Space Opera Books


Steam and Thunder: Book One of the Creationist Duology Chapter 1

Chapter 1

As age overtakes us, memory from childhood fades. There are moments, as adults that are embellished, that still remain vivid. Jac would always think that the birth of Princess Annaxier was his first memory. Her birth and the firelights.

His father, a simple maker of carts, awakened Jacklincoln, his eldest son early that day. It was still dark night outside. Jac knew as an adult that the dark bled off quickly in the summer months, and Princess Annaxier had been born very near the vernal equinox. Samathon Cartwright woke his son and speedily dressed the boy of three cycles. They ate two pieces of yesterday’s bread with honey on it. Sam the Cartwright was the only journeyman at the shop of Milosk Cartwright, his uncle.

Master Milosk’s shop was the most renown in all of southern Hornik for its craftsmanship, but also for its artistry. It was not the largest foundry, yet it served. New cart designs though were produced with a consistency every five cycles since Samathon had come of age, and before that every eight to ten cycles when Milo was in his prime. Often extra care was taken with the carts. Artistic carving would adorn them throughout, making them much more valuable than anything utilitarian that was produced by rivals.

Sam was proud of the growing family his wife Vivan had given him. Three children and a fourth on the way. Master Milosk provided him with his own tenement in the compound and they had a lordly three rooms. His uncle Milosk had been glad of his nephew coming to him when his own son died of the wasting illness, and now as Milosk hands were too crippled and pained to do much work, Sam handled most of the production with the three apprentices, while Milosk handled the sales. Soon enough Samathon would be the master.

The birth of an heir to King Lancellnick Farserit was the cause for a national celebration and his majesty had made the official day to be Verday, with Holyday the next. It was two days without work and the Kingdom of Hornik rejoiced at the simple decision also. Annaxier was a healthy five day old child and the word would have reached near every part of the kingdom of Hornik by Verday.

The city of Cawless was two days ride by royal messenger from the capital of Firtoskin. With more than ten thousand souls, it was the fifth largest city in the Kingdom. The foundry and shop of Master Milosk was located along the river edge, in that part of town, south of the nobles great houses, that many of the premier shops used.

Next to the foundry was the smaller shop of Master Fenntrel, the wheelwright. On the opposite bank of the Vernis was the smithy of Master Jamestash whom supplied the two wrights with their metal stock at reasonable prices. As with many of the class of craftsmen, the three were all distantly related.

Further down stream, where the Vernis picked up speed at a slight narrows was the Lumber Mill of Master Carlincoln. He was a young thin faced man. Known to be parsimonious with his guildens and free with his coppens, but enjoyed the location established by his great-grandfather on the banks of Vernis. Master Carlincoln also had several other Masters as partners in his endeavors, including the Wheelwright, Cartwright, and Blacksmith. His father had run into severe monetary difficulties and loans from these men helped him. It was with regret that Carlincoln could not overcharge the three men, as he did with most others.

The town had several other areas of Craft and Artisan shops, but the banks of the Vernis had attracted the first such men, and their proximity to the Vernis and the Nobles ensured that they were the most heavily trafficked. Often other parts of Cawless, such as the jewel shop of Master Gunthertic in Portside, would be given the custom of the great, as true genius was seen in the products there. But eventually Maser Gunthertic’s success would give him the means to move to the banks of the Vernis as well.

The shops and foundries along the bank of the Vernis were all painted woods of golds and greens, blues and oranges. Rich colors and hues abounded. Then fancy signage showed the nature of the shop. The Cartwright boasted glazed windows that looked out in broad expanses from the second stories that overlooked Riverroad and the Vernis. A wealthy merchant establishment indeed that could afford so much glazing.

The shop of Milosk Cartwright was fortunate to be on the east bank and thus Sam and Jac would not have to cross at either the great Conqueror bridge, or the two lesser bridges, The Little Deem, or Southside to make their way further into town.. Usually the bridges were so packed with people that the few minute walk was considered something to be avoided. Ferrymen ran little boats back and forth across the Vernis for a few coppens, but this day, with many from the outlying areas coming to the celebrations, it could take more than a round to cross. The ferrymen were all relishing the extra profits to be had from such a grand celebration.

Samathon had often thought of purchasing a small boat when his children were a little older so that they could go on the Vernis. Samathon’s cousin had one when they were children, but after his death, Milosk had gotten rid of it.

Jac remembered the journey through the very awake city. It still took a round for a trip that would usually only take a third of that. Through the lane of the Saltcellars, where bright colors ruled, past the great houses of the Merchants who traveled the country and the continent bringing back wares from all parts. Only the lighter blues, greens and white would be seen here. And the middle of the street had a lush greensward strip running it’s length.

Then down the Street of the Goldsmiths, which was where the big moneylenders now had their establishments. Here the window glazing had become even more prodigious than that along Riverroad. The hues of the moneylenders were dark browns, deep umbers, blacks and forest greens. Nowhere in the city was there a spot of purple on a house. That sacrilegious color had no place in Cawless. Traveling street of Goldsmiths would take one unto Temple Square.

Here the three great faiths had their places of worship.

The One True faith, with it’s giant domed temple was dwarfed by the great hall of Mortonish. The pantheon that had roots in ancient Neveria and still had many of the lower classes worshipping it. A father god that protected farmers surely appealed to those that worked the land. Its sanctuary upheld by the dated arches and buttresses that the great engineers of Neveria had postulated and created. Finally the official synagogue of Krien, which the Conqueror had adopted as his god, when taking Hornik away from the family of Great Ishyurk who had followed the One True faith. Nobles were equally split between the two greater faiths, as they termed them.

The Way of Lancecoin the Third, last ruler of the Ishyurk line who had founded the city of Cawless, led the short distance from Temple Square to the King’s Grange. Surrounded on three sides by the great palaces. The King’s Palace, which King Lancellnick visited each three cycles or so predominated on the north side of the greensward. It had been the center of government for the first two Farserit kings before they moved the capital back to the rebuilt Firtoskin. During the Conquest, Firtoskin had been nearly raised to the ground after a siege that lasted more than a cycle.

On the East side of the large square whose grass was generally maintained by a herd of shaggy haired goats under royal protection, the Palace of Justice stood. Here the King’s Governor, lord Colndefroc currently, the Baron of Harnmere, ensured that the cities administration was managed. The Palace of Justice was a third larger than the King’s Palace, for it had many men devoted to the running of the city who lived and worked within. One of the city barracks of the constabulary also housed within that palace. Lord Colndefroc though would be glad to leave after his four cycles as Governor, for the rooms allotted to him and his family were smaller than his manor home in Harnmere. The third side of the field was the Palace of the Marshall. Smaller than the other two, but a fortified building that housed the Cawless Regiment. Two thousand men who served as the defense of the city and the surrounding countryside. When King Lancellnick’s father had restricted the private armies of his nobles to small groups of bodyguards only, the royal army took on a more permanent and more important significance.

The royal Palace was on the northeast side of the square and it stood grandly alone facing the square with great stout walls of wood that had been reinforced with river stones and mortared in place. Large wrought iron gates and fencing were seen at several intervals in the granite façade for it was a place of reign rather than rule. If need be, the King would retreat into the Palace of the Marshall with its impregnable walls. A thirty foot space separated the fortress from the street and the neighboring buildings. Several rich merchants and craftsmen had built shops in the nearly twenty other buildings that lined the southeast side of the great square along with the fortress. The Palace of Justice stood alone with no wall or fence to separate it, though only four points provided access.

The Palace was raised two steps above the entire Grange. It fronted the Northwest side of the square and two entryways a similar distance apart were seen in it’s long face. They were mirrored by two entrances on the far side of the building that gave way to Hangman’s Square.

That square catered to not only the occasional final sentencing of justice, but the shops and establishments that lined the square were themed for those of less pious pursuits than others. The licensed bordellos, gambling dens and several liquor hovels were scattered about the square that hosted a trade market every Terraceday, except when there was to be a hanging. Then it became more like a county faire, with gaiety and laughter. A scene that many of the Governors could not stomach nor understand. Certainly the citizenry of Firtoskin did nod not act the same when the Grand Palace of Justice there carried out a sentence.

The southwest side of the King’s Grange held a mix of mostly the homes of the well to do and nobility, though here three merchants, and four taverns were also ensconced. It was the King’s Grange that the official celebrations were to take place, though it should be mentioned that citizenry saw to much activity in Temple Square as all three great religions held fairs honoring the king’s first child. What went on in Hangman’s Square was incendiary as could generally be expected. In later cycles those who had wandered into the Square and were fortunate to have any memories of it would remember streets flowing with wines and ales, and later vomit, offal and worse, as a party that began the previous night continued on through the next. Lord Colndefroc finally did order his many constabulary deputies into the fray and rousted the square clear when he thought it was safe to do so. During the day he just kept those that he correctly discerned as rabble, away from the official celebrations, the next block over.

Jac pulled at his father’s collar, “Da, ta lies. Da, ta lies.”

“Yes Jac.”

“Purty Da. Purty!”

“Yes. It is for princess Annaxier.”


Sam was patient with new words., he repeated slowly, “Princess.”

“Pah rin cest.” Jac grinned knowing how good he sounded.

“Annaxier.” Sam knew this would be difficult. Full nomens were hard even for adults. It was why once an acquaintanceship turned into friendship the small nomens were used.

“Ah hex hair.”

“Close enough Jac.” The young boy let out a laugh. He then glanced again as another burst of the firelights blazed into the sky.

It had been a long day but the nap Jac had taken allowed him to be wide awake for the early evening display. Sam had wondered if after the Juggler’s and Fire Eaters the boy could fall asleep.

They had retired to Master Mikaelstan’s glass shop, which was on the King’s Grange. Mik, a short round man with red cheeks and singed eyelashes, had offered his hospitality a few weeks before as announcements of the queen’s delivery date loomed, and plans were related of the celebration that was going to take place. Mik did a good deal of trade with Sam and his uncle and so a good friendship backed the offer.

Sam had bought Jac treat after treat, Fried Dolingus, Nanabar’s, hot rolls dipped in anicort. The little boy ate some of each treat and Sam finished whatever his son couldn’t. Mik had two children, each a little older than Jac. The three played with toys for a bit after Jac woke from his nap, then grabbing a few bites of Evenmeal, they all ventured back to the square for more of the entertainments.

As dusk settled, Mikaelstan opened his roof for viewing of the firelights. King Lancellnick, Lord Colndefroc and the city burghers were paying enough to provide a show that would be longer than half of a round. Many other men of business that Sam delighted in knowing and meeting, with their children, also gathered on the roof. The women clustered down below and gapped out the window.

Jac did not remember what the men talked about that night, for he was too young to know the conversation, but he knew from later cycles as his father related the tale how Sam had made several advantageous alliances and these contacts later helped with making the cartwright foundry even larger than it had been under great uncle Milosk. Since there was no room along the Vernis to expand, Samathon would eventually add to the yard by purchasing land across the street of Riverroad and just a touch down that was for sale. Here he set up works just to handle the axles and undercarriage construction.

Through these cycles of industry of Samathon Cartwright, Jac led a charmed life. As the son of a respected craftsmen and artisan he was rather blessed in the great scheme of society. There were many other children less well taken care of then there were better taken care of. The Cartwrights were close to the gulf that separated the merchants and craftsmen from the truly wealthy. Even those of the nobility whose wealth diminished with the tide of time and were less fortunate then the Cartwrights strove to maintain the appearance of far greater circumstances.

* * *

The Cartwright clan, and it grew as the foundry grew, saw a time of prosperity. Sam sent for the son of his mother’s cousin to apprentice, and his wife’s nephew also came into the business. The children of Sam and his relatives were tutored privately at the main house as Milosk doted on the many relations filling his home. When Samathon’s second son, Coloskthon was born, the grand old man brought the entire family into the great house to live.

Vivan had little time if she were not to live in the great house. She spent most of her midday there already seeing to the running of the Master’s household and had little time to see to her own, especially when trying to nurse a newborn. Thus Milosk solved all by bringing his heir and family all under one roof.

In their education, Jac and his older sister Kathierin excelled at their studies showing a provenance for numbers. They could write well but at age six and seven, neither of the children showed much affinity for the love of words.

Where Jac also showed skills was in the shop. His father had started him polishing the chrome joinings and the brass. From there Jac took to do fitting on the small axle joints where a small hand was deft and useful. It was shortly after this that the Cartwright Foundry was pleased to offer a new wheel joint that used ball bearings. It had taken three moons to perfect, but when Jac had showed his father his idea after playing with his marbles and applying it to Master Fenntrel’s wheels in the shop. All could see the wheels rotated with more ease.

It was priced at twice what a normal axle but it was due to last longer and take more abuse. Master Fenntrel was given the opportunity to learn the secrets of the bearings so that he would not lose business too terribly. For with wheels lasting longer, he would be selling less of them. He resented Jac on some days, but generally it was not ill that he thought.

At first the wheels sold slowly and so Fenntrel thought they would not catch on, then as they sold better, he was the only one supplying them and so made handsomely at it. Eventually he did note that over the long run there would be less wheels sold. He was fortunate that he had been gifted the technique of making the new wheels, for he had a great advantage over other wheelwrights. Within two cycles he had opened a new foundry in Firtoskin on the profits and the ability to say he was the builder of the original smooth wheel.

Vivan however ensured that Master Fenntrel put aside some money for her son Jac from each cycle’s sale. Fen’s good fortune was the result of her son’s design. Fen would have done so for the gift of the great idea. He had thought to give the lad ten guildens when he reached his majority, some twelve cycles hence, but that would have been a pittance compared to the new money Fen was making. He had made two guildens on the new wheels in its first season alone.

Vivan had a brother who had become a pater in the holy religion of Krien. Though he preached in the far north at Delham, Pater Lincarjirt ensured that Fen received some special attention from his holy brethren. Vivan was happy to note two paters and a clerk pay a social call on Master Fenntrel a few moons after the first wheels began to sell. Jac had been given the letter from his uncle, now a senior pater in the Holy religion.

“Sister, I bid you greeting. I have been informed by my brethren of Cawless that my nephew Jacklincoln will be well rewarded for his gift to your Master Wheelwright. As the church takes but a tenth part of all that is good of it’s parishioners it was felt that such a gifting from your Master to young Jac should be no less. Indeed we find in holy text some precedent for just such. I believe that the Master shall come to an accounting each new moon and store the funds for young Jac in the same local establishment that brother Samathon stores his own funds. I pray that this eases your mind and that our young rapscallion Jac shall see an earthly reward for his good deeds, as he will no doubt receive a heavenly one for his constant prayers to Krien the Maker.”

The letter went on to say other nice things, but Vivan had shown the way to good husbandry of the wealth. Further Jac’s good fortune was needful of rewarding he that had ensured it. Jac always gave his tithe, though many did not, to the Holy religion of Krien. He sent his gifting to his uncle and overtime this mutually helped his uncle Lincarjirt also.

The new wheel and axle cart, with its greater reliability saw to a very great commission for Samathon and the foundry. It was fortunate that Milosk lived to see the papers signed with the agents of King Lancellnick himself. For thirty carts were commissioned for work on the great canal. The canal would start in Cawless on the banks of the Vernis and wend it’s way to Marest, Julon, and finally to Firtoskin. The canal was a great project overseen by Master Builder Mikonal Gearman with over a hundred workers. Master Gearman was one of the three Master Builders then in the King’s employ.

All these thoughts of the world of Jac’s youth were tied to who he was. What he was to become. It all led to the day that changed all.

As memories went, the day that Jac fell into the canal and nearly was caught in the lock was his second memory and it was horrible and good both. It was the Firtoskin Canal that had recently been built and was being tested. Jac was sure that he had caused his Great Uncle Milosk’s death, for it was his uncle that had taken him to walk along the new stretch of canal to the first lock and look upon the wonder.

It was Master Builder Gearman who had invented the idea of the locks and sold them to the king. Two of the new locks were in use in Firtoskin and linked the Greater Themis with the Lessor Themis river. The rivers that had served to guard the north and south sides of the city for many centuries, until the city itself had expanded beyond their courses.

Jac remembered the moment as the event that caused his uncle to die three days later. Milosk never recovering from his running to try and catch the boy who shot over the artificial waterfall created by the two gates opening. Others would remember it as quite a different event. For a week later Jac had produced the first rudiments of the Steam Twirler. That was what Jac first called it.

Jac had thought a great deal of his experience as both he and his great uncle Milosk were put to bed that day. Jac of course was blamed for the event though no one said more than a word about it. Milosk assured Samathon between horrible hacking coughs that the boy was not at fault and eventually Sam must have believed it. Other eyewitnesses, including Master Gearman were to confirm this, but Jac never took those words to heart. Jac had been close to the embankment when it gave way. The immediate events happened so quickly, that Jac would doubt forever memories and assurances that he had stood behind the marker lines that the workers had placed. The rush to try the great gates had seen them tested before a slurry coat had been placed over the embankment to keep it from eroding. Jac would find it always hard to believe that he could not have prevented his own falling into the canal.

Instead Jac listened to his Great Uncle’s hacking cough from the floor below, or the tea kettle screech as steam was forced out of it signifying the water for tea was ready. Herb tea had proven to cure a variety of ills, and Milosk was dosed with several infusions. Jac was given the Erwine, Chamomile and Satchthyme tisane thought to ward off colds. He didn’t catch one so perhaps it did work. Milosk however never rose from his bed again. He passed gently and the family took to mourning even as the shop continued to work on the carts of the King’s great commission. Twenty had been delivered and ten more were still due.

The tale then belonged to others but Jac had been told much of it.

* * *

Master Gearman stopped by the shop every few days for his guilt was unabsolved. Even as Jac returned to the shop and took up his tasks of polishing and joining, he had applied his free time to making the steam twirler. Combining the ideas in his head of the rushing through the Lock and the Tea Kettle, he spent some rounds working on the device.

The prototype of two days work sat chuffing in a corner of the shop to the annoyance of the apprentices and two journeymen that Master Samathon employed. Master Gearman arrived once again to try and bring comfort to the Cartwrights and himself.

“What is this noisy contraption, eh? A new mice scarer?” Gearman grinned at the hodgepodge collection of copper, iron, brass, rust, wire, rope and cloth.

“It’s young Jac’s. Built it a few days ago. Makes an infernal noise every so often.” Karlplatt, the senior apprentice said.

“Every quarter round, give or take.” Henriforlu, the cousin of Sam’s who was now a journeyman in the shop said. “You should note that apprentice, it is a precision.”

That stopped Master Gearman. He looked closer. “This wheel, it spins.”

“Aye. Jac says twirls. Look at it. I tapped it out. I believe Jac has it so you can adjust to twirl to about two thousand times per round.” Mikonal reached for chalk and a board. He quickly did some calculations.

“Surely it is a child’s toy. Jacklincoln is not yet seven winters of age.” Karlplatt was nearly sixteen cycles and so knew something of the world.

Mikonal was entranced and reached a tentative hand to touch the wheel. “Here, wouldn’t do that if I were you. There are some nasty sharp ends all over it. Man could get cut up some, eh Karl.”

“Alright, so I got a little scratched.”

“Blood all over the shop and your hand is still bandaged from the burn you took. Light work for the better part of next week too, I should think,” the older Henri smiled beatifically.

Master Gearman noticed then the heat from the article. And the small pile of coal nearby. He noted a little casement at the bottom where the coal was obviously placed.

“I have to feed it every round or so.” Jac had come into the shop just then and Master Gearman jumped for he had not heard the young lad enter or approach next to his shoulder.

“You startled me child.”

“I am sorry master.”

“No, do not be sorry. Jacklincoln Cartwright, do not be sorry. They tell me this is your work. Is that so?” Gearman had looked away from the hodge podge of tubes, and wheels, steam and coal to fully focus on Jac. Jac would have thought the man reluctant to have looked at anything but his steam twirler. The master had sunk down to his knees to put them more on an equal height, and he stared into the Jac’s face.

Jac for his part was slightly ashamed. The death of his great uncle haunted him then. “I know I should be more at my studies Master, but it was in my head and I needed to finish it.”

“In your head. In the boy’s head. Ha. Ha-ha. Ha.” And Gearman let out a laugh and scooped Jac up and swung him about. “He says it was in his head, his head. He says it was in his head.” The King’s Builder, a man of considerable influence and power amongst all those of trade began to sing and dance about the workshop. Soon Jac was laughing too as he flew when Mikonal spun him about. Karl and Henri both stood in awe until Henri shook himself free from his momentary shock and then began to clap out a beat to Mikonal’s impromptu tune.

Karl looked as if he thought the world was mad. Even as the quarter round came and the infernal contraption let out a screech that caused the three others to laugh louder. Then Henri and Jac both started singing to the little song. Karl turned to leave and fetch the master but he needn’t have bothered as Master Samathon and then Vivan, and all the others who were about the Foundry came to see the commotion.

“Here now, what is in whose head… And Jac, when Master Gearman has put you down, I would be obliged if you put the fire out in that apparatus of yours.” Sam used his stern fatherly tone. Sam had told Jac he was proud that his son had created another device, though he wished it was something useful like the ball bearing wheels that were a boon for business. Jac had said that perhaps there was a way to level the bouncing in the carts by putting braces along the axle, but he had yet to work on that. Sam said he wished he would.

“No Master Cartwright. Do not allow Jac to place that fire out. That fire will change the world. This apparatus as you all call it, it is wonderful.”

Vivan was not one to allow a moment to pass, “Of course. Jac is very smart. Anything he makes is bound to be wonderful as such.”

“I think we had best go inside and talk this over. Why is the steam thingus so wonderful?” Samathon asked.

“Because it does a thing that until now only the Gods could do for us. It creates power.”

They all looked at each other, many not sure what that meant. Then Vivan noticed the wheel turning and she looked startled. “The wheel. It turns and there is no wind, or stream, or horse. The wheel turns.”

“Aye the wheel turns,” Master Builder Gearman said.

Sam was a bit slower. He had spent a lifetime learning a craft and an artisanship that did not stretch to new invention. If his son had not thought of a way to make a wheel better, he would never have had them to sell. “Oh praise Krien. Praise Krien.” He let out a sob, then he started to cry.

“Master Cartwright, you should rejoice, not cry.”

“Indeed Master Gearman, I do rejoice. I cry of happiness. My son is blessed.” They began to gather those who should return to the house, and those who needed to go back to their duties, and soon order was restored at the foundry. But an event such as this only led word and rumor spread which is precisely what began. It was a round before Karlplatt was sent on an errand outside the foundry to Master Jamestash’s smithy, but once there he couldn’t but relate to Tomlerty, an apprentice of Master Jamestash the story of what Master Gearman said and did in the foundry earlier.

It took another couple rounds before everyone in the Smithy had heard the story and Master Jamestash left immediately for the Cartwright foundry as soon as heard the story, garbled though it was, but by then word had reached two other establishments through the apprentice grapevine. By the time Master Jamestash paid his respects to Master Samathon matters were all but settled. And as James heard the news and was shown the device, Master Fen arrived with his senior journeyman to see the steam twirler also.

Master Gearman had begun the proceedings in the dining room of the great house with only Master Samathon, Mistress Vivan and Jac in attendance. “First Jac, you have created something that will be very beneficial to the kingdom. I don’t want you to go about telling people of this invention of yours willy nilly. It is a great secret.”

“But it wasn’t anything.”

“The lad has good speech. You have a tutor for the boy?” Master Gearman noted this. Vivan nodded.

“Yes we have one for all the children. Goodman Marshorurn teaches all the children their numbers and letters.”

“Drawing?” She shook her head. “We’ll have to rectify that. In addition we shall have to add to your curriculum, the study of elements, of powers and of arcane lore. Especially what we have from the Neverian masters.”

Samathon was taken by the pace of the builders thoughts. “Are you not speeding along now. Jac is but nigh on seven. And those lessons are expensive.”

Mikonal sat there for a moment then tilted his head back at an awkward angle and began to laugh yet once more. He started to rock and hit his hand on the table as he laughed, and Sam joined in though he did not know why. Vivan looked at the two and crossed to the side board where she had a bowl of fruit, tankards and some ale which she busied herself preparing to bring to the table. She shook her head in exasperation knowing that when serious business needed to be done, best it was left to women, for men were too easily sidetracked with their particular humors.

“No, I surely must have…” Mikonal tried to speak.

“I thought I made it clear…” He tried again.

Finally taking hold of himself, “My dear Master Samathon, I wish to apprentice your son. I shall pay for his lessons. I shall see him educated so that one day he too shall take his place as a Builder and most definitely with his talents, should they continue in this wise and prosper, he too shall be a King’s man.”

Master Builder Mikonal Gearman was not married, though he had been a Master of his craft for five cycles by then. Seeing nearly forty winters. He had journeyed to far lands, as he had related in prior visits to the Cartwright foundry and had entertained old Milosk the day before Milosk died with a long tale of his cycle long journey to, and study at, the court of the Sultan of Justabul.

“That can not be. He is my oldest and he shows sign of being a great Cartwright.” Samathon had plans for young Jac from the moment the Midwife had shown him the young babe shortly after the birth. He had made the plans during his wife’s first pregnancy when she bore their daughter Kathierin. If Sam thought of it, he had made the plans when he had chosen to become a Cartwright and apprenticed to his uncle.

Master Gearman nodded then spoke, “Ah I understand. No, I know I have no child, and that is the crux of the matter. You naturally wish your son to takeover the business from you. Yet not always does a son follow his father. I recollect that this was the business of your Uncle?”

“Yes, that is so,” Samathon said.

“And your father, what is his trade?” Vivan stood behind her husband and nodded to Mikonal so that her husband could not see. She knew this was the correct path to take and also one that perhaps she would not have to then speak herself.

“He was a farrier.” Samathon was adept enough to know where the logic would take them. “Even so, my brother is a farrier, and it is a proud business.”

Mikonal blanched and stroked his beard. “Even a builder is a trade to be proud of.”

“Aye that is true. I meant no insult,” Jac’s father said.

“I do not take offense, Master Cartwright.” Mikonal reached for the tankard that had been placed in front of him. “I merely say that you perhaps have gifts in the way of making carts. Jac has gifts of another nature. You told me yourself it was his inspirations that led you to the new wheels that are on your cart, and perhaps one day greater enhancements would be forthcoming as Jac came into his own. Well this day he surely has done so.”

“But even if we were willing,” Vivan now spoke, “The fees to the Guild of Builders to start an apprenticeship are high.” She did not relate that they most likely had the money. Milosk Cartwright and Samathon Cartwright had made good money these cycles. She had husbanded it very well and saw that it earned interest from the money houses on Goldsmiths row. She had the family money in three of them so no one knew quite how much they had, but a normal Cartwright foundry, even one the size of Samathon’s should have been hard pressed to produce the Guildens needed to place a son in the Builder’s Guild.

