Book 6, Chapter 71

A Dazzling Beginning

“What do you think he’ll do?” Duke Solam asked his generals in his war room, looking on as they tried to come up with an answer. This place was almost hallowed; generations of Solams had planned their rise here for the past millennium as they rose from minor nobles with nothing to their names to their current rank.

If not for the two setbacks of Steven being expelled from the Deepblue and the numerous losses to who was then Viscount Alice, the Solams would have been one of the most prestigious families on the borders of the Sacred Tree Empire. Both stains to the family’s pristine reputation had come from the Archerons, and now Richard was leading an army of little more than 2,000 men but he had to take it seriously. The Duke was not in the best of moods.

A general with a thick handlebar moustache stood up, “I believe Richard is planning to wear us out with guerilla warfare, stopping us from moving to aid Duke Jasper who is going to be attacked by the main force. He will circumvent any barricades we try to put up to wreak havoc on our lands.”

“Where would his target be?” an elderly mage asked.

“The city, the castle, the mine… Of all three, I think the mine fields are the most likely option, but any of them is a viable target.” The general couldn’t find it in himself to commit to a single answer; the small army was definitely for a quick attack, but it was difficult to pinpoint just where it would be.

“Richard is a grand mage and great runemaster, why would he eye those useless minerals? What use are they to him?” the mage sneered.

“Then why don’t you tell us what he wants?!” the general started glaring.

The elderly man started rattling on with his own theories and speculations, but never got to a point before everyone started to chip in with their own opinions. Eventually, the greatest possibility they settled on was that Richard was planning to find and cut apart the family’s rune knight platoon.

“We need to gather all the rune knights into one elite unit, pouring them into the first city in his path and using the defences to our advantage. The numbers will be critical, we should teach him a painful lesson!”

Duke Solam nodded in agreement and scrutinised the map while devising strategies, asking once more, “How many should we deploy?”

This sparked another round of discussion, but at the end of it they decided that 15,000 elites would be enough. The cities on the border already had very tall walls that the shadowspear knights could not scale. 10,000 infantrymen, a 5,000-strong cavalry, and 150 rune knights were mobilised to prepare for war with Richard.

However, the Duke just couldn’t figure out exactly what Richard was after. Would he just wage war for no reason? From what Steven had told him, this youth had been cool-headed and cautious since his youth, never one to act on impulse. What was his target?

Solam continued to search the map for answers. An incredible thought crossed his mind as his eyes crossed the Saint Louis Cathedral, but he dismissed it immediately. Cathedrals were sacred grounds to those of faith, but they meant nothing to a layman.

A flurry of footsteps sounded outside while the Duke was lost in his thoughts, a guard slamming open the doors to the war room to hand over a bloodstained letter. Solam immediately took the letter and started reading it, but after a few lines he abruptly stopped and paled, “Richard… He’s arrived at Kirk.”

Kirk was in the Angor Viscounty, a place without much military importance that was quite the distance away from the Solam Castle. However, Richard hadn’t been expected to reach the place for two whole days.

“The madman! He’ll run his horses to death!” a general exclaimed.

“Does he know anything at all about war?” an adviser followed up, but that immediately caused silence to envelop the room. The one who’d said these words quickly turned red as well; how could someone with no knowledge of warfare beat the Mensas so heavily?

Duke Solam walked over to the map to take a look, but his eyes suddenly went wide as a thought hit him.

“The third infantry is on Richard’s path!” The thought had hit someone else as well.

This was really bad news. The third infantry was a light infantry; facing an elite army of bloodthirsty knights, they would roll over with no resistance. Duke Solam looked around at the map and sighed, “There isn’t any time to inform them, we can only hope that the heavy infantry lives up to Angor’s bragging. We need a new plan.”

……

Viscount Angor’s heavy infantry truly was amongst the best-trained in the entire Sacred Tree Empire. There was hardly any other viscounty that could match his troops. However, there was one serious problem: they only numbered 500. Richard’s rune knights alone would be able to tear through them without breaking a sweat. Even worse, these rune knights were led by a five-metre-tall ogre warlord.

This was the first time that Norland encountered Tenton, Tiramisu’s hammer. Richard had offered him the sub-legendary hammer he had gotten from the sacrifices to the Eternal Dragon, but the ogre had actually refused in favour of a hammer he had gotten forged from the dwarves of Forgefires. Bamor and the other elders had personally worked an entire year on this weapon, and despite having only two enchantments it lived up to its name: the sheer weight of the weapon was nearly impossible to lift.

A single swipe of the ogre’s arm had sent dozens of infantrymen flying to their deaths, making it seem like a child was throwing a tantrum with his toys instead of a real fight. The fight ended in less than five minutes.

“That must be Angor?” Richard pointed out from upon his unicorn, bringing attention to a well-dressed noble that was snarling at the ogre. The Viscount’s swordplay seemed rather skilful and he was courageous despite not even being a saint, but unfortunately for him the ogre was already level 20. A single swipe of the palm had sent the noble off his horse, and Tiramisu swatted the guards away like they were flies before pulling him all the way back.

“This means we’ve won, Master?” the ogre asked.

“Of course. Let’s take him along, he can write home to inform his family about the ransom.”

“Perfect, boss! I’ll take good care of him!” Medium Rare grinned from ear to ear.

Looking at the knights still hunting down the last stragglers, Richard shouted, “All troops are to regroup, you have half an hour of rest before the next battle!”

“More enemies?” the ogre immediately grew excited.

“Small fry,” Richard shook his head.

The ogre pouted and looked down at the unconscious noble in his hand, “Small fry is still better than this.”

Half an hour later, Richard’s troops resumed moving and caught up with the third infantry. Completely caught off guard, the enemy soldiers were decimated in an absolute massacre. Richard didn’t go after those who fled, not even cleaning up the battlefield. Giving his troops an hour’s rest, he had everyone pack and head straight towards Duke Solam’s territory.

In just a single day, the 2,000-strong army had covered more than 300 kilometres and wiped out two viscounties. Holed up in his castle, Duke Solam discovered his planned defences crumbling away like a sand castle in the rising tide.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Hazel

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA