Earths Eulogy

by

CJ Fielding

Chapter 11 August 90 AD Africa-Different Path

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A note from CJ Fielding

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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At the castle in the center of the capital, Paul’s thirteen-year-old son, Washington, was waiting on his father. During the past year, he had been working to capture…er, integrate new villages from the tropical forest south of Paulsland. In years past, his oldest brother Badru’s responsibility was to capture villages between the Zambezi river and the river south of it. Washington was helping his brothers in arms to integrate the land further south into Paulsland until he was called back to the capital by his father.

While he waited, Washington grew more nervous. He did not know if he displeased his father, if there was a mission his father wanted him to perform, or if his father just wanted to spend a few days with him. In all honesty, the last option was the most terrifying to Washington because his brothers in arms were fighting. Their weapons and armor were significantly better than what the villages they conquered had, but every now and then, a stray arrow or spear killed one of his brothers. Although the villagers they conquered were not that dangerous, the wildlife was. As they traveled through the tropical forest, a cobra, lion, hyena, hippo, rhino, or another deadly animal would attack, and Washington lost over a dozen brothers to them, compared to the two killed by lucky villagers.

As Washington waited on his father, he grew more and more impatient, in part because his father was very late to their meeting and in part because he was worried about his brothers in arms. He already had a lot of survivor's guilt.

Two hours after their scheduled meeting, Paul finally arrived. King Paul was so used to being late he did not think to apologize; instead, he walked to his son and gave him a huge hug, and said, “Washington, look at you. You’ve grown so much and put on so much muscle since we last met. I bet you could outwrestle a lion.”

Washington didn’t smile; instead, he asked, “Dad, why did you bring me here?”

“Well, next year, you will be 14 and retire from the army, and I wanted to know if you want to be a lieutenant?”

Washington was surprised to be having this conversation. Although all his older brothers had, had this conversation with their father, none of them told him about it, so he was not expecting it. He assumed that their father told them that they were going to be lieutenants, and so he simply asked, “What did you have in mind?” because he didn’t know what else to say in his surprise.

“To the north of the capital, we have conquered the tropical forest all the way to the great lake in the mountains. A river flows out of the great lake, and we have captured all the villages on that river, but we do not want to conquer anything to the east of the river to the coast until we are able to make some fortresses along the coast, north of Five Village Island. My thinking in this matter is that if a northern army attacks us, they will have to stay on the coast because everything to their west will be tropical forest. They will only have one road to follow, and we can easily bottleneck them. So that area will remain untouched until we have better infrastructure and can quickly build some fortresses. Badru is figuring out how to do that to the south. Honestly, it's not the building fortresses part that is difficult; it's moving stone, concrete, and other supplies from the Zambezi River to the other rivers in a quick manner that is a headache. But we will figure out the supply chain problem in time.”

“Your brother George is currently building his first city on the south side of the Zambezi river on the savannah. We have recently started conquering the savannah on the northern side of the Zambezi river, and I would like you to be one of the lieutenants on that conquest.”

Washington’s face winced in a way that clearly showed he did not want to do it. Paul saw that in his son and said, “Washington, if you do not want to be a lieutenant, you do not have to become one. I have other jobs I can offer you, or I can give you pay like most of the soldiers, and you can go make it on your own.”

With those words, Washington looked down in shame and said, “No, father, all my older brothers were lieutenants. I will be one too.”

“Why does the idea of becoming a lieutenant bother you?”

“It doesn’t.”

“Washington, don’t lie to me. I could see it on your face. Is it something your brothers did? Something I did?

“No, father, it's just, I feel bad for the brothers I fight with.”

“The brothers you fight with? You mean the other soldiers?”

“Yes, father. They are my brothers. Some of them have died. Two to the villages we conquered and a bit over a dozen to the beasts we ran across as we went through the tropical forest. I feel a lot of guilt that I lived, and they died. I lost my best friend to a cobra bite that should have gotten me.”

Paul gave his son a big hug, and said, “I’m sorry, son, I didn’t know.”

“Dad, don’t worry about it. I know how busy you are, and you have thousands of people that depend on you.”

“No, son, it's not alright. Talk to me about your friend.”

