There was a time— (CH-1)

“Quickly! Order! This place must be put to order, he’ll be here shortly”


Order was right. The warden’s office to the “Tullianum” prison, located on the fringe on a small peninsula of forgotten Aqualonian controlled land, was in terrible condition. Warden Fulna Pollus enjoyed the security and the discretion that was offered to both his position geographically and his office. Prisoners who were placed under his care were typically the type that didn’t necessarily need trials, and didn’t necessarily need to be released anytime soon. The location of the prison was more then enough reason to keep visitors away, as it sat on the end of a thin peninsula covered in rock and sand for miles. Water was provided by a well of barely drinkable sulfur water, which smelled as bad as it tasted, and both prisoner and guards relied on monthly stocks of cornmeal and grain. This left the only true delicacy to be whatever could be fished by the guards in their spare time. The prison was essentially an island, connected to the mainland by essentially a land bridge 12 miles long. One could literally see the sandy coastline of both sides if standing on the center of the peninsula. Anyone who could escape, simply was left wandering malnourished for a stretch of twelve miles, with unpotable water in viewing distances on either side of them. Not a single tree or shrub to hide behind, and only to be run down by dogs and guards. This was not a place for prisoners to be held, this was a place for prisoners to be forgotten. That of course, was what Fulna Pollus enjoyed most.


Fulna Pollus enjoyed the idea of being left alone, and kept out of mind of his superiors. He was allowed to run his prison as he saw fit, which is to say quite profitably. Security was not a terrible concern, because as long as the prisoners were fed only enough to survive, they were to weak to resist. So, he only had to pay half the guards he was alloted to hire. Which meant more coin in his pocket that his superiors need not know about. The rations of food, that were alloted for the non existing guards were simply sold at reduced price to the caravan that brought him the food stuffs to begin with, to be sold elsewhere at market price. Weapons, uniforms, beds, chairs, even soap, all items meant for the non-existing guards and even basic items for prisoner hygiene were sold back to the caravan delivering them. Any price worked well, because it was nothing but profit. The few prisoners that were kept healthy in the whole enterprise were perfect slave labor, requisitioned and taken by the guards to do any manner of work or deed. A tightly run business, that was getting its first visitor in a very long time.


“Open the gate!” Echoed a shout from outside the window into the warden’s office.


“He is here! Why didn’t you tell me he was here already?!” Pollus quickly struck with of the guards with a very weak slap of a hand adorned with numerous rings tightly clinging to fat fingers. He quickly waddled over to the window, quickly looking out it and catching a glimpse of a long red cape fluttering behind a white stallion as it cleared the massive gate to the Tullianum. His eyes then scanned the horizon, seeing the dust trail of a long train of silhouettes walking in single file, escorted by several men on horseback.


“All hail, Duke of Achaea, Lord Fibreitus Victas!” Echoed a herald’s booming voice up the spiraling stairwell, from the entrance to the keep. Pollus simply fidgeted in response, moving from one side of the room to the other, unsure as to what should be the next action in preparation of the entrance of a noble to his prison. His concern and concentration was quickly interrupted by the doors being burst open, as Lord Fibreitus Victa stepped into the room as if he not only owned it, but walked through it every day of his life.


“Fulna Pollus, I presume. I’ve heard so much about you.”


It wasn’t really a question or something that required a response. It was more just a statement to let Pollus know three things.


Yes, I’m well aware of who you are.


Yes, I’m well aware of what you are up to.


Yes, I understand you’ll be doing exactly what I say.


Pollus simply responded with a quick reflexive nod. His nervous over-enthusiasm caused the flab on his chins to flap against his neck. He then held out his hands gesturing toward the empty chair in front of his lavish polished oak desk. Lord Fibreitus Victas, without a word accepted the courtesy and quickly took his seat, leaning back comfortably and held out a hand non-chalantly to the side which was quickly graced with a fresh chalice of wine for him to drink.


“Fulna, I’ll be brief because my time is short and there is a war still left to be fought, and spoils still to be had. I require your assistance in a matter, that I’m sure you will have not a problem handling.” Pollus while walking to his seat simply coughed into a balled fist, and could hardly studder out a question or objection before Victas continued. “As I’m sure you have no doubt heard, my campaign to the East has brought me some tremendous victories, however not without its problems.”


“Logistics. Logistics has always been the crutch in every war, without food to feed the troops and water to quench their thirst you are at a stand still. Paralized by the wooden wagon wheels that are stretched further then they can support. So, here I am, except its not an army that I’m weighed down with, its the spoils of my magnificent victory.” Pollus simply starred ahead at Victas, the only sign that he was paying attention was his head tilting to the side like a confused animal unsure how or even if to respond.


“Recently I’ve had an entire brigade surrender…Surrender by Mitra! Not even a drop of blood spilled in the siege.” Victas preened himself a moment, adjusting his hair in his proud moment to a man who knew little more about war then it was an affair he could make a profit from. “So now I’m left with prisoners to be ransomed back to the enemy once this whole thing is done and over with.”


“OOooooooooOoo,” added Pollus, his first contribution to the conversation.


“Yes, so now you see my problem. I can’t very well keep them tied ankle an wrist for months on end, only to be half starved and near death. They won’t get even a quarter of what they are worth.” Exclaimed Victas, slapping his knee and taking a large sip from his chalice.


“But…My Lord…I’m already at capacity, I don’t know if I could support an entire brigade…thats hundreds I–” Before Fulna could blubber any longer he was quickly cut off by a loud “Tssskk” from Lord Victas followed by a discarding wave.


“Fulna…Fulna. You speak as if I haven’t had days worth of traveling to decide how this should be carried out. This province is under marshal law, which means I am within my right to arrest and pardon whomever I see fit. These men in my charge are prisoners of war to be confined and your prisoners here currently…At least the smallest offending ones… Are here-by pardoned to make room for mine.” Lord Victas smiled proudly back at Pollus knowing that the only acceptable response would be to celebrate his plan of action.


“I…I see my Lord,” stuttered Fulna “But don’t you think the pardoned could better be served, to pay off their crimes as perhaps slaves–maybe indentured servants? Seems like a waste to just…let them go”


“Don’t you think I’ve considered that, you oaf?” Cursed Lord Victas “Truth of the matter, is the plebs find me a bit heartless. I bring them victories, and they whine about the damage my soldiers do to their farmland, and the tribute I demand for liberating their cities from the aggressors. Can you -believe- some of them even call me Lord Victas the Cruel.” Mumbles a moment to himself, “To be remembered in history as ‘the cruel’…not ‘The Triumphant…or even “The Bold”…”


Lord Victas quickly pushes himself up from the chair raising his chalice up high, “No, we’ll release some of these prisoners and tell the people– In light of -My- great victory, these men have been inspired to change their ways, guided by my valiance in battle they have decided to renounce their ways of debauchery and sin, to become productive members of our glorious society.”


Fulna simply clapped and nodded to Lord Victas. What could he do? Other then argue a cut of the price of their ransom, negotiate for more stocks of food and supplies to keep and feed them, and salaries for additional guards.


There would be plenty of time for that later.


 


 

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