"Kill anyone who resist! Kill anyone who resists!" roared the heavy-armored soldiers loudly all over the village. One poor farmer after another brought their meager belongings, farming tools and livestock with them as they squeezed into the small carriages which brought them to an empty space within the village. After that, they were assigned to three different groups by a middle-aged man holding a beastskin name list.
The group at the southernmost area of the village had the fewest number of people, among which included the village chief, the security officer, the tax officer, the mill owner and some other managerial officers who were the basis of Duke Loggins's government of the southern Northlands. However, that group looked to be the worst among the three as their assets were all confiscated and they were only allowed to bring their families with them along with some dried food to head towards the manor of Duke Loggins in Gildusk City.
The group of people facing the west also had a relatively small number of people. Most of them were the family members of the soldiers of the Northland Army soldiers and they were to be brought to Cherry Blossom Ridge per Hennard's agreement with Lorist.
The group facing the north was the largest of the three. Their destination was a camp roughly 50 kilometers away where they would be divided into smaller groups to be sent to a refugee camp at Count Spenseid's dominion before finally being brought to the Norton Family dominion to begin their lives anew.
"You can start setting the fires..." ordered a heavy-armored officer before his ten subordinates tossed flaming torches towards the straw huts within the village. The whole village soon became immersed in a sea of flames, from which a thick pillar of smoke emerged skyward.
Some of the farmers began to cry. Those were the huts that had sheltered their family from the harsh rain and wind throughout the years.
A fearsome escort soldier rushed to the crowd and shouted in a loud voice, "What's there to cry about? 'If the old doesn't go, the new won't come'. We've already told you that after we arrive at the family dominion, everyone will receive new farmland and houses which are much better than your pathetic straw huts!"
Countless pillars of smoke continued to rise from the dominion of Duke Loggins which was considered to be the most prosperous area of the Northlands. Under the instructions of Lorist, they spent only 16 days to sweep through the duke's dominion. The two manors of the duke, the six towns and Gildusk City had already fallen into Lorist's hands.
Within the whole of the duke's dominion, apart from Hennard's soldiers who were defending Cherry Blossom Ridge and the nearby Evanson Town, only a around 5000 soldiers of the Northland Army were guarding the Hendliff Suspension Bridge customs point and Freist Castle.
The duke's Gold ranked knight, Aordem, who led the troops, mobilized around 2500 men to mount an attack against the Norton forces which were forcing the villagers to move away. However, they were met with an ambush by Fiercetiger Loze and his two regiments of heavy-armored cavalry. Aordem himself fought Loze on the battlefield and got gravely injured. However, he managed to escape with roughly 600 soldiers and abandoned the customs point at the bridge and retreated into Freist Castle with the rest of the soldiers with the intent of turtling inside it and defending it.
After eliminating most of the remnant Northland Army forces, the Norton Family's soldiers no longer had anything to worry about and focused on ransacking the duke's treasury, food warehouses, and armories as well as confiscating the wealth of the duke's vassal nobles and expropriating the goods and carriages of the merchants who had arrived at the duke's dominion. Following the order to migrate by Lorist, the Norton Family forces then turned their attention to the villages within the duke's dominion.
Below is an excerpt of a book titled 'Northlands Journal' which was written by a merchant who had been conducting business in the Northlands during that time. The journal caused quite some commotion a few hundred years after it was written as it described 'The Plundering of the Southern Northlands' from a different perspective in great detail, eventually becoming the primary subject of study for the rise of the Norton Family.
"This was an unprecedentedly huge, organized and carefully planned maneuver. The forces of the Norton Family were known to be even more fearsome than the worst of bandits. They emptied the city's warehouses completely, confiscated all the property of the nobles and didn't even leave behind a single piece of crude pottery.
"My merchant convoy toiled for an extremely long time to transport our goods to the Northlands, only to be robbed when we were about to check in to the inn within the capital of the southern Northlands, Gildusk City. They forced us to sell our goods for half the market price. Even though I personally didn't incur any losses from that exchange, the profit gained is incredibly miniscule compared to what I had envisioned. Poor little Tini... my heart pains at the thought of my incompetence for not being able to buy you that beautiful dress so that you can show up at the ball like a princess to grab the limelight...
"Originally, my merchant convoy planned to sell our goods at the Northlands and buy some local goods there to be sold back at home as well. However, given the chaotic situation there as well as our suppliers who had suffered our fate at the hands of the Norton Family's forces, I couldn't get my hands on any local goods. Given the situation, I decided to escape the area. Unfortunately for us, my convoy's carriages required maintenance and our horses needed new horseshoes before we could leave.
"And so, I tried to find a blacksmith. However, I didn't expect that there wasn't even one among the 100000 people of Gildusk City. After spending some money to get some information, I got to know that the Norton Family's forces had forcefully moved all blacksmiths and their family members away from the city. They didn't even spare the common peasants or servants and only left behind the elderly and merchants within the city. Other than that, they also brought many other village chiefs and officers to the city...
"When I returned to the inn, I realized that I no longer had to worry about my carriages as the Norton Family's soldiers once again showed up before me and were here to expropriate them. I didn't bother to resist or object and let them have their way. But they were much better this time around as they paid for the carriages and horses according to the full market price using gold Fordes as currency.
"That day afternoon, we left Gildusk City and began our journey back home on foot. It was only after we left the city that we noticed the villages of the friendly Northlanders had been set on fire with smoke forming everywhere. The villagers who were hefting their belongings and protecting their wife and children were tearing up as they were escorted away by the forces of the Norton Family.
"Along both sides of the road we took were numerous tall crucifixes where the nobles within the villages or the brave men who resisted the Norton soldiers' violence were hung. We didn't dare to collect their corpses as there were mounted Norton patrol troops passing us by from time to time. When we left the city, we already obtained a permit to travel, so the soldiers didn't pay us any heed. However, the regular checks we received caused us much trouble and frustration.
"As we no longer owned any carriages, we could only travel on foot while carrying our luggage on our backs. We even used some wood to make a sledge which we stored our camping gear on and pulled it along with us, resulting in an even slower traveling speed. If we were on horseback, we would be able to arrive at the Hendliff Suspension Bridge within a day of travel. However, it seemed that we wouldn't be able to arrive there within three days at this rate...
"When we halted to camp at night, a group of patrolling soldiers stopped by and borrowed our campsite for some rest. I noticed that there was an insignia of a white lion on each of the soldiers' breastplate. A mercenary leader traveling with us secretly told me that those were the equipment that belonged to the famed Whitelion Legion of the former Krissen Empire.
"And so, I brought out a few bottles of fruit wine and treated those soldiers to some drinks and pretended be surprised and asked them whether they were the soldiers of the Whitelion Legion. Those soldiers merely shook their heads and said that they were the soldiers of Count Norton. I exclaimed that I thought that the head of the Norton Family was only a baron and not a count.
"The soldiers then told me proudly that along the way on their journey to the Northlands, the Norton Family's convoy helped the Second Highness of the Andinaq Kingdom to wrestle control of his kingdom, hence stabilizing the state of the kingdom. That's why the Andinaq Royal Family, being the recognized heirs of the legacy of the Krissen Imperial Family, elevated the rank of the Norton Family from that of a baron to a count. The Second Highness even enfeoffed his own principality to the Norton Family. The equipment of the Whitelion Legion was also offered as a reward for their efforts.
"I then asked the soldiers why they were forcing the poor villagers to leave and even burned their villages, to which they replied angrily that it was to teach the greedy Duke of the Northlands a lesson so that he doesn't cause any trouble for the Norton Family again. Due to wanting to develop the Norton Family dominion into a haven during chaotic times so that its people would be able to live blissful and stable lives, the Norton Family leader ordered that everything and everyone within those villages to be moved to the Norton Family dominion as well as the destruction of infrastructure within the duke's dominion so that the duke would no longer be able to recover his power to once again cause the Norton Family and their citizens any more trouble.
"Perhaps because they were grateful for my fruit wine treat, the soldiers left an old horse for me before they departed and even wrote a document for our group to signify that we were merchants who had treated the Norton forces well. That document later saved us lots of trouble during the rest of the journey. Before he left, the squad leader even informed me of a business opportunity: after crossing to the other side of the river from the Hendliff Suspension Bridge, we could get our hands on some carriages which we could resell to the Norton soldiers at the campsite near Freist Castle for a high price.
