"The civilian may have worth as a weapon against the soldier, but his true potential lies in being firewood - fuel for the furnace of economy.  The civilian weapon may kill one soldier, but the firewood civilian can support a soldier who can kill ten." ~ excerpt from A Treatise on War, by Norton Lorist

(In-chapter note:  did you guys know we put special, handcrafted quotes in the TL notes for every chapter?  Open them up and have a look!)

As Lorist saw it, the 100 thousand refugees of Farkel's the three provinces weren't a bundle of trouble. Instead, they were gifts. As Charade and Camorra had suggested, both Windbury and The Northlands required great masses of people to fuel their development.

The reason House Norton had a different retirement condition for its soldiers was so the converted captives could truly become the house's subjects. Basically, most of their soldiers weren't sourced from the dominion, but rather from the captives who had served their three-year labor terms. After five years of service, they would develop a sense of belonging and would willingly become subjects.

Three years of service was enough to wipe the grudges away. After that, they would be drafted into the household forces. The captives, who had gotten used to hard labor, would accept the arrangement. However, the great benefits and treatment, as well as the strict discipline, would foster a sense of belonging. When they retire after five years, the would even be given farmland. They would be allowed to reunite with their families, or in the case of singles, form new families, and everyone would end up honest subjects in the dominion.

That was Lorist's conversion plan and how the house's forces had grown to the hundreds of thousands. If the method wasn't employed, allowing youths who used to be enemies to enter the dominion would only serve to introduce an unstable variable. Fortunately, thanks to the wealth they plundered from Hanayabarta, Lorist was able to keep such a policy going.

However, the policy required time. After all, military service lasted five years at least. So, the other method of increasing the population was to forcefully migrate commoners. To Lorist, following the extermination of Madras and Iblia, the only enemy left around The Northlands was House Fisablen who occupied three provinces on the great northeastern plains. However, those provinces were even more barren than The Northlands. A lack of population was one of the duke's most pressing problems and Lorist couldn't scour population from him even if he wanted to.

As a result of the swift migration of Shabaj following the conquest, not a single soul could be seen in the plains around the city, or in the city for that matter. Twenty years since the civil war between the three princes, almost every house came to understand the importance of a huge population. Apart from plundering wealth, youths were a rare and dwindling resource.

The reason Lorist agreed to deploy his troops to attack the duchies was largely so he could migrate the population. Currently, The Northlands only had a population of roughly 1.67 million. No one knew how many more years it would take to grow it to three million, not to mention the fact that the target was Charade's minimum manpower requirement to satisfy the development plan of Lorist's dominion. It would take too long to rely on natural population growth through childbirth, mainly because it took more than ten years for a child to mature and there were many risks along the way. Migrating the population from the duchies on a large scale was much faster.

While the duchies were known to be rich, Lorist knew the incessant wars of the last decade had dwindled their income. Especially after they lost 70 thousand elite infantrymen in his last war. And after only three short years to recover, they were invaded by Auguslo. It was pretty apparent that gaining great wealth from them was not realistic. The only thing worth going for was the population.

It was a shame that after attacking Shabaj, apart from the 100 thousand inhabitants of Messen and the 160 thousand refugees whose homes were ruined, the rest were taken by House Fisablen, House Felim, House Shazin and a few other nobles who knew what they were doing. Of the dutchy's three provinces, Rimad was occupied by House Norton alone, Messen was split between House Shazin and the allied noble army, and Jigzai was divided between House Fisablen and House Felim. Of the 800 thousand subjects in Shabaj, only 300 thousand were left after Auguslo declared a ban on migration.

The king believed he had to limit the migration. Otherwise, what would he use to revitalize the economy and redevelop the land? He still had to deal with the Union after all. Fortunately, Lorist and company were aware that they were going a little overboard. Given the current state of the dutchy, if Auguslo didn't stop the migrations, the three provinces would end up empty.

So, after conquering Forund, Auguslo enforced strict military regulation and forbade the nobles from entering Farkel. Since Duke Farkel had already fled for Handra, Auguslo would be the one to take the towns. What would be the point of sending the nobles who had ill intentions out?

He didn't expect that the duke would leave such a troublesome mess for him to clean up, putting him in quite a dilemma. He knew Lorist was gunning for the 100 thousand refugees but he had no choice. After all, given the current situation, Lorist's idea was the best. Otherwise, he had to watch the refugees freeze and starve. Additionally, the cost of migrating the 100 thousand refugees would be borne by House Norton. That was another reason he allowed Lorist and Count Felim to head to Farkel and relocate the refugees.

Auguslo must not have known about the saying 'the general far away didn't have to wait for the decrees of the monarch to act'. Additionally, the relationship between lieges and vassals on Grindia was not strictly hierarchical. As Duke of The Northlands, Lorist had the right to refuse any of Auguslo's orders he deemed to harm House Norton's interest. After receiving the king's permission, Lorist was a bird flying free in the sky and a fish swimming freely in the endless oceans.

Though there were refugees across the three provinces, namely, Samora, Phapsia, and Kribia, most were gathered in Phapsia. It was the province in which the capital, Freimox had stood. The duke had the food stores of the towns in the other provinces burned. The townsfolk now had no food, though they at least still had roofs over their heads.

Given that the total population of Farkel was around a million, how could a mere 100 thousand sate Lorist's appetite? On the way to Kribia, Lorist had already struck an agreement with Count Felim. House Norton would take most of the refugees while House Felim took only a few. After all, House Felim had to rely on House Norton for food after the huge migration since there was no way Southern could sustain so many people in its undeveloped state.

No matter what, Auguslo was still the king. He had to be given due respect. The two came to an agreement.  They wouldn't raid the three provinces as bad as they had Forund's. It had to be slightly better at the very least.

Lorist wouldn't touch the farmers properly registered as citizens. It was easily done by referencing the dominion's registry. But as a result, the homes and lands of the nobles who had left with Handra became the target. The nobles were traitors to Auguslo anyway and he would have to do the same thing after he conquered Farkel. Lorist might as well give him an early hand and use the resources he plundered to aid the refugees.

It was a really odd opportunity, to say the least. Even though the provinces had already fallen into Auguslo's hands, the only thing that was really passed to him was the dominion registry that recorded the subjects of each town.

Additionally, subjects of the nobles entitled by the duke were not recorded in the registry. It was not unlike the 1.67 million population count of The Northlands. The number only included the subjects of House Norton. While Delamock and Winston were also controlled by the Nortons and had a combined population of around 700 thousand, they were registered as citizens of the provinces and couldn't be counted among House Norton's subjects.

For example, the citizens of Windbury were considered subjects of Andinaq. While Lorist was the governor and had similar rights to deal with the citizens of the city as he would his subjects, he couldn't consider them his. The governor term could be revoked. Even if Lorist were to serve in the position for the rest of his life, he couldn't pass the position down to his descendants. The household dominion, however, was hereditary. That was also one of the main reasons Auguslo allowed the refugees to migrate to Windbury. They would still end up under his control.

While the population was roughly a million, only were House Farkel's subjects. Now, around 100 thousand had been forced to become refugees by the dim-witted duke. Lorist and Count Felim would soon arrive to move them to Southern. While it didn't seem all that beneficial to The Northlands, all Lorist needed was an excuse to rescue them. He was actually counting on the subjects of the other nobles. He was confident he could migrate them to The Northlands.

Well, I should give Auguslo some face and move only 300 thousand to The Northlands.

With that, the conquest would add 500 thousand more subjects to The Northlands. It didn't include the refugees. House Norton was the one that profited the most from the war. Lorist wasn't too worried about the migration either.

The Norton forces had rich experience migrating droves of people. Count Felim was no stranger to it either. After Tigersoar and Pegasus arrived at Kribia, Pegasus left a division behind to work with Tigersoar to rally and watch over the refugees. Its three other divisions continued to Phapsia and Samora. As they were light cavalry, they moved quickly and could provide aid to the refugees and maintain order sooner.

Loze would lead Tigersoar per Lorist's orders to clear up the dominions of all the local nobles who left with the duke. The order was simple: the resources plundered from the dominions would be used to aid the migration. And for the subjects of the nobles who lost the resources, they would have to join the refugees on the migration so they didn't starve or freeze.

It was another reason Lorist wanted enough food to feed 100 thousand people for only 15 days. It would be enough to ensure that the refugees could make it to Windbury. The duke only burned the resources and warehouses of the areas and towns he controlled, but he didn't order his vassals to do the same. Given the good weather the duchy had had for the last couple o years, the warehouses across Farkel were filled with food. Furybear's informants Lorist had installed in the houses had long investigated and reported everything. The reports were so detailed they even had an estimate of the amount of food present.

Some of the reports even told of some road guides who led Tigersoar along for some good profit. Apart from sparing ten-odd nobles who didn't follow the duke and gave Tigersoar a huge sum of money to leave them alone, there were 34 houses razed to the ground. The army was very thorough; all valuables were taken. It was no great feat, they were so used to raiding. Another 100 thousand people became refugees.

To other houses and forces, winter was a really threatening season. Apart from having nothing better to do for most of it, nobody was willing to be on guard duty in the chilling and windy weather. House Norton's forces were different. They had to train and carry out missions even during the coldest time of winter. With thick furs to stave off the cold and great experience making long marches in the cold, even blizzards were no issue. As long as there was enough snow piled up on the ground, their sleds and skis could see some use.

With sleds, transporting the refugees to another location would be an even quicker affair. Lorist had Charade and Camorra to set up a complete transport line. Rest stations for the refugees to rest and resupply along the way were set up in Messen, Southern, and Windbury. Along the way, the refugees could get off their sleds to stretch their bodies until they arrived at their respective drop-off points.

After the third bout of snow stopped, the already-prepared Tigersoar soldiers led one sled after another on their long journey. It convenienced the Norton forces greatly by transporting large numbers of people during winter as there was no need to have anybody supervise the refugees. After all, anyone with half a brain wouldn't separate from the group to wander off in the snow or cause any trouble. Leaving the wind-shielded sleds in such cold weather only meant death.

So far, more than 400 thousand refugees had been gathered in Kribia. Tigersoar had also swept the province clean and was preparing to carry out the final sweeping operations in Samora. Lorist gave Loze a quota of 800 thousand refugees. Having been under Farkel's rule for just eight years, it was hard to find so many refugees. However, Loze promised he would find a way.

After clearing up the lands across Kribia and Phapsia, the most plentiful among the spoils was food. They obtained very few gold Fordes, around 400 thousand. There were far more luxury goods and collectibles that used to belong to the nobles. Those were worth approximately a million gold Fordes. It was decided that the cash would go to Felim and the rest would fill Lorist's coffers.

On the 32nd day of the 1st month of the next year… More than 50 days had elapsed since the migration began. The refugees from Phapsia had all been migrated, and only 40 thousand remained in Samora. Lorist estimated they could settle the refugees down on the 15th day of the 2nd month with the sleds before the thick snow melts. The rainy season and a month of good rest would follow. They could start making their contributions to the house thereafter.

Potterfang, who received a secret order to lead three divisions from Firmrock unnoticed to Phapsia, entered the main tent in the igloo.

"Your Grace, we are ready. Shall we begin?" asked he, saluting.