Chapter 3

Up ahead, the town of Xiphos was in view. Its stone walls rose up two stories in height, completely encircling the town proper, which was one and a half kilometers from one side to the other. Four gates – one at each cardinal direction – were the main entrances and exits for the town, and Lo’ranan made his way to the westward one.

As Lo’ranan approached the western gate, he observed the guard sitting against the wall, head back, mouth open, and asleep.

Typical. This is what happens to a town when the leadership can’t stay sober.

As the gate was open, Lo’ranan braced himself for the cacophony of civilization, and passed on through and into Xiphos.

Lo’ranan made his way through the streets of Xiphos to the location of the carpentry guild. Once there, he dismounted from his cart and walked inside.

The front area of the carpentry guild served as a lobby of sorts that played host to a variety of individuals. Lo’ranan strode past carpenters looking at a wall of job postings to find work, various merchants bartering for goods to sell in other markets, and a general morass of individuals, such as two men engaged in an energetic discussion about nails. Lo’ranan didn’t care about the rest, he walked up to the counter at the back of the room where a burly, bald man stood signing papers.

“I have another load,” he told the man, who was chief carpenter, Silvus. “Tell me where to unload it so we can talk payment.”

“Good to see you again!” said Silvus, adding “sir” to Lo’ranan’s chagrin. “As it happens though, we have all of the lumber we can use at the moment.” He nodded towards an open door to the rear courtyard, through which reams and reams of wood was stacked. “You’ve taken good care of us over the last week, but we’ve just had a shipment of timber from Dikaiopolis, the good stuff from the mountains, you understand.”

“You mean to say there’s no one to buy my load?” said Lo’ranan with knitted brow.

“Not necessarily,” Silvus replied. “Tekton!” he called to one of the men discussing nails, who excused himself and strode over to Silvus.

“What do you need of me, master carpenter?” Tekton asked.

Tekton had short hair, with a short, patchy beard that looked like it had been cut last at the same time as his hair. He wore a long-sleeve tunic, despite the warmth of the day, and stood only an inch or so above Lo’ranan.

“Tekton here is a traveling carpenter,” Silvus explained. “He is traveling north – to Hupodein, wasn’t it?”

Tekton nodded.

“He’s out of supplies and was looking to purchase them here,” Silvus continued. “Did you get your nails sorted out, Tekton?”

“Entirely sorted out,” nodded Tekton with a smile. “And you’ve found me a lumber supplier, I take it?” He smiled at Lo’ranan with a warm glow his eyes.

“His delivery is out front. Take a look and pay him, if it’s of the quality you’re after.”

“Thank you, master carpenter,” said Tekton. Then he turned to Lo’ranan and said, “Well young master, lead on.”

Without a word, Lo’ranan turned and walked back towards his cart, stepping into the street with Tekton close behind. Once there, he turned back to Tekton with his arms crossed, and waited while the carpenter examined the cart’s contents.

“That’s a good bit of lumber for one man to have procured himself,” said Tekton warmly. “How long did it take you?”

“Since before the first hour until I brought it here,” replied Lo’ranan. “But the better question is: how much will I get for it?”

Tekton continued walking around the cart, placing his hands on each of the timbers one by one. He flecked the bark with his fingers, and felt each cut Lo’ranan had made.

“I’ll offer you ten coppers for the whole load,” said Tekton at last.

“Ten?” Lo’ranan shot back incredulously, arms coming uncrossed in surprise. “I’ve been receiving at least thirty from the carpenters here for a load like this these past twenty days. Ten is an insult!”

“No insult, son, just business,” replied Tekton, the warm glow having still not left his eyes. “This timber is going on the road north, and I have to pay men to help me haul it. Not only that, but I can’t cut it until I arrive at my destination – as many rains as this area has had, it would twist and warp the boards before I get there. And as you can see,” he gestured to where the wood shipment from Dikaiopolis was still being unloaded and taken around to the back lumber yard, “it will be some time before you’ll be paid here for any lumber at all, much less be able to command that kind of price for it.”

“Fifteen then,” Lo’ranan bargained, desperation creeping into his voice. “Just give me fifteen and the whole load is yours.”

“Ten,” insisted Tekton. “Or I can arrange to cut it myself.”

Lo’ranan was silent for a few moments. Tekton waited patiently.

“Fine,” Lo’ranan said at last. “But only if you pay me the same or more for a similar load tomorrow.”

“That will depend on how similar it is,” said Tekton, offering his hand to Lo’ranan, who shook it begrudgingly, both palms sticking tightly together from the sap of the cut trees. “Give me a few moments to arrange for it to be moved over to one of my carts,” Tekton continued. “I’ll be here again for one more day tomorrow before I set out, and you can bring me the load then.”

“I’ll be here,” said Lo’ranan. He watched as Tekton counted out the money and gave it to him. He pocketed it and strode away to wait in the shade as the lumber was transferred out of his cart and into Tekton’s possession.

I’ll have to return one more time tomorrow after all, he thought bitterly. All the same, it’s only one more day. It will be worth it.

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