Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ninth Excerpt of 'Twelve Towers'

“That’s my tower, son!” he said proudly. “That’s my tower!”

At the second cock crow, they left Caerleon, arriving at the ferry dock in time to see the boat approaching from Brycgstow. While they waited, Bleddyn asked his father about the charter.
“It’s a document that describes the project to everyone who cares about it. That way there can be no arguments about what to do. It’s also a contract between all the people who work on the project and King Arthur. And that includes me. I have to make sure I build it for the amount of silver I promised and as quickly as I promised.”
“Who are all these people who care about the project?”
“The quarryman is one. He’s the one who started this whole thing and caused me to make up the charter. I’ll be looking forward to showing him King Arthur’s signature. But there will be others who argue in the future and I can show them the charter at that time.”
“Why not show them the charter first, Da, before they make any trouble?” Bleddyn questioned. “That might save some time.”
“That’s a grand idea, son! Let’s make a list of everyone we should show it to while we wait. There are all the builders on the site, Father Drew, the quarryman, the bishop, the forester, the masons, the carter, the village chief, the inn-keeper who brings food to the site. Who else?”
“What about Tarrant?”
“Now that’s an interesting point. I should also be thinking of people who want the project to fail. I’ll have to keep them in mind for this list of people who care. Though I may not go out of my way to find him, I’ll keep the charter safe so I can show him if he argues again. It clearly says who’s in charge.”
“What do you call this list of people, Da?”
“They are all people who have a stake in this project, one way or another. I’ll call it a list of ‘stakeholders’ then.”
The ferry arrived and they made their way back to Brycgstow and spent the rest of the day and night there. Gwilym hobbled from square to square, sitting down in each and allowing Bleddyn to explore each place. He was exhausted when they returned to the tavern and immediately fell to sleep. Bleddyn, his mind racing from all he’d seen, lay awake for another hour, and then fell into a contented sleep.
They arose early again and drove the cart as fast as Gwilym was able to the quarry near Huish, finding the quarryman hard at work in the pit. Gwilym hailed him and the man worked his way back up to the road.
“I have a royal charter signed by the High King that authorizes me to use your stone to build the tower.” Gwilym carefully unrolled the charter. He knew instinctively that the man was illiterate but, like most of his kind, held written words in awe akin to magic.
“Where says it how much stone you may take?” he inquired, his eyes scanning the document and lingering long on the seal and red ribbon.
Gwilym showed the man the passage about the stone and circled the amount with his fingers, knowing that the man knew his numbers. “I see you’ve been careful to cut the stone, knowing that this misunderstanding would be resolved soon. I commend you for your foresight, brother.”
The quarryman swelled with pride, forgetting that he had been ordered to cut the stone by Gwilym days ago.
Gwilym showed him another section of the charter. “Notice here that we call for a large, square stone, big enough to cover the whole top of the tower but no more than a foot thick so that it can be hauled to the top and placed there without collapsing the tower. It’s designed to protect it from flaming arrows and thrown rocks. Can you make that?”
“I cannae cut stone that big and thin. But I’ll try.”
“Good! Can you start carting what you’ve made to the site tomorrow?”
The quarryman agreed and Gwilym and Bleddyn rode back to Huish.

“Have you had a good adventure, Bleddyn?” asked Gwilym after a long silence. He looked over to his son and was surprised to see tears of genuine sadness flowing over his son’s cheeks. “What’s wrong, son?”
It took a while for Bleddyn to compose himself enough to speak. “I was thinking of all the adventures I had and was bursting to tell them all to…to Ma.”
“Aye son, aye. I miss her too. And I talk to her all the time…in my head. It helps me. She was my friend and help-mate for ten years. I loved her so much. Sometimes I think I cannot go on, but I talk to her and we talk about you, and Jac and Llawen, and the tower. Then I get the strength to go on. We live for you. I’ll always be here to protect you and help to make you a strong man.”
“But you’ve changed since she died, Da. You used to let me do anything. Now you’re more careful with me. Are you now scared I’ll die too?”
“No son. When your mother was alive we worked together to raise you. I encouraged you to spread your wings, she made sure you were careful. Now she’s gone, I have to play both roles. I can’t just let you run wild. You need a mother and a father.”
“Will you marry again, Da?”
“I don’t think so, Bleddyn. I loved your mother so much, and I love you and your brothers; I don’t think there is love enough left in me for another woman.”
“What about Heilin or Heulwen? They are mothering Jac and Llawen. Could you marry one of them?”
Gwilym burst out laughing. “They’re good girls and they are excellent wet-nurses for your brothers. But they are simple and like simple things. Going to the Beltane fires and getting big with child for one. They’d not be the kind of mother you need. Remember how your Ma would help you with your writing and figuring? How she told you stories from long ago? The songs she sang you and the meals she cooked? Could you be satisfied with Heilin or Heulwen after a mother like yours?”
“No, Da.” Bleddyn admitted and they rode on again in thoughtful silence.
“What’s that, Da?” Bleddyn pointed ahead of them to something looming over the trees.
It took Gwilym a few moments to realize that the wooden tower was at its full height and could be visible now from the road. “That’s my tower, son!” he said proudly. “That’s my tower!”

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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