The Barbarian Plight
After Myr's reminder, Leguna finally understood how worried Annelotte was for him despite how she never said a word about it. Annelotte was just like Eirinn in that aspect. The both of them would strive hard for his sake from the background and give him much needed help, never asking for anything in return. It seemed that Innilis was also in on this as well lately.
Leguna was busy dealing with the mountain of reports and documents in the following days. He also used his abilities to provide Annelotte with some help for her experiments. But after his talk with Myr, he no longer bothered Annelotte for anything. He couldn't just depend on others forever, after all. There were some things that he had to deal with alone.
But he realized that ever since he returned from Seatide, his workload grew by the day. Not only was there much change at the southern battlefield, a commotion was also starting to build up in the north.
"Are the northern barbarians finally getting restless?" Leguna furrowed his brow at the sight of the report. According to word from his informants, the barbarians seemed to be gathering their troops and preparing for an invasion down south.
The northern icy highlands was a rather small place with a harsh environment. There weren't many barbarians living there. There was an estimate of only some 200 thousand of them. But due to the harsh environment, most of the barbarians were capable and fearsome warriors.
It was said that even the normal barbarian folk was as strong as a two-stratum warrior, and the elite warriors among them were seven-stratum on average. Even if they only had around ten thousand of those warriors, they still made up an entire army of mid-order warriors. Even the empire would grow troubled over that.
Apart from herding livestock, the barbarians also pillaged the realm of the common folk for resources to survive in their harsh home. Raids were rather common even before Hocke was founded. Back then, Stok ignored the situation up north because of its expansionist ambitions. The barbarians were also stubborn and rebellious, so Stok would rather not suppress them and risk an even bigger problem.
That was why they tolerated the minor raids of the barbarians.
When Hector, the former Duke Mellin, founded his own empire, the problem of the barbarians fell to him and no longer had anything to do with Stok.
By right, Hocke shouldn't be allowing the barbarians to raid their settlements and towns up north. However, the barbarians had supported Duke Mellin during the founding war out of their spite for the Stokians' attitude towards them.
But as Hocke was just founded and still wasn't stable, both Hector and Larwin couldn't afford to focus their attention on the barbarians.
So, they took a soft approach and chose to negotiate with them. They came to the conclusion that Hocke would provide them with resource support each year in exchange for the barbarians to promise not to violate the empire's borders.
But those muscle-head brawny warriors wouldn't sit back that obediently. Even though they accepted the resources sent their way, small-scale invasions still happened from time to time. Even so, Larwin still believed he couldn't afford to go to an all-out battle with the barbarians to prevent a multiple-front war and give the empire some breathing room.
All he did was strengthen the northern defense line and counterattack mercilessly if the barbarians did invade.
However, when the war between the two empires escalated, Larwin could no longer send enough forces to the north to stave off the barbarian invasions. So, for the past few years, the barbarian invasions grew in scale and frequency. Based on current reports, the barbarians were feeling tempted to go all out from the generally passive stance of the empire.
Larwin thumped on his table, causing the fat clinging to his body to shudder. It was as if they were also mad for their master.
"These barbarians are going too far!" Larwin said with grit teeth, "They actually dared to ride to the top our heads and shit on us! We've been giving them too much leeway thanks to our southern war!"
"Your Imperial Majesty, please calm down," Finance Minister Andro hurriedly said.
"Calm down? How can I expel the hate in my heart if I don't wipe out these shameless pests?!"
"Your Imperial Majesty..." the defense minister carefully said, "Are you really going to declare war with the north?"
"What other choice do we have?" Larwin asked angrily, "Even though we placate them by feeding them supplies yearly, they bite us back once they've had their fill! I wanted to put a stop to this lopsided arrangement long ago!"
"Ever since the war with Stok began, the resources we sent them decreased gradually. We stopped sending them anything completely last year," Andro gingerly reminded.
"We should've stopped long ago." Larwin said with a tone of regret rather than anger, "Hmph! I knew that those barbarians wouldn't be satisfied with that! Instead of giving them the carrot, let's finish them off with a stick for good!"
"If we really do that, I'm afraid that Stok will take advantage of this," Alfreid said calmly, "Your Imperial Majesty, I think we have to deal with this matter calmly."
Larwin knew that he couldn't just declare war like that. All he wanted was to vent for a bit. He took two deep breaths to calm himself and asked, "What ideas do you have?"
"First, I believe that it is impractical to go to war. The empire is in a rather tight spot. If we instigate conflict at our northern border, the enemy behind us will give us hell for it."
"I understand that as well. But the barbarians are only growing more restless as time passes, as I'm sure you can tell from this report. The latest invasion of theirs include three thousand of their men. The barbarian king also has intentions of uniting the various tribes. I believe that if we don't take any action soon, they will bring their troupe of ten thousand to Melindor for a tour!"
Alfreid pondered for a moment. "Your Imperial Majesty, even though the barbarians are stubborn and vile, our largest enemy at the moment is still Stok. I believe what Your Imperial Majesty actually wants is a stabler northern border, am I correct?"
"That's right," Larwin admitted a little angrily, "but the barbarians just aren't capable of calming down. How can the north stabilize if we don't eradicate them?"
"Your Imperial Majesty's words ring true. The northern barbarians are fond of battle and also restless. Even though their lack of resources is one of the reasons for their raids, I believe a large part of it come from their desire for combat. Since they like fighting so much..."
A hint of cunning that Leguna hated so much flashed through his eyes. "Then we'll give them war!"
"Lord Alfreid, after all that, war is still what you came to suggest in the end?" Leguna couldn't help but ask.
"Sir Leguna, you misunderstand me," Alfreid said, seemingly not noticing the mocking in Leguna's tone. He turned to him with a smile. "I mean that we should bring them war, not go to war with them."
Larwin gave it some thought. "You mean to say we should instigate internal conflict among them?"
"That's exactly it!" Alfreid nodded and explained, "As we all know, the northern barbarians have only one large settlement, but they are separated by tribal divides."
"Come to think of it, those barbarians are quite similar to orcs!" Larwin insulted. "However, the barbarian king has quite a huge influence over those many tribes. I heard that an order from their king is all that is needed for the barbarians to give their lives on the spot."
"That is a little exaggerated," Leguna clarified, "The barbarian king does indeed have big influence, but if he really had that kind of imposing authority, the north of the empire would've long been in tatters. However, the previous tribal king has just been ousted by the new one, and this one seems to have much more control over the tribes than the last."
Leguna's face contorted weirdly at that point.
Larwin said, "That means that if we can deal with this barbarian king, the barbarian tribes will start fighting with each other again?"
"If we give it a push, I believe that result is attainable," Leguna said with a shrug, "According to their customs, the old barbarian king's strength will have to be stripped by their shamanic rituals after the new king ascends to the throne. Even though it isn't enough to render them a complete cripple, they'll still be shot down to the level of a mid-order warrior. That way, the barbarian king will be pressured into continuing his training so that they wouldn't be exceeded in strength by his subjects."
"The barbarians really live up to their savage reputation," Larwin mocked.
Hah, you call that barbaric? You haven't seen the detailed reports! Before that shamanic ritual was created, they used to completely cripple the previous king by snapping all four limbs! Leguna thought.
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