“M’lord, we’re a poor kingdom, but a hardy one. We can’t just pay our way out of every war. We’ll run out of money!” Emyr, the advisor to the king of Ertval was pacing back and forth. “I know Zentar has a large force, but our border is well protected! They would be unable to pass!”
Amir, the prince, who was named after Emyr with a different spelling, voiced his agreement. “My generals are prepared to defend the border. Entering the country is not advised, but they would break themselves on our defense.”
King Rajendra Icepeak paced back and forth behind the table in the war room. “I understand that we have a powerful defense along the mountain range, but if they slipped by…” The king trailed off, letting his advisor and son think about the consequences. “If we start garrisoning troops in towns that wouldn’t be the solution either. Zentar wishes to have some territory on our side of the mountains. Let them found a town and we will trade with it. That won’t hurt our economy. That would strengthen it!”
“They are threatening to go to war with us if we refuse. Why would they do that?” Amir approached his father and placed a hand on his shoulder, halting his pacing. “Look, I understand that when you became king you brokered peace with Zentar and Aliaz, but Zentar still has tension with Ertval. They are still hostile toward us and this village could be the foothold they need.”
“Perhaps we should leave your father to think, Amir. Also, I wish to speak with you on another matter.” Emyr motioned to the door and began moving for it.
“Very well. Think on this father. You know we have sound arguments, but the decision is ultimately yours to make.” Amir exited the room, leaving his father alone with his thoughts. As he left his bodyguards that were stationed outside the door joined him.
Emyr motioned towards a room near to the war room. “Join me in here for a moment? I wish to introduce you to Zdenko. A very bright engineer who has a very interesting plan.” He turned to address the bodyguards. “I would ask you to check the room then wait outside. I want to discuss this in private.”
The bodyguards deferred to the prince who nodded to them. One entered the room while the other stood next to the prince.
“I’m curious, Emyr, what do you want to talk about?”
“Designs for the army. Weaponry of sorts.” The bodyguard returned from his sweep and nodded at Amir. “Here, let’s talk of the specifics inside.”
The two men entered the room, closing the heavy wooden door behind them. Inside was a man with magnifying glasses staring intently at a gear driven mechanism the size and shape of an apple. “Ah, spring was in misalignment!” He grabbed a pair of small tweezers and fiddled with the object. “There, should work now.”
“Ahem.” Emyr cleared his throat, startling Zdenko. “Did you even notice the bodyguard sweeping the room?”
“Yes, yes. He just walked in and looked around. He was smart enough to not mess with my equipment.” Zdenko straightened up and patted the small, metallic, apple shaped piece of metal. “This is what Emyr has me working on, my prince. I’m sure you will appreciate it.”
Amir stepped forward and reached for the object before pausing. “May I?”
Zdenko picked the object up and set it in Amir’s hand. “This one’s mostly harmless. It doesn’t have any chemicals in it so it’ll just blast apart if it’s activated.”
Zdenko shot a questioning glance at Emyr.
“Let’s go outside later for that part. Show him the other thing.”
A giant grin spread across Zdenko’s face. “Well, let me get it out then.” He turned and grabbed a sack from atop a chair. “This is my best work yet, and it can be mass produced with just a few tweaks.” He set the sack on the table and opened the mouth. The sack fell down around a small, metallic crossbow with gears and a small winch. “I call it the crossgear. The name’s a work in progress. It’s a crossbow that uses springs and gears to reset the string. This winch handle is to wind it up. It allows a soldier to fire just that little bit faster. I think I’ve gotten the aim right, but I’m a terrible shot so it might be off.”
“Let’s head outside to test it then.” Amir handed the metal apple back to Zdenko and picked up the crossgear. “I think I’ll take a look at this while we walk.”
– – –
Zdenko thought that his gearbow, which was the name the soldiers gave his crossgear, was his magnum opus. He was wrong. Here he was, in the prince’s workshop basement, with a team of engineers working on an automaton army. The prince had just left to join the ceremony happening above, leaving Zdenko and his team to try to make the soldier act on their own.
“Avron, how’s that new sprocket coming along?” The sound of metal hammering meta was echoing through the workshop.
“Slowly. I’ve just gotten the teeth all the same length and was about to upset them. The specifications are fai-” an explosion sounded from above and the entire workshop shook, interrupting the conversation.
Zdenko and Avron had a clear view of all of the engineers as they were blasted into golden dust that then coated the automatons. The two of them then passed out as the wave of energy enveloped them.