"Those magical bulls lowered their heads and stared with their glowing red eyes as they roared and rushed over with crazed frenzy with a cold glint emanating from their horns, furiously ramming against the mud walls reinforced by ice. The ice cracked all over as a result and the mud walls started to shake, but the soldiers desperately stabbed towards the crazed bulls from the walls with their pikes. For every bull that fell, many more rushed over. From a higher vantage point, one can only see nothing but bulls, constantly rushing over. The way they covered the wide expanse of land gave off a feeling of pressure and despair..."
Count Kenmays paused to take a sip of amber-colored fruit wine before he continued to tell the others present about his imagining of the scene of the Norton Family soldiers battling against the hordes of magical beasts. Next to him listening to his story were tens of elaborately dressed noble ladies who were completely absorbed in the count's tale.
"One particularly huge magical bull rammed harshly onto the tough face of a shield, causing it to rupture into pieces with the shield-bearing soldier being knocked flying into the air. By the time he landed, he had already lost consciousness and fainted. Beside him, a few other soldiers managed to stop the bull's charge using their pikes to stab at it. However, with a twist of its body, the bull shattered the pikes with relative ease. It was at that moment when a horn signal was blown, causing the soldiers to breathe a sigh of relief. This was the signal to retreat to the second line of defense, which prompted some soldiers to fend of the remaining bulls as their injured comrades made their way up another tall stone wall.
"This stone wall was far larger and tougher than the wall at the first line of defense and many ballistas were also installed on this wall. After the order to fire was given, bolt after bolt as long as pikes were fired, causing the bulls at the front to fall, much to the soldiers' delight. But at that moment, another loud roar resounded from the distance and out came several gigantic animals around 6 meters tall from the snowstorm. Each of them had thick fur and two large, curved tusks sprouting from either side of their mouths as well as a long and strong trunk. With each step they took, they left a deep imprint onto the snowy ground."
Currently, the count was at the duke's mansion at Gildusk City which had been taken by the Second Prince to be used as his own residence.
It was the last day of Year 1770 on the Grindian Calendar. The Second Prince and his queen were receiving the coming of the new year with the other nobles of the Iblia Kingdom by having a grand celebratory banquet.
While the weather outside was harsh and cold, it was nothing but warm and comfort within the mansion as the various fireplaces and steam pipes within the walls continuously gave off heat to keep the temperature from plummeting. Elegantly dressed noblemen and noblewomen could be seen all over the mansion, with some of them talking in low voices in smaller groups and others trying hard to expand their network of acquaintances as they awaited the chime of the clock that signified the coming of the new year.
It was at this time that Count Kenmays fulfilled his promise with Lorist to spread the heroic tale of the resistance of the Norton Family soldiers against the magical beast wave to his audience who comprised mostly of beautiful noble ladies.
"These great magical mammoths continued their charge despite the fact that there were countless ballista bolts buried deep within their skin. When they neared the walls, they flung their trunks around furiously and smashed against the ballistas, causing the soldiers operating them to be tossed into the air. The formation had completely collapsed and the soldiers could only fend for themselves by running all over the place in panic while the magical mammoths easily caught up with them and stomped at them with their feet, turning the unfortunate soldiers into flattened meat pies on the white, snowy ground."
"That's horrible..." muttered one of the ladies who was huddled up and shivering with a few other noblewomen.
At that moment, a voice rang out from behind the count. "My dear Count Kenmays, what tall tale are you telling now to frighten these beautiful ladies?"
Count Kenmays hurriedly stood up and put down the silver cup he held and bowed respectfully. "Greetings to Your Majesty, the king and his beautiful queen, as well as the goddess which will always have a place in my heart, Princess Sylvia. Your humble servant pays his respects."
The noblewomen who were listening to the count's story also hurriedly made their greetings one after another.
The Second Prince revealed a gentle smile and hurriedly asked them to drop the formalities while the queen merely kept her mouth shut and nodded coldly towards them. Princess Sylvia who stood behind the queen smiled as she curtsied to return their greetings.
"I seem to have heard you describe a huge battle just now. What epic poem might that be from, Lord Count?" asked the Second Prince casually.
"Oh, no, my king. What I was describing was not from a poem at all. It's a true story. As I enjoy this peaceful night with these beautiful ladies here, the soldiers of the Norton Family are engaging in a bloody battle within their dominion against the magical beast wave," replied Count Kenmays.
"Magical beast wave? The Norton Family? Can you tell me more about this?" asked the Second Prince as he narrowed his eyes with scorn.
The queen then interjected. "Are you referring to that Baron Norton who has refused the kind invitations of the king for a few times? It's as if he doesn't even have any respect for our king..."
The Second Prince's face twitched as he laughed awkwardly and said, "If his dominion is truly facing a wave of magical beasts, then I suppose he has no choice but to refuse my invitation. I believe that when his dominion calms down, Baron Norton will definitely come forward to me to pay his respects. Isn't that so, Count Kenmays?" As he asked that question, he glared at the queen furiously. The queen on the other hand merely humphed and turned her face towards the roof without even caring about the Second Prince's glare.
"Naturally, my exalted king. Baron Norton expresses his regrets for being unable to attend the celebratory feasts of the past few years as well. During every winter, his dominion will be assailed by the magical beast wave and he has no choice but to remain there to keep things together. It was definitely not his intention to neglect Your Majesty's invitation.
"Personally, I've read about the magical beast wave from a book titled 'The Northlands Journal' written by Count Fogland. According to him, the magical beasts travel from the mountainous wastelands to the wildlands of the Northlands every winter. However, since I didn't witness this for myself when I moved to the Northlands, I believed that this phenomenon no longer occurred.
"It was only recently that I found that it was because of the Norton Family's resistance against the magical beasts that they didn't spread to the rest of the Northlands. I've asked a few older Northlanders and they said that the magical beasts that the Norton Family face number up to one million," Count Kenmays said as he improvised to make his words sound more convincing.
"I see... My Lord Count, please greet Baron Norton and his soldiers on my behalf and tell them of the respect I have for them for facing off against the magical beast wave. It's about time now and I should head to the main hall for the countdown to the new year. I hope the rest of you beautiful ladies will have a pleasant night. We'll take our leave now, see you during the ball," said the Second Prince politely towards the others.
However, Princess Sylvia stepped forward and asked, "Lord Count Kenmays, can I make a request of you?"
"Why, naturally, princess. Your will is my command. As long as it is within my capabilities, I will definitely fulfill your request," Count Kenmays said as he bowed deeply while the other noblewomen looked at the princess curiously.
With a slight blush on her face, Princess Sylvia said, "It's like this... Even though I just heard about those bloody battles between the Norton soldiers and the beasts, I've never actually seen a magical beast myself and don't know how they look like. If it's possible, can you write a letter to Baron Norton and have him send over a few magical beast carcasses to satisfy my curiosity? I understand that the beasts are the spoils of battle for the Norton Family, so I'm willing to offer 100 gold Fordes to them as reparation for the beasts. I wonder if this is too much to ask..."
"Oh, it's definitely fine, my goddess. Beloved princess, your request is but a small task for me to accomplish. I believe that Baron Norton will also be happy to comply and send a few beasts over as your new year's gift. Please rest assured, I will send my messenger there first thing tomorrow morning to fulfill your request," promised the count.
"Thank you for your trouble, Lord Count. I will take my leave now," Princess Sylvia said before she curtsied and left.
"We should head to the main hall as well. The clock is about to ring at midnight," Count Kenmays said to the other beautiful ladies there.
"Shouldn't you be following that goddess of yours? Why are you mingling with mere mortals like us?" mused a voluptuous lady unhappily. It was apparent from her expression that she was a little jealous of the attention the count showed Princess Sylvia.
Count Kenmays held that woman by her waist as he smiled and said, "Goddesses are only to be worshipped and put on a pedestal. On the other hand, you, my darlings, are far more suitable for a mortal like me, isn't that right? Us mortals should hang together to find our own happiness..."
The clock in the main hall sounded loudly as the snow continued to paint the lands in white, indifferent to the coming of the new year.
As the nobles were celebrating the new year at Gildusk City, Lorist was laying flat on a snowy slope with his men, spying on the rear of the magical beast wave.
"Milord, this year's wave seems to be half of last year's. There were only around 70000 magical bulls which were lured into the Crewe Circular Gorge this time and that's even less than half the number of last year," Josk said. Being a stellar marksman, he was easily able to notice the difference with his sight when compared to the rest.
Lorist nodded and said, "We should leave now. Otherwise, the magical wolves and panthers that are circling around in this area will come for us. There should be only around 500000 magical beasts remaining. Order Dulles to bring his three carroballista brigades to exterminate the bulls at the gorge as soon as possible before heading to the fourth sector. We will meet up there. We must force the remaining magical beasts to stay within the Felicitas Settlement so that the magical beast wave will not show up next winter."
15 days later, Lorist brought around 30000 family soldiers to the central town of the fourth sector to build three ice walls around it so that they can use the town as a stronghold to wipe out the magical beasts there.
Knight Waxima, who was stationed to guard Firmrock Castle, sent a few soldiers to escort a messenger to Lorist.
"You are the messenger sent by Count Kenmays and came all the way from Gildusk City?" Lorist asked the man whose nose was bruised either from a fall or the extreme cold and wondered what prompted the count to send a messenger to him in that kind of weather.
"Yes, yes I am... Milord, here is the personal letter of the count," said the messenger as he shivered and labored to take out a letter from his breast pocket.
After reading it, Lorist felt like screaming out in anger. Despite knowing that I'm fighting for my life here, that Kenmays fellow actually wants me to send some carcasses over there for him to show off to the ladies? And what's this about sending the carcasses as a new year's gift for Princess Sylvia? He really has nothing better to do, huh...
Wait a second, Lorist thought, as his lips curved into a sly smile.
"I apologize, mister messenger. I'm sure you've seen that this is already our last line of defense with only three layers of walls. With the magical beasts almost at our doorstep, I really can't afford to send any of my men to fulfill the count's request. How about this, I have to trouble you to return and have someone from your dominion come over. My soldiers will move the carcasses in front of Firmrock Castle so that your men can transport it to Gildusk City, is that okay?" Lorist said with a troubled expression to the messenger.
"Is that so..." said the messenger with a sullen look. Normally, it would only take five to six days to travel from Gildusk City to Firmrock Castle on horseback. The snowy weather however caused it to take more than 14 days. The messenger and the rest were already really worn out from the long period of traveling and really didn't feel like returning again after asking for someone to come.
Lorist on the other hand fully understood why he was so bothered.
"How many people came with your group?" Lorist asked.
"Seven of us, with 10 horses. The rest are waiting at Firmrock Castle for the reply," said the messenger.
"How long did it take you to travel here?"
"14 days. We even lost one horse on the way."
"It must have been tough for you to have to travel in this weather to send this letter. But as you can see, we really can't spare anyone else. Count Kenmays also said in his letter that you would cooperate with us in any way you can so that the carcasses can be transported to Gildusk City as soon as possible. The quickest way for that to happen is for you to find more men from your dominion to transport the carcasses there. I will have my men prepare a sledge for you so that your horses can drag you back to your family dominion. I believe this mode of travel will be much faster. Also, I'll give you five gold Fordes and two gold Fordes to each other person in your group for your troubles. I really have to thank you for your effort to deliver the message in this weather."
Lorist's sudden generosity surprised the messenger and he suddenly felt energetic and forgot about the cold altogether. However, he still asked something before he left. "Milord, how many people should I bring over to transport the carcasses?"
Lorist stretched out a finger and said, "One thousand men with horses should be sufficient. There are many carcasses and I'm prepared to send one of each magical beast to your count."
Five days later, the magical beast wave arrived at the central town of the fourth sector and began to make its way towards the walls of the town with abandon. However, the three thousand plus steel ballistas installed on the walls caused one beast to fall after another, covering the land with more and more dead magical beasts. Even the hundreds of magical mammoths collapsed under the incessant fire of the ballistas.
When the last single-horned magical rhinoceros fell, the family soldiers dropped their weapons and started cheering. Lorist and the other knights were smiling at the sight too. The magical beast wave had finally been annihilated, removing the threat that has bothered the family for hundreds of years.
"Dulles, regroup your carroballista brigades and replace the broken ballistas. We will be heading out to wipe out the remaining carnivorous magical beasts.
"Fiercetiger Loze, escort the carroballista brigade with your heavy-armored cavalry brigade and help them out with the extermination of the carnivorous beasts. Terman, your knights will head out together as well.
"Josk, bring your mounted archers to secure the area around the Crewe Circular Gorge and Maplewoods Bastide. I don't want a single beast to escape and return to the wilderness.
"Pog, your two heavy-armored brigades will stay guard here and protect the area to ensure that the people collecting the magical beast carcasses don't get attacked by the carnivorous beasts.
"Charade, I'll leave the collection of the carcasses for you to manage.
"Yuriy, after taking care of the carnivorous beasts with your light cavalry scout brigade, make your way to the first sector and try your best to round up the beasts that escaped their doom and minimize the damage they can cause to our farming efforts next spring."
After giving the chain of orders, Lorist recalled Count Kenmays's letter and asked Els to come over. "Els, pick some magical beast carcasses and remove the ballista bolts from their bodies and make the wounds look like sword and spear wounds instead. Make sure that nobody will find out that the cause of death for the beasts are from the ballista fire. You may even embed some broken swords and spears into their bodies to make it seem like it took us a lot of effort to exterminate these beasts. After that, send these bodies to the empty space in front of Firmrock Castle and wait for the men of Count Kenmays to collect them."
Els laughed out loud before he said, "Locke, are you up to something devious again? Alright, leave the shady stuff to me. I promise that nobody will be able to find out about this..."