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An Autumn Fair in Halabor
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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20
The Carpenter

For disclaimer, etc., see the Prologue.

Author’s note: The barrel-maker is related to the honey-makers from “The Last Yule in Halabor”, through his wife. More about Gennys and his ale-house can be found in Chapter 12 of “The Last Yule in Halabor”. Vuron himself (and his son Thei) briefly appeared in “The Shoemaker’s Daughter”.


~~~

PART 19 – THE CARPENTER

Vuron, the carpenter, had his home and workshop in the Old Port, next to those of the barrel-maker and the boat-makers, which made sense. After all, they worked with wood, too. He ran his business with the help of his sons, twenty-two-year-old Thei and fifteen-year-old Usnach. His wife, Lia, helped him with the books, while his daughter, Hunydd, was married to Cimarus, the barrel-maker’s lame brother, and had already three chicks of her own, the littlest one barely two summers old.

Despite being a grandfather already, the Master Carpenter was still a comely man: large and strong as an ox, just three years short sixty, with a neatly-trimmed beard and small, keen brown eyes that missed little of that which was going on around him. Fortunately for those whom he always so closely observed, he was also blessed with a friendly, easy-going nature, and would never use anything that he had seen to cause an honest man (or woman) any harm.

In this morn, which was the beginning of the fourth day of the autumn fair, Vuron was standing in the barn that served as his workshop, overseeing the creation of some new furniture for Lord Orchald’s house. The old lord had given order for a new set of small tables and matching chairs a few weeks earlier. They were meant for the women’s wing in the Castle, in case that young Lord Herumor would eventually make up his mind and choose one of the available noble maidens as his future wife, thus giving Halabor a new Lady, which the town had lacked since the untimely death of his mother.

Even though Lord Herumor was still fairly young and, to be honest, showed no great eagerness to be wedded any time soon, in the tradition of Dol Amroth – where he had spent the defining years of his youth – Lord Orchald wanted the new furniture to have a certain Elvish flair. For a simple craftsman of the Old Folk like Vuron, this would have been too high a demand… usually. In this particular case, however, they had the good fortune to employ the help of a true, honest-to-earth Elf: a tall, willowy, raven-haired fellow from the Wandering Company by the name of Gelmir.

Vuron was still awed a little how willing the Elf had been when he had approached him at the beginning of the fair. As a rule, master craftsmen were not eager to give away their secrets; though mayhap it was different with Elves. They had eternity to learn new things, after all… or so it was said.

In any case, the very same Elf was now sitting in Vuron’s barn, a carved-out tabletop in front of him, and he showed Cimarus patiently how to inlay the finished piece with small slivers and pieces of differently coloured wood, creating thus an amazingly accurate picture of Lord Orchald’s castle, with the waves of the River at its feet.

Cimarus had been born with a lame leg that had ceased to grow after his tenth year. Thus he could not take over his father’s barrel-making business, despite being the eldest son. But he was a very good wood-carver and would help out in the carpenter’s workshop as well, his craft feeding him and his family modestly but safely. He also had a great love for his work and was a quick study, following Gelmir’s instructions with a steady hand. ‘Twas a strange sight indeed, the tall, elegant Elf and the sturdy Man with the crippled leg working together, but they seemed to get along fabulously, and things of astonishing beauty were taking shape under their hands.

Hunydd, Cimarus’ wife, was sitting near them, working on a basket. Wicker work was her special skill, and she usually did it in her father’s workshop, rather than at home, where the smaller children could have easily injured themselves with their uncle’s tools. Besides, here she could leave five-year-old Fintain and two-year-old Cyrnan in the care of her grandmother, while Lorcain, just turned eight, was already helping her weaving the rushes.

Vuron always felt some kind of proprietary pride when looking at his only daughter. Hunydd was nothing like the daughters of the Old Folk usually were. She was small, but slender and small-boned, with a pale face framed by a crown of black, braided hair, and with eyes wide and dark and very bright. She was beautiful where other girls of her age and status were simply pretty, and she was wild and wilful and always did what she wanted, no matter what other people said.

Why she had wanted to become the wife of the lame Cimarus who was ten years her elder and not even a master craftsman of his own right was a question much-discussed in town. It had been a mystery for Vuron as well, although he could not deny that – aside from that crippled leg – Cimarus was not a bad-looking man. The wide expanse of his strong upper body more than made up for the lack of height (also partly due to his leg), and he had a long, austere face of an ageless comeliness, barely lined with the suffering his leg had caused him from childhood on, a full head of thick russet hair and a pair of small, deeply blue eyes that seemed to take in everyone and everything with quiet understanding. His neatly trimmed beard gave him a look of noble serenity.

