Chaos Calls 05: Island Girl
Chapter 02

Copyright© 2017 by Ernest Bywater

Chaos - Port Potter

We all enter the vault and I immediately move to my lock box to start handing out weapons as soon as the rest of my team are all through the portal. Several minutes later we’re all armed so we enter the main bank room where we stop so I can open accounts for everyone and I have them rent their own lock box for later use. This will ensure they all have access to weapons and money, regardless of what happens. It will also mean the new Heroes will have an easier start when they begin their own rescues. It takes a while to open nine new accounts, then we leave the bank. Yesterday Mac was able to replicate the smell of a Chaos city for us, so they all know what to expect when we get out into the street.

A group of well armed men and women results in a lot of attention, and people making way for us. Our first stop is a good tavern to get three rooms for the night and to ask for directions to the best arms dealer in the city. The tavern owner laughs as he says, “I’ll give you the directions, but he has nothing to sell to you. None of them do.” He gives us the directions and we go to see the man.

We walk into an almost empty shop as all he has are leather goods, with most of it being leather armour. I ask, “Is there a good weapons maker or blacksmith good at making weapons in the city?”

The man replies, “No. I used to make all of my own weapons, but since I broke my arm and it didn’t heal right I can’t make weapons. Also, the only blacksmith who was any good joined the scum at our gates.”

“I’m called Al. I know how to make a better quality steel and how to make some weapons. Is there a blacksmith you trust to work with to make good weapons if we all get together to work on them?”

The man holds out his hand and we shake hands while he says, “I’m Cal. The only blacksmith left in the city has three sons who are good smiths, but they don’t know how to make any weapons at all. I think I can train the younger two if Jim will release Don and Doug to let me. Though I’ve often asked him before and he’s always refused to let me.”

“Is there a smithy we can use if I can convince him to let them?”

“I’ve my own smithy at the back of the shop. It’s where that no good traitor worked after I taught him what I know. I used to think you could trust family, but my wife’s cousin betrayed us all for some gold.”

“Can you give me directions to the blacksmith?”

“Wait while I get my wife to watch the shop then I’ll take you there.” I nod yes and he disappears into the back of the shop. A moment later he’s back with a woman and he heads for the door, so we follow him out. Ten minutes later we walk into a crowded smithy. Cal calls out, “Big Bob, I’ve got a man here who wants to talk to you.”

The oldest of the smiths, and the biggest of the four large men, puts down what he’s working on and he comes over to us. Bob carefully looks my group over while Cal does the introductions. I ask, “Bob, why won’t you let Cal teach your two youngest boys to make weapons?”

Bob looks at me for a moment before he says, “I’ve no problem with the training, but if they work for Cal then he gets the bulk of the money for all of the work they do. Right now we can’t afford to split the smith work the way we used to.”

I turn to look at Cal, and before he can speak I ask, “Cal, is the smithy where you made weapons able to operate as a separate business to your shop?”

He nods yes as he says, “It used to be and it can be, if I’m paid for it.”

Bob says, “I can’t afford to buy it. I’d like to, but I can’t.”

“How much, Cal?” I ask.

“Two conch for the facility, all of the tools, and what’s there.”

I glance at Bob, and he says, “I’ve looked at it and that’s a fair price for the smithy as it is with the house, but I don’t have it.”

I look around the smithy. I see piles of broken metal tools and bars of poorer quality iron sitting around. I smile when I turn back to Bob to ask, “Are the two youngest fully trained and qualified?”

Bob nods yes while saying, “The twins are trained. I need only finish their papers and give them to the bank manager for sending to the guild. Why do you ask?”

While waving at a stack of bars of iron and two piles of rusty broken metal tools I say, “If I set up in partnership with the two boys by buying the smithy as my share will you give them those bars and broken tools as their share of starting the business?”

After glancing at the piles I indicate Bob nods yes while saying, “Yes. But none of that metal is good enough for weapons.” We both turn to look at the other blacksmiths, and the two younger ones both nod yes.

I smile while saying, “Let’s get to the bank so I can pay you, Cal. Don, Doug, can you load up those metals and take them over to the other smithy, please?” All four smiths nod yes.

When we get to the bank there’s a slight delay while Cal opens an account for me to transfer the two conch into it. The bank is in a part of the city distant from the smithies, so we find the four smiths unloading a wagon of metals at the smithy near Cal’s shop when we get there.

We dig in to help them unload and then we wait while the two boys put their personal gear in the attached house. Then we all laugh when they’re run out of the house by two women with brooms.

While laughing hard Bob says, “You boys know better than to go into a room while your mother or sister are cleaning it.” He turns to his other son, “Case, go back to the smithy. I’ll bring the wagon when your mother is finished cleaning the house.” The other boy smiles and leaves.

I face the three smiths and Cal while saying, “As a part of the sale Cal agrees to teach the boys how to make weapons. Another part of the deal is they can only sell the weapons to Cal at an appropriate price to pay for their labour and the materials used. That way they all make some money on the deal. I put up the premises as well as teaching the boys how to improve the quality of the metal. Bob, you may want to be a part of that.” He shakes his head no while waving his hand with an extended thumb over his shoulder in the direction Case took. I take it to mean he wants me to teach the three boys so he doesn’t have to teach Case. I turn to the twins to say, “Don, Doug, you two will do all of the hard work and when I leave you’ll pay one pinch in ten into my bank account for the money you make doing work for anyone but Cal. Understand?” They both nod yes. “Once we get organised here we’ll go to the bank to open an account for you to operate with and to pay my money into. I’ll also include a conch for operating expenses to get started, but I expect that to be paid back at a later date when you can afford it. Any time you want to pay me the two conch I paid Cal you can do that and buy me out. Is that agreed?” The two boys both smile and nod yes. I’m sure they figure if they have the money to buy me out they’ll be doing well enough they’ll want to. After asking for directions to the best potter in town we leave them to the work of setting the smith up to operate.

A little later we walk into a pottery shop and I ask, “Do you use an oven to bake your work or is it sun-baked?” The woman smiles as she opens a curtain to where I can see a big beehive oven made of small stone bricks. “May I look at it?” She sort of frowns, but waves me through. I give the oven a very thorough examination and ask, “Who made it?” She smiles and taps her chest. “Will you make one for me that’s a bit different once I tell you how I want it made?” Another nod yes. “I hope you know where we can get the small stone blocks to make it?” I get another nod yes. “How much?” She moves to a tray with dirt and writes ‘One conch,’ in the dirt. “Does that include the bricks?” A nod yes. Do you know where I can get some quality white glaze?” A head shake no.

Another woman says, from the doorway, “We don’t use glaze. But I know where I can get some from a shop across the city. Mother lost her tongue to some bandits years ago, but I see you can talk with her well. Where do you want us to build this oven?”

I smile at the younger woman who just arrived as I say, “I need the oven built in the smithy behind the shop of Cal the Armourer.” I move to the tray of dirt, wipe it smooth, and draw while adding, “I want it to have a base of bricks with a roof above it that has a lot of holes and slots in it. Above that is another chamber where the main fire will be. The lower chamber is where the ashes will fall through to so they can be removed. The fire chamber will have a curved top with some holes in it to let the heat through. The top chamber will be like the top chamber of your oven. The idea is the heat from the fire will concentrate into the holes before travelling up to the top chamber. I also want it built so the top two chambers have a thin stone door on them to trap the heat in. A few small holes will allow the smoke out while keeping most of the heat in. I recognise it’ll need more bricks than your oven so I’ll pay a conch and a quarter for it. Once it’s built I want to coat the inside with a quality glaze then light fires to set the glaze in each chamber. I also want to glaze the door to the upper chamber.” When both women frown I add, “The white glaze will reflect the heat back into the chambers instead being absorbed into the bricks.” Both have large eyes at the idea.

