Sitting at the head of the table with seventeen other people of various ages and appearances gathered, I opened the meeting with the standard greeting. The timing for this event was picked by me with the intention to hit at the less busy times in their shops and taverns. From the looks of things, not everyone bothered to participate, but at least I managed to gather the majority of the group that interested me.
"To not waste your time, let me introduce you to something that I believe, will shake the foundations of your jobs."
Just a single gesture towards the servants hidden behind a piece of cloth separating the dining hall of my palace and the kitchen was enough for them to roll two barrels of my beer inside. After bringing them close to the table, they helped each other to put them vertically before taking out a knife and opening the lid I closed those barrels with last night.
While normal barrels would have the tap slammed into its side before anyone could pour the content directly into the mug, but with how those barriers were used to transport wheat and barley in the first place, I believed I couldn't afford these shenanigans. While I still had one more barrel for each kind of the beer, destroying one right at the beginning of the meeting would put me on the spot.
"Before you will have a drink with me, I want to ask you all a question. What is the average price for a garn (about 4litres) of beer that you are selling? And I don't mean this high-class one you keep for the sake of some rowdy nobles swarming the place and threatening to kill you if they won't be served a proper drink without realising that I would be the first one to kill them if they were to act on their words…"
Those people didn't know me almost at all. With only a few years passing since the death of their previous overlord, and with quite a big chunk of that time being wasted on the silly northern war with Muscovy and Sweden, the previous owner of this body didn't get to really get to know them.
That's why I attempted this small trick, aimed at winning them over to my side, even if only by a tiny bit. If I wanted any form of business to be made, they had to trust me in the first place! Additionally, with all the reforms my great ancestor implemented and insanely lax taxation coupled with numerous efforts to carve more and more privileges for the entire middle class of Tarnow from the crown's hand, I had to give them something in return even before asking for something they owned!
"More or less, it would be 1 grosh (silver). While the prices can fluctuate a bit higher and lower, that's about the fair price."
Without speaking a word more than asked, one of the better-dressed inn owners raised and replied to my question. But instead of sitting down after he finished speaking, he remained standing, waiting for my sign that he was allowed to speak.
Raising my hand and showing him my open palm, I accepted his mute request. For someone to take initiative while speaking with their lord… He was either dumb, suicidal or actually cared for the future of his business! How many times did people lose their jobs and life-savings only because some noble though that he would completely change the world with some stupid ideas? How many died because some people thought it was okay to make everyone's paycheck equal?
I wasn't going to make the same mistake. Even if I could bank on my system to bring some good changes to both my lands and the entire country in the long term, before enacting any reforms, it would be for the best to ask for the advice of people who already worked their bottoms off in this particular field of business!
"My lord, allow me to start with the assumption. Just from the sheer aroma of the drinks that were prepared by the lord's servants I can tell its immense worth. If this meeting were to be just about selling small quantities of it, I think that not only your highness wouldn't bother to attend it personally, it would be most likely done just by a single offer forwarded to one of us."
Sweeping his hand around the table, the man pointed at all his colleagues sitting calmly with tense expressions. It wasn't common for the noble to call for a meeting with commoners that wasn't working directly under him, even if they possessed the status of citizens of his city. With the evergrowing position of nobility in the country, all the cities and their inhabitants felt pressured to fight against the trend, doing their very best to never give any of their rights to the nobles, as not only it would set up precedence, but most likely, said right would never be returned!
"And since the quantity of this beer that needs to be sold is greater than what a single person from here could handle, then I can only assume that Lord has the intention of selling it in all of our inns and taverns. Am I right, my lord?"
There was no denying that this guy was really smart. Not only did he manage to dissect my plan just from the way I set up this meeting, but I could also see how he was gravitating towards the conclusion that would make it impossible for me to push my intention forward at all!
"You are completely and absolutely right, to the point where I have the feeling of calling for a priest to make sure are not a saint given to us by the almighty Lord in the heavens!"
With no sign from me to stop, the servants already started distributing two mugs of beer for each person at the table, obviously starting from with my place. Using the situation to enhance the weight of my words with a gesture, I raised the cup with the worse kind of beer that was placed in front of me and raised it high into the sky.
"Just like you said, I do not wish to play around with small quantities, nor do I want to force you guys to distribute it for me for free. But since the idea I came up with is too grand, I can only speak about it after you answer two more questions of mine. So starting with the beer on your right, let's have a drink! Cheers!"
According to the social law of the current times, as I was the most important person in the entire room unless I would take at least a sip, no one else would be allowed to do so. While it pained me to pay attention to such small and unimportant details, if I were to show lack of understanding towards the current culture and beliefs, people would quickly start getting suspicious about my reasons for doing so!
Lowering the mug to the level of my lips, I took a single gulp, while casting a short glance at Elia sitting right beside me. Despite how much she wanted to come with me since the meeting has only begun and I didn't show any of my actual cards, she remained silent, only following my lead and enjoying her cup of beer.
Slamming the half-empty mug on the table, I made sure that everyone's attention would be focused back at me.
"Since you already started talking before, let me ask you directly. How would you value this beer if you were to buy it, and how much could you sell it for?"
"Welcome everyone, and thanks for sparing your precious time for this meeting. I will make sure it will be worth your while."