“Beacon was settled around thirty-five thousand years ago. We were spacefarers already, thus the building of a new world presented little problem. If Beacon did not have the required material, we found it on a neighbour world. Fuel was soon an issue, but geologists and engineers swiftly discovered reserves in the sea. Of course, we knew what happened when one tampered with continental plates’ lubrication, so we were careful, and found other reserves on other worlds as soon as we were able to.
“Beacon’s exploitative nature began in the beginning. Clear oceans, wide rivers, flora and fauna, everything a new world had to offer, and now this. We spread out, settling all continents simultaneously – with travel and communication it made sense – and trade flourished. This region had something special, however, and it led to strife.”
He leaned forward.
“We came to grief over diamonds, when we should’ve learned our lesson on other worlds.” He leaned back again. “They were alluvial and the river nearby held those riches, enough for anyone to dip a pan into, but ownership of the water became a debated topic. The settlers on one side claimed it belonged to them, while those opposite claimed likewise. Villages up and down the river were of similar belief. A new world, and within a year we were at war. Other continents, towns and regions weighed in and took sides, and the war spread. On a particularly hellish day the river ran red, and it finally brought the settlers back to their senses.
“They began to talk again, and it was decided a bridge of stone would be built across the river, one that would stand the test of time, and upon this bridge would be a diamond house. All stones would be brought there, sorted and valued, and every prospector allocated hereditary land as payment. The diamonds were for trade with other worlds and goods would be equally shared between regions. The diamonds therefore belonged to all and the water was for crops and drink, not for pollution with human lives.
“There were problems, such as who would run the facility, and the design of the bridge almost sparked another war, but it was built. It virtually crippled us, for manpower was taken from other survival pursuits, and folk concentrated more on finding the stones to claim land for perpetuity than on growing food and building homes. An economic disaster, a political lesson. All said and done, it worked – for five years.”
Weth paused and then laughed. “The diamonds dried up.” He cleared his throat and went on. “The building on the bridge was demolished and the materials used for other purposes. Some wanted to dismantle the bridge itself, but that was stupidity. A bridge, after all, is a safe way across a river. The Bridge of Foolish Dreams – idiots. That is the known tale, on record in the economic section of any library. Its erection gets brief mention in the history books.”
“There is another tale,” Elianas murmured.
“The reason for the Brothers of the Bridge.” Weth pointed a finger at Torrullin. “You seek the past of others, those less connected to the Valleur. I’m sorry to disappoint you, for that is a Valleur bridge.”
Of course it was. Torrullin sighed. “How?”
Weth smiled, looking from one to the other, and then he was markedly intent.
“I told you the design nearly sparked another war, and it was so. We had drawings of beam bridges, truss, cantilever, even suspension, and all were lovely. Most were impractical and meant too much resource. The beam bridge was sound, but how long would it last? The river could flood and did. A two hundred foot span is not that great, so why suspend and cantilever? The practical solution was an arch bridge with foundations of rock and stone; done properly, no flood would damage it, and it could also be raised above potential flood level. Thus it was decided.
“Quarrying for suitable rock commenced, pink stone the choice. Then we ran into a snare. Spacefarers had no idea how to tool rock into precise shape. We were not yet at the point of concrete and steel. Much stone was destroyed in attempting to learn ancient lessons fast, and the project almost came to a halt. Folk began looking at discarded designs again. Then two strangers came – stone masons.
“They apparently heard of our dilemma and decided to offer their services. They were feted and feasted, believe me, such was the relief, but nobody thought to ask exactly where they came from or why a pilot and a team of engineers would bother to relate the tale of a simple bridge abroad. They tooled, instructed, laboured and created, and finally the bridge was finished and it was lovely. The two stayed on to affect repairs should it be necessary and later were asked to maintain the bridge.”
Torrullin leaned forward. “This part of the tale should be transparent also.”
Weth leaned closer. “One would think so. Beacon forgot their contribution.”
Elianas said, “They were made to forget.”
Weth smiled. “Yes.”
Torrullin pinched the bridge of his nose. “They stayed to protect the bridge and their descendants became the Brothers, right down to you.”
Weth leaned back. “I am part Valleur, yes.”
And that explained that.