“Remember, Barrett, the most important quality of a ruler is upholding peace and justice thoughout the land.”
“I’m not really going to be a ruler though, am I, father? I mean, you govern a few cities, but there are people over you, and then the king… and all of Ashia is basically under control of the Ostain empire, no matter how much they say we are independent.”
Barrett’s father Alexander shook his head full of greying hair. “Regardless of who is above us, we have direct impact on the lives of the citizens of this county.”
“What if a neighboring area has designs on our lands? Do we just cede it to them to stay at peace?”
Barrett’s father once again shook his head. “Only in extreme cases. The first thing that should be done is to prevent them from having such ideas in the first place. If we show that we are strong and united, they will not think it is worth their time and effort to attack us. If it does come down to war, then one must make sure they have the upper hand in strategy and tactics to make sure their citizens can return to peaceful lives as soon as possible, and with the least loss of life. That is just one aspect, though. After all, there are conflicts between citizens as well, and even between the citizens and us.”
“What conflict would the citizens have with us?”
“On the most basic level… taxes. They are necessary for the defense of the county, for roads between the cities, and for managing issues, but while everyone agrees these things are good, nobody will agree that the money should come from them when others could be paying more.”
Barrett nodded. “I suppose so. It all seems kind of pointless when a wizard or warrior could just refuse to follow the law, and we couldn’t do anything about it.”
Alexander sighed, “While wizards in stories might have powerful magic, they couldn’t just flaunt our laws. Most of them won’t be able to take on a dozen trained guards, let alone an army. Even if there were one who could cause a real problem, we would petition the duke to deal with them, and they could send an elite squad to deal with them.”
“What about the very powerful ones? I hear they could defeat an entire army alone, even one with many elite troops.”
Alexander shrugged, “If they even exist, they would not come to cause trouble in an insignificant place like this. However, I doubt they do. Robert, come here if you would.”
The imposing figure of the captain of the guard walked over and stood next to them.
“Robert here is quite skilled, and can take on a dozen competently trained soldiers by himself. However, it took him over a dozen years to reach this level. Even if he had some sort of special training method, he could only be a few times stronger before age would catch up… Anything more than that is just stories that we don’t need to worry about.”
“Oh.” Barrett sighed, and settled down to listen to a long, boring lecture on taxes, the criminal justice system, and a number of other necessary but not terribly exciting things.
Barrett swung the practice sword a few more times. His arms and back were aching, even from the relatively short session. His brown hair stuck to his light skin from the sweat. Perhaps he could do more if he trained more often, but he was busy with other lessons for now. Next year, when he turned thirteen, he would start real training. Though he wouldn’t be a professional soldier, it was no good for a baron’s son to be incompetent in any area. It would be a shame to the Ravenhall name… though his cousin in Triridge did that enough for the rest of them. They tried not to think or talk about that branch of the family too much, though they were occasionally used as examples of how not to govern. Never to their faces, though, on the rare occasions where they came to visit.
“Here is your towel, young master.”
Barrett turned to see Reina. She was his personal servant, though realistically she spent at most half her time working for him instead of performing general duties. “Oh, thank you.”
Barrett should have brought his own towel, but he forgot. Not every time, but enough of the time that it was now regular. She would remind him of what lessons were next, or things he needed to prepare. His father told him not to rely on her so much, but what was the point of a personal servant except for that? Besides, he knew how much the old butler Chariton did for his father.
Reina was the daughter of one of the other servants, and had grown up with Barrett. She was about a year older than him. That and her training helped her to cover a number of Barrett’s insufficiencies, which he was grateful for. He didn’t want to be late for things, but wouldn’t always find his way to a lesson on time without her prompting.
“You have another lesson soon. You have just enough time to wash up and change into the clothes I left on your bed.”
“Right.” Barrett sighed, “It’s maps today, isn’t it? I don’t know what the point of looking at so many maps is when most of them are barely accurate.”
“I imagine it is because it would be good for you to know all of the countries that might influence us. The same reason you are memorizing all of the names of the nobility. Have you managed to get further than the names of the attractive young women? I might suggest learning at least their father’s names.”
Barrett coughed. “It’s not like… I just had an easier time memorizing the names with portraits, to connect them to faces.”
“Of course. Then I will be bringing you sketches of all the grumpy old men who run nearby cities. I’m sure you’ll be able to remember them then.” Her face remained neutral, but her eyes sparkled slightly with mischief.
“Uhh… right. I’m sure… that will help.”