Edrich of Haluken

Chapter Sixteen

Near the end of March we came home from school to find one the Regent’s coaches in the forecourt. Edvard was speaking to the coachmen and several guardsmen.

I was concerned and rushed my brothers inside.

Lady Iris Sat on a couch with Valla but Mother was nowhere in sight.

“Your mother is in with the midwife, Edvard rode like a demon to tell us. We believe today you will have your new brothers,” Iris told us gently.

“The midwife came out and confirmed that Mother was in labor. She asked Iris and Valla to come help and asked us to boil water and find the swaddling Mother had put aside.

Samilla and Kirsten had gone to market, but were due back soon. I thought Kristen would have a better idea about the swaddling, but I did send Rilla and Kiva to check the nursery. Olaf calmed Ivy and Bolly who were quite frightened by the whole thing. They had learned from watching the mares foal about the miracle of birth. Father had explained the role of the stallion and the act that made the foal grow inside the mare. He felt that information on that subject was better shared early in life. Clan children learned from watching animals but some older people didn’t explain it well or deliberately misinformed children.

I put the kettle on and brewed tea for the women and waited for Kristen, Samilla and Father to arrive. I placed a tray on a cart just outside the master chamber and knocked.

I told them about the tea and asked if they needed the hot water. I was asked to bring two pails of hot water and two of cold plus two empty ones and a third pail of cold water in that order. I had Rilla carry the two pails of cold and I carried the hot. I set them down and knocked on the door. I left again to retrieve the empty pails and a third one of cold water with salt in it.

I waited close enough to hear if I was needed. I heard mother groaning and grunting along with a bit of screaming.

After fifteen more minutes Samilla and Kristen arrived and I took over putting away the shopping while they went to see if they were needed. Samilla led Valla back to the kitchen while Valla clutched a pail to her stomach.

I wiped her face with a warm wet cloth and exchanged pails with her. I rinsed the one she had upchucked into and Kristen said she would take it back in in case it was needed again. I raided Samilla’s herbs and made Valla something the settle her stomach. She drank it down and felt better right away.

“Do you know what happens when a woman gives birth?” Valla gasped at me.

“Yes, I’ve seen it done before. I was the only one available to help a midwife one day. It was quite scary,” I told her.

“The midwife told me that girls my age aren’t ready to pass a baby’s head so I had better be careful. I think I understand why you are so cautious,” Valla told me.

“I didn’t want to frighten you, but nearly every woman goes through this. There is another way but it is extremely dangerous for mother and child. It is called caesarian birth and the baby is removed surgically. I don’t want you to have to do that before it’s necessary, I mean give birth. I never want you to have a caesarian birth,” I explained.

I sat on the bench next to her and held her.

I kissed her and returned to my post to listen for anything that was needed. Valla made more tea and took that and cookies to my brothers.

Father and the Regent arrived and asked if I had anything to report. I told him no and suggested he change to comfortable clothes.

His dressing room was separate from the master chamber so he did that and returned.

“Peng, I’m relieving you to go and sit with your brothers. Keep them calm and don’t worry. It serves no purpose and I’ll be doing plenty of it myself,” Father told me. The Regent followed me to the sitting room where we all sat and worried. Valla leaned against me and slept. Ivy stretched himself across our laps and took a nap too. The Regent sat on a couch between Bolly and Olaf and Kiva, they dozed off too. Rilla came to my other side and leaned against me. We talked about absolutely anything but what we were all worried about. I couldn’t have napped if you hit me with a shovel.

At last Iris came to us and said” It is done, your new brothers are both healthy and sound. Give Kristen and the midwife some time to tidy up and we’ll go see them and your mother.”

“We all rejoiced and cheered. Halkar hugged each of us and seemed quite happy. Mother was his niece after all.

