63 Chapter 63 Hunger
"I guess we have another week to see if the king sends any supplies. If he doesn't the contract will be broken and it doesn't matter what happens. If he does, I can go speak with the barbarians about this opportunity."
Walter walked in right then, and Joseph turned to him with a large grin. Walter paused in mid step, at the look on his face, then calmly proceeded to sit next to Daniel.
"What news do you bring?" asked Joseph curiously.
"My family offers their condolences on the way you were treated with the cities leading up here. They attempted to tax those poor people to within an inch of their lives, to make up for it, but I was able to persuade them to relent. I also made sure the inhabitants of those cities were informed of the circumstances, and have received an assurance from them, that when they conduct their harvest this fall, we will be receiving a portion of it in thanks for standing up for them."
"Does your family have any supplies they want to send? Since they own all of the surrounding territory, it only seems right that they be willing to help prevent the king's men from starving."
"I believe my nephew is unwilling to share any of his store houses at this time," said William, shaking his head.
"I understand what you said, allow me to rephrase myself. I spoke wrong, please forgive me. Go threaten your family for supplies. Everyone dismissed."
Walter looked bemused as he stood to leave. Everyone who left was either amused, confused or upset. Daniel chuckled as he left the room with Walter, to fill him in on what all had happened up to that point. Joseph was sure Walter would be horribly amused. He was known for reprimanding those who broke rank, quite severely, when he was in charge.
The week flew by. Every day was crazy as he rearranged things and settled emergencies left and right. If he hadn't planned so much out in advance, he would have been in a tough spot several times now. He had to put forth a lot of thought and make a lot of tweaks to the various plans he had going on. Over 90% of the issues he was able to solve, would be recorded for future use on any other cities he intended to build. The spot where city three was planned even had reports of warm water coming up from the ground, which could mean hot springs. Stella was super excited about that.
Joseph just wanted to be able to make a public bath house. If there were hot springs, that would make the sanitation super easy and might even generate some money if he could get tourism going in this kingdom. He wasn't sure that there were hot spring bath houses anywhere on the planet, or if they would even catch on, but it wouldn't hurt to try.
With his memories of past lives, this life had just seemed rather filthy. He couldn't wait for a hot shower. Even working at top speed, the soonest any of it could be completed would be 2-3 months away.
He had completed CREATE FIRE and had started SHAPE FIRE. Too many of the king's men were around for him to be able to cast any magic that week.
Joseph sent off three letters to his father, all with separate slaves and on different routes. He wanted to tell him about the loophole in the contract. His father should have arrived at home with his mom about this time, and he could only imagine his mother's reaction when she saw that Joseph wasn't there. He honestly fully expected his mom to return with his dad. He might even get back faster with her harping on him to move quicker.
Sword training and dance lessons could continue, now that Stella was back, and they both relished the moment of calm after all the chaos of having to answer questions constantly throughout the day. The nobles did not dance up here, but the common fold did. There were many nights they were more than willing to show them a dance or two around the camp fires after supper. Stella was so flexible, it was really fun. The common folk loved to swing dance the most, and they both found it healing to their souls to enjoy a bit of fun with them.
Joseph had started noticing something, though. Stella was leaving a type of magical residue on everyone she encountered. He was having to blast the magic with a bit of mana to disrupt it. A simple handshake, or pat on the back was all that was necessary, but he was wondering if she did it on purpose. This might even be what his father was picking up on, when he was talking about her messing with his control over the slaves. When he asked her about it, she had no clue she was doing anything. They both decided it may be a fey thing that was trying to come out, now that she was using the system to further improve herself.
There were two days left. Everyone had started packing. Joseph stood watching the hungry looks on their faces as the people forced themselves to move through the necessary motions. He felt that this was surely a breach of the contract, but because it was through his father and not him, he couldn't be sure.
"Master Joseph!" panted a slave, panting hard as he paused next to him. The man's cheekbones were starting to push against the skin of his face, making Joseph wonder at some of the reports on the portions they had been getting.
"Yes?" he asked, allowing the man to catch his breath. It was obvious he had little energy.
"The king's convoy will be here tonight."
"Do you know how much food they have with them?" he asked excitedly.
"No, I am sorry master, I only heard it from one of the other slaves. He was too tired to continue this far."
Joseph frowned. The initial two weeks of food had managed to stretch to four with the herd of deer and including the edible grasses and bugs. There hadn't been much work going on the last two days due to no one having any energy. He didn't want to tell everyone to stop packing if the food was only enough for a day or two. With the number of people they had, it would take a lot of food to last much longer than that.
"I'm going to my tent. I need an hour to rest." The slaves around nodded, and Stella, who had been almost as close as his shadow, followed him to the tent. This was hard on a seven-year-old. He needed to think for a moment.
He didn't want to rush anything. He needed to figure out if they should stay or go. There was a small sound at the door, and Stella went to investigate.
A young slave entered, looking almost skeletal. Joseph was certain at this point the slaves were starving themselves to make the food stretch further, and he got angry.
"Master Joseph, I am the one who came from the king's convoy with news of their arrival." His voice was very soft as he didn't have the strength to speak very loudly.
"The group brings many mages with them, as ordered by the king, to help in whatever ways they can. They also have enough food for all of us to last roughly two months."
"Thank you very much, you may go rest. Make sure word spreads that we will not be moving, and there will be a good meal tonight for everyone."
The slave bowed, slowly, almost falling, before leaving.
"If there are going to be mages, I need to do a few things," said Joseph as Stella came to him.
He focused with perfect control and perfect visualization. If IGNITE FIRE causes what is there to start burning, then CREATE FIRE simply calls fire into being from that realm of flames. Once he willed it, it simply happened in an instant.
A small beautiful blue flame hovered a foot in front of his face. No bigger than a candle flame, it brought a smile to his face. He held it steady for a moment, then moved it gently to a candle. As soon as he stopped focusing, the flame changed from blue to yellow.
"You didn't overdo it this time," Stella teased.
"Contrary to the opinions of some, I don't try to endanger my life often."
(YOU HAVE SUCCESSFULLY CAST CREATE FIRE FOR THE FIRST TIME. YOU ARE AWARDED 1 LIFE POINT. 22 UNSPENT POINT REMAIN. YOU HAVE CAST CREATE FIRE WITH OUTSTANDING SKILL AND FOCUS. YOU ARE AWARDED 10% OF THE EXPERIENCE NEEDED TO REACH INTERMEDIATE.)