Chapter 34 - Francine - Present


“That’s enough Bradford, be on your way, I have heard your offer and will consider it. Mitchell, escort him out of town.” The smoke from my tired people’s pipes stings my eyes. Nearly the whole town sits at the benches around me in the Don’t Mess With Texas saloon. Carl Sr’s red smiling face silhouetted between two men’s shoulders as he spins another one of his yarns. I wave my hand at Mitchell and Bradford, shooing them out of the.

I want to slump over the table and rest, but my people need confidence out of me tonight of all times. Null will show up tomorrow. We will complete construction on The Temple in the morning and Dan still isn’t back. C’est la vie, nothing I can do now.

If we make it through the day, and my flawed plan continues, my Athenian Empire can still be a reality. We completed the Clay Workshop, Sawmill and Waterwheel today. That means my villagers can build at two times the rate with milled lumber, and start constructing sewers and piping for upgraded housing. They can build better farming equipment, more advanced processing facilities and feed more people soon after that.

We will be the biggest Homestead in this part of Incrementum, my people’s relatives flocking to get their own homes and places in the empire, let alone all the players that will come our way. It is unlikely a woodworker, farmer, builder or clay worker could find a better Homestead to advance their craft. We won’t be far behind in smithing and leather working either. If Dan and the rest of the team come together, we’ll have a group of boogie men to keep the wolves at bay.

A thin man, in starting leathers, walks through the door of the packed Saloon, hands held close to his chest and feet up on tiptoes as he twists his body back and forth, trying to touch as little as possible. Could it be?

“Francine, I cannot, I repeat, cannot work in these conditions. I need a tailored suit, an office with clean floors, a window, a desk, a secretary and at least a dozen handkerchiefs, embroidered with the initial CLM.”

I laugh. “Carson Lorvic Montaine, so gracious of you to accept my offer.”

“You knew I’d be here as soon as I read your message, you hawk, don’t pretend otherwise. Now, you promised me a civilized place of business, and control of a currency, treasury and taxation. Where is it?”

“The currency? We don’t have one yet.”

“Well of course you don’t have it, I have just arrived. My office woman! There is no time to waste. We’ll need a mint, accountants, tax collectors, probably the burly aggressive kind, at least to start, an actual physical vault, preferably with traps, oh, maybe spikes? I’ve always wanted my own vault. Yes, spikes as the primary trap. Perhaps Crocodiles swimming in a moat, then spikes, then giant boulders that fall from above...mmm, I will consider it more. But first, a suit and my office!”

I stand up and hug Carson -- I’ve missed him so much. He’s the only person, besides James, I truly enjoyed at our company. Running the finances of our multi-national conglomerate was a challenging job and he did it with such ease and style.

“I’ll let it go this time Francine, only this time, out of respect for your loss, but you know I do not touch.”

He looks down at me and smiles -- he chose an avatar with age, the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes proving him a liar in his distaste for my hug. I gesture at the freshly construct pine chair across from mine and he sits, crossing his legs and leaning into the back of the chair.

“Thank you Carson, James thanks you too from wherever he is. With you, I think we can become an empire, the only way any empire has come to be, through economics.”

“Is there any other way, dear? Where is that scamp, Dan? He can pick out my suit. Did he follow my advice and change his name? Dan is so undignified. Danzel would be better, or Davos. More weight, you understand.”

“Dan’s on a mission for me, Carson, and he did not. As to your accommodations, you will be staying with Gloria Jorgdaughter, her family weaves all of our clothes by hand. I will have our finest builder begin your office at once.”

Carson sniffs, “That will be sufficient. Bespoke suits are my one weakness you know.”


“Well, I do have a soft spot for fine whiskey, so perhaps I have two...”

“And the bevy of women in Helsinki at the conference in 2030?”

“Perhaps a tad more than two vices after all.” He pauses, just smiling and looking at me before leaning forward and placing his hands on the table.

“I know why you are here, my dear. I listened to James’s plans same as you at those long company retreats. You’ve got me here, I’ve never run an empire’s finances and I’m positively tingling with the possibilities, but something’s rotten in the state of Athens, my friend. These don’t look like the founders of Rome, they act like the Senators cowering in fear before the new King of Italy, Flavius Odoacer, in 476 BC, ended the Western Roman Empire. Have the children in this game overrun your borders so soon?”

Leave it to Carson to cut right to the heart of the matter.

