Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 525
The Council's Three Demands
Canas had always been a rather unique nation. Not only was it the only one situated entirely in a large plain, even the house of Duke Canas was formed by itself. The Canasian bloodline didn't follow a strict noble lineage either. Instead, the tribe chief that emerged victorious in the tribal wars would automatically become the duke.
The dukedom's succession had for centuries been amidst bloody conflict. However, the last two successions had passed peacefully. It was thanks to a legend in Canasian history, the Kemdo tribe chief, Jamiarde Dolbaji Kemdo.
Jamiarde travelled across most of Freia in his youth before returning to take up the mantle as tribe chief. He was the first chief to use firearms in his militia forces on a large scale, eventually conquering other smaller tribes to form his major tribe. At the age of 54, he finally earned the title of Duke of Canas.
After becoming Duke of Canas, Jamiarde changed the nomadic lifestyle of his tribe. He began to clear out new land and built Beaumarisburg, his castle, for his tribesmen to settle down and live a life of agriculture. He also formed trading convoys to trade with neighbouring nations, building a good relationship with Nasri and sending his son there to study once he reached the age of 16.
Jamiarde ruled as duke for fourteen years. Apart from building Beaumarisburg and changing the lifestyle of the Kemdo tribe, he focused the rest of his efforts on fighting other tribes on the grassland, targeting other large tribes until they submitted. His son succeeded him without much trouble. From then on, no tribe on the plains dared to fight for the title of duke.
The new duke was the eldest son of Jamiarde, Baldur Dolbaji Kemdo, who was sent to the Nasrian Royal Military College from a young age. He was the second wise ruler of Canas. Interestingly, despite going to the royal military college in Nasri, he behaved more like a merchant. He developed the Northbay area over the next 20 years, making it the largest port in Eastern Freia and the source of Canas' riches. They easily gathered enough wealth from trade alone to rival the yield of three large gold mines.
Baldur would eventually be known as Kemdo II. He built a city near the coasts of Northbay, Canpast. His last days were spent in the city and eventually people saw Canpast as Canas' second capital. The duke lived in Canpast for 22 years before his death, upon which his son succeeded him without incident.
While Kemdo III wasn't as much of a schemer as his grandfather, nor as wise as his father, he was a fair ruler. He managed the Great Plains of Canas well, maintaining the prosperity his predecessors had achieved. The only mistake he made was not shaking off the sinking ship that was Canas, resulting in him having to flee to Nasri with his family following his duchy's annexation.
Kemdo III had ruled for 24 years before his fall and his brightest moment was during the five-year war when he mobilised all his light-cavalry under his direct leadership to launch a surprise attack on the three Aueran corps, and winning. Aueras was forced to sue for peace in the aftermath of that defeat.
Eiblont had just finished his report on the duke. As he had been stationed in the Great Plains of Canas for the past half year, he had nothing better to do than sift through the Canasian archives. In a way, he was doing it out of desperation. He was trying to search for information about the ethereal mounted bandits. Perhaps some other nomadic tribe was merely masquerading as bandits.
"Canas isn't split into prefectures. The vast expanses of the plains are too sparsely populated to make that structure viable. Even worse, the featureless plains make demarking borders almost impossible. It was simply divided into five rough areas, four smaller ones and a larger, main one. The most famous minor area is Northbay, with a port city and three towns. It is considered the centre of commerce. Second to it is the nominal capital, Beaumaris, the agricultural and food hub of the duchy. The farmers rely on the irrigation provided by the three rivers.
"Another minor area is the Ligmada Hills, the centre of mining. The mines don't have gold, silver, or copper. They're all base-metal mines and a single stone quarry. There is also an open-air blackstone quarry, or, as Claude would call it, a coal quarry. The blackstone there is good quality and burns with little smoke. The Canasians use ground blackstone powder for cooking and warmth.
"The last minor area is Green Hills. It's mostly just rural expanses. It's where the vast majority of the old Canasian nobles live. I took two lines to sweep the region, but the nobles are dead broke. We got less than 30 thousand crowns. As for the major area, it refers to the Great Plains itself. Anywhere with endless fields of grass is considered part of it."
Eiblont continued his introduction of the Great Plains. Bolonik was captured by the scenery, the tall grass looked like a large, endless green carpet. He took his horse for a ride at one point.
"Where are we going? Beaumarisburg or Northbay?"
"Northbay," Eiblont answered with certainty, "The sun, the beach, good food and beautiful, understanding women are there. It's peak summer now. We can take a break for a few days on the pier while we wait for Ironclad to arrive. The seawater is blue, you know, not dark red like along Nubissia's coasts.
"We all know the colour is just because of a mineral in the water, but I do like blue water more than red water. The place is a paradise. If not for the annoying bandits, I would stay here for the rest of my life."
"Is it really that good?" Claude asked light heartedly.
"Yes!" Eiblont swore seriously, "I found out why Kemdo II stayed in Northbay when I stayed there. Beaumarisburg is a military citadel at its heart. It's dark and cold. No amount of luxury can take away the depressing feeling the place has. That's why I stationed most of my men in Canpast and left only a tribe of cavalrymen in Beaumarisburg."
Claude and Bolonik arrived in Canpast under Eiblont's lead. Canpast was just as Eiblont had boasted; a beautiful port city. There were goods from all over Freia as well as some goods produced at the Nubissian western coast. The products from both continents were sold there, making Canpast a rather prosperous city.
"It is indeed a great place," Claude praised, liking the free-trade-like atmosphere himself quite a lot. The only inadequacy he felt was the lack of city planning. The buildings and roads were small and tight. While they looked refined, they were not wide enough, giving off a rather claustrophobic feel.
The military encampment was located outside the city. Claude and Bolonik, on the other hand, would be living into the main city mansion. In the couple of days before Ironclad arrived, Claude hurriedly busied himself with arranging the council meeting to discuss the enfeoffment. Only after all that was done did he disband his troops and reform Thundercrash 1st and 2nd Folks.
Two days later, Birkin and Myjack came with Thundercrash 3rd Folk and the reformed Thundercrash 4th Folk to Canpast, escorting the family members of 4th Folk's soldiers as well. They moved into the encampment. When Ironclad finally arrived with the council members and honorary nobles from the region, it also escorted transport ships with supplies for the troops. They would then return with the families of 4th Folk to the region and settle them down.
Claude worked hard for two days before leaving the rest of the busywork to his subordinates. Then, he went to the beach to relax with Eiblont, Bolonik and Birkin for a day. Like Eiblont mentioned, the blue ocean did seem to encourage a better mood than the dark-red ocean did. Just as they were finished playing in the sea and about to go get some dinner, a pillar of green smoke appeared in the distance. Ironclad finally reached Northbay.
Claude suddenly noticed that his judgement of character was still not up to par.
Since the enfeoffment policy was announced during the 1st of the 6th month, Claude had a rather pessimistic view of the region's future. He thought people were selfish in nature, and that the council members would definitely fall for the king's obvious ploy and leap for the chance of a fief. He believed Fredrey I and the masterminds of the plan in court were counting on that to happen.
Unlike the autonomous region, Freia was the centre of the world. If the council members got a fief of their own there, they would definitely siphon all their attention, effort and resources to their own fiefs. The region would no doubt lose their central pillars to the kingdom and crumble without an attack. The day the region returned to being just a colony of the kingdom seemed close.
Those were the thoughts Claude had always harboured in his heart. He never believed the council members would be that selfless and put the interests of the region as a whole before their own. He and Bolonik hadn't picked land before the others so the council members knew he was willing to stand in solidarity with them and the soldiers. He wasn't opposed to them getting their own fiefs, so long as they didn't give their fiefs everything and give up on developing the region.
However, he forgot a crucial point. The council members who were able to develop the desolate lands of the region with nothing but their own resourcefulness and become powerful local businessmen or influential people were all cunning and sharp-witted fellows.
On the way to Northbay, they had already decided that they wanted the fiefs, but they wouldn't be giving up their power base in the region over them. Most importantly, most of the council members were commoner merchants. To them, a hereditary fief wasn't nearly as important as their repute, businesses and connections in the region.
That was the core difference between commoner merchants and nobles. To traditional nobles, obtaining hereditary fiefs was of utmost importance. They had to get one no matter the price. But the council members evaluated this matter from a business viewpoint. They didn't really care about the yield those fiefs would generate nor the power over the subjects in their fiefs, but rather, the reputation of their household business and the potential profit their company could rake in.
Skri even blatantly told Claude and the rest they were most worried about the rewarded soldiers of the two corps picking their own fiefs before the council arrived. That would definitely cause a rift of distrust between the council and the administration, and they would no longer be able to negotiate with the king as a single entity. They finally breathed a sigh of relief when they saw that nobody had accepted any fiefs yet.
Claude finally relaxed. For everyone to share the same awareness of the matter was the best he could ask for. Eiblont, however, was curious what Skri meant about negotiating with the king. Skri said that the council members thought that 300 thousand crowns to be promoted to hereditary barons followed by another 100 thousand for a fief was too huge a price to pay, so they hoped to negotiate for better prices.
While each of the council members could afford to fork out 400 thousand crowns themselves, the thought of there being 112 of them as well as those who already had honorary Titles, to begin with, bothered them. The fact that the king could stand to gain over 40 million crowns from them was outright distasteful.
They felt as if their life's work was going to the king and the court for a fief. Who knows how long it would take before they could earn that investment back? The costs to develop those fiefs was by no means small, so they came to the decision that if the king wasn't willing to compromise, they would all refuse the fiefs and keep their honorary baron Titles.
While it wasn't a big deal if only one person refused the offer, it was a whole different story if all the honorary nobles of the region refused. No matter what kind of discount they asked for, there was at least 20 million crowns to be earned. The king would definitely not rest well, knowing that he would be missing out on that money. The power base of the region was in Nubissia anyway, so there was no way the king could take his anger out on the council members at all.
As merchants and business owners, the council members were more concerned with what the fiefs could produce and whether they could start new factories instead of worrying about squeezing their subjects for the last copper coin. That was the key difference between them and the old nobility.
Having a hereditary fief in Eastern Freia also meant they would have to worry about security. Just because they had a fief didn't mean all would go well. The squabbles between landed nobles and ill management of their fiefs were all too common. That's why the council members want their fiefs to be concentrated in one area so they could ally up to defend their own interests.
"Let's hear your demands then," Claude said, curious about their opinions.
Bernard raised his wine glass with his one-remaining arm and emptied its contents in one gulp. "We have three demands. First, we want His Majesty to allocate fiefs to all of us in one contiguous area so we can help each other out. Second, all fees are to be reduced by half, or we will refuse the Title and fief altogether. Lastly, we want to have at least one port in that joined fief for convenience of communication with the autonomous region."
Claude shook his head. "It's a shame that there is no longer a fief with a port that isn't already claimed by the other nobles."
There were now 768 noble houses that received fiefs. While it was only a third of the Nasrian region's area, the fiefs were scattered across the 28 prefectures at the best places. It was difficult to combine all the fiefs of the nobles from the region. At the very least, they would have to move away more than ten fiefs of other nobles to achieve that feat.
Bernard looked at the beautiful beach scenery in deep thought. "Actually... I think this is a rather fine place..."