Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 522
The King's Scheme
Viscount Davlid stayed in Polyvisia for three days before leaving, satisfied. His mission as the king's emissary concluded magnificently, far better than expected, in fact. The two generals from the autonomous region were really easy to negotiate with. Not only did he manage to leave with 1.5 million crowns, he also got all the supplies and gear they didn't need. They even sent a line of light cavalry along as an escort.
Since Claude and Bolonik were so sincere, Davlid returned the favour by telling them much of what he knew about the prime minister's plans for the kingdom so that the two generals could better understand the state of the kingdom. They got along quite well over those three days.
As the king's emissary, apart from talking to Claude and the rest about handing over the reserves, Davlid had to verify the contributions Thundercrash and Monolith had made and inspect the wealth confiscated from the treasury. Even the seven mines had to be properly inspected.
He left it all to the two generals, however, with the excuse that he didn't have time for it. He only took the list of promotion requests and said that, given the two corps' abilities and his interactions with the two generals, he believed they would not fake the contributions.
Claude and Bolonik were quite touched. So they gave all the spoils they didn't need to him as well so the national armoury could be restocked. While the gear was almost useless to them, it was a great help to the court, which could use it to arm local garrisons.
The gear and ammunition worth up to a million crowns was given away just like that and Claude didn't feel the slightest bit regretful about it. To him, they were nothing more than dust gatherers that took up space but were too wasteful to just throw away. While medicinal supplies, bandages, carpets, tents and washbasins still had their uses, the uniforms, belts and water flasks didn't match the loadouts of the region's troops.
Mementos from the battles were fine, but useables like that were not really necessary. The weapons were also unappealing for the soldiers of the region. Yet, it was really hard to find a buyer for those, and even if one was found, the price those could sell for was exceedingly low. It would be better to use them to earn the ambassador's favour by giving them to the kingdom. That way, the region would have someone on their side in the court.
Seeing Davlid pop out of the carriage one last time to wave goodbye, Claude and Bolonik waved back as they sent him off and ordered the army band beside them to play a joyous tune. They only turned back to the city once the ambassador was out of their sights.
"Let's go take a walk on the city walls," Bolonik said.
Claude accompanied him up. Their adjutants followed ten metres back to avoid disrupting their walk.
"Just look at the sights..." Bolonik took out two cigars, handed one to Claude, and the two began to smoke.
"What do you think about what Viscount Davlid revealed to us, specifically, the prime minister's plan to give hereditary nobles fiefs?" Bolonik asked out of the blue. Over the past three days, the two either accompanied Davlid or tended to their work, having had no time at all to have private discussions. Now that the ambassador was gone, Bolonik wanted to hear Claude's analysis on the matter.
Claude breathed a mouthful of smoke, blowing two smoke rings into the air as he thought up his reply.
"Actually, I have always believed Viscount Davlid came here for another reason. He probably came here to probe our reaction about the enfeoffment plan."
"I had that feeling as well. What I'm curious about is, why us? We come from the region, so the court should be really strongly against us. To the kingdom, we're just another type of traitor. Even when the kingdom is urgently in need of help, they shouldn't be taking the initiative to give us fiefs. They can just use the excuse that we're from the region to exclude us from the giving of the hereditary Titles."
Claude smirked. He didn't answer Bolonik's doubts, instead choosing to change the subject. "I've grown rather interested in this Blancarte recently, so I had someone do some research on him. The report I got states that the prime minister, full name Blancarte Soe Sevilio, is forty-one this year. He's the captain of His Majesty's guard in his youth and grew up with him.
"Our prime minister comes from House Sevilio, a huge force in the old nobility. Three of the kingdom's industrial complexes are run by that house alongside six other old noble houses. However, Blancarte isn't the descendant of the direct line from the official wife; his mother is a maidservant of his father that was later taken in to be a concubine. Given his status, he was relegated to the third prince, Fredrey, to be his bodyguard.
"Nobody knew that the weak third prince would become His Majesty Fredrey I as he is today. Blancarte, having accompanied the king for more than two decades, holds his trust greatly. Given his capabilities, he was soon appointed the new prime minister of the kingdom. Back then, His Majesty had just ascended to the throne and nobody dared go against his decree, and Blancarte also came from House Sevilio, so he could be considered among the old nobility. That's why they gave their tacit approval.
"That's about as much as I got on the prime minister, but there are rumours that he and the current head of House Sevilio, his brother from a different mother, are at severe odds with one another. It's said that many in House Sevilio are suggesting for Blancarte to take over as the head of the house. That way, the house will be able to grow even more prosperous. However, the current head and his younger half-brother, Count Turlyke Sevilio, are being stubborn.
"If the proposal is something our prime minister came up with himself, I believe he definitely doesn't side with the old nobility, but His Majesty himself. If it isn't, then the one pulling the strings hates the old nobility with a passion. What you're thinking of isn't wrong. It is a plan to counteract the old nobility faction. Our region, on the other hand, is merely caught up in this mess."
Bolonik's cigar fell onto the ground audibly. He widened his eyes and asked, "How did you come to such a conclusion?"
"Sometimes, what we know about history can be far from the truth. What we're shown is what we're allowed to see after lots of dressing up and sugarcoating." He took a deep puff from his cigar and puffed out some five smoke rings. Looking at the scenery beyond the walls, he solemnly said, "I recall the history books we studied in the national middle schools state that Stellin IX fought the War of Reformation because his elder sister, Princess Elenia and his brother, Prince Aunass, tore the kingdom apart in their power struggle. The unruly nobles also devastated the lives of the peasants.
