Construction Function, continued.


Again, I wondered as to where Georg was, and when Anna went outside, I was surprised to see her come back but seconds later with Georg in tow. Georg had finally waked – or, at least, he had showed in the shop. He sat at his desk, then said, “now this is when one wants good light, as the snow is coming down.”

“What would that be?” asked Anna.

“I ordered three of these special lanterns,” said Georg, “and I told them to make certain they were from the fourth kingdom, and the same for their fuel.”

“Yes, and why did you order those things?” asked Hans.

“Mostly so he” – here, Georg indicated me – “could work here,” said Georg. “No sane person does anything in the dark.”

“You mean no one who isn't a witch,” I said quietly. “You had one here, and you all knew the man was a witch. You heard him chanting, you knew he was chanting, you knew it was a curse, and you obeyed all he said as if he were God.

Here, I paused, then snarled, “isn't sheltering a witch thought much the same as being one?”

I then ran to the door, and yelled, “I found a pack of witches! Bring the wood and distillate, for we need to kill them all!”

I turned, then drew the revolver and cocked it, whispering, “this is Hieronymus' little toy, isn't it?”

Georg nodded nervously, then as I slowly walked up to him, I spat, “he hid it in the hay rigged as a bomb, and it was too close to the privy to be a coincidence. Did you tell him you wished me killed?”

I paused, then said, “I found those lanterns, and they're all marked with runes that spell out an especially evil curse – specifically one that witches like Hieronymus chant so the darkness hides them better. That wasn't the only curse he chanted, by the way – he knew more a dozen curses writ in runes, and at least thrice that number otherwise, which makes him a highly-initiated witch.”

I paused again, then said, “and given how performance in what I do is thought to be related to one's ability as a witch, then I should be a witch to truly reckon with, one well beyond the label of 'arch-witch'. Is that true?”

To my surprise, Georg nodded, and as I looked around the room, I saw that everyone was in agreement.

Why?” I spat.

There was no answer from the people in the shop, save Hans, who said, “I doubt people heard you calling for a burn-pile, but you are right about how people feel about witches and those that shelter them.”

“Then you wanted Hans and Anna murdered too,” I spat, “because you all think me a witch, and now I have proof positive that you sheltered one.”

“How?” asked Georg.

“Hieronymus was seen dressed in black-cloth at the second kingdom house,” said Anna, “and wearing a box-hat and pointed boots. Then, at least two people here heard him chanting, and one of those chants is a bad curse.”

“How?” asked Georg.

“Do you even know what a chant sounds like?” I spat, even as I heard steps come to the door.

“Who yelled for a burn-pile?” asked an out-of-breath voice. “It took a while to find the distillate.”

“He did,” said Anna, as she indicated me with her eyes, “and based on what I've heard, I wonder.”

“Wonder?” I asked.

“Where that burn-pile should be,” said Anna. “I think this one might need to happen at the king's house.”

I began having second thoughts, so much so that I carefully lowered the hammer on the revolver with a strange motion – one that felt and seemed natural to me, even if I hadn't done it quite that way before. The gesture was not lost on Georg, who gulped audibly.

“Why were you trying to make me into someone I could not be?” I asked. “Did you think me wrong because I didn't chant like a witch, or act like a witch, or have the disposition of a witch?”

“But aren't you one?” he gasped. “I saw what you just did, and Hieronymus could not do that.”

“I've handled these before,” I said evenly, “as well as worked on them a little. Now answer my questions, and answer them truthfully. This is important, as I think I was heard when I called to have you burned” – here, I paused – “and I think whether you live or die is mostly up to what I say.”

I thought for a moment, then said, “people that accuse others of witchcraft tend be believed without question – true, or false?”

“That depends on the person,” said Hans. “I suspect you might be believed as much or more as Maarten might be.”

“Then what I said is probably the truth,” I said. “Now, answers. Why do you think I am a witch? Give proofs beyond mere hearsay.”

The looks on the three men were such that I wondered, at least until two more men arrived with muskets. I could almost hear the whispering, and I motioned them in with my eyes.

“What gives?” asked one of the men.

“I think he is getting some answers,” whispered Hans. “This is right out of an old tale.”

“Come on, tell me,” I said. “Is it because of what I do?”

Nervous nods came all around the shop.

“Now, anyone who chants as Hieronymus did, especially that chant, is going to mirror his intentions with actions,” I said. “Namely, he was secretive – oh, and he enjoined you to silence, so you helped him hide the worst of his behavior from the community. Now, do I act in a secretive manner?”

“Why is it you work after we do?” asked Gelbhaar.

“He might have done that occasionally, perhaps for a short time now and then,” I said. “If you look at Georg's orders, you can see a very good reason why I need to work more hours, and harder hours – and no, it's not right to tell people to 'piss off' when they need something to earn a living or not suffer.”

I paused, then said, “Hieronymus was really bad about that, so much so that when he left, he used the box of stakes as a privy as a signification of his disgust with you all.”

“Why did he do that?” asked Georg.

“You were supposed to tell your customers to go to hell when they didn't do as you wished,” I said, “and that isn't good business.”

“But what do you do at home?” asked one of the boys.

“He works on stuff there too,” said Hans, “especially the close things, as that needs good lighting and no dirt.”

“And a comfortable stool, after a bath, and in clean clothing,” I said. “Trying to fit a gunlock such that it works properly does not take kindly to distractions, and the same for much else of a 'close' nature. Then, I do my best to show you what I am doing, in spite of my tendency to become, uh...”

“Is this when you are working on something, and a noise makes you almost fall on the floor?” said Hans. “You have bad trouble that way, so we must be careful when you are working.”

The shop had partly filled by now, and the murmurs behind me were such that I wondered.

“Suffice it to say I don't intend to hide things,” I said. “I do try to teach as best I can. Now, Hieronymus not only chanted curses, but he was known for his ill-temper. I might get frustrated with the slowness of others sometimes, but I try hard to not yell...”

“That was the first time I've heard you do that,” said someone from the crowd. “Now where are those witches you spoke of? Is it Georg and those two others that are trying to torment you like they do?”

“I have no idea why I said that,” I said calmly, “even if there is something truly unpleasant going on here, and I need answers so I'm not ready for a lengthy stay in a rest-house.”

As a 'break' from my questioning, I fetched one of the bagged lanterns, and unwrapped it before placing it on Georg's desk.

“Now, the only hands I've seen these things in are the hands of witches,” I said. “I fell down in that volcano to the east and south, and those cannibals were using these things when they were trying to shoot me full of holes.”

“They got him some, too,” said Hans. “Anna and I saw the scars.”

“Then, when I run home from that place with the cannibals after me,” I said, “I get chased by a dog, and some black-dressed wretch shows. He's got one of these things in one hand, and a fowling piece in the other, and he shoots at me and gets the dog.”

I paused, then listened for a second. I was being heard to a degree, for some reason.

“Then, all this nonsense here,” I said. “Hans tells me these lanterns are almost as bad as some of his traps for fires, I try cooking some distillate in the shop and almost scatter the place, we have to get the water going in a hurry when that one man was hurt and lose a good portion of our hair...”

“But that was well-dried distillate,” said Georg plaintively. “I was told it didn't do that.”

“He put some to the wood this morning,” said Hans, “and it almost lit him on fire.”

“That was boiled distillate, Hans,” I muttered. “That well-dried stuff still stinks terribly, and it's worse yet for fires – remember the bullets? At least we have a way to make it less hazardous now.”

“If they are so bad,” said someone, “then why were they ordered?”

“It seems I was thought to be an especially secretive witch, one who did evil in the dark behind closed doors,” I said, “and Georg ordered them. They were specified clearly on the bill of lading.”

I paused, then said, “now produce that bill, and pass it around, so that people can read it and see that I'm not lying.”

“Besides, he admitted it,” said Hans, “that, and they think him to be like Hieronymus, and they asked him if he was a witch, too.”

The crowd seemed to murmur, so much so that I asked, “do I act like a witch?”

“I doubt it,” said a woman's voice. “Witches hurt people, not help them.”

“Now, if you have further questions about my behavior, you can ask Hans and Anna,” I said. “I might well pray a fair amount...”

