Chapter 119 Ransom (Part 1)
Petrov Hull sat in front of his desk Subconsciously, he was playing with a piece of parchment he held in his hands – it was the weekly delivery of the theater’s afternoon program. If this were peaceful times, he would have chosen a good drama and let his housekeeper pay the deposit, afterwards sending an invitation to Aurelia.
But he was unable to read even one word that was on the parchment.
Today was the seventh day of the expedition, if everything had gone smoothly, his father should have already come back yesterday alongside the retinue of the Duke. Perhaps they were delayed during their journey, perhaps the horses had gotten tired and they’d had to rest, or they might have taken an extra rest day in Border Town, right? He tried to comfort himself, but the feeling of uneasiness in his heart was slowly growning.
The 4th Prince Roland Wimbledon had left a deep impression on him, Petrov couldn’t understand why such an outstanding prince, would have received such a terrible assessment by the King. Bad character, dandyism, incompetence, ignorance and without having any learning or skills… any of these evaluations didn’t fit the Prince that he knew.
Because of this, his anxiety only became stronger.
He feared that the Duke would lose against the Prince.
“Master Petrov,” his housekeeper shouted, “there is a letter that has just arrived from the stronghold.”
A letter from the stronghold?
“Bring it to me,” Petrov ordered.
Even before he had opened the cover, he was already stunned by the identity of the sender.
This letter had been written by the 4th Prince!
“Duke Osman Ryan used military forces to attack a territory under the King’s rule, trying in vain to start a rebellion. Furthermore, the Duke was already executed on the battlefield, and now the Longsong Stronghold is once more under the rule of the Kingdom.”
Had the duke lost? His heart sank when he began to read further.
“With exception of the die-hard members of the Duke’s guard, the most of the others had pleaded guilty. Normally treason against the royal family would be punished by death, but because of the His Highness’ kindness, only the leader was put to death for his evil crimes, however the others still cannot be pardoned. So the rest of the rebels will be handled in accordance with the war customs and will be held until their freedom can be bought. The Longsong Stronghold’s castle will be used as exchange point, the following people on this list’s freedom can be bought.”
The document was extremely awkward phrased. It was not written with the diplomatic turn of phrase, but it was still able to express its meaning clearly – the Duke’s rebellion had failed, and if they wanted to free the prisoner they would have to offer money in exchange.
When Petrov’s read the names on the following list, he saw that his father’s name was impressively written in the first line.
“Hedee!” He shouted the housekeeper’s name, “Prepare the carriage, I’m going to strongholds’ castle!”
The territory of Count Honeysuckle laid to the east of the stronghold, so when Petrov arrived at the castle area, it was already half an hour later. The Lord’s castle was full of the members of the “militia” who he had never seen before – they weren’t wearing any shiny armor, neither were they wearing any cloaks or bands, instead they held a strange baton in their hands, with a kind of spear on the top. They just stood there in two neat and tidy rows, with their heads high and their chests out, simply expressing their power in their imposing manner.
After he identified himself, Petrov was allowed access to the gardens and he was then lead by a guard towards the castle’s Grand Hall.
This was a place he had already visited many times before, but when he entered it today, it was like he was entering a completely new territory. All the guards standing in the corridors were ones he had never seen before, no one smiled at him after he greeted them, they just stared back blankly. He was stopped by a knight before the entry door of the hall.
“State your name.”
“Petrov Hull,” Petrov answered slightly unhappily, he didn’t like the other one’s interrogatory tone, and so he emphasized, “For you, it’s Lord Hull.”
“I see,” it seemed like his counterpart didn’t accept that statement as being the truth, instead he just looked at the parchment in his hand, “Shalafi Hull, Count Honeysuckle is your…”
“I’m Carter Lannis, The Chief Knight of the 4th Prince. Please come with me to the side room first, we need to check if you have any weapons hidden on your body.”
