Joseph had been coronated just yesterday after the sudden death of his father. He was sixteen, a child for all accounts. Yet there he was. The crown on his head, sat at a long table talking to people older and wiser than himself.
Except one. To his left, his second general advisor, a childhood friend of the same age. His first general advisor, was a woman looking to be double his age, sitting to his right.
A man was speaking, the advisor on foreign affairs? Military? Resource management? Joseph knew none of these people or what they did. Why should he? He was sixteen, not ready to be king. Not so soon.
His friend was keeping a stern expression, hands neatly folded in front of him on the table, trying to keep with etiquette. Trying to be taken seriously. His brown hair was neatly brushed behind his ears.
To his right, the woman was not as bothered by other’s opinions and stared at the new king with concern.
“So, shall we let them die or shall we organize a rescue and risk our own men?”
“In my opinion,” his best friend began.
“I’m not talking to you,” the older advisor glared, “I am talking to the king.”
His friend blinked then glared.
“He is higher ranking than you. I recommend you respect him,” the pointed out. The man glared at her before looking to the king expectantly.
Joseph took a deep breath, “I’m sorry… I’m sorry,” he shook his head.
The woman placed a hand on his shoulder, before gesturing to the young advisor, “Eliot, speak.”
“Thank you, Amie, as I was saying,” he stood up tall, trying to look older than he was, “we would have to risk only five of our men. It of course would be a tragedy to lose five more, but can we merely stand to the side and let hundreds die?”
“Hundreds of people who snuck into our kingdom uninvited, if you paid attention—”
“They are refugees, not criminals,” Eliot interrupted.
“Amie,” Joseph took a deep breath, “your opinion?”
“Either option is justifiable, it’s you’re choice Sire.”
“Mine?” Joseph looked to his hands. If he said no to sending a rescue, he would have the lives of hundred on his hands. If he said yes and it failed, he would have the lives of hundred on his hands plus a couple more.
He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and tried to evaluate the situation.
“We don’t have time, Your Majesty,” the man spoke with impatience.
Joseph’s breath hitched, “I don’t know,” he looked up at Amie.
She nodded, squeezing his shoulder, “send the rescue.”
“The king has to give the order,” the man insisted.
“Must Amie repeat your rank to you?” Eliot crossed his arms, “are you so quick to forget?”
Joseph nodded, “send the rescue.”
Finally, the man left. And the moment the door closed; Joseph began to cry.
“Hey,” Amie knelt down, “it’s okay.”
He shook his head, “I want Peter back in power. I can’t—”
“Peter’s dead,” Eliot interrupted coldly.
Amie whipped the tears from his eyes, “it’s normal to be nervous. But it’ll get better, I promise.”
Joseph shook his head, “I’m not ready for this, I can’t be responsible for this, I can’t—”
“Eliot,” Amie looked to the younger advisor, “get you and the king some casual clothes and go for a walk.”
Eliot scrunched his nose, “we have another four meetings, one of which—”
“I’ll handle them.”
Eliot frowned, “I actually have interest in learning.”
“Trust me there will be plenty of time to learn Eliot, for now, take king Joseph our for a walk.”
Eliot nodded, “yes mam, as you order.” He grabbed Joseph by the upper arm and pulled him towards the door.
They changed into leather trousers, white blouses, and old, ragged cloaks.
They headed out.
“Is it wise for us to be without a guard?” Joseph hesitated, following his best friend.
Eliot raised a brow, a knife appeared from under his sleeve into his hand, “you think I’d let anybody touch you?”
Joseph smiled, “of course not.”
“Good,” the knife disappeared, “don’t forget it.” He ruffled the king’s hair.
“Hey,” Joseph pushed him away, crossings his arms, “careful, I’m not just some prince. I’m your king now.”
“Huh, and no more intimidating.”
Joseph laughed, “I’m sorry you have to miss your first day at work.”
Eliot shrugged, “it’s fine, Amie is correct, there will be plenty more.”
For a while they walked through the crowded streets of Oppida. Carriages were moving up and down, it was market day tomorrow and it took all night to get things set up.
“Do you think I made the right decision?”
Eliot stood with his hands behind his back in a formal position, “you think I would have made the recommendation if it were not my belief?”
Joseph nodded, “what if things don’t work out?”
“Then, we can at least say we tried.”
Joseph nodded, eyeing the soon to be market. He frowned as he stared at one particularly large stand, a centaur was busy loading boxes. He looked skinny. A man bought a whip down on his back, ordering he go faster.
“I though slavery was illegal.”
“No,” Eliot shook his head, “under the current law, slavery is only illegal between those species of the Union. Any species outside of it,” he gestured, “such as Minotaurs, can be enslaved freely.”
“That’s horrifying,” Joseph’s fists clenches, “I hate this kingdom and—”
“Sire,” Eliot frowned, “if I may, if it horrifies you, change it.”
Joseph blinked and stared at his friend, “what?”
“You’re the king. Change it.”
“I can do that?”
Eliot shrugged, “you’re the king.”
Joseph stared at his friend, before grabbing his hands, “brother, will you help me?”
This bought a mischievous grin to Eliot’s face, a nod, “of course.”
Back at the palace later that night, much later. They sat in the king’s quarters, a fire lit, candles lit, the living room was bright, illuminating the many papers that lay on the table.
