Chapter 114 Thunder
The vast amount of Longsong Stronghold's allied forces were on march to Border Town.
The front of the force was comprised out of the six knight families in the stronghold. From the various armors that the knights were wearing, it was easy to determine how strong each family was when compared to the others. Without a doubt the most eye-catching amongst them were Duke Ryan’s knights, their horses were a branch of the King’s breed of short-tailed horses, which were exceptionally good at long distance running and had a larger body than that of other horses. Yet even with how amazing the horses seemed, the Knights sitting on their backs seemed even more powerful, their armor was created by the famous Longsong Stronghold “Hammer and Dragontooth” blacksmith which gave them a unified look. On their thick breastplates was carved a huge and shiny silver lion's head, while on their shoulders were pictured two wolves, which seemed to be opening their mouth to let out a roar. Their cloaks which were waving behind them in the wind was embroidered with delicately decorative designs, and around their waist, every one of them had also tied a red band.
These knights were not only eye-catching. Each year after the end of the Months of Demons, it was exactly these knights who were responsible for cleaning up the remnants of demonic beasts and ensuring that it was once more safe to travel through the land. Every one of them had accumulated a wealth of combat experience when fighting one on one, they weren’t much worse than the Knights of the King were, they were just less in numbers – of course, as a Duke, being able to support one hundred and fifty elite knights, was already an amazing feat.
So when Duke Ryan looked at his knights, he always had a very satisfied expression. Never doubting for a moment that there was no one in the West who had enough strength to stop him.
Walking in the middle of the retinue were the mercenaries, their equipment when compared with the knights was much worse. The majority of their attire was some out-fashioned mail or plate armor lacking either the gloves or helmets. There were even some people who were only equipped in cheap leather armor and they were also wearing all kinds of different weapons. While walking along the road they didn’t hold to any formation, but were rather always walking in small groups of twos or threes, often times even laughing as they went. Seeing this, one could have the feeling that they weren’t on their way to battle but instead seemed to be going out on a hike during the spring.
At the end of the line, walking behind the mercenaries were the freedmen who had been pressured into service be the Lord, dragging a single wheel cart behind them which was loaded with food and tents. Due to the difference in the movement speed of the 1,500 people which resulted in a very slow moving retinue, the knights riding at the front would have to stop from time to time and wait for the troops behind them to keep up.
"Sir," Count Elk, Holger Medde pulled the reins of his horse so that he could directly ride side by side with the Duke, "We are half a day away from the border town, if we continue at this pace we should arrive there by 4 p.m. At that time, it would be the best if we let our troops rest for the night, then tomorrow morning we will start the attack, or do you perhaps want to attack the Prince’s castle immediately?"
"It seems you want to sleep in the wild, too," the Duke laughed, "I myself would prefer to sleep in the castle's bed rather than the wet mud. Of course, we still have to give the Royal Family a little respect. So, when we arrive at Border Town, I will send messengers to persuade the Prince to surrender."
Count Honeysuckle riding slightly in front of them, turned around and said, "The cavalry has already spent a whole day out in the field, the people and the horses are tired, so starting a direct attack wouldn’t be very appropriate, right? After all, even though he only has miners and hunters, it is still a fact that Roland Wimbledon was able to spend the all of the Months of the Demons inside Border Town. I think it would be for the best if we remain a bit cautious.”
"Haha, I can understand that others don’t know it, but that even you don’t know the truth about the demonic beasts? My old friends. They are really scary when met in the wild, they move fast and nimble and have astonishingly strength, in other words they are deadly opponents. But if you’re standing behind a wall, then they are just stupid beasts" The Count of the elk family shrugged, "I was more surprised with that he could build a wall so quickly. But with that alone he cannot resist the might of our knights, correct? They aren’t mindless idiots.”
"That is exactly the case, and I have also received a message from the North," Duke Ryan casually said, "This year in Hermes they'd had to deal with an unusually large force of demonic beasts, almost resulting in the fall of the New Holy City. So thinking about this logically, it seems that this year's demonic beasts were mostly directed in their direction, and here at the West Border we'd only had to deal with the few that have slipped through the net.”
