Edrich of Haluken

Chapter Twenty-Two

I had been developing a cadre of helpful and nosy people who seemed to be able to get information about anyone I needed to know about. Most times they came up with nothing but occasionally they found a rotten fish in the custard. Such was the case with the mayor. One of my informants told me a workman had told him, that the mayor had walked past him with a bulging satchel and went to a shed. When he returned the satchel appeared less bulgy and considerably lighter by the way the mayor was carrying it with only one hand. I passed that information on to the deputy Marshall in charge and he followed up. With a warrant they uncovered quite a trove in the mayor’s shed inside a poorly built safe.

New elections were scheduled for the mayor’s post and two council seats Monday of the next week. Father made a public statement that no other city official had been tainted by the investigation.

Birger exhausted his inventory and shuttered his store. He loaded up the rest of his foodstuffs and took them to the old work house and orphanage. The Catholic orphanage had been shut down due to cruelty to children. A secular group took over the premises, and care for the children had greatly improved. While they encouraged attendance at a church they allowed the children to choose which one if any. Most of the children were adopted out to farmers where they could be part of a family and be nurtured. Each adopting family was closely scrutinized. Inspectors made sure the children were not just going to be cheap labor.

Valla and I kept up our assignations in the secret room.

On my next visit to Freyanhjem I encountered our new pastor and his young wife. She was about to add another member to the congregation.

I asked Pastor Marche what he thought of the town and its name.

“It’s a lovely name. Given the makeup of our citizenry here I think it’s appropriate. I was ordained in England and there are towns that bear the name Aine as in the Celtic goddess of summer. Like Bishop Linde, I prefer to be more welcoming than standoffish. We will reach some and some we will not. But perhaps we will reach their children. All the citizens here will know our amity,” the pastor said.

“That is what I told the Archbishop when I nominated Provost Linde for Bishop of our county. They are both decent men and not bound by dogma,” I related.

“I think that is an apt description,” Pastor Marche replied.

Do you like the house?” I asked.

“We do, It will take us a while to fill all those rooms but we’ll try,” the pastor grinned.

“Have you found a midwife here yet?” I asked.

“No, and I don’t know who to ask,” Hilde replied.

“I do, I will have someone call on you. It will be a clan or Saami woman and she will come in the next two days.

I left them to continue moving in and rode to a person I knew could help.

“Hello Meina, the new pastor and his wife are moving in. She will need a midwife soon, can you send word for someone to visit?”

“Certainly, I am always glad to help a young mother,” Meina smiled.

Word had already reached her that Hilde was young and pregnant. Someone would be along in the next two days. Likely Meina had already passed along a message to someone traveling into the hills.

I stopped in and checked on Birger. He had dropped the R from the end of his name and now went as Birge. He said most called him Birge anyway so why fight it.

Aksel Tollefson walked in while we were talking and almost turned back around.

“Aksel, come back. I’m just visiting,” I called.

“I didn’t want to interrupt important business,” Aksel said.

We had talked about the upcoming wedding. I suggested two weddings, one in the church and one in the glade. The local head man or a Noaidi could officiate. It would help him knock down barriers.

I moved off to see others. Aksel the miller was supervising the installation of the stones. He had a few suggestions that were incorporated before the installation got too far along. Mostly just the location of certain controls. Others related to future ease of maintenance such as dressing the millstones. I inspected the mill race while they worked and I was pleased to see one of my special wheels with the curved blades. It was much larger than the one at my home.

As I rode to our homesite I passed wagons loaded with lumber. The sawmill had already paid for itself, and was now adding to my coffers. I hadn’t expected that quite so soon. I looked at it as more to invest.

While I was riding I was accosted by a relay rider.

“Lord Edrich?” the man asked.

“That’s me I said, turning out my pin so he could see.

“I have a dispatch for you, would you mind signing for it?”

“Not at all,” I replied.

With that done the rider continued on towards Haluken.

I broke the seal and read the letter. A property had come available in Oslo and Father suggested I take a look at it while I was on the road.

“It was something that was high on my priority list simply because property was scarce in Oslo in the area we would need to locate. It was called the government zone and everyone who lived there was somehow linked to government, medicine or law. It meant another three days riding but at least I could go straight there instead of the winding road to Elverum. That would have added five days to the trip down. The new route was longer but faster. The road was still under construction in places but it wouldn’t slow me.

It was too late to start the trip to Oslo that day so I opted to sleep at my new home and press on in the morning.

“Greetings my lord” Anders called out while standing by the gate house.

I was getting used to the whole "my lord" business. I greeted Anders and asked how he liked his accommodation.

“Excellent my lord. It’s just the right size for me. The extra bedrooms upstairs could accommodate a second man or a wife,” Anders grinned.

“If you find a woman willing to live here, marry her right away. If you need to be away or you are sick a member of the guard will cover your duties,” I explained.

I took my horse to the stables and found that there were several already present.

“Good afternoon my lord” Magnus the stable master greeted me. I have acquired a few more mounts for your use as directed by your letter. I based my selection on your lovely roan mare.”

All the horses were very good looking animals.

“Perhaps I will ride one tomorrow and then switch off with Mariah. She probably would kick her way out of the stall if I left on another horse. She’s had an easy time this trip so just the one spare horse will suffice,” I told him.

“Very good my lord, they are all good animals. I’m very picky with horseflesh,” Magnus told me.

“That dapple mare there looks healthy and Mariah rarely fights with other mares,” I decided.

“Perda will serve you well,” Magnus declared.

“Perda? I know a healer in Halla that bears that name. She bears a likeness around the hips,” I chuckled.

Magnus laughed and I handed him Mariah’s reins. I would come back in a while and walk her around and feed her an apple. I paused for a moment and decided to tell magnus what I had in mind.

We may need more stable space, I have purchased a few Fjord horses for winter travel. They are massive animals and will need the room of a large fenced pasture. They will need to be trimmed in spring before the heat of summer,” I told Magnus.

“Those are formidable animals my lord. I will be prepared for them. We have already fenced a glade above the fields and I will rotate the horses in and out for their comfort,” He replied.

“You may need an assistant Magnus. Keep an eye out for such a one that is well suited and hire him. I am willing to pay him three quarters of your salary initially. You will tell me when he is deserving of more,” I suggested.


I went inside and found the caretaker making tea.

“Would you like a cup my lord?” Hoder inquired.

“Yes thank you. Not too sweet please, in fact I’ll add the honey,” I told him.

“I thanked him for the tea and went upstairs to bathe and change. Our private bath was ready to go so I lit a fire in the boiler and went off to put out my things. I was lucky in that I still didn’t need to shave. The tea and the bath renewed me. I drained and cleaned the tub and put out the fire by closing the damper. It would smolder but it wouldn’t overheat the boiler. I would check later and make sure it was fully extinguished.

I walked Mariah around and fed her slices of apple as we went. We took the trail to the orchards and I could see fruit forming on a few trees. The trees were small and the fruit would be too. It usually takes three years before a tree produces full sized fruit in quantity. Pruning technique was everything.

I would leave instructions for the trees to be netted so birds wouldn’t think of my orchards as a good place to eat.

In the morning We started out for Oslo. The road was quite nice. I stopped in Haluken for a meal but didn’t stop to chat with anyone. I had bypassed the mine but I would check in on the way back.

The road to Oslo had been well thought out. The road was nicely finished and only slightly crowned to shed water. That would prevent deterioration and mud. The bridges could handle fully laden lumber wagons two at a time. After the second bridge the road narrowed a bit because of terrain. There was no way to make the road any wider without risking a landslide. It might be done later but for now it was adequate. During daylight hours there was a flagman at one end. He waved a red flag to stop and a white flag to come ahead. Two horses could pass but two wagons could not.  Just as it was getting dark I reached the Inn I had been told about. I was already better than a third of the way to Oslo. Another message had been left at the Inn to say father received my message and to give me the agent’s name and address and also the houses address.

I slept well and had a light breakfast. I saddled Mariah and led them both out the gate. By midday I could see the village where I would spend the night. It never seemed to get any closer until the last long bend. Then I was nearly at the gate of the village. Ordsklere was very clean and well ordered. I met their one and only Politi and identified myself out of courtesy.

“Are you travelling on to Oslo?” He asked.

“Yes, I have business there,” I replied.

“I suggest you take a room for the night at the farmers rest. It’s market day tomorrow and the streets get clogged early.”

I thanked him and moved on.

The Farmer’s rest was a nice inn but I didn’t see a lot of fields in the hilly country. I asked about the name and was told it was the lifelong dream of one of the farmers down the hill to own an inn. He had long since passed on but the name never changed.

The bed was comfortable and both dinner and breakfast were good. The next day would be a shorter ride. By my reckoning I was almost three quarters of the way to Oslo. I was wrong, I was more than three quarters of the way. I arrived at the stone bridge in front of the northern gate of Oslo early in the day. A politi officer was strolling up and down checking papers of merchants. When I showed him mine he waved me around the throng and signaled the other officers to make a path for me.

I inquired the way to Darnstredet and was told it was only a mile from the parliament. The officer told me to check with any officer along the way and he would direct me. On my way I passed a nice looking Inn and changed into my uniform and put on my sword belt hanging my saber neatly at a jaunty angle. I brushed my hat and jacket and donned my badge of office. I left Perda in the stable and took Mariah to the address. It was a nice looking house on a quiet street. There were plenty of politi around so it was watched carefully.

A man and a woman exited the house and I asked if they were the caretakers.

“Yes my lord, we are.”

Can you give me directions to the agents office?”

“He’s already here looking things over. It’s a lovely house,” The woman said.

I thanked them and dismounted. I pulled the bell rope and a man answered the door.

“Oh hello my lord, you must be Lord Edrich yes?”

“I am indeed. The house looks very pleasant from the street, may I have a look inside.

The house had been the personal home of the British ambassador. He retired and moved home.

After two hours of looking at the structure and finish and then the back Garden and stables I was very happy with the place.

“And the price?” I asked.

“k3600 and it will go up, of this I’m certain. I know who you are so I won’t try to pressure you. It’s a true statement, but Lord Halkar has asked me to be on the watch for a nice property like this.”

Well, it’s pricey but it is a lovely place and I know my fiancé will love it. I have the money on deposit at the Reichsbank. Do you have a horse?” I asked.

“No my lord I have a modest carriage, I can take you there directly. There is fresh hay and oats in the stables,” Ilskend told me.

I rode with Ilskend to the bank and I was received with great deference. I produced my letters of identity and performed the transfer. Ilskend took me to his office to complete the paperwork and hand me a title to the house. Agents had to be bonded for an amount equal to the most expensive property they were representing. The civil title office would acknowledge the transfer that afternoon and I had the option of staying with the caretakers or going back to my inn. I chose the inn,  but I wanted to speak with the caretakers. They were hired by the agent but were not his employees per se. Greta and Hallis were quite pleasant and they occupied a set of comfortable rooms in the cellar. I introduced myself as the new owner and wondered if they would stay on until we could establish a presence if they weren’t interested in taking the job long term. They had a flat but were willing to stay on long term but they had a problem. They had a beloved cat and were constantly going back and forth to feed her. I like cats so I suggested they bring her along. As long as she wasn’t messy or destructive she was welcome. Hallis tended the outside and Greta kept the house clean so we came to an agreement. I stopped by the next day before I left to tell them I would be sending cases of wine along and I would like them to be put in the bottle racks and turned regularly. They agreed and I led both of my horses back to the north. Both were fresh so I rode Mariah back to the Farmer’s rest. It was uphill all the way so I would ride Perda the next day. There was more climbing to do until we reached the point where the road narrowed.

When we reached the flagman he gave us the signal to go ahead. We were halfway across the short stretch of road when I saw a coach coming the other way quite quickly. I turned Perda and Mariah wheeled on her own and followed after us to a wide spot. I hugged the hillside and the coach passed. I handed Mariah’s reins to the flagman and gave chase. I got out in front and pointed to a small road which went up hill slightly. The driver followed my direction and the coach came to a stop.

“I am so sorry sir, the hand brake failed and I couldn’t slow the horses. I believe the linkage may have failed,” Alskar the driver told me.

Well you had a narrow escape, I suppose we both did. No one is hurt and that’s the main thing. Let’s look at the brake and determine if it can be fixed. I suppose we should check on your passengers first.

“What in blazes is going on out here! Were you escaping bandits or have you lost your mind man? And who is this, is he a bandit?! Why haven’t you shot him?! The man raged.

“No sir, it was a brake failure. None of the brakes were working. We’re going to have a look at it right away,” Alskar explained.

“But who is this upstart?” the man demanded.

“I am Lord Edrich, Viscount of Haluken, would you like to see my letter of mark?” I asked. I held it up so he could see the seal and read my name.

“And who might you be?” I asked evenly.

“I am Edvard Gundersen, I am in the textile business.”

“May I presume the lady is your young wife?”

“No, she’s my office assistant”

“I see, and what sort of textile business, do you own a mill or a weaving house?”

“No, I warehouse and sell the finished cloth,”

“Is this in Halla or Oslo, I know of no warehouses in Haluken,” I asked.

“Oslo, we were conducting business in Haluken with a man from Halla,” Edvard sputtered.

“I know most of the prominent merchants in Halla what was his name?” I asked.

“I would have to look it up in my appointment book, I see so many people,” Edvard said.

Perhaps your assistant remembers, let’s ask her. She hadn’t been following the conversation, Do you know the name of the man you were meeting in Haluken?”

“What man,” Laura said sluggishly. She shifted in her seat and two champagne bottles rolled across the floor of the coach. I noticed the buttons on her blouse were mismatched as though done up hastily.

“I think I understand. You took your assistant to an inn in Haluken for a bit of fun. What sort of business are you really in?” I pressed.

“I am a clerk in the parliamentary offices, she does work under me but there was no place to go in Oslo to be sure we weren’t recognized,” Edvard whined.

“You do realize that this sort of behavior opens you up to blackmail and corruption. Not to mention the wrath of your wife if she were to find out. I suggest that as soon as you report to work that you report to your supervisor and tell him the truth. He may be lenient but it will lessen the chances you will be blackmailed. I suggest you stay on your own front step from now on,”

“Alskar have you found the problem?” I called out.

“Yes my lord, it would appear the central bell crank that controls the brake rods has torn loose from the frame. I don’t have the tools to fix it.”

I suggest you unhitch one of the team and ride the short distance to the Farmer’s Rest Inn and ask if there is a smith or even a carpenter that can help. A clever smith could make a temporary repair that would hold up during the descent.

The block just needs to be reattached firmly to the frame. Nothing appears to be bent. I’m sure a smith could do it with hand tools. I could do it if I had the time and tools. If it can’t be done today you can ride back and collect the rest of the team and your passengers. They can get a room at the inn while they wait,” I suggested. “Oh, be sure and write to me in Halla if this fool tries to place the blame at your feet.”

“Thank you my lord, I will if it comes to that.”

I checked Perda and Mariah and remounted. I told the flagman he should under no circumstance leave his post for this fool of a bureaucrat. I took my leave and rode on.

I had lost about an hour but fortunately I reached the next inn in time to get a room and dinner. The rest of the trip was uneventful. I reached Haluken and called on Abel and Martin to inquire how things were progressing. I received a glowing report about the city. It was truly a city. New homes were being built and more people were coming in from Oslo and other places. There were now two actual physicians and a dentist in the city. Other businesses related to the farm trade were opening. A grain broker had tried to open a business but Abel checked his letters of reference and found them wanting. The man was arrested and would be tried for fraud.

There were a number of new municipal structures in town, the library and new school were complete. Haluken was growing quickly. I suggested they follow the example of the farmers in Freyanhjem and form a cooperative to purchase harvesting and planting equipment. The benefits were obvious. I was interrogated on the new town and told them about the church, dry goods store and other businesses. It was common knowledge that the millers best apprentice had moved to Freyanhjem to run the mill there.

I rode to the mine in the morning and the sentry stopped me.

“Good morning my lord, may I see your papers?” The man asked.

“Absolutely,” I told the sentry and handed him my letter.

“Everything is in order my lord please go carefully, machinery is being moved.”

I did ride carefully but I encountered Gunnar before I saw what was being moved. He explained that the original stamping mill’s frame had broken. They had built a new one on sight and were now returning it to its proper location. We’ve had to stop mining, we have no place to put the ore. The smelter is shut down and everyone is either doing maintenance, building or helping to dig test shafts. You can find the captain observing the activities. He has news you can pass on to the Governor.

“Good morning Captain how are you?”

“Good morning My lord, I am feeling fine. By the gods you have certainly grown. You’ve only a winter to go isn’t that right?”

“Yes sir, but we’ve accomplished a lot during the last three years. My home is ready and Freyanhjem is growing every day. We need a baker but most people bake their own bread. So what have you got in store?”

“There have been campfires spotted along the border. I don’t know if it’s clans people or Swedes. It could be a trap so we will reconnaissance in force incase they’re only prepared for a patrol. I’d put any ten of my men against one hundred raiders. But we will be a substantial force when we reach the area. Troops from Oslo are coming up to join us. The relay riders must be exhausted just with us. I checked in at the parliament building to see if they had anything for Haluken or Halla but there was nothing, I was in uniform at the time.

We chatted a while and watched the slow progress of the stamping mill. Every available man was on a line or driving a team to make sure the huge machine didn’t get away from them It hadn’t been possible to repair it in place because of the lack of flat work areas. That would be corrected before it happened again according to Gunnar. He watched and worried over the men, but they managed to get it back to where it belonged.

I had lunch with Gunnar and others while we discussed any pressing needs.

“You know we are paying men to do odd jobs until we receive the okay to start up again,” Gunnar told me.

“Yes that’s true but I’d hate to lose any of them and then try to replace them when demand rises. The price of gold in Europe has been rising. France has to go through intermediaries to purchase our gold but the Dutch, Germans and Austrians have no such problems. The more gold costs France the less they have for making mischief. England is a very good customer. As the price rises we release more of our reserve. Soon we will be back in production and playing the long game of international finance. Our Krone is as strong as it has ever been,” I explained.

“That’s good news. I would hate to lose good workers because we don’t want to pay them for makework,” Gunnar intoned.

“But it’s not makework, it’s actual maintenance or improvements. You can build a few more structures in case we take on even more men. A back-up catchment is also a good use for downtime. Be creative and keep the men busy.  When we go back into production they will be earnestly busy. But I don’t want to lose a single man to accident. We had a close call at the sawmill but no one was hurt. We figured out what happened and installed hold down spoons so that each beam is held firmly in place as it progresses through the blades,” I shared.

“Wherever there is shaft mining there will be cave ins, but if we keep a careful eye on things then we can get the men out before it happens. The safety men are down there any time a crew is working a vein,” Gunnar stated.

“Yes, that’s true but we have mitigated the danger as much as possible,” I agreed.

Our meeting broke up and I saddled Mariah for the trip to Freyanhjem.

After taking care of a few more things I made for Halla. Again I stayed at an inn and made the rest of the trip the next day.

I received a strange greeting when I arrived home. My brothers were agitated, especially Bolly and Ivy. They had been playing hide and seek and couldn’t find Ranulf.

“He must have left the house while we were playing, he’s been missing you quite a bit. I’m so sorry Peng,” Bolly sobbed.

“Let’s do another search and I’ll help you, I don’t think he’d leave the house without permission. Perhaps he’s just better at hiding than you are. Where did you start the game?” I asked.

“Right here in the main hall, but we searched upstairs I even asked Samilla to look in her quarters and the rest of the cellar,” Rilla volunteered.

“I was certain that he went back upstairs, it’s not against the rules or anything,” Kiva put in.

We began the search in teams. We checked every room and cupboard on the ground floor and found nothing. We checked each room on the first floor and finally Bolly, Ivy and Ranulf’s room. We even checked behind the boiler in the bathing room. Olaf checked all the wardrobes and we opened all the trunks at the foot of the beds. I looked again in Ranulf’s wardrobe and saw something the others had not noticed. All of Ranulf’s underclothes and nightshirts were piled in the bottom still folded.

I turned back to his trunk and opened it again. I lifted out the tray and then his winter dressing gown with the hood. There was Ranulf, sound asleep. He roused slowly but when he saw me he chirped Papa! And hugged me tight.

“I missed you so much Poppa, we were playing hide and seek but I got sleepy, who won?” Ranulf asked.

“I think we can say that you won this one,” I chuckled.

I set Ranulf on his feet and held the weeping Bolly and Ivy in my arms. Olaf, Kiva and Rilla were all relieved and their eyes teared up.

“That was a good hide Ranulf, we thought you went outside. But that would be cheating and you wouldn’t cheat. I know you wouldn’t,” Ivy declared.

Bolly now sobbed with relief, Ranulf came and touched the back of his head and then leaned in and snuggled Bolly until he got himself sorted.

Up til then, Bolly had been the undisputed king of hide and seek. They would all remember this hide for many years.

Ranulf retrieved his clothing from the bottom of his wardrobe  and the donned his boots that were beneath all the clothes and underthings. I suggested that we sort Ranulf’s clothes because he had quite a few that didn’t fit.

I always bought Ranulf’s clothing and whatever he needed for school. Father would gladly have done it but I felt it was my responsibility to clothe him. I took my brothers along often and they would occasionally find something they liked and I would add it to my account. The mine and now the sawmill were making me more and more wealthy by the week. I usually walked around with a few krone in my purse and other pocket change for sweets and treats. I used bank cheques to pay vendors and store accounts. I always paid as soon as I received the bill. I even paid a couple of Father’s bills from the wine merchant when I received them accidentally. I had been sending wine to our new house in Oslo. I would order from the local wine merchant and he would correspond with a merchant in Oslo to supply a specific wine and vintage. I had an inkling that maintaining a second household would be tiresome at best.

Valla and I were less than a year away from our official betrothal and she desperately wanted to see the house in Oslo. The next time Halkar found himself needed in Oslo, Valla and I tagged along. I sent word that we would be visiting and buying new furnishings for some of the rooms. We would keep a few of the nicer English style pieces but we preferred the home grown style that was a bit more stout in construction. The furniture broker wrote back that he would have a list of several makers available and would accompany us on the tour.

Lady Iris decided that taking Valla’s maid was sufficient for appearances sake.

Halkar decided that we would take a coach  down the Haluken Oslo road so he could see it firsthand. We ended up using my coach because it had the best brakes. I bought it thinking about long steep roads and made sure the brakes were in good order before we started out. Emil came along with four  guardsmen and the coachmen to provide security. If anyone had breached the coach itself Emil would see that they didn’t survive the attempt. I often rode ahead with Valla so we could chat and Halkar could dictate messages to Emil. Riders had been sent ahead to secure rooms at various inns. We paid for more inns than we used. It was an inexpensive form of security. On our second day out we paused in Freyanhjem just to show them the progress. We spoke to no one and moved off after a short tour. That night we stopped at our home. Servants were surprised and the gateman stammered when he realized he was addressing Lord Halkar.

With the help of friends I had hired a cook, a housekeeper and an outside man to tend to weeds and landscape. He helped the stabler and the stabler helped him in return. I was spending a lot more time there so it made sense to get the staff in sooner rather than later. The caretaker was tired of living away from his family and that was another factor. I gave him his wages with a large bonus for his excellent service and sent him home on a fine horse.

As we neared what I knew as the southern riding we encountered a herd of reindeer blocking the road. I told the coachmen not to sound their trumpets to avoid a stampede or worse yet having stags turn around to protect the herd.

I rode ahead on Mariah and found the herdsman. He planned to turn off in a pasture in about half a league or less. I thanked him for the information. I helped the men unhitch the team and we took all the horses to a stream and let them drink and frolic for a while. We ate our lunch and Valla and I walked and enjoyed the birdsong and other wildlife.

We hitched the team and proceeded on our way. The Farmers Rest was well received by our entire party. We had taken all but one room and the guards shared two of the rooms with the coach men. They all served some time on watch through the night. Oslo came into view the next day and the coachmen were very careful on the grade. It was steeper than some roads but not as bad as the Elverum pass. Here there was no room to mitigate the grade with sweeping turns. Valla and I rode our horses behind the coach. I kept a watch behind us but didn’t really think anyone would try anything so close to Oslo. Politi and Guard patrolled the road frequently. They weren’t shy about inquiring of anyone’s business.

Valla swooned over the house, she thought it was very well designed and landscaped. Lush trees grew in the front garden and there were roses and tulips growing in the beds with other flowers. In the back garden there were both fruit and shade trees. A tall hedge separated the properties. The stables had been freshly painted and refurbished at my order. The coach house was solid and freshly painted as well. Arbors and trellis were abundant and flowering vines grew along each of them.

Halkar patted my back approvingly after he saw Valla’s reaction to the house and gardens. There were an abundance of poppies, Valla picked a few and made garlands for her and Sigrid. Jonas the coachman had his eye on her. She didn’t seem to mind the attention. I had hired the coachmen with the understanding that they would make the move with us. One was older than the other but he was affable the same as Jonas. Arne had been in the mounted infantry and had a lot of experience with wagons and teams. He appreciated the coach I bought. He and Jonas shared the apartment that Magda had vacated.

They were still finding hidden bottles of drink in the strangest places. Samilla had taken a room on the opposite wing of the first floor from us boys. Father had turned it into an apartment so that she could entertain guests and suitors.

Valla told Sigrid she was free for the afternoon. Valla and I walked the neighborhood while Halkar took my carriage on to parliament  and his lodgings. We had our horses and there were two wheeled cabs available if we just wanted to tour the city.

“Three thousand six hundred Krone! That’s a lot of money,” Valla peeped when I told her the price.

“It was a pretty good deal for this area of Oslo. It’s mostly government, doctors and lawyers in this area and it has everything we’ll need to entertain when we visit on official business. Not far from us was the regional head of Father’s Marshall service. I found him at home and stopped to tell him we were neighbors. We chatted for a while then Valla and I moved on. I had decided against my uniform. I wore a stylish suit which I’m not ashamed to say complimented my fit body. I thought the trousers were a bit tight but it was the current style in Oslo.

Later we dined with Halkar and I left Valla to stay in his apartment overnight.  I tried the bath at our new house and it was every bit as efficient as the one in our new home.

This was a nice place but it would never be home.

The bed would have to go, it was entirely too soft and ornate for either Valla or my tastes.

The next day we visited the furniture broker and toured joiner’s and carpenter’s shops. We found a lovely modest bed that was wide enough to accommodate Valla, myself and a sleeping child. Ranulf and Ivy still climbed in with Rilla and I. Even Bolly when something troubled him. By the end of the day we had purchased pieces for the new house as well as our home. We purchased two cradles, one for each house. The biggest worry was keeping them empty until we were wed. Valla was very keen for sex and the opportunity finally arose one afternoon when Greta and Hallis went to do the marketing. We roamed the city some more and had dinner with Halkar again. He groused about foolish politicians but cheered up with a full stomach.

I learned that for my actual installation as Viscount of Haluken, I would have to travel to Copenhagen and see the king once more. Valla looked forward to that. She loved Copenhagen and had made many trips there with her parents. We decided we might move on to see Vienna from there because it was such a beautiful city.

Halkar had made rooms available for the coachmen and guards while he used cabs to go to and from parliament. I sat in on one session while a member said rather disparaging things about Christian.

Halkar pounded the gavel and said, “If I ever hear you or anyone else use that sort of language about his majesty, you or they will be charged with an offense against the crown. If that happens you will be discharged from the Reichsparliament, is that clear.”

The man looked stricken, he apologized and claimed that he was overcome by the spirit of argument.

His colleagues looked on with approbation, the man’s words were over the top in their minds. They approved wholly of Halkar’s scathing remarks. At least, some of them did.

I took my leave at the break and found the coachmen in a pub.

“Has the carriage been inspected for the trip back?” I asked.

“Yes my lord, we have already retrieved it,” Arne reported.

“Well then enjoy your afternoon but get plenty of rest. We will be leaving in the morning. Halkar is going by sea so he can discuss some things in Bergen.

Halkar had decided that Valla and Sigrid would go with me in the carriage because he didn’t know how long we would be in Bergen. We had a very nice dinner together and said our farewells. We would see him in Halla very soon. He would be in Bergen in the morning and I was sure a contingent of guard would be with him.

I told Valla I would call for them in the morning and returned to the house to sleep in a new bed and pack for the trip.

May was rapidly fleeing and June would bring my graduation and conferment ceremony would be at the end of the month. My basic degree was in maths and sciences. There was at that time no degree for engineering and there was no guild for engineers to have a journeyman period and become a master. It would come but for now I would claim the title. I would receive a degree in mechanical arts as related to drafting and design. At this point all I needed to do was show up to class occasionally and participate. I turned in my assignments consistently and I had fulfilled all my graduation requirements. Father had said I would graduate before I was sixteen and he was right.

I had been toying with the idea of starting an association of engineers. I discussed it with father and we decided to hold a meeting of interested people in Bergen, the closest seaport. I placed ads in all the large papers and it spread by word of mouth as well. I received hundreds of letters so we decided to hold three meetings, One in Bergen, one in Halla and one in Oslo. I toyed with a name for the organization and came up with Norge selskap og Enginøirs. Simple and straight forward. I would discuss it with Halkar when he returned.

When Halkar’s ship docked in Bergen and the guard disembarked, a man was watching. The port’s master noticed and when Halkar stepped ashore the man ran to a horse and rode away like his hair was afire.

I have two fast horses for your men to use if you want to send someone after him. Why would he run like that if there was nothing sinister in his heart?” the port master opined.

The captain of the contingent sent two men with the master and were given two horses and a description of the rider and horse.

An unmarked carriage arrived and took Halkar to the city hall building.

Early the next morning the guardsmen returned with the rider and his horse. He had put up a fight and paid for it. He was not injured badly but he wouldn't be dancing anytime soon. His own horse had trodden on his foot.

With interrogation the man admitted he was hired to watch for Halkar’s arrival if it should take place. He was known to be in Oslo but they were unsure which method of transport he would use to return. I hadn’t needed any guardsmen so the two remaining men rode ahead and scouted the road. We encountered no trouble on the way.