Book 2, Chapter 57

A Chaotic Order

A bright, round moon rose up when night fell, illuminating all of the Bloodstained Lands. The stars decorating the sky seemed to be set apart from the unrest on the ground, leaving many pillars of rock that had been eroded faintly glimmering under the silver light. Under the bright moonlight, Richard led his party to rendezvous with the team that had set out earlier.

However, when he got to the meeting point all he saw was a group of injured soldiers. The horses were gone, and there were only twelve soldiers remaining.

Flowsand immediately set to task healing the wounded soldiers, while Richard made rounds around the wounded soldiers to look at their injuries. Afterwards, he approached the leader of the knights to ask, “Who is responsible for this?”

“They said they were Red Cossack’s men. They took an interest in our horses and offered a single gold coin per horse, a hundredth of the market value! They attacked us the moment I rejected them, with more than two hundred men and ten knights. Their strength far surpassed our team’s, and few of us escaped.”

There was a cut so deep on the knight’s back that his bone was almost showing. When he’d just met up with Richard, his wound was still discharging copious amounts of pus. Outside of that, he had more than ten other slashes of various sizes all over his body, showing the intensity of the battle.

“Red Cossack…” Richard repeated the name repeatedly, his face growing more pensive each time. He then asked, “Would you be able to recognise these attackers if you saw them again?”

“That goes without saying! Their leader was a knight who was at least level 13, wearing red armour and carrying a two-handed sawtooth blade. He’s easy to recognise.”

Richard paced up and down, only stopping once Flowsand was done healing the troops. He patted the knight on his shoulder, letting out a sigh, “You did well to survive. We can still snatch those horses back later, but if you perished in battle where would I find such trustworthy people like you?”

It had become increasingly apparent to Richard that the knights Gaton had granted him were immensely valuable.

An expression of gratitude crossed the knight’s face, and he struggled to perform a meticulous salute, “Serving Lord Gaton and the Archerons has always been our purpose in life!”

The knight had never viewed Richard as his master. He served Gaton and the Archerons. This was something Richard had sensed long ago, but he did not say anything especially since every other knight who heard this sentence felt the same way.

Such was the cohesiveness of the family, the legendary might of its leader. Their loyalty to Richard was an extension of their servitude to Gaton, and in the future they would do the same for Richard’s son. Whoever led them, these knights served the Archerons as a family. Even Gaton’s mention was because of his sheer contribution to the family, so much so that he compared to the most talented of predecessors. In another ten years, the man’s achievements could surpass those of the ancestors.

Many of these knights had served the Archerons for generations. In return, the family had schooled and trained their young, giving them status, wealth, and the chance to advance. Those who excelled were given better protection for their families, relatives, and even their squads. They were like vines on fir trees in winter, depending on each other for support. This was the way of life for most noble families in Norland.

In the cool, refreshing winds of the early morning, Richard brought his troops over towards Camp Bloodstone. The sun’s first light started to slowly warm the desert, and eventually they were walking on boiling sand and burning stones. Beads of sweat started pouring out of Richard’s forehead, but he had slowly gotten used to the dry heat as he steadily walked forward step by step. However, the name that had lost him half his soldiers and all his horses constantly popped up in his thoughts.

Red Cossack.

There were roads through the Bloodstained Lands as well, beaten paths made by the many passing travellers. These roads ended at neutral camps, areas with greenery and a water source. There were other roads formed by the passage of trade caravans, but as greenery dried up and camps changed, such roads grew smaller and eventually disappeared.

Walking through the hot weather for half an hour, Richard came across a small road. It wasn’t paved or marked, just a surface that had been levelled by the passage of horses and vehicles. According to the marks on his map, following this for a few kilometres would allow them to reach the main road leading to Camp Bloodstone.

In part due to luck, Richard managed to make sense of the crude markings on the map. Sound judgements allowed him to take the correct path at every intersection, putting the party on the right track without much deviation.

However, the path in front of him looked blocked. A few sharp tree trunks had been joined together to make an artificial blockade between two large rocks, sealing almost all of the path except a few metres. A few vicious-looking men could be seen aimlessly wandering around behind, with a flag tied to the highest point of the structure. The flag was drooping down vertically with the lack of wind, containing the picture of a bloody scythe.

The Bloodstained Lands were quite traversable, and it would not be impossible to deviate from the main road. The only drawbacks were an increased chance of danger and a higher chance of getting lost. Even though the path ahead was blocked, a short detour around the path would bring them back to their desired path. However, whoever had build this structure had made it obvious that such a thing would not be easy. These blockades were designed to deter anyone from entering or leaving Camp Bloodstone. Hiding would be useless.

Richard frowned slightly, walking towards the roadblock. Seeing the party from afar, a man behind the roadblock suddenly jumped up and blew hard on a whistle. Ten fierce, burly men stood up one after the other, grabbing their weapons as they rushed out from the sides of the rocks.

One hefty man walked aggressively to the front, wielding his axe with great force as he shouted loudly, “Hey! You people over there, come here now! This place belongs to Blood Scythe Mark, whoever is heading to Camp Bloodstone has to pay a toll!”

Roughly a hundred metres away from the roadblock, Richard stopped walking, “We are not going to Camp Bloodstone!”

The man was startled. With the direction that Richard was heading, it was inconceivable for him to not be heading towards Camp Bloodstone. If he was just passing through the Bloodstained Lands, he would not have turned this way. He gave it some serious thought— if this fellow wasn’t going to Camp Bloodstone, there was nowhere else for him to go.

At this point, a man who was at least half a head taller than the rest walked out as well. He slapped his counterpart who was still deep in thought on the head and angrily rebuked him, “IDIOT!”

He then pointed to Richard and howled out, “I don’t care whether you’re going to Camp Bloodstone. Now that we’ve seen you, you need to pay the toll. That’s an order from Chief Mark!”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA