Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 527
Bolonik, Skri and the council members selected to go to the royal capital left two days later. Claude sent an independent line from Thundercrash to be their escort. Not only did they have to protect the representatives, they also had to ensure the 60 chests filled with coins were safe.
Back in the royal capital, word was that the king and his court were on cloud nine over the council members' arrival, having had their blades sharpened and ready to slaughter the fat sheep on their way. Some well-connected people revealed that most of the richer nobles had already gathered the funds they needed to pay the elevation fee and pick their fiefs.
While there were quite a few nobles that remained in the capital, they were mostly fallen ones who couldn't gather the funds. Usually, they weren't eligible for high-interest loans because they didn't have good credit and the ability to pay the loans back. While near 900 noble houses had already obtained fiefs, many had relied on their connections, especially the branch families of the royal family, for the enfeoffment, so the financial benefits weren't as ideal as the king had imagined.
Coupled with the cost of retaking the rights to Griffon and Reddragon as well as the reparations for the old nobility's losses in the war over the last several years, the national treasury wasn't as filled as it could be, despite no longer being dangerously empty like before. They still lacked quite a bit to go forward with Blancarte's proposal to revive the kingdom.
Additionally, Fredrey I's wife, Queen Christie, took out five million crowns from the national treasury to offer loans and even asked the king to let her renovate the palace. Fredrey I, now having quite a sum of money in his hands, approved a budget of two million crowns for the renovation efforts. Blancarte was so angry at that amount. A project with that kind of budget was no mere renovation, it was a complete revamp!
The sum of fees paid by the 900 plus noble houses wasn't as much as the king and prime minister had initially imagined, mainly because 500 among them were already hereditary nobles from as far back as three centuries ago. While Stellin IX hanged and executed most of the hereditary nobles during the Reformation, there were still that many that managed to survive and propagate. All they had to do to get fiefs was pay a picking fee.
Despite that, the king only managed to make 20 million crowns, as the royal family's blood relations enjoyed the privilege of picking their fiefs for free. As for some other members of the old nobility, they had rendered service to the kingdom and deserved a discount. The king had to honour their contributions.
Apart from those nobles were the trigenerational nobles who only had to pay to elevate their Titles to hereditary and a picking fee. They also demanded discounts based on their connections and contributions. Despite the less-lenient allowances, the king only got ten million crowns or so from them.
Lastly were the 200 honorary nobles who wanted fiefs. They should've been the ones to be taken advantage of the most based on the plan. Yet, thanks to the various loans, the one offered by the queen included, the court only received 20 million crowns despite the recorded 40 million on paper. The rest could only be paid back in due time.
Even so, the 50 or so million crowns received was an unprecedented amount of wealth for the king and his prime minister. The thought of them having gone to war with Nasri over a mere debt of eight million crowns and almost got exterminated thanks to the interference from the Union was nothing short of depressing.
But before the high from receiving all that money wore down, various debtors already lined up to meet them. First, there was the salary they owed the soldiers and officials. Then, there were the promissory notes of Stellin XI's loans from the nobles, as well as the debts owed by the court for purchasing various resources.
Since they had the money now, they were a little more generous. A quick settlement of the debt saw nearly ten million deducted from their total. The prime minister then reminded the king to hold fast onto the troops, so he spent another ten million crowns on funding for the ministry of the army to start reorganising the three corps, clearing out most unqualified nobles from their ranks and taking the corps under direct command of the royal family.
Lastly, the old nobility, king, and prime minister held a council to peacefully negotiate the reparations for their losses in supporting Fredrey I's ascension to the throne. Once both sides reached a satisfactory settlement, the king and prime minister only noticed that they had less than ten million crowns remaining.
That was why the prime minister was so salty over the approval of a budget of two million crowns for the palace's renovation. However, it had weathered many a battle since Stellin X's time and did look to be in rather bad shape, so the prime minister couldn't exactly stop the king and queen from doing so no matter how unhappy he was with it. He could only figure out another way to gather the funds required to revitalise the kingdom's economy.
The hundreds of honorary nobles that still remained in the royal capital were mostly broke paupers who relied on their Titles for some cheap gains here and there in the city. During the kingdom's time of crisis, they were completely nowhere to be seen. However, the moment the enfeoffment policy was announced, they flocked to the royal capital immediately. Even though they didn't have the money, they wanted to try their luck to see whether they could find some investors to gather the capital needed for their own fiefs.
Two ministers of the court even wanted to punish the noble and commoner tycoons using it as an excuse, only to be stopped by Blancarte. What he wanted now wasn't to humiliate the noble class, but rather sell more Titles and fiefs to gather funds. As far as the kingdom was concerned, it didn't care who those honorary nobles sourced their funds from for their fiefs. The reason there were so many honorary nobles in Aueras was many of them were former hereditary nobles who had fallen from grace.
Their Titles degraded from hereditary, trigenerational all the way to honorary as their descendants grew more and more incompetent one generation after another. Now, they were only honorary nobles, and their children would be of the peasant class. This was one way the incompetent were weeded out from the peerage. The enfeoffment policy was a prime chance for the kingdom's nobles and if they didn't grasp it, there was no longer a need to bother keeping their sinking ships afloat.
Now, the king and prime minister were more concerned with the council members and soldiers from the region that were created honorary nobles. They were hoping they would come to the royal capital quickly to pay their fees to line the private pockets of the king as well as the national treasury. The autonomous region was rich and prosperous. Thundercrash and Monolith's sweep through Eastern Freia alone probably earned them tens of millions of crowns.
They were the fattened sheep for which the king was really gunning. He even promised the prime minister he wouldn't offer them any favours and would follow the stipulated fees to the letter. They had already estimated they could easily make over 50 million crowns from the region's honorary nobles alone, and that amount would completely fulfil the requirements of the prime minister's plan.
But two months had passed and no word had come from the region. Even Thundercrash and Monolith's entitled soldiers in Polyvisia didn't seem the least bit interested. They calmly watched as the other nobles travelled to the region and took their pick.
Just as the two were wondering why Claude, Bolonik, and Birkin hadn't picked their fiefs yet as the good places in the Nasrian region vanished one after the other and were about to send someone to remind them that it would be first come first serve, news came that Thundercrash had set out for the Great Plains of Canas.
What in the world was the corps doing? Even if they were moving, they should at least give notice to the ministry of the army! But when word came that they were ridding the plains of mounted bandits, the king and prime minister felt relieved. It appeared they had been forced to send reinforcements to the Thundercrash units stationed on the Canasian plains.
Then came news of the meeting held by the council. The king and prime minister finally smiled their worries away. If not for the fiefs, the honorary nobles of the region definitely wouldn't come. It seemed the kingdom was going to get their money after all.
After another grueling wait, the region's soldiers and council members finally set off for the capital with a light-cavalry line from Thundercrash as an escort as well as a large transport convoy that seemed to be transporting heavy goods. However, they were rather secretive and the informants couldn't find out what they were transporting.
So, the king and prime minister patiently waited for their arrival and sharpened their blades, only to find that the convoy seemed entirely unhurried, stopping from time to time to sightsee and resting for a day at every town they stopped in for the council members to survey the local market and their prices.
The ministers in the royal court mocked the region's council as country bumpkins with little life experience. Perhaps they thought good fiefs were still plenty and abundant. Even if they paid the elevation fee, they would merely get a piece of desolate land if they didn't pay the picking fee. Surely they would understand that once they reached the royal capital only to find that there were no more good places in Nasri to be picked from.
The region's convoy travelled a whole 23 days before arriving at the capital's gates. Prime Minister Blancarte himself welcomed them. While Bolonik seemed quite aloof, the council were shocked by the high-class treatment they were being given. However, Blancarte maintained his humble air and didn't throw his weight around as he interacted with the council members all the while his eyes darted around for fleshy targets to skin.
The reception and banquet went really well. After another day's rest, the audience with the king was held on the third day of their arrival. Bolonik represented the military sector of the region while Bernard represented the administrative council to present a gift to Fredrey I and Christie. After thanking the king for granting them honorary Titles, the king and queen engaged in a friendly exchange with the council members and soldiers of the region.
The king treated them to a feast at midday and thanked them for defeating the greatest enemy the kingdom had ever faced, the Union, and contributing much to the kingdom. However, the king and queen couldn't join the feast and left after their speech, leaving only Blancarte behind with the country bumpkins.
After lunch was finished, the prime minister took the rest on a stroll in the royal gardens before leaving the gardens. It was only then when the formalities were over. The king and prime minister were awaiting the negotiations with the bumpkins about their fiefs.
What they didn't expect was how not a single person from the region came knocking their doors and asking about the matter in the next couple days. Instead, they were busy visiting their associates and friends as well as reaching out to their contacts in the business sector, busy finding new business opportunities. They even managed to sign a few trade agreements, securing multiple lucrative deals in the process.
Blancarte could feel his heart roasting from his burning impatience. The bumpkins actually came all the way from Nubissia to the royal capital to do business! Were they not the least bit interested in the fiefs? It was impossible; having noble Titles was a great boon to business in the kingdom. Didn't they understand that honorary noble Titles were the lowest and most useless of the three types?
Blancarte happened to hear that Henderman of the mining association booked the most luxurious tavern, Swanhall, for a banquet to thank his fellow associates for their cooperation in business. So, Blancarte invited one of Henderman's associates over and asked him to remind him to not miss out the chance to pick a fief while the option was still available.
The prime minister waited restlessly till eleven at night for the slightly drunk merchant associate to return. He said he did bring up the matter, but Henderman merely patted his shoulder to thank him for the kind reminder. However, his reply was that most of the good fiefs in Nasri had already been taken, so those from the region, him included, didn't want a fief at all.
How could it be possible? The kingdom was counting on them to make a killing! Blancarte couldn't just let them go back to the region without paying a single coin! It would be the ultimate humiliation for him as prime minister! Blancarte immediately reported that to Fredrey I. The two had a discussion till daybreak before begrudgingly deciding to ask which locations the council members liked and agree to their picks if they could. They had to get their wealth no matter the cost!
And so, Blancarte received a map of the Canasian region, much to his flabbergastment. "I see that they already have a plan all along, having even marked the lands beforehand and even having a name list ready. These bumpkins really are sneaky. And there I thought they weren't interested in fiefs at all... I almost fell for it."
However, when the map was submitted to the court and the king, the ministers exploded before the king could say anything. "This is unfair, Your Majesty! Your Majesty said that the enfeoffment would only include the Nasrian region, not the Great Plains of Canas or Northbay! Otherwise, the other nobles would've picked their fiefs there instead!
"If we agree to these bumpkins' demands, Your Majesty would lose the favour of the kingdom's nobles! Your Majesty's words might not hold any weight in the future!"
Though Blancarte's face contorted with pain, there was nothing he could do about it but speak on the bumpkin's behalf. Those bumpkins had said they would rather not get fiefs at all, so he had to do so for the sake of their money. So, he engaged in a fierce argument with his fellow colleagues.
In the end, the king agreed to the picks of the region, but demanded a much higher picking fee.