Book 7, Chapter 84

The Battle Of Godstear Pass

The citizens of the Empire couldn’t believe the news when they heard that Prince Salwyn was now fighting under the Crimson Duke’s banner. He had always been the one most bent on going to war with Richard, so for him to turncoat so easily made no sense. Those from all walks of life started cursing him for his treachery, discussing how Rislant would defeat his rival head to head.

The magical map in Richard’s carriage changed on a daily basis, showing a red tide flowing into the vast lands of the Empire and surging towards the capital. A few black lines charged at them from time to time, attempting to block their advance, but all manner of guerilla warfare did little to curb the steady assault. Richard’s troops advanced six hours a day, covering a total of sixty kilometres before making camp; no challengers affected their path.

It was at the Godstear Pass that they met their greatest challenge since their invasion. 200 kilometres southwest of the imperial capital, this mountain pass was extremely cold and narrow, making for a natural barrier to block Richard’s men at. Only ten metres wide with the cliffs going up nearly a kilometre, it didn’t resemble natural terrain at all.

Legends spoke that it wasn’t. An ancient titan said to be an enemy of the gods had sundered the mountains here in an attack that brought about the fall of a deity. This was the reason for the name, and it was also the only break in the mountains for thousands of kilometres on either end. The path before and after this was completely open, so this was where Rislant had decided to make his stand.

Richard’s holographic map showed soldiers streaming in towards the pass from all parts of the Empire. More than 200,000 soldiers had gathered already, with other divisions on the way. More than half of the Empire’s forces had been mobilised, to the point that they weren’t even considering any other paths. Perhaps the only reason the rest weren’t moving was that there were other enemies that would tear into them if they did.

Several images of the pass were transmitted to Richard’s mind thrice a day. This was originally the southern tip of the Empire, but after repeated expansions, the fortress here had been abandoned and degraded over centuries. Thousands upon thousands of warriors were currently rebuilding the castle from its ruins.

Looking at the map, Richard commented, “He’s going to try and tire us out.”

Salwyn nodded his head from opposite him, “He’s always been a safe player. He only fights battles he thinks he’ll win; if he can’t gauge the opponent, he’ll choose defence first.”

“You said the Empire would need five times my number to defeat me? How many do you think Rislant will have by the time we get there?”

“500,000 minimum,” Salwyn replied quickly.

“Oh? Six times my number, isn’t he afraid of losing his reputation?”

“He’s more afraid of losing his life.”

Richard smiled and snapped his fingers, the red glow of the map flickering a little to show an image of the castle that was being rebuilt. Even as Salwyn looked at the image blankly, he spoke up, “It doesn’t matter how many soldiers he manages to gather, he’ll still fail. The difference between our planes isn’t something you can overcome with numbers.”

……

Seven days later, the vanguard of the Crimson Army finally reached the Godstear Pass. By this time, the castle had been rebuilt into a powerful fortress with more than 400,000 soldiers cramped into it, others still flowing in. Layers of wooden walls had been erected throughout the valley, the magical glow showing their enchantments. Strangely enough, none of these wall layers had any gates; Rislant had no plans of coming out.

Right before the pass, Richard’s 80,000 soldiers watched as an enemy more than five times their number turtled up. Allowing his soldiers their first full day of rest since the start of their march, he sent Salwyn out to ruthlessly humiliate Rislant.

His voice amplified by magic, Salwyn’s words rang in the ears of every imperial soldier as he hurled insult after derogatory comment towards their commander. As the man’s only peer as a general, he was perhaps the one who knew best to get under his skin and tarnish his reputation.

The prince emphasised one thing; ever since the Empire had been established, no marshal with such superior troops had chosen to close off and defend. The army was meant to be famous for their victories through frontal assaults.

Richard actually didn’t care about the psychological warfare itself; all he wanted was to parade Salwyn around to show that the rumours were true. In the eyes of the Iron Triangle Empire, this was a war that would decide their destiny. For him, it was a tame start to a series of battles where he had the freedom to test out the new strategies he had been planning.

Early morning the next day, a large batch of elite reconnaissance drones flew up from the Dukedom’s camp and circled the skies around the Godstear Pass. It wasn’t a secret anymore that he was using magical beasts to scout, so he was just open about it all. Hundreds of metres in the sky, no ordinary archers could pose a threat to them while the powerful ones who could didn’t want to waste energy when they could be attacked at any time. They were also afraid that this was a trap; if they revealed their positions, Richard could order the beasts to launch suicidal attacks.

Those of Faelor didn’t have much knowledge of Richard’s drones, only assuming that they answered to hidden trainers who could only roughly understand what they observed and direct them. Had Rislant known that whatever they saw was transmitted directly to Richard’s mind, he would have spared no cost to make sure they were shot down.

As the crimson sunrise slowly gave way to the golden rays of the morning, desolate warhorns seemed to whisper about the arrival of the reaper to every imperial soldier. Standing on a cloned brain to take to the sky, Richard got a view of the entire battleground from above. The equivalents of Norland’s saints and grand mages flew up from the imperial army in provocation, but he ignored them as he slowly raised a hand and pointed forward.

Soldiers surged forth like a current, thousands of humanoid cavalrymen charging out on their horses to encroach towards the first of the wooden barriers. Loud war drums echoed through the valley as they entered the range of the imperial archers, thousands upon thousands of arrows almost blotting out the sky as they rained down.

Each of the humanoids immediately raised up tower shields that had been hung on the magical horses, angling them almost straight upwards to cover most of the area. These shields that were metres long covered almost the entirety of the drone and beast, and their metallic construction deflected most attacks. Even the occasional arrows that made it through the tiny gaps couldn’t penetrate the heavy armour of either rider and mount, while the handful from high-level experts failed because they targeted what would be a vital weakness in a normal human.

Looking down from the castle’s hastily reconstructed keep, Rislant’s silver hair almost stood on end as he clutched the armrest of his chair tightly. Decades of experience had taught him that his slightest actions could affect his soldiers’ morale, but all of his practice had almost failed him at the first engagement.

The rain of arrows was something the imperial longbowmen specifically trained in, using arrows of blacksteel that were enchanted to pierce through armour and expending a large amount of energy. They could only loose three such volleys at a time, but each shot should have been able to penetrate tower shields or full suits of armour. And yet, the coordinated attack of 20,000 archers managed to bring less than fifty of the cavalrymen down.

Even though Rislant barely managed to remain calm, the officers and generals around him all flew into a state of panic. The tower shields the humanoid cavalrymen were wielding were so strong that only titled knights in the Empire would normally be able to afford them. Were the first 5,000 cavalrymen of the Dukedom armed better than their titled knights?

“What’s all the panic about?” Rislant said gruffly, “Once more! Loose!”

Still in formation, the humanoids inched forward with uniform velocity. The general in charge of the archers quickly calculated the difference and yelled out his orders, “Up three notches, three units of strength. LOOSE!”

Two volleys of arrows were shot out, managing to kill less than 200 cavalrymen in total. All 20,000 longbowmen paled, showing an urgent need for rest, but just as the general was about to give them some reprieve the humanoids suddenly holstered their shields once more. Pulling the bows off their own backs, they nocked arrows and fired in a perfectly synchronised return of the favour.

Five thousand soldiers on the low ground should have been no match for twenty, but the arrows shot out this time were extremely strange. Tied to the back of each one was a cylinder the width of one’s fist, constantly billowing out black smoke.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA