Thursday, October 4, 2012

Castles 19

19. In Down’s End

            In the two days after Sunniva’s burial Isen visited every glassblower in Down’s End.  Somehow word from Alderman Gausman preceded him in each case.  No glassblower would take him on as apprentice.  At first this rejection puzzled him; what had he done to offend master Gausman?  Did the trouble lie with Cenhelm Godspear and his son Elfgar?  But Isen had never sensed any enmity from Master Godspear or Elfgar.  The whole thing was a mystery.
            Mystery soon gave way to feelings of anger, anxiety and despair.  Isen had spent five years toiling for Kent Gausman, learning his craft, and all the while earning barely enough to buy food for himself and Sunniva.  Now what?  Did his knowledge and skill count for nothing?  What work could he do?  Day labor on one of the many farms around Down’s End?  Seek an apprenticeship with a weaver or some other guild?  Isen was already nineteen years old; he shrunk at the idea of starting all over again.  Alderman Gausman was an important man in Down’s End (Gausman himself had said so often enough); would his word against his former apprentice bar Isen from any sort of work?
            Osulf Deepwater’s father, Bead, provided a temporary solution to Isen’s unemployment.  Isen met Osulf in the market, in late afternoon two days after the burial; Osulf quickly invited Isen to sup with the family.  Bebba Deepwater, mother to Osulf and Headby, hospitably set a place for Isen at the table.  During supper Bead scratched his bushy black beard while listening to Isen tell Osulf and Headby how all the glassblowers shut him out.  At length Bead said, “Gausman just up and tossed ya, eh?  Don’t think on it too long; it’s not hard to understand.  Politics, see?  Gausman is head o’ the guild, an’ he wants to stay that.  You could be twice as good as Godspear’s boy, an’ it don’t matter.  Gausman’s buying votes for the next guild meet.
            “Anyway, I got an idea for ya.  How ’bout we take a boom ’cross the lake tomorrow?  I think the wind’ll be good, soft an’ steady.  We’d need an extra hand to load and unload.”
            “Good plan, Da!” said Headby.  “Not a boat’s brought over a load for two, three weeks.  Builder’s Row must be needin’ cut lumber, or logs at least.”
            “Aye,” said the father.  “And if we get a good price, we can let Isen, here, share in the take.  And if not, well, Isen, at least ya’ll get sup for the day.” 
            “I’m very grateful, Master Deepwater,” said Isen.  “When do we start?”
            Deepwater pursed his lips.  “Early, early.  Some other body might be thinkin’ the same.”
            Osulf shook Isen awake in the dark.  The fishing family was used to rising with first light; what they called an “early” start felt like the middle of the night to Isen.  He dressed quickly and tried to rub sleep from his face.  Bebba Deepwater kissed her husband and sons goodbye and handed them lunch: several small loaves of bread (still warm, as she had let them bake during the night) and a large skin of beer.  Once on board Morning Glory, the Deepwaters’ fishing boat, Isen had little to do except stay out of the way. 
            A fishing boat is too small to carry loads of lumber or logs, but Down’s End fishermen had devised a practical way to transport forest products across West Lake.  In good weather a fishing boat could pull a raft of logs or, as Bead intended this day, a raft of logs piled high with cut lumber.  Before leaving Down’s End in morning’s gray light, Bead and his sons attached a line from Morning Glory to a boom of six logs kept under one of the docks near the mouth of River Betlicéa.  The boom consisted of six fat logs cut the same length, chained end-to-end to make a ring.  Once they reached the east side of the lake the fishermen would use the ring of logs to enclose their floating cargo, unfastening one of the chains and reattaching it once the load was surrounded.  On the outward journey, with no cargo floating inside the ring, the boom collapsed into two rows of logs trailing behind Morning Glory.  Headby stood on the pier with a pike pole, shepherding the boom between the pilings of the pier as Morning Glory slowly pulled the chained logs into open water.  Isen began to think Headby would be left behind, or Bead and Osulf would have to turn back to pick him up, but at the last moment Headby jumped lightly from the fishing dock to the last logs of the boom.  With a pike pole for balance, the young sailor walked on the logs of the boom as easily as walking a path on land.
            Osulf remarked to Isen more than once how easy the crossing was; a steady breeze from the northwest filled Morning Glory’s modest sail and the crew had little to do but steer.  Isen, who had never been surrounded by miles of water before, felt much less sanguine.  He watched the black water of West Lake moving around the boat, a mere foot below the gunwale on the right side of the boat, and worried that the wind might tip Morning Glory far enough to bring water in.
            The sun rose over the forest between the lakes as Morning Glory drew close to the east shore.  There was no one there, in fact, no sign of human habitation except a rough dock built out into the water a short distance.  The Deepwaters expertly guided Morning Glory near the dock; Headby used the pike pole to pull the little boat close, and they tied up.  On the land end of the dock Osulf untied the clapper of a signal bell, which he rang loudly several times.  Then the Morning Glory crew sat down to wait and eat.
            Before half an hour had gone a woodsman named Baldric Forrest responded to their signal, and not long after that a youth came who called himself Aethulwulf Woodman arrived.  He said his father, Attor, would be along presently.  Negotiations proceeded amicably; soon it was agreed that Morning Glory would sail a half mile north to collect some raw logs from Baldric Forrest.  Meanwhile, Attor and Aethulwulf would bring two wagon loads of cut planks, already seasoned by drying, to the dock; Morning Glory would pull the raft of logs back south to be loaded with lumber on top.  This way, Baldric Forrest’s fresh logs would ride in the water and Attor Woodman’s seasoned lumber would stay mostly dry.  The whole thing could be done in a few hours, leaving the boatmen time to return to Down’s End that day.  “An altogether pleasin’ result,” said Bead.  “Many’s the time it’s taken two, even three days, for a lumber run.  Let’s hope the wind holds.”
            Moving raw logs from land to water proved the hardest labor of the day.  Baldric Forrest had dragged dozens of logs near the shore, various sizes, with a team of oxen.  But for the last twenty feet, the logs had to be rolled into the water by men.  Isen and Osulf did most of the work, using levers to roll the logs.  Headby, meanwhile, stood knee deep in the water with his pike pole to shepherd their purchase into a reasonable semblance of a raft and keep any log from escaping.  For the largest log, a fir more than four feet in diameter, Bead and Baldric joined Isen and Osulf to lever the monster into the water.  By midday, they had surrounded the collection of logs with the six-log boom and refastened its chains.  The boom now formed a rectangle, two log lengths long and one wide.  The enclosed logs, of various lengths, nestled closely at the far end of the rectangle, but left some open water at the near end.  Morning Glory proceeded to tow the enclosed raft of logs to the forest dock.  As promised, Attor and Aethulwulf Woodman had brought a good supply of cut lumber to load atop the makeshift barge.  Headby and Osulf worked on the raft, nimbly balancing on logs and stacking lumber.  Isen and Bead worked with Attor and his son, handing long planks of pine and fir to the men on the raft.  They took care not to overload the raw logs underneath, lest a log be pushed down far enough to escape under the logs of the boom.
            “If I remember right, besides this strappin’ son o’ yours, you also had a daughter.”  Isen was close enough to hear what Bead said to Attor.  “But no sign o’ her today.  I guess you found her a husband?”
            Attor Woodman frowned angrily, which Isen thought strange.  Bead spoke kindly enough.
            “I only speak as a friend.  Osulf there, he thought your girl a fair sight.”
            Attor almost growled.  “Aye.  I know it.  Eacnung won’t let me forget; says I shoulda married her off last year.”  He sighed and shrugged.  “The girl ran off.”
            Bead’s face registered sympathy and surprise.  “She seemed a good girl.  Get herself a man?”
            “In a manner of speakin’.”  Attor shook his head.
            “I don’t follow ya.”
            “She says she went down to the castle n’ prayed, n’ she says the gods sent her a new lord for Inter Lucus.
            To this point, while Bead and Attor spoke, Isen and Aethulwulf had continued to pass lumber to Osulf and Headby.  Isen now stopped to listen better.  Aethulwulf pointedly ignored the conversation; he wrestled a heavy plank by himself.
            Bead said, “So there is a man.  A stranger I bet, from Cippenham or somewhere else far away.”
            Attor pushed back his hair with both hands.  “Far away?  Aye.  Wyrtgeon Bistan and Syg Alymar say it’s true.  They say this lord made Inter Lucus magic.  They say they saw it.”
            Bead shook his head.  “How’d a girl talk two men into such foolishness?  There’s been no lord for a hundred years.  Inter Lucus is dead.”
            Attor shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Syg Alymar’s a good man.  Known ’im a long time.  He says he saw Lord Martin make magic in the wall.”
            Bead clapped Attor’s shoulder.  “Well, if it is true, we’ll know soon enough.  Good news for you, too.  Not every man’s daughter takes a lord of a castle!”
            Attor tried to smile, but Isen thought it looked more like a grimace.  And he saw a side-glance between father and son that he couldn’t interpret.

Copyright © 2012 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved.  International copyright secured.

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