TG Universes & Series:
Milsy gets her badge, visits a glassworks and subsequently has to consult Rosilda. The second clock arrives and is wired up, the clocks are tested and news arrives from the far north which results in Milsy being released from her primary duty.
What Milsy Did
by Penny Lane
13 - News from the North
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) 2016 Penny Lane. All rights reserved.
"It is now my pleasure to present you with the second ever guild badge to be awarded to a woman," Parrel said.
He pulled open a small soft leather pouch and shook out the gold badge onto his hand, turning it over and pinning it carefully to the upper left bodice of Milsy's dress.
"There," he said, smoothing the cloth with a smile. "Legally you are now a Guildswoman, Milsy. I doubt you will ever be called to account in the future for any misdeeds but please, try and keep the trouble down, would you? As a woman you know that it is inevitable that there will be friction, both within our own guild and with some of the others as well. At this time of great change we must needs educate our colleagues in other crafts, not antagonize them."
"I fear it is too late for the clockmakers," Milsy replied apologetically. "I'm sorry, I'll have to learn to be more careful in future."
"As you say, though the clockmakers were always one of the more difficult guilds, their arrogance only exceeded by the miners," Parrel agreed. "But you are right, part of your education as journeywoman will be to learn how to deal with clients and that includes other guilds as well as nobles and merchants."
Milsy inclined her head. "Your warning is noted, Guildmaster, and appreciated. I will be more careful in future."
"Good." Parrel smiled and then turned. "Bursila? I have a badge for you as well. If your Mistress requires your attendance at any workshop or any other place connected with her work, you will need a token to prove your right to accompany her. I have it here."
This badge was of silver and showed, like that of Milsy, the word Palarand across the top and the Garian number 2. Across the bottom were the words Personal Maid whereas Milsy's had the word Journeywoman. Parrel pinned the badge to Bursila's uniform and stood back.
"Done," he said with satisfaction. "Considering the few days since you began to learn to read and write, Milsy, Korben reports that your progress is impressive. If you make as much progress in your activities as journeywoman you will be raised to Guildswoman in a very small number of weeks. As you and Bursila both now have badges, I have asked Tarvan to consider taking you to visit some of our workshops in order to broaden your education." Parrel turned and considered the cluttered laboratory they were standing in. "You will have to arrange to fit such visits in with your other projects, I deem."
"But we're too busy -" Milsy began to object.
"That is not so, Milsy," Tarvan put in. "Once we have this clock running properly we must needs leave it for a day or even two before we may tell if it keeps time sufficiently well. There will be ample occasion to visit some of the works Master Parrel has mentioned. I am already considering where our time may best be used."
"What about the solenoids we'll need for the other clock? Shouldn't we be working on those while we wait?"
Parrel said, "Milsy, I believe that it is important for you to gain a broader understanding of the new devices and ideas which the Guildmistress has already given us. In the future your attention should be wider than just a clock with a battery. While you may not immediately gain a deep understanding of what you will be shown it is possible that you may bring us some insight the Guildmistress has overlooked or that my men have not considered. We already know that you have a keen mind."
Milsy inclined her head again. "As you say, Guildmaster. I withdraw my objection."
Parrel smiled. "Please keep making objections if you find sufficient reason to do so! Many of our best guildsmen are those who sought to question what they were taught rather than just accept the word of another."
Tarvan chuckled. "I doubt any could keep Milsy from asking questions, Guildmaster! I know that I have tried and failed."
Parrel laughed and then gestured to the bench. "What of your clock? Does it do what you expect?"
"As you can see there is no weight attached to the pendulum now, Guildmaster. Nor are there any weights used to operate the bell mechanisms. Removing the latter proved to be a harder problem but in the end no more difficult to solve once Milsy suggested a way to use solenoids as ratchets. I believe that if we could fit all back into the case Master Bayorn would not know what we had done to his clock."
"Interesting! So... this clock would continue for ever, then, if the battery was changed when required."
"Not for ever, Guildmaster. It will still require cleaning and lubricating, just as the Great Clock does. But generally, aye, it will need no other attention. Of course, we still have to design a clock which will fit the requirements of Master Gerdas. Now we have this one ticking away, as it were, we can concentrate on that."
"What may be the obstacles you will face, do you think?"
"We must needs calculate what fraction of a day an hour is, and thence a minute and a second," Tarvan replied. "Once we have done that then we can consider how to make the required wheels have the necessary number of teeth. Once we have the basic mechanism designed, providing a dial should not be difficult." Tarvan flipped a hand. "I doubt the first design will look much like the watch of the Guildmistress, though."
Parrel frowned. "But surely, you know how long an hour, a minute or a second is, Tarvan. You merely have to look at the watch."
Milsy said, "Guildmaster, it is not so simple. The divisions on Lady Garia's watch are those of time as used on Earth and I am told the day there is shorter than ours is. Our seconds, minutes and hours must be fractions of our own day, not that of Earth."
"I am corrected, Milsy." Parrel smiled. "I see you have already considered the problem in some depth."
"Aye, Guildmaster," Tarvan agreed, "the principles are not difficult but some of the detail may be. If we may call to consult your craftsmasters when our design is more finished."
