Within the main tent, Josk, Waxima, Ovidis, Pajik, Patt, Jim, Paulobins, Reidy, Supervisors Hansk, Kedan and Spiel, Butler Boris, and Shadekampf were seated neatly in two rows as they listened to Lorist speak. Apart from Belnick, who was preparing to break through to the Gold rank, and Old Man Balk who accompanied Grandmaster Sid to forage the dominion for resources and Pesha, whom Lorist didn't like too much, all of the Norton Family knights and officers were gathered there.
"Yesterday, Shadekampf has already transported the remains of Knight Chevany to Viscount Kenmays and the freedom of the Silver ranked knights and Knight Hennard will have to be negotiated with the duke. I believe that we will have about three months to rest and recuperate, since it will take some time before the duke finds out about the defeat of his troops. He'll definitely be unable to launch an attack on us right after that since he has to both consider how many soldiers he has to send over lest they get wiped out by us once again. If the number is large, I doubt that the duke would be willing to spend so much funds on the expedition," Lorist said.
The people within the tent instantly broke into laughter.
"It can be seen that Viscount Kenmays is not on the same side as the duke. Given that the Kenmays Family is focusing their attention on the eastern Northlands, they need us to keep the duke's hands tied and also hope that us and the duke will wipe each other out. That's why they will definitely try to stir something up after we hand them the name list. Even if the duke is willing to pay the ransom for the Silver ranked knights, I believe that he definitely won't bother about the 1000 plus surviving soldiers that we have captured. I know that the Kenmays Family will definitely take this opportunity to spread that around to affect the morale and loyalty of the duke's soldiers.
"Even if the duke sends his soldiers to attack us, he will have to wait until the issue of the captives, which we can even intentionally delay, to be settled first. However, that doesn't mean that we fear the attack of the duke. As long as he dares to come, we will make him run away with his tail between his legs. I, on the other hand, would like to see if the duke will be able to weather through the loss sustained through the defeat of his army this time around. If the Northland Army has to be downsized, I wonder if he can still act so brashly in the Northlands. I believe that by then he should be unable to control the other landed nobles and will find it tough to even protect himself," Lorist said with a cold smile.
"Next, I would like to use this period of temporary peace to reorganize our forces and give them proper training to increase their combat efficacy to prepare for the tough times to come. Shadekampf, do read out the plan you drafted for the reorganization of the family's forces to everyone," Lorist said as he nodded towards Shadekampf.
Shadekampf stood up and took out a beastskin document and said, "The guard squad will be reorganized to include 120 people who fit the criteria of having Iron ranked Battle Force. They will be equipped with a riding shield, a pike, hauberks and chain mails, a side arm of their choosing, a quiver of javelins and two mounts. The squad leader will be Patt and the vice squad leader will be Paulobins.
"A squad of mounted archers will be formed with the leader and trainer being Josk. During the recent knight competition, we have recruited 29 wandering knights and 22 of them have shown themselves to be quite capable in archery. They will be added to the 120 man squad and the requirements for other recruits will be having Battle Force of Iron rank and above, good archery skill and good horse handling. They will be equipped with hauberks, leather armor, longbows, three quivers of arrows, a longsword, an arm shield and two mounts."
Lorist then turned to Josk and said, "Joe, I will leave the mounted archers squad to you. This will be the main offensive unit of our forces, so you must train them well..."
Josk knocked his fist onto his left chest and said, "Milrod, I promise to make the mounted archers squad the sharpest blade we have in our arsenal."
Shadekampf continued, "A company of cavalrymen will also be formed. The company will contain four main squads with another supply squad with the total number of men being a full 600 people. The commander of the company will be Waxima and the only requirement for recruits would be having Battle Force at the Bronze rank and above. They will each be equipped with a hauberk, a chain mail, a riding shield, a riding lance, two mounts, and one side arm of their choice.
"The guards will also be reorganized into two companies. The commander of the first company is Pajik and the commander of the second is Ovidis. Similarly, each company will have four main squads and one supply squad at a total of 600 people. Each company consists of one sword and shield infantry squad, one longbowmen squad, two pike infantry squads and one supply squad. They will be equipped with hauberks, square shields, bucklers, pikes, longbows, longswords, throwing axes, javelins, etc.
"Additionally, two more defense units will be formed and the members will be recruited from those who don't make the criteria of the aforementioned units. Each squad will have from 100 to 120 members and they will be equipped with grey-colored leather armor, pikes, longswords, longbows and various types of shields."
Shadekampf then placed the beastskin document down before he bowed to Lorist and went back to his seat.
