Here's the last release of the week! Cya guys on Tuesday as usual!
On the 17th day of the 8th month, Sylvia, Fennazali, Dilianna, Daisy, and Maria returned to Firmrock.
Back then, the The Northlands' south was the most prosperous area and Duke Loggins and the other Northlander nobles had built lots of mansions there. After the dominion relocation, the whole of The Northlands had fallen into House Norton's hands and the manors consequently ended up Lorist's property.
After settling on the plan of developing The Northlands, 27 of the mansions not too important to the plan were set for demolition, leaving only eleven known for their magnificent scenery. Lorist allowed Sylvia and his four concubines to take their pick.
Cherry Blossom Ridge was known as the most beautiful manor in The Northlands. Every year after the rainy season, flowers would bloom all over the hill, decorating the trees and coloring the air with fragrance. Heaven on earth. When the breeze rustled the leaves, flower petals would scatter all over, creating a rather dreamlike scenery. Even though Sylvia missed the blooming season, the trees full of cherry blossoms made her unable to keep her excitement in check. Cherry Blossom Ridge used to be where Count Shazin Hennard shacked up with his five concubines, though, so she decided to renovate the castle to better suit her tastes.
With Sylvia yammering on about the manor and the beautiful sights and the four concubines, who'd also picked manors with which they were satisfied, they soon engaged in a boasting match, much to Lorist's dismay. In the end, he had the five women leave the room for peace and quiet using his work as an excuse. However, before they left, they complained that calling Gildusk City of the Roaring Bear was a bad idea, and that the way laborers built the city referred to it, Ragebear, was far easier on the ears.
"Ugh... Does City of the Roaring Bear really sound that bad?" asked Lorist as he shrugged to Charade.
"Well, it's a real mouthful no doubt. It does sound a little weird," opined Charade honestly.
The names Lorist came up with were usually rather subpar.
"But why would the laborers come to refer to it as Ragebear?"
Lorist was really curious about this. He felt City of the Roaring Bear sounded far more cultured and refined.
Have you forgotten about the skyward-facing raging bear statue in the central plaza? The plaza is known as Ragebear Plaza and it didn't take long for Ragebear to stick as the city's name. In fact, apart from referring to the city in front of Your Grace and in official documents, all the knights and officials simply call it Ragebear. It much simpler and more convenient."
"Fine," Lorist conceded, "I admit I don't really have that good a naming sense. Let's just call it Ragebear from now on. It's not like I really care whether it's the name I came up with or not..."
"Your Grace, 'tis but a small matter rectifiable with a notice. On the note of what we just discussed, the relocation of Ragebear Knights' camp to Firmrock, I wonder if there's anything we missed?"
The original location of Ragebear Knights' camp was Bladedge Castle, built atop the two flattened hills near Northsea. It was built there to protect Northsea and reinforce Tortoise Hill Fort and Hidebull Fort in case of a barbarian invasion. But the barbarian army had been defeated and there was no way they would make it into the dominion for the next decade or two. So, stationing Ragebear Knights in Bladedge Castle was a huge waste. Since Lorist was going to move to Ragebear soon, Firmrock would be left empty, the perfect place to put the knights.
Lorist ticked the document and signed his name.
"Have Terman bring the knights over and move the local defense brigade from here to Bladedge Castle. Only start moving on the 15th of the 9th, though. There are still some officials in the midst of moving to Ragebear. I leave it all to you."
Charade nodded. "No problem. Many departments have already started. One month will be more than enough time for the move."
"By the time we reach Ragebear, preparations for my wedding with Sylvia must begin. We'll also have to receive lots of guests. I hope you're well prepared."
"Don't worry, Your Grace. We've planned everything already. Those involved know what they're doing."
A knock landed on the door at that moment. Jinolio walked in.
"Your Grace, Baron Hansk requests an audience."
Hansk rushed into the room angrily.
You're doing this cause I went against your marriage, right? You even wanted to marry a woman from an enemy house! Even though there are so many women in this world, you decided on the most unsuitable one possible! As a loyal servant of House Norton, going against you is the right thing to do! I didn't think you'd not only ignore my warnings but also strip me of my position! Ridiculous!
