Raven, Soldrake, and the orc warriors arrived at Bellint Gate without a hitch.
The soldiers of Bellint Gate were more surprised at the orcs’ change of attire more than anything, perhaps because they were somewhat familiar with the orcs due to their previous encounter. They weren’t as scared as before as they came face to face with the orc warriors. Rather, they had gleefully prepared pigs and sheep in advance to feed the ravenous orcs.
However, the new recruits glimpsed at the orc warriors and the winged beauty with a mixture of fear and awe in their eyes.
“L, look over there.”
“She’s so pretty…. So out of this world.”
“Of course it’s out of this world, she’s not a human. It’s a dragon, a dragon.”
Although they were told in advance by their seniors, it was still a surreal experience to see orc warriors and a dragon in real life.
Raven told Karuta and the orcs to rest, then walked to the top of the castle walls with Soldrake. Killian and the castle’s highest-ranked soldier hurriedly followed behind them.
“How is the situation outside of the gate?”
Raven said as he looked below at the castle walls which were undergoing major renovations.
“There are no signs of any bandits or monsters within a ten-mile radius of the gate, including the roads and the villages.”
“Ten miles? Are you saying this situation is different past that distance?”
The soldier gave a hasty nod at Raven’s sharp gaze.
“We are short of troops, so it is hard to patrol beyond a ten-mile radius, Your Grace. We are recruiting new soldiers, but they mostly stem from farming work, so we need to start by teaching them the basics of how to hold their spears properly.”
“How many recruits have applied?”
“Twenty-four. I think we’ll be able to expand our numbers by fifty in another month.”
“I see. What about the supply of crossbows?”
“We’ve placed crossbows all around the walls of the gate and the spires. The new weapons have better range and accuracy compared to the previous ones.”
After listening to the soldier’s report, Raven sank deep into thought. Killian and the soldier quietly waited.
Strangely, the sight of Alan Pendragon pondering in thought evoked strange curiosity and excitement for the men.
After a while, Raven raised his head. Then, he started pouring out words to the startled men.
“In a month, Sir Jade, who will be the new commander of Bellint Gate, will arrive with supplies and soldiers. Until then, train all recruits with the crossbows and place them onto gate defense. Pick five elite crossbowmen to train the recruits. Then, if we form groups of ten soldiers from the remaining soldiers, we should be able to secure a distance of twenty miles from the gate.”
The senior soldiers carefully listened to Raven’s command then nodded hurriedly.
“There shouldn’t be any problems. And also gather ten soldiers who are proficient with their swords and know how to ride a horse. Send them to Sir Killian.”
“Sir Killian, you know what to do, right? Do as you see fit.”
“Yes! I got it.”
“Good. Then go do your work.”
Raven gave an affirming nod at the two soldiers and moved down from the wall alongside Soldrake. The senior soldier looked at Raven’s back in a daze, then shook his head with his tongue stuck out like a dog.
“Wow! Now, when did His Grace learn such tactics? I had also wondered before if we should train the soldiers in using the crossbow since it took such a long time for them to learn swordsmanship. And if we organize the rest of the soldiers in groups of ten, we should be able to secure up to twenty miles.”
“How would I know? But I’m sure if you follow His Grace’s orders then you should have no problems defending the gate until Sir Jade arrives, and you’ll also be able to secure a good distance. Anyways, gather up some men who can ride horses for me.”
Killian and the senior soldier walked down to the training ground. Soon, the soldier gathered, and after hearing the two men speak, they started to busily move around.
“Is there anyone here that’s ever swung a spear or a sword on while riding a horse?”
Ten soldiers looked around at each other with bamboozled expressions. Killian sighed inwardly, then asked another question.
“Then who here can ride a horse without holding onto the reins?”
“I, I can as well.”
Killian opened his eyes in shock. Six soldiers had raised their hands. Riding a horse without holding onto its reins was an advanced horse riding technique. Moreover, it was an essential skill for knights and cavalry to have, as they fought on horseback.
Killian was surprised that spearmen and crossbowmen would know such an advanced technique.
“Where did you learn?”
“Well, I worked as a liaison at the gate and…”
“I worked in a stable ever since I was a kid…”
“In our village, we herd sheep on the back of horses…”
The reasons were all over the place.
Anyways, the important thing was that the soldiers already met the most crucial condition in order to become a knight or a part of the cavalry. He nodded his head with a bright expression.
“Good. I have gathered all of you here today because our Pendragon Duchy is forming a knighthood.”
“A k, k, k, knighthood!?”
“Yes. Of course, you won’t be selected to become knights right away. You will first be trained as cavalrymen and learn to fight on horseback. Those that display excellent prowess will be hired as knights by the Pendragon family. You will become a ‘sir’ that stands at the head of the cavalry. Of course, if you succeed in becoming a cavalryman you will be provided with a horse, armor, and equipment by the duchy and receive two gold coins each month as your wage.”
The soldiers exclaimed in awe.
Once they became a cavalryman, their incomes would double. More importantly, a knight and a soldier were fundamentally different in their status and appearance. Every man who lived off their swords dreamed of becoming a knight in their lifetime.
“What do you say, are you up for the challenge?”
“Yes, of course!”
“I’ll do it!”
The soldiers cried out at Killian’s subtle voice with enthusiasm and excitement. Killian’s smile intensified.
“Really? It might be a little difficult…”
“Oh, what are you saying? Two gold coins a month! We can do anything!”
“We have a chance at knighthood! I will risk my life for it!”
The soldiers’ will was great. But the more eager they seemed, Killian’s smile grew even deeper and wicked.
“Good. Shall we get started?”
