Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 45
Disappointment and Gift
Claude was crestfallen. He had spent the better part of a week translating the notebook, and he didn't find a single thing he had hoped he would. There was nothing about how people became magi, how to become stronger once you were a magus, or even just some basic information on magic.
Instead, it was more of a collection of blueprints and designs. It appeared to be designs to reduce the consumption of magical energy, or not use any at all, while still producing the same results. The goal was to enable a normal person to use magic through various techniques.
Claude didn't know enough to be certain, however. He could only guess at the diagram's purposes from the labels and notes jotted alongside them. No matter how much he read, however, the diagram's inner workings remained foreign to him.
It didn't help that the book was riddled with alchemical terms about which Claude knew nothing. He would know absolutely nothing about alchemy if not for the drawing he'd seen in the diary. He only managed to figure out something by guessing based on the descriptions of that gun schematic.
He'd seen a documentary on hand-making flintlocks, so he had some idea of their inner workings, and it gave him a framework into which to slot the diagram. The two types of weapons weren't the same, matchlocks used slow-matches attacked to cocks, whilst flintlocks used pieces of flints locked into cocks on hammers, but besides that, and their striking pans, most of the guns were the same. Especially their barrels.
Barrels were the central part of any firearm, and were central to gunsmithing. A rifled barrel, for example, could be made by hammering the barrel over a mandrel with the reverse image of the rifling to create its rough shape before it was filed down further. One could also make different parts of the barrel separately and connect them afterwards. A more advanced method was to rifle the barrel by drilling the rifling in.
The barrel was one of the hardest things to develop due to the exponentially increasing requirement of machining to put ideas into practice, and its development was thus limited to how far general machining had developed. As such, many of the stories about transmigrators saw them trying to apply modern techniques, or finding ways to drive their development faster so they can be used to improve firearms.
None of that had become much of a concern in this world, however. The magi made them initially with alchemy. They simply put the ingredients on runic formations, then applied magic, and the barrels were created.
If not for the modified gun schematics, Claude never would've found out that shaping metals was such a simple feat. The reason for that was a large paragraph on the schematics that was dedicated to the making of a suitable gun barrel by a common blacksmith under circumstances when magic and alchemy wasn't available so that they could be mass produced. When he saw them, however, he finally understood that the greatest majority of developments had been made by the magi, and had been made using alchemy.
While making one barrel was easy with alchemy, and making tens or even hundreds was possible, it was impossible for thousands or tens of thousands to be produced. No magus would take that kind of job. Other things aside, the cost of setting up the runic formations and magical ingredients required for such an undertaking was astronomical. They would also need a magus, an alchemist to be precise, to carefully control the shaping of the metals for each and every gun barrel made.
Attempting to make so many gun barrels on that scale without aid from magi or alchemy was a huge industrial endeavour. The ratios for the metals to be used to make the alloy was also recorded with the schematic, and they were definitely not suitable for use in normal smelting. Landes suggested in his notes seven different mixes that might work.
He had also designed a kiln that might be able to smelt the metals more efficiently. It was only the first step, however. The correct use of the kiln also had to be determined, and then the fine moulding of the metal also still had to be done. He had suggested a multi-phase process that might approach replicating the work magi did.
After the weapons, came five designs Landes had developed to replace magi in the various steps in the gunmaking process. Some relied on wind and water, most of them hammered, sawed, drilled, or filed. Some replied on springs and pedals and complex mechanisms, those were used for more accurate work. Some of the machines didn't work on the guns themselves in any way, they, instead, were used to measure various things, mainly how accurate the other machines had done their job.
Using alchemy was easier, but it severely limited the volumes that could be produced. They certainly couldn't supply entire armies. Alchemically produced weapons could only ever be novelty, hobby weapons, not weapons of war. Even with all Landes' work, the weapons his process and machinery could produce were far inferior in quality and workmanship, but even so they were far more suited to war and military use purely because of the numbers he could produce. Ten thousand inferior firearms were still far more effective in a battle than a hundred excellent ones.
Baron Regius Au Syr, however, had had even greater ambitions than Landes. He had asked him to come up with a process that would allow even commoners to make their own guns good enough to be used in combat. It appeared the notebook contained those designs.
The baron only raised his banner in rebellion once he had these designs. The most important aspect, besides the volume it allowed, was that it cut magi out entirely. As such, nothing the magi could do could stop him from making these weapons.
It might require a massive initial investment, but Regius had the money. He was also perfectly placed to cover the increased resource gathering activities to supply the manufactories with the metals they needed. He could just say he was increasing his work to up his supply capabilities to help the magi finish their work quicker. His success became fated the moment he got his hands on Landes' new designs.
Claude put the notebook down and sighed deep, long, and hard.
He had no doubt the notebook would have been priceless to him if he'd known something about alchemy, but he didn't. Of the 38 pages, he could make something out of maybe 8, and they were all related to the musket. He had no clue what the rest were about.
He felt very much like he had in his last life when he'd gotten his hands on a university engineering textbook when he was in middle school. He could recognise something here or something there, but the vast diagrams of various mechanical beasts were beyond him, and even the parts he did recognise were put in strange places and in strange ways. And nobody should please get him started on the equations... Yes, he felt exactly the same way now. Even worse, back then he could at least recognise most of the symbols used in the equations, now, however... the runes were completely foreign to him, not to mention they apparently used strange units of measurement.
If only he had a simple introductory text... He might at least have been able to make a low-ranked magus out of himself. If hopes could turn the world, however, heaven would be a garden. It wasn't.
Even if he was to become one, however, he would only add to his already significant paranoia. The world now saw magi as devils, being evil to the core that had to be eradicated the moment they were found. That same attitude extended even to inanimate things that merely roused the suspicion they might be related to them. The word 'magic' itself was taboo.
The only real benefit to him was that he would have a better understanding of Hez after translating the notebook.
"Dinner time," Angelina called through the door.
Claude snapped back to the present.
"Coming!" he answered and got up.
He cleaned his desk, hid everything that needed hiding, and went downstairs.
His father was sat at the table this time.
"Go get the wooden chest in the carriage," he said when he saw Claude.
The Ferds didn't own a carriage or any horses. Morssen was not about to spend so much money to get them, nor any of the money needed to feed the horses and maintain the carriage. It simply wasn't worth it. He didn't need one. He didn't leave town often enough to make it cheaper than just paying for transport, and the town hall had its own he could just borrow. He was entitled to their use thanks to his position, anyway. He used them so infrequently that he didn't mind their weathered states either. If anything, their weathered looks made him appear more down-to-ground, or so he thought, at least. That was the reason he gave for always driving them himself, but Claude knew better. He was just too stingy to pay for a coachman.
Today was one of those days the carriage had come home. A coachman would come pick it up sometime in the night and come pick his father up again the next morning. Claude checked in the back and found a wooden chest longer than he was tall. It was very thin, though, and it didn't weigh much.
He shrugged and took it inside.
"What's inside?" he asked, putting it down next to his father.
"Have a look. It's a gift for you."
Try as he might, Claude was still just a child, his excitement was not something he could readily control. He opened the chest a little too enthusiastically for his dignity, and saw inside, nestled in straw, a black matchlock.