What Milsy Did -19-

After a fitting of her new outfit Milsy considers some radical changes to the clock design. It becomes clear that the clockmaking work must be handed over to the Clockmakers' Guild and Milsy accidentally finds a way to manage that, in the process getting a recommendation for a promotion!

What Milsy Did

by Penny Lane

19 - Shock and Awe

Disclaimer: The original characters and plot of this story are the property of the author. No infringement of pre-existing copyright is intended. This story is copyright (c) 2017 Penny Lane. All rights reserved.

Rosilda pursed her lips, considering the garment in front of her from several different angles before shaking her head with a grimace.

"It will not do, Mistress."

Milsy arched her back and twisted her neck in an attempt to see what the problem was. Even by looking in the mirror on the wall of the dressing cubicle she could not discover what concerned the seamstress.

"What? I can't see anything wrong from here, it looks fine to me, Rosilda."

"Aye, it may well do, but anyone who stands behind may see the problem, I deem." Rosilda sighed and shook her head again. "It is to do with the width of your belt, Mistress. I should have thought of the problem when I laid out the leather but it did not occur to me. If you would remove the jacket, Mistress."

Milsy first removed the belt, handing it to Bursila, before undoing the buckles under her left arm and releasing the front flap of the jacket before taking it off completely. Instead of taking the jacket Rosilda cupped her hands on her own waist.

"As you will no doubt have observed, Mistress, a woman's body tapers down to her waist before increasing to cover the swell of her hips."

"As you say." Milsy grinned then. "Unless she is overweight, of course."

"Aye, but I cannot accuse you of that, Mistress. Your chest tapers in the natural way for one of your age. Now, when we cut cloth for a dress or gown, the seam tapers in the same way, in order to fit snugly and comfortably."

Milsy's eyes narrowed. "Aye, I can see that. But what has that to do with..?"

"Your belt sits on your waist but is not tapered. Therefore, at the top, a tiny portion of the jacket seam is trapped, causing a fold. Given that the material is leather, the fold will soon turn into a permanent crease which will spoil the smoothness of the back of the jacket." Rosilda added, "This would not happen with our customary sashes, of course, since that material will mold itself to your body shape, but a belt such as yours will not do so for some long while, by which time the damage will be done."

"Ah, I see!" Milsy considered. "You're very clever to have noticed such a thing, Rosilda. I am not sure I would have considered something that appears so trivial."

The seamstress blushed. "Mistress, I am not so clever as you, indeed, but I have many years of experience in fitting gowns to the women of the palace."

"So, what must you do, then? Will you have to take a whole panel out, do you think? This is beginning to appear an expensive garment. I wanted something to protect myself, but not at the expense of the King's treasury, which we all know is sorely tried at the moment."

"No, Mistress, that will not be necessary." Rosilda took a reedlet from her pouch. "If you would hand me the jacket, I will show you what must be done, it will be but the work of half a bell to remedy."

She turned the jacket inside out and then offered up the belt to the waist seam, marking where it crossed the back seams with the reedlet. She then sketched a line from the waist seam out and then back, taking a small sliver of material from each of the rear panels.

"See? I will unpick these two back seams and remake them with this extra allowance. That will permit the belt to sit flat and then to begin the taper." She turned the jacket over, considering. "I do not think I will need to adjust the front in a like manner, but I will change the side seams slightly as well."

Milsy studied the inside of the jacket as Rosilda held it. "I still think you're very clever to be able to see all that. I doubt I could manage the same, even after training. My mind runs a different way than yours, I deem."

Rosilda smiled. "Which is why I design gowns, Mistress, and you design clocks. Palarand would be a poor place, would it not, if we all thought the same way?"

"Aye, indeed! It is still a marvel to me how each mind may be different, one to another. And yet, I deem, the mind of any man is yet more mysterious."

"I cannot but agree," Rosilda said, "but fortunately for us they would be unlikely to notice so fine a detail as I have just shown you." She held up a hand. "That does not mean, of course, that we seamstresses take any less care preparing their garments. This is the palace, after all."

"Aye, we have like standards in Dekarran." Milsy was left standing in the matching skirt, wearing only a bra on her upper body. "Is there anything else you must needs consider today?"

Rosilda shook her head. "Not today, Mistress. I checked the skirt when you first put it on and it seems to me to fit and hang as it should. I do not think you have yet worn it with the boots, I believe." She looked down at the belt, still clutched in her hand along with the reedlet. "Are you satisfied with the belt?"

The younger woman shrugged. "Mayhap. There is no flaw, if that is what you mean. The belt itself is exactly what we decided upon, it will be the number, type and placement of the pouches which will change and I won't know what I'll want until I begin wearing the outfit." Her eyes narrowed. "The guardsmen wear belts, don't they? To hang their swords and gear? Do they not suffer a similar problem to -"

Milsy gestured at the jacket with a finger.

"Mistress, the sword belts of the guardsmen and others are but a third the width of your own. There is no problem fitting them to the waist of a man, which in addition is shaped differently than that of a woman."

"Oh, of course. Well, we'd best leave you to your work, Rosilda." Milsy smiled. "You are not the only one who presently deals with an awkward problem and I must make progress before Tarvan returns for lunch."

Rosilda came forward and began undoing the buckle at the waistband of the leather skirt. "A problem? Oh, the clocks? I wish you well with that endeavor, Mistress."

Milsy's smile was forced. "I think I have an answer, but Tarvan isn't going to like it. It will mean redesigning one of the clocks, which means another week before it is made and can be tested. I do not wish to try the King's patience."

"I do not think His Majesty will mind, Mistress. After all, this is the first of a very new thing and it could not be expected to be correct the first time. Why, it took us a number of experiments before we understood the construction of the bra which Lady Garia described to us, yet now we all wear them. Since you came to reside in the palace you have already achieved much. The King will understand."

"If you say so," Milsy said doubtfully.

* * *

Milsy and Bursila entered the laboratory and went immediately to the furnace to get some heat into the big chamber. Although it was not yet winter there was an undeniable chill in the mornings which made it less comfortable to work. Once the pair had together started the fire and built it up, Bursila went off to make some pel while Milsy turned her attention to the benches with a scowl.

Between the 'master' clock of the pair intended for the Family Dining Room and the battery now stood what she mentally termed the 'setting panel'. This was intended to sit between the battery cupboard and the master clock, once it was mounted on the wall of the laboratory. It was a simple square of wood and held a number of rotary switches, indicator holes and press-switches.

Frowning with concentration, she carefully noted the position of all the pointers on the clock dials and then pushed one of the press-switches.

Thunk! Ticka ticka ticka ticka ticka ticka ticka click!

On each clock face, the 'bell' dials had moved jerkily round until both now showed the first bell of night. Milsy frowned at the smaller dial beneath the bell dial, which showed parts of a bell with a single hand. This had not moved at all, which was unfortunately not what was supposed to happen. She sighed and stared into the mechanism, attempting to see if there was a way to do what was required.

I need that dial to return to the top just like the bell dial does, otherwise the parts of a bell will be wrong.

...That must mean a cam like the one on the bell disk, triggered the same way and at the same time.

...But I can't do that because...

Bursila returned with two mugs on a tray to find Milsy still staring into the clock mechanism.

"Mistress? Your pel."

"Hmm? Oh, thank you, Bursila." Milsy gestured at the things on the bench. "As you have seen, the two clocks work fine together, but problems begin whenever they need to be adjusted."

"But, surely, Mistress, I thought the whole idea was that once the new clocks are installed, there would never be any need to adjust them, unlike the Great Clock."

"Well, you'd be right, since in theory all we have to do is replace the batteries every so often, and we can do that without stopping the clocks. The big problem is, what happens when the King asks us to add another repeater clock in a chamber somewhere else in the palace? How do we arrange for it to show the same time as all those that are already in place?"

Bursila considered. "Aye, Mistress. From the way the King spoke recently, and with the interest shown by such as Captain Merek, you could be installing clocks for many weeks to come. I see what you mean about setting the pointers, Mistress. If you are in a chamber with the new repeater, how are you to know what to set it to? The only way anyone can possibly know is to walk from a clock already fitted, and that will take time."

"As you say. Depending where they will want clocks fitted, that could be several minutes walk from another one, at least to begin with." Milsy grinned. "You forget one thing, Bursila. We can always hear the bells of the Great Clock wherever we are. Mayhap we can use those to set our repeaters."

"But we know the Great Clock is not accurate enough, Mistress. Repeater clocks may show different times if we do that."

"I know, Bursila. I was just pointing out that there may be alternatives we haven't considered." She jabbed a finger at her settings panel. "That is the whole purpose behind these switches, to enable us to set the correct time on every repeater clock all at the same time. If we are already running wires to each clock, then we can run some more to permit remote setting from in here."

"But there is obviously some problem."

"Aye, Bursila..."

Lost in thought, Milsy reached out a hand and picked up a mug of pel, sipping the hot brew without really noticing that she did so. Bursila recognized the signs and took her own mug, retreating to a stool at the other end of the bench.

"Mistress, will you need anything made for your changes?"

"Hmm? Uh, no, Bursila, since I don't really know what changes I'll have to make yet... On second thoughts, if you could assemble a solenoid for me like the one that moves the bell disk. I think we have all the parts needed, though you'll have to wind the coil, I deem. The small bell dial," she pointed, "must needs be reset when the dawn-and-dusk wire is switched, since the bells are reset at that time, whatever the dial would be reading."

"As you say, Mistress. If I may observe, the bells of Palarand have served us all well but I doubt many realized they were so complicated. I look forward to the new system of hours, minutes and seconds which will make our timekeeping so much simpler."

"Aye, I cannot but agree! First, though, we have to discover a system which works and can be simply looked after."

After looking at the clocks some more Milsy went to the blackboard, making many drawings and rubbing them out before tilting her head in thought.

This is entirely the wrong way to look at this puzzle! To make this work properly, I need to take things out, not put more in!

She sighed. The answer would probably be a radical change and she was sure Tarvan wouldn't be happy, especially considering who he would be bringing back to the palace for lunch. She lifted the mug and grimaced at the remaining cold contents before putting it back on the tray, returning her attention to the clock mechanisms with a new perspective.


It was an apologetic Skanik, entering the laboratory some time later and uncertain what kind of reception he would get.

"Aye? Is there someone without?"

"No, Mistress... it is just that the three-quarter bell before noon has gone and I know you will desire to freshen your appearance before lunch."

"What? Oh, Maker, is that the time?" She gave the guardsman a reassuring smile. "Here I have a bench full of clocks and not one of them will provide me the right time! Aye, Skanik, we will come immediately. Thank you for the warning, we must not keep Their Majesties waiting."

"Indeed not, Mistress."

After returning to her suite, Milsy and Bursila followed their escort down to the Family Dining Room. Tarvan was already there with faces both familiar and new. As well as Guildmaster Parrel, with him were Laikin of the Cabinetmakers and Clockmaker Bayorn, together with a number of guildsmen of lesser rank. Tarvan saw them enter and beckoned them over.

"Well met, Milsy. You know Masters Parrel, Bayorn and Laikin already, of course. I will ask them to introduce those they have brought with them."

She remembered to give the Guildmasters a nod instead of a curtsey. Laikin nodded back while Bayorn just stared at her before remembering his manners. He gave a curt nod before gesturing to a face she had seen before.

"Journeywoman, if I may introduce Guildsman Yubold and Journeyman Sterret. I have agreed to permit them to observe what it is you do, that... my Department... shall learn the secret of making clocks that use electricity."

Milsy nodded to the two. "I think I met Guildsman Yubold here on a previous occasion," she said. "I will try and tell them what I know, there are no secrets here to be kept from anybody. Lady Garia, ah, the Guildmistress, was most insistent on that point." She looked apologetic. "I should tell you all now that our knowledge changes all the time and it can be difficult - even for me - to keep up with the developments."

That statement caught Tarvan's attention. "Some problem, Milsy?"

"Aye, but it will be better explained when we are all in the laboratory, Tarvan. If we have company, it will be necessary to provide greater detail than if it were just ourselves."

Tarvan gave her a knowing smile. "And the presence of a blackboard?"

"Aye, as you say."

She then turned her attention toward Laikin, who gestured in turn at the two men with him.

"Journeywoman, if I may introduce Guildsman Faranar and Journeyman Winto. Faranar is accounted expert in providing the kind of boxes desired by the Clockmakers for holding their new, smaller clocks. You spoke recently to Bassen about cabinets for the clocks you and Craftmaster Tarvan are making, I believe."

"Aye, Master, that is so. Do you tell me he is not to make our cabinets, then?"

"Indeed I do not, Mistress. Bassen works for the King, he will rightfully provide whatever is needful for any clocks that are to be situated in the palace. Guildmaster Parrel informs us that the making of clocks will soon become a significant industry within Palarand, a circumstance I still find difficult to believe. That being so, it seems that the Clockmakers Department will soon have need for more cabinetmakers to enclose their wares."

Milsy was somewhat taken aback by that statement.

Things are moving too fast! We haven't even finished the first dual clock pair yet and already Master Parrel is making arrangements for them to be made in quantity!

Whatever are they discussing in the Council of the Two Worlds? I never expected that. Master Parrel is not merely running a Guild, he thinks of what might happen in a year's time, two years, even ten years! I must speak to Tarvan whenever we can get a private moment together.

"Um. I don't know what to say, Master Laikin. If what you say is true, then of course we will have need of cabinets for the new clocks, but -"

Robanar and Terys entered the dining room at that moment, stopping all conversation as everyone bowed and curtseyed. Robanar put up a hand to stop everyone immediately heading for the tables before walking across to join the guildsmen.

"A deputation of guildsmen, I see! I bid you welcome, but..." He frowned. "Are we to meet after lunch? I do not recall anything being arranged."

"Sire," Parrel replied, "we have come to the palace, bringing our assistants, to inspect Milsy's work in yonder chamber." He pointed out the window in the direction of the laboratory. "We do not anticipate taking up any of your valuable attention today, Sire."

"Oh, I see. Of course, Parrel, as you will. Gentlemen, be welcome at our lunch table this day." Robanar pointed a finger. "Laikin, I was recently at the City Assembly Hall and inspected the new display cabinet you made for them last month. If I may have a word with you over lunch about it. Bayorn, join our table as well. Parrel, you practically reside in the palace, I will ask you to oversee these others on another table today, if I may."

Parrel bowed. "As you command, Sire."

Robanar turned to find his own seat and an alert Tarvan immediately made for the nearest table, effectively reserving seats for the junior guildsmen. Fortunately, the four women who were also heading that way noted the superior force and dipped a curtsey before moving to other chairs. Tarvan gestured at the seats and the guildsmen all made themselves comfortable.

