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Alvin Journeyman
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Alvin Journeyman

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Author: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tor, 1995
Series: The Tales of Alvin Maker: Book 4
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Alternate History (Fantasy)
Alternate/Parallel Universe
Historical Fantasy
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Synopsis

Alvin is a Maker, the first to be born in a century.

Now a grown man and a journeyman smith, Alvin has returned to his family in the town of Vigor Church. He will share in their isolation, work as a blacksmith, and try to teach anyone who wishes to learn the knack of being a Maker. For Alvin has had a vision of the Crystal City he will build, and he knows that he cannot build it alone.

But he has left behind in Hatrack River enemies as well as true friends. His ancient foe, the Unmaker, whose cruel whispers and deadly plots have threatened Alvin's life at every turn, has found new hands to do his work of destruction.


Excerpt

1

I Thought I Was Done

I thought I was done writing about Alvin Smith. People kept telling me I wasn't but knew why. It's because they'd all heard Taleswapper and the way he tells stories. When he's done, it's all tied up neat in package and you pretty much know what things meant and why they happened. Not that he spells it all out, mind you. But you just have this feeling that it all makes sense.

Well I ain't Taleswapper, which some of you might already have guessed, seeing how we don't look much alike, and I don't plan on becoming Taleswapper anytime soon, or anything much like him, not cause I don't reckon him to be a fine fellow, worthy of folks emulating him, but mainly because I don't see me. They just happen, and sometimes you can extract a bit of sense from some calamity and sometimes the happiest day is just pure nonsense. There's no predicting it and there's sure no making it happen. Worst messes I ever saw folks get into was when they was trying to make things go in a sensible way.

So I set down what I knew of the earliest beginnings of Alvin's life right up till he made him the golden plow as his journeyman project, and I told how he went back to Vigor and set to teaching folks how to be Makers and how things already wasn't right with his brother Calvin and I thought I was done, because anybody who cares was there from then on to see for themselves or you know somebody who was. I told you the truth of how Alvin came to kill a man, so as to put to rest all the vicious rumors told about it. I told you how he came to break the runaway slave laws and I told you how Peggy Larner's mama came to die and believe me, that was pretty much the end of the story as far as I could see it.

But the ending didn't make sense of it, I reckon, and folks have been pestering me more and more about the early days and didn't I know more I could tell? Well sure I know. And I got nothing against telling it. But I hope you don't think that when I'm done telling all know it'll finally be clear to everybody what everything that's happened was all about, because I don't know myself. Truth is, the story ain't over yet, and I hope it never will be, so the most I can hope to do is set down the way it looks to this one fellow at this exact moment, and I can't even promise you that tomorrow I won't come to understand it much better than anything I'm writing now.

My knack ain't storytelling. Truth is, Taleswapper's knack ain't storytelling either, and he'd be the first to tell you that. He collects stories, all right, and the ones he gathers are important so you listen because the tale itself matters. But you know he don't do nothing much with his voice, and he don't roll his eyes and use them big gestures like the real orators use. His voice ain't strong enough to fill a good-size cabin, if anything, or maybe a woodcarver or a printer no genius at any of them.

Fact is if you ask Taleswapper what his knack is, he'll tell you he don't have none. He ain't lying—nobody can ever lay that charge at Taleswapper's door. No, he just set his heart on one knack when he was a boy, and all his life that seemed to him the only knack worth having and since he never got it (he thinks) why then he must not have no knack at all. And don't pretend you don't know what knack it was he wanted, because he practically slaps you in the face with it whenever he talks for long. He wanted the knack or prophecy. That's why he's always been so powerful jealous of Peggy Larner, because she's a torch and from childhood on she saw all the possible futures of people's lives, and while that's not the same thing as knowing the future—the way things will actually happen instead of how they might happen—it's pretty close. Close enough that I think Taleswapper would have been happy for five minutes of being a torch. Probably would have grinned himself to death within a week if such a thing happened.

When Taleswapper says he's got no knack, though, I'll tell you, he's wrong. Like a lot of folks, he has a knack and doesn't even know it because that's the way knacks work—it just feels as natural as can be to the person who's got it, as easy as breathing, so you don't think that could possibly be your unusual power because heck, that's easy. You don't know it's a knack till other people heck around you get all astonished about it or upset or excited or whatever feelings your knacks seems to provoke in folks. Then you go, “Boy howdy, other's folks can't do this! I got me a knack!” and from then on there's no putting up with you till you finally settle down and get back to normal life and stop bragging about how you can do this fool thing that you used to never be excited about back when you still had sense.

Some folks never know they got them a knack, though, because nobody else notices it either, and Taleswapper's that way. I didn't notice it till I started trying to collect all my memories and everything anybody ever told me about Alvin Maker's life. Pictures of him working that hammer in the forge every chance he got in case we ever forgot that he had an honest trade, hard come by with his own sweat, and didn't just dance through life like a quadrille with Dame Fortune as his loving partner—as if we ever thought Dame Fortune did anything more than flirt with him, and likely as not if he ever got close to her he'd find out she had the pox anyway; Fortune has a way of being on the side of the Unmaker, when folks start relying on her to save them. But I'm getting off the subject, which I had to read back to the beginning of this paragraph to see what in hell I was talking about (and I can hear you prickle-hearted prudes saying, What's he doing putting down curses on paper, hasn't he no sense of decent language? to which I say, When I curse it don't harm nobody and it makes my language more colorful and heaven knows I can use the color, and I can assure you I've studied cussing from the best and I know how to make my language a whole lot more colorful than it is right now, but I already tone myself down so you don't have apoplexy reading my words. I wouldn't want to spend half my life just going to the funerals of people who had a stroke from reading my book, so instead of criticizing me for the nasty words that creep into my writing why don't you praise me for the really ugly stuff that I virtuously chose to leave out? It's all how you choose to look at it, I think, and if you have time to rail on about my language, then you don't have enough to do and I'll be glad to put you in touch with folks who need more hands to help with productive labor), So anyway I looked back to the beginning of this paragraph again to see what the hell I was talking about and my point is that when I gathered all these stories together, I noticed that Taleswapper seems to keep showing up in the oddest places at exactly the moment when something important was about to happen, so that he ended up being a witness or even a participant in a remarkable number of events.

Now, let me ask you plain, my friends. If a man seems to know, down in his bones, when something important's about to happen, and where and enough in advance that he can get his body over there to be a witness of it before it even starts, now ain't that prophecy? I mean why was it William Blake ever left England and came to America if it wasn't because he knew that the world was about to be torn open to give birth to a Maker again after all these generation? Just cause he didn't know it out in the open didn't mean that he wasn't prophet. He thought he had to be a prophet with his mouth, but I say he's prophet in his bones. Which is why he just happened to be wandering back to the town of Vigor Church, to Alvin's father's mill, for no reason he was aware of, exactly the day and hour that Alvin's little brother Calvin Miller decided to run off and go study trouble in faraway places. Taleswapper had no idea what was going to happen, but folks, I tell you, he was there, and anybody who tells you Taleswapper's got no knack, including Taleswapper himself, is a blame fool. Of course I mean that in the nicest possible way, as Horace Guester would tell you.

So as I pick up my tale again that's the day I choose to start with, mostly because I can tell you from experience that nothing interesting happened during those long months when Alvin was still trying to teach a bunch of plain folks how to be a Maker like him instead of…well, all in time. Let's just say that while some of you are bound to criticize me for not telling all of Alvin's lessons about Makering and every single boring moment of every class he held trying to teach fish to hop, I can promise you that leaving out those days from my tale is an act of charity.

There's a lot of people and a lot of confusion in the story, too, and I can't help that, because if I made it all clear and simple that would be a lie. It was a mess and there was a lot of different people involved and also, to tell you the truth, there's a lot of things that happened that I didn't know about then and still don't know much about now. I'd like to say that I'm telling you all the important parts of the story, telling about all the important people, but I know perfectly well that there might be important parts that I just don't know about, and importance people that I just don't realize were important. There's stuff that nobody knows, and stuff that them...

Copyright © 1995 by Orson Scott Card


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