Baron Camorra was quickly brought over. According to the guard who was tasked to watch him, he had been placed in the water dungeon for more than a month. Had it not been for the guards' secret care of the baron, that is, allowing him to rest somewhere dry during the night, the baron's legs might have long been wrinkled to the point of rotting by the constant submersion in water.
Currently, Baron Camorra was still unconscious. After reading his pulse, Lorist noticed that even though the baron was currently very weak, he only needed some time to recover and let out a breath of relief. He then instructed Reidy to let the baron rest and recover for two days while he himself would find some time to concoct some medicines to help boost the baron's recovery.
After finding the butler and servants of the duke and asking for some information, they got to know the real reason behind Baron Camorra's incarceration in the water dungeon. It all began from the mistake made by Knight Chevany. When the duke first decided to send Knight Chevany and Knight Hennard to go on an expedition against the Norton Family, he told a slave trader acquaintance of his that he would be getting a group of young female slaves sometime in the near future to be sold to him.
In the end, that expedition of his ended up with more than 4000 casualties with one Gold ranked knight dead and another captured. Angered beyond belief, the duke decided to exile the family members of Knight Chevany so that they would live their lives as beggars. After that, he sent Baron Camorra to the Norton Family dominion to pay a fee to bring Knight Hennard and the other Silver ranked knights back as criminals because he intended to punish them, only to be refused by Lorist who instead was unable to accept the fact that the duke had so casually humiliated the knights that served him and released Hennard and the rest without demanding anything in return.
When Baron Camorra returned to the duke's dominion, he was harshly scolded by Duke Loggins who thought that the baron had failed because of incompetence on his part. Hennard and the other Silver ranked knights instead rallied up two regiments of roughly 5000 soldiers of the Northland Army and took over the Cherry Blossom Ridge to protect themselves. That act caused the duke to be even more infuriated, but he was unable to do much about it, so he vented his anger on Baron Camorra instead.
At that moment, the slave trader acquaintance of the duke rushed over excitedly for his purchase, but the duke didn't have any slaves on hand because of the failed expedition. In the end, Duke Loggins ordered that the beggars, the farmers who had lost their farmland as well as the unemployed people in his city to be captured and made into slaves. He even made sure to specify for the family members of Knight Chevany to be among those people as well.
In the end, the duke's guards were unable to locate the family members of Knight Chevany and upon seeking out some information, they got to know that they had been evacuated from the Northlands by Baron Camorra. And so, they made their report to the duke much to the misfortune of Baron Camorra, who was in a rush to the duke's manor to stop him from carrying out such a ridiculous order as catching his own citizens and selling them to a slave trader as he believed that an act like that would definitely tarnish the reputation of the duke and cause the rest of the citizens to lose all their loyalty towards him.
In the end, the angered duke who had just heard about the evacuation of the family members of Knight Chevany saw Baron Camorra, who dared to rush into his manor to stop him from making slaves out of his own citizens. Not only did Duke Loggins rescind the honorary title he had given Baron Camorra, he even tossed him into the water dungeon for him to starve and rot to his death.
After waving for the butler and servants to leave, Lorist shook his head and sighed before he said, "Duke Loggins really has gone insane this time. However, the guards of the water dungeon weren't lying about secretly taking care of Baron Camorra all this time. Otherwise, he would have starved to death already. Reidy, give each of those guards 5 gold Fordes as a reward for taking care of the baron. Also, give them an invitation to bring their family members to follow us if they're willing so that they won't be punished by Duke Loggins by the time he comes back."
"Yes, milord," Reidy said before he left.
Hennard who was standing beside Lorist said hurriedly, "Locke, you aren't planning to take in Baron Camorra, right? I was about to bring him back to the Cherry Blossom Ridge's castle..."
"Forget it," Lorist said as he glared at Hennard. "If he follows you, his talent and potential will be limited. Think about it yourself, would Camorra have a bright future with you? He will at best be used as a butler or manager. As for me, I appreciate his talent and will definitely allow him to reach his full potential; heck, maybe I'll even be able to make him a landed noble one day."
Hennard was rendered speechless as he understood that Lorist was already a count and not a baron like him. As the aide of the general of the Northland Army, Knight Chevany, Hennard understood Camorra's talents well and knew that without Camorra's support in management and logistics, there was no way that the Northland Army would be able to maintain a scale of over 20000 people. That's why, unlike the Gold ranked knight Tabik, Hennard didn't look down on Camorra one bit.
However, now that Lorist had set his sights on Camorra and has further plans for him, Hennard believed that it was best for him to back down for now as there was no need to offend his benefactor for Camorra alone.
"Alright, you can have Camorra. However, I want some compensation for that," Hennard said with a dissatisfied tone.
"Buzz off... You still want more compensation? Tell me how much benefits you have received from me so far. You even managed to get 2000 more subordinates and had my force equip them with metal armor..." Lorist said as he ignored Hennard's request.
"Hehe, we're friends, right? Good friends shouldn't be so calculative... I just want one person... Is one woman okay with you?" Hennard said with a smile.
"A woman? Who else have you fallen for now?" Lorist asked curiously.
Hennard looked around his surroundings and just as he was about to lean on Lorist's shoulder to whisper to him...
"Hey, don't get too close. If you have something to say, be more candid about it. You're a grown man, so don't be so creepy like the way you're behaving now. Sheesh, I really don't know how a secretive person like you managed to become a proud and glorious knight..." Lorist said as he pushed Hennard away.
"Fine. The one I want is the Lord Duke's most coveted mistress. However, I need you to help me out and send some men to 'kidnap' her before I rescue her heroically as she passes through the Cherry Blossom Ridge..." said Hennard shyly as he shamelessly recited his plan for him to be the hero that would save the beauty and be thanked with her love and affection for his deed.
"Sol, I bet you will one day die because of a woman. When Reidy returns, you can discuss with him how you want that little act of yours to play out. However, I must advise you to wait for a while for now. Don't forget that you're still 'injured' and resting up within the Cherry Blossom Ridge. There's no way you can be both an injured knight and a hero at the same time..." warned Lorist even though he agreed.
Elated, Hennard rushed away to look for Reidy instantly.
Two days later within one of the guest rooms of the duke's manor, Baron Camorra awoke on his bed and looked at Lorist with surprise. "Why are you here?"
Lorist smiled tranquilly and said, "Why wouldn't I be? The duke personally rallied up the various nobles within the Northlands to attack my family. Naturally, I noticed how scarcely guarded his dominion was, so I took the opportunity to make a visit..."
Baron Camorra laid back on his bed exasperatedly and said, "The Lord Duke is far too stubborn... I have warned him time and again to not disturb the Norton Family... Why wouldn't he listen to me..."
"You shouldn't bother worrying about that duke of yours anymore. The sane can never reason with the insane. He even revoked your honorary title and tossed you into the water dungeon... Had it not been for the few guards who pitied you and fed you enough to keep you alive, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you right now. Don't think too much about it. Just rest up and recover. In two days, I will gather my soldiers to meet that duke of yours. I will also be bringing you along," Lorist said.
"Wa-wait... Lord Norton... You have already conquered the duke's dominion. Why would you leave now? This land is the most prosperous area within the Northlands. Are you really willing to give it up?" Camorra asked.
"Hehe..." Lorist laughed before he continued, "Given the distance between here and my dominion, it would take 5 days for a messenger to be able to get from one place to another. In essence, occupying the duke's dominion would be akin to splitting the might of the Norton Family into two. I am not that irrational. Before the Norton Family builds up a stable foundation, there's no way that I will set my eyes on the rest of the Northlands. As for how this area is the most prosperous area of the Northlands... Hehe... That's already a thing of the past."
"Milord, Knight Freiyar has arrived," reported Reidy.
"Alright. Camorra, rest well and recover. When we return to the family dominion, there's quite a number of things that I would require you to help out with. If you have anything you need, just tell the guards and don't hold back," Lorist said before he waved goodbye and left.
Within the lounge of the duke's manor, Lorist asked, "Freiyar, how are the workers and villagers that we have moved feeling? Are they causing you any trouble?" Lorist asked.
Freiyar shook his head and said, "Milord, the situation of the villagers are still fine. Instead, the skilled workers from the city are causing more problems relatively."
"Is there a reason for that?"
"Milord, I believe you are unaware of this, but, Duke Loggins collects 60% of the harvest of the farmers within his dominion. To the farming folk, the remaining 40% of their income is not enough to raise their family, so they usually have only two meals a day. To add to that, half of their livestock produce automatically belong to the duke and the other half will be sold to pay the rest of the taxes with the meager remains of that money being used to purchase other living necessities; they are definitely no stranger to hardship. However, this time we appeared and purchased their livestock with cash and even provided them with three meals each day during the migration process. That's why the farmers are the first to believe our sincerity and were the most cooperative of the bunch."
