Dealing With Obstacles
Richard was at the borders of the Solam lands even as Alice's army just reached the Sacred Tree Empire. His quick march threw the Duke's plans off completely, and the soldiers who were being gathered together had turned into easy targets to surround and kill. With the shadowspears needing barely three hours of rest a night and capable of going many days without sleep so long as they had food, he quickly conquered a small town on the edge of the dukedom and had the residents prepare food for his men.
He gathered all of his followers in the town hall, discussing the next steps of their plan. Pointing at the castle that was still a ways off, he circled their current location as well as the Saint Louis Cathedral before drawing a straight line between them, "The enemies still don't know what it is we want to do, we're going to charge straight through and conquer the cathedral. The clerics and paladins stationed there will be no match for us, and we can cross swords with Solam on our way back. Any questions?"
"Boss, why don't we hit him first for a bit?" Gangdor spoke up, "If we scare him into keeping his soldiers in the castle even when we're fighting the church, we'll get a decent break between the fights."
Richard contemplated the idea for a moment before nodding in agreement, marking a few points that were only a minimal detour from their route, "There are three regiments of soldiers stationed here, here, and here, 20,000 soldiers in total. Let's just wipe them all out, especially the battalion of scouts with the second one."
He looked at his clock and continued, "We'll take two hours to rest and reorganise, let's try to finish it all up tonight. Go get some rest."
"Only two hours again!" The ogre outside the window grumbled. Two hours were barely enough for him to stuff his stomach, his wish to take a nap would be left unfulfilled once more.
"You two can take turns to sleep," Richard suggested.
""It's always like that!"" the two heads whined before walking off.
Richard laughed and shook his head before continuing to study the map for possible issues. It suddenly felt like a tiny pin had pricked his consciousness, but after a moment he brushed the feeling off. This was the sixth of his elite bats that had been killed today; fighting in Norland wasn't nearly as easy as in Faelor.
10,000 elite knights had already been gathered at Duke Solam's castle. The Duke himself was fully armed, personally looking over the regiment he was proudest of. The knights were divided into ten battalions, and the general in charge of each had the aura of a true warrior. A hundred rune knights sat off in another formation of their own, led by two saints in intimidating blacksteel armour.
It was almost completely silent in the square, but one could almost see the killing intent condensed within. All Solam could see was the countless souls that haunted each of his men, a testament to the number of lives they had reaped.
The Duke's lips moved ever so slightly as he spoke in a voice so soft only he could hear, "I already defeated Niall. Archerons, it's your turn!"
This army had never been dispatched for battle as of late, even when facing Alice. However, Solam now planned to use them to deal with Richard's rune knights. Just as he started to don his helmet so he could lead these forces out in a counterattack, dust surged in the distance as a lone knight charged towards the castle at full speed. More than a kilometre away he jumped off his exhausted horse, leaving it for dead as he sprinted forward faster than the beast's gallop. In the blink of an eye, he was face to face with the Duke.
This was a level 17 warrior who had a high rank in the army, but his armour was covered in dirt and bloodstains. Solam's eyes narrowed as he gazed at the knight, who in turn fell to a knee and spoke in a hoarse voice, "Your Grace, Richard changed his route and ambushed us! The sixth and seventh infantries were killed, and Sir Luma's light cavalry was defeated as well!"
Solam took a deep breath, trying his best to maintain a level voice, "What about Luma?"
"Sir Luma fought to his death to stall Richard so I could report the news!"
Another deep breath, "And how did the seventh infantry do? How long did you hold out?"
"Half… Half an hour, Your Grace," the knight's voice was still shaking.
"12,000 men only managed to resist him for half an hour?" The Duke's eyes started radiating fury. This was an infantry from his standing army!
"There were so many rune knights, we couldn't block them at all! The first charge drilled right through our formation, it was impossible to recover!"
"So…" Solam sighed, "Richard is coming for me?"
"Yes, Your Grace. You must prepare beforehand, he should be less than a hundred kilometres away."
The Duke sneered, "Alright, let him come. He wants to take down my castle with just 2,000 men? Ha! Ramlon, send a few men to see where he's headed."
The rest of the day passed quietly with everyone wound up, as did the night. Solam's men had made camp outside of the castle just in case Richard would be too scared to attack, but even in the night no such attack was forthcoming.
When he woke up to the chime of his magical clock, Solam frowned. There had been no military reports in the past twelve hours, and Richard hadn't yet appeared either. He spent the entire morning staring at the map in his war room as he awaited news, the atmosphere growing tenser and tenser as the generals started to realise that they had been duped.
It was almost noon when the gaunt Ramlon walked through the door, bloodied from head to toe, "Your Grace, Richard did not move his troops towards us. Judging from the traces left behind, he's heading northwest."
"What?" Solam frowned, "Why did you take so long to find out?"
Ramlon bowed, "Forgive me, Your Grace. The scouts I sent out to gather information all died. I had to go personally to find out."
"You… Sigh. Northwest…" the Duke stared at the map again, his gaze lingering on the Saint Louis Cathedral before he diverted it somewhere else.
By this point, Richard was already exiting Duke Solam's territory to approach the Saint Louis Cathedral. While his knights advanced at a steady gallop, he sat and wondered about what he might find within. As he came into contact with the power of laws himself, he had come to realise that divinity was in a way a condensation of the power of laws in a god's domain. Even traces of a deity's presence were bound to leave behind traces of the system of laws they controlled.
The conflict with the Sacred Tree Empire in Klandor had made the Radiant Lord an enemy. Even if he wanted to compromise, the Church of Glory would certainly try and exact revenge for his spoiling their plans. While he wanted nothing more than to uproot them entirely and behead the Radiant Lord himself, he was still far off from such power; he needed to keep the Church at bay until he could deal with matters on Faelor and grow stronger himself.
The Saint Louis Cathedral was one of the eight great cathedrals of the Church of Glory. Outside of the central Cathedral of Glory, each one was dedicated to one of the saints who had followed the Radiant Lord before he lit his godfire and eventually become his seven holy spirits. Louis had personally held off ten thousand enemy soldiers to give the Radiant Lord a chance to escape a rival faith's paladins, and his sacrifice was what allowed the Radiant Lord to survive long enough to light his godfire. He was revered by everyone in the Church.
A faint shriek suddenly rang out from afar as Phaser's voice sounded in his consciousness, "Sorry, I only managed to kill two of them. The other two escaped."
"It's alright, continue searching," Richard replied. Far too many scouts had been coming over in the past few days, and it had grown impossible to kill them all. One particular saint had managed to escape near dawn, so Solam certainly knew of his movements by now. However, this meant nothing; the Duke's army had no way of catching up.
"Alright, our target is the Saint Louis Cathedral!" Richard shouted out as they eliminated the last of the rushed blockades. The rune knights grunted in unison and spurred on their horses, while the shadowspears silently did the same. The entire movement was extremely accurate, almost like an alchemic machine.