By the time Lorist arrived at Firmrock Castle, he met up with the messenger of the Kenmays Family right away. The messenger said that he was sent over by the head of the Kenmays Family, Count Kenmays's father. In the letter, the count's father stated that Count Kenmays had been held hostage by the Second Prince and the Kenmays Family had no choice but to send them huge numbers of soldiers to help out with the war effort. However, he promised that the 20000 plus soldiers sent by the Kenmays Family will definitely not attack the castle with their own initiative and would only provide moral support from the rear lines.
"Cunning old bastard," Lorist commented after he saw the messenger leave. However, he understood that even though the Kenmays Family had no choice on that matter, things could change at any moment. While the head of the Kenmays Family promised that his forces would not actively participate in battle, would that really be the case? The moment the situation turns bad for the Norton Family, there's no way the Kenmays Family who has a mercantile background would pass up the opportunity to backstab the Nortons for even more profit.
And given that Count Kenmays was being held hostage by the Second Prince, he would be an idiot to not utilize the 20000 soldiers that were forcefully provided to him. It was extremely possible that he would use the 20000 plus soldiers as the main force to attack the castle. However, what the Second Prince didn't expect was that the Norton Family didn't intend to defend from within the castle. Instead, Lorist wanted to defeat the First Legion of the Second Prince in an open field battle as a grand show of might of the family's forces. The silver lining of that was that the Kenmays Family's forces no longer had to be needlessly sacrificed by besieging Firmrock Castle.
At night time the next day, two mysterious grey-robed men entered Firmrock Castle and announced themselves to be the messengers sent by Baron Felim of the Family of the Pegasus. After confiscating their weapons and giving them a thorough search to ensure that they didn't bring along anything dangerous, Ovidis brought the two to see Lorist.
When one of the men removed his hood, Lorist was so shocked that he jumped off his chair. "Baron Felim, why have you come?"
This man was indeed Baron Felim Chalvode of the Family of the Pegasus.
"Just call me Chack. Even though it's our first time meeting, I have a good feeling about our Family of the Pegasus forming an alliance with the Family of the Raging Bear. That's why I have come to express the intention of my family to befriend your family," Baron Felim said as he laughed while extending his right hand towards Lorist.
Lorist stepped forward and shook his hand firmly.
"It is my pleasure to receive the amicable intentions of the Family of the Pegasus. However, right now, the Norton Family is in quite the predicament. I'm sure that you understand that well. Why, then, did you come here and even offered your assistance?" Lorist asked.
"Well, let's get straight to the point. Our Family of the Pegasus has had enough of that buffoon of a Second Prince. The reason I've come is to propose an alliance between our two families and cause the Second Prince to sustain a huge loss. That way, he will have an even harder time suppressing my family as well so that we can take our time to recuperate and develop," Baron Felim said straightforwardly.
Upon seeing Lorist's questioning gaze, the baron laughed and said, "To be honest, I'm actually quite reluctant to come all the way to the Northlands. As I'm sure you understand, the original dominion of the Family of the Pegasus is within the Southern Province of the former empire, which has been divided into three commanderies by that buffoon ever since he came into power. During the days of the civil war, I've become the Second Prince's subordinate and battled along his side for five whole years, hoping that I can receive a noble title and be enfeoffed the former land of my family.
"However, I didn't expect that during the formation of his kingdom. the buffoon sent his messenger to me and asked my family to provide a huge sum of funds, citing the reason that the formation of the kingdom has caused them to be quite tight on money, and saying that I will only receive the title if I agree to help out. I trusted the words of the Second Prince and agreed to help him raise some money, with the condition that my family will be enfeoffed our former land when we are given a noble rank again, to which the Second Prince agreed.
"In the end, on the day when I was entitled, I found out that the land I had been given was actually in the Northlands. When I asked the Second Prince why, he said that he wanted to deploy his troops against the Melein Duchy and explained that the three commanderies of the Southern Province would be the frontlines of battle.
"I only found out later that it was the sum of money I had given him that prompted him to have suspicions about my family's wealth. He thinks that hundreds of years ago when my family fought Krissen IV in the Newmoon War, we hid a lot of our wealth within our family dominion and believes that to be why we were able to procure such a huge sum for him so easily. And so, the Second Prince sent his men throughout our old dominion and dug all over the place to look for the so-called treasures and even desecrated the tombs of our ancestors."
As he said that, the baron's eyes were reddening with rage. "I only discovered the ruined graves when I paid a visit to the old dominion a few years ago. When I confronted the Second Prince about it, he insisted that he wasn't behind it and put the blame onto the Melein Duchy's forces when they invaded. Naturally, I had to hold my temper back then since he was a king after all.
"Before I came to the Northlands, the Second Prince encouraged us nobles who had been enfeoffed land here to start fighting against the old noble families of the Northlands and promised that no matter how much land we obtained as a result, he would acknowledge our ownership over it. That's why battles broke out all over the Northlands a few years back. Even though I was only a baron, I still managed to conquer the lands of a nearby viscount and two other barons. After linking the four dominions together, I no longer sent out any more troops and wanted to focus on managing my territory.
"Two years back when the Second Prince launched his assault against the Madras Duchy, he ordered me to send some support. So, I had my cousin brother bring 1000 soldiers there only to have them completely killed off by that buffoon with not even one of them returning alive. My cousin brother who had fought with me for over ten years and was a Three Star Silver ranked knight who could've become Gold ranked like me, gone, just like that, and that buffoon didn't even attempt to address that matter and pretended that it didn't even happen!"
The longer the baron told his story, the angrier he got. "That buffoon then occupied the dominion of Duke Loggins who was defeated by your family and the moment he got a foothold here it the Northlands, he instantly dropped all attempt at diplomacy. After I paid my yearly taxes to him, he sent a tax officer to demand for extra money that was due from the lands of the two barons and viscount I've conquered! Not only that, he sent his soldiers to ransack the houses of the citizens of my dominion. Even though I argued that I've already paid the due taxes, the officer said that it was only for my own barony and not the other two baronies and viscounty.
"Thus, I went to look for that buffoon again and he said with a straight face that the situation has changed as the Northlands, which was under the rule of Duke Loggins formerly, is now under his personal rule. That's why he forbade battles between nobles from that day onwards and even said that he would take the lands of the defeated noble families back into his own hands. The hard work I put into conquering the three extra territories had all gone to waste! What would I take to feed my 10000-strong army and my citizens?!"
Clutching Lorist's hand emotionally, Baron Felim continued, "That's why I have decided to join hands with the Norton Family and give that buffoon a lesson. I have an idea that can allow you to defeat the buffoon's First Legion within a single battle."
The baron's idea was a rather simple and straightforward one: ambushing during the night. As the Family of the Pegasus had been forced to lend 5000 soldiers to aid with the war effort, Baron Felim wanted to reenact the 'Daybreak Assault' that Duke Madras had managed to pull off. He believed that if Duke Madras could pull it off, then there was no doubt that an allied effort between the Family of the Pegasus and the Family of the Raging Bear would succeed.
Lorist smiled as he shook his head and told the baron that there was no need to go out of their way for a night ambush as he was confident that he would be able to crush the Second Prince's First Legion in an open field battle and also show the might of the Family of the Raging Bear to the world at the same time.
Lorist told the baron that he did not need the latter to do anything aside from ensuring that his 5000 troops wouldn't rush into the battlefield lest they get involved in the assaults of the Norton Family forces.
A little bewildered by Lorist's confidence, Baron Felim reminded Lorist that while the Second Prince was a first rate buffoon, the First Legion he commanded still numbered up to 60000 people. With the addition of Baron Shazin's 10000 soldiers and Count Kenmays's 20000 plus family forces. as well as his own family's 5000, coupled with a ragtag combination of the various forces of the smaller noble families in the Northlands, he estimated that there would be a little over 100000 soldiers in total. He wondered if Lorist actually thought that facing off against a threat as huge as that in a single open field battle was possible.
Lorist merely laughed and told Baron Felim that Count Kenmays and Baron Shazin had the same thoughts as he did and that they would definitely not willingly march head-first into the battlefield. With only the First Legion and the combined forces of the smaller noble families actively participating, Lorist merely dismissed them as a disorganized mess.
"But, I should at least contribute in some way, shouldn't I? I won't feel satisfied just sitting down idly doing nothing," said Baron Felim unwillingly.
"How about this," Lorist said before he went into deep thought and brought out a map of the Northlands. "You ought to include as many cavalrymen as you can among the 5000 soldiers you're sending to the Second Prince. The moment the First Legion he commands is defeated, your troops can take advantage of the chaos and travel to conquer the Hendliff Suspension Bridge and the Freist Castle when they least expect it. That way, the two towns and three bastides nearby will be under the control of your family. I believe with that, you'll be able to sustain your family forces and possibly even expand it."