Eliot was the one locating the many laws on slavery. Joseph limited himself to copying them all down on a separate piece of parchment for simplicities sake. After a long night, they had many meetings, Eliot knew them by heart, but before any of that, they had breakfast, coffee and cakes in the kitchen with Amie.
Amie smiled at the two, “you look much more confident today, Young King.”
“I am,” Joseph said, “and I have made a decision,” he held the parchment in front of him.
“And what would that be, Your Majesty?”
“I want to abolish slavery,” he said. “Create a new law that protect not only the species inside the Union.”
Amie smiled, “well, I see you’ve kept busy. But that’s not possible.”
Amie’s smile faded, “you’re serious?”
“Of course, how can we pretend to have an ethical kingdom while allowing something so obviously evil to take place right under our noses?”
“There’s a lot more to abolishing slavery than creating a new law.”
“Then the sooner we start the sooner we finish,” he handed her the parchment, “we’ve already started. Investigating what’s been done and what needs doing.”
Amie stared then shrugged, “if it is your will, Your Majesty, I will assist in any way I can.”
Joseph looked relieved and smiled back at Eliot who offered a polite nod.
The day’s meeting went by much better than the day before. Joseph was a little shaky and certainly would prefer not to be there, but he was motivated by the idea that he could make a difference.
That night Amie was professional, “first, we have to evaluate how the abolition of slavery will negatively affect the economy. Thankfully, the new tax reform passed recently actually had a bit of foresight and will work for a new slave free system.”
“Great, will we need to pass new economical laws?” Eliot tilted his head.
“Hopefully not, but we may need to move money around, inject and compensate those who will be losing a part of their estate.”
“Is that how we call slaves?” Joseph grunted, “I don’t agree in compensating slave owners.”
“Nor do I,” Amie reassured, “but, slave owners are not a small number of people. Also, people who own slaves tend to be people of power. We don’t want to annoy them. It would be best to compensate them to minimize outrage.”
“This is non-negotiable?”
“No, Your Majesty, I’m afraid not. I will speak to the economic advisor, Pet—Preston will know what we need to do.”
Eliot nodded, “if we’re going to be compensating slave owners, we’re going to need extra money.”
“Well, we always need extra money, Eliot, but what were you thinking?”
“It might be worth negotiating with the other species, Minotaurs, Unicorns, Elves. See if they would be willing to offer us something to help free their species of another risk.”
Amie grinned, “that’s a good idea.”
“Is that ethical?”
“If they don’t want to pay, they can always just join the Union like so many others have? Besides, it’s not like we’re not going to abolish slavery if they don’t pay, just, trying to get some extra resources here, it’ll help move everything along faster.”
Eliot had a good point, although Joseph hated to admit it.
“Me and Preston can take care of the financial part. The compensation, and other nitty witty details don’t worry about that.» Amie looked at Eliot, “could you and the foreign affairs advisor manage deals with non-unified species?”
“Of course,” Eliot nodded, “no sweat.”
Amie raised a brow, “be sure to seek out help if you are in over your head,” she warned.
“I will, but I’m not.”
Joseph nodded, “so… we have a plan?”
“We have an idea,” Amie corrected, “but soon we’ll call it a plan.”
Over the next decade, things moved at a slow pace. Eliot would be negotiating with around three to five species at any given time but would usually take several years to get a deal done. Most of these included resources of some kind, some of them included rights or taxes. All of them profited the kingdom in some way.
Amie did a lot of street research, working out a minimum compensation. Joseph refused to give any more.
“There will be riots.”
“Then, there will be riots,” Joseph nodded.
Amie smiled, “I like your optimism. It’ll be nice for a change.”
Nine years in, the news was published that in exactly one year, Year 10 of Joseph’s Reign, slavery would be abolished.
Slave owners were encouraged to release their slaves early and collect their compensation. A compensation that would be larger today, and at it’s lowest a year from now, null after that date.
Any slaves found after the date of abolition would lead to heavy fines and prison time.
As one would expect, this was not well-met.
Outrage, kingdom wide outrage.
“Well, there’s yours riots,” Amie said from the window of the palace, looking over the crowd with their signs.
The head of security stood at the front door of the palace holding the line.
“Goodness… and I though the compensation was high. What would it be like had they received nothing?”
“If I had to give you a guess, you’d be a refugee in another kingdom or dead.”
“Hm,” Joseph stared. He was twenty-six now, even if he didn’t look older than eighteen, he’d been king for ten years, he was no longer a child. He was no longer scared of his decisions, “well, they’ll get tired eventually.”
Eliot smiled, “let history prove you’re decisions right, Sire.”
“I will, my legacy is safe.”
“Legacy?” the boy laughed, “well, you’re sure leaving some big shoes to fill for whoever comes after.”
Amie smiled at the two, “I’m sure whoever comes next will manage. But for today,” she sighed, “we have an image to work on. This will take a lot of good publicity. Of course, I started preparing for this long ago.”
“I don’t know what I’d do without you Amie.”
“Your head would surely be on a pitchfork,” her comment was nonchalant as she walked down the hall already explaining her new plan.
Eliot smiles at Joseph, “you’re a great king.”
Joseph nodded, “you know, it took a while, but I’m ready to be king.”