Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 153
Act of Creditors
"According to the kingdom's law on inheritance, as Morssen Ferd's eldest and second sons have signed letters renouncing their claim to his inheritance. The only remaining legitimate heir, thus, is Bloweyk Ferd, the family's youngest son. Sign your names here and here and here and here and here and here and here as witnesses."
The chief justice, Kauff, wrote a long page and had the late Morssen's friends sign as witnesses.
Kauff was an odd guy. He had few to no friends and often went about his business alone. He didn't interact with others at all if he had his way. That was, however, also a special feature of his position. After Stellin IX ascended, he revamped many aspects of the kingdom's laws and the most praiseworthy was the separation of the chief justice position from local power structures and hierarchies.
After everyone finished signing, Kauff took out his seal and stamped all three copies before signing his name and writing a date. He handed one to Claude before pocketing the other two.
Bloweyk was the main Ferd family's head in that moment. Kauff then produced another paper and started reading.
"The inheritance Morssen Ferd left includes a Hogg-style, four-storey mansion and a debt of five hundred crowns. As the legitimate heir is yet an adult, the inheritance shall be managed in his place by Pattisia Ferd until he turns eighteen. Please sign here, here, here, here, here, and here as witnesses."
Everyone signed again.
The world seemed a little backward to Claude, he didn't understand the focus on males over females, especially for inheritance. He'd only learned about it after his father's will came into discussion. Neither his mother or sister could legally inherit anything from his father, unless there were no male heirs in the extended family.
What Claude saw as unfair sexism was something his mother thought was normal. When women were wedded to a peasant, they would remain a peasant. But when they were married to a dignitarian, they would also enjoy the same status as their husbands. With Morssen's case, his mother lost dignitarian status after his death and she was now just a peasant widow.
The biggest part of the show was saved for the last. Kauff took the promissory note of five hundred crowns and declared, "As the debtor, Morssen Ferd, has committed suicide, the debt of five hundred crowns will be inherited by the legitimate heir, Bloweyk Ferd. According to the Act of Creditors, the heir is still not an adult. As such, after the transfer of the bill, it shall be frozen and be paid back from the moment he reaches adulthood. Given the huge amount owed, the heir will be given a decade starting from the day he reaches adulthood to repay the debt."
That was the true reason Sir Fux was so mad after hearing about Morssen committing suicide. He had been toyed with by Morssen. Allowing the immature Bloweyk to become the heir meant that according to the Act of Creditors, the debt could only be repaid after Bloweyk turned adult and since he was only eight, there was still a decade until he was eighteen.
During that time, the debt will be frozen and the mansion would still remain the property of the Ferds. The income from the rent of the mansion would all be Bloweyk's. Additionally, given that the debt was far too large, the resigned debt had a new repayment term of ten years. In other words, Sir Fux, the creditor, had to wait at least two decades before receiving the five hundred crowns he was owed.
Sir Fux was already 61 this year, and it wasn't yet known whether he'd live for another twenty years. The only good part for him about this whole ordeal was that the promissory note had been formally acknowledged by the chief justice and made entirely legal instead of remaining a scam Sir Fux set for Morssen.
Before Stellin IX became king, he had lived among the people and understood their pains. So, when he instituted his economic reforms, he heavily revamped the Act of Creditors to free the people from the trap of high-interest loans. It saved many households from being ruined by crushing debt and greatly curbed the loan shark epidemic as well as stabilised the kingdom's economy. It also helped establish the common currency across the kingdom.
The promissory note of five hundred crowns was considered an unsecured loan in the first place and it was classified as the least secure kind of loan under the act. No creditor would be willing to make that kind of loan. However, Sir Fux didn't dare to get Morssen to offer up collateral for the loan as that would make him suspicious of his intentions. Back then, all he wanted was an insurance for his investment and he didn't expect that doom would befall the trading fleet in the first place.
Sir Fux also hoped that the voyage would succeed so that he could make a killing. However, his dreams evaporated due to a twist of fate and he wanted to make up for his losses through his promissory note with Morssen. That was why he got Bidlir Blanche to reclaim the debt. He wanted to use Butcher Bill's bloody reputation to terrify Morssen into handing his assets over.
He had long set his sights on Morssen's Hogg-style, red-bricked mansion. As the only member of the Council of Dignitarians in Whitestag, he felt that it was a little unbefitting of his status to live in that manor of his. It was easy to buy a piece of land and construct a grand manor within it, but the new house wouldn't have as much grandeur. Only the famous and historical red-bricked mansion would be something that was worth him living in.
Sir Fux had always thought that Morssen's changing of the red-bricked mansion into an apartment complex was ruining the reputation of the building. He had asked the man whether he wanted to let the mansion go, but Morssen firmly refused. Now that he had such an opportunity, he wanted to pocket the mansion for himself and rebuild it into his own residence.
He didn't think that Morssen would be so harsh and took advantage of the fact that the promissory note didn't have a collateral to kill himself and render Sir Fux's plan useless. Sir Fux could clearly imagine Morssen's spirit mocking him. You want my house? No problem, just wait twenty years for it.
The worst part for Sir Fux, the creditor, was that he had to pray for Bloweyk's safe growth into adulthood. The kingdom's laws also stipulated that should the new debtor die when the debt was frozen, then the debt would be annulled and would no longer be the burden for the new heir to bear.
That clause of the bill incited much conflict before it was passed into law. The house members were clearly split on whether that should be included in the bill. But due to the harsh and ruthless market of predatory lending that often resulted in deaths of the debtors, It also wasn't uncommon for creditors to rely on gangs or triads to harm the debtors and sell their female relatives to brothels.
In the end, Stellin IX's strong insistence caused the third final voting for the bill to be passed into law with the existing clauses with a weak majority. From then on, everyone who borrowed unsecured loans gained the upper hand. Their slogan was often 'come at me and I'll die'.
The passing of the Act of Creditors was a nightmare for loaners all across the kingdom, especially those who offered unsecured loans. They suffered the most losses out of the bunch. But for the kingdom as a whole, it helped curbed the debt epidemic and stabilised its economy. Even predatory lenders could only offer loans when there was collateral.
Kauff took out four copies of the same debt renewal contract and placed them on the table. As Madam Ferd was bedridden from intense grief following her husband's death, Claude had to sign in her stead as the guarantor and manager of the debt. He then dragged his little brother over and covered his thumb with red ink before stamping it on the contract.
Bloweyk still didn't understand what Morssen's suicide during the morning meant for him. He only knew that many people came to his house, all wearing stern expressions. His mother and sister kept on crying while Claude dealt with everything else. The cold demeanour of the brother that spoiled and loved him so much frightened him somewhat. Even though he was a little confused, he was already eight and knew that something really bad had happened at home. So, all he did was hug the snowhound and coop up in the corner of the house, as well as whatever Claude asked him to do.
"The creditor may sign his name now," Kauff said.
It was finally Bidlir Blanche's turn to show up. He had never witnessed such proceedings ever before. He had seen many people, no doubt, but they were mostly poor people from the slums. Nobody really made a big deal out of their deaths. That's right, a big deal. The most anybody would do at the slums was purchase a thin coffin and bury them at the shrines after some prayers. No more than ten or so relatives would send those people off.
He didn't think that the former chief secretary, Morssen's death would cause such a serious situation. Even he was quite surprised that the chief justice himself had attended the execution of the will to acknowledge the new debt agreement proper. All that made him, the boss of Blacksnake and leader of the fourth band, really unnerved. He even had the notion that if he could initiate something like this following his death, it would be a life well lived.
But he didn't think he'd be stopped by Kauff. "Bandsman Bidlir Blanche, you are not the creditor and thus cannot make the signature."
"But... but I have Sir Fux's personal letter of appointment! I represent him!" The man hurriedly took out the document Sir Fux's butler handed him.
Kauff still shook his head. "Apologies, this is a debt of five hundred crowns. You are not Sir Fux's blood relative and you have no right to represent him. Please inform him that according to the Act of Creditors, if the creditor cannot personally sign the renewal of the loan, that would mean that he's giving up on the debt willingly."
Bidlir Blanche rushed out of the entrance and grabbed one of his subordinates to rush to Sir Fux's manor to get him to resign the loan. That was a debt of five hundred crowns and he didn't dare to make a decision about it himself.
An hour later, Sir Fux showed up at the entrance of the mansion. He didn't want to come, but that would mean that his debt would evaporate into thin air. Even if he had to wait two decades to be paid in full, it was still better than having nothing. Five hundred crowns was a huge sum after all and he came in the end.
Before, whenever Sir Fux showed up, the people of status and reputation would flock to him to greet him. But when he showed up at Claude's home, nobody bothered to greet him. Some looked at him silently, others didn't speak to him even though their eyes met. It was obvious that the others already knew what he had done.