Friday, April 27, 2012

Chapter Four - Caernarfon

Gwilym and his family rode with Fred back to Huish. They were all looking forward to this for different reasons. Jac and Llawen wanted to see their first mothers; this is what they called Heilin and Heulwen. Bleddyn wanted to visit his mother’s grave and talk to her. Fred wanted to show off his new-found wealth and writing skills to his family. Gwilym was looking forward to talking in some detail to Father Drew.
Fred drove the cart and discussed the last tower project with Gwilym. He sang the saga of the ‘Project Management Guide’ to Gwilym. He had added verses about the Work Breakdown Structure, Defining Activities and Resourcing Activities to it. Gwilym was impressed.
“You could write that song down now that you know your letters, you know, Fred?”
“I only know t’first letters in each word.”
“You have to preserve your knowledge for others to learn from you. Remember that scroll we found in that jar in the cornerstone. I never listened to the man who knew that story but I could learn it hundreds of years later by reading the scroll. You need to do that for people who follow you.”
Fred looked down and Gwilym could tell by the shade of his ears that the man was blushing.
“Did tha put back t’old scroll, Gwilym?”
“Yes. After I had made a copy.”
“Tha copies every scroll tha comes on don’t tha?”
“Aye, Fred. There is much knowledge to gain in this world. I’d love to read every scroll and book there is.”
“How will tha make this next tower better than t’last one?”
Gwilym thought for a while. “It was good to know all the work we needed to do and it helped a lot to know who would do each activity. But men were still stumbling over each other because they wanted to do two different things at one time. Or they were waiting for someone else to finish their job before they could start their own. We need to know WHEN things will happen, in what order. Also, we need to know how long things will take so that people can work around each other. I think if we know how long each task will take and how they are linked to each other, we can figure out exactly when things have to happen.”
“Tha be right there, Gwilym. Will we try that on t’next tower?”

Bleddyn was busy telling the boys all about Huish, the townsfolk, Heilin and Heulwen, their mother, Father Drew and the first tower. Jac and Llawen were wide-eyed with excitement. “Your nurse-mothers are so beautiful!” he was telling them. “But not as beautiful as your real mother,” he hastily added as he caught Gwilym’s eye.
‘Interesting.’ Gwilym thought to himself on hearing Bleddyn’s words. ‘The boy is growing up.’
Fred, too was paying close attention to Bleddyn’s words. “What think tha of Heilin, Gwilym?”
“She’s a beautiful woman, inside and out,” he stated plainly.
“Why do tha not marry her then?” he inquired.
“I’m not ready to replace their mother,” Gwilym replied to Fred. He then noticed that all of his boys were watching him anxiously, eager for an answer to this question that had always seemed taboo to them. The one question they had always felt compelled not to ask.
“Boys. Listen to me carefully. Your mother was one of a kind. She was more than a wife. She was my best friend. We traveled together. We talked about everything together. She understood my mission in life and sacrificed her happiness to help me achieve it. She was a learned woman who I could go to and discuss my struggles and she understood them and helped me work them out. And she was your mother. She gave so much of herself to you. She taught you your letters, Bleddyn. She would have been so proud of you all. It is her beauty and kindness that you have inside you. Her understanding of others. She misses you every day. And I miss her so much.”
The boys were all crying now. Fred wiped away a tear from his eye. Gwilym tried a brave smile.
“So I keep her in my memory. I talk to her at quiet moments, about you boys, about the job, the quest. And that makes my life tolerable.” Gwilym looked at his crying sons. “But what about you three? Have I been selfish by not providing you with another mother? I cannot replace Kaitlyn but perhaps I could give you a permanent mother to always be there for you. Would you like that?”
Jac and Llawen immediately nodded yes but Bleddyn shook his head and said “No, Da.”
His brothers looked between father and son and cried even harder. Jac said, “I want a mother, Da. Bleddyn already had one but I didn’t.” This broke Gwilym’s heart and he gathered all his boys up in his huge arms and cried aloud.

When they arrived in Huish, they were all excited. They were met by the curious children who were always happy to find and announce strangers on the road and were escorted to the center of town amid this laughing, raucous crowd. They dismounted outside the tavern. The whole town gathered around and Gwilym scanned the crowd. Heilin pushed her way through the mass and swept Jac, then Llawen up into her arms and smothered them with kisses.
“Where is your sister, Heilin?” asked Gwilym.
“Heulwen’s a farmwife now, Gwilym. Married farmer Llyr last spring. Come on you!” she motioned forward a shy three year old girl. “Do you remember Iola, Jac? She was your milk sister. Many times she fought you over my breast but you were always the polite one. Say hello to your milk brother, Iola.”
Iola said a quick hello and then turned and buried her face in her mother’s skirts. Heilin laughed and said, “Oh! Now she decides to be shy, does she?”
“It’s wonderful to see you again Heilin,” Gwilym said. “And have you found yourself a nice farmer to marry also?”
Heilin laughed broadly. “No, no! Marriage is not for me just now. This little one may not look it but she is quite the handful.”
Fred bustled into the group and interrupted. “Would tha join us for dinner, then Heilin? We are all famished and we need to decide what to do and where to live and all. And Gwilym was saying that we needed to know what’s happenin’ in Huish now. Tha could tell us.” He blushed, then looked straight at Heilin.
Heilin smiled prettily and agreed. “Then let’s go to the tavern.”

During dinner, Gwilym found lodgings for the few months he would be in town and inquired after all his old friends. Little had changed apart from many marriages and births. Heilin had arranged that she sat next to Gwilym at the table and she took every opportunity to touch his arm when speaking to him or press her breast against him while reaching past him for something at the table. Fred was sitting on her other side, touching her arm and offering to pass her food. Gwilym smiled inwardly at this and took every opportunity to praise Fred for all the problems he had solved, the leadership he was displaying and the Project Management song he was singing.
“Fred knows his letters now!” Bleddyn exclaimed.
“Really?” asked the surprised Heilin and she gazed on Fred with a new respect.
“Aye!” he replied. “Young Bleddyn has been workin’ with me since we started t’last tower in Londinium. And I even know a lot of words, too. Like this is a T A B E L table. And you’re eating B R E A D, bread. What do tha think of that?”
“It’s wonderful, Fred,” she said and started paying more attention to him.
Gwilym winked at Bleddyn and then asked the smith, “Does Father Drew still preach here?”
“Aye,” replied Haearn. “He’ll be happy to have you back in town. He’s been a little starved for intelligent conversation since you left.”

Father Drew was admiring the collection of scrolls in Bleddyn’s library. “You have put the library I gave you to good use, son.”
“Aye, Father. Would you like to trade some scrolls for copying again? I found some real interesting ones in Airmyn and Londinium.”
“I certainly would. Show me what you have, please.”
Father Drew and Bleddyn bent over the collection for a while and the priest picked one out. “I have a great adventure story in my collection that I have been saving for you, son. I will bring it with me tomorrow.”
Bleddyn smiled, sensed his father wanted to talk with the priest alone, and left the room.
Father Drew turned to Gwilym. “How goes your quest, Gwilym?”
Gwilym blushed momentarily, then laughed and said, “You mean the building of towers? It is hardly a quest, though I’ve been learning a lot about how to do it better. Fred is keeping track of the ideas and Bleddyn is teaching him how to read and write. We plan to write down all our improvements in something called ‘The Project Management Guide’”
“That’s a lovely story, Gwilym but you are concealing from me your true quest. Why is a man who reads better Greek and Latin than I, a man who has traveled to the Holy Land, a man with a huge collection of scrolls, building towers?”
“It’s a living, father. You cannot feed your family on scraps of Greek.”
Father Drew looked long and hard at Gwilym, then released him from his stare. “Let’s resume our talk about the Bible. I have done a lot of studying since we last talked and have a few questions.”
“I’m ready.”
“Which parts of the Bible do you believe are true and which are not?”
Gwilym took a deep breath and prepared his words. “My father came up with three criteria that help you to decide how likely it was that anything in the past actually happened. If something meets all three criteria, it is more likely to be true than if it meets two, one or none of the criteria. I cannot say for sure if it really happened, only that the likelihood is higher.”
“That sounds sensible. What are the criteria, Gwilym?”
“The first is the criterion of multiple attestations. If different people tell the same story, the more believable it is. If one person says it and others copy from that one person, it only counts as one attestation. That’s why my father insisted on separating out the Gospels into the pure sources. When you have done that, you can see if a story is agreed to by Joseph, Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Peter and Thomas. You can sometimes add in Paul’s letters. See the story of the rich young man. It’s in Mark, Matthew and Luke but the other two get it from Mark so that doesn’t count. Let me show you examples”
“Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in all three Matthew, Mark and Luke. So we can assume the other two got it from Mark. But all three also have sayings of John they got from Joseph. Plus there’s an encounter between Jesus and John the Baptist in John. Thus 3 sources attesting to John the Baptist. Mark, Joseph and John.”
“Jesus was crucified during Pontius Pilate. Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, All but Paul say it was during Pilate's reign.”
“Jesus has brothers. Mark, John, and Paul call him James”
“That is a sensible criterion, Gwilym. What is the next one?”
“The next criterion is that of contextual credibility. For instance, if we read that Jesus was jousting around Galilee, it may sound right to the people of this land but we who study the Bible know that there was no jousting 500 years ago in the Holy Land.”
“Similarly, Peter said King Herod executed Jesus. We know the Romans didn't administer Palestine this way. Herod had no such authority.”
 “We also know that Jesus spoke Aramaic and that the Gospels were translated from this into Greek. Therefore, certain sentences that make sense in Greek, don’t in Aramaic so they probably were a later addition”
“Look at John 3. Jesus tells Nicodemus that no-one will see kingdom of heaven unless born again or from above. The Greek word onothen is ambiguous. Nicodemus misunderstands it to mean a 'second time'. Jesus meant 'from above'. But that ambiguity only makes sense in Greek. Since Jesus and Nicodemus would speak Aramaic that whole exchange makes no sense since there is no ambiguity for that word in Aramaic.”
Father Drew’s brow crinkled. “Then how can you prove anything with this criterion?”
“You can’t, Father. You can only disprove things that don’t match the contextual credibility.”
Father Drew nodded and his brow cleared. “I agree with that criterion also, Gwilym. What is the third?”
“The third is the criterion of dissimilarity. If one of your parishioners was accused of stealing a horse from the Earl and you told the Earl that you saw him do it, that would be damning evidence indeed. Because you would be saying something that goes against your best interests. But if you tell the Earl how wonderful your parishioner is, that can only make you look better and he will believe it with a grain of salt. So, when we read the Bible, we look for things that the early Christians say that don’t necessarily help their case. For instance, when they tell us that Jesus was the son of God, it doesn’t match this criterion.”
“Are you trying to tell me you do not believe Jesus was the son of God?!” exclaimed Father Drew.
“That’s not what I was saying, Father. I actually do believe it to be true. I’m simply saying that it doesn’t meet the criterion. Just as your parishioner may indeed be wonderful while you tell the Earl so, it simply doesn’t meet the criterion of dissimilarity.”
“Do you have examples of this?”
“Aye. Jesus being the son of a carpenter didn’t help their case to win early converts. It would have been easier to say He was the son of a rabbi. Same with Him coming from a backwards area like Nazareth. So, those items are probably true. Rising from the dead doesn’t meet this criterion although it does meet the criterion of multiple attestations. So we have to look at each passage and run them through the criteria and see what is likely.”
“That is a powerful criteria. Do you have other examples of where it proves the statement to be true?”
Gwilym shook his head and said, “None of them prove it to be true, they only increase the likelihood. But look here for some examples. Jesus was baptized by John. But according to the story, John is Jesus’ spiritual inferior. Matthew even shows some embarrassment in Him being baptized by John. If the early Christians wanted to make Jesus look better, they would have had Him baptized by God. So that is more likely to be true.”
“Also, there is the crucifixion. That story didn't help convert Jews. No Jews expected a suffering Messiah. He was betrayed by one of his own twelve disciples. No-one would make that up.”

Father Drew was following along with his own Bible and nodded his head.
Gwilym continued. “Look at Matthew 25. Sheep and goats separated by son of man. But the early Christians didn't believe salvation came from good deeds.”

Father Drew looked up at Gwilym. “Have you done this already? Have you decided which parts of the Bible are reliable and which are not?”
“I have, but remember, just because something doesn’t meet a criterion doesn’t make it false and even if it meets all three, that doesn’t make it true, just more likely to be true. Faith is the most important thing.”
“I need to think about this some more, Gwilym.”

Gwilym and his family spent every sunny day wading in the water and building castles and whole cities out of sand. Jac was a boy who could not sit still and ran everywhere, getting into adventures. Llawen was more content to work on his sand cities, filling moats with water, digging tunnels and building bridges.
Both little boys looked to Bleddyn for advice on how to spend the days. Often Bleddyn would set his brothers to work on different jobs while he transcribed a scroll or worked with Fred on spelling words. Llawen would join in on the latter activity and soon he had caught up with Fred and was spelling alongside him. Jac was busy doing somersaults and handstands during the day.
Late into the warm, summer nights, all the boys would gather in the lodgings and listen carefully as Gwilym read stories out of his many scrolls to them.
Gwilym talked one day with Tirion, the midwife, about his suspicions of Tarrant. “I watched him kill a man and I’m convinced now that he was responsible for your daughter’s disappearance. I’m so sorry that he slipped through my fingers. It won’t happen again. When I find him, I’ll bring him to you for justice.”
“If you discover that he killed my daughter,” Tirion choked out. “Find out where he left the body so I can have some comfort. But don’t bring him back in front of me. Rather, kill him yourself. I don’t want to see that bastard.”

One warm, summer day, Gwilym was playing with his sons on the beach when Tegid approached them. Tegid was a 15 year-old lad who was known for almost never talking. When he came close to Gwilym, the latter greeted him and asked. “How do ye fair, Tegid? Enjoying the day?”
Tegid shifted his weight around on his feet, scratched his face and then murmured, “Stranger in town, askin’ about ye.”
“Thank you Tegid. Where might I find him?”
Tegid pointed in the direction of the church.
“Thank you again Tegid. Would you like to stay with my sons and keep an eye out for them while I find him?”
The boy nodded and squatted down next to Gwilym’s sons.
Gwilym instructed his boys to be careful, listen to Tegid’s words and stay out of the water until he returned. Then he set off in the direction of the church to find the stranger.
On his way there, he was stopped by Reese, the old busybody of town. She told him the same story with less reticence. “There’s a man in town asking about ye, Gwilym. I told him I believed I knew where you were and he seemed very interested. But when I offered to take him to you he said a curious thing: ‘That’s all right ma’am, I’ll go to him presently.’ I told him you were at the beach but he set off down the road to Cornwall. That’s him just climbing the rise there.”
Gwilym saw a figure cresting the hill to the south. An uneasy feeling disturbed Gwilym’s stomach. Was this someone from his past? Or some more of Tarrant’s mischief? It did not bode well that the man had left after ascertaining that Gwilym lived here. When the man was out of sight below the hill’s crest, Gwilym took off at a run and followed.
The road became more wooded in the south and it was easy to follow the man without being seen by keeping to the edges of the wood. He knew this road and only came close enough to be seen when the man reached the crossroads and had to choose between the road to Cornwall or Calleva. The stranger looked around but Gwilym had melted into the forest before he was fully facing the right way. Gwilym glimpsed his face during this encounter but did not recognize him. The man continued toward Cornwall.
Gwilym was torn about leaving his children but decided to continue following the man to see what mischief was brewing. He’d rather face it now than have it hanging over his head later. He continued following from the edge of the road for three hours.
The road opened up at this point to a crossroads tavern which the stranger entered. Gwilym increased his pace, watching carefully for other people. The tavern was a low-roofed building with a door in the front. About 20 feet in front of the tavern was a well. There was a horse tied by the well with its sides wet and his head down. A knight-errant was lying, propped up against the wall of the well. His clothing and armor were torn and dented, his face stained with blood and mud. “Good yeoman!” he called to Gwilym as the latter approached. “Pray fetch a drink of water for my horse and me.”
Gwilym raised the bucket and poured some into the pitcher held by the knight and the rest into the horse-trough. Both drank it down at once so Gwilym repeated it with the next bucket, all the while watching the entrance to the tavern. The stranger had not stopped at the knight so he figured that this was a coincidence but his defenses were up as he asked the knight. “How came you by these wounds, Sir Knight?”
“A joust with a worthy opponent. I came across him in a meadow near at hand and salewed him. He raised his spear in challenge and charged toward me at great speed. I turned my good horse and he and I thundered together. His spear burst upon my shield and mine on his and we were both thrown from the saddle. I avoided my horse, dressed my sword and shield and challenged him on foot. We fought for nigh on three hours and gave each other such strokes! The blood stained the earth! Finally I gave him such a buffet on the helmet that he fell to the earth in a swoon. I loosened his helm to take off his head when I saw to my surprise that he was a Saracen! I put my sword to his throat and asked him if he had yet been baptized. He said that he must be worthy of such a sacrament and must win twelve jousts before he allows himself such a boon. I ordered him to go to Caerleon at Pentecost and present himself to the King in my name and do as the king wishes. Ahh! It was a glorious battle!”
Gwilym, meanwhile, was watching the tavern to see that no-one exited and listened with only one ear to the tale of the knight. He had also noticed a vaguely familiar scent on the knight: something spicy that he couldn’t exactly place. It was faint but unmistakably there. What was it?
He never understood this blood-lust of the knights, killing each other when they should be banding together to keep the marauders from Britain’s shores. If the other knight had been baptized, he would have been dead. Yet these two had never met each other before and had no reason to quarrel. They were like wild stags, fighting any other that entered their territory. Why didn’t they start by talking rather than by fighting?
Gwilym excused himself from the knight, thanking him for his story and walked up to the far side wall of the tavern where he found a large crack he could peer through. It took a few minutes before his eyes became accustomed to the dark but then he made out the features of the three men inside. The man behind the bar was known to Gwilym. Another had his back to him but was clearly the man he had been following for three hours. The third was Tarrant.
Just as Gwilym became aware of this enemy, he heard a hammering of hooves coming down the road. He removed his head from the crack. Peeking around the corner of the building, he saw the approach of another knight. How tiresome. He knew what would follow, more salewing and challenges and a joust and another fight on foot and, most likely, another dead knight who could have been protecting this land instead.
As the knight at the well rose wearily, the approaching knight leveled his lance and ran the unarmed knight through. Gwilym was shocked into paralysis. This was not the way he had seen it done. This was murder. The new knight dismounted, tied up his horse and walked into the tavern, not noticing Gwilym on the side wall.
Gwilym ran to the knight’s assistance. His blood covered the ground from a wound in his side. “Why?” were his only words as his face turned grey and his eyes rolled up. Gwilym blanched at the amount of blood, knowing the man was dead. He laid the knight down carefully, closed his eyes and smelled that spice again, stronger this time. What was that smell? Almonds, Cloves, Pepper?
He walked back and resumed his post at the crack. The knight was talking with wild gestures to the other two. Gwilym overheard: “Huish? Which way and how far?” and he recognized the voice. All was confirmed when the knight left the table and exposed his face. Palomides! His enemy from childhood. The knight strode out, swung up on his horse and galloped off towards Huish. The color drained out of Gwilym’s face when he realized what would happen if Palomides reached Huish. He ran after him at full speed.
After a few hundred yards, Gwilym saw how fast the galloping horse was outstripping him so he turned back to the dead knight’s warhorse. Standing in front of the horse he pulled the bridle to his face and pleaded to it. “I’ve never been much of a horseman but I need you now. Take me to the murderer of your master and I’ll reward you well.”
He moved to the side of the horse but it turned to avoid Gwilym. He made a grab for the reins and used his strength to hold on to the side. The horse stopped turning and snapped at Gwilym, barely missing his face. He placed his left foot in the stirrup but, as he tried to rise and swing his right leg over, the horse spun again, flipping Gwilym off the other side. Weeping with frustration and anxiety, Gwilym leapt upon the horse’s back, holding tight to his mane and swinging his feet to gain purchase in the stirrups. The horse reared and whinnied, then stomped its front feet while bucking his rear legs, flipping Gwilym over his head and landing him on his back with a whoosh of breath.
Defeated, he started running again for town as soon as he had regained his breath. He heard jeering behind him, glanced back and noticed Tarrant standing in the door of the tavern, shaking his fist.

Gwilym was 10 miles from town, running after a galloping horse. He knew that his old enemy would beat him there by at least an hour. He whispered fervent prayers to God and sent out thought messages to the townsfolk, Father Drew and even Merlin and Grainne to protect his children. And he ran. He ran through the stitch in his side, through the shortness of breath, through the pain in his muscles. He ran to protect his children from this monster. And every so often, he caught that almond & clove scent. Palomides always coated his skin in almond oil and chewed cloves. He hadn’t smelled that for over twenty years but he remembered the smell of Palomides.
The first time he had met Palomides he had been about Bleddyn’s age and traveling with his father, Willem. Thinking of Bleddyn in the clutches of this old sodomite spurred him on to run even faster. For Palomides liked little boys, especially when they were in his power. Why had Palomides come here and was he still seeking him? It appeared so. A stranger had come into town asking about him but had not gone to Gwilym, instead he left town and met with Tarrant. Then the two of them talked to Palomides who had mentioned Huish, asked how far away and had galloped off in that direction.
What Palomides wanted was clear. To keep his mind off the pain of this run, Gwilym remembered everything about his dealings with Palomides and his family.

His father had gone to Mecca to follow up a new theory in his pursuit of the Gospel of Joseph. The thread he was following was that Jesus had started off his quest for knowledge by joining a caravan that plied its trade to the east. Joseph found out about this and decided to follow his nephew. This led him to Mecca, one of the major caravan stops in Jesus’ time. 
According to the story Gwilym’s father was pursuing, Joseph had left his Gospel in safekeeping with the head man of this trading company. The descendent of this family was Palomides father, Escalbor. Gwilym’s father entered into energetic conversations with this headman and explained his quest. Meanwhile, the twelve year old Gwilym spent time with eight year old Palomides, the sheik’s oldest son. The younger boy worshipped Gwilym. During the days they spent together, Palomides had followed Gwilym everywhere, marveling in the stories and languages and experiences of the older and taller boy. But there was something that the boy ate that stayed on his breath, making him repellent at the close quarters the younger boy always sought.
Gwilym spoke with his father at night who excitedly told his son how close he was to achieving his dream. Willem was convinced that the headman did possess the lost Gospel but he wanted to exchange something of value for it. The sheik worshipped one of the 360 local gods in the Kaaba called El Ah and he wanted to elevate the status of this god to the status of Willem’s God. He hoped that this would elevate his own status from being one of many headmen to becoming the supreme ruler of this city. He told Willem that the line he was pursuing could be ‘bent a little’ to accommodate this.
Gwilym remembered the last conversation he had with his father.
“We shall have to leave our quest and this city tomorrow,” said Willem.
“But father,” asked Gwilym. “I thought the sheik had the Gospel.”
“He has the Gospel. He showed me a few pages of it. But this sheik is not a good man. He wants to use it for evil. He wants me to bend the words of Jesus to suit his purposes. He wants to promote this El Ah as the creator god and make a new religion centered here. He even threatened to take my book from me and use it himself.”
“Why don’t you do it father? You could have the thing you always wanted.”
“No son. This man has the worst ideas of his people. He wants to create this religion to raise armies and crush others. He wants to control women, codify multiple wives, give himself power to set the laws and sentence people to be stoned to death. He is an evil man.”
“Father. We should go now. If he takes your book, he might kill you. You’ve seen how ruthless these tribes are. And he is powerful here.”
“No son. He needs me to promote his religion so he won’t kill me.”
“But when you refuse? Won’t he get angry? It isn’t safe here. We must leave while we can. Let’s climb out the window now and escape.”
Willem had refused. He hid his book as usual, then lay down next to his son and stroked the boy’s cheek to calm his fears. Gwilym had remained awake and watchful to protect his na├»ve father. But sometime during the night he must have fallen asleep. He woke to an empty bed and a commotion outside the window.
Looking out into the shady courtyard he saw his father’s arms held by two of the sheik’s strong men while the sheik himself raged at Willem. He menaced Willem with a huge scimitar and screamed. “One last chance, fool! Work with me or die!”
The breath in Gwilym’s lungs froze as he watched his father pronounce his own death sentence. “I will never help you achieve power, savage!”
The early morning sun flashed off the scimitar as it arced through the air at his father. At first Gwilym was relieved to see that nothing happened. His father seemed untouched! But then, one of the men holding Willem’s arms grasped his father’s hair and pulled his severed head off his shoulders, releasing a spout of blood from his neck.
The sheik turned to the window out of which Gwilym was staring and ordered his men. “Get the boy and the book.”
In the shock of this terrible moment, Gwilym had focused on three things: His father was dead and he could not bring him back; the book was well-hidden and the sheik would not be likely to find it unless he destroyed this entire room; if Gwilym stopped to retrieve the book now he would surely die.
Gwilym leapt out the door and ran down the corridor to the front door. He didn’t stop running until he was deep in the bazaar, on one of the quiet back streets away from the people, his breath ragged and his lungs bursting. Just as he was now as he reached the crossroads that indicated that he was halfway back to Huish.

Gwilym was stumbling and blind from lack of air so he stopped for a few minutes, with hands on his knees, pulling air into his bursting lungs. He willed his body to obey the strident orders of his mind: Get to Huish and protect his sons. As soon as the oxygen returned to his leg muscles, he set off again toward Huish.

Once again, he remembered Mecca, his bewilderment at his predicament: Twelve years old and alone in the Meccan bazaar. He knew the language and customs of this place and knew that, as a headman, Escalbor had power in this town to hunt him down and kill him. His light coloring and height made him stick out, even in this trading town, so he must escape now. But leaving town meant either walking through the desert to the next town or joining a camel train. Both would be expected and he would be easily discovered by the sheik’s men. No. He needed to hide in the bazaar somehow, but not with any of the people that the sheik knew. He had to find someone right now who could protect him yet owed no allegiance to this sheik. He wished he knew enough about the local politics to know which clans hated Escalbor’s people.
Just then he saw the fringed garment and side-locks of an observant Jew crossing an alley nearby. Of course! Here was his chance. He ran after the man and followed him into the building. It was the back room of a trading establishment that bought goods from the caravans and sold them to local Meccans.
The man turned around and looked with surprise at Gwilym. “What do you seek, young man?” he asked.
“Sanctuary, Rabbi,” begged Gwilym and he told the man he was being hunted by Escalbor’s men.
The Jew looked frightened and ran to the doors to see if Gwilym had been seen entering his house. Seeing the vacant streets immediately to the rear of his store he became calm and listened to Gwilym’s story.
He introduced himself as Shebna ben Eliud and he promised Gwilym protection if he would stay inside and not make himself known to anyone else. Gwilym promised. Then the enormity of what had happened this morning hit him: his father murdered, himself hunted, his life and this Shebna’s life being in danger and he ran to the corner of the room and threw up. He burst into tears at the shame of defiling this savior’s house. Then he felt a comforting arm around him, a damp cloth on his face, wiping away his tears and vomit and he was led into a back room by the man’s wife. The woman sat Gwilym on a stool by the table.
The man explained the situation to his wife in Hebrew, not guessing that Gwilym could understand their tongue. “The boy’s father was murdered by Escalbor. He was that crazy Christian who asked about Joseph a few weeks back. We need to protect the boy until we can get him safely out of here.”
The wife nodded and turned to the stove where she produced some soup, ladled it into a bowl and sat in front of Gwilym, spoon-feeding him like a baby, murmuring calming words. Before long Gwilym grew tired and was taken upstairs to sleep.
He stayed with this family for three months, never letting on that he spoke Hebrew for fear of embarrassing them that he had understood their first words. He helped out in the back room, organizing their stores and learning the inventory system. He learned about the camel trade routes from China to Constantinople and Cairo. The two talked about their trades with merchants and customers and Gwilym learned all about how to negotiate the best deal. “Remember, Gwilym,” Shebna had told him, “The most money you make per hour are the last few shekels you add to a deal at the very end.”
In the evenings he talked with the couple and learned their story. They had been married for forty years and their children had long since moved away. Their oldest son lived in Jerusalem and was one of their trading partners. They were part of a small Jewish community in Mecca who were at the mercy of the whims of the sheiks and their families. The community had lent money to the man for some of his expeditions and he owed them but they knew that Escalbor’s father had once cancelled the debt and killed many Jews who objected. It was a tense relationship.
“Why did you protect me?” asked Gwilym of the man one day.
“Our people have been oppressed by others for most of our history and often have received sanctuary from the unlikeliest sources. This is our way of paying back past kindnesses.”
After three months, Shebna told Gwilym that he would be transporting him, along with a shipment of slaves to his son in Jerusalem. This motley group of various races was pulled from many countries to the south and east and was being brought to the slave market in Cairo. Shebna blackened Gwilym’s face and hair, told him to act mute and to trust the caravan leader. In this way Gwilym left town and was set free in Jerusalem.

Gwilym’s legs were turning to lead from the long run and the lack of oxygen. Again he was forced to rest, holding his exhausted hands behind his head to pull air into his lungs. He knew that Palomides must have reached the village by now and he was miles away, unable to protect his sons. He stumbled to his knees crying, “God help me! Somebody help me! Protect my boys!”
He struggled back to his feet, tears streaming and ran on through the pain, remembering.

Four years after he escaped Mecca, Gwilym snuck back in to retrieve his father’s book. At sixteen he was taller than most adults and his years of hard work had made him a strong and independent man. He watched the sheik’s family compound until it appeared safe and then broke in. Sneaking through the house, he made his way to the room he had shared with his father four years prior.
He moved to the fireplace and shoved the wood to one corner, then brushed away the ashes. With his knife, he worked at the dust between one stone and the others until he had pried it up. Still hidden underneath was his father’s book, wrapped in protective leather. Gwilym filled the hole with ashes and replaced the stone, covering it up again with ashes, then the firewood, just the way his father had taught him. As he walked out of the room he bumped into Palomides.
Palomides was now a twelve year old young man, well through puberty. “Welcome back, my old friend. Have you come to see me?” asked Palomides. His eyes swept up and down over Gwilym, making him uncomfortable. As a lone boy in Jerusalem, Gwilym had been forced to fend off sexual predators and recognized the lustful look on Palomides’ face. His mind raced. The outside door was twenty feet away and he could force his way past Palomides and escape, but he may not be so lucky escaping Mecca this time as last. The family who had harbored him last time had moved to Jerusalem. Better to bargain with Palomides and escape using words rather than force.
“Yes,” replied Gwilym. “Your father still wants me dead so I can’t stay long but I wanted to say hello to you while I was visiting your town.”
“Well, give me a kiss then, Gwilym.”
Gwilym clapped his arm around the younger boy’s shoulders and kissed his cheek twice, in the Arab style. Palomides grasped Gwilym’s face and kissed his lips, hard. The almond smell gave way to an unpleasant clove taste on his lips. Gwilym pulled away, wiped his mouth and protested, “Not like that, Palomides!”
A cruel smile crossed Palomides’ face and he replied, “You sneak into my house, assuredly to steal our gold and you have the nerve to refuse my kisses. Perhaps I should shout for my father instead.”
Gwilym’s mind raced through his options. Force past the boy, kill the boy, kiss the boy. None of these options seemed palatable. The last one was nauseating, seeing the look of triumph in Palomides face as he sensed that Gwilym was in his power. But there was something in the words of Palomides that gave him a hint. ‘Perhaps.’ Why hadn’t Palomides called his father immediately? Because he wanted to force himself on Gwilym while he held the power. But if his father were here, Gwilym would be killed. And yet…
“Yes. Let’s call your father and tell him how would like to kiss me.”
Fear replaced triumph on Palomides’ face.
“Or should we keep that kiss of yours our little secret?” said Gwilym and he shouldered past the scared boy and walked out into the street. He left town on a caravan to Damascus.

Racing through the outskirts of Huish, Gwilym grew fearful. Townsfolk were wandering around in a daze. A villager saw him and told him to hide, “There is an angry knight looking for tha, Gwilym!”
“Where are my boys?” Gwilym demanded of the townsfolk as he ran to the beach. He ran past a knot of villagers gathered around a decapitated old man. Reaching the sand, he soon saw the tracks of Palomides’ warhorse making their way along the beach to where he had left his children. He saw the tracks mixing with the destroyed sand-castles and tracks of the bare feet of his boys and another set. Tegid’s? Running in the sand was laborious; he felt like he was being dragged down into it.
Sick with fear, he followed the tracks into the woods south of town. In the distance he could hear a horse stomping around. At each glade he was gratified at not seeing the bodies of his sons. After entering one thicket and making his way around the trunk of a huge oak, he was shocked out of his skin by having his arm grabbed.
He turned around and saw Bleddyn was holding tight to his arm. His boys huddled between a pair of tree trunks with Grainne. He hugged them, assured himself that they were all unharmed and tried to pull them towards town and safety.
Grainne looked at him and with a wry smile said, “We are much safer here. Let’s wait until the knight is further into the woods before we leave.”
“That knight is dangerous. He could come back at any time and we are standing here in the open like a group of frightened partridges.”
“Are you so sure we are in the open, Gwilym? Why don’t you step back and see for yourself?”
Incredulous at her calm, Gwilym released his children’s hands and walked back two steps, watching his family smiling at him. In the near distance he still heard Palomides’ horse, crashing through the undergrowth.  One more step back and his family disappeared, replaced by the huge trunk of the old oak he had run around before he was grabbed by Bleddyn. A step forward and they re-appeared, standing in between two smaller oaks. Blood rushed to his head and chills trickled down his spine as the magic became apparent.
He heard a snort and jumped back to the side of his children as the knight crashed back into the clearing and stood looking in their direction. Then he blundered off into another part of the woods. They huddled together until the sounds of the knight lessened as he moved deeper into the forest.
“What happened?” asked Gwilym of his sons.
“We were playing with Tegid and then Miss Grainne came,” replied Bleddyn.  “She told Tegid to go back to town and took us into the woods. She said we were in danger. I didn’t believe her at first but then I remembered what she did for your leg and for Ma and then I saw the knight coming, so we ran. The knight was right behind us as we ran into the forest and then Miss Grainne pulled us here and said some words and the knight ran past us. I was surprised like you, Da, when I saw the spell."
“Thank you Grainne! I prayed you would hear me. How did you know to come?”
“I was on my way to visit you, as I had promised in Londinium. As I neared the village I received your sending and came to protect your children.”
“My sending?” inquired Gwilym.
“I saw the vision you sent me of your children playing on the beach and the knight coming to threaten them. I ran to the beach and brought your children to the safety of the oak grove.”
Gwilym’s brow furrowed as he took in these facts. He had somehow communicated a vision to Grainne who had cast a protection spell in this forest and saved his children. He had seen magic surrounding Grainne and it made him uncomfortable while thrilling him inside.While grateful for the benefits, he struggled to reconcile it with his religious beliefs.
“Why does that knight pursue you, Gwilym?” she asked.
“He has followed me for many years. I have a book that he wants for his own evil purposes. It may have to do with the prophesy I told you about this spring. He chased me out of many cities in the east: Damascus, Tyre, Cairo and Jerusalem. I have watched the way he treats men and boys who are in his power. He likes to cause pain. I thought I had lost him when I left Jerusalem eleven years ago, but he has found me here. Tarrant is mixed up with him and I know that man does not wish me well.”
Eventually the sounds of the knight faded away as he blundered off into the thickest part of the forest. Grainne waved her arms about with a purpose and Gwilym felt the breeze blowing through the woods again. He hadn’t noticed until then that the protection spell had kept even the wind from their hiding place.
“We must run before he returns!” whispered Gwilym.
"That knight will be lost for a week in those woods. I have taken care of that,” said Grainne.

Re-entering Huish, Gwilym apologized to every resident he saw for bringing this disaster upon them. He joined the townsfolk at the body of the old man and heard the story. Palomides had heard nothing from the townsfolk where Gwilym was so he had held the man’s daughter at sword-point, threatening to kill her if the man didn’t reveal the secret. After the old man had told him that Gwilym’s family was at the beach, the knight had cut off the man’s head and galloped to the beach.
Gwilym saw the look of distrust returning to the townsfolk’s faces when they talked with him. It was the same look he had seen many times when entering a new place and he accepted with sorrow that this town was no longer home for him. He told the townsfolk he was leaving and that they needn’t worry about betraying him.
“Tell anyone who asks that I have gone to Londinium,” he said as he brought his family to his house to pack up. Grainne gave him the box of river jade from Merlin. “This is for your next tower,” she said.
The boys hugged her. Gwilym shook her hand and then pulled her into a hug. “I can never thank you enough for my children’s safety. I was helpless and you did for them what I could not, even if I had been there.”
Grainne winked at Gwilym and said, “I’ll see you at Beltane,” and walked off towards Avalon.
The next morning, as they packed the last of their belongings in the cart, Father Drew arrived to say his farewells. “I have been moved to Glastonbury, Gwilym. I start there next month. If you need any information from here, use me as a go-between.”
“Is it a promotion, father?”
“It is more than that, Gwilym. I have been granted my wish to serve under some of the older priests who follow the original British church: the men who are rumored to resist the influence of Rome over Christianity. Perhaps I can find out more about this Gospel of Joseph for you there.”
“God be with you, Father.”
“And you too, son.” The priest took his leave.
Just then, Fred stepped up with his belongings on his back
“Fred!” exclaimed Gwilym. “I’m not going off to a job site. I’m leaving for parts unknown, with three children and no job. You can’t come with me.”
“Of course I’m comin’ with you. We still have towers to build. I still have words to learn. You still don’t know how to handle a horse. Shove over and give me t’reins.”
“But Fred, what about Heilin? I thought you two were getting serious.”
“Oh we’re serious all right. But a married man needs work and I believe I’ll find it easier with tha than here in Huish. I’ve said my goodbyes and I can visit when I have money for a wedding. So, which way do we ride?”
Gwilym looked shocked but happy. “We take the road to Londinium. At least until we are out of town.”
They took the road south and then east toward Calleva. At those cross-roads, Fred steered the cart north toward Corinium at Gwilym’s instructions. “We must travel to Caerleon to ask of Sir Kay where our next project will be.”
Fred’s eyes grew wide with this prospect.

