I found mother in her sitting room and chatted with her as she nursed my brothers. I held Edrom until Ulrich had finished and the exchanged babies with her.
“I will be hiring a nanny to help with your new brothers, don’t worry, there will still be things for you to do. I know you all like being involved. That’s quite a change from other families I’ve seen. Kristen’s sister will be joining us next week, that will allow me some free time to spend with you and your brothers. Please let Bolly and Ivy know that I won’t always be wrapped up with these two. Reassure them as much as you can. I was reluctant to bring in another servant. But I have many other responsibilities with court duties and social obligations with your father. Birgit is a lovely girl and comes highly recommended.
“That’s understandable Mother, we’ll make it work. If Birgit is anything like Kristen she’ll fit in here easily,” I told her.
I discovered that Ulrich needed changing and took him to the table to deal with it.
Human babies are a lot more tidy than goats, but then goats don’t wear diapers. I had already shown my brothers how to fold a diaper for a boy. They were all getting the hang of changing them. Kiva had a sensitive stomach so it was an adjustment for him. Apparently Sky people kept child care in the hands of women. Boys were not encouraged to take part.
When mother was done I took Edrom from her and changed him. I cradled both of them in my arms while mother went in to wash and rearrange her clothing. I dozed with them as I leaned back in a chair.
Iris and Valla came for a visit and found me there. Mother had been reluctant to disturb us. She told me it was a beautiful scene, and that I would be a great father to my own children. I sincerely hoped she was right. Valla and I were excused to sit in the shade outside where we found Ivy. I had been trying to spend extra time with him and Bolly. They weren’t getting as much attention as they needed. They understood that the babies required the bulk of Mother’s time, but in practice they were a bit sad. Ivy felt it the most. I pulled him to my lap so Valla and I could cuddle him.
He went to sleep across our laps and continued to sleep while we discussed the meetings with the builder and architect.
“I sketched your mother and the boys yesterday, I will complete it and then paint a portrait with her draped in Venetian style clothing. I will add a shield and a sword and call it the Viking Madonna and children. I will add Bolly and Ivy as cherubs, at least their faces. Every good artist must paint a Madonna, at least my teacher says so. I’m doing better with linear shapes now. Furniture is coming around and I can honestly say that it’s not bad,” Valla chirped.
“I am in awe of your talent for painting, but then I hold you in awe most of the time. I can’t believe I’ve been blessed with your love. Freija has been kind to me,” I told her.
“I know it’s early yet but, will you agree to a Christian wedding ceremony?” Valla asked.
“Of course, I will never be devout and perhaps we can find my clan and have a ceremony there. You would look right at home in the clothing of our women,” I replied. While we had been talking I re-braided Ivy’s forelocks. His hair was so fine and pale that it didn’t stay in a braid for long. Styles had changed and now it was two braids instead of four.
Ivy woke, kissed us both and trotted off to find Bolly.
Over the next few weeks I signed the contract with Tor. I had had it carefully examined by an attorney, but other than misspelled words it was honest and straight forward. I would make payments at certain phases of construction. With a healthy early completion bonus there was plenty of incentive to get things done quickly and correctly. Tor was not a man of sharp practice and he despised others in his profession that were. One of the other contractors I spoke to wasn’t particularly enamored. I crossed him off my list.
“I ended up hiring a newly formed company that specialized in fine homes. Vinders knew the four principals and had seen some of their work. It was well above the average standard so I hired them on Vinders’ recommendation. A lot rode on that decision.
A few weeks later Vinders and I were walking the building site and verifying distances. The well diggers were there opening up an artesian well up the hill. Gravity would fill a cistern in the attic space and there would be a self-priming pump in the kitchen. Faucet valves would control the flow of water in sinks and baths. Each bath had a boiler which was the newest version available. I had to argue with Vinders on that point, he wanted to put in a cistern for hot water but I thought it was wasteful. I wanted the water heated at the point of use, not stored and reheated and wasting fuel. I convinced him, and my design was implemented. Once we had completed our work we traveled to the lumbermill site. The grading appeared complete and the tamping was halfway finished. Then it would be time for aggregate, and construction of the first and largest building could begin. The carpenters and others had been very busy. Several cabins and the cook house were complete. Three of the five mobile offices had been delivered. They were just wagons that resembled a waggoner’s caravan. There was an office and sleeping quarters. Vinders and I stayed in two of them overnight and made for home in the morning. It was just one day’s ride since we hadn’t gone all the way to Haluken. It was late when we returned but it was also Friday so I wouldn’t be expected to go to school after such a long hard ride. We didn’t gallop but we didn’t dally either. We had taken four horses and switched off so they would not be over taxed.
