"The ruler prepares a kingdom, and the heir pisses it away."

“Your Grace, Tigersoar has sent the refugees to Yungechandler. Jaeger’s mission to help settle the refugees at Falik Plains was completed in the 2nd month. They’ve rested for two months now and are ready for another deployment,” reported Jinolio. He had been left in charge of Brinn Hills during Lorist’s absence. Apart from a select few, no one knew of the duke’s absence.

“Very well. How’s Reidy doing?” asked Lorist.

Lorist had sent his eldest disciple to fill in for Loze, who was on leave for his breakthrough, as general of Tigersoar. The men were very loyal to Loze, so only someone of Reidy’s stature could take command.

“Brother Reidy is doing quite well. Messen, Dulles, and Modrak are cooperating and the men obey his orders without complaint.”

Lorist nodded.

“What of the Free Union?”

“The government thinks our warning rings true. Premier Jindoz has started reorganizing the army. They will reduce the troops in the cities to brigade-strength. The leftovers will be merged into a new legion. The legion’s general is an old acquaintance of yours, I’m told. Someone called Brennan Charlando.”

“Oh? Old Char’s joining the army?”

Jindoz knew that if he was to stabilize the Union he had to keep a tight grip on the military, so he made Charlando its general.

The Free Union had a new name and clearly distinguished itself from the Trade Union, but it was essentially the Trade Union as it had been two decades before this fall. The central pillar of its economy was its trade; only, without the big guilds and there monopolies, the market was a frenzy of duels and competitions for the top spots.

Lorist didn’t want to interfere too much, but he had to put in some regulations to keep things from getting ugly. People were quick to throw away their morals when profit was involved. Hence his suggestion to Jindoz that he form a strong military and police force to keep a firm grip on things.

Another reason for his suggestion was so the Free Union could take up the gauntlet of guarding its peace on its own. He wanted to go home eventually, after all. He was an outsider, and his men were outsiders. Right now he had a good relationship with Morante and its people, but people would inevitably grow weary of having foreigners in positions of power, and, given how brutal the first months of his occupation had been, subversive elements had a lot of ammunition with which to sour people’s hearts.

Previously people had not thought much of his continued military presence because his forces were actively involved in restoring the capital, and the Trade Union was still a threat against which he protected them. Now however, the restoration was on track and could continue without his men, and the Trade Union was no longer a threat. The people saw no excuse for his continued presence so they would soon become resentful and suspicious.

It was also likely that the merchants would start questioning whether they wanted to keep paying money for someone else to hold military power and protect them now that such a massive threat was no longer there. They would want to keep their money and fund their own forces. Such decentralization of military power would weaken the government and prevent them from ruling over dissidents who might want to change things.

“Understood, Your Grace. Sir Jindoz initially wanted to talk Sir Els into going over to his side as general, but Els would have none of it.”

Ah, Old Char is beholden to his wife, Els knows. There shouldn’t be a problem now that he convinced Louise.

Lorist didn’t like that Jindoz, and through him a foreign power, had tried to poach his subordinates. He might have abandoned the Union if it were successful. Luckily, it wasn’t.

“Anything else?”

Jinolio nodded.

“Young Master Serihanem is here, the kid from Chikdor. He’s been waiting for an audience for three months. Chikdor responded to your letter by sending him and ten attendants.”

“I see.”

So they were interested?

“Did Serihanem seem rushed or agitated? What has he been doing?”

“We arranged a villa at the foot of the hill for him. He’s not done anything untoward as far as we can tell and we haven’t picked up any impatience. He does visit the markets almost daily though.”

“What does he do?”

“I’m not too sure. You should ask Sir Tarkel. He had men tail him. I have heard that his attention is mainly on our products.”

“I’ll talk to Tarkel. Tell Serihanem he can see me tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, Your Grace. Also, Baron Camorra sent a report from Jillin Harbor. The harbor and docks have been restored and its begun handling the many ships now streaming up and down the coast in the region. Baron Fenston has done his best to cooperate. He said he was one of Your Grace’s acquaintances and had been looking forward to the development. He provided whatever Baron Camorra asked. He’d even offered the contract to expand the city garrison to us.”

