"Money is not something with intrinsic value. It's not worth anything sitting still in a warehouse. It's sole value lies in its ability to allow value to be transferred from one item to the next. As such, it is only worth something as long as you're doing something with it." ~ Norton Lorist
"...To the north of Yungechandler are Liden Mountains and Yunsge Hills on the coast. There isn't much arable land. South of that is Egret Lake, surrounded by a swamp. The only arable land is the long strip between the two. Not many people live there. Records indicate it should be around 580 thousand people if we include the new arrivals; among them 145381 youths fit for work..."
"...We've discovered three iron ore deposits around Liden and Yunsge, two of which are medium to high in quality. There's also a moderate gold deposit. All-in-all it should give Duke Forund 500 thousand gold Fordes a year. We've also come across seven low capacity copper deposits. Besides ores, there are 20 other resources that the area can offer, the most plentiful of which is white clay. It could be used to start up a crockery industry..."
"...If we build a large dam in Egret Lake, we can turn Yungechandler's swamps into millions of acres of good farmland. In that sense, Yungechandler can not just become the biggest agricultural province this side of the Union, but also have a strong fisheries industry. Ideally, we'd want to plant flax so the province can get started on linen and textiles as well..."
"...It'll take about five years if we use 400 thousand laborers, a few years longer if we only use 300 thousand. Either way, it'll likely cost around seven million. Besides jumpstarting industries, we'll also have to revamp their infrastructure..."
On the 16th day of the 12th month, Year 1785, Baron Shadekampf, the one Lorist had put in charge of surveying Yungechandler, returned with the province's duke and made his report.
Shadekampf had been Lorist's personal attendant from his childhood, but had since risen to become quite the figure in the house. He'd stepped away from his lord's side and now spent most of his time out in the field managing a portion of the countless projects the house always had running. He'd been given an honorary peerage as a baron a year earlier. He'd risen from humble servant to honorary noble thanks both to his own efforts and his lord's recognition.
He'd gone to Yungechandler with an entourage nearly a hundred strong and scoured the province for four months. It would have taken much longer, but he'd been willing to sacrifice a few pounds of his flesh to make things go faster. His stalwart attitude had also earned him Duke Forund's admiration. The duke couldn't possibly be unawed at the sheer mass of talented and dedicated people House Norton had.
All that said, seven million fords was not a small price even for House Norton. Spiel objected to vehemently they had to wash the floor when he left. He was adamant that the house could only spare three million. That three was the house's emergency reserve. It wouldn't grow by just laying in the treasury, so in principle lending the duke the spare change was only beneficial.
But seven million was more than double what they had to offer up front, and more than half of the house's entire static wealth. It was too big a risk. The house had a total static wealth of just 13 million, and that included the money they would be spending to build the new palace in the capital. Grandmaster Ciroba was already designing it. His estimate of the project's cost thus far was three million.
Spiel didn't dare to let the house have only three million in reserve given his lord's penchant for impulsive spending. Not to mention the possibility of some natural disaster requiring emergency spending! Normally, three million gold Fordes was enough to last a noble household a lifetime, but House Norton was not a normal noble household by any metric. It had over two million subjects, a lord who bled money — and did so on rainy and sunny days alike — a massive military, and three allies that frequently needed money. He had to fight for every penny, not so the house could be rich, but so it could stay afloat. His life was a constant battle against the forces of evil, the foremost of which was the man known as Duke Norton Lorist.
"Your Grace, why are you building a palace so suddenly? Thank the gods we're finally at peace, but you can't spend money like it grows on trees," asked Charade, unable to suppress his doubts anymore.
Lorist smiled bitterly. This was one of the fundamental limitations of the times. Charade was already an astonishing achievement in the continent's circles of nobility. Even Auguslo pined for a supervisor or knight as capable as him. Unfortunately, as great as the man was at wartime economics, he was terrible at the same in peacetime.
Even in the midst of the wars Lorist had fought over the last couple of years, the various development projects continued full-steam. Their latest influx of new subjects had solved their manpower shortages so they could develop as quickly as their managers and supervisors could keep up. This development created great demands that private industries fulfilled and lived on. The current generation of projects was slowly coming to an end, however, and with their end, the market would collapse.
"Have you read Spiel's report and Baron Balk's analysis?" asked he.
Old Man Balk had stepped up to fill the spot Hansk had previously occupied. Lorist had also made him a baron. He was the penultimate servant of the house, the idol to which all others should strive. He started as a common peasant, but, through his service to his lord he had become a massive figure in the house and a noble.
