86 Chapter 86 Grand Meeting
Leaving the northern people camping just outside the city, Joseph continued on with Chug and Tekaun. Daniel and Walter had returned several days ago to ensure that there was a city to return to.
Several buildings had been finished in the past month, so as he rode down the street, it was starting to look more like a city, and less like a camp. Pulling up to the meeting hall, he nodded in approval. It would work well for the families that didn't have houses by the first snow. Sending slaves off to spread the word there would be a grand meeting, he dismounted and led his group into the new hall.
It wasn't long before the hall was full. The first to arrive had been Daniel and Walter, looking very relieved to have him back. The second had been the old foreman, leading a group of angry looking craftsmen. Joseph looked forward to hearing what they had been being told. Several wizards arrived as well, but Dominic was glaringly absent.
As he sat at the table, looking out over the meeting hall, he watched people stream in to fill the seats. Mage ears and an eye were moving among the crowd, no doubt collecting rumors and gossip. Joseph frowned. It seemed these were the only spells, these mages ever practiced.
"Are you sure I have to adult today?" asked Joseph to Stella, as he saw the nobles proceed into the hall and take the front seats away from some of the other, lesser people, and glance disdainfully in his general direction.
"Yes, Master Joseph," she replied softly.
He sighed. "I can't wait for dad to get back so he can handle some of this nonsense."
She nodded in agreement. Joseph couldn't wait to be king of his own lands, then he could be more direct. It was so annoying having to go the long way around so many things.
"Let us begin," he said, standing in his seat so everyone could see him. The volume in the room quickly fell as everyone turned to listen to him.
Pointing at Chug and Tekaun, he made sure to speak loudly, as he had when speaking to the barbarian crowd.
"This is Chug and Tekaun. Chug is the leader of the northern people, and Tekaun is their high priest."
Immediately, one man shouted out, "She looks like a whore."
Joseph paused what he was about to say, and stared at him. The room got eerily quiet as everyone waited to see what he would do.
"First, that was incredibly disrespectful to someone who could kill you without breaking a sweat. Second, as a high priest, she is also their strongest mage. Third, what's wrong with whores? If men have most of the power in our society, and whores still exist, it can only mean that the men in power prefer it that way. Do you think any little girl wakes up one day and suddenly decides she wants to be a whore? That would be a good profession? Or do you think that just maybe, most of them have not other means to survive? That was your one opportunity to speak, by the way. If you interrupt again, I'll have you thrown out."
People were looking at each other in confusion. This was obviously not what they were expecting. He had changed in the month he was gone.
The mage eye drew closer, and Joseph found himself disgusted by it. The veins were throbbing in time to someone's heart. The disembodied ears and eye ball had kept their distance until now.
"Now, Chug will be in charge of the northerners, who are migrating to city site 2 and Tekaun will be in charge of the northerners who are migrating to city site 3. Few of the northerners have practice planting and stone working, so I need volunteers to go with them in order to train them."
"Why do we have to teach barbarians?" shouted another man.
"There are no more barbarians. These people are northerners. They have signed a magical contract to work on the wall for a year and then they will be freed and considered a citizen of this kingdom, just as you are. And, because you are under the same contract, I can order you to do just about anything I want as long as it fulfills the requirements per the king's contract. I would prefer volunteers, but this is important enough, that I will force people if I need to. I'm sure they will make excellent apprentices because of their incredible strength and because they are so good with their hands. It is my hope that in the future, they will maintain a few permanent villages in order to have such things as forges. Now, you have used your question.
"Anyone who holds grudges against the northerners, you had best drop them now. These people had to watch half their people die from an evil freezing fog that would cause any who touched it to slowly freeze to death. It was a horrible way to die, and many chose to cut off their own limbs in order to try and survive. Others chose to face the fog, knowing they would die, in order to save time for their loved ones to escape. The creature in the fog would slow down in order to eat them before moving further south. I don't care how much you hate these people, there will be no fighting with them. If you don't think you can stand to be around them, make sure I know, and I will try to place you to work away from them, if possible."
"How can we trust them? They're savages!"
The eyeball had moved until it was directly in front of his face. He couldn't see the crowd without leaning around to see around it, and he was hit with such a strong revulsion, he reacted.
Reaching out, he grabbed it and sent a violent pulse of mana into it, then promptly ate it with predation. A man in the back started screaming and holding his right eye. Apparently, the feedback caused him to lose the actual eye. That was good to know. He wasn't wearing his fancy robes, but Joseph recognized him as one of Dominic's top mages. Joseph was momentarily saddened that it wasn't Dominic himself.
"DO YOU HAVE SHAVIST FOR BRAINS?" he roared, jumping on the table. "I was trying to ignore your disgusting little display, and pretend that you were just trying to see or hear better, but you stick that disgusting little floating eyeball in my face?!"
The man in the back continued screaming in pain. Joseph glared at the ears that were still floating around.
"You will drop that spell right now, or I will hunt you down." His voice was deep, but carried easily across the room. The nobles in the front row could be seen rubbing their arms in shock at the coldness of his voice.
Most of the ears immediately disappeared, but two remained.
"Stella, break their hands."
"Yes, Master Joseph." She disappeared from his side, causing many in the crowd to jump in fear, then another scream rang out from the back. The last ear disappeared as another man fled toward the door. Stella got there first, and when he went to cast a spell, she attacked. His form went flying, landing hard. Stella flipped in the air and landed with both heels directly on his hands. The crack could be heard all over the room. He fainted.
As Stella walked back towards him, everyone moved out of her way.
"As most of the northerners are under a magical contract," said Joseph, returning to his seat as if nothing had happened, "there shouldn't be any concerns about their trustworthiness."
The silence was deafening as people were obviously trying to remember that someone had actually asked a question.
"That was your question. Now, the northerners are not stupid, they just have a different culture than you are used to. I've asked them to be patient with you and not to take offense when I'm sure you don't obviously mean everything you say, but I would ask that you extend the same courtesy with them. Remember, your terms of service are only for a year, and after that, if you don't like it here, you are welcome to leave."
Joseph turned towards the voice. "Yes?"
"That, uh, that ice thing, it's not contagious, is it? I mean, it won't keep coming for us, will it?"
"No, I took care of it. That's why it took me a month to get back."
"You did?" someone else piped up, obviously in surprise.
"Yes. Those were your questions."
"Wait, I mean…" his voice trailed off as Joseph stared at him. He ended up putting his hand over his mouth.
"I will be meeting with supervisors, as well as my top advisors, from now on to make sure everything continues to go smoothly. If no one has any more questions, then everyone is dismissed. If you thin of more questions in the future, please ask your supervisor. If they can't answer immediately, then they can ask me during one of the meetings."
There were people trying to think up questions, while others were too in shock from the events that had happened, staring at Stella, and still others were trying to leave. The mages that had been hurt, had either left on their own, or had been carted out.
The doors suddenly burst open from mages streaming in, with Dominic leading the group.