The Sword of Jupiter - Cover

The Sword of Jupiter

Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy

Chapter 21

The next day, Ky was up early again, consulting with the Emperor who had thoughts about the planned meetings with the disenfranchised senators and the senators who represented Devnum itself, backed by the city’s merchants.

“If they have lost their lands, then do they still hold any power in the senate?”

“Yes, although less than they did when we still controlled the lands their families owned. Our traditionalism is one of our more defining traits and it would take more than just losing their land to the Carthaginians to lose their vote in the Senate. Besides, stripping them of their place in the Senate would be admitting that we will probably never get that territory back, which no one in the Senate wants to publicly say. So yes, they have a vote, if not the power to push legislation on their own. They are normally ignored by the rest of the Senate, but for what you want, we will need their votes to get over the large block of traditionalists.”

“I see. It’s such a strange idea though, the...”

Ky was interrupted by the appearance of a guard in the audience chamber.

“Yes?” the Emperor said.

“Emperor, your son is here, accompanied by the senators Marcus Umbrenius Silo, Publius Lusius Mutilus, and Paulus Palpellius Mercurialis.”

The Emperor’s shoulders visibly drooped as he squeezed the bridge of his nose, a sigh of frustration setting it.

“Show them in,” he said to the guard before turning to Ky. Softly, he said, “I wish I could just send them away. These will be our strongest opponents in the Senate and will lead the opposition to everything we are planning.”

Four men strode into the audience chamber. Ky couldn’t help but noticed that none bowed before the Emperor, something he’d seen every other Roman presented to him do. He still didn’t know enough about Roman etiquette, but he’d guess that it was an intended slight on the aged ruler.

“Father,” Caesius said. “We continue to hear rumors of what you and this ... man are planning, and we are here to tell you we will not allow it.”

“Funny. I don’t remember you being part of the Senate, Caesius.”

“He is a trusted adviser,” one of the men said. “I, however, am a member of the Senate and the princeps senatus, and I agree with Caesius. Once the people find out you are planning on changing everything that makes us Roman, they will not stand for it. We are here to give you one warning. If you do not back down from these changes, especially the ridiculous notion that Rome will free all of its slaves, the people will hear about it. You will have the mob at your door, demanding your abdication as Emperor.”

“That sounds an awful lot like a threat, Silo.”

“It is simply my judgment as what is most likely to happen. Rome has stood as an institution for hundreds of years. We have survived being expelled from our homelands. We have survived the Carthaginians pushing us off of the continent. We will not give away what makes us Romans.”

“The Carthaginians defeated you when you were far stronger than you are now,” Ky said. “They clearly intend to finish the job. What makes you think you can withstand them now, when you couldn’t defend against them while you controlled the resources of half the known world?”

“You are an outsider, and don’t know what it is to be Roman. I have even heard whispers that you were, perhaps, sent by the Carthaginians to weaken us. You play at being a messenger of the gods, defiling our beliefs. For you to stand as Rome’s Consul is an affront to every Roman.”

“I am an outsider, but I have eyes. It was only through trickery and luck that we survived the last army that the Carthaginians sent, losing more than a legion’s worth of soldiers doing it. You must have seen the intelligence reports. That was far from the largest army the Carthaginians will send against you. When they come again, and they are coming, you will not be able to stop them. Rome will be gone, and you will all be dead. There is a chance we can face them and survive, but it requires Rome to become something greater than it is right now.”

“Imperator,” Silo said, ignoring Ky. “I give you this last warning. We will not stand idly by while you allow this man to destroy us.”

“You overstep yourself, Silo. I am still Emperor. The Senate has regained much of its power since my ancestor established the empire, but it does not control Rome itself. I have heard you and my son’s opinion on the subject, and I think you are wrong. Ky is the only reason Devnum still stands, and the people know that.”

“Senator,” Ky said. “I know this is a difficult time, and it is hard to change, but please look at the situation around you. You have to see that Rome is on the precipice of falling into the wastes of history, a footnote of the Carthaginian hegemony. You must adapt or die.”

Ky’s words didn’t help. If anything, it hardened the man more, as he stared daggers at Ky. Finally, he broke his gaze to look back at the Emperor.

“Last warning,” he said, before turning and storming out of the room, followed by Caesius and the rest.

“That could have gone better,” Ky said.

“I don’t think so. No words will ever bring him and the like around. They would rather see Rome burn than lose an ounce of their power. He’s afraid, and fear drives men to act like wild animals, biting the hand that feeds them.”

“What will they do?”

“Try and stir up the people against us. When he said the mob would take to the street, he was serious. That is how they have pushed past Emperors into bending to the Senate’s will, giving over much of the power that Germanicus took when forming the new Rome here on Britannica. He will have agents out on the streets, preaching the evils of new, foreign ideas.”

“You don’t seem worried about that?”

“I am, but only to a degree. Ramirus keeps agents throughout Devnum specifically to keep us in tune with the passions of the mob. Silo is discounting the sheer volume of your popularity. The people of Rome love you. They see you as the savior of Devnum, and your performance in the Arena convinced them that you are indeed sent by the gods. He has made a mistake, pitting you as the evil that has infected Rome. I think the mob will not be as receptive to his propaganda as he thinks it will.”

“Let’s hope you’re right.”

It spoke volumes about the lower power levels of the disenfranchised senators that, unlike the men from the Northern districts, Ky did not have to travel to them. A small gathering of senators arrived shortly after Silo’s grand exit.

For men who had lost their land and family legacies, they were still elaborately dressed. That either spoke well of their investments outside of their lost lands or, more likely, the ability of men in power to siphon off money if they were in a high enough position. At this level of society, where graft and corruption were built into the system, Ky wasn’t surprised. It was one of the variables he had already tried to account for in his planning.

“Thank you for coming,” The Emperor said.

“It has been some time since any of us has received an imperial audience, how could we refuse?” one of the gathered men said.

“I know things have been difficult for you since your lands were taken by the Carthaginians. The reason we asked to see you will hopefully rectify that situation.”

“Every time our votes are needed, we hear that they have plans to retake the lost lands and restore our legacies. I do not know about my peers, but I remain skeptical of those claims.”

“Have the people making you promises defeated a Carthaginian army?” The Emperor asked.

“No, which is why we all came when called.”

“That was wise of you. Ky?”

Ky stepped forward at his cue and said, “I’m sure that, as have the other Senators I’ve spoken to, you’ve heard some things about what we’ve been doing.”

“Rumors have been flying across the Empire, yes.”

“There will be a series of new proposals coming in the next several weeks. They will call for some radical changes in how Rome is governed, and we are expecting a significant amount of pushback from the more conservative elements in the Senate. We are trying to shore up votes ahead of time.”

“If even half of what I’ve heard is true, then calling your proposals ‘radical’ doesn’t do them justice. Is it true you’re planning on freeing all the slaves?”

“No, at least not entirely. There will be four bills coming. The first is the installation of something called a patent department, that tracks and approves new inventions along with who invented the patent. We will have more specifics later, but the basics of the law will allow the person who patented the invention the right to collect fees for the right to produce that invention, which the person paying the licensing fee can then sell the invention.”

A different man spoke up, saying, “I’ve heard you were having meetings all over Devnum, talking to people about new ideas and technologies they can use to improve their business. Wouldn’t you stand to make a fortune from this law? You will fit in quite well with the others asking for our support.”

The sarcasm in the last sentence was almost palatable, and Ky did not doubt that most the other senators who came to these men for support did so to personally gain. From what Ky had seen, both in conversation with senators already and in the historical records shown to him by the AI, this seemed to be the norm in Roman society.

“While, for at least a long period, I will be providing a large number of new patents, I will not be profiting off of them. Any new technology I introduce will be signed over to the empire, with the empire receiving any of the royalties from those patents. One of this law’s goals is to generate the funds needed for a large expansion of the military, so Rome stands a chance against the Carthaginians.”

“Why not simply levy a new tax, instead of creating some complex new system.”

“A tax on everyone would be burdensome, especially as Rome is pushed into smaller and smaller territory. Many barely stay afloat as it is, and a new tax could lead to more Romans in poverty, which is the opposite of what I am trying to achieve. Nearly all of the new technology I am introducing will greatly increase the efficiency of the areas it touches, allowing those who adopt the changes to produce more for less. This system will keep the burden limited to those who benefit from the new technologies. Aside from that, my hope is that it will spur Roman inventors to look at what I introduce and find new and better ways of doing things on their own, launching a new technology revolution. Since you will never be able to match the Carthaginians in raw numbers of men available, the only chance Rome has is through better weapons.”

“That’s all fine. Even if you were to profit off these new laws, it is not the issue we’ve heard about that will cause the most problems.”

“No, I’m certain it isn’t. If I had to guess, I’d say it was the two proposed laws dealing with Rome’s slave population.”

“You said you weren’t freeing the slaves?”

“What I said was that it wasn’t entirely true. I should be fair, while we are not proposing freeing all of Rome’s slaves directly, we are going to greatly affect how Rome deals with its indentured population. I will say that, if it were just me, I would be pushing for the complete freeing of Rome’s slave population. The very idea of something like this is anathema in my homeland, and it stains your civilization to its very core. I have, however, been convinced by the Emperor and his advisors that outright freeing the entire population would lead to wide-scale destabilization, which is the exact opposite of what I’m trying to achieve.”

“So, what are these laws?”

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