Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 157
Lady Maria's Gift
Claude suddenly realized he was busier than he'd ever been. He had to send his sister to school every day and pick her up after. He also had to take care of his mother and brother. At the same time, he had to patrol the estate and cook three meals a day. He couldn't just do it half-heartedly either like he'd done when he'd lived alone. He'd also become responsible for the snowhound... He was the only one taking any serious responsibility in the house.
Over the last week he'd also prepared his mother's room, including new wallpaper and curtains. He designed and had them made himself as well. She was his greatest worry the entire time. He had to change out all the house's furniture that had not been sold by his father so she wasn't pulled back into the past by them. He felt it was worth it, but that didn't undo the fact that he had burned up all his reserves. He had barely a fenny left after buying another round of materials for his practice.
At least his efforts were rewarded by good progress on his mother's recovery.
The 4th month was just around the corner when she called him to her room and handed him a bank book. She told him it had all the savings the house had left after his father had paid off all his debts. Just over 44 crowns. He'd intended to start a business with the money, but him being dead, it was just laying around.
She took a small case out from under her pillow and handed it to him as well. When he opened it he saw the rent contracts for all the apartments and shop lots in the mansion. Between them, they brought in eleven thales and two riyas every month, just over 25 crowns a year. After maintenance costs were subtracted, they made 16 crowns a year.
Rent was collected at the end of each quarter, the 4th month being the end of the first for the year, so it was time to collect the rent. Such matters had usually fallen to her since Morssen was always busy at work, but now that he was gone, and she both living away from the mansion and too weak to go back, Claude would have to do it.
It took Claude three days to collect all the rent, and most of his time in each. On top of that he cleaned out their old home and put it up for rent as well, which rounded up the mansion's monthly income to three crowns. It was enough for his mother and little brother and sister to live off without having to be too frugal. His mother would not have to worry about money for the rest of her life.
Kefnie made a habit of visiting as well. She had little reason to stop by -- nothing had changed as far as she was concerned -- but she did so nonetheless, and even took to doing some of the chores when she swung by. She got along particularly well with Claude's mother and often took her out for walks on the estate. Even Bloweyk had warmed to her quite a lot.
After about her eleventh visit, his mother started commenting about how nice a girl she was at every opportunity. Claude knew exactly what she was doing, however, and didn't fall for it. She was buttering him up to get his head out of his arse and wed and bed the girl. They were both old enough to, anyway, and it was not tradition to wait any longer than was absolutely necessary before getting married and starting a family.
His mother was in the middle of one of her badly veiled pushes when Rodan knocked on the front door with a letter from Maria.
She'd heard about what had happened and was deeply moved by his father's dedication to his family. She wrote that she wished she could come by for a while, but unfortunately the capital did not wait on anyone and she had pressing obligations that kept her there. That being the case, she still had news to give, hence her letter.
The first was to gift him twenty hectares, 200 thousand square metres, of woodland behind the villa. He would, as such own much of the hillside and valley on the far side of the hill on which the mansion and villa stood. Claude was completely speechless at his mistress' generosity.
"The lady has already made all the necessary arrangements. You just have to sign your agreement on the deed and the land is yours," Rodan explained, unable to understand why his mistress was being so generous to his junior.
Sure he was a fellow magus and had taken her on as his mistress in herbal medicine, but that was hardly enough reason to give him part of her estate.
"Oh." Claude nodded absentmindedly.
That was not the only gift his mistress had for him. She'd also gifted him three hundred crowns for the express purpose of purchasing as much land in and around the town as he could. She explained that the town was to be become a crown territory and be elevated to city, which would all but skyrocket the price of even the tiniest bit of dirt. If they bought the land at the current market rate, they'd make a killing. With it, they could buy all the materials they could want for many years to come.
The public announcement would not be released for another month and a half, at the end of the 5th month, but anyone in the know, including most of the government's various arms, were sending people to scout out and purchase property. The kingdom's watch, the Watchers in the Night, were also going to move into town. That little bomb of hers shocked Claude about as much as everything else she'd said and done so far combined. The Watch only set up camp in places of national importance, specifically those of the military variety, such as key port cities. This meant Whitestag was not just going to be a city, but it was going to be turned into a military port city.
While this made for great economic opportunity, it also made it ever more crucial for Claude to hide his magus self with even more prudence, which Maria warned him earnestly to do. If the Watch caught so much as a whiff of him, his life would be over.
That was actually the main reason she'd gifted him the land. The income it would hopefully generate for him, along with the money he'd make with her in the land purchases, should allow him to fund his endeavours without resorting to magic-infused robbery and other things such as hunting abnormal animals. He'd already drawn a lot of attention to himself in his magus persona. The Watch was on the prowl for his mysterious teacher, after they got news from the local magic black market branch.
That was how she'd heard about it as well. She knew immediately it could only be Claude who'd put up that little lie. It was one thing to prance around as a magus in Whitestag while it was a fringe town of little note, and another to do so once it was one of the Watch's main bases of operation in the region. If he was caught, she might be able to keep him from the guillotine, but she could do little more.
Claude felt lost when he finally put the letter down. Though he was thankful for her warning, not being able to rob Blacksnake was very disappointing. He had been waiting on a chance to pay Butcher Bill back.
"Master Claude, the lady instructed that the letter is to be burnt once you're finished reading," Rodan said, ever the dutiful servant.
Claude obliged and Rodan watched until the letter's ashes scattered up the chimney, then took out the deed.
"This is the deed. Please sign here...
"This is for the right to use the path leading to the estate. Sign here...
"This is the terms of the transfer, sign it here...
"This is the letter of attorney. It lets me act on your behalf where these documents are concerned.
"And this is the salary account. The lady has deposited another 20 crowns. You're responsible for paying the other servants from now on. Please sign here."
Claude signed on each of the documents, in triplicate and Rodan stabbed them all together, minus Claude's copy.
"I shall head to town then, now. You should hear back from me then. I'll return with the official deeds."
Claude was now a landowner despite being just 18 years old and not a noble. It made him part of an even smaller elite than the nobility. His plot of land as it stood, minus any potential revenue, alone was worth 800 crowns. If his age was discounted, he was part of the town's upper class, if not its elite.
He knew quite well why his mistress had given him so much land. It bound him to her estate, or at least to the land near it, since it wasn't technically part of her estate anymore. She appreciated his talent and predicted he would be going places in the future, and who wouldn't tie down a balloon to help lift you a little while it was still on the ground?
That was, at least, how it might seem to anyone else, and no doubt how it was meant to look to the townsfolk. It was to make sure they would not take advantage of his family. One had to gain substantial favour with a landed noble for them to give you such a core piece of their land, even if it was on an estate they hardly ever visited.
The real story, however, Claude knew all to well. His mistress was using an excellent excuse to pay him back for his spell formations. He wasn't too happy at her insistence, and her use of such sneaky tactics, to get her way where his repayment was concerned. It had been his choice to give them to her and he didn't want any payment for it, damnit!
He'd come to know her stubbornness too well to keep resisting, however. He had made her promise to look for combat spells for him, which was the only way he'd gotten her to accept his spells without trying to repay him on the spot. He supposed her repayment now meant she'd given up hope of finding him any. He understood, also, that, besides the excuse being more fitted to land, the fact that she could only gather up three hundred crowns with the property endeavour meant she was quite strapped for cash at the moment and the land was really the only valuable thing she could give him at the moment. That said, however, she'd over-gifted him. The land was worth quite a bit more than the spells he'd given her, at least based on the prices she'd quoted to him during their discussion that day.