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Worldbuilding – Last Thoughts On The Block November 1, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in Worldbuilding.
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History is the record of an encounter between character and circumstance.

– Donald Creighton

Last Thoughts On

The Block

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

indenture

And so the story of young Tom and Elizabeth Farmer begins.  Swallowed up by the administrative marvel that is the Indenture Service Office of the Empire of Uppsala, their father, Edsil, will be tried by the District Court of New London, Aingland, be found guilty and his children will be sentenced to serve ten years as indentured servants to work off his debt.

Tom and Elizabeth will be transferred to Uppsala where they will be in the custody of the ISO in the infamous Block.  There they will be trained and sold to a wealthy family as servants for the duration of their sentence.

The Block differs in many ways from The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp.  The happenings of the military and their war with the Vigroth natives are hardly a second thought to the ISO and their indentured community.  The inner workings of an Empire the size of Uppsala allows for little contact between differing agencies.  As for the citizens of the Empire, it is doubtful if any have ever heard of Thelra or even the river port of Selga.

Hopefully you can see the differences that these two stories sustain.    One is very much NOT like the other, yet both are set in the same Empire albeit at different times.  This is the advantage of extensive worldbuilding.

Next week we shall enter into a world much closer to home.  A romantic story between two graduating teenagers in the small town of Quaker Valley, Pennsylvania, circa 1966.  You will see how difficult settling characters in a fictitious town created inside an actual state can be.

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The Block – Chapter II Part 4 (END): Lexington, Aingland October 28, 2009

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Parents are the last people on earth that ought to have children.

–  Samuel Butler

The Block – Chapter II Part 4 (END):  Lexington, Aingland

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

children

In Lexington, a steathful hand lifted a V-Box receiver.

“Call, please?”

A low, undistinguishable voice answered almost in a whisper, “District Court Investigations, please.”

“One moment.”

“DC Switch. How can I help you?”

“Captain Dorsey Smyth, please.”

“Whom shall I say is calling?”

“Just tell him it’s 13176.”

“Thank you.  One moment, please.”

“Smyth.”

“13176, sir.  I’m in place.”

“When will you make your first visit to the Pub and Play?”

“Next week, sir.”

“Fine.  Keep me informed.”

“Yes, sir.”

***

Russell Jones reached the Farmer place at about ten in the morning.  He tied up his horse and retrieved his envelope from his saddlebags.  He crossed the wood porch and knocked on the kitchen door.  It opened to the round faces of the two Farmer children.

“’Lo Mr. Jones.  Ya kin come in.  Ma and Pa will be out inna moment.”

“Thank you Elizabeth.”

“Set down thar at the table.  I’ll gettcha a cuppa.”

“I shall, Tom.  Thank you very much.”

The large cup offered by the children contained the hottest coffee Russell had tasted in a week.  He enjoyed the aroma before taking a sip of the hot liquid.  Tom ran off to get his parents.

“Who made the coffee?”

“Ah did,” said Elizabeth.

“You’ll make someone a fine wife someday,” Russell told her.

She smiled.  “Thank yah.”

In a few minutes Edsil, Remy, and Tom came and sat down at the table.  They parents looked haggard, as if they’d just spent a sleepless night.  Elizabeth set cups in front of her parents and poured coffee for them.  She also placed the creamer in front of her mother.  That done, she got a glass of juice for Tom and herself then sat down at the table with the others.  Russell waited to speak until everyone was seated.

“You two look as if you had a fruitful night.”

“Aye, we ‘ave, Russell.  Almost got meself kilt, but we worked things out.”

Russell looked over at Remy and smiled.  “Glad to hear no blood was spilt.”

“It were a bit close at times,” Remy said.

“Did you talk things out completely?”

“We did,” Edsil replied.

“So who’s making the trip to Uppsala?”

Edsil looked at his wife.  “Tom and Elizabeth.”

Russell nodded and gazed at the two kids.  “Is that okay with you two?”

Both answered in chorus, “Yessir.”

“You must understand, kids.  If you’re assigned to go, you can’t run away.  If you do, they’ll put your parents in jail and they’ll have to give up the farm.  Do you understand that?”

“Yessir.”

Russell switched his gaze to Edsil.  “And Edsil, don’t get any ideas about running with the family.  The Empire will find you – there’s no place to hide from them.  They’ll put a price on you and your wife’s head.  When captured, you’ll both be incarcerated and the children will be taken from you forever.”

“We won’t be runnin’.”

“And if you don’t show up for your court hearing, the same thing will happen.”

“Ah unnerstand.”

“Okay.  I want to give you two guarantees from the Empire.  First, the children will not be sold into sexual indenture.  They’re too young.  You have to be sixteen to go that route.  It works off the time twice as fast, but I doubt you’d be happy with that.”

“No, we wouldn’t,” Remy stated.

“Second, the children will remain together during their indenture.”

Mrs. Farmer let out a deep sigh.  “We’re ‘appy ta ‘ear such.”  Tears welled up in her eyes.

“Now, you have the paper that tells you the month, day, time, and place of your court appearance, right?”

“Aye, Russell,” Mr. Farmer said.

“Good.”  He reached into his envelope and brought out more paperwork.  “This is a map that will get you from Lexington to the Court House in New London.”  He slid it to Edsil who picked it up and looked at it.

“And this is a list of things you’ll need for the children to carry on their trip to Uppsala.”

This he slid over to Remy.  While they looked at it, he filled out a necessary form for the court.  When completed, he slid it and along with his pen over to Edsil.

“Edsil, this form states you will be interning your children, Tom and Elizabeth, to the Empire for auction at The Block in Uppsala to cover your debt to Mr. Miklin.  You and your wife will need to sign it as indicated on the bottom.”

Edsil picked up the pen, looked over the paper and put his signature at the bottom above his name.  He passed the paper and pen to Remy.

“Must Ah sign this?  Ain’t Edsil’s name good enuff?”

“No, Remy, you have to sign as well.  It’s the law.”

Tears welled in her eyes again as she picked up the pen.  She hesitated, but finally signed her name to the document and slid the pen and paper back to Russell.

“Thank you all for being so cooperative.”  Russell tore the top page from the form and slipped it back into his envelope.  The second copy he gave to Mr. Farmer.  “Do you folks have any other questions?”

“What if’n sumpthin’ ‘appens twixt now and when what changes things?”

“My V-Box extension is on that first page I gave you.  Put through a buzz to me at the court house and let me know what happened.  Okay?”

“Thank yah, Russell.  Ah do ‘preciate yer ‘elp in all this matter.  Ah truly do.  Yer been civil.”

“The only thing I can suggest is look at this as an adventure.  Especially you, Tom and Elizabeth. And when it’s over, All of this will be purged from your records.”

With that, Russell stood up.  He shook Edsil’s hand and Remy’s as well.

“Time for me to head back to New London.  I’ll look forward to seeing you all at District Court then.”

“We’ll be thar,” said Edsil.

“Thanks again.”

Russell turned and exited the kitchen door.  He untied and mounted his horse and started back down the road to Lexington.  He had to check out from his hotel before starting back to New London.

The Block – Chapter II Part 3: Lexington, Aingland October 25, 2009

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Only the man who has enough good in him to feel the justice of the penalty can be punished; the others can only be hurt.

–  William Ernest Hocking

The Block – Chapter II Part 3:  Lexington, Aingland

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

Reme

Mrs. Farmer stood and walked to the door.  In a moment or two her husband stepped into the kitchen.  He looked over at Russell and then back at his wife.

“’E been waitin’ long, Remy?”

“No, Edsil, not so much as one cuppa.”

Russell stood up as Edsil walked over to him and extended a hand.  Russell took it thinking, ‘this could have been so much more difficult.’

“Edsil Farmer.  Me daughter ‘ere says ya come ta discuss my problem?”  His son and daughter came in behind him and took seats at the far end of the table, Elizabeth sat beside her mother.

“Oh, thet thar’s me son, Tom and me daughter, Elizabeth.”

“Russell Jones, Summoner First Class from New London.  I’ve met Elizabeth.  Yes Mr. Farmer.  I’m here to discuss your options with you and your family.”

Mr. Farmer took a deep breath and motioned Russell to sit down again.  He took the chair at the end of the table between Russell and his wife.

“Call me Edsil, Russell.  No need ta be so damned official, is thar?”

“No, Edsil, there isn’t.”

“All right, what of ah dug meself inta?”

Russell brought up the large envelope that he had set beside his chair.

“Do you read, Edsil?”

He nodded.  “Yessir.  Learnt early on.  Me kids can read too.”

Russell pulled a page from his envelope and handed it to Edsil who took it and looked it over.

“Pretty fanciful language, not?”

“Yes it is.  Do you want me to go over it with you?

“Ah’d ‘preciate it, Russell.”

Edsil passed the complaint back to the Summoner and pushed his chair closer so both of them could view the document at the same time.  Russell pointed to the writing at the top of the summons.

“Okay.  This part is legal gobbledygook stating that you are the person the complaint is accusing of refusing or being unable to pay an authentic debt.  Authentic meaning they have proof the debt is actual and that you incurred it.”

Edsil nodded his head.

“This second part is more legalese that names Ernst Miklin as the man who registered the complaint with the Indenture Service Office and that he’s the man to whom you owe the debt.  Got that?”

“Yessir.”

“The next paragraph lists the debt – a sum of one hundred twenty gold tankers.  Is that correct?”

Edsil hung his head.  His wife collapsed her face into her hands on the table top.

“Then the court estimates its costs at another 80 gold tankers to bring you to trial and send one or more members of your family to The Block in Uppsala to be auctioned into indenture until the complete debt is paid.  A debt total of two hundred gold tankers.”

Edsil sat speechless.  Remy cried uncontrollably.  The kids sat with blank expressions on their faces, not understanding what was being said or how it could affect them.  Elizabeth took her mother’s left arm and tried to console her.

“The next paragraph sets your court appearance as Monandaeg, the sixteenth of Quintilis in the District Court of Angland, Debt Division.  You have to be in courtroom two-twelve at eight in the morning.  You should have plenty of time to get your whole family there.  They all must accompany your.  You’ll meet your lawyer at that time.”

Edsil made no reply.  He sat and stared straight ahead with a blank look on his face.

“The last bit is just the signature of my boss and the state seal of the Empire of Uppsala.”

Finally, Edsil spoke.  “A court trial.  So they might find me not-guilty, no?”

“I’m afraid not, Edsil.  These things are prearranged. They only way you could get off the hook on this is if they investigate and find that Miklin cheated you somehow.”

“’E did.”

“But can you prove it?”

Edsil hung his head again, wringing his hands.  “No.  Ah can’t.”

“I’m sorry.  You do have options, Edsil.  Let’s go over them now.  We’ll see if we can limit the damage to your family somehow.”

Edsil nodded and looked over at his wife.  “Let’s ‘ear ‘em.”

“Okay.  First option – sell or mortgage the farm.”

Edsil shook his head.  “Can’t do neither.  Ah already got a mortgage on it and if’n ah was ta sell it, it wouldn’t bring enough ta cover both the debt and the mortgage.”

“I understand.  I’m sure then that borrowing from family or friends is also out of the question?”

Tears started to well up in Edsil’s eyes.  “Who would trust me for a amount like thet?  No.  Not possible.”

“Well, Edsil, the only other way to cover the debt is through indenture service.  Do you know what that is?”

“Not really.  Work it off?”

“Yes.  In a situation like this, your whole family is held responsible for the debt.  So you, your wife, one or both your children, or any combination of family members would have to agree to travel to Uppsala to be auctioned off on the block to cover your debt.”

Russell looked up at Edsil then made sure Remy was listening.

“It works like this, Edsil.  Your debt total to the Empire will be two hundred GT.  One year of indenture will gain you ten GT.  That means one person would have to be indentured for twenty years to pay off the debt.  Two could work off the debt in ten years.  Three, six years and nine months.  And if all four of you are indentured, it would take five years to overcome your debt.”

Remy stood up and gathered her children to her.  She cried in earnest now.  She looked at her husband and said, “Edsil, what ‘ave ya done?”

Tears ran down Edsil’s face.  “Ah know, Remy.  Ah’ll never touch another deck of cards in me life.”

His wife screwed up her face and wailed, “It’s too late, Edsil.  It’s already too late.”

Edsil looked over at Russell and spoke through his sobs. “Remy and Ah can’t go.  Who would run the farm?  They’d tyke it ta cover the mortgage.  It’s all we got in the world.  It’s a future for our kids.”

“I understand.”

“Ah need ta talk this out with me family, Russell.  Can ya come back tomorrow?”

“I’ll be glad to.”  He stood up and slid the summons in front of Edsil.  He took his envelope and looked over at Remy and the children.

“I’ll help in any way I can.  I know you’ll have questions about this tomorrow and that’s okay.  I’ll answer them truthfully.  Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala isn’t as bad as it sounds.  It can be both a learning experience and who ever is chosen to go could very well come out ahead of the game.  Keep that in mind.”

Edsil said, “Thank ya Mr. Jones.  We truly ‘preciate yer ‘elp.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning then.”

Russell turned and paused in front of the door.  He opened it and stepped up on to the porch, closing the door behind him.  As he did so, he heard Remy say, “Children go ta yer rooms.”  Today was difficult, he knew.  Tomorrow would be even thornier.  He took a deep breath, put the envelope in his saddlebag, mounted his horse and headed back to Lexington.

Inside, Remy stood at the table while an uneasy Edsil kept an eye on her.

“Ya bloody idiot!  Now what are we gonna do?”

“Calm yerself, Remy.  No sense losin’ it ‘ere.”

“Losin’ it!”  Remy bent over and with a single thrust, swept everything on the table onto the floor.  The children trembled in their room on hearing the noise.

“Cor, Remy.  Wha’d ya go and do thet for?  Gittin’ angry with me ain’t gonna solve nuthin’”

Remy stood up straight and walked calmly over to the kitchen counter, opening a drawer an pulling out a long knife.

“I should cut yer bloody ‘ead off, Edsil, n be done with ya.”

With that she dropped the knife and melted into a crying mass on the floor.  Edsil got up, walked over and sat next to her, putting his arms around her.

“We’ll git through this, Remy.  We’ve got through worse.”

“But who’s gonna do the time?”

“Only ones thet can.  The kids.”

“The kids!”  She started bringing her fists down on Edsil’s shoulders.  “Why the kids?  They’ve done naught ta deserve such.”

“Ah know, Remy.  But they’ll do the shortest time.  Heck, it’ll be a bit of education for ‘em.  They’ll learn things we can’t provide.”

Remy didn’t answer.  The two kept holding each other, rocking back and forth on the floor.

The Block – Chapter II Part 2: Lexington, Aingland October 21, 2009

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A married man with a family
will do anything for money.

