The 67 surrendered mercenaries were currently having their meals at an open space within the bastide. They were each given only two pieces of black bread, but there was another huge pot of meat soup which could be refilled as they pleased.
When Lorist and Josk went over, two mercenaries greeted their arrival.
Josk introduced them and said, “The older one is Hausky and the one with the blonde beard is called Jim. They are the leaders of this mercenary group.”
Hausky and Jim approached and saluted Lorist and Josk, to which Lorist waved and said, “Alright, the two of you, follow me into the castle. I’ll tell you what I’ve decided for your mercenary group.”
Upon entering the castle, Lorist picked a room and brought the two mercenaries inside. After all of them were seated, Lorist said straightforwardly, “Even though your mercenary group surrendered to us without resistance, you still gave me quite some trouble when it came to deciding your fates. Killing you would defeat the point of accepting your surrender in the first place, but to not do so would be wasting resources and manpower on keeping you fed and under supervision, given that most of your men have already awakened their Battle Force and are at least of the Iron rank. Even if you want to join our side, we wouldn’t be able to trust you either since your lot has surrendered to us so easily. What’s to say the same won’t happen again?”
The two mercenaries started blushing as they looked downwards in shame speechlessly because Lorist had just told them the cold, hard truth.
“I can’t kill you, nor can I let you go scotch-free. There is always the possibility of you joining the enemies and giving us more trouble after all. And locking you guys up would waste too much of my resources. After giving it some thought, I’ve decided to… hire you with money,” Lorist said.
The two of them lifted their heads up in great surprise. “Mi… Milord, you’re going to hire us?”
“That’s correct,” said Lorist as he nodded. “However, don’t worry. I’m not hiring you to go fight against your previous employer. I believe that your pride wouldn’t allow it, and there’s no point in forcing you to do so since you’ll probably not make any effort in it anyway. I even have to worry if you would backstab me for making that arrangement.”
The two mercenary leaders nodded in an embarrassed manner as Lorist had read their intentions perfectly. Hausky, who was the elder and more experienced one, asked, “Milord, what are you hiring us for then?”
“Someone, get me the map of the dominion,” shouted Lorist.
After retrieving it from a servant, Lorist spread the map out on the table and motioned for the mercenary leaders to take a look. “This is the family’s bastide and over there is Wildnorth Town. I’m prepared to build a new town over there at Poplar Coast which is situated right next to a river. I believe that you know that the Northlands is plagued by the mountain barbarians who love to come over here to plunder and pillage. To prevent the construction project from being interrupted, I have decided to set up a military base at the entrance of the valley over here.
“I’m hiring you so that you can defend this military base. Naturally, I won’t ask you to do the impossible. If there are too many barbarians, just hold your position and start a smoke signal and the Norton Family will send out necessary reinforcements. If the barbarian troops are low in number, just wipe them out. Given that your men are mostly Iron or Silver ranks, it shouldn’t be too much trouble. Naturally, I won’t be asking you to do this for free. For every mountain barbarian you capture alive, I will reward your group with one imperial gold coin. And for every barbarian killed, you will get 50 imperial silvers.”
The two mercenaries looked at each other before Hausky asked, “Can we survey the terrain over there first? Also, what kind of military base do you wish to construct?”
“Of course, go check out the terrain as you please. You can even pick where the base will be constructed. I will definitely not do his half-heartedly; if we’re going to build a base, we’ll make sure it lasts. The 100 buckets of green vine glue that I’ve just received will be used for the construction of the base,” Lorist said.
“Okay, we’ll accept your request,” said Hausky. “However, how will we come to an agreement of our fees?”
Lorist laughed and said, “Don’t worry. I’m far more generous than Viscount Kenmays. Every Silver ranked mercenary will receive 1 imperial gold coin each month whereas each Iron rank will receive 50 imperial silvers. The reward for catching or killing barbarians will be given out as an additional bonus. The term of employment will be 1 year, and after that, you’re free to either continue working for us or leave. Other than that, the construction of the base is not that urgent and we can start planning for that in the coming 10 days. After all, I have to get the materials ready as well. However, if you sign the agreement with us today, we’ll start paying you from this month onwards.”
Hausky and Jim stood up from their chairs and said, “Milord, we’re honored to be in your service.”
“Good. Then, I’ll ask for someone to draft out the contract and after signing, you can bring your men to Poplar Coast and start setting up camp there. I will have someone lead you there and send the necessary supplies over as well,” Lorist said.
“But, milord, we’ll be needing weapons and other equipment, as well as horses…” mumbled Hausky in a stuttering voice.
Lorist slapped his forehead and thought, how can I forget something this basic? After surrendering as captives, they’ve already handed every piece of their equipment to us… “How about this? After signing the contract, you can let your men collect the weapons they are most proficient with. I will also be providing you guys with 30 sets of chain mail, 50 sets of leather armor, 50 mounts and 4 large carriages. These items will only be loans, but you can claim them with the reward money you get. Also, I’ll be giving you clothing, bedding, tents and other miscellaneous supplies for free. Is that acceptable?”
Hausky revealed an ecstatic expression before he bowed deeply to Lorist. “Milord, your grace and generosity is akin to that of the great sun in the sky, giving warmth to the hearts and souls of us lowly mercenaries…”
“Buzz off! If you don’t know how to flatter, don’t. Did you think I wouldn’t know that you plagiarized the words of the Song of Singwa to praise me? Supervisor Hansk, send these two fellas away and I’ll be leaving the contract signing to you. After that, ask Supervisor Spiel to provide them with the equipment.”