The daughter asks, “If we get the white glaze will you show us that on our oven?” I nod agreement. “Follow me.” When she turns to leave the shop I and my team follow her.

Many minutes later we enter another shop well across the city. This shop has a lot of pots on display with a glazed piece of pottery behind it. However, none of the glaze I can see has a high gloss. I point at a very bright white sample while asking, “Can you do something like this with a high gloss to it?”

The man running the shop says, “Yes, we can. But we get no call for a glossy glaze. People complain about the shine and how slippery it is. It’s also about triple the price of these glazes which sell well.”

I smile as I say, “I want enough high gloss white glaze to cover this wall twice,” while pointing at the long side wall of the shop. “How much do you want for that much, and when can we have it?”

“Half a conch and you can have it tomorrow. I’ll have to mix the gloss with the white.”

“I want the whitest and glossiest glaze you can give me. Same price?” The man nods yes again. “I also want some black glaze. I’ll be back about this time tomorrow. Here’s four quad against the purchase to show I’m serious.” I hand the man the money while he smiles and nods yes.

Outside the shop I say to our unnamed guide, “The bank is near. Do you want me to transfer your money into your account now?” She nods while she smiles. Ten minutes later the money is paid and she has some in her pouch while we walk her back to her shop before we go to the tavern for our evening meal and to get a night’s sleep.

Day Two

We’re up early and go to Cal’s smithy after we eat breakfast. I laugh at the sign over the entrance that now reads, ‘D Smithy.’ The boys are at work unloading a pile of firewood into their sheltered wood store. I walk over and hand Don a pouch I got from the bank, it’s a conch of pinches and quads. He takes it inside the house to count it, and walks out a little later to tell his brother. “Al just gave me the operating money.” He walks over to talk to the carter and pays him for the wood. A noise at the house has me turning to see two young women leaving with baskets on their arms. Don says, “I hope you agree the operating expenses include food. I gave some money to our women to get food for the house.”

I smile and say, “That money is a loan to the business which you two are now in charge of. You will be paying it back, so if you need to spend some to establish your house, do so. When you get organised I want a hot fire going so we can melt all that metal down into bars. So one of you will need to sort the metal into the their different qualities. We’ll start with the best and work down until we have it all melted. Also, I’ve a potter I hired to build a special oven for us. She’ll be here to start it today. It needs to go near to one of the large anvils. The oven will be like a forge to you.”

Doug asks, “Is this needed as part of the improving the quality of the metal?” I nod yes, and both of them have large smiles. “How?”

“There are two aspects. One is to use a special sand to make the metal better. While the oven allows you to get the metal hotter before you work on it, and it also allows the metal to cool slower. Both of which help to make it stronger. After I get the lady started on the oven I’ll go looking for where the sand I want is. I’ve a map showing the general area, but I have to find it. Then we need to cart it here. I have some in our packs so we can get started as soon as the forge is hot enough.” They both smile.

When they have the firewood unloaded they start a fire in the forge then they place the best of the metals in the main forge’s crucible. We all have our packs on because I don’t like to risk them being stolen while we’re out. I take my pack off, remove the bag of satetsu, and sprinkle some on the metal in the forge while saying, “I’ll sprinkle more on later. We have to let the metal slowly absorb the sand a little at a time.”

We stand and talk until the oven lady turns up with a cart of bricks, some mortar, and a boy to help her. I show her where I want the four foot wide oven. She nods yes then pushes us out of the immediate area so she can get to work. Doug stays to watch the forge while Don leads us to the area on the edge of the bay where a stream flows out of the mountain, through a small field, and down into the bay. There’s a trench diverting a lot of the water to a series of pools in the city where people can collect water. The stream bed is made of satetsu sand. When I show the sand to Don he sees it’s like the sand from my pack, smiles, turns, and is walking away while saying, “I’ll be right back with a wagon and shovels.”

While we wait Rob asks, “Al, why are you going to all this trouble?”

