The clouds once again obscured the Silvermoon, causing the realm to be completely blanketed in darkness. The once sparkling surface of the lake returned to its former dimness and the view of the opposite bank could no longer be seen.
'Kill during the darkness of the night, burn when the winds are strong.' Lorist wondered why he suddenly recalled that saying and felt that it described their current situation a little too well.
Currently, he was standing at the bank of the lake. A breeze from the lake could be felt blowing in his direction and causing the cape he wore around his armor to flap around in the air.
Standing behind him was Patt and Reidy who were both holding two horses each. Three of the horses were mounts for them while the extra one served as a reserve. To the sides of those horses hung quivers of javelins that shook from the blowing wind.
Behind the three were rows and rows of soldiers assembled neatly in their formations. They were all equipped with the same purple and brown armor which had a silver-colored insignia of a white lion on the left of the breastplate. In their right hands were long pikes of similar length and their left hands held the reins of their respective war horses. The soldiers all donned the same purple and brown cape with similarly-colored riding shields strapped to their left arm while a sword sporting the similar color scheme could be seen hanging to the left of their waists just beside the tassets near their thighs. They were also equipped with riding boots which were mounted with stirrups.
This was the elite force of the Norton Family which served as the main escort for the convoy: the heavy-armored cavalry. After switching to using the gear of the Whitelion Legion, they looked even more imposing than before.
Every soldier stood disciplined and silent as if they were nothing but iron sculptures. Their silence was only broken by a few occasional horse neighs.
A whiff of killing intent could be sensed emanating from the companies of soldiers that would send a chill down one's spine, especially so if coupled with the cold breeze of the lake.
The Silvermoon once again revealed its face, shedding a gentle moonlight that once again covered the land.
While the lake started sparkling again from the moonlight, the distant bank of the lake was still covered by a dense layer of fog which blocked the view of the opposite side.
The Locke Fishing Boats were placed within the lake one meter apart from each other, with each connected by a two-meter-broad wooden board which effectively made them into a path that stretched indefinitely into the fog amidst the lake.
Further away, two silhouettes could be seen, one running faster than the other, causing the pontoon bridge to shake slightly from their quick steps.
The two were Ruhr and Mort who stopped in front of Lorist while breathing ragged breaths. "Milord, the pontoon bridge has already connected to the opposite bank. Sir Els had us come here to report that it's already time to cross."
"You did well," Lorist said while he nodded, before he stepped onto the bridge. Ruhr and Mort helped take the mounts from Patt and Reidy before they followed behind Lorist onto the bridge.
The soldiers on the bank started to make their move as well. One soldier after another got into a line with their mounts and started boarding the bridge.
Lorist had walked for more than ten minutes on the bridge that was 400 plus meters long and he could feel it shaking slightly behind him and the resulting vibration caused waves to form in the lake beneath it.
Within moments, one heavy-armored cavalryman after another arrived at the opposite bank and gathered at a spot under the guidance of the guards. Soon, they got into their two respective companies and were all mounted.
Lode Wales got off the bridge and came to Lorist before he said, "Milord, should we depart now?"
Lorist said in a soft voice, "Yes, let's go."
The whole group proceeded to travel through a dark forest path. On the way, they would occasionally make markings on the trees that shone under the illumination of the moonlight with limestone chalks.
All the hooves of the horses were also fitted with thick leather coverings to muffle the sound, causing low and heavy thumps to ring out as they traveled.
After one hour and a half, three hoots like that of a night owl could be heard in the distance. Els who was at the very front of the group stopped his horse and caused the rest to follow suit.
Three figures emerged from the trees of the forest and the foremost figure said something to Els before he brought his two comrades back into the forest.
"Milord, the enemy camp is around 1 kilometer from here. I believe we should ride the rest of our way there. Even though we've muffled the horse hooves, the slight vibrations we are causing might alert the enemy anyway. We must be able to catch them by surprise before they can react," Els told Lorist.
To ensure the success of the surprise attack, Els had led half of the elite guards of the main camp of the convoy to secretly cross the lake and eliminate the sentries over there and successfully locked down the path from the camp to the base in the hills.
"Pass my order down. Everyone dismount and put on the bridles on the horses. Lead your horses along with the reins as you walk and make sure to not make any sound," Lorist instructed Patt.
After an hour of traveling, outside the enemy camp, some guards could be seen leaning on the walls while taking a nap with the sentries on the two tower outposts also seated and relaxing. Perhaps due to the soldiers not being stationed at the frontlines, the security of the camp was surprisingly lax.
"Milord, I will bring some men to take care of the sentries on the watchtowers and open the gates," Els said, before he disappeared into the darkness.
"Everyone, stand ready and follow the plan." After Lorist finished giving his order, he kneeled down and untied the leather cloth covering the hooves on his horse.