After two nights on the road, the group lodged their cart, horses and belongings at the same inn they had stayed in last time and made their way through the castle gates to the office of the seneschal. Sir Kay was not there but they met with his squire who told them: “Sir Kay is in the great hall. I will ask him if you can interrupt.”
The boy returned a few minutes later and asked them to follow him. “You can leave the little ones with me.”
“Not on your life, son,” said Gwilym, much to the delight of Jac and Llawen.
On entering the great hall they saw a huge, round table dominating the room. It was so big that the sides touched two of the walls of the room. Bleddyn stifled a laugh as he saw a knight seated within this enclosed arc climb on a bench, then over the table and off again to get out.
Servants were operating within the center of this table. Gwilym had heard rumors of this round table and had assumed that the top was one big circle, not a pair of circumferences that allowed people to stand in the middle. This was convenient for serving, but he wondered how the servants reached the central area from the kitchens. Climbed over it, he suspected. Clearly this table was not made for this room.
The atmosphere of the great hall had changed from the last time he entered. Rather than a squalling cave of men and dogs, it possessed the relative calm of a church at Christmas Mass. There were no dogs and no wrestling men, those eating were doing so with forced gentility and sounds of quiet conversation were all one heard. The bare walls had been hung with tapestries and banners to brighten the space and four large candelabra hung over the table, illuminating everything.
There was no head of this round table, but the most favorable seats, closest to the fire and easiest to access, seemed to be occupied by the head party. King Arthur sat there, and next to him was seated what could only be his wife, Gwenevere: a frail beauty with golden hair and pale white skin. Next to her sat Launcelot, one of the few in the room to notice the family’s approach. Surrounding this group were many knights, some of whom Gwilym remembered from his last visit. Sir Gawain was on Arthur’s right, and next to him was Sir Kay.
“Our master mason has returned!” exclaimed Launcelot with a broad smile. “Welcome to the new Caerleon. A land smiled upon by the beauty of its queen, the lady Gwenevere.” At this he stood and bowed to the queen who blushed and then looked back at her husband, then at Gwilym.
Gwilym was shocked at this flirtation being expressed right in front of the king and wondered if Launcelot was already well into his cups this early in the day. But King Arthur gave Gwilym a blithe smile and also wished him welcome.
“And how is my master puzzle-maker, Bleddyn, this day? I must show you how fast I can build that tower you gave me on your last visit.” The king stood and shook the boy’s hand. He then looked shocked at the twins and asked Bleddyn “Who are these strong young squires by your side?”
Bleddyn struggled to speak through the stretched lips of his smile as he introduced Jac and Llawen to the king. King Arthur made them feel welcome by asking a large servant to bring them sweetmeats and showing them the great hall. “As you can see, this hall is too small for the wedding gift my wife’s father gave me. So we are building a new castle close to where you live in Huish. It will be big enough to hold this table and have room to move around it.” Gwilym was impressed with the ease at which the king could make his guests feel welcome.
When he introduced the boys to Gwenevere, Gwilym noticed something disconcerting. While the queen doted on the boys as most women did and the rest of the knights watched the tableau with indulgence, Launcelot used the opportunity to stare hungrily at the queen. A servant approached the queen and the two spoke. He looked at the family and then walked off into the back rooms.
After indulging the boys, the king turned to Gwilym and said, “Welcome back, Gwilym. I have been hearing good reports of your works. Sir Kay thinks highly of you. Is this your foreman?”
Gwilym introduced Fred who shook the king’s hand. “I couldn’t complete the works without him.” Fred blushed crimson and tried to stammer out his thanks.
Gwilym covered up his friend’s embarrassment by asking about the new castle. “Have you picked your master mason for your new castle yet?”
King Arthur laughed. “Ever the ambitious builder! I did ask Kay about using you for this job but he told me he had more important plans for you.”
Sir Kay had approached at this question. “Gwilym, I have an important watch-tower planned for you to watch for Irish marauders. I had planned to send for you this week so I thank you for saving me the time.”
The king noticed the deflation in Gwilym’s body at this news and sought to console the man. “These watchtowers are the most important buildings you can create for Britain. They protect the entire country. Why are you disappointed?”
Gwilym composed himself. “As a young lad, wandering around in the great cities of the east, seeing the majestic temples and cathedrals and palaces, I dreamed that one day I would add my creation to that list. A place that would inspire some other young boy to become a builder. No one looks in wonder at a watch-tower.”
Sir Kay placed his hand on Gwilym’s shoulder and looked him in the eye. Gwilym felt another hand on his other shoulder and one on his back. As he glanced around he saw that King Arthur and Launcelot were touching him in what seemed almost like a benediction.
Kay spoke. “The towers that you build are protecting Britain not only from the Saxons but from all future enemies. Although little boys may not be awed by them, little boys will be alive because of them and will be able to look at other buildings to inspire them.”
Gwilym felt warmth spread through him from the three hands. He felt like weeping but controlled himself. It was not from sadness but the raw emotion emanating from the three knights.

King Arthur broke the silence. “Three more towers and we’ll let you work on something more to your tastes, all right?”
As Gwilym turned to meet the king’s gaze he caught a glimpse of Kay giving a slight shake of his head at the king.
“Have you a charter for the new tower, Sir Kay?”
“I’ll bring it to you in a moment. Why don’t you join your sons eating? These chairs over here will be unoccupied today.”
The family moved with Fred to the empty chairs and sat down. The boys were wolfing down a plate of sweetmeats which they had been given by the large servant. Llawen turned to the man and said, “Thank you very much, Beaumains.” This comment elicited raucous laughter from the surrounding knights.
Gwilym whispered to Fred. “If you want to work on the royal castle I think I can get you appointed to the work.”
“No Gwilym! I stay with tha. Tha are my teacher and my job is to pr…to learn from tha.”
Gwilym was about to ask what Fred was first going to say but the man looked up as a servant brought them steaming plates of food. As the men tucked into their food, King Arthur asked for an accounting of Tarrant. Gwilym told him all he knew.
“I knew not to trust that man when I first met him two years ago. My seneschal didn’t believe me and allowed him to steal from the kingdom.” Kay looked abashed.
Launcelot spoke up. “This knight, Palomides sounds like an untrue knight. Did he indeed lance an unarmed knight standing on the ground? That is not at all chivalrous!”
“He did sir. And he threatened a girl in town, beheaded an old man and chased my children into the woods. I think he would have killed them if they had not escaped.”
King Arthur looked concerned. “What did you do to displease this knight? It is unusual for them to bother with yeomen.”
“His father killed my father to steal his treasure. I escaped with it and now Palomides wants to steal it from me.”
“Most unusual. What is this treasure?”
“It is a religious book that my father created. Palomides wants to put it to evil purposes.”
“I will speak to this knight and teach him British manners. Lance, can you bring him to me?”
“That would be my pleasure, my lord,” replied Launcelot. He kissed the queen’s hand, looked long into her eyes and took his leave from the room.
Sir Kay arrived with the charter for the new tower. It was to be built at Caernarfon northwest of Caerleon to watch the Irish Sea. “It must be complete by Beltane so stay on top of the schedule. I know we are starting late but I believe you can catch up. You are building the tower on the grounds of the local king, Arthfael. He will provide you with the laborers. All the materials should be on site.”
At the name of Arthfael, Gwenevere looked up and met Gwilym’s eye. When Kay was finished showing Gwilym the charter, he looked back at the queen who raised her cup to him and wished him Godspeed. “Have you any advice for me on this quest, my queen?”
“Take care around Arthfael, Gwilym. His son is even more of a pig than his name Arthog would suggest. Perhaps it should be pronounced Art Hog instead.”
King Arthur looked both amused and curious. “Have you had dealings with this family, my love?”
“My father once considered a match for me there. They trade in horses also. The son is a swine.”
“I take fair warning from you, my lady. Thank you.”
At this point servants approached the king and queen with packages that they inspected. King Arthur stood and walked around to the family who stood at
his approach. The king opened a cloth and placed the wooden puzzle on the table that Bleddyn had given the king on his last visit here. He asked Bleddyn and his brothers to count while he built it. With dexterous fingers, the king built the log tower. The boys had reached 65 by the time he had finished.
“This has become one of my finer possessions. I thank you for it. I have a gift for you to repay your kindness.” He hefted a large cloth-covered object on the table. Bleddyn unwrapped the cloth. Inside he found an intricately inlaid wooden box with a swinging lid and drawers with brass knobs. On opening the lid and the drawers he found a complete set of files, chisels, planes, drills, hammers, screwdrivers and clamps, all with their own place in the box.
Bleddyn’s mouth dropped open on examining these fine tools. Then he took a step forward and hugged the surprised king. “You’re welcome, son. Enjoy them.”
Gwenevere was standing next to the king at this point, her eyes misting up. She held two cloth-wrapped packages in her hands and gave one each to Llawen and Jac. The wide-eyed boys thanked her and opened the packages.
Inside Jac’s package he found a tin set of knight’s armor that matched Sir Launcelot’s suit. The metal was thin so it didn’t weigh much. There was even a tin sword with scabbard. He threw the armor on and buckled his sword. Then, much to the delight of the knights spread around the room, he challenged them, one at a time, to fight with him.
Llawen, meanwhile, had opened his package to reveal a miniature set of bishop’s regalia with an alb, cassock, stole, miter, rosary beads, crozier and a bible. Llawen pulled on the alb and belt, placed the beads within the belt, donned the finely embroidered cassock, stole, and miter, picked up the crozier and walked around the room blessing the knights being challenged by Jac. The room erupted into laughter.
“Thank you my lord and lady! You are too generous,” said Gwilym to Arthur and Gwenevere.
The king smiled and replied that it was nothing.
After making their circuit of the room, the boys showed their treasures to their father and Fred. They were all well-made and must be worth a great deal of money. Gwilym was confused by the generosity. The king already had the children’s and his undying loyalty through his attention. Why provide expensive gifts? He shrugged, figuring that this too would become known at the right time.
All in the room had finished eating and the servants were removing the plates. Gwilym took the opportunity to say his farewells to the royal couple and Sir Kay, promising them that the next watchtower would be a great success.
On leaving the castle, Bleddyn struggled under the weight of his gift but would not allow anyone to help him. Fred was ebullient. “We have a great king! What a nice man and so generous! And the queen is so beautiful. Have tha ever seen a woman that looks so much like a swan. So regal and fragile and white!”
Gwilym smiled. “She is beautiful. And he is all that you describe. I wish I had the ability to inspire my men the way he does. It would make my life a lot easier.”
They spent the rest of the day in Caerleon, showing Fred and the twins the royal stables and the jousting grounds where some knights were practicing.

Five days later, after slogging through  a steady rain that turned the roads to mud, the sky cleared and they saw the town of Caernarfon from the hills above. It seemed a prosperous settlement, lying next to a walled castle on the banks of two rivers: the Afon Seiont and the much larger Afon Menai. The town was about ten miles inland from the Irish Sea. In fields bearing many shades of green leading down to the river were more horses than they could count. Jac asked, “Are these horses for the knights at Caerleon?”
“I believe they are, son,” Gwilym replied. “Here dwell some of the leading horse breeders of the kingdom.”
They crossed the swollen river at the ford at the bottom of the hill. The horse snorted and protested at the water pulling it downstream but Fred steered the cart expertly over the rocks to the other side. It was almost supper time so they found a clean inn bearing the sign of a rearing stallion and lodged there for the night. After unloading the cart in the sleeping hall and drying off and stabling the horse, the famished family entered the main room to eat their meal. Every head in the room turned at their approach. The bright, clean room was packed with men holding mugs of beer but a large table and five stools were left open for them. The family sat down with contented sighs. The landlord approached with a pitcher of ale in one hand and five mugs in the other.
“The locals were kind enough to leave you a seat, sirs, since you are travelers. We’re all curious as to your business.” He poured out the ale.
“Thank you sir,” Gwilym replied. He stood, raised his mug to the room and said. “Thank you all for your courtesy. My name is Gwilym and this is Fred. We come to take charge of the tower being built here. Accompanying me are my three sons, Bleddyn, Llawen and Jac.”
The landlord left to get their dinners while the locals gathered around Gwilym and Fred.
“When do you start the tower?”
“Tomorrow,” replied Gwilym
“When does the king need it done?”
“By Beltane.”
“That’s impossible. We don’t even know what it is supposed to look like.”
“I have a royal charter that explains the details.” Gwilym showed this off to the newly impressed locals.
“That’s all in general terms. What exactly do you build?”
Gwilym pulled out his project plan from the tower at Airmyn. “First we must know what we need for this tower.”
“But that’s it, we don’t know what you need.”
“Tomorrow we’ll figure that out and write it all down in a document like this.” He showed them the Airmyn Requirements document.
Another man started arguing. “A tower takes more than just piling stones on top of each other. There is a lot of work that goes into it.”
“I agree. Look at all the work that went into my tower at Airmyn.” Gwilym showed them the scope document.
“See how complicated it is. How do you remember all the little things to must be done?”
Gwilym pulled out the Work Breakdown Structure for his last tower. “By all working together to create a drawing like this.”
The locals looked at this until one objected, “There’s too much to do. Everybody will be getting in each other’s way. Who does what?” The other locals cheered this objection.
Gwilym showed them the colored names next to each activity. “See these inscriptions. Each stands for a man on my team. They have each taken responsibility for some of the activities so they know who does what. Now, who among you is part of my team for this project?”
The locals all grumbled and shuffled back to their tables. In groups and pairs, they finished off their drinks and left the room until only the travelers remained. As the last pair left, Gwilym noticed Fred mimicking firing arrows at their backs. Bleddyn and his brothers were laughing at Fred’s antics.
“They had a lot of questions didn’t they? They seemed upset that I had the answers. Who were they? And what are you doing, Fred?”
“It were like tha were shootin’ down their questions wi’ poison arrows, Gwilym. Did you see their faces? They were used to people not knowin’ answers to their clever questions but you shot them all down wi’ what we burned in at Airmyn. Good thing tha kept t’papers wi’ tha.”
The landlord returned with a tray loaded with their dinners and seemed nonplussed at his almost empty room. “Sorry about driving off your customers, sir. I didn’t expect them to be upset at answering their questions.”
“Never mind, good sir. They are horse breeders. They think they know everything and always predict doom and gloom for anyone else. They hate to find someone with answers. They’ll be back tomorrow drinking harder than ever. If I could suggest a more…family friendly inn for your stay, I recommend the Weary Pilgrim further down the hill. It is closer to the tower site and is run by my sister. She can take care of the wee ones during the day.”
"Thank you sir. Can you tell me where I might find my workers on the morrow?”
"Siorys is the foreman of the crew. He is staying at the Weary Pilgrim. I reckon you’ll find him breaking his fast in Reece’s great room. That’s my sister’s name, Reece.”

