As Claude expected, Eriksson and Welikro went hunting for stray cats after school. He could only warn them to be careful. Their parents were dignitarians and allowed to use firearms. Since they were still under-aged, they enjoyed the same rights as their parents.
But bringing a firearm around in town was dangerous, and not just for the cats, mind you.
Thankfully, they understood how dangerous it could be and chose less… thunderous weapons. Welikro got his hunting bow and Eriksson borrowed a sailor’s crossbow from his father. They didn’t have the range of firearms, but they were more than enough for cats.
Borkal had an arbalest at home as well. His father used to take it with him on his travels when he was younger. Borkal caved and went and got it after the other two pestered him for about half an hour. The conversation between Borkal and Claude was thusly quickly forgotten.
Claude turned them down however. He said he was too tired to go hunting after getting so little sleep, and thus went home instead.
His mother was next door with his little brother, paying a visit to Madam Alika, who had just moved in. She had quickly become good friends with his mother and the two often spent the afternoons gossiping. Most importantly, Madam Alika had a seven-year-old daughter that kept Bloweyk busy.
Angelina was home, however, and working on her homework at the dining table.
Claude stroked her head as he walked passed and told her he was going to rest and to not disturb him before supper, and headed upstairs.
His tired expression vanished the moment he closed his bedroom door. He opened his drawer and took out his notes. He had copied seven pages and marked them so he wouldn’t mess up the order.
He wondered if he should start decoding what he’d already copied. His eyes fell on the dictionary and he reached out for it. His hand hovered over it for a few seconds before he shook his head and withdrew it.
There was no point in rushing. Better copy a few more pages while he was still alert. There were only a few rows of text to a page. He hoped to finish it up in one go and not have to moonbathe again.
He cleared his mind, opened the cookbook on the first uncopied page, and got started.
Date: 11th day of the 8th month, 3341 NM. Weather: Rainy.
After seven days of arduous walking, we finally arrived at Golddew. We lodged at an inn called Fragrant Dew. We were shocked to see this book when we went to get breakfast. We didn’t think anyone would use manticore talisman parchment for a simple cookbook.
A staff member told me someone had paid for his tab using the book — which had been empty at the time. The old cookbook was falling apart, so they copied all their recipes into this book because the proprietor felt it wouldn’t wear as quickly.
What were they thinking? Do they have any idea how expensive this is? What am I asking, of course they don’t. I couldn’t bare to see it wasted like that so I bought it off them. They actually sold it for just a shaliun.
Senior Tawari said it wasn’t worth that much though. Manticore parchment is good material, but the sheets are now basically useless because they wrote on it.
He was right, but I didn’t buy this to make a magical tome. I happened to leave without a diary so I’ll just use it that way. In this sense, the recipes actually make for good camouflage…
The first entry was rather boring, but it still took Claude a full hour to decode, and it was still hard to read because so much was lost in translation.
He was excited to learn that the book had indeed belonged to a magus. Unfortunately it was just a diary. He was frustrated by the date of the entry. It didn’t use the standard calendar he was used to, so he had no reference for when exactly it had been written. The entire continent used the Sacred Light Calendar currently, which was running in its sixth century, and the previous calendar, the Dark Calendar, ran for four millennia. Claude had never heard of a calendar which used NM as its initials. Maybe it was a special calendar only the magi used?
He sighed, resigned himself to the read, and got back to translating.
Date: 12th day of the 8th month, 3341 NM. Weather: Sunny.
I couldn’t get any sleep last night. Bota brought two of the inn’s maids to his room and make merry. I mouthed him off at dinner. He seems rather irritated.
He said he had to make the most of the time he had left for it. We soon wouldn’t have any more chances. We parted still sour at each other.
Date: 13th day of the 8th month, 3341 NM. Weather: Cloudy.
It rained a little yesterday evening. I spent most of the day meditating in my room.
Tawari came to see me in the evening. He looked sour. Apparently a unit was ambushed in Binio Valley. All eleven magi were killed. Shot dead despite being four- and three-ringed. Only the five-ring magus escaped, but he was badly hurt.
That’s just 50 kilometres from here. What a nightmare!
How strange, Claude thought, They already had firearms?
Claude didn’t think too much, however, he was too eager to know more.
Date: 14th day of the 8th month, 3341 NM. Weather: Sunny.
I got to know Jones today. Turns out he’s a four-ring magus like me. He’s a haggard man. His skin is as pale as ash and he drinks a lot. Tawari says he acts like that because he’s still in shock over what happened.
He’s from Rosbo. The council summoned him here, just like us, and he was coming here to rendezvous with us. Apparently his unit had 13 men but everyone else was killed about 20 kilometres from town. Only six made it out alive, Jones included, but they killed quite a few of their attackers as well. We’ve sent a few people from town to go take a look.
‘You don’t know how fearless they are… They aren’t afraid of dying…’ Jones told me as he cried.
‘Even if we blast some of them into charcoal, the others just keep shooting. They just won’t budge.’
‘Curse the bastard that invented guns! It’s the weapon of demons!’
I don’t think I remember everything right, but that’s the gist of what he said before he passed out.
Tawari came to see me again just before I went to bed. He told me not to tell anyone about the improvements I’ve made to the guns. He worries about nothings. I’m not stupid enough to blab about that sort of stuff…
Claude gazed at the pages he had decoded, his thoughts wandering.
Why were the magi summoned to this ‘Golddew’? And why were they ambushed by people wielding guns? It was also intriguing to learn that the diary writer was apparently involved in the weapons’ development in some way.
Someone knocked on his door.
“Claude… You awake? Mom’s calling for dinner…” Angelina’s timid voice rang.
“Okay, I’m coming!” Claude answered as he stood up.
“Ah, wait, Anna,” Claude called.
He took out the hairpin and put it in her hand.
“I bought you a gift yesterday. Is it pretty?”
Angelina’s eyes shone.
“Thank you! I’m gonna show it to mom!”
She spun on her heels and half-fell downstairs as she darted for the kitchen..
“Sigh…” Claude had wanted her to take the four pirate figurines to Bloweyk, but he decided to take it himself.
A lot was packed out for dinner. The main dish was potatoes with oxtail. Two fried long-tailed anchovies, the town’s specialty. She’d also made mutton ribs and smoked goose and the table had a basket of blueberries.
Were they having a celebration? Then he remembered they had the big dinner the last night, so this had to be last the previous night’s leftovers.
Arbeit was sat on his father’s seat, acting like he was already the head of the household, stuffing his face with the last goose drumstick. Angelina was carefully cutting the bread on the table with a small knife, and his mother was feeding Bloweyk potatoes.
“Here, Puffball. Like it?” Claude asked as he handed Bloweyk the figurines.
The little piggy jumped happily as he grabbed the four figurines and played around with them.
“You’re spending money frivolously again. Anna just showed me the hairpin and now you’re giving Little Blowk toys,” his mother complained as she put her wooden bowl down.
“It didn’t cost a lot. I just thought he’d enjoy them. Where’s Father?”
“He sent someone to tell us he has to work late tonight.”
Dad must be working on his plan. No wonder Arbeit dared sit in his seat.
“There’s enough bread, Anna. You can stop cutting. Join us at the table.”
Claude ignored the man occupying his father’s seat. He took his seat and cut meat for his sister.
Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle…
Arbeit finished his glass of wine, there was still half a bottle left from the previous night. He glanced at Claude momentarily and opened his mouth.
“You look rich, buying things everywhere. I wanted to ask you about the thale I misplaced. Did you take it?”
Claude didn’t want to bother with him, but the fool didn’t know when to leave well enough alone. He always tried to provoke Claude.
“Who would believe you? Putting a whole thale down somewhere, you’ve never even misplaced a penny. Don’t mess with me, understood?!”
“If I say I did, I did! Where would you get the money to buy them gifts if you didn’t take it?!”
“You don’t have to know where I get my money! I know where you spend yours! Two dresses and a coat, huh? Whitestag is only so big and there’s only one boutique. All I have to do is ask the owner to find out how much you spent.”
Arbeit choked on his sip of wine. He stared at Claude, his face as red as the wine, lower jaw dangling loosely.
“I can’t be bothered with your business. Just don’t do stuff that’ll embarrass mom and dad. Watch your mouth and stay out of my sight. You hear?”
Claude stabbed a piece of potato as he said the last word.