The Tally Master, Chapter 7 (scene 35)

The tin smelters must have laid and fired their charcoal early, long before their scullion fetched their pebbles from the vault, because they were already packing the unrefined tin into the weighty stone funnel at the top of the slanting upper surface of the forge. A stone trough extended from the funnel’s outlet and down across the slant. The smelters would keep the forge at just the right heat to melt the tin without melting the other impurities in the pebbles. The liquid tin would drip into the large crucible placed below the trough, while the solid impurities remained behind.

The smelters would pour the tin ‘hat’ ingots one by one, setting an empty crucible below the trough and moving the full one inside the forge to re-melt the congealed tin. When the characteristic golden skin formed on its molten surface, it would be ready to go into the mold.

Ravin saw Keir approaching and met her beside the massive pier dividing the tin smeltery from the annealing smithy. She forced herself not to look away from his truldemagar ravaged face. Was it truly hatred she felt? Or was it pity? She wished these flashes of emotion would cease taking her unawares.

Ravin stripped off his heavy gloves and started right in with his account, needing no prompting.

“The privy boys had started a game of blind-troll’s-buff. Tears, you should have seen them!” He shook his head. “Or maybe you shouldn’t have. The blindfolded one was stumbling into anvils and counters. The others were knocking over tool racks and sand buckets as they dodged.”

Keir pursed her lips.

Ravin wrinkled his nose. “Arnoll got involved when one of the boys, leaping away from his pursuer, knocked over the scullion raking the charcoal in the armor smithy’s forge.” Ravin shook his head. “He almost pushed him into the forge. Idiot. I doubt he knows how close he came to a beating, right there and then, from the smith himself.

“But Arnoll lowered his hand, marched the boy back to the privy smithy, and began directing them in their usual chores. He didn’t lecture, just gave orders, but they knew he was furious. Hells, even I knew he was furious a smithy away.”

“Go on,” said Keir.

“Once the boys were busy, Arnoll just stood watching them, leaning against the counter where their ingots and such lay. He pointed at something, maybe a sand bucket—I couldn’t really see—and then looked down at the counter. I think he shook his head, and then put a tin ingot in the sack he was carrying.

“He gave the boys a few more instructions, and then returned to his own tasks in the armor smithy.”

“What did he do with the tin?” asked Keir, wondering if pursuing that question was wise. Ravin seemed oblivious to the possibility that Arnoll might be in the wrong, and she preferred he remain so.

“Just laid it on the shelf under a counter. Why?”

“I’m trying to get the full picture, that’s all,” she replied.

Ravin scrubbed the back of a hand across his lined forehead. “There’s something wrong, isn’t there?”

Keir intended to continue following Gael’s instructions scrupulously on this one. She would not give confidential tally room information away. “You know we hope to find more efficiencies, Ravin,” she said patiently. “I doubt there are any to be found in the tin smeltery or the blade smithy, but the more complex undertakings—armor, blade grinding—might benefit from small changes. And the privy smithy surely needs something. Or many somethings.” She let the corner of her mouth turn up. “Any extra witnesses of privy smithy doings are useful.”

Ravin smiled. “Oh. Of course.” He started drawing his gloves back on. “My opteon will need me soon. Are you—may I—”

“Yes, thank you, Ravin. I’ve heard all I need.” Actually, she’d heard more than she wanted to.

He nodded and hurried toward the furnace, where the first bright droplets of molten tin were trickling down the canted trough.

*     *     *

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The Tally Master, Chapter 7 (scene 36)

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