Here's the first release of the week! Enjoy the read!
It started to snow two days after the eccentric queen was sent away. The weather was rather cold. Camorra, at Windbury, responded logistically by sending lots of resources to the frontlines. All of the four houses' soldiers wore thick fur and cold-resistant clothing. They were still fully combat-capable.
The only thing that troubled Lorist was the large delays in the construction of the provinces' defenses thanks to the cold weather. It was especially severe when it snowed; everything had to be halted. However, given the current situation, it seemed the House Fisablen's forces in Boblige would fare even worse. Even though they still stationed themselves on the cliffs to monitor Lorist's camps, there were only half as many as before. Their attacks also stopped completely.
Just when Lorist was about to call for Potterfang, Malek, and the other knights to discuss how they should launch a surprise attack, Howard rushed into the tent.
"Your Grace... Els and Reidy are finally back..."
"Oh?" Lorist raised his head and smiled.
He was glad he no longer had to worry about them. He had originally planned to seek them out in a few days, having asked Tarkel and Morbinghan with his gold eagle to come to the frontlines. They would arrive in another five or six days, but the two missing individuals returned before they arrived.
"Where did they go? Why were they gone for so long?"
Els and Reidy entered the tent clad in dirty furs. Long hours of riding against the cold winds had drained the color from their faces. It seemed they were chilled rather badly.
"Y-y-your Grace... W-we're back," stuttered Els as he rubbed his hands together.
"Where have the two of you been? Do you have any idea how worried I was? Was capturing two enemies alive that hard? I thought the area near Boblige was heavily guarded. Shouldn't it have been easy to locate two guards?" asked Lorist, trying his best to appear angry.
"No, Your Grace. We didn't capture anyone. It would've startled the rest too easily. Instead, we traveled into the mountains," explained Els.
"What? Into the mountains? But how?"
Everyone in the tent was stunned. Did they manage to find a way into the mountains without alerting the guards?
"No, Your Grace, we only circled around the mountains and entered from the entrance Eastwild entrance," replied Els.
Els proceeded to explain and Reidy helped fill in the details the former missed. It didn't take long to explain how they entered Boblige. Lorist had ordered them to capture two soldiers alive to understand what was happening, but the two didn't believe the patrolling soldiers would know much. So, they went all the way to Eastwild and bumped into some 50 Fisablen soldiers led by two Fisablen knights transporting two carriages filled with medicine into Boblige. The two ambushed the caravan during the night. After interrogating the troops, they killed them all and buried them before entering Boblige by disguising themselves as the squad in charge of delivering medicine.
"Wow, you guys are really courageous. Did you even consider the consequences if you were recognized? Don't laugh, Reidy. I was talking about you. Els trains in the dark attribute battleforce technique passed down in his family. Also, his looks don't attract much attention, so it's no surprise people wouldn't take note of him."
"Hey, my wife says I'm the best!" objected Els.
Lorist continued unphased.
"But you, Reidy, you got first place in the swordsmanship competition. Too many people can recognize you. If the duke left a few guards in the mountain range, there would've been no way you'd have not been caught."
"Your Grace, we asked the knights escorting the squad and they said only Third Frontier was left in the mountains. Duke Fisablen had disbanded and redrafted Fifth Frontier. They were absorbed into Third Frontier to fill their ranks. Two years ago, Third Frontier had been led by the duke on an expedition against the Melein duchy and have been stationed in Southern ever since. Given that Fifth Frontier was formed in Eastwild, I doubt anyone from there would recognize me. Also, I wore a fake mustache so it was even harder for others to recognize me," explained Reidy as he took out a fake mustache from his pocket and pasted it on his face.
It made him look much older and people who were not familiar with him would have a hard time recognizing him.
"Your Grace, the two knights have also been stationed at Crouchtiger Castle in Eastwild. They were originally citizens of the Melein duchy moved to Eastwild. They were just recently promoted to become household knights. They don't recognize the people from Third Frontier. When the duke went back to Crouchtiger Castle, he casually picked the two and had them transport the medicine into Boblige. It was practically tailored for us, so we decided to take the risk and enter the mountains," Els added.
"Look, Your Grace. This is the map we drew."
Reidy took out a beastskin from his robes. Howard received it and spread it on the table. Boblige mountain range covered a really large area. From the top, it looked a little like the cracked shells of a chicken egg. However, the shells were in fact cliffs and beyond them were lush forests, lakes, and streams. It was large enough to be a viscounty.
"Your Grace, two of the three routes into the range have been sealed. Only the one in the middle is still usable. Attacking through the other two routes isn't possible. As for the route in the middle, it's severely booby-trapped. For example, the latter half is just next to a valley. The moment we arrive, the enemy just has to gather at the cliffs and roll boulders down at us. We won't be able to run. That trap is truly horrendous.
"Just 46 thousand men from Third Frontier are there now. Duke Fisablen took his personal guard and the grassland barbarians back to Crouchtiger Castle. Third Frontier's commander is Three-star Gold-ranked Knight Galini Beloput. It's said he used to be the duke's playmate and childhood friend. He's someone the duke trusts greatly because of his reliable and resolute personality. The duke trusted him enough to leave the defenses of Boblige to him..."
