1618: vii

Gilles passed under the portcullis and guided his horse through the workmen as they carried building materials across the courtyard. The fortress was considered a ruin and not on the map according the nobility. The Bishop had silently appropriated it for his own use. It was here that Gilles had brought the Greek from the depths of the Bastille and he was not the only one. They didn’t all come from prison, but Gilles had spent a lot of time tracking them down and collecting them on behalf of the Bishop. A secret assembly of mathematicians, goldsmiths, engineers and carpenters that became known as Artificers.

The Count left his horse at the second gate. The guards admitted him without hesitation and he passed into the inner sanctum. Steam billowed up between the scaffolds. Gilles climbed up the stairs to where several of the men stood bickering over large drawings.

“No, this is not right. It will not work,” one of them said. The Greek looked up and met the Count’s gaze. He took a step back from the table and caused the other men to pause. Gilles came forward.

“What is the problem?” Gilles asked. His eye drifted over the drawing. The man who had loudly exclaimed that it was wrong, stood up straight.

“To carry this amount of weight takes a considerable amount of air, the fire box and boiler to create the amount of hot air needed for the weight of the craft alone will require a larger boiler than these drawings. The more weight we add the larger it will need to be until we are endlessly increasing one to serve the other,” the man explained.

“Hm,” Gilles grunted. “Is that all?”

The men stared at him speechless.

“It is not possible,” the man claimed. Gilles shrugged.

“Fine, so be it,” he said. The men exchanged looks of confusion. The Count draped his arm around the man’s shoulders and turned him away from the group. They walked towards the scaffold railing. “I’ll just return to our generous patron and tell him the project is at an end, shall I?” Gilles cast a glance back at the others. “And you will all be able to return to your homes. Would you like that?” The expressions of the men were brightening; however, the moment was brief.

Gilles drove his dagger deep into the gut of the man beside him. The Artificer desperately clutched at the gaping hole in his stomach as Gilles withdrew his blade. The Count gave the man a shove and he tumbled over the edge of the scaffold. He sauntered back to the table as he wiped the blood off his dagger. He tossed the soiled handkerchief on the table.

“I suggest you start problem solving. Build a more efficient heat source, use different materials, something. I would hate to see you dropping like flies.” Gilles pointedly glanced towards the railing. “Now, Greek, show me the other project.”

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