The following morning, Gwilym brought all his papers and writing implements into the Weary Pilgrim’s hall, a room entirely furnished in wicker. Stools, tables, chairs and even the bar were woven from this wood. The hard-beaten earth was covered in a fresh layer of thresh, held in by a polished stone thresh-hold.
Siorys had summoned the crew so a large crowd of men was awaiting them. The men introduced themselves all around and Gwilym checked off on his charter the men promised him by Sir Kay. While doing so, he realized that there was a difference between the number and type of men promised in the charter and what was likely needed during the project. He could benefit from a more formal approach to planning the people needed at certain times within the project. He remembered times on his previous three projects when men were doing nothing yet still receiving a day’s pay because he needed their particular skills later.
Gwilym gathered the men around the largest table and spread out the charter for all to see. He read it out loud, showed off the king’s signature and answered any questions. Then he told the men his method for planning the project: start by identifying the stakeholders, define the requirements and scope, create the work breakdown structure, define the activities and figure out who would staff each activity. Then he would ask the responsible person how long each activity would take and how they were linked to each other to figure out the most efficient way to do the whole project. The men nodded their heads in encouragement.
“First things first. Let’s take a tour of the job-site so that we can see what we will be dealing with.”
“Perhaps we should do those planning things first, sir,” said Siorys.
“No,” said Gwilym. “I have to see the site, and I’m sure you men want to see what you are expected to build and where you need to build it in order to plan properly.” As he looked around the room, none of the men would meet his eye.
“Well, sir,” said Siorys. “Today’s not a good day for touring the site. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.”
“What are you not telling me?”
The men shifted their weight around, avoiding Gwilym’s gaze. Gwilym stood in front of Siorys and asked him, “What's happening today?”
“It’s Arthog sir. He’s gone mad in the head and is doing a bit of rampaging. It’s better we wait inside today.”
Gwilym looked at the men until they all met his gaze. “Please explain,” he said.
They all looked at Siorys who told the story.
“The king has a son who he loves beyond all measure. His name is Arthog and he is a brute. We call him Warthog behind his back.  He’s been cruel before, taken away girl’s maidenhoods, stolen or broken people’s property, fought with townsfolk and farmers. His father always forgives him and pays for the damages but never seems to punish his son. If you fight back against Arthog, you can expect real punishment from the king. He had locked men in his dungeons and even killed a man.”
“Yesterday was the worst he has been yet. He was running around town in torn clothes and a dagger. He was yelling at people and stabbing them at random. He killed two women and a man and stabbed many others before he ran off into the job-site. The mayor and the priest have complained to the king and he has told us to capture him alive and not hurt him.”
“Is he a big man?”
The men all yelled over each other at this point.
“He’s huge, sir!”
“As tall as you and twice as heavy!”
“Strong too!”
Gwilym looked at the room full of men and asked, “Could someone please fetch me a strong net. I’m sure there are fishermen in this town.” A young lad stepped outside.
“Who among you will join me in this capture?”
Fred stepped forward. The rest of the men shifted their weight from one foot to another, not meeting Gwilym’s gaze. “I’ll show you where he is and help you with the net,” said Siorys.

Net in hand, and stout clubs tucked in their belts, Gwilym and Fred followed Siorys down the street to the castle. The corner nearest the confluence of the two rivers was a pile of stones. “That’s where we must build our tower, sir. Warthog is somewhere in the castle grounds.”
“And the king?”
“Up in the hills at the summer residence.”
“Follow me then,” requested Gwilym. Fred followed Gwilym into the grounds but Siorys asked to stay here with the net. “Chase him this way and I’ll throw it.”
Gwilym and Fred walked into the castle grounds. Nothing grew in this rooted-up earth. The walls had stairs leading up to the top at intervals. There were four main buildings: the stables, the kitchens, the main dwelling of the king and some kind of workroom. Approaching the stables, they heard the whinnying and stomping hooves of a terrified horse.
It was dark inside, the little light that entered the door filtered through the dust motes being kicked up by the horse to show four stalls, the last one open. The noises of the horse emanated from the nearest stall. Gwilym told Fred to stay outside and stepped into the stable. He smelled the fresh blood that was scaring the horse. As he peered over the top of the stall, he saw the horse backed against the far wall, kicking out with its front feet at the door. Blood was seeping into his stall from the one next door. Gwilym opened the door and stood behind it while the horse bolted into the castle yard.
He tiptoed to the next stall and peered over this door and was greeted by a gruesome sight. The horse was lying on its side, its head almost severed from its neck and its sides torn open as though by a lion. Guts were strewn everywhere and huge chunks of meat had been torn from the body.
While sneaking to the third door, Gwilym kept a wary eye on the open fourth stall. Whatever had done this was most likely there and Gwilym was moving further and further from the safety of the open yard. He slowly raised his head to peer over the third stall door. At first, as the rear of the stall became visible, he saw the tail and rear of another downed horse. He saw the open wound in his side just like the last stall. As he raised his head fully, something huge jumped at him from the other side of the stall door.
Adrenaline surged through him, instincts took over and he sprinted for the stable door yelling at Fred to run for it. The image of what had jumped at him was seared into his mind. The hair on top of the head was smeared with dried blood. The eyes were bright red. The nose was pig-like. Hairy cheeks were smeared with fresh blood. The lower jaw stuck out from the upper, broken teeth jutting out as he snapped at Gwilym. There was blood and froth spilling out of his mouth and over the beard of the creature. The hands that had reached for him were filthy and the fingers sported long, dirty, broken fingernails. It was a man but it looked so much like a warthog that Gwilym, despite his terror, laughed inside at the local’s nickname.
Gwilym reached the stable door as he heard the stall door behind him slam open. He pushed Fred to the left, saying, “Help Siorys with the net! I’ll lead him to you!” He watched Fred swing around the left side of the stable toward the wall opening.
Gwilym stalled for a moment to ensure that the creature chased him rather than Fred. This moment allowed him to calm his jangling nerves and think about what must be done. He backed away from the door so that he would be ready to run while still able to see what he was faced with.
Arthog emerged into the light of day, and tripped over a loose rock. On all fours he charged around, blundering into stable walls and other debris. He stood and ran off to the left, not noticing Gwilym. Gwilym stooped for a rock and shouted as he threw it hard at the man. Arthog started at the shout and came right at Gwilym, ignoring the rock, which hit him in the shoulder. Gwilym stored this piece of information as he ran around the right side of the stable, away from the wall breech.
Gwilym observed Arthog’s behavior: his jaw was thrust further forward than seemed normal, he was eating raw horse, he was drooling too much and was sensitive to noise but not pain. From what he’d read, this added up to one thing: Hydrophobia. He felt better being in a castle surrounded by water on two sides.
Meanwhile, Arthog was pursuing him around the castle and Gwilym could observe him whenever he turned around a building. Arthog was a big man, maybe even taller than Gwilym and twice as heavy. This meant he was unable to catch Gwilym but his irrationality caused him to continue pursuing his tormentor. On passing the breech in the wall, Gwilym noticed that the net was strung across the breech at about head height so Gwilym yelled, “We’re coming through!” and ran out through the wall, ducking under the net.
He turned to see Arthog blundering through the breech just as Siorys dropped his end of the net and ran back to town. This caused Arthog to trip but the net didn’t entangle him. On raising himself Arthog was staring straight at Fred who was somewhat tangled in the loose net himself. The creature spat out drool and pounced as Fred screamed.  But then Gwilym hit Arthog in the side of the head with a large rock, turning him mid-leap and allowing Fred to dodge sideways. Gwilym shouted, “Keep quiet, Fred! He’s attracted to noise!”  Arthog, bleeding from the wound to his head, turned at the shout and took off after Gwilym again.
In the open, Gwilym was able to lead the madman any direction he chose, so he ran along the riverbanks, leading his pursuer toward the hills east of the castle. Turning behind him to ensure he was still being pursued, Gwilym noted that Fred was following them both, struggling with the net. Gwilym was in much better shape than Arthog and was able to stay far enough in front to be safe from danger while close enough to encourage pursuit. A rational creature would have figured out what was happening and given up. His breath was coming in hoarse gasps but still he pursued Gwilym up the hill.
At the top there were a few trees, some exposed rocks, a thicket and a small pond. Gwilym ran around the thicket as Arthog fell to all fours and gasped in an effort to get oxygen to his exhausted limbs. Fred approached with the net. Arthog blundered away into the middle of the thorn thicket. Gwilym said to Fred, “Get over by the water! I’ll scare him toward it and we’ll capture him next to it! Don’t worry, he’s afraid of water and won’t go in! You can always jump in if he gets too close.” Fred’s brow wrinkled at this but he did as Gwilym suggested.
Gwilym found a long branch and poked this into the thicket, hearing snarling, spitting and grunting from the man inside. Soon, Arthog scrambled out of the rear of the thicket and straight into the small pond. Gwilym was shocked by this but he ran around to Fred who was trying to spin the net to throw it on the man. Gwilym took the other side of the net and plunged into the water on the far side of Arthog. Staying clear of the man’s teeth and fingernails, Gwilym wrapped the net around him and slogged back to the shore to join Fred. Together they strained at the net to drag the half-drowned creature back to dry land. Once there, they rolled him around, further entangling him in the net until it was impossible for him to get loose.
Once their panting had subsided and they could talk again, Gwilym asked Fred, “Why did he jump in the water? I thought he had hydrophobia.”
“Aye. That’s what th’man had. But that doesn’t mean he’s scared of water, only that he don’t want to drink it and can’t swallow it. He can still jump in it.”
“Oh,” he replied, storing this crucial piece of knowledge. “Sorry about that. I put you in danger.”
“That’s all right, Gwilym. I can take danger along with tha.”
“Thanks Fred. He will eventually get his strength back. Can you go to town and get a cart up here while I watch him?”
Fred jogged down the hill and Gwilym sat down on a flat rock to keep an eye on the wary Arthog. The morning sun was just breaking through the thin cloud layer and spreading its warmth. Arthog’s legs and arms experienced a spasm, stiffened, then went still. Gwilym approached to ensure that the man wasn’t dead. He needed to keep his father, one of the most important stakeholders of the team, satisfied. Arthog seemed to be asleep.
Gwilym turned back to the rock he had been seated on and chills ran up his spine as he realized it had markings like one of the rune-stones he had been using to finish off his towers. He cleaned off the dirt and recognized the coloring of the rock, the size and thickness and style of rune matched the three previous stones. This one had the design of a fierce boar.
He turned as he heard the approach of Fred with the cart. On the cart with him were Siorys and three of the crew. They hefted the prince into the cart, tied him down and drove him to the summer residence of Artfael. Along the way they were joined by the mayor and the chief priest. The mayor and priest remained behind to ensure that the king did not release the son back into the town. The priest confirmed Gwilym’s suspicion of rabies. The king was grateful at the return of his son but devastated by the prognosis. “Rabies?! Is anything to be done?”
The priest related the symptoms, which had become all too common in this district. “He has been possessed by a fiend. It will throw his body around, freeze him up, cause him to spit at people and say terrible things, then kill him when done. It always ends in a terrible death. I’m sorry.”
“You can make his death painless, my lord,” spoke up the mayor. “And kill the fiend before it escapes to another man.”
The priest broke in to argue against this sin. Gwilym motioned to his crew and they set off back toward the town.

