“It's an open secret that the Murian Sociocrathy was built on a pile of dead bodies. A hundred years ago, the north-western part of the continent was filled with many small nations and kingdoms. The ork tribe of the Allflame and their various allies were the largest group in this complex web of political relationships.
The influence of the Alliance brought stability to this region of inner conflicts, but with the beginning of the war between the Alliance and the Empire, the political structure of the north was compromised.
Most nations were consumed by war and rebellion. Within twenty years, the orks were banished to the deserts of Westfall and most of their allies were wiped out or had fled over the ocean. The legacy of this war quickly developed into the Murian Sociocrathy as we know it today.”
***Elven Kingdom, Finuawe***
“I am not too impressed with your performance, Alias. You have carried out my orders to the letter, but it turns out that we should have dealt with this individual in a more permanent way.” Fin, the king of the entire elven race leans back on his throne and pulls his price closer. The half naked girl on his lap shifts and leans against him. Gwiaha made the best of her fate. It's been two weeks and she already has the king around her little finger... even though she is supposed to be the enslaved one.
I look around and study the empty throne room. It's just the three of us. Everything is made of gold to show the king's power. I focus my attention on one of the statues to avoid the king's eyes. It's an elven maiden with a crown of roses on her head. I admire the skill of the artist.
Fin plays with Gwiaha's belly button, but his attention is on me. “I suppose that we can't change it now. We have made a deal with her. I just want to know which demon possessed you to promise her immunity.”
I raise an eyebrow at the question and bow. “It felt like the wisest move to resolve the situation. My attempt to woo her with my ability failed twice and she didn't seem pleased about it. After committing such an offensive act, I had to offer something of worth to appease the other party. Otherwise, it may have come to blows and I am not sure that I would've walked away unscathed.”
The king sighs and considers my words. “She resisted your ability. Is she that formidable? There aren't many who can do that.”
“It isn't unheard of.” I shrug. “You, a few demons and other highly trained individuals. The list is short, but such people do exist. She also had a dagger. After seeing the enchantment on the one which was stuck inside Gwiaha's guts, I wasn't keen to test her weapon. A scratch might have ended me for all I knew.”
“Is she one of them? Humans normally can't resist glamour without preparations.” The king tilts his head. “That would be tip of the iceberg. First, we help the Murians to drive them away. Then, we promise one of them not to interfere.”
I purse my lips and look away. “The black hair and the pale skin. The features of that family are there. Though, it could be coincidence. Humans come in all forms, shapes and sizes. I wouldn't be surprised if there is no connection. Foremost, why should be one of them roaming around the Alliance? Alone, on top of that.”
The king narrows his eyes and looks at the wall to his left. It's decorated with a complicated pattern of leaves and flowers. “What's done is done. We promised not to interfere, but we didn't say we would stop gathering information. There was a strange exchange at Wesli Port. One of the new manufacturers for spacial chests sold more than half of his stock to a single man. A certain Captain Gregor.
“The Murians suspect the man of piracy, but he was never caught. It's also strange that he decided to leave his usual shipping route between the Consortium and the Murians, just to show up at an Alliance port. It's good that we have all of Spacial Inc's manufacturing locations under observation. Otherwise, we would have no idea that so many chests were transferred to a single person.”
He leans forward. “I want to know where he got the money for the chests. I want to know why he needs that much space on his little pirate ship! It stinks! Go after the man and find out what's going on.”
I bow and ignore the fact that the king's hand wandered lower and is now at an improper place between the girl's legs. “I understand. I'll find out what's going on.”
“It's too good to be true!” I lean over the rudimentary balustrade to get a good look at the town below us. To be honest, the balustrade is nothing more than a fancy fence, but it does the job.
The town was built into a large quarry. Even the houses of the peasants are made out of white marble. It's not surprising, since it seems to be the only viable building material in the region. The quarry is filled with activity and I am reminded of ants who are digging their nest into the ground. Ants who are using magic. But it doesn't look like a pleasant experience to be down there. The activities are creating so much dust that the town seems to be covered in it.
I continue to complain. “Buying goods went without a problem, hiring masons also went without a problem. Where is the backstabbing noble or the secret police? Or assassins on leathery bat-monsters who are out to get me?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about, but I am not surprised that the local authority isn't trying to get in your way.” Kiara holds out a stack of documents. “Would you give your opinion on that? They are our suggestions for the architect, once he gets here.”
I take the papers from her and study them. “Why aren't you surprised about the lack of interference?”
She looks sheepishly at the town beneath us. “The first thing you did upon arrival, was to park your island directly above the local noble's mansion. It can be seen as an unspoken threat.”
“It was a statement!” I correct her. “Don't forget that. A statement. Not a threat! What's the first rule when you are accused of breaking the law?”
She looks surprised. “I have never broken the law.”
I have to roll my eyes. “Don't admit anything. Ever! So we are making a statement. We didn't threaten him.”
The beastwoman looks confused. “How is a statement different from a threat in this case.”
I slap her with the documents. “It's about how outsiders perceive our actions once we have to explain ourselves in front of the government. Don't forget, we are the victims here. We are peacefully going about our business, while others are trying to interfere with us. So what's this?” I browse through the papers.
“Concepts of what we can realistically do on a place like this floating island. I think that breeding herd animals is out of the question. It would require too much space. But the place would be an ideal nest for animals like griffins or sceadas. Some of the larger beasts can even be flown,” Kiara explains.
My eyes wander to the five lemus who are chewing on the island's flora. “I think I'll stick to riding.”
Kiara puffs out her cheeks. “You can fly! It's unfair.”
“Yeah, yeah.” I return my attention to the papers. Kiara is probably right that having herd animals isn't cost effective on the island. Though, we can set up farms for crops and vegetables. Glasshouses are easy to make. Once I have enough power stones, I just have to fly to a beach and melt the sand to glass. I could also use the silicon to create the first transistors. From there, it's just a small step to a simple calculation unit.
I wouldn't have to rely on the crude calculation capacity of the power core. Having a single modern CPU would be the solution to all my problems. But as it stands, I would have to completely reverse engineer such a complicated thing. It's not like I have the blueprints for one inside my head. Let's be honest, it could take years of my full attention to do that.
Kiara has a bunch of suggestions. From a floating castle, to several connected islands. I stop at a version which combines the idea of a large main complex with many little islands floating around it. The idea intrigues me, since it's modular. Additionally, there are some rings around each structure. “I like that one. The gyroscope style is cool.”
“Gyrooo- what? No. Fae just encircled them because she wasn't sure how people would get from one island to the other. Not everyone can fly,” Fae explains. Then she realizes what I meant. “You thought that she meant to install spinning rings around each island?”
“Why not? It would look cool. And I can create small platforms to move people back and forth. We can give each island its own purpose. Like living areas, fields, production and so forth. We would avoid most of the management issues which come with a growing city,” I explain.
“Just how big do you expect this place to get? I envisioned a small floating castle when we made these plans,” Kiara complains.
“We already had a hundred people. Now we have stonemasons. There will also be blacksmiths and teachers. We'll soon have at least five hundred people.
“When others speak about this place, the Consortium will pale in comparison. Many will send us their students to gain knowledge and information. Of course, it'll take time for that to happen. But twenty years from now, we won't recognize this place any more.” I hand her the documents. “Those are good concepts.”
Our discussion is interrupted by Tristen and a new person. The newcomer has dark brown hair with a few streaks of silver and broad, bushy ears. He also looks well fed. At least he doesn't try to hide his belly. The rogue gestures at his beastman companion. “This is Klein. He is an architect and had the best references which I managed to find.”
The man bows. “Klein is the name. I already managed the construction of several castles and I planned a few garrisons, but my true calling are mansions and palaces. I already worked for the Murians, as well as for the Consortium.”
I raise both eyebrows. “What is someone like you doing in a place like Teheim? Shouldn't you be sitting in your own villa in a big city?”
Klein smiles. “You don't get into my position if you don't make sure to use only the best materials. The marble around Teheim is the most beautiful stone you can get on this continent. But if you aren't careful, they will sell you the cheaper version which has a touch of grey in it. That's why I want to see what I buy for my projects.”
I nod. “So you are free?”
He bows again. “It happens so, mylady.”
Tristen rolls his eyes and signals with his hands that Klein must have a stick up his ass. Of course, Klein can't see it from his position.
I have to smile and hand Klein Kiara's concept art. “We are thinking about a large, central structure with lots of living space and faculties for small tasks. It would be ideal to keep this area as a park. Industry and food production will get separate islands.”
The man takes the sheet of paper. He doesn't look impressed. “I'll use this to present you with detailed plans within the week. Are there any limits to your capacities? I have a colleague who got a similar project from the Consortium, but they restricted the weight of their structure. It was a pain in the ass to calculate the weight of the end-result.”
I look around. “The weight doesn't bother me. Though, for the moment, I can't make the island much bigger, but I am working on that.”
We continue to discuss our possibilities and I learn that Klein visited a school for architects in the Consortium. I use the chance to learn everything I can about this mysterious place. According to Klein's description, it sounds like the Consortium is at least a hundred years ahead of the other nations. His description of their government has the characteristics of a technocracy.
A suppressive one. Apparently, each citizen of the Consortium gets to take a test at the age of fifteen. The result of this test decides the future job prospects of the person in question. Do poorly and you get to sweep the streets. Do great and you might become the next archwizard or the president of the Consortium. It goes without question that the test involves a lot of magic, though Klein insists that there are plenty of good jobs for normal people.
After two hours, I release him and he signs his contract to start his work.
It takes three more days before we are ready to leave Teheim. To my utter surprise there wasn't a single incident.
I set course for the dead mines and hope that my good luck holds.