William looked through the reports on his desk. These were important ones that he had been specifically interested in, and many fewer than he’d had to deal with the year before. He had ministers fulfilling various jobs, and assistants. Some of the ministers were barely competent- but they were given better assistants. William would have rather had some of the assistants in charge and the current ministers out of the picture entirely, but that wasn’t easy to accomplish. At least none of the ministers were totally incompetent- just not as good as William would have liked. However, if he could repay debts by appointing people who were only passable to certain positions, he was content with those results for the near future.
Now William had more time… time he spent at various parties full of lords and merchants. The enthusiasm to have him appear would die down as time went on, but William found himself very busy with social engagements. Sometimes he felt like punching some of the attendees in the face, but at least he didn’t think about ripping off people’s heads so much. Besides, he’d only actually punched one person- but that was for making inappropriate comments about Lorelei. They hadn’t thought he’d hear them, but William listened to everything said at such parties- no matter how much it made his head ache from the effort of listening to many conversations at once and all of the scheming and plotting.
William finally found the report he wanted. It was a profitability report on the new trading grounds near Ostana. The numbers were pitifully small- of no relevance at all on the scale of nations. The numbers weren’t terribly important. All that mattered was that it had happened. William was disappointed that nobody from Eclea had attended, but he doubted that was an actual choice of the merchants there. National policy in Eclea still forbid ‘demons’ and their goods from entering the country… and William couldn’t find himself blaming them. At least they were officially at peace.
Liaoyang and Ostana were licensing a small number of gevai merchants to enter their countries. They would undoubtedly be closely watched for any faults. William- and the kingdom of Cruonia- also vetted the merchants allowed to go to human lands, and the humans allowed to enter Cruonia. It was a delicate time, and any incidents would strain the peace as a whole instead of being attributed to the individual merchants.
Ustil was a different issue entirely. Any trade with Ustil would have to go through Ostana, or ports in Eclea or Liaoyang. Of course, docking gevai ships in Eclea was strictly forbidden, so that restricted the eastern coast of Cruonia from trading with Ustil by the most direct route. Goods could still flow through central Cruonia and Ostana, or all the way to the west coast to be shipped… but that was much more expensive.
Of course, most trade with Ustil was actually theoretical. For all of their previous insular nature they were the country most open to the idea of trade with Cruonia, but it was least practical. It was theoretically possible to send ships directly to them without entering the waters controlled by Liaoyang or Eclea- but that required entering deep ocean instead of coastal waters. Deep ocean was a problem. There was a reason only only a few islands near the coasts had ever been settled, and beyond that was unknown. The deep sea- and what lived in it- was that reason.
Back on Earth there were many legends of mythical and magical beasts. Dragons, griffons, wyverns, and many other such creatures. In this world, such things were not myth but reality. However, back on Earth all of the myths about sea creatures were almost true- if less exaggerated in size. There might not be krakens that could break a ship in half or swallow it whole… but there were giant squid that were large enough to make it seem plausible. In this world, there were krakens that could sink ships, as told by lucky survivors or those in nearby ships who managed to flee. Even if a kraken could be killed by a well defended boat, it wouldn’t be before it had caused enough damage to a ship to sink it. It was even possible for them to stay hidden under the water and never surface to where they could be attacked. Even the best warriors and most powerful swimmers would be hard pressed to swim dozens of miles through monster-infested waters back to shore even without heavy armor or water-soaked robes.
Though deep ocean shipping had been fraught with dangers even back on Earth, if a ship was more likely to be sunk on its trip than not on every leg of the voyage there was no chance of profitable trade. Thus, ships had to stay near the shore where there were only some smaller magical beasts that were less destructive to ships or less aggressive.
While the merchants of Ustil could travel through Ostana fairly freely, it was still more costly than trading directly would be because of the travel and tariffs paid in Ostana. No matter how open to the idea of trade Ustil was, no merchants would trade without making a profit.
William put down the report. At least it was a start. He could hope for better in the following years.
His attention turned to a figure moving down a nearby corridor. William tracked everyone moving nearby out of habit. There hadn’t yet been any problems, but it was also fun to surprise people by acknowledging them before they even knocked. In this case, the person he was tracking wasn’t passing directly in front of the door to his office. It was one of the diviners and lorekeepers. So far, they had done very little. They occasionally asked questions of people, but they caused no trouble. He wasn’t sure if they were still waiting for the important event that they had spoken of, though he supposed a reformation of the country was certainly a candidate that was worth being around for. Their theoretical collection of knowledge was still secret. William was very curious about it, but wasn’t going to pressure them to try to obtain whatever might be there. Quite frankly, he was happy to have a faction he didn’t have to worry about.
Except, he had worried about what they might do. The end result was that they could do literally anything, and William’s thoughts had no basis for any of it. They didn’t plot, they didn’t have secret nightly meetings- unless several people scribbling down notes at separate desks in a library counted- and they helped keep the library organized. William shook his head. Maybe they did have secret plots, but then again maybe the farmer, or maids, or thatchers or stonemasons or anyone had secret plots. William knew suspecting everyone would lead to madness, so he chose to take them at face value for his own sanity.