Lorist and Josk stopped their horses on top of a small hill and looked towards Wildnorth Town from afar.
The gates of the town were currently open and streams of carriages could be seen moving out of the town as cries and chattering resounded throughout the open fields.
"Milord, I've never seen such an arrogant and disrespectful garrison force that even dares to be so calculative while negotiating with its overlord. No wonder you said that they were a troublesome one. However, I don't understand how you were able to tolerate their existence and didn't wipe them out for treason long ago when you first arrived at the dominion," said Josk.
Lorist laughed and said, "So now you see it for yourself. It's been 200 years and the Norton Family would never have dreamt that the loophole in the regulations made in the past to benefit the citizens would be exploited to the point that it would cause the descendants of the family so much trouble. Even so, our excursion this morning was not for naught. Look, aren't they sending those people out already? As for their punishment, that will have to wait for now. When Charade and Potterfang gets here with the convoy, we will have the necessary force to wipe them out."
The first thing that morning, Lorist and Josk went to Wildnorth Town with 5 carriages carrying the pikes and leather armors as well as the imperial silvers. However, the Dunbarsen family head was not present at their reception. According to the Mollin family head, he has been struck with a cold and has to rest and recuperate since two days ago and could not be present.
But when the Mollin family head handed over the name list for the garrison force members, Lorist noticed that part of his plot had failed. Most of the names on the list were people from the Mollin, Hassen and Qubim families with not one of them being Dunbarsen family members. Even the previous vice captain from the Dunbrasen family had left the garrison force.
Pretending to be concerned, Lorist asked why the vice captain had left the force. The Mollin family head's reply was that the Dunbarsen Family had decided to move over to the new town and that the Dunbarsen squad leader would serve over there as the leader of the garrison there.
Lorist greatly praised the Dunbarsen Family for its generosity and grace to allow the other families' members a chance to join the garrison force. And after many pointless pleasantries, Lorist handed the equipment to the Mollin family head and told him that it was meant to be used for the formation of the new garrison force. He also mentioned that he brought the salary the family owed the force as well before showing him the chest filled with imperial silver coins. However, he also said that the garrison force's pay would be given once every three months from now on because he had too many matters on his hands and couldn't be bothered to make a trip to Wildnorth Town once a month to pay that small sum of money and hoped that the people of Wildnorth Town would understand his troubles.
After that, Lorist asked Supervisor Kedan whether the population survey was completed. Kedan reported that the records for the family members of the fallen family soldiers as well as the citizens who had lost their land had all been accounted for: approximately 1400 people can leave the tonw right away. However, he mentioned that due to the reshuffling of garrison members, many people of the town related to the people who were kicked out of the force had been emotionally affected by the change and were not willing to cooperate with the survey and he could only estimate their numbers to be around 2000 people.
It was at that moment when the Mollin family head asked Lorist to empathize with those who had been deemed unfit to continue their service in the garrison and tolerate their unwillingness to cooperate and suggested him to build a new garrison force at the new town so that those people who had been kicked out would be able to serve there. By then, he said, the people would definitely be placated and will cooperate with the population survey.
Lorist gave a cold laugh and thought, they actually do have a pretty good plan up their sleeves. They must be aiming to let their family members sneak into the new town and prompt me to form a new garrison so that they can enjoy the same benefits they already do in Wildnorth Town. Hmph, don't think you'll be able to hit the jackpot without putting in any effort.
Lorist responded by shaking his head in futility and said to the three family heads that due to the current situation the Norton Family was in with Viscount Kenmays's forces, the family has decided to build a border wall at Morgan Hills to keep the Kenmayses out of the family dominion. That's why the family needed a lot of manpower and the people to be sent out of Wildnorth Town will be helping out with the construction at Morgan Hills instead and that the workforce for the construction of the new town will have to be sourced from the people of Wildnorth Town who are not members of the garrison force nor their family members.
Lorist continued that the reason the family decided to allow the garrison force to expand was not so that they could stay cooped up like cowardly turtles at Wildnorth Town but instead help out at several other areas where they are needed. However, he assured the family heads that he would not ask the garrison to face the forces of Viscount Kenmays because he knew that the garrison force would definitely not be willing nor have enough strength to overcome the viscount's forces anyway.
His insult had caused the three family heads to redden with anger. However, the cunning, thick-skinned Mollin family head pretended that he didn't hear anything and instead asked where the garrison force members would be asked to serve.
Pointing at the map of the dominion which was laid out on the table, Lorist said that he has already hired a mercenary group to defend Poplar Coast, where the new town would be constructed. As long as Wildnorth Town was able to send out 200 garrison troops, they will be able to setup a new military base at a valley there. The mercenaries will mainly be responsible for defending the base while the garrison force members only had to help supply them once every ten days and watch over the construction of the town at Poplar Coast.
Naturally, Lorist said that the Norton Family will definitely reward the people of Wildnorth Town for their efforts and increase the salary of the garrison members who go to Poplar Coast to 10 imperial silvers per month, which is easily ten times their normal pay. Other than that, the bonus which the mercenaries had for capturing barbarians alive or killing them would also be applicable to the garrison force members.
That declaration caused the three family heads to argue for quite an amount of time without giving Lorist a clear answer. In the end, Lorist got annoyed and said that he would give the three family heads one month's time to consider the issue and mentioned that the family would not force them to do that if they weren't willing. But he added that the construction of the new town will have nothing to do with Wildnorth Town anymore should that happen and stressed that the family did not care about what the townsfolk had to say about that matter.
Lastly, Lorist requested that he be allowed to borrow some carriages to help move the people who were leaving Wildnorth Town to the bastide, but he didn't expect that it would be met with the joint refusal of all three family heads. This caused Lorist to fume with rage and question whether the three family heads were intent on committing treason against the family. If that was the case, he said that the family was willing to surround Wildnorth Town with their forces and wipe them out regardless of the cost.
His sudden aggressive attitude deeply shocked the three family heads to the point that they quickly begged for mercy as they stammered to explain why they had refused to sell the carriages: they were worried that once the carriages were used to transport the people back to the bastide, they wouldn't be returned and cause the town to incur heavy losses.
Lorist didn't expect that the reason would be something as trivial as that. It was extremely ludicrous that the three family heads had dared to risk offending their dominion lord for the sake of tens of carriages and Lorist didn't know if that was a sign of bravery or merely a foolish focus on short-term gains and losses.
"Alright," Lorist said. "Then I won't force you to lend me any. But you'll be fine if I rent them, right? It's only a short trip of one hour and I will pay a rent of one imperial silver for each carriage per trip made to the empty fields outside the bastide. Other than that, I promise on the name of the Nortons that I will definitely return your carriages after transporting the people to the bastide."
Upon hearing Lorist say that, the three family heads started arguing again. However, this time, it was about how many carriages each family would provide so that they would not miss out on this chance to make extra money. After a couple more moments, the family heads finally agreed on the carriage arrangements and proceeded to order their men to organize the transport of the 1400 or so people.
"Milord, I still have something I don't understand. I feel that with our current forces, we'll definitely be able to destroy the garrison force of Wildnorth Town. There's no need for you to placate them like that. The more you let them be, the more they will take you for granted," said Josk as he looked towards the town.
Lorist nodded and said, "You're right about that, Joe. If I wasn't troubled with Viscount Kenmays's forces and the construction at Morgan Hills, the soldiers I brought back to the dominion would definitely be enough to wipe out Wildnorth Town. However, we can't afford to do that now as the garrison over there is unlike those within other dominions. They have a history of over 200 years. The 200 garrison force members is only the official number; they may be able to rally up more than 2000 fighters should we actually decide to take them out. And all of those people will definitely not surrender easily and fight to the death as their family members and livelihood depend on it. Even if we manage to wipe them out, our losses would definitely be huge and we will not be able to spare any more soldiers to defend the construction site at Morgan Hills.
"As the Wildnorth Town is the only problem in the dominion, we can afford to delay their demise and compromise with them for now. My decision to expand the garrison force of Wildnorth Town so that we can make the population of the town decrease as people leave it and cause strife within their own ranks. The true aim of my decision to construct a new town at Poplar Coast was to tempt the ruling families to send out the dissidents within the town so that the ruling families will be able to take complete control over Wildnorth Town. That way, I can effectively halve their fighting force as well.
"And providing with the pikes and leather armor as well as paying the salary we owe them is mainly to placate them as well as to let them think that we're not prepared to antagonize them so that they won't cause trouble for me in the dominion. What we need most now instead is time, especially with the case of the construction of the castle at Morgan Hills, the issue with Viscount Kenmays, the training of the new defense unit within the bastide as well as waiting for the main convoy led by Charade to arrive. What I'm trying to do now is to stabilize the situation within the dominion first."
"Milord, are you really serious about building the new town at Poplar Coast?" Josk asked.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Lorist said as he laughed. "My father and brother had long had a plan to build a new town within the dominion so that we can build the foundations to one day shake off the burdensome Wildnorth Town. It's a shame that they weren't able to complete the plan when they were still alive, and the place they had decided to build the town at before they passed away was at that very spot. Building a new town there is akin to expanding the area of influence of the family within the dominion by two times. The main problem with that place is the occasional attack from mountain barbarians and that is exactly why I hired the mercenaries to be stationed at the military base there.
"But I have to admit that until very recently, the construction of the new town was merely an afterthought of mine that was also a very convenient to use as an excuse to cause the people of Wildnorth Town to turn against each other. For now, I will still be prioritizing the construction of the castle at Morgan Hills and following that, the mountain city within the valleys there according to the Kenmayses' original plan. After the completion of the castle, I plan to use that as my headquarters and proceed with the construction of the city, defeating the Kenmays Family, and finding a way to connect the Northlands to the outside world so that we can start trading as well as await the arrival of the main convoy. Those will be the main goals I plan to accomplish in the near future.
"As for the construction of the town at Poplar Coast, if the people at Wildnorth Town are willing to fork out some manpower, we will be able to start the preliminary work such as gathering stones, wood, green clay and other building materials which will take at least two years. Within that time period, the people from the town who had been sent out to work will definitely have some conflicts with the garrison soldiers watching over them. After that, Wildnorth Town will definitely be in chaos and much easier for us to deal with."
"Milord, you're a devious one, aren't you?" Josk said.
"Oh my, you truly flatter me," replied Lorist.