Chapter 350: Adamant
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“The first ship had been docked,” informed Zela. “Good,” I said with a smile. 
The undead had removed the blockade. There is no other choice in front of them. If they hadn't removed it, they would have been removed and the undead wouldn’t have liked the way did it.
The information had said that a lot of big ships had sailed from the Owlspring. The bank had also informed us of the taxes being submitted by them into the city's account.
“How are the preparations?” I asked Robin in front of me. 
“Good,” he replied, before turning to documents in his hands. “But I think, we are giving away too much,” he added.
“Trust me, it will be beneficial for us,” I said to him.
The merchant state had agreed to give us aid and called us for the negotiations. Nothing is free in the world, not even aid. In the communications, they have hinted at the concessions they want.
I have no problem agreeing with them. I have nudged the Count in that direction, but the bastard didn’t listen.
It will be mutually beneficial to us. More to us than them.
Robin left a few minutes later, and I focused back on what I was working on. Two more hours passed when the door opened, and Ina came in.
“They have arrived,” she informed. I nodded and walked out of my office. 
I am feeling a little nervous, but controlled my emotions. I held all cards here; there is no way, they wouldn’t agree.
Soon, I reached the conference room and the guards standing by it bowed. I nodded and entered the conference room, which was filled with people. Everyone is orc, except for Colonel Cardin.
“My lord,” they greeted.
“Everyone, please sit,” I said as I sat down. 
Every orc of importance is here. They are chieftains and Shaman’s. Some still have the bandages across their bodies. 
I wanted to delay the meeting till they recovered, but they insisted on today.
“Let me first start by saying thank you to you all. The victory wouldn’t be possible without you all and with that, you have fulfilled your end of the bargain, and now I will fulfill mine,” I said and turned to Colonel Cardin.
“We have already prepared what, his lordship had promised to you,” said Colonel Cardin and sent papers in front of orcs.
Aside from freedom. I had promised them some food and money; it is not much, but enough to last them a week or two.
I could see the faint hesitation appearing on their face. I didn’t say anything, nor Colonel Cardin. We just waited.
“What if we want to stay?” asked Shaman Trik. I had to fight really hard, to keep my expressions neutral, hearing that.
They have fought against the undead, not for freedom, but because they didn’t want to die. The undead wouldn’t have given them any mercy.
The normal orcs might rejoice in the thoughts of freedom, but these leaders understood the realities. It is why, the shaman had asked that question.
I am giving them what I promised. They are free to leave the city, but where would they leave?
They are not innocent. They were bandits. This means, that even if they want to leave, they cannot; there is no way available for them.
Their home was past Nakar Forest, but if they tried that route, the baronies and mirador hold would attack them. If they tried from a merchant state; they would be arrested. The merchants have no mercy for bandits.
There is only Greltheaven for them.
“For the duty you did for the city. I will welcome you all,” I replied, and I could see, the relief appearing on some of their face, but few kept looking at me, as they had sensed ‘but’ in my words.
“But you all are former bandits; there will be restrictions on you. It won’t be permanent. A year long, till we become sure, the compulsions of your former professions disappeared,” I added, and anger flashed in the eyes of some.
“We have fought for you. We have died for you. Isn’t that enough for you to trust us?” asked the muscled orc loudly.
“It is for that. You are free and talking to me, Chieftain Hron.” I replied, putting a small smile on my face.
It seemed to have made the man even angrier.
“Calm down, Hron,” said Shaman Trik, before turning to me. “What will be of restrictions be, my lord?” He asked, and I turned to Colonel Cardin.
“There won’t be restrictions on the movement of you and your people. If that is what you all are thinking. You can go anywhere you want and live anywhere you want. Will have same rights as any non-citizens,”
“The restriction would be mainly on the work, you all will need to serve the army for at least a year, after that. You will be free to do what you want and might even gain citizenship and become a full citizen of the city,” said Colonel Cardin.
A few orcs smiled in relief.
“Given the threat of the undead. The city might not remain standing by then,” said Shaman Krema. 
“Then we will die together,” replied Colonel Cardin with a laugh.
For a few seconds, there was silence. I could see the Orcs talking among themselves with their skills.
“What position our people will get in the army and what will they be getting paid?” asked Shaman Tirk.
“The lowest would be common soldier, the highest would be the captain. As for the salaries, they will receive the same salaries as the other new recruits in their position,” replied the Colonel.
It seemed to make them relieved. The posts would be low for many, especially those of Lv. 30 and above, but it is the test. If they prove their loyalty and worth, they will be promoted faster.
