"Just a bunch of blind, cruel and inhumane wolves..." Charade muttered as he watched the Second Highness and Glacia leave with the rest of the knights who have joined their side.
Lorist laughed out loud and patted on Charade's shoulder as he said, "Let's go. We have to go back and discuss something really important. We don't have much time..."
"Huh?" Charade was stunned. He quickly caught up to Lorist and asked, "Wait, Locke, what are you planning? There's still one month from winter right now and it'll take another two or three months for the surface of Egret Lake to freeze. We have more time than we need. Why are you saying that we don't have time all of a sudden?"
Lorist stopped in his steps and turned to Charade before he whispered, "Did you think I would really let the convoy wait until the lake freezes over before we move?"
"Huh?" Seeing Lorist turn and continue walking, Charade said anxiously, "You have to explain it more clearly..."
"There are too many eyes here. Let's talk about it when we get back."
When they arrived at a tent beside the main tent, Lorist instructed Reidy, "Get Potterfang, Lode Wales, Freiyar, Malek, Els, Patt, Terman, Yuriy and Dulles to come and ask Engelich to gather the guards to patrol around."
Even though Engelich was a Gold ranked swordsman, in terms of status, he was more like Lorist's attendant and servant because he had signed a servant contract for ten years to preserve his life back then. While Lorist had wanted to promote him into a family knight, Engelich had refused and said that given his old age, he was not too fond of any more fighting. Additionally, his granddaughter Molise had already gotten pregnant with Charade's child, so he can't wait for the arrival of his great grandchild.
The elderly Engelich was pretty open-minded and he doesn't think that being Lorist's attendant despite being a Gold ranked swordsman was an embarrassing thing. Instead, he thought that it was rather good as he was more free to do what he wanted. Additionally, Potterfang and the others treat him rather well for being Lorist's attendant and would even give him a friendly greeting when they met. When Lorist was not present, Engelich was basically a free man that was not restricted by anyone and he thought that it was also quite a decent way to live.
Of all the knights Lorist had summoned, Lode Wales seemed to have drunk quite a bit of alcohol, but he was still sober. When everyone was seated, Lorist had Reidy pour each of them a cup of tea before he announced the reason he called for another emergency meeting.
"In another 15 or 20 days, I am prepared to lead the convoy and the vagabonds into the Madras Duchy to reach the Northlands as soon as possible."
Everyone within the tent were stunned to hear that proclamation. Even Charade couldn't help but cry out, "Milord, how are we to cross the blockade? The Ironguard Legion has sealed off the border completely and if the convoy is going to attack Lichtana Citadel, there's no way we would win..."
"Who told you that I was going to attack Lichtana Citadel?" Lorist questioned back.
"But... but how would we be able to enter the duchy without first going through there?" Charade asked as all eyes within the tent gazed at Lorist with a curious look.
"Hehe..." Lorist started laughing out as he shook his head and said, "You guys... How do your brains work? What is our goal? Isn't it to bring the convoy and the vagabonds back to the Northlands? What business do we have in taking over Lichtana Citadel? To let our livestock graze over there? You guys have forgotten that our aim is not to conquer the Madras Duchy but only to pass through it. That's why we do not have to consider our supply line and taking over Lichtana Citadel is of even less importance to us."
Lorist brought over the frame with an enlarged map of the Lichtana Citadel and the area around it.
Using the wooden pointer to trace on the map, Lorist said, "Look here. Right now, army bases have been set up at Lichtana Citadel and the Bread Hills to seal off this space in the middle as well as the main highway. If we take over the Bread Hills, then how would the Ironguard Legion within the citadel react? They will definitely believe this to be a precursor to a much larger attack by us and they definitely wouldn't act rashly and would secure the citadel even more.
"Let's say we take over the Bread Hills. If the ballistas are set up high at the citadel, they would have a firing range of roughly 300 meters and it could cover the main highway completely. But who said we have to use the main highway? We can use this 200-meter-broad path over here beside the Bread Hills. After all, we only need around 100 meters of width for our convoy and vagabonds to be able to pass through. Even though the Ironguard Legion is famed for its defensive capabilities, we're not going to engage in a siege with them. If they come out, I'd like to see how well they do in an open field battle..."
"Milord, your words ring true!" Potterfang said as he slapped his forehead in realization. "That's right, as long as the convoy and the vagabonds are able to make it through, it's enough. Only the Second Highness's troops would have to conquer the citadel to make sure that they have an established supply line that wouldn't get cut off. Since we're only passing through, there's no need to factor that in and we only have to defeat the obstacles that are ahead of us!"
"This is all the fault of the cunning Second Highness. He had already pulled us into this troublesome situation and now he's pushing the suggestion that we can only pass through the Madras Duchy by conquering the Lichtana Citadel! And we were restricted by his train of thought and didn't think of looking for any other way!" Charade exclaimed as he approached the map and gave it a close look. "Hahaha, that Madras Duchy considers us an army... So that's why they made those kinds of arrangements. If we just circle around the citadel like milord says... the rest of the journey would be swift and smooth!"
The atmosphere within the tent heated up once more as they all realized that their troubles had been for naught and that was another option for them that they weren't able to see.
Lorist waved his hands to signal to the rest to quiet down and used the wooden pointer to point at the map as he said, "The Bread Hills is the place we truly need to conquer. As long as we occupy it, then the convoy and the vagabonds can depart immediately. For now, there is a regiment of Ironguard Legion troops stationed there and there is an army camp at the Bread Hills. I heard that the camp has at least 8000 Ironguard troops and they are stationed there so that they can be switched out regularly to defend the Bread Hills.
"When it comes to the terrain, the Bread Hills is not a good place to defend because it lacks a secure water source. If we can take the main camp, we could effectively cut off the water supply of the troops stationed up the hill and within three days, they will definitely crumble without us having to even put up a fight. Either they surrender to us or they come at us in a suicide attack.
"That's why, the focus of this operation should be this army camp near the Bread Hills. Look here, if we attack from the front, we must risk being in the firing range of the ballistas that are positioned up at the hills and we must first take them out before we can reach the army camp. However, taking over the base at the Bread Hills won't be easy either because the army camp will continue to reinforce them incessantly. That's why attacking from the front is a bad idea that will cost us innumerable casualties.
"You guys remember that I proposed for us to fish for food, right? Actually, my true aim is not to fish but to use the fishing boats to establish a floating pontoon bridge so that the family's forces can cross the Egret Lake at night. After that, our forces will launch a surprise attack against the base at Bread Hills using this route and as long as we can occupy it, we will have succeeded halfway.
"After that, we will use the blockaded route from Lichtana Citadel to Vanades City to head north. Naturally, we will have to attack Vanades City on the way. However, it's alright even if we don't conquer it. The main priority is over here on the route towards the Sidgler Province, the Xith Castle. As long as we can occupy this castle, we will be able to seal the Seamountain Legion of Duke Madras within their home base and we will be free to traverse the other two provinces."
As Lorist finished his explanation, the rest within the tent got more excited. This was a strategy that had a really high success rate and as long it progressed smoothly, it would be simplicity itself to let the convoy and the vagabonds continue the northbound journey through the Madras Duchy.
"The main priority for us now is to secretly cross Egret Lake. Secondly, we have to be quick and gain battlefield superiority before the enemy even notices us so that we have the initiative to be able to decide the flow of battle," Lorist reminded.
Charade made some rough calculations and said, "Milord, we might not have enough soldiers on our side. The Ironguard Legion has around 28000 people and 18000 of them are stationed at Lichtana Citadel with the remaining 10000 stationed at the Bread Hills. Our convoy's forces only number around 20000 and even if we conquer the Bread Hills base, we still need to protect the rest of the convoy and the vagabonds when they cross and stop the Ironguard troops from the citadel from attacking. We won't have any more forces to attack Vanades City like that."
"That won't be a problem. After this, I will be reorganizing our forces and start an enlistment drive. We can even borrow some soldiers from the Second Highness," Lorist said as he signalled for the rest to halt their discussions. "Everyone, please quiet down and I will proceed to explain the gist of the reorganization. First, the number of soldiers that constitute a squad will remain the same at 100 people and five squads will make up a company. Five companies make a regiment and five regiments in turn are collectively referred to as an army. In the future when we have five armies, we will form them into a legion.
"Currently, we have almost one regiment of light cavalry scouts. Yuriy, I'll leave it to you to see how many companies you can form it into and Jim will be helping you out on this. You will be the regiment leader of the First Light Cavalry Scouts Regiment and the extra companies will be handed to Jim. Also, pick out your men who are good at archery and send them to Pete over here so that he will be able to form a company of mounted archers."
Yuriy stood up and said, "Yes, milord. I understand."
"You will be the focal point of this strategy, Yuriy. The responsibility you have is not light and you'll have to be able to sweep the whole battlefield with your troops so that the enemy will be blinded and won't be able to communicate effectively with each other," Lorist said.
"Milord, please be assured that my light cavalry scouts will not let you down," Yuriy said as he knocked onto his chest confidently.
Lorist nodded and waved for him to sit down. Next, he said to Terman, "I hear that you already have more than a company of men in your knight brigade now, right?"
"Milord, including the attendants and stablemen, our numbers approach two whole companies," Terman replied.
Lorist fell deep in thought for a while before he said, "Your knight brigade will be organized a little differently from the rest of the family forces. You can organize it as you see fit. But the basics of one knight having two attendants, one servant and a stableman will not change. I believe you have a whole regiment of men taking into account that a company of 500 Silver ranked knights would have 1000 attendants, 500 stablemen and 500 servants. The company of Silver ranked knights will lead the charge with their attendants while the stablemen and servants provide rearguard support."
"Pog, your heavy-armored cavalry is already as large as 2 and a half regiments, right?" Lorist asked.
"Milord, if we exclude the logistics troops, we should have around 2 full regiments. If we're reorganizing according to the unit system you proposed just now, we would have two regiments and another two extra companies. Our original number for each squad is 128 men per squad," replied Potterfang.
"How about this... Transfer command of the heavy-armored cavalry to Loze and have the logistics troops return to the main camp. Loze, organize the troops into three regiments of 7500 people. I give you five days to accomplish this and the heavy-armored cavalry will be the main driving force of this operation."
Lode Wales stood up and saluted excitedly before he said, "Milord, please be assured that I will definitely complete my mission to your satisfaction."
"Freiyar, your pike infantry has around four regiments of 10000 plus men, right?" Lorist said as he looked at Freiyar.
"11358 men to be exact, milord," Freiyar said as he reported an extremely concise number.
Lorist nodded in admiration before he said, "The command of your pike infantry will be transferred to Pog. Pog, reform them into a heavy-armored infantry army with five regiments of 12500 people. You have 5 days to complete it."
"Yes, milord," Freiyar and Potterfang said in unison.
"That's right, don't forget to arm the troops mentioned just now with the gear of the Whitelion Legion. We don't have to ship all the good stuff back to the dominion. It's better to put them to use right now. That will also serve to lessen the casualties of our forces. As for the old equipment that will be switched out, I'll be leaving it to Freiyar and Malek. The two of you shall recruit 25000 soldiers from the vagabonds and form a garrison legion which is split into two armies. The first army will be led by Freiyar, who will be appointed the Commander of the garrison legion and the second army will be led by Malek, the Vice Commander of the garrison legion. Make sure to finish all that within 15 days.
"The enlistment will follow usual procedures and prioritize the vagabond youths with families. The main purpose of the garrison legion is to maintain the security of the convoy during the northbound journey, understood?" Lorist said as he looked at Freiyar and Malek.
The two of them stood up and acknowledged their order.
Lorist then turned to Dulles and asked, "Dulles, how's the situation of your carroballista unit?"
Dulles hurriedly saluted before he said, "Milord, the carroballista unit now has 627 soldiers. Apart from the original 12 carroballistas we have, we managed to obtain 27 defense sentry ballistas and we've already modified them for use on a combat chariot. However, they are still slightly heavier than the ones we have and aren't as flexible. The firing speed is also slower and they require more people to operate as well."
"Among the gear of the Whitelion Legion there are 78 siege ballistas which we can modify for the use on war chariots. We can also expand your unit to have a full regiment of people with that."
The main advantage a siege ballista held over a defense sentry ballista was its mechanic that allowed it to be raised higher so that the bolts will be able to be fired into the defensive walls of a castle or citadel. Originally, the Whitelion Legion's carroballista regiment had up to 240 of those siege ballistas but many were ruined throughout the civil war and weren't maintained well. It was already quite fortunate for 78 of them to remain intact.
Dulles was quite happy to hear that as he was long frustrated with the lack of ballistas that caused his unit to be unable to expand. Now, that issue was solved.
"How many people within the craftsmen camp know how to construct boats?" Lorist asked Charade.
Charade said in a troubled voice, "There are around one to two thousand people who know carpentry but I don't know how many of them would actually know how to make boats."
"That shouldn't be a problem. What we need are only small boats so I believe it won't be too hard. Just have the carpenters nail wooden boards into a box like shape and fill some parts out with a thick layer of green clay so that water doesn't seep in from the seams. We will only use those makeshift boats for fishing and making the floating pontoon bridge and we don't need it to be long lasting or aesthetically pleasing. Also, Charade, you should also have the family members of the convoy troops and the womenfolk among the vagabonds start to make nets. We must act that we're only going to fish so that the enemy doesn't suspect us and strengthen their defense at the opposite bank of the lake," Lorist said as he consoled the fatty.
"I understand. I'll have the people start felling trees and making nets tomorrow," said Charade.