Somewhere Else Entirely -116-

After a disturbing session with the Beings Garia travels to the estate to see the Einnlanders depart. An afternoon meeting finds her explaining knitting and sewing machines to Fulvin - and an interested Senidet. Later, Kendar makes an unexpected suggestion.

Somewhere Else Entirely

by Penny Lane

116 - Needles and Threads

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) 2011-2014 Penny Lane. All rights reserved.

Garia knew exactly where she was. She had now been here enough times for the sensations to have become familiar. It seemed that a particularly relaxing evening might have done the trick, but she wasn't sure. She looked around, seeing the usual inscrutable... things? which made up this space. There might have been a minor difference to the way she perceived them this time, but again she couldn't be sure.

Garia: Hello?

Being: Welcome, hatchling!

Garia could tell, by some strange means she did not know, that this Being was not any of those she was familiar with.

Garia: Have we met before?

Being: If we have, I'm not sure you would have been in any state to remember it.

Garia: Who are you? What are you?

Being: I am someone who is an authority on your species. Consider me to be some kind of... anthropologist. Since I am more familiar with your species than most, I have been asked to look after you when you visit us. We do not designate ourselves by using sound wave patterns or visual representations as you do, but you may refer to me as Nurse.

Garia: Nurse? I do not understand.

Nurse: Precisely.

Garia: I can tell that you are different from the others, but I don't know how I know that.

Nurse: You are very young. It will take you many cycles before you can fully understand almost anything. Now, consider this. Your species bear young rather than hatching them, correct?

Garia: Yes, that's right.

Nurse: Then you must know that your young, in their first days after birth, cannot do anything. Their perception of their surroundings is very limited. They may not open their visual organs for some time and will be unable to even focus for a period after that.

Garia: But... Oh! I see! You mean that I'm just like a newborn baby and that I'll gradually be able to... perceive this space much better later on.

Nurse: Just so. And just as the Solid part of you must spend a certain proportion of its lifetime in learning, so must the Emerged part. If you survive the next few cycles, enough to become independent, then you will spend the rest of your long life in learning.

Garia: Wait, what? You mean I won't die when the... Solid part of me dies? How does that work? Is this my soul, then?

Nurse: It is complicated. Firstly, all objects in the Universe, every subatomic particle, every molecule, every rock, tree, creature, every sentient being, planet, star, galaxy, all of it exists in all dimensions. It could not be otherwise. When a sentient being Emerges, that is to say, becomes aware of the existence of more dimensions than a Solid can usually perceive, what you call your soul gains a certain amount of independence from the Solid part. When the Solid body reaches the end of its natural cycle of existence, an Emerged being has additional multidimensional substance that remains aware and may exist for a considerable number of cycles afterwards. That is how we all came to be here.

Garia: Oh, wow. You mean that if I survive long enough to not need a nurse any more, I'll be immortal?

Nurse: Immortal is not how I would describe it, but very much longer lived than a normal Solid may exist. There are other considerations which do not concern you now.

Garia: I need to think about all this. Wait, you said you were familiar with my species? Were you... uh, are you human, then?

Nurse: I was not, hatchling. My species were what you might classify as avian, except that we lived in the atmosphere of a gas giant planet. You know of those?

Garia: Yes, of course. There are several in Earth's solar system. There are some in Anmar's solar system, though I don't know a lot about them. Aren't gas giants cold?

Nurse: Mine was much closer to our sun than Jupiter is to Earth's. We built cities on hydrocarbon clouds. My civilization would be almost impossible to describe to you.

Garia: Jupiter. You are familiar with Earth, then? Can you tell me what happened to me? I don't remember what I was doing just before I arrived on Anmar.

Nurse: I regret I cannot tell you that. You may be what is known as a Key, that is a being so important that you must be handled carefully in case you change the whole future without knowing it.

Garia: The Beings I spoke to when I was here before said they wondered if I might be something... special.

Nurse: It is not confirmed yet, but they are treating you that way in the event you are a Key.

Garia: This is so frustrating! I need information, advice, if I am to do the best job I can for you.

Nurse: The projections the others have made assumed that you would never be aware of the extra dimensions you now perceive. On the other wing, the projections also never assumed that you could appear in the alternate human mode, that is to say, a female. The fact that we are conversing indicates that the normal rules do not apply. Ask your questions. If I am unable to answer, do not draw conclusions from my refusal.

Garia: How many others are here from Earth?

Nurse: Until your transference I understand there were twenty or so, scattered over the planet. That is the usual number to be found here at any one period. Since your appearance there has been a change of policy. It was not understood by those who monitor this planet that modal changes were possible during transference. Transferees who change modes appear to have greater impact on the future timeline than expected, usually in our favor.

Garia: Wait, what? They didn't know I could start out a boy and end up a girl? Is that what you mean?

Nurse: So I understand, hatchling. The beings who monitor this planet originate from a species which does not have two modes for reproductive purposes as we do. They failed to notice the physical differences until your own arrival. Further, it was not understood that, statistically, a very small number of transferees of such species as yours could be changed that way. It was not realized that the machines which grew your body operated in that manner. From what I have been told a single electron, binding to the wrong atom, is all it needed.

Garia: Oh, right. There is a new arrival from Earth, named Marilyn Baker. Why is she, or should I say he, here?

Nurse: I do not know if I should answer you, hatchling. I know of whom you speak. Let me just say that the being you identify was not part of the normal plan of development but rather the taking of an opportunity to investigate. If the new body changed modes, we could observe what difference that might make to its progress. You can already infer that the experiment was a success.

Garia: You call Maralin an experiment!

Nurse: Hush, hatchling. The being of which you speak was in the process of ending its existence as a Solid on Earth. It spoke truly of being given a second chance.

Garia: A second chance? You mean, she was dying, and you grabbed her to bring her here? Okay, I don't think I can argue with that. What about me? I know that the Solid part of me here on Anmar is a clone. Am I dead on Earth? Is that how it works, then?

Nurse: I cannot answer you, hatchling. Not this time.

Garia: I guess you can't tell me what's supposed to happen to me, either. If I knew then it might change things, is that so?

Nurse: Just so, hatchling. My purpose here is not to give you information about your own situation, since that might compromise your purpose, but to help you understand your presence in this new space. [A pause.] I may be permitted to give you other information which does not compromise your purpose. [A pause.] Any further questions will have to wait until we meet again. I perceive that you are withdrawing.

Garia: Wait! How do I get back here reliably? I can't do it -

* * *

Garia abruptly sat up in bed. Around her the shimmers faded away as they had done previously.

Of course. These eyeballs are only designed for three-dimensional vision.

I thought I had it, then! It looks like some mind-clearing will help, the next time I try this. There's still no guarantee of success, though.

What have I learned? Maralin, Marilyn that is, was dying in Chicago and was chosen to see what would happen if she, he, was brought here. If she hadn't changed, she would just have lived out a life as what? a cook? Maybe. Instead she was changed into a man and has made a difference to Joth somehow.

What else? That I'm potentially immortal? Well, maybe again. But if I'm the same as a newborn baby then I'll have the same vulnerabilities as a baby would. I need to progress to a point where I'm... independent, the Being said. Independent of what, exactly? My body? The need for a nursemaid? Yet more questions!

Garia felt the usual morning bladder pressure and threw back the covers to climb out of bed. She yawned. This time she did hear the bells strike twelve. Sighing, she swung out of bed and her feet found her winter slippers.

After bathing with all three maids came the ritual question.

"What will you wear today, Milady?"

"Let's try some winter riding gear today, Jenet. I could sit in a carriage with Geska and Odgarda but the Einnlanders are leaving today so I want to show some solidarity. Do you want to ride or would you rather sit in the carriage today?"

"Milady, I will ride today, if you would permit."

"Then let's go find our clothes, Jenet."

After dressing in the lowest layers of their outdoor clothes, Garia and her three maids left her suite to find Keren outside with four of Garia's armsmen. Everybody curtseyed to the Crown Prince and the group set off for the dining hall.

"You seem thoughtful this morning."

"I am. I finally managed to do... that which I failed to do before."

Keren took the hint.

"Oh? Maybe we can speak of such matters later today."

"As you wish. I'm not sure I have very much to tell you, though."

"Hmm. We'll speak no more of it, Garia, until later. Today will be a busy day."

"As you say. This morning, a trip to the estate to wave the Einnlanders off and then after lunch I'll be speaking with Fulvin. Are you joining us for that?"

"Depends how long your meeting is, Garia. Father wants to speak with me about what I discovered in countries along the Valley."

Garia looked up at him, puzzled. "I thought you did all that already. You've been back for nearly four weeks."

"Aye. He has sent letters to several and received replies which need consideration. Now that I am accounted adult I must pay more attention to the country's affairs, Garia, as you no doubt realize. If some freak chance should make me King I must know what father desired when he corresponded with others. What does Fulvin want?"

"He's bringing a deputation of Guildsmen to talk about my clothes, ah, I mean the clothes I was wearing when I was found. Apparently there have been great controversies in the various Guilds, with some claiming that my clothes are impossible." She smirked. "That, of course, lasts right up to the moment they get to examine the said clothing. They want me to explain how they are made."

Keren's eyebrows raised. "Father permits this?"

"He does, fortunately. With a war and industrial progress he considers that it can only be a benefit if clothes are easier to make." Garia pulled a face. "It's going to mean a lot of new machines, though. Parrel isn't going to be happy."

"I can understand his point, Garia. When you first arrived we were all amazed by the wonders you showed us but it seems to me that each of these wonders requires much effort by our... engineers... before any may receive the benefits from them."

"Oh, that's not so! The forks didn't take that long and paper was almost as quick. I don't hear anyone complaining about the new saddles much, either."

"You know how to hit a target, don't you? A fork is a single piece of metal very similar to a spoon in the making, paper making is little different than the previous use of that machinery and a new design of saddle is just that. I deem steam engines, typewriters and electric motors not so easy to make as a fork is."

"That's true, but we won't need as many of those as we needed forks and, well, the demand for paper is essentially infinite, as I mentioned before."

"So you told us, and I'm still not sure I believe it, but I cannot foretell the future as you have done. Here we are."

They entered the dining room and gave and received the customary courtesies. Merek and Milsy made for the pair.

"Captain. What can I do for you this morning?"

"Only to confirm that you will be joining us, Milady, as the Einnlanders begin their journey."

"We both are, Captain. We'll be mounted, as will Jenet. I want to see them go but there's no reason for anyone else to go out while the weather is this bad."

Merek banged his chest. "Then I will see you later, Highness, Milady, in the stables."

As Merek turned away Milsy pouted.

"Oh. I'd hoped you would give Tarvan and me some time this morning. We might have a problem we can't understand and we wondered if you already knew the answer."

"Sorry, Milsy. I can't let Eriana and the Einnlanders down, especially as they are going off to fight. This afternoon I'm speaking to Fulvin and some of his guildsmen friends, perhaps we can squeeze in a bell or so?"

Milsy's face dropped. "We're off to the Clockmakers' Guild this afternoon, Garia. I thought you knew. Can I officially request some of your time?"

"Of course! Now the Einnlanders are going, my days should be freer anyhow so I'll have time to look at things that have gotten pushed to one side. What's the problem? If you tell me now, I can have a think about it before we get together."

"As you wish." Milsy frowned. "As you know I've been experimenting with relays and I have some arrangements which latch when you push a button and unlatch when you push another."

Garia nodded to show she understood what Milsy was describing, which was the result of some conversations they had had previously.

"It seems that sometimes," Milsy continued, "and only sometimes, there's a kind of double click on some of the relays when they latch and I sometimes get an extra click elsewhere when the wires are long. We can't get rid of them and it's driving me crazy. Have you any ideas?"

"Not immediately but I'll have a think about it. I'm sure there's a simple explanation."

Milsy's grin was wry. "Simple for whom? We need an answer, Garia, because it makes a limit on how long our wires can be, and I know you said that the wires can be extremely long in some cases."

Garia looked around. "Merizel isn't here yet. Do you have any ideas why she might be delayed?"

Milsy shook her head. "I do not, Garia. Since I now reside in the Royal Questor's suite my path does not go near her own. Tarvan, have you seen her?"

"I have not, Milsy. The corridor was empty when I left my chamber this morning."

Garia pulled a face. "Oh. I have to go out right after breakfast, I can't go and find out what's happened. Will one of you tender my apologies? I'll have to find her later today."

Their conversation was cut short by the appearance of King and Queen and everybody made for the tables.

* * *

The weather overnight had been rough, with hail followed by sleet and a short fall of snow followed by rain and wind which washed most of the snow away, leaving icy mud and sludge. The roads were slippery again and Garia was glad of the boots that Snep wore to ensure his footing. Their small party was well muffled against the cold and she was relieved that the storm had passed through before they left. Having to ride in freezing rain would not have been fun for any of them.

The wagons stood unoccupied in the courtyard of the Kallend estate, since everyone was in the warm and dry of the largest barn. There was applause from those already there when Keren, Garia and Merek made their appearance. They discovered that Haflin had already arrived and was talking to Eriana. Also present was Jaxen with some familiar faces from the road.

"Highness, Milady." Jaxen bowed. "We will depart shortly, we desire to get to Brikant while there is a break in the weather."

"You're going with the train?" Garia was surprised.

"Not all the way, Milady, only as far as the mouth of Therel Vale. My own journey will take me from there back to Dekarran along the trade road while these fine folk gone on to..." he shrugged and grinned, "...who knows where?"

"Indeed, Jaxen."

Garia looked around at the Einnlanders. Those who were traveling had now changed back into clothing that resembled that which they had been wearing when they arrived, but she knew that it was now both clean and supplemented by extra layers to keep them warm en route. She also knew of the extra garments hidden in the wagonloads which would aid them as they traveled across country towards their objective, hooded cloaks of fleece-lined white linen daubed with black and gray to blend in with the snow-covered rocky terrain.

The Einnlanders' weapons were improved, too, some having been reforged or reshaped to make the most of the temper that Haflin could conjure out of his furnaces. She knew that in the wagons would be short bows, axes, crossbows and javelins with which the Einnlanders had proved to be fearsomely proficient during their stay.

Everybody gathered round Keren, Garia and Merek. Eriana was wearing a rough fur, like all those who were going, but under it was a winter-weight tabard modeled on Garia's own. In fact, most of Eriana's outfit was based on Garia's winter riding clothes but made in carefully selected materials to look like the Einnlanders' other gear. Across her back was her sword, the scabbard fixed to a baldric so that the hilt was over her right shoulder.

Eriana spoke for them all. "Thank you all for what you have done for my people, Keren, Garia, Captain. Not forgetting Master Haflin! Without you we would be just refugees on a desolate shore. Now we must depart, the days of winter are short and we have a long way to travel."

She switched to Norse. «Men! Show these fine people our appreciation for what they have done for us!»

There was a big roar and the men held their fists up high, there being too little room to wave their swords.

Lars replied for the men. "Highness, My Lady, to fight, for this we thank."

It appeared that most had learned a smattering of the local tongue, even if the grammar still eluded some.

Garia smiled at them. «It was just an idea I had. Now you all take care, hear? The Yodans may not be as big and strong as you men are but they are very determined.»

«My Lady, we will, we must return for your marriage.»

«Get your beasts,» Eriana instructed, «I will be with you shortly.»

There was a mass exodus and the Palarandi party were left in the barn with Eriana and a small group of Einnlanders.

"I have chosen who is to go and these are those who, for whatever reason, would stay behind," Eriana explained. "Sigsten and Vidrik will go to Garia, Sigsten to work with Milsy." She smiled. "I understand there are similarities between fixing a ship's rigging and fitting wires to poles. He will be good at that, I deem. Vidrik desires to become an armsman for Garia. Olof and Kjellmund will join the Palace Guard, although it is likely that one or both might end up tending Master Haflin's forges. Little Alrik will stay with Gullbrand as a manservant, though he will formally belong to the palace. Jarl, Tor Hakon's son, Folke, Orm and Knut will remain at the estate. It seems that the skills which a sailor knows may be of great use to the masons who build this new place of learning."

Eriana's shoulders slumped. "As you all know Gullbrand will not be traveling with me. His counsel ever since we came to this land has been careful and honest." An apologetic smile. "And, I admit, I did not follow it sometimes! I am not the person I was then, and for that I have to thank Garia." The smile faded. "That is also the reason, of course, that drove my two maids away. Now I must make amends by leading my people on this adventure. Captain Merek, I have all the maps and I will follow your advice as best as I can. Now, if you will excuse me."

Eriana plainly did not want a big departure scene and she walked out from between them without another word. They followed slowly, walking around the side of the barn to the temporary awnings which had sheltered their riding beasts. There, Gullbrand stood holding the reins of her frayen. She briefly hugged him before swiftly mounting and, with a nod to those watching, rode around the other end of the barn and out of sight.

"We'd better get ourselves mounted," Garia said, "or we'll miss them!"

"Aye. We shall not follow them far, but it would be right to provide them escort. Come!"

Returning to the courtyard they retrieved their mounts from the waiting guardsmen and mounted. The last wagoneer clucked and the dranakh in the shafts briefly bleated before turning to the way out. Along the road, the others had waited for everyone to appear. Once they had done so, Eriana raised an arm and waved it forward. Garia, trailed by the inevitable escort of four mounted armsmen, slowly made her way forward past the wagons and riders until she reached Eriana.

"You don't like goodbyes, I take it."

"Hah! Considering the last one I made, you understand me well, Garia."

"But here you're not running away from your father, you're heading off on an adventure." Garia looked around to make sure Keren was not in earshot. "An adventure I would definitely wish to be part of, if I could."

Eriana gave her a look of sympathy. "I understand, Garia, what you must be feeling. You are too much of a treasure for the King - our King - to let you fall into any danger. I wonder that he let you ride here today."

"As you say. Fortunately I know from experience that I can depend on all our men if there's any trouble. There's such a thing as being too important, I guess. Still, it is the wrong time of the year for going out much so I'm just busying myself with all the plans and gadgets I've already started going."

"And you have yet a wedding to prepare for," Eriana added with a smile. "I must admit to a certain envy that you may spend some bells in the Wardrobe, considering fine materials and trimmings. Do you yet have a design?"

"I've decided to go for something traditional to Palarand. What women wear on Earth to get married can vary from the completely covered to the almost-naked, I'm afraid, so I decided it would be best to leave well alone." Garia considered. "Do you think you'll be back in time for the wedding?"

Eriana shrugged. "The fortune of war, Garia, as you must know. If the Gods permit us to take this fortress, then we must learn what state the war has reached in those distant lands and set our own plans accordingly. I would wish to be back, of course, but I cannot give my word."

"Understood. It's hard sending people off when you know they are heading into danger."

The Princess grinned. "With these few lusty men - and two good woman warriors, besides - at my side, we do not fear danger, Garia."

"Perhaps not, but if you want to be at that wedding you'll take care of yourself, hear?"

Eriana touched a finger to her forehead. "As you command, My Lady."

They rode along in companionable silence until the walls of the old city loomed ahead. Jaxen reined in beside them.

"Highness, Milady, our ways part here, I regret to say. We will turn right, to avoid the city streets, while you must needs return to the palace."

"So. Farewell Eriana, Jaxen. We'll meet together again in the Spring, I guess."

Keren, Merek and Gullbrand joined Garia at the side of the road as the wagons turned at the junction and headed around the city walls, bound for the Brikant road.

"That's that," Keren said as the dust began to settle. "I have an idea, Garia. Why don't we all go somewhere warm?"

* * *

The hand of onlookers returned to the bar, closing the door to keep the cold out. One wandered casually back to his acquaintances sitting around a back corner table, out of the way. Sitting back down he reached for his tankard.

"It was them all right. Him, her, her maid and the Captain with eight guardsmen, all of them mounted. Oh, and there was a carriage following with the Royal Armsmaster."

Serdel scowled. "You keep away from that Armsmaster! He may look big and clumsy but he's fearsomely quick on his feet. He's no King's crony, he came by that title through merit." He looked at the expressions of the others. "What? Just because he lives in the palace, doesn't mean I don't show him respect. The King gathers the best around him when he can."

One of the others muttered, "You're not making the job any easier."

Serdel flicked a hand. "I don't know where they have been, do I? We don't have enough eyes to follow them around all the time, especially in this weather. Don't worry. My informant in the palace says she will be going out to balls and meals to introduce her to the city folk. She won't be riding a frayen then, will she? Eventually they'll get lax and we'll have our chance."

* * *

Over lunch Senidet approached Garia with news.

"Milady, Lady Merizel is unwell. She does not wish to leave her chamber today. She says that it does not seem serious but that Margra has been to see her and advises rest."

Garia raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Kalikan?"

"I could not say, Milady, but it may be so."

Garia joined the others at table with thoughts running through her mind. So much so that the Queen noticed.

"You seem thoughtful, dear."

"As you say, Ma'am. Merizel is unwell and, while I don't want to appear heartless, I'm wondering how I can manage without her."

"Surely Merizel does not carry the load by herself, dear? One must always have another to provide when the first cannot."

Robanar, mouth full of food, waved his fork. After he had swallowed he said, "Garia, your establishment grows. When you first came to us Merizel was sufficient to manage your time, now you are concerned with so much that happens in the Kingdom you must arrange your staff so. I can promise you that it will only worsen with time."

"But... Sire, I'm trying not to fill the palace up with my people!"

"We understand, my dear, and we thank you for your efforts. But you may no longer depend on the existence of a single person for many of your responsibilities."

Garia was definitely unhappy. "As you command, Sire. I will have to come to some arrangement, I guess."

Terys added, "Speak to Kendar, dear. He will have some ideas for you."

The rest of the meal passed off without Garia noticing half of what was being talked about.

The group had gathered in Morlan's study, as it was a big enough room to accommodate them without being too large to heat. It also had enough chairs and the vital requirement of a blackboard. They consisted of Garia, Jenet, Senidet, and Molleena, with five guildsmen led by Fulvin.

"Guildmistress," Fulvin began. "Before we speak about the subject which concerns us most, I wish to bring you news of what we have managed to do with the zippers. We have established a small -" he stopped, concerned. "Guildmistress, where is Lady Merizel? I do not see her here to record our conversations, as is usual."

"Lady Merizel is unwell," Garia explained. "I haven't had a chance to visit today so I don't even know what is wrong yet. From what I have heard it isn't anything serious." She turned. "Senidet, I wonder if you would mind keeping notes for us? I could do it myself but my writing isn't really good enough and I'm still slow."

"As you wish, Guildmistress," Senidet replied. Shyly she added, "If I may ask you to slow down sometimes? I may not write as fast as Milady Merizel may manage."

"Of course. Have you everything you need to do that? Use the desk if you need to, we won't be taking it all up."

The desk had finally been cleared of the pile of documents that had been left after Morlan's death, but mostly these had just been sorted into baskets and piled in a corner of the room. For this meeting the chairs had been gathered around the desk, so that the winter afternoon light fell on the surface and the garments which lay thereon.

"Thank you, Guildmistress."

While Senidet arranged her wad of notepaper and reed penlets Fulvin took the opportunity to open a bag and hand round examples of his manufacturing experiments so far. These were passed from hand to hand and most were impressed with the quality and uniformity of the work.

"As you can see, Guildmistress," Fulvin resumed, "we have now begun limited production of zippers for eventual sale to those who might desire to use them in garments or other products. Naturally the first batch or two will be reserved for presentation items which will come to the palace or others we feel are deserving of such gifts.

"Once the basic assembly line principles had been worked out, we set up a room in one of the workshops and employed four journeymen to operate the presses required. To my own astonishment, the four managed to produce five hundred sixty-two zippers in the first week of operation. They tell me that by employing maybe two more, one to operate one of the presses and another to bring materials in and remove finished zippers and waste, that quantity could easily be doubled."

Garia's eyebrows raised. "That many? I'm impressed." She nodded. "Production line or assembly line ideas can make a lot of difference to the amount of goods which you can make and I think you just proved that. There's a downside to that, though, and that is that the men doing those jobs can get bored, which is when mistakes can happen. Have you had that problem yet?"

"No, Guildmistress. The men, among themselves, decided to rotate positions every day, that each may have a change and also to learn all the operations necessary. That way, if one should become ill, any of the others may take his place."

"That's a great idea, Fulvin. Do the men get breaks and time off to have lunch?"

"Of course, Guildmistress! Most guilds have rules to prevent their men from overworking." He looked concerned. "Guildmistress, what will happen when many not of the guild system - your pardon, those who may not be engineers - take their places on these production lines? They would not be bound by guild rules."

"True. I think the answer will be to build up a number of laws making sure any worker has decent breaks and working hours, is paid properly and so on. Leave it with me, I'll speak about it to the King. Merry? Oh! Senidet, can you make a note?"

"As you wish, Guildmistress."

The zippers were not as small and well-made as the example in her jeans but at this stage producing anything at all resembling the original was remarkable. Garia noted the well-folded slide and the even placement of the teeth, the staples anchoring both ends of the cloth in place. The action was smooth and the teeth parted easily.

"What did you have in mind for these, Master Fulvin?"

"Guildmistress, remembering your original description of uses for such devices, we will place these first zippers in bags such as your maids carry." Jenet looked interested. Fulvin continued, "I believe you would not consider zippers of this size to be suitable for clothing."

"As always, Master Fulvin, the answer is yes and no. You wouldn't use these for gowns, say, or tunics, but if they are strong enough then you could try them on winter coats, perhaps. Or anything using a thick enough material. Boots, for example, instead of the lacing we now have."

Fulvin's eyes widened. "I had not considered footwear, Guildmistress. Is this a common use on Earth, then?"

Garia grinned. "Yes and no again. It is easier to do up and undo but you can't adjust the fit like you can with lacing." She shrugged. "It's a matter of taste, fashion and design in the end."

They waited until Senidet had finished writing and then Fulvin broached the real reason for the visit of the guildsmen.

