Lorist felt that he had failed quite horribly as a dominion lord. Recalling the days when he was first transported to Grindia, he had endeavored to read as many books as he could to understand the new, foreign world he found himself in, including even novels about knights that were rather popular reads. However, all such novels depicted nobles and dominion lords to be people who spent all day enjoying luxuries and fine wine while being surrounded by beauties. They were either busy organizing dance parties or flirting with other noble ladies and if they were bored, they would hunt and organize knight competitions. Even if war broke out, nobles would sit behind their armies as there were more than enough heroic knights who were willing to do their bidding and fighting in their steads on the frontlines. Some nobles were even depicted to have epic romantic encounters on the battlefield.
Looking back at himself, he had been running all over the place to complete his tasks like a dog and there was still so much to do. Even though he had many subordinates, most of the things had to be settled by him personally as they involved decisions that only he, the lord, could make. In the case of battles, he also participated in them personally and rushed at the very front. According to the books, I'm no dominion lord. I'm just a coolie!
Besides that, before he even rested after he arrived at Firmrock Castle, a huge group of people were lined up outside his room waiting to make their reports.
The first group was Telesti and her Iron ranked butler, who stated her intentions after giving a respectful bow: Telesti hoped that Lorist would see her in one or two days to solve the problem of the wells and the castle's water supply.
Curious about the issue, Lorist asked about it and understood after hearing the explanation. The new residential area had two solutions for their water supply. The first was to make a well at every household, which would mean that the workload would be huge. The second was to have a well for each street district. But that might cause some congestion when the residents line up to get water. There was also the fact that wells were hard to construct given that the castle was built right beside the mountain. Telesti hoped that Lorist could make his decision as soon as possible.
Sigh, they're even asking me about matters like this... My head hurts! The next person who entered was Supervisor Kedan who had seen the captives Josk and gang brought over. He had no idea what to let the captives do.
Lorist said tiredly, "What do you have to hesitate about? Just let them gather building materials since they're energetic soldiers. The hardworking ones will get better food while the lazy ones will get the whip. If some try to escape, just hang them. Let the laborers who were originally doing all that be their managers to monitor and correct their work. After that, have Ovidis send some family soldiers there daily to do surveillance on the captives."
After that was Butler Boris. He reported many trivial matters like how the liquor stores of the castle were nearly empty. Ever since the business sector was completed, two taverns started operating and the laborers who had recently gained freedom and payment would go there to drink a cup or two to pass time. Similarly, the family soldiers and the immigrants also did the same, causing the two taverns to boom with business. However, given that the alcohol sold there had been taken from the Redriver Valley Bastide, it was bound to run out sooner or later. Coupled with the knighthood competition organized jointly by the Nortons and the Kenmayses which required them to provide a huge amount of free alcohol, the remaining stock within the warehouses could only last for five days at most.
"Gosh, if we're running out, then start producing some. Common ale is the easiest to make. Just go check if any of the immigrants or laborers have any experience in producing ale and the problem will be solved," Lorist said.
"But, milord, last time you mentioned that food supply was the most important resource in a battle and put Supervisor Hansk in charge of it. Now that we are still constructing the city, no agricultural work has been done and there wasn't any harvest for the past two years. The food we took from Redriver Valley Bastide would only last us for one year or two at the most and given the increasing population within the castle, consumption would increase as well. How can we spare any more of that to make ale with?" asked Butler Boris.
Wow, he even quoted my words... Lorist held his forehead and said, "That's no longer an issue. Let Hansk make more ale with the food we have. I'm sure you've heard that the duke slaughtered the folks at Wildnorth Town and after defeating them, we discovered enough food within the town to last us for 5 years. Thus, the food problem is solved and I will have Maplewoods Bastide send some over after a period of time.
"Oh? You haven't left yet? Is there anything else?" Lorist asked.
"Um, it's about this..." Butler Boris said hesitantly. "We've arrested a few women who were working as prostitutes within the camp..."
"Huh..." Lorist mused as he focused his attention on this topic as any man would. "Where are these women from? Why would they work as prostitutes within the camp?"
"Two of them are new immigrants who came over from the Kenmays Family's dominion and they started seducing men after they were brought over here. Another five were originally slaves who felt that the work delegated to them was too tiring after regaining their freedom and returned to their old jobs."
Lorist had heard Butler Boris mention once that the 200 or so female slaves were originally meant to be 'rewards' for the laborers of the Kenmays Family in that the workers that performed well could spend a night with one of the women.
"Milord, according to their testimony, there are tens more women who are like them that fortunately weren't arrested by us. How should we deal with this? I need your advice..." the butler asked.
"Sigh..." Lorist crept back to his table and said, "Why the heck would we punish them? If they are willing to do it, let them continue. Men need women and the opposite is true as well. We need each other. Given that the men far outnumber the women at Firmrock Castle, and most of them are healthy and virile youths, they require an outlet for their sexual needs. How about this, Butler Boris, go build a brothel so that the prostitutes can be managed by us more easily. We will offer them protection from harm and a safe environment for their work in exchange of 30% of their earnings."
"Milord, other dominion lords would collect 70% of it..."
"Forget it. They work hard to earn their money and it's already enough for us to take 30% of it. Also, issue a notice that private prostitutes who are found to be operating without permission will be punished for one year of unpaid labor in the brothel if they are captured."
Sheesh! What's wrong with this world... A dominion lord like me is actually managing prostitutes like a pimp, how agonizing... After Butler Boris left, Lorist started to sigh again. However, he had no choice but to meet the rest of the people outside.
This time, two people entered the room at once. Lorist seemed to recognize the two.
The elder one stepped forward, stood straight and reported, "Milord, the both of us have been sent by Sir Patt to check on the forces of the Kenmays Family. We only just returned yesterday."
Lorist finally recalled that they were the members of his personal guard who used to be bandits and understood why their faces seemed so familiar to him. However, Lorist still couldn't remember their names.
"Ah, yeah. Don't just stand there, grab a seat. There're chairs right there. Your mission must have been tiring. Fortunately, you were careful enough to not be detected and returned here safely. Sit down and tell me about your findings."
"Thanks, milord," said the two guards. The first thing that came out of their mouths startled Lorist quite a bit. "Milord, the Kenmays Family forces have successfully conquered the dominion of Count Lopez."
"What? Count Lopez's dominion? Where is it?" Lorist said as he searched frantically around the beastskin map of the Northlands but was ultimately unable to find it.
"Get Butler Boris, Shadekampf and Old Man Balk here. Oh, Balk has gone with Grandmaster Sid to search for resources... Oh well, just get Boris and Shadekampf here first."
"I recall that there was a map at the Redriver Valley Bastide that depicted the locations of the new noble families that were just recently entitled by the Second Prince. It should be somewhere around here, go look for it," said Boris to Shadekampf who didn't know who Count Lopez was.
Seemingly recalling something about a map thanks to the reminder, Shadekampf searched around and found it in the end.
"Look, milord. The small hill over here is on the border of Viscount Kenmays's dominion and Count Lopez's dominion. It's only ten or so meters tall without any water source and is quite barren. After the forces of the Kenmays Family entered the bastide of Count Lopez, we mingled with the civilians by disguising ourselves as a group of mercenaries who were tasked to collect medicinal herbs near the Magical Dragon Mountains and infiltrated the bastide. We heard that the count did indeed request Viscount Kenmays for help to resist the barbarian invasion. It seems that the count fought a battle with them and incurred huge casualties while he himself got injured pretty badly. The citizens within the bastide were all afraid that the barbarians would succeed in their invasion as well," the elder guard said.
"Hm? That's weird, isn't this year the Kubawesson Festival? The mountain barbarians shouldn't be invading Count Lopez's dominion at all," said Lorist, wondering curiously about the situation.
"Milord, it was said that Count Lopez attacked them first. One day, the troops he led encountered a group of barbarian farmers and they launched an attack to steal all their livestock. In the end, they were attacked by a lot of barbarian cavalrymen when they were on their way back and that hard fought battle caused the count to be injured and many of his men to be sacrificed. The barbarians didn't continue their chase and merely said that they would settle the debt once the festival is over, so Count Lopez called Viscount Kenmays to send some troops over to prepare him for the upcoming invasion."
Oh my, even if you had a death wish, this doesn't seem like a nice way to go... Can it be that the count doesn't know that it's the Kubawesson Festival this year? Those livestock were sacrifices to their god for their ceremony at Smormilgen Mountain. Uncultured people like the count sure are scary... For him to even dare to violate their sacred traditions and steal their sacrifice without knowing... Lorist really didn't know whether he should praise the count for his bravery or be awed with his greed.
"Back then, I also thought that the viscount was truly going to help the count out, so I had prepared to return on the second day," said the younger guard. "But as I had drunk quite a bit of alcohol on the first night, I got up rather late the next day and discovered that a curfew has been enacted by the forces of the viscount and while entry to the bastide was allowed, nobody could leave. Also, the bastide of the count was also flying the three-ringed flag of the Kenmays Family..."