"I will expect you both at the Guildhall when you are ready." Parrel paused. "I am invited to lunch with the King today. Shall you join us?"
"Regrettably not, Guildmaster. As yet Milsy still performs her other task for the King, which means she must needs dine in private. Normally I would join her, now that we have made our arrangement, but if you desire my presence..."
"I will manage, young Tarvan. You two enjoy yourselves, but I would that the day will come soon when Milsy can put aside this pretense."
"Aye, Guildmaster. It made sense at the beginning but it must end soon, I deem."
"As you say, Tarvan."
Another day, another problem. Tord shook his head. "Mistress, we are stretched more than I would care to be. We are too few for this duty."
"I agree, Tord. I thought you had spoken to Captain Merek?"
"Aye, I have, but he is as busy as you and I doubt he has yet given it much thought." The armsman shrugged helplessly. "If we are all in attendance to you, there is no opportunity for us to remind him of our needs."
Milsy muttered something too low for Tord to catch, but he had no doubt that it was the sort of language often found in a kitchen when, say, somebody dropped something on their foot.
"Very well," she said. "There is nothing we can do right now, since we must make our way into the city. Be certain to remind me when we return here and I will see if I can attract the attention of Captain Merek."
"As you command, Mistress. I believe the carriage is waiting, so you may go to the entrance whenever you are ready."
The weather had begun to cool and so Milsy and Bursila both wore pea-coats over their dresses. They were enough to keep the chill from their arms but not so heavy as to overheat them at this stage of fall. On her lap Bursila carried, as well as the customary bag, two rolled-up leather aprons the women had been presented with the day before, in anticipation of their visit to the glassworks today.
"You have been to some of these places that Tarvan suggested," Milsy said to Bursila. "What will they be like?"
"I have not visited a glassworks before, Mistress," Bursila replied, "but I imagine it will be hot inside the workshop and probably dark, except for the fires. I do not know how much noise there will be. It will probably be dirty and there may be things left on the floor for you to trip over."
"That's a good thought, Bursila. I don't want to make a fool of myself by falling flat on my face in front of a lot of guildsmen."
"I'm sure that will not happen, Mistress. I imagine that in many respects it will be something like a large kitchen, with which you will be familiar."
"As you say! Well, Cook always shouted at us if we left anything untidy because a trip could cause serious injury, although I think she was more worried that the meal would be served late. Perhaps the glassworks will be the same."
With all her small band of guardsmen surrounding the carriage Milsy could see that Tord had a point. While there were probably enough men to protect her should anything happen this gave no margin for illness, at ease days or any other unusual happenings. She made a mental note to speak with Captain Merek as soon as they returned to the palace.
She was by now becoming comfortable with journeys through the city but her days out were infrequent enough that nothing was recognizable. After some time she noticed that they had arrived at a district of warehouses and workshops with just a few large buildings in between she assumed were mansions or... offices, she remembered the new word. Their procession turned into the yard in front of a large workshop complex, busy with men shoveling sand, crushed stone and charcoal into small trolley-like wagons with wheels that ran on pairs of wooden... what, exactly?
As the carriage stopped, Tord opened the door and saluted.
"Mistress, we have arrived. Here comes Master Tarvan to greet you."
"Thank you, Tord." Milsy looked around. "Are you expecting to go around with us? It might not be that convenient inside, from what I can see from here."
"Mistress, I am assuming that you will be safe enough among the guildsmen, especially those I see approaching. With your permission, we will remain with the carriage unless required within."
The workshops had roofing but most of the sides were open to the air to allow the heat to disperse. Milsy had been told a little about glass making by Tarvan so knew that great fires would be involved. She could see the glow of several furnaces without even stepping out of the carriage. From inside the building four men strode, three of them looking very familiar. As she stepped out they reached her and she recognized Hurdin and Fulvin alongside Tarvan. The fourth man she didn't know.
"Mistress Milsy, welcome," Hurdin greeted her. "I'm sure you will find much of interest within. Master Fulvin joins us today because of a new method of molding glass he has devised." He gestured to the fourth man. "If I may introduce Craftmaster Hassen who supervises this glassworks. He will answer your questions as we walk through the workshop."
Milsy thought it was appropriate to curtsey but Hassen stuck out his hand. Hesitantly she shook it, finding it large, warm and calloused.
"Mistress, it is strange to me to be inviting a woman into my workshop but Guildmaster Hurdin assures me that you have the right. I see your Guild badge there on your chest, have no fear that any within will object to your presence, at least not out loud." A brief quirk of a smile. "We are so busy I doubt many will even notice you."
Hassen turned as Bursila joined Milsy. "Good, I see you have brought aprons with you. If you would put them on before you enter, Mistress, there may be dust and sparks from the furnaces." He addressed Bursila. "You are the maid of Mistress Milsy?"
"Aye, Craftmaster. I am Bursila."
"Then I must caution you, both of you, that you are entering somewhere that may be unfamiliar to you. My men are used to working in this place, they know of the dangers within but you do not. Take extreme care of your footing and follow any instructions you may be given by anyone, else you are burned or otherwise come to harm."
Bursila was pale, now. "Aye, Craftmaster, I shall heed your words and I shall also make sure that my Mistress is safe."
