85 Chapter 85

"Because Lord Bolton does none of those things." She replied "He has no reason to. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Lord Bolton has nothing to do with the people coming from other lands. No. The only thing he has done is make the lives of the people in Bolton lands far better than the lives of smallfolk in any other place in the North."

"That doesn't change the fact that he does accept those people in his lands." He pointed out.

"Better than barring them access to the lands and telling them to go back where they came from." She said with a shrug "Tell me lord Stark, do you know how much an average smallfolk farmer earns in the North in general?"

He frowned at those words and then guessed "1 to 2 gold dragons." He guessed.

"True." She nodded "Recent surveys have told us that an average Northern farmer earns about 1.32 gold dragons in a year. The same surveys told us that after paying the tax, for the daily necessities and new equipment, the farmer is left with less than 20 silver stags."

"I don't see what this has to do with anything." He said, not really understanding why the woman was spouting all these facts. Though the fact that Lord Bolton had done surveys like these once again showed the power within his hands.

"Do you know how much an average small folk farmer in the Bolton lands earns in a year?" she asked.

"No." He replied.

"This year, the survey found that an average Bolton farmer earns about 15 gold dragons each year."

He did a spit take at that and then started coughing at the wine that went down the wrong pipe in his throat.

The woman gave an amused smile and gave him a handkerchief and as he wiped his mouth, he thought about the implication of those words.

He knew that the people of Bolton lands enjoyed much more wealth than other people but damn. He had no idea that the disparity was that great.

"Of course." She continued "After paying the taxes, the loans for the steel equipments, the loan for buffaloes, the loan for the canal, and the tax payment for the Police force guarding their lands, the people are left with less than 3 gold dragons. But considering that one gold dragon makes for 210 silver stags, an average farmer in Bolton lands still earn about 30 times more than an average farmer any where else in North."

"I… see." He said, trying to regain his bearings even as he tried and failed to understand the full impact of what has been told to him.

But even if he didn't understand the full details, he did understand the point that Lady Celly was trying to make.

"The 'smallfolk' do not travel to Bolton lands because Lord Bolton has coerced them to come to his lands. But because they see a brighter future for themselves and their children in these lands."

"That is good and all. But that still doesn't change the fact that the lords from the nearby lands are angry for losing their smallfolk, their only source of revenue to the Boltons. That still doesn't change the fact that if this continues, then we'll have a civil war in our hands. Something that I'm trying to stop."

"I know Lord Stark." She said with a smile "For this very reason, me and Lady Barbrey have decided to hold a tourney and have called for all the lords in our kingdom to come and participate. That way, all the lords would be here and you and Lord Bolton will be free to discuss the terms with them without causing a civil war."

"A tourney. But isn't you're lord still travelling back from Braavos?" he asked. "How can spend so gold on something without his permission."

To that, the woman simply smiled a coy smile that told him that she knew something that he didn't and found a lot of amusement in that fact.

Maybe Lord Bolton had given her more control over his finances than he thought? If so, then this Lady Celly held far more power and wealth in her hand than almost any other lord in North. A frightening prospect on it's own.

So far he had thought that he was talking to a representative of Lord Bolton because Lady Barbrey herself wouldn't come to meet him.

It was a good thing that he was respectful and courteous to her. The woman might not hold power in the traditional sense of lands and people but someone who can hold a tourney costing tens of thousands of gold dragons with such ease was someone was supposed to be feared and treated with caution.

"Lord Bolton will arrive in the castle within a week." She replied, not answering his question as she got up from her chair and bowed to him "By your leave Lord Stark."

He gave her a nod and she returned it with her own before leaving the room.

Once Lady Celly had left the room, he took another sip from the glass and let out a breath that he didn't even knew he had been holding.

Then he got up from his chair and looked at the courtyard through the glass windows.

Down in the courtyard he could Robb and Job play tag with the other children of their age and… were those direwolf pups?

He looked around and saw Briar, the warg woman whom Lord Bolton brought back from his expedition North of the Wall sitting beside her direwolf. An intelligent creature who was paying close attention to it's half dozen pups who were playing tag with the other children.

He looked at the guards on top of the walls and could see that they were not even paying any attention to this.

Well, if playing with Werewolf pups was a common occurrence within Dreadfort then he supposed he had nothing to fear.

He could also see that the direwolf pups have grown attached to both Robb and Jon with how they were circling them.

And as he looked at the carefree smile on Jon's face as he played with the direwolves and the other children, he realized that despite all the trouble that these lands were causing him, the Bolton lands were not such a bad place after all.

Next chapter