After 5 days, the Second Highness once again visited the campsite of the convoy and he brought more than 40 old and worn fishing boats and tens of small fishing nets for Lorist.
"Apologies, Brother locke, this is already all the fishing boats and nets we have within a 50 kilometer radius of this area. Perhaps we might be shipping more here in a few more days. However, that shipment will definitely be lesser than what we have now because there aren't any lakes or rivers nearby the vicinity of Egret Lake," said the Second Highness apologetically.
"It's alright, Your Highness Aulo. We're already very grateful that you were able to help us out on this. We just started fishing this afternoon, why don't you go over there to take a look while we bring the boats and nets there?" Lorist said thankfully.
It didn't take more than 30 minutes before they reached the lake and many people working away at the banks could be seen from the distance.
Tens of meters from the lake bank was an empty space where a thick reed mat was laid on which tons of fish from the lake could be seen. More than ten women in their forties could be seen picking out the fish. They placed the larger fish into a basket which would be carried away when it was filled up for others to start processing the fish by removing their scales and innards and washing them before they would be laid on a wooden rack for to be dried.
As the smell of fish was rather pungent, the Second Highness pinched his nose and sneezed.
Charade came over excitedly with his face flushing red before he said, "Locke... Oh, milord, I bet you wouldn't be able to guess how much we got... The first fishing excursion netted us thousands of kilograms and there have already only been three excursions so far. We have already caught up to 10000 kilograms of fish in total. At this rate, we would have up to 50000 kilograms by today."
Currently, only a company of reorganized heavy-armored troops who were chosen for their swimming capabilities fishing within the lake. As they stood half-naked on their 30 plus boats, they flung a huge net deep into the lake.
The boats they were using were nicknamed 'Locke Fishing Boats' after Lorist who had designed them. It was basically a wooden box with a sharp point at the front that was supported in the middle by an intersecting piece of wood. The inner side of each boat was also coated with a thick layer of green clay to waterproof the boats and when the green clay dried, a makeshift deck was nailed over the middle supporting wood. To prevent the boats from flipping over, Lorist had someone install a vertical one-meter-long wooden fin beneath each boat to better balance them.
However, those boats caused a number of experienced boat makers among the work smiths to sigh in disappointment because while the boats were able to be constructed quickly, they definitely didn't last long enough and would fall apart after only one or 2 months of use. It took at least 2 months to construct a proper small fishing boat and good wood for boats like those were hard to come by. Those boats were far superior to the makeshift boats Lorist designed.
However, Lorist insisted on the idea and instructed the 2000 plus work smiths to make 200 of those boats within only 10 days. Hence, the boats were termed Locke Fishing Boats by the work smiths. Even so, nobody knew whether it was a sincere compliment and recognition of Lorist's ingenuity or whether they were merely being sarcastic.
At that moment, Charade noticed that the Second Highness had brought over the boats and nets. He clicked his tongue before he said, "Hmm... These nets are too small and I've already had some people make bigger ones. I've noticed that the more area of the lake we cover with those nets, the more fish we can get."
"You can always stitch these nets together. That way, you can shorten the time required to make those nets. Just make sure to check if they are stitched together tightly enough," Lorist said.
Charade clapped his hands as he said, "I see, that's a fine idea," before he turned and left in a hurry after asking someone to bring the fishing boats and nets away.
At that moment, the soldiers within the lake were starting to pull back the nets that they've cast and judging by the difficulty they had when pulling the net up, the harvest this time around must've been quite substantial.
The Second Highness said in admiration, "I really didn't expect that the Egret Lake would have so much fish. I recall that there was a kind of fish within the lake called the Longtail Whitefish which is quite thin and fine-scaled with less bones and quite a lot of meat. It also tasted rather good and was a staple dish within the imperial capital. However, the price of that fish was really expensive because the supply was rather scarce. Ever since the civil war broke out within the empire, lesser and lesser fishermen fished at Egret Lake as they had either been drafted into armies or have been oppressed by dominion lords into becoming vagabonds.
"And after the formation of the Madras Duchy, this lake was chosen to serve as a border between our two nations, so fishing here was naturally prohibited, resulting in these fishing boats being used at other rivers nearby. It really surprised me quite a bit that this lake would end up becoming the very thing that could save the vagabonds from the fate of starvation and death... Hahaha..."
"Well, we can pick out a few of those fish you mentioned for a meal later tonight," Lorist said as he laughed.
"Alright, but don't take too many. Personally, I prefer eating seawater fish because freshwater fish like those in these lakes have relatively more bones that prick my tongue rather easily when I eat them. Just have your men pick the bigger fish, especially those that aren't too bony," said the Second Highness.
After that, the Second Highness turned to his back and saw the newly-constructed makeshift fishing boats that were being laid in the sun for the green clay to dry before he asked, "How many boats did you order to be made?"
Lorist replied, "Around 200 of them."
"Why would you need so many?"
"So many? Your Highness, the Egret Lake is quite immense. We can't only fish at one spot, right? If we don't have enough boats, we won't be able to venture far into the lake. We can only gain the most haul if we fish at multiple places at once," Lorist said.
The Second Highness gave it some thought before he nodded and said, "I see, you truly are thorough with your plans. Personally, I'm not too knowledgeable about matters on fishing."
That night, Lorist accompanied the Second Highness for dinner and the main dish was a Longtail Whitefish.
The Second Highness agilely used his fork to get hold of another large piece of meat and placed it within his mouth with his silver spoon with his eyes narrowing in satisfaction. "This truly is good stuff. I wonder how many years has it been since I last tasted this fish..."
"This time, we got quite a huge haul. I've already had a few other fish like these placed in a water bucket for you to bring back. Make sure to let my cousin sister Glacia have a taste of these fish. It's a shame she didn't come here with you today," Lorist said.
"How thoughtful of you, Locke. Thank you. Glacia was training the newly-recruited soldiers, so it wasn't convenient for her to come over today. That's right, didn't you also draft new soldiers from the ranks of the vagabonds?" asked the Second Highness.
Lorist nodded and said, "I recruited around 20000 people. Since I plan to head up north after the lake freezes up, the convoy would need a substantial force to be able to fend off threats during our passage through the Madras Duchy. These 20000 soldiers were formed so that they could maintain order of the convoy during the journey and they will be disbanded after we arrive. Given the resource-starved state of the Northlands, there's no way I can afford to feed so many soldiers. If they don't work their share, they won't get any food either."
The Second Highness sighed and said, "Darn, that Duke Madras mobilized his Ironguard Legion to defend the Lichtana Citadel, forcing our Andinaq Kingdom to have to station some soldiers at Nadegas City to watch out for them. Now that the Welbassia Province has once again returned to the hands of the royal family, it's up to us to ensure its safety from the invasion of the Ironguard Legion. Had it not been for some good news I received just now, I would have had to trouble myself over filling the void of military strength left after the departure of your convoy."
"Oh, what news did you receive?" Lorist asked.
"It's about the Fiercegale Legion. They've assisted Duke Melein in mowing down the Iblia Kingdom's forces at the southern part of the Ienord Province, which is divided into three commanderies by the Second Prince. Their forces have already arrived at the royal capital, Windbury City, forcing the Second Prince to request his father-in-law, Duke Fisablen, to send out reinforcements to defend the city. The two sides have battled for a number of times and victory still seems undecided. Given that winter is approaching, Duke Melein decided to pull his soldiers back to his duchy and the Fiercegale Legion will also return," said the Second Highness.
Lorist raised his silver cup and said, "A toast for you, Your Highness. I believe that the Second Prince has been taught a harsh lesson by Duke Melein this time around and will have to rest and recuperate his forces for a few years. That way, there won't be able conflict between them and your kingdom so you can start building up your own forces."
The Second Highness furrowed his brow before he shook his head and said, "Originally, I was prepared to station the Fiercegale Legion at Nadegas City to defend against any attempts by the Ironguard Legion to invade. However, I received another piece of information that the Four Allied Duchies which used to attack the First Prince's Redlis Kingdom recently have signed a peace treaty with the First Prince. Even though the First Prince lost some land to them, he didn't lose too many of his forces and is still a force to be reckoned with. That is one of the larger factors that prompted him to agree with the peace talks.
"What I'm worried about is that the First Prince and the Four Allied Duchies would turn their sights on my kingdom after they cease hostilities. Before this, my kingdom was rather unstable and the First Prince was not interested with us and chose to attack the Four Allied Duchies instead because there was more for him to gain by doing that. That's also the reason my kingdom didn't prioritize the defense of the border near the Redlis Kingdom and it's also why my elder brother refused to take over the Benz Citadel back then: mainly, we didn't have any extra soldiers nor did we see a need for defending the place.
"Currently, the citadels around the border there are manned by only a few garrison forces. If the First Prince stops all conflict with the Four Allied Duchies, then I wIll have to send more men to defend that place as well. When the Fiercegale Legion returns, they can at most keep only the First Prince at bay. That way, Nadegas City will have a shortage of soldiers and we'll need to start yet another recruitment drive and that in turn requires more food supply as well. How troubling..."
Lorist smiled and said, "If you require some food, then our convoy can leave the nets behind before we leave and you can catch some fish within the lake to use for yourself."
The Second Highness toasted Lorist to thank him for the kind gesture.
"However, in the long term, I believe that if Your Highness can occupy Lichtana Citadel, you will be able to hold the initiative to act against the Madras Duchy. As long as you modify it a little bit, this citadel can be a source of worry for Duke Madras and you might even get the chance to take the whole of Yungechandler Province for yourself and add it to the kingdom," Lorist said as he looked at the Second Highness optimistically.
The Second Highness made a bitter laugh before he sighed and said, "You're right about that. However, even if I'd like for that to happen, I do not have the ability to carry it out. Even if we ignore the fact that the terrain around Lichtana Citadel makes it hard to besiege but easy to defend, the presence of the Ironguard Legion itself will be troublesome enough. Without more than 10 times their numbers and a long period of besieging, I think it will be hard for me to take the castle."
"How about this... If you can lend me 20000 soldiers, I might be able to help you conquer Lichtana Citadel and hand it straight too you," Lorist suggested during the pause after the Second Highness expressed his worries.
"What did you say? You have a way to occupy Lichtana Citadel?" said the Second Highness wide-eyed with surprise. He didn't even notice that he had dropped his silver cup onto the table unconsciously.
Lorist nodded and said, "I discovered a weak point of the citadel and I have a plan that I think will work. However, I don't have enough soldiers myself. If you can lend me 20000 men, I am rather confident that I'll be able to conquer the citadel."
"I'll lend you 30000! If you can conquer it for me, it doesn't matter even if you have to sacrifice all 30000 of them!" said the Second Highness emotionally as he started pacing around excitedly.
Lorist laughed out before he said, "The casualties won't be so bad either. I estimate that we will lose 6 thousand in the worst case."
"That's impossible. The ones defending the citadel are the Ironguard Legion. They are famed for being the best at defending against sieges! How will you be able to attack the citadel and succeed by only losing 6000 men?" asked the Second Highness as he looked at Lorist with doubt.
"Your Highness, I won't be attacking the citadel. In fact, I'll have them come out to attack me. We will be on the defending side," Lorist said.
"Wait, what do you mean by that? The Ironguard Legion will attack while we defend? Where would we defend? Unless they've gone insane, they wouldn't abandon the castle to come and attack us..." said the Second Highness. He believed that Lorist was merely bullshitting as he thought that if he put himself into the shoes of the commander of the Ironguard Legion, he definitely wouldn't send his men out to attack Lorist's forces at the cost of leaving the citadel unguarded.
"Hehe..." Lorist started to laugh out loud before he said, "Reidy, bring the fortification blueprints of Lichtana Citadel out here."
Reidy quickly retrieved the blueprints Lorist bought from the bookstore of Vanades City and laid them on the table.
"Your Highness, come here to take a look. This is the situation of the internals of the citadel."
The Second Highness was quite surprised that Lorist was able to obtain documents like that, but Lorist didn't tell him that he got them for one imperial silver coin a piece and thought, I better just let him imagine how I got these without telling him...
After studying those blueprints, the Second Highness was still unable to figure out how to attack the citadel and felt that the least amount of soldiers they would need was 10 times that of the Ironguard Legion that was stationed there.
Lorist pointed at the small pond within the citadel's map and said, "Your Highness, don't you have any thoughts on this pond over here?"
The Second Highness shook his head and said, "While this pond is a little on the small side, it's still enough to sustain the water needs of the soldiers within the citadel and can even be used to extinguish any fires within. I believe that this spot wouldn't be the weakness that you just mentioned."
"Your Highness, look here. The Lichtana Citadel is constructed upon a steep slope and the pond's water is sourced by rerouting a waterfall nearby the mountain peak through the swamp. That's why the water within the pond can last them indefinitely and can even fill up the moat around the citadel. If we can find the rerouted waterway within the swamp and dam it up, we will be able to make sure that the citadel would use up all their water within ten days. Do you think the soldiers there can continue to defend it at that time?"
Initially, Lorist's words made the Second Highness feel a tinge of excitement, but after looking at the map once more, he shook his head and said, "We won't be able to reach the waterfall from our side and must first pass through the citadel and hike the mountain from there. Now that there is also another blockade between the Bread Hills and Lichtana Citadel, we will still have to lose quite a bit of people to be able to break our way through."
Lorist said, "You don't need to worry about that and our convoy will eliminate the forces at the Bread Hills. As long as the Bread Hills fall into our hands, we will be able to dig out a trench to build mud walls just outside the firing range of the ballistas at the citadel to surround it. When we cut off their water source, it will be their turn to attack us. That's what I meant when I said that we would be defending against their attacks instead. I wonder how potent they are at attacking..."
"Alright, Locke. Your plan sounds reasonable and viable. What do you need me to do?" said the Second Highness as he agreed.
"It's simple. Your Highness only has to send your troops to the citadel and station them outside it to attract the attention of the soldiers within. When I occupy the Bread Hills, your troops will only have to dig out a trench. After that, I will leave the defense against the Ironguard Legion's attacks to you. Does that sound fine?" Lorist asked.
"Yes, of course it does. I also want to see the Ironguard Legion's offensive capabilities for myself," said the Second Highness as he knocked onto the map with his fist. "Ten days, Locke. I only need ten days to bring our Royal Local Defense Guard over here. Since the Ironguard Legion shot to fame from battling them, I will use the guards to defeat the Ironguard Legion this time around..."