Bursila and Milsy put on their aprons, both feeling very self-conscious. Almost all of the men in sight were stripped to the waist, many wearing nothing other than a short leather kilt in an attempt to keep themselves cool. Only one or two appeared to be wearing some kind of protective apron like themselves.
"Before we enter, Craftmaster," Milsy ventured.
"Those little wagons there. Why are they running on those strips of wood? What advantage does that provide?"
Hassen's eyebrows rose but Hurdin grinned at him. The Guildmaster said, "I told you she would ask questions, Hassen! She knows little of our world so I suggest you answer her plainly."
Hassen cleared his throat before replying. "Mistress, we have used such hoppers for so long I barely remember why we do things like this. Let me see... Firstly, the rails which they run on mean that they may simply be pushed or pulled wherever they need to go. There is no need to steer them. The wheels and the rails themselves are made of a hard wood which when smoothed mean that the effort needed to move the hoppers is much smaller than if they were to be pushed along the ground."
Milsy considered this before nodding. "If you are pushing heavy... hoppers... around I can see why you might want to make the task easier."
"Aye, Mistress. The other reason for the rails is that they determine where the hoppers go. We route the rails from here inside to the furnaces where the ingredients are melted into glass."
"The rails determine where the hoppers go? Interesting."
Hurdin added, "Mistress, these are but simple versions of what Guildmistress Garia calls a railroad. Imagine a hopper the size of a merchant's wagon, filled with ore or sand and pulled along by an immense steam engine. She tells us that the journey from the city to South Slip may be made in as little as two bells."
Two bells! The King's procession from South Slip to the city had taken two whole days, although Milsy knew that messengers, carriages and merchants' wagons would make the trip much faster. She began to see the immense changes which Garia had triggered and realized that she was likely to be an important part of the upheaval to come.
"Uh, thank you, Guildmaster. That sounds amazing. I think I might want to investigate this... what did you name it?"
"The railroad, Mistress?"
"Aye, the railroad. Lady Garia spoke of it but of course without seeing it I did not know what she meant. Another day, I deem. For now I am here to see how sand and rocks can be turned into glass."
Inside it was dark but enough light came from the sides and the furnaces that it was possible to see reasonably well.
Hassen gestured. "These are the furnaces where the raw rock and sand is melted into glass, Mistress. By varying the proportions of our ingredients we can make different kinds of glass, of varying thickness, color and quality."
Further in, Milsy was shown traditional glass-blowing, being presented with a hand-blown glass goblet at the end of the session. They moved on to the making of flat glass, where the bubble was cut open and spun to make thick, wrinkled sheets which could then be diced into panes for window glass.
"But this is the traditional way," Hassen stated, moving to another, larger furnace. "Here we are experimenting with a new and simpler way of making flat glass explained to us by the Guildmistress."
This area was very hot, since there was a big square bath of some silvery substance next to the furnace and this bath was also heated. Milsy felt the sweat trickling down inside her clothes and wished she could strip as the men had done.
I doubt that will ever happen. I do not object to seeing a man stripped to the waist but it would be unbecoming for any woman to do so!
Not to mention extremely dangerous. The skin of a woman is not as tough as that of a man, especially one who has hardened his hide by spending many years in front of these fires.
No, this is but one of those many things which any woman has to bear, I deem. We are not made as men are and we must solve our problems in a different way.
"Is that melted metal in that tray?"
"Aye, it is tin, Mistress. It provides a smooth surface for the glass to spread out on without cooling it too fast. As you will see, it will then be easy to lift the sheet off the tin when it has cooled enough to handle."
Tarvan added, "Milsy, the tin is just like the solder we use in the laboratory, though our solder is made from tin mixed with lead. Almost all metals can be made to melt if you heat them hot enough but lead, tin and zinc are some of the lowest melting points we know of. We are making use of that fact here with this tin bath."
Hassen looked at Tarvan with approval. It looked like his two young guests were smart people and that bode well for the future of crafts in Palarand. Though I must name it Engineering in future, I deem.
They watched as two men manhandled a heavy crucible from the furnace and gently tipped the contents over the tin. The glass, which glowed pink and flowed like thick cream, immediately began to spread out over the surface until it was a sheet so thin that Milsy could not see where it began or ended. One of the men gently poked at the edge with an iron tool and eventually pronounced it ready to lift. They each used tongs and grabbed an end of the glass, carefully lifting the sheet out to display to the visitors.
"As you can see," Hassen explained, "we have produced a sheet of glass of much better quality than ever before, smoother and larger than any could make using the spinning method. This will truly change glass-making for ever."
Hurdin grunted. "That is not the only change, Hassen. Remember our experiments with molds. If you would come this way, Mistress, Masters."
Hurdin led the party through the workshop, avoiding men working, blowing bottles, glasses and other utensils, past men shoveling charcoal, sand and crushed rock into furnaces, others etching and polishing glass towards a partitioned-off area.
The cry came too late. Two men, carrying a crucible with long tongs, had somehow let it drop onto the floor which was covered with dirt, slag and cinders. The molten glass within splashed out, fortunately missing everyone, but Milsy caught a secondary spray of hot cinders and muck sent up by the liquid.
Hassen took charge, muttering an apology to both Hurdin and Milsy. He turned to the men.