"It is a great honor," Winto said, nervously, "to sup with the King, even if we do not attend his table today. I did not think the likes of ourselves were permitted such."

"Actually," Tarvan responded, "Guildsmen such as ourselves have our own dining hall in another part of the palace where most customarily take their meals." He leaned forward. "You may readily understand that on occasion we may bring the dust of our labors with us, being busy about our usual assignments."

"I see, Craftmaster. But today..?"

Tarvan quirked a smile. "For Milsy and myself the situation is somewhat different. Milsy's circumstances are unusual and she enjoys the favor of the King and Queen. For myself, I was chosen by Lady Garia - before she became Guildmistress, even - to found a new craft of electricity. Since most of our work is carried out in yonder workshop it was felt appropriate to give me a small chamber in the palace rather than it being necessary to travel in each day. I have also lately come to an arrangement with Milsy, which means that I, also, see much more of the King and Queen than many would consider wise. Does that answer you?"

"Craftmaster, it does. It seems that our ideas of life in the palace do not resemble the truth."

"Indeed. The King tries not to separate himself from his people, so life at court is more relaxed than you may have believed. Of course, he is still the King."

Parrel decided to enter the conversation. "You are Winto, then, and you..?"

"Faranar, Guildmaster."

"Do you know what Laikin expects of you?"

"Guildmaster, only that the business of electricity..? Have I named that right?"

"Aye, the word is awkward but you will soon get used to it. Continue."

"My Guildmaster says that while electricity uses prodigious amounts of brass and copper it may also need structures of wood and suchlike materials. We are not just to make boxes, then, but to consider whatever else may be needed."

Milsy pointed a finger at Faranar. "You are quite correct, Master. We will explain fully after lunch but know that much of what we make requires parts of wood to hold them in place."

"If I may tell you about the palace while we eat," Parrel said. "We can discuss our craft this afternoon."

"As you wish, Guildmaster."

* * *

"This laboratory used to be the chamber of the late Royal Questor Morlan," Parrel explained as the group of guildsmen entered the chamber. "The present appointee does not have need for it and it was thought suitable for the kinds of experiments which Tarvan and Milsy are making. It is possible that in time they may move to other premises in the city but we have not found such a place yet."

None of the guildsmen except Bayorn had been in there before and all looked around with curiosity.

"Master Parrel," Yubold asked, "You named this chamber a... labo-something?"

"Aye," Bayorn added, "I would have called it a workshop myself."

"Laboratory," Parrel repeated. "Another word from the world where the Guildmistress came from. A workshop is a place where things are made." Several heads nodded. "In here, we conduct experiments to discover new processes, new ways of doing things and new ideas. Laboratory is a more appropriate word, I deem."

Faranar gestured with a hand. "Guildmaster, what is all this?"

"We only use the two benches nearest the far door," Tarvan explained. "We have little idea what the rest of all this is and I would caution you all not to touch anything. There may be dangerous items here or noxious liquids, I would not wish any of you to become injured."

Yubold muttered, "So much dust," which brought a sharp look from Bayorn but no comment.

"Aye," Tarvan agreed. "We suspect that much of what you see has not been touched for years, if not indeed decades. It was Lady Garia's intention to catalog and clear this chamber at some stage but," he shrugged, "like everyone else, she has too many demands on her time. If you would all follow me."

The group walked the length of the chamber and spread out around the two end benches. Sterret's voice was shocked.

"There are clocks here, Guildmaster!"

Bayorn's response was dry. "Aye, Sterret, that is the purpose of our visit here today, is it not? To understand how these clocks may work, that we may make the like in our own workshops."

The journeyman reddened. "Guildmaster, I didn't mean -"

Parrel held up a hand. "Gentlemen, if you would. Craftmaster Tarvan leads a new division of the Metalsmith's Guild of electricity, and one of the applications of electricity has been found to enable the construction of clocks which are easier to make and which keep better time than those you may be accustomed to.

"While these few clocks you see before you have been made or altered by Tarvan and Milsy it was never our intention to begin mass construction of the new designs. That is properly the work of the Guild of Clockmakers. All we intend to do here is to prove new ideas and designs, ensure they work and then pass the construction to those who know their craft. In future those designs may not be of clocks but of other devices which may be of benefit to ourselves and our clients."

Laikin said, "Mass construction? What kind of demand do you expect for these new clocks, Parrel?"

Parrel turned to the joiner. "Many more than you may think, Laikin. When the Guildmistress arrived on Anmar she bore on her wrist, in the manner of a bracelet, a portable clock she calls a watch. We will show it to you presently. She tells us that almost everyone on her world wears such a watch, that all might know the time wherever they may be. This watch is driven by electricity, in a manner we do not yet understand, and apparently has been working for several years already without the need to... replace the battery within."

"But, if we do not know how such a device works, then what is intended here?"

"They do not use the sound of bells as we do, Laikin, but instead are able to discover the time just by looking at the nearest clock, of which their world also contains many." He gestured at the one clock on the bench that was not wired to another. "This clock is our first attempt at such a design. As you can see, it has pointers on the front from which the time may be known - and, I might add, at any time of day or night. One does not have to wait for the bells to strike or carry a sand-dropper for the parts of a bell."

