Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 19
The Fathers' Plan
"How did you find out?" Claude asked curiously.
Borkal answered him in a whisper by his ear, "Dad came home really excited and went directly to his study. He was in there until after I went to bed. When I checked the next morning, I saw he'd drawn three lines drawn a map.
"One, in black, connected Whitestag and Port Neru. Another, in red, connected Whitestag to a cluster of islands in the Sea of Storms and the bounced on to Tyrrsim.
"Our dads must be planning to open another trade route," Borkal said excitedly.
"My dad told me Whitestag didn't stand a chance of becoming a city anytime soon if we relied only on its population. If it became of strategic importance to the kingdom, however, population wouldn't matter.
"We're an important crossroads for land-based trade and travel between the three prefectures, but that's hardly enough to make us important for the country as a whole. We have to look elsewhere, and where better than the sea so close to us? The bay will make a great harbour, the perfect place for a port city. Being a port city, one of only two in the kingdom, would certainly qualify.
"I hope it works out. Things will finally get interesting if that happens. Even if Simlock's Banjis Isthmus plan goes ahead, they won't be able to stop us!"
Claude nodded. If the maritime route was a success, Whitestag's would become the third most important city in the kingdom, after the capital and Port Neru.
The three southwestern prefectures so often grouped together formed a gourd surrounded by mountain ranges on all four sides. The tiny sliver of coast the easternmost of the three had was by and large sheer-sided cliffs that plunged into the ocean (if viewed from above), or soared into the heavens (if viewed from below). The ocean and the mountain ranges separated the three prefectures from the rest of the kingdom, hence why they were so often grouped together, if not for Aueras, the three would likely have formed a kingdom on their own, and a quite formidable one at that. Whitestag sat at the mouth of that gourd and was the only connection, outside a few dangerous mountain passes, to the outside world.
That opening was a large bay. It looked like a giant shark had taken a large bite out of the continent's coastline. If indeed that were the case, the shark had only just barely missed Whitestag, which stood at the deepest end of the bay, about a day's travel up the river that mouthed into it, on the shores of Lake Balinga from which the river ran.
Whitestag was only another of the kingdom's small fishing villages at the moment, however, so nobody ever bothered with it. The only time even half-decent sized ships came into the bay was when storms were afoot, or they needed desperate repairs.
It was so small and inconsequential even the officials responsible for planning the expansions to the kingdom's naval infrastructure completely overlooked it. Whitestag had the advantage over Port Neru in that Lake Balinga was large enough and deep enough to let a number of large warships anchor in it, and on top of that, being a day's sail from the deepest part of the bay by an unnaturally deep and straight river, it was completely protected from any storms or bad weather. That said, the river was still uncomfortably narrow, which made it very difficult for large ships to sail up or down it.
And whilst the lake offered near absolute protection from any weather in the bay or out at sea, it was very easy to blockade. The river simply need only be blocked with enough debris, or a few guns and traps deployed to make it impossible for the ships on the lake to get out to sea.
Additionally, the port would be three days from Port Neru. Normally, that would actually be beneficial since it would provide a base of operations on the other end of the kingdom for operations in that sphere, Unfortunately, there were no such operations, nor any need for them. The only conflict for which the navy was needed, was happening up north-east, which meant Whitestag, and any ships that might be anchored there, would be days away from the action.
The only water-based industry the town had, was fishing. Unfortunately, the same issues applied to that as well. The town was a day away from the prefectural capital by cart, and the demand for fish there wasn't high enough to make the trip worthwhile.
Baromiss, the prefecture's capital, was also the closest other settlement, the nearest next settlement was three days by cart, which was too far, so there was no other market in which to sell the fish.
Borkal's guess about their fathers' plans was right, Whitestag would indeed become a very valuable place for the kingdom.
The new route would shorten the time it took to sail from the kingdom to Nubissia by more than ten days. Fearless would no longer have to play nanny to civilian shipping since they would be able to avoid the dangerous waters altogether.
Not to mention that the port would launch a new boom period for all three prefectures, and Whitestag would become the centre of that boom.
Eriksson's father had been at the meeting as well, which made sense, Captain Altroni could not be kept out of such an endeavour. He was the most knowledgeable about the entire area, the lake, the river, and the bay. His involvement was essential, and would also ensure the Sea of Storms wouldn't be a problem. The biggest problem was going to be the Tranquil Ocean. Whilst the edge of the ocean, mostly the region hugging the coasts or hopping between islands, was well-explored and travelled, the truly open ocean was a complete mystery to the people of Freia, and it hid countless dangers.
"Do you know where my dad drew the other red line?" Borkal asked, trying to sound mysterious, "I bet you can't guess. He drew it through Balinga, Kemda Swamp and Tordesass's Normandis River. They probably want to build a canal to connect those three places. It would let us transport the good offload from the big merchant ships onto barges and send them all the way to the west. Those areas won't have to rely on goods brought over the passes."
Borkal's hands waved in excitement.
"Think about it. If everything works out, Whitestag will be the third most important city in the kingdom, definitely the most important one in the three prefectures! And we'll no doubt grow into the biggest, too!"
Claude tugged at him.
"Shush! Don't be so loud. Why are you so excited?"
Borkal sat back down quickly. He waited until Instructor Vincent went back to his lecture to speak.
"Aren't you surprised at all? This is going to change the town completely! The more I think about it, the more excited I get! It's like what Mister William, said. 'Ours is a time of constant change'. History is being made right in front of our eyes!"
Claude couldn't hold his laughter in any longer. Borkal was 16 years old and youths of that age were most susceptible to middle-schooler syndrome. Borkal was proud of the fact that he was born in Whitestag thanks to the constant brainwashing the history books did.
"I understand. I am very surprised Dad is doing this. But think about it, Boa. We're just 16 years old. What on earth could we do in this plan?
"Yes, they're planning something big, but that's just it, they're planning. Nothing's set in stone yet. Simlock's Banjis Isthmus project has been held back for years because of how much it'll cost. We don't even know how much this will cost, or where we're going to get the money."
The three prefectures were isolated from the rest of the kingdom, and they're only link, Whitestag Town, didn't really have any infrastructure. The region wasn't poor per se, but it certainly wasn't wealthy. A few scholars in Simlock had suggested what had become known as the Banjis Isthmus project to ameliorate the situation. If everything went according to plan -- which it never did -- the project would take five years from start to finish with a labour force of 100 thousand men. The plan was to build a proper path over Falins Mountain Range's Banjis Isthmus. If it worked, the three prefectures would finally be properly connected to the main body of the kingdom.
Things were less rosy for Whitestag if the project went through. It would even further reduce the town's importance, worst of all, it would mean the merchants that did come through the town at the moment would all use the isthmus instead.
People were very unhappy when news of the project spread. The good news, for the town, was that the project was ludicrously expensive, it needed 300 thousand crowns at least, 1.5 million thales. One hundred and fifty million bucks…
It was shut down out of hand when it was brought before the Council of Dignitaries and there was no way the Council of Lords would support it. Just the initial budget was already ludicrous, and there would no doubt be additional, unforeseen costs that would push the price up, it wasn't unreasonable to assume a project of that scale could possible double its budget, perhaps even triple it.
"Understand?" Claude asked, "The best we can do is to not leak news of the plan. Other than that, all we can do is pray."