Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 2
It was stated in the history books that Stellin IX the great and mighty cared deeply about the livelihood of the people. Ever since his childhood, he would disguise himself as a commoner and begin his survey and coming to understand the people's plight and their social castes. He hated the greedy nobles and corrupt officials that scoured the wealth of the people. When he was 16, he was sent to attend a noble academy by his royal father.
During the four years he spent there, Prince Karjad absorbed all sorts of knowledge and experience of his forefathers like a dry sponge and built up a knowledge foundation that far exceeded the others'. He also never attended the lavish parties hosted by the descendants of those nobles.
Stellin IX later mentioned that the four years he spent at the noble academy enlightened him about the crises faced by the kingdom which could only be righted through reform. But back then, he was still young and though he had the wish to do so, he didn't know where to start.
So, Karjad decided to go out to travel the continent of Freia to see how the other kingdoms were faring.
After another four years, Karjad had traveled around most of the continent and met quite a number of like-minded friends, such as Ironblood Premier, Duke Laust Rin Diggins, Invincible Commander Dubok Man Dengkin, Ironfaced Justice Marquis Verdigar Mor Fux and the reliable ad resourceful Finance Minister Count Kell Jack Ferman. Those were the people that formed the cornerstone for the three decades of the kingdom's golden age.
Prince Karjad who had returned to the kingdom met with his father, Stellin VIII, and suggested some policies for reform. However, the sickly king wasn't interested in that and simply gave him a mission to inspect the various garrison forces across the kingdom to shoo him away from the palace.
Though his efforts failed, the prince didn't let up. He rode all over the kingdom on his horse. As he reorganized the garrison forces, he punished the corrupt and the greedy by strictly enforcing the laws all the while spreading word about his plans to reform the kingdom, causing his reputation among the free citizens and merchants to skyrocket once more and building the foundation that helped secure his final victory during the civil war.
But when he returned to the capital two years later, Karjad didn't get the chance to try to convince his father again, as Stellin VIII had already passed on. What followed would be the power struggle between Elenia and Aunass for the throne.
Karjad knew that with his low status, there was no chance he would get a place on the throne. Not a single one of the kingdom nobles would support an illegitimate child like him to be king. So, he could only strive his best to pacify his two half siblings in hopes that they would cooperate to solve the kingdom's problems.
His incessant pestering earned him the annoyance of the other two. "Even though you are a prince and our brother in name, think about your own standing. Do you really think you ought to meddle in our affairs?" echoed the two. So, they simply found a reason to send him away from the capital so that he didn't bother the two during their struggle.
The moment Karjad left the capital, he was like a fish swimming freely in the sea. Back then, the formerly frivolous playboy, Laust Rin Diggins, traveled to the prince to join him on horseback throughout the night. It was that night when the prince and the future premier of the kingdom had a long talk and reaffirmed the prince's desire to also compete for the throne.
However, Prince Karjad didn't think that his actions would cause Princess Elenia and Prince Aunass to be so wary of him. The foolish baron of Whitestag Town led his forces to execute the orders from the royal capital, forcing the prince that was ill-prepared for the power struggle to have little choice but to fire the first round that sparked the resistance.
After that came the occupation of Whitestag Town and the recruitment of the firearms brigade. The Auerasian civil war had begun. At first, Princess Elenia turned completely on Prince Aunass and fought with him all out in the royal capital. Prince Karjad on the other hand cleansed all the landed nobles with his newfound force and captured the officials that served the two other factions in the capital. Soon, Elenia and Aunass's supporters were forced to make peace and fight Karjad, whose military influence only grew by the day. During that time, Karjad suffered many lost battles and had to retreat to the three southwestern prefectures.
After defeating Karjad's force, that was heading for the capital, Elenia and Aunass didn't pursue the retreating force and instead turned against each other once more. Karjad on the other hand used that opportunity to rally more troops from the three southwestern provinces to rebuild his army. Thanks to support from the free citizens and the merchants, Karjad didn't fall after his lost battles, but stood back up stronger than ever and eventually obtained the final victory.
In the end, Princess Elenia's fate was to be exiled to Nasri before dying from sickness in the Kingdom of Shiks, north of the continent. Prince Aunass on the other hand was killed by a stray bullet on the battlefield and his remaining troops and subordinates resisted for another four months thanks to Duke Brant, the leader of the landed nobles, before eventually being encircled at the riverbank near Amsson and exterminated. Duke Brant ended his own life after his defeat and the other nobles were either sent to the gallows or exiled from the kingdom.
As the banners that represented the authority of Princess Elenia, Prince Aunass and Prince Karjad were colored blue, yellow and purple respectively, the struggle for power and civil war came to be known in the history books of Aueras as the Tricolor Conflict, or the war of blue, yellow and purple among the people.
Back during the occupation of Whitestag Town, after the prince recruited the firearms brigade, he recalled the warriors that charged into Rodeman Mansion and decided to fulfill his oath.
What he didn't think was that among the ten or so warriors that made it into the mansion, only one and a half survived. One of them was lightly injured while the other was barely living and could only be considered to be half-alive.
