Shattered Dreams by Robert Gresham

Martin Theron had been out of work for nearly a year. A simple construction laborer, Martin was injured during the building of the recent glassworks near Market Bridge in Augustana when a large sheet for a window broke free and crashed to the ground. The exploding glass sent shards all over the street in front of the work site and, sadly, many of the workers. Injuries for the most part were slight, but Martin had been the most severely hurt; most of the toes on both feet were severed along with some important tendons in his left foot.

Healing had been difficult and had taken longer than expected. The loss of work couldn’t have come at a worst time. Martin and his wife had just celebrated the birth of their first child Jan only six months before and had spent most of their savings preparing for his arrival. The clerics at the temple of Abadar took the rest. The enormous cost did not however, pay for the deep infection Martin had developed in his left foot and it took several months for it to finally clear up.

For the rest of the year Martin had struggled to find work, but the Builders guild had prevented him at every turn because of dues owed by Martin to their union. The situation put Martin and his family into near destitution. His wife helped out the best she could by selling baked black cherry pies and mending the clothes of the children in the neighborhood. Still it was not enough to get by. They had been forced to sell off their many possessions, including many of the items purchased for Jan. There were days they went without eating.

Finally after nearly a year of saving and scrimping, Martin had enough gold to pay off his guild dues and was swiftly put to work.

The morning of his first day he was so eager to work he arrived at the site just before dawn, tools in hand. The guild had sent him to help with the renovation of Rollo Tincture’s Tavern, The New Andoran Rose. The dwarf was adding a room to his wine cellar and needed additional laborers to complete the task quickly.

The tavern was a one-story affair with an open dining area, a long oak and stone bar, behind which were several oak barrels filled with various dark and darker dwarven beers. Besides the dwarf Rollo and his wife, there was a serving girl named Agna and a lanky young man who played violin during the dinner meals. Martin had spent many nights drinking away his sorrows at Tincture’s tavern.

As Martin arrived he saw Rollo outside sweeping the walkway before the tavern with a straw broom. The dwarf watched Martin as he approached, nodding in approval as he saw the man’s tools.

“Aye good. Another worker. I needed ye. A bit surprised to see a human awake this early, ready to work before the cockcrows. Eh, I suppose its because yer new. Still, I approve I do. Good dwarven principle is to stay busy with hard work.”

“Sir, to be honest I’ve been out of work for a while now and my family has suffered greatly for it. I’m eager to work and put good food on our table once more.” Martin said.

The dwarf put a heavy, thick-fingered hand on Martin’s forearm.

“Tis a good man who works to feed his family. Call me Rollo. ‘Sir’ is reserved for knights and lords, not simple folk such as we.” The dwarf smiled warmly.

They entered the tavern where Rollo instructed Martin to sit at the bar and wait for the other workers to arrive. A stocky dwarven woman with auburn hair gave Martin a small basket of freshly baked biscuits to eat while he waited.

After an hour other workers began to arrive. Martin relaxed as soon as he saw Edmund enter the tavern carrying a hammer and a large pick.

“Eddie!” Martin shouted, embracing his friend. “Boy am I glad to see a friendly face on this job!”

“Glad to see you as well Martin, dear lad. I’d heard those thieves at the guild had finally let you back in. Good to see you, good to see you.”

As the last worker arrived Rollo came into the tavern. The dwarf looked displeased as he scanned the group.

“That’s a sorry lot. Half as much as yesterday. We’ll have to make do I suppose.” The dwarf grumbled.

Rollo led the workers past the bar and through a service door that led to the cellar. Descending the steps, it was clear the cellar was an add on, constructed for someone of dwarven stature. The room was small, no more than ten foot by ten, with one wall dominated by a large wine rack, flanked by a wall with a two feet deep hole gouged out of it. A lantern hung in the center of the room providing a dim illumination.

“Sorry bout the ceiling ladies.” Rollo said as he reached the floor, “I know it’s made it more difficult for ye, and I do apologize, though ye must admit the hard work is rewarding. And we’ve a new face today despite losing some o’ the rest, so let him know the task and get to it.” Rollo grabbed the lantern and moved it to the steps so the workers wouldn’t strike their heads on it.

The dwarf returned upstairs as the men began working. Eddie explained that the cellar was to be widened to twice its current size. Feeling the walls, Martin discovered they were solid stone. There were seven total workers including Eddie and Martin. Carol, Jax, and Nesbit worked at one end of the wall with heavy picks, while Karon, the Taldoran, hauled out the loose stone in a wooden pail. Martin and Eddie worked the other end of the wall with their picks, and the last man, Herod monitored the water buckets that cooled both the workers and their weapons when they were too hot from striking the stone. The men had to crouch slightly as they worked adding to the difficulty of the task.

By the end of the shift they had managed to carve out nearly another foot of rock, widening the room slightly. Their progress was accelerated when they discovered a loose section of stone that was easy to mine out. Martin swung his pick one last time into the loose section and a chunk the size of medium shield fell away revealing a small hole in the wall, about a foot across.

The other workers were gathering up their gear as he revealed the hole, and its appearance did not excite them as it did Martin.

“Look Eddie! Everyone, look a hole! Maybe this rock wall is thin and our work won’t be as hard as we thought.”

The men all laughed.

“Probably just another air pocket. We’ve run into a few already. Let’s pack up; you’ve done good work today.” Eddie said.

As the workers left Tincture’s tavern, Rollo paid each of them two gold coins. Martin had expected to be paid at the end of the week like his previous jobs had. He suspected that was why there were half as many workers. Some men with gold in their pockets went straight to the brothels and bars to carouse and drink too much to be up in time for work.

Martin took his coins straight to Grocer Calbot’s fruit and vegetable stall near Market Bridge. He spent a quarter of his earnings on a heavy bag of potatoes and carrots, and bought a rack of lamb and three rabbits. Sore from his first day of work in months and from swinging the pick at such an awkward angle all day, he spent three more silver for a wagon ride back to his cabin.

Arriving home, Martin brought the groceries inside and put the remaining gold coin into the hands of Ingrid. He’d save the remaining two silver for some pints down at Tincture’s tavern.

“Da-da!” Jan exclaimed. Upon seeing him, the boy rushed to his father, embracing him. “Da-da home? Da-da home?”

“Yes my boy,” Martin said, picking Jan up and spinning him in the air, “Da-da is home. Have you been a wonderful child for mommy?” Martin looked his son in the eye with a mock stern expression.

The boy nodded and smiled, revealing two rows of healthy white teeth. Martin put him down and began preparing the rack of lamp to barbeque. The scent of the seasoned meat made Martin’s mouth water. That evening’s meal was the best Martin had had since his accident. While Ingrid washed and put away the dishes Martin put Jan down for sleep and then sat on the front porch of the cabin smoking flyleaf and feeling, for the first time in a year, a good husband again.

In the morning Ingrid gave Martin a couple of chunks of bread and left over lamb for his lunch. Moving about the cabin in the pre dawn hour, Martin felt sluggish and walking to work took longer than usual. His back was sore and cramped in places, as were his arms from swinging the pick. Martin yawned a dozen times, visualizing turning around and returning to his bed. He shook off the urge and continued walking until he arrived at Tincture’s tavern.

The dwarf was sweeping the front as he had the day before, watching Martin straggle in. He shook his head disapprovingly.

“Just like the others. Give a human some gold and he gets lazy.” Rollo admonished. “At least you showed up. Well then, get inside, the others are already here.”

Martin nodded and entered the tavern.

Shattered Dreams continues in Part 2