"If that is so," Laikin said slowly, "then, I deem, you would need such a clock in every room, would you not? Surely, this seems excessive."

Parrel smiled. "Perhaps not every room, but in many of the regularly used rooms, aye. That is why Milsy and Tarvan developed these other clocks, to prove a design which may be installed throughout the palace." He paused for effect. "Initially, we intend to fit just two, a master clock in here and a repeater clock in the dining chamber we have just come from. I suspect that once everyone has become used to the idea we will be asked for many more... perhaps twenty or so to begin with."

"Twenty?" That was Yubold. "With respect, Guildmaster, how can you possibly ensure that twenty clocks all agree on the time? It is hard enough with two, to make one strike when the other does."

Parrel smiled. "You will understand all in time, youngster. I think that it is time that Tarvan explains how electricity works and then Milsy will tell you how several clocks may all show the same time."

Tarvan's explanation was a straightforward lecture based on that which Garia had given him many months previously. Many of the props they had made were still in place on the bench and could be used to show the interested guildsmen just what could be done with forces nobody could actually see. The trolley of batteries which had been used to provide a big spark had been removed for use by those guildsmen attempting to come to grips with welding but, by chaining several of the smaller batteries together, a suitable demonstration could be made.

Then it was Milsy's turn. She was aware that the guildsmen who did not yet know her had a certain skepticism about her presence here and her abilities but she knew that once she began that wouldn't last. Nevertheless, lecturing still did not come naturally to her and she began slowly.

"You have all seen Tarvan's explanation about solenoids earlier, how an electric current can make a magnet out of a coil of wire? Good. A few weeks ago I was invited to view the Great Clock in the palace, which fills an entire tower."

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Bayorn scowl, but she also saw the nod that Yubold made.

"One of the problems of all clocks like that is that they depend on weights slowly falling to the floor and thus have to be wound up again every so often. Well, I thought..."

She led them through her thought processes, how Tarvan had suggested a simple pendulum experiment and how it was still running the following day. How they had acquired a clock and modified it to use a solenoid and a battery, in the process throwing about half the insides away. How she had then realized that other clocks could be driven from the first one, with even greater savings in parts and construction time...

Finally she told them about the Royal Astronomer's request for a twenty-four hour clock and how the King had wanted to see if such clocks would be more useful in Palarand's future, showing them the master and repeater clocks wired together on the bench.

Bayorn was interested despite himself. "Both clocks have two of these... dials, did you call them? If you would explain."

She replied, "Of course, Guildmaster. The right dial shows the time in hours, minutes and seconds. An hour is one twenty-fourth of a day, though the clocks count to twelve and repeat the numbers from noon and midnight, just as our bells repeat by day and night. That is the short pointer there. The longer pointer is for minutes, and we divide an hour into sixty minutes. The minute pointer goes completely round in one hour, so that by looking at the clock you can determine immediately what part of an hour is left."

"I see. Why sixty?"

"I do not know, Guildmaster. The number comes from Earth and I know that it can be divided many ways, perhaps to permit the easier construction of clocks."

"As you say. And this thin pointer which moves?"

"That shows seconds, Guildmaster. Each minute is divided into sixty seconds, each of which is about the length of your pulse. That pointer makes a circuit once every minute. Among other things, the fact that it moves so quickly shows us that the clock is functioning properly."

Bayorn considered this for a while and then turned to Tarvan. "That is how you were able to tell me exactly how slow the Great Clock had become, the other day? I can see now that counting seconds must make timekeeping more accurate."

Tarvan bowed. "It is as you say, Guildmaster."

Bayorn turned back to Milsy. "If I may venture a guess, the left dial shows bells, does it not?"

"It does, Guildmaster. I must say that making that dial and getting it to function correctly took most of our efforts. It was necessary for us to consult Master Gerdas, who informed us of many matters it would have been better that we did not know. Guildmaster, I understand now just why the Year Wheel and the bell mechanisms are so complicated, which is also why Master Gerdas desires earnestly to get rid of them all."

"I cannot but agree, Journeywoman. Yet it is the traditional way we have counted time for many hundreds of years." His eyes narrowed with thought. "Aye, I see now why Gerdas desires such an instrument, if he can immediately see the exact time whenever he makes an observation. But, surely this is only of interest to our astronomers?"

Parrel replied, "Bayorn, you had best ask the King for his thoughts on the matter. There is more at stake here than satisfying a stargazer."

Since the King had already made his desires plain, Bayorn shut up. It was left to Yubold to note that both clocks moved in synchronism.

"Journeywoman... Milsy, I see you use electricity to connect the two clocks together."

"Aye, of course. All we need do is make the wires longer and the repeater can be placed anywhere we desire."

"Is there a limit to the length of wires, do you know?"

"We do not think so, but until we begin installing clocks we will not know."

She turned to Laikin. "Guildmaster, we must run wires through the corridors from one clock to another. No wire may touch any other wire since the electricity would take the shorter path and defeat the object. I have spoken to Master Bassen about the matter, and he will doubtless consult other guildsmen who work in the palace, but we would welcome any advice you may have."

"Of course, Milsy. I see you run several wires between clocks."

"Aye, in theory we should only need two or perhaps three, but I have found it necessary for further wires." She switched to Parrel. "Guildmaster, there is a problem. To install these two clocks will not be difficult, I deem, since they will be so close and obviously we will be setting them up at the same time. But what happens when the King desires other clocks to be placed in different chambers? Setting all clocks to show the same time will be difficult."

Parrel opened and closed his mouth. Like most of those involved he had only considered what happened once the clocks were running, not what would be required to get them going in the first place. Bayorn had a possible solution.

"Could you not use the Great Clock to set yours? The bells may be heard throughout the palace, I deem."

"Actually, Guildmaster, that is no longer so. There are chambers where the bells either cannot be heard at all or are indistinct, and it is likely those places the King will desire some of the repeaters to be installed. As for using the Great Clock, that would be possible but would require careful calculation and adjustment. For safety, we would only be able to do it at noon or midnight, when all the pointers are at known positions."

Parrel said, "You have a solution, I deem."

"Guildmaster, I do, but it will be necessary to use the blackboard. If I may?"

Parrel gestured, but also spoke to Laikin. "Our Journeywoman desires to explain herself, the detail may not be of great interest to you and your Joiners."

Laikin spread his hands. "I may not understand much of what I see, Parrel, but I am interested in the Journeywoman herself. If we are to take women into our guilds, we must needs discover what kind of minds they possess."

Parrel snorted. "Milsy is not as other women, as you are already know. Do not use her as a measuring tool, you may obtain the wrong idea."

"I know this too, Parrel. Journeywoman, you may proceed."

Laikin examined me at the Hall of the Guilds. He saw me describe the Great Clock then. Is this another test? Or, perhaps, is he preparing his juniors for women to be admitted to his own craft?

It doesn't matter. I have to explain the problem to Master Parrel because it will make a big difference to the construction of the master clock, and how the clocks are used.

Milsy took a piece of chalk and began.

"These two clocks," she said with a gesture, "are made to exactly the same design, as you can all see. The master clock has some more parts in it to enable the pendulum to function, and a few more to run the Year Wheel in order that we can tell dawn and dusk. The pendulum is mechanically connected to the rest of the master clock but electrically to the repeater.

"Of course, we can have more than one repeater, and it occurred to me to wonder how the next clock could be installed and set with the correct time if it is somewhere else in the palace. I looked at several ways that could be done and came to some difficult conclusions."

With that statement she drew a diagram on the blackboard that none of them could understand.

"My apologies," she said. "This is not a picture of any clock but a kind of description of what happens inside each one. These boxes are the master and repeater clocks and the circles inside each box represent the different things we want to display. That is, hours, minutes, seconds and bells. The smaller dial on the left side shows parts of a bell and so we can derive that from the seconds count..."

As she went on with her explanation most of those watching felt their heads begin to spin. The exceptions were Parrel, Tarvan and Bursila. Parrel because he knew who was talking and had a good idea what she was capable of. Tarvan because he had worked with Milsy on the two clocks and understood the problem. Bursila because she, too, had worked on the clocks and had been given the explanation earlier that morning, understanding the problem if not the fine detail. The rest were soon floundering.

Bayorn raised a hand. "Journeywoman, could you not just use another wire, to advance the minute pointer?"

"Aye, that was an early thought, and one that I will do. I will draw that in presently. But, Master Bayorn, if you would consider, all the time you send extra pulses along the minute wire, to advance the minutes and then the hours, the pendulum is still sending pulses along the seconds wire."

"Ah? Oh, I see! You have the opposite problem, then, that we have with the Great Clock. But, in that case..."

There was a brief discussion and then she resumed, showing how she proposed to solve the problem.

She concluded, "As always, adjusting the twenty-four hour clock is simple enough, as I have shown, but for the bell side we also have to consider the position of the Year Wheel, since that determines when the dawn and dusk bells must sound - your pardon, of course we do not sound the bells, what I mean is, those are the times we must reset the left-hand dials to show the correct bells. I could not think of a way to set this with a wire but, since it would be done only once on installation, and maybe again when Master Gerdas asks for an extra day, it could be done manually."

When she turned from the board most of her watchers had their mouths open in amazement. Parrel had a smirk on his face after seeing the shocked expression on that of Bayorn.

Tarvan nodded to Milsy. "A clever solution to the problem, Milsy. Since all clocks now become repeaters, the design can benefit from the reduction in parts needed, which in turn means another saving of size and materials. All you must needs do is to design a new master clock which incorporates your switching panel and I believe that we can use most of the existing master clock design for that, since it must provide the pulses which drive the repeaters. It will not take us very long to make such a clock and test it with these two others."

