Sunday, October 14, 2012

Forty-fifth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

The following morning, Gwilym brought all his papers and writing implements into the Weary Pilgrim’s hall, a room entirely furnished in wicker. Stools, tables, chairs and even the bar were woven from this wood. The hard-beaten earth was covered in a fresh layer of thresh, held in by a polished stone thresh-hold.
Siorys had summoned the crew so a large crowd of men was awaiting them. The men introduced themselves all around and Gwilym checked off on his charter the men promised him by Sir Kay. While doing so, he realized that there was a difference between the number and type of men promised in the charter and what was likely needed during the project. He could benefit from a more formal approach to planning the people needed at certain times within the project. He remembered times on his previous three projects when men were doing nothing yet still receiving a day’s pay because he needed their particular skills later.
Gwilym gathered the men around the largest table and spread out the charter for all to see. He read it out loud, showed off the king’s signature and answered any questions. Then he told the men his method for planning the project: start by identifying the stakeholders, define the requirements and scope, create the work breakdown structure, define the activities and figure out who would staff each activity. Then he would ask the responsible person how long each activity would take and how they were linked to each other to figure out the most efficient way to do the whole project. The men nodded their heads in encouragement.
“First things first. Let’s take a tour of the job-site so that we can see what we will be dealing with.”
“Perhaps we should do those planning things first, sir,” said Siorys.
“No,” said Gwilym. “I have to see the site, and I’m sure you men want to see what you are expected to build and where you need to build it in order to plan properly.” As he looked around the room, none of the men would meet his eye.
“Well, sir,” said Siorys. “Today’s not a good day for touring the site. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.”
“What are you not telling me?”
The men shifted their weight around, avoiding Gwilym’s gaze. Gwilym stood in front of Siorys and asked him, “What's happening today?”
“It’s Arthog sir. He’s gone mad in the head and is doing a bit of rampaging. It’s better we wait inside today.”
Gwilym looked at the men until they all met his gaze. “Please explain,” he said.
They all looked at Siorys who told the story.
“The king has a son who he loves beyond all measure. His name is Arthog and he is a brute. We call him Warthog behind his back.  He’s been cruel before, taken away girl’s maidenhoods, stolen or broken people’s property, fought with townsfolk and farmers. His father always forgives him and pays for the damages but never seems to punish his son. If you fight back against Arthog, you can expect real punishment from the king. He had locked men in his dungeons and even killed a man.”
“Yesterday was the worst he has been yet. He was running around town in torn clothes and a dagger. He was yelling at people and stabbing them at random. He killed two women and a man and stabbed many others before he ran off into the job-site. The mayor and the priest have complained to the king and he has told us to capture him alive and not hurt him.”
“Is he a big man?”
The men all yelled over each other at this point.
“He’s huge, sir!”
“As tall as you and twice as heavy!”
“Strong too!”
Gwilym looked at the room full of men and asked, “Could someone please fetch me a strong net. I’m sure there are fishermen in this town.” A young lad stepped outside.
“Who among you will join me in this capture?”
Fred stepped forward. The rest of the men shifted their weight from one foot to another, not meeting Gwilym’s gaze. “I’ll show you where he is and help you with the net,” said Siorys.

Net in hand, and stout clubs tucked in their belts, Gwilym and Fred followed Siorys down the street to the castle. The corner nearest the confluence of the two rivers was a pile of stones. “That’s where we must build our tower, sir. Warthog is somewhere in the castle grounds.”
“And the king?”
“Up in the hills at the summer residence.”
“Follow me then,” requested Gwilym. Fred followed Gwilym into the grounds but Siorys asked to stay here with the net. “Chase him this way and I’ll throw it.”
Gwilym and Fred walked into the castle grounds. Nothing grew in this rooted-up earth. The walls had stairs leading up to the top at intervals. There were four main buildings: the stables, the kitchens, the main dwelling of the king and some kind of workroom. Approaching the stables, they heard the whinnying and stomping hooves of a terrified horse.
It was dark inside, the little light that entered the door filtered through the dust motes being kicked up by the horse to show four stalls, the last one open. The noises of the horse emanated from the nearest stall. Gwilym told Fred to stay outside and stepped into the stable. He smelled the fresh blood that was scaring the horse. As he peered over the top of the stall, he saw the horse backed against the far wall, kicking out with its front feet at the door. Blood was seeping into his stall from the one next door. Gwilym opened the door and stood behind it while the horse bolted into the castle yard.
He tiptoed to the next stall and peered over this door and was greeted by a gruesome sight. The horse was lying on its side, its head almost severed from its neck and its sides torn open as though by a lion. Guts were strewn everywhere and huge chunks of meat had been torn from the body.
While sneaking to the third door, Gwilym kept a wary eye on the open fourth stall. Whatever had done this was most likely there and Gwilym was moving further and further from the safety of the open yard. He slowly raised his head to peer over the third stall door. At first, as the rear of the stall became visible, he saw the tail and rear of another downed horse. He saw the open wound in his side just like the last stall. As he raised his head fully, something huge jumped at him from the other side of the stall door.

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

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