Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 60

Claude lay on his bed and watched as the little snowhound fought some old slippers to the death. He brought it back three days ago and finally realized the old man only talked about the dog's good points. He didn't mention its most unique characteristic: its innate ability to take a house apart.

No wonder he felt the three lardor snowhounds were similar to huskies. In fact, they were probably 'brothers from the same family'. He was stupefied that the little snowhound wasn't cowardly like huskies. Instead, it had the propensity to get mad at others even though it was no more than six weeks old.

The slipper was his father's. He was annoyed by the snowhound one day blocking his way and kicked it aside. Well… kick was a strong word, maybe more like a hard shove with the foot, but the dog had it in for him ever since. He always attacked his shoes, whether they were on his feet or not. Even his slipper weren't safe.

Almost everyone apart from Morssen loved the little fur ball though. Arbeit didn't but he didn't count. Claude's mother, sister, and little brother smothered it with their affection, and with nicknames.

Claude called him Pluto, and his mother had taken to the name enthusiastically. Mokro had demanded the little thing have a name before Claude left with it and that was what he'd come up with. His boss' husky had had that name, but Claude had no idea why that name popped into his head.

His brother and sister nearly died of acute cute attacks when they saw the little thing. Angelina didn't like Claude's name for it, however, and called it Snowflake instead. Claude wouldn't stand for it, however. He could not let the poor pup's dignity be so destroyed by giving him a girl's name. She wouldn't listen, however. Bloweyk didn't bother with names and just called it 'little puppy'.

The door opened and Angelina poked her head in.

"Snowflake here?" she asked, her eyes darting around the floor.

"Come in, Pluto's playing with my old slippers."

"It's Snowflake, Snow-flake!" his sister pouted.

Claude just smiled at her and resolved to call it Pluto in front of her every time he could.

She opened the door and the little thing charged at her wagging its tail wildly. It knew who treated it best and the young girl was his favourite maid. The two played right there in Claude's room, completely oblivious to his presence. He was content to sit and watch them, however, and they were happy to continue ignoring him.

His mother called Angelina to bed about half an hour later and she unceremoniously plopped the little thing on hear head and headed downstairs -- again not caring what Claude thought about her decision to make the dog sleep with her. She'd claimed him as her nighttime partner the day he'd arrived, and wouldn't hear anything about him sleeping anywhere but in her room. Her only concession -- which had to be pried out of her with blood, sweat, and tears, and which no one actually thought she kept -- was to let him sleep in a small box filled with scrap cloth rather than her bed.

"You mustn't let him sleep with you in your bed! He's already torn two blankets a bed sheet and a pillow apart. And you promised you'd keep him in his box. If he tears another piece of linen apart we'll have to give him away."

The girl nodded, tears at the corners of her eyes and her lower lip quivering. She clutched the little thing against her chest so hard it had to yelp to get her to relax her grip.

"I know. I won't let it sleep in my bed again, but you have to make sure mom won't give it away!"

Claude waved nonchalantly. Abandon it? Impossible. Even his father liked dogs. The only one that might have done something like that was Arbeit, but he wasn't staying at home anymore.
They'd certainly not give it away given how expensive its kind was. He'd gone to the jetty with the puppy three days earlier, and Borkal had told him they sold for three or four thales a pop in the cities, even more in the big cities like the capital. One with pure white fur could go for as much as a whole crown.

He left three turkey's poorer that day, but had kept one for his mother. He loved chicken soup, but it couldn't compare to turkey soup.

Pegg got the remaining hare. Eriksson had invited everyone to a barbecue, but Claude had to take the pup home, so he declined.

He'd asked Borkal why he thought Mokro would give him such an expensive pup, and the boy had said he probably needed a favour from his father. When he mentioned it to his father, he said the man had been eyeing a stall space in the market, but he couldn't afford the rent.

Claude had wondered what favour the man might have been after, but he hadn't thought of something that obvious. The market was basically a farmer's market, and was his father's brainchild, they'd actually won him his third award.

The market was built on an old abandoned noble's garden which had become overrun by peddlers and hawkers. It had turned from an overgrown bush in the middle of town into a cesspool -- none of its illegal occupants followed any kind of regulation or set any kind of hygiene standard.

Morssen, then just a normal bureaucrat, suggested turning it into a proper market square. It would clean up the mess, get rid of the criminal elements operating in it, and could become a revenue source above and beyond the increased taxable business. They could rent rather than sell the stall spaces and it would thus provide a continuous revenue stream.

It was quickly accepted and a year later the first shop opened its doors. Today it was the town's business centre where every-day goods were concerned and it provided a nice income for the local government.

Morssen had not forgotten his project by the time he was made the town's chief secretary. His first act as secretary was to commision the square's expansion. The new lots that provided were also dedicated to a number of different industries which diversified the market's offerings and made it even more popular. One of his novel introduction was a rotary renting model. Rather than anyone being any one spot in that section of the market's sole renter, people rented a stall for a specific day or number of days a month or a week. They could use that stall space only on those days and others rented and used them on other days.

This made it possible for farmers who did not have enough produce to open a permanent stall, to have stalls once a week or month and still be able to sell their harvests directly to public, rather than having to sell to a middle-man. It brought he average prices of farm-fresh products down for townsfolk, while still letting farmers sell for higher prices than wholesalers would give them.

If any one thing could be called the singular achievement that had given Claude's father his clout and respect in town, this was it.

Claude didn't ask for any more information. Clearly Mokro had failed to convince his father he should get the stall, so he'd turned to expensive dogs. He would have walked away from that farm with the pup one way or another. In principle he hadn't accepted a gift in his father's stead, but the hare he'd traded couldn't even begin to compare.

Claude didn't care about Morko's machinations, however. Morssen knew what was going on and he would do what he felt was best.

The equestrian classes ended that afternoon and the roster returned to the wholly compulsory normal.

Eriksson's boat was complete as well. All that was left was painting. It would be seaworthy in another fortnight and then the four would take to the lake again. Eriksson in particular wanted them to have a go at the water birds that lived in the wetlands.

His trip to Egret and his recent hunting excursions had cured him of the desire to live a sedentary life. It wasn't that he was particularly adventurous though, he just didn't want to see the same four walls and the same eight streets his whole life. He'd found himself actually looking forward to his military life on Nubissia -- less the military part than the new continent part though.

He still had two years before that happened, though. He sighed and played wistfully with his dagger.

The dagger, the locket-shaped wooden plaque, and the fish-shaped pen holder were his three magical possessions, worth a thale to him. He couldn't find out anymore than that they had some magic in them, however, no matter what he did. He even suspected his eyes were tricking him. Maybe they faked the glows when they saw nothing because they knew how badly he wanted to find more magic things.

Eriksson said the wooden plaque was used to mark rooms in inns and ship cabins. Claude thought the same when he gave it a wash, but it didn't seem right when he thought about it some more. If it really was a door plaque, it should have some a number or name on it. It didn't.

It was also not actually made of wood, but of stone, though it's appearance didn't match though. It felt almost like the fake-jade ornaments so popular back on earth. The plaque had a polished appearance, and, while it had neither name nor number on it, its back was engraved with a hexagram.

Of the three items, he was most convinced the plaque had to be magic. Unfortunately, it seemed the plaque didn't share his conviction. No matter what he tried, it did nothing at all. He concluded that the most likely answer was that his mental strength simply was not great enough to trigger whatever response was supposed to happen, yet.

He'd tried just as hard with the dagger, he'd even thought of tossing it into Mike's kiln, but it too, did nothing. His conviction for its magical properties had waned since he saw the daggers in Hans' place. It wasn't even comparable to his normal handiwork.

It couldn't cut through outrageous things, it wasn't even sharp by normal knife standards. He couldn't find any other special attributes either, nor did he feel any physical effect from wielding it; it was simply there. He wouldn't even have glanced at it in that shop if not for its reaction when he'd swept his intent gaze across the three racks.

He'd even taken it apart a few times, there there was nothing out of the ordinary with the hilt either.

He'd tried doing a kind of blood ritual to bind the items to him, but it did nothing. That finally made him realise that whatever magic was in this world, and by whatever rules it worked, they were most definitely not 'eastern', as it would have been called back on earth, but 'western'.

He sighed and put everything away. He stared out his window, however, feeling nothing like sleeping.

His gaze drifted to his drawer absentmindedly, and he saw the two dictionary-thick diaries. He hesitated for a moment, then gave in and pulled the first volume out. He had nothing better to do, certainly nothing else that could give him more of a hint into the world of magic, so he might as well read.

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