The Clan chief appeared an older man, no taller than Brock and even more fulsomely bearded though tinged with white. Brock made introductions and explained somewhat of our purpose, or at least Brann's, in breaching the mountains. Orehammer listened patiently to the brief.
"We heard th' pass was blocked, a' course. Hope something is afoot as may clear th' Burlies out. This business of giant burlies be bad news. We will have to double up our patrols, I suppose, betimes."
"So," Brock asked, "we are welcome then?"
Orehammer took Brock by the shoulder, a serious look on his face. "O' course, lad. Naw cousin a' mine will go without shelter. Yer friends be welcome too, O' course. The seven of ye, and yer manikin will have ta stay in the upper mine though, near the forge. We are pressed for room as ye know, but there's fresh straw fer bedding and water there, tis warm, o'course."
My interest peaked at this. I looked forward to the opportunity to see what passed as smithing among the Nublin.
Brann Cour, mercantile visions doubtless dancing behind his eyes, quickly stepped forth now that our welcome was confirmed. He swept the Clansman's home with appraisal, all the while smiling and offered his hand.
"I can't thank you enough, on behalf of my company, for your fine offer. Perhaps I can be of some small service in return. My, what fine furnishings you have, sir! Wonderful wood workers you must have here, excellent taste! A few of my tapestries would set off your furbishments well, you know. Nothing like a good, thick rug or two to warm the feet, come an evening! Perhaps I could part with some examples - for your own use of course, in thanks. I could see us in trade for more of the like, yes, I could see that a caravan, a discrete one of course, might wend here regularly--save you from shortages of this and that, over time, that would. Let me get you a few things from my packs -- just a gift or two, and we can discuss it. What do you think?"
Stenn Orehammer looked at the outstretched hand and took it slowly. "Well, lad, shortages, yes, I can see some advantage, worth the discussing, if you like. Move on with the times, I always say. Might be worth some jawing over, as you're here."
Brann's eyes lit.
"Yes, yes! Unquestionably, I assure you." He pumped the Nublin's hand vigorously. Let me get you those ... gifts, then we can sit and discuss it!"
Brann excused himself and hurried out to his waiting porters. Thavis and I exchanged bored glances, and then I turned to Brock."As you are familiar with things here, maybe we should get settled then."
The Nublin rolled his eyes and agreed.
"Aye. There's no purpose served stand'in about while this business is being talked on." Turning to his elder Clansmen he said, "If that be alright by you, of course. William would be eager to see the forge in any case, if I read him a-right."
Orehammer nodded, eying Brock's broach, now pinned prominently to my shirt, adding "Later, if you've the time, perhaps we could talk about yer giant sized official Nublin here. Got to be a story in that."
Dismissed, we left to collect our things and made our way to the mine. The timbers I had noticed shoring up the mine's entrance were formed more in the nature of a solid door-frame than supporting members, though they likely served both functions. They were carefully fitted and finished, holding up two heavy doors currently swung in flat against the inside. The floor was rock, but surfaced evenly, and this part, at least, was well lit. The center sloped down deeper into the mountain, eventually turning a corner, leading, I assumed, to the warren of mining tunnels that certainly honeycombed it. The floor underfoot remained level, and led off to the left, through an adjoining trussed archway, where wavering light blossomed and faded, and the fall of many hammers could be heard.
"The forge," Brock announced. "The other side, to the right, goes to the smelts and foundry."
The forge was huge. At least two dozen anvils and bending benches were neatly ordered here, racks and bins of sorted stocks reaching up to a high ceiling perhaps forty feet above us. A row of flaming ovens, set into the mountain rock, backed the far end. A welter of other benches and jigging tables were set before the stock wall. Bearded and aproned forms went purposely about their business everywhere between.
We stood well to the rear where, as told, a neat line of compartments floored with thick bedding straw and cured furs were ranked, a shelf and picnic table affair in each one. Several pegs could be seen hammered into the separating partitions. There were six or seven of these, and they reminded me of refitted horse stalls.
Following my gaze Brock noted, "Come in handy when they needs ta fort up, or a man has to stay close overnight ta watch over a project or two. The clatter will cease come dinner time. We'll get a quiet night's rest, a bit warm, as ye were told of."