“Dad, I really don’t want to.”

“Is his death the reason you don’t want to be a lieutenant?”

“No. I have had other friends and acquaintances die before. We had over two thousand people in our man camp. After man camp, I was sent south with five hundred other soldiers to capture villages. Most of those villages had fewer people than we had soldiers, and that’s including women and children. With only five hundred guys, you learn everyone's names pretty quickly. At least I did after all the training I had growing up. It hurt when one of those guys die. The closer I am to them, the worse it hurts. Honestly, father, I can not imagine being a lieutenant and giving an order that kills my friend. I feel bad enough when someone near me dies. I can not imagine how I would feel if I was the one to give the order that got them killed.”

Paul continued to hold onto his son to comfort him. Thirteen-year-olds should not go into battle, should not die for a nation, should not watch their friends die, but when he started Paulsland, he had no choice but to use those youths at that age because they were teachable, loyal, and he needed soldiers. He wished he could immediately pull his son out of the army and keep his other sons away from it, but that was death for Paul and his family. If he wanted his sons to survive beyond him, they had to face the same dangers all young men in the nation faced. With all the sons he had, it meant that sooner or later, one or more would die in battle, but the risk was required to survive. This world was just harsh.

Despite that, Paul saw a need to make an offer to his son, “Washington, thank you for being so honest with me. I think I have a job you would be more suited for than being a lieutenant.”

“But dad, all your other sons have been lieutenants. Isn't it my responsibility to follow in their footsteps?”

“No. And just because you will not be a lieutenant does not mean you will not be king someday. Remember to become king simply requires that you have more than fifty percent of the chiefs voting for you. Even Beethoven could become king if he had enough votes. Although with his deafness, I am afraid he would become a puppet if that were to happen. You will be my first son to go on a different path, which will make the lives of your younger brothers easier.”

“What do you mean?”

“Not everyone is cut out for the military. Not everyone can shrug off their men dying. Clearly, you are brave. You have fought in battles where friends have died, but you struggle with the death of other men. If you are going to lead in the military, it's good that a man's death weighs on your conscience because there are some military leaders that spend their men's lives like water. There are military leaders that will send a thousand men to fight for a hill, and if only one survives but takes the hill, they will rejoice and think nothing of the deaths. But those military leaders have a lot more men than we do. That said, if you lead in the military, you are going to be sending some men to die, and you cannot let their deaths stop you from doing what must be done. Don’t get me wrong, you should do everything possible to keep as many of your men alive as possible; a soldier's job is to kill their enemy, not to die for their country, but some will still die. Washington, clearly, you are ill-fit to lead soldiers because sooner or later, their deaths will cause you to pause in your leadership. That is not a character flaw unless you are foolish enough to become a lieutenant. Do you understand?”

Washington was still wrapped in his father's arms, and his head only went to his father's chest, so with his father keeping Washington pulled to his chest Washington, nodded his head and said, “I think so, father.”

Finally, Paul let his son go and said, “I think I have a project that is perfect for you. It's called the Central Roman Trading Company.”

“Central Roman Trading Company? What’s a company? I have never heard that word.”

“As Paulsland’s economy grows, there will be times where regular individuals want to develop a project that is far too big for one individual's income, so they will have to find partners to help fund and build the project. When they pool their incomes together to make this big project, they are starting a company. A company is simply a project that is too big for an individual to make. For Paulsland, the Central Roman Trading Company will be the first company built, and it will allow me to make laws governing how people pool their money together. These laws will involve something called a contract. A contract will be a document that the different people put together that shows how much they are putting into the company and how much profit is then given to each person and the company, along with a lot of other details. The contract must be approved by a chief before the company is made to make sure the contract isn’t insane. I suspect that there will be a lot of learning issues, but I hope in time it will be worth it even if it's just companies doing large projects our government doesn’t have time to do.”

“So you're teaming up with people to make this company?”

“Actually, yes. Do you know how trade with Rome works?”

“No?”