After the two mercenaries left, Lorist let out a breath of relief and said, “It’s finally settled. Josk, let’s go. I’ll bring you to see Old Butler Gleis.”
That night in the study, Lorist was chatting with Josk about the matters of the dominion while savoring some fine wine. Lorist mainly complained about how the methods he used that was perfectly fine at Morante City was frowned upon in his own dominion, which caused him to feel uncomfortable and restrained sometimes.
“I really don’t understand why the family holds the traditions spo close even though they’re already in this state. Didn’t you notice when we went to see Gleis just now? He was even lecturing me to not let the servants learn to awaken their Battle Force. According to him, it was supposed to be some kind of reward for loyal servants when they are promoted and the way I’m freely teaching them the basics is against tradition. If it were me, I would even not hesitate to help all the maidservants awaken their Battle Force right away. Otherwise, how else would the family regain its power? Only 2 to 3 servants get taught how to awaken their Battle Force per year according to the old ways. And whether they succeed in doing so or not is a completely different story altogether. What would that even accomplish?”
It was apparent that Lorist had drunk quite a bit from his crass speech pattern.
Knocks sounded on the door at that moment and Lorist responded with, “Come in.”
Patt entered the room and said, “Milord, Supervisors Spiel and Hansk are here.”
Lorist rubbed his face to freshen himself and said, “Let them in.”
What Lorist didn’t expect was that both the supervisors have come to raise an objection because Lorist had agreed to give the mercenaries thirty sets of chain mails.
“Milord, metal armor is far too expensive in the Northlands. Many families even treat them as treasured assets and refuse to use them! Even though we only have 170 with us, you gave the mercenaries 30 sets all at once! That’s too wasteful! Milord, do you think there would be a way to get them back?” said Supervisor Spiel without holding back.
Lorist and Josk gave him a stare before the both of them laughed out loud uncontrollably. Lorist laughed so hard that he was arching his back in pain, causing the two supervisors to feel rather befuddled at that response.
After struggling to keep his laughter in check, Lorist said, “Let’s put that matter to rest and not ever mention it again in the future. Supervisor Spiel, you should understand that metal armor is only a very basic and common piece of equipment. If you go to the construction site at Morgan Hills, you will see that most of our troops there are equipped with a chain mail inside and another scale armor on the outside. To our family, the most important thing is the lives of our soldiers and not the armor themselves.
“I should also mention that the armor were all produced by a Grandmaster Armorer we picked up along the way. My only worry now is that the family dominion still doesn’t have an iron mine, Otherwise, we can definitely produce armor and other equipment nonstop and will be able to fill up our warehouses within a short year. Should that happen, your main worry would definitely be the lack of soldiers to use the armor we have stocked up.”
The two supervisors gave themselves another look of confusion. They would never have dreamed that the armor had been produced by the family itself. And the fact that Lorist got a Grandmaster Armorer to work for him was even further out of expectations. This was extremely good news to their ears.
“I forgot to ask, Supervisor Hansk. How many sets of armor did our family use to have?” Lorist asked.
“Milord, the warehouse currently has 17 sets of armor. Among them include 2 full body armors for knights which belonged to the Old Master and the First Young Master, 12 chain mails, 2 scale armor sets, and 1 plate armor,” reported Hansk from the back of his mind without referring to any written record.
“Tomorrow, bring 6 chain mails and 2 scale armor over for the eight of my personal guards. The six Bronze ranks will be given chain mails as well as leather armor to wear on top of it. The Iron ranks, Moss and Yajj will be given scale armor instead. Other than that, notify Knight Pajik to pick one set of armor for himself from the warehouse. Oh, and don’t forget to tell Patt the same as well. After giving the mercenaries 30 sets, the 170 sets of chain mail included within today’s shipment should be left with around 140. I plan to use them for the new 120-man-strong defense squad, so distribute the armor to them tomorrow. As for the remaining 20, keep them in the warehouse for now. I will have some more armor sent back from the construction site at Morgan Hills and will reward each of the soldiers above 40 with one set for staying with our family during such difficult times,” Lorist said as he stood up and paced about the study.
Supervisor Spiel nodded and said, “Alright, milord. I will do as you wish.”
“Also, didn’t we also have a shipment of around 700 sets of leather armor? Pick out 400 sets that have a similar design and prepare 400 pikes and also pack 4800 imperial silvers into a chest before loading them all onto carriages. Joe, I need you to accompany me to Wildnorth Town tomorrow to urge the garrison force for the new recruits soon so that no ‘accidents’ will transpire if they drag on for too long,” said Lorist as he touched his chin.
“Milord, aren’t you giving Wildnorth Town too many benefits by presenting all these equipment to them?” Hansk asked.
“If we don’t do this, they wouldn’t let their guard down. It’s just like fishing. To catch a fish, you must first use some bait. These weapons and equipment are exactly that. When they take the bait, we will have a way to wipe them out. For now, we can only wait and endure. Worry not, when the time comes, I will make sure we get everything back with interest. Additionally, our family soldiers are already equipped with metal armor, so keeping these leather ones around is kind of pointless. It’s better to use it to placate the garrison force,” Lorist explained.
“Alright, as you will, milord.”