At that moment, Supervisor Kedan and Shadekampf arrived at the top of the small hill and approached Lorist.
Lorist asked, "Do you know why the Dunbarsen Family left the garrison force?"
"Milord, last time when you brought Knight Belnick away from their town, something seemed to have happened within the Dunbarsen Family. However, we were unable to find out what as they had tried rather meticulously to keep it secret. However, I do remember that back then, the Mollin, Qubim and Hassen family heads had visited Master Dunbarsen to discuss something. It was after that when the members of the Dunbarsen Family left the garrison force," replied Kedan.
"What about you? Did you notice anything of interest?" Lorist asked as he turned to Shadekampf.
Shadekampf shook his head and said, "Yesterday night, I had invited an ex-member of the garrison force who had just left it recently to have some drinks together and after he downed quite a few cups, he told me that the four families were actually hiding their true military might and that each of them had several Silver ranked members as well. That is also the reason why they had the galls to test our family's patience. However, their Silver ranks did not have any access to proper Battle Force training methods above the Silver rank and had no choice but to rely on themselves to research it. That man even told me that this time, the Dunbarsen Family had incurred a rather heavy loss as for some reason, they had lost 4 out of 5 of all their Silver ranks all of a sudden as well as two other Three Star Iron ranks, causing them to fall from the second most powerful family to the last overnight. I believe that they had left the garrison force because of pressure from the other three great families."
Lorist laughed out loud and thought back at the six who had come to assault him when he was on the way back to the bastide with Belnick and Shadekampf. Originally, he had thought that all four families had been involved in that attack as Belnick had only recognized two of them who belonged to the Dunbarsen Family. Little did he know that the other four were members of the Dunbarsen Family as well, causing them to instantly suffer a huge loss as if they had been crippled from having their spine broken. He even thought that the four families would scramble for the three knight titles that he was going to give out and didn't expect that one of them would be out of the race so quickly as a result of his own actions of killing off every single attacker at once back then.
"Then, is there reason enough to suspect Belnick's squire, Casey?" Lorist asked once again.
Shadekampf replied, "I've asked a couple of people and most of them only knew him but never really interacted much with him. I also talked to a few of the former garrison soldiers and all of them said that they weren't close with Casey nor did they know which family he was aligned with. According to them, Casey only spends his time taking care of Belnick at the dominion lord's mansion. Other than Master Dunbarsen, he has never met the other family heads either, so I believe he should be clear."
Lorist mumbled in a low voice, "What I'm curious about is during the two years Knight Belnick was poisoned by Master Dunbarsen to the point where he couldn't leave the dominion lord's mansion, didn't Casey suspect anything was going on? That's the main reason I can't be certain of his loyalty. However, since both of you didn't notice anything strange, when we return to the bastide, I'll have Casey join the squire unit and teach him how to awaken his Battle Force as a reward for his two years of care for Knight Belnick."
"Milord, this time, you were really too generous with Wildnorth Town's garrison force. Not only did you pay them the salary, you even gave them weapons and armor. What I'm worried of is that they won't do according to what you have told them," said Supervisor Kedan.
"They will, because they have no other choice. Did you forget that I changed the regulation for the allocation of farmland?" Lorist said.
"Do you mean the one that states that each garrison force member's family will be allocated around 40000 square meters of farmland?"
"That's right. 400 garrison force members will need around 16 million square meters of farmland, which is the area of most of the farmable land of Wildnorth Town. The Mollin, Hassen and Qubim families already occupy all the garrison force positions, so do you think they will not jump at the chance to claim the farmland? That way, the garrison soldiers which were kicked out would also be deprived of their share of the land as well. What do you think would be their response?"
"To cause trouble?"
"That's a given. The three great families had originally intended to send those they kicked out to the new garrison force that they expected to be formed with the construction of the new town to placate them while spreading their own influence there as well. However, what they did not foresee was that I won't be forming a new garrison force for that town right away and told them that I would only do so after the completion of the town. That way, these people would lose their hopes of getting back their positions as garrison soldiers. Given that they had lost their previous benefits, do you think they would sit still and take it silently?"
Lorist gave a cold laugh and continued, "The reason I gave the three families 3 months to decide was because I hoped that this would cause the people who were kicked out to turn against the three families, which will in turn result in the three families sending their garrison soldiers to force the people who cause trouble to go to Poplar Coast to participate in the construction of the new town so they don't continue to cause trouble within Wildnorth Town, effectively halving their population there. I expect that all that's left of the three families within Wildnorth Town would be only three to four thousand people. Take the women and elderly out of the equation and they will at most have a fighting force of 1000-odd people. By then, the family only has to face a force of over 1000 instead of the original 7000 people."
Supervisor Kedan was stunned at that revelation.
Lorist looked back at Wildnorth Town and saw that the last carriage had already exited the gates. "Let's go. Supervisor Kedan, you will be put in charge of settling these people down at the empty field outside the bastide. Shadekampf, inform the family members of the dead soldiers of our forces about our new pension policy and ask them not to worry as the family will definitely not abandon those who are loyal to us, understand?"
"Yes, milord. I understand," replied Shadekampf.
Currently, the fields outside the bastide was packed with people with Supervisor Kedan making arrangements for tents to be set up and Supervisor Hansk calculating the cost of renting the carriages from Wildnorth Town whereas Supervisor Spiel was reporting something to Lorist.
