The Rise and Fall of the Window Tax, Part One

Now it came to pass in the Year of the Unstrung Harp, when the shadow of the so-called "Devil Dragon" fell upon the land of Cormyr, that there was much fear in Suzail. After a brief flurry of war-related importations of armor and weaponry, trade in the city fell sharply. Many foreign traders relocated to Sembia and the independent ports of the Dragon Coast -- Westgate in particular. News from the wider world and colorful, interesting trade goods became scarce, and rumors of treason among nobles and courtiers, and strife in many households of the realm, raced through the streets daily, leaving folk muttering and dark-minded.

As the armies clashing in the northern reaches of the realm drew nearer to the capital of the Forest Kingdom, fear rose higher. Dread monsters were said to be on the verge of overwhelming the city. Food (already highly priced in the wake of the ghazneth depredations and associated harvest yield troubles) grew scarcer and more expensive. After the city of Arabel fell and its citizenry streamed into Suzail, journeying from one city to the other in but a few strides by means of mighty war wizard spells, both fear and food shortages increased sharply. Many citizens of Suzail having sufficient portable wealth (or weak loyalties to the city) deemed it wisest to flee both city and realm for a time, and did so -- taking their coin and daily purchases with them. Notable among these departures were many of the freely spending younger members of many noble families of Cormyr, who were "sent away for safety" by their kin. In some cases, their kin promptly followed them, citing variations upon the theme of "urgent business, too long neglected, abroad."

Less fortunate folk left behind in Suzail soon found casual workers (save for unfamiliar ruffians of suspicious looks, who arrived in the city to offer services to one and all as short-hire bodyguards) hard to find. Traditional short-hire tasks such as loading, unloading, and refuse removal grew increasingly difficult, and rats and pets abandoned by those who'd fled roamed the city hungrily, infesting alleys in increasing numbers. Certain nobles took to traveling the streets (when they emerged from their walled and gated mansions at all) with large bodyguards who seized property and dealt harshly with anyone who disputed with them, except when under the eye of Watch patrols or uniformed Purple Dragons. Food became even scarcer and more expensive.

Conditions in the Palace and the sprawling Royal Court echoed those of Suzail's streets, though few courtiers knew true hunger or need. Court officials observed the increasing local filth, lawlessness, and desperation, and determined that something must be done. Highknights were called away from shadowing suspect nobles to "lurk" in Suzail (to lead Purple Dragon strike forces against smugglers, slavers, and the increasing numbers of snatch-and-grab street gangs). Among other measures enacted to "set things to rights" was a curious folly: the window tax.

It was first proposed by a minor clerk of the Royal Vaults, Underscribe Lhultan Culthorp (a wasp-tongued LN male human Exp1 of "superior" manner) as a means of deriving revenue for common food purchases and rat-hunting. His "Coincall Upon Skylights and Viewing-Panes" was to be a levy of 1 silver falcon monthly for every window or skylight in non-Crown-owned buildings within the walls of Suzail (unless said features had been permanently shuttered and boarded up, with all glass removed and "tool work made necessary for their re-opening").

Building owners were to pay the tax to the Coin-Clerks of the Court at the usual offices just inside the Lions Door entrance of the Royal Court. Levies were due on the last day of each month following proclamation of the levy-law. Citizens failing to pay within six sunsets after the due time, according to Culthorp's draft proclamation, would forfeit goods (by Watch seizure) equal in market value to the levy owed (value appraisals to be made by Court officials only, and not subject to challenge or appeal).

The Coincall was proclaimed in Suzail on a single day, in the same manner as all laws of Cormyr. Written notices were posted on signboards along the Promenade, within every city gate, in the Market, at Market Hall, and at all Royal Court entrances. At the same time, the new law was "cried out" (read aloud) by Court officials, ringed by bodyguards, in all city taverns.

It was not well received.

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