We walked in two at a time, Father stood holding both boys all swaddled up. They were quiet and lolling. They had been washed and were ready for display. Father handed me one of them and then the other. Valla just stared at the scene with wet eyes. She caressed their little faces and I told her to take one and cradle him. I passed the one I had back to Father and went to kiss Mother. She looked tired but she glowed with happiness.

“You were right my child, they were both boys,” Mother told me and pulled me to her.

Valla handed Ulrich to me and went out to let Rilla and Kiva in. Father handed Edrom to Rilla and I handed Ulrich to Kiva. I went out and hugged Olaf and Ivy. I found Iris and Halkar in the parlor and hugged them both. They both returned hugs and kisses. I found Valla looking out the window and her eyes still ran with tears.

“It’s a very emotional event isn’t it,” I began.

“You look so natural with a baby in each arm, you must give me twin boys right from the start,” Valla told me.

“What, now?! I asked.

“No silly, after we marry of course. I’m not ready yet. My body isn’t ready to carry a child, but in two years it will be,” She put me on notice.

It reminded me that she would turn sixteen a few months ahead of me.

Iris came up behind us and hugged us both.

“I know it was unnerving for you, but you needed to see the gritty part of giving birth. When it is your time, you will fill your house with children. Until then be careful in your play. I’m not saying you can’t play, just be careful,” Iris told us.

“Edrich will keep me from disaster Mother. His judgement is much better than mine. I am lucky in that. I am sure I have chosen wisely,” Valla said earnestly.

Iris kissed her and then me but said nothing more.

“Let’s go help Samilla in the kitchen,” I suggested to Valla.

Rilla carried a tray for Mother and Father carried his own, they ate dinner with the boys asleep in their cradles.

The rest of us had a hearty meal and good conversation.

Father found someone to go with Iris, Valla and myself, along with six palace guard to Haluken to visit homesites and gain a general view of the planned construction of the saw mill. His name was Ronert, he was very pleasant and an excellent horseman by all accounts.

Since I couldn’t get a circular blade tempered properly, I improved on the design of the best gang saw available and had one being built. I designed my own smaller gang saw for sizing the freshly cut timber. We would be able to accommodate a nine foot diameter log, and cut it into one foot thick timbers. There would be three other saw beds for thinner timbers and one more for floor planks. The sawmill plans were complete and construction would begin soon on the huge buildings and the quarters for the workers. We only needed to get a bid from the right builder. It was becoming urgent for us to choose a home site and tailor the design to the terrain.

There was some rain on the way but we made good time and reached the first site on the second day. They each had the attributes needed but I needed Valla’s aesthetic sense to choose the best one.

She was torn but chose the second site closer to Haluken.

“Ronert helped me stake off the home site and then the water wheel site.

We spent the night in Haluken and then headed back to Halla. We stopped along the way to look at the lumbermill site again.

We stopped overnight at and inn in the small hamlet of Kreniga, I booked rooms for ourselves and the guardsmen. It was a boon to the landlord because the place was empty before we arrived.

When we had eaten, Iris and Valla went upstairs and I went to speak with the guardsmen. We were having a friendly chat,  while I was enjoying the fruit drink the barman had made for me. A man who had obviously had too much to drink took exception to the guardsmen at the bar and started saying rude things.

“You know sir, these men can’t respond because they’re in uniform. As you can see I am not wearing a uniform, would you like to try me on?” I asked.

“Oh and what will a slip of a boy do to me. Will you use a blade?” The man said,

“Only if you draw one first. I can dispatch you with the scoff sheets on the bar,” I told him.

“Barman, how much for that stack of scoff sheets?” I asked.

“The whole stack? 20 pfenning should do it.”

“I tossed him a coin and picked up the sheets elbowing our impolite guest aside. I turned my back on him as I rolled the sheets into a tight cylinder, while gesturing to the guardsmen to stay put. I heard his stool creak and his leather vest groaning from trying to contain his bulk. I watched the bar reflected in the window and when I saw his hand rise with a mug in it, I spun and punched his diaphragm with the rolled up papers. He dropped the mug and it clattered noisily on the floor but didn’t break. The man was bent double trying to get his breathing started again but I gave him another punch in the ribs and waited for him to react. His reaction was to sit on the floor and say “No more.”

I loosened my grip on the papers and put them on the bar.

“That has to be the best use for those sheets I’ve ever seen. Everything in them is rubbish. Well, that and the privy,” The barman laughed.

The guardsmen helped the man to his feet and escorted him outside to sit on the bench until he was able to wander home.

“You have quite a few talents I wasn’t aware of. I thought my job was to look after you but you can obviously handle things yourself,” Ronert chuckled.

“I couldn’t let that buffoon goad one of my comrades into dishonoring his uniform. They are good men but everyone has their limit. I didn’t do any permanent damage. He’ll be sore in the morning, but perhaps he’ll learn to moderate his drinking,” I said.

I announced that I was turning in and the guardsmen raised a glass to me. I held my drink up and finished it, then it was bed for me.

Ronert followed me up, since we were sharing a room. Fortunately each room had two beds so it worked out perfect for the guardsmen. They always had two men down stairs to watch the coach and provide general security. Other than a friendly dog, nothing was reported in the morning.

The rest of our trip home was unremarkable. Valla and I spent a lot of time on top of the coach looking at the scenery.

Two days after our return I was informed that myself and my brothers were invited to a welcoming party for Lady Iris’ niece. I was not fond of gatherings of that sort, but it was important to Lady Iris and Valla that we be there so I resolved to be a good future son in law, and attend in good humor.

The attendees were all boys and girls within the range of ages of my brothers and other boys, plus a few of their mothers.

After much arm twisting from Mother and Iris we agreed to wear our uniforms and practice our dancing. To that end we were the first to meet Astrid. She was very much like Valla in temperament and very pretty. She was almost immediately smitten by Rilla who happened to be holding Ulrich when they arrived.

“Forgive me for not bowing, but I don’t want to wake my little brother,” Rilla said pleasantly.

There’s nothing like a boy acting like a papa to set a girl’s heart aflame.

Only Ivy would be absent, he and another boy had eaten too many green apples. He was too young for the party in any case and would be bored to tears. He preferred to stay with Mother and watch over the babies, she would return home so that he could. He was quite fierce in his devotion to them. He scolded adults who held them wrong or jostled them too much.

Now that they could see and recognize us by sight they engaged us more readily. Kiva was still nervous about holding them. Edrom was much more active than Ulrich at first. Ulrich caught up though and they seemed to seesaw in development. Olaf was Ulrich’s favorite while Rilla was Edrom’s.

Mother played the harpsichord and we danced with various partners including each other. Astrid always gravitated back to Rilla. Valla danced with everyone.

Bolly who was enamored by Valla’s beauty was equally smitten by Astrid.

When the day of the party arrived we did as requested and wore our uniforms. There were other boys our age there and only one of them wore a uniform. He was the son of a Naval officer and had spent most of the summer aboard ship learning navigation as part of the crew. He was not truly in the navy but he was being groomed to become a ship’s officer, at a naval academy for boys.

His name was Rudiger and his mother was Dutch. He was an affable boy and wasn’t ready for girls yet. He and Kiva chatted quite a bit. They disappeared for a bit but returned smiling. Bolly was being pursued by an adorable ginger haired girl in a pretty frock. He finally agreed to dance with her and after an hour he was looking pretty comfortable in her company. Olaf invited a girl to dance but she was reluctant. She did agree to dance with him but they spent much of the party chatting away on a chaise. Olaf was demonstrating his brilliance, if unintentionally. He was like an evangelical priest when it came to science. Birgit was hanging on every word, but when she spoke Olaf listened intently. She was deeply immersed in the world of literature and read people like Lady Montagu, Aphra Behn and John Milton. The four of us discussed writers for a bit, but I was spirited away by other girls who just wanted to be able to say they danced with me.