“Yes, and only Maarten does that more,” said Hans. “I hear you do that a lot, especially when you need to do something especially careful.”

“What do I do then?” I asked.

“You are asking to be helped,” said Hans, “and it is the usual language, though most do not pray that way.”

“How does he pray?” asked a voice I did not recognize.

“I have never heard someone so afraid of doing wrong, and want to do right that much,” said Hans, “and anyone who prays like that is not going to want to be a witch. Besides, witches have trouble with the book.”

“Does he?” asked another voice. It might have been one of the coopers.

“He reads that thing as good as the preacher,” said Hans.

“And I'm glad I able to read some,” said Anna. “He's been helping both of us, and explaining what Maarten says.”

For several minutes, I had wondered just 'who' was 'on trial', as being accused of being a witch wasn't a trivial matter. In some ways, Georg had the advantage of me, as he and the people in the shop were among the 'well-known', and the respected. I was still very new, or so I thought until Anna came close.

“I doubt they are going to make a pile,” she whispered.

“Good,” I said. “I wanted Georg and the others to wake up, not go up in smoke. Now why do you have doubts regarding this, uh, pile?”

“I think they want less-smelly distillate,” said Anna, “and several of them have looked at that machine you've got ready for painting. I know about several families in town who have leaky stovepipes.”

“And hopefully Georg and the others will ask questions in the future and not presume my 'guilt',” I murmured. “If they must bother someone, they should find Hieronymus and dose him with rotten eggs and uncorking medicine.”

“Why?” asked Anna.

“I'm not overly fond of seeing people go up in smoke,” I said. “Recall how I felt when that witch tried to poke me and I had to hit him?”

“What was this?” asked Georg.

“When that one man was hurt,” said Anna, “a witch tried for him with a knife. I am not sure we saw the same kind of knife, but we did see the knife, and I knew that witch wanted to kill him first and then I and Hans. He hit that witch, and saved our lives.”

“And got hurt doing it, too.” said Hans. “Then, there was a Desmond, and they ruined his trousers, and then another witch tried causing trouble out of town.”

I moved through the now-thinning crowd, then came closer to the desk. I looked Georg in the eye, then said, “is it because you need a word-book to understand what I say sometimes? Is it my hair? Is it the way I move? Is it something I cannot even think of?”

Georg was speechless, so much so that I wondered what had happened to him when he suddenly slumped in his chair and fell on the floor. I leaped over the desk, then picked him up and moved him to where Anna could look at him. As she came closer, Hans drew nearer.

“Why are you feeling his neck like that?” asked Anna.

I took her finger, then placed it gently over the carotid artery.

“His pulse, dear,” I said. “Under your finger. You always want to check that when people faint. He's sideways in case he spews. Now I wish we had a blanket.”

“For his desk?” asked Dirk. “Why is he asleep?”

“I asked him some more questions,” I said, “as it isn't just the fact that I'm not as he thought I should be, but something more – and I wondered what it was. I still do, in fact.”

“What did you ask?” said Dirk.

“One question was about my hair,” I said, “and another about the way I move. Perhaps it is my language.”

“What is wrong with your talking?” Dirk asked.

“He makes a magistrate seem uneducated,” said Georg as he abruptly woke up, “and I'm glad he's not one of those people.”

“Uh, why?” I asked.

“They do not question like you do,” he said. “They might seldom deal with wrongdoers, but if I was a thief, and you questioned me, I would not think to steal again.”

“Good,” I said quietly. “In the future, if you think I might be acting like a witch, tell me, and I will try to explain what I'm doing. I do not want to be a witch, not even a little bit. I want to do the right thing to the best of my knowledge and ability, I want to stay out of trouble, and I'm not sure beyond those two things.”

I paused, then said, “when Hieronymus left, did he leave in bad temper?”

“He was like that more often than not,” said Georg, “and you're right, we hid the worst of it when he was here, as a lot of our business depended on him. I'm not certain what he felt when he left, and I was surprised to find out he'd left his pistol in the hay.”

“He left more than that,” said Hans. “He'd left a stick of mining dynamite, then two jugs of light distillate, and if that gun had fired, it would have blown the place up.”

“This thing has a better trigger than it did,” I said, “but still, I had to carefully remove it to avoid the gun going off. I did that after I moved the dynamite and distillate well clear of it.”

“You said he was chanting,” asked Georg. “I thought he was just being his usual ill-tempered self.”

I pointed out the rune-string on the lantern, then said, “that was the exact curse right there. I saw it on the inside of the volcano, and I heard the cannibals chant it – though why it glowed red such that I knew what those figures sound like then is something of a mystery.”

As if to buttress the matter, the curse on the lantern now glowed faintly red and seemed to move slightly, and Georg looked at it. His shaking hands and pale sweating face were such that I marveled.

“What is it you see?” I asked.

“That m-mark,” he gasped. “I heard about those, and having one of them on something was said to indicate the product was a good one, and so I asked for lanterns marked that way, and now that mark is glowing red.”

“Quit frightening Georg,” I said evenly.

“It s-stopped,” said Georg. “How did y-you do that?”

“I'm not terribly sure,” I said. “You heard my part. I can only assume someone other than Brimstone did the rest, and how is a mystery.”

“Now,” I said after a brief pause, “who told you those marks indicated the given item was a good one? I've heard someone else say the same thing regarding distilleries, and I saw a similar marking on one of them.”

“I was told that as an apprentice,” said Georg, “that, and in some cases, they were said to help.”

“That agrees with what I heard,” I said. “It's entirely possible that whoever told you lied to you, also. The person that told me removed it from his, and there was no change in function of that distillery.”

I paused, then said, “I have a suspicion that there are a fair number of such markings, and in most cases, they have witchcraft significance over and above what is commonly believed. More, there is a lot of disinformation put out about those, as in they're indicators of 'quality' and they 'help with functioning'.”

I thought for a moment, then said, “perhaps I can remove that marking without damaging the lantern. Is there another species of liquid that could be used in these without setting the shop on fire or blowing it up?”

“There is cooking oil,” said Anna, “but it makes distillate look to be cheap.”

“Then perhaps put these, uh, things in a 'safe' place where they will not cause trouble,” I said. “I honestly do not know what to do with them beyond 'remove that marking' and 'do not fill them with distillate and then light them'. Even deodorized distillate isn't all that safe in these, and 'light-giving firebombs' aren't things I want to play with.”

I paused, then said, “I'm glad I got those candles at that one place.”

“But candles are weak for light,” said Georg.

“That is if you use the common ones,” said Hans. “Those wax ones might be a good deal more, but they give more light. Then, if you use these half-round things behind them...”

“Which that slip-roller will do nicely,” I said. “It will work for more than stovepipes.”

“They direct the light,” said Hans. “He uses three or four of them at the workbench.”

“Perhaps carefully tinning them might help, along with a top reflector?” I said quietly. “I suspect that I'll still need to plan what I do carefully, much like I try to do at this time.”

As the townspeople steadily filtered out, I noted that there were several jugs of distillate left by the door. I had the suspicion that Hans would be 'cooking' a good deal of distillate, and as I resumed working on the bar-roller, Anna came over.

“If you tell me what needs painting,” she said, “I can show them.”

“Uh, containers for the paint?” I asked.

“What is this of paint?” asked Gelbhaar.

“This one is ready for painting,” I said. “I'm not sure about the color, as I suspect it to be the only good one Hans has.”

“Why, what is it?” asked Johannes.

“White,” said Anna. “Whiting is cheap and easy to work with. Besides, I think he's right, as Hans has tested that paint a fair amount.”

Anna paused, then said, “we'll need two or three small containers for the paint, and some paintbrushes...”

“Those came recently,” said Georg. “I heard they worked well for a lot of things, not just painting.”

I thought to let Anna deal with 'painting instruction', at least for the moment, but when she had to use the privy, I took a small brass rod and mixed the paint to what looked about 'right'. As I did this, I could faintly hear chanting in the background, then as I dipped one of the paintbrushes in the paint, I asked, “is painting thought to be a matter of witchcraft also?”

“A lot of people do it,” said Johannes. “Anna does it better than most. Why?”

“I wondered,” I said. “I've heard my share of chants in the background lately, and I just heard another one.”

“How?” asked Georg.