A roaring cry of soldiers united with a solid will echoed in the training ground.
Grotesque groans of pain resounded from all over the place. The sound was reminiscent of a dying man breathing his last, painful breaths.
The soldiers wore a worn-out plate mail weighing about 20 kilograms and large rocks the size of human heads hung from their arms and legs. It had been an hour since they started, and they were given no time to rest from riding on their horses with the extra weights. They looked on the verge of passing out.
Some of them were sprawled up in their saddle which made them seem like dead bodies. However, they wriggled every time Killian gave a shout which indicated that they were not yet dead.
“You bastards! Aren’t you afraid to call yourselves men!? You ride a horse for one hour and become all sprawled up? On the battlefield, you have to fight on your horse for two, three hours at the least! What is it that you said about knights? Knights my ass! Anyone that falls from their saddle should be prepared to eat horse shit! Got it?”
It had been a while since their answers had become barely recognizable in the form of a scream. The young soldiers who dreamt of knighthood were forced into hellish training on this day of early summer.
Killian shouted while observing his hourglass. The soldiers came down from their saddles, no, the soldiers fell from their saddles.
‘Haha! You bastards, this is just the start.’
A smile crept onto Killian’s face as he looked at the soldiers crawl towards the shade after collapsing on the ground. The soldiers shuddered at Killian’s smile.
‘He’s the one-egged devil… that devil.’
From then on, Killian gained the title of ‘one-egged devil.’ At that moment, a soldier from the top of the gate’s watchtower shouted towards Killian.
“Sir Killian! A small group of armed forces are coming towards the gate!”
“What? What do you mean by that? Do they have any flags or emblems?”
Many people passed through Bellint Gate. Most were residents of the Pendragon Duchy, but there were cases where nobles accompanied by soldiers passed through the gate. They would usually bear their coat of arms in such cases.
“There are three people, but they don’t have a crest or a flag! I think they are free knights!”
“Huh! Free knights…?”
Killian’s face hardened in surprise.
They were knights who roamed the world freely with a spear or a sword as their only companion.
Some wandered in search of a master to share their ambition with, some wandered to practice true chivalry, some wandered to boast of their abilities to the world, and others roamed to be free like the wind…
Their purposes were all different, but they all wandered regardless, weathered by harsh winds and sleeping on morning dew. They were free knights.
Thus, they never settled down in one place, and they didn’t travel in groups.
There were times when such free knights gathered together. It was when a major noble held a large scale horse-riding or swordsmanship competition, or when a rumor circulated that a high-ranking noble family might recruit knights.
‘This is just the beginning.’
Before he set out, Killian had heard that free knights were likely to visit the Pendragon Duchy. He could sense that the time was drawing near.
“Report this to His Grace. I will come to see them first.”
The gates were always opened during the week without a special event, so Killian left the training ground and rode his horse towards the gate.
“Is this Bellint Gate?”
A knight spoke. He appeared to be in his thirties and had a full beard.
“It’s bigger than I thought… The topography is quite exquisite. It might be hard to break through with a half-baked army.”
A bald knight with two axes hanging from his sides responded to the bearded knight’s words. He looked around the gate and nodded his head.
“I wonder how many knights there are…?”
“I’ve heard that there are less than five. The family has been on the decline for years, and they don’t have any subordinate families either.”
“Hmm. Less than five knights on a land so vast that it might be considered a vast kingdom? If we’re lucky, then we might get a title and ownership of some land.”
The bald knight spoke with a grin.
“What about you? It wouldn’t be a bad deal to be made lord at such a young age.”
The bearded knight also followed the bald knight’s gaze and turned his head to look at the man who silently followed behind them.
It was a young man who was tall with broad shoulders and unblemished dark skin. He had short, curly dark hair, and remained speechless even at the other knights’ words.
He silently stared at Bellint Gate with his dark, blue eyes.
‘You cheeky bastard… I’ll show you not to be arrogant soon.’
The bearded man shrugged his shoulders and burst into a hearty laugh, hiding his innermost thoughts.
“Haha! Well, you’re still young and inexperienced, so you might not know. A great nobility like the Pendragon Duchy can confer the title of nobility on their knights and give them their land. I don’t know why they don’t have any subordinate families but if they want to recruit skilled knights like us, it’s only natural that they give us some soldiers and a bit of land. Don’t you agree, Sir Lutton?”
“Of course, Sir Pollack. Even the great Pendragon family should know of our stories of slaying over twenty bandits in Denvera. I would be disappointed if they didn’t treat us accordingly. Hahahaha!”
“Hahaha! It’s an honor to hear such words from the man they call ‘Bloodthirsty Double Axe.’ Haha!”
The two men burst out laughing as they gave each other childish compliments. Nevertheless, the dark-haired young man stared silently at the gate with an unwavering gaze without a word.
The residents moved out of the three men’s paths seeing their equipment and horses.
The two knights acted arrogantly as they entered, while the young man stayed silent the entire time.
“Stop for a moment.”
A loud, thick voice hollered.
A check was required for any armed men at gates, hence the three knights pulled on their horses’ reins to stop and lowered their gaze.
A tall, muscular man with sleekly combed brown hair and a stylish mustache was smiling at them.
“I am Mark Killian, a knight from the Pendragon Duchy. Where are you sirs coming from?”
Moreover, he was perfectly polite. Pollack and Lutton exchanged glances with a wry smile.
‘Not a big deal at all.’
‘This is going to be easier than I thought.’
The two knights held a silent conversation with their gazes, and turned their eyes onto Mark Killian, the head knight of the Pendragon Duchy.Previous Chapter Next Chapter