Book 6, Chapter 10

War Horns

The Crimson Dukedom was a terrifying neighbour to have, but its threat was partially abated by its focus on the barbarian plains. Almost a third of the ancestral highlands had been occupied, an area even larger than the Bloodstained Lands. Nobody knew whether the land was fertile or barren, whether it had any rare materials or other economic lifelines, but it was definitely enough territory to form a true empire.

Countless eyes were focused on the alarming growth of this behemoth, and despite numerous parties hoping to contain it none had the courage or resources to try. The Crimson Dukedom hadn’t aggressed against anyone, and there wasn’t anyone contesting the ancestral plains. There was a short attempt made to capture the slaves of the Crimson Dukedom, but that was quickly stomped out without the main army even having to act. Many of the smaller countries nearby were left ashamed at the fact that even the slave army of the Crimson Dukedom was more powerful than their full standing forces.

This wasn’t to say the Dukedom had no conflicts. There were still constant skirmishes along the border with the Iron Triangle Empire. The dozens of minor battles had reached an astonishing casualty count, and after losing nearly 40,000 troops in total they were forced to cede a significant portion of their western territory. The land itself was barren, but now that it was gone the Crimson Dukedom was the only way to access the Ashen Plateau and barbarian plains.

Salwyn had been made a scapegoat once more. Accused of betraying the country, he was forced to surrender his military power and return to fishing in his lands. The ill-fated prince had now been a foil to another’s success for the second time. With Richard already considered a divine general, the mysterious Andrieka now surpassed Rislant in prestige.

Of course, everyone in the Iron Triangle Empire knew that the true distance between the two was unimaginable. The only reason Rislant hadn’t been embarrassed yet was the fact that he had used the excuse of the Dragon Church to keep away from this battlefield. Salwyn was the only one in the country with the courage to step forth despite almost certain loss, but his enemies had made use of that weakness to push him out.

Now that he had a general understanding of the situation in Faelor, Richard looked over the map in front of him and turned to Flowsand, “Do you think we have the power to launch a divine war?”

Flowsand shook her head immediately, “Impossible. A real war of the gods isn’t just a war between churches. Even for a weakling like Neian, destroying a few avatars is useless. We don’t really have the capabilities to break into divine kingdoms ourselves, and until we do we won’t pose an immediate threat to any deity. Even if a god’s faith is completely destroyed, it will take centuries before they lose their divinity and fade away.”

“So I need to get to legendary… Tch.” Richard shook his head. The biggest advantage of being in the legendary realm wasn’t pure might but the ability to somewhat control the laws of existence. Even an artificial product like Stardragon was difficult to face; defeating them was one thing, but leaving them with no way to run was another problem entirely. Given the strength of Richard’s party, it would be easy to beat a legend. However, killing one wasn’t a guarantee at all.

Richard himself was still somewhat scared of offending a deity completely. If he truly pushed one to the edge, they could abandon all honour and send a powerful avatar to engage in guerilla warfare. A sneak attack here, an assassination there… such a strategy was almost impossible to counter. It was the same reason legends were so respected in Norland; angering one just wasn’t a good idea.

“Then we can’t attack yet,” he frowned.

“If you’re only worried about legends, there’s a 30% chance I can stop them from escaping now,” Flowsand added.

“No, not good enough. Anyone who survives will be a thorn in our side forever. We don’t need to take such risks, we’ll have control of it all in a few years anyway. Right, Kellac,” he pointed to a part of the ancestral plains, “This is where the central shrine of the Highland Wargod is?”

“Yes,” Kellac’s voice trembled a little.

“And the one who got you excommunicated…”

“His current title is Leitun, the Lord of the Highlands. He’s already the pope of the church.”

“The Lord of the Highlands? Heh, who qualifies to give him such a title? Whatever, let’s show him who’s boss.”

“My Lord, you want to…”

“If we can’t fight a proper god, why not fight one outside of the pantheon? Let’s go take the nest of the Highland Wargod.”

The Highland Wargod was originally a part of the Faelorian pantheon, but he had fallen from his post and Lutheris had taken his place. However, at one point he grew a foundation in the barbarian plains and became a deity of the barbarians. However, he was still weak.

The Crimson Dukedom’s borders were now only 200 kilometres away from the great shrine of the Highland Wargod. The only reason Richard’s followers hadn’t pressed in further was to wait for further commands, and the self-proclaimed Lord of the Highlands didn’t have the guts to attack.

“Notify the three goddesses to prepare for war, we’re leaving in three days,” Richard said before stopping to think, “Also send messengers to Neian, Cerces and maybe some other chaotic gods. Tell them we’re going to be fighting the Highland Wargod and they can support.”

“Support?” Gangdor scratched his head. He had personally killed a number of priests and clerics of Faelor in the past, so he didn’t understand why the churches would be willing to support them in this endeavour.

“Gods are selfish too,” Richard smiled, “The Highland Wargod isn’t a member of Faelor’s pantheon, so destroying his church will be a huge blow. At the same time, the gods can barge into his divine kingdom and tear him apart. It won’t be nearly as expensive as fighting against a full-fledged deity, and the additional domain and powers are too much to refuse.”

“But don’t we have the goddesses with us? Why not let them do it?” Gangdor continued. This was something Richard appreciated in the brute; he didn’t understand everything, but he made sure to ask questions without feeling embarrassed.

“Those three aren’t good at fights. Even if we hurt the Highland Wargod, they can’t be assured of victory in his divine kingdom. Besides, if they do win then they’ll have divinity far beyond what their strength should allow. Someone else will steal it away later.”

“But isn’t this making it easy for those bastards?” Gangdor was still puzzled.

Richard smiled, “Whoever takes the initiative in the divine war will certainly suffer losses. It’ll take a lot of energy to assimilate the new kingdom, which will leave them weak for a long time. It will take decades to recover…”

Richard paused for a moment, a malicious glint flashing across his eyes, “But why would we give them so much time?”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo