Forming yet Another Convoy
Lorist just noticed that a new problem had arisen; he had up to 300 captives from the defeated bandit group. Even though they participated in the barring of the town gates, they haven't actually killed any townsfolk yet nor did they clash with the town garrison's soldiers as their forces had been crumbled thoroughly by Lorist's group. All the leaders were killed except for Ovidis, who had surrendered to him and became one of his loyal subordinates before he left for the bandit stronghold with Josk and the others.
That all resulted in the 300 or so surrendered bandit captives becoming Lorist's personal property. That meant that before he could decide what he wanted to do with them, he would have to be responsible for their food and shelter.
The garrison captain who was despairing just moments before was now full of smiles, causing Lorist to grimace in disgust. He circled around Lorist and made sure he had everything he needed as if he owed him hundreds of gold coins.
Currently, Lorist was seated on a sofa that the garrison captain had brought over and was drinking a cup of fragrant tea that he had been served. Beside him, the garrison captain was rinsing a cloth with warm water for Lorist to use to wipe the grime and sweat off his face...
Had that all happened on the veranda of the inn they were staying in, Lorist would no doubt feel incredibly pleasant with the hospitality and care he had been shown. However, in front of him at that moment sat the 300 captive bandits, causing him to feel more like a circus freak instead from the bandits' awkward stares.
"Are you sure you can't take the bandits into your hands?" asked Lorist once again.
"That's a given, milord. These are your captives and they're your property. I wouldn't dare to have any designs for a noble's property..." exclaimed the garrison captain solemnly.
Lorist waved his hand in frustration and continued, "Then what the heck do I do with them? If you don't take them captive, would I have to spend my money to feed them? Wouldn't it be better for me to simply release them?"
"Milord, whether you release them or not is up to you. However, I must remind you that these are bandits. If you release them, they'll only be of harm to the people. I'm sure your reputation would be impacted if word of this got out..." said the garrison captain with a feigned expression of concern for Lorist.
"Sol, if I had known that earlier, I would've killed them all instead of having them cause trouble for me while alive..." Lorist complained.
The garrison captain was merely taking a gamble. He knew that the noble youth before him was not a person to mess with. However, he did not doubt that Lorist would really have killed the bandits if he knew that it was going to end up like this after seeing Lorist's group wipe out the 500-strong bandit group, especially that Gold ranked Wolf of Plate Mountain that had caused the local dominion lord huge losses for two separate instances along with the several Silver ranked bandit leaders.
Including him, the whole of the garrison soldiers respected Lorist like he was some sort of war god. The demise of the Plate Mountain Bandits within a single morning was nothing short of a pipe dream for them before Lorist's arrival.
The garrison captain walked up to him and said, "Milord, you don't have to be in such a rush. I've already informed the local lord on the matter when the town gates were first surrounded. I'm sure that the lord would arrive at this town within two days. At that time, you can hand the bandits to him and I'm sure he would provide you with some remuneration for your contributions here. To me, the bandit captives are actually sacks of gold coins."
"I don't lack any gold now. I just don't want any more trouble. Tell me, where would I keep these captives? Maybe you could lend me your garrison camp for that purpose at least?"
"Oh, that won't do, milord. The garrison camp is actually really small and it definitely wouldn't be able to hold that many people. If a small incident breaks out, chaos would definitely ensue. I think the best option we have now is to set up a separate camp," explained the garrison captain.
While setting up another prisoner camp would be a comparatively better idea, it did cost quite a substantial amount of money. Aside from the materials required to set up camp, a management fee had to be paid to the local lord for the consumables they needed to sustain the prisoners like firewood and clean water. This was another person's dominion after all; even the smallest rock was the property of the local lord and it definitely couldn't be used without an appropriate fee payment or remuneration. Even though that wouldn't cost him much, Lorist hated to deal with the paperwork that usually followed.
"Sol..." mumbled Lorist as he stood up and took a pouch of coins out of his pockets and handed it to the garrison captain. "I've never heard of a person having to feed the bandits he captured after defeating them... Whatever, I don't care anymore. I'll be going back to take a rest. Here's 20-odd gold coins that should be enough to cover whatever is needed for the camp. If there's any left over after all that, split it among your men as bonus for looking after the prisoners."
The garrison captain bowed respectfully and said, "Milord, please be assured that I will handle this properly."
"Reidy..." Lorist called out. "I'll leave this place to you, so be careful. Also, don't forget to clean up the weapons on the ground as well as the Wolf of Plate Mountain's head which we will need to claim the bounty."
"Yes, milord," said Reidy casually.
"Freaking hell... If only I can kill a couple of them to cut my costs..." mumbled Lorist.
After returning to Wine and Weary Birds, Lorist ordered a large feast that included a bottle of the famous local wine. Even though the skirmish in the morning didn't take long, he felt very worn out after that especially having to care for his mount after riding it around all day. Lorist slept for the whole night soundly after finishing his meal.
He woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and free of the fatigue from seven days of travel and the battle the day before. Halfway finishing breakfast in his room, he suddenly recalled that Shadekampf came by in the middle of the night to inform him of something, but he went straight back to sleep after telling Shadekampf to do whatever he saw fit.
And so he headed to the room shared by Shadekampf and Patt, but those two were not there. After going to check on Reidy's and Josk's rooms, he noticed that Reidy wasn't not present as well with Josk sound asleep in his own room.
Lorist understood that Josk was probably worn out like him after the battle and closed the door carefully without bothering him. He then decided to go check on the situation of the bandit captives.
The moment he exited the city gates, he saw the full-bearded Ovidis leading 100-odd fully-equipped men doing military drills...
Huh? What the heck is going on?
Looking at the surroundings, he noticed tens of other garrison soldiers observing the training.
Upon noticing Lorist's arrival, Ovidis hastily ordered his men to stand at rest and quickly ran over to Lorist and bowed respectfully. "Milord, the guard squad is currently undergoing training. Please give us your orders!"
Since when did we have a guard squad? Why don't I know about this? Without revealing his inner thoughts, Lorist pointed at the hundreds of men looking in his direction and asked, "Where did you rally the people from?"
Ovidis puffed out his chest and replied loudly, "Reporting to milord, 38 of those men are my own subordinates. When we went to the stronghold yesterday to plunder the goods, Shadekampf also managed to get thirty other people to join us. After we returned, Patt suggested that we form a guard squad with the people that had joined us so that milord will look far more impressive upon your return to your homeland escorted by one. That's why he picked another 30 men from the bandit captives to fill up the numbers required for a full squad and appointed me to be the captain of these men. I believe Shadekampf had already notified you about this the night before."
"Yes..." said Lorist as he nodded. What the hell did Shadekampf say to me when I was half-asleep? Pointing towards the equipment Ovidis was wearing, Lorist asked, "Are the men loyal and reliable? Also, I know a Silver ranked like you won't have problems with wearing mail underneath a layer of scale armor, but will your men be able to endure the burden?"
"Milord, there is no such problem. I know these men really well: they had been forced into banditry to survive the harsh days after the war and didn't do much evil across the years. I'm sure they're more than happy to cast away their status as bandits to be in your service, especially after you've shown them your true abilities on the battlefield yesterday. I guarantee that they will definitely be loyal to you at all times. As for the equipment, those have been issued on the orders of Shadekampf. Given that the men have all awakened their Battle Force, two sets of armor isn't too much of a burden. Patt also said that the better armored they are, the less likely they are to die, thus being able to better protect you, milord."
"Sol, you people should worry about yourselves first. I don't need your protection..." humphed Lorist in a dissatisfied tone.
"Where is Shadekampf right now?" Lorist asked.
"Milord, Shadekampf has left with Reidy to town to do some shopping. Patt is within the army camp," replied Ovidis.
It was at that moment when Lorist discovered that the camp in front of him was separated into two sections, one large and one small. The large section was where the captives were kept and it was secured by the garrison troops while the smaller camp was where the guard squad stayed.
"Alright, since you're willing to serve me, I consider you as one of us now. So, don't be so polite all the time. Tell me, why are there women and children within the camp?" Lorist asked.
"This... MIlord, the ones within the army camp are the family members of some of the soldiers in the guard squad. The ones who are within the large camp are the family members of the captives. Sir Josk acted really benevolent yesterday as he allowed the family members to reunite with the captives the moment we returned to town. The family members of the killed bandits and the several wives of the Wolf of Plate Mountain are also staying there. Some of them are really beautiful, if you're interested, I can have my subordinates escort them over here to serve you..." said Ovidis with a serious look.
Whap! Lorist gave Ovidis a strike with his horse whip and said, "Mind your own business! I don't need you to look out for me on that front!"
Riding his horse into the army camp, Lorist saw Patt bringing an old man respectfully out of the tent.
Seeing Lorist come over, Patt hurriedly introduced the man to Lorist, "Grandmaster Sid, this is Lord Locke that I have mentioned to you..."
The old man did not even turn to look and passed by Lorist with his head held high.
Getting off his horse, Lorist looked at the man who had walked far away and asked Patt, "Who's that old guy? He's so rude."
Patt shrugged and said, "It can't be helped, he's a grandmaster after all. It's only natural for him to be pissed for being brought here against his will..."
"What kind of grandmaster is he? Did you have to bring him here by force?" Lorist asked curiously. Did Patt and the others go too far when they brought the bandits over?
"Milord, that old guy truly is a gem! He's a grandmaster armorer. The 100 plus armor sets we managed to retrieve from the defeated bandits were actually made by him over the past three years! He's also well-versed with looking for metal ore veins. The iron mine near the bandit stronghold is said to have been found by that old guy. He uses the materials gathered there primarily for making weapons and armor for the bandits."
"That's why you forced him to come with you?:"
"Ugh... About that... Shadekampf said that the family would desperately need someone like Grandmaster Sid, so we brought him and 10 others within his family all the way here," said Patt in an embarrassed fashion.
"Oh well, there's no point thinking too much about it now that he's here. After all, he can be considered to be part of our spoils since he was serving the bandits and is subject to whatever we have in mind for him. On another note, what did Shadekampf go to buy with Reidy?"
"Milord, we need to transport the resources we've obtained from the stronghold back to the dominion. Along with the new guard squad and their family members as well as Grandmaster Sid's family, we will need several other long-distance horse carriages and more horses. That's why Shadekampf went to town to search for some more," Patt replied.
Gosh... It's another convoy all over again...
Lorist looked at Patt with an exasperated look and said, "Patt, we have to rush back to the dominion as quickly as possible. What you're doing down isn't quite suited to that as the arrangements that are required might end up delaying us."
"That's not the case, milord. I've already discussed this with Shadekampf. During the past 7 days, we managed to travel up to 1000 kilometers and there's only around 1000 plus kilometers left before we reach the Northlands. However, we have more than 20 days of time before the inheritance ceremony. If we manage this carefully, and travel 75 kilometers per day, we will definitely be able to arrive at the dominion before the 3rd month. Due to leaving the convoy in a rush the last time, we didn't bring enough supplies with us to be transported to the dominion. Now that we have gained so much from the bandit stronghold, we might as well bring it back to there to fulfill the family's desperate need for them!" Patt beckoned.
"But aren't we bringing back lots of gold coins?" asked Lorist.
Patt gave a bitter laugh and said, "Milord, you'll soon come to learn that in the Northlands, even if you have money, you might not be able to get what you want due to stock availability. Even if there was stock, the price would easily be double that of the market's, and that could already be considered cheap in the Northlands. In normal circumstances, you should already be thankful for being able to purchase an item you want for three times the market value."
"Oh well, do whatever you want," said Lorist. From Patt's description of the situation, he now knew the severity of the lack of resources that plagued the Northlands and his family's urgent need for them. He really wondered if Charade would be disappointed to return to a dominion that was in that state...
Lorist decided to leave those matters to Shadekampf and Patt since they were so enthusiastic about it. When lunchtime came, he recalled the wine he had at the inn yesterday that tasted pretty good when coupled with the roasted goat and decided to go back to there to check on Josk before having his meal.
However, Josk was still fast asleep, so Lorist could only enjoy the meal by himself.
Just as he was tasting the wine, a feminine young woman clad in a waistcoat worn over a tight-fitting black gown came over to his table and made a lady's curtsy before she said, "Milord, may I have some of your time?"
Lorist nodded in response to the greeting and pulled over a chair for her to sit. "Excuse me, young lady, how may I help you?"
"I'm really sorry for interrupting your meal like this. I heard that you have been looking for carriages to transport things to the Northlands. Can I request to come along on the journey? We would like to go there as well, however we haven't been able to find a suitable person to travel with and were left stranded here. I wonder if you, milord, can grant me this small little boon?" The young woman's voice carried a hint of magnetic charm that made one feel pleasant upon hearing it.
"Oh, you're heading to the Northlands as well? That place is rather large, you know. Which part of it is your destination? I wonder we would pass through the area on the way," Lorist replied.
"We would like to head to the Norton Family's dominion, the family of the famous Raging Roaring Bear. I wonder if you've heard of them before?" asked that black-clad young woman.