Space Opera Books


Steam and Thunder: Book One of the Creationist Duology Chapter 3

Chapter 3

“Do you realize what this means?” Mikonal Gearman asked later.

Jac said, “Yes. We’ll have an ear at the court for now. We can talk almost directly to the king, for if what the Princess said was true, she and the king do talk often. We must do our best to save the queen, and we need to take on girls as apprentices as soon as we can, for the Princess thinks that we have done wrong by her and all women that we have yet to do so.”

Mikonal looked a question. “Really I did not find that last bit in all you told me.”

Jac said, “I embellished it a little. The Princess was not happy when she pointed out that she had a great education. She reminded me by saying it, that few women have such, and when they do they can little use it.”

Now Mikonal looked as if he understood. “Yes, yes. We shall look into it. I am sure there have been some women about who wanted into the Guild…” Gearman said and then returned to his one favorite part of Jac's day. Talking of Princess Annaxier. “That she favored you for near half a round. Your journeymen were in awe that you had a private audience…”

Jac stopped him, “You old hypocrite. You don’t want women in the guild. All these years I thought that you liked women, but you don’t. Oh, you like to have bed sport with them. But not to talk to them. You think they are beneath you, and you have travelled all over. Is that why we have no women in the guild? I know that some have come and tried to get in. Tomorrow I shall have criers go throughout Firtoskin and tell all women to come and apply at the Creatory for a position. We shall devise simple tests in each of the seven discilplines and those that pass, I will discuss apprenticeship with.”

“Now don’t be hasty. Who says I do not like women?” Master Gearman who had been his friend, mentor, disciplinarian and guide for two thirds of his life tried to end that line of conversation.

“I know you too well. Explain yourself,” Jac said.

Mikonal began “The kingdom can ill afford to also have women learn our secrets…”

Jac interrupted, “That is everything you would like to say in as few words as possible? Let me see if I understand you. We already have hurt much of the kingdom with these changes that take men from the land and bring them to the city and the Makories. That has already caused you and others great concern. Women, who bear our children, cook our meals, and slave for us in the homes, can not be given such responsibility, not because you think them incapable, but because you don’t want to have another finger pointed at us for making such a change.” Jac had already been thinking about the argument of why there were no women in the guild of Creators. Once the Princess had opened the subject for such discussion, he knew he had to.

Mikonal nodded, “Yes, that is it. I should also be embarrassed from such arguments if we had a woman master amongst us. It would be uncomfortable.”

“You are the Guildmaster, partner, but I believe you do wrong, and so does the Princess. Very few guilds do not recognize women now. Some women are not destined to marry, or are incapable of having children, as are some men. The Healers know this and the Searching Healers hope to one day fix that. But those women should not be denied giving of their energies to the skill they are best at. What if a woman’s brain is better at these higher mathematics than a man’s? If we train the women and find that is so? Then our guild will benefit.”

“You can not be serious?” Gearman asked. “What proof do you have that it would be so?” Creators dealt in proofs. Tests and proofs.

“We see that men and their bodies are most often stronger then women. Why not women’s minds stronger then mens. Like the balance of a scale. We are given something that advances us, why are women not given something as well? For this I have no proof, just supposition that they should have something in opposition to men’s advantage.”

Mikonal paused before giving a response. He formulated his argument and then present it. “It does not say in any creed I have heard of or read, that we are all equal. Perhaps this is the nature of things. Do you argue the point with the Flora and Faunists that they observe such.” Gearman said. He wanted to talk further of how their firm could benefit from Jac's talk with the Princess. Jac knew there would be no benefit unless the two came to an agreement.

“I argue the point with you. If you wish to gain the Princess as ally I see two ways to do so. The first is to present her with a cure for the Queen. That I do not see happening though. I do not think that any shall find such a remedy before she will die. I have spent the afternoon reviewing all the Healers’ theories and found them all wanting. Perhaps we have thought too much on these tests that we want to conduct before we assure that any such procedure is safe for a person.”

“The King sent a request when the Queen first fell ill. I too looked at all that was available then. And I do so each moon. It is hard, but the king knows that people must die as surely as they will live. That we tempt fate when we try and heal that which the many gods want to take away,” Mikonal said.

Jac shook his head. Mikonal Gearman was the first to argue that all the Creators would not be so brilliant, and wouldn’t have found so many things to aid so many people, if the Gods had not inspired their works.

Jac said, “Yes, that is something that I think those who would argue the very existence of the Gods must decipher. The other means to become a friend to the Princess is to listen to her words and see how they shall relate to our own works. Where does it truly hurt our guild should we find apprentices that are women? There is a battle that has been waged by other guilds and those battles are long over. You will recall that I control my own destiny as a Creator now, and I shall see if there are any woman who would be worthy apprentices. Not the least reason being that the Princess shall respond favorable to the gesture.”

“Very well, GrandMaster. I agree. I can not but agree as you are our only GrandMaster.” It was a sore point between the two that most new inventions came from Jack. They did split the profits of all ventures equally. Master Mikonal managed the businesses, and Jac came up with new inventions for them to sell and exploit.

“I do not want to use my position ill, but I also want to make the correct decision. We meet as a guild in three days, I will tell all of my decision then, and we will discuss it. It will still take the guild to decide to make any woman apprentice I have taken, a journeywoman, or later, a master of our guild. Plenty of time to see if the Princess is correct, though I expect she is. I expect there is even one more reason we have no female apprentices in the guild,” Jac said.

“Yes, I thought you did quite well before in summarizing.” Master Gearman said.

“Oh, I don’t know. While I was growing, and becoming interested in women, if there were a few girls around, it would have made things much more interesting for me, and I should imagine much harder for you.” Jac smiled. The man had often had to be a parent to him, and that is what Jac referred to.

Master Gearman would certainly have had to deal with Jac's libido if their had been young girls in the shop. He had carefully managed how Jac had learned about sex, and who his bedmates were some years back in the house that Jac lived in. Overtime three servants taught Jac more than enough about women and enjoying bed games. More than he might have learned with a peer from the Creatory.

What they had not taught Jac was anything about love.

Master Gearman grunted. “True. That may have been a reason too.” He then smiled. “You seem set on this course with the Princess, and I do not fault it. But you will let me advise you should you run into trouble. Now you say she mentioned the new glass windows. I do remember the rooms that were assigned to Annaxier, and if I am right, we can refit them. But it would not be cheap. And it would take some time. Quite large casements and the wind…” Master Gearman spoke from memory, for it had been twenty years since he had worked on the palace.

Jac would investigate the following day to see if Mikonal was correct. It would be a nice gift for the Princess, but Jac had a better idea.

“So if your highness will allow…” Jac began when and Annaxier were together. “I can not say that there is any recuperative powers from sunlight, nor how easily moving the queen to observe the gardens from her window, or what else may come of it. But if we do just one window, and our measurements are exact ahead of time, my men can replace a window in the Queen’s chambers in a few rounds. I understand that she sleeps often from the illness and the medicines, that the healers believe help her. If we do but one window we can have it ready in four days, and then you can see the results yourself.”

Princess Annaxier nodded. “I should have to ask the King, but I believe he will say yes. When can we get started?”

“I could measure now, but that is forward of me. I should not enter the Queen’s chambers but if you, highness know how to take measurements, I have put on this paper what we do need, and these other pieces, well the builders of the castle kept track of some things that they did in certain rooms. I do not know which room is the Queen’s, but from what I saw on the records, I thought it could be here, here, this one or this last. If so I have measurements for the casements and you must just confirm them by doing this.” Jac bent down to the papers and knew that the Princess leaned over next to him.

So close Jac could smell her, and she smelled like fresh flowers. Today she was dressed less formally, but then she was at home, if you could call living in a castle, a home. Jac had noted that as he had entered and walked through the castle, and he had been there before, the area closer to the gate was more public, a great many more people about. Then as he was escorted further through halls, and rooms, there were less people. Then six guards at a staircase one floor down, a heavy oak door guarded by four more guards and then hardly anyone but a servant or guards on this floor with many closed doors, and long thin hallways.

Annaxier’s home and she had a gown, with a fine white wool undergarment. Her cotehardie was cut so that the long white sleeves only allowed her fingers to be be revealed and a few inches of her neckline and chest as well. The cotehardie itself was simple, though very form fitting. If the wool had not been present, then the swell of her bosom, which seemed even more generous than he had thought the previous day would have been seen. But it was all of one color, a rich purple the sleeves, neckline and bottom of the gown circled with a blue piece of trim, though the base had discolored having caught much of the dirt and dust on the stone floors about the castle. She had lifted her dress when she entered and he saw that she an underskirt that matched the trim color.

A belt of gold with medallions, circle and cinched her waist and another band of gold kept her hair held in place at her temples, circling her head with no adornment but there was scribe work of leafs and flowers hammered into the circlet. One buttons, the same color as her woolen shift, spaced no more than an inch, if that, were centered down the front of the cotehardie, to her waist. Jac reflected that if all women in their youth looked so healthy and pretty, men of all ages would be stopped and would not be able to do anything but look at such creatures. Maybe that was why women looked this good at this age, so that men would want to marry, and then make more children?

He had washed, going to the baths near the Creatory. The ancient kingdom of Neveria had used baths and the Searching Healers were sure that regular use of such was good for all. A bather was first to scrub as much dirt off, and then rinse, use a substance to create a lather, and then do all again, a final rinse and then one went into the baths, which were moderately warm. The king had installed several in the palace so not only the royal family, but the court and even the servants, could use them and be clean as well.

“Yes, this is the room, so that means these are the dimensions here of her windows. I think this one is the best for it would look towards the mountains which she has told me she loves to see.” Annaxier pointed and then pulled out one particular piece of paper.

“Yes those are the exact windows. Very good. I am told that most can not decipher my writing.”

“A simple system I think you have employed. C4 being the fourth window of your third guess, of which suite it was. Now will you show me how you wish me to measure. When I do fabric, the yarn I need, or thread, I just pull my hands apart.”

“You have heard of a builder’s measure? They are all different from firm to firm. Sometimes from craftsman to craftsman. There is much talk in the Guild of Builders to make it all one and the same, but they are a stubborn lot. They have not done so yet. Here is the one we use. You may keep it highness, a gift, but I will show you what it all means.” He showed her how to take a measurement, and then she demonstrated that she understood.

“You are right that it best that my mother not be disturbed, but if you will wait here, I shall get the measurements.” He agreed and she went to measure the window. If there was something wrong, he would know soon enough. He was left in a small room that was used by courtiers to have meetings as they attended upon the king, or saw to the kingdom’s business. A man poked his head in, then seeing the room occupied nodded and retreated.

In the main corridor his two guardsmen, along with some of the princess’ were stationed. This man came from another room. One thing that Jac was certain was that it had not been the king. While Jac waited he sketched, roughly another drawing of the window that his men would fashion and install. He then listed carefully all the measurements that the princess was to fetch and he would check through them with her when she had returned. He would also explain the reasons for some, and see if she could guess at the reasons for the rest.

“Ah, you have kept busy, I hope I was not too long. I did not tell my mother what I was about, for she was asleep. I think it will be a very nice surprise, and if we arrange for all on the fifth day, from today, she is being taken to the baths which is three rooms from her chamber. Your men will have three rounds to work. Would that be enough? If more is needed, I could possibly devise some reason for the workmen, but I should not like to inconvenience my mother,” Annaxier said.

“Neither would I, princess. I shall make three rounds work. My men shall come early and have everything ready, if a steward and some guardsmen can be assigned and then they can stage everything from a close place. Perhaps even the maids can see to that morning of removing what draperies surround the window as then my men won’t have to waste time doing so, and the drapes can even be cleaned while my men work.”

“An excellent idea. I shall take one of your papers and write all that down so I may see it attended to,” she said.

Then Annaxier began to do as she said. Quickly and efficiently. Working with the Princess seemed as easy as with one of the journeymen whom Jac had trained to follow his directions for years.

When she finished, she turned and must have seen how he was going over measurements. “We need one more, here, do you see. Instead of you going back to the queen’s room to measure it, can you have a messenger bring it to the creatory by tomorrow midday? We shall not need that part of the frame until then.” She nodded, and then he proceeded to quiz her about the window and how it all fit together and the measurements to see how much she understood of it.

“I am not surprised that you understand it so well. I am quite happy that you do,” Jac said when they had finished that part.

“Thank you GrandMaster. Perhaps one day I shall create something for the kingdom just as you do.” Jac nodded. He remembered that talks of where the Princess was too marry had ceased when the Queen had fallen ill. If the Queen had remained well, surely the kingdom would be celebrating Princess Annaxier’s marriage to some prince of Nosgovia, Giurance or even Vonaria. All had been mentioned before but now the King had stopped those plans.

“I hope so as well, highness. If you will permit me, the builder’s measure is not all that Gearman and Cartwright would gift you with today. Along with this use of unoccluded glass, we have learned to make bowls that may hold such things as water, and even flowers. If you would please accept this gift,” Jac indicated a wrapped box.

Annaxier said, “You do not have to do such. You are not seeking a favor, which usually are the reasons such gifts are given to the royal family.”

“Well, I do hope that when you look at it, you will remember me. I can claim no credit beyond the selection of the item. It is one of my journeymen who thought of how to make the glass clearer, and another who found how to fashion the glass into these shapes with these colors. My involvement is that I am owner in the Makory, and thus can get the items quickly. But I thought you might like it. We have been selling these for two moons.”

“Then I thank you.” She bent forward and opened the box. “It seems that the anticipation is so quickly shattered when one just unties the knots and lifts the lid. Even with some little paper to wrap the item within. I remember as a child my father laughing for I could not undo the knots fast enough. If more layers of wrapping were provided I am sure all children would become as frustrated, and a joy for their parents as I was.” Jac thought of that for a moment, for paper was now cheap, and recently, they had found that certain dies applied at the right time, made the whole paper of a color, and then if one mixed it around so it streaked before being put to the drying racks, it created patterns upon the paper.

“I think you have had your first creationist idea,” he said and he explained what thought had occurred to him. She agreed, though she did not stop unwrapping her present.

“Oh my, this is too lovely. I can not take such as this,” Annaxier said.

“My lady, were you to do so, and show flowers in it, then many other women will want such. It is not so expensive, though a little time consuming to make. But think how much more beauty will fill the realm were more ladies to show off pretty items like this bowl with beautiful flowers.” Then he realized that could be taken as a blatant play to have her show it that he might have sales. “I assure you I did not mean that you should show it that I may profit. I will give all that we do to any charities that you name, I think we make about thirty coppens from the sale of a piece like this.”

“Is that it’s cost? No of course, you said profit, what does it cost?

Jac said, “About three silvens.”

She nodded. A week’s wages or so for a man.

“Well, I thank you for the gift, and if you are serious about giving the profits to my charities, then of course I shall show it off and make it the envy of the court. But now we should discuss the Reason of why I asked that you attend me here at the castle and we continue our discussions. How often can you come to the castle? I am sure you are a busy man.”

“As often and for as long as the Princess needs me. I am able to arrange my schedule to be very flexible, I answer to myself,” Jac said.

“That must be a luxury, for I seldom have such time,” Annaxier said. “I have a round here, or there, sometimes two. But I discussed with my father that I should consult with someone who might see things and understand what is happening to Hornik. I thought I would begin at the place where all the changes start.”

He smiled, and refrained from laughing, “And as I started it all off, then perhaps I might know something or other. I think you are right, and I and several others think long and hard about what is happening in the kingdom for it is not what we set out to do. I think the creation of the Steam Twirler was solely to see if I could do so. I was quite young and did not know it would make me so wealthy, and so many others as well. Or would change the lives of so many.”

Annaxier leaned close again. Once more he was overwhelmed by her perfume, “Then do you think you are the right person that I should consult with? I do not think many of the men in father’s council would take the time to talk with a Creationist.”

Jac inhaled deeply. A big breath before saying, “No, most of the lords would not. Most blame us for the ills that are now cropping up in the kingdom even as they reap many of the benefits that creationism gives. A two edged sword. I would be most happy to talk with you. Where and when shall we do this?”

She smiled and nodded. “I can only talk to you here easily, but not above four times each moon, while I can also make my way infrequently into the city and the district where your Creatory is located. Perhaps I can send a message when I am able to come, and you could come here again next phase at the same time?” she asked.

“I could, but I also will wish to come and see how my men fare when they install the window for her majesty. Would I see you then? Though we may not have a chance to talk about this subject then.”

“Yes, I shall see you for I wish to see how the window is installed as well. But you are right. What we will discuss is to be private.” She glanced to the door, where the Sergeant stood. He was half in and half out of the room. It was far enough away, that the Sergeant tried to not hear what they discussed and ensured that none outside did either. Jac knew that private meant something different to an unwed Princess, then it did to him.

Jac left then and returned to the city, walking the short distance with his bodyguards. He discussed with Len and Pad some of what had taken place. The glass bowl, the window. Not the other parts. That they did not need to know. Nor did he want it to be spread about through him. Something like that had a way of returning to the principles and then each would look at the other who was revealing their secrets. It was not going to be Jac. He would have to talk to Master Mikonal, but find some way to not reveal the true purpose of their meetings.

The King’s castle sat atop a hill, for it made sense for castles to do so. Originally, several hundred years ago, when there was a smaller castle, and Firtoskin was a village, an army could come close enough to challenge those within. It had been over a century since the city had outgrown the second wall that had been built around it. A third wall had been contemplated, but not yet built. The first wall was at the base of the hill that the castle sat upon, and that district was considered Old Town.

Old Town and the castle had been razed when the Ishyurk Dynasty had fallen. That castle, Jac remembered being told, had been rebuilt once larger than the one before it, and then when the Farserit dynasty conquered, it was rebuilt much bigger again, to it’s present size. Jac got the sense that it was now not large enough to handle al the business that was conducted there. Outside the very castle gates, an entire square had filled with other block long buildings that the king used to have his government see to their business. Having glimpsed a couple gardens as he walked through the castle, Jac thought that the kings had made a choice whether to turn those gardens over to more buildings, or just take part of the city for their needs.

The Creatory war near the second wall, and the river that was close to it. Other Creatories, houses and even a few Makories were there as well. There was more space in this area, especially on the other side of the river, as well as the other side of the wall. The river was one reason the Makories liked the location for so much transport was done by river boat. Though now, the steam cart was beginning to be used to move material. Master Gearman said that within the next ten years more goods and material would be shipped by steam cart then by river boat. There was even now a negotiation to build a steam cart line to the border of Giurance, but some nobles were very much against it.

Jac thought about that as he neared the Creatory. The foreign powers had once been very well balanced against each other, for several hundred years of war had made it so that the field was nearly even. Now they must not appreciate what fifteen years of the advantages that Creationism had brought to Hornik. His brother had tried explaining some of the trade problems that were occurring. Col had become quite good at managing money. As Jac saw things in how objects related easily to each other, Col saw it with money.

“It is this way, brother. Fifteen years ago, it was simple, there were no steam twirlers and a man in a field would labor and produce a Guildens worth of work in a year. We could trade our wheat for the cotton of Giurance, quite easily, or if they had traded the cotton to Nosgovia, and been paid a Guilden they might buy the wheat from us for a Guilden. We were all very equal.” Jac understood that. He had helped their father in the shop and knew how men used Guildens to purchase things.

“Now you create this device and suddenly where ten men used to make ten Guildens worth of wheat, now we have five men, or even two men doing that work. Those other five men, they have become free, where they were not before. Now they can make ten Guildens of, those pots for the cookfires for instance. Where we used to buy pots from Vonaria. Now we don’t spend the money in Vonaria and our people are twice as productive or more. This has been happening at an ever increasing pace.

All the nations were very much in balance for wars had been fought to keep us all so, and perhaps one grew richer for a few years when there was bad weather. Now Hornik is growing much richer and much faster then the other nations. Not only that, but since we do not trade as much for some things that we had before, they grow even poorer then they had been before your creations.”

That report had scared Master Mikonal and he had instructed that Jac have two guards with him at all times, not just one. Even some of the other masters of the Creators Guild had two guards. Master Mikonal had said that there was a true chance that the foreign countries might try and kill them. To stop these creations would be very valuable to them. Because it would slow Hornik’s becoming ever more productive. Only Giurance made a serious effort to try and establish their own Creationists. Though since the first of the year reports said Keltoria and Pinesque now also worked towards it. Giurance, Jac knew, spent more time trying to tear apart the new devices and then recreate them, instead of working on new items of their own.

That was all well and good but until the other countries allowed the people to leave the land, a law unique to Hornik, then they could not set-up the great Makories and turn out all the needed parts to build the ever helpful devices in great quantities. To make a steam twirler, a small model, that was productive took nearly one hundred and thirty parts, some tooled to a precision that was one sixty-fourth of an inch. To make the steam cart took over thirty hundred parts, and the bearings for the wheels had to be very precise.

Reaching the creatory, Jac looked in once again on all the projects he had being done. He knew that he could not stay long that day and would need to go to see Mikonal. That the man did not come to the Cretory was fine with Jack, for Mikonal always wanted to talk politics, or see how Jac was doing at his many lessons. Jac felt that Mikonal wanted Jac to be a noble, for he was trained being like one. Jac worked every day, and Mikonal, worked only a few days. Most were at the Guildhall. Col now ran the accounts for Gearman and Cartwright, and Mikonal was just consulted on the tasks that Col had taken over.

Once all was set to rights, for Jac had lost the rounds going to the castle, and rounds the previous day when he had spent time learning what progress had been made to help the Queen, he went to the Guildhall. Jac did chuckle to himself, for it was close, but it also was the nicest building for the few men who were masters, in all of Hornik.

It was so because it was the newest Guildhall built, with great sums of money from the masters, all who could well afford it, and built with the newest techniques that the Creationists and Builders had. It was four stories tall, with near a third of the front open and the sky viewed through the great panes of glass. Over thirty feet tall, nearly as grand as the great cathedrals for height and openness, but they were encased by stone, not glass overhead. The Metalmen that had encased the new Creationist work were sure that the glass would hold against the worst storms anyone had ever remembered Firtoskin having.

Jac was not so certain. He looked at the glass, which was surely remarkable. Two years old and a building thousands came to see often. Those inside looked out, and those outside looked in. There was a foyer completely open the full four stories high with balconies or landings for each floor to look down to the enclosed courtyard. Now an entire room itself. Jac wondered that the Princess had not been to the Guildhall, but then the King had been several times. Once before it was finished to look at how the metal held things up, and then he had come after the glass was installed.

Even so, the buildings glass was still somewhat occluded. It was only recently that the glass had become near transparent. Plans were to replace the old glass with the new completely clear glass. Jac marveled at the Glaziers work. It was art and functional as well. Better than any other building he thought, and the four floors in the later half of the building, barely filled. The masters thought that in the years to come, they would bring many people to work in the Guild and help with Creationism.

“Tell me what she had to say.” Gearman at least had first asked after his health and what little other pleasantries that were proper. But he had not lost all his new hopes that the Princess offered with this connection.

“She was quite pleased with our gifts. Saddened though that we have no remedy for the Queen. I gave her a small list of those country remedies that I do not think will hurt the Queen. Though I do not know if they shall help her,” Jac said.

“But is that all she wanted to talk of?” Mikonal asked.

“No, no she had more. As we discussed yesterday, the idea of women as Creationists intrigues her. She knows that we have been working with new maths, with new sciences, and that she would like to know them. I said that they were not secrets. Not secrets from those of Hornik. So we discussed how she might learn some of them. I will tutor her in these, and I suggested other masters were better at some items then I.”

“Yes, the chemicals. You have never been able to remember those well,” Mikonal said. Not that Mikonal remembered them well either.

“Precisely,” Jac said. “But she said it would be better if I was the only one to meet with her and teach her. So I will go several times a moon to do so.”

Gearman nodded a few times, then he smiled. “It is good, very good. The King must know this, but if the court finds out, that she learns these facts, then it will be difficult. It will increase what the other nations bid for her.”

“I don’t understand, she is not being auctioned.” Jac said in the Princesses defense.

“She is. Don’t be naive. I have taught you better. You know better. The other nations would like our Creations and they had hoped a marriage with the Princess would secure them special rights. They have been right also. Why our Creations did more for keeping her from being married then anything else. For each year the price went up what the other nations have to pay. King Lancellnick didn’t like it, but he appreciated it. He did not want his daughter to be so little valued, his sister is married into Pinesque, you will recall, and unhappily. Every daughter of the Farserit’s has left this kingdom, except for one, and she I remember was sickly.”

That Jac did know. “Surely the remorse and pain the royal family feels at the Queen’s sickness must account for why there has been no marriage alliance made. The other nations will understand it.”

Master Gearman said, “They probably do, but when they find that the Princess, who will be bargained to an heir, or a king of some country, marries into another nation, now she will know and understand Creationism. She might even be a Master Creator if you and the Princess have your ways. She will be worth duchies and provinces to us. The king is a shrewd man, and he has raised the stakes well. You must do your best.” As if Jac needed such an instruction. He always did his best. He took his leave of Gearman and went to the studio of Master Fredardic.

For one round Jac was on fire, and his blade defeated all comers. Fredardic lost four of four, and knew when to stop himself. “You shall enter the trials this year. You shall represent our studio and my training.”

“What? I can not do that.”

“Why,” Fredardic said, “You are a citizen of Hornik, and a man that the King should know can use a blade.”

“But surely, it is for soldiers or nobles,” Jac said.

“No, the King would find all men who can fight well. You know we have put up others before. You have entered before.”

Jac remembered and did not like the memory. “Yes. But as a student and I was eliminated quickly. You have always represented the studio.”

“And now I would have you do so. It has been six years since you entered the trials. You will enter again. Oh, do not worry, you won’t win. But you will enter. It is time that the nobles see that others can achieve greatness in our realm.”

“Master Fredardic, you make me even more uncomfortable. I am skilled at one thing. Putting these ideas of creation to work and the skills I learned in my father’s shop. That is all. You have made me good at fighting but I know others are better. Pad and Lem and the other guards I have is because I can not fight for my life like some legend and know that nothing shall kill me. I am not invincible. I may wish I were, but I do not expect to be so. I am no hero.”

“Lad, none of us are heroes until the story is written. We are all just men trying to find a bed at night.” Fredardic said and then smiled. He liked what he had said and so took out a notebook and wrote it down. “These pieces of paper all together that will fit in a pocket is a genius invention. You got paper to work well, but someone else came up with this idea for binding the paper. And writing charcoal. That I think you should turn your mind too.”

He said that every time he had an idea and reached for his notebook. The truth was that at the Creatory, they had taken the notebook and made pads of paper that they used. A better writing stylus though was not easily made.

It was six days later that Jac returned to the palace as he had been instructed. Annaxier was happy to see him she said. “Now what I wish to understand is can we save our kingdom with all these changes, and I know you are not responsible for all of them, or will we end up at each other’s throats.”

It was in Nosgovia, Jac knew, that several nobles and a few of the royal family had been beset by their peasants and killed. It was why nobles had swords now, and peasants did not. But that was over forty years before. Before the steam twirler. And not many in Hornik knew that an event like that had occurred.

Jac took a moment before he answered, He had thought of these social issues before. Just as he thought about how heating the water made steam and pushed up the valves in the twirler. How one thing led to another, he though how the change between how one man acted to another meant as well.

Jac said, “I will be honest, it will take effort to ensure that we do not have such anger that everyone wants to kill each other. There are kitchens that give out bread in the morning and later in the day, a full meal to all who come. Whether they are rich, or they have nothing.”

“Yes, GrandMaster. I have visited one. I then asked the Sergeant to find out who is paying for the kitchens. You will understand that this is not one of my charities that I want the money from the glass bowl you gave me to go to.” Jac had seen the glass bowl prominently displayed when he arrived. A table had been set up in the grand entry hall, and the bowl, with flowers had been set there. Jac did not want to speak about the kitchens any more then he had. The Sergeant should not have found out who paid the workers at the kitchens, or who bought the food.

“You and your brother tried to hide who is responsible but I have access to resources that the two of you should never try and disguise. Though all the sergeant had to do was ask where one of the kitchen workers got paid, and then he asked the paymaster who came around, where the money came from. Very easy it turned out. You are very generous,” Annaxier said.

Jac replied, “I do what I may, and though we can feed most who come, I fear these last months more come then need it, and more come now then we can feed.” He had thought about increasing how much he gave to the four kitchens he had set up. He was not doing as much as the churches, and still between him, the churches and some few others who tried to help the hungry, they were failing. “What is a worse problem though then food for those who can not afford it, is shelter. We have had a mild spring season, and summer is generally easy to take care of those without homes, but when we reach late fall and winter, there will be trouble. I hope his majesty’s ministers realize this. I know that the priests work on this.”

