Them Richest Who Dare to be Free

Clatan 9, 1015

There’s my chubby little lad,” said Simon as he bent to pick up the baby. “Good mornin’, Andre. Did ye sleep well, m’lad?” He hesitated. “Well — other than those parts when ye were wailin’ fer yer dinner.”

Roma yawned as she got the knife out to begin to chop the peppers and shred the cheese for their morning omelets. Having a newborn in the house somehow never got any easier, even though this was the third time she’d done it. Maybe it was because only one party in the equation ever had any experience in the matter. Roma might think she knew what she was doing — but the baby never did.

And not for the first time, Roma was glad that she worked evenings and nights, not during the daytime. There never were enough hours in the day to get anything done — that was a constant. But during the day, she could let the washing slide or hurry through the mending to catch a quick catnap when Andre and Jemmy were down for their naps.

And … as much as she hated it … maybe there was something to be said for the odd hours Simon kept, too.

Roma was never sure why it was that Simon had to do most of his smuggling at night. She could understand why they might want to do that to get things over the border to Reme, but as far as Roma could determine, Simon had mostly been working on the Glasonland/Camford border. What, she wondered, was it that they needed to smuggle into Camford and Glasonland? Simon was always vague, and when he wasn’t vague, he would tell her bluntly that what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.

He would look so fierce when he said that, too … not at all like he looked when one of the boys was in his arms …

Roma felt herself lean forward, her head begin to droop — she snapped back to focus and rubbed her eyes. “Good Lord …” she murmured …

“Rough night?” Simon asked, and Roma realized he was talking to her.

“Aye — well — ye heard …” Roma rubbed the back of her neck, wondering, as she often did these mornings, just which of her daily chores could she afford to skip, to put off for another day or so.

“Hmm.” Simon bounced Andre up and down. Andre was too little to giggle, but he did coo.

She started to sway again and barely caught herself. “Simon … ye know …” She rubbed the back of her neck. “Maybe … maybe it’s time fer me ter think about … about stoppin’ the waitressin’. Ye know–”

“Roma, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I don’t hardly make nothin’!” Roma interrupted. “Ye’re pullin’ in more than enough fer all o’ us. Maybe if I jest stay home with the boys –”

“Mama stay home?” Jemmy piped in. “With us?”

Oh, no. She should have realize that Jemmy would pick up on that. He was a clever little lad, hearing and understanding more with every day that passed. It used to be that she and Simon could talk about just about anything with him in the room, and he’s scarcely notice. Now — now he wanted a part in every conversation that happened in his hearing. And it was amazing, just how many conversations he could manage to hear.

“Not yet, little laddy,” said Simon. “Maybe someday, when Papa’s made a whole barrow full o’ silver an’ gold coins, yer ma will be able ter stay home an’ play with ye two all the day long. But fer now, she’s got ter go work, so we have money ter be puttin’ food in yer belly an’ clothes on yer back.”

“Money,” Jemmy repeated, as if he was tasting the word, turning it over in his mouth even as he turned it over in his brain. At least, until he seized on something that would be easier for him to understand. “Food? Brekkie?”

“Aye, lad,” replied Roma. She swept the mixed omelets into the pan and hurried with it to the stove. “Won’t be long now.”

“Yay!”

It was hard not to smile when your son was as happy and as carefree as that.

But it was hard to keep the smile for very long when exhaustion threatened to wipe it all away. Roma rubbed her eyes again. She didn’t know how Lyndsay did it: a new baby every other year, keep up the treehouse, work at least as many hours as Roma did at the Onion, and then there was the flower stall.

The flower stall … Roma looked over her shoulder at where Simon was laying Jemmy’s bowl out for him. Maybe if she clarified how she wanted to scale back on work … say she wanted to run a market stall with the pigs and all the products that came from them … surely Simon would see some sense to it then. And market day was only once a week. That would be a good compromise.

And if Simon was serious about wanting it to look like their prosperity was coming from the pigs, shouldn’t they be doing more than slaughtering one every now and again and selling it off to the butcher?

As she was wondering this, a sudden brisk knocking at the door woke her up with a jolt. “Who dere?” asked Jemmy.

“Dunno, lad!” said Simon. “Let me go see!”

The knocking came again. Roma saw — just out of the corner of her eye — how that made Simon start, stare sidelong at the door, hesitate. He touched his sleeve, just once. Then he hurried to the door.

Whatever it was that Simon was expecting, though, it couldn’t have been what he found — for if he’d been expecting it, he wouldn’t have jumped back from the door with a gasped, “M–m’lord!”

Roma was just turning with the finished omelets in her hand. She almost dropped her plate. “M’lord!”

“Good morrow, Goodman Chevaux, Goodwife Chevaux.” Sir Elyan nodded once to Simon and once to Roma. “I have important business to discuss with you, Goodman Chevaux. I have just imparted this news to your brother at my lands.”

And there he stopped, not another word said. Not a “Is this a good time?” or a “I apologize for disturbing you” to be heard. He simply stood in front of Simon, waiting … for what?

“All right, m’lord,” said Simon. His hands had moved to his hips. It wasn’t, Roma thought, too threatening a gesture — but there was something of the bull in the set of Simon’s shoulders, in the way one boot absently scuffed the floor. “What is it ye’re needin’ ter say? I’m sure ye’ve got a lot ter do terday — no sense drawin’ this out.”

Sir Elyan’s jaw dropped. “Er … well … yes, of course.” He fidgeted with his cloak — then started something. “I say — is it not rather drafty in here?”

Simon only shrugged. But Sir Elyan was right — it was often drafty inside the cottage, because Simon never saw much use in making everything tight and snug. “We ain’t gonna be here long,” he would always say whenever Roma brought it up. “An’ when we leave, this house’ll be fer Sir Bors or Sir Elyan ter be usin’ as he sees fit — so why should I be breakin’ me back ter make a nice house fer the likes o’ them?”

“It might seem a bit drafty now,” Roma piped up, “but it’s nice an’ cool an’ breezy in the summer. An’ there’s plenty of time before winter is comin’ ter make things warmer an’ less drafty — ain’t that right, Simon? Ain’t that one o’ yer plans fer this fall?”

After all, Roma thought, even if the plan ain’t ter be makin’ life easier an’ cushier than the nobles than it is already — we can’t be tellin’ them that.

Sir Elyan narrowed his eyes at Roma, puzzled. Then he turned to Simon. “Actually, that was what I meant to discuss with you. You see, come winter, you will not be living in this house.”

“What?” asked Roma.

“What?” snapped — there really was no other word for it — Simon.

“What?” asked Jemmy, and giggled, eager to join in on the fun. Roma grabbed him and hurried him up to his nursery, complete with his bowl and his toy pony, for company. He would be fine up there — and while there were plenty of men, even lords, who understood that the words of a child as young as Jemmy weren’t to be taken seriously … Roma somehow doubted Sir Elyan was one of them.

When she came down again, Sir Elyan was still speaking to Simon. “Yes, it has all been decided. My father and I have determined that the best route for the estate is not to continue the perpetual lease on this cottage, but rather to build new cottages and have you rent directly from us. I assure you, this will be better for everyone.”

Oh Lord! Roma could see Simon starting to tremble, and while Sir Elyan might assume it was with fear at being faced with his lord, Roma knew better.

Somebody needed to step in. “Sir–Sir Elyan,” Roma interrupted, “might I be pressin’ ye ter join us in breakin’ our fast? I made omelets,” she said, gesturing to the laid-out table. “I’ve been told I make awful good ones. An’ it would be a real compliment ter me, m’lord, if ye’d consent ter break yer fast with us while ye explain everythin’ ter us.”

Simon stared at her, his eyes asking, Have ye gone MAD? while Sir Elyan looked Roma’s offering up and down. Then he turned to Simon. “You are only breaking your fast now?”

Before Simon could say anything stupid — like What’s it to ye? — Roma hurried to say, “Oh, don’t be judgin’ Simon fer that, me lord. He’s been up an’ tendin’ ter the pigs an’ such fer hours an’ hours. But I work nights, an’ with the baby …” She nodded to Andre. “I can’t be gettin’ food on the table as soon as I ought, I know.”

“Ah.” Without another word — such as, for instance, “Thank you for your kind offer” — Sir Elyan took a seat at the table. Roma and Simon hurried to follow suit. “You are a very indulgent husband,” he remarked to Simon.

“We-ell,” Simon replied slowly, exaggerating his drawl to almost comic proportions. Roma sighed out, relieved. If Simon was doing that, making fun of Sir Elyan, it meant he’d gathered enough presence of mind that he wouldn’t be decking him. “Well, m’lord … when a man only has one wife ter be cookin’ an’ cleanin’ an’ takin’ care o’ ‘im, an’ not a staff o’ twenty that can all be sacked at once if he pleases, he learns ter keep his wife happy, ’cause that’s the way he’ll be kept happy.”

Sir Bors would have scowled and scolded Simon for his slackness, Roma knew. But Sir Elyan, though his eyebrows went up, seemed to at least listen. “Well. That is one way of looking at it.

“But,” he went on, “doubtless you will wish to know when you are expected to report for work on what is to be your new home. I will expect–”

“Come again, m’lord?” Simon interrupted.

Sir Elyan blinked. “The work you will be doing on your new home. I will require your assistance in order to complete it to … to the desired specifications.”

“An’ how much will ye be payin’ me fer it, m’lord?”

Paying you?” Sir Elyan’s eyes goggled. “Goodman Chevaux, I do not think you understand what it is that I am saying. I am — well, my father is — your lord. This is the labor we are requiring you to do.”

“Ah–so if I do this work fer ye, ye’ll be axin’ fer less from us fer the taxes? Is that how it’s going to go?”

“What? No! That is only for full-time labor in the fields, not for — incidental assistance.”

“But I guess there must be somethin’ I’m not understandin’, then, m’lord,” Simon went on. “Because if what ye’re sayin’ is right — that a lord can jest make his men work fer ‘im, whenever he likes, an’ not give ’em anythin’ in return — well, that sounds like Reman slavery ter me, sir. An’ I know bein’ a serf is so much better than bein’ a slave, so I must be gettin’ somethin’ wrong.”

“Well–well, when you put it that way–I suppose I cannot require to you to work,” Sir Elyan hedged. “But you will, nonetheless. It is, as I said, the only way your cottage can be completed to specifications.”

“Ter–ter specif … M’lord? I’m not understandin’.”

But Simon did understand. Roma could see that in the way his hand was tightening on the fork. He’d be bending if not breaking it soon. She rested her hand on his knee, trying to calm him down, but Simon didn’t even look at him. He stared at Sir Elyan, green eyes wild with barely-banked fury.

Sir Elyan didn’t appear to notice. “To specification. You see, the plan calls for nice plaster on the walls — far nicer than this, to be honest — wooden floors, the best cabinetry you can purchase or make — etc. But this work cannot be completed without your doing it.”

“But I don’t understand, m’lord. This is yer house. It ain’t mine. Why should I work ter make it nicer?”

Sir Elyan blinked. “You’ll be living there. For the rest of your days.”

“Not necessarily, m’lord.”

“No, I assure you, that is the plan. This is vital to the long-term health of the estate. You will not be permitted to move again. And there will be no more freeholds, either.”

“With all due respect, m’lord — ye can’t say that I won’t be allowed ter be movin’. Ye can’t say I’ll be livin’ there ferever. Things can change, ye know. Why, me own sister –”

“I am surprised you bring her up in the company of your lord!” Sir Elyan snapped.

Simon blinked. “Me good sister Toinette, Mistress Brogan?” he asked.

