"Andinaq's nobility had very contradictory views on peace. On the one extreme sat the then Duke Norton Lorist, his famous quote "The only justification for war is a desire for peace", and on the other extreme was the then King Andinaq Auguslo, who was known to say "Peace is only a preparation for war". In time, these two opposing views would be tested thoroughly." ~ excerpt from On Peace and War by Nico Oljiess & Freycia

1784 was a rare year where Lorist got to spend his time in comfort and peace. The house was moving towards prosperity and there were no longer enemies in the region. He had toiled without rest to protect it in the past, from building up his military, to preparing for battle, to developing the dominion non-stop, to leading the troops to defeat one noble house after another...

Finally, he could spend some time in the dominion, quietly. Most matters were on track and didn't need his oversite. The once desolate and rural Northlands had turned into a symbol of prosperity. Developed residential areas, busy city squares, newly opened shops and workshops, and endless fields of golden crops painted a mural of hope and peace. In contrast, his enemies and rivals were ridden with famine and chaos. He was certain the rest of the year would be quite peaceful.

Auguslo was busy managing his new gains. Naturally, he cared more about expanding his armies than appeasing the populace. All his resources were spent on his forces. It slowed the return of civilian life to normal and the provinces' repair. The king even had to buy 400 thousand gold Fordes' daily necessities from House Norton.

According to Furybear's informants, there were only 350 thousand people left in the eleven provinces. The king was relying on the seven still in decent shape to form seven field legions and two garrison legions, nearly 350 thousand men in total. He was obsessed with military expansion

He had changed some of his tactics, though. Instead of keeping the soldiers in barracks all the time, he allowed them to farm part-time. They had to till the soil along with their normal military training. He had learned at least part of the lesson. He intended to create a well-trained force this time rather than the ragtag militia he had used in the past. Their upkeep, however, drove his entire demesne, from peer to peasant, into extreme poverty.

Charade reminded Lorist that he shouldn't be careless in light of the king's expansion. He might change his mind and turn on them. Lorist just laughed. He told Charade that their king wouldn't be that irrational. Besides, even if Auguslo wished to go against The Northlands, what threat could he pose with just 300 thousand average troops? The Northlands wasn't directly connected to the king's demesne. Even if he wanted to launch an attack, he would have to occupy Southern. This would immediately warn them of his intentions and not do any direct harm.

House Fisablen's changes shocked Lorist the most. The duke returned to Eastwild after spending the winter in The Northlands. Upon his return, he started a complete reorganization of his armies. He disbanded the three frontier legions and the garrison legion in Crouchtiger Castle, and formed two garrison legions, each around 28 thousand strong, as well as two cavalry legions around 45 thousand strong. He stationed one garrison legion and one cavalry legion in Eastwild and Goldcreek respectively.

In some sense, Duke Fisablen's reorganization could be taken as down-sizing of his forces. He had 20 thousand men less in his forces after the reorganization. However, it served to decrease his neighbors' hostility and wariness. The frontier legions were known for their surprise attacks, after all.

Kenmays's salt merchant committee sent a large convoy to the east in the 6th month. They continued to trade for four months. The convoy returned triumphantly in the 10th month with more than two million gold Fordes in profit. Kenmays had barely set foot back in his domain and he was already gathering up the goods for the following year's convoy.

Lorist wasn't that surprised. Given how large the great northeastern plains were, the number of grassland barbarians living there was surely hard to count. House Fisablen was considered the plains' hegemon, but it only occupied the southeastern part of the plains, a third of its entirety at best. They controlled the trade routes tightly and without their permission, no convoy could enter the plains.

The house had, in the past, bought large quantities of goods from the salt merchant committee and resold it to the barbarians at two or three times the buying price. That was also one of the reasons Lorist had attacked them. He wanted control of those routes instead. On the one hand, he wanted to suppress the house's expansion, and, on the other, he wanted a bite of the cake.

Before Kenmays set out with the convoy, Lorist reminded him to check the records of their sales to House Fisablen in the past. He shouldn't bring what he thought the barbarians needed over there and should avoid selling the same things House Fisablen had bought in the past. These things had already been sold to the barbarians and wouldn't fetch as good a price. It was best to take things they didn't have.

Kenmays listened carefully to his friend's advice and closely analyzed the list. His analysis revealed two golden opportunities. The first was that the products House Fisablen had purchased from them were durable, they could withstand lots of punishment and still work. Such things usually sold for very little. The second was that House Fisablen only bought three types of consumables: salt, tea bricks, and linen.

Kenmays came to a simple conclusion: there were different social classes even among the barbarians. He should cater his sales to each of the different classes. He thus focused his loadout on luxury goods and strong liquor. As expected, they were incredibly popular and the fierce demand raised the prices mani-fold. He grinned so broadly he couldn't close his mouth.

Unlike Kenmays, who only wanted to focus on forming convoys and doing business, Lorist turned his attention to Wild Husbandry. The province neighbored The Northlands and the bridge House Kenmays had built connected the provinces on either side of the river. This was another way out of the proverbial island of the north.

