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Chapter 50

Mensk stood in the frame of the back door of the pint wiping his hands on a rag tucked into his belt. He heard sounds from the shed where Derrl had finished racking the supplies that Mensk had ordered and was now exercising. Mensk didn't mind in the least bit, the work was done, and it kept his help in good shape. This was good for two reasons, the most important for Mensk was that it meant that Derrl was able to do more work, as for the other reason, it was a combination of two things, or people rather. Kevesk wanted him to do these specific exercises as he claimed they built the mind as well as the body. However, as Mensk suspected, it was probably because Leylau didn't mind the feel of strong muscles, not in the least bit.

"Derrl, there's someone at the bar who says he wants to have a word with you, I never seen him before. Do you want to talk to him or should I ask him to leave." The sounds of movement died down as he said this. The was the sound of a brief splash, then Derrl rounded the corner of the shed, wiping himself off with a towel before he put his shirt on. He dried his hair briefly with the towel before throwing it over a piece of wood clamped in two sawhorses. He dumped the last few drops of water out of his mug on his way to the door. He stopped, handed the mug to Mensk and put his shirt on in a swift movement.

"I'll see him, don't see what harm it can do really, don't know who it is." He glanced at the mug in Mensk's hands now, and paused briefly. "You know, this is kind of hard work, thirsty work too… do you think you could… you know?…" Mensk mumbled and threw his rag at Derrl before going inside to fill a mug with ale for him. Derrl followed him in and Mensk pointed out the man at the bar to Derrl, though the man stood out like a sore thumb among the regular clientele. He was far too rigid, and gave off a sense of military style that was clearly evident to Derrl. As he approached the bar the man stood up quickly and faced him to offer him a firm handclasp. Definitely military, he thought to himself. His appearance was far too uniform and neat, it wasn't realistic, he bordered on inhuman in his perfection. But in that perfection there was a youthful inexperience and anxiety.

"Hello Ser, Darrl… I believe it is?" His behavior made Derrl feel almost as if he was trying his utmost to avoid offending him, and nearly failing in the attempt.

"Er… no… Actually it's Derrl, but I suppose mistakes will be made." The man winced almost imperceptibly, he knew things weren't going well quite yet, and trying not to let Derrl know this.

"Well, you see Derrl, the Arch Council has since heard of the run your friend Yerril's," Point to the man there, at least he got Yerril's name right, " ship, the Pribe I believe it's called now, made a month or so ago. They were suitably impressed and sent me to see your friend to see if it would be possible to get similar vessels commissioned for the government. He told me he wasn't the one behind the ship and sent me to you." Derrl took a sip from the mug as Mensk place it quietly on the bar beside him. He settled in to listen. "They've essentially sent me to purchase your time and skills, and they have promised the full cost of materials and labour, yours and whomever you may need to assist you in the construction or design. Also, the military shipyards would be at your full disposal as well as their shipwrights and any other experts that you may need to consult." He paused for a short while, to let all the information sink into Derrl's mind. He had almost tripped over it all coming out in his haste to get the information to Derrl and now sat impatiently as Derrl mulled over the idea in his head as he drank. Mensk leaned on an elbow listening intently to the silence.

"Now you say I can hire anyone whose help I feel is needed? And is this project to have a high priority?

"Yes Ser, it is a project that is high on their agenda. Ser?" He waited for Derrl's response before continuing. He nodded. "They also wished me to convey to you how highly they value your skills and you."

Derrl calmly finished what was left in his mug, handed it to Mensk to be refilled and conversed quietly with him so that the government clerk, or whatever he was would not be able to overhear. He listened to Mensk's reponse, took the mug back and slowly drained it. He set it down on the counter.

"S'good as always Mensk, don't lose that touch." He turned to face the man and gave him a dubious look. After a pause he smiled and extended his hand. "I accept on condition that all those terms are accepted."

"Oh they will be Ser, I can assure you." His smile was so eager that he seemed a simpleton who had just been given a treat by some favourite aunt that he could not remember. Derrl lifted the mug to his lips to take a pull from it only to sip on air instead of the expected air. The awkward young officer was fussing with various papers and parchments, seals, waxes, and stamps. Derrl handed the mug to Yerril wordlessly. It was returned quickly with just as many words passing between them. He took a pull from the tankard.

"I've just been thinking, was it military shipyards you said I had access to were I to take on this project of yours?" His expression was calm, composed, but it made the young officer squirm uneasily.

"Oh no, Ser! Not mine, the council's. And yes, Ser, the military shipyards are to be at your disposal." He was now wringing his hands. What just moments ago was a sure promotion for him could now ruin him. A few of the councils advisors had warned that he might not want to contribute to the war effort, not many people would, only the professional soldiers who knew nothing else, and the mercenaries, who knew nothing but profit and saving their hides. He had accidentally let it slip that the military was particularly interested in him and his ships. He had been hoping that Darll… no, Derrl… would overlook his slipup, thinking it natural that the military would take interest in anything that the council did. Just when success had been in sight it was torn away from him with a few extra words that had already escaped past his lips.

"The military is going to want to be able to use this in their war effort. I think you should know that I don't like this war. I'm not very inclined to help you make it get bloodier." He shook his head, the officer was in visible distress now. It was obvious that he had said something that he now knew that he should not have.

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