Geldos City was situated not far from Burdock Bastide and a pike cavalry unit would be able to travel from one place to the other within one day and one night. However, when it came to infantry garrison troops, they required at least three days and two nights of travel. The presence of the disorganized farmer militia of the other vassal noble families of the count only served to slow down the whole process even further. Currently, the count was regretting his decision on bringing them along and ordered for the two of his cavalry companies to leave for the bastide sooner.
Just as the army was setting up camp after one day of travel, Count Cobry received news that two of his illegitimate sons had perished yet again, one of whom was Gold ranked with the other being a Silver rank. The soldier who made the report stammered in fear when facing the count as he had drawn the losing lot to be the one to make the report.
Just that afternoon, the two companies of pike cavalry noticed an enemy stronghold at the Motz Hills that just so happened to be on the path to Burdock Bastide. The leader of the pike cavalry that was reassigned from Williamiles Castle was also a Gold ranked son of the count. When he observed the enemy's stronghold, he noticed that while they had advantage being on higher terrain, being the common bandits they were, their fortifications were full of holes. It was crude and far from perfect.
As a result, the Gold ranked commander believed that he only required a company of pike cavalrymen to break through the stronghold to massacre the bandits within. And so he did just that only to notice that the defensive fortifications up front were merely a facade and the true line of defense was deeper within. Not only that, the bandits had also set up a trap and ambushed the pike cavalry company from all sides with concentrated volleys of arrows, crossbow bolts as well as huge ballista darts.
The messenger then handed the count a long javelin-like ballista dart that was retrieved from the illegitimate son commander's corpse. Even though he was at the Gold rank, there was no way he would be able to deflect all 12 ballista darts aimed directly at him, resulting in his death as well as another Silver rank stepbrother of his who was also standing nearby.
The pike cavalry company that rushed straight into the stronghold had suffered heavy losses and only two squads' worth of soldiers returned, among which more than ten were even injured. Fortunately, the bandits only stayed put and defended their stronghold without giving chase, causing yet another Gold ranked illegitimate son to regroup the soldiers and set up camp outside the stronghold without taking any rash actions and await reinforcements.
"This is a ballista dart..." Given Count Cobry's vast experience on the battlefield, he quickly recognized what the spear-like object was. However, what made him frustrated was how the bandits had managed to acquire a weapon of such caliber.
While ballistas were definitely powerful, they were also heavy and immobile and cost a lot of gold to maintain. For example, even if a ballista wasn't used, every two years, its arms had to be switched so that the durability of the wood wouldn't decrease its performance. When it came to the string, it had to be switched out after firing ten darts, and also cost quite a lot to be order-made. Apart from proper armies of kingdoms or garrisons defending large cities, no armed force, especially that of landed nobles, would choose to utilize ballistas as the upkeep was too high and it was troublesome to maintain.
As if one troubling incident occurred one after another, a few other reports caused the baron to lose sleep for the whole night. Before the sky had started to brighten from the first rays of the sun, the count left the farmer militia behind and mobilized his garrison regiment to hurry onward to rendezvous with the pike cavalry at the camp they had set up and managed to arrive there by noon.
After getting two hours of rest, the count ordered the sword and shield soldiers of the garrison regiment as well as the longbowmen to cooperate with the pike cavalry company to test the strength of the bandits' stronghold. He later discovered that while breaching the first line of defense of the stronghold was relatively easy, they ended up on a vast flat field that allowed them to be easily targeted by the bandits who used projectile weapons from the far side, raining down volley after volley of projectiles towards their forces. Count Cobry's men hurriedly retreated, leaving another hundred or so corpses behind as they left the stronghold.
This time, however, the count didn't notice any sign of ballistas being used. It seemed that his inference that bandits couldn't afford to maintain ballistas was correct and that the ballistas used yesterday must've been out of commission. That was music to the count's ears. Even though he had lost hundreds of men during the test battle that noon, it had allowed him to understand how the stronghold was defended. So they only have the terrain and projectile weapons to their advantage. When the farmer militia from the vassal noble families arrive in the afternoon, I can use them as enemy fodder to take the projectiles for my troops and easily crush the stronghold.
During that night, the count had the farmers help him construct near a hundred carts with simple wooden shielding. On the next day, the count had them push the wooden carts to block of the arrows while his units quickly made their way to the back of the stronghold. Seeing that the situation had turned against their favor, the bandits quickly shot out another volley towards the cavalrymen before fleeing the place quickly.
This time, the operation to capture the stronghold went well with only minimal casualties. However, the count noticed that around 100 meters along the path, there was another stronghold waiting for them.
Motz Hills was a collective name for a group of more than ten small hills around the area. Nobody knew why it was named as such, so the people merely called it according to what the maps that was passed down since ancient times stated. The path that connected Geldos City and Burdock Bastide passed through the middle of these nondescript hills was craftily utilized by the bandits to set up many simple strongholds that managed to effectively hinder the passage of the count's army.
To the count's dismay, he discovered that there were easily over ten more of those strongholds blocking his way on the path to Burdock Bastide, causing his face to contort badly with rage. Unable to directly stop the count's vanguard, the bandits had wittily set up various strongholds that allowed them to shoot at the count's forces from afar and retreat to the next when their defenses were about to be broken through. Not only would the count lose quite an amount of his forces along the way, it would also cost him a lot of time.
Even though he desperately wanted to flatten the strongholds with his forces, the traveling speed of the makeshift wooden shield carts was so slow that it took a few hours to move even a few hundred meters. Given that the farmers didn't have any sleep whatsoever the day before, the prior attack had completely drained them of their energy. On the other hand, the count was unwilling to let his own soldiers sustain casualties to attack the stronghold and was forced to rest for the night.
On the second day, tempted by the promises of riches, the farmers once again toiled away and enabled the count to conquer three strongholds within one day. Even though about 200 of the farmers perished during the attacks, the count did not care much for them and only tried to minimize the casualties of his own troops.
However, on the third day, the farmers started to dawdle around and refused to obey their orders as the count's pledge that each of them would be awarded one imperial silver for each stronghold conquered was left unfulfilled. The count had no choice but to promise to give them the money when he returns to his castle as he did not have that much coins on hand. However, the farmers only felt that they were being cheated and only managed to conquer one stronghold on that day due to their low morale. Even though the losses on that day was far lesser compared to that of the day before, the count was still pissed as there were still seven to eight strongholds left to be conquered. If they progressed at this rate, it would take them at least five to six days before they leave the Motz Hills.
Thus, the count wrote an order and sent a pike cavalry squad back to Geldos City to ask for more supplies to be sent over as he had only brought seven to eight days' worth of supplies given that he didn't expect the presence of so many strongholds along the path. The other reason he did not bring much supplies with him initially was that he was afraid that he would end up a laughingstock by preparing so thoroughly just to deal with a rowdy bunch of bandits.
What weighed the most heavily on the count's mind was that if his supplies were exhausted by the time he conquers the final stronghold, he would have no choice but to lead his army back to the city and truly become the joke of the century. To prepare for the worst, the count had ordered for around 15 days' worth of supplies to be transported over.
His second order was a request for some coins to be brought over so that the farmers would once again be convinced and motivated to become arrow fodder willingly. Naturally, Count Cobry planned to 'pay back' the farmers by the time he makes his way out of the Motz Hills and show them that his money would not be so easily taken.
In his third order, he planned to have his Gold ranked illegitimate son that was stationed at Geldos City recruit more soldiers within the dominion as he had a sense of foreboding that a big conflict was about to break out, as if the current situation was only the calm before the storm. That was partly due to the fact that the bandits who mainly relied on guerrilla hit-and-run tactics had learned how to resist his forces in a head-on battle all of a sudden. What had transpired for them to be able to change their tactics in such a short time?
It turned out that the squad of cavalrymen sent back by the count with the letter had been surrounded by Lorist's forces. The first few vanguards of the company that rushed out had their horses caught by a rope trap that caused them to tumble like there was no tomorrow. They were further greeted by the assault of Terman's knight squad along with thirty or so javelins that had been thrown by Lorist. The few of those cavalrymen who were fortunate enough to escape from the encirclement of the several hundred men ended up being shot to death by Josk, who was circling the area from a higher vantage point. The twenty or so riders only managed to survive after getting off their horses and surrendering.
Looking at the letter written by the count with satisfaction, Lorist laughed and said, "With this letter, Geldos City is already our possession."
Tim, wearing a suit of armor, congratulated Lorist and said, "Baron Norton, you truly are very thorough with your plans. You even guessed that the count would send a letter for extra supplies and planned for us to ambush his forces here. I had thought that we would be attacking Geldos City right away after circumventing his forces."
"Hehe, it isn't that difficult to figure out. Given that he didn't bring much supplies with him when he first set out and the fact that we managed to defer his forces at the Motz Hills for a couple of days, he was bound to run out of supplies at some point. It is only logical for him to send someone out to request for more. With this letter, we will be able to casually walk up to the city and have them open the gates without any trouble.
"Alright, you guys, change out into the clothes of the count's troops. We're going to head to Geldos City. Els, I'll leave the prisoners on your watch. Kill any who attempts to escape," instructed Lorist.
This time, Lorist formed the ambush unit with only Josk, Els and two squads of camp guards, Terman's knight squad, Yuriy and his two light cavalry squads as well as Tim and his 800 men who were carrying a large sack each.
When Count Cobry was still held back at the first stronghold, Lorist spent two days carefully circumventing the count's forces and hiding themselves in the area to prepare for the ambush.
In the evening, a squad of pike cavalrymen and a company of garrison troops arrived at the gates of Geldos City. The garrison squad in charge of guarding the city did have any suspicion whatsoever of their presence and lowered the drawbridge and opened the gates to the city without hesitation after receiving the count's letter. The 'squad leader' of the pike cavalrymen who had just arrived then asked the guards of Geldos City where the son of the count was located. Immediately after the guard answered, the garrison troops walking in from behind hastily rushed in and tied up the rest of the guards and even stuffed their mouths with bloody cloths that caused the guards to feel irresistible urges to puke.
Lorist instructed, "Yuriy, Els, quickly go and take control of the other three city gates and leave a squad of people behind to guard each gate. Terman, bring your knight squad with me to the duke manor in the middle of the city. Josk, you should come along too. Mister Tim, make sure you withhold your men and make sure they don't start raiding before we successfully take over the city, understand? Don't let their impatience ruin the whole plan."
"Milord, please be assured that I will not let you down," Tim replied.
Probably due to the absence of the usually strict count, the Gold ranked illegitimate son was irresponsibly not carrying out his duties and was instead busy hosting a nude party within a hall of the duke manor. Upon hearing the report of a manor guard about the count's letter, the drunk son stood up stark-naked and ordered for it to be delivered to him as he chugged away at his wine.
Lorist and Josk subsequently entered the hall as the one guarding the door had his neck snapped by Terman.
The two of them felt a chill down their spine as they witnessed the stark naked men and women within the hall engaging in indecent acts and debauchery with reckless abandon without a care in the world.
The stark-naked man before them lifted his wine cup and laughed in a drunk manner before he mumbled, "Enough looking around... Give... give me my father's letter... You should strip down as well... and... have fun with us... It's alright... You can... have all the women... you want... Or men, if... if that's your thing..."
Lorist and Josk gave each other a glance before they both wordlessly drew their swords......