"You stupid -"
The others moved off to one side to be out of the way. Milsy looked down to see that the apron had caught most of it but some had managed to make small holes in the skirt of her dress, at the bottom where it was not quite covered by the leather. It also looked like one of her boots was significantly damaged.
"Mistress, you have -"
"I know, Bursila," Milsy replied. "The damage doesn't look too bad though Rosilda won't be pleased. This boot should last until we can get home again. I don't think it will affect anything we intend to do today."
"As you wish, Mistress. If I may brush off the dirt."
Hurdin had automatically jumped back when the spill happened but Tarvan had his legs sprayed with the cinders and muck. He bent down, brushing the gritty material from his hose.
"Are you burned, Tarvan?"
"No, Milsy, but I ought to have seen what was about to happen. It is only a pair of hose, I have others." He looked concerned. "What of yourself? You caught more than I did. Are you hurt?"
"No, but I deem this design of dress is not suitable for such visits as this." She frowned. "Are many of the places we are likely to visit like this?"
Tarvan thought. "I could not say, Milsy. Some certainly are, like the great furnaces which Master Parrel has been building for making steel. Why?"
"I think I'm going to have to speak to Rosilda. There must be something more suitable for me to wear." She gestured with a smile. "After all, I can hardly go around dressed as these men do, can I? Neither can any other woman who may desire to join a guild in the future."
Tarvan was red faced and Milsy wasn't certain that it was entirely due to the heat.
"There is much in what you say. If we may discuss this when we return to the palace?"
"Mistress Milsy?" That was Hurdin. "I offer my apologies for what just happened, but the crucibles can be heavy and are awkward to handle when hot, as you have seen. I trust you are not hurt?"
"I am not, Master Hurdin. I have some small holes in the hem of my dress and my left boot may be too badly damaged to repair, though it is just about wearable now. They won't be a problem for the Palace Wardrobe, I can assure you."
"If you are certain -"
"I am fine, Guildmaster. If we may continue? I am originally from Dekarran's kitchens and I know that it is not always possible to avoid accidents. At least this time no one was hurt."
"As you wish, Mistress. Hassen?"
In the partitioned off section were some large mechanical devices, some crudely constructed. Beyond the roofing a large steam engine stood puffing, two young men feeding it with shovels of charcoal. Beside it was something that looked like a huge metal tank although the ends were rounded rather than flat. In front of Milsy stood a tall machine with a part that could go up and down though presently it was not moving. Below it, on the dirt floor, was a cast iron molding which had a square hole in the center.
Hurdin gestured. It seemed that whatever went on in here was under his direct supervision.
"This is a machine which was suggested by Fulvin here," he explained. "These molds you may recognize as those for the battery jars you use for storing electricity."
Milsy had not recognized them, since it was not obvious how they were used.
"Originally, when we were asked to make square jars we thought it impossible. Then we devised a way of doing it by heating a bubble of glass, opening it and pressing it into a mold like, perhaps, a cook would mold pastry." Milsy could visualize that easily enough. "With this new method we pour glass directly into the mold and then press another mold into the center to make the shape. The glass is forced up around the sides and we can then trim off any excess at the top before it cools completely."
She nodded. "You use this machine for pushing the inside mold down, then? Of course, the glass, even though it flows, must be much thicker than water."
Hurdin smiled. "I can see that Fulvin's machine requires little explanation to you, Mistress. Aye, we use the weight of the hammer above to push the mold down." An aside, "We name it hammer because we have not yet found a better word for it. To me it is most like a hammer and anvil, though it does not come down as fast as a hammer does. The steam engine you see is used merely to lift the weight again. I am told that the engine could be used directly but we would not have as good a control over the force used. This way is easier to control since we can adjust the weight to produce the result we require. Now, if you would all stand to one side, over there, we will demonstrate the machine."
Two men came, sweating, with yet another crucible held in long tongs and tipped the contents into the lower mold. Fulvin, standing beside the machine, pulled a chain and the hammer dropped about two feet, the shaped end plunging straight into the blob of molten glass below. From one side excess glass squirted out of a relief hole and was swiftly scraped away by one of the men. Fulvin pulled another chain and the hammer began slowly to rise, the effort to lift it being made clear by the change in the note from the steam engine. Still glowing, a new jar was clearly visible in the lower mold.
Two more men came and began dragging the mold bodily away from below the machine. Milsy frowned. Why were they doing this?
"Master Hurdin, why are they taking the mold away?"
"Why, because the glass is yet too hot to remove and if we waited until it was cool enough we would make very few jars each day. The men will put another mold underneath for the next jar, we have many which we rotate."
"But then you have to carefully line each new mold up with the upper one, don't you?"
"Aye, Mistress." Hurdin was puzzled.
"Why, then, could you not lay some of that railroad track across the front of your machine and mount the molds on little hoppers? Then when one is finished you just push it out of the way until it cools."
The guildsmen stared at Milsy and then each other.
"We wouldn't need hoppers, Guildmaster," Hassen said. "Just little flat trolleys."
"But the weight coming down would crush the wheels and axles," Fulvin objected.
