Chapter 187 New business organization
As the summer came around, Margaret's river fleet arrived at Border Town.
Roland had intentionally received the female merchant at the pier so that he could incidentally examine the goods she had brought with her.
The most valuable goods were the three boats full of saltpeter. By now, Border Town’s gunpowder reserves had basically been exhausted– even the First Army firing exercises had come to a stop. Although they had already started to equip the army with revolver-rifles, they still had to stay in practice with reloading, gun maintenance, and replenishment of their ammunition. Now, with this batch of saltpeter, they could finally resume firing training.
In addition to saltpeter and in accordance with their agreement, she had also brought two ships with ore ingots– these were mainly iron and copper– as well as a portion of green vitriol ore. Just the unloading of these goods already needed two or three days time.
When Roland offered Margaret the opportunity to inspect the two steam engines, he had placed them in an eye-catching position in the yard. Furthermore, he followed his usual practice of covering them in red satin and wrapping them in a fancy pattern. In fact, during nearly the whole month, the West Industrial Company was only able to put one steam engine together while producing hundreds of scrap parts. Because of that, Roland had Anna process the defective parts that didn't deviate too much from the desired product and had her fuse them together into a second steam engine to catch up with the delivery schedule.
To Roland’s surprise, Margaret had not come alone this time– she had also brought a group of merchants from King’s City with her.
When the delivery of the goods was organized, Margaret and her partner followed Roland back to the castle where they enjoyed a sumptuous lunch in the reception hall.
"Your Highness, this is Hogg, an old friend of mine. He owns one of the largest mining business in King’s City." Margaret pointed at them one after another, "This is Gammon and Marlan. They belong to the Crescent-Moon-Bay Caravan. They were very interested in learning more about these steam engines, and since I have known them for many years, I was too embarrassed to sell it to them myself, so I brought them with me so that I could introduce them to you.
"I offer my regards to Your Honored Highness," said Hogg, puffing out his large belly while his face glistened with grease: "Margaret told me that this machine can be used in the place of manpower, and that it can quickly pump water and transport ore out of a mine. Moreover, it doesn’t have to take a break and can run throughout the whole day. Would it be possible that I see it with my own eyes?”
"Of course," Roland sipped a mouthful of wine. At first, he had been completely unable to adapt to its sour taste, but he had gradually gotten used to it. "But if you want to make it carry ore, you also have to install the railroad system. After lunch, I can take you to the North Slope Mine, where you can see it for yourself.”
"Your Royal Highness, I am also very curious about all the different uses of the steam engine that you've described. Can it really be installed on a sailboat and move it forward without sails?" Marlan began to ask, "In case it is possible, would it be possible for it to resemble a three or four-masted sea-going ship? I’m afraid that it wouldn't be strong enough.”
"In that regard, steam engines are just like horses. Some of them have a lot of force while others have less; it depends on the type of model it is. Of course, machines with a greater output are naturally more expensive. And when one isn't strong enough, you can also install more, like maybe two or four of them." Roland answered with a smile.
To use a steamer on board, even if it’s the most primitive paddler, it would also need a complex power transmission and handling system. In addition to Border Town, there isn't any other place in the Kingdom of Graycastle that has the technology needed to modify a ship. But the installation cost would certainly be much higher than that of the steam engine itself.
"In that case, the Crescent Moon Bay Caravan also wants to order those machines from you." Gammon forked a steam bun that had just left the steam basket and stuffed it into his mouth, but its fresh juices were so hot that he narrowed his eyes.
Sure enough, similar people always group together. The friend of rich people will always also be rich. Even without seeing the actual product, they finalized an order right away, as if thousands of gold royals were nothing in their eyes.
Roland shook his head, "Unfortunately, at the moment, Border Town lacks manpower. With the issue that the steam engine is very complicated to create, I am afraid it will be difficult to produce any additional machines before Margaret’s order is completed.
"I can provide you with the needed manpower, Your Honored Highness," Gammon said, patting his chest. "Both carpenters and blacksmiths, even shipbuilders if needed. I have a lot of them stationed at my dock, and they would all come free of charge!"
"And then you'd have them learn the manufacturing method so that you can produce it yourself?" Hogg interrupted.
"Ten years, your Highness," Gammon opened his palms, "I am willing to let them work for you for ten years, and there will be only one requirement– that is that the first steam engine made by them will be offered to the Crescent-Moon-Bay Caravan.
That is an attractive offer, Roland thought, it would be the same sort of technology partnerships later, where our side would only provide the technology and still make a significant profit, while they wouldn’t only get the steam engine as soon as possible, but also get a number of skilled workers after a decade. In this way, the workers' salaries would be equivalent to the cost of purchasing the technology.
"I don’t think we have to be so urgent to finalize a deal, we can take our time discussing the details after I have shown you the machine," Roland pushed his hands onto the table, "Furthermore, the steam engine isn’t the only product we have here that is worth buying. There are some other things you might also be interested in– for example, this." He snapped his fingers, and on his command, a group of guards took some objects out of a wooden box and placed them on the table.
"These are the newest creations of Border Town. No matter which of them you choose, they are all of the best quality but still at a reasonable price. For example, this simple mug," Roland pointed at a colorful cup on the table and said, "It is light, pleasing to the eye, and yet not as fragile as a crystal cup. The pattern above can also be customized. Furthermore it won’t get wet, so it is very easy to clean.
"It won’t get wet?" Margaret picked up a cup and took a carefully look at it.
"You can try it with some wine," the Prince joked. "And after you've drunk from it, you can pretend to be drunk and throw it on the ground to break it apart.
"It works, gee, this really is very excellent... But, I'm afraid you won't be able to guarantee that every cup will have such a quality, right?" The big bellied Hogg had already poured himself a cup full of wine and threw it back at this time, "Hey, it’s really still dry.”
Of course, it was still dry, it was essentially just an ordinary wooden cup merely coated with one of Soraya’s paintings. The pattern on top of it was of her own design. "It does not conflict with the usage of crystal cup, those are for more of a formal court banquet while my cups are more suited for the personal chambers of the daughters of wealthy houses." Roland said, "As far as I know, they like bright colors, and can’t resist things with such a beautiful appearance."
"I believe it is as you've said," Margaret said while nodding in interest. "You seem to have a lot of experience in this field.”
"Keke," the Prince coughed twice, "and now, please fix your eyes on this one. The thickness of the breastplate is entirely uniform, and the back and front are made out of wrought iron. I don't think I even have to mention that it is lighter than a knight’s plate armor, and it is possible to put it on without assistance. After it is closed, there doesn’t exist even the smallest crack; it is perfectly suitable for the guards escorting caravans. But the most crucial point is that it is cheaper than plate armor... "
After the presentation of all the goods, the merchants began whispering to one another. To allow them some privacy, Roland offered them some time for discussion and left the hall, going over to the flower garden at a side corridor to get some fresh air.
"Your Royal Highness, I was only away for a month, and you already have a lot of new things here." Margaret had stood to come follow him.
"Don’t you want to exchange your opinions with them?"
"No, the moment I set my eyes on something it's unnecessary for me to try and listen to other people’s thoughts. When there is good merchandise to be had, whether other people see its worth or not, it's all the same to me."
She smiled and shook her head, "Our caravan will be staying here for three to four days, so could you... Let me see Lightning again?”
"Although she does not recognize you, at least she didn’t express any sentiment of dislike towards you, so I think that there won’t be a problem.
"Thank you," Margaret said gratefully.
"If you're going to stay for so long, you might as well come see a play. Three days from now, Border Town will hold its first theatrical performance."
"You were able to build a theater in one month?" Margaret exclaimed, shocked at the idea.
"Of course not, it will be an open-air performance right in the middle of town square. I think it will be different than what you are used to."
"I will do so right away. Deference is no substitute for obedience, Your Highness," Margaret placed her hand on her chest and performed a low bow.
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