“I'm not certain how that works,” said Anna, as she returned, “but Hans and I often know when he hears them, as we do too.”

“Yes, like just a minute ago,” said Hans. “Now are any of you thinking...”

Hans paused in mid sentence, for I had just painted a stripe on the main frame. The even nature of the paint was astonishing, and as I painted another stripe, he began muttering.

“Yes?” I asked. “I did spend enough time doing this before I came here, and this paint seems fairly good for these brushes.”

“I can see that,” said Hans, “and I think Anna needs to have lessons from you, as I have not seen such good painting.”

“It can't be,” I said. “Here, Anna, try this paint.”

Anna looked at the paint, then Hans, then at the paint again, and began muttering – until she put down a nice even coat of paint and nearly dropped the brush.

“What did you do to this paint?” she screeched. “It's the best stuff I've ever used.”

“The usual things,” said Hans, “only he helped me a lot. I think he might have ground it especially good, as it mixed easier than is usual.”

“Perhaps it will serve to keep this machine from rusting, then,” I said. “We might want to move the finished pieces over near one of the forges, so they stay warm. Paint dries faster then.”

With several people painting – all three men, Anna, and myself – we had one side of the parts painted. I found that while I did have to 'supervise' – the tendency was to paint everything, even places that weren't to be painted, and even Anna wasn't immune – it was much less 'demanding' than before the 'showdown' in the shop.

“Honest questions are fine,” I thought. “I can handle those.”

While the paint dried – I had the impression it would need at least a full day, if not more – I thought to work on the usual things as well as the bar-roller. As the main 'lunch period' was ending, however, the masons arrived with a 'stretcher', and here, I saw the door to the furnace.

“You'll need to band that door carefully,” said one of them; again, I heard a peculiar-sounding 'Spanish' accent – “and then make the part to hold it. If you run iron, you'll want to get it leak-tight, or as close to that as possible. Iron causes trouble if you do not.”

I noted the small hole in the door, then asked, “the air-hole?”

“That and the cracks that usually happen when such furnaces get used some,” said the 'chief' mason, or so I guessed him to be. “For iron, the usual is a special thing that moves a lot of wind, and it blows in that hole. We made the step specially to stand it.”

“Wind?” I thought. “Will they want me to get close to that thing here?”

As if to remind me, I felt – and heard – a small amount of escaping gas. Discretion wasn't possible, as I wasn't sawing, filing, or forging to cover the noise.

Regular wind, not that type,” he said. “That type works better for getting forges lit, or so I have heard.”

“He has trouble that way,” said Johannes, “and I am not surprised.”

“Uh, why?” I asked.

“I heard this when I was traipsing, and not in a shop,” said Johannes. “Someone said that the sign of a good smith is much wind, and you have as much as anyone.”

Perhaps Fritz had as much,” said Gelbhaar, “but that is but an old tale.”

The runes proved easily 'erased' with a file and scrapers, followed by a strap, and one by one, Georg took the lanterns into his house. I surmised he was going to 'dispose' of them in some fashion, though in what fashion was a mystery. Their intended purpose seemed a great deal of trouble, and they didn't have electricity around here.

Now I wonder about the wick for those things,” I said. “That might well work for this lamp I have in mind.”

I hope it doesn't burn distillate,” said Georg. “I should have asked Hans about that stuff before I got those things.”

You didn't know much about those lanterns beyond 'they're said to be really bright', and 'the best ones have these strange marks on them', didn't you?” I asked.

Georg nodded, then said, “that, and Hieronymus had two in here that he used now and then. They were a lot brighter than any candle I'd ever seen.”

I will give them that,” I said. “They are brighter. Are you planning on selling or trading them as 'expensive curios'? I know they have those things in Waldhuis, and they might want spares.”

You filed the marks off, though,” said Georg. “That makes them worthless.”

How?” I asked. “That will not affect their capacity for light or starting fires.”

Prove it,” said Georg.

Bring one out,” I muttered, “and I'll show you.”

Georg brought one of the things out, and I looked it over carefully prior to inserting its wick. As I did so, however, I set it down and began writing. The details of the 'wick-holder' seemed especially useful, so much so that I scribbled all over both sides of a slate.

What are you writing?” asked Gelbhaar.

These weren't a total loss,” I said. “If this one erupts, perhaps I can use some parts off of it for what I have in mind.”

What is that?” asked Gelbhaar.

“A lamp similar to some I have,” I said, “except better suited for large amounts of heat. They use aquavit, so they aren't likely to explode.”

After part-filling the 'reservoir' with boiled distillate, I reassembled the lamp, then slivered off a piece of wood and lit it at the forge. I poked it into the hole at the bottom of the 'globe', and within seconds, the brilliant light lit up a large portion of the shop. I then saw the thick and greasy smoke trail, and as I looked up at the ceiling, I saw the steadily gathering black pall.

A light-giving smudge-pot,” I muttered. “Anna would have a fit if I used these, as the parlor would be wall-to-wall soot within an hour or so.”

I didn't notice that before,” said Georg. “Now why is it not acting strange?”

Strange?” I asked. “In what way?”

The ones Hieronymus had would vary in light,” said Georg, “and they got worse that way the longer he ran them. He'd need to put them out every so often.”

What kind of distillate did he use?” I asked. “Well-dried stuff?”

Georg nodded, then said, “that one doesn't smell, either.”

It's burning boiled distillate,” I said, as I fetched one of the jugs that had been brought in earlier in the morning. “Here, smell this jug.”

Georg did, then said, “this stuff is strange.”

Why, it doesn't smell?” I asked.

Georg shook his head, then corked the jug before saying, “it smells less than what you usually use.”

I'm nearly out of that first batch,” I said. “Hans needs lighter distillate for traps and extractions, everyone here prefers distillate that doesn't stink...”

But I thought you liked that smell,” said Johannes. “Hieronymus seemed to.”

What?” I squeaked. “The first few times using it nearly had me spewing my last meal, and it still makes me sick unless it's boiled.”

I put out the lantern some few minutes later, then handed it to Georg, saying, “now, you can prove they still give light with that one. If you must use them, don't leave them lit for more than a few minutes at a time, adjust them down as far as possible, and use boiled distillate only. I'd take them to that second-hand store to the east of here, and put them out on consignment.”

Why is that?” asked Georg.

Because that store sees black-dressed witches now and then, and the ones just starting out will buy those in a hurry at a decent price,” I said, “mark or no mark. If they wish to get lit on fire and sooted up, that's their business.”

I paused, then said, “besides, a sooty face is the perfect fashion accessory for black-cloth.”

However, about twenty minutes later, I recalled something Georg had said, and I asked, “why would the lack of that mark supposedly prevent their functioning?”

“That was what I was told when I was asking about them,” said Georg. “I was told that the really good ones needed that marking to work at all.”

“Now you know better,” I said. “Who said that, by the way? I doubt it was Hieronymus, as those lanterns were like children to him, and he guarded their secrets jealously.”

“I asked about them when I was trying to find out about that one man's gun,” said Georg, “and I hope I never go in another drink-house again.”

“Uh, black-dressed unpleasant patrons?” I asked.

“I didn't talk to them,” said Georg, “but many of the people I spoke with acted a lot like Hieronymus or that one man.”

“I suspect much of what you heard was disinformation,” I said, “or to put it simpler, lies.”

I paused, then asked, “is the drop-hammer waiting on my finishing that other larger machine?”

“That and the castings it needs,” said Georg. “I spoke of needing them quickly, so they should be done fairly soon. Why?”

“Because I'm going to need to use that thing to forge those barrels,” I said. “Did you find anything else regarding its details?”

“I found no equipment,” said Georg, “and I have to confess I really don't recall that clearly what it looks like beyond it involved a wheel, a crank, a pulley, and a latch of some type.”

“Let me try drawing something,” I said.

I drew what I suspected was involved, and when I showed it to Georg, he said, “this is very close to what I recall seeing.”

“It's slow and clumsy, too,” I said. “Now, here we have this, uh, lever, and this other one, and this crank-arm, and then this part here that adjusts... No, this is better... There, that should be a bit faster.”

“I would still use that first drawing, though,” said Georg. “That is a fairly large block that is to be cast, and those I recalled needed a lot of effort to raise.”