Before all his subordinates, the prince gently asked the heavily injured one about his wish. He promised to fulfill it if it was within his abilities.
The injured soldier was really touched and his eyes glowed bright as a path of light appeared before him. He coughed twice before opening his mouth, but no words came out of it. He had stopped breathing before that. How unfortunate.
Everyone's gazes then turned to the other remaining survivor. It was incredibly apparent that he would be heavily awarded by the prince, being the only one left alive, so that the prince wouldn't default on his word.
"What is your name?" asked the prince gently as he turned to the shivering soldier. He knew that most commoners who haven't seen much behaved as such before him.
"Mi-mi-mi-milord... T-t-this one is c-c-called Habis F-f-ferd..." stammered the soldier.
In the ancient Hez language, Ferd meant fields or farmer. People bearing that family name were usually born of farmers. Habis Ferd was none other than the late grandfather of Claude Ferd and he could be considered to be the founder of the current Ferd family.
However, Claude's father, chief secretary of Whitestag Town, Morssen Ferd, always seemed annoyed whenever his own father was mentioned. He always begrudged his late father who had squandered his chances like that by leaving the precious jewels and magical equipment untouched and instead leaving after picking up a gold coin from the ground.
"Soldier! Show respect to His Highness!" shouted a guard of the prince.
"No worries," Karjad said with a wave of his hand, not minding the small detail, "Don't feel nervous, Habis Ferd. You are a warrior. If it wasn't for your and the other heroes' sacrifice, we wouldn't have obtained this victory. Tell me, what is your wish? I will grant it for you. Or, do you want something else instead? I'll be able to satisfy any of your desires."
"Had your grandfather been the slightest bit smarter or more aware, all he had to do was to ask His Majesty to grant him a middle name and we would be nobles already," complained Morssen Ferd before his family often. Every time he reached that point of the tale, Morssen would be at the tipping point of his rage. He didn't want anything more than turning back the flow of time and taking his grandfather's stead before the prince.
On the continent of Freia, the most pronounced difference between a commoner and a noble was the extra middle name, which was known as a sobriquet. It could be considered to be a family name passed down by a noble house. One wouldn't be able to pretend to be a noble by simply adding another word in the middle of a name. Noble sobriquets came with certification documents and could withstand scrutiny.
For instance, the man who eventually became premier of the kingdom, Laust Rin Diggins, had 'Rin' in the middle of his given and family name. That meant that one of his ancestors was a knight that expanded the territory of the kingdom into the wilds and obtained the middle name Rin as a reward, which was verifiable from the records. The duke used to be a descendant of a branch family of House Rin Diggins and quite the well-known playboy. But ever since he helped Prince Karjad ascend to the throne, he served the kingdom for more than 30 years and was made an honorary duke.
In the Kingdom of Aueras, one could tell from the moment a name like 'Morssen Ferd' was mentioned that the other was a commoner. That way, others could speak and act more freely towards him. But someone calling themselves Laust Rin Diggins would allow even people who didn't recognize him to know that he was a noble that deserved due respect and treatment.
That was why Claude's father dreamed to have a middle name. To him, it represented an immeasurably bright future. With one more word in his name, he would no longer just be a chief secretary of a small town. Instead, he could be a mayor, council member or even the prefect of a prefecture. Being promoted to higher ranks would no longer be a thing of his dreams.
However, time wouldn't flow backwards. Morssen's father, Habis, wouldn't know how badly his son would bemoan his foolishness in the future. Otherwise, he would've shot his seed to the wall instead of impregnating his wife and there would be no Ferd family to speak of.
As a young farmer who joined the army only to stay fed, Habis didn't know what was going on. He was tempted by the nice-smelling bread coming from the kitchen of the army camp. But before a day even passed since Habis joined the force, a musket was stuffed in his hand and he was ordered to follow the rest.
So, Habis bumbled along with the rest of the force. The musket in his hands was a new toy for him. He had only heard about it before but hadn't had a chance to see it in person, not to mention know how to use it. When he arrived at the town, he could heard the guns firing loudly as smoke wafted into the sky.
The prince seemed to have given some sort of speech that riled the soldiers around him up. So, Habis cheered along and charged forward along with the rest.
Luckily, Habis wasn't shot on the way and managed to enter the mansion without trouble. The moment he did so, he was stabbed and suffered a large wound to his lower abdomen. However, the enemy that wounded him was stabbed to death by his other comrades. During the frenzied melee, Habis kept quiet and waited in a corner for help.
In the end, every one of his comrades died, leaving Habis the sole survivor of the warriors.
"I... I want a house..." said Habis with some hesitation.
"House? What house?" Karjad listened more intently and thought he had heard wrongly.
"This house." Habis mustered his courage and pointed at Rodeman Mansion behind the prince.
"Soldier Habis Ferd, do you really want only this house as your reward? Nothing else?" asked Karjad for confirmation.
"Yes, Your Highness," said Habis with a nod.
"Very well. It shall be as you wish. From today onwards, this building is yours."