Chaos Calls 03: the Dragon Dilemma
Chapter 02

Copyright© 2011 by Ernest Bywater

Chaos

I smile when I enter the bank vault. For some reason it’s grown in size and there’s room for us all. I lead my horse, Gaza, to the side to give them more room while the rest arrive, and I wait for them to join me. The portal vanishes when the last mare exits the portal. I stick my finger in the hole and my box arrives. It takes just a moment to go through the box. I arm Kira, Warren, Carla, and myself from the many weapons stored there. I also take out my other Chaos clothes and strap them to Gaza’s saddle. I give Zhu and Lin a knife each. I don’t have enough extra swords for them so I also give Zhu my bow with the quiver of arrows.

I shut the box and open the vault’s door. Then the most amazing thing happens! Six people are in the bank and not one of them blinks an eye about six people and six horses walking out of the vault. The way they react you’d think they see that sort of thing every day. When we step outside of the bank I hear the expected comments about the smell.

Turning a bit I smile and say, “You didn’t believe me about how bad it was, did you?” Kira, Warren, and Carla admit they didn’t, while Zhu and Lin smile. I figure it smells like their original home villages.

All looks calm so we mount up and head down the street at a walk. I wave to Brian when he passes us on his way down the street. About half an hour later we’re turning into Jay’s farm. We get a warm greeting from the whole family. We’ve just enough time to water and feed the horses before we go in for lunch.

Getting Ready

After a delicious lunch it’s time to get the smithy going. I head off to start the forge. I put in bits of steel and some high carbon sand to melt while I set about making several moulds for the items I need. Jay comes along to help me get both of the forge fires going. While they heat up I get some wood and start carving the shapes I want to make. I’ll use the carved items to make the moulds I need by pushing the wood shapes into containers of semi-set plaster. I’m not sure what they use for plaster in the moulds here, but it’s like a cross between Plaster of Paris and gypsum powder. There’s a lot of work in making the carvings, moulds, and gear I want; but they’ll be well worth the effort.

Wagons

The current wagons are heavy with the wheels made from solid wood, like two sets of boards joined together and laid across each other. The wagons are from four to seven feet wide with a length of ten to eighteen feet. One thing that annoyed me with the wagons we used before was the way they’d always squeak. This was due to the wood hub rubbing on the wood shaft despite any amount of grease you put on them. I want wagons that don’t make as much noise, so I’m making bearings. Knowing how hard it is to make round balls by hand I’m making roller bearings for the wheel hubs by carving a wooden one to make the moulds. I trim a stick to the desired thickness and sand it into a perfect cylinder. I make the inner and outer walls with side lips to hold the rollers in place. Once happy with the way the wood ones fit and work I press them into the plaster to make the moulds for the steel ones for the wagons I want. I make moulds for forty wheel hubs.

The local wagon maker is unhappy with me when I ask him to make wagons to my specifications. He’s not interested and he keeps saying, “I know how to make wagons already. I make the best in the area.” So I ask Harry and Jay about a good carpenter who can be taught new ways, and they both send to me the same man. He loans me his two eldest sons who are his journeyman carpenters. They have the carpentry skills I want but not the design skills which I’ll teach them. Ian and Ralf will be the market leaders in wagons when I finish teaching them how to make spoked wheels with bearings, plus the small wagons I want.

The designs of what I want built are amongst the papers I brought with me from Frederick. They were passed by Mac since they’re a variant of existing Chaos technology. The wagons are a cross between an artillery battery wagon and limber. The width of them is two feet with a length of three or five feet. The shorter ones will be two wheeled and the longer ones will have four wheels. The wheels are just two feet high instead of the usual four and a half feet. The shafts rise up to a harness that lays on the horse with a saddle or pack. The storage box sides are two feet high. Where the common wagons are restricted to road travel these are small enough to go anywhere the horse pulling them can go. It’s a very useful way for a cavalry unit to carry supplies. They’ll also make getting certain types of goods to Grassy Meadows easier. The addition of greased steel roller bearings will mean they’re almost silent and will go faster than the usual wagons.

After showing Ian and Ralf the plans and how to read them I give them designs for full sized wagons and carts. I say, “Ralf, Ian, I want a number of the smaller carts made to take with me in a few weeks. Once you’ve mastered the skills needed to make them you can look at making the bigger ones after I leave, OK?” Both smile while they nod yes. They’d been worried about having enough work due to their three younger brothers being apprentice carpenters. But this new line of work will give them plenty of extra work now, and well into the future as well. I add, “I also want two or three carpenters to move to Grassy Meadows to set up shop there.” That evening the two young men go home. The next day they turn up with their three brothers. Now I’ve got all five of them working on the wagons.

When I ask about the larger crew Ralf replies, “Last night we’d a family talk on all this. We’re all ready to be promoted but we haven’t bothered with the formal stuff. Dad’s doing the papers for the guild today so Ian and I will be Master Carpenters while Pat, Troy, and Rob will be Journeymen Carpenters. It will all be approved by the time you’re ready to go. Ian, Pat, and Troy will go with you to set up a new business at Grassy Meadows. The rest of us will stay here. That’s why we all need to learn this new work. Also, it gets it done a lot faster.” I smile, because I now have another special skill set for the new settlement.

