Currently, Lorist was standing on top of the outer, less fortified wall and looking towards the plains in the far distance.

Now that they had everything in place, they only had to wait. As long as they manage to trick the escort of the shipment hired by the Kenmays Family into the valley beyond the wall, Lorist was confident that he would be able to make the Feathersoar Mercenary Crew surrender and let him take over whatever resource they brought along the way. He believed that when the resources that the Kenmays Family had painstakingly shipped over fell into his hands, Viscount Kenmays and his father, the Kenmays family head, would definitely be wearing amusing expressions.

At dawn yesterday, Patt brought over 20 of the surrendered mercenaries back to the construction site. After having their afternoon meal, the 20 mercenaries went to get some rest while Patt reported what had happened during his visit to Poplar Coast to Lorist.

According to him, when he made his way to the coast, his announcement of Lorist's intentions had caused an uproar among the mercenaries stationed there. One of the mercenary leaders, Hausky, argued that an act like that violated the basic etiquette mercenaries should have, but his men had all been swayed by the lavish pay of participating in that mission and scrambled to join in. After hours of debate, they finally settled on 19 people who had been picked by a ballot who were joined by the vice leader, Jim, before they rushed back to the site.

Lorist breathed a sigh of relief as it seemed that there would no longer be a problem on the side of the mercenaries. It's no wonder that the mercenaries would cooperate with that plan. Given that most of them were rather poor, the payment of ten gold Foredes was more than enough for them to settle down for a peaceful life. And all they had to do was to chat and wave to their fellow mercenaries to lure them beyond the walls.

The slave laborers had all stopped working outside the walls and were sent away by Telesti to collect more building materials such as sand, stones and clay. Only 200 of the more common laborers continued to clean up trash around the site so that they may aid with moving the stuff that would come with the shipment later.

Naturally, the convoy that had come along with Lorist to the construction site as well as the people Lorist brought over from Wildnorth Town had all retreated to a camp beyond the inner walls that faced the Norton Family dominion so that they would leave no trace on the outside of the construction site where the shipment and its escort would arrive at, lest they trigger the suspicion of the leader of the Feathersoar Mercenary Crew. He also had Jim doublecheck everything just in case he missed anything out.

Jim circled the area for a bit before he returned with a suggestion: Lorist should have the soldiers who wore metal armor to go into hiding as mercenaries are commonly poor folk who wouldn't be able to afford something like that. If three of such soldiers were to be discovered, Crew Leader Adams would easily notice the disparity.

The flag that was being flown at the construction site currently bore the Kenmays Family's three-ringed insignia and on the walls were 12 ballistas which were covered with a waterproof green cloth to prevent them from being discovered.

At that moment, Josk was currently standing at one of the crenels[1] of the walls equipped poorly with leather armor while chewing a dried grass stalk within his mouth. His main task for the day was to watch the area from the walls to make sure that not a single person escapes after the escort is drawn into the construction site.

Lorist was also equipped with a grey leather armor himself and he was playing the role of the personal attendant of Butler Boris. He would also be accompanying him to receive and greet the Feathersoar Mercenary Crew to complete the transaction.

"Don't be so nervous," Lorist said to Boris. "We're extremely well-prepared and they will definitely not notice anything amiss. You only have to act as you usually do. Isn't it as easy as luring them inside and having some smalltalk with the leader of the mercenary crew? After you're done, you can retreat somewhere so we can take over. Be assured that I will guarantee your safety."

Lorist's opinion of that old butler was a good one in that he was a capable person that handled most of what he was instructed without trouble and was a talent in human resource management and administration. The only flaw he had was that he was extremely fearful for his own life. If the opposite was the case, there was no way that he would surrender to Lorist's forces so easily and work so earnestly for him in the first place.

"Butler Boris, after this operation, I will send some people to the Redriver Valley Bastide to save your family members. That is my promise to you in the name of the dominion lord," said Lorist seriously towards the butler.

"Milord, thank you... Thank you. I will definitely do my best to play my part," said Boris thankfully to the point of tears.


At around ten in the morning, two mercenaries of the crew came on horseback from the convoy before the rest to check on the situation. One of the horsemen was an acquaintance of Jim, thus they chatted for quite a bit before they mentioned that the convoy would take another two hours to arrive and requested the people at the construction site to prepare food and drinks for them. After refusing an offer from some of the mercenaries stationed at the walls to rest up first before the convoy arrived, the horsemen rode back to join the rest of them.

The slow and tormenting wait slowly passed as the sun gradually rose to its highest point in the skies with clouds of dust building up from the approaching convoy in the distance.

In another half an hour the Kenmays Family shipment convoy could be seen with tens of men on horseback wearing helmets decorated with white goose feathers riding over more quickly towards the gates of the walls. They stopped at a distance from the gates and got off their mounts before they all started to call out.

"Where are you guys?"

"I'm so worn out!"

"I want water..."

Reidy went forward with a few other guard squad members who were masquerading as slave laborers to quickly help the mercenaries with their mounts. Reidy pointed towards the tables and chairs which were set up beside the tents and said, "Fellow gentlemen, please head over there to enjoy some smoked and grilled meat, wheat porridge and meat and potato stew. Butler Boris even ordered us to prepare a few barrels of ale for your enjoyment. If you are tired, you can also rest in the tents and please don't hesitate to tell us if any of you want to take a bath. We can get the hot water prepared right away..."

One of the Feathersoar mercenaries said in surprise, "Wow, your chief manager really thought this out well. I say, apart from the lack of women, you are almost like an inn already..."

Another mercenary said, "Come on, what are you still waiting for? Instead of talking idly like that, why don't you go get yourself some ale before the rest finish it before us?"

That's great, thought Lorist as he looked at the men who were led towards the tents by Reidy. So far, everything was under control and the mercenaries that had arrived early didn't notice anything suspicious and didn't know any better.

The rest of the shipment convoy finally arrived and when they were about 300 meters from the walls, a group of around 100 Feathersoar mercenaries departed from the convoy and arrived at the walls where they got into formation. A middle-aged man wearing a chain mail underneath a layer of leather armor and a cape walked towards the wall gates with two other attendants following behind him.

When the leader of the mercenaries saw Jim standing by the wall, he called out loudly, "Hehe, if it isn't Razoraxe Jim! Where's Hausky?"

"The boss is at the other wall all the way at the other side of the valley. He went there right after he heard that you were coming. You know how he feels about the Feathersoar Mercenary Crew, right?" Jim said casually. He then asked, "What are you doing? Get in! Butler Boris spared no effort in preparing the food and ale for you guys! The rest are already enjoying it as we speak! Darn it, if only it wasn't my shift today... Maybe I'll go sneak a few drinks myself..."

"Then how about if I bring a barrel up to the walls to drink with you later?" Adams asked.

Jim started laughing out loud and said, "Then you better be quick! Don't just bring ale, get me some food too..."

At that moment, the other mercenaries beside Jim were greeting some other members of the Feathersoar Mercenary Crew as well.

"Oh, Jim, I heard that you suffered quite a loss at that family's bastide... Ah, the Nortons, was it?" asked Adams from beyond the wall.

"Tch, don't mention it anymore... We lost tens of people. But it was fortunate that only a few of my mercenaries were killed, mainly because we noticed the bad situation and didn't try too hard on our part. The farmer troops rallied by that viscount also lost 30 or so men. To be honest, the Norton Family bastide is really tough to take on. Why did you ask?" Jim asked.

"Hmm, us Feathersoars will later be stationed here. It's already been almost half a year since we started escorting shipment convoys, so it's about time we stopped for a while. During our shipment next month, the viscount's family's main force will also arrive and by that time, he will launch another assault on the Nortons and force them to submit," said Leader Adams as he nodded.

"The viscount's main force? It couldn't be those farmer troops, right? If that is the case, then the viscount might as well not make that attack and let them defend this place instead, lest they suffer even more losses," said Jim as he started laughing out loud.

"Nope, this time the Kenmays Family had spent quite some money at the royal capital to form a 2000 men unit over there which is mostly comprised of retired military officers and soldiers and they're also rather well-armed. By the time that army makes it back to the Northlands, the Kenmays Family will definitely be one of the top families in this area. Brother Jim, do your job properly and you may just be taken note of by the Kenmayses and be recruited into the ranks of their family knights. That way, you won't need to work as a mercenary anymore," suggested Adams.

