Lorist went upstairs and noticed that his maidservant, Irina, was staring listlessly to the distance from the window.
Approaching her quietly from behind, he looked in the direction in which she was staring. Lorist let out a slight voice of surprise as he saw the small mound not far away in the distance which was illuminated by the light of the silvermoon. Upon the mound stood several long blades of grass which swayed with the gentle night breeze and several white-colored deers could be seen jumping and playing around in the night; the whole scene was like witnessing a group of magical white fairies having fun.
Irina noticed his presence and tried to pretend that she was still unaware. However, her body started to shiver uncontrollably again.
Lorist wrapped his hands around the girl and took her into his embrace. He laughed lightly as he said, “Am I that scary? I won’t eat you, you know? Why are you shivering? Oh, why are there white deers on that mound? What a weird sight.”
After hearing his calming voice, the maidservant gradually calmed down and started to lean deeper into Lorist’s chest. Upon hearing his question, she meekly replied, “That… That is Whitedeer Mound. Every time when the silvermoon hangs high in the sky, white deers will appear there. In… In the past, some people within the family had wanted to hunt those deers down, but they couldn’t find them no matter how long they camped. Right after they left, however, the deers magically reappeared. That’s why the people within the family believe that the white deers are the of Daphlyn, the Silvermoon Goddess herself. It’s already fortunate for mortals like us to be able to see them from afar, much less touch them.”
Giving Irina a light kiss on her cheeks, Lorist said, “Irina, you did pretty well during the afternoon. Keep this up tomorrow as well. Go ahead and sleep first tonight. I still have other matters to attend to.”
Lorist was once again awoken by the ear-piercing sound of wood being sawed. He stretched his hand to his side only to notice that Irina had already long awoken and went downstairs before him. Sitting up on the bed and dressing himself, he looked out of the window and saw the illegitimate son of his father and the cooking lady, Eidelwoke, sawing away. However, Lorist noticed that he was currently sawing a tree stump now instead of a wooden plank like he did yesterday.
The first thing Lorist did after leaving his room was to visit Belnick. Seeing that he was in good spirits, he read his pulse while the both of them chatted. After telling the tall maidservant to take good care of his knight, he left the room and went downstairs to retrieve his swords. At the yard outside, four guards could be seen training hard: the Iron ranked squad leader, Moss, was showing the other three Bronze ranked guards the basics of sword and shield combat.
Lorist nodded towards Moss and went to the well nearby to wash his face with the bucket of water he had retrieved. Just as he was about to start his training, he noticed Eidelwoke watching the guards’ training enviously as he continued with his task.
Lorist went up to him and asked as he pointed towards Moss, “Do you want to train like them?”
Eidelwoke gave him a look without making a sound and merely sped up the rate of his sawing.
“Oh, I’ve been wanting to ask you what you wanted to achieve by sawing every day,” said Lorist.
“Nothing in particular. I only need the sawdust,” he replied.
“Sawdust? What would you do with it?” asked Lorist curiously.
“For food. It can be mixed into flour and made into bread,” Eidelwoke said.
“Mixing sawdust into bread?” Lorist almost fainted upon hearing that. What’s the meaning of this? Is sawdust supposed to be edible? Whose idea is it? Also, does the bread I eat have sawdust in it?
“Wait, stop sawing. Tell the one who instructed you to gather sawdust to meet me,” Lorist said.
At that moment, Supervisor Spiel appeared before Lorist and said, “Milord, this is a tradition of the family. Roughly a hundred years ago when the barbarians laid siege to our bastide, the family was short on food. The Lord Baron of that era ordered for sawdust to be added to the bread of the soldiers defending the bastide so that their hunger will be sated for a longer period of time. In the end, the family’s forces managed to outlast the barbarian army as they had run out of supplies and had no choice but to retreat. It was then when the Lord Baron gave chase and managed to cause the enemy’s forces to be largely annihilated, thus earning himself a magnificent victory. Ever since then, the mountain barbarians could no longer muster an army of more than 1000 people to face the Norton Family’s forces. To commemorate that glorious event, the Lord Baron ordered that the ratio of flour to sawdust when making bread to be 9 to 1. It is also a great method to save supplies.
“That’s why, ever since then, the post of a sawdust collector whose only purpose is to collect them for bread-making was created,” explained Spiel.
“Does the bread I eat have sawdust in it too?” Lorist asked.
“Milord, your bread naturally doesn’t contain any. Bread with sawdust is only handed to the guards and servants,” answered the supervisor.
“Sol, they only did that out of desperation because the family was short on food back then. Now that the family has so much excess food in store, only the insane would continue that practice to save food. Supervisor Spiel, heed my orders. From today onwards, I forbid the addition of sawdust into the bread of our troops and servants so that they can have a proper and wholesome meal. Also, Eidelwoke, your position as the sawdust collector is now revoked. You don’t have to saw wood anymore,” said Lorist as he made his decision.
“Milord… This is… This is against the tradition of the family…” said Supervisor Spiel hesitantly.
Lorist gave him a cold stare and said, “Supervisor Spiel, what I’m doing now will also be tradition for the future generations of the family. Do you have any other questions?”
“No… No, milord. I have no questions at all and will carry it out as you say,” said the supervisor respectfully with his head lowered.
Lorist touched his chin and continued, “Even so, we cannot forget the glory of our ancestors. How about this, Supervisor Spiel, go check on the date my ancestor attained that huge victory. Every year, we’ll celebrate that event on that day itself by eating sawdust bread. This way, we won’t forget the glorious victory of our family, right?”
“Milord, that was a very wise decision,” he said as he bowed down deeply.
“Then, what about me?” asked Eidelwoke, who had just lost his job.
“Go report to the new defense unit. You have a rather good physique and it’s a shame if you don’t become a soldier of our family. I will personally be in charge of the Battle Force training of the unit too. Eidelwoke, when you break through to the Silver rank, I will allow you to bear the Norton family name and let you form a branch family. What do you think?” Lorist asked.
Eidelwoke scratched his head and thought before he said, “Then… Alright. I will do my best.”
That afternoon, Lorist went to the camp of the two newly-formed defense units which was located at a plaza near the vineyard behind the castle. Hansk had already been waiting over there and had picked 12 retired soldiers of the family to carry out simple drills for the new recruits.
Pajik walked over at that moment and saluted Lorist before he said, “Milord, the slave camp is already prepared to leave at any time.”
Lorist nodded and said, “Knight Pajik, tell me more about the slave camp.”
“Milord, there are 382 people in the slave camp with 67 soldiers who have had their Battle Force awakened and 244 non-combatants, most of which are family members of the soldiers. They’re already geared up for travel. Where are we headed for, milord?” Pajik asked.
“Don’t worry, we’re in no rush. We’ll set out in another two days,” Lorist responded. “Also, Supervisor Hansk, I recall that our family didn’t practice slavery. Where did these slaves come from?”
Hansk gave a bitter laugh and said, “Milord, in actuality, nobody in the bastide treats them as slaves. These slaves were mostly gathered up during the military campaigns of the First Young Master. Like Pajik, many of them are surrendered soldiers who have been brought to the bastide after they were taken captive.”
Pajik nodded and added, “That’s correct. These ‘slaves’ are mostly prisoners during the civil war years ago like me. After I was captured, the First Young Master had once told me that he intended to use the people within the slave camp to construct a new town where they can live in and become free citizens of the Nortons. That’s why the First Young Master paid so much attention to them and even bought over many slaves from other nobles as well. He once said that once the slaves form their own families, they can settle down in the dominion. The First Young Master had originally planned to start the town construction project once the slave count reached 3000. But, he passed away far too soon…”
Supervisor Hansk said, “Milord, after the passing of the First Young Master, nobody knew what to do with the slave camp. These past few years, we’ve had them help out with some farming and grape-plucking at the vineyard. Other than that, they mostly have their free time to themselves. As long as they remain within the dominion and not cause any trouble, we won’t intervene in their activities and even provide them with food and clothing. It was later that Butler Gleis felt that leaving them without supervision was not ideal. That’s when he allowed Pajik to manage the camp.”
“Since that’s the case, let’s not call them slaves from now on. Treat them as the citizens of our dominion and provide them with more food and better shelter,” said Lorist.
“Also, I’ve just noticed that there are some flaws in the arrangements that I’ve handed you yesterday. I was too rushed when I planned them and only considered the formation of the new defense units while neglecting the staffing of various other activities within the bastide. It was entirely my fault. Supervisor Spiel, I shall trouble you to come up with a new estimate that details the manpower needed to effectively run the bastide. This time, include Pajik and the people managed by him into your calculations as well as the youths who have joined the defense units including their family members. This way, we can get a rough grasp of the population within the bastide and can send the extra people to the construction site at Morgan Hills. That will definitely be an important place to the family in the future.
“Knight Pajik, help Supervisor Hansk out with his task and combine the original retired soldiers of the current defense unit with the new recruits who have awakened their Battle Force to form a new defense squad of 120 people which you will lead. Other than that, let the retired soldiers who are above the age of 40 to be instructors for the newly-formed defense units. From tomorrow onwards, I will personally supervise the Battle Force awakening of the new recruits of the defense unit as well as anyone from the guard squad who wishes to participate as well. Don’t stop them from joining, they’ll reintegrate into the guard squad once their training is done. Understood?”
“Yes, milord,” said Pajik as he stood straight and saluted.
On the other hand, Supervisor Hansk thought for a bit before he nodded in agreement.
The next couple of days saw Lorist working up and down without rest as he read the pulses of anyone who wished to awaken their Battle Force within the bastide and organized the 400 or so people who did come to participate into more than 20 groups which he allocated to the elderly instructors to be trained. Lorist also designed meals according to the needs of the different groups and also had Pajik monitor the progress of the trainees intensely. By the time Lorist was finished for the day, Josk and Patt had already arrived at the bastide with their convoy escort.
This time, Josk brought over 124 four-wheeled carriages and 67 surrendered mercenary captives to Lorist as well as 20000 imperial silvers, 100 buckets of green vine glue, more than 700 assorted leather armor sets, 170 chain mails and more than 1000 weapons.
Lorist and Josk hugged passionately before he asked him about the situation at the construction site. Josk said that everything was going fine and that Telesti had already started having the slaves dig the moat for the castle and started the construction of the castle walls and told him not to worry too much about it.
He then asked Lorist why he was requested to come over to the bastide. Lorist said that he wanted Josk to escort a couple of people to the construction site after two days of rest. He also mentioned that he would be going along, but only after he settled the matters of the family bastide and the mercenary captives.