"That was indeed a good idea. Originally, I was planning to purchase more carriages when I crossed the Hendliff Suspension Bridge to make my way home. However, I thought that the squad leader's idea made sense and decided to try to see if I could make up for the losses my convoy sustained during this trip. And so, I instructed the rest of my men within the group to leave immediately to head for the Hendliff Suspension Bridge..."
"That felt great!" exclaimed Knight Hennard delightedly as he put down the wrecked chair within his hand and looked at the mess within Duke Loggins's study which was created by him during the last half hour.
Raising his head, he saw Lorist looking at him like he was a madman.
A little embarrassed and mad, Knight Hennard said, "What kind of gaze is that? Why are you looking at me like that? Let me tell you something... Wrecking the duke's study has always been something I wanted to do very badly. In the past, when we reported to the duke and said something that angered him, he would start smashing this room up in front of us in a fit of rage, causing us to have to wait nervously until he calms himself down. That's how I eventually started imagining how good it would feel for me to smash this room up myself. Today, my wish has finally been fulfilled."
Lorist snorted from his nostrils and said, "I didn't know you had this side to you. Being by the side of the duke must've caused some sort of trauma or complex to develop within your mind... That's why you feel so fulfilled after smashing up the room like a kid..."
Hennard jumped and said, "I'm not afraid of him at all. It's only because he was my lord and as his knight, I couldn't disobey his orders. Now that I'm Baron Shazin, I can ignore the unreasonable orders of the duke openly as a dominion lord..."
Lorist said in an annoyed voice, "Alright, did you have your fun? Let's go if you're done. I have many other things to handle."
"Fine, fine... What's so important that you have to attend to them personally? Can't you just let your subordinates do it? You don't look like a dominion lord at all being almost as busy as a lapdog..." Hennard said as he put a grey-colored linen scarf around his face. "Wait, I need to cover my face up so that others don't recognize me..."
As Hennard was the rumored 'heroic knight who had attempted to resist the forces of the Norton Family before he was injured and forced to retreat', he had to disguise himself when walking beside Lorist. The night before, he showed up at Lorist's tent and said that he wanted to follow Lorist back to the dominion to look for his four concubines, when in fact, he was to act as a guide through the dominion of the duke for the Norton Family forces.
Lorist also treated him rather well. Seeing that there was an opportunity to be taken advantage of, Hennard didn't hold back and brought a whole regiment of troops to collect their metal armor, leaving behind only less than 300 men defending Cherry Blossom Ridge. By the time Hennard's men emerged from the campsite of the convoy, they had already donned a set of metal armor which was previously used by the convoy's forces.
After donning the guise of the Norton Family soldiers, Hennard's men behaved even more savagely and made sure to plunder the dominion of the duke thoroughly and were especially cruel to the nobles and officers within the villages. With the 5000 men who were familiar with the area, Lorist led his men to sweep through the duke's dominion without much resistance.
The only downside was that Hennard's Silver ranked knights went to recruit another 2000 soldiers of the Northland Army from various areas and went to Lorist's convoy's campsite and shamelessly asked to be allowed to switch their gear for metal armor.
The company of Northland Army soldiers that defended Gildusk City had also surrendered because of Hennard, who had tasked his Silver ranked knight to inform the company leader to not put up any futile resistance and make pointless sacrifices. He advised the company leader to surrender first so that they would be able to retain enough strength and retreat to the Cherry Blossom Ridge for now and unite under the leadership of Hennard himself to reestablish the glory of the Northland Army.
With only that, Gildusk City fell into Lorist's hands, followed by Hennard's pestering of Lorist to go to the duke's manor because he had a dream that he absolutely wanted to fulfill. Lorist only just realized that smashing up the duke's study was that dream...
At that moment, Reidy approached them and said, "Milord, we discovered someone within the water dungeon of the duke's manor..."
After hesitating for a while, Reidy said, "It's Baron Camorra..."
Stunned, Lorist exclaimed, "Who? Did you just say Baron Camorra?"
Hennard who had his face covered started as well. "Why would he be locked up in the water dungeon? No wonder I couldn't get hold of him no matter how many messengers I sent... Bring him here, quick..."
Naturally, Reidy also knew who that masked knight was and he nodded to Lorist before heading off into the distance.