The Imperial Ambassador had never before eaten so sumptuously. The private dinner with the Lord of Inoria and his top minister was more than he could ever have asked for. Steamed oysters with native sweet grass on the side, the smell of roasted wild ferrin birds that would make even the richest noble drool, along with colorful salads and a full glass of expensive mead by the name of The Scavengers Blessing—it was heaven on a table. After an hour of small talk, and eating slowly and enjoying every bite, the Imperial Ambassador tactfully decided to switch to serious matters before dessert arrived.
“I cannot thank you enough, Lord Dennis, for welcoming me to your city. The reputation of Inoria is well known to Tyrians,” he said.
Yorra, the Minister of Continental Affairs, wanted to push the Ambassador for more information while his Lord had a mouthful of ferrin.
“The pleasure is ours, Ambassador Jerrin. How goes the campaign on the Chefron city states?” he asked.
“We’ve been encountering less resistance than we thought,” Jerrin said, picking his words carefully. “However, there is a problem that is out of our control.”
The Lord downed his glass of Scavengers Blessing, carefully wiped his mouth and stroked his beard in contemplation.
“What problem can the mighty Tyrians have that is out of their control?” his voice alone could explain why he was the master of Inoria.
“Many users of magic fled to Ersidon when we arrived at Chefron. We’ve blocked the border to Ersidon, and we now control all roads that lead to that spiteful empire. Still, these scheming Arcons pose the greatest danger to us. They rally others to their rebellion. And now, they all flee to Inoria and plan their attacks behind your high walls,” the Ambassador held his gaze at Lord Dennis, “Do you really wish to have petty rebels spoil the relationship we have?”
The Lord didn’t blink.
“Our gates do not open for everyone. We know of everyone who comes in and out of our city. If you have specific evidence of criminals eluding our Gate Wardens, you may provide it to us at your earliest convenience,” he said. “Otherwise, we will continue our border policy as we please.”
Yorra chimed in.
“Ambassador, you can’t deny that there’s going to be a war between Ersidon and Tyr soon. Why should we choose to aid Tyr, but not Ersidon? Both of your empires are fighting for this continent, and Inoria will stay here regardless of who wins.”
Ambassador Jerrin smiled.
“The Ersidoni can’t hold this continent. Who will trade with you after the war is over?” he gestured at the food, “How will you provide for this? Do you want to convince your citizens that tough times for Inoria are approaching, or perhaps you prefer to tell them that you will prosper despite what wars go on beyond your high walls?” Jerrin took a generous sip of mead, and continued after a pause. “I’m sure your people will love that. They’ll support you if they have food on their table. Take that away, and they will look for alternatives. Perhaps the rebels from Chefron will seek to plot your demise if they see you as weak. Help us get rid of this problem that we both share.”
Lord Dennis closed his eyes for a moment. When he reopened them and looked at Jerrin, it was as if he thought through countless possibilities, and now had confidence in an answer. But before he could say a word, his Minister spoke.
“Inoria has always been independent. We are self-sufficient, and can prosper without your trade,” his words came out softer in the end of his sentence, and he realised he spoked out of line. The Lord scowled at him in a manner that didn’t show simple anger, but was similar to a parent gravely insulted by his child.
“Minister Yorra, you may be excused. I must remind you that your role here was advisory, not executive,” said Dennis.
Not wishing to cause any more trouble, Yorra stood up, extended his hands with palms upwards and slowly bowed his head, showing respect. When he left, Lord Dennis ordered dessert to be served.
“Ambassador, I do not wish for Inoria to be a home for rebels. Send us what information you have on the rebels, and we will deny them entry to our city. In exchange, Inoria is to be granted favorable trade arrangements with Tyr, and in the event of a siege by Ersidon, the Tyrian Empire will not stand idle, and will assist in breaking it. Do we have an agreement?”
“Yes,” Jerrin said without hesitation. “My assistants will send you the book of names that we have. It’ll show the names of rebels and their associates. You need only to deny them entrance.”
Two waiters came into the room, each with a platter full of desserts. Soon, their discussions turned to lighter things, and even musicians were called in to play something uplifting and cheery. The Lord and the Ambassador joked and laughed while eating delicious cakes, squares and rolls.