winter and everything is going to slow down to a halt in this town.”

“I don’t think so. I come from a place where the winter only slows things down. It doesn’t stop anything.”

“I will need some help doing the forging.”

Joe stuck out his hand, ’That will have to do. I have spoken with Cappy and he has promised to bring in help before the first freeze. My men are cutting lumber and bringing in supplies. I suppose we can get them to mine some ore but first I need to see your oven.”

Blackie stood and found that they met eye to eye. This alone was a rarity for him. Neither of them were small men. ’Come, I will show you my forge.”

Joe made a decision on the spot. His men called him sir, and Melnor hardly ever talked to him as he stayed busy. Blackie was likely to be his first real friend and as such he felt that sharing his name would only be proper. “Call me Armad. Let’s go see your tools.”

Blackie was proud and a bit shy as he showed this man his home. The tools were sufficient for working with horses, but were far from adequate to the tools that he wanted and totally lacking in quality to do the job he was being asked to accomplish. The ore that he had been using was fair, but it needed processing and for that he needed a hotter flame. If this man could do that, he would get his ‘rebar’, whatever that was.

Joe, or Armad as he was going to be known now, walked into the primitive forge area and realized that he could greatly improve on it. There was stone enough of the correct quality already in his piles of stone and men to move it. He would have to cut the stone although one of his men was showing enough talent that he might trust his work for the job. The farmers weren’t in need of a stone worker and this would help train him further before corner stones were needed for the Tower.

A ship had come in the other day and Parry, one of the woodworkers might be trusted to find the right wood for the structure of the smithy and barn that would be needed. There was going to be a need to dry out some of the structural beams and a place to store them so they would dry out would be helpful. Blackie needed a barn and until he had more business, it would work well as a storage shed for lumber that needed drying for the tower and other jobs that seemed to need doing.

“I tell you what. Melnor told me to make whatever deal that I could to get the work done. Cappy said that he would help me with our trades and I will have my men get to work on making you a better workplace. If I build you the forge and help you get materials, can you supply me with my needs?”

“If you can do that, I will be indebted to you.”

“I’d rather your friendship.”

Blackie looked at this strange man. There was honor there and surprisingly, possibly the deal of the lifetime. “I would be honored to give you all the help that I can.” They shook hands more as new friends than as professionals. After all, neither man truly knew the other’s abilities, yet there seemed to be great deal of promise. Promise is the heart and soul of friendship.

It took all summer but Armad managed to lead the men through the building of the knee-wall around the area where the tower would be built. Enough men and sailors came from visiting ships that they were logging sufficient wood to build a barn for Blackie and stock it with beams for building the tower. The barn was easy. Everybody here had helped build one before, but the tower was a new type construction for everybody and slowly he was teaching a work force of stone workers. The young experienced carpenters supervised the cutting of the wood needed and he continued to research the possibilities of building a small boat for his own recreation.

Stone that would work well with the forge had been found with the stone that would be used in the tower. Some of the materials for cement had been found in the hills near the iron ore. The area was rich in materials. The ships kept coming in and leaving men looking for work or fortunes. Many of the captains found that scrap iron was finally a commodity worth trading. They got in return, medicinal plants that Melnor and the kids picked, wood scraps of high quality beautiful exotic woods for craft work and a higher quality of food that had been cured, potted or otherwise preserved by the women who had extra time because they weren’t out gathering crops. Between Cappy, Melnor and Armad the men were kept more than busy and even the sailors that dropped by were put to work. Red Valley was busier than an ant nest that had been poked by a stick.

Cappy had more resources than an Army procurer and his reach extended over both water and land. One small woman had set up tents and was renting them out as extra housing. The men that stayed there spent a fair amount of time helping her lay out plans for a more permanent structure in return for services. Once the barn was up, the men had promised to begin construction of a tavern. Not surprisingly, there were many more volunteers for this job than the barn. She had money and apparently enough influence with Melnor to get their help as well.

There was a lot of wood being logged and everything that was not reserved for construction was put into pits to make fuel for the forge. If only they could find some coal. Any grade would do for it would burn hotter than any wood and the forge he was building would be able to use either.

The kiln or forge its self was coming along fine. Armad didn’t yet have the talent to use one, but he had the knowledge to build it and Blackie had apparently used one before and assured him during their planning, that it would be even better than the one he had learned on.

A few stocky men showed up on ship and had worked a deal out with Melnor and Cappy. They took over mining operations and brought in the ores that were needed. In exchange, Melnor was going to do some work for them once his tower was built as partial payment for their services. Somehow, everybody was getting fair enough return on their work to wait for their full payment. It was amazing. Less than a year ago, almost nobody lived here and the town was now several hundred strong, even if it was a tent city. The ships kept coming in and the captains always got paid by either Cappy or Melnor in trade, deals, favors or gold.

By mid-winter, Blackie had his forge. The knee-wall was built and the corner stones were set for the tower. Lessa, the short woman that ran the tent hotel, finally had a kitchen that fed almost all of the workers. Cold winter nights, the workers collected in the barn and the foundation of another building connected to Lessa’s kitchens was going up. The workers needed some rooms and it couldn’t wait. During meal times it would suffice as dining and at night time, rooms when it was too cold for the tents.

“Armad how does this look to you? The metal isn’t very strong because all of the life has been taken from it by the re-melting but it is straight and hard as you requested. I have some metal that is better than the rest. Do you want me to save it for anything or do you want better rods? I can include the better metal in the mix.”

“No. Save it. You will be due some payment when we are done and the better metals won’t be needed for the job we are doing right now.”

Blackie smiled, “I find it strange that having offered to make something better that you don’t need it better. Don’t you want to build the tower the best that you can?”

Armad nodded in agreement. “Do you use silver for horseshoes on a plow horse? It is harder and prettier.”

“That would be a waste of both the foot and the metal.”

“There you are! The metal I use in the tower only needs to be strong enough to do the job. The stone will do the rest.”

“O.K., I will hold onto it for a while. The miners are pulling some pretty decent ore out of their shafts. I don’t know how we would have done this without them.”

“You are right. I figure that Cappy has done more than anyone else to organize getting people here and putting them where they need to be. When I first met him, I took him for a simple thief. Well, not a simple thief, but someone who would do whatever he needed to do just to profit himself.”

“Oh! You mean that you heard that he was a Guild Master?”

“No. What does a Guild Master do?”

Blackie smiled. “You really are a stranger to our ways. A Guild Master is a man who controls thieves, beggars and assassins. Quite often, they have a lot of power and control the town or region that they live in. Kings have to be careful that they do not cross them. Guild Masters often run towns with an iron fist while still not claiming to be King or Royalty. Profit is their master and sometimes they start out as a ship’s Captain that has made riches with fortunate trades. Other times they run wagon trains.”

“Doesn’t Cappy hate the sea?” Asked Armad?

“I figure he does, but he also watches out for everybody, just as a ship’s captain would. He just doesn’t seem to be greedy.”

“Well, I just wanted to invite you to our first cement pour tomorrow. I figure that you might just enjoy seeing what your hard work is going to do.

“I’ll be there early, whatever cement is.”

Blackie and all the other citizens of the town were well received at the work site. Armad made a party of it that after the pour, they all moved to Lessa’s new establishment that. It wasn’t big, but it was big enough for now.

The outer walls of the tower had risen swiftly. As the second level began, the shipwrights that had been hired away from other major ports began to work on the upper levels. They laid the floors and inner walls quickly and Joe learned so much from them that he found that his talents were better spent in management, not brick or woodworking. Brick-laying was easy with small bricks, he found, but he was not big enough to handle some of the stones that these guys handled as a matter of course.

There were leaders here, plenty of them, but their styles did not meet the needs of construction or management. His skills as manager made this job possible. Anything less and the tower would only be just a tall building, not the pinnacle of strength and vision that the magician wished it to be.

By spring, the tower was in its final stages of completion, the docks were fully repaired and many of the men were going to go wanting for work. Joe had an idea. He took it to the magician.

“Sir, I have not yet given you a year of service, but your tower is near finished but for the roof. We need to talk.”

“Speak to me as an equal. Joe is such a strange name for this world. Have you perhaps a second name that fits our world better?”

“I inherited my name from my grandfather. Call me Armad. He belonged to a religion that is inappropriate here, but the name fits. Many if not most of the men call me that now.”

“Fine. Your job is almost done and the shipwrights and stoneworkers are beginning to talk about their next jobs, if they can find one. They will have to leave for another port for the jobs here are about to be covered by many more skilled people than necessary. What can I do for you?”

“You told me when I started, that I would be owed a boon when I am done. I can do more now with the people here than I will able to do later at much less expense.”

“Your point is?” Asked Melnor.

“I need these people to build a shipyard and some ships and I would also like to take a trip out to the gorge to see if I can build a bridge to increase trade in this neighborhood.”

“How long have you been thinking about this? These three jobs could take a lifetime.”

Armad shrugged, “Not with these guys and my knowledge. I also need to find out if magic can help. I can set the stone layers to work on the dry dock and the shipwrights to logging for specific materials. Once one is finished, the others can start and during the time allotted, I will be able to find work for all of them. Some will stay. I set it up so that the docks are now in place are in the right place for this endeavor and I have a stand of woods near the edge of town that needs clearing for the town to grow. The leader of the shipwrights has inspected it and believes that there is enough wood there to build the dry dock and possibly outfit a ship. The roots will be pulled and added to the fuel stocks for our blacksmith. The land will revert back to the town and the city fathers will be able to sell it or give it out to deserving citizens.”

“You have thought this out. What about the gorge?”

“I won’t be able to make plans until I see it. The size and raw materials near it will determine my abilities to span it.”

“I am told, reliably, that it is far wider than can be spanned.”

“I should be the judge of that. I have a knowledge at hand that is foreign to those that I have met here.”

“A ship yard would be a decent first addition so I will help you. Put the first of the men to work just building a new dock and take your trip out to the gorge. Let me know what you find.”

Armand nodded, gave a little smile and went to gather the tools that he would need. The trip would be a minor part of his plan because of the knowledge that he had. He could probably span greater distances than they could imagine spanning with just the simple materials at hand. Maybe magic would play a part, but he did not understand that tool…yet.

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