A group of new arrivals showed up in town in the beginning of the 7th month, including a one-armed noble slated to take over as the now city's new mayor. According to Rodan, Viscount Felidos Kor Finadi was an old friend of Maria's. Also a war hero.
He'd won his accolades during the kingdom's last war with Nasri. He'd served as the commander of the 7th Cavalry Line, responsible for cutting off the enemy's retreat during one of the final actions of the war.
The enemy discovered their movements, however, and acted to stop them. Knowing the land the 7th had occupied was their only escape route, the enemy had fought to clear the route with all their strength, nearly wiping out the entire line. He would not give way, however, and his men fought alongside him until they ran out of gunpowder, then drew their swords and continued on. The enemy was the first to break, and just as his men were at their own breaking point.
But the enemy hadn't given up. They brought one of their cannons to bear on his positions, and started shelling. Regardless, his men held the ground until the enemy was defeated by Aueras' main force.
During all this, Felidos had led from the frontlines. Even after one of the shells shot off his left arm. He merely told the line medic to wrap it tight, and returned to his position, undaunted by the pain.
By the end of the battle, he had just 374 men left of his original complement of 2400. The defeat he'd bought for the enemy in turn, however, was so devastating that they sued for peace and ceded three prefectures.
In recognition of his efforts, the king made him a viscount and a national hero.
Rodan suspected Felidos was another run-of-the-mill, iron-blooded military man, an expert at cavalry charges. That, however, also made him a very stubborn bastard. His superiority complex when it came to Aueras didn't help matters much either. He believed Auerans were inherently superior to all other peoples, and had an inherent, some said he used the word 'gods-given' right to rule over others. He'd taken to calling for a grand crusade to unify at least the eastern half of the continent under superior Aueran rule in recent years as well.
Felidos wasn't the least bit surprised at being given his latest appointment, nor was he at all unhappy. He revelled in power, loyal as he was to the royal family and specifically the king, and this position gave him ample amounts of it. As a royal appointee to his position, and given the merit of his position in its own right as the mayor of a city under direct royal rule, even the naval wet-rags that called themselves admirals had to tread lightly around him. He did not have a penchant for sharing his power either, taking command of the entire municipal government on his own, and declaring himself the governor of all its departments.
His military background showed, too, as he was quick to rally the garrison. He had both good and bad news. The good news was that the garrison would be made into the core of the city's new keeper force. The bad news, however, was that, at least for the time being, they wouldn't be in the city. Instead, they had to head to the abandoned outpost to rebuild it. Once completed, it would become their headquarters. As keepers, they had little direct role in the day-to-day matters of safety and order in the city. That was the constabulary's job.
Felidos spent most of his afternoon dealing with this, then returned to town hall and started looking into Normanley Real Estate. He had a particular interest in their construction efforts in the former slums. He even visited the sites and peppered the builders and the company's representative with questions.
He apparently took issue with a couple of the buildings, though none of the other people had any idea what problems he had. Upon inquiry, he said he'd been tipped that there was untoward dealings between the company and the navy, and that he'd come to get to the bottom of it. He was happy to inform them, however, that he'd concluded the tip had been a false flag, perhaps made by someone with malicious intentions towards the company. If anything, they'd done their job too well. Their designs for the slums were better than most of the noble districts in the royal capital.
Rather than taking the company to task for bloating their prices, he should take the navy to task for underpaying for what they got.
Everyone smiled brightly as he prepared to leave. Before he did, however, Rodan made sure to introduce Claude to him, with all the usual bells and whistles of a formal introduction, such as a quick biography of his life, how he'd come into the baroness' sphere, and what he'd been up to since, especially the bit about this whole business being his sole idea.
Despite his appreciation for their work in the district, he had little apparent interest in Claude's life story, aside from the fact that he'd graduated top of his class from the physical course. He actually tried to recruit him into the military on its behalf right there, even suggesting they should go to the camp and enlist him that very moment.
Claude nearly had a fit. Luckily he had the excuse of having to take care of his family to wiggle out of the situation. He couldn't very well go against a viscount, especially not one so closely tied to his mistress, and the town's new mayor on top of that. He had to make several vows to enlist the moment there was even just a whiff of war in the air before Felidos would leave him be.
The comment reminded Felidos about what had happened to the boy's father, and he lamented his death, though Claude got the distinct feeling he lamented it more because it kept Claude from enlisting than out of any real sympathy for him or his family.
The whole conversation made it into the following day's edition of the Whitestag Dawn, where the writers had gotten news of the conversation, Claude could only guess.
The navy had been somewhat reluctant to grant the company another contract for the western portion of the slums, but with Viscount Felidos' approval and encouragement, their reluctance vanished and the contract was seen signed.
"Well, that takes care of our employment for the next four years," Rodan said, sinking back into his seat.
The navy was not just going to build their new port, they were also going to extensively renovate and expand the town's system of canals, as well as build expand the causeway connecting Balinga with Sharkmouth Bay.
The important thing was that, if work in the slums was concluded to satisfaction, they weren't averse to giving the contract for the canals and causeway to the company as well.
"What about the civilian docks, or the military port?" Thomas asked.
"It wasn't mentioned," Rodan said meaningfully, "I doubt they'd let a civilian contractor build their actual military installations. They have their own standards and techniques, not to mention the issue of secrecy.
"Speaking of things. We need to speed up our work. Claude, can you start working on the plans for the western slums? I'd like to get started with the prepwork for the construction while we're still busy with the eastern slums. We don't need so many people working the same project. They just get in each other's way."
"No problem," Claude answered.
Claude got another letter from Maria later that month. She'd gone a little mad from all the profits they'd made already. Her personal fortune had swollen by 70 thousand crowns in just a couple months. No one in her family had ever owned such a sum of money; she doubted even some of the richest nobles could scoff at her fortune now, especially not when, though they were probably still quite a fair bit richer than her, they had built their fortune up over many generations, while her's had taken her just four months.
It had taken her three days and several hundred crowns of shopping to calm down. Her letter also included a certificate of payment from the bank. She'd paid off the debt his father had owed Sir Fux at the time of his death, the debt Bloweyk had inherited.
Her thoughts on Claude and the military were the exact opposite of Viscount Felidos'. She thought him having anything to do with the military would be a massive waste for him personally and a loss for the kingdom. She said she would ask the king to exempt him from the draft. It wasn't as easy as asking and receiving, however. By the king's father's own doing, the king was bound as much by the kingdom's laws as his subjects, so it was a difficult process to grant exemptions of any kind, much less a military one. It wasn't impossible, far from it, just difficult, and it would take time.
She finally informed him of a planned visit to the town in two months. She'd stay for a fortnight before returning to the capital. She hoped she could bring him, if not the exemption itself, at least good news in its regard then.