“This that you say is true. Yet it is also true that a Master, such as myself, may instruct the Guild that he shall pay the cycle registery fees to the guild as he deems, and also may waive his apprenticeship fees. My father was not a farrier, that is a trade. My father was a serf. He and my mother and my three siblings and I worked the lands of Baron Nedilrick up Yarvil way. We had a plot about a third the size of your foundry yard. When I was twelve, my father took me aside and told me I was too smart to work all my days in the dirt and then die having achieved nothing. He sent me off to Yarvil with all our savings, not quite Two Guildens. I was old as apprentices go, yet I survived my cycle.”

It was the law that if a peasant could live for a cycle and a day free of his land, he was free forever. Mikonal took another drink of his ale. “I first apprenticed to a Stone Mason and there I learned much about mass, and structure. I worked on the Guildhouse in Yarvil. It was ten cycles in the building and I grew to manhood. I learned enough to know that I knew little of the craft of building, though I dare say I knew quite a bit more than the apprentices of Master Builder Kevthon of Yarvil. He noticed and noted that I had the skills of a journeyman. He told me to get my twenty Guilden and he would sponser me to the Guild.”

Twenty Guilden was a lot of money. It would buy many carts from Samathon. A Guilden was considered the cost of one cycles worth of oats that a person might live on. Twenty was an enormous amount. “That seems very expensive.” Samathon charged two Guilden as an apprentice fee, and as many Masters did, let the boys work their way out of the debt. It was possible that by the time they were ready to become a senior apprentice they would have done so. Samathon also had to put things in perspective. Since Princess Annaxier had been born and he had made such good contacts with others when they all watched the firelights from Master Mikaelstan’s roof, much more than twenty Guilden passed through his hand. Vivan had just recently told him that this cycle, with the contract for the King, they would see 80 Guilden, and surely keep more than a tenth part of that for their household.

“It was. At first I thought I would never earn such. But I persevered. It was then I traveled to the land of the Sultan of Justabul. I visited the courts of the King-Emperor of Nosgovia and the palaces of the Kings of Giurance and Vonaria. I was what you might call a pirate and adventurer. I saw the great Cathedrals, Synagogues and Temples, Fortresses, Castles, Keeps and Palaces. I learned more about my craft than many another. And I earned my twenty Guilden and then some. I returned to Yarvil and Master Kevthon was true to his word. I became a builder. At the conclusion of my second project, the Gardens of the Duke of Brisac, I was an admitted Master. It just took the Guild two more cycles to acknowledge that.”

Mikonal laughed again as did Sam. Sam felt he had to wait three cycles beyond when his skill was such to be acknowledged a Master. Perhaps he would still be waiting if his Uncle Milosk had not told his Guild brothers that all the work was being supervised by his nephew and it was long past time that they acknowledged it also. “I wish you to think long about the life that Jac should lead. You could have lived happily as a Farrier perhaps, but I think you know that you are much happier Cartwright as a Cartwright.” The two men laughed at the wit and had another quaff of ale. Sam’s tankard ran dry and his wife hurriedly filled it. She knew how to keep him happy.

Mikonal wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and beard. “I could never be happy as a peasant and glad I am that I saved a sister and one brother from that life. My father died whilst I was in Giurance. My mother was dead before that. The peasant’s plot I am told is still there, worked by some other family. Mine have found a life somewhat happier, though I think my sister’s husband is a brute.”

“All you men be brutes when the drink is upon you, and that be truth. So no more of this here ale till you have some bread in your stomachs. There is good bees honey there for dipping and spreading, and it does not come cheap.” Vivan snatched the pitcher away from the table and stood guard over it as she placed it back on the side board.

Jac sat on a bench near his mother, and listened intently. He followed most of what his father and Master Gearman had said but not all. He did understand about apprenticing to the Builder. And that he did not want to do.

“I want to be a Cartwright,” Jac spoke up and this focused all the adults to look at the mostly forgotten lad. “I want to stay here with Da and mother.”

That alone was enough to change Samathon’s mind. It was what he said when his own parents sent him across the whole of Southern Hornik to apprentice to his uncle. Sam picked his son up and put him on his knee. “Now Jac, it just might be that Master Gearman has something we should listen to. Not many lads have the chance to become a builder. There is great fame in that line, and if you become one of the King’s men…” Samathon knew that with a position like that, his son would never have to worry.

“Pardon, but I think that being a builder is just the start. Jac, you have created something that we builders have long been striving for. We have only been able to create so many windmills, and watermills, and the improvements we have made add very little to that…” Jac here interrupted.

“Oh but you can save a great deal of, I call ‘em horse steps, but there must be a better name. I calls it that because of all the steps horses go about the midden when they are making ta power. ‘Ways you can save a good third if use the er, my, um, the wheel balls we, I mean Master Fenntrel makes.” Jac could keep straight the terms of who made the small ball bearings and axle couplings for the wheels that he had thought of, but when he was excited, it was hard to keep track of all the relationships.

Master Mikonal paused and thought. “Yes of course, the resistance has lessened therefore allowing more energy to be produced with less effort. That Master Cartwright is why the Builders need your son more than any other trade. And as I said, I think this is something more than just Builders. Perhaps the Guild of Creators is what Jac has formed and one day we all will have forgotten what life was like with out the things that Jac has shown us. A device that produced power with just some coal…”

“And some water. And you have to use a lot of pipes back and forth…”

“Ha. Ha-Ha” Master Mikonal laughed again. “No Jac don’t share just yet. We must come to terms. You want to protect your creations and we want to see more of them.”

“Aye.” Vivan spoke, “I understand the Master now. Jacklincoln Cartwright attend me. What do you like best? Thinking these new things out, or making the carts in the shop. And you know you can not lie to me, and you also know it will be long cycles before you get as good as your Da and can do all he does, but these apparatus and contraptions of yours, you make alive now. What is it you be liking best.”

When his mother spoke like that, he knew it was hopeless to lie. “I like …rap…ns.”

“What was that. Don’t speak like you have mud in your mouth. Say it proper.”

Jac looked up at his father, there was moisture around his eyes, “I like my contraptions.”

Master Mikonal breathed out heavily. “There it is then. I shall do this. I shall waive the apprenticeship fee and shall take him under my guidance now. It is still early for the lad, you are not yet seven, so it is two cycles early, but we shall use that time well. Jac can learn much and he has his letters so he can read some of the great tomes. I hope you can learn languages, some of the work I have is not in Hornish.” Mikonal smiled. “Well most of the good stuff I have is not in Hornish.”

Samathon laughed this time. “It is what I always said about you builders. Most of what you devise is other’s work.” He bounced Jac lightly on his knee and the little lad grinned from the pleasure of it, not realizing that soon he wouldn’t have that comfort again.

“True, very true. As for the apprenticeship, young Jac I shall take your device to King Lancellnick, and I think shortly after that I shall be taking you to the king also. There we shall surely obtain funds to make many more of them and use them in places where they will do a great good. And for every one we sell, I shall give you a tenth of the profits.” A very generous arrangement and one that Vivan was familiar with due to her brother’s instigation over the matter of the wheel bearings.

Vivan said, “No. It shall be half of all that Jac thinks of, you shall divide equally.” Mikonal looked at Mistress Vivan.

“Now Goodwife Cartwright…” He did not get any further than that when she stared him down.

“It shall be half and I shall tell you why. If Jac’s creation is even a bit as good as you say, then we could make them here, and not worry about costing business from any other Master as we did with the Wheel bearings. We could make them here and sell them here, and Jac would get all the profit. And I do not think it would be long before King Lancellnick and his nobles came to our doors. A gift of one of the contraptions to Governor Colndefroc should bring a few royal commissioners round our door pretty quick.

“No Jac will apprentice to you because you can help him to learn more about what he likes and is good at. For that you will get half of all he creates. Mind I don’t say that he should get half of any of your trade as it now is.” Some trade and craftsmen had merged their establishments over time and that would have been the meaning there. What Vivan presented was fair and adequate to both parties. Mikonal knew that if he wanted to exploit Jac there would be ample opportunities later, but then there might be consequences to that also. Jac also may have been a two idea wonder, though Mik doubted that.

“Son, you say the thing needs coal.” Sam looked at Jac, then at Mikonal slowly, and the men both looked at Vivan.

“Aye, or wood. Coal burns better, it’s hotter, less smoke and lasts longer.”

“There’s some big coal deposits bout ten or twenty leagues northwest of the city. I be wondering how much they would sell for?” Sam supplied.

“Indeed a very grand thought, a very grand thought indeed…”

Things settled quickly after that. When the Canal at Cawless was finished and Master Mikonal moved to the next stage, Jac would begin his apprenticeship. During that time the two masters combined money and bought some of the coal fields north of Cawless and over the next two moons built a few devices with the Steam power that would end up being practical indeed. But finally the day came when Jac left his family and another world opened to him

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In this chapter, a prequel of the main story we meet our hero, Jacklincoln Cartwright. We also meet his family who are supporting characters to him. We see a little of the city that he was born at. Here is a city that we see described so we get context as to the era that Jac was born. We also meet another character Master Builder Mikonal Gearman who will be the guide for Jac during the novel. We see that we are at the first use of Locks on Canals in our mythical country of Hornik.

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