“It’s not Barbarians overrunning my borders, Carson. Null Division, the instrument of Decrepit, the God of Death, gave me an ultimatum. Put my town at his beck and call for two game months, building his tools of war, or he does what Decrepit wants, and burns Athens to the ground after killing its inhabitants. Null returns tomorrow, where he will find out I have not chosen to make my town his vassal, returning with his hostage Mary, our town’s teacher. We have taken steps, building a temple to Decrepit’s opposite, Vitalia, Goddess of Life, added some defenses, and I have a team of warriors, my elite, out hunting his allies right now. But still, I have no idea if it will be enough.  If Null does beat my team, and burn this town, that’s it. No more Athens, no more people, the end.”

Carson thinks for a moment and says, “Sounds like you have it under control then. Null Division made a poor decision going against you. You’ll sort it out, Francine, you always do. I’m assuming you are respecting James’s desire not to leverage your fortune to build the empire? Pity. On to more important matters, where are you with the economy here? No currency leads me to believe you are still on the barter system?”

“Not even bartering, every resource and business is state owned and controlled. All produced and collected goods are tallied and fed into my game interface, with help from my right hand Mitchell.”

Carson puts his face in his hands. “You know very well that system doesn’t scale, are you to sit here each day making sure the right goods get to the right people for every task? Must everyone ask you for permission? What happens when you have two cities? Five? Ten? Of course, you know, you were waiting for me to do the work of decentralizing the economy weren’t you?”

“Why would I do any of that when my Lord of the Athenian Treasury can do it for me? Ah, look at this Carson, one of the perks of being in a game.”

You have created a new position in your government, Lord of the Athenian Treasury, Carson Lorvic Montaine

Specify what access Lord Carson should have to your Homesteading interface.

Specify what Lord Carson may decree.

Specify Lord Carson’s lands.

Specify Lord Carson’s revenues.

“Wonderful. Might I make a few suggestions? I need access and control over anything to do with: real estate, taxation, resource gathering, the treasury and state expenses.”

I raise an eyebrow, “Is that all?”

“I will also need as much competent staff as possible, the aforementioned tax collectors and secretary, as well as teams to mine rare minerals for currency and draft laws. The lands and revenues, whatever you decide -- a modest mansion for my leisure hours would be welcome of course.”

“Of course.” I don’t need to spend any time thinking it over, I had Carson’s position outlined in my head a month ago. A notification appears in front of me, quickly followed by all the heads in the tavern turning our way.

Lady Francine the Sharp confirms Carson Lorvic Montaine as Lord of the Athenian Treasury

The position of Lord of the Treasury affords:

  • Access to all information pertaining to: real estate, taxation, resource gathering, currency, the treasury and state expenses.
  • Ability to Issue binding decrees pertaining to: real estate, taxation, resource gathering, currency, the treasury and state expenses.
  • A plot of one hundred acres of forest to the north.
  • 4% of Athenian revenues.

I step up onto my chair, then the table. All the eyes in the tavern, which are most of the eyes in Athens, face me.

“I can see the questions on your faces, my people -- but before I answer them, just know you have my gratitude. I challenge anyone to surpass what we have built, together, in the dirt with naught but our backs, some tools, and sweat this past week. Not only will Vitalia’s temple be done tomorrow, but we have our Clay Workshop, Sawmill and Water Wheel completed. Athens possesses the necessary structures and skills to make this town into a city. That means we move forward on my personal goal to build the Athenian Empire and all the benefits that entail for you, as the founding families.”

Carl Sr.’s round red smiling face briefly warms me before I see Gloria Jorgdaughter’s lost expression drop and stare into her cup.

“I know you must all be thinking of Null Division, Decrepit’s minion, and what he intends to do here tomorrow. I hope Vitalia’s temple brings us safety. I hope my Elite warriors return and defeat Null and his allies. I pray to Vitalia for this, but I do not know it will happen. I, like all of you, know nothing of what the morrow will bring.”

“But I cannot stop, fearful of tomorrow. I will keep pushing forward. I will plan for our future. That is why I have appointed Lord Carson Lorevic Montaine to Lord of the Athenian Treasury. We will explain this more to you in the days to come, but for now, rest easy knowing that when we deal with other Homesteads, when we go to them for goods or they come to us, we will have the upper hand, and it is thanks to Lord Carson that we will have this edge. In the coming weeks, there will be changes to how we distribute the fruits of our labor. Do not worry, it will all be explained, and we will all benefit from the changes.”

“Until then, my people, listen to Carl Sr.’s songs of maidens and jealous gods and dream of a day when we are safe from an angry god’s whims when the Athenian Empire surrounds us in its glory.”


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