Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 23
Looks like the magi world also had differences between nobles and common people. White sterling bloodlines and black iron peasants... It's completely different from the fantasy novels I read where the magi were only folks who sought truth and aimed to unveil the secrets of the world's deepest laws. It's all nonsense here...
Claude lay in the moonlight on the roof. The 11th entry took him a lot longer than he'd anticipated and he was exhausted, so he was resting and recouping his energy before moving on to the next entry.
That was only part of the reason he was taking this rest, however. The other was to mull over the shocking bits of information he'd gotten from the last entry. It completely overturned everything he thought he knew about magi. He had thought they represented arcane omnipotent existences that could solve all problems with a few spells. They had symbolised supernatural power in his mind.
He didn't think low-ranked magi would be high-ranked magi's servants and be cannon fodder or low-level labourers. They also couldn't advance beyond their station because they weren't given magical resources. It felt a lot like the social capital module he took in philosophy class in university, specifically where materialism was concerned.
When a higher class gained control of the right to distribute resources, the lower classes were always oppressed. They lost the ability to climb the social ladder. Even with the support of interest groups that aimed to limit the harm to their benefits and social status, it wouldn't stop the march of the socially Darwinistic world in which they lived. The strong always devoured the weak.
Well, that was the gist of it, inaccurate as his representation may have been. It had been more than ten years since he'd graduated, after all. It also didn't help that the classes were so boring he often skipped them entirely. In retrospect, the theories did make a lot of sense and could even be applied in this alternate world where magic existed.
Then again, he thought back to the nation he had belonged to which had taken only three decades of peace to become one of the largest economies on the planet, catching up, at least partially, to the world's greatest, and sole, superpower, and doing it amidst severe repression by the rest of the world. It hadn't helped that they broken a lot of international conventions along the way, for which they were richly chided and fined. Rather than adapt to the self-proclaimed fair and just international community's rules, they instead forced their way forward like a thug pushing its way through a crowd until they had the strength to force the rest of the world to abandon their fair and just rules, even if only beneath the table, to deal with them.
One of the many prices their growth placed around their necks, however, was that their people demanded more and more resources. Claude remembered that, in the last years of his life half of the world's mined resources had come from his country and was exported to the rest of the world. His country's growth had not yet started its inevitable slowdown and the international leeches could still suck all the blood they wanted from it.
It had become the world's largest exporter, but it had also become the world's largest importer. His current world was no exception to those same economic forces, so it was no surprise the magi's heads had rested on the same chopping block, they were just farther ahead than his country had been when he'd left it permanently. This world's magic resources, much like his world's mineral and fossil resources, had been drying up. It had no doubt been even worse here because the people had no concept of renewable resources and frugal use. Instead of seeking ways to more renewably use their resources, they instead created two classes and let only one benefit. White sterling nobles controlled the resources and hoarded as much of it as they could for themselves, giving only pittances to the black iron peasants.
Just like his first world at the time he left it, though in a far worse state, they had been in a crisis, desperately searching for ways to replace the resources out of which they were rapidly running. His world had suggested looking to other planets and to asteroids for those resources, and, in a similar vein, this world had turned to other worlds to solve its own problems. For the people of this world, however, it was a far more dangerous aspect, especially since the ruling class didn't care about the lives of their servant class.
It sounded even more, Claude reflected, like an animated series he had once watched where a small robot flew a toilet-bowl-shaped spaceship across the galaxy in search of a source of unlimited energy.
He daydreamed thusly for a while before returning to his room.
Date: 22nd of the 8th, 3341 NM. Weather: Sunny.
The messenger finally came today. He brought the council's newest orders. They want us to get to Symposium by the end of the month.
The temporary police unit's five-ring magi received him and even Tawari joined the banquet. He gathered the eight of us when he got back and told some of the stuff he managed to confirm.
We are to complete our repairs on the sky-piercing tower once we arrive and then start sending the people through. They'll start building our new headquarters there. I finally understand why the baron's convoy is this massive.
Krimondo asked why they didn't just mine the stone they needed from the area but Tawari said they didn't have the manpower. It would be faster to transport stone from other quarries than to mine it there themselves.
That's all we talked about and everyone quickly dispersed.
It didn't take long after the banquet started for the entire town to become one big ruckus. So many people stuffed themselves with drinks they could barely stand on their feet. Everyone knows what happens to people when they get drunk. I saw dozens of fireballs shot into the sky recklessly from clusters of people sitting around tables or small fires. Each one obviously had a mug in his free hand. I wasn't surprised when I saw a few houses on fire. I expected as much, but I also expected the police unit to deal with them, but they never showed up.
Aliya says they're venting. But we all know going to Kenpus is a one-way trip, and not just because the gate will close behind us. But nobody dares to defy the council.
Is Kenpus really that terrifying?
Terrifying probably doesn't even begin to describe it. The only reason I still stay calm, probably, is that I've not seen it yet. Aliya says nobody that steps through the gate will have a good death, certainly none of us black iron peasants. I suppose she's right. I mean, all our nine-ring magi went there ahead of as well as the rest of the council -- about 70 seven-ring magi -- and all the higher tier magi on the continent. Despite that, they still haven't subjugated the gnomes and kobold tribes. They haven't even started mining stone yet, which is why we're having to send all the materials they need over from here. If they can't do those basic things despite how powerful they are, what are we going to do? What's going to happen to us?
I wanted to talk to Tawari about it, but he's vanished. I bet he's gone to see the baron again.
Claude rested for another hour.
Date: 23rd of the 8th, 3341 NM. Weather: Sunny.
The baron came to the inn to see Tawari yesterday afternoon. Tawari dragged me to his room when he did. The baron asked me again to give him my gunpowder formula. I turned him down, of course. I told him it wouldn't be of any use to him since it needed runes to trigger the explosion. Tawari said he would do it so that wasn't a problem. I didn't know what to say.
Tawari insisted I give them the formula since they would thus have no problem using it. He even brought up our years of friendship to play on my feelings. I knew something was up for him to be that desperate for the formula so I demanded to know what he was going to do with it. I never expected his answer.
Blow up the sky-piercing tower,' he'd said.
I couldn't believe what I heard. I think I shouted something like 'are you crazy?!", but I can't remember clearly. I bet we'd have been swarmed by other magi if Tawari hadn't cast a muffling spell.
He said he didn't want to go to Kenpus, but he couldn't defy the council. No one this side of the gate, however, knew how to set up the formation needed to open the gate, nor did anyone have the power, so if the tower was destroyed, with the entire council on the other side, he wouldn't have to worry about it. The only problem was that he didn't have the strength to damage the tower. My gunpowder, however, could destroy it.
I argued we'd be captured. Tawari would certainly be executed for his treason. I definitely wouldn't allow him to do something so reckless. He raised me into the world of magic, I would still be just a fisherman's son if not for him. Not that I wanted to go to Kenpus and leave my family behind.
The baron told me to drop it. He said I would never be able to convince Tawari to stop, and I certainly didn't have the strength to. He told me, and this shocked me a lot, that the fifty thousand men he'd brought along weren't here just to transport the stone. They weren't just going to destroy the tower, but they were going to wipe out all the magi in the city.
I almost fainted. He wants to conquer our holy land?
I always sensed something was off with him, but I never thought he was completely insane. I had to take several minutes to calm myself before I asked him why he wanted to do that.
He didn't answer me. Instead he handed me a piece of paper.
It was an order from the council that told him to train and bring over second batch of people, another 30 thousand gunners and ten thousand men and women as settlers.
They were all headed for Kenpus. Half the reason for this maintenance work on the tower was to enlarge the gate so they could send those people across faster.
I almost shouted again, at the council this time. How are these normal people who couldn't use magic going to survive in that place? This was basically human sacrifice.
They aren't planning to make sure they survive, however, Tawari informed me. The gnomes are very weak, but they survive because they have lots and lots of children all the time, which keeps their numbers up despite losing many thousands to simple predator attacks. The council plans to breed humans using the young people they want the baron to send over.
Tawari then told me Loenk, the tower's owner, was dead, killed by a kobold witch.
This world is crazy. Tawari wants to destroy the sky-piercing tower, the baron wants to attack Symposium, the magic council is actually going to send 40 thousand men and women to Kenpus without giving them any protection... Are they trying to feed the gnomes? Even our tower's owner, a seven-ring magus, is dead. I... I must be dreaming!
I told the baron the council would immediately come back when he attacks the city. But he only laughed.
'They won't come back,' he told me.
When I asked him how he knew, he said that sending someone to Kenpus cost ten magic stones, but sending even just a letter back cost ten times that much. They literally didn't have the resources to send magi back once they stepped through the gate. Which was why the council wasn't staying here and just sending teams over there to mine Kenpus and send the resources back. It cost way too much. The only reasonable way of doing this is to relocate to Kenpus entirely. To abandon this world.
I have to admit, I had completely forgotten about the planar laws. They prevented free travel between worlds, which explains why I've only heard about people going to Kenpus, but I've never heard of someone coming back.
I didn't want to give up, however. I brought up the city's magical cannons next. The baron told me the city only has two seven-ring magi right now. Everyone else has gone to Kenpus already. And all the cannons have also been sent to Kenpus. Symposium has never been weaker. Especially now since even seven-ring magi can be killed by gunfire. Not to mention that the baron apparently has another sixty thousand men hiding near the city in addition to the fifty thousand with him right now.
I have to say, the baron can be really convincing. Well, it's more like he knows which buttons to push. I already don't want to go to Kenpus. I don't want to leave my brothers and sisters here. I don't know how history will remember me, not that I really care right now, but I gave the formula to the baron. I hope this doesn't come back to bite me, cause if it does, it'll be one hell of a bite.