"Guildmistress, since many have examined the clothing you wore when you arrived among us there has been great discussion about the method of stitching. Many consider what they see to be impossible, even after seeing the evidence with their own eyes."

Garia nodded. "Looking at them, they do seem impossible, don't they? But it's really just a question of machinery, as I mentioned before. To make such garments as my trousers and tee shirt involves a number of machines and the assembly by stitching is only a small part of that process."

"As you say, Guildmistress." Fulvin looked unhappy. "Does this mean that these garments can only be made in a similar manner to that we use for the zippers? I understood from you that such machines were widely available for any to buy and use."

"Some are, some are not, Master Fulvin. Let's see. If we go back to the very beginning of the whole process, we start off with raw wool or some other supply of fibers, is that right?"

"As you say, Guildmistress."

"Some of the first machines invented took over the first parts of that process. So we have machines that can tease the fibers into a line and clean out the garbage and others that can spin those fibers into thread of some kind. With me so far?"

"Aye, Guildmistress."

"Those original machines were big, crude and often made of wood with a few metal parts where needed. That part of the process was usually done in factories, huge buildings that were often called mills because the first power used to drive the machines was obtained from waterwheels. The next step was to add a machine, a loom if you will, for weaving the threads into cloth. In some cases this would be plain cloth, in others there would be ways to put colored threads and patterns in during the weaving process. That cloth would then be sold to whoever wanted to make up garments and other items like bedding or drapes from it."

Fulvin nodded thoughtfully. "I see. So the first part of the process, then, is taking wool or whatever other fiber and making cloth from it, and this is better done in bulk since that will reduce the cost of the final cloth."

"That is what I'm assuming."

"But your tee shirt is not woven, is it? Using one of the new microscopes, it can easily be seen that the material is knitted. How is that done?"

"It's still cloth, however it is made. Once made it is cut and sewn just like any other cloth. Again, there are big machines which knit the material. I doubt you'd be able to produce anything that fine to begin with but like most things you can begin big and scale down as you get more experience."

One of the other guildsmen now spoke. "But, Guildmistress, knitting involves two needles and much manipulation of the wool by the fingers. How may a machine perform such tricks?"

Garia shook her head. "You have to start thinking creatively, I'm afraid. Now I don't know exactly how such knitting machines work but I have, briefly, seen a domestic version working and I'm sure the big ones are much the same idea. You have one needle for every loop you can see there, all set up in a long line, and then there's a kind of shuttle which simply goes from one side to the other and back again, adding stitches as it goes."

"But..." The guildsman subsided into a puzzled silence.

"Look, it might be something like this." Garia stood and went to the blackboard. "Okay, your machine could have a row of needles standing up like so. The needles aren't like those used to knit by hand but more like crochet hooks. Know what those are?"

"Of course, Guildmistress. We make those for the producers of rugs and carpets to use."

"So the needles get raised as the shuttle goes past, this bit drops, the thread gets laid in the hooks, the needles get dropped, and then..."

"Ah!" Fulvin leapt to his feet. "I see it, Guildmistress! If you would permit?"

At Garia's nod Fulvin strode to the blackboard and found a piece of chalk.

"Korden, the needles don't have to move except to go up and down. The shuttle moves across, perhaps on a rail..."

Within moments all five guildsmen were standing around the board, discussing the mechanics of the knitting machine. Garia turned to Senidet and smiled knowingly.

"I like it when they figure something out," she said. "It was like that with the steam engine, and the same with electricity."

"As I see, Guildmistress. Shall you need a copy of the drawings they are making?"

Garia considered. All five now had pieces of chalk and had contributed to one or more drawings outlining one or more parts of the mechanism they obviously intended to build the moment they had the chance.

"Yes, please. We still haven't touched on sewing machines and we'll have to clear the board for more drawings for those." She turned to Jenet. "Time for some pel, perhaps? We'll need a break while Senidet copies off those drawings."

Jenet curtseyed and she left the room followed by Molleena. By the time they returned with pel and pastries the five had quietened down, though they were still talking among themselves. With drinks and nibbles consumed Garia steered the conversation back to the main topic.

"What you have just been talking about is of great interest, and there are domestic versions of that machine you're going to make as well as factory versions. But you want to hear all about sewing machines, I take it."

"As you say, Guildmistress. If I may?"

Fulvin picked up the jeans and turned the end of one leg inside out.

"Now, I am no seamstress, though I have been subjected to many details of that craft in recent weeks." He smiled at Garia. "It seems to me that there are two seams in the leg of this garment and they are both different. Both look extremely complicated, so much so that I deem they can only have been made by a machine."

"You're right, Master Fulvin. I would guess that the whole thing was sewn by machine and that there is no hand-stitching involved at all."

She took the jeans from Fulvin and looked at the construction, frowning before handing them back to the guildsman.

"Look, I think I'm going to have to describe something simpler before we get as far as the machines that made those jeans. It will be easier for you to make but by the time you get one going properly you should have figured out how these more complicated ones were done, okay?"

"As you desire, Guildmistress."

Garia was beginning to get a little irritated by the continued use of her guild title but knew that Fulvin would refuse to call her anything else, especially in front of those of lower rank. She sighed internally but continued.