"That's why Stellin IX raised the flag of rebellion to wipe out any injustice he saw, getting rid of despotic nobles and officials under the banner of revolution and became the monarch of the era. I'm sure you've seen something similar in military college. Our history classes should be identical.
"But during the past two days, I went to the archive here in Polyvisia to see Nasri's historical records about Aueras. I found that the real reason Stellin IX started the rebellion was there was no more land in the kingdom to enfeoff to hereditary nobles.
"I found information about fiefs during Stellin VIII's reign and noticed that apart from the royal capital and Ibnist Plains, all lands in the kingdom belonged to the nobles. In the three-century history of our kingdom, the kingdom created countless nobles. When the kingdom stopped expanding, there was no more land to enfeoff to descendants of nobles that made contributions to the kingdom.
"That's why during Stellin VIII's reign, the kingdom ran out of land to enfeoff. Since then, the reputation of the royal family plummeted in the eyes of the nobles, as they weren't willing to give out an inch of Ibnist Plains at all. The records also stated that there was no war in Princess Elenia and Prince Aunass' power struggle, only some small-scale armed conflicts.
"Only Stellin IX formed an army of his own to attack the other nobles once he conquered my hometown, Whitestag, which used to be the barony of a hereditary baron. Eventually, things snowballed into a huge issue. When the nobles realised that Stellin IX was targeting them, they hurried and allied together to resist Stellin IX's reformation army, but the time for the fight was long over. They had already lost.
"When Stellin IX ascended to the throne, he took back the fiefs of the nobles and changed the Title to come with annuity. He probably wanted to leave a complete kingdom to his descendants. Little did he know that the nobles would focus on the economy after losing their land, eventually forming into the old nobility faction of today. They control the kingdom's military industries and cultivated their young to take up military posts to the point that even the royal family wasn't able to do anything about it."
Claude took the last few puffs of his smoke and squashed the cigar with his feet. "I suspect the enfeoffment proposal is a scheme to fight back against the old nobility. To a noble, the most important and valuable thing is their fief. The fief is the core of their household.
"Owning their own fief which they can pass on to their descendants where they can do whatever they want without repercussions, where they were practically kings beholden to no laws or orders, was something that could bring their household unlimited wealth. They wouldn't have anything to worry about at all.
"When they do not have their own fiefs, the nobles would band together to occupy the kingdom's core trade and industries, becoming a monopolistic trading union in effect, continuously expanding their influence in the kingdom and the military, which led to this problem that plagues His Majesty endlessly. Nothing can be done without their explicit support. The development of the kingdom's economy is almost impossible without the old nobility.
"This plan to enfeoff land to them is one designed to split the old nobility. Once they have their own fiefs, they will focus most of their attention and efforts into them. It isn't a surprise, then, that the nobles would start to get into conflicts among themselves from overlapping interests. That would definitely affect their unity.
"However, there's another thing this scheme intends to achieve, and that's scraping some wealth off the old nobility. Didn't the ambassador mention that any noble that isn't satisfied with the fief they're given can pick better lands for themselves for a fee? The key lies in the fee. His Majesty is their sole arbiter, as is the divine right of the monarch. Nobody can influence that decision.
"Apart from that, the trigenerational and honorary nobles also want a fief for themselves, so they just have to pay. I don't doubt the king and court can amass a huge amount of wealth easily by offering fiefs this way. Just because the kingdom is broke doesn't mean its citizens are broke. Perhaps the prime minister's plan to revive the kingdom won't be that hard to achieve after all.
"There's another important thing. Placing the fiefs in Nasri will allow the kingdom to shake off a heavy burden. The revolts that break out here will henceforth have nothing to do with the kingdom. The nobles enfeoffed here will have to form their own forces to suppress the locals. That would inevitably force them to transfer some of their relatives in the kingdom's forces into their own local forces, further diminishing their influence in the military.
"In other words, the situation favours His Majesty completely. This is a scheme that offers lots to gain and nothing to lose. They even include the people from the region within. Just think about it. If the five of us are enfeoffed land by His Majesty, what would the council members back in the region think? Will we still be able to control the future of the region?"
Bolonik's expression paled. He gave it a long thought before gingerly asking, "Then, what if we refuse the enfeoffment?"
Claude smiled coldly and shook his head.
"Impossible. Do you think your family members will agree? Your parents' letters of congratulations will soon reach you, asking you to pick a good fief. After all, Freia is the centre of Faslan. No matter how much we develop our territory, it'll always be on the edge of the world.
"Not to mention, even if we refuse enfeoffment, what of our subordinates? The troops our two corps have contributed to ending Nasri and Canas to reclaim our territories. His Majesty will definitely use this opportunity for grand rewards. Trust me, our region will soon have tens of new nobles. Naturally, hereditary ones will be in the minority, but honorary and trigenerational ones will definitely be all over the place.
"Perhaps I'm overthinking this, but it's quite laughable if it turns out to be true. Much of the wealth we got from Nasri will be in the king's hands soon enough. What can we do when the men ask our banks for loans to purchase the titles? If we turn them down they'll lose all trust and loyalty in us."
"... Then what should we do?"
Bolonik started to panic.
"We'll throw our own mess into the mix!" Claude snapped, before taking in a deep breath, "To be honest, I don't have a good idea right now. I can only wait for this to develop further. Perhaps we should discuss this again after the awards are given out."