Chapter 81. No Rest For The Wicked
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By previous agreement with Abe, I let out all people bound for Parsee in the Academy. As it turns out, he was planning on talking to Newspaper Gals first thing off, so it is most convenient to him, Hiram and Rafiqa. Marceu apparently elects to start his own entrance into the Academy a little earlier, and is also in favor of being dropped off at the Academy, and his father is needed there to discuss his mid-semester enrollment with dean, so... yeah. Airship is promptly set off for Haver with dad and Rory aboard. I screwed up a little, coming out to meet the airship, so pretty much everyone present on it realizes I'm somehow present in two places at once, but that's fine. I could do without van der Klaases being in on that particular tidbit, but on other hand, the realization puts quite a dollop of reverent terror into both of them. Then again, they're both intelligent enough to realize just how much leverage that kind of ability can give me.

While they are settling their businesses or just parking themselves back into their respective rooms to unwind from that journey, I stroll through the Academy in search of one particular person. She seems to be absent from the hall, which is the usual place for the students to mill around dinnertime, but a few questions clarify her whereabouts easily. Dorms, huh. Coming across a specific door, I rap on it sharply.

"Yes, who is... you!... I ah... I.. I mean, it is you, lady Gillespie, what a surprise!" - Madeleine bleats, caught between anger and terror as she opens the door to find me on the porch.

"Me. Tell Elaine I'm here with a proposition she wants to hear." - I tell her, leaning on the wall next to the door - "Don't keep me waiting."

She disappears into the room, and after a bit of clamorous activity within reappears, huffing, and invites me in. Glaring, but with all the requisite politeness. Fine. Whatever. I'm guessing Elaine didn't punish her too badly, if she's still the maid.

"Lady Gillespie." - Elaine herself greets me coolly. She looks a bit haphazard, and if I were to venture a guess, she had a bit of midday lie-in, because her dress looks to be thrown on in a hurry - "Madeleine told me you have something to propose?"

"Yeah. Remember that airship trip I promised? I find myself in a need to fly to southern Champagne tomorrow, and there will be plenty of space. Not sure how long the overall trip will be, though. Depending on situation, from two days to week." - I tell her - "This is not a social outing still, mind. The only other people along will be Lemand Lemarchand and Moon Unit. And Bridgit, obviously, I'm not going anywhere without a maid. Do you want to come along?"

She bites her lip. On one hand, I can see she's excited about the prospect and enthused that I would fulfill the promise so expeditiously, on other, she is more than a little wary as to why I would want to invite her on a business trip.

"I am tentatively interested..." - she hems, - "But I'd like to know more before I commit with anything. What is the trip for? Can I bring Madeleine along or will I need to find a new maid to accompany me? When do you intend to depart?"

"In no particular order, yes, you can bring Madeleine. When all is said and done, the only person who was truly harmed by her scheming was you, so if you're inclined to forgive her..." - I reply, noting that Madeleine herself jerked and winced at that assessment, but remained stoically silent, - "I'm departing tomorrow in the morning. Nine o'clock, let's say. The purpose of this trip is to visit Lemand's ailing mother and attempt a novel treatment to hopefully cure her condition."

"...I see. And what is the condition, if you don't mind telling me?" - she soldiers on. I'm guessing the other two points were not a problem for her.

"Consumption." - I answer simply.

Elaine blinks. Then blinks again. "...Consumption has no treatment." - she then replies slowly.

"No known treatment, you mean." - I correct her - "Between me and Lemand, we have figured some things out and would like to test them. Lemand believes his mother will be amenable to undergo the experimental treatment."

"You think you know how to treat consumption?" - she drawls - "...And you're confident there's high chance of success, at that, or you wouldn't have invited me along... Let me guess, this is not just fulfilling your promise, but also having me as a witness you do have a working consumption treatment, isn't it so?"

"Well reasoned, lady de Braltar. You in or out?" - I confirm blithely.

"You're blunter than dwarves, lady Gillespie." - she retorts loftily - "But yes, I am, to borrow your succinct expression, quite in. What do I need to pack?"

"Clothes for up to a week for yourself and your maid, something to entertain yourself with once the novelty of flying wears off, like books or embroidery, personal toiletries." - I reply - "Airship has showers and kitchen, and I will handle the catering, so you don't need to bother with that, but you're entirely welcome to take along your favorite tea, snacks or wine, if you are partial to something specific. You will also need to notify dame Apricotte about your absence, maybe ask professors about the lessons you will miss during the trip. Some money, if you want to buy something in Grenwille."

"Grenwille?" - she repeats slowly - "That's quite far. A week's worth of clothes sounds rather optimistic, if you pardon the skepticism."

"Not via airship." - I grin - "If you don't believe me, ask his highness Abraham where he was yesterday. Hint-hint, it's Berlinger. And today, he's right here in the Academy."

I am most gratified to see two jaws drop simultaneously. That feeling never gets old.

___

Haver is amusing... But weird. Apparently, dad has some kind of arrangement with Dantes and actually intends to stay in the town a couple days. The crowd that's gathered to watch the airship is humongous, unlike the last time. Including pretty much every single noble in the hour's ride by horse radius. A whole lot of them have... Complicated expressions on seeing dad come out of the zeppelin. I'm guessing they were the ones who gave Dantes most shit about his freeholder status. Wonder what's going to happen to balance of power here now. There's our carriage, and... whoa, dad. Twenty gendarmes? What are you going to do here?... Correction, twenty gendarmes with ripple steel tipped ranseurs? Well, that's helluva show of power. And wealth, while we're at it.

I'm sorely tempted to ask dad just what the hell he's planning to pull here, but I already promised him to let him handle this. So I limit myself to exhorting a promise not to get killed and withdraw. Rory stays in, after I confirm that yes, it's not a hardship to bring him straight back to Grand Forge. Given that there's only me and him remaining in the zeppelin, I take the opportunity, and give him a crash course on basic gunpowder and it's implementations. By the time we're at the Grand Forge, he has a stack of paper thick as my wrist, mostly my assorted designs and notes, interspersed with his own that he jotted down while listening to me waxing poetics. Given the rather unholy light in his eyes he gains over the course of it all, I should expect to see some firearms being presented to me in the next tribute.

Unfortunately, while I do explain to him the basics of unitary cartridge, we both have to agree it would be best to start with muzzle-loaders. Not for mass production, mind, those were all designs to familiarize dwarves with the concept of firearm, it's principles and to give them some food for thought. Though, I am very thankful that we can skip earlier notions like matchlock and wheellock and go directly for true flintlock. We settle on very limited run of flintlocks to be produced for now, mostly as proof of concept and diplomatic gifts, while dwarves work out the techniques for properly boring the barrels. And that lets me segue very nicely to mangalloy and mushet steel. Which increases the unholy luminosity in the dwarven eyes by a factor of two, at least. The rest of Rory starts glowing when I cap off the next advancement push with the detailed descriptions and schematics of steel converter, which is obviously necessary if I want mangalloy in quantities that are needed for railways.

Just to see what happens, I call Roxolane on copperphone and secure her permission for portal demonstration to Rory. Who responds by hopping up and dancing some sort of jig in response. Good grief. By the time we touch down in the Grand Forge, he calmed down enough not to burst into spontaneous dancing, but still jumps out of the zeppelin with the deafening - "KIN, to me! Revelaishons abound!"

I... just barely manage to talk dwarves out of canonizing me on the spot, but they still insist on showing me "the first monument of the Rebirth". As it turns out, it's a statue of me. Twenty meters tall. It is constructed, as far as I can tell, as a sort of three-dimensonal jigsaw that was designed to lock together once it was put together, out of assorted stone and metal parts. As Rory proudly tells me, each piece was created by a dwarf. As in, every single dwarf in the settlement produced one piece for the statue. Which, given their feelings towards me and my revelations, makes this statue a Calamity-level artifact. Thankfully, on the thorough examination of it's field, I come to conclusion that all that it does is make everyone in the settlement "hardier". Which, to put it simply, means that anyone who commits themselves fully to being a part of settlement enjoys a whole bevy of body reinforcement and fatigue recovery effects.

All in all... flattering. And impressive. And honestly, I'm rather glad the first statue of me holds the hammer and the lantern. As Rory explains, those are the requisite tools of office for "builder and enlightener". As far as I can tell, that lantern is going to be lit for... well. Pretty much for as long as dwarves exist. Not in the sense they are going to refill it forever, mind, it just glows. Artifact, what do you do? On a side note, apparently a number of human blacksmiths now reside in the settlement as well. Most of them are here for limited term apprenticeship, but I'm also introduced to about a dozen of grisly old men who apparently impressed the dwarves enough to be elevated to honorary dwarfdom and contributed to the statue. All of them intend to live in the settlement permanently. Egalitarianism, ahoy?

___

It is late in the evening when I'm finally back with airship in Parsee. And I still have to stock it up again for a trip tomorrow. Luckily for me, physical fatigue is not a thing I actually have to worry about. Still... After we settle that thing with Lemand, I'm going to look for something slow and relaxing. Maybe go visit elves in Everfree. Moon Unit did promise that our visit is going to be serene, after all. Oh well, back to the grindstone.

Sorry about the long wait, everyone. I`ve decided to go over the previous chapters to fix up a bunch of accumulated errors and add footnote translations for all the foreign languages inserts. I think it worked out pretty well. I think. Do tell me if you notice something fudging.

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