62 Chapter 62 The Barbarian Problem Solved
"Do you believe they are telling the truth?" asked Joseph, sitting down next to Stella.
"I do," she answered with no hesitation.
"Are they going to attack us?"
"I'm not sure. They are currently snowed into a valley."
"In the middle of summer?" Joseph glanced outside, confused. The weather here was beautiful and sunny. There shouldn't be any snow where they were.
"Yes. They are hoping the snow will melt soon so they can move to a closer valley. They have at most a single months' worth of food left, even with eating their domestic animals."
"How many of them are there?"
"Um…" Stella paused.
"All I need is a ballpark figure."
Everyone else in the room looked confused by "ballpark" but Stella understood him.
"Probably at least as many people as we have. It's certainly thousands. I don't think more than 10,000 though. But they did say that is hopefully only about a quarter of them. They are wanting to wait in that valley for the other tribes to come down, if they can escape the icy storm. What herds they hadn't killed, are probably frozen, which is the main reason they have overhunted so much."
"Shaviste! That will take years to recover," he said, shaking his head in frustration. He ignored the various mutters of '40,000?' and 'Preposterous!' from the king's men.
"What are their plans?"
"They will invade for food and go back north once they can survive there."
"So, they don't intend to harm us."
"No. I explained we were not people from the kingdom. They have no issue with us. They will only attack us, if we try to stop them. They would rather not have to fight but they can't stop the icy storm and refuse to let their children starve or be frozen instead of trying to break into the kingdom. They did mention trading with the kingdom in the past but said they hated doing so. They always get cheated. How many messengers have you sent to the king?"
"One a day, and all through different routes. Though, I'm worried some of the nobles are interfering. Actually, I'm worried the nobles are outright killing or kidnapping them. Only my dad would know for sure.
"Alright, gentlemen, I have some ideas, but what do you suggest first?" Joseph looked around the room at the various men who had shown up to hear what Stella had to report on the barbarians.
"If they attempt to invade, don't we just need to kill them?" asked one, looking around for confirmation.
"Given the contract you signed, to stop any barbarians from coming down, I don't know why you are asking about this," said another, shaking his head in annoyance.
"First, technically, no I don't, and no it doesn't. The king specifically forbade me from just killing them, as he wants them to continue, in order to keep other threats from the north from invading your lands. Also, I am not responsible for any barbarians until the 5 years is up. I can wave politely to them as they pass by without a single bit of issue with the contract. Your king agreed to hold them off for 5 years to give my father time to prepare to take over the situation. I need some sensible suggestions because I won't sacrifice my people because you can't be bothered to think of a better solution. War is almost always the least efficient solution to a problem."
Stella looked around, then held up her hand.
"What does the contract allow us to do exactly?"
"Excellent question. First off, the contract states raiding parties cannot cross the border. Technically, I can let them all past if they come one at a time and don't form raiding parties, until they are on this side. However, that murders the spirit of the contract even if it doesn't violate it. It places no prohibitions against trade with the barbarians or hiring their services. Specifically, I'm wondering about moving all of them over, all possibly 30,000 of them and hiring them to build the wall to keep whatever is in that ice storm out. I will trade with them correctly though. My father's pride as a proper merchant is at stake."
"Why go so far for those savages?" snarled one of the older men, sitting beside Danial. He turned and looked at the man, raising an eyebrow in the process. Joseph just shook his head.
"And that," he said, pointing at the man, "is why I'm doing this tactic, and not you."
Stella interrupted before they could get sidetracked. "Didn't the contract state your father would acquire manpower necessary to build the wall?"
"That's fantastic, Stella!" Joseph grabbed her in a brief hug. "They would be hired for a year and then freed per the contract. At that point they would then be kingdom citizens and not barbarians anymore. We would completely fulfill the contract forever with just this! I wouldn't have to kill them and would also guarantee no more barbarian threat!"
Stella blushed. "I only meant they would be freed after a year, but the king would have to feed them while they were yours."
Joseph stopped to think about that. "I wasn't thinking as far as that. It would still do that, though."
He turned back to the king's men.
"You all just got outsmarted by an 8-year-old girl because you're blinded by your hatred of the barbarians instead of focusing on how to deal with the problem."
"This is ridiculous! Remind me why we're listening to a child?" the man who was acting very spiteful was the one who had been in charge, prior to their arrival. Everyone just looked at him, as if he had grown a second head.
There was silence for a few moments, while he looked at each person, waiting for someone to speak up.
Daniel finally cleared his throat. "Joseph, I think that is an excellent idea. If the barbarians are willing to work to build the wall, I say we should definitely go for it. That saves our men from straining themselves, solves the problems they are causing for the king, and fosters a new relationship with them for a better future.
"Why, you!" the man spluttered in rage, standing up. Everyone watched as he took a breath to start something, when Daniel calmly stood up and punched him in the gut.
Losing all of the air in his lungs, the man crumpled to the ground.
"Now, if there are any further questions?" asked Joseph looking around. No one paid any attention to the man as he slunk out of the room.