As Lorist was pushing the butler on his wooden wheelchair back to his room, he noticed Patt standing outside it. Within the room was Shadekampf and three other middle-aged men.
The men all saluted towards Lorist to show their respect to the family leader.
Butler Gleis patted on Lorist’s hand and introduced the three chief supervisors of the family to him. Without them, the family bastide couldn’t be effectively controlled and managed.
The first one who swore his loyalty to Lorist was a middle-aged man with a receding hairline. His name was Hansk and he was the finance supervisor of the family and was in charge of the accounts and budget planning of the family’s spending.
The second person was called Spiel and he was mainly in charge of the warehouses within the bastide and was well-versed with the amount of supplies the family had.
The last middle-aged man, Kedan, looked a little chubby, but he had really good social and conversational skills and managed the human resources within the bastide. Gleis secretly hinted at Lorist to pay more attention to that man, because the words he used to swear his loyalty felt really roundabout and insincere.
Lorist didn’t mind that, however, as he believed that the hearts of people will eventually be revealed by time. What he needed now was subordinates that would aid in his development of the dominion. He would naturally weed out the less loyal ones as he went along. Lorist had the three supervisors brief him on the various issues in the dominion so that he would get a rough grasp on the situation.
Just as Lorist had expected, the state of the family seemed rather grim. According to Hansk, the family only had a meager amount of money left. Half a year back, one of the Gold ranked knights sent over by Duke Loggins had collected a sum of over 3000 imperial gold coins as tax and almost sucked the family treasury dry, leaving less than 100 imperial gold coins within it.
Lorist waved his hand to signal Shadekampf to give the two chests of gold Fordes to Hansk for safekeeping in the treasury. However, Hansk also frankly mentioned that gold coins wouldn’t do much good to the family in its current state as what it truly needed were connections and trades with the outside world. Given that the entry and exit from the Northlands of the family was within the hands of other dominion lords, the taxes levied on the trades the family conducts will be too much for the effort to be worth it.
After Hansk’s turn to speak was Spiel’s. According to his report, the family still had quite a lot of food. Even though crops were only harvested once a year in the Northlands, the Norton Family could already more than sustain itself based on the stretches of farmland it had. Additionally, the garrison of Wildnorth Town sent 10% of their yield as tax. That’s why the family had a huge surplus of food amounting to more than 5000 kilograms. Without trade, it would only continue to pile up as its consumption in the bastide wasn’t that high.
Aside from food, the second most abundant resource the family had was copper ingots. Given that the family used to have control over the copper mine, the copper ores that were mined there were refined into ingots and stored at the bastide. As money was something the family had lacked before Lorist’s return, Spiel had intended to arrange for more imperial copper coins to be minted using that resource to temporary relieve the financial burden.
The other thing the family had in a fair amount was various types of furs which were mostly collected during the past few years. Given the deteriorated state of the family’s fighting force, there was no way an expedition to hunt magical beasts could be organized. Other than that, the warehouse had quite a number of ropes, wooden buckets and some other production tools. The family was in a dire need of iron, weapons, armor, mounts as well as seasoning and spices.
Kedan was the last to speak out and he announced something that everyone was surprised to hear: the family members of the fallen soldiers within the bastide already numbered up to 1000, and that was taking into account of the fact that three to four hundred of them had already left the bastide for Wildnorth Town. The ones who remained within the bastide were mainly those whose children had already grown up and those who were still able to live quite comfortably with their relatives and work as paid laborers. The ones who went to Wildnorth Town had it even worse. They weren’t able to count on their relatives to sustain their livelihoods and could only rely on the occasional provisions of the bastide.
The death of hundreds of people during the elimination of the family’s merchant convoy a few years back and the First Young Master’s participation and death in the Second Prince’s military campaign where only tens of the 200 family soldiers returned alive from, as well as the Old Master’s death from the ambush of the mountain barbarians due to the absence of the Wildnorth Town garrison reinforcements, the family members of the deceased soldiers in the bastide started nearing 1000. These people put the family under a great burden. While the family was still able to give them enough food, it was still unable to pay them the pensions for the deaths of their relatives.
Other than that, Belnick, a Three Star Silver ranked family knight who had incurred serious injuries during his attempt to save the Third Young Master from a magical beast, was absent from the inheritance ceremony as his wounds had worsened all of a sudden. Kedan hoped that Lorist would pay that knight a visit at Wildnorth Town tomorrow as it was his obligation as the new family leader, to which Lorist agreed.
Old Butler Gleis had the group take a seat before he told Lorist that he was stunned to have heard about the happenings during the journey on the way to the Northlands from Shadekampf. He hoped that Lorist would once again tell it to everyone present.
Lorist started his story right from Morante City when his close friends had pledged themselves as family knights, to their eradication of the Sloph Slavers and their conflict with Count Corby and how he had decided to avenge his Third Uncle and the rest of the merchant convoy after he had found out the truth about the count’s involvement in the incident years prior.
