44 Chapter 44 First Meeting for Northern Protection
Joseph started the next day with looking at the unspent points he had accumulated. There was going to be a lot of math he would have to do, between figuring out the supplies he would need and their costs. He ended up spending 5 of his 15 life points on intuitive math. Just because he could figure the math out before, didn't mean he could now. It was fantastic, combined with perfect memory it was like having a spreadsheet program from his past lives in his brain.
Daniel, Walter, and Peter were the three retired generals that showed up, shortly after breakfast. Within twenty minutes, David and Timothy, the two people from the treasury and taxation departments assigned to him, had also shown up.
He had spent three days at court, to try and get a feel for the politics in the kingdom, but he found it to be incredibly boring. It was like a pointless board meeting. No one seemed to be able to talk to the king without first attempting to outflatter the previous speaker. Then, once they managed to get past the boot licking, they would present their problems in such a way as to never be their own faults. There was a very short period of time for the king to ask questions or get more information from other people, then either a decision was made, or it was put off for later. Several of the people who came forward, Joseph couldn't even figure out what they were trying to do.
Sitting in on court provided an excellent opportunity for him to learn the names and faces of the houses in the empire. There were relations, businesses, territory specialties and other important information that he was able to pick up on from the various conversations. The king had assigned him a man, Charles Devore, to explain things whenever he was in court. The man wasn't very impressed with overseeing a child, but he was determined to do his job well for his king, and that was all Joseph needed. He seemed incredibly surprised with some of the questions asked, but answered them all as best he could.
By the time everyone had arrived Joseph had a large map spread out on the table. They were all very confused and curious about it, as he had them take seats as they arrived. Stella had drinks of hot tea ready, and small cookies, leftovers from his majesties missing platter, though none of them knew it.
"This meeting is to discuss scalability and logistics," Joseph stated as he stood near the head of the table.
Everyone looked at him surprised. Obviously, no one expected the child to lead a meeting quite like this.
"I have no idea how many slaves my father will be able to bring, so I want to design small compounds that can grow as more slaves arrive. The second thing I wish to determine, is the supply lines of everything. These will need to be foolproof as I don't want my people to go hungry, or lack supplies, as we hold off the barbarians."
"I'm sorry, Sir Joseph," objected Timothy, his white blonde hair, bobbing as he looked aghast at him. "Surely you understand that issues with supplies are always an issue, regardless of wars or not. The fact that we have troops positioned near the mountains will most definitely make supply lines anything but foolproof, no matter how much planning you put into them."
"So," Joseph said, folding his hands in front of him, on the edge of the table, "I assume you all believe my father pulled a fast one on the king?"
They all looked around uncomfortably, but none said a word.
"All of you have seen the contract, correct? Tell me, when does war ever end?"
This time, there were confused looks rather than uncomfortable ones.
"The contract states that after five years, defense of the north is to be handed over to my father, and I as the case may be, and we are to guard it against the barbarians. It is specific in that we are to protect against barbarians, and not monsters, and whatever is chasing the barbarians. However, when is war ever at an end?"
Looks of understanding started to register in some of their eyes.
"The contract is in effect as long as your king, my father, and the barbarians in the north are alive. How many times in the contract is a breach allowed? If we defend against 9 attacks but the tenth gets through, the contract doesn't allow for mistakes. I can protect this border for 30 years, but as soon as a single barbarian gets through, we will be responsible for the full 30 years' worth of taxes."
He paused to look at each of them. None seemed to have anything to say. He mildly wondered if they were too shocked that those words came out of his mouth, rather than at the information itself.
"So, as I was saying, logistics." He pointed at the map.
"This road here, here, and here, all need to be rebuilt. According to reports in the last decade, each of them washed out or lost their bridge for over three months. That is unacceptable. The army in the north would lose half of our supply base if one of those roads were cut off for that long. Even a detour of a month will not work.
"Any food that takes longer than three months to arrive, might as well not have been sent. The cost of feeding the horses pulling the wagons, and the wagon drivers would already exceed the amount of grain you can put into a single wagon, by the time it reached the front line."
As he laid his information and demands out, they seemed to forget they were discussing with a child and became more and more involved. The changes he wanted seemed to be overwhelming to them, and the two men from the treasury didn't seem to think it could be done. After several hours, Joseph felt a break was on order.
"Very well gentlemen, we will meet in two hours' time, to further discuss other issues I wish to address. I do not wish to give you too much time to conspire with your superiors against me. Also, you are not allowed to mention the contract terms I pointed out to you in the beginning of this meeting. I will consider it a breach of contract. I understand the information will reveal itself in time, but I'm planning to use it to smoke out some of the worthless nobles who will try and get in my way."
Their mouths hung open in shock and then fury grew in several faces. Joseph made sure to note whose.
"You speak rather presumptuously for a commoner, child," growled Walter.
"If I held to the standard etiquette rules for this meeting, we would still be going through the pleasantries of introduction. It would be almost a week before we got to any real discussion of what I need, and I simply don't have time for that. I'm sure you can understand my pressing needs considering your families holding are in the north, and you look to lose the most from anyone here today."
Walter seemed surprised that Joseph knew that information, seeing as he had only been in the capital for less than a week.
"I believe we are both in agreement when I say that we do not wish to see the barbarians loot and pillage your towns and villages. I'm actually shocked you don't have more motivation than I, a mere commoner's son, to see that we succeed."
"But the funds to repairs those roads…" began David, the older of the two from the treasury department.
Joseph jumped in, interrupting him, "Look, even if the barbarians drop dead tomorrow, regular maintenance costs on those roads over the next five years, according to your estimates reported every year, which I find…optimistic, will be half again as much as my realistic estimation of properly building them now. Future maintenance costs would be reduced and speed of travel will be 20-30% faster in good weather, much less during your seasonal squalls. Now come up with a good reason why this shouldn't be done, or it goes through. I really don't want to have to go over your head to the king, just because you don't feel comfortable dealing with a child. I'm sure he can find someone who can."
He could tell that the generals were unhappy with his tone of voice towards them, for not having the respect they probably all deserved, but the two men from the treasury were too stunned. Joseph was pretty sure they would be spending the next two hours pulling the same figures he already read through, to double check his numbers. One thing he knew well, was that numbers never lied.
"This project will save the current annual budget for the royal treasury every 9-12 years once it's done. Here's a copy of my numbers for each of you. I look forward to seeing you after lunch, in a couple of hours."
Stella very politely escorted them out, and Joseph sat down heavily in a chair. This politics stuff was tiring. He needed to work on it more if he was going to be a king!