We finally accepted that we had enjoyed ourselves and were less eager to say goodbye when parents or maids began collecting the other children. Bolly and Ilsa kissed each other’s cheeks and said good bye. I was glad to see my brothers taking an interest in girls. Our play was wonderful but none of us thought in terms of living our lives like that.

We opted to walk home, it was a beautiful cool day and since were wearing our Kepi hats without sabers we were less encumbered. As we walked we encountered a group of older boys who began teasing us about being toy soldiers. Brundt happened along and interceded for them and asked us to forgive their rudeness. He told his brother and the rest of the boys, just who we were and what they were risking. They apologized and we went on our way. Somehow news of the run in with the Swedish raiders had reached Halla.

Little boys and girls skipped along beside us and we handed out peppermints and patted their shoulders.

Later in civilian clothing we walked through the marketplace and bought treats for mother. She loved dried figs, prunes, raisins and currants. We bought more peppermints and licorice. We were deciding what to do next when a small boy tackled Olaf. It was a boy with curly blond hair and a bright if somewhat gap toothed smile.

It was the boy he had saved from the fire. His singed hair had grown out and what burns he had suffered were now healed.

He babbled away at his hero and then Ivy and Bolly talked to him.

A woman came to claim him and embraced Olaf who blushed quite badly. Thank you for saving my little Rada, I would be lost without him. She kissed Olaf’s cheek and led Rada away.

“That was a brave thing you did boy, I am in the presence of heroes. Would you consider allowing me to interview you for the Halla Announcer,” the man asked.

“You would have to ask our parents, I can’t say if they would approve,” I told him.

I guided my brothers away from the man, and went about our business. I would tell father about him when I saw him next.

A week later Father and I were sitting with an architect, going over the design for our home.

“This is excellent drawing and the site is ideal for such a structure. But even with a lighter copper roof I fear the pitch of the roof might subject it to more snow load than the framing can handle. If we increase the pitch to 40° and use copper you’ll have a margin of overload that should be quite safe. The design for the heat exchange you have included is quite clever. In fact the entire house is well designed.  It only needs a bit of refinement to make it buildable. The same can be said for the lumber mill. You really have a flair for designing large buildings. The barracks and cook house need a bit of help but the main structure is almost perfectly designed for its function.

“Father has been teaching me engineering for quite some time now. I’m glad to know his efforts weren’t in vain,” I told the man. His name was Vinders Barloff and he was highly recommended. Father had dealt with him for several projects.

 “My plan is to have construction begin on the cookhouse and barracks first. The workers will do a better job if they don’t freeze or roast during the night. Not all of the crew will be needed to work on that and the others can begin with the first simple structure. We will install the first gang saw and make our own timbers for the main structure. I suppose what I need now, are bids from at least two reputable builders, preferably three. Do you know of any firms that will take on such a project so far from Halla.

“I’m afraid there is only one that is reliable and has the men to accomplish the task. I can tell you that he will appreciate your consideration for the workers. The land work will take some time. Tamping is hard work and takes many men working in unison to get it done,” Vinders said.

“Well, I have a machine being built that may take some of the back breaking labor out of that job, and assure uniformity so there is no subsidence later on. I got the idea from a stamping mill I saw at a mine. It uses a series of cams to raise large iron sheathed timbers and when the cam moves to a certain place the timbers fall one after the other and at a rapid rate. I’ve taken  the idea and mounted it on a wagon. It will take four oxen to pull it but it will speed things up I believe. The design could be scaled down for smaller plats. I think it might be a point of negotiation for us to use with the builder. What if afterward the builder retained ownership of the wagon mounted tamper, do you suppose it would help negotiations?” I asked.

Father smiled but said nothing.

Vinders thought for a moment and realized that after the massive site for the lumber mill, that machine would be useless to me, but a builder might be able to use it on other large jobs.

“I have it on good authority, that contracts will be let soon to improve the road between Halla and Haluken,” Father put in.

“That machine, presuming it works as you predict, it would make a huge difference in that sort of work. Is there a source of quarried stone in the area?” Vinders inquired.

“There will be. There is a mine further south and they have a stamping plant. They generate a lot of aggregate. Plus I have found a good source of granite and I’ve acquired the property to quarry what I need for my home. Why haul that sort of thing all that distance when it can be produced nearby,” I observed.

“You must have a substantial budget earmarked for these projects. All of them except the house have a potential profit attached. What is the level of urgency for this project?” Vinders asked.

“In a bit more than two years I will be installed as the Viscount of Haluken. My bride to be and I want to have our home ready by the time we are wed. But I need a presence there as soon as I’m installed. That’s why there are other quarters on the plat. I will have at least two servants and a stabler. Plus there are accommodations for Guard soldiers and a separate house for my secretary. I expect he will want a life of his own when we are not seeing to county business,” I explained.

“I see, well you are certainly going about it the right way. With your permission I will request an estimate from Kolindor and Sons for just the Lumbermill at the moment. When he has it ready we can discuss other matters that may come up. Your planned home is sufficiently stately and complex that it should tantalize him. May I show him the drawings of the house?”

“Certainly, I have copies. And now sir, if you’ll excuse us there seems to be a problem with the big gang saw. After that we will go and inspect the machine tamper. Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to your interpretation of my design. I’m sure there are practical considerations that I may have overlooked. But that is what you are here for I suppose,” I said.

We took our leave and let him get busy.

At the machine works there was indeed a problem. The main guide bar had been made to the wrong dimensions. I rolled out my plans and measured carefully. The guide reliefs were inches off. I measured each one and found only one that was cut correctly. “May I see your set of plans?” I asked a man named Lipo. He sent the head machinist to fetch them. I rolled them out together, and spotted the problem immediately. There was a dark stain on the shop’s plan, that smelled of mustard. The dimensions for the slots and the notes had been obliterated and someone had filled them in with pencil. I asked who had been eating lunch while looking at the plans, but I thought better of it and told them that it didn’t matter, “just machine a new bar with the right dimensions,“

“Hopefully you will be able to find a use for this unfortunate piece of steel. If there are any more issues like this, contact us immediately and new copies will be delivered,” I instructed. “Keep these, I have more and I can have more sets printed. How long before the machine is completed?”

“About three weeks or perhaps sooner,” Lipo assured me.

“Well that’s still in line with the contract. Let’s hope there are no more issues like this,” I told them and we took our leave.

The next stop was the wainwright who was mounting the tamper on the wagon frame. Olaf Fingard had to build a complete frame and reenforced all the wheels and the tongue. The axle presented problems also, but he found a way to solve the problem and was ready to test the machine. Across from his shop was a fallow field which had been rented to test the tamper. Four oxen were attached and they drew the machine all the way round the field as we all walked behind it. The machine itself sounded like a herd of huge stone horses but didn’t seem to bother the oxen. I was overjoyed and watched for over an hour as a large patch had been changed from pasture to hard tamped earth. The Wainwright used a coring tool to take a sample. The ground was quite firm all the way past the frost line.

“This is just from the first pass, the soil expert told me that successive treatments and the addition of aggregate will make it nearly as firm as stone. You could build a structure the size of the Reichsparliament and have no worries of subsidence,” Olaf told me.

“And the chain mechanism, was it difficult to incorporate?” I asked.

“A bit, but I made a minor modification to the locking clutch and that solved the issue. It didn’t want to unlock in a stationary condition. Any load at all and it would jam. I just improved the leverage to the clutch lever and did some beveling of the teeth, that did the trick,” Jan grinned.

“I thought I might have undersized it. You have done well. We may wish to demonstrate it to a builder I am considering hiring. Can you get the field plowed again?” I asked.

“Oh certainly. The farmer is very reasonable and willing to help. Of course, he is making more than he would if he planted the field,” Jan chuckled.