Jim waved his hands and said, "Ptoooey! I would never want an opportunity like that. You know that I just loathe dealing with nobles like those. Nobles are all greedy bastards who take advantage of everyone that's weaker than them. To them, us mercenaries are nothing but lowly beasts who are willing to do their bidding for a little bit of their money. I, Razoraxe Jim, won't bend myself over and look at those nobles' expressions when I decide to do anything and is born for the life of a mercenary. As long as I'm able to earn some money to find a wife and raise a healthy child, I will die happy. Don't you think so, guys?"

The other mercenaries on the wall started laughing out loud and showed their fervent agreement. Some even said that one woman was not enough for Jim and suggested he find two...

Adams laughed out loud and said, "You darned bastards..."


Lorist and Butler Boris went down the walls to see Leader Adams.

"Crew Leader Adams, it must've been a tiring journey. There shouldn't be a problem with the cargo during the shipment, right?" Boris asked.

"Hehe, Butler Boris, good to see you. The cargo is in perfect condition, so don't worry. The reputation of my Feathersoar Mercenary Crew is nothing to laugh at and we won't secretly sneak some of the goods away like the third-rate crews out there. Here is the list of items in the shipment. Feel free to check if it's all in place," Adams said as he brought out a few beastskin documents.

"Hmm? Butler Boris, you don't look too well. Is there anything wrong?"

Lorist stepped forward and received the documents from Adams before he said, "Crew Leader Adams, Butler Boris was worried sick for the past few days about the safety of the shipment before its arrival. To be honest, we're only left with 3 to 4 days' worth of food. His worry had caused him to lose sleep and catch a cold. He's basically forcing himself to see you here. Look, he's already shivering a bit... I even asked him to take a rest before this but he wouldn't listen..."

"Oh, is that so? Butler Boris, you should really take better care of your body. Try not to get sick next time," said Adams as he stared at Lorist. "Then, who are you?"

Lorist had already been prepared for that question and saluted the mercenary leader before he said, "Crew Leader Adams, I am Locke and I used to be a mercenary myself. Butler Boris noticed my talents and picked me to be his personal attendant."

"Hmm, not bad. You must be a quick-witted person for you to be able to catch the attention of Boris. This is a great chance for you, so do your best and you will definitely have a bright future," said Adams as he nodded in praise at Lorist.

The rest of the convoy finally arrived and Boris said a little impatiently, "Leader Adams, I will go back into the walls first. You should let your men enter too. The food and tents are already prepared, so make sure to give them some proper rest."

Adams nodded and said, "Alright, I will bring them in right away..."

Boris left before Adams finished his sentence, and that matched his demeanor of not liking to deal with mercenaries perfectly, leaving Lorist behind with the list of items while Adams and his two attendants led the rest of the convoy past the walls.

At that moment, Adams and the hundreds other mercenaries had already went into the valley and the rest of the mercenaries who had dismounted were led by Reidy and his men into the tents to rest and have their meals. On the other hand, Adams and his two attendants stood by Lorist after they dismounted and chatted from time to time as they monitored the rest of the convoy as carriage after carriage flowed through the gates and lined up neatly at an empty space.

There were 400 carriages in total and it took two hours before all of them entered the valley. However, the presence of Adams and the other two attendants beside him made Lorist feel a little uncomfortable.

"Leader Adams, you should go to the tents to take a rest as well. There's no need for you to stand here personally. I'll notify you if anything happens," Lorist said as he tested the waters.

"There's no rush. The ones left outside is the rearguard comprised of my men. It won't be too late to rest when all of us are assembled," said Adams with a laugh.

Alright, then let's play the waiting game together then. Seeing the carriages filled with resources arranged neatly within the valley, Lorist gradually calmed down. There were only around 60 carriages left outside the valley and by the time all of them entered, the mercenaries would definitely all be near the tents. By then, he only had to give a single order to set the ambush in motion.

Right at that instant, a sudden ear-piercing cry rang out from within the valley. "Don't come in! You guys were tricked! They are the enemy! They are the Nortons' men!..."

[1] Crenels are openings on defensive structures that allow for ranged attackers to fire from behind the safety of a wall. See Wikipedia.