"Joe, have you recovered?"
The moment Lorist entered Jaeger's campsite, he saw Josk drenched in sweat training with his green longbow. It seemed he had been training for quite a while. Upon seeing them arrive, Josk hurriedly bowed.
"Your Grace, I've more or less recovered. I feel like I have moss growing on me -- I was in bed for three months!. I've been busy with recuperation training for the last two days."
"You should watch your condition. Your injuries have just started to recover. You know haste makes waste," Lorist said as he dismounted and handed his horse's reins to Jinolio, "Some introductions are due. This is the gold-ranked Divine Marksman, Baron Josk. Josk, this is Jinolio, my new attendant."
Josk wiped the sweat from his face with a linen cloth and nodded.
"He's in seclusion training like Reidy. It'll last two years."
Josk noticed Els.
He walked up to him and give him a bear hug.
"Joe, Els is Jaeger's legion sergeant-major now and the colonel of his own division. He's yours now. I'm relieved you get along."
"Great," Josk exclaimed excitedly, "I was just worrying about having no one to help me since Yuriy's still injured. This is great news."
"How's Yuriy recovering?"
"The herbalist said his injuries are recovering well. But he will need more than a year to retrain his battleforce."
"I'll send him to Roaring Bear to recover by my side. Maybe I can help him increase his speed. Also, Jaeger's ranks should be filled by now, right?"
"I'm not too sure," Josk said, hesitantly, "You know Waxima's usually in charge of such things. I've never asked. But seeing how busy the camp is, I suppose they're full."
"Good. Apart from the 3500 new recruits from the dominion, there are another ten thousand transfers from Local Defense to Jaeger. The remaining 30 thousand used to be elite cavalrymen in Madras' armies. Now you've mostly recovered, I can stop worrying. Use the remainder of the year to train. You'll deploy in Wild Husbandry spring next year."
"Are we finally going to take revenge?" asked Josk, elated.
Lorist shook his head.
"I know this might disappoint you, but the alliance has negotiated an armistice. It will take effect after Duke Fisablen decides the term and sends it back. We'll deploy in Wild Husbandry next year because in the armistice House Fisablen will recognize our occupation of half of the province up to Soxius. In essence, we've retaken the territory Jaeger conquered."
Josk was silent for a moment before he cleared his throat.
"Your Grace, we were far too incompetent... Our loss brought the house shame."
Lorist took up Josk's shirt hung on a nearby pole and slung it at his body.
"This isn't your fault. Jaeger managed to sweep Wild Husbandry and send Fourth Frontier running haggardly in the early days. This is already far beyond my expectations. Your loss was due to the insidious duke. Even I wouldn't fare much better if I were in your position."
Josk put on his clothes, tidied himself and guided everyone into the main tent. He had the guards blow the horn to summon the commanders, Josk kept his position as the legion's general. Els was made legion sergeant-major and colonel, and given command of his own division. Waxima was made legion sergeant-major as well and chief logistics officer. Many others were made majors, with command of brigades, and captains, with command of regiments. Eidelwoke, commander of the 23rd local defense brigade, who had successfully managed to defend Pedro, had been transferred to Jaeger and given the position of division sergeant-major and major, with his own brigade command.
After the new positions were announced, everyone discussed the lessons learned from their loss and also announced a few new measures. First, Lorist was changing Jaeger's loadout. Two years of experimentation had shown that Jaeger's current loadout was rather lacking in actual battle. Coupled with the fact that many sets of the loadout ended up in House Fisablen's hands after the legion's defeat, the house had to change the style and color to prevent the enemy from sneaking in unnoticed. The remaining 20 thousand sets would be reclaimed and stored.
Second, the house would not provide Jaeger with new carroballistae. It was also a decision Lorist had made personally. He'd had a discussion with Charade, Freiyar, Belnick, and several other knights at Firmrock about the circumstances behind Jaeger's defeat. The revelations were shocking. Pete's third division had been encircled and eradicated because it had two extra brigades of carroballistae. It had also enabled Duke Fisablen to attack Yuriy's second division who approached to reinforce the third.
