Vincent leaned back in his chair and looked order the blueprints on the table. Work was progressing quickly which was exactly how he liked it. Efficiency and order in everything. Soon the foundations would be complete and then work would begin on the structure itself. Not just a home, not just and office, a nerve centre to command from.
He rose to his feet pushing the chair out behind him and crossed the tent space to the shelves. Four flintlock pistols sat, powered and ready to fire. He lifted one of a good weight and replaced the empty one on his belt with it. He was getting through shot at quite a pace and it was always good to keep a loaded gun on you. Especially when there were demon summoners and brainless murders on the land.
The sound of footsteps in the mud drew his eyes up from his work. A middle aged man in workman’s clothes stood at the entrance to the tent waiting to be addressed.
“Mr Stranglethorn.” The man bowed and removed his hat before stepping into the tent. “It’s 2 o’clock.”
“I’m aware of that.” Any normal worker would have been shot for pointing out something so obvious, but Andrew was a good foreman and, fear or not, good foremen were had to come by. “Give me your report.”
“The last of the timbers and ash has been removed sir and we are beginning to level out the ground. We should be ready to begin digging proper by the end of the day.”
“Good, if you need more workers to keep to your timelines then have them brought in.”
“Of course sir an-“
“And materials collected form the docks.”
“Yes sir, very good sir.” He turned to leave and Vincent went back to his work. “There is… just one thing sir.”
“Might I… ask you a question?”
“You just did.”
“Yes sir, very good sir. Might I ask another… two?”
“Yes. That’s one.”
“Why this manor sir? There are so many prime homes and town houses throughout the city, much more important places to set up a home or offices. Why this manor? Why go to all the trouble of tearing it down and rebuilding on the land?”
Vincent turned to him and regarded him for a moment. Andrew seemed to shrink under his stare. In one fluid motion he lifted a chair and set it down in front of his own with a dull thud.
“Take a seat and I’ll tell you.” Vincent returned to his own chair as Andrew crossed the tent carefully and sat down. Vincent steepled his fingers while he regarded Andrew. He was known to do that when deep in thought. After a minute of tortuous silence for Andrew, Vincent finally spoke.
“Do you remember 10 years age, the siege of Rai’ta?”
“Yes sir. It was all over the papers. Bunch of rebels rose up and took over the city, killed the nobles and proclaimed an equal society.” Andrew shifted a little in his seat under Vincent’s stare. It seemed as though his boss was trying to read whether or not he supported their views.
“Correct. I had a small firm at that point and the army, understocked and unprepared as it was at the time purchased every weapon it could get its hands on to try and take back the city. Naturally I wanted to see how effective our weapons were so I went to the siege. The fighting was fierce, it lasted for weeks. They had mortars shelling the city”
“I recall sir.”
“One day I decided to get a closer look at the action, try to see if I could find any way of improving our weapons so I headed into the city.” His eyes became distant as he watched the past replay. “I found a small school. When I got there it was a sports day, or had been a sports day. You know running races, long jump, and picnic, that type of thing. It looked like it had been a really lovely day, until someone decided to use percussion cannon balls in the mortars and dropped two on the playing field. Mortars are very inaccurate. One strong breeze and they’ll go miles off course. Any way, one was quicklime and one was Blackfire, I don’t know how your Alchemy is.”
“So the idea of the mixture was to stop people getting masks on. The Blackfire burnt the hands and faces of the children. Melted the skin which allowed the quicklime to attack the breathing muscles. A lot of the kids had lung tissue around their mouths and on their faces. That was the first time I saw alchemical weapons being used up close.”
“And… you supplied these sir?”
“No, no sorry no, I had nothing to do with it, no that’s not the point at all. I started selling Blackfire after that event. Because of it. I saw what everybody saw, I saw 112 children and 58 adults, but, and this is the point, where they was tragedy, I saw opportunity. I. saw. Business. So when everyone else looks at this hill and see fear, suspicion, demons, devils, foreign witch doctors and mad scientists tell me, what do you think I see?”
“Exactly.” Vincent rose from his chair. “Now not that I don’t enjoy talking to you Andrew but would you be so kind as to return to your duties, we are on a schedule.”
“Of course Mr Stranglethorn. Thank you for your time.”
“Not a problem Andrew, any time.” He motioned towards the exit of the tent and the foreman obliged him by leave promptly. Allowing him to return to his work.