"Milord, Sir Josk has brought over 124 carriages to the bastide. The bastide on the other hand has 87 carriages available to use which were mostly utilized by the family merchant convoy and military force in the past. However, the family also has a lot of two-wheeled carriages which were mainly used to transport supplies in short distances or workers to the farms. If milord needs them, we can provide up to 135 units."
"Supervisor Spiel, how much extra manpower does the bastide have?" Lorist asked.
"Milord, Supervisor Hansk's survey reports around 748 people."
"That means that including the 1427 people who have just arrived from Wildnorth Town, we can send 2175 people to the site at Morgan Hills, which mean we will require around 200 four-wheeled carriages. How much food and supplies can the remaining carriages transport?"
"Milord, the supplies you need to transport there are mostly food and textiles. While we do have food in abundance in the warehouses, the opposite is true for textiles. However, we can still use them to make some clothing to be sent over. If we use the two-wheeled carriages as well, we will be able to transport 5000 kilograms of food and a bunch of clothes," replied Spiel.
Lorist turned his head to look and saw that Josk, who was beside him, was spacing out as if he was thinking of something.
"Hey, Joe, what do you have in mind?"
"Oh, milord, I was just wondering about something. I remember seeing a large plaque with 'Wildnorth Town' engraved on it at the gates of the town when we visited this morning, but I don't remember seeing something similar at the bastide. Why doesn't this place have a name?"
That's right! Lorist suddenly recalled that most people only referred to this place as the 'family bastide' as if it didn't have a name of its own. That's weird, the family has been around for more than 200 years, why didn't anybody name this place?
"Supervisor Spiel, do you know the reason for this?"
Spiel shook his head. At that moment, Supervisor Hansk was just walking by them after completing his task and Lorist asked him the same question.
"I recall that someone else asked the same question before. At that time, the Old Master's response was there was no need to go through so much trouble to name the place as the family only had one bastide within the dominion. He believed that calling this place the family bastide would be more affectionate," explained the supervisor.
Lorist shook his head and said, "That won't do. The family will have many more territories in the future, so this one needs a name to avoid confusion. Let me think of one then. Since the surrounding mountains are filled with maple trees, let's call this place Maplewoods Bastide from now on. Seek out a stonemason immediately to have that name carved on the castle."
"Milord, what an apt name for the place! It is definitely fitting of the landscape around here. I will instantly ask for someone to start carving the name up," replied Supervisor Hansk.
Lorist then called out to Spiel, who was just about to leave. "Hey, I'm afraid I'll have to trouble you to prepare the supplies and carriages as soon as possible during these two days. It's already the 5th day of the 3rd month, and I hope to be able to depart on the 7th. That way, we'll be able to arrive at the construction site by the 8th day of the month."
"Milord, please be assured that it will definitely be ready by the 7th," said Supervisor Spiel before he left in a hurry.
"Milord, there's plenty of time for you to prepare, you don't have to be in such a rush you know," said Josk.
"No, Joe, did you forget what we had talked about with Butler Boris back there? Around the 10th day of the 3rd month, there will be a shipment from the Kenmays Family to the construction site as well as an escort of many more slave laborers there. I plan to arrive by the 8th and see if we'll be able to swallow up all that for ourselves," Lorist said.
On the 7th day of the 3rd month during 9 o'clock in the morning, a supply convoy formed from 211 four-wheeled carriages and 135 two-wheeled carriages left Maplewoods Bastide for the construction site at Morgan Hills.
This time, Lorist was accompanied by Supervisors Hansk and Kedan. Hansk also picked the 200 or so youths who were previously preparing to awaken their Battle Force from the bastide to be coachmen for the moment. After the trip, they will once again return to the bastide to resume their training.
Patt on the other hand brought 60 soldiers from the newly-formed defense unit that had all awakened their Battle Force along with them while Josk returned with the 60 guard squad members that came with him and served as a scout unit for the return trip.
Lorist was currently complaining to Shadekampf, "Why do I feel that I've been entangled with nothing but convoys recently? You see, I formed a convoy back at Morante City to head to the dominion. After leaving it behind at Geldos City to travel lightly and quickly, Patt managed to get another formed for me at Fenyata Town. And now, after only spending a couple of days at the dominion, I'm leaving it with yet another convoy. I'm so sick of convoys, you know?"
Shadekampf knew that Lorist was only joking around and merely laughed it off without bothering to continue the conversation.
Josk however laughed out loud and said, "Milord, you know you could always depart a day later. I can lead the convoy and wait for you to catch up tomorrow."
Lorist waved his hand and said, "No way, I've noticed that I'm a workaholic who can't leave anything unattended. I wouldn't be able to sleep soundly at night if I'm not here with you on an important occasion as this."
The trip Lorist had taken with Patt and Shadekampf back then with only one carriage from Morgan Hills to Maplewoods Bastide had taken up to 7 hours. Given the size of their convoy, it would take up twice as much time for them to complete their journey.
After traveling for six hours, it was already two in the afternoon. Josk who was at the front of the convoy sent someone to the back to ask Lorist whether they should stop the convoy to rest at a small lake up ahead.
Just as Lorist was about to head to the front to check that lake out for himself, he suddenly noticed smoke signals coming from the mountains around them as ten riders emerged from the mountains while brandishing the weapons in their hands and screaming out an eerie war cry as they approached...