Wellspring of Chaos is the twelfth book in the Recluce Saga and takes place roughly 60 years after the close of The Order War (Recluce #4). It is Modesitt at the top of his form, returning to his most famous fantasy world, yet does not require previous knowledge of Recluce to be enjoyed. It's publication is sure to be one of the fantasy milestones of the year. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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March 14, 2005
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Excerpt from Wellspring of Chaos by L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Kharl stood at the front window of his shop, looking westward for a moment at the wedge of twilight sky visible between the slate roofs of the buildings on the far side of the narrow Crafters' Lane. A single lamp was visible through the middle window of Gharan's quarters, above the weaver's shop. Next door, at Hamyl's, both the lower floor and the rooms above were dark. That wasn't surprising, Kharl told himself, since Hamyl's consort had taken the children to her parents' holding to help with the early-midsummer gathering. That had left the potter free to indulge himself at the Tankard, and the lane peaceful, since Kharl's neighbor, the scrivener Tyrbel, was a widower and kept a quiet establishment.
Lowering his eyes, the cooper glanced at the five barrels in his display, all tight cooperage from the best white oak, ranging from the hogshead to the standard barrel and down to the quarter barrel and the fine-finished fifth barrel with the brass spigot, used by anyone who wanted to store and dispense expensive liquids, mostly spirits. Then he barred the front door and closed the shutters behind the lead-glassed panes that his grandsire had installed before Kharl had been born. At that time, glass windows had been considered particularly foolish for a cooper, unlike a goldsmith or an artisan ' or even a weaver or a potter ' who had to display work to attract buyers. Times had changed, and most shops along the lane had come to display their wares behind windows.
"A barrel's a barrel. So's a hogshead. People buy barrels because they need barrels." Kharl smiled as he recalled the acerbic words of his grandmother, who had never let his grandsire forget what she regarded as the foolishness of the glass.
Foolishness Kharl didn't think so. He still got orders from passersby who otherwise hadn't thought about barrels. Not many, never more than one an eightday, and sometimes only a few a season. Over time, though, the windows had paid for themselves.
He picked up the lamp and walked toward the rear of the shop, past the high racks that held the billets he would form into staves. Most of the billets were oak, white for the tight cooperage and red for slack. There were also some billets of tight-grained black oak, and a few of chestnut. He passed the workbench and the tool rack, with every tool in place. On the left side of the rear wall was the small forge where he sized and shaped the hoops for tight cooperage. Beside the forge on the brick flooring was the fire pot and, beside it, the steaming ring. The faintest smell of ashes and charcoal drifted toward Kharl from the banked coals of the forge.
Just short of the rear wall, and the door to the loading dock, the cooper stopped and looked at the fifteen white oak barrels waiting there. Each was identical to the next, with the iron bands, set just so, and the smooth finish, with a medium toasting on the inside. Korlan was supposed to pick them up in the morning ' pick them up and pay the balance due. The vintner had taken the first fifteen barrels an eightday earlier. Kharl only hoped that the vintner did not come up with some excuse, as he had the summer before, waiting almost two eightdays before showing up, but, then, that was the problem in dealing with someone who lived more than ten kays to the south of Brysta.