Chapter 493 – Tying Up Loose Ends
Tying Up Loose Ends
“A government is at best a necessary evil, and at worst an intolerable one.” ~ Andinaq Auguslo
Kriston had come to submit his report on the Bureau of Internal Affairs — as the department was now called. Lorist initially thought he was there to ask for a bigger budget and more manpower. But such was not the case.
“How did you come up with using the constabulary? I thought you’d want to form a new department.”
“In the old empire, Krissen III felt the garrisons were useless and made mistakes too frequently, so he formed an independent constabulary to patrol the settlements and keep the peace. When Krissen VI came into power, he gave the constabulary charge of solving crimes and combating the spread of underworld syndicates.
“They were also later put in charge of taxes and spying on political enemies of the crown. They were pretty much what you want me to set up now. So I thought we might as well make use of a similar model. Plus, it won’t take as long as setting the bureau up from scratch.”
“Did you forget about the constabulary cage incident at the end of Krissen VI’s reign? They were given too many responsibilities so it could do none of them effectively. The citizens had also become afraid and untrusting of them.
“When the cage incident happened, the entire city took to the streets. Even the nobles, who usually never got involved in protests, much less joined the commoners in doing anything, joined in and demanded the emperor disband the constabulary. The emperor was so furious when he learned what had happened that he executed three thousand of their leaders in a single day and banished every constable and their family from the empire. He only formed a similar organisation ten years later and explicitly limited their powers to managing the cities.
“It’s not a bad idea, mind you, but I cannot let the constabulary get involved in anything other than just doing some basic peace-keeping. Do you know why I decided to form the Bureau?–” Kriston shook his head, “–I need an organization that’ll keep enemy spies off my lands and out of my organizations. I need an organization that’ll stop anything like this rebellion from even coming up as a thought for any of my subjects, subordinates, or vassals. And I need an organization independent of all the others that’ll keep my officials in line and punish them if need be.
“Think of it this way: if the house is a great tree, then I want to make the Bureau a gardening that’ll prune the tree and keep it growing properly. That’ll cut off all the dead and rotting branches and nip any ill-growth in the bud. At the same time, however, it must not have the size and power to take large scale action on its own. It’s fine to reprimand a few solitary officials, but if you need to tackle something that requires a reasonably sized force, then you can just contact the constabulary or the guard and have them deal with it.”
More than anything else, Lorist wanted to avoid something like the constabulary cage incident. It was a well-known scandal on the continent. The constabulary had gained too much power and had become the de facto rulers of the capital — for as long as they could keep the emperor ignorant of their doings. They accused people they disliked or that crossed them of treason left, right, and center, often hanging entire families from the gallows at a time. Countless rich merchants disappeared overnight, families included, their property and estates were seized, and the story would be spun as the constabulary successfully unearthing yet another conspiracy against the crown. People were so terrified they didn’t even greet each other in fear of it being used as an excuse to kill them.
Some nobles came home from their studies in the capital telling stories of hearing wails all over the city at night, like ghosts haunting the streets in search of revenge, especially near the canals. A small group of them went in search of the cause of the wails one night. They stumbled through the underground network of sewage tunnels, following the noise, until they found a stuffy room. Inside it large iron-barred cages hung from the roof, each had a single occupant, most barely any more than a skeleton with skin.
They ran away as fast as they could, their faces looking much like ghosts as well, and told their instructors. The news quickly spread to the citizens, whom were in an uproar. The constabulary could detain people for questioning, but they had no authority to imprison anyone, and yet here they were, locking poor souls up in cages and letting them slowly starve to death and rot away.
The entire city was whipped into a furor and marched in the streets in protest, joined even by the nobles. This had all be done behind the emperor’s back, and he was just as furious when he heard what had been going on. It only took two days for the entire constabulary to be uprooted, their leadership executed, and the rest banished from the empire. Unfortunately, whilst their expulsion rested the hearts of the capital’s citizens, it didn’t make the city any safer. Gangs and syndicates quickly rose to fill the power vacuum their absence created. Krissen VII was forced to reform the constabulary when he took the throne a decade later. It was all fine and well to limit the new constabulary’s power as he did, but he didn’t create other bodies to do the jobs the constabulary was no longer allowed to. With their vigilant gaze keeping rebellions and conspiracies at bay, the emperor’s death years later plunged the empire into a civil was which lead to its eventual break-up.
The rejection took the wind out of Kriston’s sails, but he didn’t give up.
“Your Grace is right. We must learn from the past, but that’s just it. We did. We know how to avoid such a future now. Using the constabulary as the base for the bureau is the fastest way.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against the idea completely. While I won’t allow you to merge the two organizations, you’re welcome to poach some staff from the constabulary. Rather than merging the two to make a massive, bloated new constabulary, just work closely together, making use of each organization’s strengths.
