“Perhaps we should be looking to how to solve the problem, not bickering about how we got here. The fact remains the current population is too great for the number of guards even if we weren’t sending half to the walls. We should think how to either increase the guards or to lower the number of refugees.” Baelish directs us back to the topic at hand. Though I suspect it is mostly done to assist his lackey from embarrassing himself further.
“Usually in this case we would ask for aid from either the nobles or the surrounding Lords to loan their soldiers and guards, but they have been quite resistant to the idea. Most of the soldiers have been sent to the north to assist Lord Tywin, while the nobles have refused to part with their protection. The recent events have caused hesitation in lending their protection to the royal family.” Baelish continues. He gives a slight glance in Cersei’s direction, which all of us but Tommen mimic.
The late Ned Starks act of lending his guards to the Watch and leaving him unprotected is a rumour floating among the nobles. The few nobles that haven’t abandoned the city to return to their estates either don’t have the required guards or are unwilling to turn them over to earn the royal families ‘good faith’. Unless we offer significant rewards that are not worth the quality, their guards will remain right beside them until this period of unrest is over.
Cersei does not let the barb go unnoticed and returns it. “In the event the cities protection is insufficient does it not fall to the master of coin to provide funds for the additional man-power?” She throws at him.
“The kingdoms treasury is empty, as your grace is aware, with what little liquid funds we had were already spent hiring the additional 1000 men. To recruit additional forces, I would need to borrow from outside sources again, but most would take too long, and those few that would, such as the Iron Bank, have rejected my proposal. The uncertainty of the situation has made them reluctant to invest, and there have even been hints that they will not lend any more until we have repaid atleast a percentage of what is owed, though they have yet to officially request more than the interest.” Baelish responds, reminding me of the headache that Robert left the Kingdom with.
It is amazing that I once looked up to the man. Though my brother always dismissed him as a fool, and I knew he was no great ruler, as a fellow fighter and general I was respectful of his exploits. Though there is a difference between not being a very good ruler, and a down-right horrible one.
My brother informed me of how much Robert was borrowing from my family, but the full picture of just how much was owed is staggering. 6 million dragons, 3 million of which is owed to the Iron Bank at 12.5% interest. The kingdom makes on average 500,000 durig the long Summers and 300,000 during the Winters, meaning the average earnings of the kingdom is only slightly above the interest we need to pay yearly to keep the amount from increasing. It is fortunate that the majority of the remaining debt is to the Lannister and Tyrell families which will soon be the royal family.
If we were faced with several years of Summer then perhaps we could focus our expenses on reducing the amount owed to the Iron Bank thus reducing the interest and bringing the kingdom back into the green. However, we have just experienced several years of Summer and it is unlikely to last much longer, followed by what is expected to be the longest Winter in a hundred years.
These remaining years of Summer won’t even be ones at peace. The war will divert men from the fields and ruin the harvests, with half the Kingdoms at conflict with us and refusing to pay taxes. From the lands we have that remain loyal we will be lucky to receive 100,000 dragons. Though we could use the funds belonging to the Tyrell and Lannister families, it would only weaken our family further and put greater strain on the realm.
“The Iron Bank are nothing more than merchants that have an intimidating name. ‘A Lannister always pays their debts’, we are their greatest customers and as such deserve their trust. If they refuse to do business with them then we will ignore all future transactions with them, including the interest. We will pay what is owed and nothing more.” Cersei boldly states.
I frown and address her foolish statement, forgetting my manners in my anger. “Are you insane? We already have half the kingdoms at our throat due to your actions, do you want to turn the most powerful bank in the world against us as well?”
“Could it be that you are afraid Uncle? The Iron Bank may have an intimidating name, but that is all. They don’t have troops or land. That we deal with them is their honour, us working by their terms so long was solely due to our honour and if they wish to oppose us we could crush them like gnats.” Cersei sneers at me. The rest of the small council duck their heads to avoid our attention, other that Tommen who looks concerned at us fighting.
“They might not have household troops, but they do have gold and live in the most mercenary infested city in the world. The Iron Bank is the direct sponsor of a dozen mercenary companies, with connections to hundreds of others. From Braavos alone they could hire 10,000 sell-swords and reach numbers of 100,000 if they look to the rest of Essos.” I remind her that unlike Westeros, where large sell-sword companies are in the minority, in Essos they are scattered all over with some being individually capable of contending therealms of Westeros.
I may not worry about them to the same extent as my brother, who believes they are more dangerous in subtler ways, but I know not to anger a force which could drown us in a wave of gold. Especially not when we are facing so many enemies of our own.
“Uncle, please I am sure mother was only concerned for the realm and made some harsh remarks without meaning to. Let’s please focus on what we can do to solve our current problem. Grandmaester, do you have any wisdom to give on the subject?” Tommen speaks up to halt the conflict, directing our attention to perhaps the most neutral man in the room.
Cersei and I back down with the opportunity provided. I feel embarrassed rising to the situation in public, though I am pleased Tommen used the distraction to calm it before escalating. I wish he would learn to call us the Lord Hand and Queen Regent though. Such familiarities are not appropriate in public, especially in important settings.
“Your Grace, I am afraid I cannot offer any quick cure to the illness that plagues this kingdom. All I can offer is knowledge from the past to try and avoid the situation deteriorating.” Pycell speaks in his fragile tone of voice, rasping breaths in between excuses.
“The war is unlikely to end in any short time, and I am afraid the refugee problem will become worse. The criminal element is only one of the symptoms of a city filled beyond its capacity. We will soon face food shortages and in the past when such large numbers are enclosed in walls, disease has been known to occur.” Pycell voices the greatest of my worries, especially with the possibility of this city coming under siege.
The food situation is not much of a worry, we were well stocked before this conflict and the alliance with the Reach will allow food flow to resume shortly. The greatest issue is the possibility of a plague occurring. There have been several occasions in the history of the Seven Kingdoms where a fortress fell not to attackers but rather to illness. If one starts and is not contained in time then we may need to abandon the capital without ever seeing our enemy.
“Would the best solution not be to simply close the gates and deny them access? Rather than have them clogging the streets and cost us for their upkeep, wouldn’t it be more prudent to send them to the fields where they can be of use?” Cersei suggests rather harshly.
“But mother, they are scared and running from war, what will they think if I just shut the gate on them?” Tommen asks, more out of concern for thepeasants safety than his own reputation.
“I know it may seem harsh, your Grace, but it is probably for the best. Though you are truly kind to put the people’s needs before your own, I fear that mercy without taking care of oneself will only lead to destruction of both parties. If the people are allowed to enter without having the space or food to feed them, they will only suffer more, with us soon facing the confused masses who unjustly blame us for their problems.” Pycell comforts Tommen.
“I agree, Your Grace. Under the circumstances a heavy hand is needed. They won’t be left to rot outside, we can send them to the nearby fields that have been left deserted on account of the men marching to war.” I tell Tommen of my position, Varys and Baelish remaining silent.
What I don’t tell Tommen is that they will probably be safer in the countryside than the capital at the moment. The northern fields are protected by my brother and they will be safe from bandits with the constant patrols Tywin has ordered to ensure clear supply lines. The capital on the other hand is facing the possibility of a siege from the East. Speaking of which...
“Now that that issue is out of the way, Varys what have your spies to tell about our enemies to the East?” I ask the spymaster, not anticipating just how bad the answer to that question is.