Book 2, Chapter 134

Crisis

The third night after leaving Bran, Richard’s army finally reached Baron Fontaine’s castle, meeting the person the Direwolf Duke had appointed to be his supplier.

The castle was built on a small island in the middle of Lake Windermere, connected to the shore by a short path. This wasn’t a natural landform, built by the baron’s family generation over generation. The manpower and financial resources invested into this task was immeasurable, and yet it had taken an entire century’s worth of construction to reach its current grandeur.

The outer ring of the castle had classical architecture, full of solid cylindrical spires with battlements and a watch tower on each roof. As for the buildings within, they could be considered works of art. Roofs of all shapes were around, with pillars that linked two or three storeys together and wide terraces that were exquisite and beautiful. One could admire the scenery of the lake as well as the mountains and forests nearby from the main building.

This castle had an ancient name that translated into Twilight on the Lake. Over time, it had been shortened to Twilight Castle.

Seeing the castle, Richard’s first instinct was to think of how he would siege it. Even with his amateurish perspective, he could find three or four effective routes of attack. That alone showed how weak its defences were. Even the strongest defence was the less than twenty metres of narrow road from the lake shore to the castle gates. Even if it limited the number of attackers, however, eighty heavily armed knights could charge through it at a time. It was only later, when he discovered the charm and beauty of the castle, that he realised it was never meant to be a fort.

Before this visit, Richard had already heard that Baron Fontaine was an outstanding swordsman. He had inherited his family’s sword arts and was currently level 14, fully deserving of his title as master swordsman. He was also an artist and poet, adoring the two far more than he did battle.

Unlike the other subordinates of Duke Bevry, Fontaine was someone with an extraordinarily mild temperament, rarely growing his army. He had 800 soldiers under his command, of which about a hundred were elite knights.

The Baron’s military looked weak, but those who underestimated him had all suffered bitter consequences. Fontaine was talented in many aspects, including his strategic and tactical prowess in war. He had defeated several of his family’s enemies one after the other, expanding their lands to over five hundred square kilometres. This already surpassed the limits of an average viscount.

The land was fertile, producing food in abundance. At the same time, coal, iron, and copper were plentiful as well. Although these weren’t specifically valuable ores, they were still the most common metals used to build arms on Faelor.

Richard stationed most of his troops at the camp outside Fontaine’s castle, taking ten or so of his subordinates to enter and meet him. The baron was about forty years of age, in the prime of his life. He was genuinely taken aback by Richard’s youth when they met, and during the banquet after was thoroughly impressed by his profound knowledge of magic. He himself had three sons and seven daughters, some of whom were quite interested in the field. He had them come out, allowing Richard to get to know them and assess their potential.

Richard thus cast a few detection spells when they were having tea, discovering that the children were all rather gifted enough that reaching level 10 wouldn’t be a problem. He thus congratulated Fontaine, and he was immediately able to tell how overjoyed the man was.

By the time Fontaine was done arranging for accommodations for Richard and his subordinates, the sky had already grown dark. Richard chatted with him as they sipped on their tea, finding out a lot more about the history and secrets of the Sequoia Kingdom.

The reason for the mild-mannered Fontaine being subordinate to someone like the Direwolf Duke stretched back to three generations prior. The Baron’s ancestor had sworn generational loyalty to the Duke’s, and that pact had stood tall for over seventy years already.

Internal affairs in the Sequoia Kingdom were extremely complicated. The royal family was the ruler of the entire kingdom in name, but it had limited influence over the military and political affairs of the various nobles within it. If one thought about it, it was only inevitable for a kingdom that granted so much autonomy to its fieflords to enter a state of disorder.

Besides, the various churches were an issue as well. Three deities had official churches in the Sequoia Kingdom, supported by powerful nobles. There were even more trying hard to wriggle their way in as well. However, these churches were completely antagonised by a group of nobles worshipping their ancestors, led by the Direwolf Duke. If the churches spread their influence, their ancestors’ spirits would not be nourished by faith anymore and would gradually wither and fade. This would be a decimating blow to such families. Someone like Duke Bevry who had reached level 16 owed at least a part of his power to his formidable ancestors.

On the other hand, if their ancestors’ spirits gained enough power of faith, they could ignite their godfire and transcend to godhood. On the other hand, certain sacrifices could connect these spirits to their descendants, allowing them to bestow some of their power and thus greatly increase the descendant’s chances of advancing to the saint or even legendary realm.

Thus, there was an absolute conflict of interest between ancestral worship and the pantheon. The battle between the two sides was incomparably intense, with no methods too low to be used. The only time the two groups joined hands was when invaders from another plane threatened the entire plane’s safety. However, when the matter was resolved their death feud would resume. Even alliances were formed they were quite unstable, as evidenced by the crushing defeat of the combined forces of the Iron Triangle Empire and the Sequoia Kingdom.

When Richard had first received Marvin’s letter, he had already understood how important the rune had to be for the Direwolf Duke to take him under his wing. Now that he had enough information, he understood the sheer intensity of Bevry’s thirst for power. Although the Duke knew his identity and origin were problematic, and the history had been fabricated by Marvin right under his nose, he would still protect Richard as long as he could obtain the strength-boosting rune. This was extremely favourable in Richard’s opinion— a bond based off mutual benefit or collaboration was much stronger than any oath or treaty.

Baron Fontaine was a charming man who spoke with grace, broadening Richard’s horizons after a night of chatting. Richard left a good impression as well, especially with his calm and collected presence. This was something reserved for the cream of the nobles of this plane.

It was getting late into the night, so Richard headed back to his room to rest. The baron’s envoy would set off the next morning, heading to Duke Bevry’s capital and informing him of Richard’s intentions. After that, they would simply wait for a reply.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Hestia

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA