The Senior Administrator stepped out of his gaudy, yet modest, hut and into the mid-morning sun, pausing to let Temporary Administrator 3 join him from the much smaller, and less gaudy, hut next door. He headed into the village on one of his utterly pointless, yet immensely enjoyable, box-ticking exercises. In addition to the clear, if not actually sonorous, ringing of the brass bells adorning his long pointed silk carpet slippers, The Senior Administrator felt there was an unfamiliar crunch underfoot. This was, however, not the crisp crack of a morning frost. For one it was third week of Midsummer, the sun having reached its zenith less than four days ago, the memories of the all night filing ceremonies to mark the longest day still fresh in his mind. Besides, since the tribe’s four hundred league journey south to its new village site, the winters had become so mild that morning frosts were unknown. No, this crunch was the result of walking upon fresh laid gravel.
“Temporary Administrator 3.” The Senior Administrator turned slightly, enough that he could speak to the eunuch, but not so much he had to look at him. “Have we instructed this track to be metalled?”
“No, Lord Administrator, though it was your wish for it to be done soon. The track from the Holy Virgin Queen’s Palace to the Meeting House was considered a priority.”
“Ah, yes.” The Senior Administrator nodded. “So that the painted feet of her four score litter bearers did not get soiled whenever she journeyed out to give one of her weekly inspirational speeches.”
Following the gravel path, The Senior Administrator crossed half of the village before he spied three peasants. Two were pouring gravel chippings onto the ground, the third levelling them with a rake, no doubt cut from the finest Cocobolo,
To the latter peasant The Senior Administrator spoke.
“You, rake man.”
“Spear maker, sir.” The peasant paused, deciding whether to stand or kneel, he chose the latter but added a salute as a sign of respect, his arm remaining aloft throughout the conversation that followed.
“Spear maker?” The mention of this profession prompted an additional question to leap to The Senior Administrator’s mind, however he pressed on with what he had planned as being his first question. “I clearly recall instructing that the track between the Most Royal Summer Residence and the Meeting House was to be the first that should be laid.”
“Which we have dutifully done, my Lord; however, as there were ample chippings remaining after we had finished we continued a little further.”
“May I ask how you came by such a quantity of chippings?” As he looked about the village The Senior Administrator noted the extent of tracks that had been covered since he had last stepped out of his gaudy, yet modest hut.
“A by-product from the manufacture of stone spears, my Lord.”
“But I only instructed one hundred stone spears be manufactured, to test their feasibility with the hunters, their repeated monosyllabic complaints as to the lack of available traps becoming rather tiresome.”
“Aye, sir, one hundred stone spears were made as instructed. Each chiselled from the fine-grained rhyolite found in these parts, the phenocrysts of feldspar, quartz, biotite, hornblende, pyroxene and olivine, resulting in a serrated cutting edge that…”
“Lord Administrator …” Cutting through the extensive essay on the subject of the local granite, the Temporary Administrator 3 spoke. Having opened the three brass locks and flicked through the pages of the large, leather bound, tome he was labouring under, he read from the selected page. “You may recall last month a requisition from Ross the Carter?”
“Remind me.” The Senior Administrator stroked his chin, drawing his goatee beard to a point.
“He sought permission for the use of ten wagons, for the transportation of stones from the quarry to the spear maker’s hut?”
“Ah, yes, to move a hundred stones?” The Senior Administrator looked from his Temporary Administrator 3 to the spear maker.
“A hundred stones, sir, to make a hundred spears.”
“But surely a stone spear weighs…”
“Three pounds, Lord Administrator.” The Temporary Administrator 3 provided the figure his superior had been waiting for.
“… three pounds, of which the shaft makes up a pound, leaving the head to be no more than two pounds?”
“That is about right, sir.” The spear maker checked the calculation on the fingers of his free hand, the other still in its saluting position.
“A two pound spear head cut from a one hundred pound stone? Pray tell, what became of the excess…” Before he had even finished his question The Senior Administrator knew that the answer lay underfoot.