Lorist looked at his seated subordinates and said, "Did you all understand that? I hope that you all can come up with your own methods to carry out the training and reorganization and show them to me for approval. Other than that, I will be stationing one of the defense units at Maplewoods Bastide with Pajik being the sub-leader for now. This unit will be responsible for the defense of the bastide. As for the defense unit here at Firmrock Castle, it will be in charge of regulating order, ensuring security, patrolling, and guarding the warehouses. Ovidis will be the sub-leader of this unit. Given that we don't have enough soldiers for now, begin the training even if the units are not yet filled up.
"I will set up another camp for new recruits at Firmrock Castle which will be left to Shadekampf, Patt, and Paulobins. I will be the chief instructor over there. The recruits will learn to awaken their Battle Force within the camp as well as basic military regulations. After they receive basic training, they will then be sent to different units depending on their own individual capabilities until the space for the units are filled up.
"Other than that, Supervisor Hansk will be the chief finance and resource officer of the family and will be in charge of our supplies and finances and its distribution. Butler Boris will take charge of civil and business matters, Shadekampf will manage the arsenal of the family's forces and Supervisor Kedan will manage the camp of the captives. When Old Man Balk returns, he will take over production and manufacturing while Supervisor Spiel will work on agriculture. I will be leaving the food supply and the family's sustenance to you.
"By the time we defeat Duke Loggins, the Northlands will no doubt fall into another period of chaos. Without the iron grip of the Northland Army, the ambitious dominion lords will start to act. We can't do much apart from preparing for the worst so that we will be able to survive during the troubled times to come and lay a firm foundation for our family's strength. This will have to depend on you all," Lorist said as he rose to his feet and bowed to his men.
The rest of them got up and returned the bow as they said in unison, "Milord, we will definitely do our best to serve you."
Lorist clapped his hands and said, "Alright, go do your stuff. Jim and Reidy, stay back for a while."
Everyone left the tent with the exception of the two. Jim said in a troubled fashion, "Milord, why didn't you give me any assignments?"
Lorist laughed and said, "Haha, you must have been quite impatient just now. The reason I didn't give you any task is because I have a mission for both you and Reidy. Reidy, when we left the convoy, it was the 2nd month. And now, it's almost the 9th month already but the convoy still hasn't arrived yet. That's why I will leave the task to locate the convoy to Jim and you. Find out the why they have been delayed for so long. Jim, bring a few of the mercenaries that joined our forces over with you as well and pretend to be a group of mercenaries on a mission. Do be careful on your journey and get anything you need from Shadekampf. I've also written a few letters for Charade, Potterfang, Els, Terman and Yuriy. Tell them I miss them. Oh, and these letters are for Alisa and Howard."
"Yes, milord. We will definitely carry out the task successfully," said the two of them as they saluted in unison.
"The castle is down! We have entered the gates!"
"It's our victory!"
"We have won!"
As they let out their excited cheers, the guards tossed their sun hats high up in the air.
The banners at the foot of the hill were waved frantically as the soldiers cheered for yet another one of their victories. Charade who was mounted looked from his vantage point at the top of the hill towards the flag of the dominion lord in the distant castle get lowered and replaced by that of the Norton Family. However, the expression he wore was a displeased one as he solemnly said to the guard beside him, "Come, let's go back to the tent."
Within the tent, Els was lying down on a soft couch and reading a knight novel. His left leg was wrapped up by a huge and thick bandage: he had gotten hurt two months ago when he was impaled on the leg by a Silver ranked knight with his riding lance. It would take at least half a year to recover from an injury of that degree.
Charade went into the tent with a gloomy face, prompting Els to ask out of curiosity, "What's wrong? Didn't we succeed in taking the castle? Why the long face?"
"Sigh..." Charade let out a long tired breath. "I'm not happy about this at all. Even though I know this is a pithole, we had no choice but to jump straight into it. It really feels super bad to be used by others like this."
Els also quieted down at that statement. Originally, they thought that the journey through the Andinaq Kingdom would be a mere walk in the park. However, it actually turned out to be a road filled with countless thorns and the northbound convoy had to carve a bloody passage out with their own hands.
Three months prior, they had already arrived at Benz Citadel that was located at the border between the Redlis Kingdom and the Andinaq Kingdom which Potterfang had conquered with his heavy-armored cavalry. However, they received a piece of bad news during their stay.
Charade had planned to give up Benz Citadel to the soldiers of the Andinaq Kingdom as that would relieve the convoy of any baggage before they resume their journey up north through the Andinaq Kingdom quickly. However, Potterfang, who arrived one step earlier at the former imperial capital, now the royal capital of the Andinaq Kingdom, didn't manage to meet the Third Prince, Andinaq I. After asking around, he found that the Third Prince had fallen sick and the matters of the kingdom were currently managed by his son, the First Highness.
That was why Potterfang decided to visit the First Highness, Delwick, but Delwick refused to send any soldiers to be stationed at Benz Citadel and told Potterfang that currently, the influence of the royal family was only limited to the royal capital as many nobles of the kingdom had formed an alliance to resist and grapple with the royal family and he had no other choice and couldn't spare any help to the convoy even if he wanted to.
Potterfang subsequently went to contact his acquaintances from the Whitelion Legion and the news he got shocked him deeply. The Andinaq Kingdom was truly in a dire state: given that the Third Prince had been at his sickbed for more than a year, the First Highness who had relied so much on the stronger nobles within the kingdom had become their plaything. Among the three most reputable armies within the empire, the Whitelion Legion had been disbanded, the Fiercegale Legion had joined the Melein Duchy and the royal family's local defense guards only had one regiment of troops remaining and were barely able to defend the royal family with the meager amount of taxes collected from the capital.
The former population of 500000 of the capital had declined to a mere 50000 with the once merry business districts turning into abandoned slums. Back when the empire got divided into many powers, the Third Prince faced the most brunt of the Forde Trade Union as he was the one who was officially named by the emperor as the true heir of the imperial family. Even though the Andinaq Kingdom was founded on three of the most prosperous provinces of the empire, without any trade and business going on, and given the fact that the agricultural produce wasn't enough to sustain its own population, the kingdom began its steady journey to decline. Following that, the dominion lords tightened their choking grip on their citizens to squeeze more out of them and even fought each other to expand their territory.
The Third Prince's Andinaq Kingdom was merely an afterthought after that. The First Highness's claim that the royal family didn't have power outside the capital was also true. Having received that information, Potterfang quickly returned to Benz Citadel to discuss the state of affairs with Charade. He didn't expect that information about the resources and wealth the convoy had would actually be leaked by one of the First Highness's retainers to the alliance of dominion lords who turned their gazes to the convoy.
Charade decided right away to leave Benz Citadel unguarded and departed with the whole convoy. On the 5th day of their departure, however, the convoy encountered the forces of the alliance at the Green Plains.
The alliance that was formed by 37 different noble families had around 30000 troops and they had come to rob the convoy. But after their first few defeats, they changed their approach and demanded that the convoy give up two-thirds of everything they had in exchange for safe passage.
Charade refused the unreasonable demand outright and the two parties were at a stalemate. Back then, the noble alliance had 30000 soldiers. Even though the convoy was made up of more than 50000 people, only 15000 of them were combatants and they were severely outnumbered.
After 20 days, conflict broke out once again. The alliance launched their attacks first followed by counterattacks from Charade and Potterfang. What was surprising was that the soldiers of the alliance broke formation almost instantly when the convoy's soldiers charged and given their far inferior gear, the first battle was completely dominated by the northbound convoy. With minimal casualties, they even managed to capture 17000 enemy soldiers.
Upon discovering the true might of their own troops, Charade and Potterfang were elated. Charade instantly ordered his men to pay the noble alliance back for the trouble they have caused and as the convoy passed through the dominions of each noble, they took the castle of those dominion lords and hung the nobles who joined the alliance publicly and took everything they had to replenish the supply of the convoy.
The attacks the convoy launched didn't deplete its forces in the least. Of the 17000 captive soldiers, Charade had the ones who knew useful skills such as smithing, crafting, cobbling and tailoring assimilated into the members of the convoy and had the remaining 14000 or so men split into four different suicide units which were given simple equipment and sent to attack the castles of the other dominion lords with the promise that they would regain their freedom if they were victorious. They would also be offered the chance to join the convoy on the journey to the Northlands to start their lives anew.
At first, things progressed smoothly and the castles of two dominion lords were successfully conquered. But it did not take long for something troubling to occur: a group of vagabonds started tagging along the convoy from behind in hopes that they would be able to receive protection as well as going to the Northlands to live the peaceful and blissful life there that Charade had so loudly proclaimed.
When Charade was busy brainstorming a solution for that issue, a group of people arrived at the main camp of the convoy's forces and their leader was the second son of the Third Prince, the Second Highness, Auguslo. Accompanying him was the Gold ranked female knight, Norton Glacia.