I face my crew while saying, “I need to set this city up as a base. To do that we need to secure it by dealing with the bandits then building a fort in the mountain pass. I need weapons to deal with the bandits so I’m in the process of having the weapons created. Once we get the sand I need to find some carpenters to build a few trebuchets. Then talk to the people in charge about joining us. I also need to build a large trimaran to reach the island through the lagoon, plus arrange shipping to the island.”

Rob smiles as he says, “So you’re establishing a forward supply base! That makes sense. Also, we’ll be better armed than we are now. Good!”

When Don returns with Case, the family wagon, and a dozen wooden shovels the women stand guard while we men get busy moving the black sand from the stream bank into the back of the wagon. Once it’s as full as Case is prepared to allow we toss the shovels on the wagon, have a quick dip in the stream to wash off the sweat and dirt, get dressed, and go back to their father’s smithy.

Case parks the wagon beside a bunch of large barrels then we get busy shovelling the sand near the end of the wagon into barrels. When we clear enough of the sand Case removes the back boards to make it easier for us to push sand into the barrels standing on the ground at the end of the wagon. While we work the men keep bringing barrels into the smithy from a nearby cooper’s yard. We end up with twenty-five three foot high barrels of sand. Five are left here and the rest are loaded onto the wagon. When Case and Don leave to take the sand to D Smithy I lead my crew to the market to get lunch before going to collect the glaze.

At the glaze store the man has it ready, so I pay him what’s due. We leave with five one foot sized barrels of the glaze mix, four brushes, and the instructions on how to mix the glaze with water before we apply it.

We return to the smithy to find the oven builder is waiting for me to look at the work she’s done. The lower chamber is done and long stones with slits between them are laid to place the main fire on. The stones go from one side to the other. It’s well built. I smile as I nod yes. She starts work on the walls of the fire chamber.

I go over to the stack of metal and search through it for a grill I saw yesterday. I remove the grill, some long rods, and some bars with hooks on each end. I measure the grill against the oven and mark where I want the grill cut. Showing the cut points to Doug I say, “I need you to heat up this grill and break it at these points.” When he goes to object I add, “I need it to fit inside the oven right now, so it has to be cut.” He sighs, takes the grill to the forge, and starts heating the areas to cut it.

I walk over to the oven maker and say, “I just realised we’ll have an issue baking the glaze on the bottom level. Can you get some thin stone sheets we can glaze then slip in to sit on the bottom?” She nods yes, and I smile while indicating a height for the fire chamber wall while adding, “Good. When you get the wall to this height please stop for the day.” She turns to frown at me. “I need to rest some steel rods across the top to hang hooks from to hold the grill for the fire to bake the glaze in the lower chamber over night.” She thinks, then nods agreement. “We’ll need to glaze and bake each chamber by itself, so it’ll be best to do it at night.”

The lady building the oven is finished before Doug has the grill ready for me. While I wait I often check the steel in the forge, skim off impure metal, then add more sand plus some ground charcoal powder. Everyone is interested in the work I do at the forge. While that’s happening Kira is readying some of the glaze mix to coat the ash chamber.

When the grill is ready I place the steel rods across the top of the oven and hang the hooks from it while Kira brushes the glaze mix over the walls and top of the ash chamber. She also applies glaze to the insides of the slits between the chambers. As soon as she finishes applying the glaze the grill is slipped in and placed on the end of the hooks. Firewood is placed on the grill and hot coals from the forge are added to start the fire on the grill. The door for the main chamber is big enough to cover what’s left of the fire chamber because it’s already curving in, so I put the door on there with a small crack to let smoke out while keeping most of the heat in. Once the fire is going well most of the entrance is covered with bricks to reduce the loss of heat while still allowing some air in.

Everyone is watching us very closely while they take note of it all so they can do it for themselves later, when they want to do it again.

