Raisse is right that the title of baron isn’t hereditary: barons are appointed by the Crown. However, if a baron has an heir who seems to be suitable, that heir is appointed to the barony more often than not when the old baron dies or retires.
After the usual washing and dressing up ritual we got a message from Beguyan inviting us to the Prince’s execution. I had understood from his earlier message that he had been cut to pieces in response to treating the Khandihan similarly, but apparently they had kept him alive. He was to be executed for murdering the late Enshah. We doubted that he had done this, mostly because unlike several others he could afford to wait until it happened naturally. Athal didn’t want to go, but I thought that it was important to talk to Beguyan as soon as possible. So we sent a message that we would attend, but requested that the charges be amended to what he had actually done, which was plenty. Later that day we received a message that the prince had unfortunately killed himself before the execution could take place. I still wonder if that wasn’t a diplomatic solution to avoid disagreement over the charges. But he was better off dead than alive so it worked out in the end.
On our way to court Khora came to tell us the witch had moved to the middle of court. Khora seemed very afraid. That night she crawled into bed with us, lying very still. I could not even hear her. She assured me that she was no longer after Athal and just wanted to get out of here as soon as possible and I said we would do what we could.
Once we were seated reports came in. Our area was secure and there had not been much looting, walls and gates would need to be built, and some of the looters had been caught and were ready to be judged. We deliberated on what to do with them until the Mighty Servant suggested putting them to work on the walls. So they were called in and that was what happened.
Next Cynla invited us to a side room for a conference with the Mighty Servant, Zahmati and Roushan, Dhamilo and Amaldara. Basically the heads of the three sections that made up our area. They wanted to set up a council until we could send our representative. That was a good idea. We discussed many details of law. So much so that my knowledge of our laws didn’t go far enough. The most interesting ones were slaves and taxes.
They realized that there could not be any slaves in our territories. But just setting them free would lead to problems. I knew that slaves lived relatively well in Solay, and though they did not leave their communities they were an integral part of it. Thinking about it, I may have fallen back to that when I had to figure out what to do with those given to me. Forbidding the trading of slaves entirely seemed rather pointless as it would just force some merchants to move to a different area and do little to end it. Better to lead by example and hope people will follow.
In Iss-Peran slaves were considered trade goods, but their owners Â are responsible for their welfare so when they are too old to work they are taken care of. If one were to set a slave free the slave was to receive a sum of money about equal to two silvers per year of service and double that if the slave was born into slavery. This would cause too much drain if all the slaves were set free and leave their masters’ employ. Zahmati and Roushan believed they would because their labor was needed and they would easily find employment again. I think a decent number would have taken the chance to stay where they were, have their freedom and get paid on top of it, because most people don’t like change and aren’t as aware of the employment opportunities. But I had a more reliable solution. If the money was to be paid out yearly, the drain on funds would be spread around and the former slaves could not lose it all at once and be assured of an income in their old age.
Taxes were a different matter of much interest to especially the merchants, it was agreed upon that some taxes needed to be paid to the Enshah and some to Valdyas, but how much was not settled yet. I think they were hoping to pay considerably less then they used to. It does not seem likely though, as that evening we had a similar meeting with Beguyan and Koll Konandé, who was very worried about losing income from the merchants and at the closing of that meeting Mehili summarized that the three parts that formed our area were to pay taxes to the Enshah, no less than what the Merchant quarter had been paying up to now. I did not think we had agreed upon that yet, but it was too late to protest.
If Little Valdyas and Little Solay had been paying taxes before that would leave us some room. Perhaps when the details are hammered out the taxes can be lowered a little. Perhaps the most politically elegant solution is for the taxes to stay the same, while the Enshah returns part of them to the council or our representative to take care of their own protection, water works and such. If we never see any money in Valdis from direct taxation here then we lose nothing and probably gain some though Essle. Weakening the financial basis for the army that will fight the Khas seems a be a big mistake.
After that first meeting, they all swore an oath to Athal and Zahmati and Roushan offered us dinner already prepared in the Orange Blossom, where we discussed the differences in culture. Before that I went to see the children, because I had hardly seen them today. Khora was helping there too making herself part of the family and in a way I felt like she was. We had sort of adopted her, though not as intimately as I have Hinla. Maybe that’s why we set aside some money for her in Valdyas. During dinner the messengers from Beguyan came and we had them wait half an hour and then went to see them. They explained that the execution of the prince was cancelled and asked to see us “at our earliest convenience”. After staying here this long that sounds like “right away!”. So we went to the second meeting. First I tried to write a suitably formal note to warn them that we were on our way. I think I got the intentions and most of the titles right, but the grammar wasn’t quite right. Lately the Iss-Peran trade language seems to be more and more difficult.
Before we left we saw Mernath and Maile. Athal asked them there and then. “You have accepted me as your master, will you accept Anshen?” Mernath especially would not answer. I am guessing that he had spent most of his time and energy fighting against, trying to circumvent and fearing the compulsion laid upon him. He was convinced he was still under it. We could hardly see it any more, but I think he was keeping the idea of it alive in his mind. They both wished dearly that Athal would decide for them so that they would not have to make the choice. Athal could not really order them to let Anshen into their hearts though. Stuck in this impasse Maile looked at me pleadingly and I suggested Athal order them to be at the temple tomorrow; then the hard choices could be made there in the presence of Anshen.
Then we were off to the second meeting. Besides the taxes, there were two other problems. First the prestige of losing the rich merchant quarter and a title in return for the one our representative would hold. And second, having the trade quarter in Valdyan hands made international negotiations for Albetire more difficult and it meant that the Enshah would not have much of a fleet left. All this could be solved by granting Koll Konandé the title of baron of a region of Idanyas and letting his and our shipwrights work there to build a fleet. That would be needed to free Solay in 18 months, because Beguyan had already planned out a campaign against the Khas and planned to be there by then. I hope he succeeds. But as far as I know the title of baron is never hereditary!
He insisted that Athal be there for the actual freeing of Solay so we will not have much time home. When will our children grow up at home? He also needed a great sorcerer and a regiment of loyal Khas to show both his troops and the Khas that they can be defeated. I think that’s sound reasoning. We had some trouble figuring out who would be best until someone thought of Raith. If it’s true that the trouble in Lenay is mostly over it would be perfect and this is more important. The Khas regiment would be very useful here.
Two things bother me. The first is this. Though we came here to help and we have succeeded to some extent in our mission for Timoine, as a country we have been giving a lot more then we are getting in return. In the end we will all benefit and if we can stop the Khas it will all be worth while, but there should be a balance. And perhaps it’s up to us to achieve it.
The second thing is more important. If the general’s plans succeed, then the Khas will be driven towards us. And even Reshan and the people of the Plains may not be enough to stop the horde of Khas. Then we will need our own great sorcerers and regiments of Khas even harder.
The next morning we saw Khora off. Disguised as a cabin girl she went of with her escort of people who don’t fancy women. I hope she makes it to the ship and I hope she makes it home and I hope Rikhi and Pnimah and we see her again soon. I wonder if Lady Vermudant knows that she is leaving for Valdyas. I am sure she knows of her presence. We will have to talk to the witch soon, but first Mernath and Maile.