This release is to make up for the missed release of last week. Enjoy the read and see you next week!
"Milord, this trip will take another thirty minutes. There is a small stream up ahead, and after crossing it, we'll arrive at the valley of Wolf Mountain. That is where the barony of the Dina house is located. There is a small hill within the valley on which the castle of the Dina house is built that is right next to a village," reported Kumod. He was the one who had come to the Dina barony the last time along with Els.
Lorist nodded and said, "Let's go. We'll get some nice food and rest by the time we reach there. Curse this weather... To think it'll rain out of nowhere like that... Be careful, the road will be slippery."
The weather of the 7th month was usually rainy and stormy. Lorist had just experienced one of the quickest weather shifts that caused half of his guard to be dripping wet before they even got the chance to put on their rain coats. By the time they put them on, the rain stopped again, causing their efforts to be in vain.
Even though the mountain path was wide, it was incredibly muddy as a result of the rain. The hooves of horses were stained yellow with mud, causing them to be unable to sprint like usual. The wheels of the two carriages had also got clogged up with mud as it was bogged down by the weight of the carriage.
The reason for Lorist's trip was that he wanted to bring the two girls and their young aunt away from the barony. During the previous year when he attended the paradise gathering, he got to know a girl called Dina Arriotoli and her aunt who bore the alias of 'Chessy'. They spent a fulfilling night together, and the girl said that she fancied Lorist quite a lot and promised that she would no longer attend the gathering to wait for Lorist for three years. If Lorist was willing to take her hand in marriage, she would be wedded to him along with her younger sister.
In the previous year, Lorist had Els pay them a visit on his behalf and sent over a thousand gold Fordes with a bunch of other gifts. When Els returned, he reported that the girl was incredibly down after learning of Lorist's identity as a count. Given that she and her sister were of low status, they would not be fit to be Lorist's wives. She originally thought that Lorist was just a knight which she and her sister could marry without problems. If 'knight' Lorist tried hard enough, he might even get a title of a baron.
Lorist did not wish to force them to come with him, but given the stark situation of the Andinaq kingdom, and how the dominion of the girl's house was near the northwestern area of the Redlis kingdom, the moment the second highness's forces are defeated, the northwestern area of the Redlis kingdom would fall under the control of the Union. By then, if the Union sends their forces down, the girl's house and the Dina baroy would be one of the first to suffer. Lorist did not wish for the girls and her family to fall to the hands of the mercenaries of the Union. That was not something he was willing to ignore.
Upon exiting the forest, his vision was greeted with the terrain of the gentle and large valley before him. At the foot of the mountains were some farmland. There was a small hill in the distance where a small castle stood beside a village surrounded by a tall wooden fence. That was the Dina barony.
"Milord, it seems that the Dina barony is under attack," said Reidy while holding up a telescope.
"Oh?" mused Lorist as he took the telescope for himself and looked. That was indeed the case, with a few knights visible on the empty lot in front of the castle. A petite girl wearing yellowish-copper armor could be seen from the telescope, wielding a longsword and standing on the castle walls heroically, cursing at the few knights beneath.
"Pfft!" Lorist tried to stifle his laughter when he recognized the girl on the walls. That was Arriotoli, and he did not think that she was the kind to go on the battlefield herself. The main issue was with her physique, though, that caused her to look a little awkward wielding a longsword that stretched 1.4 meters.
"Milord, it seems that it is a skirmish among the local nobles. The troops at the camp over there number less than 500, with some even using wooden sticks as weapons. They look like children playing a wargame," commented Reidy as he continued to observe with the telescope.
Lorist turned back to look and saw the 200 or so guards he had brought with him. All of them were mounted and lightly-armed, escorting two four-wheeled carriages.
"Reidy, bring the guards with you to give them a hand. Crush their camp site over there and capture a few of their horsemen. Also, tell the troops to not kill them outright. Those poor farmer soldiers were only forced to fight by their lords, so try to catch them alive if you can," instructed Lorist. He did not have the slightest interest in meddling in the issue personally.
"Understood, Milord," acknowledged Reidy before he barked a few simple orders.
The guards began to clean up the mud around the hooves of their horses, adjusted their armor, and awaited the order to charge after remounting themselves.
Reidy waved his hand forward, causing the guards to launch into a forward trot. As the distance was still rather far, there was no need for them to charge yet. Should they charge right away, by the time they arrive at the camp, their mounts would have run out of energy. As the group advanced, a few orders from some company leaders saw the 200-odd guards split into four 50-men units. When there was only 300 meters between the guards and the camp, Reidy appeared at the front, gave a loud cry, before charging.
The people within the camp had already noticed the incoming horsemen. The girl on the castle walls also revealed a look of shock. The knights who were beneath the castle walls hurriedly turned back to the camp all the while raising their arms and shouting out loud.
However, the construction of the camp was far too flimsy. Not even a moat could be spotted around it. Reidy clenched his legs against his mount, causing it to leap upwards over a meter-long wooden fence, before he gave his greatsword a swing. He used the flat of his blade to stun a huge soldier who merely stood there in befuddlement, causing the man to collapse unconscious. That man should be thanking Reidy for lightly batting him away. Otherwise, he would have been crushed by the charge of Reidy's steed.
After the mounted guards stormed the camp, the small-scale skirmish concluded. The few knights did not even make Reidy break a sweat; all of them collapsed with one strike from Reidy, who used a heavy greatsword. Even though he wielded it with only one arm, his sword easily weighed two times a normal two-handed greatsword. Thanks to Reidy's unnaturally great strength, he was able to use a heavy sword like that as deftly as he would a delicate needle.
Following the fall of the few enemy horsemen, the farmers in the camp promptly surrendered. There were ten-odd other fellows equipped with leather armor and armed with shield and sword who cast their weapons away the moment they saw what happened before raising both their hands in submission, obediently following the instructions of the guards.
The girl on the walls began cheering out loud. She probably recognized the guards as on her side as the armor they wore were different from her enemies'. Perhaps, she knew that those were the exclusive armor of the Norton house, given that Els had went there once last year. The girl soon vanished from the walls and was probably preparing to lower the drawbridge of the castle.
When Lorist arrived at the camp with ten-odd guards and two four-wheeled carriages, the drawbridge had already been lowered, with the girl having walked out from the castle with six other armed guards. She was currently talking to Reidy, who was keeping watch on his mounted captives.
One of the kneeling captives cursed them for being cowardly for using a sneak attack without a formal war declaration and berated Reidy for not having any chivalric spirit. Before Reidy retorted, the girl had begun pointing fingers and cursing out loud, causing the guards behind her to start teaching the chivalric way to the old knight with punches and kicks. The girl herself did not fail to sneak in a few kicks at her pleasure.
Lorist overlooked all that with a face full of cold sweat. He did not dare imagine that the soft and gentle girl he had once caressed and embrace would be so brash. Lorist rode forward and leaped off his horse before smiling at the girl and said, "Hey, should I call you Daisy or Arriotolli?"
The girl wore a stupefied expression before her eyes reddened as she tossed her two-handed greatsword away and began pummeling away at Lorist's chest with her fists. "So, after all this time, you've finally thought of coming to see us. You big meanie..."
Lorist chuckled as he caught her fist and said, "Apologies, I have been far too busy lately and haven't got the time. That's why I sent my subordinates here to see you last year. Didn't I come to see you now, the moment I finally got some time for myself?"
The girl looked like she was about to say something and pouted. "You liar, you told me you were a knight. Your subordinate has already told me that you're actually a count. Why did you even bother to come?"
"Well, I couldn't help myself, since a certain foolish lass said that she would wait for me for three whole years. I just couldn't stop myself from worrying, so I'm here to take you away," said Lorist as he stroked the girl's long, brown hair.
"Hmph," the girl mumbled as she shook her head to avoid Lorist's hand, "You are a great and mighty count, while I'm merely a sibling of a baron. I must be no different from those village girls in your eyes. And there's no way you'll be able to take us sisters as your formal wives, so why bother coming for us? Do you want us to be your concubines? I would never agree to that."
Lorist only looked at her with a smile and said, "Alright, stop fussing. Let's deal with the mess before us right now first. What's going on here? Who are they and why are they attacking your castle?"
The matter was cleared up soon enough. The Dina barony had actually only occupied half of the area within the valley. The other half was controlled by the old man kneeling not far away, Baron Andrew. When the second highness launched his campaign against the Redlis kingdom, the two sons of Baron Andrew had joined the second highness's army. His older son Pulist was one of the many who was involved in the occupation of Frederika. While he was fortunate enough to survive crossing the Cloudsnap Mountains, but he was only half alive after experiencing the chilling cold. After the successful occupation, the second highness made the noblemen that made contributions knights of the royal family.
When the soldiers at Kanbona Province surrendered to the second highness, the newly-appointed knight of the royal family was brought back home by his brother for him to recover and managed to evade the fate of being trapped with the second highness in the Redlis kingdom. After half a year, his injuries had mostly recovered and the two brothers were terrified of the second highness's ambitions and no longer felt like returning to his side for servitude. So, they holed up in their homes with the excuse of recovering from their injuries.
The Dina barony and the Andrew barony was relatively of the same size, and both houses were 'fallen' nobles whose prime time had long passed. The two houses used to have a mutually-benefiting relationship. But since the older son of Baron Andrew had become a royal knight, he felt that he had more of a backing and started to get more ambitious, starting to crave the Dina barony for himself.
The old man came up with a most splendid plan to form a marriage alliance with the Dina barony. Since he has two sons, and the Dinas, two daughters, as well as the fact that his wife had passed away earlier, making him a perfect match for the stunningly-beautiful widowed aunt of the sisters still in her thirties, he felt that he could pull off a triple marriage to seal the alliance. As for the ten-year-old Dina heir, he could take him as his own adopted son. That way, he would have the Dina barony for himself.
However, the moment the old man proposed the idea, his dreams were shattered in the most amazing fashion. The current temporary head of the Dina barony, Arriotoli, had cursed the old man so harshly that he almost suffered a heart attack. Never had Baron Andrew seen anyone scold someone with such fervor. With the two baronies interacting over the course of the years, and given Arriotoli's excellent memory, she managed to recite each and every one of the old baron's past shameful mistakes and used them as ammunition in her rebuking. The old man had never felt so humiliated ever in his life, especially since they were in full view of the peasant farmers when the scolding happened. The grudge he bore that day was not one that would go unpaid.
The angered old baron rallied up around 500 farmers the moment he went back and declared war against the Dina house. Baron Andrew himself had twelve garrison soldiers while the Dinas had only eight. Baron Andrew was a two star iron rank, his older son was a one star silver royal knight, and his younger son was a three star iron rank. The Dina house on the other hand had a two star silver household knight, who was also the personal bodyguard of the late baron who had stayed loyal all this time, and Arriotoli herself who was a one star iron rank. Both sides were of roughly equal strength.
In terms of numbers, however, Baron Andrew had the advantage. The farmers and refugees he recruited as well as the servants numbered above 400 people whereas the Dina barony only had around 200 male and female youths, half of the number the enemy was capable of bringing out. But they did have the protection of the castle, so both sides were tied et again.
That conflict had already been ongoing for a month and seven days with casualties on both sides... only numbering less than ten injured. Not even a single one had died. The unluckiest casualty was none other than Knight Pulist, who had suffered two broken ribs as a result of being stepped on by his mount. The main method employed in the siege was none other than trash talking. Baron Andrew and his two sons shouted at the top of their lungs at the walls, with Arriotoli shouting back. Basically, the insults boiled down to 'come down if you dare' for the Andrews and 'come up if you dare' for the Dinas.
It was no wonder all that seemed like child's play to Reidy.
"How do you think we should deal with them, Arri? Let's just have them hanged, alright?" said Lorist with displeasure, feeling more than willing to kill off the enemy that annoyed him.
The three captives were horrified at having the fate of their lives so casually decided, even though the were supposed to be exalted nobles of a mighty kingdom. In territorial conflicts between nobles, captive ones were not supposed to be killed, only held prisoner until their ransom was paid.
"I... I'm a knight of the royal family... The kn-knight of the king himself... You... You wouldn't dare to kill me..." said the puffy-faced Pulist.
"Oh, a mere knight of the royal family. I once attended a banquet and killed a viscount in front of the second highness himself. After that, the elder brother count of that viscount I killed brought ten thousand men seeking me for revenge, all of whom were killed by me, of course. I supposed there were a number of royal knights among those I killed, but I didn't keep count back then. Even so, the second highness didn't do anything to me," said Lorist without batting an eye.
"Yo-you're Count Norton? T-the Raging Bear of The Northlands..." mumbled Pulist with a pale look. The incident concerning the Aslan brothers was taboo which no one dared mention in front of the king. However, the grapevine in the army was rather far reaching. With Pulist having served under the second highness once, he had heard of many retellings of the incident concerning Lorist and the two brothers.
"Arri, please spare us. Remember when we were young? You were our boss lady," begged Pulist. The moment he recognized Lorist, he changed his attitude right away.
"Eww, don't bring something so far back up again. And weren't the three of you boasting that you'll make me your wife?" humphed the girl with dissatisfaction.
"But Arri, I really like you for real. It was you who didn't consider us brothers seriously. That's why we agreed to help our father out with his ambitions. After all, if we succeeded, I would satisfy my own desires as well," said Pulist in a frustrated tone.
The girl seemed to be in deep thought before she regained her cheerful demeanor. Raising her head, she told Lorist, "Whatever, let them go. It's pointless to go further than this anyway."
Lorist waved his hand and a few guards returned the weapons and mounts to the three men. Actually, even the guards did not crave the stuff that they just returned, given their impressive loadouts.
"Arri, will we never be able to meet again?" Pulist said as he stopped and turned back after walking a few steps with his horse.
The girl did not bother with him and headed into the castle, clutching Lorist's arm.