Edrich of Haluken

Chapter Thirteen

“This would probably not be fun in the winter,” Father observed. “Let’s look for a place to camp for the night.”

The sun was low in the sky when we got the tents pitched and I had already started the cooking fire.

I fried cured ham in the skillet and put in turnips and radishes.

Everyone was well fed and we all relaxed around the fire as the sun dropped below the ridgeline.

Bard and Brandt both complemented the meal and we all chatted amiably, until the fire burned low. I banked the coals and we turned in. The horses made no noise in the night and the two guardsmen traded watch until dawn.

“We ate bread and cheese for breakfast and loaded up. It was brisk but not cold. It would warm up a lot when the sun emerged from the mountains.

Elverum was another half days ride and we would stay over at the fort or an inn. We didn’t pass a soul on the road.

Elverum was a clean little town, the inn looked clean and well-kept so we stopped in and asked about rooms. They had three available and Father took them all.

“You will sleep with me Peng, and the guardsmen can get some well needed rest. No cooking or guarding tonight,” Father smiled.

Brandt and Bard each received a room key and thanked Father for his kindness.

“Don’t spend too much time in the tavern tonight, you need to be alert, the first part of the trip is steep downhill. It can be dangerous with pack animals,” Father cautioned.

The inn had the same cistern fed boiler for the baths, that we used at home. Father and I bathed first and then the two guardsmen. There were two tubs and curtains between. It was a much better bath than the summer palace had offered.

We had a fine dinner, it wasn’t fancy but it was good food.

The bed was bigger than I expected. Papa put an arm around me, and I was gone from the world until morning. We all had breakfast together and the men seemed to be sharp and alert.

“We’ll ride to the beginning of the incline and walk the two miles to the end, after it’s gentle rolling hills to the valley floor,” Father instructed. “The horses will want to meander so let them, steep hills are hard on their forelegs when going downhill. The side to side travel helps them balance the strain. We’ll stop periodically and let them rest.

We were packed and moving out when a cavalryman approached us.

“Are you headed to the fort or going west?” the man inquired.

We will be passing the fortress as we ride east, are there any problems with the road?”

“No sir, we had some raider activity in Haluken a while back but they didn’t do well,” The Fenrick replied.

“What is your name Fenrick?” Father asked.

“I am Einar first Fenrick of the fourth cavalry. I am billeted at the Christianfjeld fortress, such as it is. It’s still being built. But it is fully manned. Who are you sir?”

“I am Karl of Ikast, Lord Marshal of Norway. We are traveling to Haluken on royal business,” Father told him.

“I have heard of you, you are a legend in our ranks. I’m proud to have met you sir,” Einar practically gushed.

“Well Fenrick, you should have a look at my letter of warrant . That way you can tell your commander you verified my identity,” Father coaxed.

“Oh yes, I should have done that first. But with two of the Regent’s Guard in attendance I didn’t think it was necessary.”

“All the same, have a look and use a bit more care about what you tell people about the state of the fortress,” Father instructed.

Einar handed back the document and saluted. He continued on and so did we.

“I’d be willing to bet he’s on his first posting,” Father observed. The guardsmen agreed.

The steep grade father had mentioned was indeed steep, but the road had been altered to make travel easier for waggoners and artillery. Now the road swept back and forth in a series of gentle S shaped turns. It made the road longer but more manageable.

The length of the grade was effectively doubled but it doesn’t take long to walk four miles. It actually felt pretty good after all the riding on coaches, horses and ships. We still checked the horses and donkeys periodically but they were holding up well. You could see the path of the old road and it was truly neck breaking steep. I could imagine a runaway horse or wagon and it made me cringe.

At the bottom of the grade was a guardhouse and barracks.  Father showed his letter of warrant and the men saluted as we rode to the adjacent village and had lunch. We found a nice flat place to camp that evening, and it was warm. We didn’t bother with the tents. We bathed in a nearby stream and I got a look at our guardsmen.

Bard looked like he had stolen his kuck from one of the donkeys.

The evening was warm and the water cold, we laid on the bank and let the waning sun dry us before we saw to dinner.

Brandt cooked and he wasn’t bad at it. It was simple food but filling. I offered peppermint drops and licorice afterward.

The next morning we reached the Hjøden river which ran all the way to Haluken and beyond. A wide, well used road ran alongside and wooden bridges crossed the winding river in several places. We hadn’t gone far before we encountered a boy my age wearing only short leather trousers and riding an enormous reindeer. I knew the southern forest clans herded reindeer but I had never seen it. The boy was stunning, he was muscular and fit, he had long blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. We moved to a wide spot in the road and waited for the herd to pass. When the tail end of the herd reached us the boy stopped to say hello.

“I am Ingen of the southern riding, we are forest clan,” the boy lilted in the southern manner.

“I am Peng of the Haluken forest clan, this is my father Karl  and our friends Brandt and Bard. I held up my hair so he could see my brand and he did the same. His brand had the stylized reindeer antler beneath the tree image.

“Where do you ride to?” Ingen inquired.

“Haluken, we have business there,” I replied.

“There is much happening in Haluken, they are preparing to receive a new lord. Everyone up and down the road is talking about it. They say he is young but a fierce warrior,” Ingen related.

“Yes well, not that fierce, my true name is Edrich, I am the new Viscount of Haluken. But I will not take residence until my sixteenth winter.

Ingen didn’t know what to say and told me so.

I extended my arm palm up.

We clasped wrists and he departed to stay with his herd.

A few hours later a detachment of cavalry met us to form an escort. By the end of the day we were at the new encampment near the mine site.

We were surprised to find Jørgen in camp.

I thought you had an appointment in Stilinninbørg to report to.

I did but Bjørge went back to Copenhagen because of his health. His successor had already brought in a new man. I am on my way to Oslo to see what I can find there,” Jørgen shared.

“Then it is good that we meet today, I have been saddled with the duty to commission a national watch to police the entire country. It will be an adjunct of the Marshal’s service of which I am now the head. It’s a pity you couldn’t stay for all the fun in Halla. The King was a very busy man. He appointed me Lord Marshal of Norway. And the Regent Halkar is now the Governor General. He has to form a governing counsel so that Norway can take over its own civil affairs within its charter. It’s very political and not to my taste. Rooting out corruption is more my meat and I suspect yours too,” Father enticed.

“So what would I need to do?” Jørgen asked.

“I would need an adjutant, I still have to oversee the other Marshals and pass on the Governors directives. I wish to keep the two agencies separate but cooperative. With each drawing on the other’s resources. The Marshals will be in charge of policing the police. Authority or the abuse of it, breeds corruption. Many of the deputy marshals have believed they are above the law. That will not stand. The Watch’s pay will be good and should discourage bribery considering the risk. There will be steep penalties for corrupt officers of the national Watch or whatever it ends up being called. That is a brief outline for the moment, does it peak your interest?”

“It does indeed. Do you intend to head both agencies?” Jørgen asked.

“No, you would be the chief officer in charge. We will communicate and work in unison. I will have to take on customs and excise in addition to your agency. But you will run the watch. I suspect it would be best if the agency was divided by districts. We can work out the details soon, you will need rooms in Halla, but I have a bit of pull there so I think I can help,” Father chuckled.

“Father was showing me how to comport myself with people I would need to work with. In fact the only people I had ever seen him treat in an uncivil manner, were the Abbott and his cronies.

Even street vendors were treated with dignity. It was a very egalitarian idea for the times. Many things had changed since Halkar and Father had begun transforming Norway. There were no more public executions. They used to be done in the large square. No flogging was permitted either by the courts or upon servants. Indenturement was prohibited, and the poorhouses now helped the poor, instead of exacting punishment for being poor. 