Within but a quick moment, a few figures suddenly reappeared near the camp gates and slain the four napping guards within a flash, causing them to slump down against the wall powerlessly and entering their eternal slumber.
One of the figures nimbly climbed up one of the watchtowers like a tiger and quickly descended from it before he climbed the other one...
As a result, the gates of the camp quietly opened...
Raising his pike in his hand, Lorist shouted, "Kill!"
The sound of the running horses broke the former silence and tranquility of the night and the mounted troops traversed the 100 plus meters of distance towards the camp gates within seconds. Lorist was riding at the forefront of the troops and began slaughtering away at the still dormant soldiers within the camp.
Countless heavy-armored cavalrymen squeezed their way into the camp and before long, sounds of conflict, pain and despair intermingled.
One tent after another within the camp was set on fire. As the mounted cavalrymen rushed out of the smoke towards the half-awake and unarmed enemy soldiers within the camp, they began their slaughter without a shred of mercy. The metal hooves of the cavalrymen's mounts hammered onto the ground, leaving behind their wake, flames, corpses and flowing fresh blood.
Lorist on the other hand rode straight towards the largest tent within the camp. According to the Second Highness, the Madras Duchy had one Blademaster and seven Gold ranked knights. Naturally, the Blademaster served the duke by his side while four of the Gold ranked knights held posts within the Seamountain Legion. The Ironguard Legion was instead managed by three Gold ranked knights.
Lorist believed that there definitely would be at least one Gold ranked knight stationed at the Bread Hills given that there were over 10000 soldiers here. As long as he could take out the Gold ranked knight, the surprise attack would have been a complete success.
With a harsh swing of the pike, Lorist broke the central pillar of the main tent into two, causing the tent to collapse flat on the ground. Apart from the tens of guards within the tent who had died by Lorist's hand, the Gold ranked knight was nowhere to be seen.
Just as Lorist was going to ride around the tent and stab his pike downwards to check for any people who were playing dead beneath the tent, a loud clang could be heard from a distance, which was accompanied by a bright burst of golden light. Lorist turned his head only to see the mounted Lode Wales swinging his riding lance with a golden blade of light at the tip against the longsword that sported the same golden glow of a figure standing on the ground. The clang from before had resulted from a clash between the two weapons.
"Oh, so the Gold ranked knight is over there. No wonder I couldn't find him within the tent... Good thing Loze picked up what I missed," muttered Lorist, before he rode towards the site of battle at a leisurely pace while he reached to his back and held a javelin in his hand. After that, he paid attention to the battle between Lode Wales and the Gold ranked knight just in case he would be required to give Loze a hand.
Lode Wales danced like a rampaging tiger across the battlefield, using his mounted superiority to slash down at the enemy with his riding lance, trailing a sole line of gold within the air as the blade rushed towards the Gold ranked knight.
The knight didn't hesitate either and he continually used his glowing sword to parry one strike after another. However, as he was unmounted and using a weapon with relatively short reach, he was at a disadvantage and every parry he made caused him to move a step back.
Roaring out loud, Lode Wales struck out so harshly that the enemy knight was forced a couple of more steps back.
Repositioning his horse, Lode Wales pushed his stirrup against the abdomen of his horse and caused it to neigh loudly as it rushed forward, with him shouting out, "Kill!" at the loudest volume possible as he raised and slashed his riding lance downward.
The knight had just regained his posture when he saw Lode Wales approaching and grunted as he quickly got into a stance. He quickly raised his longsword in preparation to parry the incoming blow.
The riding lance slashed downwards with lightning speed, and just as it was about to clash with the sword, it suddenly twirled slightly into a semicircular arc that went around the longsword and its motion turned from that of a slash into a stab. The golden blade of light on the riding lance shone even brighter...
The knight hadn't expected that his opponent would suddenly switch the attacking motion like that. He suddenly detected something fishy after his sword didn't receive any feedback from the parrying motion, but it was already too late and he couldn't retrace his moves. His expression changed all of a sudden from surprise to despair before the distinct sound of blade cutting flesh resounded as the blade of the lance pierced into his chest.
"Just die," Lode Wales said as he raised the corpse of the knight into the air with his lance and flung it to the roadside, causing blood to drip down slowly from the lance.
"Well done!" Lorist praised loudly. "You're fierce as a tiger and witty and agile at the same time, allowing you to kill your enemy by landing only one strike. You shall be called Fiercetiger Loze henceforth."
Lode Wales snickered before he said, "Thank you for praising me, milord. I shall be known as Fiercetiger Loze in the future."
"That's so unfair. I've also contributed quite a bit myself, you know. Locke, give me a moniker as well," said a voice from behind Lorist.
Lorist turned his head only to see Els appear out of nowhere beside him.
"Alright, your moniker will be... Darkshadow Els," Lorist said.
"Darkshadow Els? Not bad, I like it," Els said happily, apparently quite satisfied with his new sobriquet.
