So some ballpark figures on Lunar imperial finances. I’m going to use an anachronistic accounting measure – the talent (valued at 300 Lunars) to reduce zeros and make possible real world comparisons.
The Red Emperor normally collects some 14,000 to 15,000 talents a year from various sources (rent, harvest taxes, tolls, tribute, etc). That’s roughly comparable to what Antiochus III had access to.
To maintain the Lunar Army at the wartime 1621 figures costs the Red Emperor some 13,000 to 14,000 talents a year. His cavalry costs about the same as the entire infantry, and the Lunar college of magic costs nearly half as much as the entire Cavalry Corps. Now that’s a wartime army – in peacetime it is probably 10,000 to 11,000 talents.
But the household of the Red Emperor, his scribes, his feasts, his orgies, his palaces, his servants, slaves, dancing monnsters, annd the rest costs about 2000 to 3000 talents a year. Under the current Mask it is probably more like 4000 to 5000 talents a year. In peacetime, this is quite sustainable, and many Red Emperors have run surpluses which are then saved up. In times of war, the Red Emperor has to draw down on that surplus or even confiscate money by withdrawing tax exceptions, imposing nnew taxes, forced loans, etc.
The Lunar Empire has been on a war footing since 1618, so those big rooms filled with gold wheels are now mostly empty, and the Red Emperor has been forced to do things like raise rents, create new taxes, loot temple treasuries, and all sorts of other measures – I mean nobody is going to expect Argenteus to cut down on the public largesse! The sieges of Whitewall and Nochet were absurdly expensive, and neither resulted in much plunder. Worse yet, the Pentans have disrupted the taxes in Oraya and First Blessed, and peasant rebellions (and the White Moon Movement) have troubled Karasal, Oronin, and even the Silver Satrapy! So revenues are way down, expenditures are up.
And then we get the Dragonrise and the defeat of the Lunar Army in the Redlands.
I fear the Lunar capital market is not developed enough for the Red Emperor to truly borrow more than hand out IOUs. I think that the trade choke point in Dragon Pass is worth another 1000 to 2000 talents a year, if running at full speed, but off course having a war in the Holy Country and a Sartarite uprising tends to screw with things.
Maybe those Etyries merchants have been willing to advance cash in exchange for new exemptions and privileges, but those might now be looking like Bad Bets. Except for Fronela, which is clearly a growth market! Who gets the Sog City concession?
I’m sure they figured that taking Nochet, with thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of talents, plus all that ongoing international trade, would be the Hail Mary Pass that solved everything.
And meanwhile, do you want to be that Irrippi Ontor scribe that has to explain to the Red Emperor that his orgy budget needs to be cut down?
I imagine at the Knowledge God Ecumenical Conference in 1632, we have some very interesting dialogues between the scribes in Glamour and the scribes of King Argrath’s mobile court.