After a thorough search, only Petrov’s God’s Stone of Retaliation was taken away by the guards.
“That’s not a weapon,” Petrov reminded.
“Of course not,” the knight nodded. “We will return it to you after the meeting.
He opened his mouth, but in the end, he didn’t say another word. They really will give me the stone back? His God’s Stone of Retaliation was one of the strongest kinds, with a worth of at least fifty gold royals, so he couldn’t believe that the other side wouldn’t replace it with a defective stone. That isn’t important, he thought, I will just take it as part of the ransom.
When he finally entered the hall, he saw the 4th Prince sitting on the throne writing something down. When the prince raised his head, he had a startled expression on his face, but then he laughed, “We met once again, Mr. Ambassador.”
It was still the familiar face and tone, letting Petrov feel a little more relaxed, so he gave him a bowing salute, “I present my regards to you, Your Royal Highness.”
“Sit down,” said Roland, raising his hand to offer him his seat, “In all likelihood, you want to know what happened. I can tell you that your father was not hurt, he was the first to surrender.”
“Thank you for your kindness, Your Highness,” Petrov said quickly. “I do not know how much ransom Your Highness will want, as long as my father can be let out, I will immediately send all of our money to you.”
“I do not need money,” Roland shook his finger. “I want livestock and people.”
It was normal to want livestock, and even fifty years ago, when the conflict between the Lords had ended, most of the time the loser had to pay for cattle and sheep, stories like this was something he had often times read in books. But… People, what would that mean? “Your Royal Highness, cattle, sheep, horses, of those the Honeysuckle territory has a lot of, as for people…”
“Very simple, I’m in need of bricklayers, masons, carpenters, farmers, serfs and so on,” the Prince handed him a scroll, “You can pay us according to the numerical conversion above, as long as you can reach the total number of three thousand it will be enough.” He smiled, conveniently, it was this Count from whom he had caught the most knights, so he also had to pay the highest ransom.”
Petrov spread the scroll at the table.
Written on it were the names of all kinds of domesticated animals and the profession of people, followed by a number, such as: cattle 3, sheep 2, mason 10 and the like, he immediately understood the meaning of all this.
A value of three thousand was the same as a herd of one thousand cattle or 300 masons were only enough to redeem his father. Of course, his territory wasn’t able to provide so many cattle and masons. But with this paper, he had so many possible combinations of items, so many choices. As a noble who had to work daily with trade, Petrov instantly realized, how much finesse had been put into this list. Just a few days would be enough to calculate the optimal solution for the minimum costs for his territory which would still meet the requirements of three thousand points.
“Your Royal Highness, I can…”
“One day, you only have one day,” Roland stretched out his index finger, “This only means that you have to make your choice in one day, after all, you can’t gather so many people and animals in three to four days. But I can’t always stay here, at most I will stay here for a week, then I will leave.”
“One day it is…” Petrov suddenly got so shocked that he stared at Roland with large eyes , “Wait, you just said… that you want to leave?” What does this mean? If the Prince didn’t lie in the letter, then the Duke has already died on the battlefield. With this Longsong Stronghold now belonged to His Highness. But now he was actually saying that he wanted to leave, why would he want to return to that small and broken down Border Town? No, that was beside the point! The key point was that if His Royal Highness went away, who would manage this magnificent city? His mind became a stormy sea, would one of the Duke’s children inherit the throne? When he thought through everything that he knew, this didn’t seem to be a possibility, after all, it would only be a question of time until they build up a new force to avenge their father? In addition to the Ryan family and the other five noble families, were there any others who could take over?
“Yes,” Roland nodded. “I’ll take the ransom and then I will return to Border Town.”
Petrov’s mind was suddenly filled with an outrageous idea, and the moment he had thought of it, he was unable to suppress it.
“Your Royal Highness,” Petrov began, then he had to swallow and was only able to whisper. “Excuse me, is there also a numerical value which can ‘redeem’ Longsong Stronghold?”