Sabotage the Royal Mill during Ashrise
Prion Mentan Garnick stood before the towering Royal Mill, impressed by the craftsmanship on display. Although the building had been constructed almost a hundred years ago, it looked brand new.
A testament, he supposed, to the men in charge of maintaining the important structure.
But today, those men would be put to the test.
“Good morning!” cried a man dressed in the white garments of a labourer. However, his clothes had less dirt and grime than the men around him, marking him as management.
“Good morning! May Priarch bless this day and all those that follow!” Prion Garnick said, moving towards the man.
“May he bless it indeed! My name is Alain, and this is my mill. I was told that a Prion was coming to visit us, but I was not told why…” Alain said, looking nervous, “Are we in some sort of trouble?”
“No, you have committed no sins against Priarch… well, that I am aware of. My purpose today is to inspect the mill and its workers.”
“Ah,” said Alain, as he breathed out a sigh of relief, “But if I may ask, why have you taken it upon yourself to perform such a menial task?”
Prion Garnick took a moment to compose himself. Lying did not come naturally to him, after all.
“Alain, I have spent the last ten years behind the walls of Origin. I have studied the Originarium and learnt every single Parabil, and yet I fear that I have not truly connected with the people that I will now serve. Thus, I arranged to be brought here, so that I might see the hardworking men of Vuria in their natural environment. If you would be so kind as to give me a tour?”
The man immediately relaxed, clearly no longer worried that he might lose his job or worse, spend eternity in the Void.
“Of course, Prion! I take it you would like to start in the dormitory? Most of the workers are having their break, so that is where you will find your ‘hardworking men of Vuria’.”
“Um… ah… no, I wouldn’t want to disturb them on their hard-earned break. How about we start in the mill itself?” Prion Garnick muttered.
Alain looked at him for a second before replying, “As you wish. Please, follow me.”
Together, the two men made their way towards the lofty building.
Hopefully, Prion Garnick would find something inside to break…
The Royal Mill was somehow even more impressive up close. It rose at least thirty paces high and just as many wide, rivalling a few of the smaller manors in Pyre.
“She is a beauty, is she not?” Alain said, as they neared the structure, “Not bad for a girl of ninety-seven!”
“It is most certainly impressive,” Prion Garnick replied, with no trace of a lie.
“Although we say that the Mill has been here for almost a hundred years, in truth only the cornerstone is really that old. The rest of the building has been constantly refurbished and rebuilt as the needs of the kingdom changed. Even the Mill stones are only a couple of years old.”
“I see… And how do you power the Mill, if I may ask? I did not see any wind blades or water channels on my way over…”
With a laugh, Alain replied, “Good observation. In other parts of the kingdom, they use wind or water to power their mills. However, at the Royal Mill, we use something far more powerful!”
Prion Garnick raised an eyebrow.
“Muscle!” Alain finished, realizing that the question was not coming, “We use the strength of the people to grind food for the people, now isn’t that quite nice? Of course, my ancestors, the ones who built this Mill, did experiment with other modes of power. Unfortunately, the nearest God Scar, the Urnic Scar, is almost a great-pace from floor to lip, much too deep to pump water from in a reliable manner. As for wind, Priarch has, in his wisdom, saw fit to bless this part of the kingdom with very calm weather. So, if we were to rely on either of those, many in the capital would go to bed with empty bellies!”
“Interesting,” replied Prion Garnick, “But is it not dangerous to use manpower in such a confined space? Surely that would raise the chance of an… incident…”
Alain looked at him with suspicion in his eyes.
But then it passed, as he seemingly remembered who he was talking to.
“Well, Prion, I would be lying if I said that no-one had ever been hurt whilst working here. However, in the last few years, we have made great strides to improve our safety! We give our workers longer breaks and fewer hours in the Mill in order to prevent fatigue and carelessness. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time we had an accident in the Mill!”
“That is very… fortunate,” replied Prion Garnick, as he uttered a small curse under his breath.
They were standing beside the Mill’s front doors when they heard a sudden voice cry out, “Alain, do you know where my husband is?”
A woman, blessed with child, strode towards them, whilst holding a carefully wrapped parcel.
“Ah, Riitze, it’s always a pleasure to see you,” Alain said, with a big smile on his face, “Your husband should be taking his break, but I think we both know that he is probably around here somewhere doing extra work. He might be the strongest man at the Mill, but even he is not invincible. Won’t you ask him to rest once in a while, for me?”
The pregnant woman sighed, before replying, “I will try, Alain, but he seems to be consumed by something these days. Ever since I felt my child move in my womb, he has become determined to earn enough money for us to finally leave Slumtown once and for all… Why, he was in such a hurry to leave for work, he even left his lunch behind!”
“Ha-ha, that does sound like him! Very well, if I come across him I will let him know that you are looking for him.”
“Thank you, Alain.”
At that moment, the woman seemed to notice to Prion Garnick for the first time. Dropping into a quick curtsy, she whispered, “A thousand pardons, Prion, I hope that I have not impeded you in any way…”
Letting out a small chuckle, Prion Garnick said, “Rise, mother-to-be, for you have no need to apologize.”
After she did so, he stepped forward, placing a hand on her swollen stomach.
With his eyes closed, he intoned, “Oh Priarch, you who sits in the sky until the last day, may you watch over this unborn life. I ask you, may you plant within this babe a flame that will never falter, even when all the world stands against it…”
The woman had tears in her eyes when he opened his.
“Thank you, oh thank you! I will not forget this, Prion!”
“Go with grace, oh bearer of the flame. And who knows, perhaps your child will find his way into the Church, and the spark will be borne in full.”
The woman dropped into another curtsy before saying goodbye. She left as quickly as she had come, and yet Prion Garnick felt happier than when she had arrived. She had reminded him, in a way, of his duty. Priarch had given life and flame to the world, and Prophet Imran had shepherded that flame and shown it to the people. Any order, holy or not, that came from such a powerful force for good, could surely cause no harm.
He felt foolish, then, for having doubts.
Prophet Imran had seen the future, and if he wanted Prion Garnick to sabotage one Mill or a hundred, then it would be done.
“So, the grain is carried up to the third floor by workers and dumped into a holding tank,” Alain said, as he gestured to the Mill’s various components, “From there, a sluice gate can be opened to various sizes, depending on how much grain we want to grind. It flows down a chute to the second floor, where it falls into the millstone receptacle.”
Prion Garnick took it all in with his mouth hanging open. The millstones, a pair of flat, circular discs, were roughly three paces across. They were made of solid rock, and looked heavy enough to crush a man to dust. They sat atop one another, with a small gap, roughly a half-pace, between them.
“Before the workers resume milling, one of the workers will check the lower millstone and clear it of any debris or unground grain, after this, the top millstone will be lowered with ropes until the two stones are less than a knuckle-width apart.”
Gesturing to a piece of shaped metal, which seemed to be comprised of two parts held together with a fine-looking hinge, Alain said, “The ropes are run through this, the clamp, which hold them in tension while the top millstone is raised.”
“I see… and where does the manpower come in?”
“Ah, yes, follow me,” Alain said, leading him down the wooden stairs. On the first floor, taking up most of the floor space, was a large turnstile. A thick wooden beam rose from the centre of the turnstile and disappeared into a hole in the ceiling.
“Here, eight men work together to rotate the turnstile, which in turn drives the lower millstone above. Once the top millstone is lowered into position, they will grind against each other and in turn, grind the grain that is fed through the chute and into a hole in centre of the top millstone. The resulting flour works its way outwards in special channels cut into the millstones and falls into several buckets surrounding the millstone. From there, it is gathered up, sealed inside bags and transported to the capital for the noble’s breakfast bread.”
“So simple, and yet so vital,” Prion Garnick uttered, as he stared at the machinery before him, “It is amazing that this all came from the minds of men…”
“Indeed, although I am sure that it was only conceived through Priarch’s divine will,” Alain said, no doubt trying to earn some good will of his own.
“Yes, Priarch is responsible for all that we see before us. Even I, a Prion, am nothing more than an instrument of will.”
Alain nodded and said, “That is all the Mill itself has to offer, so if you would follow me, I will show you the grain storehouse?”
Prion Garnick thought back on all that he had seen in the Mill. There had to be something that he could break. Preferably something small that would go unnoticed and would not lead back to him.
If Prophet Imran willed it, he would go to prison or the gallows, but his Holy Order hadn’t said anything about that, so…
At that moment, the answer came to him. He knew exactly how he was going to sabotage the Mill.
“Alain, before we go, I would like to place a blessing on this building. However, such a thing is for only Priarch to hear…” he said, pointedly.
It took Alain a few seconds to catch on.
“Ah, of course! Take all the time you need! I will await you outside,” Alain said, with a hasty bow.
A few seconds later, Prion Garnick heard the Mill’s heavy doors slam shut.
He was alone.