“Either of your sisters! What one did — cannot be spoken of in polite company. The other — what she and her husband did was ungrateful, Goodman Chevaux. Most ungrateful.”

Ungrateful?” Simon repeated, and there was no hiding the disbelief and anger in his tone.

“Yes! Ungrateful! I know for a fact that Lord Pellinore was the making of that family! The first Goodman Brogan was a sot, a useless drunkard. Had Lord Pellinore not intervened and brought the family to Albion, I have no doubt that he would have drowned in his own vomit in some gutter, reducing his widow and orphans to perpetual penury. Instead, beneficent Fortune intervened in the person of Lord Pellinore. He plucked the family out of poverty, provided them with a good farm, skills to earn their bread in spite of Goodman Brogan’s shiftlessness — and what did Goodman Grady do? Why, at his first opportunity, he decided that such a heavy obligation could be cleared with a bit of silver and moved his young family from the shire! That is what I call ungrateful, Goodman Chevaux. And if you cannot see it, then I very much fear that something is entirely askew with your morals.”

“M’lord, if ye’re gonna be talkin’ about askew morals–” Simon forced through gritted teeth.

“But I will not be.” Sir Elyan stood — and then he glared at Simon and Roma until Simon, at least, slowly did the same, Roma following even more slowly. “This is not a conversation, Goodman Chevaux. I came here to relay a simple message. I thought I would favor you by doing so in person; clearly, that was a mistake. However, my message remains: At the start of next year, you and your family will be living in a new home which you will be renting quarterly. If you wish it to be as fine as this house, you will have to work to make it so. I am only required to make it habitable, not luxurious, and I assure you, Goodman Chevaux, that is all I will do.” He extended his hand; Simon reluctantly shook it. “Good day, Goodman Chevaux. I expect to see you on the work site in the evenings, working on your new home.”

He left. Simon didn’t bother to see him out.

Roma took a deep breath. “Well, Simon, let’s look at the bright side–”

“The bright side?” Simon shouted, wheeling to face her.

“The bright side that we’re getting our house ripped out from under us? The bright side that I’m supposed to work, unpaid, to make his bloody property better? The bright side that not gettin’ on me knees to kiss his lily-white arse means that I’m ungrateful? Where’s the bright side in all this, Roma, ’cause I ain’t seein’ it!”

“Simon –”

“Ye want ter know who’s ungrateful? That stupid little shit!” Simon roared. Roma winced. “He lives in luxury off the sweat o’ our backs an’ then he has the gall ter be callin’ us ungrateful when we decide we won’t be doin’ no more sweatin’ fer him! Did ye see that hood he was wearin’? Pure ermine! An’ he calls me ungrateful, when I can only afford one bloody tunic!”

“Simon, please don’t –”

“Don’t? I’ll tell ye what I don’t–won’t–be doin’! I won’t be workin’ a damn minute on that house o’ his! ‘Cause it’s his house! I ain’t usin’ no more o’ me sweat ter put money in his pocket than I gotta!”

“Simon!” Roma snapped. “We’ll be livin’ in that house! I don’t want our kids in some barely-standin’-up shanty!”

“They won’t be there fer long! Can’t ye see that?” Simon shouted back. “If ye think I’ll be puttin’ meself an’ me family under that mealy-mouthed–”

Whatever else Simon might have called Sir Elyan was mercifully lost to history, cut off by Andre’s wail.

Argh! Simon! Lord above!” Roma swore. “Ye’re worse than Jemmy when ye throw a tantrum! At least he don’t wake the baby!”

Simon’s face had gone ashen as he stared at Andre. “Oh, Lord–ye don’t think I scared ‘im, do–”

“Oh, jest sit down an’ eat yer food, Simon! Ye’ve already said enough fer one bloody mornin’!” Roma snapped before hurrying to Andre. And once she had him, she stormed into their bedroom to get him calmed down.

Luckily it didn’t take long. A few pats on his back, some whispered soothing nothings in his ear — a few minutes for Roma herself to take her own deep breaths and let the anger pass — and Andre’s sobs degenerated to sniffles, then whimpers, and finally snores.

Roma put him into his crib to sleep the rest of it off. But she had forgotten to reckon with the fact that anger passing from her would take all her energy with it. Sighing, she trudged to the bed and sat down on it.

Just when she thought she had reached the end of her rope — of course Sir Elyan had to show up and add another twenty feet for her to climb.

And there was no way Simon would hear of her quitting the tavern now. Not when he wanted their freedom or bust. He’d want to put every last spare cent she made into the freedom fund. There would be no resting for her, no break for her now.

And then there was all the trouble and work that would come from moving … Roma sighed.

Well, look at the bright side, Roma, said the impish voice in her mind. At least ye’ve got three-quarters o’ the year before ye have ter be movin’.

She snorted. Then she laughed.

It wasn’t much of a bright side. But at this point, she’d take what she could get.

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7 thoughts on “Them Richest Who Dare to be Free

  1. Ugh. Elyan. I almost don’t even know where to start. Toinette and Grady bought out their indenture. They worked damned hard, earned every coin with Finley trying to take and drink as much as possible, scrimped and saved, and got their freedom, That’s pretty much how this serf thing works.

    If you have worked as hard in a year as Grady worked in the past week, Elyan, I would probably keel over in shock. Everything he and his have they earned, everything you have, like that lovely ermine collared capelet and cloak I see you’re wearing, someone else earned. If there’s a reason why Grady shouldn’t be brought up in your presence it’d be because the idea of hard work and being a decent person has yet to occur to you and might start you thinking. And like Gaston and le Foo, that is a pastime that is better left to people with the brains for it.

    Simon, your wife is run to the end of her rope, you being a dick is not going to help that any. And just because you “won’t be there for long” is no reason not to pay attention to things like drafts. You’ve already lost one child, I doubt being stupid will help you keep the others hale and hearty. And unless you’re ready to buy out that indenture now, you’re probably going to have to go do some work at that house, whether you want to or not, because otherwise you’ll have to spend all that time looking at Elyan’s face glowering at you.

    …I wouldn’t wish that on… Mordred.

    Oh, Roma. Poor girl, things are just never going to be easy for you. I wish they would. But hey, you’ve got cute kids and hopefully things will be better for you soon even if better doesn’t mean easy.

    • Yeah, Elyan doesn’t really understand how the serf thing works … or at least, he has an idea how for it’s supposed to work, and that doesn’t really match up with the reality of life in Albion. In Glasonland, serfs are pretty much stuck for life — stuck for generations. And there’s a whole ideology set up to support this status quo. That’s what Bors bought into, and that’s what he’s taught Elyan to buy into. But in Albion, there’s a lot more opportunity, and the serfs that came over have caught onto that. They want to move up and out, and people like Elyan and Bors are freaking out at the possibility.

      And to Elyan, it doesn’t matter that Grady worked really hard to earn his freedom. In his worldview, working hard is what serfs are supposed to do. (See: the three estates.) Society is built on the backs of their labor. He doesn’t see a problem with that. What he sees a problem with is the serfs working for “personal” gain, rather than the good of the whole society.

      But it’s funny how “what’s good for society” tends to be “what’s good for the lords,” at least in his blinkered worldview.

      And yes, Simon is being a dick here. Not as much of a dick as Elyan is being, but a major dick. He needs to give Roma a break, and he needs to put some work in on that house if he wants to make it comfortable for himself, Roma, and the kids. But I don’t see him doing that anytime soon. Elyan and Bors can’t force him to do it, and Simon knows that he’ll get a habitable house out of them either way. He’s willing to see if he can out-stubborn them, and damn the consequences.

      But it’s Roma and the kiddies who will be suffering most in all of this. Of course.

      Thanks, Andavri!

  2. I hate to actually agree with Simon, but this new de Ganis edict does ring of slavery. The Chevaux family has to leave their home, move into a new one with different terms, and Simon has to work for free if he doesn’t want it to be a shanty? Typical of Bors to “benevolently” decide to re-house the serfs in his favor but have demands beyond his own means. The best cabinets Simon’s unpaid labor can buy? Oh, the generosity. This all sounds like an excuse to brag about how great a lord he is to his peers.

    Marriage hasn’t changed Elyan too much yet. It’s none of his damn business when they eat breakfast. Even from the most strict viewpoint, his serfs aren’t starving themselves out of his family’s investment, so what does it matter? And, when they’re nice enough to share what they have with this finely dressed fool who doesn’t need it, he insults Simon’s family. So much for polite company.

    I like Roma’s market idea! If it would match or exceed her income and give her more rest and time for the children, why not? And she’s right in thinking it would make the pigs story look legitimate if they looked ambitions. My gut says dunderhead will reject it, though. And the noble dunderheads might try to prevent it, so they don’t have an “ungrateful” family on their hands.

    • Actually the new houses were Elyan’s idea, not Bors’s. He’s using Tamsin’s dowry to build them, and counting on his serfs’ unpaid labor to make them nice. (From the outside they are pretty nice, if I do say so myself, having built them and all. There’s a lot that you can do to make a serf’s cottage pretty on the relatively cheap.) The reason for this is so that the estate will get another steady source of income. And because it’ll be relatively small (as opposed to the lump-sum payment that comes from building a new house), Bors won’t be encouraged to do anything stupid with the money.

      Plus, as was the case when I moved the Pelles family, I have gotten to the point where I can no longer stand the Chevaux lots and desperately want to make a change. PLUS this gave me an excuse to use all of Sunni’s cottage furniture!

      Elyan was mostly sneering about when they ate breakfast because he assumed (not entirely wrongly) that they’re not going to start the day’s work until they’ve had their breakfast. He’s afraid he’s getting jipped out of their labor. He just failed to understand that since neither Simon nor Roma is working in the fields, that they might have schedules that differ from the typical peasant’s. However, failing to understand is pretty par for the course for Elyan.

      As for the market stall idea … well, I’ve got a market stall already built, so we’ll have to see if I’m ready to start that venture up yet! 😆 But while the noble dunderheads can’t prevent Roma from starting a stall at the market, there are other things they can prevent, and we’ll see that as time goes by.

      Thanks, Winter!

  3. The whole time Elyan was there, I just kept thinking about the time Lamorak and Florian visited Berach and his family. Lamorak may not have been the brightest bulb on the tree, but he was still more than capable of understanding the needs and wants of his people, and acknowledging that they are not his property, and that being grateful does not mean staying a serf forever. Pellinore–for all Elyan dared cite him–was even better. He did his best to make sure that Grady understood his options, all the pros and cons, and went out of his way to make the transition as easy for Grady and his family as possible. That touch, that regard, is what endears lords like Pellinore to their people; they’re still the nobles in the big castle who will never want for anything, but they’ve demonstrated that they’re at least aware of their privilege, and they know that they’re not the center of the universe.

    If I can say one good thing about Elyan’s delivery here, it’s that it’s better than I imagine Bors would have done, and it’s certainly better than Mordred’s sending Barber to tell the Pelles “Oh, FYI, we’re tearing down your house tomorrow, so you’d better get your butts into this unsatisfactory one with all these tacked-on duties instead”. But he could have stood to be much more diplomatic about it.

    And it sounds like a lousy plan besides, or at least in the way they’re executing this. Bors does not have enough money for a mass construction project, especially if he must have all the finest things, and even if he did… forcing all of his peasants out of their current homes and making them work on the new ones for free is just asking for trouble. A smart lord, if he wanted to go this route, would give his peasants a choice–and to some of the less ambitious ones, or the ones who share Bors’s mentality of everyone needing to “know their place” or whatever, or even some who have hopes for future generations but just want to keep their family as comfortable as possible in the mean time… I’m sure this proposition could be phrased favourably.

