The Bladedge Mountains was like a huge wall that blocked off the Norton Family dominion from the open seas.
Lorist was currently standing atop a cliff and looking towards the incoming waves bashing onto the black-colored, razor-sharp bedrock with a solemn expression.
"Are the shores of the Bladedge Mountains all so reefy?" Lorist asked.
"They are, milord," replied Balk. "The coast around the family dominion is mostly like this. The only way we can reach the coast is through the three ways I brought you past just now. The other sides are so steep that there is virtually no way for us to get down the mountains to the coast. We've always headed through the three ways with some firewood and cauldrons to procure some salt from the seawater and each trip would take us tens of days to complete...
"Milord, I think I know what you're thinking. You're planning to find a place to build a port, aren't you?" asked Balk.
"Milord, please follow me," Balk said as he traveled with Lorist across the mountains to another cliff further away.
In the distance, part of the mountain could be seen sloping into the seas. What piqued Lorist's curiosity was the presence of a few wooden structures that were left over there.
"Milord, in the past, the four great families of Wildnorth Town had once attempted to contact the outside world through the sea and spent around one year to construct a very long floating bridge that stretched all the way into the sea over the reef near the shores. At that time, the lord of the family was your grandfather and he attempted to discuss this with the four families of Wildnorth Town and requested for half of the rights to use the bridge. However, before the negotiations were completed, a huge storm tore the bridge apart, causing the four families immense losses as the money they had invested into the project had all gone to waste. All that remains is that over there..." explained Old Man Balk, who knew many things within the distant pass in the that Lorist had no idea about.
"Are these storms common?" Lorist asked.
"Not really. Huge twisters usually appear in the sea only during the 4th and 5th months. During other times, there would be huge winds and waves, but storms are far rarer," replied Balk.
"Oh well. Let's go back now. We've already visiting the Bladedge Mountains for two months, so it's about time we headed back," Lorist said.
After Charade ended his vacation and resumed his work, he really couldn't stand Lorist's attitude; when he had work, he would let his secretary do it. But when he didn't, he would 'do' his secretary. So, he forced Lorist to form a group of people to head towards the Bladedge Mountains to search for potential resources they could use to solve the resource crisis.
One of the things Charade found that they lacked was salt. In the past, the population within the dominion wasn't high and whenever salt ran out, they would bring some cauldrons and firewood to the coast near Bladedge Mountains to make some like Balk had described and that would be enough. However, there were now about 500000 people within the Norton Family dominion and if each person consumed 500 grams of salt per year, each year would cost the family 250000 kilograms of salt. Additionally, the production of furs and preservation of meat required huge amounts of it as well.
Charade also received a report from Spiel that stated that the salt stored up within the warehouses would run out by the 7th month of next year, prompting him to rush to Lorist and ask him to go to the Bladedge Mountains to conduct a survey as soon as possible to find a way to mass produce salt instead of humping with Telesti all day long within the office.
To Lorist, the two months he spent at Bladedge Mountains was quite beneficial. Mainly, he managed to confirm the presence of green vines within the cavern that Balk once found himself in. Even though the amount wouldn't be able to allow them to produce more than 1 million buckets of green vine glue yearly like the Romon Empire, they would still yield around 100000 buckets and that was more than enough for the developmental plans of the family.
Other than that, Grandmaster Sid discovered a black iron mountain which has huge deposits of black iron. Additionally, tungsten and chrome silver deposits were also found nearby, causing Sid to dance in joy and even proclaim, "As long as I have time to do my research, I will definitely be able to make a set of armor that is even better than that of the Whitelion Legion!"
Lorist also felt quite surprised by the discovery as the three minable resource deposits seemed pretty unlikely to occur near each other naturally. Even so, given the infinite vastness of the universe, it wasn't weird for something as outstanding as that to occur, so he put that thought aside for now.
As for the salt crisis Charade was so troubled about, Lorist already had a method to resolve it, that was to use the solar evaporation method. Boiling seawater to gain salt was far too troublesome. Before this, Charade allocated 3000 personnel to boil seawater and managed to gather up to 1 million kilograms of salt within the span of two months. However, they didn't continue to do so after that.
While Lorist didn't personally work in salt production before, he understood the basic procedures and concepts and chose a wide valley and designed a layout for salt evaporation pools to be handed for Balk to manage. While the cost of setting up the infrastructure for the first time was rather high, it didn't require too much manpower at only 100 or so people. However, this method would allow them to produce an estimated 50000 kilograms of salt monthly, solving the shortage of salt within the dominion considerably.
"Also, the salt evaporation pools must first be pressed tightly with mud before applying a layer of green clay to flatten them. When the tide rises, open the valves to allow for the seawater to flow into the pools. After letting the seawater to evaporate for roughly three days, transfer the thick salt water to be cleansed with spring water and allow for the impurities to settle at the bottom. After that, filter the solution for impurities and empty it into the evaporation pools on the next level and allow them to continue to dry. What remains will be edible salt," Lorist explained to Balk one last time.
Balk had asked quite a number of questions as for the past thousands of years, no such method for salt production was ever used. This method also allowed for huge savings as no firewood had to be brought to the coast to boil seawater and the problem of transporting the wood there didn't have to be considered either.
The Bladedge Mountains was not an easy terrain to tread and only smaller plants and grass grew without any trees within the vicinity. Even if there were, they would've long been cut down to be used as firewood for seawater boiling. After descending from the gentler slopes, people would be greeted with one tall cliff after another and had no choice but to circle around them to leave the Bladedge Mountains.
Currently, Telesti and her young maidservant Vinny were at a slope picking flowers to make a flower crown. They jumped around joyfully as if they were innocent, young children.
Since Lorist had intercourse with Telesti for the first time, she began to shed her introverted lifestyle and showed more interest in the matters between men and women. That was especially the case after she discovered that her cramps no longer hurt as much as they did before. She even began to seduce Lorist of her own accord and did it within the confines of their office.
One thing that troubled Lorist was that no matter how many times they make love or try out new and exciting stuff, Telesti wouldn't agree to marry him no matter how hard he tried to convince her. While she wouldn't mind being his lover, becoming his wife was out of the question.
Originally, Telesti wasn't so keen on going along with this trip to the Bladedge Mountains. However, Lorist told her that walking thousands of kilometers was always more enlightening than reading hundreds of books. He then supported his argument by reminding her that her mother frequently visited ruins and ancient forests in person and didn't stay at home all day long merely doing some reading, thus convincing her to come along on the trip.
Seeing Lorist's sullen expression, Telesti understood that Lorist was disappointed. That spot was the end of the stretch of the Bladedge Mountains and beyond that was the Blackmud Marsh. Lorist still wasn't able to find a suitable location to build a port.
Lightly kissing Telesti on the face, Lorist said gently, "Darling, we should head back. To be honest, I was surprised you were able to last two whole months during this trip here. You must've gained quite a bit from the experience."
As opposed to finding a port location like Lorist, Telesti was busy checking out the flora and fauna within the area as well as the geography and herbs of the Bladedge Mountains.
Humphing proudly, Telesti said, "I'm not just another soft, weak, girl you know. I can do whatever my mother could."
Holding Lorist's arm as they descended the slope, Telesti continued, "Locke, to be honest, after two months of research over here, I formed a hypothesis that I'm quite confident about. The terrain of the Bladedge Mountains couldn't have been formed naturally. It was as if the gods used their divine power to build a dam facing the sea to stop the stormy weather and the other dangers they may come with. It is nothing short of miraculous..."
Lorist smiled and merely listened quietly as he thought that his lover had quite the imagination from all the reading she did.
By the time they returned to Firmrock Castle, it was already the 28th day of the 10th month. Lorist had considered stopping by Maplewoods Bastide for a day or two to check out on his son. However, he didn't expect that a few messengers were there waiting for Lorist's return and notified him to go to Firmrock Castle as soon as possible.
The last trip Lorist made to the Bladedge Mountains lasted up to 10 days and within that period of time, various messengers had gathered up within the bastide. The gist of their news was that many ambassadors from various noble families were at Firmrock Castle, among the more noteworthy ones included the ambassadors of the First and Second Princes. On another note, Viscount Kenmays also paid a visit to the castle and had already waited there for half a month.
The first person Lorist met with after his return was Viscount Kenmays. After all, among the people who were there at Firmrock Castle, he was considered a guest and thus had the highest priority. However, the viscount himself advised that Lorist meet up with the ambassadors of the two princes first as his matter wasn't urgent and said that it could be left for later.
The ambassador sent there by the Second Prince was a middle-aged noble who radiated charisma from the core of his being. He introduced himself as Viscount Zinderson and mentioned that he had arrived on the Second Prince's behalf to send Lorist a letter and requested Lorist to draft a personal reply without saying anything else.
Lorist opened the letter curiously and noted its length which spanned a few beastskins. The first two beastskins described the intimate camaraderie between the Second Prince and he Norton Family and contained the his condolences for the death of Lorist's elder brother on the battlefield. However, the last beastskin revealed the Second Prince's true ravenous intentions.
The Second Prince said that the conflict between Duke Loggins and the Norton Family was something that pained him deeply. He argued that the conflicts between nobles like that was the main reason why the Iblia Kingdom wasn't able to gather the forces of all nobles to reform the glorious Krissen Empire. The Second Prince stressed that he has punished Duke Loggins for instigating conflict but also mentioned that he intended to punish the Norton Family for pillaging the dominion of the duke dry.
First, the Norton Family was to hand in the near 300000 gold Fordes' worth of property obtained from the duke's personal treasury to the Second Prince as reparation for ravaging the duke's dominion. In exchange, the Second Prince would forgo the penalty for moving all the citizens of the duke's dominion to the Norton Family's dominion.
Second, as the new leader of the Norton Family, Lorist must head to Gildusk City where the duke's dominion was located to pledge allegiance to the Second Prince and said that he would consider elevating the noble rank of the Norton Family as well.
Third, the Norton Family must also supply the Second Prince with two fully-equipped armies so that he can stabilize the chaotic situation of the Northlands. He said that the Norton Family must launch an attack against the Madras Duchy under his lead before the 7th month of next year to contribute towards the reformation of the Krissen Empire.
Lorist laughed out loud after seeing the conditions the Second Prince made. He had to admit that the Second Prince was far more despicable than the dogshit duke. While the three conditions seemed really loose and didn't harm the Norton Family's foundations on first sight, once he agreed to them, they would become a leash with which the Second Prince would use to drag the Norton Family into the abyss.
Lorist didn't even bother to think too much about the devious snake that was the Second Prince. Ever since his elder brother died on the battlefield in service to the prince, the Second Prince stopped caring about the Norton Family and merely watched as they clashed with the Kenmays Family and didn't even settle the territorial disputes between the Nortons and the Kenmayses. Lorist would rather believe that pigs would one day fly than the words of the Second Prince.
Right now, Lorist's main priority was the development of his dominion and he didn't have any intention of conquering more of the Northlands or restoring the former glory of the Krissen Empire. Taking out a blank beastskin, he wrote only a few short symbols and after some deliberating, used his stamp as a count to seal the letter. After that, he rolled the letter up, sealed it in an envelope and handed it to Viscount Zinderson, who bid his farewell right after receiving it. He had already stayed at Firmrock Castle for more than ten days and was raring to return as soon as possible.
After that, Lorist received the 8 ambassadors of various nobles. The ambassador of the Felim Family represented them to express their similar intentions: to purchase some weapons and equipments like ballistas and metal armor from the Norton Family.
Lorist agreed to the requests almost instantly and even said that if they didn't have enough money, they could trade for the equipment with food and other resources before asking them to discuss the matter of price with Charade.
Finally, he invited Viscount Kenmays over and asked him why the nobles of the Northlands were so keen on purchasing weapons and other war equipment.
The first thing he said to Lorist was, 'the time of chaos of the Northlands has come.'
After that, the viscount briefed Lorist on the current situation of the Northlands. Ever since Duke Loggins returned to his dominion, he fell sick. After Knight Hennard had taken control of most of the soldiers of the Northland Army, he stopped at nothing to tempt the remaining soldiers of the duke who were holed up within Freist Castle to join his side. In the end, more than 3000 men joined Hennard with less than 1000 defending the castle and the customs point at the suspension bridge. When faced with the soldiers of the Second Prince, they were scattered almost instantly, allowing for the Second Prince to take full control of the two strategic locations.
The Second Prince who was actually heading back after his defeat at the Madras Kingdom had actually heard about the situation of the Northlands from the merchants who were traveling away from it. Seeing an opportunity he could take advantage of, the Second Prince sent a group of troops belonging to the Frontier Legion that incurred relatively few losses to conquer the two points at the Northlands, causing the Second Prince to decide against returning to the royal capital and instead to occupy the duke's manor and even had someone send Duke Loggins to the royal capital of the Iblia Kingdom on the grounds of treating his sickness.
The Second Prince didn't stop at that and began to set his sights on the rest of the nobles within the Northlands, only to be annoyed by Knight Hennard who had occupied the Cherry Blossom Ridge and led a skirmish against the his troops, causing him to lose around 2000 people from the defeat.
That was the main factor that prompted the rest of the nobles of the Northlands to head towards Firmrock Castle in hopes that they would be able to purchase weapons and equipment. Even though the Norton Family managed to chase away the tiger that was Duke Loggins, a hungry wolf like the Second Prince appeared there instead. To the ambitious nobles of the Northlands, this was also an opportunity for them to expand their influence and power.
The reason Viscount Kenmays wanted to see Lorist was simple: he wanted to form an alliance with the Norton Family and brought a piece of news to Lorist as well. After spending five months and countless amounts of money, the Kenmays Family have managed to set up another metal suspension bridge connecting the Northlands to the outside world and said that they no longer had to use the Hendliff Suspension Bridge that was under the control of the Second Prince to transport resources out of or into the Northlands any longer.
That was incredible news for Lorist, especially after he wasn't able to find a suitable spot at the Bladedge Mountains to build a port to reach the outside world. Lorist said that he would discuss that proposal with his knights and officers before giving the viscount a response.