"There were several designs for sewing machines, back then, right about the time that the big machines we have been talking about started making cheap and freely available cloth." Her audience nodded. "So it became possible for many people to make their own clothes in a way they couldn't before. The sewing machine helped immensely since it both speeded up the process and gave a measure of quality control."

She moved to the blackboard and cleared away the previous drawings.

"Basically, you have a needle which just goes up and down poking a hole in the cloth and pushing the thread through."

The inevitable objection came. "But, Guildmistress, how then can the needle be caught, turned, and pushed up again?"

Garia shook her head. "It doesn't. There are two threads, one which goes through the needle and another which is underneath in a shuttle. When the needle has gone all the way down," she drew another diagram, "like this, the shuttle goes through the thread loop and then returns after the needle is up again. Then you have something that grabs the cloth and moves it along for the next stitch."

She looked at the crude diagrams she had drawn on the board and realized that they would never understand how the thing operated.

"Tell you what. I'll draw what the finished machine looked like and you can then get an idea of how everything had to fit together to make it work."

She closed her eyes and the image of the ancient Singer treadle machine floated into her mind. With that firmly fixed she began to draw, but she only did the machine itself, ignoring the treadle which was really just a means of supplying power.

"There! What we have is basically a casting which has been machined afterwards to allow other bits to be screwed on. The reason for the casting is it keeps the dust and dirt and fluff out of the moving parts. Not to mention fingers. Remember, this was going into people's houses. The casting is hollow to contain all the moving parts and the base is made of wood, so that you can hinge it up to maintain it. This end has a handle which you turn to move the various parts. Instead of a handle you could use a foot treadle or even an electric motor.

"This end is where you put the material you want to sew. There's a foot which comes down and holds the fabric against the base so it doesn't get wrinkled and such. Then there's a needle which is fixed to this rod that just goes up and down. If you can imagine a lever inside here which rocks like so..."

She started another drawing.

"This is a view looking down, but you must imagine that you can see through the casting and are looking at the moving parts underneath. The shuttle goes across here and there's a sort of foot which moves the cloth after each stitch. That obviously has to move at the right times too."

By this time everyone in the room was clustered around the blackboard.

"What size is this, Guildmistress?"

"I've actually drawn it about life size, Master Fulvin. So you can see it would be easy to put it on a table or make a stand to hold it in front of a chair." She considered. "You turn the handle with your right hand while the left guides the material as it goes through. The casting could be difficult, but you don't really need that for a prototype, just enough of a metal frame to hold the moving parts in the right places."

Fulvin and the others studied the mechanism.

"I think I see, Guildmistress," he said after a while. "These are arms on the end of cranks which are operated by the handle, yes?"

"That's basically it, yes."

"Then it may take us some time to experiment and determine just when each piece needs to move so, to make the machine function as you have described. However, I see nothing here which is unfamiliar to us, just the particular combination of parts, which is no different a problem than that of the Great Clock, after all." He bowed to Garia. "Guildmistress, much has been revealed. With this information we now have some idea how something many thought impossible was done. We all thank you for your explanation."

Senidet asked, "Guildmistress, does one turn of the handle make one stitch?"

Fulvin looked at Senidet sharply but said nothing. Garia thought and then mimed turning the handle before shaking her head.

"No, I think there must have been internal gearing. One turn would make three stitches or so."

Senidet nodded. "Thank you, Guildmistress."

Garia asked the guildsmen, "Have you seen enough? Then Senidet can begin to copy those drawings off for you. I might as well tell you about some developments that will come in the future, before we finish. Back to those trousers, they are made with machines that have two needles and possibly up to four threads, all going at once. There are also sewing machines which can make all kinds of fancy stitching such as zigzag, dotted lines and buttonholes. They do that by moving the needle about as the cloth feeds through. Of course what is underneath has to move about too, so I wouldn't bother trying to make one of those yet. Just know that such things are possible."

Fulvin looked at his fellows before turning back to Garia. "We thank you for a most interesting afternoon, Guildmistress. We have learned of two new machines which will benefit Palarand greatly. If we may return from time to time for further advice?"

"About those machines? Of course. There may be others but as usual we'll have to get the King's approval before I can describe anything like that."

"We understand, Guildmistress. We have already discussed amongst ourselves the changes which such machines might bring to those who would use them. We understand the King's caution in these matters."

After the guildsmen had departed Garia let out a deep breath.

"What did you think, Senidet?"

"It was interesting, Guildmistress. Such machines would require moving metal parts made to very accurate sizing and dimensions. Master Fulvin may have a big project ahead of him."

Garia grinned. "Don't underestimate them, Senidet! I spent about as long as I have today describing a typewriter to Master Parrel and he went away and described it to three of his men. They had made their third model by the time I visited them a month later."

"The typewriter? Oh, as you say, Guildmistress!" She looked reserved again. "Would it be possible for me to become part of Master Fulvin's project, Guildmistress?"

"You'll have to ask him, Senidet. Aren't you happy working with Milsy at the moment?"

"Aye, Guildmistress, but it seems to me that Master Fulvin may have more need for someone who can make suitable drawings for his men to make parts from."

"You're right. Check with Milsy first, then go and speak to Fulvin. I'm sure he will welcome your assistance." Garia thought. "Oh. If you could help me until Lady Merizel gets well again?"

"Of course, Guildmistress."

* * *

"Merry! How are you?"

"As you see, Garia. Not where I would desire to be."

"What's the matter? I haven't been able to get an answer from anybody."

"Nothing serious, I deem. My stomach feels odd and there is some nausea. Margra says I'm a little warm too but not enough to be called a fever." Merizel shrugged. "It is what any may expect in winter, Garia. I expect I'll be back beside you in a day or two. How are you managing?"

"Just about, so far. I met Fulvin this afternoon -"

"I remember."

"- and Senidet did the honors. She writes slower than you do but her drawings are amazing!" Garia paused, not sure how to break the news. "Now, don't get upset, but the King says I'm doing so much I can't really rely on just one person any more. What do you think about either splitting your duties or getting some staff of your own? It's not your fault, it's just a question of who I happen to be and who I am about to be."

Merizel leaned back on her pillow. "In truth, Garia, I could do with some help myself. When I recall how we started I marvel at who and what we are now. Of course you must have more people! You are a Baroness, with lands and people who depend on you. You are also a Guildmistress with people and projects to oversee. You are already closely connected to the royal family and that connection is only going to become closer. There is too much work for the third daughter of an obscure rural baron to do alone."

"Oh, Merry!" Garia leaned over the bed and gave her friend a hug. "I'm sorry. I've been so busy and preoccupied that I haven't considered how my closest friends are managing. I'll get you some help. In fact the Queen has suggested that I talk to Kendar."

"Quite right too. Now, as you're here and we have time before Margra chases you away, tell me all about what happened at the estate this morning."

* * *

Kendar bowed his head in thought.

"Milady, I will have to give your establishment some thought in the coming months. When you are wed and become the wife of our future King then your activities must needs change and with them the numbers and kinds of servants who will manage them for you." He held up a hand as Garia opened her mouth. "I must also consider that you are a Baroness who takes an active part in the running of your lands and the welfare of your people and that you will still wish to do so afterwards." A wry smile. "You are also a woman-at-arms, if I may use such a title, who must needs practice her various arts, not to mention your Guild activities and meetings with Questors and others such as the Einnlanders."

"Do you think I should cut down what I do, Kendar?"

"Not at all, Milady, provided that you are satisfied you can manage all that I have mentioned. I would not wish you to wear yourself out, though, as the King sometimes does." He considered briefly. "To your immediate desires, Milady, I can assign you a Quick Scribe, perhaps one you are already familiar with, to assist in those cases where Lady Merizel is not available. In addition I think you ought consider employing one such as myself to manage your household."

"My household, do you mean, or that of House Blackstone?"

Kendar shrugged. "Either or both, Milady. If one person may serve both functions, then one may be sufficient, if you can find such a person." He looked at Garia, calculating. "I have a suggestion, Milady, someone who has recently made himself available to the palace who has already experience of such a position. However, I do not have any idea of his actual experience, his abilities or his temperament."

"Someone who... That can only be Gullbrand, can't it? Is that going to cause Princess Eriana problems if and when she returns?"

"I do not believe so, Milady. Besides, she will not return for perhaps two months or so, is that not correct? You and Master Gullbrand will have time to decide on his suitability before she returns."

"That's so, and my needs are sufficiently pressing I think I'm going to have to agree to Gullbrand. Do you want me to speak to him about the job?"

"That would be best, Milady. Perhaps tomorrow morning, after your exercises?"

"Done, Kendar."

* * *

"Tell me about the Beings, then."

"I'm not sure how much of this I should be discussing, Keren. Remember that argument we had in Blackstone? It isn't only the men of the Six Cities who have oaths, you know."

"I understand that, Garia. I understand that you now have knowledge about two worlds that are not Anmar and that some of that knowledge must be withheld for various reasons."


"But you taught us, painfully, that having more knowledge is better than having less knowledge. I would know some of this strange world you have now entered."

"Maybe." She frowned. "But it is so strange I don't have a clue what's happening most of the time. I suspect I don't even remember most of my visits there. One problem I have is that the world of the Beings, if you can call it that, may be as much in my imagination as any of this is, Keren. What if the whole thing is inside my fevered brain?"

"But you told me that you have to operate as if Anmar is real, and for that I am thankful." He smiled at her. "I am pleased to be real, because it means that we can marry, my love."

Garia pouted. "You're not getting around me like that!"

Her body began showing signs that she earnestly desired that it and Keren's body were real, so that they could do things to each other that only real bodies could. She pushed the feelings down so that she could concentrate on the topic at hand.

"What about Maralin? Did you find out anything?"

"I did, as a matter of fact. You know I told you there was some kind of plan and that Yves and I were part of it?"


"Well, Maralin isn't part of that plan. Since they discovered the body mix-up they wanted to do some experiments to get some idea of the problem and its effects. It seems that Maralin was about to die on Earth when they grabbed her. I don't have any more details."

"Oh? So the Beings have discovered that their machines do something unexpected and they desire to find out how and why. That seems to me to be a reasonable thing to do."

"Maybe, maybe not. At least Maralin was satisfied with the end result. She is now a he and happy with Joth's armies. Perhaps other transferees may not be so lucky."

"As you say. So, is that all you found out?"

"I found out more, Keren, but I want to get it all clear in my mind before I tell anyone else about it. Okay?"

"Okay, Garia. Now, since that subject makes you uncomfortable, let us find another that is more to your liking."

"Ooh! Your Highness! Whatever can you mean?"

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