Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thirty-third excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

When Gwilym awoke, Grainne was gone again. He was sorry to see this and wondered how long it would be until he saw her again. But meanwhile, he needed to complete some final preparations in advance of Sir Kay’s dedication ceremony. He dressed, went down to the river to perform his ablutions and met his team, who had assembled at the base of the tower.
“Gentlemen!” he addressed them in his usual manner. This used to elicited guffaws, then sniggers but had lately become expected of him. He noticed that it never failed to straighten their shoulders and bring their work to a higher standard. “Today we see the fruits of your labors. The Seneschal of King Arthur, Sir Kay, will come to inspect your work. And he will be impressed!”
The men cheered.
“The bridge and tower are beautiful!  The remains of Belinus are back where they belong, surrounded by the stones that originally entombed them. The bridge is strong; the tower will stand for a thousand years! You did that! I am proud of you!”
Another cheer from the men. They looked around at each other and shook hands, clapped each other on the shoulder, patted backs.
“Today, we clean up the site to look perfect for the ceremony. I don’t need to tell you what to do. You do it. We’ll meet on the bridge at Midday and watch Sir Kay’s reaction when he sees what we accomplished here. See you then!”
The men all scattered and were seen everywhere, picking up trash, placing stones, cleaning the tower, even pulling reeds at its base in the river. They first spruced up their area of focus, then moved to help others who had more work to do, finally ending up on the arch an hour before Midday. Fred and Gwilym appeared with a barrel of ale which they opened and shared amongst the celebrating men.
A cheer rose amongst the men as they saw the procession of Sir Kay wending its way through the streets of the city, leaving the old governor’s villa and heading their way. Gwilym noticed that it was composed of the same three men who had accompanied Sir Kay the last two times.
As before, one looked through the books, another inspected the foundation and construction of the tower and the third paid close attention to the capstone and its placement. The team watched in obvious pride as the men inspected their work. Finally Sir Kay closeted himself with Gwilym and Fred.
“You’ve done good work here again Gwilym. The tower looks great and I’m assured it will stand forever. You finished the job on schedule and the extra money you spent appears to be accounted for. But tell me, man to man, what caused the costs to go over what was planned?”
Gwilym was prepared for this question. “The foundations couldn’t be inspected until we had removed the tower and were much worse than we had planned. We had to sink new piles, then fill the space between the piles with large stones to assure the arch would stand strong. That caused most of the extra costs. Also, a lot of the interior stones were damaged and we couldn’t see these until we removed the outer stones.”
“Couldn’t you have predicted this?” Sir Kay asked.
“We planned for the most likely scenario. Not the most optimistic or pessimistic. So the costs were mostly in line.”
“And yet you come asking me for more money. Next tower I want you to ask for the right amount the first time.”
Gwilym smiled. “So it is to be another tower? Where and when?”
“I have a few in mind but they cannot be started yet. I will contact you at the end of the summer. But this time I want you to figure out exactly how much it will cost before you begin. Where will you spend the summer, Gwilym?”
“I think I will visit Huish again. I’d like to catch up with some old friends.”
“I will send for you there, Gwilym. Now, let’s dedicate this tower.”

“Halfway done, Merlin. Is the spell working?”
“We cannot tell until it is finished.”
“Does Gwilym suspect what we are doing?”
“They both do.”
“And yet they keep working on it?”
“He sees it as protection against what will come, she sees it as protection against the Christians.”
“And Grainne?”
“She is breeding again.”
“Gwilym again?”
“Very interesting. She talks of fostering the first one with Gwilym. What say you to that, Viviane?”
“The sooner, the better. I am becoming too attached to my grandson. Is Mostyn happy with the results of each tower?”
“They are each aligned perfectly and he can feel the power increasing.”
“Where next? It must be Caernarfon.”
Merlin released a quick laugh. “You have been studying your maps, then.”
“He will have his hands full dealing with that mad prince.”
“Gwilym will find a way” Merlin was calm as always.         
“Arthur married that ninny, Gwenevere.”
“She is a nice girl, who was raised at Glastonbury and will treat the king well. She has no ambitions for the kingdom. The alliance strengthens Arthur’s hand in the fight against the Saxons”
“No ambitions for the kingdom? She forces her religion on the king.”         
“He indulges her in this but he is loyal to Avalon.”
“This will not end well. For any of us.”

Next time we start chapter four, Caernarfon.
To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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