Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 5

Enjoy a chapter of BIG during the weekends! I'll probably get another up tomorrow!

Traditionally, the highest social class on Freia were the nobles, both landed and honorary, followed by the free citizens. Artisans, merchants and even small farm owners belong to that class. They own private property and live in towns and cities, paying taxes to the king or other noble lords for protection. However, they would frequently suffer personal losses from the greed of landed nobles and local officials.

The third class was the commoner class, which included normal commoners and dominion folk. Commoners were also considered citizens of towns and worked in the service industry or took on jobs from local officials to make a living. Habis, for example, was a farmer, but he didn't own any land and could only work in enclosures in exchange for food, shelter and other basic necessities. The dominion folk on the other hand were subjects of the landed nobles and owned no private property and couldn't leave the dominion as they pleased. Their personal freedoms were greatly restricted and they could only survive by relying on those nobles.

The lowest social class were the slaves whose lives were in the hands of their owners. Even though many nations across Freia already abolished slavery, slave trade was still a lucrative affair. Soldiers captured during wartime were the ideal source for new slaves.

After Prince Karjad won the civil war and ascended as Stellin IX, he quickly institutionalized one reform after another, ushering in new policies for the economy, education, governance and military. Following all that, he began to completely overhaul the kingdom's social structure.

Firstly, Stellin IX announced that the kingdom would reclaim complete control over all the land enfeoffed to landed nobles. From that point onwards, the kingdom would no longer have landed nobles. That led to the revolt of the remaining landed nobles in the kingdom, but it was quickly suppressed and resulted in the gallows on both sides of the streets hung full with the corpses of those dead nobles.

Following that, Stellin IX introduced the Bill of Rights for the Four Castes that clearly illustrated the four recognized societal castes as well as their rights and privileges, causing a huge storm across the continent of Freia.

The Bill stated that within Aueras, the first class of citizens were nobles. Naturally, the titles awarded by Stellin IX were all honorary and came with a title and a yearly income, but not a fief.

The second class were the national citizens. Distinguished commoners or those with military accomplishments but haven't been awarded a noble title as well as the many high officials who strived to hit their performance milestones belonged to this category.

The third class consisted of commoners and it was the most numerous of all the castes. They were bound to pay taxes and serve their duties. Stellin IX abolished the traditional free citizen and dominion folk model commonly used in nations across Freia and united them into one commoner social class. At the same time, he afforded them more freedoms, such as private ownership of property, marriage, work, migratory freedoms and so on. Most of the commoners were relieved of compulsory labor and were allowed to work paying jobs instead.

Alongside that, Stellin IX abolished slavery completely and all slaves within the kingdom were to be given freedom as commoners. From then on, dabbling in slave trade within the borders of the kingdom was a felony.

The fourth class of people were the outcasts. They had the lowest status in society and were comprised mostly of captured bandits and criminals. Stellin IX appreciated a good labor force, so apart from those who were convicted of unforgivable sins who would be put to death, other criminals, debtors, vagabonds and beggars belonged to that caste. It was basically the parallel world version of reform through labor. Each outcast would have to serve a set term of unpaid labor before they would be allowed to regain their status as free commoners.

After Stellin IX sent the kingdom's Invincible Commander Dubok Man Dengkin to exterminate the Duchy of Berkeley and absorb its territory, he gave the order to take all 30 thousand captives of the soldiers of the duchy as outcasts. They would only be released after five years of labor as commoners.

Five decades since the implementation of the Bill, it has already become a cornerstone of the kingdom's society. It also stabilized many of the permanent policies of the kingdom. Not only did it categorize the people of the kingdom into four distinct castes, it also ensured that their respective rights wouldn't be infringed upon and ensured that they carried out their respective obligations to the kingdom.

As for the kingdom nobles, even though they no longer had fiefs, they were given a fixed yearly income befitting of their title that guaranteed their livelihood, which also eliminated destructive competition between nobles. Economically speaking, they weren't that badly affected. And politically speaking, they were also given a huge boost. All elite officials were basically kingdom nobles. That had practically become an unwritten rule.

Additionally, Stellin IX created two legislative houses that helped with deciding the policy of the kingdom. The upper house was comprised of kingdom nobles and they were in charge of affairs of the nobility, impeachment recommendations by the lower house and monitoring the execution of the kingdom's policy decisions. They had a certain degree of legislative and judicial power and could veto some legislation proposed by the lower house.

The lower house on the other hand would comprise only of national citizens. Most of them were local representatives from all over the kingdom, with a few more spaces reserved for those recommended by the upper house and the king. A member of the lower house was tasked with local administration, impeaching kingdom officials and monitoring the budget and finances of the local authority. They had the right to propose motions and also received a good allowance for their administrative services.

The part of the Bill that was most well-received was the clause that stated that tax-paying national citizens had priority when it came to education, military recruitment and governmental positions. Most of the time, the members of local authorities and governments were either nobles or nationals. Within the military, the officers who were nationals formed a strong backbone the kingdom could rely on.

In times of peace, a commoner had to serve in the military for 15 years before they could join the ranks of the nationals. But during times of war, any achievements gained during that time could shorten that process.

A commoner becoming a public servant on the other hand would have to serve dedicatedly for 20 long years before being allowed to become a national. That was the route Morssen took.

Back then, the young Morssen adeptly noticed the changes that the Bill would bring. In a sense, it was a chance for commoners to raise their status in society and serve in administrative positions. He felt that it was a little risky to join serve in the military as during the 20 years throughout Stellin IX's reforms, Aueras had gone to war with their sworn foe Nasri three times. Even though they emerged victorious every time, the number of casualties numbered tens of thousands in total.

That was why Morssen was willing to spend 20 years instead serving as a public servant to obtain national status. Even though it was a long time, it was much safer. Given that he was only 22 back then, he would still be tough and capable in his forties two decades later. He believed that he still had a bright future ahead of him.

So, the young Morssen used his wit and amazing work ethic to win the trust and recognition of his colleagues and the former mayor of the town. To the townsfolk, he was a sincere and patient worker, not to mention reasonable and impartial. To his colleagues, he was a trustworthy friend with a warm and generous personality and a penchant of helping others. To his superiors, he was a subordinate that could handle all assignments given to him with great precision and a good target to be trained and developed.

When Morssen was 28, the head of security of the town, Sunny, looked up to that young and talented lad and decided to wed his 24-year-old daughter Pattisia Sunny to Morssen. Back then, somebody even asked Old Sunny why a national like him didn't wed his daughter to another national instead of Morssen the commoner.

Old Sunny replied smilingly that he trusted himself to be a good judge of character and said that he believed that Morssen would rely on his own hard work to eventually gain national status. By then, both he and Sunny's daughter would be nationals.

The old security chief wasn't mistaken in his judgment, as Morssen came to receive five awards of excellence during the following nine years of his service. That was almost legendary for a mere public servant working in a small town. And so, Morssen earned national status five years earlier and was promoted to the town's chief secretary position.

Back then, he was only 37 and the people as well as the authorities of the town had high hopes in him. He also had a blissful family. He had a gentle and attentive wife, an 8-year-old elder son and a 4-year-old younger son. Morssen was already living the life he dreamed of since his youth.

But one could only see further into the distance when one was on high ground. Even though he had made it to the position of the town's chief secretary, he didn't wish to remain in that position for the rest of his life. He wanted to advance his career to the position of mayor, house member, and maybe even prefect.

But it was then when Morssen realized how hard it would truly be for him to continue on that path. Reality wasn't as smooth-sailing as most imagined it to be. Though Whitestag Town was hailed as the number one town in the three southwestern prefectures, it was still a small town under the jurisdiction of the city of Baromiss in the southeastern prefecture of Balivia. Even though he had a great reputation in Whitestag Town, he lacked the connections and supporters in Baromiss, the capital of Balivia. Without any huge figure backing him, it would almost be impossible for him to advance from Whitestag Town.

Had Father requested to be made a noble instead of being given the red-bricked mansion when asked what he wanted by the prince, all would've been well, thought Morssen all too often; a thought he also shared with his children on many occasions.

National status was a prerequisite to serve as a local administrator and one required good connections to be able to advance from that point. It wasn't something that could simply be achieved through fulfilling one's duties with hard work. Naturally, if he were a noble, Morssen wouldn't have those troubles to begin with.

Any noble could easily be appointed as a local administrator because it was simply far more convenient than appointing a national, whose complex ties and relationships would result in conflicts of interests and informal favors that would cause much trouble for the kingdom officials.

Ten years passed in a flash and Morssen remained the chief secretary of Whitestag Town. Even though the path still stretched beyond him, he was unable to advance one step. Though, those trials weren't enough to put a damper on his ambitions. During the past decade, Whitestag Town had grown more developed and populous, which allowed Morssen to see a sliver of hope.

If he could raise the town's status to that of a city, then he would definitely stand a chance to become a local representative given his three decades of dedicated service. His name would spread to the capital and appear before Stellin X and he might even be awarded with a title.

The mere thought of that would always spark a fire in Morssen that would see him dive passionately into his work once more.

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