59 Chapter 59 Even Bugs are Edible
Crown prince Joseph of Dantares. I must get to the forest quickly and warn the fey. My mother was kidnapped by our enemies and used to force my father to betray the fey delegation. He is terrified of the Fey-folk but would do anything to save my mother. My escort was cut down several times by pursuing troops until only this handful of men is left with me. Arrows come out of the woods and take down several of my men.
"Wait!" I scream out. "We are not your enemies!"
I block two arrows with my sword, before I see her drop down from the tree in front of me. The stories of them being beautiful are certainly true. Beautiful ruby eyes and a figure I wanted to spend days with in order to explore slowly.
"Humans will betray us. My elders were wrong to trust you."
An arrow takes my horse from the side and I roll as it falls. She pins me to the ground through the chest with her sword. Damn, this hurts.
I try to speak. I must warn them even if I am to die here. The vile Voronians have contracted with demons and offered them this forest. It will blight the land until the end of time if they succeed. Blood fills my lungs as I try to speak.
She twists the blade and I can't say anything. Please for the love of the light let me warn them. She breaks out in a smile, cute little canines peeking out and says to her companions in the language of the fey.
"With this, the humans should understand that we will not let them into our forest."
I'm glad I took the time to learn their language. I start to fade out. If the ambassador team meets the same fate as we did, maybe their plans will be stopped here. As long as they aren't able to get the demon's blood to the Fey capital it will be alright.
Please let it be alright. I pray for my people and wished with a lingering regret that I hadn't met the woman who killed me under better circumstances.
I'm sure I could have held off enough rounds to have warned her if my full guard was here and we hadn't gone two days without sleep while being chased.
Her face faded as my vision went dark. The last thing I saw, was the glint of her red ruby eyes.
'Was that a younger Sylva that just killed me?'
(IT WAS A YOUNGER SYLVA THAT KILLED YOU A VERY LONG TIME AGO.)
'I was a crown prince and that wasn't helpful to my current goal?'
(CORRECT. THE LINE OF SUCCESSION IS TOO LONG AGO AND YOUR KINGDOM IS DEEP IN THE AREA NOW CALLED THE WASTELANDS. YOU WOULD HAVE NO SUBJECTS OR LOYALISTS TO CALL UPON EVEN IF YOU ONCE MORE TRIED TO RAISE THE FLAG OF DANTARES.)
'I don't get it. I have no idea who the Voronians are, why Sylva killed me, or anything about the cult of demon worshippers.'
(SEE, I TOLD YOU THAT MEMORY WOULD NOT BE HELPFUL. YOU ARE HANDLING THE STRESS MUCH BETTER THAN I ANTICIPATED THOUGH. THE LAST TIME YOU REMEMBERED DYING THERE WAS CONSIDERABLY MORE SHOCK IN YOUR SYSTEM.)
'No, I'm traumatized. I can tell I probably have a host of mental problems ranging from trust issues, mild phobias, PTSD, and other general trauma.'
(THAT IS A SURPRISINGLY ASTUTE DESCRIPTION OF YOURSELF. BUT IF THAT IS TRUE, HOW ARE YOU STILL FUNCTIONAL?)
'Coping mechanisms I learned from my past life. I joke a lot with Stella. I also devote myself to my work like when I was working on catching scumbags. Lastly, I prioritize survival for myself and Stella and push everything else that interferes, away with willpower. If this was either of my old worlds, I would sign up for several years of counseling, but with people currently trying to assassinate me, I don't have time. It was a miracle I learned TEST FOOD the very day we were all going to be poisoned. I would have died again if I hadn't gotten breath to the intermediate level barely in time for the assassin's attack. I intend to be able to resist the next time people come.'
(THEN WHY AREN'T YOU STUDYING? THIS MENTAL ACTIVITY DOES NOT SEEM TO BE HELPFUL WITH EITHER LEARNING MAGIC OR THE FOOD CRISIS.)
'Fine I get it.'
There was a meeting shortly after lunch. Stella had already sent the others the figures for calculating the number of mages that would be required to feed them. Joseph might be able to hold a banquet for a few dozen, like last night, purifying food with cooks helping, but there was no way his magic could feed the number of people they had. With the men already there, the slaves, and the others the king sent with them, there was almost 7500 people.
The meeting had two of the king's men that he sent with them, Stella, another 8 of Joseph's people, Daniel and Joseph. It looked like these people would probably become the council with Joseph being the final decision maker for the foreseeable future. The report came first and was actually worse than he expected.
All of the food they had brought, would run out in 5 days. The cities and towns along the way were already half-plundered by the king's men, that had been sent up earlier with promises of payment later. Most refused to even allow their group inside the city. Everyone who had been sent to enquire about food were barely being sold anything after all the demands. Until the harvest season, nobody had anything to offer. The only explanation that made sense, was that a number of nobles must have been pocketing the requisitions in the kings name, and someone was running interference so the reports weren't getting back to the king in time.
Everyone knew it for what it was.
"There you go, gentlemen and lady. The best horse, could get back to the capital with a response and return in 8 days. I sent a letter about half an hour before this meeting to the king and warned him, that starving us was certainly in violation of the contract and that if he wished to avoid a breach, he needed to send us food immediately. I even included the names of a number of nobles who we were certain are interfering. Based on the reports, enough food to feed us all, for 3 months, has gone missing. All of the town up here have been drained dry, which is surely what the king had expected us to use.
"Therefore, I can expect the king to need time to gather food, and travel time for a convoy, rather than a messenger on a fast horse, which puts the food shipment realistically arriving between 4 and 5 weeks out. Count Blanche, that fat bastard," several nod at that, "gave me some crap excuse about harvests being down last year. That was the reason his food shipment wasn't ready when we left the castle.
"Now, with everything that I was able to make edible yesterday, how long do we have?"
"Assuming we fish out the rivers, and harvest every wild herb, grass, or grain we can figure out how to eat on these plains, we can feed everyone for 2 weeks, maybe 3 weeks if we ration, but we are also feeding all of the king's subjects, who have started building the wall to stop the barbarians. That is very demanding work and starving them won't work," said Daniel.
"No, I understand," Joseph said, interrupting him. "I have found an extra week's worth of food for 7500 people already. We need to find probably 3 more weeks of food. Who has suggestions?"
It got very quiet.
"Free desert to anyone with a suggestion?"
Even desert couldn't get anyone to speak. Joseph sighed and turned to Stella.
"Stella, I need you to do something for me."
"I need you to go discus trade with the barbarians. It's a long shot, but if they have food we can trade for, it will help. Also, see if you can find out what caused them to come south."
Joseph looked at her very seriously. "Always prioritize your own safety. This is dangerous but you are the only person I trust to be able to make it back."
She smiled. "As you wish."
Great! Someone had an idea. Apparently, hoping that the barbarians would feed them, made them realize just how desperate the situation was.
"We may need to move the camp to keep finding food."
"Agreed. It's a terrible idea, but better than letting everyone starve."
Another person speaks up, "Young master, perhaps we could send out all of the hunters to find some wandering herds?"
"Excellent. See to it. I want groups of 5 men to go scout. They are to try and drive any herds closer to the settlement. If they have to, they can start a fire and burn them all as long as we can haul back the meat, we can save most of it. I would rather lose part of the meat from a whole herd than only get a few. We won't feed this many people with just a few. Start cutting the grass as well. Assign some people to grind it down and extract the juice. The animals can still eat the fibers afterwards. It won't do much but it will do something. Setup the mill first so we can start. Also, don't overlook insects. Most are edible."
"You want us to eat bugs, sir?"
"I want you to eat. You won't get extra portions of other things if you turn down your insects. Lots of slaves eat flour with bugs. Given my preference, we would all enjoy fine dining but I'm not about to let my people starve when there is something edible. I know a few recipes that can be used with insects as long as I'm somewhat familiar with them. Also, ensure everyone gets plenty to drink. We can't delay the wall when the workers are passed out because we didn't let them have a moment to drink something."
The rest of the meeting went quickly. Mostly, what will be built in what order, in light of possibly having to move the entire camp to chase food if the other ideas fell through. Everyone departed and got to work quickly.
Joseph knew they had a hard time listening to him, and taking him seriously, because he was a child, but he was in a position of power and responsibility. There was no one, among those from the king, who wanted to take that position in light of the recent mess they found themselves in. He wasn't sure who exactly was behind this, and could only hope the king was able to fix it before things became too desperate.