the project’s gleaming, thick metal rails, two for each archway, caught his eyes. Each set ran beside a long wooden platform—he was standing on one of the two platforms in the room—and continued beyond them, running out the archways and then off across his land. Initially, there had only been one rail per track, but after testing, they had to add a second rail. Magical levitation kept the carriages, or carts, afloat over the track, and double rails, two points of levitation, eliminated the slight rocking that made some people sick.
The work on the tracks had started many months ago. They connected to a neighboring lord’s land, to a rail station there, before continuing beyond that. Veritable roads of rails, these tracks lead to his future. A future, he hoped, that was filled with success.
For this project had to succeed. The expenses incurred in the previous failed projects had run the Caer’s coffers low. If Lora found out . . . But he felt certain about this one. Every business relied on shipping in one way or another. Parts, supplies, finished product, they all needed to be shipped, transported. And one who controls most of the transportation resources controls—
“My apologies, Lord Eldin.” Master Philippa walked over, her conversation apparently complete. “My assistant had more reports on the final test and I had some instructions for him.”
“Ah! So you completed testing?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“From your expression, it went well?”
“It went perfectly. We’ve determined the best bank angles for the turns in the tracks to offset the centripetal force at normal running speeds.”
“I see. That’s good, but you could have apprised me of this in the morning.”
“Oh, yes, but that wasn’t the news I wanted to give you. Track line one is nearly complete. All that remains are the turns, which, now that we know the bank angles, can be finished. It should only take two or three weeks as most of the line is a straight run.”
Master Philippa smiled. “You can start planning the public demonstrations, my lord.”
Lord Eldin glanced to the other platform. “You have already built ten, what did you call them, carts?”
“Cars, my lord. And yes, we have ten already built, five for carrying cargo and five for carrying people. They passed their own tests some time ago and are ready for demonstration. It is a very exhilarating time.” The smith’s eyes gleamed with excitement.
Lord Eldin nodded, turning to the cars. “Yes, it is. Was there anything else?”
“No, my lord, that was all.”
“Thank you, then. And good work. Please continue to keep me apprised of track line completions.”
“Of course. Goodnight, my lord.” Master Philippa gave a short bow before taking her leave.
Lord Eldin looked about the room, at the workers, at the structures, at the core of his business. He was in a competition of sorts with Baronel. He hated that his former friend had won—stolen!—the heart of Rora, leaving him to settle for Lora, her twin sister. But he would get back at him.
The demonstrations for the public and his partners would be successful. Their first track line spanned nearly a third of the entire continent, and with the speed of the locomotives, as Master Philippa had taken to calling the rail engines, his company would be able to transport cargo in a fraction of the time others could.
A slight frown creased his forehead.
It actually wasn’t entirely his company. He’d had to bring in partners. All of them brought valuable resources of one kind or another, but he would have preferred to own it outright. He had hoped to get Gregor to join him in the business, keep more of it in the family. But he hadn’t seen his son in years, and their recent communications were strained.
There had been an argument about Gregor’s future. Lord Eldin was upset that the boy couldn’t or wouldn’t decide what he wanted to do. Words had been said. Even so, though Gregor