After describing the killing of the count and all his illegitimate sons at Geldos City, he recounted his departure from the main convoy with Shadekampf, Patt and several others to make it in time for the inheritance ceremony, which led to their extermination of a group of bandits at the border of the Andinaq Kingdom and the formation of another convoy followed by their return to the dominion, during which they discovered the construction site at the valley in Morgan Hills as well as his occupation of it. He also told them of the rescue mission of the captured family members who were being forced to work at the mines by the Kenmayses.
Unrolling a map of the Northlands, Lorist told the rest about the plans Viscount Kenmays had for the valley at Morgan Hills and his intention to take it for himself to build a strong defense for the Norton Family.
The people present wore expressions of wonder as if they had just been told of a magnificent legend. Not one of them expected that the return of the Second Young Master during such troubling times would allow the family to be able to go into a new phase.
Lorist also agreed to Hansk’s request and told the three supervisors that he would personally head to the construction site at Morgan Hills and bring the 500 or so slaves who had been loitering at the hidden camp within the bastide with him there and said that he would grant them freedom upon the completion of the development project. He also mentioned the need for a shipment of food to be made to the site and that he would notify the rest of the convoy over there to be ready to receive it and also told the three supervisors that they would be free to check that place out at their leisure.
Also, he requested the supervisors to keep the development project at Morgan Hills a secret for now, to which they promised and left excitedly. Butler Gleis started making his thoughts known to Lorist after the three left about how he believed that the development project at Morgan Hills was a waste of manpower and resources. He thought that Lorist should bring the rest of the convoy back to the bastide and build a settlement nearby instead.
Lorist wondered why the old butler would have an opinion like this. Gleis explained that the founding ancestor’s oath was to defend the northern borders and the Morgan Hills could hardly count as part of it!
However, Lorist merely laughed it off and consoled Gleis and said that he had no intention of forsaking the bastide. As the saying went, one must first retract one’s fist before it can be launched out again. Lorist said that the Morgan Hills would become the fist of the family upon its completion and also mentioned that he had further plans to use it against others in the future.
By the time he left the butler’s quarters, it had already become rather late.
Lorist made his way to the veranda above his bedroom that was located at the main building of the castle and took in the nighttime view of the bastide from his vantage point.
This place is really quite decent. The founding ancestor must have spent quite some effort to select this place to be the headquarters of the family 200 years ago and used another tens of years to build the bastide I see today. It’s no wonder that the old butler is so protective of this place and even suspected whether I was going to abandon it for Morgan Hills, thought Lorist as he recalled the look the butler had that seemed like he was staring at a hideous sinner just before.
“Master, your bathwater is ready…” said a timid voice that broke Lorist’s train of thought. He turned back and nodded to Irina before he went down the stairs to where his bedroom was.
After taking a comfortable bath, Lorist half-leaned on his bed and looked at the hard-working Irina pour away the bathwater within the wooden tub before carrying it out of the room and returning to clean the floor. After that, she put on her greyish-white sleeping gown and took out a leather sleeping pad which she placed behind the couch. Just as she took out a rug and prepared to lie down…
“Irina, please come over here,” said Lorist as he licked his lips.
The young maidservant’s body stiffened. As she made her way in front of Lorist, she didn’t utter a single sound, silently shivering away…
“Are you really that afraid of me? Why is that so?” Lorist asked as he stretched out his hand to stroke her chin before he raised her head up to look her in the eye.
Her face had a look of panic, but part of her expression revealed her resignation and acceptance of the situation.
“Do you know what maidservants do with their masters?” Lorist asked.
The young girl started shivering even more, but she silently nodded to signal her understanding.
Lorist then traced his fingers around the girl’s cheeks before it passed her nose, lips, chin and then to the knot on her gown…
The greyish-white gown fell to the ground and revealed the slender and fair body of the nervously shivering girl.
Lorist hugged her in his chest and started stroking the two protrusions on her breasts. “Irinia, I won’t have you sleeping on the floor in the future. Half of the space on this bed is reserved for you, understand?”
Irina didn’t respond and could only continue to shiver in place as her body slowly warmed up from Lorist’s careful caressing. Gradually, she started to let out involuntary moans.
Positioning the girl on his bed, Lorist lowered himself and allowed his blazing-hot member to enter the depths of the warmth between the girl’s legs…
The girl struggled and flailed as she shivered vigorously and clawed away at Lorist’s back while tears flowed down her face, all the while crying out, “It hurts… so much…”
Lorist halted and stopped all movement and waited until the girl stopped uttering any sound before he wiped some of the tears off her face and said, “I’m sorry, I thought you’ve done it before. I didn’t expect that this would be your first…”
The girl cried and mumbled, “The… the Third Young Master was only… seventeen… The Old Master said that he could only touch me when he reaches the age of 18, or his Battle Force won’t be able to be awakened…”
It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have pushed him into the well and caused him to have a frail constitution for the rest of his life, thought Lorist as he heard about his younger brother. He then said to the girl beneath him, “It will hurt a little during your first time, but it’ll gradually fade away when the pleasure comes in… You’ll understand later…
“Don’t keep shivering like that, otherwise I won’t be able to restrain myself from moving… Stop, or I’ll really lose it…”
Sounds of carnal pleasure echoed throughout the peaceful and tranquil moonlit night.