Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 68

They still had two days to prepare for the trip.

"We only have one day of break, so we won't be staying the night. We don't have to buy--" Borkal began.

"Can't we just set out Saturday night?" Eriksson interjected, "The boat is two meters shorter than others, but there's still enough space for the four of us. If it doesn't rain, we can even have a barbecue."

"Great idea!" Welikro agreed immediately.

Borkal thought it was a fine thing as well. They wouldn't be in any danger as long as the ship itself was fine. Summer was here. The days kept getting warmer and the number of fishermen spending a night on the water grew as well. A couple of the richer townsfolk even rented a boat for a night or two.

Claude wasn't too enthusiastic about the idea. He wanted to meditate, not waste his time fishing. A day or two missed wouldn't be a big deal, but he didn't want to start a habit.

He'd understood the value of consistent hard work too late in his previous life, he didn't want to waste the chance he'd been given this time. He'd caught on two weeks before the final exams, but that was too late. He didn't have enough time to make up and didn't qualify for either Peking or Tsinghua University. His homeroom teacher always said he had the intelligence but not the work ethic. If only he'd worked hard...

There was no point in crying over spilt milk, and he had his second chance, so he shook himself.

His attention returned to the outside world just as Eriksson declared they would leave Saturday night.

"Huh? When did I agree?" he asked.

"You didn't object, so you agreed," Eriksson said sneakily, "Not that your disagreement would change the plans, the three of us are already in agreement."

Claude smiled bitterly, but didn't press the matter.

Borkal and Eriksson got to the business of shopping lists and soon they were all off to do the shopping. Claude was dragged along, but he had little say in the matter. He decided he might as well enjoy it and paid for everything. Including a meal for the four.

The four once again wanted to go to the old tavern, which was a bit of an issue since he was bound to run into his father. He didn't think his father would make a scene in the tavern, especially not since they'd only just started recovering from the newspaper article, but he would not be spared once the two were alone at home. He might even take Claude's money 'to keep him from blowing it all'.

Borkal's father had promised not to tell anyone, but if he spent lavishly on a meal, his father would get sniff in the nose, and Borkal's father, promise or no promise, would spill the beans the moment Claude's father started asking questions.

His father would not let dead dogs lie once he learnt what kind of money Claude had, it was a question whether he'd do it if the sum was about that Claude had made from the hunting trip, but he would definitely not stay quiet when the sum in question was worth more than a year of his salary.

Not that Claude knew what to do with his money. He'd panicked when he realised he didn't have any money left, but now that he had it, he realised he didn't know what to do with it.

His friends weren't troubled, however, he could always spend it on good food for them, they certainly weren't going to complain. He'd offered to let them pick whatever they wanted, but while they knew exactly what they wanted when it came to fishing and hunting gear, they were lost when it came to food.

It didn't help that the most expensive stuff was seafood, most of which they could get from fishing, which they were going to do.

Land-loving animals' meat was an option, but it wasn't a rarity in any of their homes. They were well-off enough that, while it was not a daily thing, they had meat at least once a week, probably more like twice. So they just got a couple good cuts of mutton and beef. Eriksson bought three chicken's weight of wings; he was dead set on having more of Claude's roast wings. They weren't expensive, though. The country's poor spice knowledge made it that meat that wasn't tasty in its own right was mostly fed to pets, so the wings were cheap.

They made sure to get some fruit and good bread as well. Fruit was a big part of the town's agriculture, so that wasn't expensive either. They didn't buy the fruit and bread yet, however. Such things became rotten or stale quickly, so they reserved that for Saturday afternoon.

Despite buying rather lavish volumes, it didn't add up to much. In all, the food for their trip only cost Claude a thale. Borkal, shyly -- which was a surprise -- insisted on getting four bottles of blueberry wine. Welikro wanted to get a barrel of blackweat ale instead.

It might not have sounded like much to Claude, but even his father's salary was just three thales a month, so it was really a ridiculously extravagant purchase.

What was done was done, however, and the four headed to the jetty. Borkal and Eriksson had also gotten charcoal, fishing lines and a lantern and some oil. For that, they popped out of school after lunch one afternoon and went to Wakri's shop.

"Ten packets of medium gunpowder," Claude said.

Borkal nodded as well. It was time to up their ranges. Claude didn't doubt they'd eventually have to switch back to the short range gunpowder once their money ran out, and it wouldn't be easy. Becoming poor was easy, becoming rich was not.

That didn't mean he was going to keep using the cheaper stuff just so he could stretch his money some. There was no point in settling for inferior material when he could afford better.

"Wait, Claude, shouldn't we buy long-range pellets instead? We don't have to worry about hitting anyone out on the lake, so why not try it out?" Borkal asked.

Claude wanted to test it out as well, so the suggestion was all he needed to convince him to go all out.


Welikro teared up silently beside them. His old gun couldn't handle anything more powerful than short-range powder, so he didn't get to shoot at the longer ranges.

Eriksson didn't bother with the land lubbers and their guns. They were useless at sea, anyway. The only gunpowder weapons useful on the water were cannons, and only en masse at that. They might, just might, be worth something on a calm lake, but they were completely useless in the slightest swell.

He'd only bothered with his short-barrel last time because they'd only had Welikro's gun back then. Now that both the others had muskets, there was not reason to bring it along. He didn't hunt with it either, so it was not going to be useful for even that. It was meant purely for self-defence, and the lake had no dangers so bad they each just had to have a musket with them.

Claude made another pass at the shelves, but nothing reacted to him. He did it a couple of times, but gave up when he came up empty the third time.

"I thought you were going to buy toys for your little brother and sister again," Welikro asked.

"They don't really need anything now they have Pluto. I would have gotten them something if something stood out, but this is all common stuff, and pretty old, too."

Wakri heard him and looked up.

"I don't order those things anymore. Once those things are gone, they're gone. I heard there's one more store, Hurian's in the slums, that still has some of the stuff, but that's all. I was actually thinking of selling the stuff to him. They're just taking up space here anyway, no one even looks at them anymore."

Claude didn't know this Hurian, but it looked like Eriksson and Borkal did.

"Hurian's back?" Eriksson asked, delighted.

"He wasn't leaving in the end?" Borkal chimed as well.

Wakri nodded.

"Who's Hurian?" Claude asked.

"A peddler. He usually travels all over the place, but it looks like he's decided to set up permanent shop," Borkal explained.

"He's a good old guy," Eriksson added, "He likes children and loves to drink. He often tells a the street urchins by the docks his wild stories after a night's drinking. He has quite a few, but I suppose that's to be expected when you travel as much as he does. His malt candies are great, too."

"He said he was going to the royal capital a few years ago, I didn't think he would be back already," Borkal added as well.

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