Zim coming personally had been a very important sign, but muddled as he was in the issue with Io and Flowsand over the past few days, Richard had overlooked the signal.
He hadn’t cared about Zim at all. With the damage he had dealt to Duke Grasberg’s soldiers, there was nothing to fear unless the Duke decided he just had to eradicate Richard and mobilised the entire army. However, if Grasberg really did disregard everything, he didn’t mind wasting a few months in the Bloodstained Lands. The Duke’s enemies would be very happy for the opportunity.
Richard nodded at Zim as though they had some tacit understanding, sweeping his gaze across the remaining nobles, “If anyone else wants to enter the alliance, or has a better suggestion, or simply wants to leave, speak now.”
With Zim leading the way, several of the delegates hesitantly pledged themselves to the alliance. Contrary to his expectations, Richard suddenly found himself with a thousand cavalrymen and over 5,000 footsoldiers in his hands. That didn’t even include his own troops! He really hadn’t thought that highly of Zim’s ability to rally supporters. The Viscount himself wasn’t worth much, but the family behind him was huge. One had to consider who exactly the Highland Unicorn represented when he spoke.
A middle-aged noble cleared his throat and asked, “Sir Richard, what are the consequences of not joining the alliance?”
Richard shrugged, “Nothing. It’s just that anyone who doesn’t join will face the same troubles in the Bloodstained Lands as they always have.”
“Trouble?” the man asked warily, “What trouble? Didn’t you say your plan would open a safe passage through the Bloodstained Lands?”
“A safe passage for the families who join the alliance,” Richard responded.
“What do you mean?” the noble narrowed his eyes. Backing him was a powerful earl who had always been respected and flattered in high society.
“The danger of the Bloodstained Lands depends on who you are,” Richard explained patiently with a dangerous smile, “Take Red Cossack for example. Their caravans have been meeting with raid after raid in the recent past. For them, the Bloodstained Lands are far too dangerous.”
The middle-aged noble’s expression grew very ugly as he snorted, slowly sitting down. Richard’s meaning was very clear; it was okay to not want to join the alliance, but then these families would be attacked whenever they entered the Bloodstained Lands. Where the attack came from was not important; it was only a matter of minutes for the troops under someone who managed to rise in the Bloodstained Lands to turn into mounted bandits.
This was not a violation of any laws, nor could it even be considered a threat. If they didn’t contribute to the alliance, Richard naturally had no obligation to them. Rights always corresponded to obligations.
Now that they knew the rules of the game, many more started expressing their desire to join the alliance. Richard’s cavalry grew to 1,500 strong and the infantry to 10,000! He was left with no choice but to limit the number of footsoldiers the later entrants contributed, adding a level and equipment requirement.
The Bloodstained Highway project needed an elite, manoeuvrable troop, not a large but mediocre army. Richard couldn’t bring himself to grow any happier. He glared at Zim, but the fair Viscount who seemed to have grown even rounder over the past months shot back a smile that had a hint of flattery. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
He had indeed planned to complete the Bloodstained Highway, but he didn’t need so many troops or the support of so many families. His own allies and the broodmother would be enough for him to open a passage to the dwarven kingdoms, although it would take a lot of time. The only danger was the political threats once the benefits started flowing in. After all, he was still a lord of the Sequoia Kingdom in name.
He had gathered any noble of note here in consideration of the future. This meeting was meant to be an announcement of his expansion into the Bloodstained Lands, setting the foundations for a monopoly over the trade routes. This was a large piece of cake that he wanted to devour all by himself.
He hadn’t expected Zim’s sudden interference. The Viscount hadn’t just turned his attitude around completely, also ruining his plans with such a peculiar method.
But now that he thought about it, the alliance was not as useless as he had assumed. His mind moved extremely quickly, his blessing of wisdom used to the utmost as he analysed the current situation.
This situation had its own advantages. It would give him a surplus of soldiers, allowing him to open up the Bloodstained Lands just that much faster. In addition, he was an invader from another plane. Once that fact was revealed, anyone who was deeply linked to him would inevitably be placed under suspicion.
Nobles could compromise, but this would be a matter of principle for those of faith. There would be no concession from the churches; any who collaborated would be sent to the gallows! This alliance would inexorably tie the fates of these nobles to his.
The Bloodstained Highway Project had finally become reality after an afternoon of intense discussion. A total of six nobles had withdrawn from the plan, but all of the rest agreed to join the alliance. The final size of the army was 2,000 cavalry and 8,000 infantry; alongside the reserves and the logistics that also came from the nobles, it reached 30,000 men in total.
Richard’s own army was nearing 3,000 men by now, but he only devoted half of that number to the passage. He would receive a full quarter of the earnings from the passage once it was built, a number disproportionate to the number of troops he would provide, but Zim had insisted that the commander was the soul of the alliance.
In the eyes of many other aristocrats, Zim’s enthusiastic support for Richard was an indication of his family’s attitude. This was strange considering the hostility between the dukes backing them, causing those present to think their brains dead trying to figure things out. All the confusion had demolished any opposing voices, thus finalising the allocation.
Following the meeting was the banquet that nobles just loved, but nobody was in the mood to participate. Everyone chose to send a message back to their masters at the first chance they got.
In the dead of the night, Richard remained alone in his command centre to calculate the potential gains and losses of the plan. A success would net him tens of millions of gold, but the investment he needed to put in was just as high. The military expenses and the compensation paid for the soldiers’ deaths would reach a shocking two million coins. If the plan failed, the expenses would rise sharply while the earnings would be nil.
The project originally needed a year to finish according to Richard’s original plan, using the huge profits of the trips to and from Norland as well as the broodmother’s neverending army to overcome the enemies. Success wouldn’t only mean an invaluable trade route; it would solidify Richard as one of the core powers of the Bloodstained Lands.
However, his other purpose had been to pull out the thorns on his path to power one by one. The route was not arbitrary, every region on the way holding minerals that Faelor hadn’t realised how to use properly yet— such as the flamestripe stones in Blackflame Mountain— or places with divine idols and the like. Camp Kvensen had over ten tribes of varying sizes, while the ruins of Jubval held the legendary capital of the ogres.
The minerals would need to be distributed amongst the nobles, but those items with divinity were necessary for the broodmother; She was stuck at level 5 and could no longer rely solely on magic crystals and food to advance. Nobles and priests thought of the idols as trash to be burned.
The only problem was with a priestess like Flowsand being amongst a group of aristocrats. Thankfully Faelor was enormous; only the priests of intermediate gods or higher knew exactly how many true gods existed on this plane.
Countless gods had fallen in the countless aeons of Faelor’s existence. Looking at the history of the plane, no mortals knew exactly how many gods had been born in history. It was exactly because the churches were so secretive that the Book of Gods that recorded the divine power of every god had been forbidden.
True gods could fall. They could seal their divine kingdoms and lay dormant. They could even descend upon the plane as a mortal with divine blood, awaiting their chance to reignite their godfire. There were many ‘new’ gods in Faelor’s history that were just old gods revived.
The pantheon was so complicated that it was nearly impossible for a mortal priest to grasp all its intricacies. When two priests who were strangers to each other met, they would inspect the level and characteristics of the other’s divine power. The servants of a god of deceit and a god of lies were unlikely to conflict, while the gods of order and chaos were natural opposites. However, as long as the gods they served did not clash, priests were reluctant to fight.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Pei
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA