17th of November, 1399
Jean of Breton stepped down the stairs, only to be greeted by a smiling young child standing next to priest.
The child ran to greet him, and Jean tussled his hair lightly with a small.
"How have you been, little Jean?"
"Busy. Mom is teaching me how to read."
"In French, I hope. Not Aragonese or Basque or something silly like that."
"Of course not father, who will read it if I write in Basque?"
"If you write well the Basque might," An old bishop smiled to the younger Jean before turning to his father, "but I have much to discuss with you, Duke."
"What is it now, Sulio?"
"I'm not happy with what you said two days past ago. You caused everyone a lot of trouble and you didn't do a bit of thinking. You're too reckless Jean. You've already seen two wars and two exiles, why not lie back in peace?"
"I am too old for peace, Sulio. The wicked are given no pause after all."
"I wish you wouldn't call yourself such."
"The Bishop of Rome tried to saint my enemy."
"And God showed him better, Jean."
Jean sighed and walked towards the window. Sulio continued none the less, this time with an appeal and the ever familiar council that Jean felt he gave too freely;
"Without a price on grains, the Merchants can charge whatever they like. The peasants will suffer harshly under that sort of law Jean. Give the merchants what they need to feed their families and give the same for the commoners. God provides for all his children but in our own greed, we watch eachother starve as we grow fat."
Jean gave no hesistance or consideration to this. His response was measured and certain.
"Merchants are flocking to Antwerpen for cheap grains and good prices. If that one merchant does not change his price, then he will soon be swept aside by a new merchant."
"Then there will be fewer and fewer merchants, until one alone controls the grain. You are replacing one arbitrary law with another and at least the law here seeks to protect the weak."
"A lone merchant of grain? There will always be competition, a new rival, some upstart. Your grand emperor of grain or holy bishop of wheat would either find his end from others or else, his fabled legends would spread word of the Bretons to the far south where our mighty rule of wheat would bring all other nations to their knees. Sulio, do not under estimate the ability of men to adapt and things to find their own balance, it shall be different perhaps from what it is now, but those blind with greed shall only destory themselves. I only allow those with a clearer vision to stand in their place."
"As you see fit," Sulio shook his head.
"If that is all, I will take my leave for the estates," Jean replied coldly before turning to Jean, "Now, behave well Jean."
"I will, father."
With that the Duke left for the estates, holding in his hand a set of missives. Behind him, the door shut, leaving the Jean and Sulio together. The estates were not for some time and while Sulio de Lamballe was due there himself, he was in less of a rush. He considered following after his Duke when Jean spoke up.
"You argue with father a lot, don't you?"
At first Sulio prepared to offer a rebuttal, then hesistated, "I suppose so. He is a stubborn man, your father"
"Why do you serve him then?"
Sulio once more was taken a back by the question, but this time the anwser was more certain, "He is a good man."
"He may argue and he may not always be right, but he is honest and he never breaks a promise."
"Does that matter?"
"We are all sinners young Jean, and when God opens the gates for us, he doesn't look for the perfect man or else not one of us would be spared. What he looks for instead is the man brave enough to step forward and say, 'Father, forgive me for I have sinned'. Your father is not the sort of man you guide but he is the man you stand beside when you are able; he knows his path and though he may not believe it, he has never acted without good in his heart and God on his mind."
"Father! Father! Where are you going?"
"To the army, Gwil."
"I have been called and must do my duty. I've sworn my name to this plot of land, signed it with the cross. Such a promise is one a man can retreat from."
"Will it be dangerous?"
"They only want to show the King that we Bretons are free. He cannot take us as easily as he imagines."
"And if he tries father?"
"Then we fight him to the last man, Gwil. A Breton's heart is proud and will never accept their rule, so long as there are a hundred of us left to fight. Better dead than dirty."
"Just make sure you don't try to use that excuse when it comes planting season Paol", Gwil's mother smiled, "and do try to come back in one piece".
"Don't worry Annick", Paol laughed, "They're only calling me to the town square to grab a weapon. You know that they only want some pointed sticks and shields to wave at the French so they will not think so lightly of us. It's not as though there's a war underway."
Duke Jean V arrived at the Estates and outside was a Burgund who spoke to him in French, the greeting was two fold, first, it confirmed the Royal Marriage. The Burgund rode behind Jean's own messenger who had already returned a letter promising it, but this messenger confirmed it but he brought further news. Burgundy was at war and called the Bretons to arms as their allies.
"Against whom?" Jean scratched his head.
"The Duchy of Barrois."
"Aren't they under French protection?"
"No, the French have left them. Shall you honour your oath or not, Duke?"
"Kentoc'h mervel eget bezań saotret."
"Tell your Duke that he shall greet us upon the field should he take to it himself."
The two entered together and made the announcement, there was some stir, but the weak, isolated state required little commitment of forces and reinforced a valuable alliance. Consent was quickly hammered out.
Further, he took the missives. Munster, Tyrone, England, Castille and Burgundy had all consented to royal marriage putting them into a solid diplomatic position.
A squire entered shortly after, his face panicked, "Milord, England have declared war upon the
Irish peoples of Leinster and Aragon upon the Basques of Navarra."
A cold shudder ran up the spine of Duke as he thought of his wife, poor Jeanne who hailed from Navarra would be in fear of her family and would plead for an intervention but such a thing was not possible, Jean sighed, they could only hope and pray.
"Milord," A Baron said, standing up with a smile, "It would be wise now to change the laws, pass into law an act that would allow us to press men into service for the Navy. Our army will swell in number and it will give us new economic life, lest we grow stagnant."
"His law allows Jews to enter the Navy," A priest spoke up, "We're not only offering excusion to heretics and heathens but employment and reliance upon them. Maeldan has given his policy little thought. Imagine what Rome would think alone and you must understand that this is not the right path."
"I agree with Olier," another Baron stepped forward, "The jews and rabble will not only harm us in the eyes of God but the men will never accept it, I certainly shall not. There will be squabbling and fighting amongst the ranks. We are a Christian nation, let hard working christian men protect us, rather than pressing into service rabble indescriminately."
"Jews too think and fight and bleed," Maeldan stepped forward, "Many men starve in the countryside, needing only employment to bring forth new ideas, markets and a mighty army for the Bretons. "
Jean considered his options. A recruitment act would grant them the numbers they needed to appear a mighty force but these fresh recruits would neither necessarily have loyalty or discipline and could soon prove dangerous. The promise of innovation too was alluring but it threatened his already strained relations with the Pope.
He looked over the estates to see the reaction of his fellow Bretons.