“There are few things which money can’t buy. They realized that when the island started travelling the lands of the Alliance.”
Sawood is slowly coming into view. It took the island the entire night to get here. I was woken by the first streak of sunlight into my room and decided to watch the island’s progress from the edge of the island. Maybe I should create something like a bridge. Or an observation tower. It’s tedious to walk to the island's precipice if I want a good view of where the huge piece of rock and earth is headed.
I notice footsteps and turn to find Fae behind me.
The elf tries to smile, but it’s clear that she is forcing it. “It still doesn’t feel real. A single night after we moved in and we are almost there. Five hundred kilometres. On our lemus it would’ve taken us weeks.”
I shrug. “The island’s average speed is around a hundred kilometres per hour. But I instructed it to arrive in the morning, so we flew slower. And it’s not that impressive. The gate network can transport you much faster.”
“But the gates don’t allow you to go wherever you want to go.” She crosses her arms behind her. “We have to talk.”
I smile and raise an eyebrow. “About what?”
“Many things. I feel like I have to explain myself, since it’s obvious that something happened between you and my people. Otherwise you wouldn’t have come for me. The other thing is about what you want from Sawood. But let’s start with why you are out in the cold morning air.”
Raising a hand, I pat my belly. “Cramps, the bane of being a woman. I couldn’t sleep and decided to make sure that we stayed on course. This whole island is a work in progress. You can’t expect it to operate without errors. But feel free to explain yourself if it helps you to feel better.”
She nods. “It seems like you’ve already guessed it by yourself. I have disclosed information about you and your abilities to my people. There was the distinct possibility that you are a spy. Though, that possibility still exists.”
“For which I can’t blame you. We haven't known each other for long enough to claim any form of loyalty. It just happens that I need someone with a direct connection to the elven kingdom. Are you some kind of nobility?”
The village is now close enough to make out houses.
“And as for the village, we will buy ourselves a crew of craftsmen. Woodworkers, artisans, those kinds of people. I am thinking about a number between twenty and fifty. They can build barracks and other quick structures to settle down. Then we can change this place into something that’s good to live in.”
She chuckles. “Do you intend to become a lord or something like that? You do realize that these people have families? What about them?”
I nod. “They can bring them with them. We’ll take them in. There has to be someone who takes care of food and trivial things.”
Fae covers her face with both hands. “I still can’t tell if you are serious or just crazy. There are some things which are more important than money. It’ll be hard to find people who are ready to leave their homes behind.”
I snort and reach into my robe. “Okay. Let’s talk about your first job, Fae.” I throw her a heavy pouch. The gold clinks when she catches it. “Ask around. Find the people with the best reputation. We need someone who can manage a whole crew of workers. Offer him a few silver at first, then go up until he says yes. Then you leave it to him which people he wants to work with. They must be skilled. I’ll have a whole set of different projects for them.”
Fae opens the pouch and her eyes almost pop out of her head when she sees the coins.
“I’ll teach you something about the world, Fae. Everything has a price, faith, love, honour, land, ideals, religion. People say those words, but what you are holding between your hands, that’s what they mean. No matter how honourable their intentions are, as soon as you pay their price, they’ll do everything you ask of them. So just pay their price. I won’t complain as long as they are capable and are doing their job.”
Fae looks down at the pouch in her hands. “That’s a sad way to see the world, but I have met a lot of people who share your opinion.”
I raise and eyebrow. “And did you manage to prove them wrong?”
She sighs. “No. And what about materials? We’ll need at lot of wood for what you are planning.” She looks around, trying to gauge the size of the island.
“That’ll be Tristen’s and Kiara’s job. They’ll buy all sorts of equipment and consumables. Food, cloth, wool, seeds. I am sure that your time in the military taught you what a garrison needs to stay operational.”
The elf chuckles. “Is there a special reason why you are leaving Brian out of the loop?”
I pull a grimace. “That guy doesn’t strike me as the leading type.”
Fae starts laughing. “He is doomed. Even someone like you just looks at him and knows that he’ll never be more than a grunt. Do you know that Tristen almost made it to garrison commander while Brian was still a platoon leader?”
“Then which position did Kiara and you have?” I ask.
Fae returns to her serious demeanour. “Elves and beastmen are almost never command staff or regular soldiers. The allied army tends to use everyone according to his or her abilities.”
“So that means that you were used as scouts and spies.” I return my attention to the village. “It makes me wonder even more why you didn’t recognize my accent.”
Fae shakes her head. “Do you have any idea how many people are fleeing the Empire? Most of the cities on the Alliance’s side of the border are made up of former citizens of the Empire.”
I purse my lips, thinking about it. “I guess that makes sense.”
She tilts her head. “You are a lot saner than I would expect from someone who has spent most of her life as a slave. Though you clearly lack common sense. Nine out of ten slaves are so unhinged that the only mercy is to end their lives.”
The corner of my left eye twitches. “Then I guess that I am the perfect example of why the slave collars need a self destruct mechanism against being taken off. Though, in my time as a slave I have learned that this option is hardly ever needed. Most people put the collar back on by themselves if it’s taken off. Others are simply so far gone that they don’t have any motivation to act of their own free will.”
We stand there for a long time, neither of us saying a word.
After a few minutes we are joined by the others and I give them their instructions. They will take care of things down in the city while I’ll prepare a few things on the island. Brian doesn’t have any special assignment, so I send him as a guard for Fae.
It’s unlikely that the people who are interested in me are fast enough to organize an ambush in Sawood, but I still don’t want the elf to be on her own. If there is someone who intends to use force against me, then it will take some time for them to realize that I am gathering resources. There is no doubt that the information about my presence in Sawood will become known at some point. Once they draw the right conclusions, I’ll have to expect a welcome party at every town or village within reach of my island.
After giving out instructions, I hand everyone a ring with a little crystal inside it. “These are connected to the island. If you infuse them with your mana, the island will take you down to the city. You can choose where you want to land by pressing a point on the map which will appear in front of you. You can return to the island the same way.”
Brian studies his ring. “This will allow me to fly? What happens if it’s stolen?”
“Don’t be ridiculous! The ring won’t allow you to fly. It just controls the island’s functions. If you are too far away, the ring is completely useless. As soon as you use it, the ring will be bound to your energy structure. If anyone else tries to use it, he’ll lose his hand and I’ll know that something is wrong.”
I answer a few more questions about the type of supplies which we will need. Then I send them off to do their jobs. I wait until they disappear down between Sawood’s houses. The entire village seems to be made of wood, a fitting setting for a sawmill capital. There is a large river running through the village, splitting it in half. Along the river, there are dozens of simple watermills. I assume that they are used to power simple buzz saws.
Once I am sure that they are gone, I return to my house and unlock the door to my workroom. Inside, I retrieve the power core from its hiding place beneath the bench. With a lot people around, I need to hide it properly. If this gets damaged, the entire island becomes undone.
I carry the core back into the garden and call up the interface. The island is a complicated web of force fields and wards. The basin which is holding my property wouldn’t be able to withstand the island’s weight by itself.
It’s good that I allowed for a certain variation when I designed the entire thing. The core’s location doesn’t matter as long as it stays on the island. According to my instructions, a pillar forms from the soil in front of me. I set the core on the pillar and allow it to encase the artefact. Then I instruct the pillar to retreat ten metres beneath the earth, to the centre of the basin. If anyone wants to steal it, he would first have to blow a large piece out of the island.
With that done, I crack my knuckles and rotate my shoulders. There are two more things on my agenda and achieving them will be a little complicated. I need storehouses for food and materials.
I raise two hollow blocks of compressed matter at both sides of the island. Each of them gets a large entrance. Then I place the enchantments to turn them into spacial warehouses, turning their insides into an area with ten times the size. With a space of a hundred square feet before the enchantments, I now get a thousand square feet of space to store goods. That should be more than enough for the time being.
The warehouse to the left side is also enchanted with a cooling spell, since it’ll hold the food. I am aware that everyone will look at me with narrowed eyes for performing such a feat, but there is no other choice.
As it stands, the island can’t become any larger without additional power cores. I have the power, but I lack the calculating capacity to manage the complicated web of force fields. The next point on my agenda will be to get the beryl for more power cores.
The issue is that the governments know very well that beryl can be used to make power stones, so every source for the crystals is well protected and regulated. They are an important material which can influence the war. But unlike many others, I have science on my side. I know exactly how to make synthetic beryl. It’s a crystalline structure of aluminium, beryllium, silicon and oxygen.
The latter two elements are obviously no problem, since they are everywhere and in abundance. Aluminium is also no problem, since it’s a component of gneiss, granite and clay. Oh, how it always pays off to memorize those little details.
My only real problem is how to get my hands on beryllium. The metal occurs naturally in beryl, yes, that’s the one which is banned! It also occurs in bertrandite, which is found together with beryl. I have to look into that. If the people of this world haven’t realized how they can refine bertrandite, then I may be able to acquire it at a cheap price. The only other option is to buy the stuff on the black market.
I shake my head and throw myself into the task of getting the warehouses ready.