The regent had eliminated some ridiculous laws and ordinances. It had been legal to beat your wife and children while tied to a pole. Although few did. A belt or strap was more common but that was eliminated too. One could spank unruly children but hitting your spouse was illegal. Spanking had to be done with a paddle, hand or a thin cane.

We could still be caned at school but not on bare skin.

The men had been working hard and the barracks was nearly complete. Several other structures were complete and the fireplaces had low fires in them to cure the mortar.

Leif introduced us to Gunnar, he was an experienced miner and had been appointed managing director. He didn’t have to handle finance, just the labor force. He already had several men from the surrounding area shoring and cribbing the cave to prevent accidents. Another crew was digging a bypass channel for the stream. All the gold seemed to accumulate in a bend so it would be allowed to go dry and then be mined. In time an ore mill would crush the rocks and release the gold from the quartz. It was another reason to reroute the stream. It would be water powered instead of a treadmill for donkeys. I paid close attention to all of this. It was incumbent on me to have an understanding of procedures.

“So if we’re going to crush the ore here, where will it be smelted?” I asked.

“The ore will be smelted here but that will require building a large smelting hearth and  charcoal production plant. Charcoal kilns will be built close by unless coal can be found near here. It’s possible coal could be delivered by river barge. The river will need to be surveyed for draft and obstacles. I know small boats navigate it all the way from the point where the road turns west for Halla.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea. We already know that coal smoke has an effect on people. Smoke hangs for a long time in this area, and sick men can’t work. I would take the ore smelter up the hill, the prevailing winds can blow the smoke to Sweden,” I chuckled. “It will cost more, but it will be better for the miners and soldiers here. The smoke might reach Haluken otherwise so we need to look at alternatives.”

“I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right. Breathing down a mine is hard enough without coal smoke in your lungs too,” Gunnar acknowledged.

“How did you arrive at that opinion, I don’t say it’s wrong, but I’m curious how you might have determined that course of action? Leif asked.

“I have been learning the science of engineering, both in school and at home. By the way, my brother is working on a steam powered water pump. It has no moving parts, and acts as a siphon using the water's own weight to move the waste. But another wheel could be added to run a conventional pump,” I explained.

Leif chuckled, “A warrior, healer and an engineer what next for this young man?”

I blushed a bit, I wasn’t trying to show off, I was just working the problem.

I excused myself to see to our horses and tack. Our horses were fine and our saddles were in an open sided shed. A man was looking them over.

“Hello, I’m Edrich. I’ve just come to look them over. It was a long ride and I want to check the stitching and leather,” I told him.

Koren told me he was the unit’s saddler and harness maker. He wanted to know about the additions to our saddles. I explained the bow rest and the foot loop, then gave him leave to copy them for anyone who wanted one.

“You’ll find tapering and beveling the hardwood plug to be the most tiresome part of the construction. But I saw a man working a foot lathe, so perhaps you could get him to make a few plugs,” I suggested.

We slept like the dead in our tent, in the morning we rose and ate with Bard and Brandt before they left for Halla. Father gave them a couriers bag to give Lord Halkar. It had a wax seal and Father’s signet imprint.

“Father and I didn’t dally, we dressed in our uniforms with all our regalia and rode to Haluken. It was market day and the town was full, and considerably larger. It started sooner on the road than when we had been there earlier. It had also expanded northward and more merchants were present than before. A second tavern and inn had been opened. It was in an old monastic building and boasted eight large rooms on the upper floor. It was on the Halla road.

When I asked about that, I was told that they were building a northeasterly road towards Halla so the people coming from Halla could ride directly into Haluken instead of going past and riding northwest.

By the time we had reached the magistrate’s home we had been gawked and waved at, ad infinitum.

“Greetings Lord Marshal or is it Earl, how shall we address you My Lord?”

“My lord is perfectly adequate for me and Sir Edrich is the least cumbersome way of referring to my son. If it were up to him he’d just be called Peng,” Papa chuckled.

“Shall we get the protocol out of the way?” Abel asked.

“Why wait, here are my documents and here are Sir Edrich’s, Viscount of Haluken.”

Abel pulled out a thick ledger and wrote in our names and titles.

“I have chosen Father to represent me until I am sixteen, he may delegate anyone he sees fit to deal with the town on my behalf,” I told Abel.

“He will be choosing a homesite somewhere along the road to Oslo. I was told that Haluken is building a new road to the Halla/Oslo road,” Father added.

“Oh yes, it’s nearly complete. If you’re on horseback you can leave town that way if you want, it’s just not ready for wagons and coaches. We built it because we were losing so much trade from the main road. People don’t want to backtrack on an already lengthy journey,” Abel explained.

“It’s a very good idea, it could be the key to Haluken becoming a city. Tell me, where did you get your workers?” Father inquired.

“Most are older boys from the village but a few were just passing by and heard of the project. It pays well and men just sign on.

“When the project is complete tell the men we have work to the east. It pays well and it’s safe as we can make it. Mining isn’t easy and it isn’t for everyone, but not everyone works in the mine proper. There are many above ground jobs for men with skills,” Father explained.

“Oh I see, well I will pass that along before we lose them to Oslo or Halla. One of the men comes all the way from Trondheim,” Abel babbled.

“Will you keep the name Haluken when you become a city” I asked.

“That would be up to you Sir Edrich,  As Viscount you have naming rights for villages, towns and cities. Perhaps you can think of a more fitting name. No one is really sure how Haluken got its name,” Abel explained.

“Well, Waking Dream is not a bad name for a city,” I observed, it was what Haluken meant in old Norse.

With our business with the magistrate concluded we went to the new inn and booked a room. We were offered a choice. All had two large comfy looking beds and plenty of furniture. The bathing room had the same apparatus we used at home except you didn’t have to transfer the water by hand. Cold and hot were piped directly to the tub. The toilets were similar but Haluken lacked sewers. I was told the effluent goes into a covered chamber and lime is dropped in regularly. Our luggage was brought in and we stabled our horses with the livery across the way.

We strolled through the town in full regalia because people would want to see us. Having a Viscount meant the whole area was elevated and due for great things. We were harbingers of prosperity.

On the site of Edgars murder and his mother’s death was a memorial statue in his honor. It was a mother and son with wings carved from stone.

I remembered how sweet Edgar had seemed and how his only desire was to free his mother from that awful woman.

After everyone had had a chance to see us I was able to notice a few things about the stalls and booths.

Several monks were manning stalls for healing various animals. The herbalist was treating humans and another monk was taking a look at people’s teeth. Unfortunately there was only one treatment for a bad tooth and it was unpleasant. Some people picked their teeth with a knife, or wooden stick. Many, including myself, cleaned our teeth daily with a frayed birch twig and a past of ashes from the cooking fire.

Father and I ate at the tavern, after that we changed and went upstairs to bed.

“Did you know someone put up a monument to Edgar and his mother?” I asked.

“Yes, it seemed the least we could do. The monastery’s stone mason did the work and wouldn’t take a pfenning. I just thought it would be an appropriate tribute to such a gentle spirit,” Papa told me.

I climbed out of my bed, walked to his and kissed his cheek and hugged him tight.

“Thank you Papa, his death has bothered me since it happened,” I said.

“Sleep came quickly but it wasn’t without dreams. I found myself walking the streets of Haluken and noticed a mother and her son holding hands as they walked along. We reached the burial ground and they both turned and waved at me, then they walked to side by side graves and disappeared. It was Edgar and his mother, they were at peace and forever together. I woke briefly but I wasn’t sad. It gave me peace to know that they were together in the next life. Dream or not, it was comforting.

We spent another day in Haluken while Father spoke with Father Michael at the monastery and I roamed around with some of the village boys. I suppose it was no longer a village but a proper town. I asked the boys what they would like the future to bring. Jarl spoke first when he suggested a library. Kunna complained that every time they got a sporting pitch just right, someone would build on it and they had to start over. That I thought, was something I could act on.

When I saw the magistrate next, I brought both suggestions up.

“You will need well educated and healthy young people for Haluken to become a city. I propose we set aside a public pitch with a sauna and privy’s for boys and girls. A library would be a nice adjunct to the new school. I will discuss funding it with the Lord Marshal,” I explained.

“Father told me they were both very good ideas but requested that I discuss such things with him before speaking with the magistrate. He also told me the citizens of Haluken were forming a council with a mayor and would present a charter for my approval.

“How do we keep the council evenly balanced. If too many business men become councilmen the farmers will be unhappy and the other way round as I see it?” I asked.

“We could introduce voting districts so that farmers and herdsmen have an equal say and representation. The governor is going to make County status official for Haluken. Now that they have a Viscount they need to start thinking about the future of the whole county. Clans and townspeople alike. Getting the clans to take part in the council might be difficult, but perhaps you can convince them,” Papa smiled.

“If this starts with the right attitude, my hope is that it will prevail. Perhaps appointing a spokesman from the clans would be wise.  We have to guard against such men as the one who runs the other tavern, Jørgen thinks he’s in league with the local bandits and possibly even the border raiders. His serving girls eavesdrop on conversations and probably report back to him. He certainly didn’t like you taking all the keys that first day,” I pointed out.

“Yes, he has roused my suspicions too. That’s why I said we’d be leaving at noon,” Father grinned.

“There will be a lot for me to attend to, but I think I can manage. With your permission, I will ride to the village of my people, it has no name but I can broach the subject of a representative from the clans. It would be better if they chose one themselves I think. Perhaps the summer village will become permanent. Some stay there year round already,” I suggested.

“Yes, I think that’s a good idea. But wear all your medals and badge of office. I think they will be proud that the new Viscount has shown an interest in them and even more when they discover who you are. While we are discussing things, I have mapped out a baronet for Rilla east of Halla, There is plenty of arable land with room for many farms. The river passes through there and it is entirely within your county. You shall have a built in ally. I know you are especially close. The areas west of Halla need someone to guide them so I wish to place Bolly there to see to their needs?” Kiva has told me he misses the mountains so he will be installed north of Halla so that he can keep an eye on foresting and bring the mountain and sky people into the community and insure that their way of life is not threatened.

The people in these new baronets have always paid taxes and really haven’t received anything other than the Guard for their money. It’s time for that to change. There are many profitable farms there but the road needs improving to get their crops to Halla. You and I and your brothers have a lot to do,” Papa smiled.

We walked to the old mill and found the former apprentice and now miller, hard at work. He had seven men working with him and they were very busy. The grain bunkers still held much grain and the men worked in batches. They would grind a batch for flour for the baker and grocers and then run a batch of coarser grain for animal feed. Each type of grinding meant adjusting the huge millstones. It had been a very good year for grain. The cider mill was doing well also. They pulped the fruit as fast as possible adding cherries or other fruits to taste. The smell was so sickly sweet I had to go out for air. The brewer was also very busy, he was new. Before he had arrived most of the beer and ale came from Oslo and it suffered on the journey. It didn’t help the flavor when an unscrupulous tavern keeper watered it down. Father said that it constituted adulteration and was a serious crime and subject to a heavy fine. It was suspected that the Taverner saved all his dregs and mixed them into barrels of fresh beer.

“Would you be willing to help us prove he’s adulterating his beer?” Father asked the brewer.

“I would, if he is doing as you say it reflects on my product I use only locally grown grain although the hops come from up north where they grow best. His tricks could harm my business,” Joakim declared.

“I will have the magistrate send the Captain of the watch to see you when they are ready to make the inspection. I thought it tasted bad myself but that was before you came. The beer at the Monk’s Roost is much better than I remember for the other place,” Father shared.

“I told them about what Jørgen had said about the beer when we were there before, and we all had a laugh.