–  Charles de Talleyrand

The Block – Chapter II Part 2:  Lexington, Aingland

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

debt

Edsil and Remy Farmer owned a twenty acre farm that provided for the family and livestock.  It supported their two children, Tom and Elizabeth and, to a degree, Edsil’s card playing.  On the homestead sat a two story frame house, a good size barn and three outbuildings.  The Farmers owned two cows, four horses, two goats, and about fifty chickens that were given the run of the property.  Also included in their domestic animals were two proper boxer dogs and fourteen or so barn cats of dubious parentage.

Their residence was set only slightly back from the main road; with the barn about ten meters back from the house and to the right.  There was a plank porch on the right side of the home, covered by the roof.  The main entrance sat just to the right of center under the porch roof.  Russell Jones pulled up his horse at the porch.  He dismounted, tying his horse to the hitch post in front.  When he rode up, he scattered some of the chickens who made enough noise in objection to being disturbed that anyone inside the house would have known that a visitor had arrived.  Then came the loud barking of the two boxers that sniffed at his heels between yapping.  Remy Farmer stepped outside the door, her daughter Elizabeth just behind her.  She eyed the stranger with some suspicion before speaking.

“Slope, Burns, down!  Thet’s enough from both a ya!”  She looked at Russell and said, “May Ah be ‘elpin’ ya?”

Russell had been reaching into his right saddlebag, pulling out an envelope and keeping an eye on the dogs when Mrs. Farmer appeared.  He walked up to the porch step but did not advance farther.  The dogs stayed to his left and right, but did not cause any more commotion.

“Yes, my name is Russell Jones.  Is your husband Edsil about?  I have some business we must discuss.”

Mrs. Farmer looked to be a plain woman, certainly older than her thirty years would suggest.  She sported brown hair, tied up in a bun in the back.  Her eyes were slits, looking into the morning sunshine.  Her skin appeared very pale, even in the shade of the porch.  She didn’t answer Russell at first, only staring at him with a pained expression on her face.

“Yer from the Empire, ain’t cha?” she finally asked, speaking in a low, slow voice.

“Yes, I am,” Russell said.

She nodded.  “Yer ‘ere ta tyke ‘im ‘way?”

“No, Mam.  I’m here to sit down with you and your husband and go over your options.  He’s involved in a sticky problem that will require some decisions concerning you and your household.”

“Ya ‘ere ta tyke ‘way the ‘ouse and the farm?”

Russell tried to smile.  “No again, Mam.  I won’t be taking anything away from you.  I’m here to help you reach a decision that would be most beneficial to you and your family.”

Again, she nodded her head.  “Edsil ain’t ‘ome at the moment.  ‘E and Tom took one of the ‘orses over ta Jeremy Myers farm ta git it shod.”

“How long ago did he leave.”

“Two ‘ours or thar ‘bouts.”

“Do you mind if I wait for him here on the porch?”

“Ah don’t mind.  Ya can come inside if’n ya like.  Ah can send Elizabeth ta fetch ‘em.  Otherwise it might be a spell ‘fore they return.”

“That’s okay, Mam.  I can wait.”

“’E won’t run, if’n that’s what yer thinkin’.  We been expectin’ ya fer days on end.  We just wanna git it over with, ya know?”

“Then Elizabeth can fetch them if she’d like.”

Her mother turned and cuffed Elizabeth on the back of the head.  She reacted by running around the side of her and jumping off the porch.  She raced to the barn and came out moments later riding bareback on what looked to be an older saddle horse.  They disappeared together down the road to the right of the house.

Russell followed Mrs. Farmer into the house at her bidding.  Crossing the threshold, he stepped down onto a wood floor.  He saw a large room set out as both kitchen and commons.  The kitchen was to the right with an old cook stove, ice chest, sink and cabinets.  In front of him stood a large oak dining room table with six wood chares around it.  Mrs. Farmer pulled one of the chairs out and motioned him to have a seat.

“Wouldya like coffee or juice?”

Russell sat down.  “Coffee would be fine, thank you.”

She nodded once and set a metal pot onto the cook stove.  A cabinet door was opened and two cups were brought to the dining table.  She placed one before Mr. Jones and set one in front of a chair where she sat down.

Looking into her cloudy eyes, Russell could see both pain and inquiry.  “You know, I really can’t discuss much about this until your husband arrives.”

“Ah know.  ‘E’s a good man, really.  Just gits tied up with easy ways ta try and make more cash.  ‘E sez he don’t want ‘is kids ta ‘afta work as ‘ard as ‘e ‘as ta.”

“Do you know anything about the place where he plays cards?”

A slight nod of her head.  “Yeah.  Thet man, Miklin’s a lyin’ cheat.  Ah tell Edsil not ta go, plead with ‘im, really.  But it’s like ‘E’s pulled thar by somethin’ ah can’t explain.”

Russell felt bad for the woman.  He’d heard stories like this so many times in the past.  Households ruined by the husband’s compulsion to gamble at any cost to the family.

Mrs. Farmer pushed herself away from the table.  She went to the stove and retrieved the coffee pot.  It had a wood handle so she didn’t need a cook glove to pick it up.  Walking carefully to the table, she poured the contents into both cups.  Finished, she returned the pot to the stove, placing it away from the heated surface.

“Do ya need anythin’ wit yer cuppa?”

“No, Mam.  This will do fine.”

