William stood on the prow of the recently refitted dwarven fortress ship, looking out over the rolling waves in the direction of the dwarven homelands. The open ocean was filled with monsters of all sorts that could destroy a ship. Only a few paths were known to be safe- and only with special wards.
Then William looked behind him, toward the docks. They were busy with activity, as trade had started again. William shook his head.
As much as he would have liked to lead his ships to the dwarven lands and force them to agree to some sort of peace treaty… it wasn’t the best thing for the country. He didn’t like waiting around for something to happen… but he didn’t have to wait. He could fortify Cruonia’s defenses and invest in the country’s growth. It wouldn’t be easy for the dwarves to bring another fleet- even if they had one constructed. He would let them brave the ocean voyage. As far as any of the dwarves knew, the islands nearby were the only viable stopping point between the dwarven archipelago and Cruonia. Maybe there were more islands on the way, but it would take years to find them and make them useful as waypoints.
Were the the dwarves in their homeland going to grown in hate toward gevai- demons? Probably. However, William preferred the current scenario to possibly making things worse. If and dwarven ships sent never returned… they would eventually stop sending them. William couldn’t always be there to deal with them personally, so many would inevitably be sunk. However, that was the consequence of coming to attack another land.
His decision to avoid traveling to the dwarven lands came from practicality and an appropriate view of his own mortality. A dozen ships wouldn’t do much against an entire country, even with him on them. Maybe they could take over a few islands, defeat a small army… but that wasn’t what they wanted to do. On the other hand, William didn’t want to risk ships being sunk to deliver a message that those in control had already received. While he had a high chance of success if he went personally, his own life was worth much more.
William knew that most would judge their lives as having more value than others, and he was no exception. However, at least he felt somewhat justified. He was the Eternal King, and he was one of the forces holding together Cruonia- and keeping humans and gevai from going into another pointless war. If he thought everything would hold itself together without him and Lorelei, he wouldn’t mind giving up his position- but he knew things wouldn’t be so easy. Another reason he couldn’t afford to risk his life was his promise to Lorelei- and even if he would reincarnate again, he didn’t want to miss a gross or two of years, especially at a critical point of the reintroduction of dwarves- and possibly elves.
William was glad to be able to talk with Lorelei in person again. While phones were useful, it just wasn’t the same. While he could imagine Lorelei wandering about her lab fiddling with things as she spoke, it wasn’t the same as being there.
“So…” Lorelei looked at William through a coil of wire, “What do you think of the elves?”
William shrugged, “What about the elves? I know they control a continent and aren’t too keen on sharing it with dwarves… and that they’re elves. Beyond that, I know a bit of their language… probably. Maybe I’m learning some other language. Regardless, there isn’t much to know. Do the elves have the technology to travel here? Possibly. Do they even know about what happened? Possibly.” William shook his head, “I almost wish we had global instant communication, even if the elves and dwarves still hated us. If not for the nice tactical advantage we have now, anyway.”
“It is quite useful… though I’m told attempts at such technology are spreading among the humans. It won’t be long, I don’t think.”
“Good. Maybe Eclea will be willing to talk as long as we don’t have to meet in person.”
“That’s a very positive outlook on things.” Lorelei shrugged, “At least they don’t seem interested in causing trouble. If only we could get them to agree to a standard for rails… Having differing standards will be as bad as going to war”
William looked at Lorelei, finding her to be completely serious. “That… is an interesting view. I do agree that if we start with differing standards it could take… at least a few gross years to fix it, if ever.”
“I believe Theo mentioned they still used two differing standards for measurements and how annoying it was for space travel.”
William scratched his chin, “How long do you think it would take to conquer the world so we can enforce a single standard?”
“Too long. We have to finish exploring it first anyway.”
“That’s right… I still need to prepare for the expedition. We have to at least clear the possibility of any islands within a week’s travel of Cruonia. That should be… safe enough, anyway.”
Lorelei cleared her throat, “I was thinking… that maybe I could be the one to do that instead?”
William knew she probably wouldn’t bring it up if she didn’t think she could convince him of it… which unfortunately meant he probably needed to listen to her instead of attempting to ignore her. Not that he thought he could succeed at the latter even if he wanted to. “Alright, give me the reasons you should lead that instead of me or… Lila.”
“First, you’re the king. It’s much better for you to be here instead of me. Second, she has a school to run. Meanwhile, I only have a few personal projects that need to be brought to a stable point. However, they will need someone with the proper knowledge in case something happens to the formations… and there aren’t too many people who can do that.”
William could have brought up the point that he was stronger- but the sorts of things that would cause trouble for an expedition might not care. If they destroyed the ship, he would be in a similarly poor situation. Besides, he did need to run things. Even if Lorelei was capable of it, she couldn’t be the one in charge all the time for the sake of stability. “I don’t like the idea of you taking the risk but… someone has to. If we’re being honest, for the sake of competency it probably has to be someone I like… and you’re quite capable. You’re the best choice.” William closed his eyes and nodded, “Just… be careful. I know I won’t be able to follow through on this, but I’d like to return your own words. No dying or I’ll be very mad at you.”
Lorelei grinned, “Well, I don’t want to see you mad. Don’t worry, I’ll be careful. What point is there in discovering new information if you can’t do something with it?”