Do they have coal mines up here? continued.

We stopped at the first town on our route home to service the buggy, and while I wondered about grain, the steadily dropping sun made for wonderment, so much so that before I got in the buggy after the first stop, I took out the needle and adjusted the thread. The eye pointed toward 'north', and as Hans resumed driving, he said, “that might not be a regular compass, but it works like one, as it says where north is.”

“Which direction does the sun rise?” I asked.

“In the west,” said Hans. “It loses itself in the east, though some people do not believe this place goes around the sun. They like to think the sun goes around them, as it makes them seem more important.”

“Who believes that?” I gasped. The needle ignored the slight bumps of the wagon.

“I have heard that kind of thinking is popular among those black-dressed people,” said Hans. “Why, I am not sure, as I have heard the higher schools teach that stuff right, and that is as wrong as anything.”

“Uh, how am I going to make distilleries that work?” I asked. “I can see some real problems with those I saw beyond being hard to clean and prone to leaking.”

“Yes, and what are those?” asked Hans.

“Accurate compound curves aren't easy to do,” I said, “and while I can think of certain areas where using them will make for easier cleaning, most of what I saw seemed intended for, uh, decoration – at least for the cooker. The way the cap and arm was done looked really hard.”

“They look hard because they are,” said Hans, “especially with all those curves like they have. They tend to get plugged up a lot, which is why I have heard of some other caps that are done different so as to be easy to clean.”

“The condenser?” I asked. I wasn't about to call it a 'worm', as that word reminded me too much of Desmonds. The black-headed gnawing teeth of that last worm figured prominently in nightmares.

“That is tricky,” said Hans. “Georg will have to order that tubing, and you will need to go over it carefully before you roll it.”

“He spoke of ordering stuff for copperware,” I said, “and if he spoke that way, then why would he and the others act as ignorant as they did?”

“I think all they know is what kind of stuff is used to make them,” said Hans, “that, and what little they have seen and heard about those things.”

Once home and down in the basement with the supplies, Hans fetched me a 'used' friction igniter. The soot-stains and corrosion were such that I wondered if the thing would be usable again, and asked, “are these usually this bad?”

“That is common for one that has been used,” said Hans. “They get taken apart, then drowned in vinegar for a few days, and they are much better. Here, let me get you some new parts, so you know what they look like. You might need to make some one of these days soon.”

It took Hans nearly five minutes to find the pieces in question, and when I saw them, I was amazed, first at their workmanship – it was as good as anything I'd seen in the area – and also, their finish. Someone had the right priorities, as they had not wasted time on making an essentially expendable device look 'pretty'.

“Where do they make these?” I asked.

“I think those there are made in the fourth kingdom,” said Hans. “There are others that look a little nicer and work much less good. No cannon-shooter wants something like that, especially when he is facing swine.”

That evening, however, as I made ready for bed, I knew there would be questions tomorrow at work, and once asleep, I had an odd 'dream'; it was unlike any such dream I had ever had.

In the dream, I was drawing – on paper, with pencil, as it was important to do a good job and produce a clean, clear, and detailed 'document' – and here, I was drawing many of the things I needed to do. The first and foremost one was the marking stamp.

This showed an equilateral triangle, with the bottom being 'flat', and three rays going into the right side and one coming from the left. It was 'ripe' with symbolism in some nebulous fashion, and most importantly, it wasn't a witch's marking.

The next portion was a distillery, and here, I was amazed, for there was but little of the 'sculptural' aspect of those I had seen during the previous day. This example had a flat bottom joining the parallel sides by a smoothly radiused portion, then the uppermost few inches of the cooker was bent in at a precise forty-five degree angle, with a hole roughly seven inches across. The whole was purposeful, with nothing of the fanciful, even to the wired edge for the rim of the cooker, the sump-drain at the bottom, and the pair of sturdy wood-garnished handles on the side.

The 'cap' was of the precise same shape as the top of the cooker, and latched in place with a trio of latches, with the 'arm' being a straight taper coming from the side out of a reinforced joint. The internal 'screen' was held in place by a bent piece of tinned brass wire that latched behind the riveted and soldered holder.

The rest of these 'drawings' were equally detailed, and when I woke up to visit the privy that night, I wondered as to the strangely clear recollections of all that I had seen. I went back to bed once upstairs, and in the morning, I felt oddly clear-headed, so much so that when I tried to put my tool-roll in my right pocket, I wondered as to why it seemed balky. I laid it on the table in the kitchen, and then felt the pocket itself. Something had showed, and I wondered what it was.

The object within had a smooth and somewhat flat surface, and its flexibility was astonishing. I began carefully worming it out, and within moments, I had it partly free. I then looked up and saw Anna, and wondered how she'd gotten there. It wasn't quite time for breakfast, and I hadn't heard her coming.

“What is that in your pocket?” asked Anna.

“I'm n-not sure,” I said. “It feels like a strange species of wood.”

Anna came closer, then said, “no, it's not wood. It looks like a little notebook of a kind I've seen a few times in the fourth kingdom. Here, let me get it out.”

Anna began pulling and prying, and as the thing began to steadily come out, she muttered about the dogged determination of the thing to not come out of my pocket. Finally, with a shudder and what felt like my pocket coming apart, she had a 'leather-bound' booklet about six by eight inches with an oddly lumpy spine.

“What is that?” I asked, as Anna removed a long wooden cylinder from the 'spine' of the thing, followed by two more.

“These are writing dowels,” said Anna, as she undid a small 'button'. “Now what is in here?”

Within seconds, however, Anna looked at me, then asked, “where did you get this?”

“I'm not certain,” I said. “I bought more candles and some blacking yesterday at this one Mercantile, and had I known about things like what you have there, I would have gladly bought one. I've been wanting one of those for the longest time.”

“Was this Mercantile over near Paul's?” asked Anna.

“I think so,” I asked. “It took perhaps fifteen to twenty minutes once we'd left Paul's house. Why?”

“I am not sure if they have these,” said Anna. “You'd almost have to go down to the market town to get one, as this is a smaller student's ledger, and only a few places down in that market sell these.”

“Do they sell them elsewhere?” I asked.

“I really doubt it,” said Anna. “Now, I see a number of drawings here, and if I go by these, you would have needed to spend three days doing little else, as they are very clear, detailed, and precise. You would not have had a chance to have stolen it, and besides, I really doubt you would have tried.”

“Uh, I had a dream last night where I was drawing things,” I said. “Is there a special marking, one that shows a triangle and four lines?”

Anna looked up, then turned the 'booklet' around to show me the drawing in question. She then resumed looking and slowly flipping the pages.

“What is so interesting?” I asked. Anna was treating the thing like an engrossing comic book.

“I've seen three of these things in dreams I've had,” said Anna, “and there are at least twenty pages in here with drawings.”

“Are there drawings of distilleries?” I asked.

“I'm looking at those now,” said Anna. “This drawing reminds me of a fourth kingdom distillery, only I have no idea why the cap is so high for this one.”

“Cap?” I asked. “I recall drawing two of those in the dream, one that was plain, and another for a rectifying column.”

“Is that what that thing is?” asked Anna. “This handwriting is a lot neater than yours, even if it otherwise is obvious you wrote it.”

“How can you tell?” I asked.

“Your words, and how you put them together,” said Anna. “I've yet to see anyone here do nearly as well, and I'm including people who've gone to the higher schools – and that's when you are using common words. Georg has spoken of wanting a word-book so as to understand what you speak of at times, and I wished we had one.”

“Word-book?” I asked. “There are such things?”

“Yes, though they are costly, especially those that are most-complete,” said Anna. “They have one at the king's house proper, and it commonly has a line for its use.”

About five minutes later, Anna put the booklet down, slipped the three 'dowels' into it, and went to fetch a cloth bag. She put it inside, then said, “I would be careful to not let Georg see this.”

“Uh, the masons?” I asked.

I heard steps and yawning, and when Hans showed, he said, “I would check to see if that oven is done after breakfast. If it is not, then those mason people will be there within an hour or so, and nothing will happen at the shop today.”

Hans then saw the bag, and asked, “now what is in there?”

“Does that one Mercantile have student's ledgers?” asked Anna.

“In the main shop, they have nothing of paper,” said Hans, “and if you want something like that, you must order it and wait, and then pick it up when it shows, just like with those towels.”

“Have they arrived yet?” I asked.

“No, they haven't,” said Anna. “They needed to wait until they had a big enough order for down that way, and they weren't able to send it out until fairly recently.”

“And the whole order needs collecting and then shipping back here,” I said.

“That would be the case if it was coming from the fifth kingdom,” said Anna, “as that place does things differently. With the fourth kingdom, it's mostly a matter of having enough to make the freighting fees from there to here worthwhile. For smaller and lighter things, they might well come by the post.”

“Towels?” I asked.

“Those are the things I meant,” said Anna. “I ordered some more knitting yarn recently.”

Hans slowly shook his head, then said, “I thought that stuff gave you headaches.”

“The knitter is having trouble finding enough yarn lately,” said Anna. “I think it's the colder weather that makes it harder to travel much.”

After breakfast, I had my ears 'stuffed' preemptively, and when I had gone perhaps two-thirds of the way, I faintly heard singing. I looked to the south, and saw a trio of buggies coming slowly up the road some distance away. I still thought to see what was happening in the shop just the same.

The corner area had been 'paved' and 'walled' with tan bricks, and as I looked around, I noted that 'someone' had made a copper-flashed hole in the roof. There were more bricks present, and as I looked them over, I could hear people 'arriving' in the yard. I turned around, and began heading toward the door as the first of the masons walked in carrying his tools.

I didn't waste time heading back home, as I could almost hear the slithering rasping scrapes of the trowels as they smeared mortar upon bricks, and once home, I came into the kitchen to ask where Hans was.

“I think he's in the buggy-way,” said Anna. “You might go out there and help him, as pulling the wheels on that buggy is very time-consuming with just one person.”

I went to fetch the 'blacking', and when I came out, I was surprised to find Hans moving something under the buggy. He was laying on a cloth.

“Can I help?” I asked.

“Yes, you can. Try to lift that wheel up nearest you,”

I knelt down, and to my astonishment, I picked up the wheel easily. Hans did not waste time; he moved under the buggy, then said, “there, now set it down.”

I did so, and as Hans came out, he said, “that is the part that makes this a hard job, is getting those wheels up so they can be pulled.”

“How long does this usually take?” I asked.

“The way I was doing it, about half of a morning,” said Hans, “with most of that time resting, if I did it alone. If Anna helped me, it took a lot less time, and I think with you, it would take less yet.”

I had never looked closely at the wheels of this particular buggy, and when Hans pointed out not merely the pin, but also a large 'castellated' nut, I said, “oh, I've done stuff like this before.”

“Good, then it should go quicker,” said Hans. “Let me pull the pin, and then spin this fastener thing off, and you can pull the wheel.”

The 'pin' came out readily, and when Hans began twisting the nut with his hands, I grabbed the wheel. The nut came off much quicker, and when I began removing the wheel, I was astonished at its lightness. I guessed it weighed about as half as much as one of the front wheels on the car I had left behind me. I had expected it to be heavier, and as I looked closer at it, I had an idea as to why it weighed so little.

It reminded me of a bicycle wheel for diameter, with thin spokes, a thin rim, and a 'sculpted' hub.

Hans then handed me a rag, saying, “now, wipe out that inside there good. I have a brush with some tallow here, so I can wipe this thing and paint it good after I do that.”

Cleaning the inside of the wheel took but a minute or two. I saw an oddly attractive-looking burnished bronze cone with a few small scored places, and when I turned, I was surprised to see Hans eying the tin of blacking.

“Now what gives with that stuff?” he asked.

“Sprinkle a little on that, uh, slimy thing there,” I said as I pointed to the steel cone of the axle. “It might help some.”

“How do I do that without getting all blacked up?” asked Hans.

I removed the lid of the tin as well as my tool-roll, and used the tip of my knife to sprinkle a little of the graphite on the upper surface of the axle. To my astonishment, the 'axle' seemed to faintly glow a hazy blue for a fraction of a second, and the tallow became much firmer-looking as well as darker.

“Now this is strange,” said Hans. “It almost looks like fifth kingdom axle grease.”

I touched the tip of the blade to the stuff, then felt it between my fingers – and began wiping my hands in horror. I almost screamed as I tried to wipe the sticky feeling from my hands.

“What happened?” asked Hans.

“It turned into that awful stuff that was on those parts for that lathe,” I gasped. “Was that axle grease?”

“If it was, it was not that bad stuff they sell down in the fifth kingdom,” said Hans.

“And this?” I asked.

“I think we should try it,” said Hans. “Hold the wheel steady when you put it on, as I have to tighten it special.”

I recalled that portion of wheel adjustment: tighten to the point of drag, then back off slightly –which Hans did – and then insert the pin. After lifting the wheel and Hans removing his 'stand', I went to the next one in line.

The second one went faster, and by the time we had finished, it took but a few minutes to do a wheel. As we cleaned up the 'mess', I thought to ask how many people were in Anna's family.

“There was her parents and her,” said Hans. “Why do you ask?”

“Buggy-greasing?” I asked. I wondered how much time they spent doing it.

“They did not have this type, but the usual,” said Hans, “and while those things can go much longer between greasing, they are also about a third slower with the same team. Then, they are much noisier, and they do badly on longer trips unless you go slow and stop a lot.”

“What happens if you don't?” I asked.

“Then you smoke the wheels,” said Hans, “and your buggy needs a lot of repairs.”

Anna stayed behind, and as the two of us went out toward a woodlot Hans knew of, I recalled the blackened 'mess' of the hay-wagon's axle, as well as its substantial wear. The buggy was almost as silent as it had been before, with but a faint dragging hiss coming from the wheels. Its lesser speed, however, was quite noticeable, and Hans' figure of 'a third less with the same team' with a 'normal' buggy seemed believable.

“When I fixed that wheel on Willem's wagon, the axle was really worn and blackened,” I said. “Is that what happens when the wheels get smoked?”

“Yes, they get all black like that, and if it's bad, the wood looks like charcoal,” said Hans. “Did he have tallow on the axle?”

“Yes, a lot of it, and it felt awful,” I said. “I wondered how those axles didn't break and wear out all the time.”

“I have heard tell that the busier freighters need new hubs and axles every year,” said Hans, “and that is if they have these oiler things like some wagons have.”

“Oilers?” I asked.

“They go on the outside of the axle,” said Hans, “and one puts tallow or other things in them.”

“Are they any good?” I asked.

“They help some in warm weather,” said Hans. “Otherwise, they look to help more than is the truth, which is why a lot of freighters pull their wheels and grease them after they stop for the night.”

After mostly filling the buggy's bed, we went out toward the east and north from the woodlot. I had the impression Hans was after some kind of fresh meat, and when he stopped near another woodlot and dismounted, I wondered as to why he was stopping in this particular area. It didn't look that promising.

