Somewhere Else Entirely -119-

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Garia visits a friend and then discovers that one of her new armsmen has found something significant - something that could affect her meeting with two guildsmen later in the day. Plans are made to make a new kind of weapon to take the war to Yod and Senidet is given a new job.

Somewhere Else Entirely

by Penny Lane

119 - The Draftswoman

Disclaimer: The original characters and plot of this story are the property of the author. No infringement of pre-existing copyright is intended. This story is copyright (c) 2011-2015 Penny Lane. All rights reserved.



The workman came through the door quickly, closing it after him to keep the cold drafts out. He went straight to the bar and had a low conversation with the barkeep, coming away with a mug. He took it over to a corner table where he joined his friends, seating himself with a grimace.

"Bad news. Barkan got taken last night, along with five or six others."

Several of the others muttered oaths. One asked, "Do you think he will talk?"

Serdel stirred from his seat in the corner. "What is there to talk about?" he asked sourly. "We haven't managed to do anything yet. There's not even an idea of how we can do anything."

"There's our names," another suggested.

"Aye. I'll give you that," Serdel admitted. "We'll just have to keep our wits about us the next few days, then." He asked the newcomer, "You said, 'five or six others'. Any particular reason those were chosen?"

The man shook his head. "Not that I know about. It's possible they were just picking up those asking too many questions, if you take my meaning."

Serdel shook his head. "Barkan doesn't work that way. He just listens to palace gossip while he does his job, that's all. He ought to have been the last person they were suspicious of. I wonder," he said thoughtfully, "if they are picking up others, then maybe there are other groups out there with objectives like ours. Our other sources are safe?"

"Aye." The man nodded. "The kitchen is our main source of gossip but there are other ways. Do you think we can get in touch with those other groups you think are there?"

"Difficult, but not impossible. Everybody's looking out for spies, ain't they? Still, I know a few codewords so it might be possible." He took a draft from his own mug. "So. What else is there to know about today?"

"The Queen wants her to rest. She is employing some of those foreigners, especially that one who ran round after that Princess. Story is she's doing too much and needs some help."

Another man muttered, "She's done enough damage already. What happened to those foreigners anyway? I didn't notice them go."

"They moved out day before yesterday," Serdel replied. "There's two stories and either could be right. First, They've offered to go help the Jothans fight the Ascendancy. I hope they don't, because I for one don't fancy facing those big, hairy bastards."

"What? Those barbarians? They wouldn't last a quarter bell against regular troops armed with guns."

Serdel snorted. "Don't you believe that crap. Those men are Einnlanders. I asked around about their background after we found out they were holed up at that estate. The whole society are fighters and can use almost any weapon. Most of them have no fear at all, even that crazy Princess of theirs. It is said they are born with a blade in their hands."

"Oh." His questioner was subdued. "You said there were two stories."

"Aye. The second is, Robanar didn't like having them around, too disruptive, and sent them off to Therelis on their way to Shald. I understand they had an offer of work as mercenaries from the King there. " He shrugged. "Either sounds plausible. At least they're not around to bother us."

They all looked up as a serving girl brought a bowl of grain porridge to the table for the newcomer.

"Your breakfast, goodman."

She walked back to the bar and returned with a plate loaded with bread and fruit, a spoon and a knife.

"Do any of you others want anything?" she asked brightly.

~o~O~o~

At the same time, Garia was sitting in her bedroom reading a letter that the King had given her the previous evening.



"

Dear Garia,


Or is that the right way to address you? Excuse me if I have done something wrong. I'm not used to all these titles and ranks. Do let me know if I should call you something else.

I was interested to read your story. It appears that you are about seven or eight Earth years younger than me. I don't know how they count the days here. That means I can't work out our ages exactly. I did have it explained to me but it seems very confusing.

It seems odd to me that I have gone one way and you the other. I had some trouble adjusting to being a man, because there are certain things you just grow up with and to suddenly be something else just throws you. I imagine you had similar problems.

I was interested to hear how your body was just after you arrived and I can confirm that mine was about the same. If I thought about anything, I was very clumsy but if I just let it be then the body sort of went on autopilot and everything was okay.

The one thing I have had the most problem with is not being able to talk to anyone the way I did before. I hadn't realized just how different a man's world is. They don't let anything out at all. There are very few people who know my secret and one of them is a woman, a servant in the mansion I was evacuated to after the Fall of Joth.

His Grace has permitted me to have her nearby as a servant and I have spent many bells talking to her as if I was another woman. We get on fine, and if what Prince Keren says is true, we may get on more than fine in future. I'm not sure about that but I must admit my view of women (and men!) has changed considerably since I arrived here.

That's another thing. I don't understand the bells they use here. I've had those explained to me as well but it seems very confusing.

I'm glad that Prince Keren left a copy of the Garian Numbers here. I can guess where the name came from. It has made a real difference to working out the supplies and logistics any army must have and His Grace sends his personal thanks to you for bringing them to Anmar. I am presently teaching our numbering methods to his scribes and clerks so that as many people as possible can make use of the faster and more accurate math.

I'm also glad he brought forks to Joth! Having Italian ancestors I used to eat a lot of pasta on Earth and it isn't easy to do that without forks. If I have time I'm going to introduce some different kinds of pasta and see how the locals like them. They have already taken to pizza.

I must end this note now since the Messenger is waiting. I will write again soon. Perhaps we can get together when His Grace brings me to Palarand for your wedding.


Maralin.

"

"Milady?"

"Yes, Jenet?" Garia lowered the letter.

"The King and Queen have just passed by on their way to the Schoolroom."

"Right, Jenet, I'll be there immediately. Let me find somewhere safe to put this letter."

"I can do that, Milady. You want it out of sight and I can't think you'll want to put it with the letters from His Highness, will you?"

"As you say. A top shelf in the dressing room will do for now, I think. Let's get going, Their Majesties won't want to be kept waiting."

Jenet and Lanilla followed Garia out of her suite and around the corner to where the door to the Schoolroom stood open, guarded as usual by two of Garia's men. They saluted as she entered and then closed the door behind her maids.

Inside were Robanar, Terys, Keren, Merizel, Milsy, Tarvan and Senidet, together with Kenila, Varna, Geska, Odgarda, Tandra, Bursila and Molleena.

"Good morning, Your Majesties, Highness," Garia greeted them. She looked around the now-crowded room. "Have we got room to squeeze in Lanilla? She has returned to duties from today."

"Good Morning, my dear," Robanar replied with a smile. "I'm sure we can manage, we usually do. My! so many maids!"

"Aye, Your Majesty," Garia said, blushing, "I have more than I know what to do with. The two Einnlanders are only here until their speech improves, I hope they won't get in anyone's way."

Robanar favored the two Norse maids with a smile. "Of course not, my dear. The Queen has explained the circumstances and I understand you are presently in need of extra assistance." He looked around. "Three men and eleven women! Tongues will start wagging."

Garia's eyes narrowed as she took in the crowd.

"I don't see Lord Gullbrand here, Sire. He'll help level the odds a bit when he comes. If you would permit, perhaps we'd better get started." She raised her voice. "Take your places, everybody!"

Most of those present could by now do the Tai Chi movements in their sleep. Garia suspected that on some of the colder, darker mornings some of them actually did. Geska, Odgarda, Tandra and Molleena required some extra tuition and Garia squeezed that in before the entire party moved off together to find breakfast. Garia ended up between Keren and Merizel.

Keren asked, "You're feeling better today, Merry?"

"I am, Highness, thank you for asking. This morning I feel no discomfort at all. Garia?"

"Yes?"

"I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon talking with Gullbrand. It was interesting to hear tales of King Embrikt's court and the ways in which things were done there. I learned a lot which might be useful to our own situation."

"Embrikt's court?" Keren questioned. "They do things differently in Einnland, how will his experience be useful here?"

"Because, Highness," Merizel replied, "I contrasted examples from that court to our own, as much as I knew of them, and that allowed Gullbrand to see how differently we did things here. He has a much better appreciation now of how certain matters may be approached than he did before. Remember he was equivalent of Chancellor to Her Highness and sometimes he could go direct to the King and Garia is but a baroness, though a favored one. I deem he will take what knowledge we have exchanged and visit Kendar to learn more."

"I admit," Keren said, "that would not have occurred to me. I see I have yet much to learn about the business of royal courts."

"At least you were born into one," Garia said. "Some of us have come cold at this whole thing. When I arrived here I was completely clueless."

"I was little better," Merizel agreed.

The party entered the family dining room and were received by those already present. Kendar and Merek descended on Robanar while Terys turned to Garia.

"What do you plan today, dear?"

"Ma'am," Garia said carefully, "As you can see by my outfit I'm going to the training rooms after breakfast. I'm spending two bells there before going to visit Snep in the stables. I expect Merry will want to visit Topik as well."

Terys considered this information a moment before nodding.

"And after lunch, dear?"

"I'm not sure, Ma'am. I think I have two guildsmen coming to talk about guns. Apart from that... Merry? Was there anything definite?"

Merizel frowned. She gestured, and Tandra dug a paper notepad out of her bag and passed it over.

"There's nothing here, Garia." She looked up with a smile. "Except for the usual unexpected interruptions, of course." She handed the notepad back. "I wrote some notes last night to people explaining the situation. I have not had any notes back with rearranged dates yet."

"Thank you, Merry. Ma'am?"

"Good, my dear. Have you decided what to spend your time on? I would not want you to become bored."

Garia smiled. "Little chance of that at the moment, Ma'am! Actually, there are one or two things I can do if I have some spare time. Uh, not involving effort or meeting people. I'll be fine, Ma'am."

Kendar called out and the diners headed towards the tables.

~o~O~o~

Garia flinched as the group came out of the palace proper and headed for the stables. This morning it was seriously cold, the grass being coated with a hard frost and the winter air exceptionally clear. Their breath steamed as they hurried into the warmth of the stables, where many frayen - and several dranakhs - provided enough heat to keep everyone comfortable.

Since so many now provided tit-bits for their mounts a basket of vegetables, together with a small chopping board and a knife, had been positioned near the door. This saved the continual interruptions suffered by the kitchens previously. Garia, Merizel, Jenet and Senidet cut nibbles for their mounts and separated to visit them in their stalls. Milsy accompanied Garia, together with all of the other maids.

"I'm beginning to think I need to ride," Milsy said thoughtfully. "I have to go visit people all over the city and, while a carriage is good enough, I can see you have a lot more fun on the back of Snep."

"That's the truth," Garia replied, rubbing Snep's nose. "I don't see a problem getting permission and Bursila can already ride, though I don't think she has much experience of the new saddles."

"As you say, Milady," Bursila confirmed.

"Some of the workshops I have to go to are not easily accessible by carriage, at least not at the moment," Milsy added. "Indeed, some of them are still little more than construction sites. You can imagine the amount of mud there is."

"Yeah, we saw that out at the Kallend estate, didn't we?" Garia moved to rub Snep between the ears, but the beast kept moving his head around, searching for the expected treats. She mused, "Of course, we all did our training with the palace guard, so I'm not sure how easy it will be for you to learn. I'll make some enquiries."

"Milady," Jenet said from the next stall, "There are now women in the palace guard, I do not think it will be so difficult."

"As you say, Jenet! I keep forgetting. I'll ask Captain Merek next time I see him." To Milsy she added, "Oh, and of course you'll have your own frayen, won't you? We have a pool you can learn on but you'll want your own to become familiar with. Hey!"

This last was to Snep, who had had enough of being ignored and pushed his snout firmly at her chest.

"All right, greedy-guts, here's a nibble but you can't expect these all the time, you know." She fed the demanded treat to Snep and grinned at Milsy. "When I say familiar, I mean exactly that. Expect to spend some time here every day in future."

"Aye, Garia, I understand that. I think it will do me good to get away from the laboratory from time to time."

"And Tarvan?"

"He can already ride, of course," Milsy said and then blushed. "That's not what you meant, is it? Aye, I expect if I came over here every day he would follow. Will that be a problem?"

"No, of course not. You're both of my household, you need to ride, you get frayen and all that goes with them. Oh - and of course that includes riding clothes. Make sure you both go and see Rosilda to have outfits made up."

Garia turned and looked at the rest of her audience, calculating.

"I guess the rest of you will have to learn to ride as well," she decided. "Lanilla, I think you'd better wait until that arm is all right but Geska and Odgarda can start right away. Merry wants Tandra to ride and then there's Molleena... I wonder if I can get use of the Large Training Room some time? Not this time of year, obviously, but..."

She turned away, thinking, while grabbing a hard brush and beginning to rub down Snep. He turned to look at Garia, then began nuzzling Milsy for snacks. She started rubbing his nose to divert his attention.

"He's smart, isn't he?"

"A little, I suppose," Garia replied, brushing down a foreleg. "I guess for a frayen he is. Some of them are not so clever, and others have just been so abused by their owners that nothing will make them co-operate. He is only a frayen, though. Nothing at all like the dranakhs."

"Aye, the dranakhs. Have you any theories about those, Garia?"

"No more than you already know. They are one thing I'm going to question... those who brought me here about, when I can find the time."

Garia moved on to Snep's back, paying close attention to the wounds he had received in the battle.

"These are mending well. It's only scatter from one of the Yodan guns, for which I'm thankful. If it had been a full blast I doubt even a frayen's hide could have survived."

"Terrible weapons," Milsy agreed. She paused, struck by a thought. "Garia, we may have found something."

Garia looked up. "What's that?"

"Sigsten has been wandering around the laboratory, looking - just looking - at all the junk piled everywhere. He's fascinated by all the gadgets and bits and pieces. He's pointed out to me two items on shelves underneath two of the benches which he insists are guns. I'd forgotten until you mentioned the Yodan weapons. Can you come and take a look?"

"How would he - of course. He was at the demonstration out at the estate, wasn't he?" She screwed up her face with frustration. "If the Queen catches me over there she'll kill me. Hmm."

She started on a back leg. Milsy began scratching one of Snep's ears.

"Would you trust me to lift them off the shelves, Garia? I could bring them over to your suite, wrapped in a sack or something."

"Again, tricky... if the Queen was to find you there... I have an answer, I think. This afternoon, I am seeing Parrel and another guildsman about a special gun they might be able to make. The Queen is going to let me do that, as it bears directly on the war. If I officially invite you over to that, you could contribute to the discussion, and also bring a bag with you."