Aye, he was a handsome one, with a good craft at his skilled hands, and their children were happy and healthy. Mayhap Hunydd had displayed more wisdom at the age of seventeen than all the nay-sayers… one of which Vuron had been himself. He gladly admitted having been wrong.

In the other corner of the barn Thei, Vuron’s eldest was working on the table legs. A big, comely, fair-skinned young fellow, he was sitting at the pole lathe, holding the lathe against a sizeable piece of wood. He pressed the treadle that was attached to the lathe by a rope, and the lathe turned on the chunk of wood. Thei then released the treadle, and the bendy pole, which was wedged firmly into the ground and attached to the lathe from the other side, straightened, turning the lathe back, so that the young man could press the treadle once more. Repeating these moves with great skill in smooth succession, he soon had a table leg appear out of the piece of wood. His little brother, Usnach, carried the finished leg to the pile where it would slowly dry for a few weeks, ere actually becoming part of a table.

Vuron himself had no plans to work today. He had promised to help Credus, the barrel-maker, to get his newly made barrels to the New Port, where they were needed in the Warehouse. Afterwards, he intended to visit the fair with his wife, as Lia wanted to buy some fleeces from the Dunlending wool-merchants. She was a good spinstress and did not want to waste her coin on already spun wool. Thei’s young wife was expecting her first child within the month, and Lia intended to weave warm blankets for both the mother and the baby.

The weeks before the fair had been hard on them. Repairing the booths – or building new ones – in time, with just his sons helping him, had been more work than he had expected, and his joints were still aching from the long hours of labour, often deep into the night. The order from Lord Orchald had given them a much-needed break, allowing them to work indoors and without rush, while still being paid. That most of the work was being done by Cimarus and his own sons did not bother Vuron too much. He was the Master Carpenter, after all. He could afford to go easy for a day or two… though not longer.

The arrival of the barrel-maker interrupted his thoughts. Credus war four years Cimarus’ junior and as exuberant as his brother was quiet, although otherwise they were a lot alike: honest, hard-working and good-natured men, devoted to their work and their families.

“Ready to go?” he asked. “I have pulled out the cart and harnessed the mules; all we need to do is to load the barrels.”

“You need to get yourself an apprentice,” growled Vuron. “I am getting too old for this kind of work.”

“’Tis not my fault that all I have are daughters,” replied Credus good-naturedly. “Or that the young lads all want to become soldiers or fishermen in these days. Which reminds me,” he added as they were walking out of the barn, “have you heard that Gennys is planning to buy the Old Sailor?”

Gennys?” Vuron frowned. “You mean the innkeeper’s youngest brother?”

“The very same,” replied Credus. Vuron shook his head in disbelief.

“He is a third son,” he said. “He has no inheritance whatsoever. Where is he going to find the coin to buy an ale-house? Granted it is in a sorry shape, but I have little doubt that the Merchants’ Guild would demand an outrageous price for it. They can be worse than wolves when it comes to business.”

“They say Sydnius is willing to loan his brother the coin he needs,” said Credus. “And if Sydnius is involved, the Merchants’ Guild will think twice ere asking for an unreasonable price. Being the reeve of the Old Port does have its advantages.”

“That poor sod Gennys would still be paying off his debt for many years to come, though,” said Vuron. Credus shrugged.

“True, but at least he will be his own master and run his own business,” he said. “Not many third sons can say that about themselves.”

“Nor will Gennys, not for a while yet,” said Vuron. “ The Old Sailor has been abandoned and locked for a long time. Who knows in which shape the rooms are? That will be a lot of work and cost a fair amount of coin, ere the ale-house can be reopened.”

But there was a speculative gleam in his eyes while he was saying that. Bringing back in shape a house that had been abandoned for so long meant work for the stone-mason, the carpenter and the roofer, at the very least. And the furniture of the common room had been good woodwork, he remembered. Mayhap it was still salvageable – which would mean that Thei could finally make his masterpiece and earn his title as a master-carpenter, making him able to take over his father’s business one day.

Aye, this did have its possibilities.

“I think,” he said, “that I shall have a word with Gennys on the fair today.”

Credus grinned. “I thought you might. He will likely be around the tent of his bride’s mother, the ale-wife.”

~The End - for now~

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