“Since Satavahana has a longer history trading with Rome, I will use them as an example. Somewhere in Satavahana, a farmer harvests spice. Once the spice is harvested, he goes to his local market and sells it to merchants for, say, three copper coins per bushel. The merchants take a land route to the sea and sell the spice for nine copper coins per bushel. They tripled the money they spent. Well, the sailors can only travel to the Roman harbors on the Red Sea once a year, so when they reach the harbor, they sell the spice for at least fifty copper coins. Well, someone there takes the spice from the Red Sea port to a Mediterranean port, and they sell it for two hundred copper coins per bushel. Then someone takes that spice all the way to a harbor near Rome and sells it to the local merchants for four or five hundred copper coins per bushel. The final merchant sells the spice in Rome for over fifteen hundred copper coins per bushel. Every time the spice changes hands, people have to make a profit, and they have to make at least triple what they spent.”

“Trade goods get far more expensive every time they change hands?”

“Yes, exactly. Everyone is making a profit, but it gets more and more expensive to make that profit the closer you get to Rome.”

“So then, what's the point of the Roman Company?”

“The Central Roman Trading Company. The point is that Paulsland ship owners can sign up to join it, and instead of buying merchandise in Paulsland and selling it in the Roman Red Sea port, they will get paid a flat rate to ship goods to the Roman harbors on the Red Sea. The Paulsland shipowners are agreeing to join the company because they get guaranteed pay from the Central Roman Trading Company, whether their trip is profitable or not. Then your job will be to take those goods and bring them to Alexandria to sell to the merchants there. In time more Paulsland people will get ships on the Mediterranean and ship your goods from Alexandria to Rome. ”

“Why?”

“Well, in Paulsland, the Central Roman Trading Company buys a bushel of some random spice for three coppers. Since no one is buying and selling it again at the Paulsland harbor or the Red Sea harbor when it gets to the harbor in Alexandria, you will be able to sell the same spice for the same price as everyone else, but since it only cost you three coppers per bushel, plus a bit of overhead, you will make a lot more profit. In time when we extend our transportation route all the way to Rome, our profits will be much higher.”

Washington thought about it for a while, then asked, “Dad, are you asking me to do this job because of how much money is involved?”

“That’s part of it. With so much money, it will be tempting for anybody to steal it. There will be processes put in place to make it harder and other processes to encourage everyone to be honest, although there will be some theft. But there is another side to this company. Because the trading company is more or less cutting out the middleman, the company could easily undercut the prices of other merchants. For instance, say the Satavahana merchants bought bushels of spice for nine coppers a piece and came to the Roman Red Sea harbor. To make a good profit, they need to sell their goods at twenty-seven copper coins a bushel. That price allows them to cut the price a bit if they have to and still make a profit. To break even, they would have to sell their spice at eighteen coppers a bushel. Because of how the Central Roman Trading Company does things, you could sell a bushel of spice for nine coppers at the Roman Red Sea port and still make a profit. That would bankrupt all merchants coming from Satavahana. If we were to go to war with Satavahana, the first thing I would have you do is undercut their break-even price and make their merchants go bankrupt.”

Washington was confused and asked, “Why?”

“Because if their merchants go bankrupt, it will mess up their economy. If their economy is messed up, they will not be able to afford the war, and peace terms will come quickly.”

“And you want me in charge of this company?”

“Yes. You feel great guilt when your friends die. If you do your job right and one of the northern nations attacks us, then they will not be able to afford to go to war with us long because you will screw up their economy. You will save your friend's lives.”

Washington thought about his dad's words and thought back to his friends, his brothers who died. Then he thought about the ones who were still alive and what would happen if they faced one of the northern armies. Armies with disciplined soldiers with armor and weapons as good as or better than theirs. If that war came, thousands of his brothers would die. But if he broke their economy, which forced the northern armies to leave, a lot of his brothers would survive.

“I will do it, dad. What's my job?”

“Like I said, you will be in charge of trade in Alexandria when you retire from the army. Right now, I will transfer you to Five Village Island so that you can learn a bit about trade before you are sent up north. Then your job will be to maximize profit in peacetime, and bankrupt our enemies in wartime.”

 

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A note from CJ Fielding

My Patreon stays ten chapters ahead of Royal Road.

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=37485682&fan_landing=true

You can find books 1-4 on kindle unlimited here

https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B08BWQ1CLG


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