Antetion Halls, Mercivya
?Cutting the taxes like this will bankrupt the treasury!? The beefy-faced nobleman, Earl Bollarn Crestvielle, glared around the table at the other assembled councilmen. Odgen Bradford, the Earl of Briarstone, nodded in quiet agreement. Others, sitting across from Crestveille, scowled as he continued. ?The costs of rebuilding and repairs enough have nearly drained what we have left, especially after the looting!?
?Did you stop to think for a minute that maybe the reason the people were looting was because of the outrageous taxes this council has levied in the past?? Grant McVallen shot back as he returned Crestvielle?s glare evenly. An export merchant and representative of the Merchants Guild McVallen was one of four newcomers to the Cisroe council, placed into seats vacated during the recent battle and subsequent power shuffling. Members of the Cisran middleclass of merchants and craftsmen, McVallen and his compatriots knew the hostility Crestvielle and several of the remaining noblemen not on the council held for the new order, and were determined to make changes in what the city and realm had previously endured.
?Outrageous?? Sputtering, Crestvielle?s fist clenched in open rage. ?The taxes in the past have gone to pay for the protection of this city!?
?Protection that was obviously lacking!? Another newcomer, Horace Silvershield, yelled in reply, his own anger breaking forth. ?The council has bled us dry for years, and for what?? He started to stand and continue, but a loud ?Enough!? made him pause, as well as dragging the attention of the councilmen toward the open doors to their meeting hall.
Flanked by Jonathan Harte, Lieance DeCort and Morguian Albaelia, Lucius entered the chamber, moving to the large chair at the head of the table to sit. Harte took his seat at the head of the left side of the council table, while DeCort and Morguian sat down to either side of Lucius. Two of Commander Farriss? men took up positions behind and to either side of the Lord of Pandemonium, hands resting at their belts within easy reach of their sword hilts. Lucius slowly looked around the table, narrowed steel-grey eyes locking on each council member in turn for a few seconds before moving on to the next. He knew he had few allies at the table, and less for the moment among the sitting nobility beyond Harte, and thus he held his ire in check for the moment.
?First, you will be happy to know that, for now, no more changes will be coming in the established hierarchy of the city.? The glares and hostility from the left side of the table amused him greatly, for after purging Urevan?s solid followers, Crestvielle and Bradford were the only remaining nobility of the old order allowed on the council. Harte had been an advisor for Urevan more for familial ties than any true loyalty. Four of the council had openly defied orders for their militia to lay down arms after Cisroe was taken, and the day after the wall had been breached Lord Unthor, Jerrak and Lord DeCort had led the assault on the walled manors to root out Urevan?s supporters. Lucius had wanted to kill them outright, but cooler heads, namely Fiona and DeCort, prevailed, and the families were sent in a wagon train toward Malirid under heavy guard.
?You men now represent the ruling nobility of Mercivya.? Lucius continued, keeping his voice low and even. ?As long as you enforce my edicts, I will leave the rule of the city to you.?
?How can we rule the city if we have no coin?? Crestvielle asked, scorn fairly dripping in his tone. ?We have to pay the workers in the government, as well as rebuild the city guard and the wall.? He leaned forward, a hand again clenching into a fist. ?Your tax tables will bring in half of what we had before!?
?First off, councilor,? Lucius?s growl sent the nobleman sitting back in his chair, and brought a faint chuckle of amusement from Morguian beside him, ?the wall is being repaired by my own men and with my own coin. You and the treasury will not pay anything for it.? He held up a hand to still any protest from Crestvielle, and continued. ?As for the city guard, they will be paid for by the general taxes of the realm.? Now he leaned forward, as if daring the nobleman to interrupt him. ?The taxes I have laid out are more than sufficient to pay for everything the government should have to fund, as well as generously fill your own purse. The days of inflated taxes and excessive skimming of the treasury are over.?
Crestvielle?s features reddened, and McVallen thought he was about to have a heart attack. Any explosive reply was thwarted, though, as DeCort now spoke up. ?You?ll also find that the city coffers will swell with new trade now that a different vision is coming into place.?
?I assume you mean with Malirid?? A woman, another of the new councilors and the chosen representative of the various churches of the city, near the other end of the table spoke up. DeCort nodded, letting a smile play over his features.
?Just so, Your Eminence. With the new government in place, Malirid will be eager to open formal trade with Mercivya again.?
?As will Tignus.? Morguian chimed in from where he lounged. ?Briarstone?s already seeing profits from the new trade routes.? He looked over toward Bradford, who reluctantly nodded in agreement. The councilors who were merchants by trade brightened visibly at the thought of the new possibilities. Urevan had banned trade with his neighbor to the south, though goods did make their way north through smugglers and adventuring companies. What the foreign noblemen was offering would indeed enrich Mercivya?s and Cisroe?s depleted treasury as well as fattening their own pouches on the side.
While the talk continued around the table Lucius sat back, a movement in the corner of his eye drawing his attention to a young page standing near the door. He motioned the page closer and leaned near to listen to the message he had. Nodding once he dismissed the page and rose to his feet, the others at the table following suit seconds later. ?Gentlemen, another matter needs my attention. I will return shortly.? He paid no attention to the bows of those around the table as he headed for the door, the two guards falling in step behind.