“And our tribal rights?” he asked and immediately the expressions of Colonel Cardin and me turned serious.
It is the sourest subject. The orcs like to maintain their tribal structure. In the merchant stage, many cities and even the state offer special rights to them.
“No special rights; not even an exception,” said Colonel Cardin firmly.
The tribal structure has its advantages, but I think, the disadvantages outweigh them all. It is not like, I am banning them from having a tribal structure. I am not just giving them the special rights.
This will be better for their integration into the city and becoming part of the city’s identity.
“We do not want much. Just a few exceptions that Meldhorn offers,” said Chief Garzong, looking at me. 
“My apologies, but there will be no exception,” I replied. It made some of them angry, but they didn’t say anything. 
“Give us some time to think about it,” said Shaman Trik finally. “Of course. If you have any questions, please ask them to Colonel Cardin and Adviser Ina, here.” I replied and walked out of the office.
“We should be a little flexible, we need Orcs,” said Lola as we walked back to my office. “Yes, we need them, but they need us more,” I replied.
It is a calculated gamble with a long-term view in mind. These won’t be the last orc, that I will take in the city, and I want the rules equal for them all. 
However, the restrictions on work would only apply to these orcs due to their former profession. The orcs or any other people of any other race that will come to the city won't face such restrictions.
“By taking them, we will be breaking the biggest law of the empire. Even Storm-Mage didn’t dare to do that,” she said. 
“We also wouldn’t dare to do that. If the Emperor is alive, but sadly, he has passed away and with the protection he officered. Now, the undead have conquered our cities and we will need every help we can.”
“The orcs are good, they have already proved their worth in fighting for us against the undead,” I replied.
Orcs are strong and if not for them. We wouldn’t have won the battle. I need them, especially now, when many of them have leveled-up.
“I wonder if the other cities will do what we are doing,” she said softly. 
I didn’t answer that, even though I can’t guess the answer to that question. Though, from what I know, the lord of Deerpond might do this. Man is not a speciest, nor he is religious; he will do what benefits him the most.
He will not do it immediately. He will wait and watch how it played out for us. Just like, he did with trading with Navr.
It offers the Greltheaven great opportunity.
I have taken the first step with the orcs; they have not finalized the decision yet, but I know they will stay. 
They don’t have any choice.
“Mr. Hugo is waiting for you, Lord Silver,” informed Jill, as I reached my office.
It surprised me, as he didn’t make an appointment. I looked at Zela and her expressions were complicated. She seemed to know what it was about, and I wanted to ask but decided not to.
I will know, soon enough from the man waiting in office.
“Lord Silver,” greeted Hugo. He looked a little nervous, but there was a firmness in his eyes. “This doesn’t look like a casual visit?” I asked as I sat down.
“No, it is not, my lord,” he replied, shaking his head.
“So, what can I do for you Hugo?” I asked directly. 
“I hope you can release me from your service, my lord,” he said, shocking me. I had expected many things, but not this. I had cast a glance at Zela, and she didn’t seem surprised by it.
“May I know why?” I asked and his expressions turned a little complicated for a moment before he controlled them, but I had sensed an unmissable pain and some hatred in them. 
“I had suffered greatly. From the hands of nobles and took an oath on the graves of those I had lost, that I would never swear fealty to them,” he replied, with each word coming out of his mouth felt like an open wound.
It hurts to just listen to them. I knew the man was deep but never knew. He was holding so much pain in his heart.
“Is there nothing, I could do to convince you to stay?” I asked, to that he shook his head. 
I don’t want to lose him. He is really good. So talented and experienced. Most importantly, loyal.
But it is clear, that he had already made up his mind and holding him back would be wise. 
“Fine, I will release you from my service, but can you at least tell me, what you are planning to do?” I asked, and his expression turned a little hesitant.
“I haven’t truly much thought about it, but I will probably form a mercenary team,” he replied. I nodded and opened my mouth to wish him luck when suddenly an idea struck me.
“It is a great idea, Hugo and I hope, you will let me help you with that,” I said and his expression turned hesitant.
“You are aware, that how expensive it is to set up a mercenary team. Potions, weapons, armor, room. It is all very expensive,” 
“I will be just an investor, without any control. We can put in it writing. The only thing I want is to make Greltheaven home for your company and give priority to the missions from the city,” I said.
Hearing, that, some of the expressions from his face have eased.
“I will think about it,” he said finally. “That’s all I want,” I replied. He nodded and walked out of the room.
“We tried to convince him, but he was adamant,” said Zela. “It is fine,” I said and looked at the door.
I really hope he will accept. I don’t want to lose a man like him. 

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