"What you're saying is...?" Baron Felim said hesitantly.
"That's right. I'm also prepared to drive the buffoon of a Second Prince out of the Northlands with this battle so that he doesn't cause any more turmoil over here and keep everyone on edge," Lorist said confidently.
Baron Felim continued, "Then, what about Gildusk City?"
"Of the dominion formerly belonging to the duke, I plan to hand half of it which includes Gildusk City to Baron Shazin. Essentially, you'll be splitting the dominion with him equally in half," Lorist said without hesitation.
"Alright, then it's a deal." Even though he wasn't able to gain Gildusk City for himself, with the Hendliff Suspension Bridge under his control, he would still be able to profit somewhat from collecting toll there, and Baron Felim was more than satisfied with that arrangement. Right now, he only had one worry, and that was whether the Norton Family could actually defeat the Second Prince's forces.
"Don't worry. In ten more days, you will get to see with your own eyes where all my confidence came from," Lorist said while smiling as he sent the baron away.
"Milord, did you reject his suggestion because you feared that he would be a spy sent by the Second Prince?" Tarkel asked hesitantly. As Lorist's personal attendant, he was there the whole time during the discussion between Baron Felim and Lorist.
Lorist shook his head and said, "Tarkel, you don't understand. As a noble, Baron Felim will definitely not work as the Second Prince's spy. Even if the Second Prince were to emerge victorious as a result of his efforts, if word of him being sent here as a spy spreads out, the Family of the Pegasus's hundreds of years of reputation will have evaporated. Everyone will be going on about how they sabotaged us and they will be isolated by the other noble families. To them, that fate is even worse than complete decimation."
"Then, why didn't you take him up on his suggestion? With Baron Felim's men sending crucial intelligence to us, wouldn't we be able to achieve victory far more easily?" Tarkel asked.
"Tarkel, I want to use this battle to show the world the might of our family. And fighting in an open field battle instead of turtling up in the castle will be the best way to do that. While it is indeed much easier to achieve victory by launching an assault at night, it will let others think that we won only because we used cheap tricks and nobody will truly be convinced of our might. I want to use this opportunity to kill the chicken that is the Second Prince for all the other monkeys to witness, that is, to make an example out of him so that the others will think twice before even considering provoking the Norton Family!"
"The Second Prince is a chicken and the others are monkeys? Milord, your words are too deep for me to comprehend," Tarkel said as he scratched his head in thought.
On the 14th day of the 6th month at the Somm River within the western part of the Northlands, the Kenmays Family forces that have arrived there were setting up their main camp. Near 10000 tents were erected in neat order, forming quite the magnificent army camp.
The Second Prince was currently riding a big, green-colored Zeno Horse with a proud air about him as he marched into the camp.
"I am very satisfied with how the Kenmays Family forces is operating," the Second Prince praised Count Kenmays with a haughty tone.
"As your faithful subordinate, this is the very least that I can do," Count Kenmays replied exasperatedly. He didn't think that the Second Prince would actually imprison him and force him to mobilize 20000 of his family forces for the campaign and even had him supply the resources needed for the Second Prince and the allied noble army as well as handle the logistics.
He had thought that with 30000 soldiers in his control, the Second Prince would think twice about messing with him. It was completely out of the count's expectations that the Second Prince would abandon all decorum and shamelessly hold himself hostage to force his family to comply with the demands. The moment he recalled that fact, the count felt so humiliated that he wanted to die. However, he held that urge back and could only grind his teeth in secrecy.
"Hahahaha, with a force of 100000 soldiers, is there anyone within this realm that would dare to bar my way?" the Second Prince said as he laughed out loud. He had completely ignored the presence of Baron Shazin, Count Kenmays, Baron Felim and the other nobles and treated those soldiers as his own already. In fact, the Second Prince has decided that after taking care of the Norton Family, he would once again attack the Madras Duchy on the following year. With a force of 100000, the grudge-holding Second Prince couldn't wait to pay back Duke Madras for the troubles he has caused.
"Heed my orders. We will rest for two more days before packing up and departing. Our 100000 soldiers shall march to Firmrock Castle in the grandest fashion possible to wake that dumb bear out of its stupid delusions. Perhaps, upon seeing our arrival, that dumb bear might actually come out and surrender! That way, it'll save us far more trouble," instructed the Second Prince as he waved the horsewhip in his hand.
Noon of the 17th day of the 6th month, the 100000-strong army finally arrived within the line of sight of the guards of Firmrock Castle.
The Second Prince brought the various nobles of the Northlands to a spot that was roughly 600 meters away from the castle to check it out. The Second Prince nodded and said, "This castle is indeed easy to defend and hard to besiege. No wonder the Norton Family dares to be so arrogant. However, they'd never expect that I have 100000 men under my lead. I can already imagine the leader of the Norton Family curling into a ball while crying out profusely within that castle and regretting his pathetic decision. Hehehe... Heed my orders! Begin setting up camp right away. We have all the time we need, so take it slow."
"Your Majesty truly is wise," said the few other Northland nobles beside the Second Prince in unison.
The moment the praise of the nobles stopped, a loud, resounding sound of a horn could be heard coming from Firmrock Castle.
"This... This is the tune of assault!" cried a surprised noble out loud.
The others were all dumbstruck by the scene that were unfolding before their eyes. Did the Norton Family go insane? For them to come out for an open field battle instead of hiding within the castle and fighting defensively, what in the world is going on?
Just when the nobles finished that thought, the gates of Firmrock Castle opened and countless soldiers clad in shiny, silvery armor marched outward and charged in the direction of the Second Prince's forces.
The Second Prince's expression changed immediately. Even though he had 100000 soldiers, he had only just arrived and still required some time to gain a proper foothold. If the Norton Family forces manages to rush over and catch his troops off-guard, then he truly would become a laughingstock.
"Baron Shazin, Baron Felim, Count Kenmays, order your troops to assemble immediately!" The Second Prince made his decision swiftly to have the troops of the three families intercept the first wave of the Norton Family's forces.
"Yes, milord." Only Baron Felim responded to the Second Prince's order before he headed out immediately.
Knight Hennard and Count Kenmays on the other hand merely looked at each other.
"Your Majesty, without me personally leading them, my forces will definitely not heed any orders," Knight Hennard said.
"It's the same for me too," Count Kenmays said.
Both of them understood that if the Second Prince continued to hold them hostage by his side, even though their forces would follow the order to go into battle, who knows what they would do once they were on the battlefield? If they did not act upon their orders, the Second Prince would be ultimately responsible for what would transpire.
"Fine, both of you can go lead your troops," said the Second Prince. He figured that since those two were already so deeply involved, he didn't have to worry about them secretly working with the Norton Family. It was also true that there was no guarantee that their troops would carry out their orders perfectly without them personally being in the lead. However, the Second Prince was still worried that the two nobles would only help out superficially and won't really put their best efforts into it, so he decided to send someone to follow and supervise them.
"Wait a second. The two of you shall bring two of my guards with you. Baron Shazin, you will protect the left flank of my army along with Baron Felim. Count Kenmays, your family forces shall defend my right flank. After that, I will transmit additional orders by blowing the horn, understood?"
"Yes, Your Majesty," Knight Hennard and Count Kenmays said before they left hurriedly with two of the Second Prince's guards.
"Heed my orders! The First Legion shall march forward and assemble into the assault formation. Have the longbowmen make firing preparations. As for the troops of the other nobles, stay behind the ranks of the First Legion to await further orders and be prepared to intercept the enemy." No matter what others said, the Second Prince did in fact emerge from battle during the vicious civil war. Even though he hasn't fought that many battles, his orders reflected his experience and mastery over troops.
The First Legion of the Iblia Kingdom were well-trained as they responded to the orders rather quickly. After receiving the Second Prince's orders, the sword and shield infantry stepped forward followed by the pikemen behind them while the longbowmen completed their preparations. The two cavalry divisions of the legion surrounded both flanks of the army and were prepared to intercept the enemy soldiers that were charging straight into them.
Loud drumming sounds rang out as the forces of the Norton Family began assembling into their formations 400 meters away from the Second Prince's forces. They took on a similar formation with their infantry being in the middle, flanked by two cavalry troops on either side. The troops assembled into one square formation after another lined up next to each other within the line of sight of the 100000 enemy troops.
The battle was ready to break out at any moment...
 The author used a Chinese idiom here that literally states 'killing the chicken to frighten the monkeys'. It essentially means to make an example out of someone as a warning for the others.