Hi guys, this chapter was delayed because of a server migration of the site that occurred yesterday. It's the second regular chapter of the week and I'm working on the sponsored chapter in the queue right now, so stay tuned tonight.

EDIT: Won't be able to release it tonight. Will try to finish tomorrow morning.



The base that Lorist had intended to build for the mercenaries basically comprised two firing turrets each with 4 floors extending up to a height of 13 meters. The two turrets would be built 5 meters apart with a gate house in between and a wall branching off from each to surround an area with facilities such as the horse stable, warehouses, and other necessary infrastructure to allow for long term stay. If the wall was somehow breached by the enemy, the mercenaries can still retreat to the turrets and guard it until reinforcements arrive.

The construction of the base proceeded rather quickly. First, huge logs that were used to construct the framework of the turrets and wall before three moats were dug at the foot of the mound which was in turn connected to the small stream nearby. Lorist tasked his men to use the mud that was dug out to make mud bricks using the technique he had seen back at Firmrock Castle. The finished bricks were then lined up around the wooden framework before a thick layer of green clay was slabbed onto the surface to further strengthen and solidify the structures. Even though the wall was only 5 meters in height, Lorist had made the angle of the small mound around the wall to be slanted at a 45 degree angle, causing the total height of the mound and wall to be around 9 meters, further adding to the difficulty of besieging the place.

The busy days passed quickly and one month elapsed within the blink of an eye. The primary sections of the base including the main wall, the three moats, the two layers of wooden barricades, the drawbridge, and the turrets had already been constructed. What remained was fine-tuning the smaller details. Lorist even ordered his men to transport 4 ballistas over from Firmrock Castle for them to be installed at the top floor of the turrets.

Back when he was at Firmrock Castle, Lorist went to visit the father and son arbalists once. After listening to the father, Grandmaster Fellin's explanation, Lorist came to understand that the tens of ballistas used at the castle were merely simplified versions and not proper defense ballistas. Proper defense ballistas had a firing range of 150 to 200 meters whereas the simplified ones at Firmrock Castle could only shoot 80 to 100 meters away, which is easily half of what proper ballistas could achieve. The accuracy of the simplified ones is also vastly inferior and it would already be considered good if it could hit a target 3 out of 10 times.

According to Grandmaster Fellin, it takes a lot of time to make a proper ballista. Choosing materials for the ballista frame and setting its shape will take two years at least. The ballistas the grandmaster were currently making were merely simplified ones which would break or malfunction after firing more than ten times and their frames had to be replaced frequently to keep performance up to par. Thankfully, wood was abundant in the Northlands, which allowed the grandmaster to construct a few extra frames for each ballista he made.

Apart from the construction, the simplified ballista bowstring was usually made of cow sinew and horsehair and would loosen after approximately 8 shots. However, that disadvantage is compensated by its swift construction and easily-obtainable materials which also cost far less to procure. And while the shooting range is far less than that of proper ballistas, the momentum and force of the simplified ballistas were still enough to threaten Gold ranked fighters who were within range.

That was already more than enough for Lorist. During that visit, he also made a suggestion to Grandmaster Fellin to add a wheel-like component to the back of each ballista for it to act as a pulley so that it would take much less force to load them. It would also decrease the number of people required to operate it by two, prompting the grandmaster to gasp in admiration at that innovative upgrade.

Actually, the ideal ballistas within Lorist's mind were the ones he saw in the movie titled 'Rise of the Werewolves'[1] in his past life that were used at the vampires' castle.  Each ballista could fire up to three arrows and was also equipped with a pulley system, a base rotator as well as some sights, which increased its overall flexibility, ease of loading and accuracy. The werewolves seen in the movie that were the size of bulls were easily nailed to the ground with the bolts fired from those ballistas and they only required one person to operate.

He recalled that he once tried to replicate a ballista like that in his workshop and sell it to collectors to earn some extra cash, only to have it confiscated by the local authorities and fined 5000 bucks for possessing what was basically a lethal weapon. He still remembered the warning given to him by the officer of the police: without a proper order request and permit, he wasn't allowed to manufacture ballistas like that. Had he broken those regulations regularly, he definitely wouldn't have been let off with a simple fine.

Even though that plan to make some quick cash from back then had failed before he even started, Lorist could distinctly remember the parts he used as well as their relative sizes. The only problem now was that he did not have any materials to make those parts nor did he know where to procure any and could only make a mental note to do more research into that matter when he had more time.

......

What made Lorist wonder was that during the past month of the construction of the base, the border of the intersection point was relatively peaceful and there wasn't even a single instance of barbarian assault. So, the mercenaries gradually widened their patrolling area over time and finally managed to catch a barbarian old man and a child who were collecting herbs not far away. Even though they were obviously non-combatants, they were still living barbarian captives, so Lorist still had to pay the mercenaries a bonus of 2 imperial gold coins.

After seeing the restless barbarian child calming down from being given a maple candy, the old man showed a relaxed expression. He used a variant dialect of the Grindian common language to tell Lorist that the current year was the year of the Kubawesson Festival and all of the tribe chiefs of the mountain barbarians had brought their Ulays to Smormilgen Mountain to participate in the ceremony and attend the Bywessi Conference.

I see, so that was the case. It was a fortunate coincidence for him to have picked that time frame for the construction of the military base. Lorist understood that the Kubawesson Festival was a year-long celebration which was celebrated once every 12 years that commemorated the birth of the barbarian's most worshipped mountain deity, Kubawesson. During the festivities, the barbarians would sacrifice livestock to the god once every month.

'Ulay' and its related terms were titles created in the barbarians' own dialect to honor the warriors of their society. Smormilgen Mountain was considered to be a holy mountain by the savages and was also the birthplace of the deity Kubawesson according to their legends and myths. The ceremonies that were conducted during the Kubawesson Festival involved blood sacrifices at the peak of the mountain as an offering to the mountain deity. And the Bywessi Conference was a meeting between the tribe chiefs to pick the next overlord, otherwise known as the Themussen in the dialect of the barbarians. The selected Themussen would then proceed to allocate domains for the various tribes to prevent large scale conflict among themselves and determine the general goals of the united tribes such as focusing their efforts on invading the other Grindian people, or flatlanders as they called them. The other tribes must also make their fair contribution to the current Themussen.

There was a famous book in Grindian literature titled 'Adventures of the Knight' that documented much about the culture and practices of the mountain barbarians. The book was written by a knight who had accidentally ventured into the territory of the mountain barbarians when he traveled to the Magical Dragon Mountains approximately 100 years ago and was held captive for more than 30 years. He had experienced two Kubowesson Festivals during his captivity and managed to escape from the Magical Dragon Mountains in the end with his barbarian wife and children and made his way back to his hometown. The book was later written by him which also served as his debut thesis as one of the most reputable mountain barbarian scholars.

During his years studying at Dawn Academy, Lorist had read quite a number of books written by that knight and 'Adventures of the Knight' was one of his most coveted books. The description of the culture of the mountain barbarians was detailed and thorough: according to it, during the Bywessi Conference, other activities such as fighting competitions, unarmed combat and hunting events would be carried out.

From the map of the whole Grindia Continent, one could see that the Magical Dragon Mountains stretched more than 50000 meters across the center of the continent and covered a huge amount of area. Two of the three greatest rivers on the continent which were the cradles of life of Grindian life have their headwaters located on the mountain range itself. According to the legends, that mountain range was also the home to the ancient dragon race.

In present time, however, dragons were no longer anywhere to be found and the Magical Dragon Mountains was mainly inhabited by mountain barbarians. Other than the Norton Family dominion, other dominions near the mountain range also suffered from the same fate of being pestered by the mountain barbarians.

The old barbarian told Lorist that the tribe that was in power near the dominion of the Nortons was called the Habibaba. That tribe had a strong force of more than 1000 Ulays and had an iron rule over the seven smaller tribes in the area as well.

The tribe the old man belonged to was one such small tribe which only had around 400 members. He mentioned that when the tribe chief of the Habibaba tribe returns after the festival, he might very well become the Jambassen, or the regional chief, of the nearby area, which means that the other minor tribes there would become subordinates to the Habibaba by force as in the case of the tribe of the old man and child.

Whether the Habibaba Tribe would consume the tribe of his two barbarian captives didn't matter to Lorist, nor did he intend to interfere with it. To him, he couldn't care less about whether the barbarians harm other nations or kingdoms at all as long as they didn't cause trouble in his dominion. However, he definitely wouldn't tolerate them should they ever dare to poke their hands into his lands and would definitely reciprocate in kind if that ever happens.

The intersection point between the two mountain ranges was the precise route that the mountain barbarians took to invade the Norton Family dominion. Hence, setting up a base here would allow the Nortons to have ample time to react and retaliate to any future attempts. Small scale barbarian expeditions would be handled by the mercenaries who will in turn depend on them for the extra income while the mercenaries only had to stay put and stall for time for the reinforcements of the Norton Family to arrive if a large scale invasion was imminent.

......

The construction of the military base went on mostly without a hitch, apart from a small issue that surfaced while building the well: even though the stream was only 80 meters away from the mound on which the military base was built, when the hole for the well that was dug to reach the groundwater beneath reached a depth of 14 meters, a huge spring burst all the way out with high pressure. The whole situation was rectified after a waterway was made to connect the spring site to the moat, saving the interior of the base from the fate of being turned into a swamp.

On that day, Lorist was discussing whether to build a hidden passage with Hausky, Jim and Supervisor Kedan. He proposed the idea to have a hidden passage dug underground to connect the two turrets. Even though the two turrets were connected by a wooden log bridge above the surface, there was a risk that the barbarians would burn it down using fire arrows and cause the two turrets to lose all connection if the wall is occupied as well. Being stuck in two separate towers would definitely be greatly disadvantageous to the mercenaries, so that was why having a hidden passage would allow them to continue aiding each other to hold their stations while waiting for the support of the Norton Family troops.

Hausky and Jim thanked Lorist for being considerate for their safety but believed that building another hidden passage would be too cumbersome for it to be worth the effort. Supervisor Kedan on the other hand thought that they must build it as he felt that the barbarians would come in numbers of thousands when they invade instead of the hundreds he had initially thought after he had heard what the barbarian captive had to say. Given that the Habibaba tribe alone had more than 1000 Ulays, it would definitely be able to easily overwhelm the 80 or so mercenaries stationed there.

Lorist also added that the hidden passage had to connect to the well as well so the mercenaries would not lose access to their water source if they really end up having to retreat into the turrets. Additionally, he also suggested that the secret passage be extended to where the nearby stream was so that the mercenaries would be able to escape during the most dire of circumstances. However, the passage had to be secretly dug by the mercenaries themselves lest its existence gets leaked by any of the laborers.

Lorist's insistence on the passage was due to the fact that the base only had one main entry. The mercenaries would be completely stuck at the base should the enemy ever breach the main wall. Even though Hausky and Jim said that they would definitely fight to the last man, Lorist said that he definitely wouldn't want them to do that and mentioned that he did not station them there to sacrifice them. According to Lorist, it was more than enough for the mercenaries to be able to signal the Norton Family about any attacks so that they would have enough time to react to the situation and also said that he wouldn't blame the mercenaries for abandoning the base if they ended up being overwhelmed by their foes.

Just as the discussion was getting more heated, a mercenary standing guard outside reported that Squad Leader Mollin of the Wildnorth Town garrison had come to meet the dominion lord.


[1] The author is actually referring to 'Underworld: Rise of the Lycans' but I didn't want any direct reference to any franchise in recent years if possible to avoid complications. Here's a video that showcases the ballistas in action. See Youtube.