And here's the last release of the week! See you guys next week!
Oh, we're also holding a live reading tomorrow! Feel free to join us in our discord channel. Details can be found on our Patreon page here.
From the map, the land of Sidgler could be seen as a valley surrounded by Lizgna Mountains and Civilink Highlands. The valley was large enough to be a province in and of itself. Some parts even neared the coast. There was only one entrance, it was the pathway near which Xith Castle was built. The fact that only one castle was required to defend Sidgler was probably why Duke Madras made it his headquarters.
The second highness's strategy started with him encouraging the four houses to devastate Delamock. But he never thought they would attack Sidgler and only wanted the duke to coop up in his lair. He felt conquering Xith Castle was nothing but a pipe dream. The dangerous terrain aside, the narrow pathway into Sidgler prevented any army from displaying their true potential. Small waves of a hundred people going against the castle was nothing but suicide.
When Lorist led his convoy through the duchy, he had them disguised as merchants and successfully conquered Xith Castle. He left it in the care of the second highness's troops. But right after the duke mobilized Seamountain Legion from Sidgler, the second highness left after a few days because it was only good for defending against outside threats rather than inside ones. While Xith Castle was hard to take from the outside of the valley, the opposite was true from the inside. The reason was that the duke was afraid he would be trapped in the valley if anybody managed to conquer the castle and hold there.
The duke renovated the castle heavily over the past few years and made a simple citadel into a triple-walled contraption. The company he had originally stationed in the castle was also increased to a full regiment. Even if one managed to conquer the first wall, the troops defending the castle would still be able to put up resistance from the second and third walls. It was precisely because of Duke Madras's confidence in his castle that he allowed his most elite unit, Seamountain Legion, to head to the frontlines to give the Northland bumpkins a long due lesson and chase them back across the river.
It was a shame the duke never predicted the enemy would come from the sea during the winter. Apart from the thousand guards that defended the central castle at Edelise, there were no more than two thousand men defending the inner and outer cities. Most of them were conscripts brought on board specifically to serve for the winter.
Nobody performed their duties fully; the cold was just too much. As they saw it, no enemy could get past Xith Castle. Had it not been for the banquet the duke hosted, which saw many nobles of the duchy going through the castle and tipping the soldiers on duty, none would bother to show up for their shifts.
It took one day to travel from Platinum Beach to Edelise on foot and around ten or so hours by carriage. One would take close to half a day even if one went by horse without rest. The duke renamed the city from Traft after his first daughter, Edelise - who was born there. He spent eight years expanding the city before he renamed it. He also moved his house there at the same time and made it their headquarters.
Lorist had a map of Sidgler unrolled before him
"Edelise is defended by three fortified walls, the center of which is connected to the keep," Lorist explained as he pointed at the city on the map, "All of the duke's family members are there. He will host his banquet at the duke's mansion, which is directly behind the keep. The area between the inner wall and the centermost wall is called the inner bailey, where most of the duke's relatives and rich merchants or tycoons live. Some of the duke's vassals also have dwellings there.
"Between the outer wall and the wall in the center is the outer bailey, where most of the family members of Seamountain Legion's soldiers, the servants of the inner bailey, members of the Blackpearl Merchant Guild, and farmers of the surrounding area live. Put bluntly, the citizens of Edelise have a really tight-knit relationship with House Madras. Duke Madras has managed Sidgler for close to 40 years already and has built the foundations of his house here at Edelise.
"Last night, we interrogated the captives of Blackpearl Merchant Guild's salt farm and fishery and got word that the defenses around Edelise are rather lax at the moment. We can take the two walls easily if we're undiscovered, but the central castle itself will prove troublesome. When we attempt to breach the third line of defense, we'll have to make sure the enemy doesn't have any escape routes. We cannot let them retreat to the keep and put up a defense there.
"As Edelise is House Madras' headquarters, I will have to give a special order. We are Nortons; we don't lower ourselves to oppressing civilians. But as we attack Edelise, if there are any commoners that resist our advances, you may use any method at your disposal to pacify them, be they women or children. Otherwise, there will be a chance for someone to rile up a civilian revolt and bring us countless troubles, perhaps even affect the moves we can make. Understood?"
"Yes, Milord," replied the knights surrounding him.
Lorist asked Howard something before he turned back to the knights.
"It's around five right now. According to the captives, they are supposed to depart around seven to arrive at Edelise around five to deliver the seafood to the keep manager. Els, bring some men with you disguised as members of the guild and take the supervisors with you. You just need to get past the outer wall."
"Understood, Milord. I will definitely execute my mission successfully," replied Els.
"If we had to march to Edelise, we might not be able to arrive today," Lorist laughed, "Fortunately, we have our skis. They will let us travel even faster than the carriages Els is taking to the city. The only problem is there are six farmland manors along the way. If we're discovered, they might light a smoke signal to alert the city guard. That's where you come in, Malek."
"What are your orders, Milord?" said Malek as he stepped forward.
"I will leave the six manors to you. You have to prevent them from informing the enemy of our presence."
"Understood, Milord. I will not let any of the six manors inform anyone," said Malek.
"Awaiting your orders, Milord."
"Take a brigade and seal the path between Xith and Edelise. As long as you do, even if there are people who manage to escape Edelise, they won't be able to reach Xith. With this, our plan can't fail."
"Pog, what comes after will depend on you. I'm leaving the attack on Edelise to you. My only role is dealing with Krisas, the duke's rank 2 blademaster. It is the key to taking Xith, Vanades, and Kobo. We can't afford any mishaps."
"Rest assured, Milord. I won't let you down," Potterfang nodded.
