Sunday, September 23, 2012

Forty-fourth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

Five days later, after slogging through  a steady rain that turned the roads to mud, the sky cleared and they saw the town of Caernarfon from the hills above. It seemed a prosperous settlement, lying next to a walled castle on the banks of two rivers: the Afon Seiont and the much larger Afon Menai. The town was about ten miles inland from the Irish Sea. In fields bearing many shades of green leading down to the river were more horses than they could count. Jac asked, “Are these horses for the knights at Caerleon?”
“I believe they are, son,” Gwilym replied. “Here dwell some of the leading horse breeders of the kingdom.”
They crossed the swollen river at the ford at the bottom of the hill. The horse snorted and protested at the water pulling it downstream but Fred steered the cart expertly over the rocks to the other side. It was almost supper time so they found a clean inn bearing the sign of a rearing stallion and lodged there for the night. After unloading the cart in the sleeping hall and drying off and stabling the horse, the famished family entered the main room to eat their meal. Every head in the room turned at their approach. The bright, clean room was packed with men holding mugs of beer but a large table and five stools were left open for them. The family sat down with contented sighs. The landlord approached with a pitcher of ale in one hand and five mugs in the other.
“The locals were kind enough to leave you a seat, sirs, since you are travelers. We’re all curious as to your business.” He poured out the ale.
“Thank you sir,” Gwilym replied. He stood, raised his mug to the room and said. “Thank you all for your courtesy. My name is Gwilym and this is Fred. We come to take charge of the tower being built here. Accompanying me are my three sons, Bleddyn, Llawen and Jac.”
The landlord left to get their dinners while the locals gathered around Gwilym and Fred.
“When do you start the tower?”
“Tomorrow,” replied Gwilym
“When does the king need it done?”
“By Beltane.”
“That’s impossible. We don’t even know what it is supposed to look like.”
“I have a royal charter that explains the details.” Gwilym showed this off to the newly impressed locals.
“That’s all in general terms. What exactly do you build?”
Gwilym pulled out his project plan from the tower at Airmyn. “First we must know what we need for this tower.”
“But that’s it, we don’t know what you need.”
“Tomorrow we’ll figure that out and write it all down in a document like this.” He showed them the Airmyn Requirements document.
Another man started arguing. “A tower takes more than just piling stones on top of each other. There is a lot of work that goes into it.”
“I agree. Look at all the work that went into my tower at Airmyn.” Gwilym showed them the scope document.
“See how complicated it is. How do you remember all the little things to must be done?”
Gwilym pulled out the Work Breakdown Structure for his last tower. “By all working together to create a drawing like this.”
The locals looked at this until one objected, “There’s too much to do. Everybody will be getting in each other’s way. Who does what?” The other locals cheered this objection.
Gwilym showed them the colored names next to each activity. “See these inscriptions. Each stands for a man on my team. They have each taken responsibility for some of the activities so they know who does what. Now, who among you is part of my team for this project?”
The locals all grumbled and shuffled back to their tables. In groups and pairs, they finished off their drinks and left the room until only the travelers remained. As the last pair left, Gwilym noticed Fred mimicking firing arrows at their backs. Bleddyn and his brothers were laughing at Fred’s antics.
“They had a lot of questions didn’t they? They seemed upset that I had the answers. Who were they? And what are you doing, Fred?”
“It were like tha were shootin’ down their questions wi’ poison arrows, Gwilym. Did you see their faces? They were used to people not knowin’ answers to their clever questions but you shot them all down wi’ what we burned in at Airmyn. Good thing tha kept t’papers wi’ tha.”
The landlord returned with a tray loaded with their dinners and seemed nonplussed at his almost empty room. “Sorry about driving off your customers, sir. I didn’t expect them to be upset at answering their questions.”
“Never mind, good sir. They are horse breeders. They think they know everything and always predict doom and gloom for anyone else. They hate to find someone with answers. They’ll be back tomorrow drinking harder than ever. If I could suggest a more…family friendly inn for your stay, I recommend the Weary Pilgrim further down the hill. It is closer to the tower site and is run by my sister. She can take care of the wee ones during the day.”
“Thank you sir. Can you tell me where I might find my workers on the morrow?”
“Siorys is the foreman of the crew. He is staying at the Weary Pilgrim. I reckon you’ll find him breaking his fast in Reece’s great room. That’s my sister’s name, Reece.”

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

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