On the ride home I asked Father why he had been so quiet.

“You seemed to have the situation well in hand, and now Vinders knows what sort of man he’s dealing with. You handled the problem with the saw quite well. I thought you were going to demand the name of whoever damaged the plans but you obviously realized that it wouldn’t help solve the problem,” Father observed.

We traveled on and talked of other things.

“I might have to take some time away from school to deal with the quarry, but I’m ahead in all of my classes. Perhaps you know someone who can come with me and point out the pitfalls,” I suggested.

“Yes, I do know someone, and if he isn’t available there are a couple more I can think of,” Father assured me.

I went to visit Valla and spent some time with her in her studio under Iris’ watchful eye.

I stood on a platform nude while she did her preliminary sketches. I dressed and we were released to walk through the grounds. When I told mother of my plans to pose nude for Valla she laughed.

“I thought you were so shy you couldn’t even bear to have your mother see you nude,” She giggled.

“It was just the circumstances Mama, and the condition of my penis. Stress can make them get hard all by themselves,” I replied.

“Well, I’m sorry if I made it worse. Go and see Valla. I presume Lady Iris will be chaperoning?”

“Of course Mama, I wouldn’t do it otherwise, and now that she’s seen what happens when a child is born, she’s less aggressive,” I shared.

“What makes you so cautious?” Mother asked.

“I could lose her if she becomes pregnant now, we all could. Her body isn’t ready to carry a baby. By the time we marry she will be old enough, and it will be safe,” I explained.

“You must be the most self-possessed boy I’ve ever met. Rilla is a close second but you are remarkable in the way you think,” Mother said.

“Rilla and I discuss complex things on a level that Kiva and Olaf aren’t ready for. But they are younger. They will come along in their own good time,” I said.

“Yes, I’m certain of that, you are so much like Karl. It just amazes me,” Mother said with a kiss. The following day it was time to meet the builder, We met in Vinders’ office and went through the plans. I explained the order of construction and paused.

Thorwald Kolindor was a huge man. All muscle but with the kind heart of a doting grandfather. He seemed to treat everyone like they were dear grandchildren, at least at first.

“So you are the client?” Thorwald asked.

“Yes sir, my father is helping me but he shouldn’t be needed today,” I explained.

“Who is your father then?” Tor asked after telling me he preferred it over his proper name.

My father is Karl of Ikast, Lord Marshal of Norway,” I replied.

“Then you're the boy who stopped the assassin, I was there, you’ve grown quite a bit since then. I believe you are called Sir Edrich formally,” Tor smiled.

“I’d rather you called me Peng and I’ll call you Tor. That way we can speak in public without nosy people listening in,” I replied.

“That seems reasonable to me. Are your titles a burden?” Tor asked.

“Not really, but they can impede exchange of ideas,” I told him.

Fair enough Peng, about the order of construction, why do you want the crew quarters and cook house built first?” Tor asked.

“Simple, men work better if they feel well treated. They will already be miles from family. They should at least have the comfort of a nice place to lay their head and proper food to eat. The crew quarters bath house and toilets are meant to keep the men on site. I also think that you should consider rotating short holidays for all the men so they can see family or court a wife if they’re single. What they do on holiday is their business. It will keep them from getting dissatisfied with their lot. At least I hope so,” I explained.

“I think it’s the best idea for a remote site that I’ve ever heard. The carpenters won’t be needed until the land is graded and tamped. So it makes good sense to get the preliminary building done before the bulk of the crew arrives. How many structures are we talking about?” Tor grinned.

That depends on how many workers you need and then there are the foresters and sawyers to accommodate. I don’t want men living in each other’s pockets. Everyone needs space and privacy.  Perhaps a series of spacious cubicles with three quarter height walls dividing them. That will require factoring but your crew can do that. There will be workers who have very specific jobs and they will leave when they are done. The men who install the gang saws will be there only as long as it takes to do the work. But there will be mechanics to tend the saws and they will be permanent employees of the mill.

