They all took up positions north of Marinhalk on the map. One went to the extreme north, closest to the Emperor. Two and Three took up positions parallel to one another further south on the map.
Maxion bowed in a grand gesture and addressed his Emperor. “My good Lord Mandrean, my Province continues to flourish. The mines continue to produce vast quantities of precious ores. Iron mining has nearly doubled since our last meeting. Lumber also is progressing well into the northern wilderness. Our contribution to the glory of the Empire is clear and noteworthy.
“The First Division patrols the border with the Ice Giants to the north. The Second and Third Divisions are segmented into garrisons and placed around the key mining and forestry production to prevent slave revolt. All is well with my Province.”
Mandrean looked irritated and handed his goblet to Fendri without saying a word. He stood and observed the pawns’ position in detail. “As usual,” he barked. “You tell only the side of the story you want to be heard. What of the revolts in the mines?”
“As I mentioned, My Lord, the Second and Third Divisions are in place to prevent such instances.”
Mandrean appeared evermore lucid as he paced before his general. “So I was misinformed that gold production was brought to a halt for nearly a month? Are you saying the reports were wrong about your subordinates selling the slaves’ food for profit to line their pockets and afford their…attire? Are you also saying that the chain of revolts by starving slaves that followed did not require both the Second and Third Divisions to quell? In doing so I suppose it would also not be true that crushing the revolt reduced the work force by half. So did these things happen or are you simply withholding my gold shipments?”
Maxion’s arrogance evaporated in the light of the disclosure. After a moment’s pause he replied. “My Good Lord, the facts of these matters have at the least been contorted and spun in a most incorrect manner.”
“Well,” Mandrean said as he walked forcefully to his general and stared him in the eye. “Why don’t you explain it in a way that will not have your skin hanging from the battlements of this building?”
Maxion’s words sputtered out slowly. “You see…the Ice Giants have increased their tribute demands. If we do not meet their quota of food, we risk them coming into our realm this winter and taking what they wish. I do not have sufficient men to fend off such an attack. It was for that reason some of the provisions intended for the slaves were diverted to the offering. In hindsight, we gave too much and the slaves rebelled. The results were unfortunate but could have been considerably worse if we had not paid the ransom.”
Mandrean struck his palm to his forehead. “So let me understand. You took provisions from the workers and caused a mutiny with great loss in manpower and production and I am supposed to believe you did it for the good of the Empire?”
“Those would not be my words, My Lord, but the essence is correct.”
Mandrean produced a knife from his sleeve and held it to Maxion’s throat. “I will investigate your statements. If I find the slightest discrepancy in the story, I will peel your skin like that of a potato and feed it to the hogs. Now get out of my sight.” Maxion stepped back and performed more of a courtesy than a bow. Then he meekly returned to his seat.