"Up until the night before, we received some news at the tavern that Count Lopez had passed away from his serious injuries. Before he died, it was said that the count had willed for the dominion to be passed on to the hands of Viscount Kenmays as the count didn't have a son of his own and his two daughters were far away at the royal capital. The viscount even managed to inherit the noble title of Count Lopez. Ever since, the Kenmays Family has sent some people to officially apologize to the mountain barbarians and compensate for the count's mistakes. Rumors said that the compensation even included Count Lopez's head...
"The non-citizens within the bastide were only let out after three days of curfew and the Kenmays Family also announced that they wanted to recruit new soldiers and would offer a tax exemption for those who sign up. They seemed intent on having all the youths within the bastide join them and the both of us were even held and questioned for two whole days. However, using our cover as mercenaries who were sent on a mission, they didn't do anything to us.
"When we left, we noticed that the guards within the castle were no longer the soldiers the viscount brought over at first. After searching around, we found a trail left by a huge band of people heading in another direction. We followed it and spent a day to reach this spot here and it seemed to be a dominion of another noble. However, it has also been conquered by the Kenmayses as the castle was also flying the flag of the Kenmays Family."
"Viscount Sartre..." Lorist mused as he looked at the marked location on the beastskin map.
"I know Viscount Sartre. He was a noble back during the days of the former empire and all his family members died during the years of civil war. His dominion had also been laid to waste during the chaos. After the formation of the Second Prince's kingdom, his original dominion was occupied by the Second Prince. To avoid being criticized by other nobles, the Second Prince gave the viscount another dominion somewhere in the Northlands as a replacement. He was simply an old and lonely noble," said Butler Boris.
The elder guard hurriedly continued his report, "We no longer dared to enter the bastide again and we stayed in the wilderness to keep watch from afar. Three days later, the Kenmays Family's forces set out and headed east. Tailing them from behind, we ended up at Baron Ankaport's dominion where the Kenmayses set up camp outside the castle. We saw a group of people who seemed to be the leaders of the army entering the town for a visit, so we remained near them. All of a sudden during midnight, sounds of killing and fighting broke out from within the castle, followed by the opening of the gates and the lowering of the drawbridge. The forces of the Kenmayses subsequently rushed in and during daybreak, the flag of the Kenmays Family replaced the original one of the castle.
"So we stayed outside the town for another 5 more days and discovered that the Kenmays Family's forces have left a company of guards at the castle of the baron and headed back to the dominion of Viscount Sartre and left another company of men there too. The remaining forces then returned to the dominion of the Kenmayses and we followed them back here."
Lorist opened his drawers and took out two grey-colored money pouches which were made from goat leather. Those were actually prepared by Shadekampf for Lorist to use as rewards and each of them contained five imperial gold coins.
Lorist handed the pouches to the two guards as he said, "Thank you for your hard work. This is your reward, take it. Make sure to rest up and relax when you go back."
"Thank you, milord," said the two guards before they left.
Sol, the Kenmays Family really did make a great move... Lorist finally understood the real reason why the Kenmays Family wanted to make up with the Norton Family despite the losses they had suffered. Given that the Norton Family had antagonized the duke and were occupied with him, they used the opportunity to solve their other problems while the duke had his attention focused on the Norton Family. So they targeted the dominion lords of the Eastern Northlands... What a wise move they have taken...
"Milord, I still don't understand why the Kenmays Family did what they did. Viscount Sartre and Count Lopez are both newly-entitled nobles of the Northlands like them, and Count Lopez is also favored by the Second Prince. Doesn't the Kenmays Family fear the backlash of swallowing up the count's dominion?" asked Butler Boris.
"Hehe, they definitely have their own reasons for daring to do so," Lorist said as he smiled coldly. "Their plot was definitely well-executed. Knowing that Duke Loggins had his attention on us, they used the opportunity to conquer the eastern area. Look at the map here, the dominion of Viscount Kenmays, Count Lopez, Viscount Sartre, Baron Ankaport already make up the most of the Eastern Northlands. I'm sure that the smaller nobles there will also fall to the Kenmayses as well...
"When the Kenmays Family take over the whole of the Eastern Northlands, they will be free to reign and even Duke Loggins wouldn't be able to do anything to them. I'm sure that the Northlands will once again descend into a period of chaos."
"Then, milord, should we also cause some trouble for the Kenmays Family so that they don't complete their conquest of the Eastern Northlands so quickly?" Shadekampf asked.
Lorist lowered his head and made some quick calculations before he said, "It's already too late, and we don't have the manpower and resources for that either. Don't forget that after Duke Loggins hears about the decimation of his 4000-strong army, he will be completely enraged and send more men over here as payback. What we have to focus on now is to complete the construction of Firmrock Castle as soon as possible and train our family forces while also making some other preparations for the invasion of the Northland Army."