Chapter 40

[Open.]

A brief word from Soldrake caused a white glow to be emitted from a pillar that she was touching. The light expanded to wrap the entire pillar before stretching out to the entrance of the giant cave.

Rummmmble!

With a roar, the sealed entrance was opened. The cave rested behind a giant dragon statue and was usually sealed magically.

The white light spread along the walls and the floor of the cave, while subtle blue light, which was unique to crystals, slowly brightened the dark cave.

Raven turned around.

A dozen soldiers and around fifty workers gazed at him in shock.

“Is that bright enough?”

“Yes. We will examine the layouts of the cave and start mining right away.”

“Good. If you require more workers, consult with the captain and recruit more at your discretion.”

“I’ll do as you say, Your Grace. Come on, boys! Let’s go in.”

An old laborer bowed to Raven before entering the cave with the other workers. The mine had been closed for more than a decade with magic hence it posed little danger. Raven confirmed the other workers and soldiers working on repairing the wooden barriers that surrounded the mine, then left. He didn’t forget to place two griffons as messengers for emergencies.

***

“Now we only need to see the mines and the sawmills that the Seyrod family gave us.”

The place that they just left was the last crystal mine left in the Pendragon territory.

“Khung? Aren’t we going to stop in the woods first? We don’t know what those arrogant horse-heads might do.”

With most of the orc warriors not present in the forest, Karuta was worried about his tribe.

But Raven shook his head.

“We’re still okay. Griffons are patrolling the border between the centaurs and orcs twice a day. There have been cases where a few of them show up near the valley, but there haven’t been any major issues.”

“Hmm. We don’t know what might happen, so let’s hurry up and finish things and head to the forests. The arms and legs of the orcs are becoming stiff like an old tree.”

“I’ll try my best.”

Raven patted Karuta on the arm, then turned his head. The orc warriors had been silently following along, but their expressions reeked of boredom. There was an absurd saying within the orcs that if they didn’t get to fight for more than a day, their arms and legs would become old trees. The orc warriors had to follow Raven without anything exciting happening, so they were becoming frustrated.

Raven moved his eyes back a little further back.

Thirty griffons as big as oxen were following behind the orc warriors. They were calm compared to the orcs. Isla’s excellent handling played a role, but in the first place, they were Soldrake’s subordinate creatures and obeyed orders thoroughly.

The strength and aggressiveness of the griffons allowed them to face a dozen soldiers each, but when they were combined with a rider with a crossbow, they became invincible. Furthermore, they were useful as scouts and messengers.

“How is it? Do these griffons follow orders well?”

Isla nodded. He was riding on the back of the biggest griffon.

“Yes. They have smaller wings than those that live onshore cliffs, but they are stronger. Also, thanks to Soldrake, they are gentle. They’re not stupid, so they will be able to understand orders soon enough. The key is the ability and the efforts of the soldiers who will become their riders.”

“I see. Anyways, you’re far more informed about the griffons than I am, so you will be in command of them if a battle breaks out.”

“Yes, my lord.”

The thirty griffons were brought along at the request of Isla. Each of them would be trained in advance to become leaders and experience battle and group training. They would help the training of other griffons by showcasing their learnings later.

Isla had personally picked one griffon and now it was following Isla’s commands flawlessly. Even if they were Soldrake’s familiars, it was incredible that Isla was able to train them to behave like warhorses in just a few days.

‘Well, I guess that’s why you were called the Stormbringer and the strongest griffon rider in history…’

Raven nodded his head with a satisfied look. Isla had become the captain of the Pendragon family’s griffon corps and the two knights who had lost to Killian were to become a part of the knight order led by Killian. Pollack and Lutton had repeatedly bowed their heads in gratitude when Raven took them under his wing after treating them with his “shield of healing”.

In a chance of fate, Raven gained a great knight by the name of Elkin Isla and two others. This happened as soon as he left the castle, so maybe there would be other fortunate encounters waiting in the future. No, Raven thought it might be wiser to go search for soon-to-be-famous people out in the world.

Dorean, a young merchant in the free city of Ovilla. He was suspected to have as much wealth as the royal family.

Jean Oberon, the eccentric magician who lived by himself in the tower in the great forest of Assia south of Valvas. He was said to create all different sorts of magical devices.

Red wolf Ivan Zitter, who had united hundreds of northern mercenaries and swept through the entire region…

‘The world is wide, and there are many undiscovered talents. Many of them are still unknown right now…’

Whoever was able to attract them first was the winner. Thinking so, Raven smiled inwardly.

[Ray, I feel an insidious energy.]

Gasp!

Raven hurriedly closed his mouth and looked at Soldrake with an embarrassed expression. She was floating next to him with an odd expression.

“Hey, don’t carelessly read people’s minds.”

[I didn’t read anything. It was transmitted. Ray and I are com…]

“Yes, yes. Companions of the soul.”

Raven grinned and gently rested his hand on top of Soldrake’s head. However, he felt the gazes of Isla and Karuta which caused him to hurriedly withdraw his hand.

“Ehem, hem.”

[It’s fine with me. There is no need to be embarrassed.]

“W, when was I ever embarrassed.”

[Ray and I are companions of the sou…]

“All right, all right.”

Raven let out a deep sigh and slowly shook his head.

“……”

Karuta observed the two individuals even though he couldn’t hear their conversation. He proceeded to slowly shake his head as well as if he could read the situation just from their actions.

Sniff! Sniff!

Kratul suddenly started to sniff at the air. Karuta also followed along and opened his nostrils wide.

“It smells like water.”

“Karuta knows. Hey, Pendragon. We’re close to Silvunnen River.”

It was close tonight, but it seemed like the orcs sensed the river water through their superior sense of smell and hearing.

“There’s a river over there, Master Pendragon!”

Kazzal quickly climbed up a tree, then gave specific directions.

“Really? We should hurry. We need to cross the river before sunset.”

The orcs and the griffons picked up their pace at Raven’s words.

***

“This is strange…”

A man tilted his head. He was a knight in his mid-30s. His head was adorned with laurel, and he wore armor with a swan decoration.

Other knights who were standing beside him also looked across the bridge that was laid out under a mountain. It was approximately 40 yards long and wide enough to fit two carriages side by side. Only merchants and commoners were visible walking across the bridge.

“This is very weird. I feel shitty too. Damn it!”

The knight took out his anger by thrusting his blade into the ground while frowning. The other knights flinched and looked at him with anxiousness in their eyes. They didn’t want to imagine themselves in his shoes either.

Firstly, more people were crossing the bridge to the other side compared to those that were coming from. Moreover, the people who were coming were mostly merchants, while those crossing consisted of merchants, free knights, nobles,… basically all sorts of people.

But it wasn’t as if he could block the bridge and prevent people from coming and going. Because across from the bridge was…

“Damn it! Why are so many people gathering in the Pendragon Duchy! I counted over one hundred today!”

The identity of the knight was Baron Noel, who was the head of one of Seyrod County’s three subordinate families. He expressed his anger by kicking the ground then turned his body around.

However, all of the knights avoided his furious gaze. How would a mere baron and his knight prevent people from heading to a duchy, especially more so when the duchy held the bloodline of the royal family?

“Whoa, let’s calm down, Lord Noel. Everything will be fine after you make an example out of the Pendragon’s expedition force when they cross the bridge. Don’t you agree?”

“I know, I know. But we need them to be here for us to do anything anyway. That Pendragon brat, I mean, Alan Pendragon, are you certain he’s going to be crossing this bridge, Sir Breeden?”

Breeden nodded with a knowing smile at Baron Noel’s concerns.

“Isn’t that obvious? He would have to waste more than ten days if he chooses to cross Middlestone Bridge instead of here. And even if he does make that decision, there are soldiers placed in Middlestone Bridge. We should be able to catch up within two days if he crosses there.”

“Well, if you say so… But you’re sure that there will be less than one hundred soldiers accompanying Alan Pendragon, right?”