No, there was one other thing in the Mill with him…
Prion Garnick stared at the clamp, willing his trembling hands to move. It was harder than he thought, to do the deed.
“I am simply going to loosen the bearings, that is all. At worst, the millstone will drop and be damaged, delaying the Mill’s operations… If that is what Prophet Imran desires, so be it!” he said, just so that he could hear the words out loud.
And yet, even knowing that his was not a great sin, he still struggled to carry it out.
He had spent ten years learning the Parabils, thinking that they held the solution to every problem a devout man might face.
But none of the Parabils were about sabotaging property…
“Prophet Imran wants me to do this, no, he needs me to do this. He has foreseen every twist and turn in the river of fate, and if I do not carry out his will, I will be placing a dam upon his vision… Come, Mentan, and show your resolve!”
With a cry, he forced his hands to move, placing them upon the fragile-looking clamp. With care, he loosened the bearings of the hinges holding the device together. It was still tight enough to hold the ropes in place, and thereby keep the top millstone aloft, but it looked as if it would snap open at the slightest disturbance.
Making sure that he was not that disturbance, Prion Garnick quickly left the room.
As he reached the stairs, he glanced back, for a moment.
He wondered, and doubted, for the briefest of seconds, if he had done the right thing.
And then guilt took hold of him, and he carried on his way.
They were almost finished examining the grain storehouse when they heard the screams.
Loud, powerful, and filled with anguish.
They echoed across the worksite, growing and amplifying with every reverberation.
Moving faster than he ever had before, Prion Garnick followed Alain outside.
There, carried in the arms of several workers, was a man.
He was wearing the white garments of a labourer, and yet for some reason he had added red to his dress.
No… not red.
Looking closer, he saw that the man’s right arm had been crushed completely. Blood and cloth obscured most of it, but even to Prion Garnick’s untrained eyes he could tell that it would never heal.
“What in the Void happened here?!?” Alain cried, voice a mixture of fear and anger.
“The clamp gave way while he was inspecting the lower millstone, dropping the top stone on his arm. We managed to free him… but the damage was done…” one of the workers said, looking fearful.
“He was supposed to be working the turnstile, not inspecting the stone! What was he doing up there in the first place?” Alain said, approaching the man.
“We were worried that he had been overworking himself, like you always say, so we switched his duty in order for him to have a rest…” the worker replied, voice filled with regret.
Immediately, Alain’s anger left him and sorrow filled his eyes.
“Is there anything that can be done?”
The man, stout of frame, was barely conscious. He seemed to be calling for someone, although Prion Garnick could not make out the name.
The lead worker looked at his feet as he replied, “No, the arm was too badly damaged. If it remains like this, it will become infected and kill him…”
“So what can we do?”
The worker paused for a moment, before replying, “We can take him to a doctor in the city… and cut it off…”
Alain said nothing for several seconds.
Prion Garnick could see him weighing his options. But in reality, there was only one.
“Fine, do it. Take one of the grain carts and our fastest horse, and get him to Pyre. The rest of you, go home! The Mill is closed until I can figure out how this happened!”
A few moments later, the man had been loaded onto the back on a cart. He had almost lost consciousness, and yet he was still calling for someone.
A woman, perhaps?
But there were no women at the Mill.
No… there was one…
The scream arrived at the same time as Prion Garnick completed his thought.
Riitze, the pregnant woman, ran towards the group with fear in her eyes.
“NUADHA! PLEASE, DON’T DIE!” she screamed, again, with a primal rage. A moment later, she was at his side, weeping tears of fathomless grief.
“I’ll be fine, my love…” he whispered, raising his good arm and using his hand to wipe away her tears.
Together, they wept, husband and wife, at their shared pain. The man would never be able to work at the Mill, that much was clear, and with a child on the way…
Unable to face the consequences of his actions, Prion Garnick turned around and ran. Ignoring Alain’s confused cries, he raced away, as fast as he could, from the lives he had just ruined.
In that moment, he did not feel pride, at completing his Holy Order.
Nor did he feel satisfaction, for following the will of Prophet Imran.
Instead, he felt only self-loathing, at the man he had become.
At the man Prophet Imran had forced him to become.
Without stopping, he turned his face towards the heavens.
“CURSE YOU!” he screamed, with all of his heart.
In the silence that followed, a small voice arose from inside him. It needed to get out.
It had to be said, no matter the cost.
And truly, the cost had been high…
“My guidance has ended… and may it never begin again…”
Read Be Good to find out if Riitze’s child was affected by this tragedy.