Charade and Spiel rushed back to Ragebear a day later. Lorist felt a heavy burden lift from his shoulders when he saw them. He instantly let Charade, Spiel, and Kedan deal with the aftermath. Punishing Hansk and the traitors wasn't the highest priority at the moment. The highest priority was dealing with settling the hundreds of thousands of refugees in Winston.

Lorist rushed to the artillery range in the mountains with Reidy. It was the greatest insurance of their future and had to be set back on track. Howard had already taken up his post. He told Lorist that, so far, 342 artillerymen had recovered and rejoined the unit, which brought their functional size up to about 1300. A hundred were crippled and could never return even after they healed though. A full 1563 men died during the blademasters' attack and most of the unit's top artillerymen were among that number.

Lorist went to check on the brigade's former commander, Major Jim. His injuries had more or less recovered. He could sit and tell Lorist about his experiences, at least. He was now convinced, more than ever, that the cannons were the single greatest threat to blademasters. However, they complicated to operate and they hard to move.

When the blademasters attacked during the day, he lined up 46 cannons and fired a volley which broke the attackers. He didn't think the rest would attack again that night. He could do nothing once they were up close. Three thousand men faced the blademasters, but it was a complete slaughter. Paulobins leapt into the fray with a barrel of gunpowder and a torch. He blew himself up to take a few of the enemy with him. They couldn't find even a scrap of his flesh or armour to bury. The rest of the men also grabbed barrels of gunpowder and dozens blew themselves up as the blademasters got close. Another blademaster fell, and the rest retreated cursing the insane bastards as they let. Tears covered Jim's face as he described the scene. Lorist listened to him solemnly. All he could do was console the man. After telling him to get some rest, Lorist left.

In stark contrast to the two commanders, Professor Balbo and his wife who were hard at work in the research facility. Jim moved them to a safe location before the blademasters came to attack. Though the facility was flipped over, Balbo was unharmed.

Balbo introduced his latest breakthroughs as soon as Lorist arrived. He had successfully made the gunpowder into pellets. Though Lorist had only casually brought it up, Balbo managed to make it after years of work. It wasn't a small breakthrough either. It let the cannons fire with far greater power, or achieve the same power for much less gunpowder. He was currently working on how to dissipate the heat build-up from constant firing. He was just about to meet the two other masters for another consult in that regard, in fact.

His other great breakthrough was a new saltpeter harvesting technique. Lorist was convinced this, more than almost any other discovery, was the man's greatest achievement. Grindia wasn't Earth and the chemical principles of this universe were slightly different. On Earth, gunpowder was mainly made of one part sulfur, two parts nitrate or saltpeter, and three parts coal. The mixture added to some other ingredients produced standard black powder. But on Grindia, the recipe had one more part powdered fire crystal to react the way it did on Earth.

It was too bad Lorist had been just a workshop owner. Chemistry and physics weren't his strong suits. Though he had some basic knowledge, Grindia's laws were rather different from those of his former world, so the knowledge he had wasn't of much help.

On the continent there were two key factors that got in the way of his dream to make firearms. The first was the material. Grandmaster Sid's refinery still relied on ancient metallurgical methods to refine steel. Though he provided the man with the idea of water-powered machines that greatly increased House Norton's production efficiency, it was still far from what was necessary to produce the right materials required for firearms production. Before they could mold metal like liquid, the firearms from Lorist's world were still a pipe dream.

The second factor was the lack of saltpeter required to synthesize gunpowder. It was said that the dwarven kingdom had an underground saltpeter mine already running out. The dwarves considered the material very valuable. Lorist used nitrate in the soil to make what gunpowder he had. The biggest obstacle was the limited supply of gunpowder.

Lorist also had rather different experiences on Earth and Grindia. For instance, making gunpowder into pellets was easy on Earth. The powder only had to be wetted, shaped into pellets, and dried. However, the same process produced smoke-emitting powders on Grindia rather than gunpowder. Balbo thought the process destroyed the gunpowder's explosive effect. It took him three years to find a work-around.

Using gunpowder pellets not only raised its quality and increased its power, it also decreased the amount of saltpeter needed. At the same time, over his long years of research, Balbo found the ideal method of producing nitrate, doubling the yield. House Norton's gunpowder stores could now finally be stocked properly.

Lorist was sad and angry at the brigade's losses, but Balbo's good news lifted his mood considerably. He made Balbo a viscount on the spot. Balbo was pumped as he no longer had to act humbly around Sid since they were now all viscount.

Lorist loitered around the facility for ten days before going to Sid's refinery and staying there for half a month to optimize the production process and arranging for the construction of another batch of cannons before he returned to Ragebear.

He arrived back in the city on the 7th of the 10th. Sylvia, his concubines, and his children had returned to Ragebear at the end of the 9th. They welcomed him warmly.  Everything would have been perfect if the slow-witted Arriotoli had not bragged about her latest pregnancy in her latest communique.

Sylvia, being the jealous vixen she was when it came to Lorist, subjected Lorist to a thorough inquisition. It didn't help that his other concubines demanded fair treatment. Dilianna was completely unwilling to see someone not even recognized as a concubine have more children than her. It took Lorist several days to escape.

His three subordinates were ready with their reports when he got out. Each stared at him with a different expression. Charade appeared troubled, Spiel looked like he'd just walked through a field of flowers, and Kedan was completely stoic.

Charade was up first. He had completely the planning for the migrant settlement and was ready to begin implementing everything. Shadekampf and Camorra had already moved the migrants to their final destinations and they would be set by the 11th month. Once they were settled, the region's population would officially be over 3 million and all their goals would have been achieved. Charade was adamant that, at least for the time being, they not bring in anymore people; the natural population growth from those already present could take care of any future needs.

Mass immigration was not a sustainable model of population growth, least of all when it was done forcibly. It made for an unstable and volatile population and fundamentally changed the values and loyalties of the peasantry. It was also a pain in the neck to manage. Just looking at Charade was enough to convince Lorist. The poor man looked two decades older than he was. Lorist thanked him for his hard work and told him to take a long vacation. Shadekampf could handle things from here.

The final topic was reorganizing the military. Charade was put in charge of the new year's celebration for the foreseeable future. This upcoming one would be the first since Lorist's disappearance and was bound to be the grandest yet.

Spiel was next. It turned out his jubilance was because of the wealth the legions brought with their return. They had swept several provinces during their campaign and had brought back six million gold Fordes' worth of wealth. And this was before they were untethered from Lorist. The legions went haywire after Lorist vanished. They cleaned out five more provinces. Loze and Josk knew Lorist would be furious at their disobedience, so they were careful to bring back even every shiny stone they found. In total, they brought back 15 million gold, previous artwork, decorations, wares, jewels, and other valuables included. This was the second most profitable campaign in the house's history, only surpassed by the Hanayabarta campaign.

Lorist immediately got to work getting rid of his money like he was allergic to it.

The house had done nothing but fight for several years now. They needed rest. He decided to give everyone a fat bonus and a long vacation. Two million was gone immediately. Another million vanished into the research projects in the mountains and the pensions for the losses suffered there.

Spiel's wailed internally. His eternal crusade against the devil had not ended. He finally thought he'd won a small reprieve, a small victory, only to have the beast rear its head again.  Ah, if only he could shoo it back off to the battlefield. It just kept bleeding money. At least when it was off on campaign it bled everyone else dry and wasn't his problem, but now that it had returned he had to fight again.  Please, please, someone piss the devil off again!

Kedan was the last to report. He was in charge of the trials. He brought out the folder. The first row's names had yet to be judged. Their judgements were up to Lorist. First on the list was Lysecott. He was Lorist's eldest son, so Kedan didn't feel he had the right to judge. Lorist just asked what kind of punishment a peasant would get for such a crime. The answer was simple: death by beheading or hanging.

"Alright then. I said this before, but everyone will suffer the same fate for the same crime. He'll be hung then. I would kill him ten times in ten different ways if I had the choice. Letting himself be made a puppet is the worst shame he could have brought on himself and, by extension, to the house. His cruelty and lack of self-control are also unacceptable. If he didn't have such a rotten personality, and if he hadn't done those horrible deeds, I would have forgiven him. He would never have become my heir, but he would at least be able to live a normal life as a commoner or low level family official. But I will not suffer him to live and continue to stain our name, even if he's already been stripped of it."

Lorist filled his son's fate in personally. The kid was literally condemned by his father's hand. He didn't love the kid, he barely even knew him, but they were blood relatives and this came about because of his own shortcomings as a man and his failure as a father, so it was only right that he be the one to correct it. The memory of the first time he held his son came back to him and he couldn't stop the tears from rolling down his cheeks.

The fate of his erstwhile son and his role in bringing it about, both in terms of making the judgement that sent him to his death and letting it get to the point where this judgement was necessary, weighed heavy on his heart. Since this was his son's fate, he would not let those who also played a part in it get off any lighter. Hansk was stripped of his title and all his entire family's, all 17's, heads would roll along with his. Lysecott's personal guards would be hanged as well, their families would be spared but exiled to Hanayabarta. Every official and officer who openly supported Lysecott and his rebellion, about 300, and their families would suffer the same fate as his guards. The rest would be tried for whatever offences they committed during the rebellion, like robbery or murder. Those innocent of such crimes would be moved out of Lorist's demesne to Wild Husbandry, and those who served time for their offences would join them once their time was done. The judgements were to be announced publicly, ten thousand in all. It was a huge political shift in the house.

"As for the sentry legion's fate… Put them back to work for now. We'll deal with them when we do the restructuring."