"Alright, there's little more than an hour left. Let's get to work and leave the moment you're ready. There's no need to wait for my order. Pog is in charge, follow his command. Understood?"
The operation was executed without issue. Els managed to control the gates of Edelise easily after infiltrating the city. He even managed to let the first group of soldiers enter. They only took about half an hour to take over the outer wall. Snow began to fall just as the combat died down. The skies darkened and hid the invaders well from those further inside the city.
It was strange that they only had a small number of captives from the outer wall. When they questioned what few captives they had, they learned that most of the guards had given their shifts the slip. No one was willing to face to cold.
Els continued his mission. He donned the guise of a Blackpearl Merchant Guild member and brought his produce for delivery. Along with Potterfang's troops, he quickly took the second wall. Just as they were about to advance on the third wall, however, something unexpected happened. A few people approached from far and cursed at the group who were supposedly delivering the seafood for almost being late for the banquet. They hurried Els's group to the duke's mansion immediately.
When the people realized Els and the guards weren't people they knew, one smart one attempted to rush back to report. Els had no choice but to take care of them. Fortunately, none escaped. Three died and two were captured. It didn't take long to deal with them either -- nobody noticed the commotion. After quickly dealing with the corpses, they questioned the two captives and learned that the person in charge from Blackpearl Merchant Guild sent the five of them out because he was panicking about how late the seafood was.
After leaving a carriage to store the corpses and four guards to watch the captives, Els led the rest straight to the backyard of the duke's mansion. The near-hundred guards split into two units. One stormed the keep the moment Potterfang made his move and the other headed to the third wall's gate to await Lorist and Potterfang's arrival.
Attacking the keep turned out to be quite the relaxing task. Only 200 or so of the original thousand guards that should have been on duty weren't absent. When faced with the horde of Firmrock Legion soldiers, they surrendered after ten short minutes of resistance.
"Argh!" cried an elaborately dressed fifty-year-old man. He was rank 2 blademaster Krisas. He lay on the ground, defeat by just six strikes from Lorist. Beside him lay his ceremonial sword, which he had used for the engagement. It was a most sorry sight.
The fight happened within the main hall where the banquet was held. Lorist had killed a rank 2 blademaster almost instantly in front of Duke Madras and tens of other noblemen and ladies. The bloody sight caused quite a number of women to faint.
"Who are you?"
Lorist rubbed his nose awkwardly.
"Norton Lorist of House Norton, Duke of The Northlands," replied Lorist.
"Duke of The Northlands? House Norton doesn't command that title," said Duke Madras suspiciously.
"You would indeed not know of it. I was only recently given this title by Second Highness Auguslo. I've also been enfeoffed the whole of The Northlands."
"Is that so... Then Auguslo's still alive and even made it to The Northlands... And those people from the Union claimed he was dead. What are you going to do to me?"
"Hehe, Lord Duke, it's not up to me to decide your fate. I will send your whole house to His Highness. It's up to him to decide your fate," said Lorist.
Duke Madras slumped back into his seat like a deflated balloon and laughed wryly.
"Haha, I already know my fate in that case. I have another question, though. How did you enter? Did the garrison troops at Xith Castle betray me?"
"I don't know whether the troops there betrayed you, Lord Duke. We came from the sea," replied Lorist.
Just like that, Edelise fell into Firmrock Legion's hands. The city's near hundred thousand citizens didn't know they were at the mercy of a different master. Lorist left the aftermath to Potterfang and occupied Duke Madras's bedroom on the uppermost floor of the keep. He indulged in his precious wines and enjoyed the snow gradually covering the city.
Not long after, something embarrassing happened. Loyal as Potterfang was, he was worried that his lord wouldn't have any company in his sleep. So, he picked two noble ladies from the captives and sent them to warm Lorist's bed. For those women, this was something unavoidable as it was noble custom. They might, perhaps, be able to use the opportunity to make a plea for their house. They never thought they would be serving Lorist, the man who had terrified some of them into unconsciousness when he killed Blademaster Krisas.
When they met Lorist, the two instantly panicked. One fainted and another lost control of her bladder. Lorist, much dismayed, had Howard send the women out, only for another misunderstanding to occur. The one who peed all over thought Lorist had just ordered their execution and fainted, while the one who just regained consciousness hugged Lorist's leg and pleaded to be spared.
The commotion was quite a way to spend the first night of the new year and Howard took the brunt of it as he had to monitor the servants who cleaned the floors while he brought a bathtub to Lorist and prepared some hot water before leaving promptly. Lorist had chosen to 'punish' the women personally. Their moans and cries rang throughout the night. It only calmed down at dawn.
Lorist only re-appeared at noon the next day.
"Let this be the last time you do this," he told Potterfang with a stern expression.
In spite of his reprimand, the two beautiful women were kept by his side and their households were spared.
During the 1st month of Year 1777, House Norton and their Firmrock Legion attacked Sidgler via Platinum Beach. They conquered Edelise and managed to apprehend Duke Madras and tens of other duchy nobles. Firmrock Legion's commander, Gold-ranked Knight Potterfang, used Duke Madras's seal to gain entry to Xith Castle and Vanades for a surprise attack and managed to occupy both. On the 23rd day of the 1st month, Kobo also fell. From that day onward, the Madras duchy was no more.
On the 17th day of the 2nd month, the citizens of Edelise revolted. Near a hundred thousand citizens protested on the streets against the surprise attack and demanded House Norton leave and Duke Madras return. Only ten thousand of the legion's soldiers were present. Gold-ranked Knight Malek gave the order to kill to suppress the revolt, which resulted in the deaths of more than 30 thousand of Edelise's citizens and the capture of 40 thousand more. Malek, who gave the order without the slightest change in expression, was known henceforth as Ironface.