"Oh, that's right. I came here for something else. Milord, look up there," Els said as he pointed his finger upward.
Lorist raised his head to look and saw that the Ironguard Legion troops defending the base at Bread Hills have been alerted by the attack at the camp below and were grouping up and heading down the mountains as was seen from the moving torches. They have already descended halfway down the slope.
"Judging by the number of torches, there should be more than 1000 people. Our guards only have tens of people sealing off the pass nearby... I'm worried they won't be able to resist," Els reported.
"They're merely seeking their deaths. I thought that they would surrender after we surround their base for two or three days. Now that they've come out, we might as well slaughter our way up to the stronghold at the hills and occupy it," Lorist said as he looked at the torches at the distant hills.
"Blow the horn and notify the Second Highness on the opposite side to launch a diversionary attack. Loze, the aftermath of this camp over here will be left to you. Rally a regiment of soldiers to dismount and follow me up the mountains for a fight on foot. Els, let's go," Lorist said as he rode his horse to the back of the army camp followed by Els who quickly grabbed a horse and rode towards Lorist.
Loud blares of horn signals proceeded to echo through the air...
The Second Highness who was pacing around incessantly at the army base stopped and listened intently before he said, "Did you hear that signal, Glacia?"
The blonde female knight replied excitedly, "Yes! It's definitely the horn signal!"
"Locke and the others succeeded!" exclaimed the Second Highness. "Men, blow the horn to send a reply. Get ready and head towards the border..."
Not too far from the barricades of the Madras Duchy at the border, countless torches were lit like the countless stars in the sky. The soldiers all shouted their war cries and the loud sound shook even the large expanse of land.
Torches around the Lichtana Citadel were also being lit by the moment, causing most of the citadel to be illuminated brightly. One leather-armored soldier after another appeared before the walls of the citadel and stared nervously towards the countless torches in the distance and thought, as long as they cross the wooden barricades, we will fire at them with our ballistas...
The route downward from the Bread Hills passed through a sparse forest. Roughly 50 meters from the soldier camp near the forest were a few tower outposts, but they had been taken care of by Els and his guards when they secured the area.
The mountain route was not wide with a breadth of only 2 meters at most. Lorist could tell that the reinforcements from the base up at the hills were about to arrive as he could already hear their curses and chattering when he neared the area.
Given that the downward route was curved in an 'S' shape, Lorist still wasn't able to get a view on the enemy forces. However, he rushed up the route with his sword drawn without saying anything else and encountered into the torch-holding Ironguard Legion soldiers at the first corner. Upon seeing Lorist, they thought that he was a messenger of their own and one of them even asked, "Stop! What happened there at the camp below?"
Lorist didn't make a sound and as he approached, he cried out "Kill!" all of a sudden.
As he swooped into the group of soldiers, he swung his longsword in quick flashes, causing one enemy after another to fall and roll down the slope.
Lorist's killing spree continued against the flow of people uphill...
Not long after, the enemies further uphill shouted, "It's the enemy! It's an enemy attack!"
At that moment, the soldiers at the lower section of the slope had broken down into a complete mess. They had to watch their feet for any fallen comrades as well as be on guard for the attacks of their enemy and were unable to pose any meaningful resistance to Lorist's assaults. In fact, their futile attempt to resist only served to further expose them to Lorist's assaults.
The enemy at the upper section of the slope quickly began their retreat while those below couldn't even if they wanted to. Lorist's moved at a quick pace and he was already halfway up the slope within moments. With nothing but enemy soldiers filling his line of sight, he killed to his heart's content.
Those Ironguard Legion soldiers were completely outclassed by Lorist alone. Their inability to work as a unit opened up even more opportunities for him to mow their numbers down one strike after another. The most depressing part was that the mess of soldiers he left in his wake still had to deal with the attack of Els, Reidy, Patt and the rest, causing some of them to even toss the bodies of their fallen comrades off the slope in desperation so that they could get some proper foothold.
As he fought his way through his foes uphill, Lorist prioritized acting against those who held torches. Without any illumination, the Ironguard Legion soldiers weren't aware of how many enemies there were and could only run all over the place in a fit of panic. Occasionally, screams of some unlucky few could be heard as they stumbled their way off the edge of the hill.
The clouds once again blocked off the light of the Silvermoon, causing the hills to once again be shrouded by the former darkness.
A little bit later, a familiar voice rang out from behind Lorist. "Milord, milord... Where are you?"
Following that, a few torches were lit at the slope and Patt and the rest could be seen ascending the hills.
Just as Lorist was going to reply, he suddenly felt an ominous, bone-chilling sensation, which caused him to lie flat on the ground instantly as he shouted, "Careful! Get on the ground right now!"
 Words of a Chinese poet Ouyang Xiu of the Song Dynasty. It roughly means: make your move during the best opportunity.