Early morning two days later, Richard’s troops left Camp Bloodstone. They made use of the cool morning air to hurry along to Bluewater Oasis, the closest Oasis to this edge of the Bloodstained Lands.
Their party now had more than ten horses, a few carriages, and thirty half-orc warriors. The extra ten had been given to Richard for his valiance in fighting on in terms of alcohol intake. It was also partly due to Flowsand’s scrolls.
The unexpected experience with Stormhammer and the remaining half-orcs had changed Richard’s views on these warriors. He’d originally planned to just treat them as cannon fodder, but now he would treat them as part of his core troops.
As for Sam and Mark’s other subordinates, they were tasked to stay behind at Camp Bloodstone. Their duty was to manage the spring and all the other businesses nearby. The parting words Richard had left Big Axe with were quite cheerful, “I always place enormous trust in my subordinates.”
Camp Bloodstone was roughly 80 kilometres away from Bluewater Oasis. However, this seemingly short journey was actually quite dangerous. Many caravans had used the oasis as a place to resupply and trade, and as the number of caravans heading there increased bandits and robbers were naturally attracted to the place. Many big-time slave traders also found suitable opportunities to join these rogues and murderers.
Richard’s team was of moderate size. Although they had several carriages accompanying them, it was clear that these carriages held their own belongings and not goods for trade. The powerful robbery groups didn’t think they were worth the effort.
On top of that, the team had two heavily armoured trolls, thirty orc warriors, and a dozen wind wolves following them. They seemed quite tribalistic. Most tribes believed in ancestral worship, and held deep-seated notions about vengeance. Make an enemy of one, and their relentless blood feud would last generations. As such, bandits who plied their trade in the Bloodstained Lands were often afraid of provoking orcs unless they were confident of destroying the entire tribe.
Even then, there were barely any benefits of doing so. Orcs were still primitive, without much material wealth. Most adults of the tribe were strong warriors, and destroying even the smaller tribe would require a lot of effort for little profit. Very few people were interested in such a lop-sided business model.
The bloodstone orcs were actually an exception. Saint warriors had appeared amongst their ranks in several generations, allowing them to maintain firm control of Camp Bloodstone which was a major crossroad. Even without any saints in Stormhammer’s generation, the half-orc tribe had doubled in military strength since the last. What’s more, the tribe was more open and orderly, not completely rejecting the influence of outsiders. That was why those like Bowen, Howie, and the like had any say in the camp. And it was precisely this openness that meant these ‘outsiders’ would help in case the camp faced an external threat.
More than half of the bloodstone tribe’s accumulated wealth over the past century had entered Richard’s hands, most of it poured into the Breath of Darkness on Waterflower. Richard himself was only left with enough materials to craft two more runes, and even those would have limited might.
Riding his warhorse, Richard squinted his eyes and closely inspected the stone forests and red earth of the Bloodstained Lands. The sun shone down brightly without obstruction, the air hot enough for the scenery to distort. This place was barren, yet many intelligent races survived here. In fact, they led very exciting lives. Nobody was sure of what would happen tomorrow and as such everyone lived frantically, trying to accomplish many things at once. Bloodthirsty murder, sexual services, slave trade, even drugs… every conceivable crime could be found somewhere in this land.
The harshness of the environment gave the people here tremendous energy and unlimited freedom. Such was the beauty of the Bloodstained Lands— the place was completely free, and as such the weak grew worse and the strong continued to grow unrestricted.
Gazing at this blood red land, Richard felt a sudden faint inspiration. All of his inspiration for the Savagery of Darkness series, aimed at lethal ambushes, had been poured into creating the Breath of Darkness. However, looking at the crimson sand and how people struggled to survive here, new feelings started to stir within his mind. Perhaps he still needed an opportunity, but he might be able to start on a brand new series of runes. As of yet, however, he had no idea whether he really would be able to do so, and what that signified.
After the long, arduous battle with Flowsand that brought them both pain and joy, he’d gotten to know this favoured child of the Eternal Dragon a lot better. That understanding could give rise to another series of rune sets in the future. He was already at the point of capturing the essence of the first set, and he’d even thought of a name for it.
Assuming all other circumstance remained the same, Richard believed Mystic Glory would be a series not at all inferior to the Savagery of Darkness.
His mind occupied with such thoughts throughout the journey upto Bluewater Oasis, nothing eventful happened until they reached their destination.
Bluewater was called an oasis, but it was actually a large freshwater lake that spanned a few hundred square kilometres. Underground springs had kept the place fed all these years, and it had never dried out. The humans and other similar races only occupied cities on the edge of the oasis. There were other creatures as well, with a large variety of unfathomable flora all around. There were likely many terrifying creatures swimming around in the depths of the clear blue water.
Bluewater Oasis was merely 200 kilometres away from the Sequoia Kingdom, which was only a few days of travel. As such, food and other necessities could be brought over by caravans from the human kingdoms. This proximity also made it one of the Bloodstained Lands’ greatest hubs of slave trade.
As a result of the vast range of interests in controlling this place, no single party ruled over the entire oasis. The Sequoia Kingdom, slave traders, and even bigger bandit groups of the Bloodstained Lands had their own parts to play. After many years, they’d reached a delicate balance of power.
Located at the side of the lake was a big chaotic city that formed the core of Bluewater. This city had no walls, a result of all the power struggles that had unfolded in the past. It was ringed by camps both large and small, most foreign caravans setting up on the outskirts to conduct their business inside the city. A large number of slaves were held captive in specialised camps with high walls and heavy guards, the tight security visible from afar. Given the hundreds of such bases all around, it was easy to tell just how many slaves were traded regularly.
Richard’s troop slowly passed these slave camps without attracting much attention. Dozens of parties of this size entered and left the city every day.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Styles
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA