Book 9, Chapter 65

Hasting’s Ambitions

Hasting’s troops were just departing from a fortress that had been razed to the ground, turning towards their next target. The entire army was covered in pitch black armour, marching with a mechanical order and constant speed to the next military stronghold. Every soldier had a saint’s strength, and there were over eight thousand of them in total!

In the midst of this unrivalled army was a large earth dragon, several times bigger than average with every step causing the ground to quake. A miniature magic tower had been erected on its back, with Hasting controlling the movements of the army from within.

The accomplishments of his army should have left Hasting feeling even more important than Emperor Philip, but he currently had an unpleasant expression on his face. The battle hadn’t gone nearly as smoothly as he had expected, with the cunning Daxdians fearlessly holding their own and leaving his troop with great casualties. To kill two legends, five hundred saints, and thousands of weaklings, he had sacrificed over two thousand of his troops.

All commands had been rigid in battle, with the ordered army exposing a number of fatal flaws that were easily exploited. Hasting had realised in the aftermath that victory wasn’t simply a matter of greater power, but he simply did not have the tactical ability to actually control an army. At the current rate, these troops could raze three or four more strongholds before nothing would be left of them; while the matriarch corpse still had more drones in reserve, he simply didn’t have enough souls to power them.

Destroying two-thirds of the Daxdian strongholds in the Land of Dusk was no petty feat, but Hasting’s ambitions went well beyond just that. He wanted to conquer this plane entirely and build a forward base in Daxdus, looking for the secret of life that the plane supposedly held. If his guesses were correct, he stood a chance to attain everlasting life with his expedition.

However, realising such a lofty dream meant that running amok in the Land of Dusk wasn’t enough. Hasting currently had support from Soremburg, but the crafty Scholars would just as easily turn into a noose around his neck. Hasting feared the Scholars greatly. Having devoted his entire life to research, he knew just how insane those completely infatuated with knowledge could become.

Amidst all these worries, the legendary soul mage didn’t notice one warrior in the rear of his formation suddenly vanishing.

…

Richard blinked into a hole in the wilderness, throwing the warrior that he had just kidnapped to the ground as he began a thorough examination. The Field of Truth quickly revealed a number of familiar structural decisions to the creature, and the specific optimisations confirmed that this was the drone of some broodmother. He trembled at the thought of someone possessing a broodmother even more powerful than his own, understanding just how much value they brought to one’s war efforts.

However, the broodmothers had a fatal flaw that he could exploit much more easily than he could against the reapers. While the reapers could produce hundreds of warships in minutes if he attacked their base, a broodmother took time to create her drones and could thus be taken out by an ambush.

As he continued to inspect the drone, however, Richard found a number of scars that could not be concealed. He also found a human soul occupying the body, with a number of curses restricting it and forcing it to obey orders. He immediately grew suspicious of the situation, knowing that true drones did not require such things as souls. Only special units that could grow independently had them, but this clearly wasn’t anywhere close. Such a clumsy way of control meant things weren’t as they seemed.

As a master of drone control himself, he had done away with things like orderlies, bugles, and flags almost entirely from his operations. His orders went directly to the units that they were intended for, communications occurring over a soul link established during the creation process. However, he had seen a number of flags and signs in Hasting’s army, and concluded that he wasn’t up against a broodmother in her entirety. Hasting had either met a true broodmother under complicated circumstances, or found a worm nest and reanimated the drones within using his soul arts. Either way, his limited control hamstrung his army’s effectiveness.

This army was undoubtedly the strongest one in the Land of Dusk right now, but seeing through its problems Richard estimated that the strength was rather hollow. If not for the war against the reapers, he could use a mix of night elves, winter soldiers, and arrow beasts to decimate them even with two or more levels of disparity. He could tell that three more fortresses would be the limits, and that was only if the Daxdians didn’t reveal another of their trump cards. Thinking back to the devilfish he had first come across, he was certain that the latter scenario was true.

However, this meant Hasting was useful to the Sacred Alliance, at least in the near future. With no interest in the problematic broodmother behind the man, Richard returned to the Fort of Dawn and left for Faust. An unfortunate legendary sorcerer he met along the way conveniently became the intermediate offering that paid for his travel.

……

When Richard returned to his island, the assembly of nobles had been in session for ten minutes. With a squadron of night elves in tow, he quickly headed straight to the assembly hall.

The Assembly was generally only for show, with few of its meetings actually being attended by any of the fourteen families. Even the quarterly conference currently underway only had a few representatives, which was why the crowd burst into a furor at Richard’s sudden arrival. Whispers quickly rang out as many guessed at his intentions; for the Archeron patriarch to leave Faelor in the middle of his war against the reapers meant things were serious.

A middle-aged man had been speaking passionately on the podium, but he tactfully yielded the stage the moment Richard arrived. Richard himself didn’t stand on ceremony, directly walking up with his guards and looking around at the frightened gathering around him. An icy voice rang out, “A certain Viscount Zieg intercepted one of my convoys recently, and a large amount of goods went missing,”

While most of the assembly was shocked, the better informed nobles immediately understood what was happening. The sensitive news hadn’t been spread widely, but the upper echelons already knew that this was a probe into the Archerons’ power. If the response was correct, Viscount Zieg would be scapegoated and those behind the scenes would give up their hopes.

However, Viscount Zieg was currently missing, at least formally. Based on customs, his family would apologise and provide adequate compensation to appease Richard, allowing the matter to come to a peaceful resolution. If the Archeron response was abnormal, what followed would be war.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Choco

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA