Count Cobry ended up being pinned to the cross that Lorist had ordered to be made and died after half a day of moaning and wailing. Before his death, he also witnessed the beheading of his illegitimate son who had been struck with three arrows back at the city gates. That son of his died without any suffering as he had been out cold the moment he was injured.
After the beheading, Lorist had the heads of all the illegitimate sons of the count that had died by his hands stacked up before the cross. He also requested for an artisan to craft a fitting stone tablet that described the count's deeds and sins, including the ones he had committed during his time as Redbeard the bandit, and how the untimely discovery of his identity had caused his downfall. Perhaps in the far future, the tale of Count Cobry and his 67 illegitimate sons would become a folk tale of the Grindia Continent much like the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in Lorist's previous world.
After resting for the night, Josk took the initiative to lead the two newly-formed garrison troop companies with members recruited from the laborer camp to the Motz Hills to sweep up the remaining troops of the count. There were still 1 Gold rank, 3 Silver ranks and 2 other illegitimate sons whose Battle Force has not yet been awakened there and Josk did not intend to let any one of them slip away from his grasps.
Lorist himself didn't mind as the pike cavalrymen who had surrendered to him had mentioned that the soldiers there only had three days' worth of supplies with them and would crumble eventually even without any outside intervention. What Josk was going to do was no more than speeding up the process.
After three days, Charade and Josk returned to Geldos City.
Josk brought six heads back with him which were also placed in front of the cross. He said that the moment he was spotted by the enemy when he was blocking off the road to Motz Hills, the first ones to panic were the farmers. They instantly broke down and started crying and shouting out loud while running all over the place, effectively turning their whole camp into a huge mess. After that, Potterfang and Loze brought two of their heavy-armored cavalry companies into the camp and slaughtered the enemy, securing their victory.
After the Gold ranked illegitimate son died in the hands of Loze, the remaining ones attempted to run away, only to be sniped one by one by Josk with his bow and arrows. Currently, all of the illegitimate sons of the count had reunited with him at the stone tablet and not one of them was spared.
Charade said that Potterfang would only arrive in the afternoon on the next day as he had to escort the prisoner soldiers who had surrendered to them during the battle. He also mentioned that for the next three days, the family convoy would make its way to Geldos City. Charade then asked Lorist about what to do with Burdock Bastide after the convoy's departure.
Lorist replied, "Hand it to Tim then. For the past few days, I've been thinking about the preparations we need to make before the convoy leaves this place and already have a general idea on how to go about it. You're here just in time to discuss the finer details with me."
What Lorist lacked right now was time. When the convoy first left Armatrin Harbor, there was a distance of 2500 kilometers to travel before they reach the Northlands. Their original plan was for them to travel 1000 or so kilometers through the lands of the Redlis Kingdom to reach the borders of the Andinaq Kingdom. However, it had been postponed when the convoy was prompted to retaliate and wipe the count and his family after the attack of Count Cobry's rebel-sweeping forces. It was already the 23rd day of the 1st month, but the convoy had only traveled a little more than 300 kilometers so far.
After taking control of Geldos City, the riches and supplies that the count had accumulated over the years from wiping out the defiant nobles had all ended up in Lorist's hands. He understood from Charade's ecstatic and gleeful look when he looked at the inventory that the convoy's departure would have to be delayed yet again until the resources were properly managed and sorted out. Otherwise, there was no way Charade would agree to leave the place.
That was why Lorist had decided to head for the Northlands first at the end of the month with only a handful of people with him and leave the convoy behind so that he would arrive at the family dominion before the 3rd month to be in time for the inheritance ceremony. After that, he would wait for the arrival of the convoy at a later date while he settled some more pressing matters of the family. He also appointed Charade and Potterfang to be in charge of the convoy during his absence.
However, there were still quite a number of things that he needed to handle personally before he would be able to leave with a peace of mind.
He first instructed Potterfang to lead a heavy-armored cavalry company to Williamiles Castle to guard it in place of the reorganized garrison troop that used to be the count's and also had Yuriy send some representatives to the allied noble armies to tell them the news of the count's demise and to request them to send some representatives to Geldos City to discuss certain matters on trade.
When the garrison company came back to Geldos City, Lorist gave a cold and cruel order. He instructed the soldiers who had surrendered to him to bring their family members to another street and imprisoned the remaining family members of the soldiers who have resisted him and died in battle in the slave laborer camp.
Looking at the now empty streets, Lorist said, "Mister Tim, this street belongs to you now. You can finally put the sacks your soldiers were carrying to good use."
Tim was incredibly grateful at Lorist's proposition. Ever since he knew that Lorist was going to give the Burdock Bastide to him unconditionally, he quickly met up with a few stronghold leaders and sold 1300 gold Fordes' worth of weapons to them which he had obtained from Charade for only 1000 gold Fordes. After that, he sent somebody to instruct Knight Gemors to move the people and resources under him to the bastide before returning to Lorist's side after all of that was accomplished. He understood that the longer he spent time with Lorist, the more benefits he would get. As expected, before he could finish processing the fact that he got the bastide for no cost, Lorist presented him with yet another huge boon.
Seeing Tim who excitedly went to pillage the empty houses and stores lining the streets, Lorist couldn't help but laugh out loud. He had decided to aid Tim the best he could so that he would have someone to reach out to should he need anything done in the Redlis Kingdom.
When Tim returned, Lorist said, "Tim, I also got you a wife."
Unrolling a beastskin map of the area, Lorist continued, "Look here. This is Viscount Tebri's territory and Burdock Bastide is over here. Between the two locations is Baron Anlar's territory. Even though all the male descendants of the Anlar Family had all been killed off by the count, we have managed to rescue his only daughter from the duke manor. I have decided to let you take her as your wife so that you will be able to absorb Baron Anlar's territory and unite it with that of Viscount Tebri as well as Burdock Bastide."
Lorist then tossed a few documents onto the table and said, "Look, these are the deeds for the lands of Viscount Tebri, Baron Anlar and the bastide. I found them all in the duke manor. With these documents, I will also be able to have the neighboring nobles recognize you as the legitimate successor of Viscount Tebri so that you will have no problems ascending into the noble peerage. What do you think?"
Tim bowed deeply and responded, "Lord Norton, as long as it is your arrangement, I will definitely go by it. You can have me marry a few more wives if you please."
"Sol, only in your wildest dreams. You must have sufficient power to back up your greed and ambition. The bare minimum for defending the lands you hold right now is a garrison regiment. And given the desolate state of Viscount Tebri's and Baron Anlar's dominions as a result of the conflict, you will also need quite a bit of resource to redevelop them," rebuked Lorist jokingly.
Upon hearing that, Tim suddenly turned downcast and looked to Lorist with pleading eyes. "Milord, I don't have so much money... I'm already finding it hard to sustain the 1800 men under me, not to say much about rebuilding the dominion. The money spent on maintaining an army is truly too large."
Charade who was standing nearby laughed and said, "Tim, come over here. After seeing the map, I have an idea for you. I know you are quite adept at doing business from your past experience. Now that you have this large piece of land, if you manage it carefully, you'll definitely be able to sustain three whole regiments of garrison troops.
"There is a corner of the viscount's dominion near the shores and I believe that it would be a good place for a port to be built there. And the eastern part of the viscount's dominion that is near Baron Anlar's dominion has flat lands and forests which are ideal for agricultural development. Given that you used to manage the viscount's farms, you should have a good idea on what to do with these places. With the port built, you will be able to stimulate the dominion's economy. Coupled with the yearly harvest from the farms, you will also be able to sustain your own dominion's food demand and hold firm to your citizens' support by providing them with peaceful, sustainable lives."
Charade continued pointing around the map and said, "Now, look here again at Baron Anlar's dominion. The many hills and forests there will allow you to make quite a bit of money from the lumber and building material as these resources are rather highly demanded on the market. Coupled with the port at the viscount's territory, you no longer have to worry about not having enough funds to run or develop the dominion. If you have a large seafaring ship, you will also be able to transport these raw materials to Morante City for them to be sold there. However, you can already contact a merchant guild over there right now to establish a maritime trade route so that their ships can come over to your dominion to do business. Even after considering the commission you have to pay them, you'll still make quite a bit from the exchange. You can also have someone forage the baron's dominion to see if there are any other natural resources that can be exploited.
"As for Burdock Bastide, I'm sure you don't need me to mention that. This used to be Count Cobry's dominion and it is well-developed with a substantial population living there, so you don't need to use too much resources on that place to profit from it. The economy of the bastide will make you enough money to sustain a garrison regiment. Your only focus would be to rebuild and develop the baron's and the viscount's territories. Naturally, you have to be wary of other threats during times of war like these. You can construct five citadels at these places and station each of them with a squad of garrison troops. That will be more than sufficient to ensure the safety of your combined territories.
"The key to successfully developing your land is manpower and finances. You don't have to worry too much about manpower as I have just discussed with Lord Locke that apart from the prisoners of the laborer camp, we will have the rest of the people who are not willing to go to the Northlands with us settle down in your territory. Given that the number of people isn't a small one, I'm sure that as long as you utilize them properly, you'll be able to quickly make your dominion prosper. Other than that, you can also start looking for people to serve as your family knights so that the elites of the disbanded pike cavalrymen and garrison soldiers don't leave your dominion to join other nobles," said Charade.
Tim felt a little stunned and said, "Milord, you're truly going to leave this place? Are you going to give up Geldos City?"
Lorist laughed and said, "Yes. While this is a great place to be, it is too far away from my family's dominion. If I were to forcibly occupy it, I would be nothing more than those despicable bandits. The last thing I'd want is to take over a place unrightfully and become an eyesore for the local nobles, nor do I want to stay put obstinately and face the First Prince's army one day. Even though I can still leave should that ever happen, the First Prince will definitely use this as an excuse to swallow the local nobles in the area whole and take over the whole territory by himself."
"Milord, couldn't you just use a marriage alliance to have a claim over this land? If the First Prince really comes over, I'm sure that we can rally the nobles to resist him with an allied army," said Tim.
Lorist shook his head and replied, "Tim, you don't understand. The First Prince can be considered to be one of the enemies of the Norton Family because our merchant convoy had been wiped out as a result of him ordering Count Cobry to masquerade as Redbeard for him to raise funds for his rebellion. From a certain perspective, the First Prince can be said to be the true perpetrator of the Norton Family merchant convoy's demise whereas the count is only a means to an end. Now, we have only managed to relinquish the prince of his tool, Count Cobry, and we still hope to be able to settle the grudge with him one day. If I were to become the dominion lord of this place, I would have to kneel down and swear my allegiance to him as my senior noble, and that is far from what I want. That is why I have decided to leave Geldos City and head back to my family's dominion."
Charade said, "Tim, don't worry. Even if we are going to the Northlands, we will make sure that your three dominions will be properly stabilized first so that you will be an influential noble in the lands of the Redlis Kingdom and the Norton Family would definitely be able to benefit from having a powerful ally here. As long as it concerns your dominion, we will not brush it off lightly. Just now, I have told you how to manage your manpower. Right now, let's discuss your finances and resources. I have a suggestion that you may want to consider."
Charade gave him four suggestions in total. First, he should set the tax rate for the produce to 70% for normal citizens and give farmland to the family members of the garrison troops for free and only collect 40% from them to encourage people to enlist without needing to spend too much money on their salary. He believed that it would easily be enough for TIm to form two garrison regiments with that plan given the amount of undeveloped or ravaged land he had at Baron Anlar and Viscount Tebri's dominions.
Second, Charade promised that when the convoy departs for the Northlands, the supplies they wouldn't be able to bring with them would be left at Geldos City and given to Tim for him to use to develop his dominion.
Third, Charade would be willing to sell the weapons and equipment he had at a very low profit to help lessen Tim's financial burden of having to arm his garrison troops.
Lastly, Charade said that he could help Tim get into contact with the Peterson Merchant Guild to start a collaboration between them to develop Tim's dominion to make up for Tim's lack of funds.
Thankful to the point of tears with snot leaking out of his nostrils, Tim accepted every one of Charade's suggestions and pledged that he would never forget the grace the Norton Family had bestowed upon him and that he would never refuse any request for help from the Nortons in the future.
After Tim left, Josk came and announced that he had decided to serve Lorist and become a Norton Family knight and also said that several of his friends wished to bring their families along to leave the area and head for the Northlands.
Elated at Josk's decision to join their ranks, Charade asked him to encourage the other members of the now disbanded pike cavalry and the garrison troops as well as the liberated slave laborers to join the convoy as manpower was a crucial resource for the development of the Northlands.
Lorist furrowed his brow at that point because he felt that the more people the convoy had, the longer its journey to the Northlands would take.
Charade however was confident that as long as he formed another pikeman infantry regiment from the people of Geldos City and expand Potterfang's heavy-armored cavalry to four companies, even if the convoy traveled slowly, their journey would no doubt be a safe one with such a huge force escorting them. After all, they did have a little too much extra equipment. And if any fool dares to bar their way, they would no doubt be decimated and their resources would only help nourish the convoy's own supply.