Gareth grunted with effort as he lifted his corner of the machine piece. “Here?” he asked as he looked at the new weaver. He still wasn’t used to being used as muscle. All the training had bulked him out, though, and he was now called to help move heavy things.
Dawn frowned and looked between the end of the loom and the window. “I’m not sure,” she said.
Gareth stared at the brownie in frustration. “Most of the year you’ll be working in the dark,” he said. “You’ll be doing the night shift. The window doesn’t matter. You’ll be using lights.”
Dawn considered that morsel of information and then looked up. “The lights are wrong,” she said.
“Of course the bloody lights are wrong,” Vince said. The goblin glared as he stalked across the floor. “Just put the damned loom somewhere and we can sort out the lights around it. You brownies are all the same.”
“If you mean we want things done right, then yes!” Dawn said. She looked over to the door. “I don’t want a draught.”
Gareth leant against the loom and caught Kidder’s eye. The young werewolf was trying not to laugh. “I’ll just take five minutes,” Gareth said.
“No!” Dawn said. “We’re going to get it right now. Do you know how long it can take to dress a loom? We can’t be wasting time.”
“You are wasting time, you daft biddy,” Vince said. “This should have been set up hours ago but you keep messing us around. Get that broomstick out of your fat backside and get on with it.”
Jed, also recruited to help lift the loom leant close to Gareth. “How many humans are there here?” he asked.
“It’s not ‘human’, it’s ‘non-normal’ and it’s just you and me,” Gareth said. “Technically we’re normals.” He thought for a moment. “For a given definition of normal.”
Jed shook his head. “Because it sounds like my mum and dad arguing when they move furniture.”
“It’s the air that worries me,” Dawn said. “I don’t want dust collecting and making a fire risk.”
Vince snorted. “All the weavers and crew are brownies,” he said. “There’s more chance of me getting lucky with…”
Dawn held up an imperious hand. “Don’t you dare finish that sentence, young man,” she said. “There’s a lady present.”
Vince looked her slowly up and down. “No,” was all he said but Dawn flushed red with anger.
Gareth stepped quickly between them. “Please, we need to get this sorted out now,” he said. “I’ve got duties out there, and I know that the sooner we have the old looms in place, the sooner we can start.” He looked between the two adversaries. “You know how bad it’s been.”
“He’s been working around the clock,” Kidder added. “It’s been scary.”
Dawn glared at Vince and then sniffed. She looked around again and nodded. “I need the main housing here,” she said, pulling some chalk out of her pocket and marking the stone floor. “But the lights will need to be moved.”
Vince looked thoughtfully at Gareth. “Was it you or Bron that helped out my brother-in-law at the garage?” he asked. “Because that was bad. You were with Sir Philip, weren’t you?”
“It was Bron,” Gareth said. “But he told me about it. Sir Philip has been a real help.”
Vince pursed his lips and then nodded. “I can get the lights sorted out, no problem,” he said. He looked over at Dawn. “Once the machine is in position, mark where you need extra lighting. And I’ll bring over some lamps to keep you going while you get it all threaded up.”
“Thank you,” Dawn said. “Getting the loom dressed is going to be something of a challenge. The pattern is…” she hunted for a tactful description. “The pattern is very lively. I don’t know why they didn’t stick to a traditional cream or a nice soft green.”
“I like a bit of colour,” Vince said, rubbing a hand down his greasy overalls. “A bright pink would be nice.” He looked around the astonished expressions. “What? I like pink. But a blanket has to be plain or the pattern keeps you awake.”
“Well, we’re not being paid to use them,” Dawn said. “And that’s just as well. Anyway, I’ve got some snacks in the meeting room. When you’ve moved the loom, come down and I’ll make some tea.”
Vince rubbed his hands together as Dawn stalked out. “At least we get a good feed out of that,” he said gleefully. “Now let’s get this machine in place.” He patted the cast iron affectionately. “They don’t make them like this anymore.”
“And there’s a reason for that,” Gareth said as he took his corner.
Jed grunted with effort as they shifted the pieces of the loom into place. “How old is this loom? It looks older than me.”
“And the rest,” Vince said as he deftly connected the pulleys. “This is probably about a hundred years old, or maybe a little more.” He slotted a shaft in place and pulled out a spanner to tighten the nut. “The target audience is elfen, though, and they’re not good with modern stuff. Most of them can’t deal with cars, never mind computers or smart phones.” He checked the sit of the bolt and moved on. “Can you move that a smidgeon to the right, your other right, that’s it.” He fitted another bolt. “From what I’ve heard, you have the deal because it’s older stuff. It’s 100% woollen blankets, made on old looms, dyed in stupid patterns and brownie made.”
“It’s not that our day crew can’t handle it,” Gareth said. “But it sealed the deal.” Luke had been grumbling about it all week. “And with it being strictly at night, it makes the best use of the space.”
Jed grinned. “It doesn’t put too much load on the electrics,” he said. “I heard Luke swearing about how much rewiring would cost and how with the extra machines, because of the extra demand, he can’t get out of it.”
“So running this at night spreads the electrical load,” Gareth said. He checked the machine. “Is that it?”
Vince nodded. “It’s in place now. Me and my boys will get it running by the end of the week,” he said. “Now, let’s get down to those snacks.”
Jed looked at Gareth as they straightened and dusted down their clothes. “Are the snacks that good?” he asked.
Kidder grabbed Jed’s arm. “They’re better than good. You like Mortimer’s cooking, don’t you?” he said.
Jed nodded. “It’s amazing,” he said. “Food fit for the gods. It’s why I keep bringing the beer around and scrounging dinner.”
“Mortimer is only a beginner compared to Dawn,” Kidder said. “Don’t keep her waiting!”
Kidder forced himself to open his heavy eyes. What had happened? He rolled over and pushed himself to his knees, shivering. He was in a cage in the centre of what felt like a cellar. Cold radiated from the stone floor and into his bones. He staggered to his feet and groaned. His clothes were missing and the cool, damp air sucked the heat from him. He grabbed hold of the bars and forced himself to stay upright. He had been late leaving the mill as he had stayed behind to help Dawn move in the threads she needed. She had given him a large paper bag full of snacks and told him to be careful and go straight home. Kidder felt himself sway and leant against the bars. He had been cutting across a park when everything had gone fuzzy.
As Kidder’s wits returned, he looked around as much of the cage as he could see in the dim light. There was a narrow cot on one side, a lidded bucket in a corner and a silicon dog bowl of water was placed next to a silicon dog bowl of kibble. After all the snacks he had devoured earlier, Kidder wasn’t hungry but his mouth felt dry and dusty. Without thinking, Kidder went to fur and trotted over to lap thirstily at the water, glad of his wolf shape as it kept out the cold. The water was cool and refreshing and he drank eagerly.
“Hello, Kidder,” a voice said behind him. “Don’t worry about changing.”
Kidder turned around and padded towards the voice. A door had opened in the corner and light spilled in, showing a dusty room with boxes stacked in corners. The tall, cadaverous figure facing him was unnerving.
“My name is Edragor,” the figure said. “You need to eat and drink and build up your strength.”
Kidder tried to shift back from fur but he couldn’t shake his wolf shape.
“I’m sorry to be deceptive,” Edragor said. “But I put a little something in your water. For now, you’ll stay in wolf form.” He smiled thinly. “You have a little less impulse control and logic in that shape. Don’t worry too much. It’s just a way of making sure that we become friends.”
Kidder felt his lips lifting in a snarl as he backed away from the figure.
“You won’t be able to stay away from the water,” Edragor said. “I did mention about the lack of impulse control, didn’t I? But I’ll look after you. Don’t you worry about a thing.”
You can find the story from the beginning here