Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 117

Come to think of it, it was rather funny. Claude had worked as supervisor of Normanley Wood for two months, but had not claimed a salary yet, despite his mistress leaving the money with his father.

She'd left the money in the form of notes from the town bank. They were worthless outside of being traded at the bank for actual coin. It was also a sign of her trust in his father. Ten crowns was a huge sum for most people. That said, it wasn't much to Maria. She was happy to spend it to nurture a new magus. The spells Claude had gifted her was worth far more to her than money ever could be. This was barely the beginning of a repayment in her eyes.

He'd become the focus of quite a fair amount of jealousy as a result, and no small share of it spilled to his entire family, especially his father. Claude had not peeped as much as a word relating to any of this since he'd left for the wood, but now he'd finally come for the money.

He'd not expected to do it so quickly, but he'd underestimated how expensive magical materials were. He'd not wasted it all at least, he had forty tubes and twenty bottles of potions, and he'd also reforged Edmigar's sword and crossbow, but they were not going to turn into money anytime soon. The potions were too likely to blow up in his face if he tried to sell them, and, while the sword and crossbow had been reforged, they had yet to receive enchantments as Claude didn't know how to do that yet. Landes' diary said nothing on the process and all of Maria's books were on herbal medicine, not on enchantry.

Thus, he had no money, and no way to quickly make more on his own. He had little choice but to come asking for his salary. Well, he did technically still had some shaliuns left, about nine by his reckoning, but he had no mind to exchange them for normal crowns. They were worth much more to him as currency for direct exchange for magic materials and items on the black market.

He did have the method for making new shaliuns, Landes had been responsible exclusively for their manufacture after he'd become a two-ring magus, but Claude was still far from being one -- and he suspected it would take him yet months more after becoming one to master the minting process. It was not an easy one. Not to mention the materials involved were exceedingly rare, and one, viridian-gold powder, had not been seen on any market for hundreds of years. It was a powder made artificially through alchemy, and the process had not survived the war. Only the magi on Siklos still produced it, but they had few, if any, contact with the rest of the world, much less traded with it.

He'd actually completely forgotten about his salary, but his current monetary problems had reminded him of it. It was not much, but for the couple months he'd worked, he was entitled to six thales. It should be enough for him to purchase the common ingredients needed for his as-yet simplistic experiments. Right now he was most interested in beginning to experiment with firearm production using the array. He so wanted to make himself a revolver...

Morssen's eyes darted up to him from where it had rested on the newspaper on the table in front of him.

"You've run out of money? You had five thales from the crocodile's sale, right? What did you do with all the money?"

Claude stared at his father, not knowing what to say. "Father, that was a couple of months ago. I've used it all by now. I'm learning herbal medicine, remember? I have to make concoctions all the time and I have to buy the materials for it myself. The tools and the materials aren't ridiculously expensive, but I go through quite a lot of it quite quickly."

The five thales would be bad enough for his father, he knew, but if he was to find out Claude had actually spent fifteen crowns in less than two months, the man might actually really have a heart attack. If that gave him a heart attack, Claude wondered what would happen if he learnt he'd also spent sixty five crowns' worth of shaliuns in a single night? Would he perhaps physically explode? Would he become this world's first suicide bomber? Claude sighed, this seemed to be a truth that stretched across the boundary of worlds: money was hard earned and easily spent.

Claude had sold a shaliun for those fifteen crowns before he'd met Maria. At the time he'd believed the money would last him years. So he'd spent a good portion of it buying his siblings clothes and treating them and his friends to food, and buying books for nightly use. He didn't go look for women like his brother, but he still needed an outlet.

He'd not gone too far with it, or he didn't think he hadn't at least, however. He estimated he would spend a whole crown only in a year at that rate, so he still had fifteen years of money left, and if he could sell the rest of his shaliuns... He was set for life. But then he just had to go and get involved with magic.

He finally grasped just how ridiculously expensive the study of magic was. The actual magic materials needed for the array were obviously the worst, but the rest wasn't that bad, beside the crystal ores.

His father rapped his fingers on the table a couple times while he stared at his son, then got up, tapping the ash in his pipe out into the small iron ashtray beside the newspaper.

"Come with me."

Claude followed his father into the study obediently. His father planted himself behind his desk and took out a ring of keys from his pocket. He searched for a small copper key on the ring, then unlocked his drawer. From the drawer he removed a small green booklet with the royal bank's seal embroidered in gold on it.

"This is the bank book for the account Lady Maria opened for you. She entrusted me to give you the salary every month, but you're grown up so I'm giving it to you. It's up to you to manage your own finances from now on. I'm too busy to play accountant for you as well right now. I'm trusting you to control yourself; you understand? Don't spend the money before it's due you for your word."

Claude nodded, the question of whether he should withdraw some of the funds for more materials swirling around in his head.

His father sighed and handed the booklet to him.

"Thank you, Father."

"You're a smart kid, Claude," his father said suddenly, "You're coming along well. It may be that the family name will rest with you rather than your brother someday. You have to take good care of your little brother and sister and your mother if that ever happens, you hear?"

Something was off. The thought drilled deep into his head and shoved everything else aside. Claude had sensed the awkward atmosphere in the building the moment he'd stepped through the door, and this had only confirmed it was something serious.

"Are you alright, Father?" Claude asked carefully.

His father waved the question away and tended to his pipe again.

"I'm fine. Go. I still have a few things to do."

Claude eyed him for several more seconds but his father ignored him completely, so he sighed and left the study. He went to the kitchen to greet his mother and found Angelina helping her with the vegetables. He smiled mischievously. His father better not think he could keep his son out of the loop. He had informants.

Claude learned from his sister that his father had held another feast two days earlier. The atmosphere had not been as jolly as the last time, however, and a couple of the guests got into near brawls with one another at one point. Luckily nothing serious happened, and her father took his confidantes to his study shortly after where they stayed until well after midnight.

She didn't know what the fight and following discussions had been about, but the atmosphere had been like this since. Their father had not gone to work since and their mother had been somewhat sour as well. She'd actually scolded Bloweyk for begging for snacks soon after breakfast that morning. Angelina had heard their parents fighting in the study the previous night as well and they'd not spoken to one another at all today. Arbeit had picked up on the tension as well and melted away early the previous morning. They'd not seen him since and suspected he'd gone home -- wherever that was these days.

Claude decided to not get involved. He had little business interfering in his parents' business as long as it did not affect his little brother and sister. Besides, he trusted it would clear itself up in a couple more days. He instead decided to withdraw money for more materials the next day and sink back into his expensive hobby.

The family had dinner and Claude headed to his old room to get his winter clothes. He played with his little brother and his dog for a couple minutes before leaving.

He pondered what materials to get this time on his way back to the estate. He'd clearly mastered basic healing potions, so there was no point in making more of them. What should he tackle next though? His thoughts were interrupted by the sudden thought to visit Eriksson for his short-barrel musket. His array was too small to make full-length muskets -- being just 1.2 metres across -- but he might be able to squeeze a musket of Eriksson's length. He nearly slapped himself over the head, however, when he realised he was obviously not going to make the whole weapon in one go. The barrel would be made on its own, so he could make a normal length musket.

That said, if he practiced with a shorter version he could save materials until he had mastered the process, so he still had use for Eriksson's musket.

The horse and carriage thus trotted on into the night, heading for Eriksson's family pier.

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