Hurdin waved a hand. "There may be ways around that," he said. "What is important is that Milsy has shown us that even when we are experimenting there may be ideas that we overlook in our enthusiasm to try something new. A system of rails could be of great use, now I think on the matter, through the whole workshop." Another hand wave. "I do not mean this place, it is too old to modify, but the new works which we must needs build to increase production must take account of ideas such as this." He turned to Milsy. "Journeywoman Milsy, I am indebted to you for this idea."
"Guildmaster," she replied formally, "I do what I can to help."
* * *
"I can patch this, Mistress," Rosilda told Milsy. "Knowing what you were likely to be doing I knew that there would be damage to mend. If you would leave this one with me there is another ready for your next expedition." She looked closely at the rest of the skirt. "What's this?"
"Ah." Milsy reddened. "I forgot that one. Battery acid, I'm afraid. We were moving some batteries and - You don't really need the details, Rosilda. Let me just say that is one mistake I won't be making again. The smell was terrible."
Rosilda examined the hole, poking a finger through it. "This can also be patched, though it will be more obvious." She picked up the boot. "This, though, cannot be repaired so easily. I will ask Steben to make you a new pair, though it will probably be a week before you can try them."
"Thank you, Rosilda. I do have another pair of boots but perhaps I ought to be thinking about a more... um, sturdy pair for my visits to such places. What do the guardsmen wear, for example?"
"It is true they have boots made of thicker leather, Mistress, but the design is different, since they must be able to ride at need. Perhaps a talk with Steben would be useful, when you can spare the time."
"Spare the time. Hah. Actually, the mens' boots are riding boots, then, which means calf boots. That might be a good idea, to protect my legs. And I'm beginning to wonder if a leather dress might be the answer to my other problem, Rosilda. It would be stiff and heavy but it would certainly protect me."
Rosilda leaned back and examined Milsy. "It is a thought, Mistress," she replied cautiously. "The dress may not be so stiff since we have leather of different qualities available here in the wardrobe. To ask for a 'dress', though, is but a beginning. If I may ask you to consider shape, length and style in the next few days. You should consider how to be comfortable both standing and sitting and how it may best protect you as you work. You must also consider how to keep cool."
"You're right, Rosilda, I was being vague, wasn't I?" Milsy nodded. "Now that I have the thought in my head, I'll certainly think about how to make something that protects me better."
Rosilda smiled. "Mistress, I don't think you need worry about how to make such a thing, we will do that. Just tell me your needs and between us we shall design something you may wear with confidence."
"Bursila too? She will require a similar protection, I deem."
"As you say, but she will not be working as you will, will she? When we next talk, we can discuss attire for both of you."
"That will be a relief. Now that I am accounted a guildswoman, though only a journeywoman as yet, Tarvan seeks to send me to visit a number of the other Guild establishments here in the city. I suspect that what happened at the glassworks was only a foretaste of things to come."
"Does he really intend that, Mistress? Surely, I am no expert, of course, but surely that will occupy much of your time."
Milsy grinned. "Time that could be spent inventing things, you mean? Aye, there is some of that but Master Parrel desires to make sure that my education in Guild matters is as broad as may be. I understand that this is a new idea thought up by Master Hurdin and Master Parrel, that their apprentices and journeymen may learn to consider matters beyond what their own Guild may teach them. It will become needful as the Guilds become a single Institute and start working together on projects."
Rosilda considered this for a while then nodded. "As you say, Mistress. The times ahead will be exciting, I deem, but with Lady Garia around that was already likely to be so. You are of a similar cloth, from what I have heard, and your work can only benefit Palarand in the future."
"I'm not so sure of that, Rosilda." Milsy smiled. "I'll try my best, but that is all I can promise."
"What have you learned, Tarvan?"
"The men from the Clockmakers are expected on the 11th, which is tomorrow, to rewind the Great Clock and correct the difference in time which will result. A man from the Guardroom in the Cross Corridor will alert us when they arrive. Since we set our two clocks running two days ago there has been no difference that we can detect so this will be the first test against the master clock in the Clockmakers' Guildhall. I am looking forward to it."
"As am I! If we can prove that our electric clock is as accurate then we can take a reasoned argument to the Clockmakers. I will make sure a fresh battery is in place before we leave this afternoon. Is there anything else we must do?"
"Keep away from the Great Clock is all! The Clockmakers have made it plain that if there is any interference they will not attend the palace. As you may imagine, the King is furious."
"They venture so much? Maker!" Milsy was astonished. "Do they not serve at the pleasure of the King? Will he not chastise them somehow?"
Tarvan spread his hands. "It is awkward, Milsy. In theory he has the right but the Clockmakers rely on the fact that any such action by the King would not be received well by the other Guilds. They have become used to their independence, I deem. Much as the Miners do, they attempt to create their own laws and customs and resent interference." He shook his head. "This is not the attitude of every Guild but enough to cause the King to stay his hand."
"What, then, can he do?"
A smile came then. "He intends to halter the Clockmakers another way, I believe. A way which makes use of our new clocks and with the assistance of Master Parrel. After all, since we constructed these two the Clockmakers are no longer the only ones who know the secrets of their art."
"Ooh. Clever." She thought. "So, what must we do tomorrow, then?"