"I have. The house's income is decent and our reserves have grown another two million. This is the first time we've been this well-off. I've also read Baron Balk's report and the number of workshops and factories in the dominion has gone up by more than 1300, with most set up by honorary nobles and merchants. The investments almost doubled our profits in the industrial sector. Its growth is also really consistent. It's expected to reach new heights this year as well." Charade's memory was good as always. He could clearly remember even the minutest, obscurest details.
Lorist shook his head and took out another folder.
"Read this," he said, handing the folder to Charade, "I had Howard send someone to investigate this for me."
Charade saw it was a thorough report compiled by Furybear on the industries in the house with a focus on their stocks.
"40 percent, 38 percent, 32 percent, 41 percent… Your Grace, this is..."
His eyes suddenly light up as he realized something. Lorist lifted the bottle of fruit wine on his desk and poured some for himself before he gestured for Charade to help himself to some as well.
"These past two years our ferocious economic development has been predicated on Duke Fisablen's large orders and his permission to trade with the grassland barbarians. The value of these goods last year was about a million, the same was two million the year before.
"Our houses internal demand has also been a major dependency. The 400 thousand refugees we moved over have settled down and gathered some savings, so they will purchase some daily necessities. There's also Supervisor Kedan's traffic revamp. The amount of meat and wheat ale consumed by the mountain barbarians working on it isn't miniscule.
"The private sector's expansion has been built on these demands. Our industries cater to these demands—" Lorist downed the whole cup. "—Do you remember what I said earlier? Most merchants are short-sighted profit-mongering idiots. Many of the honorary nobles are actually merchants who wish to take advantage of the peace here and our large demand to make profit.
"While having lots of local investment is good, it can't be good when it all relies on just two huge business deals. If you read this report, you'll discover that the businesses the merchants set up are mostly what we already had. If there are too many people producing the same thing the prices will collapse when demand lowers. The business will bankrupt themselves and the entire industry will collapse. The merchants will leave and we'll be left to clean up the mess."
"Has something gone wrong with Duke Fisablen's order?''
"The orders have been a show of goodwill. I told you they don't really need so much. They resell most of what they buy to the grassland barbarians. The last two rounds of direct trade have confirmed my suspicion in this regard.
"Everything has its limit. Just like House Fisablen's orders, there is a limit to the trade with the barbarians. They are quite numerous, but most live in extreme poverty. Whether it be the goods resold by Duke Fisablen or the products the committee brings over, there is a limit to how much they can consume. They can't consume more.
"A few days ago, Duke Fisablen made it clear that their orders won't be over a million in the future. Duke Kenmays also confirmed future trade with the barbarians will at most be worth just over a million a year.
"That's why I had Howard investigate the businesses that keep on borrowing money. They'll realize too late that they've made more than our economy can absorb. And their collapse will affect the entire domain severely. One look at this map will show you our products can only be sold to our neighboring provinces, other places can't afford our products or don't have a stable market for them."
"I believe I understand now, Your Grace. The palace's construction is actually a way to keep the demand up and the economy stable?"
"No, that's only a small aspect," Lorist said with a smile, "I will announce House Fisablen's order in the 1st month of next year. I believe the news will cause many businesses in our dominion to panic about the possibility that they won't be able to sell their produce. Your job will be to rectify and support them.
"By rectify, I mean we only have to maintain two to three units. Split the order among those retained businesses so they will compete against each other to ensure quality.
"By support, I'm referring to the financial support of any new and unestablished industries. Encourage them to grow as large as possible. Currently, the house isn't in any tight predicaments, nor do we have any enemies. This is an incredibly hard-sought time. We have to give up on redundant production and encourage the growth of new businesses.
"For example, the palace's construction will need high-quality materials. Given that we are no longer at war, the peaceful lives the peasants lead will raise their standard of living. So, we need new production units for some more luxury goods. It will allow us to maintain our grasp on the market initiative and earn us lots of money.
"Other than that, the reason I agreed to develop Duke Forund's dominion is so we can turn it into a market for our goods. Think about it: five years from now when Yungechandler's development is complete, we will have another market to dump our surplus produce into. Money must flow through the market for it to be useful. It shouldn't be kept in the treasury for emergency use like Supervisor Spiel thinks."
On the 4th day of the 2nd month, Year 1786, House Norton and House Forund signed an agreement to jointly develop Yungechandler. House Norton will provide seven million gold Fordes over the course of five years as funds for development and send Baron Shadekampf to be the chief advisor to aid House Forund in their dominion development. Five years later, House Forund will start to repay House Norton at a rate of two million gold Fordes a year for five years, paying back ten million gold Fordes in total.