40 Chapter 40 Contract With The King
The capitol was huge. Joseph had never seen such a large city in all his life. His guards and Stella stayed close, to ensure that nothing happened to him in the busy streets. They were led straight to the castle, by the messenger. Once in the courtyard, their horses were taken and they were led into a series of rooms, where they could freshen themselves up. The king would see them within the hour.
William made no show of hiding his nervousness. He had already explained to Joseph that he went out of his way to avoid all of the kings. When the kings summoned them, they were all shocked to be taken to his personal study, instead of the great hall.
"You must be William?" he asked, not bothering to stand.
"Yes, Your Grace," he said, bowing. Joseph quickly followed suit, falling into the pattern the etiquette teacher had taught him.
Stella actually curtsied, and it stunned him for a moment. She was so natural and smooth, it would seem she saw kings all the time.
The royal mage stepped forward to verify them, pausing on Joseph, but finally passed over him. Joseph could tell he was a level 2 mage, which was why he probably felt weird around him.
"There are barbarians to the north of my kingdom. They live in the tundra, and there has been some trade between us," said the king, not wasting any breath on pleasantries.
"I have received reports that they are amassing and preparing to attack. With the looming war to the east I can't afford a fight on two sides."
"What does this have to do with me?" asked William, uncertainly.
"I need soldiers. I wish to make a deal with you for slaves. I have contacted every slave merchant in my kingdom, and they have all told me that you provide the best slaves."
"But, your grace, I only deal in children. What you are asking for is cannon fodder. I'm afraid my slaves would be insufficient for what you want."
Everyone in the room knew that William did not want to sell his slaves for cannon fodder. The fact that he dealt in children was truth, but many times he sold them as adults, fully trained.
They haggled for a long time. William wasn't able to refuse directly, but if he started grabbing people off the streets to bring here for cannon fodder, he would lose the trust he had developed in the common folk throughout all three kingdoms, as well as raise red flags for the other two kings. They would never believe this king merely wanted them for the northern border. They would see William as taking sides and all of the work he had put to his business would be gone.
"What if I release you from ever having to pay taxes ever again?" asked the king. "Also, every slave that survives will be freed."
Joseph wasn't sure that the slaves wanted to be freed, but he couldn't interrupt, so he had to keep it in, in order to talk to his dad about it later.
"Do you want the barbarian problem handled? I can try and work out something with the right privileges."
This is what the king was obviously wanting, because he leaned forward eagerly.
"Yes, I want the entire mess to be dealt with."
"How long can you give me to figure things out?" asked William.
"I can hold off any armies from the east with the troops I have, but that leaves my northern border unprotected. I had just planned to wait out the coming wars, using the mountains to protect my kingdom. I think I can hold the barbarians off for a period of five years, but that will be stretching it."
"All right, leave it to me and I will deal with it. You will need to provide anything I need."
"I can do that," the king hurriedly agreed.
William pulled out a magical contract and quickly had it filled out.
This was the first time that Joseph had actually seen a magical contract.
(YOU HAVE SEEN YOUR FIRST DOUBLE RUNE, LAW. IT IS A COMBINATION OF TWO RUNES: COMMUNICATION AND MIND CONTROL. YOU NOW HAVE THE ABILITY TO COMBINE THEM IF YOU HAVE THE BASE RUNES UNDERSTOOD TO THE ADVANCED LEVEL.)
Joseph realized the mages probably didn't know that the rune LAW was a combined rune. Because of that, those who dedicated themselves to learning how to make the magical contracts would take years learning how.
The king was so excited to have everything taken care of, he didn't read over the contract very well before signing it. Once he did, however, he realized his folly. The contract gave William unlimited access to any supplies, as long as a war was in effect. The kings face turned red, then purple, and everyone thought he would explode in rage, but instead, he started laughing.
"No wonder I was told you were the best! You are most definitely a merchant first before anything else!"
The wording from the contract allowed William to use anything for any reason, while there was any kind of war going on, anywhere.
"I shall leave my son to oversee everything. I feel that he will be perfect for this assignment."
"What! Don't you think he's a little young?" asked the king, looked at Joseph for the first time, since he entered the room.
Joseph stood up straighter, but remained silent. He knew it wasn't his place to speak yet.
"I have the utmost confidence in him. I assure you he will do splendidly."
"I have no choice but to defer to your judgement." The king sounded slightly displeased, but not enough for anything to happen.
They were all escorted to their rooms, with Stella and his guards staying with Joseph, while his father would be in a room next door.
"I will be leaving in the morning," said William, as they spoke together that evening. "I will see to it that as many slaves as I can, will be sent up here to you, but I need to catch back up to my caravan and see to things."
"I'll write a letter to mom, if you don't mind?" asked Joseph. He knew he could handle things, he was just worried what his mom would do if he wasn't with his dad when he returned.
"I would greatly appreciate that!" laughed his dad, before retiring for the evening.
The next day, after his father had left, and he had eaten breakfast, three old generals were assigned to help him with the barbarians. They had the most experience dealing with them.
Joseph learned that there was normally issues with the barbarians every winter, and even more so when the winter was hard, but there had been so many good winters, that their population had exploded. They feared that with more people, the army was larger than any of them had ever seen.
That explained why the king was so desperate.
Two other men showed up after lunch. They explained that they would be his logistical aids, and would see to it that all his requests made it to the king for approval. However, when he requested to see the treasury and accounting books, they didn't feel that was necessary. He demanded all of the accounting records for his supplies, and they grudgingly allowed that. He could tell they were trying to figure out a way to deny even that, but because of the contract, they could not.
One of the generals told him, while he waited on the records, that there was a fear more was going on. It may have been possible that a new threat might be pushing the barbarians out of the north completely.
Another told him that the barbarians believed this land had been taken from them. They were afraid those amassing at the northern boundary were intending to take the kingdom back.
The last told him that there were reports of women and children included in the group, which had never happened before.
Joseph wondered briefly if another of the human kingdoms might be involved, but he knew that none of them had easy access to the tundra.
Joseph spent eight hours a day in court observing the politics of the kingdom. He found that nobody really respected his father and many assumed that he was placed in charge because his father wasn't taking the threat seriously. Fearing that corrupt officers would try to swipe his supplies, he decided to stay for a month in order to get a feel for things.
He was still able to get in about eight hours of magic training, but only because he needed so little sleep. He practiced his swordsmanship and dancing with Stella in their room after they 'retired' for the evening, even though the whispers were decrying his need for a female servant in his bedchambers. They were torn between he was too old for milk, and too young for sex.
The hardest part of planning his trip north, came when he was informed that the king did not wish for the barbarians to be killed entirely, or enslaved, and when he asked about just poisoning them, the advisor blinked in surprise and horror.