Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 40
Splitting the Spoils
Arbeit followed close on his father's heels. Claude found it weird. It was as if Arbeit did something wrong and was avoiding him.
He didn't have time to bother with the arse, though. He was too hungry. He'd only slept for two hours on the way home, and only a few more at home. He missed lunch, and now it was dinnertime. Despite how tired he was, his stomach wouldn't let him sleep anymore until he satisfied it.
He polished his meal off quickly, then left, only seven-tenths full. Despite how excited he'd been to find the thing, he only thought about Landes' chest again now. He felt like he was being teased by a cat. He quickly gathered up his utensils and crockery and took it to his sister in the kitchen. He stroked her head a few times, failing to notice her eyes, which said she wanted to tell him something, and darted back up to his room.
The bag was out from under the bed before the door had even shut and his nostrils flared at the stench. He couldn't believe his mother hadn't noticed it when she was in his room. She must have thought it was him!
"Ugh... Ack..." He pinched his nose involuntarily as he took the box out of his bag.
Despite where the chest had been, it was as clean as when he'd first pulled it out of its hidey-hole. He supposed that was to be expected from a magus' bog though.
He couldn't get it out of his head that the box looked like jade. He had been Chinese in that life, so jade was very significant to him. He took its existence for granted, and couldn't believe there was neither a word for it in Hebrai, nor any substance that resembled it. The closest thing to it was 'stone essence'.
Stone essence used to be mined as the quintessential mineral, but the entire industry stopped when the magi fell. It was nothing more than a pretty stone now, and not even particularly nice in the eyes of most people.
The box in his hand, however, if it really was this world's equivalent of jade, would have been made out of one of the most premium variants there could be. He'd learned a lot about the stones from his boss in his previous life. It was a very premium material for women's jewellery.
Stone essence… what a horrible name though. It had none of the ring of jade. Then again, jade only had that ring to it because of all the values and emotions associated with it for centuries.
Claude turned his thoughts to the diaries. He wondered how many years were recorded in them. They were as thick as dictionaries and the parchment was so thin one could just barely see the page behind's ink bleed through. It was also clearly not written on the move; the letters were small and delicately written. Luckily the diaries appeared to have been written in standard Hez, not a dialect. Heaven help Claude if that had been the case. They were also not written in hidden text, so it wouldn't be such a slow process to decode them.
The third book was supposed to be a notebook and it interested Claude most. If he was lucky, it would give him at least a rudimentary understanding of magic. If heaven favoured him, he might even actually learn something useful.
The notebook was as big as both diaries put next to one another, but it was nowhere near as thick. It was just forty pages, giving about eighty pages worth of surface in the diaries' size. Its paper was equally thin and exceedingly delicate. It was a miracle it had survived in such pristine condition for so many centuries.
Besides the books, there was just the money sack with the thirty shaliuns. He took a careful look at each, but they were all made of normal gold. Landes must have been a very pitiful magus to not have even one black-gold shaliun on him.
He'd not let his mind run too wild with dreams of Landes' grandeur, but he never expected the poor thing to be this insolvent. Then again, it was still infinitely better than nothing.
That said, it was still sad that the shaliuns were all but useless to him. They had no connection with magic, and he couldn't even exchange them for useable money. At best they were playthings. The best he could do was hide them away safely and hope a day would come when he could exchange them.
He set the sack aside and started flipping through the dictionary-thick diaries, his flips, however, lacked enthusiasm. So is man, he loses sleep over what he desires, and loses interest in what he acquires. He'd earned the diaries with his life, but he didn't have any interest in them. They were probably nothing more than aimless commentary on his boring daily life. He didn't think they'd recoup the effort in entertainment value.
The thought sapped his interest in the notebook as well. He flipped through it randomly and saw a few simple drawings and a few paragraphs on most of the pages. His eyes slowly brightened with suspicion, and he glared at a particular drawing. They looked very familiar. If he hadn't just handled one of them, he would have thought the drawing was of a cannon. What kind of musket would have such a thick, short barrel? He'd have thought it was indeed a cannon if not for the clear indication of a slow-match stuck in a cock and the distinctive trigger.
He was reminded of the matchlocks mentioned in the cookbook-diary. Where these drawings of the improved design? Welikro's Gally Mark 3 had an uncanny resemblance with the design he saw in the book in front of him now. Sich centuries had passed, but nothing had changed at all?
Despite the discovery, Claude's interest was only passingly raised. He flipped through a few more pages, then put the book down and got up. He paced back and forth a few times before something among his dirty clothes on the floor caught his attention. Right, he hadn't taken a bath yet. He'd best hide the box and the sack first though. He could just leave the books where they were, there was nothing magic about them, so they weren't that much of a threat, unless someone able to read Hez suddenly came in and started reading them.
He stuffed the box and the sack back under his bed; it wasn't like he had anywhere else to put them. He was suddenly made acutely aware of the lack of storage -- read hiding -- space in his attic room. That said, few people had the urge to come into his room even when he was absent and it was out of the way and far from the house's main hub.
He went downstairs with his clothes. He'd have his mother get a helper to wash the clothes. Having dropped off his clothes, he went to the first floor. To his surprise, Arbeit wasn't there. Was he off drinking again? Well, not that he was going to complain that the old fart was absent. He bathed quickly and whistled his way back to his room happily.
He got onto the roof and soaked in the moonlight. He'd developed the habit of moonbathing every evening since getting to work on the cookbook. He felt safest when he felt the silver light dance on his skin.
He spent most of the evening there, but the roof made for an awkward bed and he was stiff as he climbed back in through the window. He gave his desk an abbreviated clean and got back in bed for the night.
The god of war's bell woke him the next morning. He groomed himself and went down for breakfast like the usual mornings. Arbeit was already seated at the table. His food vanished down his throat faster than usual and he vanished only a few minutes after Claude had come down. Claude's dad said he had to get back to work urgently since Sir Fux was back in town.
It was a normal school day again as well, so Claude was off to school after breakfast and, like usual, his friends were waiting for him by the fruit stand opposite his house. They each had a partially eaten apple in hand.
"One more, please," Borkal asked Eriksson, "Yours," he said as he held it out to Claude.
Claude took it graciously and watched Borkal pay the three fennies for it. No one said another word until all their apples were finished.
"I heard you caused a commotion yesterday," Claude said finally as he swallowed his last bite and threw the seeds away.
"How'd you know?" Borkal asked.
"My dad cornered me last night," he answered, a slight twinge in his voice.
"You should have seen the crowd!" Eriksson said animatedly, Half the town must have been there. He showed off the snake skin. The tailors even fought over it!"
"Don't worry, we told everyone we found it already dead while we were out hunting. No one knows you actually killed it." Welikro whispered conspiratorily.
"That's good. Don't let people find out we went to the ruins."
Things were uneasy enough at home as it was, Claude had no interest in making things even worse. He'd lose his rear if his father found out where they'd really been to. He might even forbid him from ever seeing his friends again.
"No one but us knows, promise. Everyone thinks we went to the swamp. Snakes aren't all that rare there, so it makes sense. This one's just a bit larger than what most people have seen," Welikro said.
"Did you sell everything?" Claude asked.
"All of it. Got 17 thales and eight riyas for it all," Borkal said happily.
"How'd you get so much?!"
"I opened an auction right there while everyone was heated. They were so worked up at just seeing everything they paid way more than they would have normally." Borkal had a real scammer's smile in moments like these.
"The snake skin sold for six thales three riyas on its own. Hans the weapons shop owner bought it."
"The hell? Why would Hans need a snake skin? Did he buy it in the heat of the moment?"
"Snake leather is ideal for holsters and sheaths, according to him, at least. He said he was just looking for some snake leather for a commission of his," Eriksson chirped in.
"Wakri bought the snake's tendons for three thales and four riyas. He also took the two goat skins, six riyas in all. The deer hide went to Miss Mila, the seamstress. Chirp Leather didn't get anything, they must be really embarrassed," Borkal continued.
Indeed they had to be. They were the town's largest and most well-known leather shop, but they didn't get any of the great items up for auction. It must have been a real hit to their pride, especially in front of so many people.
"We sold the blacktiger to Pjard for two thales. The apothecary took the snake eyes and gallbladder for two thales and eight riyas, but I bartered another antidote out of him."
Borkal wasn't in the habit of not milking these kinds of things for all they were worth and then some, Claude decided.
"We each get four thales, four riyas, and five sunars."
"You guys should take the money I owe you from my share," Claude quickly added, "We'll go out for food today, my treat. I want to stop by the bookshop too."