After reflection – and further questioning at the carpenter's shop – I realized the rapid blows possible with the lever system, as well as its lack of control regarding release, was a serious problem; a sixty pound block wasn't going to be easy to lift nearly four feet with the lever arrangement I had drawn. More importantly, the lever system had no real mechanical advantage, unlike the pulley-and-crank.

Before the usual 'shop' quitting time, however, I asked a few more questions, and learned that the pulley setup, especially the way it had been done – Georg wasn't the only person who had knowledge of the usual type of drop-hammer; both Johannes and Gelbhaar had seen similar devices – was as hazardous to its users as was the common way of doing grindstones.

Once home and bathed, I resumed working on 'close' work. Here, I was finish-filing parts for the rivet-swage, with the student's ledger near at hand, and the thought occurred to me to use a 'dog' clutch, a lever to engage and release it, and a sizable wheel so as to store inertia.

“I hope that will make things safer,” I thought. “It won't jerk when engaging or releasing, at least I hope it won't, and the heavier it is, the better – and I had best make two of those, with the other for the buffing wheel.”

At dinner, I asked, “do either of you know where I can get wagon wheels? I need two.”

“Those you will need to have made,” said Hans, “and now is a bad time for that, as wood-cutting isn't happening much with the start of the snow.”

“They don't need to match,” I said, “nor do they need to be in particularly good shape, as they are not going on a wagon.”

“Then what are they for?” asked Hans.

“One of them is for the drop-hammer,” I said, “and the other for the buffing wheel.”

“You might want to look at that one second-hand store's stuff,” said Hans. “Otherwise, I can ask around. I still think you will need to have the wooden parts made and make the rim for what you need, as those are not commonly made as spares.”

Hans 'jerked' a few minutes later, then said, “I was thinking of something different. I think if you ask Georg, his brother...”

“Hans, no,” said Anna. “That's thirty miles south, and he's worse than Georg for how he works. Does it have to be a wagon wheel?”

“What I need are two heavy disks with holes in the center,” I said. “One will need a handle, and the other won't. They both need iron rims – at least, I think they'll need iron rims. They won't need to be as thick as the rim for a wagon.”

“That is not a wagon wheel,” said Hans, “but it sounds much easier to make than one of those things. You might be able to have the carpenters make them, and then put the rims on yourself.”

“How is Georg's brother worse?” I asked. “Does he tend to see witches more readily?”

“I am not sure he is that way,” said Anna, “but I am certain that you would have to redo much of his work when you finally got it. I doubt you wish to wait until the middle of spring next year for him.”

“What?” I squeaked.

“It takes them longer to forge buggy parts than it takes you to finish them,” said Anna. “When they tried finishing those in the past, they often had to forge two or three pieces for each one that was sold.”

“Is that why there are all of those scrap-barrels in back?” I asked.

“That is likely, that and the old parts they get to copy,” said Hans. “I have heard about that last set of buggy parts you worked on, and they are working a lot better than the old ones did. He might want new springs forged, as they are going bad.”

“They'd best have him do that,” said Anna, “as those other people's will either go limp or break.”

“And that means a working drop-hammer,” I said. “What if I ask for some wheels made of planks?”

“Now how will you do that?” asked Hans.

After drawing what I meant and showing both of them, I said, “they seemed a bit less 'obtuse' today, and asked a lot more questions.”

“Yes, and I have not seen a wheel done this way,” said Hans. “Wheels have hubs, and spokes, and iron bands, and they do not have handles.”

“Is the term 'wheel' a source of confusion?” I asked, “or have you simply only seen the one type?”

“Hans, the third kingdom,” said Anna. “Remember that one cart that was pulled by those two straight-horn bulls?”

Hans 'jerked', then said, “I think I have gotten my brains scrambled from doing too much, as I had forgotten that thing. That had wheels like you have drawn here, except no handle for the one.”

“I doubt I would be able to have a wheelwright make one just the same,” I said. “They would only know the one way of building, and the one style of wheel, and anything else would be something a witch would want. Hence, they would want no part of it.”

“That is the other part of how Georg's brother is worse than he is,” said Anna. “At least Georg is willing to try new things if he thinks he might earn money by doing them.”

A few minutes later, as we finished eating, I said, “Georg thought that those markings were needed for those lanterns to work at all. I tried one out to show him otherwise.”

“Yes, and did it try to light you on fire?” asked Hans.

“I think I may have found the problems with those,” I said. “First, their construction heats the distillate to a fair degree, and they're not vented save through the wick-holder – which means if common heavy distillate is used, they tend to off-gas and spew the fumes through and around the wick. That creates more heat, which means more fumes...”

“And they go up like witch-jugs,” said Hans. “Now what is the other trouble?”

“That fuel stinks for lanterns, and I don't mean just the odor,” I said. “When I tried one with boiled distillate, the amount of smoke it spewed was enough to tell me they weren't fit to use indoors.”

“Candles make some soot,” said Anna. “Are you saying those are worse?”

“They make so much soot that if I ran one in here, it would turn the walls black in an hour,” I said. “I told Georg where he could recoup his investment, as well as how he could show they still worked.”

“Yes, and where is that?” asked Hans. “That oven isn't ready, so you cannot melt them down.”

“Oh, no, Hans,” I said slyly. “It seems that one second-hand store to the east has periodic visitations by just-starting black-dressed witches, and they'd buy those things right away, markings or not – and at a price that will permit Georg to realize a modest profit, also. He'll like that part.”

“Yes, and what good is that?” asked Hans. “Those things are witch-tools.”

“We both know of their incendiary tendencies,” I said, “and I doubt those people will do as I told Georg: boiled distillate, no more than a few minutes at a time, and keep them turned down as far as possible. Hence, they will enjoy the soot while the lantern misbehaves, and relish the fire when it gets angry with them.”

“Now how is a piece of brass and metal going to get angry with them?” asked Hans.

“Anyone who believes such rubbish as 'these have to be cursed to work' is also going to believe the added rubbish about the lantern having a bad attitude toward its less-than-worshipful owner,” I said, “and anyone who wears pointed boots and black-cloth needs a sooty face to look 'right'.”

“What?” said Anna.

“The lantern explodes, and creates a big smoky fire, which soots up our witch,” I said. “Presuming, of course, it does not set him alight.”

I paused, then said, “now, do burn-piles constitute public entertainment? Or is the goal simply witch-disposal?”

“I am not sure,” said Hans. “What do you mean by entertainment?”

“They draw people from miles, and are thought passable substitutes for Pump and Tilly,” I said.

“They don't do either of those,” said Anna. “Most just see...”

“Didn't Maarten speak on that matter some time ago?” I asked. “Something about 'until they be burnt to ashes'?”

“He did, and that is a common sermon,” said Anna.

“Hence few people think beyond, 'there be a witch, and that wretch needeth burning',” I said.

“I would not be surprised,” said Anna. “Now why did you speak that way?”

“Supposedly, people spoke that way where I came from hundreds of years ago,” I said, “and in those days, there were 'witches', and they were thought to need burning. It is very unlikely those people then and those around here have more in common beyond the label of 'witch'.”

I paused, then said, “I suspect many of those labeled witches then had medicines that worked, cared about women when they were having children, and otherwise, perhaps looked a little strange. That was sufficient to get people killed then.”

“And you?” asked Anna.

“They had stopped burning strange-looking normal people,” I said. “They hadn't stopped wanting to kill people like me.”

The paint was dry the next morning. This time, I had barely gotten the first forge lit when the boys showed, and the smoke-billow – it was a lot smaller than the day before, as I had used a small scrap of rag dampened with 'well-dried' distillate – was still clustering around the rafters.

“How do you normally get the wood lit?” I asked.

“With a gunflint, steel, and some distillate,” said the oldest boy. “Why?”

“How do you avoid getting burned?” I asked.

“It helps if you use less of the stuff than what you put on that fire,” he said.

“I only used a small piece of rag this time,” I said.

“How small?” he asked. “If the rag's much bigger than a fingernail, then it's too big.”

“I would never get the spark close enough,” I said. “I tend to send those things all over still.”

“Then you might want to bring a candle from home,” said one of the other boys. “I do that when it's my turn, as I don't have lighting things yet, and it takes practice to get those sparks to fly right.”

“Practice, he says,” I muttered. “I might get sparks most of the time now, but if they're 'in the general direction', I'm doing good.”

The heat of the fires had the shop warm enough to work within twenty minutes, and as I turned the pieces over for painting, I heard more yawning coming from the front of the shop. I turned to see Georg.

“They poured those castings yesterday,” he said, “and all of them came good.”

“The sextant castings?” I asked.

“They've managed one set, and part of another,” said Georg. “For pieces that small, the usual is to fit them in with other jobs, and brass isn't something people do often around here, even for that place.”

“And the other castings?” I asked.

“Should be here today or tomorrow,” said Georg. “Is the paint dry for that one side?”

After painting the thing fully – I didn't have to supervise as closely this time, as it seemed some recollection of where to paint and where not to paint remained – I went over to the carpenters. There was still some snow remaining here and there, and once inside, I noted not merely the other 'grinding' frame was almost done, but also, the drop-hammer frame. The lathe was in use, and someone was cutting short lengths of wood.

I then recalled the need to look at hammers, and asked to see one.

I was not expecting to see claw-hammers, and I didn't; these things had octagonal heads roughly an inch across the flats and three inches long, with a stout-looking wooden handle nearly as long as my entire arm. The odd-looking bulged portion at the very end of the handle made me wonder more than a little until someone removed the hammer from where I was examining it and used the thing.

It was then obvious as to the function of the bulge, or so it seemed, even if the carved grooves, the small 'eyes', and the shape itself were peculiar enough to make for mental head-scratching.

“It would fly out of his hand without that lump on the end,” I thought.

After speaking of the two 'wheels' – two or three layers of glued-and-doweled thin planks, with a somewhat wider rim – I was able to leave the carpenter's area. The aura of 'business' that I commonly felt in town seemed subdued, much as if the raw-seeming morning was still dark, and only by the time of the morning 'guzzle' did both the people of the shop and the town seem properly awake. I wondered if the town 'hibernated' during the winter.

“Things usually are slower when the snow comes down,” said Georg. “Now once it starts to come steady, then people will be hunting more, and I would expect more guns to show. How is what that one man brought in?”

“Black-cap, or the other?” I asked. “Most of Black-Cap's gun is waiting on the drop-hammer and furnace, as I've almost got his lock soft-fitted. The other just needs scraping and drying oil, and then it can go out.”

“You are no gunsmith,” said Johannes, “even if you do a lot of work where we cannot see it.”

“Remember what he said,” said Georg. “He needs clean clothing, a comfortable stool, a bath, and no noise to do close stuff, and Hans was not exaggerating about the noise part, as I have asked around.”

“I haven't fallen on the floor yet,” I said, “though I have come close.”

I paused, then said, “what did you mean by my not being a gunsmith?”

“They take a lot longer than that to rework a musket,” said Gelbhaar. “Especially when they do that much.”

“Complete new lock, clean up everything, new furniture, lap and rifle the barrel?” I asked. “Oh, that reminds me. We'll need a boring fixture for barrels.”

“Draw it up, and take it to the carpenters,” said Georg. “I've already had people asking for stove-pipes, and if you manage musket-barrels, we will indeed be buried, as no one makes those up here that I know of. I hope we can learn to do enough to keep up.”

“With that machine, you all might be able to manage some portions of the stovepipes,” I said. “Do we have the sheet-iron needed?”

“I put out the order at the same time as the other,” said Georg, “and that part needed to go to the fifth kingdom itself. All the other stuff was in the fourth.”

“Is it common to be, uh, laggardly down there?” I asked.

“It can be, if you are dealing with a combine and you don't know the right people,” said Georg. “At least their sheet-iron is passable. I wish I could say that about the other things they do.”

“It isn't just their machinery, I take it,” I said. “The common down there isn't terribly good. Now is it true there are multiple grades of equipment made there?”

“There are,” said Georg. “I have no idea as to how to ensure one gets what one pays for.”

“Does it help to know the 'right' people?” I asked. “Hans spoke of some deals being done in drink-houses.”

“That is said to be the usual down there,” said Gelbhaar, “and one must drive in a coach, wear black-stuff, and act worse than Hieronymus to talk to those people, as they look down on those not as they are.”

“And carry a loaded revolver,” I said in a snide tone of voice. “I'm out of good thimbles right now, so I'm having to make do with some Hans had lying around.”

I paused, then said, “at least I might annoy a marmot if one shows.”

“How is it you would annoy one of those?” asked Johannes.

“I'm not a very good shot,” I said, “and with pistols, I would do more damage by throwing them than I would by shooting them. This one isn't terribly good, at least for shooting. It seems passable for practice.”

“How is that?” asked Johannes.

“I've turned and threaded two new pins, and reamed the holes they went in,” I said. “The next part is to make a new hammer and ramming lever, and lap the cylinder so its chambers are round and smooth.”

During lunch, I thought to look out in front of the shop. There was a fresh 'dusting' of snow on the ground, and when I went to the watering trough, I noted it had a fresh sheet of thin brittle ice. I looked to the north, then the south, and as I swept my eyes around, I could feel something. I felt my pocket carefully, and then turned around.

To my complete astonishment, a half-grown marmot was devouring some spilled grain at the northwest corner of the property. As if in a dream, I drew, aimed, and fired.

The death-scream of the animal as it leaped into the air was so shattering and horrible I nearly dropped the gun, and I ran into the shop in a state of near-hysteria.

“What was that?” asked Georg, as Johannes went to the door.

“I think that is a marmot,” said Johannes, “and it looks to be dead. I think it might go to the Public House so it can be skinned out.”

“I thought you said you were a bad shot,” said Georg.

“I am,” I said. “That had to be luck.”

Two of the apprentices left with the dead animal, and when they returned, one of them said, “that one was good for three free meals. Now how did you shoot out its eye?”

“What?” I squeaked. “How?”

“The publican said you had dotted its eye,” he said. “It had a hole there, and out the other side of its head.”

“That had to be luck,” I said. “I, I don't know how I could have done that.” I was glad I had cleaned and reloaded the gun just the same.

A buggy came by roughly an hour later with the drop-hammer castings. I overheard the driver speaking of another 'buggy' coming behind him with a four-horse team, and as I listened carefully, I had the impression more supplies were coming. I was rough-filing the pieces to the rivet-swage for the pipe-rivets; my forging was still improving, such that I didn't need to use the grindstone much.

“And a good thing, too,” I thought, “as it makes my teeth want to hide without that white stuff in my ears.”

Once Georg had gone to the Public House, I inspected the castings. I was surprised to find not merely the drop-hammer block, but also two small bags. Examining these showed guards and pommels for knives, and as I examined one, I noted a smooth finish and the remnants of an obvious sprue.

“Those can go back to where you have your things,” said Johannes. “Those look to be good ones, and they will save time.”

“Uh, we've been doing them of brass,” I said. “Does it matter?”

“I doubt it,” said Johannes. “Bronze is more common up here, and people are more than happy with those knives.”

I fetched a slate, then read aloud, “'one knife, as per usual'. That doesn't tell me a whole lot, even if the handwriting is much better than mine.”

“That seems the common for orders,” said Johannes. “Those people from Waldhuis were pickier, but even their orders were not much longer for speaking.”

“Did you have to 'read their minds'?” I asked.

“Georg did have to ask around some,” he said. “Otherwise, if we had a sample, we copied it as close as possible. That is usually what most want.”

“And that will be a problem with Black-Cap's musket,” I said, “as I don't have engraving tools – at least, I think I don't have engraving tools. I know I would not have a clue as to how to use them, and then, I doubt anything I'd put on there would work out.”

“Why, what would you put on such a thing?” asked Gelbhaar. He was resting from a stint at the grinding wheel.

“I saw at least one of these things recently,” I said. “It was big, silvery-gray, and really loud, and it climbed trees so fast I had trouble following it. What are those called?”

“I think those are called tree-rats,” said Gelbhaar. “Why do you ask?”

“I saw one on the way to that volcano,” I said. “I've seen things like them before, but they were nowhere near that big, that fast, or that loud – and if I was going to engrave a gun, I would put one of those on it.”

I was not prepared for the reaction I got, for everyone in the shop laughed as if out of their minds. Just then, Georg arrived, and asked in a strange voice, “what is the joke? If it is a good one, I want to hear it.”

“He does not do engraving,” said Johannes between bursts of laughter, “but if he did, he would engrave a tree-rat on the lock of that man's gun.”

Georg had to find a seat, as he burst into laughter of such magnitude I wondered if there was something wrong with him.

“That thing was fast, though,” I said. “Why, is it wrong to engrave tree-rats on guns?”

There was no answer for nearly three minutes. Georg finally said, “if such a weapon were engraved, it would most likely be done by a jeweler. I've seen your finished locks, and I doubt they need such work done to them, though how you get them looking like that is a mystery.”

“Case-hardening colors?” I asked. “Those just come out that way, more or less, though I try to stir the water up when I quench them. That makes the colors a little more 'obvious'.”

“That one man's lock has some faint bluish and brown tints, though,” said Georg. “Is that normal?”

“I've seen some with more obvious colors,” I said, “but I've heard that took a special formula that I've not had time to experiment with. I'm still figuring a lot of this stuff out, including whatever was being ground on recently.”

“That was to a plow that came in last week,” said Georg. “Is that iron you cook hard to weld onto the regular stuff?”

“I doubt it,” I said. “Why, do you want a hard-point, so it doesn't go dull quite as fast?”

That proved to be the case, and I thought to watch as a break from my work on the bar-roller. I had to speak of a higher welding temperature, but once that was done, Johannes managed to weld the point onto the existing metal. He had little trouble forging it to size.

“Now you can grind it to shape,” I said. “Are those customarily hardened?”

“The usual ones do not get hard, except by hammering,” said Gelbhaar. “Do you use a fat-quench with that metal?”

“I would, especially given it's going to be hitting rocks,” I said. “You'll want to smooth it carefully before, as there is something about metal that I've pattern-welded not liking rough surfaces. That special stuff is really bad that way.”

“That does not surprise me,” said Johannes, “and I'm glad I won't have to grind this one much.”

While Gelbhaar scraped the stock to that one man's rifle, I returned to working on the rivet swage. I had asked for some sheet brass, so as to make patterns of the parts I had forged, and as I finished each one, I traced out the outlines on the brass with an awl. I would cut and file them to size at home.

As the horrific sounds of the grinding wheel began to ring in my mind, I saw in my peripheral vision Georg getting up and going to the door, then motioning to the boys. The three of them filed out, and minutes later, began to bring in small 'bundles' of sheet iron and set them next to the slip-roller. I returned to my work, thinking to check on the bundles once they'd stopped arriving.

A few minutes later, I thought to turn around, and I nearly collapsed onto my stool. Georg had gotten no less than twelve inch-thick bundles of sheet metal, and four somewhat thicker bundles of iron rods. A brief glance at the latter spoke of it being close to size for stove-rivets.

“It will still need rolling,” I thought, “as that stuff is likely to be uneven, like most wire around here.”

Gelbhaar scraped the stock – I suspected he'd done them before, and his use of one of the shops 'small-knives', as well as what looked like a linoleum knife, made for wonderment – and then oiled it. He placed it near a forge hanging from the butt.

“I saw you cut and hammered a brass piece for the rear of that one,” he said. “Why is that?”

“Black-Cap's gun has one,” I said, “and I'd thought I'd try doing one, so as to figure them out some. Besides, that part typically gets a fair amount of abuse, if I go by what I've seen, and that brass piece should protect it.”

“I would watch that, then,” said Gelbhaar. “People will want those as part of going through their guns.”

“The barrel pinning arrangement?” I asked.

“I think he will like that,” said Gelbhaar. “You will want to speak with him, so as to make certain he knows about it, and how it works.”

Gelbhaar paused to sip from his mug, then said, “the heat of the forge will dry it a lot faster. I will scrape it carefully once it's fully dry, wipe it again, and then you can show me how that one goes together. I've heard about how the lock can be taken out and replaced with but one turnscrew.”

“I included a small one,” I said. “I'm glad the carpenters turned those blanks to make them easier.”

“What blanks are these?” asked Johannes. He was resting from a stint at the anvil, where he appeared to be pattern-welding something.

“Those for the awls,” I said. “It seems that I can split those, file them, and then fit them to smaller turnscrew blanks fairly quickly.”

“How do you split them, though?” he asked.

I turned to the tool-carrier, opened one of its doors, and brought out one of my hacksaw frames, then showed the blade I had made for wood. The two men's eyes bugged out.

“What, haven't you seen a wood-saw blade before?”

“Not like that, and not that small,” said Gelbhaar. “How did you make it?”

“The same way I usually make saw blades,” I said. “Enough orders for those are showing that I'm hoping I don't have to do all of the pattern-welding, especially for things like buggy parts.”

“I know about those,” said Johannes. “I've been saving some of the off-cuts and end pieces of those blanks you do, in hopes I could weld them up into a good knife-blade.”

“Uh, get a suitable piece of that better iron, and I'll show you how,” I said.

I gave a quick 'lesson' on the spot. Here, I saw the frightful difference between the rapidity of blows I managed and that of the others, such that they might be able to weld two inches before the metal cooled to the point where welding was impossible.

“How is that normally done?” I asked “Two people hitting with sledges?”

“Yes, if there are hammers and people big enough to swing them,” said Johannes. “I suspected the smaller pieces were easier to forge-weld, and after that plow-point, I know they are.”

“Were drop-hammers used for that?” I asked.

“That is why I hope that one works well,” said Johannes, “as then, the rest of us can do our share.”

“Why not thin short strips,” I said, “like those used for awls, turnscrews, and things like them? If you do the first part, so that they can be packed in those cans, that will speed matters up. Oh, and keep saving the off-cuts, and especially those cast-iron chips. I have some plans for those.”

“And what might those be?” said Georg. “I was watching that lesson also.”

“I'll need to make the thing to do so first,” I said, “and that might take a while. Remember what I said about crucibles and iron?”

“I recall that,” said Georg, “and I've asked around some since. Only a few places manage that in the fourth kingdom, and there is much rumor surrounding what they do.”

“Any sufficiently advanced equipment is thought to be the results of 'magic',” I muttered. “And good steel was that where I came from hundreds of years ago.”

“What was this?” asked Georg.

“Hieronymus did things you didn't understand, and you thought him a witch, because it was 'magic',” I said, “and I do things that are even harder to follow.”

I paused, then said, “I recall hearing a statement where I came from about 'sufficiently advanced technology' being regarded as 'magic', and since the local possessors of 'magic' in these parts are thought to be witches, anyone who turns out something far better than the usual is thought to be a witch.”

I sipped from my mug, and nearly knocked it on the floor in the process of putting it back on the bench.

Magic,” I muttered. “I nearly knocked my mug onto the floor for the third time today. Now did Hieronymus have trouble that way?”

I turned to see three very wide-eyed men staring at me, shaking their heads to indicate no.

“I guess I'm not a proper witch, then,” I said, “and you saw some more proof. I've wanted to make tinned copper cups and mugs for a while, as I could just see myself ruining a box of crockery a week the way I am with these things.”

It was 'quitting time' shortly thereafter, at least for the others, and while I remained behind to work on those things that needed me doing them – the pipe-rivet swage and bar-mill being the most important – I could tell staying much later without added light-sources wasn't going to happen. More importantly, I needed an especially good source of light, more than that of four or five wax candles. I almost wanted one of those smoke-billowing incendiary lights, and only their likely misbehavior kept me thinking otherwise.

“Duh, this place has a sooty-enough ceiling that a bit more soot isn't going to make much difference, I said as I 'bagged' my 'homework', “and besides, it's warmer at home. This place tends to be chilly without a charcoal-fueled brazier handy to warm one's backside.”

Yet still, I knew I would need to have light-sources for use at work, either during especially cloudy days or times when I needed to work earlier or later than the usual time-frame, and as I mounded the charcoal in the one forge – I put the plow's business end in, as well as the rollers from the bar-roller and all three well-packed containers for cooking – I knew I was in for a long evening.

I felt like an impossibly filthy tramp as I wobbled home, with my jug in my hand, a dragging right pocket, and a clanking bag over my other shoulder full of 'homework'. I was wondering about a belt, and more, a holster for the pistol, as well as a powder measure. I'd used Georg's musket powder for a reload, as well as one of Hans' old thimbles.

Once home and bathed, I thought to examine my workbench. Here, I found a stout cloth bag of surprising heft, as well as another bundle of wax candles. They seemed a bit thicker than the ones I'd previously seen.

As I began arranging my 'homework' on the 'breadboard' in the left part of my bench, I heard steps to my right and rear. I turned to see Anna.

“I fetched the nails today,” she said, “and I wonder about them. I think they sold me their less-good ones.”

“Do they grade those things?” I asked.

“I suspect they do,” said Anna.

“I doubt that,” said Hans as he came up into the kitchen. I then heard sniffing noises, and smelled the aroma of cooking marmot.

“Now I thought you could not shoot good,” said Hans, “but what is in that stew-pot tells me otherwise. That was a good fifteen pace shot.”

“What did you shoot it with?” asked Anna.

“He used that pistol,” said Hans, “and drilled it in the head. He just missed the eye of that thing.”

Hans then looked at the nails, then said, “these are about the common for nails, Anna. I have heard tell there are better ones, but they are hard to find, and harder to get.”

“I can 'cook' them tomorrow,” I said. “Perhaps most of the day should help a bit, and then a fat-quench. That should help them not rust so fast.”

“What is this about fat?” asked Anna.

“There are two types of quenches, or actually, three, though I haven't done the third one there,” I said. “One involves plain water, and the other, a mixture of what might be cooking oil of some kind, tallow, and other things. I don't use water very often for quenching, as it's too abrupt and would cause warping.”

“They do that down in the fourth kingdom,” said Hans. “Have you had time for those hammers yet?”

“I had time to look at what the carpenters use,” I said, “and theirs seemed fairly soft.”

“How is it you know?” asked Anna.

“The head was chewed up on the one I saw,” I said. “It had seen a lot of use, but still, it shouldn't have been that battered.”

“You might ask for their broken ones, then,” said Hans. “I had thought them better than that, but I guess not.”

At dinner – I had nearly finished the pipe-rivet swage; all that it needed was hardening, and then its wooden handles attached prior to assembling it – I asked, “do either of you know where I can get a small powder measure?”

“I do,” said Hans, “and I got one today at that one second-hand store. They have no wagon wheels, even if they had lead I did not know about.”

“How, Hans?” asked Anna. “I thought those people were cleaned out.”

“They had some they had not cleaned and melted,” said Hans, “so I got a little bag of that when I was over there, along with a smaller second-hand measure and some more jugs. I think it might have been meant for those things, as it is a bit bigger than that used for priming.”

“Jugs?” I asked.

“Yes, for some of that distillate that I have been boiling,” said Hans. “I have given those people back their jugs, and I have almost a whole added jug of light distillate over those two you found.”

“How much did you ask for that distillate?” asked Anna.

“A guilder each, as I kept the light distillate,” said Hans. “That stuff costs more than heavy distillate, so I think I did fine.”

“Uh, a mash tub?” I asked.

“Now what is this of mash?” asked Hans.

“It might be another few days before I start on the first distillery,” I said. “I might have two more days in that bar-roller, and the usual types of things have slackened off to a degree.”

“I can ask about one,” said Hans. “I think we will want two of them, though, with one done as your bathtub.”

“Uh, why?” I asked.

“That thing works better for clothing than what we have been using,” said Anna, “and I've used it more than a few times for bathing. It seems to help more during the winter.”

“You don't go outside, do you?” I gasped.

“No, I take it into the kitchen,” said Anna. “I've been putting the clothing nearer the stove to dry it after I bathe, and so I don't need to have more than one pot boiling on the stove.”

“And sprouting the mash?” I asked.

“I got two old buckets for that,” said Hans. “We will not be making as much aquavit as Paul does, nor as much Geneva.”

Geneva?” I asked. “Why?”

“Mostly for guests,” said Hans. “That, and its more common uses.”

“M-more common uses?” I asked. “What are those?”

“The journals have two whole pages that talk about that,” said Anna. “If you are sore, it helps to rub some on the sore places, and a little in the washcloth helps with fever. Then, there are some sicknesses that are helped by consuming it, and finally, the most common reasons deal with indigestion.”

“Paul spoke of that,” I said. “Does he have trouble that way?”

“I've wondered about him more than a little over the years,” said Anna. “He might not be as sick as I suspect you are, but he needs to drink that with every meal, or he feels quite ill.”

“Yes, unless he consumes mostly beer for his nourishment,” said Hans. “If that stuff didn't cause you so much trouble, I would say you should consume little else.”

“No!” I moaned. “I would act like a witch then.”

“Now that I doubt,” said Hans. “I have seen what happens if you have that stuff, and I think Anna is right about you being sick, as you go to sleep when you have enough for a baby.”

“You give that stuff to babies?” I asked.

“Yes, especially sick ones,” said Anna. “I've had to look after two that way, and without it, they would have died. As it was, they needed to be adopted out once they were well enough.”

“Why, did the mother not want a sickly baby?” I squeaked.

“Both parents were dead,” said Hans flatly. “The swine came, and they did not find those babies in the wreckage.”

“How?” I had the picture of a panicked baby screaming to high heaven.

“They were quiet, and did not make noise,” said Hans. “That, and I think they had no odor, which is common with young babies, so the swine could not smell them.”

“Or the swine were done wrecking the place,” said Anna. “Those pigs might be black, but they aren't like the Black Fiend.”

After dinner, Hans brought up the powder measure he had spoken of. While his priming measure was about as large as a thumb for diameter, and half-again as long for length, this example was about an inch bigger in both dimensions. I thought to look at it closely after cleaning it carefully, as I was thinking about making one for Black-Cap's weapon. I wanted to make a 'full set', which was why I had another set of mould-tongs in the bag.

“That one is almost new,” said Hans, “and it had some powder in it, which I bagged up.”

“Was it bad?” I asked.

“I think it is decent,” said Hans, “though it is between the usual and priming powder for grain.”

“I think these prefer that,” I said. “I know mine where I came from liked a finer grade than was customary for, uh, muskets there.”

“Did they have them like the ones here?” asked Hans.

“While there were muskets that used flint, they were rare,” I said. “Nearly all such weapons used thimbles, and that was for those. Most weapons used neither.”

“Then what did they use?” asked Hans.

“Those used...”

The idea of 'modern' weapons, and how to speak of them to someone whose technological understanding was about a hundred and fifty years earlier than what I had in mind, became much more apparent. I thought to try anyway.

“Yes, they used something,” said Hans. “What did they use?”

“They had brass things that resembled larger and longer thimbles,” I said, “and those brass things had a device in one end called the primer. That acted like a thimble does. Then, in the other end, they had the bullet, and in the brass thing itself, they had...”

“They have those things down in the fifth kingdom,” said Hans. “They do not keep well, and the weapons that take them break a lot.”

“The ones I had did not,” I said. “Do those smoke?”

“Yes, and a lot,” said Hans. “Fifth-kingdom powder is very smoky, and burns poorly. I thought that stuff in that measure was that kind at first, as that stuff has a finer grain so as to work in a gun.”

“It isn't, is it?” I asked.

“It looks to be from the fourth kingdom,” said Hans, “and it burns like it, too, as I tried a little. It is not fifth kingdom powder.”

“What I had smoked very little,” I said, “and it wasn't that type of powder, but something else entirely.”

Dismantling the powder measure showed a slightly better-than-average execution, and as I drew the internal workings, I had a better idea, one that permitted precise measurement and better shot-to-shot repeating. As I drew it, I thought, “and that needs a working furnace, as well as castings. I need to get that door on that furnace, and the furnace needs to cure.”

I worked well into the night on the various things that I could do at the house: I fitted the mould tongs, finished a bullet mould for the revolver, filed a replacement hammer and trigger, fitted rudimentary front and rear sights, turned and threaded several pins, made four screws for Black-Cap's weapon, and carved an oversized pattern for barrel bands.

“I'm glad his doesn't use pins,” I thought, “as I'm not that fond of those.”