"Stay in here. Take note of the bells as they strike. Use the watch of the Guildmistress to note any time lags. As I understand it, they will arrive with a sand-dropper from their Guildhall, wait until the next bell strikes and then begin winding. Then they wait until the next bell strikes to find out how much delay was caused and at that point the clock is stopped. They manually set the time to the following bell and wait some more. When their sand-dropper runs out, they restart the pendulum and the Great Clock is then correct again."
Milsy frowned. "Complicated. Why don't they just stop the clock when they wind it? That would save them a whole bell, wouldn't it?"
Tarvan shrugged. "Don't ask me, I'm not a clockmaker." He grinned. "Officially. It is probably some means of making the whole process mysterious to outsiders."
"That was one thing that Garia spoke of when we talked in her chambers at Dekarran. In order for future progress to be made, ideas must be spread widely and as fast as possible. That is one reason why she brought printing to Palarand as early as she did, to help that along. Any craft secrecy such as that of the Clockmakers will only create difficulties."
"Aye. I am glad I am not the King, to have to manage such matters. I believe that Master Hurdin and Master Parrel understand what is needful but there are many in the Guilds who resist, because that is the way things have always been."
"As you say. Now, about the clock for Master Gerdas. I've been thinking..."
"It should happen any moment now, I deem."
The three clustered around the bench on which stood two partially disassembled clocks, waiting to see what would happen when the Great Clock struck the next bell. The two clocks of brass were mounted on temporary stands, although this was really only necessary for the clock nearest Milsy, the one which still had a functioning pendulum. The other frame was missing the pendulum as well as many of the wheels and was connected to the first by several wires.
B-Bang, T-ting! T-ting!
"I wish we could find a way to stop the stutter," Tarvan commented as he made a note of the time on Garia's watch.
"That's because our solenoids take a tiny amount of time to work," Milsy explained. "The second clock will always be a little behind the first clock, but I have already thought of at least two ways to solve the problem. I'll tell you later."
The laboratory became silent as they waited for the Great Clock to strike, one bell after the two Clockmakers had begun to wind up the weights. The time dragged out so long that Milsy began considering asking Bursila to go and make some pel while they were waiting. Eventually it came and Tarvan noted down the watch time again. He then laboriously converted the two times into hours, minutes and seconds, using his fingers and muttering furiously as he did so. Milsy was not sufficiently practised in math to be able to do this even as easily as Tarvan, though he would doubtless show her how to do it once they had finished.
"Four minutes and seventeen seconds, I think," he said finally. "Not as long as I was expecting." He put down the slate. "Now we must wait another bell to see if they have reset it correctly, which means we have time for pel. Bursila, if you would."
Seated in the sitting room with their mugs in front of them he explained, "A day for us is longer than an Earth day, as we all know. Using the watch of the Guildmistress I have found that it is twenty-five Earth hours, eleven minutes and seven seconds. The Guildmistress did not mention seconds, since I believe she was not interested in such precise measurements, but they will be needed for our purposes.
"In addition to our measurements today I will measure again the next time those clockmakers come to wind the clock. Knowing as we do the exact length of a day we can discover if either our clock or theirs is more accurate as the days progress."
"You are telling me that you trust the Earth watch more than you do the art of the Clockmakers."
"I certainly do! The Guildmistress herself told me that her watch lost no more than three seconds in a whole year, an Earth year, that is. I doubt we will get such accuracy here, with our own crude measurements, the fact we are distant from the Great Clock and any possible error introduced by the Guildsmen using a sand-dropper."
"I see what you mean. Even if what we have now is good enough for everyday use it may not be enough to satisfy Master Gerdas." Milsy frowned. "What do you mean, the distance from the Great Clock?"
"Sound travels slowly, Milsy, compared to light. Haven't you ever been out in a - No, you probably have not. If you watch a distant flash of lightning, the sound will reach you long after the flash does. By comparison with light, sound travels very slowly through the air. We are not so distant from the Great Clock but it may make the difference between measuring one second and the next."
"Oh. I'm learning something new all the time. What else do we need to do today?"
Tarvan looked at the watch. "We have... forty minutes before we must needs go and check the bells again, I deem. Call it just less than three quarters of a bell. There is time to check the steam engine, I believe. I noticed a leak in one of the joints from pipe to piston which should be easy to find and tighten."
Again they waited for the bells to chime.
B-Bang, T-ting! T-ting! T-ting!
Some moments later they heard the Great Clock begin to repeat the time.
Tarvan looked at the watch, noted down the time and then added on the day's difference. "Nine seconds slow, I think. No-one in the palace would notice such a difference but we have." He looked up at the two women and grinned. "Master Bayorn is not going to be happy when he finds this out."
* * *
"Come in, Milsy, Tarvan, find yourselves somewhere to sit."
The two chose to sit together on the settee, earning a nod of approval from the Queen. In the King's Sitting Room with Robanar, Terys and themselves were Kendar and Captain Merek and Milsy was reminded again about the matter she needed to consult with the latter. The next words of the King drove that concern completely from her mind.
Robanar grunted. "You deserve to learn this, Milsy, since it bears on your presence here, and since you are so closely connected to Tarvan it is right that he should be informed as well. We have today received a letter from Garia. Her party reached Blackstone some ten days since and found it held hostage by a band of criminals."
Milsy gasped. She had not known what to expect but the thought that Garia had faced an armed enemy made her remember just what might happen in remote parts of the Kingdom.
