Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 2
The history books said Stellin IX the great and mighty cared deeply about his people's livelihoods. Starting in his early childhood, he disguised himself as a commoner and went around the city, and later the country and watched the people carefully to understand their woes. He hated the greedy nobles and corrupt officials that stole his people's wealth. He left to attend his kingdom's academy for nobles when he was sixteen.
He spent four years there absorbing all sorts of information and experience like a dry sponge. Most of which he would later use during his reign. He didn't waste his time with the lavish parties hosted by other nobles.
Stellin IX mentioned that those years enlightened him about the kingdom's crisis and convinced him it could only be solved with an extensive reform. He was young at the time, however, and though he had the will, he did not know how to go about his grand reform.
When his time in the academy came to an end, he decided to travel the rest of the continent to see what the other kingdoms were doing and maybe gain some inspiration. He did that for four years before returning to his home. Along the way he met and made a number of like-minded friends. Duke Laust 'Ironblood Prime Minister' Rin Diggins, Dubok 'Invincible' Man Dengkin, Marquis Verdigar 'Ironfaced Justice' Mor Fux, and later finance minister Count Kell Jack Ferman. These people would come to form the foundation of his kingdom's thirty-year golden age.
Karjad met with his father, Stellin VIII, upon his return and enthusiastically suggested several reforms. His old and ailing father, however, had little energy or interest in pursuing the laborious route of reform and instead sent the young prince off to the prefectures to inspect the forces.
The prince didn't give up in spite of his setbacks. He toured the kingdom ceaselessly on horseback, reorganising the forces and cleaning up the government and nobility as he went along. He never failed to pass word to the common people of his desired reforms either, slowly building up a reputation and support base with the common folk and merchants.
Karjad returned to the palace two years after his departure, determined to persuade his father this time, only to find the old man dead and gone. The struggle between his two siblings, Elenia and Aunass, for the throne started almost immediately.
Karjad knew he had no chance for the throne with his background, no noble would support a half-blood commoner bastard like him. His only hope was to pacify his siblings and work behind the scenes to improve the kingdom.
Unfortunately, his efforts did little but annoy his siblings.
"You're a prince, our brother, in name only. Know your place! You have no business butting into our affairs!" he heard all too frequently.
Like their father before them, the two found every excuse to keep him out of the capital. It was not a bad thing for Karjad, however. He was most at home out on the plains. The formerly frivolous playboy, Laust Rin Diggins, came looking for him not long after he left again. The two spent the whole night talking about the prince's dreams, and the future Prime Minister and future king decided to take action.
Karjad, however, didn't think his actions would cause Elenia and Aunass to be so wary of him. The foolish baron of Whitestag Town led his men against the prince at the two's orders, forcing the prince, ill-prepared for the struggle, to fire the first rounds of the civil war.
Whitestag Town was soon occupied and the prince's first brigade recruited. The Auerasian civil war had begun. Princess Elenia turned on Prince Aunass at first and their forces clashed all across the capital. Karjad took his time cleansing the landed nobles in his regions before sending his tentacles into the capital. He quickly forced his siblings into a corner and forced them to join forces against him. The war took its toll on Karjad. He lost many battles and was at one point even forced to withdraw to just three of the most southwestern prefectures in the country.
But luckily his siblings immediately turned on one another when he was forced out of the capital and the surrounding regions, giving him time to regroup and recoup his losses. He had the populace's support, so it didn't take him long to rebuild his forces. He swung back into combat even stronger than he'd started his previous offensive and eventually claimed ultimate victory.
Princess Elenia was exiled to Nasri, where she spent the rest of her days in Shiks, a kingdom in the north of the continent, eventually dying of illness. Prince Aunass's fate was much harsher. He was killed by a stray bullet during one of the final battles of the war, and his troops were left to fight under Duke Brant for another four months before finally being cut down in the Battle of Ammson. The duke killed himself before he could be captured, unwilling to suffer the humiliation he would no doubt be forced to endure. His co-conspirators were all sent to the gallows or exiled from the kingdom.
The three noble siblings each had a differently coloured banner, Elenia had blue, Aunass yellow, and Karjad purple. The war eventually came to be known as the Tri-colour War. The people of each faction named the war after their faction's colour, such that the war actually had four names. The Tri-colour War, the War of the Purple, the War of the Yellow, or the War of the Blue.
During the early days of the war, shortly after Whitestag Town was occupied, the prince called up his men that had charged Rodeman Mansion. Only two had survived. One was lightly injured, the other likely wouldn't survive the night.
The prince asked each their wish, promising to fulfil it if he could.
The injured soldier was moved to tears. His eyes glowed a path of light in front of him. He coughed twice before speaking, a little blood splattering out as he tried to speak. He choked and fell silent.
Everyone's gazes came to rest on the final survivor, the sole bearer of the victory would certainly be grandly rewarded.
"What is your name?" the prince asked gently, turning to the shivering man. Most commoners would behave this way when they first encountered royalty, so the prince hardly found it surprising.
"Mi-mi-mi-milord... T-t-this one is c-c-called Habis F-f-ferd..." the poor soul stammered.
Ferd, in the ancient language Hez, meant field and farmer. Only farmers and their descendents bore that name. Habis Ferd's grandson was Claude Ferd, the old man was this particular family's founder.
Claude's father did not appear very proud when his father was brought up, however, he seemed very annoyed instead. He was angry with his father for not plundering riches for the family during the battle. The old man took only a single gold coin that had spilled from a soldier's pouch.
"Show His Highness proper respect!" a guard shouted.
"No worries," Karjad waved the man off, "Don't be nervous, Habis. You're a warrior. If not for your sacrifice, we wouldn't have won. Tell me, what is your wish? I will grant it. I will satisfy whatever desire you have, be it reasonable."
"Had your grandfather had the tiniest brain, he would have asked for a middle name and become one of the nobles!" Morssen had once complained around the dinner table.
He was always shaking by this point in the story. He would probably have sold his soul if it would let him turn back time and make the request himself.
Commoners and nobles occupied two classes separated like heaven and earth on Freia. It was beyond rare for a commoner to have the chance to become even a minor peer. Commoners were allowed only a personal and family name, the family names were usually related to where they lived or what job they did. Nobility had a personal name, a family name of which a single household could have a number of different names for branch families, and a middle name, known as a sobriquet. It was not only a marker of nobility but also marked ones status within the peerage. One couldn't just use a middle name and pretend to be a noble either, one's king, when granting a sobriquet, registered it in a national registry alongside the deeds the family held, and extended certificates, known as Titles of Peerage, that allowed one to have a sobriquet. It was a capital offence to use a sobriquet without a corresponding title.
The man who eventually became the kingdom's Prime Minister, Laust Rin Diggins, had 'Rin' as his sobriquet. His ancestor had been a minor peer, a knight. He led a campaign that saw the kingdom's territory expand into a nearby wilderness and was granted a Title of Peerage named Rin, and thus House Rin was born. Laust was from the Diggins branch family of House Rin, a well-known playboy as well. He corrected his ways when he joined with Karjad and served the kingdom for thirty years. He even made it all the way to an honorary ducal title.
In Aueras, one could tell from the moment a name like 'Morssen Ferd' was mentioned that he was a commoner. That way, others could speak and act more freely towards him. But someone calling themselves Laust Rin Diggins would be known, even by people who didn't know him specifically, as a noble and afforded corresponding respect.
Claude's father dreamt of earning a sobriquet. It represented, whether it came with wealth or not, an immeasurably bright future. He would not longer be just a chief secretary, but could be the mayor, or even a prefect. Currently, he sat at the peak of his career, no commoner could get any higher station in the government than he currently had, but with a sobriquet he would suddenly find himself at the bottom of a very tall ladder.
Time, however, marched only forwards. Morssen's father, Habis never learnt of his son's contempt, had he been privy to it, he might have chosen not to have any children at all.
Habis had no ambition, no plan even. He had joined the prince's army to feed himself, the period of war was hardest on the peasantry, after all. He just wanted a taste of the delicious bread he smelt from the camp's kitchen. He hadn't even completed his training. He'd been shoved in line with a bunch of people less than a day after joining and been sent off to town.
The march had been long, but he'd kept himself occupied with fiddling with his musket. It was something otherworldly to him. He'd only heard of it before, and only in the pub in whispers. He heard the loud thunder the wooden sticks made for the first time when he arrived in the town.
The prince seemed to have given a speech that had riled up the soldiers. Habis cheered only to fit in and then charged at a building with the rest.
Luck had saved him from being shot on his way to the building, but he was stabbed in his stomach as he stepped through the door. The man holding the sword was stabbed by the guy behind Habis, Habis spent the rest of the fight huddled in a corner, holding his stomach.
Everyone killed and died around him, he only made it out alive because everyone ignored him thinking he was already dead.
"I... I want a house..." he murmured.
"House? What house?"
Karjad asked. Surely he'd heard wrong, he, the prince, had offered this man anything he wished, and he wanted a house?
"This house," Habis murmured again, pointing at the mansion from which he had just stumbled.
"Do you really just want this house? Nothing else?" the prince asked again.
"Yes, Your Highness," Habis nodded.
"...Very well. It shall be yours."