She went to the ice box taking out a small pitcher.  Back at the table, she poured some cream into her drink and sat down again.

“Nice and hot,” Russell said.

“Ya speak such good Anglich.  Makes a body a bit embarrassed.”

“Don’t be.  Government training is all it is.”

“Wish there was jobs like yer’s what Edsil could do.  Might turn ‘im ‘round.”

“Might be something to look into some day.  But you’d all have to move to New London.”

“Yeah, don’t know if’n ‘e’d like movin’ ‘way from the farm.  Suppose it’s in ‘is blood.”

With that I heard hoof beats outside and dogs barking.

“Edsil and Tom’s ‘ome.”

The Block – Chapter II Part 1: Lexington, Aingland October 17, 2009

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Oh, what a blamed uncertain thing
this pesky weather is!

–  Philander Johnson

The Block – Chapter II Part 1:  Lexington, Aingland

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

hotel

Summoner First Class Russell Jones slowly sauntered his horse around the central square of the small town of Lexington in the Rejoinder of Angland.  Rain kept pouring down.  The sun had set a long time before his arrival and Russell was wet to his britches.  He’d made a wrong turn on his trip to Lexington, ending up in the town of New Hampton.  Apparently some road signs had been dismantled and he’d made a couple of terrible guesses.  With the steady rain, he passed no other riders or homes where he could ask directions.  He would be unable to ride to the Farmer residence until the morning.  Now it would suffice if he could locate the Hotel.

Finally he noticed a sign for the Lexington Inn halfway down one of the main streets that spun off the central circle like spokes on a wheel.  He hitched his horse on the rail in front, removed his saddlebags and climbed the three steps to the hotel entrance.  He stood at the door for a few minutes, allowing the rain water to run off his knee length, dark green travel coat.  He stretched his long frame to ease his muscles from the lengthy ride and yawned.  The tall summoner removed his hat and shook the water from it before entering the door in front of him.

Russell found the main floor of the Inn to be a place that radiated comfort and cleanliness.  There was a huge hearth off to his right which contained an intense fire.  To his left was a long counter top that ended where the stairway to the second floor reversed over it.  He decided to walk over and stand for a few moments in front of the fire before announcing his presence.  The heat warmed his body and began to dry off his clothing.  He sighed in relief.  He was still standing face to the fire when an old man walked out of a room under the stairwell and stood behind the counter.

He was a short, stocky fellow with an honest looking face.  He had a clean shaven chin and an ample brown cookie duster that emphasized his high, dark cheeks and bushy white eyebrows. His white hair completed the picture.  The old man was dressed in butternut homespun pants and a checkered flannel shirt.

“Excuse me.  Didn’t know anyone was about.”

Russell turned.  “I’m sorry.  Just got in and thought I’d warm up a bit.”

“That’s fine.  Percy Armstrong, at your service.  I’m here when you’re ready.  Ring the bell if I disappear.”

“Thanks.”

Russell removed his travel ware and found a hook on a rail next to the door where he hung up his hat and coat.  The old man was still behind the counter so Russell went over to him, laying his saddlebags on a chair that sat against the wall to its left.

“Do you have a comfortable room for two nights?”

“That’s our job here,” the old man said, a neighborly smile on his face.

Russell nodded, returning the smile.  “How much?”

“Ten hackles.”

“Reasonable.  Russell dipped into his pouch and withdrew ten coins, setting them on the counter.  The old man turned, took a key off a nail on the wall and laid it beside Russell’s copper pieces.

“What brings you to Lexington?”

“Oh just some business to transact outside of town.”

The old man nodded.  “Wet weather for business.”

“Happens this time of year.”

“Room 211, second floor on the right. Would you sign for the key sir?”

The Inn keep reached to his left and slid an open registry book in front of Russell.  Having also been handed a quill, Russell signed the book with a bit of a flourish.

“Russell Jones then, eh?”

“Yes sir, Mr. Armstrong.  Do you have someone available to take my horse over to the livery?”

“Aye.  I’ll get my son right on it, sir.”

“Thanks.  Have them brush and feed him tonight, if you will.  Tell the livery men I’ll pick him up around ten in the morning.”

“Will do.  Breakfast is served at eight.  Would you like a knock on the door at seven?”

“Yes, please, Mr. Armstrong.  Thank you.”

“Good night to you, then.”

“Ta.”  Russell picked up his saddlebags along with his hat and coat and headed upstairs to his room.

Accommodations at the Lexington Inn were simple but clean.  Russell found a bed, nightstand, chest of drawers and a table.  A medium sized picture of water sat on the table along with a night basin and a cup.  There was a strip of wood along the wall with six pegs in it.  Russell hung up his hat and jacket.  There was a wood backed chair near the table upon which he tossed his saddlebags.  There were two windows on the wall facing the door, both covered with brown common draperies.  By the door, a small gas lamp with a reflector provided the only light in the room.

Russell took off his light green shirt and dark green pants, hanging them on two of the hooks.  These were what the Service called his fatigue issue uniform.  They bore no insignias, neither of service nor rank.  Off to the far left on his belt, however, was a bronze clip that bore his badges of service and rank on the inside.  A Summons Officer had to look somewhat indistinguishable so he could fit in with the local population without generating too much suspicion.  There were those who tried to flee in order to resist being served.

His long underwear was still damp from the driving rain, but not bad enough that he had to remove them.  He took off his boots, setting them by the legs of the chair, turned off the gas lamp and slid between covers of the bedstead.  With the thick quilt spread over him, he felt quite warm.  Exhausted from the days ride, he drifted off to sleep almost immediately.

Worldbuilding – The Block October 5, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in Worldbuilding.
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Although volume upon volume is written
to prove slavery a very good thing,
we never hear of the man who wishes to
take the good of it by becoming a slave himself.

– Abraham Lincoln

An Invitation To Experience

The Block

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert

Y32

We visited the small village of Thelra just off Rigga Sea and the dangerous lowlands of Kyrrell Swamp where a young girl was birthed to Lobot Cord.  We also joined Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs on his first trip to Uppsala since becoming an OutSider in the great Empire.  Now we travel to New London, the capital city of the Rejoinder of Aingland.

Pretty much the world agrees that slavery is an evil endeavor.  With the exception of the native exterminations, the Empire of Uppsala has not been at war for over a hundred years.  Only a few of the native tribesmen ended up on Uppsala’s infamous block.  The great majority of slaves in Uppsala are people in debt who chose indentured service to repay their debts.

The Indentured Service Office or ISO is located in every major city in every Rejoinder of Uppsala.  It is a huge government bureaucracy with agents and investigators whose tentacles reach into every corner of the Empire.  The purpose is to supply the State (especially the wealthy) with forced labor without the evil ramifications of slavery.

The system starts with a complaint being filed with the ISO of a debt owed.  The ISO tracks down the debtor and explains the situation they’re in and what options if any they can choose from.  If the debt is small, it is handled locally within the Rejoinder that the debt is owed.  If the debt is large, the debtor is charged with a felony and tried in court at the Rejoinder capital.  The trail is basically for show as all deals were cut before the trial ever commenced.  The trail simply makes the conclusion legal.

Once a conclusion at trial is reached, the debtor is sentenced an amount of time it will take for the debt to be worked off.  Someone is then chosen by the debtor to serve the debt.  It might be the debtor himself, his wife or any number of his children.

After the trial, the debtor is transported to the Block in Uppsala.  Now, the Block is not some kind of auction block where the debtors are sold.  It is actually a whole city block in Uppsala.  Administrative offices, schools, barracks, cells, a laundry, a large cafeteria, tailory along with a large interior square where the debtors are arraigned for sale to the public.

If the government requires indentured servants, suitable individuals are not sold, but are selected.  In fact, upon the arrival of the debtor they take a battery of tests to indicate their talents to show where their skills might bring a higher price at sale.  Depending on the needs of the buyer, a debtor might receive intensive training to increase their indicated skill level.  The cost for this is added on to the length of time the debtor must serve.

No debtor is forced into sexual service.  However, they may choose sexual service in order to half the time the debtor must serve.  No children under the age of sixteen may opt for sexual service.  Sexual service can be opted only by the person serving the debt.  No family member may place a charge (such as a wife or older child) into sexual service.

In The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp, you met a few people who were in the charge of the Indentured Service Office.  One was Brigg’s lover, a crib girl chained to her bed in an Inn in Selga.  Later in the novel, one of Ahllie’s Lobot Cord members is sold to Briggs’ friend, Taylor.  She works as a singer/musician at his villa.

In The Block, you will meet the Farmer family.  The father owes a huge sum of money to a local gambling house.  You will follow the family’s story as two of his children are chosen to work off his debt.

The first two chapters will be given over for your enjoyment.

The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp – Chapter 2, Part 9 (End) October 1, 2009

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The biggest gap in the world is the gap between the justice of a cause
and the motives of the people pushing it.

– John P. Grier


Chapter II.9:  OutSider  (End)

© D. Erick Emert

office

D’Angusio took the signed paper, rolled it up and stuffed it in a carrier. Within seconds it sped on its way.

“Follow me, Briggs.”

They left the office and D’Angusio led him down the long corridor to a stairway. They walked down a few flights and then down another corridor until they came to a set of double doors. They entered a huge room, like a gymnasium. It had a dirt floor. Off to the right stood three men, one in chains between the other two.  Near the men, a sword rested on a small table. Briggs and D’Angusio walked up to the three men.

“This man is a Christian, Briggs, a prime OutSider like yourself. As a believer in Jesus Christ who will not renounce his faith, he has been given a death sentence. You shall carry that sentence out.”

“You want me to kill him? Straight out? Here and now?” Briggs’ voice dropped an octave but remained steady, almost matter-of-fact. He held his head upright and searched the man before him with his steel-gray eyes.

“Absolutely,” D’Angusio confirmed.

Briggs trembled slightly as he picked up the sword. He knew how to use the weapon and had kept one on his former ship. His eyes took on a faraway look and seemed glossed over.

“Please sir, spare my life,” the prisoner cried out. They told me I could live if you spare me.”

The man’s knees weakened and he had to be held upright by the guards to keep him from falling to the ground. For a second, Briggs faltered, lowering the blade. Then, with a swift motion he drove the sword into the prisoner’s chest. The man shuddered once, staring vacantly into Briggs’ eyes. Briggs attempted to remove the sword but it stuck. Briggs brought his boot up to the man’s chest and pulled hard. This time the sword slid out and the man tumbled to the ground. No longer supported by the guards, his life drained out on the prison floor.

Briggs laid the sword back on the table. “Anything else, sir?”

D’Angusio put his arm around Briggs in a comforting manner and led him out of the room. “I’m sorry, Captain. We had to be sure.”

Briggs did not answer and the two men walked back to the office in silence. That night his tears flowed in silence. Briggs dreamed of being cradled in the arms of his beloved Sarah.

*

Three months passed, Briggs found himself again in D’Angusio’s office.

“I won’t keep you long, Briggs. You’ve accomplished a great deal in our care. I’m personally pleased with your efforts. Now, it’s time to consider your future. Have you given it any thought?”

Briggs’ fingers drummed on his knee. “I’ve always been a sea captain.”

“There’s little use for sea captains here; fishing boats, trade vessels, and the like. We don’t have need for a Navy.  Have you ever given any thought to an Army career? Your leadership capabilities would serve you well there.”

Briggs thought for a moment, his fingers continuing their quiet drumming. “If you feel I could best serve Uppsala in her Armed Forces, I would be happy to enlist, sir.”

You don’t have to enlist, Briggs. I took the liberty to forward an application to Officers Training School in your name. I gave you a hearty endorsement as well.  Today, I received word that your application is approved.  Now what do you think about that?”

“I expect to do my best, sir, to prove your endorsement worthy.”

“Excellent, Briggs! I have no fear that you shall not handle this assignment in exemplary fashion. You shall be transferred to OTS tomorrow morning. I’ll have a uniform dropped off in your room this evening. The rest of your material will be awaiting you in your new quarters. Do you have any questions?”

“No sir.”

“Good. It’s been a pleasure, Briggs. You have a strong career ahead of you. Please write me from time to time. Let me know how things are going with you.”

D’Angusio stood up and offered Briggs his hand. Briggs shook it once and saluted.

“I shall sir. Thank you for your encouragement and endorsement.” With that Briggs clicked his heels and exited D’Angusio’s office for the last time.

*

Briggs looked elegant in his new uniform. He wore a dark green shako hat, complete with its bronze eagle insignia, red horse-hair plume, red cord and black belt with brass buckle in the front. His jacket, a dark green shell jacket with red piping and red cadet insignia on the arms, fit smartly. He wore a standard issue white shirt beneath the jacket and dark green trousers.  At his waist he belted a standard army saber and scabbard with bronze handle attached to a black waist belt with bronze buckle. Black boots completed the uniform.

Briggs spent half the night polishing the bronze and his belts and boots to a high shine. Always fastidious concerning his clothing, Briggs wanted to give a good first impression when he reported for duty. He had shaved off his beard and mustache and trimmed his hair, tasks he performed daily during his years at sea. With his steel gray eyes, he looked every bit the part of a leader of men.

Three hours later he stood at attention in front of the desk of Captain Lorenz Piccap, a robust looking officer with a tanned face and graying temples. At a nod from the Captain, his Aide saluted, wheeled and left the two soldiers together, closing the door behind him.

“I hear you’re a prime, Briggs. That’s a bit unusual, you know. D’Angusio pushed hard to get you admitted. Otherwise you probably wouldn’t be standing here.”

“I wasn’t aware of that, sir. Why should service in the Armed Forces be any different for a prime than any other OutSider?”

“Think, m’boy. You live so damn long, who in his right mind would want to risk cutting that life span short in the military?”

“I’m not used to the idea of that kind of longevity, Captain. Perhaps some day it will sink in, but for now I feel no different than I did before I came to Erde. Whatever the case, I’m prepared to give up my life for my country wherever and whenever that sacrifice becomes necessary. I’m a soldier now, sir, and I’ll do my duty without concern as to the consequences to myself. I am an arm of the State and I’ll not falter in my responsibility no matter what the situation, sir.”

“Well put lad. Lieutenant Costo is waiting in the hall. He will escort you to your quarters.”

Briggs had an above average intellect and had always been an avid reader.  He could digest a dull text book in hours and his grasp of the principle points proved dynamic. Oddly, his field tactical ability surpassed even his classroom work. In military exercises he proved bold, daring, almost to the point of being reckless, but he never overextended himself. The men of his unit had confidence in his knowledge and abilities and felt his leadership gave them an advantage over other units in the field, which proved to be the case time and time again.  He rose quickly through the cadet ranks and graduated first in his class.

Yet, for all this Briggs seemed to be something of an outcast. In the early days, he refused to join in with his bunkmates telling stories and singing songs. He sat off in a corner somewhere polishing his brass or his boots. When the men would head out into the City on leave, Briggs would intentionally journey in a different direction by himself. He shunned the presence of others whenever he had the opportunity, preferring solitude to companionship.