The next morning the crew walked over the site, comparing it to the charter, and discussed the scope and the requirements. Then they retired to the nearby tavern where they documented these last two. Next they developed a Work Breakdown Structure and the men volunteered for each activity until they were all accounted for. That took them to the end of the day so Gwilym dismissed the men and asked Fred and Bleddyn to stay behind.
“Bleddyn. Would you please stitch those activities to the hide so that we have a permanent record of the Work Breakdown Structure? Fred, help me write the activities of the Work Breakdown Structure on new pieces of leather so that tomorrow we can figure out how long they take and what they’re waiting on. Leave space for me to write down how long each activity takes.”
The three worked together for two hours, Fred often asking what a word meant while spelling it out to Bleddyn.
The next day, the crew entered the Sleepy Pilgrim’s hall to find that a full bull-hide had been clamped onto the two tables. On the wall was displayed another hide with the Work Breakdown Structure stitched to it. The charter, the scope and the requirements documents were nailed to the walls. The men walked around the room, marveling at this show of organization.
When they had settled down, Gwilym said, “We know WHY and WHERE this tower is to be built. We know WHAT is to be built and HOW it will be built. We know WHO will do what to build it. All we are lacking is WHEN it will be done. When do each of these activities need to be done? What is the most efficient sequence? How can we keep people from getting into each other’s way?”
He directed the men to the Work Breakdown Structure and asked them. “Which is the first activity?”
There was some discussion until the men agreed that staking out the foundation needed to be done first. Fred, who had the duplicate Work Breakdown Structure on the chair in front of him, fished out this activity and placed it on the new hide. Gwilym moved it to the top left of the hide and asked the man who had taken responsibility for it. “Is there anything stopping you from starting this activity tomorrow?”
The man shook his head and Gwilym asked him, “How many days will this activity take?”
“It will take a couple of hours, I expect.”
Gwilym wrote down ¼ in the space left for activity duration. “What’s the next activity?”
“Hey! What about this activity under the deliverable of road that says ‘Clear the site?’ Shouldn’t that be the first activity?” asked one of the junior members of the team.
The rest looked embarrassed and agreed with him.
Gwilym looked at the man responsible for the staking out activity. “Does the site need to be cleared before you stake it out?”
Gwilym moved the first activity to the right and took the clearing activity Fred had fished out for him and placed it to that activity’s left. “How long?” he asked of the responsible person.
“Three days,” was the response. Gwilym wrote this on the leather. “What’s the next activity?”
“Dig the foundation hole.”
“Buy the timber.”
“Measure for timber.”
“Bring up the stones.”
“All sound like early activities” said Gwilym. “Do any of them wait on any other activities?”
“Got to measure for timber and stone before we buy them and bring them up,” replied one.
“No sense bringing the stone up now. It will get in everyone’s way!”
“But if we wait too long we’ll be running short and delaying everything.”
Gwilym raised his hands. “Can we agree that measuring for timber and stone is the nest activity?”
All nodded their heads and Gwilym moved this activity into place. “Buy timber?”
Again they agreed and Gwilym placed this next to the previous activity. “How about order stone?”
They nodded and Gwilym placed this activity below the ‘Buy timber’ activity.
This caused some discussion. “Why did you put the activity there?” asked one of the crew.
“This means it can be done at the same time as buying the timber but by a different person at a different place. Now, how long do these activities take?”
The men gave their durations and Gwilym wrote these numbers on the activities.
The team continued in this way, placing and rearranging activities on the bull hide and writing durations on the activities. The intricate structure of the work revealed itself to the team. Some activities were added during this session and other activities were determined to be unnecessary when looked at in the light of the overall project. When this happened, Fred made the appropriate adjustments to the Work Breakdown Structure.
At some points, the men took a while deciding on the duration of an activity. The first time Gwilym saw a man struggling, he asked “What’s going on inside your head right now?”
“Well,” replied the man. “I’m thinking about the last time I did this job and how long that took. It was eight days. But this job is about twice as big so perhaps it’s sixteen. But the weather was horrible last time and this time it looks like we’ll be doing it in June, not December. So I have to make adjustments for that. So I’ll say twelve days.”
Gwilym broke out into a broad smile and turned to the rest of the men. “See what he did there? That’s exactly what I want you to do. If you’ve done the activity before, and remember how long it took, use that as an example for how long this new activity will take. And don’t forget to make adjustments like Frank here did based on the realities. That is called…” he turned to Fred, “Analagous Estimating.”
When the time came to decide how long it took to build the main walls of the tower, the head carpenter talked out loud. “Each log will take an hour of carving to get the notches just right but we can do that with one group of men while the other places the previous log. So the time to do this activity is the time it takes to place each log properly in the tower. That will be pretty quick for the first few logs but will take longer as we have to start using winches to put them in place. So the ground level logs will take one hour apiece because we have to wait for the notches, then the higher logs will take about two hours a piece so that we’re careful not to drop them.”
“Good,” said Gwilym. “How many hours does that make it all together?”
The man calculated in his head. “Four logs per level, four high before we need to start using the winch, so it’s sixteen hours for the first eight feet. That’s two days with expected problems and setting up the winch for day three. Then it’s two hours per log after that, that’s one day per two foot layer. That’s sixteen more days. So a total of eighteen days to raise the logs to the top.”
Fred asked, “That’s different than ‘Analogous Estimating’ right? What do tha call it?”
“He’s using parameters and multiplying them by the number of units. Let’s call it “Parametric Estimating.”
One time the carpenters were arguing about the duration for building the stairs. As usual, Gwilym asked them to state the assumptions they were using to get to their estimates. One was assuming warm weather, the other was assuming cold and rainy weather. Since the stairs looked like they would be built in the early spring, it was unclear which assumption was most likely. Gwilym suggested a compromise. “Let’s assume first that the weather is perfect the entire time. How long would it take to build the stairs?” The two arguing men agreed on twelve days.
“Now we’ll assume it is cold and rainy the entire time, maybe even snow. Then how long will it take?” The men talked amongst themselves for a while and came up with a duration of forty days.
“Now we’ll take the most likely estimate. Assume a typical spring, with some nice days, some rainy, one day of snow. Now how long will it take?” The two men agreed on sixteen days.
“Good!” said Gwilym, writing these three numbers on the wall. “Now we do some mathematics. We take the optimistic estimate, add to it the pessimistic estimate and four times the most likely estimate and divide the result by six. So we have 12, plus 40 plus 4 times 16 equals 116. Divide that by 6 and we get a little over 19. So let’s estimate 20 days for this activity.”
The men appeared impressed. Fred asked him, “What do tha call that one, Gwilym?”
“Three-point estimating,” he replied. “They use that technique for calculating caravan journey times in the east.”
By dinnertime, the men were satisfied that the project had been fully planned. Fred and Gwilym started organizing the activities while the men helped themselves to dinner. “What do tha call this, Gwilym?” Fred asked.
“Sequence Activities,” he replied.
“Nay, not th’whole thing. I mean th’way tha decides one activity comes afore a nother?”
“Oh,” Gwilym thought for a while. “One activity depends on another so we should call it something like Dependency Determination. Does that sound formal enough for your song?”
While they ate, standing around with their trenchers in their hands, looking at the network diagram, Gwilym asked them each to find their own first activity. Then he said, “After dinner, the only people who can work are those who are working on the ‘clear the site’ activity for three days. The rest of you can go home.”
On hearing the expected sounds of disappointment emanating from the team, he said, “Unless you’d rather get in each other’s way and slow down the whole project.”
There was some grumbling until Siorys said, “How about if we all help with the clearing activity?” Then it’ll be done quicker and we can start our activities earlier and still be paid for the day.”
The other men perked up at this suggestion and looked hopefully at Gwilym. He seemed to consider this idea and then agreed to it. The men were all excited now and gulped down their meal to begin working.
As the men rushed out to clear the site and Gwilym stayed behind with Fred to stitch the activities into the bull hide, Fred looked long at Gwilym. “That was thy idea weren’t it? Having them all volunteer to clear th’site together? You made it seem like their idea but tha led them to it.”
Gwilym smiled, winked and touched the side of his nose. Then he looked at the project schedule. He drew arrows connecting all the activities together. Some activities moved in steady series, others were linked to more than one activity resulting in an intricate network of activities.

That evening, Gwilym, Fred and Bleddyn looked over the network diagram and started adding up the durations to try to predict the end date of the project. But as the network increased in complexity due to the multiple pathways he kept losing track. Bleddyn suggested he write the start and finish dates above each activity. So, he started at the first activity writing that as day one and finishing on day three, then went to the four activities that stemmed from this and had them all start on day four. Depending on their durations, they finished on different days.
One of these activities was predicted to take five days and, as he wrote a finish date of day eight, Bleddyn interrupted. “But what about Sunday, Da? The men won’t work on Sunday. Do we have to add a day for that?”
Gwilym thought for a moment, then shook his head. “Right now we’ll just figure out the number of days. Then, when we transfer the work to a calendar, we’ll take Sundays and other Holy Days into account. It’ll be too confusing trying to do it without the calendar.”
The difficulty came in when several activities converged on one and the start date depended on the finish of the last predecessor activity. But the men soon got used to it and were working together in unison adding up the days until they determined the total time required to complete the project.

Fred sighed and said, “That were confusin’. I’m used to addin’ five to four and comin’ up wi’ nine, not eight.”
Gwilym furrowed his brow and asked Fred to explain.
“We said that an activity starts on day four and takes five days. So tha think it will end on day nine. But it ends on day eight.”
Gwilym cleared his brow and smiled. “What’s the answer, Bleddyn?” he asked.
Bleddyn replied, “Sunup to sundown is on the same day even if a day’s work is done. So starting at sunup on day four and finishing at sundown on day eight is five day’s work.” He counted on his fingers: Day four, day five, day six, day seven, day eight. “Notice that the next activity starts on day nine. So if you look at the start of this activity and the start of the next activity, five days have gone by.”
Fred clapped the boy on his shoulder and flashed a broad smile. “Tha were always a clever boy, Bleddyn. Tha take after thy father.”

Next morning they inspected the site which had been almost cleared by the full team. Fred joined Gwilym and Bleddyn transferring the activities to a calendar. The first thing they did was mark off every Sunday and Holy Day from the calendar they had gotten from Father Drew. Then they wrote down, on each working day, which activities would be worked on that day. When they were done, they found that by following the plan they would be finished two weeks after Beltane.
Gwilym returned his gaze to the network diagram. “There are some activities here that could be sped up by taking men from other activities and putting them to work there.”
“But won’t that only slow down th’activities you take them from?”
“Aye, it will. But look at this.” He pointed out two strings of activities that both led to one common activity. “See how this first set of activities finishes on day 6 but the string below finishes on day 8. That means that this activity cannot start until day 9 because they both have to finish before we can do that one. So if I take men from the short string and add them to the longer one, maybe I can finish both strings in day 7. That will cut 1 day from the end of the project.”
“Where else can tha do that?”
“Let’s find all the places where strings come together and see.
The three identified all these activities of confluence and noted, in each case, which preceding string of activities finished last. Gwilym noted each one with a red dot. In one case he saw that the string he had noted led to an activity that was part of a string that later on was not colored red. That was because a different string leading to that same activity of confluence was longer still. He pointed this out to Fred and Bleddyn.

“There can be only one path that defines the length of the project. Look what happens if we go backwards. We start at the end, come to the first activity of confluence and follow the red dots to the second activity of confluence, then follow the red dots backwards all the way until we get to the start activity. All those other red dots don’t matter. We need to focus on this path. It is the critical path that defines the length of the project.”
“But Da, if you decrease the length of this ‘critical path’ won’t some of these other paths become critical?”
“Good point lad! We’ll have to keep an eye on them. But first, let’s look at the activities on the critical path and see which ones are most likely to be able to be sped up by adding more people.”
They noted some candidates.

When the crew came in for dinner, they asked them how the work was progressing. All the men seemed upbeat and Siorys estimated that they would be done by the end of today. After eating, some men gathered at the network diagram to find their activities. They asked what the red dots meant. Gwilym explained and the men nodded their agreement. “You stone masons always hold up my work,” groused one of the men.
“Our project must be finished by Beltane. The way we have it planned makes it finish two weeks late. We have to find ways to reduce the duration of some of these critical activities. Can we add men who are not being used at this time to these five critical activities to speed them up?”
The men gathered around and talked amongst themselves. “I’ll not be busy during that time,” volunteered one. “Perhaps so, but you’ll gum up the works,” joked another. The men talked it over with Gwilym and agreed that by adding men they could ‘crash’ parts of the project to bring the end date in closer to Beltane.
When the men returned to work, Fred helped Gwilym change the numbers on the network diagram and redo the calendar. This time they were only a day after Beltane.
“That’s all right, then Gwilym. They’re going to finish th’clearing a day early so we’ll be fine.”
“It’s too tight. Something always goes wrong in these projects and I’d like some room to move the project when that happens. We need a safety zone, a buffer. What else can we do?”
Fred studied the network diagram. “Here is a long string of activities that needs to be shortened. Do they all have to go after each other. Couldn’t we move one to the string above?”
“You mean do the activity in parallel instead of in series? Let’s see.”
The two men were joined by Bleddyn staring at the long string of activities.
“Building the stairs is slowing down a lot of activities. We can’t start it until the outside of the tower is built but we can’t do a lot of other activities until the stairs are in place. Can we build them independently of the tower and then move them in later?”
Fred laughed at this, then, seeing Gwilym’s expression, quieted and grew thoughtful. “We couldn’t build th’entire set of stairs outside th’tower but we could build all th’flights outside and then put them together inside. That would save a lot of time.”
Gwilym smiled and said, “Let’s ask the carpenter.”
The carpenter agreed and the new plan predicted them finishing a week before Beltane. Gwilym obtained a new hide and asked Fred to transfer the activities to this new sheet, making a clean copy of the plan they could use to build the tower.
“What do tha call these new tools, Gwilym?” asked Fred as he worked, humming his song.
Gwilym smiled. “What words are easy to rhyme with?”
“I can rhyme wi’ anything. Tell me what you call those tools.”
“Let’s see. First we estimated the duration of each activity, then we placed them in sequence, then we developed the schedule. We used a Network Diagram to visualize the schedule, then placed the activities on a calendar to manage them on a daily basis. Adding resources to an activity to speed it up is ‘Crashing’ and running two activities in series that are usually done in parallel is  ‘Fast-tracking’”
Fred went back to work amusing Gwilym with occasional outbursts of “Network, Get work, Duration, Damnation, Nation, Sequence, Frequents.”

Bleddyn was spending half his days with his father, learning project management, but would often beg off to assist the master carpenter in learning that trade. Gwilym wandered over one day to see him at work. He saw Bleddyn watching the carpenter in fascination as he explained a particular aspect then demonstrated it to the boy. Bleddyn then took out his tools and replicated the work the carpenter had taught him. The carpenter admired the job Bleddyn had done and complimented him. Bleddyn blushed in pride and continued the task with obvious joy.
Gwilym was filled with conflicting emotions. While his son was good at managing projects and had shown his intelligence at solving project problems, he had never seen him this engaged in the work Gwilym had given him. The boy had a passion for carpentry. Gwilym remembered his own fascination with architecture and his promise to himself that he would build great palaces or churches one day. He was happy that the boy had found his passion but was sad that it would be spent with someone else. The boy was growing up and must one day leave him. He was surprised to find his cheeks wet.

When the team had dug the foundation hole, Arthfael visited the site. Gwilym welcomed him, and asked about his son.
“He died yesterday. It was a horrible death. I should have listened to the mayor and put him out of his misery but my wife fears for my immortal soul.” The king was weeping. Gwilym placed his hand on the man’s shoulder.
“Thank you for bringing him back to me, Gwilym. And for letting his mother say her farewells to him. I believe she would have died if you had brought back a dead body.”
When Arthfael had composed himself, Gwilym showed him the project plan that had been developed. The king admired the drawings and the Work Breakdown Structure, seemed puzzled by the Network Diagram but understood the calendar. But his next words sunk Gwilym’s spirits. “You have to make the tower bigger.”
“Why, my lord?”
“I have been studying the latest ideas in castle protection. They say that a tower should project beyond the walls allowing archers to fire along the walls and protect them from attacking troops. Therefore the tower must be bigger.”
Gwilym thought for a little. “King Arthur only gave me enough money and time to make the tower this size. You can provide the extra money and people so that we can build the tower bigger. Or I could project the tower out by moving it further out and building the walls a little longer to reach it. That won’t take any extra time and we should have enough stone for the walls.”
“Show me your plan for moving the tower.”
Gwilym drew a careful sketch of the castle with the existing tower projecting two feet beyond the walls. The king was satisfied.
On telling the men to dig the foundation walls an extra two feet there was some grumbling until Gwilym told him what the king had originally asked for. “Thank God we found out now, rather than later.”

