Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 524

"Have you thought about your coat of arms?" Claude asked as he looked at the noble crests scattered across the Nasrian map.

Bolonik approached him and gazed at the map, then sighed.

"I had someone design one. I also have three alternatives in the works. They'll compare the suggestions to all the other applications and choose the one that is the most distinct. I'm sure at least one of the four will be appropriate. If they reject all of them, I'll just have to pay them that ludicrous fee to have them make me one."

Claude laughed.

"Don't worry. You're a hereditary viscount. You can add symbols to the lower half of your shield. That alone should make your coat of arms stand out enough. And don't think too much about 'meaning' and 'symbolism' and the like. Just pick whatever you want, plant, animal, landscape, stars, or whatever else takes your fancy. And if anyone elses looks the same, just tweak it a little. I mean, just look at this old map. The bull alone appears on more than ten Nasrian coats of arms. They're each just a little different from the next."

"Right. I chose an aiming musketman for my main symbol in memory of the first time I fought on the battlefield. I want my descendents to remember that I, the founder of our house, started as a peasant and literally fought my way to where I am today."

Claude rolled his eyes.

"Stop joking. You graduated college right into second lieutenant. The closest you ever came to being a peasant was banging the town wench! And no second lieutenant's ever been allowed to march into battle with the lines. I've had to fight in the lines, I only survived thanks to luck."

Bolonik shook his head, a sly and somewhat embarrassed smile on his lips.

"I did march into battle in the lines. Eight hundred of us marched onto the field, and three hundred marched off. I also survived only because luck was on my side.

"We were attacking an enemy clan. They'd already repelled eight attacks and crushed two tribes in the process. We would've failed as well if not for their equipment failing due to overuse and their ammunition stores running dry--

"--But back on topic," Bolonik said, waving at the map, "How many fiefs are there at the moment?

"About six hundred," Claude answered, flipping through a folder lying in front of him on the desk. Last tally, yesterday, had it at 456 barons, 61 viscounts, 43 counts, 14 marquises, and three dukes, all hereditary. 580 in all. I wouldn't be surprised if yet more signed on today."

Bolonik's eyes flashed enviously.

"So we had so many rich bastards..."

"The best areas in old Nasri are around Polyvisia, but I seriously doubt the king and his court will part with any of them. Not that I think any of the nobles that've signed on thus far have the testicular fortitude to ask for lands from there."

"Have they all paid?"

"Yes. The smallest payment thus far has been 100 thousand crowns. The king is swimming in money right now. They've already raked in over ten million crowns. He's even offering personal loans to nobles who don't have the coins on hand to pay the fees. He's even willing to switch out the coin fee for some other equivalent compensation.

"Most of the people who've signed up are old nobility though. Most of them have only had to pay the fee for picking new fiefs, since they're already hereditary nobles. Most of the rest are trigenerational and other honorary nobles from the mainland. Most of them have chosen to become hereditary barons. I expect the king has made some 30 million from these mainland nobles alone.

"And then there are still some eight hundred who've yet to decide whether to cough up the coins and buy the promotion and a new fief. Think about it... Over three hundred honorary baron Titles were given when it was announced that members of the lower house would be made honorary nobles. Those barons are now gathering funds to buy a hereditary promotion and a fief. If the ones who can't pay upfront all get loans... The interest alone could fund a good portion of the kingdom's budget for several years, if not decades."

None of this had been officially shared, of course. It was all gathered by the region's extensive network of spies, informants, and other agents in the mainland.

Bolonik had little interest in royal-family gossip.

"If all the nobles get fiefs, will the entirety of old Nasri be taken?"

Claude shook his head.

"No. Even the hereditary dukes can only get half a prefecture's worth of land, at most. The hereditary barons only get a small village. If they're lucky, maybe a town. There are 16 prefectures in central Nasri, five in the northeast and seven in the southwest. There's also the territory near Polyvisia. All in all, the territory isn't that much smaller than Aueras.

Five hundred and eighty fiefs have been allocated thus far, but they only account for a little less than a quarter of the land. Most of the nobles will only get baronies, so their new territories will be much less than the 580 old nobles. I would be surprised if even a half of the territory is taken by the end of this. It might even have been set aside for people from the region."

"We only get to choose the leftovers... I doubt anything good will be left by the time it's our turn."

"What would the rest of the council, not to mention the men, think if we picked our fiefs ahead of them? Would they still respect us as their superiors? In fact, I bet the king is hoping we will and that it'll cause a rift between us and the rest of the people from the region. Without our leadership the region would be much weaker, and without the region's power, we'd have no backing to uphold our position."

Bolonik was torn by exactly that. Without the region, he would not be Lord Militant. If he broke with the region, he would be a nobody despite his Title. His Title only meant something because he had the power to back it up.

"Give it another month. We'll head for Canpast near Northbay when Ironclad arrives at Port Floric with the council. We'll talk more about this then. Chairman Bernard wrote me. He has emphasised the importance of our unity right now."

Claude patted Bolonik's shoulder. He was the only man on either continent Bolonik allowed to be so familiar.