The next morning, I arrived at the shop before dawn with all three of the small lanterns. One was lit – I didn't wish to waste distillate, nor potentially set myself alight – and after lighting the others, I cleaned out the forge which I had used the night before. I was glad for the wood I had brought in, and once I had it lit – I used a tallow candle-stub lit from one of my lanterns – I began to assemble the slip-roller.

I had another two forges lit and the first one burning its initial load of charcoal by the time the apprentices came, and after they finished fueling the forges I had started, they helped me assemble the slip-roller. It was still cold, gray, raw, and poorly lit outside, and within moments, my three lanterns were joined by several tallow candles.

“Why do those candles burn brighter than these?” asked one of the apprentices.

“Those use wax,” I said. “They aren't particularly cheap, but they seem about twice as bright as the other kind, and they burn a good deal slower.”

“They do not drip, either,” said Johannes, as he came in bearing another candle-stoked lantern. “They might cost twice what the tallow ones do, and be a bit hard to find, but they burn a lot longer. They are not so much more that way.”

“The lantern?” I asked.

“I left a little before sunrise,” he said, “and it is dark out enough to want light, especially if one wants to come at an early hour.”

“Here is a spare wrench,” said one of the boys. “You can check these bolts to make certain they are tight.”

The machine went together more quickly, then, and once it was done – Gelbhaar came but a few minutes later, and Georg followed him – the machine was put in the center of the shop.

“Now when that other one is done, then we can bring in the rest of those boxes,” said Georg. “Some of them have already been brought in, or so I understand.”

“Which ones are those?” I asked.

“Those under that bench there,” said Georg, as he pointed. “The boys have been bringing them in a few at a time.”

Georg left shortly after the morning 'guzzle', and within minutes after his 'vanishing' – I surmised he was disposing of the lanterns – the carpenters rolled in the two planked wheels that I had spoken of earlier. I dug out my coin pouch after removing the revolver and powder measure, then put down four of the larger silver pieces.

“That helps, especially now,” said one of the carpenters. “Hans came by, and put in an order for two mash-tubs. Are you going to be running a distillery?”

“We will need to test some ideas I have before we make them to sell,” I said. “The ones I've seen looked to be especially troublesome, and I've done drawings of some that might be better.”

I then loaded the nails in one of the cooking containers while the other two men worked on folding the iron bars that had been cooking the night before. As I worked on assembling the rivet-swage, the sudden billowing of smoke that erupted from behind me made me duck and turn at the same time.

“What was that?” I gasped, as the smoke continued billowing up toward the ceiling.

“Now I know why those are not done commonly,” said Johannes. “I drowned that plow-point in that oil and stuff, and I nearly smothered from the smoke.”

As the smoke continued to clear, however, I could hear the noise of a file trying to bite and not having much luck, then with an oath, Johannes shouted, “what gives with this thing?”

“I cooked it overnight in the forge,” I said. “You'll want to use one of these leather polishers to get the metal clean enough to see the temper colors, then cook it to a dark purplish-brown.”

I had to show Johannes just 'how' to polish the thing, for he seemed slightly awestruck by the idea of a plow that was as hard as a file. The rag-backed 'polishers' worked well at getting the metal reasonably clean, then I fetched a 'poker' and attached it to the plow with a piece of wire. I then laid it on top of a low-burning forge.

“Just move it around and watch the colors carefully,” I said. “The important part is that point you welded on, as it's going to be a lot harder than the rest. That one needs to be purplish. The other parts are much less critical.”

“And then what?” asked Johannes. He was looking at the plow and moving it around.

“Drown it in the regular forge-bucket, take it out, and then wipe it with one of those oily rags so it doesn't rust – or, perhaps, some of that farmer's tool cleaner, if some is handy,” I said.

“He brought some,” said Gelbhaar, “and he spoke of us painting it. He's going to put the plow in storage until the spring.”

“Will there be more such work?” I asked.

“We don't commonly get plow-work here,” said Johannes, “at least, not now. We got some when Hieronymus worked here, but those plows weren't like this.”

“What were they like?” I asked.

“Georg said they were from the fifth kingdom,” said Johannes, “and they were closer to those machines before you went over them than one of these. We had to do a lot of work on those things, and those people wanted us to do the work as if we'd had the thing a year and nothing else to do.”

“As in they'd drop the thing off in the afternoon, and think to have it done to their liking the next morning?” I asked.

“They didn't want them quite that fast,” said Gelbhaar, “but they commonly want three days' work done in two, and that no matter what else was happening in the shop.”

'Painting' the plow after assembly didn't need my attention – even though the odor acquired it just the same – and after cleaning up the main casting for the drop-hammer, I wondered what kind of 'dies' it would take, as well as the rope needed. As I sat on my stool and thought, I heard more steps coming from the main shop door. I turned to see the other 'wheel support' being brought in.

“Now that one's going to be tricky,” I said. “I'll need to make gears for it, and no mistake.”

I paused in my thinking, then thought, “now how am I going to make gears bigger than two inches in diameter, and then at least half an inch thick?”

While the 'pinion' wasn't too hard – get a piece of 'steel', fold it repeatedly, forge it roughly 'round', then mash it 'flat' – the 'gear' promised to be much worse, so much so that as I marked out the 'pinion' for center and roundness, I did not notice Georg looking over my shoulder.

“I put those lanterns out on consignment,” he said, “and I was told they should sell within a week at the most. Now how did you know those black-dressed people went there that much?”

“I just 'knew',” I said. “It happened before I came here, and since, it seems to happen more often. Why, were you told that there had been some younger black-dressed individuals coming in asking about those things?”

“Yes, I was,” said Georg, “and he offered to buy them on the spot for almost as much as I paid for them. I put them on consignment like you said.”

“This isn't thinking I'm a witch, is it?” I asked.

“After what he told me?” asked Georg. “I could tell I would do better by consignment, so I did that, and I told him what I wanted for them.”

“I would have been worthless for that part,” I said. “I'm glad those smelly smoky firebombs in lantern's guise are gone.”

“Now what is that you are doing?” asked Georg.

“This is the pinion for the buffing wheel,” I said, “and I'm going to need to make a pair of gears for that thing.”

“Why is that?” asked Georg.

“The buffing wheels need to turn quite a bit faster than the grinding wheel,” I said, “as their diameter is a good deal smaller. Then... Georg?”

“What are those things by the bench there?” he asked.

“One of those goes to the drop-hammer,” I said, “and the other goes to the buffing wheel. The drop-hammer will need to have a hand-crank, unfortunately.”

“Good, as at least I understand those,” said Georg. “That treadle thing took an hour of staring at it spread over two days, as well as using it some, to finally know how it worked.”

“Unlike what you recalled, however,” I said, “this crank is grasped and turned steadily for the entire time of forging.”

“Now you have lost me,” said Georg. “How do you drop the weight, if you don't turn loose of the crank?”

“You really want your wrists slapped, don't you?” I muttered. “How many people are hurt that way?”

“I am not sure,” said Georg, “as those are tricky to avoid being hurt.”

“Hence the idea I had,” I said. “There are three pieces, one being the portion that takes the rope, another the clutch, and the third, that wheel there. The wheel has a good thick rim, so it tends to want to keep turning, which means it takes up the shock of engagement and disengagement of the clutch.”

I paused, then said, “now, when the clutch is engaged, it draws up the weight, and when disengaged, it releases it – with the wheel still turning the whole time. It uses its weight to store energy.”

“What?” gasped Georg.

“The same idea is used in punch-presses,” I said, “and if you think my hammer is noisy, you don't want to be near a big punch-press when it's running. Those are noisy.”

I paused, then said, “now I will need a rim for both of those, so as to help them store energy. I've not done rims for wagons before.”

“I have,” said Johannes. “Now do those get those things?”

“They could use them,” I said. “Neither needs to be especially thick – oh, about half the thickness of a farm-wagon's would suffice – nor do they need to be perfectly smooth, unlike for a wagon wheel. They do need to fit tightly, however, and that means a shrink-fit.”

“Those normally get that,” said Johannes. “Does this one need to be especially tight?”

I nodded, then said, “I used a stick to bang one rim off once, and somehow, that didn't seem quite tight enough for either of these applications.”