Chapter Seventh Prime
Scene Seven: Preliminary Assessment
By the end of the second day, I achieved a reasonable understanding of the town's tax history. I found 284 taxpayers. Their reports were jumbled together in clan and house records. It took a great deal of time to tease them apart. My master table of free men, carved onto five planks of oak, puts each in a row with amounts declared this year and last. By nightfall, I achieved a simple but complete diagram. There proved to be only 58 serfs in Furlingsburg. They are not slaves but neither are they free, as they are not permitted to move elsewhere. By the duke's edict they can't leave the farms on which they work without prior forgiveness of their families' debts. This is as near to slavery as makes no difference but they pay a form of tax as well, which is seven-eights of what they produce. Naturally, none of the serfs produce finished goods. They can't afford the taxes. The price of the raw materials they need is higher than any profit they can make. So all they can do is grow food to survive.
When Sir Ulrich died without an heir, his estate reverted to Baron Ankster. The baron awarded the farms and the serfs on them to Sir Fettertyr. Fettertyr received many such farms in nearly a dozen towns but serfs are no longer enough to make a knight wealthy. Even seven-eights of their farm output is not much.
According to these records, Sir Fettertyr has executed two men in Furlingsburg, both serfs, one for witchcraft and the other for looking at the knight in a disrespectful manner. He may also have killed a Mundredi farmer according to Wilfried, who says that an unapproved farm was burned to the ground last year, three months before the razing of South Ackerland.
Despite the knight's inheritance of serfs and his treatment of free men, the majority of the town's families are rather happy free farmers, craftsmen, and merchants. Many of the Mundredi have looked at their knight disrespectfully and lived. Many have failed in their tax payments, too, as one can expect to discover in an audit. I'm sure that most of the mistakes are honest ones because a full third have resulted in slight over-payments. Mayor Jolli was shocked to discover this. I reassured him that accidental over-payments are normal. He wanted that in writing and so I have provided it for him in a introductory paragraph of the report to Sir Fettertyr.
All of this work on the knight's finances makes me wonder how Sir Fettertyr compares to Vir de Spitze in the eyes of Furlingsburg citizens. Vir has respect among the Mundredi clans and technically, he rules them. Yet many here consider him ruler only of Easy Valley and West Valley and even then, only in name. Their town is considered mostly beyond his reach.
Nevertheless, I have wondered if the citizens here might look to him to deliverer them from oppression? I would say they do. He visited this town more than once when he was a young man. He has friends here. Unfortunately, his contemporaries like Hermann Ansel and Valentina regard him as ineffective, not much more than a bandit. Counter-balancing this is the view of younger men who feel that Vir's defeat of Sir Ulrich makes him a hero.
In the chapel at the back of the great hall of Hammer Clan, there is a picture of Vir under which the word WANTED can be read. Around the edges of the picture, holy symbols have been drawn.
Next: Chapter Seventeen, Scene Eight