So far, Houses Norton and Fisablen's borders in Wild Husbandry was the Soxius River. House Norton occupied two-thirds of the province, House Fisablen the rest. Their reorganization, however, saw them withdraw all but a few small garrisons from the entire region.

Lorist had wanted Wild Husbandry solely for trade with the barbarians. If the province was completely under his control, he could build a huge window in the market in Eastwild. It wasn't on the same scale as the annual trade session House Fisablen allowed the salt merchant to commit. Instead, it would be a year-long open market. The potential profit was immense.

However, before he could confirm the province belonged to him, he couldn't realize his dream. The province was supposed to be under House Fisablen's rule in name. This was neither Auguslo's order nor second prince Iblia's decree. It was instead the honor bequeathed by Krissen VII after Duke Fisablen expanded the empire's territory into Eastwild. Krissen VII made Eastwild House Fisablen hereditary fief and gave them jurisdiction over Wild Husbandry as well.

This meant that the reason House Fisablen had three provinces under its control had nothing to do with Auguslo. Wild Husbandry and Eastwild were given to them by Krissen VII and Goldcreek was new territory they had conquered on their own. There would be no problem for them to rule those territories for the foreseeable future.

That was the problem. If he wanted to take Wild Husbandry, even if Duke Fisablen was happy to give it away, Auguslo wouldn't allow it. He would never allow House Norton to take yet another province as long as he had even a peep of say in the matter. If Fisablen relinquished his claim on the territory, Auguslo would claim it for himself.

It's all that old fox's fault. It'd be great if he were still enemies with the alliance. At the very least, he could've waited until I conquered the whole province before going into talks...

If he had conquered the whole of Wild Husbandry, he could have forced House Fisablen to cede land during the ceasefire talks and Auguslo wouldn't have been able to do anything about it since it was awarded as a spoil of war between noble houses in conflict. There would have been no way he could have meddled.

It was good that the duke had made a gesture of amity to the alliance and had even decreased the size of his forces. It was good news to the alliance as they no longer had to worry about him as an enemy, especially since he was Lorist's grandfather-in-law and his wife's grandfather. There was a saying in his previous life, something along the lines of 'it's hard to work against someone closely related'. Lorist believed this was the perfect example.

Having no way to deal with the duke, Lorist could only turn his attention to teaching and guiding his three disciples. After getting his permission, Reidy happily strapped Jinolio onto the rotary device and began the spinning. Three months later, Jinolio managed to develop man-made dynamic vision.

The sight of Jiniolo on the ground, snot leaking out of every hole that had it, was so terrifying it made Freiyar give up on the idea of getting his 16-year-old twin sons to become Lorist's disciples. He decided to keep his sons by his side and teach them himself instead. Though taking Lorist as teacher was something of which to be proud, Reidy told Freiyar that all of his disciples had to suffer the hell he had just witnessed. The twins shrunk after seeing the incessantly vomiting Jinolio, much to Reidy's disappointment.

Lorist trained a lot and accompanied Sylvia and his four concubines these days. He also played with his infant son Anderbael, who loved to crawl around, and taught his three disciples. The days passed quickly and the year's end soon came 'round. Charade was preparing to organize another grand new year's celebration.

Lorist felt the year wasn't really all that productive. The only thing worth mentioning was that he had impregnated Arriotoli during her visits. When she realized she was pregnant after returning to her family barony, she penned a letter and launched into a long stream of curses before declaring. She ended the letter with the declaration that the child would have her name, Dina, not his, and demanded that he leave a barony to the child, be it boy or girl.

To the house's many officials and knights, however, 1784 wasn't a peaceful year at all. They suffered through a massive purge. Every household knight and official with ties to Maplewoods was reassigned to either Hanayabarta or some rural corner far away from Ragebear. Those with key positions in the house were also given only peripheral positions at their new postings.

Lorist brought his wife, concubines, and sons to pay respects to his ancestors during the 8th month. While staying at the bastide to visit Whitedeer Mound, he taught Irina and her two sons a quick lesson before ignoring them completely. He left with his entourage for Nico Academy as soon as the ceremony was over. His visit the bastide and what he did to his ex-concubine and her offspring also informed everyone why he had conducted his purge. The bastide was quickly isolated from the rest of the house, avoided by the officials, and feared by the peasantry.

Kenmays brought a guest with him when he came for the annual celebration: Duke Forund of Yungechandler province. The duke had come to participate on the surface, but the real reason was to ask Lorist for a loan.

He only realized how impoverished his new fief was when he arrived. He tried to forage some minerals to begin developing it and tried to develop part of Egret Swamp into farmland. Unfortunately, he only had a little under a million gold Fordes, far from enough to keep his fief afloat. He had come to ask for a loan of three million gold Fordes.

Kenmays was fine with lending him money as long as Lorist agreed, but he could only give him half of what he needed. Since House Norton was currently pretty well-off, Forund could ask them for the rest. Kenmays was certain, given Lorist's obsession for development, he would be willing to chip in.