Conference of the Nobles
Yuriy escorted seven representatives of the allied noble armies to Geldos City with his squad of light cavalry scouts.
Respectfully and politely receiving them, Lorist and Charade invited the representatives into the duke manor to start the discussion.
However, Lorist quickly noticed that something was off as the representatives did not seem to be too happy about Count Cobry's demise and had instead put the convoy in a bad light. They believed that the convoy had overstepped its boundaries by attacking and conquering the count's domain and it wasn't something the allied noble were willing to tolerate.
The representatives then demanded that the convoy leave Geldos City at once and surrender Burdock Bastide, Williamiles Castle and Geldos City as well as all the resources within to the noble alliance. One old representative who sported a long goatee even said that Lorist's act of crucifying the count was a huge insult on the dignity of all nobles and could be considered an act of aggression towards the whole of the Redlis Kingdom's nobles. He even said that no noble would allow for any of their own to be killed and publicly displayed on the cross like a lowly bandit.
"Who do you think you are?" said Lorist angrily as he glared at the flailing old man who was so passionate in his accusations that he spat out saliva with every word he uttered.
"I am Viscount Snaff and as a noble, I demand you, the person in charge of this merchant convoy, to give me the due respect. What authority do you have to be able to punish a person of noble birth?" responded the old man proudly.
"Very well, Viscount Snaff," said Lorist as he stood straight up. "I will take that as an insult to the Norton Family. And that, is something I can never forgive. I hereby declare war on behalf of the Norton Family against the Snaff Family. May the stronger prevail and the weaker perish."
"Milord, I'm awaiting your orders!" said Lode Wales as he stepped forward.
Looking at the map, Lorist smiled and said, "Viscount Snaff's territory is not far from Williamiles Castle. I give you 3 days to lead your heavy-armored cavalry company and the soldiers stationed at Williamiles Castle to flatten the viscount's dominion. Don't let anyone in his family escape. I won't mind completing what Count Cobry left unfinished."
"Yes, milord. I will definitely carry out your orders without fail!" said Loze as he gave the 7 noble representatives a harsh glare before taking wide steps and leaving the room immediately. Without much delay, the loud sounds of soldiers gathering and horses galloping away from the manor could be heard from the outside, gradually fading away.
Only silence remained within the hall as the arrogant Viscount Snaff slumped to the ground with a pale expression without being able to utter a single word.
The remaining 6 representatives looked at each other with weird expressions as if they had noticed that they had neglected something important.
Finally, a white-haired old man broke the silence and asked, "Sir, may I ask if you're a m-merchant convoy or not?"
"Hehe, I'm glad someone noticed this point. Didn't you guys bother to find that out when you came into the manor? We are not just some merchant convoy. I am Baron Norton Lorist, the head of the Norton Family of the Northlands. This convoy is led by me on the way back to our homeland," said Lorist.
"But sir, as a noble yourself, it's still not appropriate for you to nail the count on the cross. I believe that Viscount Snaff was not mistaken on that part," said the white-haired old man bravely.
"You have a point. However, I was not punishing him as a noble. The reason he was nailed on the cross is because he had disguised himself and masqueraded as the infamous bandit Redbeard and raided countless merchant convoys in the Bodolger Province years back. If you people don't believe it, please look at this journal over here. This is the count's personal journal during his days of raiding merchant convoys. There are a few others like this as well. Reidy, let these representatives see the rest of the entries," said Lorist.
With stone-cold evidence presented to them, the six representatives were at a loss of words.
"May I ask if your family is the one that had been enfeoffed territory in the Northlands during the founding days of the Krissen Empire, the family of the Raging Roaring Bear? And, how has the count wronged you?" asked another representative who had a chubby body.
Lorist nodded and said, "That's right, our family is the Raging Roaring Bear of the Northlands. I formed the convoy after receiving a letter of summons from my family to return to the dominion to inherit the position of the family head after 10 years of studying at Morante City. However, as I was passing through the area, my convoy was attacked by the forces of the count out of nowhere. Fortunately, the force I had assembled to escort the convoy was strong enough and managed to wipe the attackers out and even allowed me to catch a few prisoners alive.
"It was some of the prisoners who told me that they had been involved in serving the count during his days of raising merchant convoys as the bandit, Redbeard. If you may be so inclined, please refer to the records of the exploits of Redbeard in the Bodolger Province 7 years ago. That was the time when the merchant convoy of the Norton Family perished by the hands of the count. After all these years, my family has been searching for the bandit and we have finally found him only recently. It was precisely because of that the Norton Family declared war against the count and successfully eliminated him and his 67 illegitimate sons."