There will be a team to construct the gantry crane that travels on rails. Foresters will bring the timber in to the site and the crane will transport it to the big saw table. The sawyers will handle the rest with a series of smaller cranes. I will supply you with a total number of specialist workers and you can add it to your head count and add a few heads in case of other needs. Initially the lumber for the cabins will be taken by wagon from Halla to the site. When construction is done, the crew cabins can be converted to individual homes for the sawyers and others with families.

I have two years before I have to take my place as Viscount so I need the mill up and running so my home can be built. I will also be opening a quarry for the granite I need and the aggregate you will need to keep the site free of mud holes.

“Who will build your home?” Tor asked.

“I don’t know, but Vinders will be overseeing the build,” I told him.

I see, well we don’t generally build that sort of thing but I do have a lot of carpenters that could help if you need them,” Tor offered.

“I will let Vinders sort out his work force. He will need carpenters, joiners and carvers amongst others,” I said.

Next we discussed a completion bond and bonuses for early completion. Tor was skeptical until Vinders explained what an average size bonus for a project like that was.

“They are being used more and more these days. They once were used only in government projects but they’ve caught on in general usage and not just for construction. It will all be spelled out in the contract. We’ll all have a chance to review it before anyone is asked to sign it,” Vinders shared.

“New blood new ways, I have to say Peng, you have your wits about you,” Tor smiled. It was plain he saw me as an equal now.

“I have a bit of a surprise for you Tor, if you will follow us to a wainwrights shop you will see some of what will make this job a bit easier.”

We all rode to Olaf’s shop and he already had the oxen harnessed and connected to the machine. The demonstration took an hour and Tor was stunned with the results.

“It will take several days of tamping the same ground before it is ready and then there is the aggregate to tamp. After that the site will be ideal for construction,” I shared.

“How will it get there?” Tor asked.

The tamping frame will tilt forward by winch power and go back up the same way. At that point it is just a wagon. You’ll notice that instead of iron counterweight there are water tanks to balance against the erect tower. When the tower is retracted the tanks are drained and the machine weighs nearly half as much as before. Smooth road wheels will be fitted for transport and the wheels with the paddles installed before use. Two mechanics will tend the machine for the duration of its use. But once everything is graded it will be useless in my inventory. If you decide it’s worth having we can negotiate,” I smiled.

That machine can save weeks if it works, who designed it?” Tor asked.

“Peng did, he borrowed the design from a stamping mill and had it made to purpose. The same basic machine makes big rocks into little ones,” Vinders told him.

“Gods, this could change construction forever! Tor hooted.

“It can also be scaled down for smaller jobs. Some sites will always have to be hand tamped. But they will be much more manageable in area. Think what it could do on a road contract,” I said.

“I’m thinking of that very thing. There is a contract being let for the Halla road, to be widened and improved. They want turnouts  and rest stops, with water for draft animals. Waggoners could spend the night off the road in safety. I will have to see how this thing performs before I factor it into a bid. But there will be time to assess its usefulness,” Tor reckoned.

We all chatted a bit longer, Tor was still excited by the prospect of a machine that could tamp a quarter mile of road in a day’s time. Eventually we went our respective ways. I felt exalted. I had not expected such a positive reception. Tor’s gears were still turning when he left.

I told father about the meeting when I got home. He was impressed.

“Vinders wants to see the home site, I think with just two of us and minimal equipment, we can do it in four days possibly five. I would miss no more than three days of school and I’m far enough ahead that it won’t be a problem,” I told him.

“I will send the headmasters office a note to authorize the absence. He sent me a report on you last week, he couldn’t find enough superlatives to describe you. My friends think I’m boasting when I speak of you, until they meet you of course. You are quite a young man Peng. Great things are expected of you,” Father told me.

I hugged his neck and left him with his papers.