61 Chapter 61 Stella Returns
The following days passed by in a whirl. Stella apparently threatened every single one of Joseph's guards with pain unimaginable and a fate worse than death, should he be harmed. He missed her.
They needed time apart, so she could make peace with her previous life having killed his, and he could make peace with his previous lives having loved hers. No matter what happened to other people and in other lives, in this life she was his best friend and he wanted her to come back quickly.
Keeping his schedule without her there to remind him, wasn't hard but it was more fun when she was there to get him. He realized he may have been overdoing it a bit, though. One of the TV shows he had watched, in his last life, had the childhood friend come wake the main character up every morning. He wondered if he longed for that.
All in all, he had quite a bit of fun. The days were very busy but he was in charge, and people actually listened to him. Joseph's people were excellent. The control over them, his father had because of the system, was amazing. As his delegate and rightful heir, they followed him exceptionally.
The problem was with the king's men. Already, complaints about how they didn't like the food, someone had promised them women (meaning whores), they had to work all day and didn't have any beer, and petty quarrels and fights were constantly causing problems. It had to have been intentionally started by some of the nobles who sent them here. They must have promised them ludicrous accommodations. They thought Joseph was going to be a pushover, even though he was in charge, because he was only a child.
The first man who tried to assault him was taken down immediately by his guards. Joseph was quite pleased with them. The older twins had been training the boys his age very well.
Joseph had the offender tied up at the center of where the town would be and caned. A rather large crowd formed to watch. They couldn't believe he had the gall to actually do that. Then he had Stephan heal him and had him caned again. The murmurs died down from the crowd. When he had him heal him again, to be canned again, the only sound that could be heard, were the meaty thwaks of the cane, and the whimpers and moans of the man tied to the pole. Stephen bowed his head when he was told to heal the man again, but did as he was told. Even he couldn't stand to watch it anymore. When Joseph sent him back to work, there wasn't a word of dissent among the lot of them. It seemed to be an excellent deterrent.
He made a point of circulating among his people, that he was in charge of the north, and he answered to only his father or the king. Until one of them intervened, he had more power than any of the nobles that the men normally feared, and he should be treated appropriately. It was excessive, but Daniel agreed it needed to go that far to make them understand he was in charge and to help maintain order. It would be impossible to get their respect in the short term with the nobles having intentionally painted his father as a charlatan who duped the king, according to the rumors they heard heading up here. It would be even more impossible to get their love.
At least two months would be needed to get LAW and CONTRACT to force each of them to obey him magically, so that was out. Joseph would have loved to talk to Stella about it before he sentenced him though. Even with fear, he knew his power would be unstable. He was mostly worried about it lasting long enough for the food situation to change, or the whole camp would explode.
The nobles in this kingdom had become too bold, having overstepped their boundaries and were probably planning to stage a coupe to try and take over the kingdom, so he needed to start planning countermeasures for that. He was sure they would attempt to claim the cities he was building, and the slaves in them, once the king and the contract was gone.
Finally, there was a much-needed break from the hunger as the scouts he sent out found a herd of hundreds of caribou, to the east, migrating south. They grabbed all the available men, which there were plenty who volunteered, to help drive them closer, but the caribou wouldn't budge from their route, so they had to send even more people out to help them. Now that there was a definite target, more people could be sent. More men, with wagons, were on their way, following the hunters, hoping to get meat and bring it back. The mood and morale improved a lot with the fresh meat.
Stella returned looking quite tired, but Joseph still ran up and hugged her.
"Welcome home! Do you need a bath first, a meal?" Joseph danced in place, his excitement too obvious to hide.
"I would like a chance to eat and sleep before I report," she said in a pitiful, little voice.
"Do you want me to make you something?" he asked, perking up.
"You don't have to. I just want whatever's hot before I sleep."
Joseph made sure she was fed and tucked in bed before he headed back out. Leaving one of the guards to watch over the carriage, he lamented not being able to stay with her, but there was too much to do. He still had to receive the reports on the progress of the tunnels for the sewer in downtown, and the granary location should be decided by now, based on the feedback from the head of planting. The man would have been finished with it already but Joseph had him supervising the collection of all the wild foods.
Fortunately, there hadn't been any accidents. Several of the gatherers hadn't been able to tell the color difference between one of the edible flowers and one of the toxic ones. The head of planting had to move someone to oversee their hauls and he had only just finished training the replacement yesterday. The last thing Joseph needed, with people already complaining about the food, was a case of food poisoning. Though, if that was all he had to deal with today, he'd be lucky.
The last few days were much worse, so he was expecting a new crisis around dinner time. The basic sanitation was easy to get the slaves to comply with. He told them to do it, so they did it. It was spectacularly less effective with the king's men. Even the nobles were disgusting. Joseph was only grateful they were down wind.
Stella woke up around dinner time, to give her report.
"The barbarians are fleeing something out of the north. It looks like a storm, but it's not like any storm they've ever seen before. Anyone that is touched by the fog, freezes solid. There is something evil about it. All of their leaders have decided this is a perfect time to come get their southern lands back. They are not willing to trade because they have already used up their supplies heading south. What they couldn't carry, they had to abandon to the storm. They have already hunted most of the herds heavily. They also claim that they are not responsible for killing our people."
"Well, I had figured there would be another crisis about this time," he sighed.