At the harbor, the family's soldiers detained all the sailors who manned Sloph's ships and brought the captain and the three vice captains back to the bastide for vetting.
Sloph and Blademaster Pike's heads were impaled on stakes and held up high in the air. Lorist displayed their heads at the town for three whole days to let the townsfolk know who's currently in charge. If the same situation where Charade was denied access to weapons and other provisions were to come again, Lorist didn't mind punishing a few of the townsfolk in case his message wasn't clear enough.
Sloph's henchmen had carried down three large chests and one small one from the ship before they died. The first large chest stored various goods such as tea leaves and macks. In the second one was Blademaster Pike and Sloph's personal belongings. The third large chest contained cosmetics and clothes for women. It was apparent that Sloph was rather fond of his concubines and often spoiled them with gifts. Too bad he wasn't alive to see that the women had already been distributed among the senior students of the academy back at the bastide.
Lorist opened the small chest and found around 10000 gold Fordes within and thought, Charade would definitely be delighted to see this.
After that, Potterfang and Loze got off the ship and said to Lorist, "Milord, the rest of the stuff on the ship is mostly food, mainly rye flour and bran, that is probably meant for the slaves. There are also a few piles of rough linen and a couple of spears and armor."
"Alright, transport all these stuff to the bastide. Loze, have a pike infantry company stationed here to watch these ships," said Lorist.
"Yes, milord." Potterfang and Loze saluted and left.
Dulles rode over on a horse and dismounted. He appeared quite downcast as his carroballista unit didn't get to show off their might. Lorist had originally planned for them to fire at the Blademaster along with the crossbowmen company if his javelins weren't having any effect on him. It was a 'shame' that the Blademaster couldn't last until that moment.
"Come on, don't look so down. Get these chests onto your carroballistas. One of them contains stuff for women. Go pick some stuff from it to gift to your maidservants. I'm sure they'll return the favor graciously during the night," teased Lorist.
Suddenly, a cavalry scout could be seen riding quickly into the plaza. Stopping in front of Lorist, he said, "Milord, there's an armed group heading towards the Sloph Bastide. Sir Yuriy believes that they're the forces of the local dominion lord. They number around 1500 to 2000 people, with most being civilian farmers and a few knights. Sir Yuriy asks if he should attack them. Currently, the light cavalry scout unit is only observing from afar."
"Tell Knight Yuriy not to be reckless and send someone over to communicate with them. If the other party is hostile, use hit-and-run tactics and try to keep the casualties low. If they're not here for a fight, tell their commander that I'll meet up with him and explain the situation right away," said Lorist to the scout.
"Yes, milord." The scout quickly left the way it came.
Scratching his chin, Lorist was thinking that the dominion lord's reaction to this situation was a little too slow. He had already wiped out the slavers and occupied the bastide for eight whole days. And during the last two days, he had also enforced a curfew on the citizens at the town to make sure that no word of his ambush spreads out. In normal circumstances, the dominion lord should be aware of a situation right away. However, not one of their scouts could be seen during the past few days at the bastide until after he sealed up Armatrin Harbor. The lord probably assembled an army to come inspect the situation as the harbor was probably pivotal to the dominion's economy.
"Patt, put those two heads into boxes and pack them up nicely. We're going to give the local lord a gift," instructed Lorist.
Lorist quickly arrived at a small hill, guided by Yuriy and his scouts, who then took got into formation and lined up neatly.
"Milord, look. If we charge over from here, I'm sure those people would definitely turn into shambles right away. They're just farmers, not true soldiers," said Yuriy, full of confidence in his own unit.
At a hill in the distance, groups of farmers with pitchforks and woodcutting axes as weapons loitered around in a disorderly manner. Yuriy must have already sent someone to inform them that they were not the forces of the slave traders but rather the personal armed forces of another baron. That was why they looked so relaxed and didn't bother to get into formation. Some even sat down to rest and and chat with the others around them.
On the top of the hill were a group of armored knights who looked straight in Lorist's direction. Behind them was a flag that depicted a small white flower. Lorist didn't recognize the family from the insignia, however.
"So, tell me. What comes after you beat them into shambles? You want to cause trouble with the rest of the nobles around here and prompt them to form an alliance against us? Here in foreign lands, we have no one else to rely on. From an ethical and legal standpoint, we are in the wrong as this is not our home dominion," said Lorist.
"Ugh......" Yuriy stopped talking right away. He merely felt the unbearable urge to attack the disorganized farmers without thinking too much about the implications.
"Patt, bring the family flag with us. Reidy, carry the boxes with you. We're going over there for a bit," said Lorit as he got on his horse and wanted to leave right away.
Yuriy pulled on the reins of Lorist's horse and said, "Milord, wouldn't it be dangerous for you to go personally with so few people..."
"I'm fine. We will appear more sincere and less hostile with lesser people. And don't forget to look to your back. Potterfang's heavy-armored battalion is almost here and Terman's knight brigade is already stationed there. The crossbowman company as well as Dulles's carroballista unit is also on the way. Trust me, they wouldn't dare try to mess with the likes of us," said Lorist as he pointed to the back. Yuriy turned his head to look and saw Terman's knights arriving at the foot of the hill.
"Then, may your departure be swift and safe," said Yuriy as he let the reins go. Lorist then led Patt and Reidy to the opposite hill in the distance.
When they reached the foot of the hill, Lorist dismounted and handed the reins of his horse to Reidy and paced towards the group of people clad in extravagant-looking armor quickly. Patt followed behind on his horse while carrying the battle standard of the Nortons with Reidy at the back with Lorist's horse.
"May I know which one of you is the dominion lord?" said Lorist to the group of armored men.
"I am Baron Miranda, Lord of Armatrin Harbor. May I know who you are?" said a fully-armored man at the front of the others as he removed his helmet to reveal his exhausted looking, middle-aged face.
"I am here to pay my due respect, Lord Baron. I am Norton Lorist of the Northlands," said Lorist as he bowed and saluted the baron.
"Norton? I think I've heard that name somewhere before......" said the baron as he stared hard at the battle standard with the symbol of a raging bear that Patt was carrying.
"Oh, I remember now. The Roaring Raging Bear of the Northlands. The Nortons are a nobles who have been entitled by the emperor because of military merit. I'm curious as to why someone from so far in the north would be here in my dominion and even seal off my harbor?" asked Baron Miranda as he stared hard at Lorist.
Lorist shrugged and said, "Lord Baron, my army is just here to escort me back to my homeland to inherit the position of the family head. I myself didn't expect that they would get attacked by hostile forces within your dominion who intended to capture them and sell them off as slaves."
Baron Miranda's expression darkened as he cursed, "That damned slaver group..."
"However, they didn't know that we were actually an army and we wiped them out entirely after our reinforcements arrived and occupied their main camp. I think it was called, um, Sloph Bastide or something... As for sealing off the harbor, Lord Baron, I deeply apologize for that as we had no choice and had to ensure that we remove the enemy entirely. Reidy, bring me the box."
Lorist opened the box and showed the two heads to the baron. "Lord Baron, these are the heads of the leaders of the enemy who dared to provoke us, Sloph and Blademaster Pike. We neutralized them at the harbor just one hour ago."
"What? You managed to kill Sloph and Blademaster Pike?" said Baron Miranda, shocked. He then revealed an ecstatic expression and asked, "Is that for real?"
The baron's men also started chattering out loud and gathered to look at the heads within the box.
"The heads are right here. You're free to check them as you please, Lord Baron."
Baron Miranda personally dismounted and took the box from Reidy without even bothering to ask his subordinates to do it.
"Hahaha, it really is Pike and Sloph. These damned bastards, I didn't expect that they would ever end up like this." Baron Miranda was so elated that he started laughing out loud and lost all composure. It seemed that the rumors and reports that he received about the death of Sloph was true after all.
At that moment, the baron's men started a commotion again, as on the opposite hill, rows and rows of heavy-armored soldiers, crossbowmen, knights and carroballistas could be seen. The look on Baron Miranda's face instantly changed as he asked, "Is that your army?"
"That is right, Lord Baron," replied Lorist.
"Your army looks like it can even rival that of a kingdom! Why would the slavers even dare to attack you in the first place?" No sane person would dare to challenge an army such as that and expect to escape unscathed. Baron Miranda suspected that Lorist was merely using the slavers as an excuse to pillage the bastide.
"Lord Baron, when we first arrived at your dominion, we didn't intend to cause any trouble and wanted to keep a low profile. That is why I ordered my forces to disarm and not bring any of their equipment over. But, that made the slavers think that we were another slave trading group and demanded that we give them half of the people we had. We tried to explain who we really were but they didn't believe it and even sent people to attack us. I had no choice but to give the order to exterminate them. You can go ask the citizens of the town. We were truly unarmed when we first docked at the harbor."
After listening to the explanation, Baron Miranda understood that there was no way that Lorist could be lying as the truth could easily be discerned by asking the townsfolk. It would seem that the slavers truly did look for trouble themselves this time and ended up being completely eradicated.
Looking at the heads in the boxes again, Baron Miranda revealed a smile and waved for two of his knights behind him and told them to ransack seven or eight different shops that he listed.
"These shops are all owned by Sloph's relatives. The lot of them completely monopolized the whole market at the harbor to the point that I, the dominion lord, couldn't collect even a single copper of tax from the sales they make, causing me to be unable to develop the harbor at all," explained Baron Miranda.
Lorist nodded and thought that this baron did indeed have a knack for business and management. He called Reidy to accompany the two knights to the town so that their pike infantry company don't attack them by mistake.
"You said that you already took over the Sloph Bastide?" asked Baron Miranda.
Lorist smiled and understood what the baron was getting at. "That's right,, Lord Baron. Please rest assured as I will be staying here for another month at most. As there are many family members of the soldiers in my army, it would take quite a bit of time for us to prepare before we can leave. We should be leaving for the north during the new year and will hand over the management of the bastide to you."
The baron's face reddened with embarrassment as according to the traditions and customs of nobles, the bastide rightfully belonged to Lorist as he was the one who had occupied it and he had no obligation to return it to the local lord. Normally, if the lord wanted to reclaim the place, he would have to pay a sum of gold in return. However, Lorist was prepared to give it back unconditionally and only asked to be given a month's time. This made Baron Miranda feel a little bad for gaining Lorist's favor without paying any remuneration.
"How about this? Let me pay for all the resources and expenses you would incur during your stay at the bastide. I will definitely fulfill my responsibilities as the Armatrin Harbor's lord," said Baron Miranda.
"Thank you for your consideration," said Lorist gratefully. "If you have the time, why don't you come over to visit the bastide and let me offer you some hospitality while I'm here?" he offered.
Baron Miranda eyed the rows of soldiers on the opposite side and looked back at his subordinates before nodding and saying, "Alright, Your Excellency. Let me disband my men before I go to visit you at the bastide."
As Lorist had yet to officially succeed the title and position of the family head, he couldn't be addressed as 'Lord Baron', so Baron Miranda could only refer to him respectfully as 'Your Excellency'. But it wasn't undeserved given the amount of soldiers Lorist commanded.
Lorist saluted respectfully once more and said, "Then I will await your arrival at the bastide."
Baron Miranda only brought five knights and fifty other members of his personal guard during his visit to the bastide.
On that day, Lorist organized a grand banquet to receive the baron and his four knights and introduced his own knights to them as well, causing Baron Miranda to be envious of the talent Lorist had under his wing. However, he noticed that Lorist's servants behaved quite oddly, specifically, their mannerisms. Lorist laughed bitterly and said that the servants were actually family members of many of his subordinates who only worked for the sake of the banquet. He mentioned that he didn't feel comfortable with handing the task to the servants of the bastide just in case something goes wrong and has detained them along with the other family members of the slavers. He said that he would leave their judgment and treatment to the baron.
Baron Miranda was glad at that proposal and said that he would send some of his own servants over to help out within the bastide for the time being. Lorist also handed the family members of the slavers to his disposal. Whether he sold them or used them, the baron would profit either way.
When the banquet ended, Baron Miranda asked Lorist a question. Given that only three of Lorist's subordinates were Gold ranks, how did he manage to take care of Blademaster Pike? He mentioned that if Sloph didn't have the Blademaster backing him up, he would have taken the slavers out long ago as a lord like him couldn't let some other power call the shots within his own dominion.
Lorist thought for a bit before he took a silver cup and placed it into a small basin. "If one fights against a Blademaster in close combat, one would be like the cup inside this basin and would find it hard to escape the control of the basin. The method I used to counteract that is much easier."
He put the basin back on the table and tossed the silver cup towards it. With a clang, the basin shattered into many pieces.
"It's just that simple," said Lorist. He credited the death of the Blademaster to his crossbowman company. "Even if someone is a Blademaster, when faced with a fully-equipped and properly trained army, he wouldn't even stand a chance."
Baron Miranda nodded incessantly with a look of understanding on his face.