"Sir, it is our fault for misunderstanding the situation and thinking that your convoy was just a normal merchant convoy. The ignorant commit no sin, please forgive Viscount Snaff. He will definitely be willing to make up for his rude behavior towards your family."
"Hehe, it is not me the viscount has to apologize to, but you guys instead," said Lorist with a laugh as he took out a few letters from the box on the table.
"Please check these letters out. After conquering Geldos City, we have discovered them within the study of Count Cobry and they actually contain intelligence reports of the allied noble armies' military movements sent by Viscount Snaff to the count. He also mentioned in these letters that he would try his best to disrupt the unity of the various nobles in the alliance and cause as much trouble as he can. I had originally intended to give these letters to you so that you can take care of him yourself. I really didn't expect him to hand himself up on a platter to me. He must have a death wish."
The six nobles held the letters in their shivering hands as they read through the contents...
All of a sudden, the white-haired noble tossed the letter away and leaped towards Viscount Snaff to give him a sound pummeling and even savagely bit the viscount's ear off, causing Viscount Snaff to scream out in agony.
The rest of the nobles quickly stopped the white-haired man from continuing his beating with much difficulty. But, that did not stop him from swallowing the ear of the viscount whole into his stomach. With blood trailing out of his mouth, he sat down and started crying out loud. "My poor son... Benny... You're death was completely in vain!"
The chubby noble started explaining, "Baron Douglas is far too pained from the death of his son, Knight Benny, from an enemy ambush during an operation he led to ransack the count's warehouse. Just now, the letter he read was the one the viscount sent to notify Count Cobry about the plans on that day."
Sympathizing with Baron Douglas, Lorist said, "Having one's most beloved sacrificed as a result of an ally's betrayal is one of the hardest things for a person to accept. Please pass my condolences to Baron Douglas when he calms down. As for Viscount Snaff, I will hand over his territory to your alliance. Since so many unexpected developments had happened today, let's adjourn this meeting and continue two days later."
The chubby noble bowed to Lorist and said, "Respected Lord Norton, forgive me for asking, but, what kind of business did you intend to discuss with us?"
Lorist nodded back in response and asked, "May I know your name?"
The chubby noble patted on his belly and introduced himself. "I am Baron Henderson and my family crest is that of the razor-sharp spearhead."
"Respectful greetings, Lord Baron. I wish to discuss with the army about the handling of the count's dominion. Because the Norton Family convoy has to continue the journey to the north, I don't wish to leave any loose ends for the nobles here to clear up. Also, I've also rescued 7 noble ladies whose families have been decimated. As a noble myself, I would definitely help another fellow noble out in times of trouble. After finishing arranging these matters, we will leave Geldos City," said Lorist.
"Hmmm..." The baron was a little stunned as according to the customs of nobles, the victor in a fight between two noble families had the right to all the properties of the loser. Given Lorist's status as a noble, it was only right for him to be the one to manage the properties of the count as he saw fit. Lorist's decision to invite the representatives over for discussion was quite unlike the behavior of normal nobles. That's why they had mistaken the convoy for being a merchant convoy and behaved so arrogantly given their higher status to the point when they thought that the raging bear flag was only an insignia of a merchant guild.
"Lord Norton, you're saying that you're willing to give up Geldos City and leave the area?" Even though Baron Henderson was a chubby fellow, he had quite the sharp mind and recovered from his astonishment quite quickly.
"That's correct. My family's dominion is in the desolate Northlands and we have never forgotten the oath our ancestor had sworn to protect the northern borders of the empire. Even though the Krissen Empire is no longer present, we still have to return to the Northlands. We only wiped out Count Cobry because of an old grudge we had with him as well as the despicable way in which he was treating the other landed nobles in the area. Now that the Cobry Family is already no more, we should discuss about what to do with the 13 territories the count had conquered as well as Williamiles Castle, Burdock Bastide and Geldos City. After all, the allied noble armies did play their part in resisting the count as well."
To the noble representatives, Lorist's statement was akin to having gold coins fall right out of the sky. Even Baron Douglas who was crying his eyes out before stopped and stared at Lorist with his mouth agape.
Charade came over from the side, made a knight salute, and lifted the baron up before asking for a servant to bring over a basin and a towel for him. After that he instructed the guards to lock up Viscount Snaff who was moaning in pain on the ground from having his ear bitten off.
Baron Henderson was the first one to snap out of it and he deeply bowed again before saying, "Respected Lord Baron Norton, your generosity has truly captivated us and truly outshines both the sun and the moon. I wonder if the allied noble armies can assist you with anything? Please don't hesitate to request anything of us."
At that moment, Baron Henderson had completely forgotten the fact that Lorist had yet to formally inherit the title and called him Lord Baron right away. He also understood that there was no free lunch in this world and offered any assistance he could give for the benefits the alliance was about to receive.
Looking at Baron Henderson with a gaze of admiration, Lorist said, "Actually, I only have a small request. First, Viscount Tebri is an ally of the Norton Family, but his family has almost been wiped out entirely due to an unfortunate turn of events. With Mister Tim as the sole person alive that inherits the viscount's blood, and the fact that he had been a huge help to our fight against the count this time around, I have decided to acknowledge him as the formal heir of Viscount Tebri to perpetuate the Tebri Family line. I hope that the noble alliance would recognize Mister Tim's birthright so that he has a smooth transition to nobility."
"There will be no problem. Many of us know Mister Tim. Since he is the only one alive with the blood of the Terbris, we will naturally accept him as the heir to the late viscount's dominion and title," agreed Baron Henderson.
"Second, the Anlar Family, whose dominion is beside Viscount Tebri's dominion, has also been wiped out due to the count with only the daughter of the late Baron Anlar surviving the whole ordeal. Having rescued the Lady Anlar, I have decided for her to form a marriage alliance with Mister Tim and I hope that their union will receive your blessings."
"That is a given. We will definitely congratulate them on their marriage and send them fitting wedding gifts," said the six representatives unanimously.
"Third, as both Baron Anlar's and Viscount Terbi's dominions have been ravaged as a result of the count's attacks, I will be giving the control of Burdock Bastide to Tim and his wife so that they would have something to rely on to redevelop their dominions. I hope that the noble alliance will accept that proposition and promise to not violate this arrangement and disrupt the lives of this couple. Naturally, to make up for that, I intend to hand over Williamiles Castle and Geldos City to the noble alliance as well as the deeds for the lands lost by the 13 noble families to the count as well as the six noble ladies that were kept in captivity by the count. Oh, and the treatment of the family members of the count's dead soldiers will also be handed to the alliance."
Baron Henderson felt his throat run dry and found himself to be unable to utter even a word in response. He gave the rest of the representatives a glance and said, "Lord Norton, please state any other requests you have so that I will be able to relay it to the rest of the members of the noble alliance as this is no longer a matter that us seven can decide on our own. I will invite them over here to further talk about this matter, is that alright with you?"
"Of course, my final request is for our convoy to be allowed to stay at Geldos City for a while longer, about another month. Due to the scale and size of the convoy, we need to prepare for some time before we can leave and continue on our journey. I hope that you will be able to understand that. That aside, our convoy has brought along with us quite a large amount of weapons and equipment. So, if any of you wish to purchase some, we can offer them to you at a discounted price."
After Baron Henderson and the rest of the representatives sent word about the issue back to the alliance, various nobles have been pouring into Geldos City nonstop to purchase weapons. Potterfang and Loze had also successfully destroyed Viscount Snaff's territory in one fell swoop and demonstrated the military might of the convoy to the allied noble armies.
Seven days later, the noble alliance meeting finally began. On the first day, all the nobles agreed to Lorist's requests. Lorist had also handed half of the administration rights of Williamiles Castle and Geldos City to the alliance and also returned the 13 land deeds, the six noble ladies that they have rescued, as well as the family members of the dead soldiers who had served the count, including the family members of Viscount Snaff.
Ever since that day, the nobles of the alliance kept arguing over the things that have just gained. The only thing they managed to agree on was the labeling of Viscount Snaff as a traitor and the execution of him and his family members. However, that in itself sparked yet another dispute among the nobles on how to divide the viscount's territory.
Charade, on the other hand, spent the following days in absolute bliss. He hoped that the relations between the nobles would be as bad as possible, as the increased tension between the members of the alliance had increased the sales of the weapons, mounts as well as supplies. The current state of affairs had already spurred countless nobles to come to the convoy to make large amounts of purchases.
As of now, Lorist had 4 heavy-armored cavalry companies and 2 pike infantry regiments under his command. Even the Gold ranked mercenary, Chino Freiyar, had been persuaded by Josk to follow Lorist to the Northlands. Thus, Lorist named him the colonel of the newly-formed garrison regiment. As Charade had mentioned before, given the convoy's military might, no normal noble family would be able to pose a threat to them. And any fool of a noble that dared to provoke them was not even worth putting into consideration.
The coming of the 2nd month signalled Lorist's departure from the convoy to head to the Northlands accompanied only by Shadekampf, Patt, Reidy and the relentless Josk who wanted to tag along no matter what. They departed after saying their goodbyes to Charade, Potterfang, Els and the other family knights.