“Alright, I officially call to order the town meeting,” Mary announced. The Guild-Master stood at the head of the table being used for the council’s purposes. “Allow me to begin,” Mary said, “I am Guild-Master Mary and the representative of the Adventurer’s Guild.”
To her left, James sat with a blank look on his face. Alfred, who was standing behind the prince, gently touched James’ shoulders. James shook his head and stood up. He bowed. “Prince James of the royal family of Duran,” he said.
To Mary’s right, a surly looking old man also bowed. “Sir Orso, head of the temple knights and standing in proxy to Priest Horace.”
The voices continued down the table: Enchanter Stevins, Witch Helen, Alchemist Forcus, Representative Gran of the elves, and the newly appointed head of the merchants Grecian.
Nodding her head, Mary continued, “Alright everyone, thank-you for coming. As you all are aware, this council was formed due to the crisis that has befallen this country. Our people are scared, and we need leaders such as you to help maintain the calm necessary to fight against our enemies. So once again, I thank you all for coming.”
“The royal family lends its support to this council in facing the days ahead,” Prince James said resolutely.
Sir Orso spoke up next, “Priest Horace was unable to come due the obligations of our faith, but he wanted me to convey the church’s full support to you Master Mary. We are committed to overcoming this challenge.”
“We enchanters also pledge our support,” Enchanter Stevins announced, “the enchanting rivalry between my friends Helen and Forcus has been set aside in light of recent events.” Helen and Forcus bowed their heads in agreement.
“The elves stand with the town,” Gran said elegantly, “We will do all we can to assist.”
“The merchants I represent are of the same mind, however I must beg your forgiveness Master Mary as I must bring forth our first topic of crisis,” Grecian said quickly.
“I understand, what is the matter?” Mary asked.
Grecian stood, “Fellow council members, as you all know I have been chosen to lead the merchant’s guild within this town. As such, there are several problems that must be discussed at once: the food supply, the value of currency, and people’s faith. Each problem is related to the others.”
Using a magic orb from he brought forth from his robe pocket, Grecian summoned up a magic image of several stores in the town. “Due to the current crisis, we have been cut off from the farmlands and foreign imports that previously kept this town supplied with food. As such, the current stores will only be able to keep prices low for about a month before we are forced to raise prices to deal with the declining stockpile. This is the most pressing issue, however the worth problem facing us is the worth of our Nehatran currency.”
This announcement brought confused and shock murmurs to the table.
“What are you saying?” James spoke up immediately, “how could you say such a ridiculous thing? Our country’s currency is . . .”
“Therein lies the problem my prince,” Grecian interrupted, “our country no longer exists. The coin we have no longer possesses political or financial backing anymore. Right now even if we survivors managed to escape this predicament, we would all be poor beggars on the streets.”
“That’s utterly outrageous!” Alfred bellowed, “Do you not see your prince and soon to be king sitting right before you? How could you possibly say there is no financial or political backing? Are you trying to cause a panic here, you money-grubbing merchant?”
Grecian fixed Alfred with such a glare the man backed off, “I know what you are thinking. No, I am not acting like the greedy Wendle who betrayed the king. The fact of the matter is that ‘your’ prince has neither land nor coffers by which to support his currency. Without the non-minted gold of the treasury to serve as collateral, we are destitute.”
“But Master Grecian, surly you cannot be saying our bronze, silver, and gold coins are completely worthless?” Mary pressed.
Grecian waved his hand, and the images of stores were replaced by the image of a gold coin.
“It’s not so much the gold that is worthless,” he explained, “as the coin the gold is made into. Gold, as you are all aware, is the best material for creating magic items. It’s conductivity of mana is only outmatched by rare materials such as magic silver, better known as mithril, enchanted gold, better known as orichalcum, or magic diamond, better known as adamantium. Because of this, few, if any, countries use pure gold coins; they instead opting to cover some other metal with a gold layer. This series of coins is then backed by a larger stockpile of pure gold that can be used as collateral against it. This way, countries can have the choice of minting more gold coins or using their gold to create tools and weapons. To prevent forgeries, each country uses a magic seal stamp to imprint their gold coins with their mark, which can’t be replicated without the seal.”