While I could tell the place had its share of wood in it – the woodlots that tended to get visited the most were those closest to towns – I could not at first hear any animals in this one. As I began to get down from the buggy, I heard a faint crackling sound, then with no notice, a sizable deer burst from the wood not a hundred feet from where Hans was. He seemed oblivious, while the deer was anything but, and only when it pawed the ground did he seem to 'wake up' slightly. The deer then dropped its head and leaped into the charge.

Hans seemed to move with aching slowness as the infuriated buck galloped toward him, and as he moved to the side, the deer corrected course. At a distance of fifty feet, Hans finally 'woke up' – he hadn't gotten the truth of the deer's attentions beforehand – and he ran to the side at the last minute. The deer had a 'full head of steam' by now, and its turning radius was much larger. Hans fired at a range of less than twenty feet, and the deer cartwheeled to lie still on the grass.

“That one was close,” he said, as he worked on the deer and I cleaned the gun.

“How many times have they charged you before?” I asked.

“This is the first one this year,” said Hans.

The deer was well-received at the Public House, and once home, I was surprised to find Anna sitting at the kitchen table with what looked like a pair of uncommonly long brass knitting needles. The table was covered with several large cloth sacks, and Anna was muttering about yarn, needles, and their interposed contrariness. As I watched her attempt to keep from tying her fingers together with the yarn, I found believing her grumbling easier than I had once thought.

“Is all of that yarn?” I asked.

“Two bags of it is,” said Anna, “and one of those bags has your towels. The carpenters came by with some wood, and I think they're test-fitting the stuff. They've brought the foundation-stones by already.”

“For the shed?” I asked.

“I'm not certain when that's going to be ready,” said Anna, “but I doubt it will be much longer.” Anna paused, then said, “how much wood did you get?”

“Most of a load,” said Hans. “I think we might get some more tomorrow.”

“I think that would be wise,” said Anna. “I'll need to take this yarn to her after lunch.”

While Anna left shortly after the dishes were done, I thought to check the shop to see what the 'oven' was turning out to look like, and as I came closer, I did not hear the scraping of trowels. When I peeked in the shop to look, however, I understood why: the masons were not present.

“Th-that thing's huge,” I gasped. “I thought it would be a lot smaller.”

I crept into the shop, and as I did, I looked to see where the boxes were. They weren't in the front area, which was where I had expected to see them, and when I looked in the shop proper, I still did not see them. I then thought to look 'out back' – and was stunned. The rear area was stacked high and wide past the point of clutter.

“I hope it doesn't rain,” I thought. “That stuff will get its share of rust otherwise.”

I returned to the 'oven', and as I looked at its interior, I thought, “how does one fire this thing, and with what? I could almost get inside of it, it's so big.”

Steps behind me told of someone coming, and when I turned, I was surprised to see Hans. He came closer, then said, “ah, they listened to what I'd told them.”

“What y-you told them?” I asked. “What did you tell them?”

“Georg knows next to nothing about ovens,” said Hans, “and he seems to have learned what he knows from bakers, not founders. When I saw his drawing, I was worried a lot, as it would not have worked for the shop. That type there is what they use in the fourth kingdom for their melting, and they do them like that.”

“But that b-big?” I asked. “Th-that thing is huge!”

“Yes, and the oven Georg drew was too small and the wrong shape,” said Hans. “If you are going to melt bronze easy, you need a lot of room for your charcoal, and the same for iron.”

“Iron?” I asked.

“That needs something that blows a lot of air,” said Hans. “The way that one is, it will not need such a thing for brass or bronze. His would have had trouble with lead.”

“Stovepipe?” I asked.

“Yes, you will need to make that,” said Hans. “I asked about that, and that one will want one a good deal bigger than that for a kitchen stove. The ovens like that I have seen used ones about twice as big for round.”

“That 'step'?” I asked. “Do the crucibles go there?”

“Yes, and you could put a pair of decent-sized ones on it,” said Hans. “I would start small, though, as these people here are not likely to be much help at first, and they will need a lot of teaching and close watching.”

“Does this thing take a door?” I asked.

“Yes, and you will need to band it once it is done,” said Hans. “They should bring it by in a few days, once you have the stove-pipe in place. That oven will need to set most of a week before you build a fire in it.”

Returning home meant for the start of the 'real' work, and I spent part of that afternoon finishing the jeweler's carving tools. I wanted to 'cook' them for a few hours, and after the masons had left for the day, I packed the metal portions in one of the cooking containers and buried it in a forge part-full of glowing coals.

Once home from my 'errand', I began turning a blank for one of those marking stamps, and the steady whirring of the lathe's gears was helpful and calming.

I had become steadily more proficient with the 'lathe', and had learned of the other miscellaneous parts that permitted cutting the flutes of reamers – and, by extension, small gears and special cutters. While the 'dividing head' that came with the thing seemed 'crude' – it divided to sixty-four divisions directly, and from that point, it was a matter of using the four pinholes to go further – it did work well for reamers, drills, and cutters. I'd already made a small cutter specially for 'gashing' reamers to replace the 'soft' one that had come with the set.

The stamp needed truing, then drilling a central hole. After doing so, I used an assortment of files to cut the shapes needed, and then after touching it up, I set it aside. It would need heat-treating prior to use, and as my left leg was becoming tired and it was close to dinnertime, I took a break. After dinner, I would need to draw up the dimensions for 'thimbles' and try to figure out how to make them.

'Gaging' the thimbles proved harder than I thought, and only by devious means – using drill-blanks as plug-gages, and then measuring – did I learn their 'average' size. Their quality control left a lot to be desired, so much so that as I used my 'notebook' to indicate the dimensions of the needed drawing dies, I wondered if I had an arbor press.

“That one at home may have been small, but it helped a lot just the same,” I thought, as I began looking in my boxes.

After a few minutes, however, Anna came from downstairs and asked, “what are you looking for?”

“This, uh, thing that has a handle and a...” I spluttered. “There are still boxes that I haven't fully looked at, and I wonder if I have one of these tools. I hoped I could use it for doing thimbles.”

“Hans found this one thing,” said Anna, “and it works well for straightening these small iron wires he's working on. He might have it in the basement.”

I followed Anna downstairs, and to my surprise, Hans was sitting at a small table. He looked as if shaking the hand of an unusually small one-armed bandit, and as I came to the side, he said, while still intent on his job, “this is just the thing for these wires.”

“What wires?” I asked.

“For those friction-igniter things,” he said. “I cleaned them good in strong vinegar, and now need to straighten them out. This beats a hammer by a mile, as it does a neat job and is faster.”

“Where did you get it?” I asked.

“It was in one of your boxes upstairs,” said Hans, “and it was all by itself, along with all of these bits and pieces. I just needed this thing, so I left those other things lay.”

“Is there a special name for those?” I asked.

“I am not sure if there is one,” said Hans, “but I was wrong about the Heinrich works not making tools other than those anvils to sell. This thing was made by them too, as it has their marking on it.”

Hans finished with the arbor press about ten minutes later, and as I carried it back upstairs, I asked, “do you know where that box was?”

Hans not only knew where was – it was in the 'unsorted' area – but also, he showed me the various punches and dies. One small bagged set proved exceedingly peculiar – it had several punches and matching dies, all of which seemed especially well-made – and when I checked them, I nearly yelled for joy.

“What happened?” asked Anna, as she stood from the table and her knitting.

