RICTORIS CITADEL - 51052 SNOW (PREVIOUS: PHENNON I, NEXT: PHENNON III)
The Marquis Valeris Rictoris walks impatiently up and down in his reception room, a sizable hall with dark wooden flooring, heavily decorated with paintings of blazing spellfights and mounted heads of large exotic birds. The heavy steel entrance door opens, and his servant Edric walks in.
"My Liege, Azos Rictoris!"
Azos, dressed modestly in linen as always, enters the hall as the Marquis motions him to take a seat.
"Greetings cousin.", Valeris proclaims, "I thank you for your hard work, and as you know I am very much in favour of the deal that you have negotiated. It surely is a great shame that you will no longer feature at the Court in Kazamer, and I will struggle to find a good..."
The Marquis briefly pauses.
"... replacement candidate."
"So I take it that you are also in agreement with me leading the army eastwards to collect the harvests and taxes?", Azos inquires.
"By all means. But before you do so, I must share with you a few essential considerations."
"Considerations?". Azos recalls a couple of occasions where the Marquis would use this turn of phrase. In every single instance, it had ended up complicating his own life a great deal.
"Indeed. Perhaps my main consideration is concerning these three mines and the ...(pauses)... settlements there. I take it you are aware of the nature of the settlements there?", Valeris inquires.
"I know that the Granite Mountains are relatively sparsely populated.", Azos responds.
"That is not entirely accurate, Azos. In fact, the Granite Mountains used to be sparsely populated. For reasons still unclear to me, a large group of miners from that region stopped by our citadel three weeks ago, with family as well as sufficient amounts of supplies to safely assume that they brought along all their belongings."
"Are you implying that the region may not have any settlements at all anymore?", Azos wonders as he realizes his earlier hunch about a detrimental outcome could be spot on.
"Indeed.", Valeris confirms, "Now that you are aware of this fact, I suppose we can now cast a new perspective on your upcoming tax and harvest collecting mission."
"Of course, this changes a lot of things. But what is it that you propose?"
"Well, the situation is quite simple. Kazamer requires food, while the Jackals require security. And what do we require?", Valeris asks, not expecting a correct answer.
Azos replies briefly: "Money?"
"Ha! What a typical response for an economic advisor! All the money is meaningless of course if we don't have anything to spend it on!
Azos thinks a little more deeply now...
"Of course. We need people to work the mines. How could I not have realized it."
"Exactly. So here is what we do. We have been requested to supply 2,500 soldiers, to go to the Jackals supplemented with the five hundred city guards. Now I know my army, five thousand strong, and I know the Jackals better than anyone in Kazamer does.
To steal the full harvest and extort taxes you may need three thousand men. But Azos, I can assure you that we can work with fewer than that if we simply seek to obtain their loyalty."
Azos is shocked: "Are you suggesting we join forces with the Enemy of Kazamer??"
"They don't have forces, but yes I wish to assimilate them. And you are going to figure out a way to achieve that. I trust fifteen hundred men will be sufficient to do that job, together with those Kazamer troops. I will need the remaining forces to re-open the mines and reinvigorate the settlements in the Granite Mountains, allowing Jackals to resettle there."
“What about the harvests Lord Drennon requested?”
“Supply them in full from our stocks the first two months, to have them commit to the new War fronts. Send the cattle they infected themselves from the east after that.”
Azos takes a quick breath: "Understood my lord."
"Oh, and one more thing. Please be gentle with the lives of those Jackals. We need those mines to operate at full capacity as soon as possible."
"Of course my lord.”
Azos bows and departs.
Moments later, Edric enters the room once more:
“My Liege, Phennon, Keeper of Mort!”
Phennon walks into the room, clad in gleaming silver plate armour. He smiles broadly and bows gently to the Marquis.
“Fellow Keeper please, take a seat.”, Valeris directs, “There is much to discuss.”
Phennon sits down, and waits patiently.
“Thank you for your work for Lord Valtarim of Kazamer. What helps them helps us.”
“Yet we both know that Kazamer’s territorial growth and prosperity can’t last forever. The Lord is spreading himself very thin. But why?”
Phennon laughs: “Perhaps you should ask your cousin that! I don’t know, and I don’t care.”
Valeris looks more closely at Phennon, smiling slightly.
“I don’t believe you, Phennon. Aren’t you the High Treasoner of Kazamer? Is it not your job to care?”
Phennon smiles back: “Of course I care deeply, Marquis Rictoris.”, he pauses to briefly look at his well-filled wallet, “But why should I share my thoughts on him?”
The Marquis stands up, and walks to the strategy board in the corner of the room, motioning Phennon to come along.
“I will show you.”
Phennon stands next to the board, which depicts a map of the whole of Dyjalom. In its centre, around Kazamer, he sees figurines depicting the Kazamer army, advancing north to Sindan, west towards Frontierwatch, southwest towards the Westcorn plains and Stoneport, and southeast towards the Granite Mountains.
“One country fighting a war on four fronts. Surely this is madness?”, Valeris points out.
“Kazamer has a lot of reserves, as you well know. And Lord Drennon has a strong dream.”, Phennon replies, “And I think the dream favours us. He sees us as allies, and trusts our cities to do the right thing.”
Valeris nods in acknowledgement.
“You are right. None of his armies are heading east. Actually, that’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Go on..”, Phennon responded.
“I have been approached by Lord Drennon to send my personal soldiers to extract harvests and tax from the Jackals, now that you have managed to clear out their last regiment. In return I have been given ownership of the settlements in the Granite Mountains, and control over three of its mines.”
“An interesting deal. Will you agree?”
“Yes, but there are…additional considerations in play.”, Valeris smiles wryly.
Phennon recalls a couple of occasions where the Marquis would use this turn of phrase. In every single instance, it introduced exciting new twists in his career as Keeper, so he was eager to hear more.
“Let me elaborate.”, Valeris continues, “Drennon has funds, but he lacks actual manpower to win this campaign. Perhaps it’s not apparent yet, but once he pushes into the Mountains or towards the Red Delta, the limitations of his army will become immediately clear. Because he rewards well, there is merit in supporting him, both for me and for you. However, bottomless loyalty would be foolish here.”
“Understood.”, Phennon replied,”Then what is your plan of action?”
“I wish to assimilate the Jackals into the Rictor Line, and have an expanded presence of Rictoris both in the Jackal Heads and in the Granite Mountains. Now there are three other considerations: First, your protectorate town, Mort, lies right in between those regions. Second, I have absolutely no wish to directly govern these realms, but I need them to be governed by someone I trust. And third, we have worked together for many years now, and I believe you are that person.”
Phennon nods and hesitates briefly: “I…I did not expect this. You never cease to surprise me Valeris. What do you want me to do to achieve that though?”
Valeris motions to the strategic map.
“Simple: Kazamer is going on the offensive on our Western flank, and our Eastern flank is largely cleared already. I have sent Azos north to force the Jackal’s loyalty with a substantial army. Your task will be to go south to the Granite Mountains, and build up the new industrial capital of your realm there. The Mountains are currently uninhabited, but I will send along with you five hundred guards, and you will get two thousand crystal coins and sufficient supplies for six months to help build up a permanent presence. I will also send along Talo Eldertree, one of the most skilled Growers in Rictoris, to support you.”
Phennon frowns a little: “This is a very strange proposal. Surely you recall that I chose to become a Keeper because I didn’t want to govern Mort? Why do you think I would want to run this new land?”
Valeris laughs: “Ha! That is a bit of a mystery, isn’t it? Well, rest assured my friend: the Granite Mountains is both full of treasures and full of adventure. And that is exactly why I think you should found your capital there, and why I think you’re just the perfect person to lead this: as an Adventurer-King.”
Phennon smiles: “Okay then. Give me 1000 crystals extra and I will delve into the deep for you as a proper Adventurer-King!”
“Then a deal it is.”. Valeris motions to Edric to hand over the funds, and shakes hands.
Phennon bows gently one more time, and slowly walks out of the room, thinking by himself:
...Adventurer-King, I like it!