“Having a few hundred tons of rock floating above an adversary’s head is a very good argument in any discussion.”
The village is dirtier than I imagined it to be. I guess that looking down from a hundred feet above doesn’t truly convey the living circumstances of these people. And gods, it stinks! Are they… I try to look through a window. Yes, they are living together with their animals in the same house!
There are no paved roads and most of the people are clothed in rags. I quickly get the feeling that Sawood may be the origin for most wood products in the region, but the ones who have to work for it don't get the fruits of their labour. Most of the people look like they never get enough to eat.
No wonder that Hensworth is so pissed about me taking away a good work crew.
We enter a large square with a market. Looming above everything, is a large mansion. Fae informs me that it's Hensworth's villa. I head directly for the entrance and am stopped by a large beastman who is at least two heads taller than me. “Only with visitation rights.”
I touch the large man's outstretched hand and try to sound as seductive as possible. “Please tell your lord that the master of the floating island above his town is here. We have to discuss matters of importance.”
The beastman growls, but he nods to one of the other guards.
We have to wait for half an hour while I try to ignore the guard's attempts at impressing me. He plays with his muscles and does all the other stupid things a schoolboy would do. It's a relief when a servant arrives to lead us into the luxurious mansion.
The butler guides us into a large office. Fae and Tristen stay at the door with three of Hensworth’s guards. I alone get to sit down in front of the office table. The whole room is made out of fine, polished wood. I can only imagine how much time and labour went into this villa.
In the chair opposite of me is a grinning man who looks like he is around thirty. Brown hair, fine suit. He leans back, looking as if he accomplished something extraordinary. “The rumoured Joyce. What luck to be the first to make your acquaintance. I've heard so much about you. The lord of Hormundad has sent messengers in all directions to find you.”
Luckily, I manage to keep my friendly poker-face. “I have no idea what he wants with me. He is just a nuisance. Let's talk about my reason for being here.”
Hensworth claps his hands together. “Yes! There are a few things you can do for-”
“Shut up!” Okay, that was a little too loud and threatening. My voice almost broke, which would've been embarrassing. “I am on a tight schedule and if you keep delaying me, I'll use force to take what's mine by law. The people who you are pestering made a contract with me. You have no right to interfere in my business.”
His expression darkens. “How do you think you are treating a noble? You are just-”
“Someone who has several hundred tons of rock and earth floating above your head. Just imagine what would happen if my island suffers an unexpected problem. It would be a horrible accident!” I place a hand on my chest and try not to smile.
To emphasize my words, the room darkens as my island throws its shadow onto the mansion. It's a good thing that I gave the commands to manoeuvre it into position before we entered the mansion.
He tries again. “The Alliance will-”
“Do exactly nothing,” I finish. “In which delusional world are you living? You are some dirty, minor noble in a run down-village with two thousand souls. I am the mage who is lifting that thing above Sawood with her little finger. If anything happens to me or mine, that rock will flatten your rotten excuse for a village.
“I won’t even have a bad dream over it. I am also the owner of a company which will soon control the most influential industry on this continent! Just in case that you haven’t heard of Spacial Inc. You are nothing to me! I could rip off your head right here and now, and nobody of importance would complain.
“And even if they are unhappy about it. Once I stand in front of the Alliance, I'll bow down and beg for forgiveness. I'll explain that you attacked me and that I had to defend myself.” I lean forward and smile. “Then I'll offer them my assistance and my loyalty. They'll be delighted to have a skilled mage on their side. Especially if it’s one who knows enough to rival the Consortium. So please explain to me, why are you wasting my time?”
His mouth opens and closes several times. “This isn't over. I’ll tell everyone that you threatened my town.”
I place both hands over my heart and try to sound hurt. “Threatened your town? Never! I could never do such a thing. All those poor, dirty peasants who are wasting away in this filthy place.” I lean back and turn serious. “It's never over. There is always someone else to step on. All I am offering, is that I won’t step on you. Not today at least.”
He gestures for his guards. “Get out of my sight and take your puny peasants with you!”
I listen to the approaching guards and stand up before they decide to carry me outside. Turning to the one to my left side, I notice that he looks a little stressed out. To ease the situation, I link arms with him and pet his chest armour with my fingernails. The resulting 'clickediclick' makes him freeze up like a deer in headlights. “Be a good boy and guide me back to the entrance.”
He does as he was told and a minute later we are back outside the mansion. Tristen exhales slowly and I realize that he was holding his breath. “That was the best bluff I've ever witnessed!”
Fae looks a little pale. “You stupid idiot. She wasn't bluffing. Don't you realize that Joyce is an absolutely shitty actor? She was absolutely serious about dropping the island onto his mansion!”
“Well, maybe not the island, but I am sure that I would’ve found something to drop on him. I am sorry that the gloves had to come off, but I really didn't expect that the nobles would react so quickly. Sawood has no gate, so I assumed that we had time. Though, I am glad that I’ve already enough leverage to subdue a minor noble.”
“You threatened to destroy the village!” Fae complains.
I ignore her. It’s just lucky that Sawood is so small. I doubt that the governor of Hormundad would be impressed by threats. “It seems like I wasted too much time in Abasin Valley while I was waiting for you guys.” I try not to make my words sound too accusing. Then I link arms with both of them and we head back to the field. My island is floating obediently above us.
They try to entertain me with random chitchat, but it's clear that they are forcing it. I revealed a bit of my true face back there. I would've killed the puny little man if he hadn't backed off.
There is a secret to a good attempt at intimidation. The intimidating party isn't allowed to acknowledge the leverage which the other side has on him or her. It must look as if the person in question already deems potential losses as acceptable.
We reach the field with our waiting personnel and equipment. There, we are greeted by Wilhelm, Elma, Brian and Kiara. There are more people and more equipment. Several large piles with tree trunks, crates with tool, barrels with food. The meagre belongings of the families. It’s actually quite a lot of stuff.
“Everyone here?” I ask.
Wilhelm nods. “Each person is accounted for.”
“Then let's go, before Hensworth gets another bright idea.” I activate the lifting function of my island and everything on the field is picked up to be deposited on top of the island. There are delighted squeals from the children, while some of the parents look like they just realized that they made a grave mistake.
The transport is accomplished without a problem. The weight doesn’t matter to the island. It would’ve been a problem if I had to pick up every item separately, but with everything in one place I can use a single, large force field.
I take Wilhelm and his men aside and instruct them on the two warehouses. My lifting function isn't sophisticated enough to fill the warehouses with all the tree trunks and wooden planks. It will be their task to take care of the resources and the equipment. Then I explain the warehouse for the food, which is immediately a big hit with the women. Especially with Elma, who takes control of the situation.
It takes a while, but once everyone is busily storing away the goods, I take my core team to the living quarters. We enter and I walk through the broad, central passage and point out the various apartments to the left and to the right. The bath-houses and other sanitary installations. There are also some rooms for social functions.
I realize a little too late that the others aren't coming. They stopped after a few metres and are now eyeing their surroundings like frightened animals.
Fae forces herself to look away from a fountain which I made to lighten the atmosphere. “How many people can you house in here? And how did you create all this in a single night!? I watched you struggling with the warehouse!”
“I was struggling with the spacial spellwork. It had to be absolutely safe. But once I had it, all I had to do was to copy the template. The initial design is the only thing which is troublesome. Like making a living unit for a family. Once I had the layout, I just copied it again and again.”
Tristen runs this hands through his hair. “But how many people can fit in here?”
I shrug and try to juggle the numbers in my mind. “About a thousand on this floor?”
Brian coughs and leans over to Kiara. “She said ‘this floor’.”
Kiara hits him in the chest to force him to back off. “How many floors are there?”
I raise two fingers. “Just two. This one and a second one, but it's empty. The stairs down are over there.” I point at an entrance which is larger than the ones to the apartments. “There is a set of stairs every fifty metres.”
Wilhelm kneels down and prostrates himself in front of me. “Mistress!”
Fae kicks him. “Don't do that! Get up! She is just a free citizen who lacks common sense!”
Now, that hurts my pride.
Brian raises his hand. “Can I relocate down here? These rooms are much nicer than the guest-rooms in your house.”
I smile. “Please do so. I'll be glad to have my house back.”
While they explore the floor, I set a new course for the island. Then I return to the warehouses. Most of the stuff is already packed away, even the large tree trunks. I notice that two of the workers seem to have a strength talent. They pick up an entire block with wooden planks and carry it into the warehouse. It would've taken twenty normal humans to perform the same task. And even then it wouldn't have gone so smoothly.
They are trampling the lawn, but that can't be helped. The plants will recover.
Someone clears his throat behind me and I turn around to find Wilhelm patiently waiting for me. “Is there a problem?”
He shakes his head. “No, Mistress. I just want to know what you need us for? Other than giving us quarters which are better than most minor nobles have.”
“Everything that's worth doing to improve this place. I can use magic to shape the island, but it would require too much of my attention to do the same with other materials. I suppose you noticed that none of your quarters have doors or furniture. All these little details. To start with, your task is to make your quarters liveable. Once that's done, you can start taking care of the island.
“For the moment my resources are limited. You can start with a balustrade around the island, so that no fool can claim that falling off was something other than utter stupidity. Next, I would like to have a few quick watchtowers. We can take them down once we get some masons to create some proper stone buildings. And from there we can go on.”
Wilhelm nods and considers the island. “I'll set ten of my people to create the balustrade and watchtowers right away. Little, complicated stuff like doors and furniture actually takes more time than rough and dirty work. If we pour all our time into the quarters, we won't start work on the balustrade any time soon. It won't look pretty, but it'll get replaced anyway if I understood that correctly.”
I nod. “Whatever you think is the best way to achieve our goal quickly.”