“I d-don't have to make dies for thimbles,” I said. “They included a complete set!”

My jubilation proved short-lived, however, as I learned that the die sets needed minor touch-up; the thimbles needed careful prying to dislodge them from the punches, and had scratches from the dies. Only careful lapping with rouge helped, and with each such instance of lapping, the dies became more 'workable', with smoother surfaces and fewer scratches. When they looked 'done', I wiped the parts with a 'smelly' tallow rag, and began running a batch of 'thimbles'.

“Now that looks interesting,” said Anna, as she watched from over my shoulder. “Are those for buttons?”

“This is the first step of making the metal part of thimbles,” I said. “I need to blank the copper, then run the first draw, followed by an annealing step, then the second draw, and finally the finishing draw. I'll need to clean them especially good afterward.”

The jeweler's lamps worked especially well for the annealing steps – the thimbles liked annealing between each draw, and then 'greasing' – and once I'd run the blanks through all three of the draw-dies, I began measuring them. Their uniformity was astonishing, so much so that when Hans came to look, he said, “those look as good as any I have seen. Did you drown them in vinegar yet?”

“I needed to check those dies,” I said. “These are a lot better than those Korn gave me.”

“Yes, I know,” said Hans. “I would not be surprised if you get lots of work from those things.”

“Uh, through the shop?” I asked.

“They do not make traps,” said Hans, “nor do they make nubs for tipped shells, and those things do not work the same way as a normal business.”

“Uh, donations?” I asked.

“Yes, that is the usual for paying for gunpowder and traps,” said Hans.

“Will the vinegar cut the grease,” I asked, “or do I need to use lye for that?”

“I can make up some of that stuff for you,” said Hans, “and then they will need just a little vinegar.”

I went to the shop just before sundown, and shook out the glowing red carving tools into the nearest forge-bucket; after taking them home and cleaning them with a strap and fine black sand, I drew them back to a dark straw using a jeweler's lamp.

I felt the towels that evening during my bath, and almost giggled with their softness. They tickled more than a little.

We went wooding again early the next day, and while no deer showed, Anna surprised a large marmot on the way home. The heft of the brute was astonishing, and what we brought back after going to the Public House was even more so: nearly twenty pounds of deer and marmot mixed.

I suspected Anna would be busy – she would want to salt the meat and begin drying it – and I thought to let her use one of my knives. In the faint background, I could hear her muttering, as well as the hissing sound of a knife as it cut meat, and within moments, she came where I was sitting at the bench.

That one taciturn customer's musket – specifically, his gunlock – had been getting my attention, and I seemed to be making good progress on soft-fitting his parts to the lockplate. I had forged closer to size than the last time I had done so, which helped.

“These knives may be small, but they work so good I'm almost done cutting up that meat,” she said. “If you made something about half again as large for the blade, it would be perfect.”

“Thank you,” I said. “It isn't just me, now. I've been wondering about a medium-sized knife for general use.”

I paused, then said, “do you have any preferences as to its shape or other things?”

“I would do them like the regular ones, except smaller,” said Anna. “I've not used much in the way of knives, especially like you do.”

“Uh, how?” I asked.

“You might not be comfortable with the common size of knife,” said Anna, “but I was wrong to think you did not know how to use them. You did fairly well on that last marmot.”

“For a near-rank beginner?” I asked.

“No, actually compared to most,” said Anna. “Hans is faster than almost anyone I've seen when it comes to cleaning and skinning game, including butchers and market-hunters.”

“Market-hunters?” I asked. Again, I recalled thinking about a blunderbuss in the recent past.

“They are not that common up here,” said Anna. “They are more common to the south.”

“Do they use unusually, uh, large-bored guns?” I asked.

“Some of them do,” said Anna, “though those tend to not be fired from the shoulder. There are some smaller ones that can be, but they tend to be more trouble than they're worth.”

“Do any of them have funnel-shaped muzzles?” I asked.

“I have not seen any guns like that,” said Anna. “Why, have you heard of them?”

“They were thought mostly a joke where I came from,” I said. “Do any of these guns have special names?”

“The smaller ones do,” said Anna, “and Hans once had one. It was called a roer.”

“What?” I squeaked. “I've heard of those – a ball an inch big, a handful of powder, and...”

“He didn't keep that thing very long,” said Anna. “Any gun that puts its shooter down more often than the game isn't one you want to fire much.”

I needed a break from filing hard steel, and thought to turn a 'cherry' for a bullet mould. As I recalled the bore on Hans' musket, I began turning the blank from a forged billet of pattern-welded 'first quality common iron', and then wondered as to the bullet's layout. I wanted a hollow-base bullet, which meant a flat nose with a nose-pour mould, and as I carefully cut the grease grooves in the 'cherry', I wondered as to how heavy the bullet itself would be. I wondered more as to mould blocks and how to cut them.

Once the cherry was done partly – the flutes would need relieving with a file – I began assembling the wood-carving tools. I wiped the wooden pieces down completely with drying oil, then began forcing the small bronze rings onto the handles. The dark straw of the metal seemed to contrast well with the lighter color of the wood, and when I finished the last of the tools, I set them on the 'unsorted' boxes on top of their bag to 'dry'. Between the tools, the gun parts, and the thimbles of the day before, I wondered what else would happen. I thought to ask about bullet moulds after dinner.

“Are moulds usually fitted to a given musket?” I asked. My recollection of history said they commonly were.

“There are two usual sizes of musket, and two sizes of mould,” said Hans, “so it is likely they are not. The smaller-sized musket is what most have, and then there is the larger one, which takes a ball like that bad one you brought home. Why?”

“Because I'm working on a bullet mould,” I said. “I'll need to make one for that one man's gun, and I have some ideas I want to try out before I make the 'good' one. Do moulds commonly take handles as part of the mould, or are the tongs separate and removable?”

“I think I had best let you look at the one I have,” said Hans, “as that way, you know what they are like around here.”

Hans paused, then said, “I thought you had done them before?”

“I have,” I said, “including making a set of tongs to go with at least one mould, and the tongs I've made and bought were removable. I was thinking if there were pre-existing tongs, I might save myself some trouble, unless they are so bad that I'd be better off making them myself.”

When Hans fetched his mould, however, I realized my opinion based on examination of the bullet weeks ago was giving the mould itself credit it did not deserve. This example needed to be retired.

“Uh, I think I had best start from scratch,” I said. “How do you cut the sprues off?”

“I can show you when I run some more,” said Hans. “I've still got a fair number of those things, and lead is scarce right now.”

“Bullet-lead is scarce most of the time,” said Anna, “which is why muskets up here tend to be the smaller size.”

I made a mental note for 'one pair of mould tongs, with fitted bolt, brass washers, and lapped joint'.

Sunday after church went for more filing on gun parts, and here, I resumed soft-fitting the parts for that one man's lock together. His barrel would need lapping, cleaning, and then perhaps rifling, and as I paused to sip some cider, I thought to ask about rifling it. The complete lack of real instructions was annoying beyond words.

“I think you might do that,” said Hans, “as rags are common enough, and so is tallow, and most people need help hitting what they aim at. That one black-dressed fellow is said to be especially bad that way, but there are lots of people who do not shoot well.”

“Including me,” I thought. “That rifle is going to need proper sighting equipment, and 'target grade' is none too good.”

I spent roughly half an hour before going to bed drawing adjustable sighting arrangements, and in the morning, as I walked to work, I wondered as to what was 'in' all of those boxes. I wasn't looking forward to either the heat of a 'kiln' in the shop, nor was I contemplating with fondness the idea of reworking a great deal of badly-made equipment.

The first things that unpacked, however, were bags of a dark brownish-black fine-grained 'sand' that was cause for wondering, at least until Georg brought me the 'bill of lading'. This, for some odd reason, was written in obvious pencil on crude-looking paper, and as I perused it, I said, “casting sand? Number one quality?”

“That is what I ordered,” said Georg. “I got the crucibles Friday, all three of them. They should be making more soon.”

“How big are these crucibles?” I asked. “I'll need to fit the tongs and pouring shank...”

“What are you speaking of?” asked Georg. “Tongs I understood, but I've no idea what you're speaking of otherwise.”

“That is a ring and two long bars, with handles on each end,” I said. “The crucible fits in the ring...”

I had completely lost Georg, who said, “I was worried when I could find out so little. At least you seem to know what you are doing.”

“What else could you find out?” I asked.

“Iron is said to be really dirty,” he said, “and brass is contrary, and bronze isn't too bad. I suspected the part about the bronze, so I ordered a barrel full of small pieces of graded scrap, as is common for the smaller crucibles. They won't take full-sized ingots.”

“Uh, molding tools?” I asked.

“I tried to find out what was used, and it was no good, I'm afraid,” said Georg. “I thought stovepipe makers were close, but founders are worse yet.”

“At least I recall some of what was used,” I thought. “I guess I'll need to make another small trowel soon.”

After stacking the casting supplies under the bench near my 'area', I helped bring in some of the larger 'boxes'. These were uncommonly heavy, so much so that they needed to be dragged in more than carried, and as we set about getting the boxes apart, Georg said, “now I hope these are decent ones. I found out that someone had paid to have a set gone through in the fourth kingdom and never showed, so they got those instead. It was the same money, and a shorter trip.”

“Who were 'they'?” I asked. “Did they come from around here?”

“Supposedly they did, though where they are located is a mystery to me,” said Georg. “I had no idea there were freighters living up here.”

“Hans said there were a few,” I said. “Why, where do they normally come from?”

“Most come from either the fifth kingdom, or the second,” said Georg. “Supposedly, it has to do with their distances being less, but I've heard rumors that there's more involved. I know that if it's coming from the fifth kingdom, and it's at all big, then it has to be someone from there.”

“Big?” I asked. “Size, or quantity?”

“Both, usually,” said Georg. “If you can haul it in a buggy, it's not considered big enough to bother with by the combines. At least, that is what I hear.”

“Combines?” I asked.

“Those are the big groups down there,” said Georg. “There are several of them, and they do most of the business, and then there are a lot of smaller places. I try to do as much with the smaller places as I can, but some things require dealing with the big ones.”

As the packing lumber – coarse, whitish stuff, with a tendency for splinters that demanded care – came off of the first big piece, I caught glimpses of white paint and what might have been slick-looking metal. I thought to speak about 'axle grease'.

“I put that on the bill,” said Georg, “and I asked for fourth kingdom grease, not that bad fifth kingdom stuff.”

“What is the difference?” I asked.

“The fourth kingdom stuff is decent, as well as lighter in color,” said Georg. “That fifth kingdom stuff tends to act too much like farmer's tool cleaner to be good for greasing this type of equipment.”

“What does farmer's tool cleaner do?” I asked.

“It takes off the rust,” said Johannes.

“That is not all it does,” said Georg with a dire tone. “You do not want that stuff on good tools, as while it might not make them go rusty, it eats them up just the same.”

“What does this tool-cleaner look like?” I asked.

“Black, smelly, and otherwise like a very bad type of paint,” said Georg. “It has all of the tendency for fires that distillate does, all of the stickiness of hot road-tar, and a color good enough for no sleep.”

“N-no sleep?” I asked.

“I've heard enough about witches to not like that color much,” said Georg, “but the witches don't hold a candle to those pigs that come. Those things are black, and I've had trouble with them in the past.”

I had heard sufficient about 'pigs' to not press the matter further.

The first device uncrated seemed a slip-roller of some kind, and as I looked the thing over, I saw evidence of a great deal of work with files – work that seemed intended to hide the vast number of cosmetic blemishes in the original machine. I fitted the long clumsy-seeming crank-arm, and tried turning the shaft.

It would not turn.

“At least it is decent for looks,” said Georg, in a tone that made for wonderment on my part.

“Is that part that important?” I thought, as I removed the crank and set it aside. “This thing isn't decent, it looks like someone worked hard on the appearance of the thing and didn't do anything regarding how it actually works!”

With each further unpacking, the same issue seemed blatant: a lot of work on appearances, as if that was all that mattered – and superficial appearances at that; I could still see a lot of crudity that was hiding just beneath the 'surface' – and nothing whatsoever done regarding function.

I wanted to spit.

I had the impression Georg had been 'taken in' by the local equivalent of a thoroughly unscrupulous used-car salesman and part-time shakedown artist.

“Is this what you expected?” I asked.

“For equipment that originally came from the fifth kingdom, this isn't bad,” said Georg.

“They didn't do much about its working, did they?” I asked. “I'm going to have to go over all of this equipment carefully before we use it.”

“That tends to be the usual for this type of bought equipment,” said Georg, “and I've noticed you've needed to do that to a degree with much of what you received for tools.”

“And those make this thing look like scrap,” said Gelbhaar. “They spent a lot of time on this, and it still isn't very good.”

“In what way?” I asked. Seeing one of the others commenting like that made for hope on my part.

“There are a lot of places where the surfaces are still rough,” said Gelbhaar, “and ever since I saw him try to turn that big one over, I've been trying to turn these. One of them will turn a little, and feels rough, and none of the others turn at all.”

“Perhaps this is why stovepipe makers are so rare,” I said. “They have to order expensive 'pre-assembled parts kits', then spend a lot of time turning those kits into machines that actually work...”

I stopped in mid-sentence, as I looked at the next tool being uncrated. It seemed a cross between a machinist's nightmare and a hand-operated rolling mill, and the aspect of 'pretty' was enough to make me spew.

“What is that thing?” I asked.

“That one is supposed to be something that rolls wire and bar to size,” said Georg. “It takes fifteen-line wire and reduces it down to the size needed to make those rivets I showed you.”

“Uh, no swages came for those, did they?”

“They had those for sale, but I figured they would be so bad you'd toss them and make new ones from scratch,” said Georg. “That one swage was the best I'd ever seen before you'd worked on it, and now you've got more tools than anyone I've heard of.”

I was utterly flabbergasted, and only when the various tools and other things were fully uncrated and sitting in the middle of the shop did I think to take stock of the situation. It did not look good: all of the bolts used were 'non-standard' sizes that needed the supplied tool-kit; most of the shafts ran directly on the castings, with fits that made for gritted teeth; there were numerous small parts that were either worthless or missing; and the crudity of the castings was only equaled by their poor machining. Misalignment was rife in the whole ensemble, and clumsiness of execution was endemic.

At least, it seemed that way until I tried one of the supplied wrenches and broke it on the first bolt. I picked up both the wrench and the pieces that had fallen to the floor, then put them on a rag at the corner of Georg's desk.

“I hope this isn't going to be common,” I said.

“What happened to that one?” asked Georg.

“He tried to use that bad wrench,” said Johannes, “and it broke in three pieces. I think they must have used cast iron for it.”

I picked the larger piece up, then said, “no, this is forged, as it's got a wide parting line. Castings, at least those I've seen, have a much narrower one.”

“You haven't seen the work of some foundries here, then,” said Georg. “What you spoke of might be true for the better ones.”

“I can also see where someone was hammering on this one,” I said. “They started with some really bad metal...”

I fetched a file, then filed the piece. It was not wrought iron. It might have been about as hard as those first stakes I had cleaned up.

“Then, they forged this,” I said. “My, this stuff is really bad. They used what might be a die, then touched it up using hammer and anvil, and then did some work on it with something...”

I stopped, for I was looking at an obvious milled surface. Someone had milled the wrench cutouts using a worn-out milling machine running hideously dull and misaligned tools.

“They have machine tools down there, don't they?” I asked.

“Some places do,” said Georg. “Most places, at least the smaller ones, do things by hand for the most part. Why, do you see why it broke?”

“I'm still trying to figure this out,” I said. “I can see a lot of reasons why this was a bad wrench. At least I should be able to make a better one.”

“I would make them as needed, then,” said Georg. “You may have to do the stove-pipes for that thing completely by hand otherwise, as that oven will need bigger ones than the common.”

I thought to look in my tools for wrenches again, and when I opened one of the drawers, I thought to look in the very back. What I brought out was an old-looking wooden box that I hadn't seen before. I opened it up, and found what looked to be a better-made copy of the supplied tool set. Picking out a wrench, I tried it on the objectionable bolt. The bolt turned easily.

“I think I might be able to bypass some of that work,” I said, “as I just found something in my tools that looks to work.”

“What?” asked Georg. “How?”

“I had no idea it was in there,” I said, “and I just found it. The situation is the same at home, as there are eight boxes left that aren't completely inventoried, and that's what I know about. I wouldn't be surprised if there are places in that workbench that have hidden tools still.”

With the 'better' tools handy – I noticed that not merely was my tool-kit actually usable, but had a number of obviously hand-made gages and tools in addition – I had the largest machine completely apart in less than an hour. The amount of grit, grime, and crudity I found was staggering, so much so that I stood back from the thing and began thinking. My tongue got the better of me within seconds.

“Why didn't they just take it apart and clean the thing up?” I asked. “It might take them a few hours more, and then they'd have something that actually worked to a degree.”

The silence that descended seemed to almost scream for my burning, and only as the three men came to look at what I was talking about did I hear 'objections'.

“I thought so,” said Gelbhaar. “This thing was done for looks, not use.”

“Are looks important?” I asked.

“Some people must think so,” said Georg, “as now I see what you were talking about. At least I did not pay extra for a rich man's tool.”

“Rich m-man's tool?” I asked.

“What those black-dressed people usually get, if they buy tools,” said Georg. “They commonly have such work done, so if they have tools, they seldom use them.”

Georg paused, then said, “at least, they don't use them for tools.”

“Are they different in some way?” I asked.

“They cost a lot,” said Georg, “that, and looks seem especially important to those people.”

“Uh, like Black-Cap's musket?” I asked.

“I suspect so,” said Georg.

“Who usually buys these?” I asked.

“That part, I'm not sure,” said Georg. “I know that they use them a fair amount in the fifth kingdom, and some in the fourth, and then a few places around here.”

“Do those black-dressed people own businesses?” I asked. “If they're doing the buying and not the using, then they'd be looking for 'niceties', and the places making them or 'fixing them' would do them like these are done.”

The previous 'silence' that called for my burning was now eclipsed by a yet-greater one, and only when Georg spoke did it finally dissipate.

“That is about the best explanation I've ever heard for why most of the more-expensive bought tools are like they are,” he said. “It also explains why most don't bother with having the things reworked in the fourth kingdom, as that doesn't help the working much. It just adds to the cost.”

Such talk of money made me glad I wasn't dealing with it, and upon lifting the uppermost roller from its supports, I was yet more glad: I would need to 'clean up' the housings and fit tinned bronze 'shims'. I didn't need to have the distraction of money floating around my head when doing 'close' work.

“And make lubricant passages,” I thought, “and make sure they're flat, and clean up the mating surfaces, and case-harden both wrenches and fasteners, and...”

“Do we have, uh, scrap tin?” I asked.

“We have sheet, as well as some old plates,” said Georg. “Why, do you need more tin for tinning pots?”

“There was a special bearing metal that was mostly tin,” I said, “and it would be the easiest to do for these shafts. I could cast it directly into these castings, and then scrape the bearing places to fit.”

Only when the first machine was completely dismantled – there were hidden parts that I hadn't seen until I looked closer – did I learn its true nature, and as I went over it with sharpened chalk and slate in hand to make notes, I muttered about sand inclusions, gritty surfaces, and lumpy castings. After a few minutes of writing, I picked up hammer and chisel, and began going over the surface of the castings.

The dirty-looking chips flew with such rapidity that after a few minutes, I had cleared an area on the main frame almost a foot square – and I had learned about cast iron being 'dirty'. This stuff was worse than that where I came from by a substantial margin.

“What do they call this nasty stuff?” I asked, as I began looking for other places that needed cleaning up on the outside of the frame.

“That's about the usual for fifth kingdom cast iron,” said Georg. “Some call it black-cast.”

“That isn't good enough for this stuff,” I said, “It's about the dirtiest metal I've ever seen, and it's soft and brittle. At least it cleans up passably without too much time or energy.”

By the morning 'guzzle', I had not only become unbelievably filthy, but I had removed nearly all of the white paint that had been so 'painstakingly' applied. The fact that it had been applied over casting slag, coarse 'grinding', roughly gouged filed places, and congealed casting sand was a source of great dissatisfaction, for it reminded me of where I came from to no small degree.

While my chisel-marks were not particularly neat, the resulting overall finish received a good deal of favorable comment.

“That's just to clean the thing up some,” I said. “I need to have it down to bare metal so I can fix it properly. Is there such a thing as paint around here?”

“If anyone would know of that,” said Johannes, “Hans would. He might even have some mixed up.”

I soon wanted a larger chisel, and as a break from 'casting cleaning', I thought to forge a special one with a bent blade showing a slight curve. As I worked on the chisel blank, I noticed the apprentices were sawing on some unusually 'long' and thick bars.

“What are those for?” I asked.

“The wheels,” said one of the boys. “They almost have the stands for one of them done.”

“Wonderful,” I thought. “I'll need to get those set up soon also.”

The results of the sudden influx of equipment meant for working until just before sundown and coming at dawn the next morning. There was a definite 'chicken and egg' sensation to the whole thing, almost as if I had to bring all of the tools that had come to an 'on-line' status as quickly as possible while still ensuring truly good functioning, and I wondered if I would need to work on the rest-day and the day after as well – at least, until I tried my new 'large' chisel.

The 'gouge' marks left were wider and shallower than those of the smaller tools, and when I finished cleaning up the inside of the 'slip-roller's' main casting in a matter of minutes, I knew one aspect that was crucial: I needed the right tools to do the job, and makeshifts meant for slow progress and poor outcomes.

“And the way they're doing that wheel's axle is bound to be a makeshift,” I said. “I'll need to 'take charge' of that thing so they don't waste time and make scrap.”

When I stopped to check on it, I was astonished to see an attempt to forge the thing to size, and as I looked it over, the apprentices came in. The oldest one came close, then said, “it needs a good deal more forging yet.”

“They didn't try pattern-welding this, did they?”

“No, they didn't,” he said. “Why, does it need it?”

“How big is this grindstone?” I asked.

“About as big as a wheel for a farm wagon,” he said, “and a bit bigger for thickness. It weighs enough that it takes three people to lift it.”