As the Lord of the whole western territory of the kingdom, his eyes were not only concentrated in this remote place. Through these years he had placed many eyes in all of the major cities who continually passed him all the newest information. But at the moment, the tragic war in the North wasn’t the place where his main focus laid. A few days ago he had received a secret letter from Steep Cliff City, which informed him that the new King Timothy Wimbledon and the Queen of Clearwater have held a fierce fight within the southern territory of Eagle City. According to the news, Timothy’s team should need a month to return from Eagle City.
The letter hadn't mentioned the result of the fight, in it had only stood that after Timothy had come back to Steep Cliff City, he had lost thousands of troops, which had made it impossible for him to keep up the blockade against his sister. It also seemed that Eagle City had become a victim of the fire, the black clouds of smoke had almost covered the whole sky, this spectacle had all been witnessed by the residents of the surrounding towns.
Without a doubt, regardless of whether the Queen of Clearwater had died to the hands of Timothy or not, such a painful loss of soldiers was a serious blow to the new King. The content of the letter had made Duke Ryan so restless that he had on that very night sent out many trusted aides to King’s City and also into the Eastern territory, hoping to learn more about Timothy's circumstances. Perhaps this large battle between the two Monarchs would give him the opportunity to destroy the still unstable regime of the new King, he absolutely did not mind throwing a torch on an already prepared bonfire.
If he wanted to become an independent King, now was the best chance he would ever get. The soldiers of the North were buried under the feet of the New Holy City, the South has just experienced a war and was still lying on the ground while licking their wounds, the East Border Lords and the new King weren’t in a better situation either. But he was afraid that in a few years they would come back into power. As long as he got some people to attack the North, it could easily tear the Kingdom of Graycastle in half. By then the territory and population under his rule would be comparable to that of the Kingdom of Eternal Winter in the North. With the two biggest cities in the south-east under his control his strength would be comparable with everyone else's in the Kingdom of Graycastle.
And he, Osmond Ryan, would become the first King in this new country.
After he thought everything through, the Duke smiled in satisfaction. He wanted to end this farce with the Prince today and tomorrow he would immediately go back home. Fortunately, three days later I will be able to welcome my trusted aides back to the castle, hopefully, they will have some good news for me.
As the sun gradually went downwards, approaching the top of the mountains, Duke Ryan could finally make out the outline of Border Town... and outside of the town, he saw a number of densely packed silhouettes.
"Father, Duke," Rene, who was in charge of the leading the front, came back to report "The people in front of us should be the guards of the 4th Prince, they are all armed, clearly showing that they don’t intend to welcome us.
"Well, at least we don’t have to bother with going to the castle to ask him to surrender," the Count laughed, "Inform the knights they should slow down and should stop at a distance close enough for a charge."
"Yes, Father," after receiving his orders, Rene turned around and left.
Duke Ryan raised his view and looked at his opponents. The guards in front of him all looked very strange, they were also holding strange weapons, they stood side by side in two lines. If you were to call their weapons pikes that would mean that the pikes did not have the correct ends, and the grip was also too short. Moreover, his counterparts adopting the disposition of trained troops was also against any common sense... their line of defense was so thin, weren’t they running with open eyes into their own death?
This made the Duke a little confused. Even if the Prince has no common sense or any battle experience to speak of, he still has some knights and also his personal guards by his side, aren’t they able to prevent him from making such a mess? Thinking about for a moment, the Duke decided that he would let the mercenaries lead the charge, while the cavalry would stand aside, and remain ready to start their charge at any moment.
Of course, he would still send out a messenger, to try persuading the prince. "Go over and tell the Prince that I don’t have the intention of hurting him," Duke Ryan said, "but I still have an obligation the new King’s order, they won’t be harmed if they put their weapons down without resistance. On his way back to the King’s City I will treat him according to the treatment of nobles."
Getting his army into formation was a very slow process, first was the cavalry, they went one after the other onto their positions, while the mercenaries were slowly taking their position at the fore. But at this moment, Duke Ryan suddenly saw four short flashes of fire in the enemy’s camp – first came a flash of light, then there appeared some smoke. He frowned, thinking that there might be something wrong. He even thought about taking out his binocular but then suddenly a series of thunder like noises exploded near to his ear!
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