“Baron Fenston, huh?” Lorist laughed.

He can read between the lines, alright. He’s always been courteous.

“Alright. Tell Camorra to give the cooperative nobles a couple chances to make some money. We’ll turn a blind eye as long as they don’t go overboard. Also, didn’t His Majesty say he would send a division to watch over the city? When did he decide to expand the local garrison instead?”

“You forgot about that report? The king doesn’t have the manpower anymore. He’s had to reorganize his entire military just to keep things going with the forces he has left. He has only one legion and the royal guard that look after the capital.

“He’s had to make his garrisons independent since he doesn’t have the men to centralize them into regional legions, not to mention that the provinces are too barren to support large portions of the population locked in the military. That’s the big reason for his survey. He’s trying to figure out how to deal with this.

The only royal knights in Jillin will be the garrison’s commander and the couple of captains beneath him. Baron Fenston is not happy, but he has little choice, which is why he asked us to help out. He wants us to set things up so he, rather than the king’s knights, will have control of the forces.”

Lorist slapped his forehead. Auguslo’s army had been just 300 thousand, of which only 120 thousand were his men back then. He’d started out with 300 thousand personal forces, then lost two thirds of them.

“Camorra did well. I’m relieved he’s there. Did he talk about any difficulties?” he asked.

“Baron Camorra said the work has been welcomed. Most of the nobles in the region rely on the port for most of their purchases and imports, so everyone is happy to see it improved. Baron Camorra is troubled, however, by the cancellation of our food deal with the king. We heard it was cancelled by Wecksas, now in command of the city’s guard. Everyone now knows who he is, so no one dares argue with him.

“Wait, what?”

Auguslo had asked Lorist for ideas on solving the kingdom’s insolvency, from which the decision to upgrade Jillin’s docks and harbor. Lorist had also suggesting exporting the kingdom’s surplus agricultural produce to Morante. They’d done so for two years now under the deal which made them two million a year. Auguslo had finally paid his backlog of salaries and was slowly building up a stable, solvent, financial reputation. Lorist took a ten percent commission for his part in the work, mainly transport and sale.

“Baron Camorra inquired about it. Wecksas said the deal jeopardize the kingdom’s safety. He’d frozen the deal to give him time to properly evaluate how much could be sold.

“He later said that he would allow the trade to continue, but the buyers would have to come to Jillin to get their purchase. He would also not allow credit purchases, everything had to be paid for before it was loaded onto the ships. He also doubled the price and reduced the volume by half. The baron turned him down. In response Wecksas threatened to chase us out of the city if we didn’t agree.”

“What?! What kind of shit does that brat have for brains?! Is someone egging him on? Tell Camora to stop all trade with the kingdom immediately. We don’t need their food, so there’s no reason to play their games!” Lorist fumed.

So someone had set their sights on the harbor city and was using Wecksas to get it? They could go screw a boulder!

What a daredevil... Doesn’t he know Auguslo? Has he forgotten how he slaughtered almost every noble in the capital?

Auguslo had wanted to borrow money from Lorist back then, but he knew the king would never pay it back, which was why he proposed the Jillin business. But now someone was threatening such an income so vital to the king? The King was not going to react well to this.

Lorist couldn’t care less about Wecksas.

Auguslo had placed great hopes in his bastard. He hoped the brat could be turned into a decent heir. No doubt that was why he’d made him the city guard’s commander. It now seemed he was destined to be disappointed. The bastard was far too easily goaded. It seemed he was just a greedy, horny, fool. Auguslo’s only hope for a decent heir was for his new queen to birth him one he would have to raise from scratch.

“Send word of this to the king and tell Camorra to ready his defenses. It won’t be the end of the world if we lose the city, but give that royal bastard a good fight. If things go badly, he can withdraw to Silowas while we wait for the king.”

“Immediately, Your Grace. Sirs Charade and Tarkel have arrived and are awaiting an audience.”

“Let them in, and prepare a meal while you’re at 

“Right away, Your Grace.”