"Jaeger is predominantly light cavalry. The main threat of light cavalry isn't their offensive power, but their impressive mobility that allows them to come and go unannounced. Why were Duke Fisablen's light cavalry legions able to pose such a threat? He doesn't have carroballistae with impressive firing range, yet every time he comes for us, we have to face him with full alertness like we're facing a great foe.
"The reason is that we're afraid he could strike our weaknesses. Our supply line, medical stations, and food stores can easily be sabotaged. The whole legion will be affected if they're hit. It's because of those factors we lose the initiative in confrontations with their light cavalry and have to watch for them fearfully. Light cavalry should be quick to move and fast as lightning when they attack. They are the best tools for penetration, stalling, sealing, pursuing and reconnaissance.
"The carroballistae is one of the most threatening ranged weapons in our arsenal. Even though they also have rather high mobility, they're slow in comparison to light cavalry. Giving Jaeger carroballistae is like chaining a horse to a carriage. It would lose the ability to run and escape quickly. Had Pete not had the burden of two carroballistae brigades, he could've escaped in any direction the moment he noticed the grassland barbarians approach.
"It would make it near impossible for 100 thousand barbarians to encircle third division. Had the two carroballistae brigades not been present, all it would have taken to break out was to charge in a direction. There's no way the grassland barbarians could've held them back. It's such a shame that Colonel Pete had no choice but to stand his ground because of the two carroballistae brigades.
"We have to learn. You're the house's only light cavalry legion, I have hopes for everyone in Jaeger. Though House Fisablen's frontier legions are our enemy, we have to learn some of their strengths. They are the strongest light cavalry force in the former empire. We have to learn from our failure. We must surpass them and the house will definitely provide you with the best equipment we can. I hope by the time you return to the great northeastern plains, you will be unstoppable."
Lorist turned to Josk.
"Joe, I'm marrying Sylvia in the 11th month. The marriage will be in Roaring Bear I'd like you to be my best man."
Josk didn't say a word.
"Joe, marrying Sylvia isn't the same as making peace with House Fisablen. I personally believe Duke Fisablen will be our most formidable enemy as long as he remains alive. Please don't fault Sylvia for her identity. She's been abandoned by the Fisablens."
"Your Grace, I believe you, but I don't want to attend your wedding, nor do I want to be your best man. Would that be alright?"
"No. Just look at the friends I have around me; even Els got married. You're the only one I have to be my best man. If you get married before the 11th, I won't force you."
Josk wore a look of exasperation.
"Then I'd rather be your best man."
"Thank you, Joe."
Lorist thought to himself happily, I managed to rope another one.
The next morning, Lorist found Tarkel bumbling towards him with ragged breath.
"What's up, Tarkel?"
"Y-y-y-your Grace... Battle has... b-broken out..."
"Battle? Who attacked?"
"No... not us... n-n-n-nobody attacked us... Y-y-your Grace, let me catch my breath..."
Tarkel rested for a moment before he recovered.
"I almost choked to death. The strong wind didn't help either."
"Alright, stop complaining. Where did you say battle broke out? Did it happen between the second highness and the Union? Or did he attack the four central duchies?"
Lorist unleashed a flurry of questions at once.
"It's not the second highness, Your Grace. It's the Forde Trade Union and the mid-southern kingdoms. It started a month ago," said Tarkel as he took out a huge stack of newspapers from the Union.
"So they finally started fighting... The lightning has been striking without any sign of rain for well over a year now. The real deal finally began."
Lorist breathed a sigh of relief. Time really flies. Lorist recalled the conflict back in Morante when he brought Kenmays and the others there for a trip was something that happened four years back. He had convinced Academy Head Levins to move Dawn Academy to The Northlands. Dawn had already been operating for two years straight and had about a thousand new students.