I looked at the shaft and murmured, “and this thing will bend and let it get loose!”

My outburst was such that when I put the bar in the first-lit forge to 'cook', I was ignored – at least, until the two men came looking for the thing.

“Good, you got it in the forge so it's hot,” said Johannes. He seemed to be speaking to one of the apprentices.

“N-no,” I said shakily. “That wheel's big enough that it needs something stronger than that soft stuff, or it will... How are those usually done?”

“That is the usual size of rod, and that wheel is the usual size,” said Johannes.

“The u-usual size?” I asked. “Where is this wheel?”

Johannes led me to the nearest corner of the 'metal area', and there, I was astonished. The apprentice hadn't lied about the size of the thing; it was indeed a monster. I looked at Johannes, however, and he seemed taken aback.

“I thought it was the usual size, but that one looks to be bigger for round and twice as wide as I thought.”

“That bar will bend,” I said quietly, “as the boys picked the softest piece they could find for easier sawing. How fast do these turn?”

“Usually that depends on who is turning it,” said Johannes. “The ones I've seen turn such that if one counts quickly, each number is a full turn.”

“Meaning several times a second,” I said. “And that thing isn't balanced, so the bar not only needs to be thicker, but it also needs to be a lot stronger. I'd best get another piece and cook both of them as much as I can, and weld the two up.”

As I turned to go, I said, “what do they usually use for bearings?”

Johannes didn't know, and neither did Gelbhaar, and Georg spoke of 'especially hard wood with lots of tallow'. I shook my head at the last, then mumbled, “first, Hans speaks of smoked wheels. Now, they want an escaped grindstone that rolls out of the shop while trailing smoke and wreckage.”

“And you need speak no oaths,” said Gelbhaar. “That sounded as strong as anything.”

“Can't you just see it getting loose, though?” I spluttered. “First, it makes a hole in the wall of the shop, then it goes rumbling up the road at a fast trot. It flattens everything it encounters, people included, and it leaves smoke and fires in its wake from burning wooden bearings.”

“What do you propose to use, then?” asked Georg.

“That tin-based stuff,” I said. “If you can find any scrap tin beyond those plates spoken of, I'd like to have it, as I just had an idea for easy-to-do bearings for a lot of things.”

After the others had left, I went looking for the plates. It took some doing to find them, as they were mostly hidden in a scrap-barrel – and their status was well-deserved, for they were badly 'corroded' and severely dented, and their numbers too few to do much good. I still took all four of them into the shop, where I put them with the 'pot-tinning' supplies. That tin was running a bit low.

Once home that evening and in the basement – I'd forge-welded three pieces of thinner 'strap' after cutting that one piece in half with a saw and showing the others how much slag it had – I spoke to Hans about the grinding wheel. I had put the three pieces of 'strap' in the latest example of cooking container with a heaped-full forge and fine powdered charcoal.

“That is the trouble with those things,” said Hans. “It sounds like he's got one of those big ones they use down in the fifth kingdom, and the usual things do not work for those.”

“What does, then?” I asked.

“I think you have that one good,” said Hans. “Most grindstones are a bit smaller than buggy wheels, and three fingers for thick, and it sounds like he was doing his things for one of those.”

“Uh, do they use wooden bearings?” I asked.

“Yes, if there is nothing better to be had, which is the common thing,” said Hans. “It takes years for the metal part to wear round, and a lot of bearings, and until then, they turn really hard.”

“I should be able to fix that,” I said. “Do you know where I can get some tin, and some, uh, antimony?”

“The tin is easy, unless it must be in fresh stuff in blocks,” said Hans. “Tin plates are common enough, and that one second-hand store has lots of old ones that can be had cheap. That other stuff I have never heard of.”

“It makes lead harder,” I said, “more so than tin.”

“Ah, I have some of that stuff,” said Hans. “How much do you need?”

“I think it was about one part in fifteen by weight,” I said, “with another part copper, and the rest tin. What I am thinking of made fairly good bearings, and given how those machines are done, I'll need to do some for them also.”

I paused, then said, “have you heard of fourth kingdom axle grease?”

“Yes, though I have not seen it,” said Hans. “Why, did some come with that shipment?”

“Supposedly it did, thought the stuff hasn't shown yet,” I said.

“You might want to find it, then,” said Hans, “and then put it in with your tools.”

“Where would I look, though,” I asked, “and then, when would I look?”

“I would get one of those lanterns and go over there now,” said Hans. “If you can wait a bit, I could go with you.”

“Lanterns?” I asked.

“There are three little brass ones in your workbench,” said Hans. “I have no idea why there were in there, but when I was looking for one of those older chisels, I found them in a sack.”

“Older chisels?” I asked.

“You bagged those things when you found them, as the ones you've made are a lot better,” said Hans. “They are still decent chisels, and they work fine for trying to cut rusted metal things.”

“What rusted metal things?” I asked.

“One of those stands had a nut rusted on it,” said Hans, “and I cut the nut off with a chisel, just like my grandfather showed me. The threaded part is still fine, and I have spare nuts from the fourth kingdom market that fit good, so now I have three of those stands to use.”

Hans had to show me where the lanterns were – they were smaller versions of what was on the hay wagon the night I came in – and after inserting a pair of mostly-burned candles in them, we left by the front door.

The town seemed 'spooky', so much so that I wondered about some kind of a compact 'gun', and by the time we'd gone perhaps a third of the way, I asked, “have you ever heard of guns with funnel-shaped muzzles?”

“Some of them get worn bad there,” said Hans. “Is that what you are talking about?”

“I asked Anna about them, and she didn't know either,” I said. “For some reason, I almost want something easy to carry in case trouble shows.”

“I have not found any fowling pieces for sale yet,” said Hans, “nor have I found any of those fifth kingdom pistols. About the easiest thing to do would be to get a larger musket, shorten it, and convert it to thimbles. Then, it would be like what Anna had when she was younger.”

“Why did she have one?” I asked.

“Mostly as she had need,” said Hans. “She said she mostly used shot in it.”

“Does she still have it?” I asked.

“No, it went bad years ago,” said Hans. “We got that first one you reworked to replace it, as the lock was rusted solid.”

Once in the shop, Hans went to Georg's desk first. That area turned up nothing, and as I led through the maze of castings in various stages of cleaning, Hans said, “I was hoping they would be better, but this is as bad as I have seen.”

“At least they are starting to come around,” I said. “They actually agree that this stuff was done for looks and not for using, as when it came it was all prettied up with white paint.”

“Yes, and how bad was it?” asked Hans.

“Only one shaft out of ten turned,” I said, “and that with difficulty. The cleaning that someone supposedly...”

I stopped speaking, then spat, “they said it was cleaned up in the fourth kingdom, but they did no such thing. The place that made them turns them out like that now, and that thing wasn't a 'number one' grade.”

“Then what is it?” Hans asked.

“I am not sure what they call 'the worst stuff we make', but it was a lot closer to that grade than what Georg ordered and paid for. It was all crated up when the people came for it, so they couldn't check to see what it was like.”

“That sounds like what they do in the fifth kingdom,” said Hans. “Have you looked much in here?”

“Not really,” I said. “I've had my hands full trying to get these things to where they're usable, and when not doing that, I've got to keep the others out of trouble.” Here, I moved Hans away from the still-burning forge. I was having to keep him out of trouble as well, I now realized.

“What is in that one?” asked Hans.