Gwilym updated the calendar almost daily as events changed, sequences were altered, activities finished earlier or later than expected. But having the network diagram and calendar handy allowed him to ensure that no-one was standing around waiting for work. He could see where the skills of that idle man could be best used next to speed up some future activity or have him work outside his skill-set and help on a present activity. Some men grumbled at working on things ‘below their station’ but, with encouragement from Gwilym and Fred, they ended up enjoying themselves and learning new skills.

Jac and Llawen were learning their native language after growing up in a Saxon land and then Londinium. They fell easily into the Cambrian speech and were enjoying hearing about the foods and customs of their mother’s native land. One warm late summer day, the landlady tried to take the boys to the beach but Jac screamed in terror at the idea. Gwilym heard the outcry and approached. “What’s the matter son?” he asked. “You love digging in the sand!”
Jac was hysterical and it took Gwilym a long time to calm him down to explain his fear. “The mean knight who likes to hurt little boys will get me and Llawen!” he sobbed.
Gwilym was surprised to realize how much the boy had overheard of his conversation about Palomides with Grainne, let alone understood. “That knight can’t find you any easier on the beach than right here.”
As soon as these words passed his lips he regretted them. The terror that Jac faced going to the beach was now extended to being right here with his father. “What can we do, Da? We have to keep running away!”
“It’s all right Jac,” he consoled. “He can’t see you on the beach just like he can’t see you here. Miss Grainne cast a spell on that knight. You are invisible to him for five years. You’ve nothing to fear today.”
As Jac calmed down, Gwilym felt guilty for lying to his son. But the fact remained that there was nothing Gwilym could do other than keep his eyes and ears open about Palomides’ whereabouts. And lying to his son allowed the boy to enjoy his youth. But why had he said five years? Why not forever? The words had slipped out.

By Christmas, the tower was ahead of schedule. The short, wet days were making the men grumpy so Gwilym allowed many of them to take a week off except those who were crucial to the ongoing work. Those took off Christmas and the day after as holidays. Fred jumped at the opportunity to visit Huish. On his return he had news.
“That knight, Palomides, he came back to Huish after five days. He was starvin’ and his clothin’ was all stained and torn. He had the cheek to demand food off the people who he had threatened before. They gave it to him all right but I can tell tha that there was a lot of piss and snot in that stew they fed him. Reese had gone to th’lord after th’first time and told him about th’knight and when he returned she went again. Th’lord arrived and had a dreadful row with that knight. There was a lot of shoutin’ and threatenin’. Th’knight gave 50 gold to the girl whose father he had killed. Then th’lord watched until th’knight left Huish. He were grand, our lord. Until now, all he did were take our crops but he sure showed that knight that he was there to protect us.”
“That’s good, Fred. Any other news?”
“Oh, let’s see. Everyone was curious about tha. They don’t blame tha for the trouble. They seem happy to be bound up in thy troubles and want to protect tha. They never asked where we were workin’ so I never had to tell them. I acted as though we were in Londinium. I visited me Mom and Da in t’marshes and they’re doing fine.”
“Nothing else.”
“Fred. I know your face. Tell me what happened with Heilin.”
“Oh. Well, let’s see. We’re to be married a week after Beltane. Looks like th’tower is on track to finish then and –”
Gwilym interrupted his speech by wrapping him in a bear-hug and shouting his congratulations.
“Well done, Fred! I’m sure you’ll both be very happy!”
Fred blushed and thanked Gwilym.
“I want tha there as my best man, and th’boys as well. Can tha risk it?”
“I don’t want to put the town in peril by staying there long. If you can tell me the exact day, we’ll be there for that day and then continue on to our next job.” Gwilym struggled for the next words. “Will you stay in Huish, after the wedding?”
Fred paused. “Maybe for a couple of days. But then Heilin will stay and I’ll come with tha for more work. There’s not much work in Huish and I’m learning a lot by being thy right-hand man.”
Gwilym broke into a wide smile, hugged his friend again and told him he was welcome to work with him as long as he liked.

Spring this year was mild with light rain falling most days but warm enough weather to keep the progress going. The tower was completed on the outside except for the cap-stone. Gwilym and some of his crew were retrieving from the top of the hill. The walls had been repaired, completing the castle’s defenses. On the way back with the cap-stone, one of the horses threw a shoe and Fred and Gwilym took him to a smith who assisted the horse-breeders in these hills.
Padarn was a short, barrel-chested man with long, muscular arms and short legs. Gwilym caught glimpses of a young wife with a baby on her hip through the open door of the house. The man rushed about preparing and then hammering in the new horseshoe. It was rare to see a smith who didn’t walk with a limp. Bleddyn asked him about it.
“I’m not a town smith. I’m free to move where I like.”
Bleddyn looked confused.
“Don’t you know that town smiths are intentionally crippled by the lord to make them stay in that town? That’s the price they pay for their training from the old smith and that keeps them from leaving town when they get skilled.”
Mouth wide open, Bleddyn looked at his father for confirmation and received a grim nod.

Two days later, horns were blowing from the older, shorter tower in the castle. Gwilym climbed to the top of his tower and saw two boats approaching from the west. He ran to the Weary Pilgrim and brought Jac and Llawen, along with the other people in the tavern back to the castle gates. Bleddyn had insisted they carry their gifts from King Arthur with them. Gwilym carried Bleddyn’s heavy tool chest while Bleddyn brought his own scroll box plus his father’s books and scrolls. A throng of villagers was pushing though the gates to reach the safety of the castle walls. The town militia was passing out bows and arrows to those who could shoot and buckets to those who couldn’t. “Fill them with rocks and bring them to the top of the walls!” they shouted to the townsfolk.
Gwilym saw a faster way to accomplish this so he gathered his crew and sent the weaker half of them up to the top of the walls while the stronger half threw rocks up to them to catch and stack. Meanwhile watchmen on top of both towers were giving out reports.
“They’re landing!”
“They’re armed and looking for battle!”
“Close the gates! They’re here!”
The townsfolk were all safe within the castle walls by this time; only the farmers in outlying areas were in immediate danger. Gwilym hoped they had their own hiding places in the hills.
The marauders, armed with swords, hammers, and pikes, stormed the castle gates. Soldiers and townsfolk fired arrows and threw rocks down upon them, thinning their ranks. The raiders broke away and ran into the town. About ten of them lay dead or dying outside the castle walls. Two soldiers took careful aim and finished off the dying with well-placed arrows. Gwilym felt sick at watching these men die, even though they would have killed his own children moments earlier had there been no castle walls before them.
The marauders could be heard looting the town. Gwilym wasn’t worried about his own possessions. All that remained were some clothes and eating implements; unlikely to be taken and easily replaced. From the castle walls facing the town, the townsfolk saw the raiders moving from buildings to their ships carrying goods. Cries of dismay greeted each new recognized item. The people inside became more and more indignant with the king’s soldiers as more of them saw their own goods being taken away.
“You are armed soldiers! They are untrained pirates! Go get them!”
The captain of the guards refused to abandon his defensive position. “If we’re killed out there, who will remain to protect you?”
One of the more belligerent women stepped up. “You’re not protecting us now!”
“I’m protecting you very well right now. I’m just not protecting your ale. Would you rather I only protect your ale?”
They stopped bickering when a cry arose from the townsfolk. All eyes focused on a group of marauders running down the main street in a tight group. “Bring them down!” cried the captain.

All arrows homed in on these men. As they approached, it became clear that they were carrying a large wooden beam from one of the buildings. One, then two of the men fell from the group but that seemed to increase the speed at which the battering ram was being brought to bear. Gwilym hurled a huge rock as the ten remaining raiders passed under the wall and crashed into the gate. The rock crushed the heads of two of the foremost men near the front, causing those behind to trip over their bodies. The ram did crash against the gates but with much less speed. Under the gates the men were drenched with boiling water from the murder holes above, then riddled with arrows. Gwilym tried to lean over the parapet to throw more rocks at them but found the angle too difficult. He realized that moving the tower to project beyond the walls was a good idea. It needed to be done with all the towers. Unfortunately, his new tower looked over the river, not the town, so it couldn’t be used. Gwilym raced down to the courtyard to face the raiders. The ram battered three more times on the gates, each time with less power. The gates gave a little each time but held firm and finally the noise stopped and a cheer arose from the townsfolk.
All was quiet for a few hours as more goods were transferred from the town to the boats. Then a group was seen shuffling towards the gates. When they approached it was seen to be a group of eight residents of the surrounding areas, prodded along by spears from the twenty marauders intermingled with them. Their hands were bound and feet were hobbled. Gwilym’s stomach turned over on recognizing the smith and his young family among the captives. The smith’s face bled from a deep gash.
“Hold your fire or we kill them before your eyes!” warned the man who appeared to be in the lead. “Looks like your folk didn’t all escape! How much ransom will you pay for the life of this old woman?”
He held his knife to the throat of an old lady and the smith’s wife shrieked in terror. “We’re already dead dear, just remember that,” said the old lady to her daughter.
The leader flicked his wrist and, blood spurting from her throat, the woman fell to the ground. “You were right there, you old witch! But you, my dear, are not dead yet.” He pulled the smith’s wife from the crowd and showed her to the stunned townsfolk. The woman couldn’t take her eyes off her dying mother.
“The hag was right. She was dead already. But this girl is not. I’ve taken a fancy to her and I think I’ll use her on the long journey home.”
At these words the smith struggled and was bashed to the ground by the marauders behind him.
“So I have a proposal for you. I’m sure you have a lot of gold and silver hidden in that castle. And since you won’t let us come in and take it, I’ll sell you these people in exchange. The old woman wasn’t going to bring much of a price. But what about this baby?”
He snatched the child out of the hands of the smith’s wife who screamed as he held it by the ankle. The baby, shocked awake by this treatment, set up a loud wail.
“We’ll pay a lot less for it if it’s maltreated!” Gwilym was as surprised as anyone around him as he shouted out these words.
“Ahh!” said the leader, righting the baby and curling it
in his arms. “Is this better? Now how much will you pay?” The woman kneeled down in front of the leader, whispering fervent words to him.
“Mayor!” shouted Gwilym. “These are your people, negotiate for their release!”
The mayor looked impassively at Gwilym. “These people don’t live in town, they are not under my protection. I can’t pay for the lives of every man, woman and child who lives nearby.”
“I’m not asking you to pay for everyone, I’m asking for the lives of these six people. I’ll help pay the ransom.”
The mayor spoke with his people and asked what they would be willing to pay for the smith’s family’s lives. The answers surprised Gwilym.
“I don’t even know them.”
“They’re not our relations.”
“We pay for the protection of living in town, they don’t.”
“Why should we pay after they already looted all our goods?”
The mayor shrugged and turned to Gwilym. “You have your answer. Do you want to tell him or should I?”
Gwilym looked at the townsfolk in horror. “What if it were you down there? Your child, your wife, your mother? What would you think of people who said, ‘We pay for the protection of living in town, they don’t.’ Those are good people who need our help. Will you not pay something each so they can live? I’ll pay all I have!”
Fred stood next to him, “So will I!”
The townsfolk remained unmoved.
“What is your price?” asked the leader.
“One hundred and thirty gold pieces for the child and the mother!”
The leader laughed. “I can get twice that for them as slaves back home.”
“Then I offer you a better price. Your life for the release of those two!”
Another laugh from the leader. “How do you intend to do that?”
Gwilym stood up to his full height, with a drawn bow and notched arrow, pointed straight at the head of the leader. “I am the best shot of this village. Notice that every arrow in the body of your men matches mine. I never miss at this range. I won’t be able to kill your whole group before they make it to the cover of the houses, but I’ll kill you first and then that smiling man next to you.”
The other man stopped his smirking and looked at the arrows sticking out of the dead men all around him. They were, indeed, all the same color feathers. Little did he know that this was the feather color of the town or that Gwilym hadn’t even fired any arrows. The other man whispered something urgent to his leader.
Gwilym continued. “I know that if you want to, you can kill all of these hostages on your way out of here. But in the process, you and your henchman will be dead. So I ask you; will it be worth it? When the remainder of your group returns to Eireland and the weeping widows include your wife, will the men say it was worth it? When your children grow up missing their father, will they think it was worth it?”
Gwilym held the bow taut and steady, the arrow pointed straight at the leader’s head. There were no smiles anymore among the marauders. Fear and doubt was on their faces.
“Put the baby down and leave its mother where she kneels. Walk away from here with the booty you have!”
The leader hesitated. Gwilym shifted the arrow slightly. “I see you prefer the use of your left eye. I’ll let the arrow enter your skull from there so you can watch it the whole way.”
He gave an involuntary shudder and returned the baby to its mother and backed himself behind the smith. The rest of the marauders moved behind the hostages and shuffled back to the cover of the town buildings. Gwilym released the tension on the bow and put the arrow back into its quiver. The gates were opened and the smith’s wife and child were ushered in. The townsfolk looked in awe at Gwilym. The last they saw of the remaining hostages was them being bundled up onto the boats along with the rest of the stolen booty.