“I have other plans for the constabulary. The Northlands now has 3.2 million inhabitants. We have a lot on our plate to keep them safe. I want to have the constabularies specialize in peacekeeping and law-enforcement. They operate in the open light of day to keep the dominion safe from those who conspire against it in the open. The Bureau, however, works in the shadows to fight those that conspire against me and my people in the darkness. D’you understand?”
“I do, Your Grace. The constabulary will work to keep us safe from small criminals and those that conspire in the open, while the Bureau works against those that move in the shadows or whom the constabulary can’t touch. I’ll go revise my proposal immediately.”
“Hold on. I have another job for you.” Lorist turned to his desk and took out a black folder.
“This has been troubling me for a while but I don’t know how I to deal with it. Take a look. I want nobody to get wind of this. If you have any bright ideas, have Reidy help you out. Return the folder if you can’t think of anything.”
Kriston took the black folder and shuddered.
“I will think with something.”
Lorist waved without a word. When he was alone in the study again, He sighed deeply, a conflicted expression on his face.
An eagle arrived from the bastide three days later carrying news of Irina’s death. He had died from a sudden illness while under house arrest.
Lorist was too busy, so he sent Glacia to handle the funeral in his stead. He also had her bring his second son, Koboshik back with her.
The council meeting lasted five days and the military department’s name was settled by the end. It would henceforth be called the Ministry of Defence. It was also decided that any mobilization of more than ten men without Lorist’s personal order or the Ministry’s stamp of approval would automatically be considered treason. Even people like Charade had to go through the ministry to get permission.
Besides the 220 thousand men who stayed in active service, the rest were declared either reserves or civil defence and lost their benefits and half their salaries. 240 thousand were moved to local garrisons, now classified as reserve forces. About two legions’ worth of garrisons spanned the Northlands, and all the other territories under Lorist’s jurisdiction each had a legion of their own which had to protect every settlement, not one man more was allowed to be hired. With these reforms Lorist had cut his armed personnel in half.
Spiel had finally won a small victory; the military spending was finally less than a third of the entire annual budget. His euphoria was quickly shattered by all the other officials’ protestations. Charade, Camorra, and several other official were dead set against demilitarization.
Their biggest issue was with the constabulary’s downsizing in both manpower and responsibilities. Yes, it had been involved in the rebellion, but they all considered it an indispensable part of the house’s forces. It was the only force over which the administration institution had any control. The constabulary was also only ever used by the administration. They were never involved in any military actions. Lorist had nearly entirely forgotten they even existed.
“This cannot be avoided. I’ve thought about this a lot. We must separate the branches of the government. And we cannot let any branch be a threat to the role of the other. The constabulary has no need for its current size, it can do its new job just fine with the numbers I am willing to give it. Anymore just makes it a threat to the military, a threat I will not tolerate. If you really want them to stay as big as they are now, then they have to become part of the military, which would only create more needless bureaucracy.
“We’ll move the responsibilities I took from them to the military police. With the separation, no administration’s official can mobilize the garrison on his own authority. Each garrison, barring a special order from the Ministry of Defence or myself, will have no right to mobilize outside the towns and its surrounding farmland.
“Everything else will be handled by the military police. We’ll set up constable stations and booths in the towns and city neighbourhoods manned by the constabulary. They are the only ones the administration will get to control.”
Lorist also made it clear that the administration would be responsible for covering the cost of running the constabulary, not the military, as had been the case thus far. Kedan was given interim command of the constabulary until a permanent appointment could be made.
When the meeting ended, everyone jumped into action. They wanted as much as possible done before the new year’s celebration. Lorist had no free time until the 11th month came around.
Glacia was back by then. Irina had apparently died from a heart-attack after hearing what had happened to her son. She’d cried in her room for days on end, literally crying herself into the grave. In that time she only opened her mouth to curse Lorist to hell and back. She’d died in the evening. She cried herself to sleep every night, but not before midnight came around. The guards, confused as to why tonight she fell asleep so early, peeked into the room, and found her lying on the floor. They didn’t check any further since she had fell asleep like that a few times before. When her maidservant went to wake her the next morning, however, she found her cold as ice and blue as water, still lying on the floor exactly as the guards had seen her the night before. Glacia had checked the corpse herself, and there were no wounds anywhere on her body, not even a needle prick or insect bite.
Glacia wanted to adopt Koboshik. The kid was completely terrified, having lost both his mother and brother in less than a month. He wasn’t even thirteen yet. Lorist agreed after some consideration.