Chapter 53: Impending crisis
26 November 1263, almost noon
Rumours are spreading. My wife is dead. Murdered brutally in a way no-one has ever seen by a servant, or so they say. Poor servant whose name I haven't had the chance yet to remember. Just hired a week ago, and already confronted with dead, and allocated to be the cause of it. We know better, but can't save him. He's young, inexperienced and by the end of the day either mad or dead himself. For now I ordered my room to be locked and sealed until my return - no-one is to trespass, no-one is to disturb the scene. Somewhere deep inside I expect to meet her again, for nobles don't die in Calradia, only soldiers. And I definitely don't want to be near this room if she gets up to find her innards on the outside.
After the door was sealed, impossible to open from the in- or outside, I wandered to the throne room. Everything happens over there, so everyone of any importance makes sure to be there as early as possible. My wife's absence was felt. Whispers filled the room until I entered, upon which it fell silent. Nobody dared to ask questions, as the look on my face told them it would be a bad idea. Very bad idea, indeed, for I knew everything. They must have asked themselves a thousand questions, as 'why', and 'how', but their inner thoughts are not of my concern. Finances, those are worth my attention. Normally I save them up for the end of the day, when the men are tired and unable to ask for a raise or something inconveniently else. But today I'll have to handle it in the morning, for after noon there won't be any time left for such trivialities.
I've trained an army as no-one has had under their personal command nor even seen. A sheer number of soldiers is something anyone can achieve - a sheer number of elite knights, now that is an army to be feared. But not only by the enemy: my treasury might fear this arm even more than any foe could. Last year I still had enough money to help the villages under my command, but nowadays I can hardly do anything for them at all. The army needs it all, and if nothing is done about it, my entire economy will collapse. Next week, on Tuesday, around teatime. Or so my bookkeeper keeps on telling me.I meet my bookkeeper to discuss my financial affairs.
Of course this moment had been inevitable. I can't expect my treasury and income to support an infinite number of expensive and experienced soldiers, altough it would make life a lot easier. One day it would cost me more to pay them than my fiefs would bring in. Actually that moment had come half a year ago already, but thanks to my good trade connections I was able to postpone bankruptcy. I honestly can't recall the amount of times I transported spice from Tulga to any of the Sarranid cities, or sold velvet on markets all around the world. Great profits are made while my men train - still, it is not enough anymore.
No-one suspected a thing when I marched through their villages or towns with fresh recruits. Everyone thought I taught them the merchants trade. The fools! Well, hadn't sultan Hakim ensured peace, after all? And didn't all countries - except mine, which didn't stir much tough - sign treaties and pacts all the time ensuring the peace would last? People felt save when I rode past them, or even recruited their fellow villagers. They shouldn't have, for now all my hard work will come to fruition. I knew that I was heading for bankruptcy the moment I took this course, and I know the only remedy to save my country from total collapse is something people nowadays rather not think about.
As my bookkeeper showed me the last numbers and uttered his concerns, I knew what to do. I called a young messenger, and gave him a message I had written over two years ago, and told him to deliver it more swiftly than the wind. The words written in there would prevent my economy from total destruction. When the bookkeeper asked what possible message could bear words of such power, I smiled, and waited for the messenger to leave the room. Then I whispered a single word, that paled his face: War. His blank stare told me he didn't understand. But how could he? He was a bookkeeper, and never saw the field of battle. I helped him by sketching the details of warfare, the fighting, the conquests, the suffering. Still he didn't see the connection between a conflict and financial salvation, so I explained that during a conflict, I would waltz over the enemy with the army I had trained for so long, and would conquer their towns and villages, giving myself a higher income, enabling myself to pay for my soldiers. Thanks to the Sarranids I knew who would be the victim of my monetary expansion: the Rhodoks.I travelled countless times through the Sarranid lands, delivering spice to pay my soldiers.
I had written the declaration of war the day Sultan Hakim had made peace with king Graveth, just to have it handy at a moment like this. There was no time to be lost by thinking over trivial words. No, today I would have to think about totally different words. The messenger would be already on his horse, riding towards the doomed country, unaware of the message he carries. He will be the harbinger of doom for king Graveth, the deliverer of words that would end the longest peace Calradia has ever seen. War. An invasion. Today my knights will ride out, and we will march west, all the way to the last outpost of that dying kingdom. If I don't seize them now, sultan Hakim will one day. And then I would be forced to take down a stronger foe in the dire situation I am in now.
My treasury is almost empty. There really is no postponing. If I don't conquer anything within a week, the decay will start. Next Tuesday would seem indeed a fine date. Finally I agree with my bookkeeper, who I leave in a shocked silence. Today is going to be the turning day for Calradia. Today will be the day I'll fight the land, not the people. For that I have tried too long, far too long. Conquering lands, capturing nobles, killing soldiers: it all seems pointless compared to the goal I've set for myself this time: to defeat Calradia itself.My weekly budget is heading for a financial disaster.
The books are closed, and my servants are helping me in my armour. Outside, on the courtyard, the knights are gathering. They don't know yet what it is that awaits them. All they know is that I'll make an important announcement at noon. From here I can see their shining armour, and hear the shuffling of their boots. It's time to announce to the world that war will return to the lands, but not in a way it is hoping for. This time it will be my war, with my rules. Calradia will fall, once and for all.
Here is a picture Floris' stats on 24 November 1262:
The world map still hasn't changed, so I give you one more bonus. This time I rode in a village, and freed the villagers from some evil bandits. Enjoy these pictures!I rode into the village, for I had heard the screams of innocent taxpayers.The Heavens will say this must be a fashinable fight. It's drawn the finest people, I see from my tactical position.When the dust settles, this will all be over. Not yet now, for there are still areas without freshly spilled blood.Finally, the villagers are free! They rejoice. And I do too, since I can immediately collect my taxes.