A week after the Eirish marauders left Caernarfon, Gwilym’s crew hoisted the capstone to the top of the tower and turned it until it fit the space. The crew was amazed that a rock found in the woods would fit the top of their tower perfectly. Gwilym sent them around to spruce up the tower for tomorrow’s inspection while he set to work cleaning the rune and placing the river jade between the cap and the tower.  Bleddyn joined him halfway through the job. “You’ve never shown me this part.”
Gwilym’s heart leaped at seeing his son standing on the tower roof. All his protective instincts clashed with his pride at seeing his son doing something so brave, so competently.
“No I haven’t. You see, the tower is designed to slowly shrink on itself as the wooden foundations lose their moisture. That means that the top walls of the tower will become smaller. The capstone is the only rock that spans the entire width of the tower. If it were attached to all the walls, it would hold the tower apart and cause stresses below. Instead, I place it on top with these pieces of river jade between. They are strong, yet smooth. Feel them. Over time, the tower walls will move towards each other and the capstone will overlap the tower on all sides.”
“This river jade is beautiful. Is it valuable?”
“It’s rare here. It comes from the east on caravans. I don’t know its value. Merlin gives it to me.”
“It looks like you’re almost done, Da. Will you join us tonight?”
“No son. I like to finish my tower by sleeping on top the first night.”
“I know what happens tonight.”
Alarm bells rang in Gwilym’s head. He knew? How could he know? “What happens tonight, son?”
“It’s Beltane. All the town’s men and women dance around the fires and …mate.”
“Not all of them.”
“Is that why you stay up here, Da. So no-one will want to mate with you? So you can stay true to Ma?” Hope filled Bleddyn’s face.
“There is a dedication of this tower that requires me and none of the rest of the team. It must take place on Beltane night. That is why I stay here.”
“Oh…” Bleddyn struggled with his emotions. “But…then…Oh…”
“Let me help you get back down, son. It’s harder doing that than getting up.”

Gwilym was determined to catch Grainne reaching the top of the capstone this year. Instead of paying close attention to the placement of the last piece of river jade, he did it by feel while watching the cap-stone behind him. Nothing. Then he tapped away at the first wedge, knocking it in so that the one on the other side of the river jade could be removed by his hand. Again, nothing to see. He took a chisel and placed it next to the last wedge, ready to knock it sideways and off the crenellation, leaving the capstone on nothing but river jade. He hammered the chisel twice, loosening the wedge then, scanning the whole capstone, gave it one more whack to knock it loose. The capstone settled onto the last piece of river jade and Grainne did not magically appear on the rune. Instead, he saw a flash of white as she flipped up from below and onto the capstone, landing nimbly on her feet. He had no idea she was an acrobat.
Gwilym stood and approached her with a broad smile. He had thought often about the way she had saved his children’s lives and realized that he had never thanked her properly. The almost full moon shone through her white shift, revealing her voluptuous curves.
“Welcome, Miss Grainne. How are you this fine evening?”
She strode up to him and hugged him tight, caressing his strong back and shoulders, then leaning back to feel his arms, chest and abdomen. He was bare-chested on this warm summer night so she leaned forward and kissed and sucked on his nipples, finishing each with a small nip followed by another kiss. His lust increased and he pulled her shift over her head. All she was wearing was a thin silver belt with a sickle-shaped knife in a scabbard on it. He remembered this from the last few times.
Gwilym caressed her breasts and noticed milk dripping from one nipple. So she had given birth again? Another child of mine? He knelt down and took her nipple into his mouth, sucking gently. She groaned as the sweet milk filled his mouth. His hands were caressing the backs of her thighs, her buttocks, her narrow waist. She shuddered and opened her legs to receive his caresses. Rubbing her wetness brought her to a quick climax and she rested her weight on his shoulders.
Gwilym stood and looked into her eyes. “Talk to me, Grainne. Why was I chosen for this task? I know my mother was Cambrian but I know nothing else about her. What do you know?”
“This is not the time for talking, Gwilym.” She reached between his legs and smiled when she found that he was not as impassive as his words suggested. “Now is the time for lovemaking.”
Gwilym stepped back from her, sorry to lose the warmth of her hands but insistent on controlling this situation. “I have a right to know!” he demanded.
Grainne seemed to grow in stature in front of his eyes. Her face grew regal and stern. Her eyes grew hard. Light emanated from within her. Her voice commanded him and he obeyed. “Take off your clothes! Venerate me! Love me!”
Gwilym complied, feeling like he was making love to a goddess, not a woman. His veneration allowed him to complete the sexual act regardless of his fear but it was the first time he had felt under someone else’s control during lovemaking since his first time with the Jerusalem prostitute. On reaching his climax he noticed that the mists appeared around them and completely obscured the surroundings.

A week after the Eirish marauders left Caernarfon, Gwilym’s crew hoisted the capstone to the top of the tower and turned it until it fit the space. The crew was amazed that a rock found in the woods would fit the top of their tower perfectly. Gwilym sent his crew around to spruce up the tower for tomorrow’s inspection while he set to work cleaning the rune and placing the river jade between the cap and the tower.  Bleddyn joined him halfway along. “You’ve never shown me this part of your job.”
Gwilym’s heart leapt at seeing his son standing on the tower roof. All his protective instincts clashed with his pride at seeing his son doing something so brave, so competently.
“No I haven’t. You see, the tower is designed to slowly shrink on itself as the wooden foundations lose their moisture. That means that the top walls of the tower will become smaller. The capstone is the only rock that spans the entire width of the tower. If it were attached to all the walls, it would hold the tower apart and cause stresses below. Instead, I place it on top with these pieces of river jade between. They are strong, yet smooth. Feel them. Over time, the tower walls will move towards each other and the capstone will overlap the tower on all sides.”
“This river jade is beautiful. Is it valuable?”
“It’s rare here. It comes from the east on caravans. I don’t know its value. Merlin gives it to me.”
“It looks like you’re almost done, Da. Will you join us tonight?”
“No son. I like to finish my tower by sleeping on top the first night.”
“I know what happens tonight.”
Alarm bells rang in Gwilym’s head. He knew? How could he know? “What happens tonight, son?”
“It’s Beltane. All the town’s men and women dance around the fires and …mate.”
“Not all of them.”
“Is that why you stay up here, Da. So no-one will want to mate with you? So you can stay true to Ma?” Hope filled Bleddyn’s face.
“There is a dedication of this tower that requires me and none of the rest of the team. It must take place on Beltane night. That is why I stay here.”
“Oh…” Bleddyn struggled with his emotions. “But…then…Oh…”
“Let me help you get back down, son. It’s harder doing that than getting up.”

Gwilym was determined to catch Grainne reaching the top of the capstone this year. Instead of paying close attention to the placement of the last river stone, he did it by feel while watching the stone behind him. Nothing. Then he tapped away at the first wedge, knocking it in so that the one on the other side of the river jade could be removed by his hand. Again, nothing to see. He took a chisel and placed it next to the last wedge, ready to knock it sideways and off the crenellation, leaving the capstone on nothing but river jade. He hammered the chisel twice, loosening the wedge then, scanning the whole capstone, gave it one more whack to knock it loose. The capstone settled onto the last piece of river jade and Grainne did not magically appear on the rune. Instead, he saw a flash of white as she flipped up from below and onto the capstone, landing nimbly on her feet. He had no idea she was an acrobat.
Gwilym stood and approached her with a broad smile. He had thought often about the way she had saved his children’s lives and realized that he had never thanked her properly. The almost full moon shone through her white shift, revealing her voluptuous curves.
“Welcome, Miss Grainne. How are you this fine evening?”
She strode up to him and hugged him tight, caressing his strong back and shoulders, then leaning back to feel his arms, chest and abdomen. He was bare-chested on this warm summer night so she leaned forward and kissed and sucked on his nipples, finishing each with a small nip followed by another kiss. His lust increased and he pulled her shift over her head. All she was wearing was a thin silver belt with a sickle-shaped knife in a scabbard on it. He remembered this from the last few times.
Gwilym caressed her breasts and noticed milk dripping from one nipple. So she had given birth again? Another child of mine? He knelt down and took her nipple into his mouth, sucking gently. She groaned as the sweet milk filled his mouth. His hands were caressing the backs of her thighs, her buttocks, her narrow waist. She shuddered and opened her legs to receive his caresses. Rubbing her wetness brought her to a quick climax and she rested her weight on his shoulders.
Gwilym stood and looked into her eyes. “Talk to me, Grainne. Why was I chosen for this task? I know my mother was Cambrian but I know nothing else about her. What do you know?”
“This is not the time for talking, Gwilym.” She reached between his legs and smiled when she found that he was not as impassive as his words suggested. “Now is the time for lovemaking.”
Gwilym stepped back from her, sorry to lose the warmth of her hands but insistent on controlling this situation. “I have a right to know!” he demanded.
Grainne seemed to grow in stature in front of his eyes. Her face grew regal and stern. Her eyes grew hard. Light emanated from within her. Her voice commanded him and he obeyed. “Take off your clothes! Venerate me! Love me!”
Gwilym complied, feeling like he was making love to a goddess, not a woman. His veneration allowed him to complete the sexual act regardless of his fear but it was the first time he had felt under someone else’s control during lovemaking since his first time with the Jerusalem prostitute. On reaching his climax he noticed that the mists appeared around them and completely obscured the surroundings.
He woke to the sound of someone clambering up the side of the capstone. Morning light shone on him. He covered himself with his clothes just before Bleddyn’s head appeared. “Go back down son. Wait until I can help you up so that you are safe. It’s dangerous to climb this by yourself.”
Bleddyn’s head dropped out of sight. Gwilym dressed and leaned over the side to give his hand to his son. “Were you comfortable here last night, Da?” he asked, looking around at the stone and his father.
“I slept like the dead,” replied Gwilym. “We should be able to see Sir Kay’s party arrive from up here. Would you like to be the watchman while I make sure everything is in order below?”
Bleddyn said he’d love to and promised not to come down until his father was there to assist him.
Gwilym walked through the tower one last time, cleaning up some last minute things and gathered his crew for a final speech. Along the way he had found no trace of Grainne. Infuriating woman!

Sir Kay and his three assistants arrived and inspected the site. Gwilym made a point, this time, of getting to know who these three were. The one who inspected the rune-stones that capped each structure was called Mostyn. He was close-lipped about the meaning of the runes or the origins of the stones. “I come only to see that they are installed correctly.”
Gwilym paused at this. “The stones and the towers are square, yet the runes on them have a design that can be read in one direction. Have I been turning them the correct way?”
“Of course you have,” replied Mostyn.
“Yet I put no thought into the direction when I placed them. Are they all facing the east? No, that’s impossible, the other towers were all facing off the compass points due to the wind or the angle of the town walls.”
“Which way did the rune face at Huish?”
“I turned the tower to avoid the prevailing wind which comes from slightly north of the west. Then I placed the rune so that when you looked at it you were facing north of northwest. Why that way? Because it was closest to north?”
“And Airmyn?”
“There the wind came down the river so I turned that tower almost completely to the north. But I faced the rune so that looking at it you were facing away from the river, almost due south.”
“I had to follow the angle of the tower which was lined up with the city walls and they were lined up with the bend in the river. The rune faced to the northwest.”
“And this one faces east. You were perfect.”
Gwilym thought for a moment, then his furrowed brow cleared. “They are all facing toward the next tower! I’m building my next tower due east of here.”
Mostyn smiled and continued tracing the designs of the rune on his paper.

Nantlais was the name of the man who checked the structure of Gwilym’s towers. He was in deep discussions with Arthfael when Gwilym arrived. They were talking about the recent attack by the Eirish on the castle walls and how the projecting tower would have made their jobs easier. He stopped to ask Gwilym a question. “You incorporated the castle stones into the walls by building them at the same time. That makes both structures stronger. Was that your intention?”
“Yes. Just as you never stack stones directly on top of each other when building a wall, I didn’t want to end the wall flush with the tower, I wanted to continue the pattern.”
“Good work. And make sure all future towers project beyond walls. Did you notice how that can help during the attack?”

Sir Kay was going over the accounts of this tower with Euros.
“You’ve done good work here again Gwilym. The tower will stand forever. Yet once again the costs were higher than planned. I thought you were going to take care of that.”
Gwilym was prepared for this question. “In order to meet the schedule I had to keep men around whose work wasn’t needed right then. I had them doing other work to speed up those activities but it wasn’t the most efficient use of their time. ”
“Couldn’t you have predicted this?” Sir Kay asked.
“We planned for the most likely scenario. Not the most optimistic or pessimistic. So the costs were mostly in line.”
“And yet you come asking me for more money. Next tower I want you to ask for the right amount the first time.”
“That may mean returning to you for the correct amount after we have planned the project.”
“Do so.”
“And the next tower is in the east?”
Kay gave Gwilym a sharp look. “Salthouse, on the east coast. It is a larger tower and requires a bit of preparation. You had better start there by next month.”
“What news of Palomides?”
“He has paid recompense for the damage he did in Huish.”
“Has he been told to leave off his intentions to steal from me?”
“He claims you stole the book from his house. If this were a dispute between two knights, you would fight it out and God would reward the knight telling the truth. Since you are no knight, that would be an unfair fight. I choose not to tell Palomides where you are.”

Viviane looked up from the well. “Their relationship is getting strained.”
“She cannot use that power against him anymore.”
“Grainne is impatient, it is her curse.”
“The last tower must be completed with love or the spell won’t work. Foster out her oldest.”
“She will be devastated.”
“She will still have the second son. Use it as a threat to make her do things right.”
“We still need her when the spell is done. This isn’t her last act. I’m still grooming her.”
“The spell is more important than her future. Keep her happy if you can but not at the cost of the spell.”

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