Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 47

Claude and his friends left the school through the wall again. This time, they had their lunch at school first. Like Borkal had said, they had money, but they shouldn't blow it. They should also avoid becoming spoilt and be in ruins once they run out of money.

Borkal was right, of course. Even Eriksson, who constantly pestered them to eat something delicious in town, didn't fight him too hard.

The four were headed for the slum's end of the docks, for Mock's Fishing and Boating Tools. The new owner, Wakri, renamed it, but it was still doing the same business. Claude could still get the munitions he needed there.

He and his father had a long chat the previous night about his future. His father had indeed put a lot of thought into his plan for the boy's future. He didn't have anything to say about it and eventually accepted what was in store for him.

He didn't really have a choice though. He couldn't just find a random job and live off the wages like he might have been able back on Earth. This world was completely different and a man didn't have much freedom. For one, he couldn't leave his hometown easily. He wasn't technically barred from travelling, but he would be stopped at almost every checkpoint and intensely scrutinised and interrogated.

And if war broke out while he was away, he might just end up in prison on suspicion of espionage. What was a peasant doing so far from home, after all? If that happened, he'd be lucky to net just a decade in a labour camp. If he was unlucky, he might be there for the rest of his life, which had as good a chance of being rather much shorter than he wanted than being long.

You had to earn your freedoms with service. Only dignitarians and nobles got some measure of control over their lives.

Nubissia, in contrast, was a harsh, sparsely-populated place. That said, most of the 'war' there was against the natives rather than other, well-armed and well-trained royal militaries.

He was the region's viceroy's godson, which ensured he would be well-treated if he was dispatched there. He could at least be certain to not get the shit jobs the few unlucky souls that did die there, were doing at the time. He suspected he would probably be put in with his godfather's personal guard, and what could be a safer place than a few metres from the viceroy?

His father also believed it would be a great opportunity for his son to get even further into the man's good graces. If he impressed the man, he would have little trouble climbing up the ranks to a very respectable position in just a couple of years. And if he got that done, then it would take far less than 15 years for him to become a dignitarian. Maybe even just half that time. Even if he didn't fight in the thick of hit, if his godfather favoured him, he would give him ample opportunities to gather merits.

He wasn't too worried that the war would affect the colony, either. The war was unlikely to bleed that far, but even if it did, the kingdom had a large military presence, enough to wipe the other colonies clean before the enemy could send a sizeable force over.

He didn't doubt the war would be bad, it wasn't even certain the kingdom would win, but it would be far away from his son. Personally, of course, he didn't doubt the kingdom would win in the end, but the price it would pay didn't bear thinking about.

Once the war was over, however, everyone involved would be stuck rebuilding and recovering for at least a generation. Claude would be elevated at just the right time to make the most of the peace, and would have avoided the war. He could choose what to do with his life then.

Morssen did his best to work out every little detail to perfection, but he could only do so much. Everything still depended on his son making use of chances he'd given him.

"This is one of the newest designs. It cost me six crowns," Morssen had said with a pained expression, "I asked Rublier to buy it for me. He was going to get a cheap one for Boa, but I talked him into getting a decent one for his son as well."

"Wait, Boa's father bought him the same musket?" Claude asked.

His father nodded.

"Yes. Boa is also going to enlist. His father considered paying the non-enlistment tax, but if the war gets as bad as we think it will, that won't be enough to keep him out of the draft. He plans to pull a few strings with his connections to get Boa into the logistics arm of the army."

Snakes and rats really all did have their burrows, Claude thought.

"I have a few conditions for giving you this," his father said, pointing at the musket.

The first was that Claude was not to use it in or near the town; the second, that he would pay for his munitions with his own money; and third, that he would not show his weapon off to other people. He didn't want this to put the townsfolk in danger.

Claude agreed without hesitation.

He was not going to hold back in front of his friends, though. Welikro and Eriksson stared at him, green-eyed. Eriksson darted home right after school to pester his father for the same musket.

"How can I get more accurate?" Claude asked.

"You just have to keep shooting. You'll eventually get a feel for the musket and the way the round behaves in the air."

That was not good enough. Wero said he had to shoot with his eyes closed, which was bad enough, but now all he could do to get better was practice until he somehow got the hang of it?

He didn't doubt Welikro felt the same when he started practice. He was living proof that it worked though. He got the deer right in the head in the middle of the night, after all.

He guessed he had little choice but to practice. Aiming wasn't that hard, in principle. You just had to line the aiming points up with your target, adjust for the offset between the points and the barrel, and for the bit off lift that happens between you closing your eyes and pulling the trigger, and get used to guessing it, and the distance to your target, correctly to make the appropriate adjustments.

Just like the story of the old oil peddler[1], 'it was all practice'.

If it really was all just practice, then it would be very hard to describe how to shoot accurately. He just had to develop a feeling for how to do it, and for how it was done with his specific gun.

He didn't like it one bit though. It was too inefficient, too vague, too without a defined process and technique. It was basically 'just keep doing it and you'll figure it out eventually'. He'd thought about it hard for the whole day, and finally came up with what he believed was a more sensible approach. That said, he still had to practice, which was why he was going to the docks now.

[1] This is from an allegorical poem written by an ancient Chinese scholar, Ouyang Xiu. It is commonly known as 'The Archer and the Old Oil Peddler'.

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