I turn to them and say, “We don’t have to glaze the bottom chamber, but it helps in keeping more of the heat where we want it and it makes it easier to clean out the ashes later. To glaze the fire chamber I’ll stand the grill on some steel poles and do the same for the main chamber. If the glaze is good and works the way I want it to the outside of the oven shouldn’t get hot at all due to all of the heat being redirected back inside to heat the contents.” All of the locals are surprised by that, but it’s clear they’re going to wait to see how it works before deciding if I’m right.

Doug and Don agree to regularly check the fire all night and add to it until I come to check the glaze in the morning. The oven lady leaves and we go to the tavern.

Day Three

When we reach the smithy after eating breakfast we find the oven lady and her daughter looking in the ash chamber. The daughter turns and says, “That has to be the brightest and whitest work I’ve ever seen.”

I grin and say, “White reflects heat more than any other colour, and the gloss finish also reflects more heat than the matt. Is it fully baked?”

She nods while saying, “Yes. Fully baked. You now have to let it cool. But mother can work up top while this cools.” She touches the outside of the ash chamber while adding, “I can’t believe how cool the stones are despite the fire in the chamber.” I simply smile.

Don gets busy removing the fire while Doug and I check the forge. As soon as the rods and hooks are out of the way the oven lady starts on the rest of the oven. I find it interesting neither woman tells me their names.

I send Doug out for the materials to make moulds and to find some good carpenters for my next two tasks. When he returns with the mix for the moulds I set my crew to work making moulds for the weapons we’ll be pouring later.

When the carpenters Doug asked to visit us arrive I tell them, “I don’t know the capabilities of the men of your craft in this city, but I have three major projects I want carpenters to work on. The first is for someone skilled in making fine objects to make some very fine knives for me. The second is to make some large special wagons. The third is to build a special design of boat for me. Can you men do this work?” All three shake their heads no. “Do you know of people who can?” They all nod yes. I hand them a quad each while saying, “Here’s a quad each to go and ask them to come to talk to me about the work.” They all smile, nod yes, and dart out the gate to get me the people I need.

I’m just turning back to the forge when a loud horn blows two long blasts. Don races for their house while Doug sets the forge to be safe while unattended. When he sees our frowns Doug says, “The bandits are attacking the main gate. We have to go to help defend the city.”

One of their ladies races over with leather armour for Doug to put on. I lead my crew into the house and I take my pack off. The rest follow suit while I ask the other woman, “Please see no one disturbs our packs.”

She says, “I’ll bolt the shutters and doors as soon as you all leave.”

I grab three ropes from Tora’s pack and we turn to follow Don out of the house. He has leather armour on and is carrying two swords, a bow, and a quiver of arrows. Outside he hands Doug a sword before they run down the street with us hard on their heels.

A couple of minutes later we reach the citadel wall and are racing up the steps to the wall. Looking along the wall I can see a man in one of the gate towers shouting orders and pointing. People are racing across the city to various positions. At the top of the wall I stop and move aside to a staging area to allow people to reach their assigned spots. I turn to look at the harbour, and I see people taking defensive positions there too.

The movement of people slows down so I lead my group to the wall. Rob, Tora, and I look over the wall. A mass of armed men are advancing across the field while another group are pushing a large wagon along the road. Bridget says, “A protected battering ram to bust the gates.”

I look over the wall. There’s a six foot wide path along the base of the wall with a slight slope away from the wall then a ten foot wide ditch. It looks like the ditch is a recent construction to make it harder to reach the wall to put up ladders. I look at Tora, “What say we teach these people what we can do with our swords?” She grins while the rest frown. I turn to Rob and say, “Major, take the rest of the men to see what you can do to help. If you can get hold of some bows and arrows use them. Otherwise stand ready to attack anyone who breaches the wall. I want Bridget and Kira to stay here to pull our ropes up and to drop them back down to us when we need them to return. Tora and I will go down to the path and along it so we can attack those with the siege engine.”