“The newest box has the three pieces I'm doing for the grindstone shaft,” I said, “and then the others have other billets that need cooking. I'm doing that more often now, as I'm still replacing and repairing tools – either mine, or ones for the shop.”

“Yes, and I am not surprised, especially with some of those wrenches,” said Hans. “Soft wrenches are bad trouble, especially if you must use them a lot.”

“There are worse ones,” I said. “These things came with a kit of tools, and one of the wrenches broke on the first try.”

“Did it bend?” asked Hans.

“No, it broke in three pieces,” I said. “Those shiny wrenches may have been soft, but they weren't brittle like that one was.”

“Yes, and you had to work on them more,” said Hans. “I am not sure why people like shiny tools so much, but they do.”

After leading Hans around the inside of the shop – he found a lot more foundry supplies, chiefly parting compound, a sizable tin of blacking, and a small bag of paintbrushes – I led out to the rear area. I had known there were more boxes, but somehow, I had lost track of their number and disposition. Thankfully, they were now under cover in the metal storage area, and as we looked among them, Hans said, “now this stuff here is from the fourth kingdom, as the box is marked for it. Everything else seems to either be from the fifth kingdom, or somewhere that does not mark their boxes.”

“Should we open up that box?” I asked.

“Yes, once we take it inside,” said Hans.

The box was fairly heavy, and after we had pried off the 'lid', I was astonished. There were two tins of 'axle grease' and a large number of medium-sized close-woven cloth bags labeled as abrasives. I removed one of the tins, and took off the lid. The mild odor was astonishing. I had expected something far worse.

“You want to put that one in with your things,” said Hans, “as that stuff is the good grease from down there. It is not cheap.”

While I did so – I put the other tin with the foundry stuff underneath the bench, and laid out the bags in neat order on the bench-top – I wondered as to the propriety of doing so as we went home. The number of added boxes in the rear area made for wondering as to their contents, so much so that once home and our lanterns blown out, I thought to ask as to why I should 'abrogate' matters like I had done.

“You have enough to deal with as it is,” said Hans, “and given that you are close to paying their bills, that means that it isn't just your work any more, but that of the whole place. If you do not take care of the important things, they will not be done, and everyone there will suffer.”

“It isn't that, Hans,” said Anna as she came down the stairs.

“What is this?” asked Hans.

“He isn't close to paying their bills,” said Anna. “I was down at the Public House today asking about something, and it's a lot further than that now.”

“Uh, 'taking over' certain important things?” I gasped.

“I think that's about right,” said Anna. “I would not be surprised at all if you are running that shop completely within a few months, and no mistake...”

I awoke on the couch with an uncommonly sore head, and as I rubbed my head carefully, I felt a sizable lump.

“What happened?” I asked.

“You almost had a fit,” said Anna, “and then you fell down in a faint. I was about to get that tube so as to feed you.”

“Was I sweating?” I asked.

“No, it was worse,” said Anna. “When it gets to where that sickness causes fits, it's especially bad, and you were about to have one, more so than that one time. I wish you could drink beer, as that would help you a lot.”

I was filing the slip-roller's parts smooth the next day when the grinding frame arrived, and when I looked it over, I saw that someone had 'attached' wooden 'bearing boxes' with carved wooden 'pegs'. I was thoroughly glad they were removable, and after looking the thing over, I realized that its chief advantage over the slip-roller's frame was I would not need to correct nearly as much.

“Now how is it those bearings you spoke of will fit that thing?” asked Georg.

“They'll fit just like those wooden things,” I said, “and in the same place. I'll need to mount some metal pads for them to sit on, and then align the thing so that it turns smoothly. I've done my own asking about these things, and it seems that's a big problem.”

The dumbfounded looks and silence of the others was so great that I said, “have any of you ever used one before?”

“There was one where I was apprenticed,” said Georg, “and I turned the crank a fair amount.”

“Was it hard to turn?” I asked.

“It was,” said Georg. “At least, until I had worked there a while. It became easier with time.”

“Did it have wooden bearings?” I asked.

“It was hard to tell if it did or not,” said Georg, “as when I was first doing that work, it was all I could do to turn it fast enough, and when I had less trouble, I no longer looked at such things.”

“Did it ever smoke?” I asked.

“I never saw it do that,” said Georg, “though if I had been able to turn the thing fast enough to not be yelled at and cursed for my laziness, I might have.”

“What?” I squeaked. “Why?”

“They did not do it with just me,” said Georg. “They were that way with every boy, and the close-man was the worst for it.”

“Is that common?” I said.

“I think so,” said Johannes. “It was that way in every shop I went into while I did my traipsing, and the same for when I was learning.”

I staggered toward a chair and sat down, and my hands found my head. I felt as if ill, for now I had heard something so dire and horrible that I knew not how to proceed further. Only when a familiar-looking shadow came to my front did I think to look up.

“Now what did they tell you?” asked Anna. It was the time of the morning guzzle, or so it seemed.

“Th-they yell at b-boys, and c-call them lazy, and they d-don't bother to find out what is happening,” I gasped. “Th-that isn't right!”

“I think you might want to go to that one place to get some tin,” said Anna.

“N-now?” I squeaked. “I've g-got work to do.”

“You are sick enough to stay home, I'd say,” said Anna. “I hope Hans has some of that widow's tincture, as you're bad off enough to need it.”

As I staggered home with Anna 'drawing' me by the hand – much as if I were a child's wagon with a broken wheel that dragged in the dirt – I wondered as to the horror of what I had heard. It was so much like my own childhood that I softly moaned, then tears began running down my face. I was put on the couch once home, and as I sat and sobbed, Anna came with a mug of something. I could smell a faintly acrid odor of unfamiliar type.

“Drink this,” said Anna. I was glad she was not using 'the voice of command'.

“What is it?” I asked. I was slightly suspicious of being told to 'drink' something that I wasn't familiar with. It smacked too much of 'medication' and its unstated purpose, that being punishment for those judged to be affronts to society.

“This has that tincture I spoke of,” said Anna.

I looked up at her, and asked, “why?”

“Hans has gone to find out,” said Anna, “and you cannot have beer, so it is this, or see you ready for a rest-house.”

“Yes, and I am not surprised,” said Hans as he came in the front door. “I think that is part of the trouble over there, as he does not act like they expect him to.”

“What do they want?” asked Anna.

“I am not precisely sure,” said Hans. “They were talking about that one wretch...”

“And I'm supposed to be w-worse!” I screamed. “No! I don't want to be a witch!”

“I think you had best try that stuff in the mug there,” said Hans. “It is terrible to see you this way.”

“W-what, I'm bad?” I shrieked. “Do I need to be punished, because I don't act like a black-dressed thug wearing pointed boots?” I was on the verge of screaming.

“No, that isn't true,” said Anna. “That was the other reason I thought you needed to fetch some tin and that other stuff, as that way you could talk to Hans and learn of this stuff without looking like this.”

“Why, am I bad?” I asked. I was sounding like a child, and I knew it.

“No more than anyone who has had too much swine,” said Hans, “and had I seen you like this before Anna telling me about it, I would have thought that to have been the case.”

Here, Hans paused, then said, “and given how it is with you, I would wonder as to which is worse, too much swine or what you live with.”

While the tincture went elsewhere after Hans spoke with Anna, I was glad for the cider that replaced it. I drank it thirstily, and then noticed the shaking and sweating.

“Figures, that stuff always did make me feel horrible,” I thought. “Now was that why I reacted that way, or...”

I paused in my thinking, then thought, “or did being told of that abuse bring it on?”