“No. Hold it like this and let me . . . We need another screw here.”
Lulled by the pleasant effluxes of tobacco and the lingering effects of one particularly fine bottle of derkos brandy, Hadrian watched with circumspection as Fāris wrestled together the legs of a flimsy birch chair, helped in this audacious venture by none other than King Mordred.
Joined by Natameus, the four of them had repaired to Hadrian’s smoking room for a gentlemen’s meeting, which, according to Fāris, would usher in a new industrial era across Thule, no less.
The seat snapped in place under the vigorous pummeling of both men. A splinter of wood landed on Hadrian’s rug, inches away from the open pages of an assembly guide whose hideous pictograms had been of little help to the two self-appointed woodworkers. He considered the finished product from behind the rim of his snifter. There was little to be said about the simplistic assortment of straight pieces of wood, save perhaps for the fact that it would make for suitable kindling.
Natameus took cautious steps toward the chair, testing its sturdiness by the application of his index finger to the back rest. The legs immediately canted in the most alarming manner. His friend jerked his hand away as if the contraption were cursed. That thing, Hadrian knew, would never be able to withstand a grown man’s weight—or even that of a capybara.
“What do you think?” Fāris inquired, extending a hand to the evening’s primary source of entertainment.
“It does look quite fashionable,” Natameus conceded. “A bold design.”
Mordred, who was known to be overly partial to imported goods, nodded his assent.
Feeling compelled by Fāris’s intense scrutiny to voice an opinion, Hadrian considered the chair for some time before electing to speak the truth of his mind. “I do understand the aesthetic appeal, or even the novelty of it. However . . .” Fāris’s nostrils flared. Hadrian nonetheless soldiered on. “Who could possibly want to purchase unassembled pieces of furniture when a perfectly good chair may be procured at a reasonable price anywhere in Camelot?”
There was a spark of amber in Fāris’s eyes as he spoke, a fire Hadrian had last seen some twenty years ago, when Thulair’s first prototype windcruiser had taken off the ground. “Millions, my friend. Millions.”