"Aye," Bayorn agreed somewhat grudgingly. "You know your subject well, Journeywoman, and your solution is indeed a clever one. Tarvan, you will give the full details to Yubold when the design has been tested and approved by His Majesty?"

"Guildmaster, by that time I hope Yubold will be making the parts for the clocks himself. Milsy and myself have other demands on our time."

"Tell me, then, you designed and made these frames and wheels yourself? How long does it take you, say, to produce a single clock like those there?" He flicked a hand. "I do not concern myself here with the case, that is a separate matter."

"Guildmaster, we order the parts and they are usually ready within a week, if the workshop is not too busy."

"Order the parts?" His eyebrows rose. "You do not make them yourself?"

Tarvan shrugged. "It seemed easier to let those who are experienced make the parts, Guildmaster. Because of the precise placing of the holes in the frames, a guildsman would normally make those for us in but a day or two. The wheels, they take about half a bell to make, an easy job for a journeyman."

"What?" All three clockmakers stared at Tarvan. Bayorn spluttered, "But... to file such a wheel takes a trained clockmaker a whole day! How is this possible?"

Parrel chuckled. "We use a special jig, Bayorn, along with a new tool introduced by the Guildswoman called a vertical press. The press pushes out a perfect circle of the required size from a sheet of brass and a second press makes a hole for the axle to be fitted. I must describe the jig. There is a wheel of steel, with the edge shaped like the profile of the gap between teeth. The surface of this wheel is prepared as that of a needle file and then tempered. It is spun by means of a foot treadle. The blank disk is fitted to the jig, which is moved towards the profile wheel, cutting a tooth gap. Then the disc is turned, the new tooth gap fitting over a peg to ensure the correct positioning, then another tooth is cut and so on. By turning the disk the required number of times the wheel can be finished in a very short space of time."

The faces of the clockmakers were white. Yubold said, "You can cut a wheel out of a sheet of brass and finish it in half a bell? Guildmaster, this is impossible!"

"Not only is it possible, Yubold, but it will be necessary for us to use such methods into the future. If every house in Palarand desires such a clock, we cannot allow a man to spend a whole day making a single wheel, can we?"

"It might even be possible," Tarvan murmured, "to make a set of dies that can press out a finished clock wheel complete with teeth." He waved a hand. "We cannot do that yet but we know how it must needs be done." He smiled. "At that point we will be able to produce a wheel every fifteen seconds or so."

Bayorn blurted, "Seconds? What?"

"Watch the clock, Guildmaster. Fifteen seconds is a quarter of a minute, the time that fine pointer takes to travel a quarter way around the right-hand dial."

Bayorn got the point. He took a cloth out of his pouch and wiped his face before turning to Parrel.

"I want to see these presses of yours, and this jig thing. Why were we not told about them before?"

"Bayorn, we have both been very busy. The demands on your own time are as great as the demands on mine. Meanwhile, our guildmembers have been busy inventing new tools and making old tools do new things." He smiled at a memory. "Sometimes, they even invent things when they are not supposed to. Let me introduce you to Fulvin some day soon."

"Fulvin? The court jeweler? What has he been doing? Found a way to make rings quicker, mayhap?"

"I... he has not finished yet, Bayorn. Not rings, no, but something that will in time be produced by the millions, I am sure. I'm not sure I can describe it to you, you'll have to wait and see the finished item for yourself. It is based on something the Guildswoman brought from Earth."

"The Guildswoman, eh?" Bayorn looked embarrassed and then cleared his throat. "Look here, Parrel, I know we have had our differences but it looks as if we will be working much closer together in the future. That being the case, I'm going to propose Journeywoman Milsy for admission as Guildswoman. She has the knowledge and ability, certainly. If what you say is right, she may not have the need to cut and file as our apprentices do but she will obviously be important in the future, the way things seem to be going. What say you?"

Parrel was briefly surprised. "Aye, if that is what you wish. We'll do this the formal way, I deem. Send a written proposal to the Hall of the Guilds, if you would. She will be but the second Guildswoman in all Palarand so we must do this properly. There may be special matters to consider."

"Done. About these presses and jigs?"

"Aye, I'll arrange a visit to our workshops in Pakh Lane. Tarvan, Milsy, do you desire to attend?"

The two looked at one another and Tarvan shook his head before replying.

"Master Parrel, it seems we have much work to do here. If we may decline."

"Certainly! I want to see those clocks finished as much as you do. Laikin, what say you?"

"I have found this afternoon more interesting than I could ever have imagined," the Master Joiner replied. "You will need boxes - cabinets - for your clocks, we can arrange that easily enough."

Milsy spoke. "Master Laikin, we will also require boxes to put our batteries in. In here we are... mostly... careful enough not to spill the strong acid within but I fear that when these clocks become more widely used some precautions must needs be taken to protect the owners."

"You have a design in mind?"

"Possibly. I'll need to speak with Master Hurdin first, I think. We'll need a lid of glass inside the boxes you will make, to stop the wood from being damaged."

Bayorn was curious. "Journeywoman, how will you make a glass lid? I did not know such a thing was possible."

"Guildmaster, all these square jars you see around you were made with yet another press, a big one in the glass foundry. If I can design a suitable mold, then lids may be produced just as easily."

"Square glass lids? Even more amazing."

"Aye," added Laikin. "Parrel, I'll second that proposal, if I may. Your pardon, Tarvan, but we need people like young Milsy here. Even if the others are only half as bright as this one we are neglecting half our population. The way things are going we are going to need all the warm bodies we can get and we can't afford to send them all through an apprenticeship that lasts six years."

"Agreed, but this is something best discussed in council, I deem. Let us not frighten our younger members here with speculation before we have decided anything."

"As you say."

Parrel turned to Milsy. "Have you finished, Milsy?"

"I think so, Guildmaster. Tarvan? Anything to add?"

As Tarvan shook his head Parrel said, "Then let us go outside into the corridor. I want to see how the wires are to be run from this room to the Family Dining Room. Laikin can give us the benefit of his experience. A problem discovered now is better than one discovered while we are attempting to put everything in place."

"Agreed," Bayorn said. "It seems that the Clockmakers will have many new things to consider in the future that we did not before." He turned to Milsy. "How many clocks did you say His Majesty wanted, again?"

"His Majesty has given us no number, Guildmaster," she replied, "but we have made some guesses and we think around twenty. I suspect the final number could be much greater than that by the time we are finished."

"Maker! Lead the way, Parrel."

* * *

Milsy entered her sitting room and immediately collapsed untidily on the settee. Bursila, following behind and closing the door, pursed her lips in silent disapproval.

"What? Today was hard, having to perform in front of all those guildsmen!"

"As you say, Mistress, but I would ask you to consider your position. If the Queen were to knock on the door right now -"

A knock came at the door and it opened to admit Tarvan. Milsy relaxed with a smile of greeting to him but then turned to her maid as she arranged herself more tidily.

"You are right as usual, Bursila. Sometimes it is easy to forget I'm living in the palace and anyone at all could come knocking at the door! I'll try and be a little more careful in future. Tarvan! Do come and sit down."

"I just called to say that I'm pleased that we have managed to make Bayorn see sense, Milsy. I also regret that before today I had given no thought at all to what must needs happen whenever we added a new clock to the... collection? Linkage? Mesh? Web?"

"As you say. It looks like we'll be thinking up a whole lot of new words, doesn't it? Electricity is bad enough but most of those words come from Earth. What we are doing with clocks is new, Tarvan, and as Garia said, we'll have to make up our own names and terms for the new arrangements."

"Aye." Tarvan scratched his head. "Master Parrel has a like problem with the new furnaces, they are doing things we have never tried before and we need new names there as well. In twenty years the language of Palarand will sound very different, I deem."

"About Bayorn. What will happen to the Clockmakers, do you think? Will they just become part of the Metalsmiths as they once were?"

"I don't think so, Milsy, especially if the number of clocks in Palarand is set to grow like weeds. What I do expect to happen is that many new folk will be employed making them and that not all will become guild members. You saw what was happening in Pakh Lane, didn't you? That is the future of Palarand, at least for the next few years."

"Aye, and it worries me. Oh, I know that such concerns are for other people to solve, like the King and maybe some of the Guildmasters, but you have told me of the problems that may happen as everyone leaves the land and comes to the towns and cities to work in the new factories."

"That is why we have the Council of the Two Worlds, Milsy. We are fully aware of the potential problems, I can assure you. Your immediate concern should be what we are doing next, I deem. While we await the parts for the redesigned master clock, Master Parrel has asked us to consider a design for a new Coke Works for the city. He is not sure where or when it will be constructed but he has asked us to think about how it will function, from the arrival of wagons or barges laden with coal to the removal of the coke and the storage and distribution of the gas."

"Gas? What do we know about gas?"

Tarvan shook his head. "Nothing. Until a few months ago the word itself meant nothing to anybody. However, Lady Garia suggests that the gas produced by making coke can be stored somehow and then piped to... houses, factories, shops and offices to provide heating and lighting. Are you interested?"

"Aye, of course!" Milsy frowned. "That will means pipes, I deem. How do you make pipes? The only ones I have seen have been made from copper and that would become expensive... Oh. Iron or steel is used, is it not, for the larger steam engines?"

Tarvan nodded.

"Then we must discover how to make long pipes of iron or steel to carry the gas from place to place."

She frowned and her eyes unfocused. Tarvan smiled at Bursila, who rolled her eyes. They both knew what Milsy could be like when an idea began sparking off inside her head.



"Don't forget you'll need to change before the evening meal, will you? I would not want you to be late again."

"Hmm? Oh, aye, Tarvan. Aye!" She roused to look properly at Tarvan and then jumped to her feet. Wrapping herself around him to take a kiss she turned to her maid.

"Pull the rope for water, Bursila, then help me out of this dress. I must not keep the King and Queen waiting. Their Majesties will want to know what happened this afternoon."

Tarvan smiled and released Milsy. "I know when I should be elsewhere," he said with a smile. "I'll see you downstairs."

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