"Done. I can put off what I had planned... do you want Senidet as well? I am becoming ever more impressed by the quality of drawing she does."

Garia gave a brief nod. "Yes, bring her as well. I'll need a scribe as Merry will busy this afternoon with Gullbrand." She grimaced. "Two guildsmen, three of us and six maids, we're still going to be crowded - and the Queen expects me to rest! We'll figure out something, we always do."

"Milady," Jenet offered from the next stall, "If you may be satisfied with Lanilla this afternoon, I can take Geska and Odgarda to the Palace Wardrobe to be measured for riding clothes."

Garia beamed at Milsy. "See? Didn't I tell you there would be a way?"

~o~O~o~

Garia considered the people assembled in her room. There was barely enough seating for them all, even considering that the maids were standing behind their mistresses. Parrel had brought a guildsman new to Garia, one she had specifically requested, someone who was an expert in using a lathe to work metals.

"This is Guildmaster Korfen," he said, introducing the short, older man to Garia. "He is the one person in Palarand who knows the most about lathe work," his smile was twisted, "and presently one of the most busy - aside from yourself, of course. The desire for turned parts for steam engines, typewriters and much else has driven demand for lathes to levels no-one had ever imagined."

"Pleased to meet you, Guildmaster," Garia said, holding out a hand. "I'm sorry for all the extra work but you know how it is."

"As you say, Guildmistress," Korfen replied, returning the shake. "We have of course met at the Hall of the Guilds but this is the first occasion, I believe, that we have been able to speak. I am interested to know what manner of new device you may have for my consideration."

"Of course, Master Korfen. This afternoon's meeting is about guns, specifically a special gun which may help us defeat Yod. The question is, whether it will be possible for us to make them yet. I don't know how good the art of metal turning is in Palarand."

"Then you must explain, Mistress Garia, and I shall tell you if what you ask is possible."

"There's a small diversion first," Garia said. "This is Mistress Milsy, who is not a guildswoman yet but has abilities somewhat similar to my own. She's been doing a lot of experiments with electricity in the workshop that used to belong to Questor Morlan."

Korfen gave Milsy a tiny nod. He had come expecting one young woman, one he already knew about, but here were three. They couldn't all be the same as the Guildmistress, surely?

Milsy took up the story. "I don't know how much you know about guns, Master Korfen?"

"A little, Mistress. I was present at the demonstrations out at the Kallend estate, if that is what you mean."

"Ah, that makes my explanation that much easier. I thought I recognized your face. Well, we have acquired one of the Einnlanders as an assistant, and he familiarized himself with the laboratory - um, the workshop - by walking round it and looking at everything that Questor Morlan had accumulated when he was head of the Society of Questors." Korfen nodded understanding. Milsy continued, "Sigsten thinks he has discovered guns among the strange items stored there. Bursila, would you pass the bag to Garia?"

Garia received a small leather bag and opened it. Inside were, indeed, two handguns. She pulled out the oldest which was a flintlock pistol, the butt half-eaten by insects.

"They're guns, all right," she confirmed. "Tell Sigsten he did a good job finding these."

She leaned forward and handed the pistol to Parrel, who took it with widening eyes.

"Is this safe, Mistress Garia?"

"Oh, yes, I can't imagine it would go off after what, a hundred fifty to two hundred years?"

"How does this work, then? These parts on the side look most complicated."

"As always, they're only complicated when you don't know how they work. Let's see. The first thing would be to load it like we did the Yodan weapons, that is, by pouring loose powder down the barrel. Then there's a wad, to keep the powder in place, followed by a lead ball with another wad on top to stop the ball rolling out. So much the same."

Parrel looked over the pistol from several different directions. "As you say, Mistress Garia."

"Next you have to cock the pistol. If I may?"

Parrel returned the pistol to Garia and she used her left hand to pull back the lever with the chunk of flint clamped to it.

"Like this, see? In theory, it can be fired now. The next stage... uh, these pistols don't use fuses like the Yodan weapons do. They just use loose powder which I think is ground finer than what you put down the barrel." Both men nodded. "If I lift up this part it uncovers the... pan, yes, that's right. You pour a little heap of powder on here, then lower this part again. That stops the powder falling out and will also keep it dry to some extent."

Garia lowered the cover to the pan and held out the gun as if to fire it.

"I don't know if this will even work, after all this time," she said. "The springs might be broken or something seized or rotted, any number of things can go wrong. Anyway, if I now aim and pull the trigger, that should release this part with the flint screwed to it, do you see? It snaps down, sparks are made by the flint hitting the cover and the cover gets thrown back so the sparks fall on the loose powder."

She suited action to words and pulled the trigger. The lever came down, there was a spray of sparks and the pan cover flipped up.

"That's about it. There's a small hole connecting the powder in the pan to the powder in the bore and the shot goes off. The lead ball comes out the end and heads off at a great speed."

She handed the pistol back and Parrel and Korfen examined it all over, trying the trigger several times to see how it worked. Korfen had a question for Garia.

"Guildmistress, I don't understand. I thought that only Yod had gunpowder weapons and I have seen myself those which were captured. These are unlike those, they are much more advanced and yet Master Morlan had them! How is this possible?"

"I'm making a simple assumption here, but one I'm sure is correct," Garia replied. "Do you know that I come from another world?"

"Aye, Guildmistress, I find the tale hard to believe but I must believe the evidence of my own eyes. What you have taught the guilds has no other explanation."

"Well, it seems I'm not the only person to have made that journey. When I came I had with me all the clothing and possessions that were actually on my body before I started. I'm assuming that, about a hundred fifty to two hundred years ago, another person came here carrying that pistol. Of course, it is only useful while he had a supply of powder and once that was gone it is nothing more than a curiosity. That's probably how Morlan ended up with it. Somebody brought it to the Royal Questor, not having any clue what it was or how it worked."

"This weapon is that old? I am amazed. However, I believe that we could make more of these, Guildmistress. It will not require any of my expertise as I doubt any of these parts need be made on a lathe. Parrel?"

Parrel nodded. "Aye, we can make these. The springs will doubtless be the most awkward part until we can determine the right temper to use. I will have to consult my clockmaker colleagues."

Garia held up a finger. "You realize that the same problems will occur as with the Yodan guns? They take time to reload and you can almost certainly reload a crossbow quicker. A good longbowman would probably have put five or six arrows in you before you could fire a second shot."

"Aye, Mistress Garia," Parrel replied. "But these have an immediate advantage to my mind, that is they are small. An armsman may carry several of these, is it not so? They are not so bulky as a crossbow nor a longbow."

"That's very true," Garia conceded. "All right, time for a more modern weapon."

She pulled the second gun out of the bag. It was a very old revolver, almost black with age. Looking at the cylinder she could see six holes, two of which contained discolored brass rounds. She undid the screw holding the cylinder in place and pulled it out, shaking it to drop the shells into her palm, discovering that both had been fired. Satisfied that nothing dangerous could happen, she reassembled the handgun and passed it to Parrel with the shells.

"That gun may be almost as old as the other one," she explained, "perhaps even older. It doesn't use powder at all but more modern explosives. The whole thing is packed into one of those brass shells and a shaped bullet plugs the end so that nothing can fall out and nothing can get wet. The gun is always ready to fire. When you pull the trigger, the hammer is pulled back and then snaps forward again, it hits the back of the shell, the explosive goes off and the bullet is fired. Pulling the trigger will also make the cylinder move round so the next shell is ready to fire. You can fire all six shots in a single movement."

The two guildsmen bent over the revolver, inspecting it and trying to understand it from an engineer's perspective. With a nod from Garia they undid the screw holding the cylinder in place and pulled it out to examine. Korfen held the gun up and pressed the trigger, watching the hammer go back and then snap forward again. Parrel took the shells and peered inside them. Finally, they reassembled the weapon and passed it to Milsy.

"Practically," Parrel commented, "this weapon is almost as easy to make as the other one. I would like to see inside the frame to see how the trigger mechanism functions, but in principle it seems little different to that of a crossbow." He looked at Garia. "Guildmistress, I'm guessing the secret of this weapon is in the powder... what did you name it? The explosive used in those little brass containers. Without knowledge of that there is little point in us attempting to make anything like it."

"You're right," Garia agreed, "and I can't offer you that, I'm afraid. In fact there are two explosives used, the main one which takes up most of the space and a specially sensitive one right at the bottom, so it explodes when the hammer hits the back of the shell. That's what sets off the main charge. All I can remember of that is that it's a compound of mercury."

"Is that so?" Parrel stroked his chin. "I know a Questor who plays with mercury, I will ask him a few discreet questions."

"Mercury is nasty stuff," Garia warned. "Try to keep your exposure to an absolute minimum, will you? It is a deadly poison and it would be easy to accidentally inhale the fumes from an experiment." She took a deep breath. "However, we might need that compound for what I wanted to ask you about today. I want to know if you, or more specifically Korfen and his men, can make a special kind of gun for me. I mean for Palarand, of course. If we can use that compound in the ammunition, it would make your job easier."

Milsy asked, "You say mercury is deadly. Do we not then put our own people in danger, whenever they should fire a gun?"

Garia shook her head. "The amounts used are very small, Milsy. For this specific purpose, I think the risk is acceptable. The dangers are more likely to be during manufacture, not use." She turned back to the two guildsmen. "The main problem will be making the barrel. It will be about a stride long, so you'll need to cast it and then accurately bore a hole right through from end to end."

"How big should the bore be, Guildmistress?"

"An interesting question. I want something, ideally, about the size of the shells in that revolver. If you can't make them that small, then we'll have to work with whatever size you can make. The problem is that, as the bore gets larger, the amount of powder needed to move the bullet increases and that just makes the whole thing bigger and heavier."

Korfen had taken back the revolver from Milsy and was looking at a shell.

"This is possible, Guildmistress, but only just. I would prefer something a little larger. Ah! That is why you wanted to use a lathe, is it not? Instead of drilling through the metal, we clamp the metal in the lathe and turn that instead of the drill bit."

"Exactly. I think that's the only way to keep such a long bore dead straight. There's something else..."

"Guildmistress?"

"After the bore has been reamed out, I want to rifle the barrel. That is, to cut a spiral groove along the length of the bore. That will spin the bullet and make it fly more accurately. To make it all work properly, you'll need a lead bullet of a particular shape."

Garia got up and went to the blackboard, drawing a cross-section of a lead bullet with a concave base.

"When the powder goes bang the force of the explosion will spread the base of the bullet so it fits the bore exactly. If there's a groove the bullet will begin to spin as it goes along the barrel and keep spinning when it comes out. That will make it much more accurate."

Parrel studied the diagrams. "Interesting. What purpose would these guns serve, Guildmistress?"

"They would be what on Earth is known as a sniper rifle. Sniper because it is used for long-distance target shooting and rifle because most guns with grooved bores are called that. The objective of the men trained to use these would be to pick off enemy officers who would usually be at the back of the army."

"Ah! I understand. You seek to cut off the head of the enemy, take away his Marshals and Captains, sow confusion among the levies."

"Got it in one, Master Parrel. Such rifles also have other uses, of course."

"As you say. Guildmistress, how would you aim such a weapon, if your enemy is so distant?"

"Naturally, you'd use some kind of telescope. It would be a special small one, fixed to the top of the barrel and adjusted by testing so that the cross-hairs are exactly on the target."

Korfen asked, "What are cross-hairs, Guildmistress?"

"They are literally two hairs placed across the telescope view to give something to aim at. Sometimes these are even made from spider webs."

The two guildsmen talked for some time about how they would manufacture such a novel design. Finally they turned to Garia.

"Guildmistress," Korfen began, "making such a straight hole in the length of a rod of metal will be difficult but not impossible. I can even think of a way in which rifling may be made, as you describe. Loading and firing such a gun has yet to be decided, but I can see that the barrel is very important. I regret we would not be able to make very many of these before His Majesty must needs send his armies forth."

"That's fine! Ten or twelve will do for a start. We need a small number for testing and training purposes and about the same number to use in action. As for loading and firing, we have two options. First, if we can find out what that mercury compound is, we can make cartridges out of brass or even brass and paper. Let me show you what I mean."

Shotgun cartridges. I doubt they can produce all-brass ones yet, but a brass base and paper sides will do. We can load them just like a shotgun too.

She drew a cartridge on the board and the two said they could probably make such a thing. After that she drew what was basically a shotgun-style weapon which hinged at the breech so that a cartridge could be loaded and fired.

"If we can't figure out the compound," she added, "then the other way is to make a mechanism just like that on the other pistol. You can get hold of flint, can't you?"

"Aye, Guildmistress. We trade for it, but it is freely available."

"Then again I'd suggest cartridges, but the gun would have to be modified so that -"

She drew another gun, just like the shotgun but with a flintlock mechanism on the side.

"In that case you'd have to make a hole in the side of the cartridge somehow and pour loose powder in the pan. Not so elegant but still quicker than feeding it all down the muzzle."

The two men stood and examined the drawings more closely, muttering to themselves. Garia grinned to Milsy.

"Any bright thoughts?"

"I am both amazed and appalled by the cleverness of those of Earth," Milsy replied. "From your remarks about the age of those devices, I'm guessing that what you use now is much better than these?"

"Better - or worse, depending how you feel about it. I'm trying the minimum I think we can get away with but I know that clever people like you will find out all the other bad things you can do with a gun in time."

"Not me! I'm more interested in the electrical side... but I do know that Yod must be defeated before any of us can feel ourselves to be safe. Tell me, these barrels. They only have to be round on the inside, don't they?"

"On the inside? Oh, yes, the bore! It doesn't matter what shape the outside is, so long as the whole thing doesn't become too heavy to carry. Oh, and of course they will get hot in use, you want that heat to be able to radiate away quickly."

Korfen turned at Garia's remark. "Do you say so, Guildmistress? Of course, you are right. If we do not need to make the outside round or smooth, then that may make our task easier. I will consult with our expert turners and see what arrangements we can make to produce samples for you." He frowned. "I will need to copy these drawings..."

"Master," Senidet spoke up, "If you would permit, I can do that for you."

Korfen seemed surprised to find a girl offering. "You are?"

"Master, I am Senidet, daughter of Brydas, Blackstone's smith, and presently apprentice to Guildmistress Garia."

"Take up her offer," Parrel urged. "She has done drawings for me and they are a thing of beauty."

"Do you tell me?" Korfen turned to Senidet, astonished. "You can make detailed drawings of parts, then, suitable for construction?"

"Aye, Master, I can," Senidet blushed under Korfen's gaze. "My father taught me to write using drawings he received from the guilds and I have helped him for many years. He considered that Guildmistress Garia could do more for me than he was able and so I came to the city with her. It seems that, though I may lack the skills to make many of the items that I draw, I can yet see them in my mind as finished parts and discover ways in which they may be put together."

Korfen asked Garia, "You will vouch for the abilities of your apprentice, Guildmistress?"

"That is an interesting question, Master Korfen. See, my rank is only an honorary one, really, because I have all this knowledge and can tell you and the other guildsmen what to make and how to make it. Senidet has some obvious talent but I'm not sure it fits in with the traditional crafts you have here. I may be wrong on that, of course. That's why she has been helping me out - and Mistress Milsy, of course."

"That's right," Milsy agreed. "Senidet has been making drawings of electrical parts to be made by metalsmiths and joiners. Once she sees how one of our prototypes has been made she produces proper drawings for manufacture."

"However," Garia continued, "I think I would like Senidet to get some idea of the traditional guild process, if you will. Would it be possible for you to take her away for perhaps a month and provide some basic training, Master Korfen? I think it will do her good to see just how the parts you are going to produce are made, since that affects the drawings and the drawings affect how the parts are made."

Korfen was taken aback. "Well, Mistress Garia, I don't know..."

Parrel said, "Take her, Korfen. Mistress Garia is right, it can do nothing but good for this young woman to follow her drawings from paper to finished product."

"But, we have never had a woman of any grade in our guild before!"

"Then Mistress Senidet shall be the first. Come, Korfen, you know we face a shortage of skilled men, let Senidet be the first woman of many you will teach your craft."

"I cannot deny it, Parrel. I simply question whether a foundry or a workshop is any place for a woman, let alone one of tender years."

"Master Korfen," Senidet said, "I am the daughter of a country smith and have spent most of my years in and out of his forge. You need not fear for my safety."

"But you have no attire -"

Both Garia and Milsy stuck up their hands in objection.

Garia said, "Don't worry about clothing, Master Korfen, we can handle that. We'll make sure she is suitably attired."

"Aye," Milsy confirmed. "Indeed, Master Korfen, I recently attended the opening of the new blast furnaces accompanied by Master Parrel. We are well prepared for such adventures."

Garia turned to Senidet as Korfen digested this.

"Senidet, do you mind doing this? It means you'll be working out of the palace for a while though I think you could probably still live here. I think it will help to broaden your knowledge. What Milsy and I get up to in the palace isn't really the same as what's happening outside."

"As you say, Guildmistress. It is something I had never considered, not knowing how matters are arranged here in Palarand." Senidet thought, then nodded. "If 'tis to be but a month, then perhaps I should take the opportunity. Master Korfen? When and where should I begin?"

Korfen spluttered but it was obvious to him he had been outmanoeuvered.

"My - Um, Mistress Senidet, I must make some arrangements to accommodate you, as we have no provision for women..." he cast a glance at the row of maids standing behind, "...or your maid. Perhaps a hand of days? By then you will have sent to me the drawings we have just mentioned and I can consider our next move. Parrel? Will that satisfy you?"

"Aye, Korfen, it will, but you have given your word and now you must keep it. If you will treat Mistress Senidet with respect, you will discover what you and your craft have been missing."

From the look on Korfen's face it seemed that his craft was one of the holdouts against allowing women to take part and Parrel had seized a chance to corner him. Although Garia didn't approve of such manoeuvering she knew that it was likely to happen inside the guilds, that pockets of resistance were to be found and had to be dealt with. She made a mental note to talk to Parrel about the matter at some future date.

At this point two of the maids went off and returned with pel and pastries. There was small talk about the pistols while they ate and drank.

"I understand that we may not make the revolver, Guildmistress," Parrel said, "since we cannot yet make ammunition for it. I see no reason why we may not produce some of the older design, though. Did you desire us to?"

"Master Parrel, until this afternoon I had no idea either of those two weapons even existed. Although I'd like your efforts to concentrate on the rifle, I don't see why you couldn't have a go at the pistol as well. It doesn't seem to me to be that hard to make."

"My thoughts exactly, Guildmistress. Then we shall do so." He smiled. "Copying something that already exists and that we have an example of is always easier than making something from a description, even if the descriptions you provide are in sufficient detail."

"As you say, but remember this. If you copy something like that pistol, all you end up with is the same thing we had on Earth. If you make something from a description, using your own imagination, you might end up with something better."

Parrel bowed his head. "Guildmistress, I am suitably chastised. We will study the pistol carefully as seek to find ways in which we may make the design more useful to us."

The meeting broke up shortly afterwards and Garia breathed a sigh of relief as the two guildsmen left, carrying the bag with the two pistols in it. Aside from feeling the Queen looming over her she had still felt some reluctance to introducing firearms to Anmar, even though she knew that it had already happened. Palarand and all the other Valley states were playing catch-up to Yod and she knew her duty, even if she didn't like doing it. Now the technical details had been passed over to those who would make the devices and it was out of her hands. Now she could relax and think of other more important matters. But first -

"Senidet. You'll need a suit of leather like Milsy and I have. Would you go down to the Palace Wardrobe and ask Rosilda if she could get that under way, please?"

Senidet curtseyed. "As you wish, Milady."

"I'm not sure it will be finished by the time you have to go to Korfen but we can probably fix you up with aprons and such until it's ready. You'd better explain the haste to Rosilda."

"Of course, Milady. Thank you."

"Milady," Bursila said. "Molleena will require a suit such as the one I wear in the laboratory to assist Mistress Milsy."

"Yes, of course. Senidet, ask for one of those as well for Molleena."

Senidet curtseyed again and left with Molleena.

Milsy asked, "What other mad schemes have you going presently, Garia?"

"All kinds of things! I'm sorry, a lot of which I have to keep secret even from you and Tarvan." She blew a breath and leaned forward looking at the plate, but all the pastries had been eaten. "You do remember I'm supposed to be resting, by royal command? I don't think the Queen is going to lock me in so you'll be able to come and chat but I'll have to be careful. Today was an exception because of the war."

"I understand. Do you think you might be able to come down and have a look around the laboratory some time? I'm sure there must be other useful devices just sitting there, things we might be able to make use of."

"I'd love to, but I don't think I can just yet. Anyhow, it might be better to wait until the weather is warmer and we have more daylight in the laboratory to see by."

"As you say." Milsy rose. "Perhaps it is time I went and found out what Tarvan and Sigsten have been up to." She smiled at Garia before curtseying. "I'll come back for a chat in a day or two, okay?"

"Great, Milsy, that will be fine. By then I'll probably be climbing the walls with boredom."

"You, bored? Impossible."

Milsy let herself and Bursila out and Garia turned to the one person remaining.

"Have you figured out the palace bells yet, Lanilla?"

"Milady, it is difficult since the palace is so large and sometimes the sound is very faint. The sequences are of course the same we use back home - I mean, in Blackstone, of course, Milady." She considered. "I have heard the half-bell, Milady, so that I would guess you have a bell and a half before you must go down for the evening meal."

Garia nodded. "That's what I think, too. I'm guessing the others will show up soon so why don't we just amuse ourselves in the dressing room until somebody comes? You probably haven't had much chance to see some of the fine clothing the Wardrobe has given me."

"If there is nothing else I can do for you, Milady. Given you? Is that really true?"

"Given, yes, because it all has to be made to measure. There is a lot in the wardrobe which can fit most of those in the palace but I'm an unusual size, as you can obviously see. If there's anything I don't need any more, though, it goes right back to the Wardrobe. A few of the items I have in here -" Garia led the way into her dressing room, "- used to belong to the two Princesses when they were much younger."

"Ooh! Do you mind if I touch them? I've never seen anything like these before."

Garia grinned and gestured. "Go ahead! Pull them out and take a good look, I don't mind. Now, this one -"

~o~O~o~

"Do you yet have any plans for the morrow, Milady?"

Garia shook her head. "No yet, Jenet. I'll be going to the Training Rooms in the morning, I think I can get away with that, but unless something comes up I think I'll spend tomorrow afternoon just relaxing and perhaps doing a little meditation. Any particular reason for asking?"

"Just to ensure that any attire that you may need is available, Milady. Perhaps you might benefit from a visit to Mistress Shelda in a day or two."

"That's a very good idea, Jenet! A little pampering will do me the world of good, especially now." She frowned. "I'm beginning to think the Queen is right, you know. I need to get in my relaxation now because, once spring comes, there'll be no relaxation for anybody. I know my wedding is going to be a big deal but from what I'm hearing there will be rulers gathering from all over the Valley and elsewhere. We're just going to be the floor show for a lot of serious meetings."

"As you say, Milady. But they are coming for your big day, so you should not fear you may go un-noticed."

"Aye. What about your own big day? Are you ready to take that step, Jenet?"

Her maid blushed. "He has not yet asked me, Milady."

Garia's smile was warm. "Then perhaps I'd better drop a few hints, hadn't I? Come on, time for sleep. We've been gossiping away for almost a bell."

"Indeed, Milady. Good-night."

"Good-night, Jenet."



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