"Handing out land is like giving away your children, so be certain their husbands will be good to them."

"We have 48 people to enfeoff this time, Your Grace, 26 to raise to viscount, and two to raise to count. I've checked the list personally. There are no mistakes. The only problem is that Delamock and Winston has no free land left to enfeoff. Our only options are Yungechandler and Wild Husbandry, but they're practically desolate."

One of the sayings was, 'the subordinate runs all the way at the twitch of the superior's mouth'. Though Lorist was busy, storehouses of paperwork, and queues upon queues of official lined up outside his office, he could delegate all but the most essential bits to subordinates.

He pushed everything about the enfeoffment business into Charade  so he could goof off with his wife and children. Charade, in turn, delegated much of his work to his direct subordinates.  Unfortunately for him, though, he did not like to leave things up to others entirely, and so ended up working the late nights with them anyway.

Enfeoffment was a big deal. The new lands had to be parcelled. The land without deeds needed deeds, those with old ones that didn't match their new borders needed new deeds, new titles had to be grouped into larger titles, baronies assigned to viscounties and viscounties to counties and counties to duchies, all of the latter naturally held by Lorist.  Some people were given additional titles, others gained a title above their old one, which they held with the old title, and others were relieved of their old titles and moved somewhere with a larger and higher title. Everything had to be planned, arranged, and all the triplicate papers handwritten and signed either by seal or signature before being arranged and stored for the end of year ceremony where they would be given to their new holders.

Lorist shook his head when he saw Charade slowly caving under a large stack of documents he was trying to carry to the appropriate room.

"No. Yungechandler is being under Shadekampf's jurisdiction. It'll be at least three more years before he's done with the place. I don't want to cause him more trouble. I am willing to manage the province directly for a few more decades.

"Hector, from Wild Husbandry, doesn't want me sending any nobles their either. The province's main purpose is a buffer between our heartland and the barbarians. Sending nobles there would undo that. Our hope is to assimilate the barbarians, and when that happens, they'll be moved into the province and settled there. Sending nobles there now would undo our plans. It's a delicate and sensitive procedure. Noble have the right to autonomy, which means if we settle them there, we can't properly control the area, which will likely cause our plans to fall apart as the nobles pursue their own agendas.

"I stayed away from those two provinces for the last decade for exactly these reasons."

Charade dropped the stack of documents onto the table, it creaked and dust flew everywhere.

"Then what will we do for the new nobles?  Delamock and Winston just doesn't have space anymore."

Lorist took out a bottle of blackcurrant wine and two tall wine glasses. He filled them up and dropped a few ice shards into the cups before handing one to Charade.

"Have a drink. It's the vineyard's latest selection of blackcurrant wine. It's great chilled with ice."

"Not bad," Charade praised after a light sip, "But it's only the 10th month. Where did you get the ice?"

There were no such things as refrigerators on Grindia. Most nobles imported or gathered ice in the winter and stored them in massive underground caverns for use throughout the summer. It was expensive, so only the nobility could afford it. The ice would be used for making frozen or cooled delicacies, or cold drinks. The more extravagant might have ice baths to break away from the summer heat. In the hotter climates to the south, however, even storing masses of ice underground could not keep them for the whole nine months between the last snowfall and the first of the next winter. Most places ran out at around mid-to-late summer. The north's summers weren't as hot as further south, so they didn't generally store much ice, if any at all. What little ice they might store was usually gone by the end of spring. It was already autumn, so the ice should have been gone completely.

"Yyou remember the gunpowder research lab? Professor Balbo discovered during some of his experiments that certain chemical reactions using saltpeter would cool things, enough to freeze them in some cases.  I simply had him use that to freeze some water. I made a trip there just a few days ago and brought a batch back with me along with some saltpeter to make ice here."

"You sure have a lot of free time, huh? Here I am working my ass off to keep things going, and you're off frolicking in the wilderness looking for ice…  And not just that, you're using what little saltpeter we have for gunpowder to make ice? When did we suddenly get a surplus of saltpeter? Did you maybe discover a way to get lots more saltpeteR?"

"No, nothing like that. The salpeter is recyclable. You just need to boil the used crysstals in a specific water mixture and it's fine again. And I didn't just go for ice and saltpeter. I went to check on the two new mine shafts they've been working on. Balbo believes we can double gunpowder production over the next two years."

Charade finished the blackcurrant wine, poured himself another cup,and popped two large pieces of ice into the wine.

"Whatever. Back to the main topic. What do we do about the fiefs? We have no choice but to use Yungechandler. We've already invested a lot of time and money in the province and it's coming along nicely. Give the nobles the swamplands and the wilderness for which we don't have plans. Let them develop those areas using their own money."

Lorist considered it for a moment but shot it down as well. The problem wasn't money, but how to distribute the wealth. The nobles would not be happy with being given land so much worse than their peers elsewhere. There was still a few scraps left in Delamock and Winston, so why where they being sent to the wastelands of Yungechandler? Why should others get prosperous lands and they not? Was this a punishment, or was their loyalty just not appreciated?

"I've made up my mind. Find places for them somewhere in Delamock and Winston. The king's ascension ceremony is next year. We'll officially be the Krissen Empire again and it should be at least a decade or more before any new conflict arises.

"The chance to win land and titles through war is now over, for a generation at least. It's time we scaled out military back a little as well and let the men work in the economy. Even those that stay behind deserve a few years of calm and rest.

"We might even have to resort to promotions based on years of service, rather than achievements. This means this will be our last big enfeoffment ceremony for the foreseeable future. And our territory won't expand much either. The king certainly won't let us have any more than the five provinces we have already.

"The focus of our efforts after we finish with Yungechandler and Wild Husbandry should be the lands I hold the title deed for in perpetuity, the Northlands and our overseas territories. Besides developing those lands, I want to push our territory further north. We've cleaned out the barbarian threat quite deep into the mountain range there, so it's time we pushed our borders up. We'll be the ones conquering the lands of our own accord, so the king won't have a say in who gets the land or how it's used. There's also the wildlands to the east of the mountain range. You don't have to worry, Charade, we won't run out of land for some time to come."

"Ah, so that's what you had in mind. No wonder you had Balk send squads there to survey the land. I was wondering why you were doing that. All my troubles are solved, then."

Lorist nodded.

"When you return to Ragebear, take a box of blackcurrant with you. It's the Duchy of Morbit's secret brew. The brewers there came to us for asylum when the Union took the duchy. Now they run their famous breweries here. They supply me and House Norton alone, no one else can get any."

Charade smiled jovially.

"Well don't mind if I do! But just one box? Come on, give me three! You know I love fruit wine."

Lorist laughed.

"One bottle is worth four gold Fordes! You've really gotten used to raiding my cellar, huh? Sigh, two boxes is all you got from me.  If you want more you have to buy them from my cellar. Go see Bowrey for the arrangements."

Bowrey was a man named Boris's eldest son. Boris was House Kenmays' supervisor before defecting to Lorist with his family. He used to govern Hanayabarta, but his term ran out a few years earlier and was brought back north. Upon his return Lorist made him a viscount and gave him land in Delamock. He left his oldest son with Lorist, hoping he'd catch Lorist's eye and be made a disciple, or learn a few things from him as his butler at the very least.

"Fine, but I demand a discount! I'll go see Bowrey later. Anyway, I'm returning to Ragebear tomorrow, want me to take anything with me?"

"No, you already have all my orders. I'll return with Sylvia at the end of the 11th month."

Charade downed the last bit of wine in his cup and stood up, slamming the cup into the table a little clumsily.

"Alright. I bid Your Grace farewell. Let's meet again in Ragebear."