Chapter 80 Artillery
A week after the concrete ship was placed in the curing room, it was finally the day to launch the vessel.
All the workers were stunned when the Prince ordered to put the oversized bathtub into the water, making everyone wonder whether they misheard him.
However, they hadn’t had misunderstood him.
His subordinates had to dismantle the temporary shed, and then they had to dig a slope at the bottom of the concrete ship, leading into the river. This part had to be handled with great care because of the weak tensile strength of cement products, even a small knock on the ground was enough to create small cracks that could destroy the whole vessel.
The ship was placed on top of logs, and the speed at which it slid was controlled with ropes. When everything was prepared, the workers let the wrist-thick rope slowly slide through their hands, careful so that the vessel would always be pointed in a straight line. While the workers shouted their slogan in sync, the ship slowly slid over the logs, creating a harsh sound of friction.
Fortunately, everything went well, and Roland could see how the ship got slowly lowered into the water. The ship sank nearly half a meter into the water, with more than one meter still above the surface. The workers were totally surprised to see that this massive construction made out of stone and metal didn’t directly sink into the riverbed with a loud bang, but instead peacefully floated above the surface.
"Hurry, take the ropes and put them around the bollards and then tie them tight!" commanded Roland loudly. If the vessel wasn’t tied quickly to the bollards, the water current would carry the ship along with it southwards.
Although Nightingale didn’t show herself to the public, but after seeing this shocking scene, she couldn’t help herself and ask with a voice full of wonder: "Why does the ship float?"
"Well ... it’s quite simple. The ship’s average density is lower than that of water, and as long as this is the case anything can float on water," explained Roland and after a moment of thinking, he added, "That the ship is built out of iron and concrete doesn’t matter. In fact, you should have already seen a huge sailing boat, those also weigh much more than several stones."
Since he didn’t hear the voice of Nightingale again, Roland assumed that the other was still comprehending what he had said. Even Anna wasn’t able to immediately understand the concept he had explained. Discovering this, Roland smiled and continued to direct the workers next task.
The subsequent hardening of the concrete took a lot of time, and every time it began to snow heavily, the work had to be stopped. Only when it didn’t snow for more than one hour, were they able to continue their work. The most time consuming task was the construction of the deck, which was built out of many wooden planks, and supported by many small stakes which were placed between the bottom and the deck. Although this was a waste of space, but taking into account the primary purpose of the concrete ship, this didn’t matter so much.
Afterward followed the rot-proofing. The carpenters knew very well how to do it. First they brushed a layer of oil with a pungent taste onto the deck. When the oil had dried, they repeated this procedure several times until it was finally coated with a red paint. Once the deck construction was completed, the installation phase of the upper building was started.
The so-called upper part consisted of a wooden shed which was placed between the two masts, and which later would be used to store guns and ammunition. When it began to rain, the shed could also be utilized by the crew as shelter. The roof of the wooden shed was extra thick so constructed that a person could stand on it, a special place only created for Wendy. As long as she stood on the roof, her magic ability would range far enough to cover the entire sail.
The stern rudder was made of melted iron, and its installation was a bit cumbersome. First, it was required that they put the rudder shaft through a previously made hole, which now laid under water. To steer the ship, Anna welded a triangle plate at the side of the rudder shaft, which ended under water. At the other end of the rudder shaft, which ended on the deck, was melded an iron ring which could freely rotate.
The welding was naturally done by Anna, who was also shocked and puzzled by the fact that a stone bathtub could float on the water. Since she had the same problem like Nightingale, she also asked the same questions.
So Roland had to answer the questions, again and again. Afterward Anna went to the side and sat down to think about it.
Well ... I have still a long way before me before I will be able to raise the education level.
In the end, Van’er didn’t know if it was better to become a gunner or if it was better to stay with the hunter squad.
Everything changed when he got the important order three days ago.
His Royal Highness decided to transfer out some members of the first and second militia team, who performed exceptionally, building a new elite force. When Van’er’s name was called, he felt very pleased. But when he was asked if he wants to join Iron Axe’s hunter squad or the new gunner squad, he didn’t know what to choose. He was aware of the new flintlock, which allowed them to fight against the demonic beasts, due to its much stronger penetrating power than a hand crossbow. Currently, only Iron Axe, the Chief Knight and a number of senior hunters were allowed to use this weapon. Van’er was supposed to join the hunter squat without hesitation, but he instead spoke out of turn and asked, “What is a cannon”?
When he learned that a cannon is ten times as large as a flintlock and that its power is a hundred times stronger than the strength of a gun he fell into a dilemma.
Apparently, the more powerful the weapon used by oneself is, the higher one’s own value is for the Prince. So joining the artillery seems to be the better selection than the hunter squad, but the advantage of carrying a gun is that it is possible to carry it while walking through the town, attracting the eyes of the people, which was always Van’er’s dream. Although the cannon’s power is ten times that of a gun, surely it isn’t possible to carry such a powerful weapon while walking through the streets, right?
Until the last day of the deadline he wasn’t sure what to choose, but in the end, he took the artillery. The last point which brought the decision was that the salary of a gunner was five silver royals higher than that of a hunter.
With his decision, the rigorous training began.
A cannon needs five people to operate it, and to Van’er’s team were assigned Jop, Cat's Claw, Nelson and Rodney. Since Van’er was previously a vice captain within the first militia team, he was also chosen as the gunner.
Compared to guns, this cannon gave ten times more trouble! Since the beginning of the previous month, Van’er had secretly observed how Iron Axe operated his gun, making it able that he even was able recite the process fluently from memory. But the cannon had to be always switched from the limbered and mobile state into the ready to shoot state, always having to go through the tedious work.
Stop the horse, pull out the pin, pull the hook, move the cannon cart, push it towards the shooting spot, prevent it from dropping, these processes needed five people to cooperate in tandem. Such as when pulling the hook, the other people have to push the support cart away from the cannon, turning it from a four-wheel vehicle into a two wheel vehicle, without that the cannon’s barrel would drop to the ground.
When the barrel is finally filled with the ammunition, it’s ready to shoot. The shooting is quite similar to the gun and the cannon, but the clean-up of the cannon with its usage of two different mop is much more complicated. When using a gun, the ammunition can directly be put into the barrel. To start the cannon they had to ignite the fuse, but when it's raining, it could be quite difficult to use this weapon, Van'er had thought.
Fortunately, as a gunner most of the time he had to order the others around, and so he didn’t need to spend too much effort.
For the first three days, the four newly selected artillery teams had only one cannon to train with. So under Iron Axe’ command, the groups had to go through the process of stopping the mount, unloading the cannon, preparing it to shoot, loading the cannon on the cart and then restart the whole process. These four steps were always repeated, Van’er even suspected, that under the uninterrupted cleaning of the cannon, the cannon became even much cleaner than his own face.
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