The wagon had gotten one of his heavy wheels stuck between two rocks in the riverbed, they where just a stone's throw away from the bank and Grae considered loading the esentials of his equipment and walking the last bit down to The Cliff. It was enticing but the driver had kept him company for three week now and it felt bad to abandon him now, this close to the doorstep.
The Lookout in the watch tower on the far shore had clearly seen their predicament but nobody had come to help them so far. He was now considering going up to the small settlement next to the ford and searching for some aid. But that plan became redundant when three heavily set men came jogging down into the river toward him! He approched the eldest of them.
"Malcolm!" He exclaimed as he was embraced in a bear hug.
"Have your studies hardened you beyond calling me dad?"
"Nowadays it seems I am supposed to call you Elder Concillmember Almundsson." Laughed Grae, while showing a letter with Malcolm's seal.
"Yes, my time is apparently too valuable for me to handle my own correspondence ... I'm not sure if it's a slight against my handwriting, but Louise has hired a secretary for me, and he seems to enjoy my new title more than I do"
They shared a good laugh and invited Anton the Smith and Malcolm's eldest son Allmund, who both warmly welcomed the now returned Grae. Together with the drier they started heaving on the Wagon. And with all five men working they soon had it up out of the river. Once back on the road they started heading south toward their homes.
"So, high time to tell me what was so pressing? I was forced to rush my final project and it was near thing that the Masters accepted my graduation." Grae was somewhat frustrated yet curious while he gripped an oblong leather wrapped object tied to the side of his pack.
"If I'm going to start negotiating the sale of military equipment with The Northeners, I'm not going to miss opportunity of presenting a Black Cross trained bladesmith at my disposal! Barkman's workforce is already in full swing with building new jetties out in The bay, Soon the transport fleet will have a safe harbour." He patted his son on the back as they left the forest behind.
"How nice and unexpected that it will be economically sound to sell your son's career as a trophy to the desperate armies ..." The tone had now lost most of its warmth and shifted to something more sarcastic.
"Aww don't play the martyr, you're making weapons for battle! And judging by the reports from your teacher's, you're something of a savant. This is your chance to make a real difference and if you care so much for your career, it can't do you no harm showing of your craft to the lords of the north?" Malcolm was still easy and did not seem to take the insinuations of selfish profiteering very seriously.
They had now reached the top of the theater ridge and in front of them, the settlement spread out, Grae stopped and drew in his breath. Much had happened since he had left his childhood home. The Town hall bell rang out its new clear toll, and scared a flock of gulls that had rested on its roof. He could have stood there and taken in all the details for the rest of the evening but Malcolm was pulling ahead.
"Duty calls. Your younger brother and his friends have asked for an audience in front of the council, and it would look bad if I was not on time. We'll see each other for dinner at The Cliff tonight however, it will give your mother a chance to pamper you a bit and maybe meet Allmund's fiancee if he can lure her out" With a guffaw he hurried down toward a small group gathered in front of the town hall.
It was difficult to remain angry at a man like Malcolm and the two brothers smiled as they continued their way up toward the mansion on The Cliff.
"So you've engaged, seems like I have some catching up to do!"