Rob smiles and says, “Yes, Sir.” When he turns to talk to the men I notice a couple of locals giving us funny looks. Rob says, “Beta Team let’s go to the tower to see what we can do to support the Alpha Team in their attack on the battering ram.”

Both Tora and I move up to a castellation, place a loop of rope around it, tie it tight, and get ready to go over the wall. Bridget goes with Tora and gets ready to pull her rope back while Kira does the same for me. Tora and I check both our swords are tied into their sheaths and we have our katanas secured to our backs while our local swords are secured to our belts. I smile when I see Tora pat where her bo-shuriken are while I do the same. Out of the corner of my eye I see movement on the top of the gate tower nearest us, so I look up to see a man watching us. I smile at him, nod in his direction, toss the rope over, and rappel down the wall. Kira is right behind me. As soon as my feet touch the ground I let go of the rope and Kira pulls it up the wall. I stop to remove the ties from my swords, draw them both, and jog down the path to the gate with Tora on my heels. We reach the road across the ditch at the same time as the ram.

While shouting battle cries we charge the men on this side of the ram. I take on the men at the ram while Tora covers my side and my back. This way we can use the local swords in our left hands to block and parry while we use the katanas in our right hands to kill the bandits. We’re free to fight because the bandits have already opened fire on us with arrows, so our whole crew are now free to attack any of the bandits.

Now we’re beside the ram I can see it’s a large tree trunk hanging on ropes from the main structure supporting the protecting roof. There are ropes the men can use to swing the trunk back and forth. There are also brakes for each of the many wheels so they can lock it in place against the gate. Reaching the front men I swing my left hand to knock their swords to the side while my right swings up and across to behead the two men I face. When I swing my right hand back I swing further than I need to so I can hit the brake for the front wheel. The brake goes on and the whole wagon slows while it starts to turn toward me. The road is three wagons wide and this wagon is as wide as two wagons, so there’s not much room for extra troops on the road beside the wagon while Tora and I fight our way along the side of the wagon killing men and applying the brakes.

The way the wagon is built the men pushing it on each side can’t see what the men on the other side are doing. There are ten wheels on each side, and about half of the ram is on the bridge section of the road. Tora and I are being shot at by archers but our bamboo armour is holding out so the wood arrows are bouncing off us. In next to no time we’ve killed over a dozen men on this side of the wagon and set the brakes of five of the wheels. However, our actions now represent a danger to us because the men on the other side of the wagon are still pushing it forward as hard as they can. With less men pushing this side and half the wheels locked in place the wagon is now turning on the bridge to swing across behind us. Now we have no choice. So we fight our way forward to kill all pushing on this side so we can cross behind the ram to fight our way along the other side and back to the citadel wall. The two of us make a good raiding force, but there’s no way we can take on this whole army! There has to be over a thousand of the bandits involved in this attack.

By the time we reach the rear of the ram only the last pair of wheels haven’t entered the bridge and a glance shows the front two on this side are hanging over the ditch due to how much the wagon has turned. I round the rear of the wagon and I can see there are two ropes attached to it leading back up the road. Obviously set to help pull it back later, but no one is on them right now so a couple of sword strokes has them cut right at the wagon to make it harder to pull it back. Soon after I round the corner I have to turn sideways and crab across the end of the wagon while Tora backs up behind me due to the bulk of the enemy now being to our left and behind us.

We’re almost to the far corner when I hear men to my right scream at the same time as the ram wagon beside me starts to lift up. There must now be enough of the wagon over the side of the bridge for the weight to take it further. The ram moves away to my right while it twists away. I turn the corner to head back down the other side. Now I can see several men lying in the ditch while the rest look around at the ram wagon which is canted up in the air at an angle across the bridge. Many of the men on this side are also lying on the ground with arrows in them. I yell as I charge at those left, none have weapons in hand so they scatter with many jumping into the ditch. I race for the wall and along it with Tora on my heels again.

While we run we return our swords to their sheaths and tie them down again. As we near where we climbed down our two ropes drop, we grab the ropes, tuck the end of the ropes into our belts, and start climbing up the ropes as fast as we can. Due to the ends being in our belts no one can follow us up the wall. Many arrows hit the walls beside us while we climb, but we soon reach the top and climb over. Bridget and Kira undo the ropes and start winding them up again.

Tora and I are grinning at each other when a loud and angry voice says, “Who are you people?”

I turn around to face an angry man, the one from the tower. I smile while saying, “I’m Al, and these are my combat team. Who are you?”

He sucks in his breath and says, “I’m the City Mayor. I’m in charge here and no one leaves the city without my approval.”

I stand there staring at the pompous idiot for a moment before saying, “No one tells me where I can’t go. You’re welcome to try. Just make sure someone knows how you want to be buried after you try. I stopped here to arrange for a few things to be made for me. Once I saw the bandits at your gates I thought I’d see about clearing them out of this area to save the people in the lands from here to the mountain pass. To do it I’ll need the help of the citizens here. If they don’t care about the people out there enough to help me do that I’ll get what I need and be on my way so you can deal with the bandits when they get strong enough to take this wall.”

The man’s next round of abuse is interrupted by the people on the wall cheering while watching the bandits withdraw. Without the ram they can’t breach the wall, and they know it. Now they’re pulling back to plan and prepare for their next attack. The man turns to study the field. As soon as he looks away I head down the stairs on my way back to the smithy. Tora, Kira, and Bridget follow me. When I glance behind me I can see Rob leading the rest of my team down another stairway while the Mayor glares at me from the wall. I don’t think he likes someone else who takes the glory for winning the battle away from him. I sign to Rob to keep the others off to the side because I don’t think the Mayor links them with me yet.

When we reach the smithy we find the oven is almost finished. The floor of the top chamber has two big holes, two medium holes, and a bunch of little holes exactly like the drawing I gave the woman. Although the doors aren’t attached I can see how they’ll fit on. The doors and four pins are carved out of one piece of rock each in a way the pins fit in the receivers made as part of four of the wall bricks on each level. Thus the doors simply slides the hinges in to be put on and can then be swung to the side to open up. I think the oven construction will be finished today.

I check the forge, build up the fire, skim off impurities, then I add more satetsu sand and charcoal powder to the metal in the forge. I also add some more of the metal. This is low grade steel so we really have to work on it to make it good enough for swords.”

Doug and Don are laughing when they return. When Kira asks them what they find funny Don replies, “Today none of our people got hurt in the attack while the enemy left dozens of dead and dying men. The Mayor is angry he didn’t get to show what a great general he is because you two jumped over the wall, killed a bunch of people, then halted the attack in only a few minutes. You upstaged him and now many people are asking each other if the Mayor knows what he’s doing during the battles. This is the first time we haven’t suffered a lot of casualties.”

About an hour later the carpenters I spoke to return with half a dozen others for me to speak to about my projects. I start with the man who can do the fine work and explain I want some cups, bowls, plates, knives, and forks carved out of hardwood, but they’re to be a lot finer than what he usually makes. When I hand him a piece of wood as thin as I want him to make the tools he stares and says, “These won’t survive their first usage! Even when made from hardwood.”

I grin while I reply, “I’ll use them many times. I want to use them to make moulds with. The final products won’t be wood.”

The man looks at the forge and says, “No one will pay for metal cups, plates, bowls, and forks.”

I simply smile while saying, “Just do as I ask and pay for.”

After he nods yes and leaves I turn to the group while saying, “I’ve plans for a special wagon that’s also part weapon, who of you are good at building machines from plans?” Three of them hold up their hands. I’m about to speak again when the house door opens and the boys’ women bring our packs out to us. I smile my thanks to them, open my pack, and remove two sets of papers from it. I hand the three carpenters one set of plans for a trebuchet while saying, “I’d like five of these built. The plans have the ratio of the components so you can build them to different sizes from the plans. What I want built are to have the long arm here five paces long,” while I point at the main arm of the trebuchet. One of them nods yes while reaching out for the plans. I hand them over and the three of them walk off talking together.

Turning to the last two men I say, “My last project is a special boat. You start by making three boats ten paces long, two paces wide, and as deep as your forearm. The inside and outside of the boats are covered with canvas and varnished. You place the boats side by side with three paces between each boat. Then you lay planks across all of the boats to cover them fully while linking all of the boats together. A small mast and sail needs to be built into the middle of the craft, a rudder in the middle of the back, plus knee high posts along the sides and back to string ropes to stop things falling off the deck. Can you do this?”

One of them says, “Yes. It’s all simple, but what good is it?”

“While this boat won’t take a very heavy load it will allow me to take a big load of light things through very shallow waters.”

The other man says, “My brother and I will build this for you, but I want to see how and where you use it.” I simply nod my agreement, and they leave to get started on the work.

Cal walks into the yard so I ask him, “Cal, do you know where I can buy ten good bows and two thousand arrows?”

He looks around before saying, “Yes. Although I shouldn’t. The Mayor had all of the weapons collected and placed in the armoury, except for the personal weapons of people. We’re still waiting to be paid.”

“Cal, is the Mayor related to your traitor blacksmith in any way?”

Cal shrugs his shoulders to show he doesn’t know. However, Doug says, “Cal, didn’t you know the Mayor’s wife is the sister of Caleb’s mother? That makes him Caleb’s uncle.” Cal’s eyes go wide.

Rob says, “Caleb turns traitor and takes away the weapons making skills. His uncle is Mayor and locks up most of the weapons then gets angry when someone quickly stops an attack. I wonder how much he can be trusted to be working for the people of the city?” All of the locals turn to look at him with wide eyes.

Cal waves to me and we follow him out into the street, over a few streets, and into a lane behind some buildings. He knocks on a door, it’s opened, and we follow him inside to where several men are busy making bows and arrows. Cal waves at the completed stock while saying, “One conch for what you asked for.”

I smile as I reach for my pouch while all of my people spread out to look at the bows to find one they like. By the time I finish counting money onto the table Tora is back with two bows and four quivers. I look up, and the rest of my team have a bow and two quivers each. I look at Cal while saying, “Thank you. I suggest you don’t let the Mayor know about these, and I’d keep an eye on the armoury if I were you.”

Cal simply nods yes to me while he points at the money for another man to take. He says, “This is my brother’s factory. He has two and the other is at his shop, but someone is watching it. Everyone who knows of this factory is now standing in this room. Don’t tell anyone about it.”

“I won’t. How much for a thousand crossbow bolts? Also, in a few days we need to leave the city without anyone knowing so we can attack the bandit camp. Will you help us then?” He nods yes before he quotes a price. I place the extra money on the table while we’re given the bolts.

When we get back to the smithy Don says, “The Mayor and some of his personal guard came looking for you. Most people they look for go missing once they find them. Take care, Al.”

I look around the smithy and ask, “If we stay here can your women buy the food to feed us all?” Don nods yes. I hand him a hand full of quads while saying, “Give them this to get the food.” He takes the coins and walks to the house while I turn to Rob, “Tora and I will go to let the tavern keeper know we’re relinquishing our rooms. Stay here, stay out of sights, and defend this place from any attackers.” Rob, nods yes and snaps off a salute. I smile while I hand over my bow and arrows. Tora hands hers over as well. We also pass over our packs after removing our short bows and stringing them. Before doing anything else we test the bows with our new bolts, and they work perfectly at close range. We retrieve the bolts then hang the bows and bolt quivers on our belts where they’re hidden by our coats, then we leave. On our way to the tavern we talk about how to deal with any trouble we may face when we get there.

About twenty minutes later we enter the tavern where we’ve been staying. When we turn to go up to our rooms the tavern keeper says, “The Mayor said you can’t stay here any more and he had your rooms cleared out. You owe...”

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