Freiyar sipped some tea before he continued, "After receiving your orders for us to form another garrison squad to maintain order, Malek and I decided to recruit the men for the squad from the migrating villagers. Those villagers were also really eager to join and we already have enough men for the new squad and we have equipped each of them with a pike and leather armor, which will be more than enough to maintain security and order during the migration process."
Lorist nodded and said, "You and Malek have done well, I am incredibly happy with the results. My intention for you to lead your 5000 mounted garrison soldiers here was so that you can replace Loze and his soldiers who are stationed near Freist Castle. For now, Freist Castle still houses around 3000 Northland Army soldiers who are still defending it from within. Knight Loze and his two regiments of heavy-armored cavalrymen are stationed outside to suppress them.
"After this, we will be attacking the enemy soldiers who are attempting to take over Firmrock Castle. That's why I need Knight Loze and his two regiments of heavy-armored cavalrymen to be my main force for that operation. Your task is to make sure that the enemy within Freist Castle don't come out and harass our men who are busy with the migration process. Even though Knight Aordem, the leader of the Northland Army soldiers within Freist Castle, has already been injured, you shouldn't be careless, understood?"
"Milord, please be assured that I will carry out my task properly," Knight Freiyar said as he saluted.
Three days later, Fiercetiger Loze brought his two regiments of soldiers and headed back to Gildusk City.
"Let's go into the last battle prior to our arrival home," Lorist said to Els, Loze, Reidy and the rest as he mounted his horse.
The disguised Hennard looked at the empty duke's manor behind him and said, "Locke, why didn't you just set fire on that building like you did the rest?"
"There's no need for that. When the duke moves back and fills that place up with valuables again, I'll be able to loot it when I return. If I burn that place down, the duke will no doubt move and it'll be troublesome for me," Lorist said as he laughed.
Today was the day they retreated from Gildusk City. Lorist pointed with his horse whip towards the distance and said to Knight Hennard, "On our way there, we will pass through the dominions of seven noble families. Since they have decided to side with the duke to declare war with the Norton Family, we don't have to spare them either. We will sweep past their lands as usual. Hennard, I will leave the bastides and towns of these nobles for your men to occupy and I will also have Dulles's carroballista unit provide support for your men."
Knight Hennard merely nodded. For this operation, Lorist would lead three regiments of heavy-armored cavalry himself, Dulles would lead the carroballista unit and Els would lead a company of guards. Compared to Hennard's one regiment of men who were pretending to be the forces of the Norton Family, they were definitely not ideal for the task of taking over the towns and bastides.
Seven days later, Lorist brought his troops and arrived at Somm River.
The Somm River was a small river within the Northlands which connected to the Metropoulos River at the south with its origin being the Bing Mountain.
After crossing Somm River, one would arrive at Firmrock Castle within one day of travel.
Yuriy and Pete stepped forward to deliver their reports.
"During the past month, you have done really well and managed to stop the enemy from noticing our recent exploits. What is the situation of the enemy camp right now?" Lorist asked.
"Milord, we didn't do as well as you said we did... Before the end of the 4th month, many of the letters of the 37 messengers we captured were love letters of some knight with only a small fraction of them being official documents. The duke did write a few letters himself to reprimand some nobles who did not send any troops to join him on his expedition against our family and demanded for them to come right away. However, we managed to intercept these messengers without issue.
"During the 5th month, however, the enemies seemed to have begun suspecting something. During the past few days, some of our scouts encountered ten plus enemy scouts whom they battled but weren't able to stop completely. Four of them managed to escape in the end and I believe the enemy is now aware of our presence," Yuriy said with his face facing the ground.
"It's fine," Lorist replied as he patted on Yuriy's shoulder. "With our victory already at the horizon, it would make no difference even if they discover the truth. Don't worry, they are no longer able to turn the tables on us. What of Potterfang's side?"
Yuriy replied, "Milord, Sir Potterfang already left with the heavy-armored infantry army yesterday. Following him are Terman's knight brigade and Malek's second division of the garrison legion. They will rendezvous at noon tomorrow at Firmrock Castle. Also, Sir Potterfang sent a message saying that he had captured Count Spenseid and his hundred plus men who were attempting to return to their dominion."
"Count Spenseid? Wasn't he the first to join the duke to attack our castle? Why is he heading back now? Whatever, have him apprehended for now. I'll settle this issue after the battle."
Lorist then looked at the map and said, "Have the soldiers rest earlier tonight. We will have breakfast at five tomorrow and set out at six so that we will arrive at Firmrock Castle by noon."
On the 9th day of the 5th month of Year 1768 of the Grindian Calendar, the great battle at Firmrock Castle that shocked the whole of the Northlands commenced.
During noon at Morgan Hills where the Firmrock Castle stood, the Norton Family's forces that were at the southwest of the area began their assault. The heavy-armored infantry legion led by Potterfang got into five square formations, one for each regiment, and began their march towards the camp of the allied nobles at the east.
The allied noble army of roughly 46000 people led by Duke Loggins was evenly matched in number against the Norton Family's forces which had roughly 43000 men.
In the early moments of battle, the Northland Army's thousand plus longbowmen fired their arrows towards the heavy-armored soldiers of the Norton Family. However, after three volleys, they realized that their arrows weren't able to pierce the Whitelion Legion armor and cause any harm to the Norton forces, plummeting the allied noble army into distraught and confusion.
Immediately following that, Lorist ordered Pete and his company of mounted archers to dismount and begin their suppression fire along with Hennard's thousand plus longbowmen. After three volleys of arrows, the allied noble army sustained huge casualties.
Terman's knight brigade and Fiercetiger Loze's three regiments of heavy-armored cavalrymen began their charge, causing the remnants of the allied noble army to disband before both sides even clashed.
Baron Felim Chalvode was the first one to escape with the rest of his men, followed by one noble after another. Within moments, the head-on clash transformed into a pursuit instead.
The whole battle at Firmrock Castle lasted for three days, that was to say, the forces of the Nortons pursued their retreating enemies for three days. However, most of the nobles managed to escape in the end. This time, the number of nobles who answered Duke Loggins's call to arms was above 60, which included roughly two thirds of all the nobles within the Northlands. After the battle, 11 nobles perished in the midst of their escape with 16 others being taken captive by the Norton Family forces, with the rest of the nobles managed to make their escape.
The Duke of the Northlands, Duke Loggins, managed to escape to the territory of Count Lopez which was ruled over by the Kenmays Family thanks to his Gold ranked knight and second in command of the Northland Army, Bitson. Knight Bitson himself was turned into a pincushion by the arrow rain of Pete's company of mounted archers and sacrificed himself on the battlefield.
The battle of Firmrock Castle resulted in roughly 8000 casualties for the allied noble army with another 30000 plus men captured with less than 50 nobles and knights dying in battle. The Norton Family on the other hand suffered miniscule losses and triumphed completely, much to the shock and awe of the rest of the Northlanders.
The migration had lasted from the 5th day of the 4th month to the 27th day of the 8th month. Countless resources and food were brought to the Norton Family dominion. Other than that, more than 300000 people were moved into Firmrock Castle.
After receiving news about the Nortons who had returned to their dominion and ceased all aggression during the 8th month, Duke Loggins who had been hiding at the Kenmays Family's castle was finally willing to return to his own dominion.
Upon arrival at his dominion, the duke's face paled instantly as only the burnt remnants and ashes of the buildings that once lined the streets of his land remained with not a single soul to be seen. Other than that, the fact that all the valuables within the duke's manor being taken as well as the nobles and officers who demanded compensation for their losses caused the duke to be so enraged that he vomited blood on the spot and fell sick without being able to recover.
Viscount Kenmays sighed and muttered, "It's the end of the road for Duke Loggins."
After that, he left the duke alone and the Kenmays Family no longer had to obey the orders of the duke in the future.
Author's note that was included in the chapter text:
A great big thank you to all my readers of your support, praise as well as recommendations to others. I deeply appreciate all your fervent love for my story. To be honest, I'd like to post more chapters myself as well but one can only write so many words within 9 hours. If I sat there for two straight hours, I can indeed write another 1000 characters to split this chapter into two. (Ryogawa: In case you didn't notice, this chapter was super long.) However, you, my readers, have paid to read this VIP novel, so I personally can't find it in my conscience to screw you up. That's why I believed that it was better for me to compact the story into one chapter with roughly 5000 characters. Once again, I apologize for not being able to churn out more chapters as my hand is quite sore and that impedes my typing quite a bit, so I hope you all will understand.
My writing process doesn't finish right after I complete the typing of the chapter either. After I finish typing, I have to check the chapter with my draft to make sure that there are no errors or anything that I have missed out. These corrections require quite a lot of rewrites as well.
As for the map, I won't be posting it. Given that my computer is relatively old, I only have the map drawn roughly on paper for my own reference so that I don't make any mistakes. If anyone is interested in making one, please tell me your QQ email so that I can tell you more about the map...
Once again, thank you very much.