After the unfortunate experience in Morante, President Peterson expressed his apologies. Lundmorde, who stayed at Morante sent word that the big-seven guilds had punished the newly entitled nobles by confiscating the titles of a few dozen who caused too much trouble and sending more than ten to the gallows. In the end, they managed to stabilize the situation and established a code of conduct for the newly entitled nobles. Also, they made the new nobles pledge to not do anything uncivil and also legislated regulations on how one could manage their dominion.
After the situation stabilized, the big-seven began talks with the surrounding kingdoms and duchies in hopes they could reopen the trade routes and stop seeing the Union as an enemy, essentially returning their relationships to how it had been before the war. The Union also pledged they wouldn't set their sights on their new neighbor's territory and tried their best to restore amicable relations.
The shape of the Grindian continent resembled a really uneven shuttle small in the north and large in the south with a few cracks. The area inhabited by humans encompassed only two-thirds of the continent and looked a little like a crescent moon. The northmost area inhabited by humans was The Northlands, which was actually near the middle of the continent. Further north, and separated by the Magic Dragon mountain range were the wildlands where humans had yet to set foot. It was marked by the endless stretches of ancient forests and domineering mountain ranges.
Stretching south from The Northlands was the territory of the largest superpower in days long gone, the Krissen Empire. Forde Trade Union's territory started in the Falik Plains. Around the Union were kingdoms and duchies of varying sizes. Including the Union, there were around 34 nations and they were known as the 34 mid-southern countries. Further south was where the second and third-ranked superpowers among the three great nations on Grindia, the Romon Empire and the Khawistan Khanate respectively. Neighboring the two greats was the Kalia kingdom. All three had a swordsaint. It was precisely because of the swordsaints' presence that the Romon Empire and the Khawistan Khanate -- who used to fight frequently -- had managed to maintain a fragile peace for the last three decades. Kalia also managed to remain safe despite neighboring the two large superpowers because of its own swordsaint.
Further south was the great Amanjiro channel where the Cinque peninsula was located. There were five or six nations on the peninsula whom fought constantly. They had been in conflict for a few centuries, but none had managed to win. But due to its position at the southernmost tip of the continent, the peninsula was quite poor and had never garnered the attention of the mainland. Even the Romon Empire, nearest to them, didn't bother to annex the forest-filled, barren, and undeveloped peninsula.
After the War of Glass, the Union had absorbed the territory of nine nations. Coupled with the Lormo duchy, which had seceded from the Krissen Empire, as well as the two provinces of the now defunct Redlis, the Union was now the nation with the largest territory on the continent. At the same time, the 34 mid-southern nations that stood united to resist the three superpowers north and south lost ten of their members. Faced with the Union's domination, the remaining nations united to seal off the Union's trade routes and cut off all relations with it. It was a heavy blow to the unprepared Union.
After the big-seven stabilized the Union's internal affairs, they began talks, but there was hardly any progress. As a result, the Union formed two standing legions of 140 thousand men and stationed them on their borders. The 24 mid-southern nations didn't cower, though, they mobilized nearly 200 thousand soldiers to guard their side of the borders. Both sides remained in a stalemate for more than a year and ended up going to war. It seemed that both were unable to withstand the huge amount of resources it took to sustain such armies, so they decided to duke it out for a quick conclusion.
"Your Grace, two months ago, the Romon Empire and Khawistan Khanate went to war yet again," Tarkel informed, "Romon eliminated Kalia as well and the windstorm swordsaint's whereabouts are unknown."
Oh, then again, the two nations are too far away from The Northlands... Lorist didn't really care.
"There's another piece of bad news. Lundmorde was forcefully conscripted and sent to the frontlines. The Union announced this matter concerned all of its citizens and they would have to fulfill their civil duties by joining the military. The reports we just got from Morante were collected and sent back by Lundmorde's four wives. They arrived half a month later than usual.".
What?! Poor Lundmorde...