Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 168
Viscount Wenisk had wracked his brain over the brothel's land a number of times, going through the plans multiple times. In fact, it was quite surprising to the navy to have a brothel like that. The superiors weren't fools. They knew how much a brothel could help the men's morale.
Wenisk had no problem with that. His issue was where to put it. If he put it in their base, it would be quick and easy to access, not to mention discreet for the sailors. He worried for the navy's reputation, however, if it became known that they controlled a brothel.
Putting it outside the base meant they could keep the navy's ownership of it out of the public eye, but it would make it vulnerable to harassment by others and would make it difficult for sailors to access it without everyone knowing they were doing so.
Many promising officers' careers had been cut short by a brothel related scandal in Port Neru alone. Wenisk wished it had been some other poor sod that had been put in command of this decision, but it was him and he could do nothing about it.
Claude arrived on Old Street at this time, using a small and unfrequented alley, stopped outside a simple two-storey building, and hid himself in the shadows.
It was the same building First Lieutenant Nuit had rented for his 'little stray cat'. Even as he stood outside, he could hear the thunderous snores coming from inside. It seemed the whiskey he'd given the lieutenant had been put to good use.
He cast Magus' Hands and Fine Control before picking the door's lock. He smiled at a satisfying click several seconds later and slipped inside.
Eye of Appraisal went off a moment later and the black beyond the door receded to reveal the room. He slid up the stairs and picked the lock of the master bedroom's door. His nose twitched to the smell of alcohol even before he'd reached the door.
Another click later he was inside the bedroom. Two naked bodies awaited him there. One corner of the room had a table, upon which his bottle of whiskey lay, empty, alongside several half-eaten plates of food. The rest of the room was a minefield of less-than-clean clothes and the still-wet stains of 'peaceful interactions'.
Claude brought out a small bottle and popped a couple drops into the leftover whiskey in the bottle, refilled it with more whiskey, and stowed it away in his backpack. He then picked up Nuit's uniform and left the pair to their post-pleasure slumber.
Claude would not have bothered the man if not for the similarity in their figures. While Nuit was a little thicker in build, it was not enough to make his uniform an ill fit.
A dashing lieutenant appeared on Old Street soon afterwards and made his public way down the street, harassed along the way but several wenches.
Some soldiers nearby were holding up a few disguised guests who wanted to enter the brothel and had them state their identity. A few who weren't willing to cooperate complained how unreasonable it was that regular guests like them were forbidden from entering after the navy took control.
They saw the lieutenant pass by, but let him go without bothering him, only saluting respectfully. He rented a carriage once they'd done so and left.
The guests wanting to visit Old Street gathered some money with much difficulty and handed it to the soldiers on duty to be allowed inside. Once they'd left, the man realized he couldn't quite recognise the the officer who'd just left, and checked with the others, who said much the same.
He didn't think about it too much, however. The base was quite sizeable, and it was unlikely for his compatriots to know every officer stationed in it. It was a little less likely that they wouldn't have recognised, or at least heard of, a young officer with such a luscious moustache. Then again, with the base still ever-expanding, it was probably just a new transfer, most likely an errand boy for one of the newly promoted commanders.
"Fux Manor," Claude said to the coachman once they were around the corner.
It took twenty minutes for the carriage to come to a halt in front of a luxurious manor on the other end of town. The gates alone were worth at least three-dozen crowns. It was an ornamental piece of crafted steel gilded with copious amounts of gold.
"Fux Manor, Sir," the coachman announced.
Claude got out, his eyes still glued to the gates.
"Wait here for me. I'll give a riyas for the trouble," Claude said in as authoritarian and aloof voice as he could manage.
"Of course, Sir," the coachman half jumped to answer.
A trip like this was usually two or three sunars, five at most for a two way. Making a riyas on it and a little wait was a killing. He didn't say anything when the officer left without paying either, a man with the station to visit someone with Sir Fux's standing would not try to cheat a lowly coachman out of a mere riyas.
Claude yanked the bell rope and a servant appeared as if out of midair a couple moments later, cursing with half a woke voice. His curses vanished once he saw the officer's uniform and his frown melted into a solemn, dutiful expression.
"What business brings you here, Sir?"
Claude glared at him until the man turned away.
"I'm First Lieutenant Abraham. I've come on the orders of Viscount Wenisk to bring Sir Fux an urgent document. Tell him immediately."
"T-the master is already asleep--" Claude just stared at him for several quiet seconds, however, and the man quickly changed his tune. "--I'll notify him immediately. P-please wait here for a moment."
The servant vanished for several minutes, then reappeared with a lantern and an old man behind him.
"What urgent document is this? Let me see," the old man said unhappily.
"Nonsense! Who are you?! You dare to access classified information? Do you want to hang?!" Claude yelled.
The old man wanted to curse, but when he saw Claude's uniform, he stopped himself.
"Apologies. I am Sir Fux's butler, Wharf. The master sent me to get the document..."
"That won't do. I am under strict orders to deliver this into Sir Fux's hands and into his hands only. I am to return with his answer to its contents immediately as well."
The old man was peeved that Viscount Wenisk would send a document this late, but he was not about to argue with a navy officer, especially not one under that man's direct orders, so he did as the man asked.
"Then please come in. Beed, open the gate. Please come with me, Lieutenant. I will report to Sir Fux again. Wait downstairs. He will join you shortly."
"The name's Abraham. Please also give the coachman something warm to drink. He still needs to take me back to the base once I'm done here."
"Very well. Beed will see to it."
The cursing man that had initially welcomed him, whom he now knew as Beed, left for the citching, stifling another series of curses under his breath.
Claude followed the butler to the great hall. The old man put his lamp on a nearby table and lit a couple candles along the wall.
"Please wait here for a few moments. I will notify Sir Fux," the butler said politely.
Claude stood ramrod straight, as would be appropriate of a military man.
"Thank you for your trouble, Mister Wharf."
The butler vanished up the stairs with his lamp and reappeared ten minutes later.
"Please follow me. The master is waiting in his study."
Claude took large steps towards the stairs and followed behind the butler.
The old man turned left on the first floor corridor and walked to the very end. The candle on the wall at the end of the corridor was lit and Claude saw a yawning maidservant standing in front of a magnificently carved black door.
"Cerna, where's the master?" the butler asked in a low voice.
"He's inside," The maidservant answered, then glanced at Claude, her eyes brightening.
Her eyes softened and a light blush and a seductive smile flushed her face.
"After you, sir," the butler said as he pushed the door out of the way.
Claude turned to the maidservant and nodded before entering. The butler followed him in.
The study was lit by two candle stands. The eight white beeswax candles filled the room with a sickly sweet aroma.
Sir Fux sat in a large chair, still wearing his nightgown. His face betrayed his curiosity at the late intrusion.
Everyone knew Sir Fux wasn't too happy with Viscount Wenisk's endeavours with the naval base. Especially not since he'd undone much of Sir Fux's investments via Baron Robert, not to mention his later arrest of the henchman.
Then there was also the matter of the accusations about Normanley Real Estate's supposed shady dealings. Few doubted it was Sir Fux who'd made them, and yet Viscount Wenisk had not given him any face and shot them down out of hand. On top of that he'd not given Sir Fux's company any of the contracts for the various construction projects. He'd even done it in front of the whole town's elite during his first banquet in town. Sir Fux had expected him to be resistant to the idea, which was why he'd broached the subject in front of the town's elite, expecting the Viscount to give him some face in front of all those people, but the plan had completely backfired.
Thus, his voice was extra cold when he spoke as the lieutenant entered the office.
"Where's the document? What is so urgent you come and wake me up in the middle of the night? This better be worth my time."