"We did not predict this when we agreed to deploy our forces. Fredrey I has really caught us off our guard. We need to be very, very careful about how we handle this. If we make the wrong move, or even worse, if we fail to stand united, the region will crumble."

Bolonik patted Claude's hand on his shoulder gratefully, then pointed at the map.

"I understand. I'm just a little miffed we don't get the good places. Nasri is rich, but all the best parts are already taken.

"Just look at the seven mines. The old nobility claimed them almost instantly, and they even sent people to the mines to count our yields. They'll be taking over in half a year. They even sent letters to ask us to sell them some captives for the mines."

The region could only operate the mines for half a year, so Claude hadn't bothered to invest in the area's infrastructure. He'd instead put the 100 thousand Shiksan captives to work in the mines directly. Once the mines were full of labourers, he'd just put the rest in camps around Polyvisia.

The yields thus far had been very good. Especially since there had been no officials to skim graft off the top. They'd even overshot their initial targets twice over. The former kingdom's records had led them to estimate they could get a six-month portion of the 1.4 million crowns of annual yield recorded up to the start of the war, but they'd already exceeded that. Their best current estimate was that the actual yield was closer to three million crowns a year.

The old officials had actually skimmed half the yield off the top. At this point it was actually outright siphoning. It benefited the two corps immensely, however. The kingdom's court had set their portion demands based on the official records, and so the two corps only had to pay them 200 thousand crowns. The rest would be shipped back home.

Bolonik had hoped to drag the process on for several more months, maybe a full year, so they could pocket a lot more, but the eager old nobles had jumped in way too quickly and so they'd only gotten the six months in the initial agreement.

"We have more than enough mines back home," Claude reminded. Small denominations were all paper on the region. The total coin value of the notes was estimated at around 30 million crowns. Most of the money was in use in the coastal cities along the west coast of the continent.

The colonies of the west Nubissian coast had forbidden foreign banks from operating on the continent, so any coin-to-note and vice versa exchanges had to happen in the local bank branches. Despite this, the paper notes had caught on surprisingly quickly simply for being far more wieldy than heavy coins.

The use of paper money had been helped along significantly by the mainland giving permission for a single branch of the colonial bank to open in Whitestag. They had not been allowed to open a branch in the royal capital, but they'd gotten around that by exchanging coins for notes through their administrative office in the capital. The capital's people did not trust the notes, however. On the mainland, notes had only seen moderate uptake in Whitestag, and nowhere else.

Ironically, despite the autonomous region's impressive mineral wealth, the people had gotten so used to using paper money, that they'd lost interest in the mines, especially the rare metals used almost exclusively for minting coins. The region's reserve already had 20 million crowns, which was more than enough to guarantee the value of their paper money, and so nobody felt the need to mine more. They'd grown so used to using money, in fact, that when the two corps had taken Canas and Nasri, they'd shipped everything back to the autonomous region as is, without considering the fact that Freia still used exclusively coins. It had left them in a tough spot for a while when they needed to buy supplies.

It was one of the big reasons Bolonik was so caught up with the mines and their output. The two corps they had stationed in the region cost a lot in upkeep. The meat, fish, and fresh vegetables and fruit they required cost thousands of crowns a month. He regretted being too generous and letting the ambassador leave with so much of the reserves. Now the court couldn't be richer even if it wanted.

"We can't sell even a single captive. We might need them to develop our new fiefs," Claude said.

On the 1st of the 6th month, the first official enfeoffment ceremony was held by Fredrey I. By the 1st of the 8th month, the 580 hereditary noble households received their fiefs.

However, the nobles from the region didn't make their move at all, as if they hadn't heard about the ceremony at all. The main reason was the sheer distance between the region and the mainland. It would take them two months alone for a round trip, and the two corps in the Nasrian Canasian and regions wouldn't be able to return within the short term. As such, the council members decided to convene in Canpast near Northbay about the fiefs.

Claude and Bolonik left Polyvisia on the 20th of the 8th month for Northbay. They took their troops along because they wanted to reorganise in Northbay. Eiblont asked Claude for some reinforcements as countless mounted bandits showed up following Canas' extermination. The towns Thundercrash guarded would often come under their raids. Eiblont only had a temporary folk with him, so he was already doing his best to keep Northbay secured.

Monolith would remain stationed in Polyvisia. Claude, however, left with the extra supplies and all the captives. Word from the royal capital was the royal guard, Reddragon and Griffon were being reorganised on a massive scale, now that the ministry of the army had the funding. The king compensated the old nobility and took in Reddragon and Griffon under the wing of the ministry once more.

Most of the nobles who gained fiefs left the three main corps to join the ones their houses formed, greatly decreasing their influence in the kingdom's military. The king and the court paid quite a high price to achieve that result.

Rumour in the royal capital was that Reddragon would be sent to the Nasrian region to take over Thundercrash and Monolith in Polyvisia, whereas Griffon would be stationed at Audin Mountain Range to guard the eastern pass of the kingdom. The royal guard would remain in the royal capital and Ibnist Plains. There was also news that the king wanted to reform Bluefeather and use it to guard Whitestag and the coastal areas, but that came under severe flak by the ministers, who saw Bluefeather as traitors that shouldn't be reformed.

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