“The next morning we left by the Halla road. Men were working diligently laying cobbles and a steady sustained rate. Others leveled and packed the road ahead. There was a trail off to either the side of the road so that horses and men on foot could pass without interfering with the work.

Father found the foreman and asked about the progress.

“It goes well, we should be done before mid-October. Freezing will make it harder to tamp the underlay but it will be done before winter arrives,” Evald told us.

“And what happens to your workers when it is finished?” Papa asked.

“They will find work or return to their farms. I can’t really say,” Evald explained.

“Well, have those who wish for new employment come to our new mine on the Oslo road. They will find a sentry posted at the gate and he will let them in to apply for work. This is steady work, and not all of it is in the mine. The pay is good, and the conditions are as safe as we can make them. There is plenty to be done this winter so we will need many workers,” Father informed him.

“Will you need someone like me, who knows how to build roads and earthworks?” Evald asked.

“Absolutely, be sure you tell them that you have that knowledge because we will need holding basins, roads and other earthworks. I will leave your name with Leif and Gunnar. They make all of those decisions. I will tell them to expect you,” Father said cheerily.

We road on and the Halla road made the trip back to the mine easier. It joined the Oslo road just above the road to the mining camp.

We found Lief, Jørgen and Gunnar discussing the labor situation. Papa told them about the paving crew, it was good news to their ears.

“When we return to Halla I’ll post a notice and do a few interviews to make sure we’re not wasting anyone’s time,” Papa said. “It will be tough on the farmers daughters in the area. We don’t want angry fathers storming the sentry demanding satisfaction.”

“We’ll have to be careful and make sure the get them to Haluken regularly to enjoy themselves,” Gunnar agreed.

“I’m told there is a brothel in the woods outside of town,” Lief put in.

“Let’s have the magistrate contact them, I want one of the local midwife healers to inspect them for disease. It could head off an unfortunate situation with a town girl or two,” Papa suggested.

“Yes, I see your point. I will see to it or Gunnar will, we’ll get it dealt with,” Lief assured.

During that day we walked around and made note of needed supplies and equipment and sited two barracks for workers. It was far enough away from the mine so the men could rest in quiet.

The head carpenter taught me how to wield the large draw knife on the beams that were being used for shoring. I was getting pretty good with it when Papa called me away.

We did most of our packing that afternoon and got to bed early. Father, Jørgen and I would leave for Halla, we would try to make the first village with an inn before nightfall. It didn’t seem as though we had been gone long, but it was already well into September. I would need to take my school clothes and uniforms to the tailors for alterations or replacement.

We stayed in the village of Korla. The rooms were austere but comfortable. We opted to wait until evening the next day to bathe. The Inn in Stalta was much nicer and had plenty of metal tubs. A man who was traveling with three boys, asked Papa if I would mind sharing with one of his sons, so they could all bathe at the same time. I didn’t object, I helped the youngest boy to wash himself. We both had a nice bath in the same tub.

We left early on the third day and made it home before dark. Mother was in her fourth month and she was feeling the strain of two apparently large boys thrashing about inside her.

I kissed her and said hello and the let Papa have her to himself.

I found my brothers, they ran a bath for all of us because I stunk like a dead squirrel, according to them.

Olaf and Kiva took Bolly and Ivey with them and Rilla shared my tub. I had missed them all but Rilla was special.

“We heard about the attack on the Kings cortege. Was it scary?” Kiva asked.

Yes, one of them tried to get into the carriage with me so I put my dagger through his hand and pinned him to the door. The guardsmen took him away and I got ready for the fight. I had worried about an ambush and that’s what they tried but it didn’t work. It wasn’t pleasant but we kept the King, Governor and Papa safe. I took his pistols to him before I joined the fight,” I told them.

“They said you were very brave,” Bolly put in.

“I wasn’t trying to be brave, I just wanted to keep them from the King’s coach.” I lounged in the tub, while Rilla turned around and lay back into me so I could hold him. The feel of his skin against me was wonderful. I couldn’t wait for the day I could do this with Valla.