"Duke Fisablen didn't return to Crouchtiger Castle,"Lorist interjected, "He gathered the 100 thousand barbarians and defeated Jaeger in Wild Husbandry. They suffered severe casualties. He's since moved on to Pedro. Luckily 23rd Local managed to hold out until reinforcements arrived. Ten-odd days ago, the duke lost his last hope of taking the city and withdrew."
"Ja-jaeger Legion suffered huge casualties?!" exclaimed Els.
"That's right. Both Josk and Yuriy are heavily injured, and Pete died. The two of you will take over Jaeger once this whole business is dealt with. Get them back up to full strength. Before we deal with the matter here, we won't be able to return to the dominion. Anyway, continue with your report."
Els nodded. He had an idea of what was going on.
Pointing at the map with his finger, he continued, "Third Frontier is stationed at four locations in Boblige. One division each is stationed at the left and right flanks. Their job is to pay attention to the two routes they sealed off, to patrol, and to maintain security. It takes at least 15 minutes to travel from the foot of the mountain to the cliff, and each of the peaks there has watchtowers. Their shifts change eight times a day. Each shift is about three hours. The defenses are really tight; it'll be incredibly difficult to enter the mountain range there. They've been modifying the towers to be more resistant to the cold.
"Third Frontier's main camp is in the middle. There are two divisions stationed there. As the junction in the middle is the only way in and out right now, they've focused most of their resources there. The number of watchtowers and patrols decrease beyond the main camp. Also, they've long built some caverns in the mountains as shelter against the weather. Most of the patrol squads are there. If there is an alarm, they'll arrive at their posts within ten minutes. I feel that it's incredibly difficult to launch an attack."
Els pointed at the rear half of Boblige.
"Third Frontier's supply camp is here, half a day's travel away from the main camp. Not only is it their main resource storage area, it's also the central area of defense against anything coming from Eastwild. Just like the three main routes on the other side, the Fisablen forces sealed two of the three on this side and left only the central one free for transporting resources. However, I discovered the soldiers of Third Frontier are rather lax on security. They send only one patrol along the cliffs twice a day and there are also no watchtowers. Perhaps they feel there's no need to put up such a defense in the direction of the dominion."
"I suggest we circle around to Eastwild and attack from there. We stand a much better chance that way," Reidy said, continuing Els's thought, before he recalled something, "Oh, right. Your Grace, when we left, the fat logistics supervisor complained that there is a huge shortage of resources even though it's getting colder. He hoped we'd encourage the duke to send more supplies. If we don't bring more furs, the soldiers will have no choice but to hide in the camps and huddle around fires. There'd be no way for them to patrol."
"You did well. If we manage to take Boblige, it'll be thanks to your efforts. You guys heard Els's report. Any thoughts?"
"Your Grace, Els and Reidy truly made a great contribution. Just as they said, we can take a detour around the mountains. As long as we don't get discovered by Fisablen's scouts, we can attack Boblige from the rear. Given that the area is so large and the rear and main camps are so far apart, even if we're discovered, we can still conquer the rear support camp before reinforcements arrive. As long as the support camp falls, Third Frontier will be ants in a bowl. They'll have nowhere to run."
Malek gave it some thought.
"Your Grace, while Potterfang's plan is no doubt good, I believe it's best we wait for a little longer."
"Why?" asked Lorist.
"If we attack now, it'll take too long to circle around the mountain. Traveling there on horseback and carriage causes too much commotion and it'll be spotted by the scouts easily. We should wait a little longer for the snow to cover the plains before we depart using skis and sleds. The scouts won't want to come out on patrol in that kind of weather either. Third Frontier's defenses will be more relaxed as well."
"You're right. It sounds incredibly appropriate, save one part: we will have to deceive our enemy."
"Deceive? How so?" asked Potterfang curiously.
Lorist was so surprised at Potterfang's query he looked at him oddly.
"Think about it. Given that our camp is facing Boblige directly, any movement will be detected immediately. There's no way we can stay here until the snow falls before taking the detour. Even if the enemy can't see where we're heading, they'll be alerted by our movements and perhaps even strengthen their defenses where we want to attack. Since their commander is reliable and competent, we shouldn't let our movements rouse his suspicion.
"From tomorrow onwards, we'll transfer House Kenmays's heavy-armored division over to guard the camp while Firmrock packs up and retreats to the rear. We'll make it look like they're going to wait out winter in the back so the enemy don't suspect anything. When we move out, you should go to Loze's camp first and go to the rear of the mountain range from there and exterminate Third Frontier!"
"But, Your Grace," Els said as he stood up, "There's a whole legion in Boblige, Third Frontier no less. Isn't it a little careless to leave just one heavy-armored division here? Maybe Third Frontier will notice the decrease in manpower and attack. If that happens, we'll suffer huge losses."
"It won't happen. I will have Count Felim send two Pegasus divisions over to hold onto the main camp with House Kenmays's troops. Given the cold weather, it should start to snow soon. Galini will also consider whether Firmrock Legion's retreat is a ploy to draw them out of the mountain range. He should know that snowfall impedes light cavalry. If he really attacks, he'll find it incredibly hard to retreat. I don't think he'll make the decision to attack that lightly."
Lorist stood up.
"It's decided. Howard, take a squad of guards and head to Loze. Have Suleimos move his heavy-armored division here and tell Loze to expand the camp. In a few days, we'll move Firmrock over a division at a time. Make sure he's prepared."
"Yes, Your Grace."