Hansk was going to give it to Lorist. He was prepared on having an argument even if he would anger Lorist more and be demoted even further. As a loyal servant of the house, he would let everyone see how far he was willing to go for the sake of the house.
"Greetings, Your Grace," said Hansk as he made an official's salute.
"Supervisor Hansk, I was worried about you all this time. Now you've come, I can finally rest assured. Come, sit down. Are things at Silowas taken care of?"
Lorist smiled warmly as if he didn't see any trace of anger on the man's face. He didn't refer to him by his title of baron and instead called him supervisor like he did in the old days to express familiarity.
"Jinolio, serve Supervisor Hansk some tea."
"No need, Your Grace," Hansk replied with a straight face, "I have settled matters with Governor Hector. I only came back to make my report now because I was waiting for him to arrive."
"Very good. Supervisor, I know it must have been really tough on you to be away from home for so long. Why don't you take some time off?"
"Your Grace, serving the house is what I ought to do. I'd like to know what the house has planned for me."
"Well, we already have all The Northlands. In the coming two years, we will develop it as a whole. Look here, Supervisor."
Lorist pointed to the map hung on the wall.
"Only by building roads can we move towards wealth. With better and more efficient transportation, The Northlands can be unified as a strong unit. Not only will the transportation of resources be secure, good roads will also enable us to send forces swiftly to any part of The Northlands. Here is plan. We will invest a million gold Fordes into this project. The house's future depends on this undertaking. There is no more suitable person to whom to give such a heavy responsibility than you. You've been transferred from Silowas to take charge of this project."
It was a complete checkmate. The infuriated Hansk looked half as angry as before in a mere moment.
So Lorist didn't transfer me to punish me... Instead, he's going to entrust me with such an important task...
He glanced at Charade, sitting on the sofa, and made a stiff smile.
"Your Grace, this huge task doesn't really need me, does it? I'm sure Baron Charade here can..."
"No, he won't do!" Lorist exclaimed.
Charade rolled his eyes.
"To be frank, he doesn't even qualify. This is a matter that concerns the dominance of our house over The Northlands. An undertaking that will ensure peace and safety for a century to come! While Baron Charade is great at dealing with administrative tasks, he's not nearly as experienced or reliable as you when it comes to managing huge projects! And of the other officials, Spiel is good at dealing with money but not construction. Kedan is also foreign to it. In fact, the only better fits would be Hector and Boris.
"But think about it, you're a senior and Hector your aide. As for Boris, I can't trust him fully. He used to be someone of House Kenmays, after all. Even though he's been rather loyal, we can't be sure. This is something that will affect our house for the whole of the next century. How can I leave it in their hands? Someone suggested Shadekampf, but he's one of my servants, he isn't as qualified as you. I've always felt you're the best candidate."
Hansk was smiling so bright his face was full of flowers. Lorist managed to instill in him a sense of pride and isolation felt by those on the top. Who could take care of such an important project if not he? Though the anger had long faded, he still felt he should at least try to act humbly.
"Your Grace, you hold me in too high regard. Actually, I think anyone else can do just as well. It doesn't have to be me. Shadekampf and Boris both have experience developing transportation networks. They might be more appropriate."
Lorist shook his head.
"Hansk, this project is more complicated than you think. If it's a simple matter of building roads, anyone can do it. But the road the house wants to build is the first of its kind. It hasn't ever been built on before, not once on the entire continent. It will be remembered by historians and books will be written about this historic project for generations to come. I insist you take charge."
Huh? Building a simple road will leave my name in history? How's that possible? At best, it'd just be a passing mention in the chronicles of the house. On the xth day of the xth month of year X, Supervisor Hansk concluded the project to develop the transportation system for the whole of The Northlands and allow for better resource transportation and so on... Is it really such a big deal?
Seeing Hansk befuddled, Lorist laughed.
"Hansk, just look at this design."
After squinting and looking for a moment, he finally noticed something odd.
"Your Grace, why is there a wider and smaller side even though the road only stretches in one direction?"
"Hehe Supervisor Hansk, this is a new invention, the carriage track. Come have a look. I have a model."
The wall between the room next to the study had already been knocked down. The other room was renovated into a display room. When they entered, they saw a huge sand table occupying half of the room. It was a sand table depicting The Northlands. Hansk could recognize Firmrock, Maplewoods, Northsea, the southern part of The Northlands… He found it odd that there were still wires circling the map.
"Look, these are the carriage tracks I mentioned," said Lorist as he pointed at the 'wires'.
Upon closer inspection, Hansk realized they were not mere wires. Instead, they were parallel wires separated into segments by smaller wires intersecting horizontally. Ugh, my eyes are really starting to fail me. I really need to get Master Mancheny to fashion me a pair of glasses. I heard they help vision a lot. Even Boris had quite a few made and wears them all day...
"Your Grace, what will the carriage tracks be good for?"
He couldn't understand their purpose no matter how hard he tried.
"This is an invention of Grandmaster Julian's. It was designed to be used for mining by sending mined ore to the surface on minecarts without relying on people or animals. It greatly decreases the cost of mining. It's a rather great idea; I've decided to use it elsewhere as well. After two years of experimentation, we finally have a sample and a model here. According to our estimations, if The Northlands relies on these tracks to ferry goods or passengers, the cost of transportation can be decreased by as much as two-thirds. It will multiply our efficiency several times over."
Lorist took a model carriage.
"Look, Supervisor. These carriages' wheels are not made of wood, but a round metal frame. The carriage wheels fit snugly in the tracks. Now look, when I connect all four carriages and give it a slight push..."
"But Your Grace, these carriages can travel on the ground without the carriage, right?"
"It's different. Not nearly as efficient," Lorist explained, "On the tracks, it just needs four horses to pull four carriages, on land, however, each carriage needs four horses. The speed is also inferior and it needs twelve more horses for the pulling. Before he repair our roads, traveling to the southern part of The Northlands on horseback takes at least two days while traveling on foot takes around six. It doesn't even take into account interference from the weather. If you bring along four carriages, you'll also have to hire coachmen to take care of the carriages and horses. It will also take at least four days. But with these tracks, with a resting station every 20 kilometers, you can make the same trip in less than a day.
Hansk wasn't an idiot, he quickly realised how much cheaper this system was. He still had two questions that bothered him, though.
"If the wheels are changed into round metal frames, won't it impact its movement on land? Also, would the round frames affect the tracks after being used on land? How will we maintain the tracks? The costs involved seem rather high."
Lorist nodded and picked up two circular metal objects.
"Your concerns are justified. But I've already considered them. Look at these. They are tires made of resin. They're elastic. If the carriages are to be used on land, we will fit them with these tires. Not only can it absorb some shocks, it can also prevent wear and tear on the metal wheels. The only problem is the slightly high cost. Each costs a large silver. But there are also other ways such as tying wood or vines to the wheels. While they aren't shock absorbent, they're good enough to prevent damage from friction."
Lorist then slipped the metal wheel models into the tires.
"Just like that, As for track maintenance, don't worry. Unlike our highways, we'll correct tolls from those who use the tracks. Given the immense cost and time savings, the merchants who use it will be more than happy to pay the toll. Naturally, it can't be set too high either. It must be based on the number of carriages and horses. I estimate we can make the money we spent on the tracks' construction in about three years. Each set of tracks can also be used for around a decade, so the toll collected in the last seven years will be pure profit.
"This is why I said this undertaking will be forever enshrined in history. The tracks are a never before seen method of transportation. I am sure it will be honored greatly in the annals of history. It was after much consideration that I decided to task you with this huge undertaking. There's no better person. Any thoughts?"
By now, Hansk was remorseful and moved.
"I pledge I will complete this glorious task! Please rest assured, Your Grace. I won't disappoint you."
"As expected of one of the pillars of House Norton!" Lorist praised, "Then I shall delegate this task to you. The design, monitoring, and engineering departments are all prepared and ready. You can start tomorrow."
"There's no need to wait for tomorrow. I'll start immediately! This is too important to delay, even if for just a day!"
Hansk was filled with a sacred sense of duty. He bowed respectfully before turning to leave in large steps.