I took in the small factory again saying, "This is very extensive, Brock. What all do you make here?"
Brock blew out his furred cheeks. "Everything needed fer th' mine: tools, spikes, bars, drills, all as is used in the village. Goods fer trade with the other clans, weapons, arrow points, some jewelry and other fine craft. Chain. Everything worked of metal, generally. While 'tis iron mostly mined here, this shop works copper, gold, silver, tin, and other stocks as the mountain provides, or as gets traded for, as well. 'Tis a big community here, about as big as can be," Brock growled, "as it turns out."
I noted a certain tone to this, and asked, " I take it your people were told you couldn't settle here, then?"
"Aye, and others. 'Tis why we turned to the lowlands."
"All the ore mined here eventually goes through this one forge?"
"Oh no, Lad. The ore gets traded, too. A good deal of smelt even finds its way to human vendors, one roundabout way or another, truth to tell. There are a few that deal straight wi' us, though not many realize the source of the stocks. Or care. There is more of this nowadays, with so many new mouths ta feed. The hills give us a bounty of metals, but less provender, over all, than we could use. So we do most what we are best fixed to do. Yer farmers raise more food that than we possibly can, so attitudes are changing about things a bit, as ye could tell from Orehammer's warm and open attitude towards Brann."
Warm and open wouldn't have been my description of the wariness he had shown with Brann, but he had been willing to listen to the man, and I suppose all things are relative. Like the prying open of the doors to China, it looked like I had come at what could be the beginning of an era, and I appreciated that fact, as any businessman would have. I was reminded of Duke Wayland's interest in my dealings with Nublin, and Chord's dark reaction to that knowledge. It occurred to me that Brann's fortunes might just have turned a life changing corner.
Brock introduced me to the forge's master for a more intensive tour, and we talked of the craft. I mentioned my recent projects, the limitations I had encountered, and my wish for a way to make gear chains. The Nubilin smith became quite excited as I explained and sketched some of these things.
He showed me a rolling die-press affair, crude and hand driven, but beyond anything I had seen in my sojourns. Also, an infusing furnace that was fed by a stream of blasting air through tunnels bored in the rock. These tunnels, I was told, led to a natural venturi fed by the prevailing winds that swept one face of the mountain. Augmented by a cunning bellows and other things, I could see where if fed with the hardest coals, it might even be able to reach temperatures higher than 1600 degrees, opening up whole new product avenues, given the general level of the art here. The working area was small, though.
The Head Smith comprehended instantly the advantages and concept of sprockets and drive chains. We fell to discussing how that might be done here, working with the available stocks and nearby foundry. We found that by thin rolling the best steels and hot forming it about rod, short sections of hard tubing could be fashioned. By making links of softer metal with the rolling press, and riveting them through spacers of the steel tubing, very usable gearing chain might indeed be made. We were at this, as was Brock, until Thavis, quite bored, walked up and pointed out that the rest of the forge workers had long left for dinner, and should I do the same, so the troop could think about bedding down.
"Ah rot me, he's right! Me woman's going ta have parts O' me hang'in from the hearth, come morning," exclaimed the Smith. He grinned. "worth it though, was excellent talk'in wi' ya, William."
He cleaned up and tore off in a hurry, after that. I fingered the crude dozen link example we had managed, lost in thought, and drew a picture of a couple gears with compatibly spaced teeth; one about 14 inches in diameter, and one about a quarter of that, a reduction gear. I left all the work at the scribe table, followed Thavis back to the stalls and retired.
Bio: So, I write largely science fiction and fantasy, and fantasy/humor. I do novels, short stories, Serial short stories, Novellas, all that. If all goes well, I expect to be posting a good deal of both here. What else can I say? I like walks in the rain and ice cream? I sketch, play blues harp, have been known to program for fun. Gamer? Yeah, I'm a slacker. Ran Plotters of Dreams for writers before it was virtually shut down save in title by Yahoo cuts in service, for ten years and counting. Ive moderated other groups, and obviously, writing is a passion. -Want to make peoples day, send them on vacation, make them chuckle occasionally.