As Duke Loggins's trusted aide, Baron Camorra understood him very well. Beneath the duke's facade of a person of average ability who had many vices hid a heart filled to the brim with ambition. Being a devious person, even though the duke might forgive one's errors on the surface, he might secretly take several methods to ensure one's demise and won't stop until one's life has been broken apart.
If the Second Prince was a hungry wolf, then the baron could be said to be a jackal. While wolves were ferocious and savage, jackals were cunning and suspicious. Even though almost everybody knew about the duke's desire to form his own Loggins Duchy, Baron Camorra understood that the real reason the duke wasn't able to accomplish it was due to his untrusting and indecisive personality.
The original reason for the formation of the Northland Army was so that the duke could defend himself against the Second Prince's father-in-law, Duke Fisablen and his Frontier Legion as well as to be the foundation of the main military force for his duchy in the future. However, the Northland Army had now become nothing more than a tool Duke Loggins used to threaten the landed nobles of the Northlands. Even though the duke's dominion's revenue did not exceed 60000 imperial gold coins, the wealth he had pilfered from the other landed nobles was enough for him to build three more armies the scale of the Northland Army. However, the duke did not do that and instead used the wealth to indulge in a life of luxury and debauchery.
One of the duke's current favorite pastimes was to use his imposing Northland Army to force the landed nobles of the Northlands to obey his orders and instructions as well as supply him with various provisions. However, being the person who played a huge part in the formation of the army, Baron Camorra understood that the biggest weakness of the army was its lack of actual experience on the battlefield. During the past two years since the army's formation, not once has it been deployed in actual battle.
It was further exemplified by the incident that happened earlier from the reckless behavior of the Silver ranked knights of the Northland Army at the Norton Family's bastide. Some of them were literally scared shitless from seeing their comrades die in front of them. All that time, the nobles of the Northlands had feared the terrifying reputation and the numbers of the Northland Army. But on that day, the army finally ran into somebody who wasn't afraid of their empty provocations. Not only did Lorist beat up the duke's Gold ranked knight severely, he even killed 8 Silver ranked knights belonging to the army and robbed the remaining survivors. That was a huge act of humiliation to the army as well as the duke himself.
Baron Camorra sighed and raised his head before he said to Lorist, "Lord Norton, aren't you afraid that the Lord Duke will lead his army straight to the Norton Family dominion? Aren't you afraid of the Northland Army tearing your bastide apart? I can only say that what you are doing now will cause serious consequences for the Norton Family. As the leader of the family, you really should be more considerate of your family's future and not ruin it in a rush of reckless behavior. If you're willing to hand the 100000 gold Fordes you got from the Kenmays Family to the Lord Duke, then I believe that I can convince him to restrain his anger temporarily and forgive you for your offensive behavior..."
Lorist snickered and said, "Oh-so-respectable Lord Baron, you really are a talent to be cherished. I really admire the way you can tell a lie like that as if you yourself believed it earnestly. In actuality, both of us already know the true origin of the 100000 gold Fordes, isn't that so? Since you say that the gold is given to the Kenmays Family by the duke for them to help him purchase military equipment and supplies, then he is no longer responsible for taking care of the money. Instead, it's the Kenmays Family's responsibility. Shouldn't the duke go to the Kenmays Family and prompt them to deliver the resources they promised in exchange for the sum of money he paid? Why would you come over to the dominion to ask us to return the money we took instead? That kind of practice doesn't abide to the rules and norms of us nobles, you know?"
"Then can I take that as an indication that the Norton Family is intent on opposing the Lord Duke?" Baron Camorra asked as he stared hard at Lorist.
"Hehehe, isn't the Norton Family not at fault here? Lord Baron, perhaps you have heard of a teaching that is passed down through the generations within the Norton Family. Aside from the Krissen Royal Family and the seniors of the Norton Family, every single member of the family will never kneel and submit to another person. The duke should have already expected this the moment he decided to stretch his greedy hands towards us. As for the Northland Army, if their ability is nothing more than those good-for-nothing knights over there..." Lorist said as he pointed at the 12 knights, "Then please, I sincerely welcome the army's arrival. Don't forget to tell them to stuff their money pouches with more coins the next time as well. Trust me, those coins will definitely be really useful for the preservation of their lives."
Baron Camorra stood up angrily and roared, "I will definitely tell the duke about your attitude and the exact words you said today! Lord Norton, since you insist on being so stubborn like this, you better pray that you have enough luck to bail you out from the consequences!"
"Hehe, Lord Baron, thank you so much for your kind wishes. I also think that I'm a rather lucky person myself. For instance, didn't I earn a small fortune from your visit today? Many thanks to you for that. It seems that it's getting rather late, so I would advise you to stay within the bastide for the night. Tomorrow, I'll send an escort to accompany you for your departure," Lorist said with a smiling face as if he wasn't the least bit bothered by the baron's threats.
Baron Camorra was already so exasperated that he could no longer even muster the energy to be angry. The leader of the Norton Family before him was even more ridiculous than Duke Loggins himself and was far more arrogant. The baron merely nodded with a cold expression and said, "I will take my leave now," before he exited the hall.
Lorist then looked at the 12 knights who were standing there obediently and told them, "What? Do you think that you'll be served dinner if you stay? Quickly drag this idiot on the ground and the corpses of your comrades out and buzz off! Did that dogshit duke think that we, the Norton Family, wouldn't dare retaliate at his greedy claws?"
"Sigh, Little Locke, that's far too reckless of you. Since Duke Loggins had already stated his conditions, we could've tried our best to negotiate to pay to a lower price.. There's no need to completely turn them down and piss them off to a point like that..."
The one who said that was Old Butler Gleis. Even though he didn't say a single word when Lorist was arguing with Baron Camorra, he felt that Lorist shouldn't have picked the worst possible choice from the get go. He felt that the best course of action was to use money and other material goods to placate the duke and his ambassador.
Lorist smiled and started pushing the butler's wheelchair before he said, "Grandpa Gleis, I've already thought through it. If we don't give all of the 100000 gold Fordes to the dogshit duke, he will never let us off that easily. And if we yield even once, he will take that as a sign of weakness and come even more often in the future to make his demands until we are completely sucked dry. Since we would eventually become enemies anyway, I don't see why we shouldn't give him a much needed wake up call and remind him that his Northland Army is not as fearsome and invincible as he thinks it is."
"Even if all the soldiers of the army were as useless as the Silver ranked knights that showed up today, there are still 20000 of them. The forces of our family are still far from being able to resist them..." said the old butler in a worried tone.
"Hehe, it will be fine. With the Firmrock Castle completed, they will never be able to enter our family dominion. No matter how many people they have, if they all run straight towards the castle walls, they will only crash flat into their deaths without being able to hinder us in the least," Lorist said as he expressed his confidence in the defensive capability of the newly-completed wall of the castle. That was also one of the main reasons he dared to go all out to turn against the duke.
"Oh, and, Grandpa Gleis, now that everyone is here, I'd like to discuss something important. I've decided to ready our troops to attack Wildnorth Town," Lorist said.
"Are you sure you'll succeed?" said the old butler in a surprised tone.
"I'm reasonably sure that I will, but I can't say that the casualties that we will incur will be small..."
Lorist then gathered everyone within the room and started briefing them on his plan to attack Wildnorth Town.
After hearing Lorist's explanation, Josk opined, "It'll be a tough battle. We are too short on time. Unless we attack without any regard to our casualties and reduce the fighting power of Wildnorth Town, there is no way that we will be able to take over it within a short period of time."
Lorist believed that by the time Baron Camorra returns to the duke's dominion, it would not take more than 15 days before the duke's army arrives at Firmrock Castle. He had proposed to occupy Wildnorth Town within that time frame to remove the tumor that was causing so much trouble for the family.
Lorist was prepared to mobilize one company and one squad of soldiers from Firmrock Castle and leave two squads of defensive unit soldiers to guard the place. Including the company of soldiers at the Maplewoods Bastide and the mercenaries at the base at Poplar Coast, they would have around 1000 men to attack the Wildnorth Town with.
Pajik expressed his objection to the plan and said that it was best if the family waited for another 6 months before attacking the town. He mentioned that Lorist had forgotten the most crucial factor that would cause their failure: the 1000 men he had wanted to mobilize were all new recruits who had little to no battle experience and military training and was not that much stronger than average farmer troops. On the other hand, the enemy had a huge fortified wall to hide behind and also knew the terrain well. They also had an advantage in numbers as the scenario of the women and elderly helping out with the defense that Lorist once mentioned was extremely possible.
Lorist laughed bitterly and said, "We don't have that much time. Even if the duke doesn't deploy his troops after hearing Baron Camorra's report, he will be more than happy to let the 2000-strong force of the Kenmays Family attack us first. Since we can only train elite soldiers by letting them fight actual battles, the casualties we will get is a price we have to pay. When compared to Duke Loggins, the people of Wildnorth Town are relatively easier to handle, so it's better to tackle that problem first. And we should also take into account that the conflict with the Northland Army will not end that swiftly, so we must also make preparations for a long, drawn-out battle."
"Is there no chance for us to take the gates of Wildnorth Town by way of a surprise assault and catch them off-guard?" Patt asked with a hint of dissatisfaction.
Lorist merely shook his head.
Old Butler Gleis explained to his grandson, "Deploying our troops to attack the Wildnorth Town will not happen instantly. We have to rally the soldiers and prepare the supplies we need during the expedition which will take at least two to three days to get done. Given how close the family bastide is to Wildnorth Town, any such movements we make will definitely be taken notice by them in no time. There are also many of the servants within the bastide who have familial relations with those of Wildnorth Town and it is entirely possible for them to notify the enemy in advance of our mobilization. By the time we arrive, they will have made their preparations long ago. That's why there isn't much we can plan for this assault; there is only one way and that is attacking head-on with full force."
Lorist announced, "Alright, it's decided. Pajik, you will be in charge of rallying and training soldiers here in the Maplewoods Bastide. Joe, when you escort Baron Camorra to Firmrock Castle tomorrow, lead the company of troops formed from the slave laborers as well as one of the defensive squad troops we have stationed over there back here and leave Ovidis in charge of defending that place. Paulobins will accompany you on your trip. Reidy, I need you to make a trip to the military base tomorrow and tell Hausky and Jim to bring their mercenaries over here and let Supervisor Kedan take charge of the construction work."
After making a few final thoughts, Lorist said, "All is set. We will mobilize our troops three days from now to attack Wildnorth Town."
When Lorist and the rest were discussing the plan of attacking Wildnorth Town, the atmosphere outside the Maplewoods Bastide castle was extremely merry and hectic. About 40 bored Northland Army soldiers started shouting at the guards on the walls of the castle and made many demands such as wanting more meat and alcohol as well as some allowance from the Norton Family for making them travel so far. They also demanded for women to be provided to serve them and to console their lonely hearts through the stillness of the night.
The soldiers gradually shouted their demands rhythmically as protesters would their slogans. "Give us money! Give us meat and wine! Give us women!..."
As their shouting got louder and louder, the gates to the castle opened and the ambassador and the knights that had went in earlier that morning emerged looking crestfallen and down. They didn't even leave with the mounts they had rode into the castle and some of them were even carrying corpses on their backs. The Gold ranked knight, Tabik, was being carefully carried by four knights who were using their capes as a stretcher.
The soldiers of the Northland Army were all dumbstruck at that sight before they were awoken by one of the Silver ranked knights who ordered them to quickly take care of the corpses as well as the unconscious Tabik. It didn't take long before the men realized that they had messed with the wrong people and the merry atmosphere within the camp returned to its former seriousness as they started to wonder whether the Norton Family would allow them to return unscathed.
After eating a simple meal, Baron Camorra paced around within his tent impatiently. He wasn't worried at being attacked in the middle of the night by the Nortons as traditional noble families like them had their own brand of pride and they usually wouldn't resort to underhanded methods like that.
Since that Norton Family leader is even more arrogant than the duke himself, he definitely would disdain doing something as devious as that.
Before the baron left for this expedition, he had never expected that he would actually fail. Given that the Norton Family had turned against the duke completely and had become his enemy, it was a given that the duke would mobilize his army in response.
Even though it was already rather late into the night, the baron still didn't feel like sleeping. He was troubled because he still didn't understand the true might of the Norton Family given that they had dared to choose to become the enemy of the duke. No matter how good the Norton soldiers' equipment were, it would only have limited efficacy against the 20000-strong Northland Army. Aren't the Nortons afraid that they will be attacked? What in the world are they planning?
At that moment, a soldier of the Northland Army peeked into the tent. Baron Camorra asked, "What's wrong?"
The soldier replied, "Milord, a few people have arrived outside the camp and they said that they would like to meet you. They are respectively the squad leader of the Wildnorth Town garrison force and one of the elders of Wildnorth Town, which is located within the Norton Family dominion..."