If you missed Part I visit here.
Magic wagons? Or religious rituals or both?
“Tell us more, George.”
Paul was cautious about his visage and countenance. He was skeptical about spirits even though he lived in a world of magic. He glanced over at Estalwyn to check to see if she was giving him a disapproving look. She was not. He turned his attention back to George. George’s face turned to one of sadness to one of blankness and stained with some of the sticky and corrosive grease known as defeat. George looked up at Paul and spoke. His tone showed that defeat had burned holes in his soul.
“Sorry. I forgot that you folks aren’t wagon makers. In particular magic wagon makers.”
Estalwyn piped in.
“Tell us about the process, Master Henricks. We’ve secured waggoneers’ stables and shoppes beforehand, but never one magical like your own. What are these sprits? And what are these songs?”
Henricks is happy. Estalwyn’s charming personality is always a blazing fire to dark souls such as this man’s.
“I’m flattered that you ask, Miss Estalwyn. Follow me.”
The three companions followed Henricks from the small entrance area of the shoppe they had entered from into an expansive chamber with stalls for horses being fed by male employees, all younger than the three companions and who were young enough to be in a school house, and then they passed this one into a larger chamber smelling of paint where wagons were being painted by seven maids, all of whom were twice as old as Estalwyn.
Despite their age, there are no tremors coming from their skilled hands as they course their brushes across the slabs and slats of the wagons and along the spokes of their well-wrought wheels.
They then entered a courtyard of brown dirt and flanked on both sides by two wattle and daub buildings that were both five or six stories high. Ahead of them was another stable building with an open door.
Expansive this place is. I am already seeing the possibilities for our devices and techniques to be employed. Yet I do not know how to do so, until he finishes his story.
As they entered the next building the smells of paint and fodder were replaced by fragrant cedar, pungent oak and the needling feeling that only saw dust can stab a nose with when one walks through a carpenter’s space, station, or workshop. Henricks pointed to a recently made wagon on the left side of the room, and then another wagon on the right side of the room.
“The one on the left was made a day ago. The one on the right was made a month ago. The difference in quality is easily seen by a man of my talents and experience. Due to the interest of time I will not bore you with how I make my wagons and hitch horses to them and sell the wagons and the horse teams together to merchants, farmers, and the army here in Red Spire. Nay, I’ll get right to my problem. I know I can keep this matter under the rose with you three as this is the heart of my business. My quality is affected and if word spreads, I’m ruined. My boy will no longer be an heir. And he’ll have little chance to apprentice with a competitor as my name will be mud and my livelihood will be destroyed.”
I don’t see the difference in quality.
“We know what is at stake, friend Henricks? What is posing this risk with your wagons, are the spirits not allaying your woes.”
Estalwyn is always the diplomat.
Henricks pointed to the better wagon on the right.
“That is made with the aid of the woodguard: The Lumineer of the Lumber. All of this wood is imported from the Isles of Grietaas. The wood there is guarded, nurtured, and blessed by these spirits. They act as a force to strengthen the wood. My wood on my wagons never break. And it is because of these spirits. My wagons can be over-laden and they never falter. The draft animals that pull these wagons do not tire for a once heavy yoke is lightened and a task is almost effortless. My wagons enhance the power of our city state and without these wagons having the Lumineer of the Lumber, they’re ordinary wagons.”
So this is theft, or superstition taken to a whole new level. I won’t say that to Estalwyn though. I’ll focus on the matter at hand.
“So what is causing this change, Master Henricks?”
As Estalwyn asked this Paul stepped into the conversation again.
“So who is stealing the spirit? Your employees or a competitor?”
I’ll hear it later.
“You are right to butt in, Paul of Pinningdale. You are correct to say theft. I know someone has stolen these spirits. A fresh shipment of wood is coming in at the earliest five days from now. I’m selling the last bit of the old wood I have as a consignment of firewood to the churches of our city to be distributed to the poor. You see fresh wood will make the difference. But I need to catch my thief still as I know all too well they will not stop. They’ll either see me ruined or see my son in poverty.”
He’s not in denial. Good.
Paul continued his inquiry before Estalwyn continued.
“I’ll ask again. One of your employees is stealing or is it a competitor?”
“The competition around here is not really to be spoken of or for. It is nil. I am the king’s favored wagon maker and he chooses me and my journeymen before all others. It is possible, but many of my trade kin have left this city and travelled across the sea or they’ve gone south or east.”
“I think I can trust many of my employees. Unfortunately, though one never knows until trust is broken.”
“This is where we come in, Sir Henricks.”
Rilles broke his silence.
“How do we start, Paul?”
“I counted two main entrances. One behind us I assume that is large, and the front where we entered, yes?”
“There are two ancillary entrances to the buildings via the courtyard if someone were to scale down from one of the adjacent buildings, so a total of four main entrances are here. Now, as for assets we are trying to protect, Sir, where are those?”
Henricks appeared to be nervous and pointed to the storerooms across from where they were. A metal grate was their only security. Only a few beams of the lumber remained and that was to become the firewood that Henricks mentioned.
Estalwyn cut in.
“Where are the employees at most of the day? Are they back here ever?”
“Of course. Many times, they are.”
“All right, that settles it then.”
Rilles piped in again in his simple, gravelly voice.
“Sir Henricks, how much are you willing to pay for something of this nature?”
I hate this part. I really do. Estalwyn will be mad at Rilles at least instead of me this time. But still this was going to be a short sale, it was unnecessary to ask that. Rilles must be in a bad, bad mood.
“I’ll pay up to five thousand of the King’s Passe.”
A little low, but will make some options.
Estalwyn informed him of this.
“It may be a tad higher by a few thousands, likely. Are you up for going to around thirteen thousand of the King’s Passe or twenty-thousand?”
Henricks frowned and sighed again. His facial lines were beginning to form a permanent sneer.
“Yes. If that is the price I must pay, yes.”
“We’ll do our best to get you something in the morning. Is there a good nearby inn? We need comfort and quiet in a room to discuss our plans for you and your store?”
“Aye. Visit the Toasting Tankard. It is oh but five miles from this shoppe. You cannot miss the front of the building as the shadow of the Red Spire casts on it.”
“We’ll have something for you, soon.”
“Good bye, Sir Henricks.”
Rilles said this and Estalwyn merely nodded. Paul could hear the word ‘wench’ under Henricks’s breath as they walked away.
Hope she didn’t hear that.
To Be Continued