Miner and Empire: The Hard Part

it took more than just stone to build a smelter. The stones are the easy part for Aedelbert and Caedda.

Thunk. The mattock’s flat face bit into the creamy-grey clay. Aedelbert grunted with effort as he wiggled it loose, prying the lump of clay farther out of the wall of the pit. He raised the tool and brought it down again. He heard a quiet splash behind him, and Caedda’s familiar grunt as he tossed water out of the hole.

“Be nice if the rain had waited,” Caedda said at last. Thunk. They took turns bailing as rainwater oozed and trickled into the trench.

Aedelbert saved his energy for digging. The weather had turned chill and damp, of course. Radmar of the skies they should have called the god, not Radmar of the Wheel. Bad enough to be digging at the edge of a marsh, but the rain… Well, now they knew that the clay would keep water out if anyone needed it for that. The hired cart should return soon, and he wanted to have a good load for it, since they paid by the day, not by weight. Continue reading


The eleventh hour of the eleventh day…

… the guns on the western front of “the War,” soon to be called the Great War or the World War, fell silent. Fighting in the east continued for another four years, and more if you count the Russian Civil War.

When I was younger, Veterans Day was about veterans and the First World War just happened to end on November 11th. Which is also the feast of St. Martin of Tours. I seem to remember parades, or I might be mis-remembering, because the weather didn’t favor parades in November. Continue reading

Saturday Snippet: A Warning from the South

The day of rest becomes more interesting. Interesting is not good.

“Well met, Master Tycho,” a voice called. He turned and saw a messenger approaching. “His Majesty wishes your presence in the summer throne room.”

Tycho bowed, winced at the dirt on his boots, and followed the blue and white clad young woman. She wore her hair tied up under a blue head-cover that reminded him a bit of a bag with embroidery around the mouth. Part of him wanted to ask why women other than laundresses and professionals traveled with the court, and the rest of him feared causing an honor offense. As well as things had been going otherwise, he’d probably find himself facing an angry father and two brothers, all determined to avenge the slight. Better not to ask. Tycho wiped his boots on the stone sill, then followed the woman up to the first floor. She stepped aside and a page bowed, opening the door for him. Tycho entered, removed his hat, and went to one knee. Continue reading

What the Author is Reading – November ’19

Short version: my usual strange selection of Day Job and writing books.

Agricola, George. De Re Metallica. (Herbert Hoover, trans.)   ( Martino Books, 2014, 1950, 1912) The must-read book about late Medieval, early Renaissance mining in Central Europe, with excellent historical and linguistic foot-notes. This edition keeps the notes and all the drawings, and I recommend it over the free versions without illustrations. You do need some background in math and basic civil engineering and woodworking, though. Metallurgy or basic knowledge of mining is also helpful but not necessary. Continue reading

Monday Teaser

The very rough opening pages of Miners and Empire. It takes place at about the same time as Imperial Magic and Merchant and Empire.

“What think you?”

Miners and townsmen alike waited as Wilfrith stared west, down the valley toward the lowlands and the blue-distant hills far toward the sunset and the sea. Dark green trees covered the slopes, broken in two places by openings, old burns or young pastures.

Wilfrith nodded once. “Here.” He took a carved wooden rod from Turold’s bundle and jammed it into the ground, knocking a bit of loose stone out of the way. “Primary smelter here.” He paced off twenty steps to the south and accepted a darker stick. “Secondary here.” Then he descended to the next little flat and set an almost black rod into the thin soil. “Middle smelter here, for the black copper.”

Aedelbert Starken considered the sites. They certainly had enough good stone for building the smelters, both black and grit-stone, and wood aplenty. Unlike the old site, which Wilfrith had pronounced too timber-poor to repair after the storm flood. The stone had looked fresh, too, making life a little easier, perhaps. Looks could deceive, especially with stone. It had probably rotted from behind, the way his winter had gone. he folded his arms, feeling the wind blow up the valley. Wilfrith swore that they’d not need blowers for the smelters if they built them here. Aedelbert did not intend to change the design despite the older man’s pronouncement. Wind failed when you needed it the most, just like water. Continue reading

Sunday Snippet: News on the Road

A day of rest should not include cleaning great-haulers, but so is life…

The next morning, Tycho rolled out of his blankets with a wince and grimace. His shoulder refused to cooperate, his back warned that he’d slept on a rock, and his hips insisted on informing him of his age and of the miles he’d walked in those years. Of all the aches, the one in his shoulder irritated him the most. He needed far too long gently moving the arm farther and farther, stretching the muscles and easing the jammed joint. If someone attacked him in the dawn, he’d have to fight left-handed. Yes, Tycho reminded himself once the arm and shoulder began cooperating and the ache eased to annoying from damned painful—but you are alive. He could have been crippled young on-board ship, or have lost the arm, or died as many others did. His body felt less grateful for Maarsrodi’s mercies than Tycho did.

No priest of Maarsdam visited the Progress, so Tycho made an offering to Donwah and Yoorst and received blessings from their priests. Then he ate a little, had tea, and went to collect the first pair of great-haulers. “Show us what to do, Master Tycho, and we’ll bring the others,” one of the younger men at the corral said. Tycho considered the offer. It would not hurt to have others who could at least hold the birds for him, and taking them all at once would solve several difficulties. Continue reading


Good Morning, Instapundit Readers! Have a spooky and well-watered Halloween.

Drink more water. I know this. I forgot this. I am now nursing a cracked thumb.

On average I need at least 100 ounces of water and other non-sweet, non-milk liquids a day. I live in a dry climate, and I happen to be “wetter” than a lot of people. I am not diabetic or pre-diabetic. I just need a lot of water to be happy.

Last week I ran low. Continue reading