“Now,” Grecian continued, “With the entire country of Nehatra decimated, the magic stamps used to imprint our currency lie either stolen or destroyed in the ruins of the city-states. Without the gold-standard collateral within the city-states to give the coinage value, the coin is worthless in its current state to other countries unless it is melted. The magic stamped into the coin’s image cannot be easily melted away, so the gold would cost both time and effort to melt and reprint; in other words, more gold. One of our current gold coins would cost at least 50 silver to melt down and be remade into another country’s currency. Thus, our gold is worth only 50 silvers at best to the rest of the world. To make matters even worse, there would be political and economic pressure to reduce that value even further to the point that our gold would be worth maybe only a single silver. That is not counting the silver coins or bronze coins, which would be little better than waste, since they are also cast over another metal.”
Prince James thrummed his fingers on the table, “I see. What of the other problems you mentioned? The value of our currency is disheartening to hear, but surly not a problem at this time?”
Grecian inclined his head toward the prince. “As I’ve said, we as a people only have a limited amount of food brought in from the small farms around town and the provisions brought by the refugees. As ordered by the adventurer’s guild, we merchants purchased all the provisions at a fair price from both the refugees and the elves and have accounted for at least 3 months’ worth of food; four at best. When people realize how much food we have, many will begin to stockpile as much as possible. This will drain our reserves dry. This is why we will be forced to raise the price of food to counter that. This, in turn, will lower the faith of the people within this town. Gods forbid any of them learn the value of our coinage as well; we would be facing riots on the streets if the citizens thought they were poor and soon to be starving.”
“Grecian, what you say is very troubling,” Mary began after a moment of thought, “Ignoring the possibility of invasion, then you are saying we have at best three or four months before we all starve AND if we do escape we will be worth nothing. Would our allies not give as aid?”
Grecian shrugged, “We could rely on the various nobility trying to raise their image by giving us supplies and relief aid, but their interest is always easily distracted by the next interesting thing to do. With the current status quo, though, helping us is not productive. Any accusations against their treatment of us would likely be countered with arguments that their agreements were not with us specifically.”
“The church would surly lend you aid my prince,” Orso spoke up, “Our magnanimous assistance is known universally!”
Prince James fixed the experienced knight with an irritated gaze, but said nothing. With a slight nod of his head, however, Alfred spoke up.
“Sir Orso, you cannot believe that your church would lend you aid for free? My prince would be completely beholden to your wishes until such time as he repaid your ‘help’. Besides, the church of Nehatra was also destroyed was it not? That was the only branch of your order open to the worship of every god. Any help we’d receive would be from a monotheolithic church who would seek to convert us.”
Orso coughed awkwardly, but had to nod his head in response. As someone who served the goddess of the forest in an area dominated by the god of the plains, he understood well the thought of religious persecution and conversion.
“Though these matters are important,” Mary interrupted, “Let us think of how to rebuild after we save ourselves first. Master Grecian, how would you go about fixing our current problems?”
Grecian turned his light imager off and scratched his head.
“Our currency issue isn’t too big of a problem for the moment,” he admitted, “So long as we remain here, the current coinage holds value. A solution, and problem, can be found at the same source.” With that said he removed a gold coin and placed on the table.
Helen looked over and raised an eyebrow, “This is a gold coin from the dungeon, is it not? I can sense the residual magic.”
“You are correct Lady Helen,” Grecian admitted, “This is indeed a gold coin from the dungeon. However, take a close look at its engraving.”
“What are you talking about?” Gran asked curiously, “The coin holds no engraving.”
“That is correct,” Grecian agreed, “This is one of the gold coins dropped by a dungeon boss or rarely found in a chest. Curiously, it holds no magic engraving, yet is complete gold. It’s quite outrageous given that no one uses solid gold coins. However, what makes this coin so important is not only being complete gold, but also being free to be engraved by any magic stamp on the continent. In other words, this is THE most valuable gold coin in the world.”
Everyone stared at the gold coin in surprise.
“The same applies to the bronze and silver coins in the dungeon,” Grecian continued, “Which in the long run would make us all extremely wealthy so long as we didn’t spend it incorrectly. Imagine, trading pure gold coins to a country that each could be minted down into at least 20 gold coins each. We’d be rich beyond compare! We are fortunate in that regard, as only a few dungeons throughout history have had unstamped currency. Wendle knew this and kept it a secret within Duran so he could make the merchant’s guild an incredible amount of money. Though, in retrospect, he was planning on keeping the money for himself after betraying all of us. The stash is likely hidden in Duran somewhere.”
Alfred took a second look at the gold coin, a gleam in his eye.
“So, now we are no longer poor,” Grecian continued, “Instead, we have an ever increasing amount of gold, silver, and bronze being infused into the town’s economy with no way to remove it. This is also quite problematic as it will cause all prices to rise due to inflation created by overspending. I recommend setting a new tax on the dungeon divers to prevent this. Announce this as a temporary tax and use the money to incentivize projects for the town’s sake.”
“I could use the gold for my experiments,” Helen announced quickly, “My research as really started to pick up speed, but I require funds to continue. If I am successful, then I could provide a new type of enchantment that would function against demons!”
At Mary’s questioning look, Stevins shrugged. “I can’t too sure of her success,” he admitted, “but if the goal is to lessen financial burden I see no reason to deny Helen this gold to waste on her research. Every one of her failures would result in destroyed gold.”
Helen shot Stevins a frown, but said nothing.
Mary frowned, “This will not make the adventurers or miners happy, but I see your point. Helen, I will have someone deliver the gold to you once we begin taxation. And the food shortage?”
“There is nothing we can do. Unless the elves . . .” Grecian looked over at Gran.
Gran shook his head, “While we elves could enchant the ground to rapidly produce crops, it would cause irreparable damage to the soil and turn the land into a barren wasteland. That is against our nature as descendants of the fey.”
Prince James slammed his hand on the table, startling everyone. He glared angrily at Gran, “How can you say this? You are condemning my entire people to starvation and internal warfare! Turning a land barren is no problem as long as we survive. We can repair the damage later, after surviving this disaster. Yet, for some tradition you sentence us to starve? I know you elves can live on the barest of resources, but my people need to eat!”
Gran shot James a grimace, “I am not playing to some mistaken belief of elvin supremacy. Do you have any idea what would happen to MY people if we violated our oaths as protectors of nature? We would be cast out and turned into hideous creatures of night! Would you condemn us elves, then, to exist forever as evil monsters?”
Mary cleared her throat, “Gran, they do not know or understand. I ask that you clarify this matter so no hard feelings are left behind.”
Gran instantly turned apologetic, “Excuse me guild-master. Forgive me members of the council, but this is a highly sensitive topic among my people. However, even if we gave your people food, Prince James, the end result would be only a temporary fix. While your people may have another month or two, mine would likely end up killing all of you and joining the Empire as monster slaves.”
James slowly nodded, but still looked unsatisfied. “Fine,” he said,” that still leaves us with the problem of food, and I will not condone to consumption of the dead.”
“We could always try eating a slime,” Forcus joked, “See if it’ tasty.” The room was filled with morbid chuckles.
“We’ll have to find another way,” Mary decided, “Now, are there any other issues we need to discuss?”
Alfred leaned down and whispered something into Prince James’ ear. Prince Jame looked startled at first, then thoughtful as Alfred continued. When Alfred finished talking, Prince James nodded in agreement.
“My prince wishes to pass a motion,” Alfred announced with a winning smile, “He wishes to address the concerns the townspeople have over the lack of military presence here in town.”
“Your prince can talk, yes?” Orso said gruffly, “Let him speak his mind then, second.”
Prince James stood, “My apologies Sir Orso. Alfred is my most trusted adviser, and he is the far more elegant speaker when it comes to matters such as these. As such, I am used to allowing him to speak on my matters. May he continue?”
Orso snorted, “You don’t need my permission son. I may not be from Duren, but I was just showing some concern over allowing the left arm to speak for the head.”
“Rest assured Sir Orso,” Alfred said with an unchanging face, “I would never betray my prince. As I was saying, my prince wishes to utilize the various officers who survived Duran’s attack. I push that we install them as the leaders of the guard so that military order can be established in town. The townspeople would feel a lot safer knowing a trained army was protecting them rather than a group of volunteers.
Mary shook her head, “That would not be right. As you say, the guard is mostly made of volunteer adventurers and townspeople who have accepted a reward payment from the guild to patrol and protect the town. Asking them to serve as part of a military effort wouldn’t result in many volunteers.”
“Not asking, conscripting, “Alfred corrected her, “In desperate times like this, it is important to have clear order and training to combat any and all threats to the peace. Your system was adequate enough for the previous peace, but this is war guild-master. Please, for the people.”
“I agree,” Grecian spoke up, “A show of military force would certainly calm the people and keep them from being overly fearful.”
Gran frowned but said, “I know of a few elf officers. I must put forth they receive the same privileges and authority as their human counterparts. I worry about the rising tensions against my people, especially from the refugees.”
The three enchantment users had no opinion and waived their right to decide.
Orso nodded in agreement as well, “When it comes down to a fight, all you can rely on is your training. I also agree with this motion.”
Mary frowned. At this time, the town was under the Adventurer’s Guild’s authority and most everyone was paid by the organization. What Alfred had put forth was equivalent to removing one of her hands and giving it to the prince’s faction. Unfortunately, she could no longer wield her authority with the other factions now siding with the prince. She had no choice but to concede this fight to James.
“Alright then, the motion is passed, now . . .” Mary tried to continue.
“Just one more thing,” Alfred interjected again, “We need to prepare for his highness’s royal ascension ceremony. It is of great importance that we . . .”
Alfred paused as he observed the other representatives disinterest, “The people would be overjoyed to know they have a true ruler that is willing to guide and protect them. Surly you all can see this?”
Grecian waved his hand, “The ceremony would have no meaning. It would be fruitless and worthless waste of time, gold, and security setting it up. The Merchant Guild has no interest.”
Everyone else was of the same mind. Alfred frowned, but before he could continue Prince James shook his head.
“I appreciate your effort Alfred,” James said, “but let’s just focus on helping the people for now. I’m sure a celebratory coronation would be more welcome then one while we are under siege.”
Alfred said nothing, but nodded and withdrew, his face neutral.
Mary looked around before banging the table again, “Alright, this meeting is adjourned. May we live to see the next.”
She waited until the others were gone before she summoned her assistants, the receptionists.
“How did it go?” Ally asked her when the three girls had entered the room.
Mary rubbed her forehead, “Well, the new Merchant Guild Master has a better head on his shoulders than his predecessor. It’s clear he’s also into profit, but at least he possesses a more ethnic and moral code in his heart. So long as it’s worth his while and is for the greater good, he will follow through whole-heartedly. However, the prince’s adviser has clearly begun working his way into creating a faction for himself and his lord. That smooth-tongued whisperer successfully stole control of the town guard from our guild.”
Bella frowned, “So now the prince controls the only real protection force in town besides the church’s then. That’ll be troublesome.”
“More so now that they plan on conscripting the men,” Mary pointed out, “I doubt they have the means to pay those guards. This could cause more problems.”
“Maybe he did it for good reasons?” Carla asked hopefully, “Not everything done is selfish.”
“Perhaps the prince did so with that in mind, he seems a reasonable sort. From his adviser, unlikely he is the selfless kind. I saw the gleam in his eyes when Grecian mentioned the possibility of a gold hoard in Duran,” Mary dashed Carla’s hopes, “For better or worse, things have begun to change in this town. I can only hope we survive it all.”