One night, six months into their schooling, a dozen or so of his bunkmates gathered around him as he polished his boots while seated on his bed. They asked him to join them and when he politely refused they asked him why.

He looked up at them with his steel gray eyes and said, “If I ever have to lead you into battle, I don’t want the nagging impediment of friendship hung around my neck. It is easier to send someone off to die if you don’t know their mother’s or brother’s name or the number of children they have or how they met their wife or girlfriend.”

With that he picked up his other boot and began silently buffing the toe. The group that had gathered around began to break off by twos and threes saying nothing in reply.

Briggs enjoyed one class in particular. Commander Abel Light taught Defeating the Aborigines of the Great Weald. The class dealt with the difficulties of defending the borders and roads of the Rejoinder of Uppsala against the marauding tribes of the Summanari and Riggrathi nations.

“We have little to do with the Telroth and the Sogroth, the tribes of the far north,” the Commander told them. “Nor do we often encounter the Vigroth or the Colarathi, the tribes of the southern rain forests of the Great Weald. But the Riggrathi of the western Weald and the nomadic and vicious Summanari natives create havoc on the trade routes between Uppsala and Sigtuna and in the settlements found just north of the City of Blood and in the swampy Fyri between the Selgen and Fyris rivers.”

Light continued for the next eight weeks discussing the cultures of both the Riggrathi and Summanari peoples. He held the opinion that you could not truly defeat an enemy if you did not understand their background and lifestyle.

“Probabilities and tendencies are critical.” he said. “If you have knowledge of what your enemy is likely to do in any given situation, you are stronger and closer to defeating him. You can succeed with lighter manpower, less material and fewer losses.”

At the end of Light’s classes, Briggs approached him.

“Commander, I am deeply interested in the methods you’ve taught in your class.  What are the chances of being attached to the Border Troops after our schooling is completed?”

“Thank you, Briggs.  Each Cadet will fill out a form requesting duty in a particular city or Rejoinder of Erde.  We, the members of your faculty, will give our own recommendations to the Transfer Board as well. These will be cross referenced with the needs of the Army and within a day or two your orders will be received and you’ll be on your way.”

“Will you be continuing your duties here, Commander or will you regain a field commission at some time.”

“Naturally I would like to get back into the field again, but I am told my duties here are of the utmost importance. It is likely that within the next fifty or sixty years something will have to be done on a permanent basis to rid Uppsala of these costly attacks along our roads. If the aborigines cannot come to terms with the changes in Erde, something will be done to bring about a lasting peace.”

“Could I ask you, sir, to recommend me for a post with the Border Troops?”

“You are one of my most adept pupils, Briggs. I would have no ill thoughts in recommending such a post for you. Of course, I can’t guarantee that the Transfer Board will see it our way.”

“No, I understand that, Commander.  Thank you for your time, sir.” Briggs saluted smartly, spun on his heel and left the room.

Near the end of term, the students turned in their transfer requests. During the final exams, rumors of who might go where began to circulate through the barracks. After the ribbon ceremony for the graduates, the school commandant announced the orders for each man.

Their four years ended by being seated at the front of a large auditorium filled with undergraduates and parents from each Rejoinder of the Empire. Speeches upon speeches flowed from the dais, followed by the medal ceremony. Calling each soldier individually to the podium, the school Commandant pinned the graduation medal to the cadet’s chest, handed him his diploma and announced his orders to the soldier and the multitude. Shouts and wild applause accompanied each declaration.

Briggs awaited his name to be announced, hands in his lap, fingers entwined, kneading. He did not join in the boisterous applause for his fellow cadets. He sat rigid in his anticipation, his mind running through scenarios of what he might do if fate chose to ignore his wish and sent him elsewhere. He thought by making up some physical condition that would necessitate his resigning his commission, he would be free to enter the forests of the Great Weald as a trapper or trader; thereby circumventing fate and…

“Honorary Cadet Captain Benjamin Briggs.”

Hearing himself announced snapped him back to the situation at hand. Briggs stood, his sword clanking against the chair to his left. The sound startled him for a moment. Regaining his composure, he made his way past his fellows to the main aisle, then up the steps to the stage, crossing to the platform. He saluted the Commandant who took his hand, shook it and raised it over their heads as they faced the cheering audience.

“First in Class! Extraordinary!” The crowd roared even louder. Briggs’ cheeks turned scarlet. The Commandant leaned over him and pinned his medal on his chest as the din continued. With a raise of the Commandant’s hand the masses finally quieted.

“Lieutenant Briggs will be serving with Ram Company of the Corrin Border Battalion.” The crowd unleashed another mighty storm of vocal approval.

For an instant Briggs appeared to smile. At least that’s what a few of those present would say later. The rest would swear he stood as stone-faced as always. Nothing could be read from his demeanor concerning his thoughts or feelings. In truth, the pride of having jumped a grade because of his class standing thrilled him. He felt happier still to have been given the post he most desired, and wondered if Sarah would have been proud…

*

As Briggs’ horsemen clattered over a lofty hill, the lights of Taylor’s Villa flickered before them in the valley.