    But for someone like Simon, who wants more for himself and his family and doesn’t like to be told what to do by some out-of-touch noble in ermine, to be told that not only does he HAVE to go along this, but that he will be in that new house forever… yeah, this is a textbook procedure for How Not to Endear Yourself to Your Peasants. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone takes a torch to these new mandatory houses when they’re at that delicate point of almost-completion, and while Bors doesn’t have to pay for the last line of labor, materials aren’t cheap, and “volunteers” with other specialities aren’t going to be making those finest cabinets; if some disgruntled peasant decides to flip Bors the bird with a particularly fiery finger, that’s money Bors will never get back and sure as hell can’t afford to lose.

    Roma’s right about the market stall, and if they’ve still got three quarters of a year, that should be enough time to fool a clueless idiot like Bors. I hope she starts it up soon, and that it generates the rest of the money they need for the four of them (if they need any more?), and that business is visibly good enough to minimize suspicion. And then, when it gets close to moving time and Bors has to head down here and ask Simon and Roma why they haven’t been working on their house, they can just toss the bag of money to his feet and say that they’ve instead devoted their time to paying off their indenture, and to tell him that they are grateful. Grateful to get away.

    If Bors goes bankrupt, maybe Arthur can give all his lands to Milo? Even without a shred of experience, he’d be one hell of a lot better, especially since he’s got the money smarts of Nicole by his side (and unlike Bors, Milo actually listens to his wife!).

    • A contrast between Elyan and Lamorak + Florian may have been what I was intending here. *innocent face* I’m not saying it was. But … it might have been. 😉

      Yeah, Elyan did do better than Bors would have — certainly better than Mordred sending Barber along to make Betsy’s life miserable did. And he could certainly learn how to endear himself to his peasants, as you said. Elyan will never be a well-beloved lord if he keeps this up — heck, he’ll be lucky to get to “barely tolerated” status.

      As for the financial viability of this idea, again, this was Elyan’s idea, not Bors’s, and he’s using Tamsin’s dowry to finance it. The idea is to get a relatively small but steady income, big enough to be a stabilizing force, small enough that Bors can’t really blow it all on something stupid. (And if he does blow it all, there’s more coming in the next quarter.) Unfortunately Elyan’s idea of what his peasants’ cottages ought to look like outstrips his ability to pay for said idea, so he’s trying to make up the deficit by exploiting the peasants’ labor.

      Still, he could have figured out a better way to phrase this. He could have showed the families the plans and explained to them that he can’t afford to add things like nice plaster and good cabinets … however, if the peasant cares to work on his house himself, Elyan can provide the materials for free. He might have been able phrase it as offering his families the choice in what their living arrangements will look like (what kind of paneling, what color floors, style of cabinets) as long as they’re willing to put in the labor. And for what it’s worth, Pierre is getting this kind of deal — Elyan wasn’t much more tactful in laying it out to Pierre than he was to Simon, but Pierre is willing to do the labor to get a nicer house in exchange.

      Of course the difference is that Pierre expects to live and die in that house and leave it to Basil when he goes, so he wants to make it as nice as possible. Pierre doesn’t have a problem with being a serf for life. Simon does. And therein lies all the difficulty.

      However, I assure you nobody will be taking a torch to the houses. I’ve worked too darn hard on that lot and it’s starting to look really nice. 😉 I won’t be throwing all of my work out the window, as much as it would be fun to make Bors suffer and squirm!

      But yeah, we’ll see if Simon and the family are able to pay off their indenture before they have to move, or if they’ll be stuck in another drafty, sub-par house until Simon can get the cash together. Only time will tell …

      Thanks, Van! 🙂

      • certainly better than Mordred sending Barber along to make Betsy’s life miserable did.

        On the other hand, misery was Mordred’s intention. It wasn’t Elyan’s.

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