Soon after that Harry turns up with two young men and says, “Lord Al, I figure you’ll need a smith to set up at your new place. George and Sam are ready to set out on their own. Will you take them with you?”

I smile as I say, “Good! That saves me having to ask you to find me someone. I hope they’ve got all the tools they need!” The three nod yes.

“They already know everything I know, so it’s time for us all to learn something new from you.” I laugh as I lead the way to the smithy. I explain the various projects I need done over the coming weeks.

I’ve the moulds and metal ready for the bearings so Alice comes out to show the young men how to pour as well as she does. We put the poured moulds into the second forge for a slow cool. They take time to see how they should work by watching me set up the wooden ones.

I gather both sets of specialists together to explain about putting steel rims on wagon wheels to make them stronger, lighter, and to last longer. They all get the idea. I leave them to discuss it before Harry and his crew start on making the rims for all of the wheels.

Climbing Gear

With the wagons being made I turn to making the climbing gear I may need. It’s not possible to make the full range of climbing gear Kira and I are used to because Chaos technology isn’t up to it. However, the paths we’ve selected to climb the cliff faces don’t require the use of the more complex gear such as the spring-loaded camming devices that open up inside a crack. We need basic solid metal figure eight descenders for rappelling, some hexes, some maillons for climbing, and small pulleys.

A hex is a six sided metal tube that tapers to one side with rope running through a hole in the top and bottom sides. They’re used to provide support by being pushed into cracks until they become wedged there. They perform the same function as a piton, but they don’t require the trouble and noise of being hammered into rock, just a crack in the rock. A maillon is like a carabiner with threaded sleeve gate cover instead of a pivoting or spring loaded one. I carve triangular maillon parts and hope we can make the threading work right when they’re made. Harry assures me he knows how to cut threads into metal, so I trust him to get that right because I’ve no experience with it.

Other Gear

Harry does manage to surprise me by handing me three finished katanas. After completing the two I made on my last visit he decided to make a third to see if he could do one by himself. All three are well made and sharp, but not as sharp as I want. When I mention this Kira smiles, grabs a sharpening stone and a stool, then she’s busy sharpening swords when she’s not doing something else, and I often join her at the work. She likes the idea of having a good katana to use here.

After preparing more metal we also pour more bo-shuriken for Kira to use. I ask Alice to make her a set of holders for them. Another job on the agenda is several more of the mini-crossbows for my team and some for use by the farm personnel. Although there isn’t much metal involved all of the steel does have to be melted and the carbon sand added. The waste is skimmed off then the higher quality steel is poured into the old moulds. It’s a lot of work, but most of it is a case of waiting for it to melt or cool. Having the carpenters on hand makes it easier to construct the wooden parts for the crossbows. I also make another fifty bodkin arrow heads to deal with any enemy armour.

Cavalry

On the first few days while I’m busy with the forge Warren is out looking at the local horses. On the third day he asks about being able to buy some as a lot of them will make good mounts for the cavalry I want to create. I leave it up to Warren and David to organise things and to tell me how much to get from the bank when he’s ready to buy them.

Jay, David, and Brian bring a group of sixty people to see me on the fourth morning. All are interested in fighting the Brotherhood and they heard I’m successful in winning against them. Since King Sid’s Army is simply holding the borders safe they see the need to organise a force to take the war to the Brotherhood They want to join me because I appear to be the only one attempting to deal with the Brotherhood.

Gathering them all around I have Warren and Carla join me. I say, “These two people are developing a fighting force for me. Warren is in charge of the selecting, the training, and the caring of the horses. Carla is in charge of training troops on how to control their horses and how to use them in combat. She’s my teacher in cavalry combat tactics. If you can stand to be bossed by them then I want you in my cavalry.” The group cheers. They talk about training and speak to Jay about where to live while training. I leave them to get organised while I deal with getting us ready to travel.

Stock

I know I’ll need stock to trade with the Kukulka so I ask David and Jay to organise for some people to go ahead of us to see what stock can be arranged for me to buy before I reach Two Sheaf, the town nearest the rescue area. They organise a few people to go check things out and to make deals for me. I’ll pay for and collect the stock while we travel.

Other Matters

Zhu and Lin have a good time helping Alice prepare meals and getting trail food ready so we’ll have stuff to eat while on the move. I don’t want to stop for meals during the day, only breakfast and dinner as hot meals while in camp. I’ve allowed eighteen days to get ready to leave, so we have to get on to get it done as there’s a lot to do in that time if we’re to be ready to go on the day I plan to move out.

I swap the farm’s telescope lenses from the old box to one of the new ones I brought with me. Then I hand it to Jay, complete with the nice leather carry case made for it. He’s very happy with the new look of the telescope and case. I do the same for mine because that makes it easier and safer to carry.

Three more of Jay’s kids wish to travel with us: Jasmine, Jade, and Jake. Jade joins the cavalry while the other two team up with people their age who are going to Two Sheaf. I suspect the two will soon be married and living on new farms, mainly because Alice says she thinks that’s what they want.

Side Issue

On the eighth day I notice Brian leading a very fit man around the farm. They look at everything that’s going on. I trust Brian so I’m not worried about them learning about the new things. Though I’m curious about what Brian is up to and who the man is.

They stop to watch the sixty-five trooper strong cavalry unit training in the field behind the barn. Carla has them do some very interesting close combat manoeuvres. Each is armed with a longbow, a sword, a simple curved arm shield the size of a large dinner plate, plus a set of triple layer boiled leather armour with a padded leather helmet.

The horses and gear are expensive and the local community loves the cash payments I make for them. Eight four-wheel wagons and four two-wheel wagons are finished, tested, and ready, as planned. We load them with our food and camp gear. Five more of the four-wheel wagons are being made for the carrying of the smithy and the carpentry gear. They’ll be finished today. That’s more wagons than I intended, but now I’ve also got a much bigger crew travelling with me than I’d intended.

I’ve over eighty people I’m taking to Grassy Meadows and another twenty odd who are going to Two Sheaf. In order to ensure the Kukulka are safe in the long term I have to establish a group of farms run by people I trust. The farms will be located between the Kukulka and the current locals. A number of people wanting to set up new farms of their own are joining us, and they’ll do that job for me. They’ll be bringing a few normal wagons with their gear as well.

Brian and the stranger approach me and Brian asks, “How many now, Al?”

“I’ve got a hundred and four confirmed for the trip. Another five are still thinking about it, but only eighty-two of us are going to Grassy Meadows. The rest will set up new farms near Two Sheaf and organise themselves there. Of the group for the Meadows sixty-five are cavalry.”

The stranger asks, “That’s quite a lot of people you’re taking away from here. How does King Sid feel about it?”

I grin because I think I know who he is now. “I’ve not spoken to King Sid. I wouldn’t know him if he bought me a drink in town. But all of these people need to move on to set up new places since their families are getting crowded out. By going with me they get the extra materials and help I’ll provide while setting up as a group of friends. I think King Sid would approve. Also, we’re moving into an area where he has concerns about enemy raiders. We’ll be setting up an armed buffer zone on the other side of the border. That’ll help protect his people. My cavalry will be very busy eliminating the Brotherhood. Once we get them pushed back King Sid can recall the troops he has protecting this border.” The man nods and Brian grins. “I do hope to set up as Lord of that area. I’ve been asked to do that by a few of the people living there since King Sid doesn’t seem to want to push this border any further. I’ll set up and make the area safe then I’ll see how he feels about it. I’m not too worried if I’m Lord there or not. I want to establish a good governance of the area to see the people are safe from the Brotherhood and other bandits.”

“Worthy goals, very worthy goals. I wish you good luck in them. I think you’re right about how King Sid will regard the situation. You’ve some interesting new ways of doing things here. Would you mind if I send some people to come here to learn them?”

“No, I’ve no problem with that. Just be sure to pay the teachers for the training. They put a lot of time and effort into learning the correct way to do these things so they should get paid for passing it on.”

He smiles as he nods yes before he and Brian move away to have a close look at one of the two-wheel wagons. I grin while I watch the man I think might be King Sid Jones, Hero, walk around checking out the improvements I’m making to his people’s way of life. I’m sure he’ll be a lot happier when this border is made safe from the Brotherhood because it will allow him to concentrate on other issues of greater importance.

In the late afternoon, just when they get ready to leave, I walk over and say, “If you should run into King Sid tell him I’m off to make a deal with the dragons and all should be safe before I’m finished.” He looks stunned, at first, then he smiles. They turn and ride off.

On the Road

It’s mid-morning on the nineteenth day since arrival when we form up to leave the farm. I lead the front cavalry force of fifty-two troopers. We ride in a column of threes with a new senior lieutenant on my right and Kira on my left. Right behind the lead cavalry is Warren with a group of horses of twenty-four horses in four strings of a rider leading five pack horses on a rope line while another seventeen horses have riders and with some of them pulling the cavalry wagons. The next group is the farmers for Two Sheaf on their wagons and horses, followed by the people for Grassy Meadows. Carla leads the trail force of twelve more cavalry troopers with their lieutenant. All up there’s now one hundred and seventeen of us in the column.

Once we’re all moving along the road south I move us up to a good trot so we can make good time toward Two Sheaf. The plan is to travel all day and eating lunch in the saddle each day until we get there.

On the second day we come across the stranger with several men who were going south at a slow pace. They speed up to keep pace with us until we reach Summer Ford. Arriving at lunchtime we break for a half day’s rest so everyone can have a good bath and a meal cooked by others. We also restock some of the perishable foods we’ve eaten.

Training Tells

The next morning we form up and are about to leave when a large mounted force of the Brotherhood ride up the road to the ford. Only our lead elements are visible from the ford since we’d set up a camp for our wagons and animals on the west edge of town and most of us stayed there last night. King Sid’s troops have barricades set up at the water’s edge. The off duty men rush to join the duty shift manning the barriers.

 
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