Father suggested that I take an office in town. There was space available across from the workshop so I had a look. The offices were small dingy and drab so I had them cleaned and repainted before I had furniture brought in.
It was noted by some that I had no drinks trolly. Only a kettle and a stove to heat it on. I told those who asked, that I didn’t think alcohol had any place in discussions of large financial matters.
My plan room had a large table and plenty of chairs. One afternoon we all met up to hear a report on the mine.
Basically it came down to this. They had uncovered five huge veins of extremely high grade ore. Just the gold they could see would turn the venture profitable overnight. Our first payment would be received the following month. It was more than I had spent on the mill, quarry and homesite all together.
Our next school break was timed perfectly for my brothers and I to watch the installation of the big gang saw. The water flumes were nearly complete. They would be filled by a water wheel driven pump at the river and the pumped water would feed wheels at the mill site and drive all the gang saws and other machinery. The six of us, Father and Vinders made our way to the mill. We met Tor onsite and he was thoroughly sold on the tamping machine. I told him we could negotiate purchase and rites to duplicate it when we returned to Halla. He asked if he could use it on the road that led to the mill in the interim. He wanted to get a gauge of how much roadway he could tamp in a given day. I told him to use it and wished him luck with the contract for the Halla-Haluken road. By the time he was through working out new methods of road building, the road to the mill was perfectly graded and packed so that heavy wagons would not sink into the ground, even if it was wet. There was more to it than I understood, but that was fine.
“You know, there will probably be a village near here by the time the mill is in full production,” Tor told me.
“Yes, I envisioned that when I saw this site. There are miles of arable land in all directions. I plan to offer holdings to clan and town people alike. I think it will educate both sides and do away with many of the prejudices they both hold against the other. There is room around here to grow acres of wheat, barley and other crops. I will require crop rotation and a fallow field schedule. But the price of the land will be low and they won’t need to pay a lot of money for the land up front. I expect we’ll have entire families of landholders spread across this valley. Any sixteen year old will have the same opportunity to contract for land. My father thinks it’s a good plan. Prosperous farmers make for a prosperous county. My brothers are all of the same mind with their baronets. Although much of their land is already under plow. I have given a lot of thought to this. It won’t be easy and not everything will work but I am optimistic,” I told Tor.
“You are a man of vision Peng. You have much to be proud of.
Once the saw was installed and tested with just man power, my brothers and I accompanied Father to the new quarry. The stamping mill was in full swing and piles of various sized aggregate were already towering over the landscape. The quarry was quite active as well. The granite was riving away from the face like it was eager to be used to build a home. Four blocks were the maximum for the heavy wagons but they had a constant line of wagons making round trips every day.
When we moved on to the homesite we could see the blocks being used to line the huge cellar. The clay pipe that would feed the cistern was evident.
I was poking around looking at details of the excavation when a voice said, “Hey boy, give me a hand with these planks won’t you?”
I trotted over and took the other end of the bundle of planking and followed him to the cellar. We stacked them on the existing planks and I asked if he needed the whole pile brought down. He did, so I summoned my brothers. We made short work of the task and Rilla joked that he didn’t know they were going to be helping build my new home.
“Who are you boys, I’ve never seen you here before. I introduced myself and my brothers. The man went pale and began apologizing.
“Stop, you’ve done nothing wrong. We are all healthy and we’re not prissy little city lads. We all know our way around an axe and a shovel. We were glad to help. What is your name sir?”
“Stefan my lord,” the man said nervously.
“Well Stefan, keep up the good work. I’ll be stopping in to see how things are going from time to time,” I told him and led my brothers back to Father.
Next we walked over to where the water wheel was being built. It was coming along nicely and I chatted with the men who were assembling the wheel to its axle.
“These curved vanes are really going to improve the power from this wheel, there will be less turbulence to rob energy from the water. It’s quite an innovation one of the men said to the others.
My chest puffed out just a bit. The desired effect was better performance and less noise.
As we neared the lumber mill I spotted some of the Saami herdsmen and signaled to them to wait for us to come and speak. Father came along and we met the men.
“Hello, I am Edrich of Haluken, I am the first Viscount of this territory. You are herdsmen are you not?”
“Yes,” the oldest looking man said. I am Vaart and my people tend the reindeer.”
“I wanted to ask you to mark the areas you use for grazing and holding pens so I can exclude them from the map of available farmland,” I explained.
“Farmers are coming here?” Vaart asked.
“Yes, there is quite a bit of land that is open to claim. But I don’t wish for traditional clan held lands to be taken. If you mark the places you use with your colors, I can bring the map maker up here and he will mark them down. If any of your people would like to try farming, there is a great deal of land available for a work claim. You get the land for nothing as long as you make a farm of it. You have a certain amount of time to make it successful or it will pass to someone else. If you are successful you will have three years after the deed is granted without tax. It is an incentive to put your profits back into the farm. You may know that taxes have been cut and the church can no longer collect tithes or levies. That is my vision for all the clan people,” I concluded.
“And why would you care about the clans?” Vaart asked.
I raised my hair and my brothers followed suit.
“You are him?! I knew we had a new lord coming but you are one of us! How can this be,” Vaart inquired fervently.
The other men gasped in response.
“I was born to the forest clan but I was fortunate to find a new father after mine died. Father is an emissary of the regent who is now the Governor General. Because of certain actions I was awarded a title and a knighthood. These are my brothers from different clans. We were united under our father because we served him in his work. If you will trust me I will make sure that the clans are undisturbed by incoming settlers. Some of them will be Forest and River clan and perhaps Sky and Mountain. Most of the people in Haluken descended from clans people.
Please speak to your people and your head men, then you can tell us your concerns and perhaps what needs you have that the reindeer cannot provide.
This land was granted us in the makers time by Odin, Freija and Thor, Our people inherited the wisdom of Odin, the kindness of Freija and the strength of Thor. Freija has blessed this land with her tears and kisses. This land was ours before we became Vikings and will remain ours as long as I have life in my body,” I said in Sama.
“We will speak with our people, when you return with your maker of maps, come to the high valley and we will fete you and discuss what the future brings,” Vaart replied also in Sama.
I offered my right arm palm up and he seized my wrist as I seized his. He smiled and released me. My brothers and I bowed our heads and Father joined us. Vaart and his men did the same and continued on their way. I turned and Father was smiling at me as were my brothers.
“We rode back to the west and started back to Halla.
We had the time so we went to Haluken so my brothers could see it. Vinders decided to return to Halla instead. We entered from the Halla road that had been completed since our last visit. We stopped at the better inn and booked two rooms. Bolly and Ivy would share with Father and we four would share the two beds in our room.
We visited Abel and discussed how the community was doing.
“The council seems to be working well. Making sure that farmers and merchants have equal say in the goings on was a good idea.”
“The merchants can’t have it all their own way. The farmers don’t make many demands except to be left in peace to raise their crops and animals. The clans have taken an interest in farming but the best land is already under plow. Land prices are getting higher close to town,” Abel shared.
I had floated an idea to Father and he thought it was genius. It was being called the Frienӕve plan. Literally free farm. New farmers would be given plots of land and options to buy a certain amount of adjacent land. Advisors would help with technical needs and a basic house would be built for the new land holders. Their responsibility was to make the land productive within three years. If they did, they would receive title. It was a popular way of getting people into a new area and had been practiced before. We would reserve a good size plat for a village to be built and developed. I believed it would offer new opportunity to many who wanted to move from forest to field.
Abel thought it was a revolutionary idea.
“We are still working out the details, but those should be fleshed out soon and then we can make the forms up and start recruiting settlers for the Frinӕves”.
“I think the response will be quite strong. Many young people can’t afford their own place. It will be a godsend to many. I know some will fail but I would imagine the majority will prosper,” Abel opined.
“I think there will be a very high success rate,” Father agreed.
Father introduced another idea. “I’m thinking of a coach line to go from Halla to Haluken and eventually to Oslo. The Governor General is behind the idea and thinks it would be best if done by government.”
“Why so,” Abel asked.
“To deal with rights of way, Coach stations and details of that sort. And of course regulation to insure safety and prevent abuse. I think it will start out slow with a few changeover spots between here and Halla. Fresh horses and meals primarily. The only thing I can’t figure out is how to prevent overbooking the coaches. It will be easy at first but as more stops are added the possibility that a coach coming from Haluken could be full and the people in Narva or one of the other hamlets would be unable to travel. I’m still working on it and we’ll figure it out,” Father said.
“Why not use the couriers to report on passengers waiting elsewhere. They make trips both ways so they could tell the coach master that there is a passenger to pick up in Narva or somewhere else. The master would only be able to sell a certain number of seats,” Rilla contributed.
“That’s an excellent idea. If the service becomes popular we can add coaches to any route that warrants the investment,” Father smiled.
Rilla glowed with the praise. It was a very good idea and solved a major issue for Father.
We ate dinner at the newest tavern and it was quite good. After that we made our way to the inn and called it a day. We bathed and then lounged around until bed.
If father had expected Ivy and Bolly to stay in their own bed he was disappointed. He told me they cuddled up with him within an hour. He said it was very nice.
I wasn’t surprised, Father had always struck me as a warm and caring man and capable of showing affection to children without comparing them to others.
It’s no wonder I was so deeply influenced by him. In the morning we started back to Halla. We made a brief stop at the mine so the other boys could see it. When we reached Vola, the road work was in progress. I heard a distinctive noise and knew that Tor had won the contract for the work. It was good news and it would shorten the construction period by months in the long run. The work could only be done before the freeze of winter. The crew halted the machine so we could ride around it without spooking the horses.
When we returned home I reported to Valla that all was going well with all three projects.
She was overjoyed to see me and listened patiently as I told her about each project. We went to her studio presumably so she could show me her painting. It was coming along nicely, but wasn’t finished. Finally, her patience at an end, She drug me up the stairs to our love nest. We spent more than an hour up there. Lady Iris was addressing the Lady’s Equestrian Society at their hall in the city. Servants wouldn’t disturb Valla in her studio unless it was urgent.
“I think that will hold me for now, I have my little friend waxy. I’m on my third one. I make him bigger each time,” She giggled.
If it kept her happy, who was I to object. We ate lunch and took a walk and then I went to my office to read my mail and review possible farmers for the new holdings. I reviewed clansmen and established farmers alike. Some of the established farmers had interesting ideas and wanted to expand and put them to the test. Many clans people wanted to enter the world of farming on a larger scale than the subsistence farms they now occupied. The idea of growing a crop to eat and sell was quite attractive. I believed that it would bring the clans into modern civilization and they would become part of the fabric of the country in a very different way.
Most of the letters were written by half a dozen people on behalf of the actual applicant. I didn’t see why that should be an impediment. Literacy was rare but increasing among the clans and the outlying farmers as well.
I began to toy with the idea of what the village would require. Obviously a primary and secondary school would be needed. The school year would have to make allowances for sowing crops, shearing sheep, lambing and many other critical phases in the farmers year.
A church would be needed and father had already told me I would need to vet candidates for a new Bishop in the county. I wasn’t raised Christian, we followed the old religion of Odin, Freija and Yggdrasil the world tree.
I observed the necessary ceremonies and holidays. They were all held on the old feast days that we observed before the Christians arrived. Many of our old traditions had been incorporated by first the Roman church and then the Lutherans. It helped people make the transition to the various churches that came and went.
The peerage in Denmark followed the Catholics but more and more were converting to Lutheran every year. It was a more natural type of worship and the priests were allowed to marry if they chose. The structure was more modern and women took part in the sacrament.
It was my opinion that if the people wanted a church, they should build one. I would cede as much village land as was needed. The map maker had returned to the valley and was marking off hectares of land. I described the Saami colors and symbols so that he wouldn’t include those lands in the survey. Sixteen seemed so far away a year ago, but now I wished it would take its time arriving.
Birgit was settling in nicely, she was bubbly and kind and Olaf was quite smitten. He even called out her name when we were enjoying each other. Birgit was fifteen and beginning to fill out into a voluptuous woman. That she was nearly two years older didn’t seem to bother Olaf.
Rilla called on Astrid regularly although they were watched very closely. Bolly and Ilsa often met by the sporting pitch where Bolly played Lacrosse. She was an avid fan. Kiva remained on his own, Rudiger lived in Bergen where the ships were. Kiva had friends but I sensed that Rudiger was special. I had hopes that a girl would come along and capture his heart.
In one of the many meetings with Halkar there was a stranger, he was a Provost or senior priest of the Lutheran church. While less invasive and guilt ridden than the roman church it had more rules than I cared for.
Most of the sogneprest or parish priests I had met were at least affable and kind to their parishioners. There were exceptions, but most only wished to help their parish with whatever troubled them. The Bishop of Bergen and the one in Oslo seemed to reject the vow of poverty or at least not advertising wealth. The Coaches of the bishops were more ornate than Halkar’s.
I asked the Provost about the coaches.
“I am not really sure why that came to be the case. I ride a horse except in inclement weather as most pastors do. I think it reflects badly on the spirit of our church. And I think the expense could be better used in some other area. I know a church must have a figure head. For the Romans it’s a pope, for us an archbishop much like the English. Our Archbishop has concerns about the message our bishops are sending when they live in mansions and ride in gilded coaches.
The Archbishop lives quite a simple life and has apartments at the back of the cathedral in Oslo. He has been nibbling away at the power of bishops for a while now. Tithes remain in the parish they come from instead of passing through the bishopric. I’m sure you will be asked to meet him sometime soon. He’s a keen player of dominos,” Pastor Linde shared.
“Should I let him win?” I asked.
“I certainly don’t, he doesn’t need my help and appreciates an honest game.”
“I know very little of the Lutheran church, the Romans dominated the land around Haluken but their grip has been broken. Now the monastery there is actually assisting the town instead of preying on it. Father Michael is a kind man and sees it as his duty to undo some of the actions of the previous abbot and prior. I was raised in the clan tradition, men and women shared the sacrament. Why is it different in Christendom?” I asked.
“First Timothy 2:12 Paul said: I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. Until the council of Nicaea women administered the sacrament. Writings in the apocrypha indicate that Paul had a dislike of Mary Magdalene because she was outspoken and had the saviors ear. His writings all seem to degrade the place of women in society. And any modern man knows women exert authority over them quite well without any help from the church,” Pastor Linde noted.
“That is abundantly clear to any enlightened man,” I agreed.
“What is your position on the practices of the clans regarding religion,” I asked.
We are not the Moors, or Crusaders converting people at the point of a sword. Our aims are not unaligned with the clan practices. Peace, filial love and tranquil living is our primary guideline. There are differing views within our community as there are in the clans. But telling someone that must abandon their gods or burn, is not the way to attract new adherents. I look at it thusly, we see god as a single entity although he is represented as a trinity. Clans see god as divergent individual gods who have different responsibilities, but taken together constitute the same entity as Jehovah or whatever people choose to call him. While not codified in scripture, the clans operate under the same basic tenets and commandments as Christians. There are always those who insist on dwelling on the differences instead of the shared practices. Only time and learning will change that. One is more likely to dig a hole with prayer and a shovel than with prayer alone,” The pastor smiled.
I had to smile at that aphorism.
The Provost took his leave and left Halkar, Father, Emil and myself to talk.
“What was your opinion of that Emil?” Halkar asked.
“I would say that Sir Edrich knows more about the church than the church knows about the clans. I am always impressed by the depths of his knowledge. Do they teach theology in your school Edrich?” Emil asked.
“Yes, I have acquired a basic knowledge of various churches and their structure. Although I still haven’t divined why single Lutheran priests live in something called a presbytery,” I grinned.
“Probably a holdover from when Calvinists held religious power in our land,” Father put in.
“May I see the plat of your village near the mill?” Halkar asked.
I unrolled the plans for the village which so far only included a square, meeting house and other civic buildings.
“Freyanhjem?” Is that what you plan to call it?” Halkar asked.
“It appealed to me but if it’s unpopular with the residents, then it will change,” I replied. “I just needed to call it something for now.”
“I quite like it, I’m sure Freija would be honored to call it home,” Halkar smiled.
I hoped the people would like it too.
We talked about the progress being made on the Haluken road by Tor and his crews.
“I wondered how he could bid so low and work so fast, why did you not tell me of the machine you built?” Halkar asked.
“I suppose I didn’t think you’d be interested in a mundane invention that just packs the earth. I have granted Tor rights to build others and also change the size to fit the job at hand. His rights are not exclusive and I have not applied for a patent,” I said.
“Why not,” Halkar asked.
“Because I simply joined two existing machines together to achieve an end. And the concept should be available to all. It can only benefit the country to have a machine like that for making or repairing roads. It should bring the cost of building roads down. I’m sure other towns could benefit. But now it occurs to me that I should claim patent to it so that no one else does, just to make money. Is there anything like a free use patent for things, that just get designs out to the people?” I asked.
“Yes, and it is an open rights patent, bring a copy of your plans to me and I will have the commissioner of that office review them and he will grant an open rights patent. That will safeguard the design from being seized by some unscrupulous maker for their own profits,” Halkar told me.
I fished out the plans from my portfolio and handed them to Halkar. Halkar asked Emil to summon the commissioner so that he could take the plans and review them and compare them to the list of current patents. Patents were only good for five years and then they became fair game.
“I appear to have inspired the wainwright, he is planning to build a number of portable machines and some of them may be deserving of patents. I see more men working in his yard and another work shop is going up on his land. He has plans to make a machine to sweep the streets and that is to be followed by a large wagon with a huge tank of water which will rinse anything left into the drains. It won’t put anybody out of work because they will be either tending the draft horses, sweeping things away from the kerb or driving the sweepers and street washers. I will encourage him to patent those designs because they are original ideas. He has many ideas of things that could be mounted on wagons. Like a specialized wagon to fight fires. I’ll also have Olaf apply for a patent for his pump. It has many applications beyond mining I’m sure. His prototype is still going strong,” I shared.
“Aren’t you interested in wealth at all?” Halkar asked.
“Based on the payments I’ve received so far from the mine’s activities, I will make in a year more than the most successful farmer will in his lifetime. I know I still have to buy a stately home in Oslo, but I can already do that. The lumber mill will generate revenue and so will the new quarry. Even if I put ninety percent of the profits back into those enterprises for five years, I will be extremely wealthy by the time I’m twenty. How much money does one man need. The money should be put to use in the communities within the county and the country. I have talked to my brothers and we all feel the same. I think endowing schools and training academies might be a very good use for the money that comes from my enterprises. Norway will benefit and so will Denmark. Those are my motives and goals, am I being naïve?” I asked.
It was very quiet for some time, but then Father spoke. “I stand in awe of your spirit of altruism, not many are that generous with what they have earned, they only seek to amass more and more wealth without contemplating why. You make me proud to be your father,” He said.
“I’m only following your example father. I hope your grandchildren will follow it as well,” I told him quietly. I rose and went to my father to hug him around the neck and kiss his cheek.
On the way home father suggested we stop by the wine shop, to sample some new Italian wines.
“This is called a Muscadel and it is made from the Muscat grape. It has a pleasant sweet and fruity taste, with a dry finish and no aftertaste. It is also low in alcohol content which makes it excellent for repeated toasting,” Kolvan the wine merchant explained.
It was nothing like the heavy reds that had knocked me for a loop earlier. It was easy to drink, and had no effect as near as I could tell. It was something I could drink at a party, and not worry about tripping on my own feet later. He also had me try a couple sweet Rieslings which were delicious.
“People will expect you to join them for casual wine drinking, once you are installed as Viscount. This sort of wine will help you cope.
I bought several cases of the Muscadel and The best of the Riesling, arranging to have it delivered.
“Father, I think it’s time to consider an assistant for Edvard and eventually a successor. He hides it well but his back is bothering him when he lifts heavy things. The man could learn more about horses and coaches and do the heavy work for Edvard. The big problem will be getting Edvard to go along with it. But with your diplomatic skills I’m sure you can get him to see that it’s a good idea,” I suggested.
“Thank you for telling me, Edvard has been a loyal man all the time he has been here. He never married, and he is like one of the family. I will look for someone who wishes to learn the trade, and have him take instruction from Edvard,” Father told me as he rubbed my back.