Areas of the city, outside the second wall, where those who had no permanent place to live, were becoming the filthiest part of Firtoskin. Jac knew that the population of the city had nearly doubled since they had built the first real steam twirler and begun to change things. He did not take credit for change. The city was a village without even a castle six hundred years before. It had become a city with two walls and what would be several villages on the outside of the second wall through none of Jac's doing or changes.

Advances had been made in agriculture for some man had created a plow at one point, though it was dragged behind oxen or horses. The horse collar, was surely a creation. Creationism had existed before the steam twirler. The steam twirler accelerated change. It had opened minds to more ideas, more quickly. It had increased the pace of all society. But still many could not see that change was evolving all across Hornik.

Jac began to think that the rest of the world was beginning to see it, and thus the marriage price for Princess Annaxier was increasing rapidly as well. Just as Mikonal had said.

Annaxier said, “These are all things we should discuss, for you are correct. His majesty and some few men of his council, the priests, I believe, do speak to the need to do something, while the nobles seek to allege blame.”

“If I am to blame through my devices, I hope I do what is right to alleviate some of this problem,” Jac said. He reflected that it sounded very noble.

“I believe that you do what is right, but I am not the King and can not say that you do for sure.  I also do not know that the problems that you create are entirely of your doing. You may have created many of these devices, but you did not force anyone to use them. If a lord had not wanted to make more Guildens, he need not have adopted your machine in his fields but could have still tilled his field the way it has been done for centuries. His peasants then would have been well employed throughout the year as their parents and grandparents had so been .”

“The Makories, should a peasant find his way to being employed at one, offer a better future though for many peasants. They became freemen. The lord would have to offer his peasants freedom, and pay them more then he does now.” Jac did not say that he felt the lords could easily afford to do that. Far too many lords have lived far above their peasants in one room, dirt floored hovels. Some lords would have freed their people, and some even had done so. They had been a minority in the kingdom, and amongst the King’s council. The thought occurred to Jac to learn who those lords were. They might help with understanding the transition that the kingdom underwent.

Annaxier said, “The lords are against that.”

Jac did not say a word to her response. The lords were as much a problem as the many peasants flooding the Firtoskin. Jac thought to help by building some Makories in other cities as well. That sent those who would do well working in the Makories to other cities, but they too had more peasants looking for work than there was work.

“We do have some real problems,” Jac finally said.

Annaxier said, “Yes, so let us review it, but let us do so in a fashion that builds upon the knowledge, for it all did not happen in one night. It happened from one action to the next. Let us look how it all came to be, and if we record enough of what we see, as we study when it happened, perhaps we can also see new solutions now, that we did not see while this was becoming our present.” That was a unique way of looking at the problem. Jac liked the idea, for generally he had no time to look at a situation as it had developed.

He and the other masters had just looked to their creations to provide solutions. They saw that an answer was needed and would work on a solution for it. Never looking at the entire plight of the kingdom and how ideas now might be found, or must be found before things became truly bad. After a round, Annaxier and he had talked their way through the adoption of the steam twirler and how it had begun to help the miners by pulling water from the deeper levels of mines and keeping all drier.

Mines were now able, after improvements to the twirler to go three and four times deeper and further then ever before, and perhaps further still. Those lords who owned the mines had found the purchase of the steam twirlers led them to wealth quicker then many another lord. The king had given license to several lords to mine, and those licenses now were more valuable then many great estates devoted to farming.

Jac left that day thinking that he and the Princess might actually make progress with problems that the kingdom had not yet solved. That he, a commoner and Annaxier, a princess, could work on such together was so far beyond what he had ever thought would happen in his life, Jac did not think the adventure of his life could grow any further.

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After Jac was surprised by the visit of Princess Annaxier to the Creatory, Jac goes to the palace as he has promised and been told to do. Here he finds out more about what the Princess would like and plays into his thoughts how the invention of the steam twirler has begun to change the fabric of society in Hornik, and in Hornik’s neighbors.

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