Robanar continued, "With the aid of her armsmen, those guardsmen who were Keren's escort and men of Tanon's company, the town was relieved and order restored. The bandits numbered ten, she believes, and those who did not die immediately have already been tried and executed. One who seems to have been a wandering vagabond was permitted to serve at the town's pleasure, it appears he had no idea that the men were criminals and thought them appointed by my brother Gilbanar, as did most in the town."
The King's voice was grim. "It appears that these men had usurped legal authorities in the town for some six to eight months and had greatly despoiled it, committing acts of robbery and violence against all who resisted. Blackstone is one of the remotest towns in our Kingdom and somewhat isolated, which is why they could prevail."
He waved a hand. "That is not your immediate concern, however. This news cannot be kept secret, nor would I desire it, which means that those here in palace and city will soon realize that Garia is somewhere else entirely. Thus, I deem that the need for you to act as a double will shortly be removed and you may take your place as a rightful resident of the palace."
"Thank you, Sire. Was anybody hurt, does she say?"
"There is no mention of injury so I do not believe anything serious happened to anyone. Garia seems to have been accepted by the town and she says that she and Prince Keren are settling in well."
"Thank you, Sire."
"Dear," Terys said, "you will no longer have to take meals in your chambers but may join us at our table."
"You are very gracious, Ma'am."
"I will not move you yet, Garia will be away some weeks so you may continue residing in her chambers. You are still working in the laboratory, I believe?"
"Aye, Ma'am, but I am also visiting Guild workshops around the city as part of my education. It has been a busy time, Ma'am, interesting though sometimes tiring."
"As you say. Rosilda tells me you have given her some repair work."
"Ah, if we could discuss that another time, Ma'am? Uh, if I may ask some questions."
"As you wish, dear."
"Perhaps I should be asking Captain Merek my first one. Captain, what about my escort? Will I still need one?"
"Mistress, the King would be the best judge of that."
Robanar replied, "Milsy, I still think you should be protected as you presently are. You resemble Garia greatly and you wear her colors. I would not wish you kidnapped, injured or killed by mistake."
"Sire, neither would I. If that is your command then I would ask for more men, Sire, Tord says that they are too few for the duty."
"Agreed. Merek, find out how many he will need and select them from the men. They will still be based in the palace so would be available if necessary."
"Aye, Sire. I will select them tomorrow morning."
"Another thing, Sire," she asked. "Since we have carried out this deception, how will you reveal all? It seems that some explaining will be required."
"Dear," Terys answered, "we do not plan to say anything. We never confirmed or denied that Garia had returned with us, it is others who have made the wrong assumption as we originally intended. Let them consider themselves embarrassed that a mistake was made. We - and that includes you and Tarvan - need admit nothing."
Milsy would never have had the brazen nerve to carry it off but the King and Queen obviously thought that they could. They were right, though. Thinking back, she had never actually told anyone that she was Garia, she had just let others assume that.
The Queen's next words brought her back to reality with a bump.
"Bursila, we dine tonight in the Family Dining Room. Find a suitable evening gown for your mistress and make sure she is prepared to dine in public."
Bursila curtseyed. "As you command, Ma'am."
* * *
Milsy was both relieved and apprehensive. Relieved because she no longer had to play a part which restricted her to certain areas of the palace and required her to let people assume something that was not true. Apprehensive because she was wearing an evening gown outside her chambers for the first time and was on Tarvan's arm, about to become one of those who supped regularly with their King and Queen. She knew that she would never have the ear of the King or Queen in the way that Garia had but others might still consider her to be a favorite at court.
Kendar banged his staff. "Guildsman Tarvan and Guildswoman Milsy!"
All heads turned as they entered the Family Dining Room and most of them did a double-take when they saw who was on Tarvan's arm. Milsy could see the confusion rippling through the groups of people standing around waiting for Robanar and Terys to arrive. She knew what was about to happen and she and Tarvan had made sure that their stories were straight before they came down from her chambers.
The first person to approach them was Captain Merek, who apparently had been waiting for them to arrive.
"Master Tarvan, Mistress Milsy, welcome." Merek lowered his voice. "I know you are unfamiliar with the ways of the dining hall, Mistress, but you should find no difficulty here. We are generally friendly, the King desires little ceremony except when we are entertaining visitors from outside the palace. Your maid Bursila is already familiar with our routine, as is Master Tarvan, if you should have any question then they will make answer."
"Thank you for your kind words, Captain. I wasn't sure what to expect. Does everybody stand around like this every day?"
"Usually, Mistress, since we all arrive at different times from our duties. Often the King and Queen will arrive last but it is not always so. Once Kendar judges that everyone has come then he will make a sign and all then move to find their seats." He smiled. "In recent months the Prince has often been the last to arrive."
Milsy was left to consider the implications of that remark as Merek added, "Mistress, I have spoken briefly to Tord and we will select some more men for your detail tomorrow morning. If this does not conflict with your own arrangements it may prove useful for you to attend."
Milsy looked at Tarvan and received a nod.
"That shouldn't be a problem, Captain," she replied. "After breakfast, I assume?"
A nod. "After breakfast in the Large Training Room, Mistress. I believe that Bursila knows the way. I will await your arrival before mustering the men."
At that moment Kendar announced the King and Queen and shortly afterwards everybody dispersed to find seats at the three long tables. Milsy had been in this room once before but there had been little time to notice details of where everyone sat or why. Now Tarvan gently took her arm and steered her to the side table which faced the King and Queen, finding seats near the end.
"I am not taking somebody's place, Tarvan?"
"There are no appointed seats, save that of the King and Queen," he replied as he pushed her chair in before seating himself. "Often diners will choose seats next to those with which they have been conversing or next to their friends. For the King's table it is slightly different. Any honored guest will usually be seated at the King's right hand and often important members of the court sit facing King and Queen as you see Captain Merek doing now."
Milsy looked across and saw how the diners at the other tables were finding places, often continuing conversations they had already begun as they did so. Her view of Merek was interrupted by Dyenna sitting down in front of Tarvan. The Mistress of the Wardrobe leaned forward, her eyes alight.
"Have you heard the news from the north? Lady Garia has reached her lands and it was infested with bandits! I hear that she and the Prince had to fight several battles before they could clear the ruffians away. Have you heard any more, Mistress Milsy?"
Tarvan's light pressure on her foot made Milsy think before replying.
"I have not, Lady Dyenna. As you may know I have spent most of my recent days engaged on Guild work, I have not had time to take note of what has happened beyond the palace walls."
It was tempting to either join in the fun or to try and find out what other rumors were going around the palace but as this was her first time prudence was indicated. Lady Dyenna was a noblewoman, after all! Better to keep her ears open and her mouth shut, just as she had done in the kitchens.
"She went all that way on a wagon!" Dyenna was saying. "I can't understand why she didn't take a carriage as befits her status. What do you think?"
Tarvan decided to join in. "Lady Dyenna, I'm certain that Lady Garia would have ridden her beast for most of the way if she could."
"And that's another thing! It is most unseemly for any woman, let alone a noblewoman, to be seen on the back of a beast." Her expression changed. "I cannot deny that the riding attire she has designed looks very sweet on her though. I have had several enquiries from other women in the palace asking for similar outfits."
During the meal Milsy discovered that, while Dyenna might be very proficient at her job, she appeared to be a shallow person who dispensed rumor in an unceasing flow. She was glad when they had finished and it was time to rise. As they stood waiting for the tables to be dismantled and cleared several people approached. One of these was Pitchell. He bowed.
"Guildswoman Milsy," he said. "Tarvan has asked me to arrange a visit for you and himself to our printing works. If it would be possible for you to attend tomorrow?"
"Um," she said. "After breakfast I have to go to the Large Training Room with Captain Merek. I don't know how long that is going to take. Tarvan, what are we doing in the afternoon?"
"We could go after your nap," he said after a few moments thought. "That would not leave us many bells of light, though, before we must needs return to the palace. Would that be enough, Pitchell?"
Pitchell thought in his turn. "We are sufficiently well lit, I deem, that the setting of the sun would not worry us, but of course you then have to travel back to the palace. Aye, I believe it would be possible."
"Then we'll do that," Milsy decided. "We'll come as soon as we may after our nap, though of course that depends on the desires of the Queen."
"As you say. Tomorrow afternoon, then." Pitchell bowed and moved away.
Several women she didn't know approached.
"You are not Lady Garia, it seems," one said, "though you greatly resemble her. Are you related, by chance?"
Milsy shook her head. "We are not related at all, Mistress. Lady Garia is not of this world but another one. I am merely from Dekarran, where I was born, brought up and worked until recently. Your pardon, I don't know you."
"Forgive me, I am Besset of the household staff. I am responsible for cleaning the royal corridor and those nearby. This is Teretta and this Haranna who work with me. We have seen you occasionally in the corridors and thought you to be the Baroness."
"I must apologize in turn, I deem. I was not aware until recently that I looked so much like her. It is purely accidental."
"Ah. We wondered... Yet you walk the corridors with an escort, as Lady Garia did."
"Aye. I wear her colors, the King considers that because of my likeness I am at risk. It is a nuisance but better than the alternative."
"As you say." She curtseyed. "By your leave, Mistress."
After fending off several others who couldn't believe that she was not, in fact, Lady Garia, Tarvan escorted her back to her chambers.
"Tarvan," she said as they walked. "When Master Pitchell joined us after the meal, he didn't use any titles. Was that rudeness or some custom I do not know?"
"It is a custom, Milsy, one used between Guildsmen to save time. We are all considered equal, though most give Guildmasters and Craftmasters respect by using their titles. When we have gatherings, courts and other assemblies for guild purposes ranks are usually dropped."
Her eyes narrowed. "More complications! Differing customs in the palace and the guild, I must needs remember where we are when I speak to any."
"We were introduced as Guildsman and Guildswoman by Kendar this evening, deliberately I would guess, which is why Pitchell addressed us so. If we had just been Master and Mistress, he may have spoken differently."
"Which just makes it all worse, Tarvan." They reached the door to her suite. "Are you coming in?"
"Aye, I can attend for a short while, though I have letters to write and you have studies to finish."
Milsy pouted. "You have to spoil the moment, do you not?"
Inside, she wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his chest with a sigh of contentment and relief.
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