“Haha! Don’t worry about that. There will be probably about two knights and fifty soldiers accompanying him at most. He won’t have any spare units with restoring security in the territory. He wouldn’t possibly bring orcs to someone else’s territory anyway.”

“Hmm…”

Baron Noel nodded. Breeden had a point, and it was convincing enough.

It might be a different story if he was traveling within his territory, but he wouldn’t dare bring orcs to accompany him into someone else’s territory. Even if they weren’t usually a large threat to humans, orcs were terrifying monsters to most humans.

Bringing monsters into other people’s territory in broad daylight?

That was the same as declaring war.

“It wouldn’t matter if the orcs came. We have enough soldiers to deal with thirty orcs.”

Breeden spoke in confidence and turned around to look at the soldiers

More than 300 soldiers filled his sights. 200 infantrymen from the Noel Barony and 100 archers from the Seyrod County were present. Furthermore, 20 proud knights from the Knights of the Red Wolf were in attendance by Breeden’s suggestion.

Even though the orcs were a terrifying force to be reckoned with, they would be hard-pressed against more than 300 trained soldiers. They would become riddled with numerous holes before they could even take a step.

“Well! I guess I was a little too worried.”

‘Of course, you would be scared. You’ve never even fought in a real battle before…’

“Haha! No no. Isn’t it natural for a lord to consider many different aspects? I rather admire your meticulousness and caring heart.”

Breeden hid his true thoughts and laughed boisterously. Baron Noel also responded in kind with an awkward smile.

‘Anyway, where in the world is he? I need to deal him a blow…’

Breeden couldn’t completely dispel his doubts even while smiling. But he soon shook his head. Aside from the rough currents that made it difficult to sail, the areas that the bridge connected were sharp cliffs. There was no dragon in sight, and they wouldn’t be able to cross the bridge unless they flew above it.

Yes… As long as they couldn’t fly, they could never cross the bridge.

As long as they couldn’t fly...

***

The sun was about to set, and Raven and the others finally reached Silvunnen River. The river was about 20 yards wide, and its edges dropped off in a sharp cliff. Silvunnen River originated from the Silvunnen Mountains and its currents were turbulent, perhaps because it was upstream and flowed down.

“We will cross the river as planned.”

“R, really? Kuhem…”

Karuta smacked his lips with a grudging expression.

“What are you doing?”

“I, I got it.”

Raven spoke with an annoyed voice at Karuta’s inaction. Karuta hastily turned his head around. The orc warriors all stood behind him with the same expression of awkward fear. They were all looking around at each other with strange expressions.

“Orcs! G, get on! Mount!”

“Yesh…”

The orcs moved with awkward steps.

The griffons were twice as big as the orcs, and they greeted the orcs with sharp gazes. The orcs carefully climbed onto the backs of the winged creatures.

Even though they were under Soldrake’s dominion, the orcs had never imagined a day when they would climb onto the backs of griffons, creatures that were considered one of their mortal enemies alongside centaurs…

Orcs had a strong faith in the earth god, and they took pride in walking on the ground that their god had dominion over. To ‘fly in the sky’ was quite heretical and even sacrilegious to the orcs.

Woosh!

“Kueeeeck!”

“Kuwek!”

The griffons opened their wings and leaped into the air from all over the place. Every time a griffon flew up, a sound similar to a pig’s squeal resounded along with it.

“Those pathetic bastards…”

Even though Karuta clicked his tongue at the sight of his fellow orcs, his expression didn’t fare much better as he climbed onto a griffon.

But what could he do? The Pendragon scarecrow was looking at him with indifferent eyes. Karuta could infer the meaning behind Pendragon scarecrow’s gaze, he was saying…

“If you don’t hurry up, I’m going to get Soldrake to personally throw you across the river.”

“I, I’m going! Karuta is going!”

Karuta rushed up onto the griffon’s back at Raven’s words.

The griffon gave a giant flap of its wings and soared into the air.

“Kweeeeeeeeeeeeeeecckkkk!!”

The resounding screech was the loudest scream of any orc thus far.

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