Wizard! Chapter 516
William went back to the party with Stefan. There, Stefan introduced him to the rest of the children. “Our oldest son, Andras, isn’t here today. This is our second son, Siward… then our daughter Veta, and you have somewhat met Rambert.”
Siward bowed awkwardly, “Greetings, your majesty.”
William shook his head. “That’s not necessary. This is a family event, just call me Uncle Josef.”
“Majesty is a funny name,” Rambert commented. “Josef is better.”
William grinned, “It is a funny name, isn’t it? If you’ll excuse me, I should say hello to a few others.” Hanging around with Stefan wasn’t going to instantly stop being awkward just because they were talking again. There weren’t actually that many others he knew, but he had to at least congratulate the bride and groom.
William watched as the ships carrying the first buoys steamed away from shore. It had taken almost a dozen years to reproduce them in a form that worked as well as everyone wanted it to. That did include a year of testing the final product. It wasn’t something that could be tested in a lab. Now, they were starting to distribute them… but they needed a large number of them to reach to more than the Western Cruonian Islands. William wanted them to have a path to the dwarven lands, which would make trade feasible. For that, he needed to convince them the buoys worked, and also to pay for part of it.
Creating infrastructure was expensive. Cruonia had been producing roads and train tracks for a long time, but there was still a lot of work to be done. At least they had started paying for themselves with trade. Trade with humans… and trade with the Allied Subterranean Territories. Wool and other materials were very popular down below- and different foods that didn’t grow underground. Meanwhile, they had large stocks of metals and gems. The dwarves had always preferred to live underground, and when it became a necessity they became even better at tunneling deep underground.
William was actually impressed that they had managed to avoid any of the materials they dug out being noticed on the surface. After all, that dirt and rock couldn’t just disappear. They became very good at finding remote locations to remove their debris… and at making it look natural enough as time went by.
Though the dwarves among them had always been comfortable living underground, the elves had required time to grow used to it. Instead of majestic trees growing in the sun, they learned to cherish phosphorescent mosses and various sorts of fungi. Though they had been trapped underground, now that they could come to the surface freely very few actually did so. There just wasn’t that much appeal to them. Even so, William knew the elves and dwarves appreciated having the option.
It had long become clear that Eclea had found a large number of islands or a significantly sized landmass. The traffic along their buoy pathway- and even its mere existence- gave that away. Of course, even Eclea wasn’t completely able to keep people from working as spies. The actual result was that they had found an island chain as well as one landmass that was large enough they hadn’t yet finished exploring it. Given dozens of years that made it quite large- though their progress was slowed significantly by dangerous magical beasts. Otherwise, it would have had to be the size of a continent. That option wasn’t impossible, but William didn’t think it the most likely.
As for Cruonia’s own exploration, ship technology kept improving. William was just glad he didn’t have to fund all of the research going on anymore as various groups saw the profit to be had from better ships. It had just taken the realization that it was possible to travel more than a few dozen miles from the continent without a ship being destroyed.
As solutions to problems increased, problems grew on their own. Some had always been problems, and just hadn’t been resolved. The southern part of Liaoyang had started calling themselves the League of Sovereign Humans. That didn’t bode well for how they- or their leaders- felt about gevai, dwarves, and elves. Unlike Eclea, they didn’t seem content with just ignoring everyone else. They had even stopped pretending that some of the ships that disappeared off their shores were the fault of pirates. Perhaps they were counting on the fact that Ustil didn’t have a large military and that Cruonia didn’t have land access to their territory. William was already preparing a response to their recent actions… all he needed was one more action on their part.
Before that, however, he had a more immediate problem to deal with. Trains kept getting better, with more powerful engines that could pull more cars. With that… dragons had started attacking trains. There had only been two incidents so far, but they had both resulted in significant damage. That meant the deterrents designed to mimic those for sea creatures didn’t work- though there hadn’t exactly been many options to test it. It wasn’t even always clear what would cause dragon attacks- besides large quantities of activated magical materials. They would have to take some initial precautions while they could find the a more permanent solution.
Bruno was an experienced railroad engineer. The most experienced in Cruonia, perhaps the most experienced one anywhere- he wasn’t sure if the oldest train drivers in Eclea had died or not yet. Soon enough he would be, either way. He’d been in a half dozen train accidents of various sorts… none of which were his fault. Unfortunately, it seemed there were a lot of kinks to work out. Even the guards on the front of the train had trouble shoving anything much larger than a dire wolf out of the way… and the track wasn’t always straight enough to see everything that was coming.
“Umm… sir…” Bruno’s temporary assistant Gregor spoke nervously, “Do you think… we might get attacked by a dragon?”
Bruno sighed. He understood his assistant was at home with her newborn child, but they could at least have assigned him a competent second. Every trip the timid man asked about this or that sort of disaster. “There have only been two dragon attacks, the last one was a year ago.”
“Y-yeah but there’s all these mountains and-”
Bruno cut off Gregor, “Enough! First it was ice on the tracks, then running out of fuel, now dragons? If it happens, we’ll deal with it. If not, there’s no use worrying.” Bruno might have told the secondman what he really knew about the possibility of the attack, but he didn’t think it would help. It would just make him very panicky for a day or so… or several if a dragon actually didn’t show up for some reason.