Research and Improvements
Here's the first regular chapter of the week. There's more stuff planned during this week, so stay tuned!
It was the 18th day of the 5th month. Lorist was at the house's heavily-guarded glass factory at Morgan Hills. He instructed a smith to fit two lenses that had just finished being polishing onto two separate holders. Even though there was already a detailed blueprint, a lot of effort had to be spent modifying the design before Lorist's requirements were met.
Two shiny telescopes, one larger than the other, were finally in Lorist's hands. The old smith, whose face was incredibly wrinkled, was surprised that Lorist didn't allow him to make detailed engravings on the telescopes. He thought that Lorist didn't want to indulge him in showing off his workmanship.
After Lorist messed about with the two for a while, he passed the telescopes to Master Mancheny and said, "Look, this is the telescope I was talking about."
Master Mancheny mimicked Lorist's movements and let out gasps from time to time.
"Do you see it now? That's what I was talking about when I referred to the real use of glass. The telescope is only one of the many possible applications of glass. We can polish oil glass until it becomes a lens. You'll have to hire some people to be put in charge of the polishing and find ways to standardize the process. Even the smallest variations in the production process can result in massive changes to the final product. The magnifying glass I drew on that blueprint there, for example, can help others see small objects. And this one, what I call 'glasses', can help old people, like this fine smith here, who have trouble seeing clearly. With these glasses, they'll be able to see just as good as they could during their prime even with their weakening eyes."
Mancheny bowed respectfully to Lorist and said, "Milord, I am really proud that I can be of service to you. You have expanded my horizons and allowed me to see the greater realm that I could never have to imagined exist..."
Smiling, Lorist replied, "Flattery will get you nowhere. You just need to do your job well. Your next assignment will be rather important. The production of oil and green class right now is enough and there's no need to increase it since we're not going to use it for trade. We only need enough to meet our demand. The important things you have to focus on are the telescope, glasses, and magnifying glass. These products will allow our house to profit infinitely from their trade.
"For now, your most important focus is research into and experimentation with clear glass. You've already seen the glasses I fashioned with clear crystals. Once we finish our research into clear glass, the gold coins will flow to us incessantly. While the transparency of oil glass isn't bad, it's frictionless. It's a bad choice of material for mirrors. That's why I want you to continue experimenting with other combinations of ingredients to come up with the clear glass I mentioned.
"Also, I want you to try and increase the surface area of each glass sheet you make. If it can be achieved, we can use green glass to make greenhouses so that we can eat fresh vegetables during winter. Other than that, play around with making daily cutlery and other products with glass - teapots and cups as well as bowls and plates. All of those will bring profit to the house.
"The main reason I'm leaving the glass factory in your care is so that you have somewhere to put your ideas and creativity on full display. Try your best to reveal the mysteries of this magnificent material. Be it funds or manpower, we'll do our best to meet your demands. Don't worry about whether embarking on a path of research is worth it or not. Even if it fails, we'll learn from the mistakes and change our approach. In that sense, a failure is also beneficial to us, understand?"
Master Mancheny bowed thankfully to Lorist again and said, "Milord, please be assured that I will carry out your will. The experiments will be initiated as soon as possible. I will definitely not disappoint you."
Nodding, Lorist said, "For the next few days, do make me a few of these telescopes. Make sure to number them properly; I'll be distributing them to the forces of the house, especially the Oceanic Legion. In another two days, I'll be going to Ironforge castle, and I'll have to take a few with me. Do send me those when you're finished making them."
Howard came over with a reported just as Lorist exited the room.
"Milord, Old Man Balk has come to meet you. It seemed incredibly urgent."
While Balk did look impatient, his face was filled with joy.
"Milord, the paper you wanted has finally been made! Take a look and see if this is what you specified."
Balk took out a waterproof canister made of beastskin and copper from his back and took out a piece of paper which he promptly unrolled.
The paper in Lorist's hands greatly resembled the kraft paper in his previous life. It wasn't white, but instead, light-brown in color. It also had a smooth surface that felt a little bit oily.
After feeling the paper for a bit, he had Howard bring over some ink and a feather pen. He scribbled rows of words on the paper and drew a few lines.
"This is rather good. The ink dries fast on it too. The only problem is that this paper isn't white enough. Old Man Balk, tell me how you suddenly managed to come up with this," Lorist said satisfied.
"It was by accident. It was purely due to an accident," Balk said with a grin, "Milord, as we weren't making any progress whatsoever during our experiments, most of the paper produced was used as toilet wipes. The demand for toilet wipes is quite high, so it was the ideal way to make back some of the money we spent on our research.
"At noon a few days ago, one of the workers bought a huge piece of butter. He left it by the stove we used to make the paper to deal with something urgent. The butter melted from the heat and flowed into the stove without anyone noticing. When we used the mixture to make toilet paper, as usual, we realized that the product was not the soft toilet paper we were used to seeing, but rather, this smooth paper with a harder texture.
"After some investigation, we found that it was caused by the addition of butter. So, we ran several other tests with other types of oils and. This is the result. It's also the cheapest of all our products thus far. We estimate 15 pieces of paper like this will cost around only 1 copper, less than 3 coppers if you include manpower costs."
Lorist was jubilant at his streak of luck. They had not only successfully completed the production of the telescope but had also made a magnificent breakthrough in paper-making. Despite the breakthrough, he made yet another request of Balk.
"Howard, write this down for me. As a reward for developing this new type of paper, Old Man Balk will get 100 gold Fordes, everyone else with contributions will be awarded ten gold Fordes each. Balk, I want you to run several more tests with bleaches, whiteners, and even medicinal herbs to try to whiten the paper. Also, try to make the sheets a little thinner. Only then can it be a staple export.
"Also, ensure that the method and ingredients used to make paper remain a secret. Howard, help me pass this order to Potterfang: 'Have all the soldiers of our dominion who retired due to old age form a new police unit that will be put in charge of the defense of the glass factory and the paper factory. Make sure our secret is kept at all costs.'"
"Understood, Milord. I will have the guards pass the order on immediately," replied Howard.
On the 21st day of the 5th month, Lorist traveled to the Bladedge Mountains, to a heavily-guarded valley where the gunpowder facility was located. Professor Balbo, whom Lorist had kidnapped was doing his research there.
"Lord Count, I don't really understand why you regard gunpowder so highly. Perhaps, there are some applications for it in the military, but other than that, I really can't see how it can be useful. Even though the dwarves have already had gunpowder for more than a thousand years, they haven't found any other application for it apart from its use in guns," questioned the professor the moment they met.
He handed the recipe he considered the most effective gunpowder mix to date to Lorist.
Lorist laughed but didn't respond to the professor's queries. After taking a look at the recipe, he crossed the egg white off of the list.
"Without egg white, gunpowder won't be able to harden. It'll be less effective that way," the professor objected.
"There's no need for egg white, nor is there a need for hardening. Gunpowder is most effective if it can be made into pellets," said Lorist.
He proceeded to pinch the gunpowder into pellet form in front of the suspicious professor before leaving them out to dry.
After two days, Lorist brought with him two small metal cylinders and packed them with gunpowder pellets. He installed fuses on the cylinders before placing them in a hole drilled into the wall of a nearby cavern. Finally, he lit the fuses.
A few moments later, a loud bang blasted into the air as the surrounding rocky structures shook. One boulder after another was shaken loose and fell off the cliff. When the dust in the distance settled, the facade of the cliff further away had completely changed. Half of it appeared completely shaven off, with much debris to be seen stacked up at its foot like a small hill.
"Look, professor, this is the true feat gunpowder is capable of. We can greatly increase our mining efficacy with gunpowder. The building of roads, bridges, and even houses also improve greatly. They will all require far less manpower and time. As for the military application, you'll get to see that for yourself in another two days. A brand new powerful long-range weapon will finally appear on the face of Grindia," said Lorist gleefully.
"What will it be?" mused the professor curiously.
Lorist merely smiled and left.
A citadel was built at the entrance to the valley where the house's refinery was located. It was meant to secure the area and keep the existence of the refinery a secret and to provide a comfortable environment for Grandmaster Sid and his skilled subordinates. Lorist casually named the place Ironforge castle after its completion. On the 23rd day of the 5th month, Lorist paid it a visit.
"Milord, the 17 sets of highly-decorated armor have been shipped to Silowas. I have also drawn a few more designs of various armaments, as per your request. All of them are slightly weaker in defense compared to the Whitelion Legion's equipment, but look incredibly grand. The price ranges from around 80 to 120 gold Fordes," reported Sid the moment he saw Lorist.
"I never have to worry about the things you're working on, Grandmaster. Since you're the most-informed person in this field, I trust that all your decisions are made with the benefits of the house in mind," said Lorist as he nodded to show his praise.
Grandmaster Sid also seemed to be in a good mood as he walked with a slight skip in his step.
"Milord, I have already come up with some preliminary designs for your wheelbarrow ballista. There are 24 prototypes made so far on the other side of this wall."
The 24 different prototypes of wheelbarrow ballistae were arranged neatly in two rows. The steel parts of the ballistae shone brightly under the sun's gaze.
Lorist got closer to take a look and found that the wheelbarrows were made from steel and wood. The sturdiest part seemed to be their axles. He lifted one up by the handles and pushed it around and found that it not only did not take much energy to move around but that it was also easy to control.
Sid began his introduction, "Milord, your wheelbarrow design is truly revolutionary. Never has there been a vehicle that could be moved by a single person. Not only can it carry a lot of weight, it's also convenient and easy to use. In the future, we can even use these for treks over mountains. Milord, should we produce these wheelbarrows by themselves for sale in the future?"
Smiling, Lorist said, "Of course. But you must remember that the wheelbarrows will only sell if they are cheap and can endure extensive use. Are the capabilities of the ballistae affected when installed on the wheelbarrows?"
Shaking his head, Sid replied, "No, there's no effect whatsoever, Milord. Some time ago, Sir Dulles brought a regiment of 500 men to try out the wheelbarrows. They said that firing from the wheelbarrow felt more stable than firing from a carriage, and their movement wasn't restricted by the carriage sides either. In the past, they sometimes had to work together to aim and fire the ballistae properly. But that restriction is no more."
"Then, does Dulles feel that each wheelbarrow ballista requires five people to operate?" asked Lorist.
"He does. One will push from the back and two others will pull from the front. The other two will be in charge of guarding the unit. They can even switch roles if required. Sir Dulles feels that this arrangement is ideal. The only shortcoming of the wheelbarrow is that it has to be held down when firing because it is far too light to endure the recoil," explained Sid.
"Very well. Prepare a division's worth of wheelbarrow ballistae for Dulles. That fellow is getting impatient to be a division commander. Howard, write this down: 'Have Malek arrange for half the troops of the carroballista division to join Dulles's new wheelbarrow-ballista division. Have the new recruits fill up the vacancies.'"
"Yes, milord," said Howard.
Grandmaster Sid stepped in front of Lorist and interjected, "Milord, please wait. Did you not notice anything different about this ballista?"
Huh? Lorist looked at the ballista and thought, it doesn't look that different...
Upon taking a closer look, he suddenly noticed something and said, "Grandmaster, this ballista seems smaller than the original ones... It is, isn't it?"
Chuckling, Sid said, "Milord, that's one part, but there's more. Look at this bolt. Even though it's also made of iron, it's half as light as the old ones we used. As a result, the ballista is far stabler when it fires, and thus more accurate."
"You managed to improve it that much? Then again, would the smaller size effect it's firing range?" asked Lorist hesitantly.
"Milord is mistaken to think the effective firing range is 300 meters. The bolt can indeed fire out to 300 meters, but it is completely useless at that range. It can only reach that far if it's fired in an arc, which makes it impossible to aim it accurately. The important range is the range it can reach when fired in a straight line. After countless experiments we determined that range to be about 80 meters.
"When we first realized this, we were just as surprised. So, we looked to Sir Pete of the mounted archers unit for help. He brought a squad of mounted archers to help us with our experiments. In the end, we also debunked the myth that gold-ranked knights would be threatened by an arrow fired from less than a hundred meters away.
"Naturally, a divine marksman like Josk is an exception to the rule. All the bowmen would acknowledge that even though they can aim properly up to 60 meters away, targets outside the 100-meter range seem smaller than a thumb. So, the bowmen would raise their sights slightly higher before firing. In essence, the projectiles they fired also travel in arcs.
As for the ballista operators, they are unable to even see a target clearly from 300 meters away. The main threat they pose to the enemy is by relying on a dense volley of ballista bolts fired in the enemy's general direction. So, please don't worry, Milord. The reduction in the size of the ballista is due to the better materials we used in its construction. Its power is not affected in the slightest."
"I see. So, who was the one who made the new bow frames?" asked Lorist.
After receiving such a lengthy lecture from the grandmaster, he finally roughly understood how ballistics.
I guess he does have a point. A human 100 meters away looks no bigger than a pea. Be it longbows or ballistae, they are only able to pose a threat to the enemy because of the density of their volleys. While accuracy does play a part, luck is the main factor when it comes to hit rate.
"Milord, did you forget about Old Julian? After he was appointed as the person-in-charge of the steel ballista factory, he has been contemplating how he can make better material for the ballistae. After a few years of trial and error, he finally succeeded. When Grandmaster Fellin and I went to test it out, we found that this new ballista frame is far superior to the ones we were using. So, we submitted a proposal to switch out the old frames for the new ones. We have yet to receive a reply," said Grandmaster Sid.
"Oh, also, you had someone send me a design for a copper barrel called a 'cannon' some time back. I left the task of designing it to old Julian and it's already complete. Do you want to go check it out, milord? I wonder, what could such a heavy barrel be used for? Also, what does the word 'cannon' even refer to?"