"All men are ambitious.  Most lords know this all too well, which is why a rebellion by one's subordinates is rarely what kills or brings down a lord. Most forget that women are just as, if not more, ambitious as their brothers, fathers, and husbands, and mothers love their sons more than their husbands. Poisonous women kill ten times as many lords as ambitious men." ~ Unknown



"In his fucking dreams!" raged Lorist.

Hansk's plan was insane. He wanted to use a royal decree to suppress him and raise Lysecott as successor, maybe even force a split? He could go screw a magic goat! Did he really think he could create a Norton dominion within a Norton dominion? Did he know Lorist so badly that he thought it would help him avoid punishment?

Then again, he was an old man, he'd never actually left The Northlands in his entire life, so he was way too ignorant of how things worked. Charade, Camorra, or Hector, who were familiar with how the house worked, would never dare rebel. Certainly not for something so futile as getting Lysecott to be heir de jure. Did he really think Lorist, now a swordsaint would care about some lousy royal decree?

Gleis would have known better as well. Had he still been alive, and obviously thus the head of this faction, he would not have let this happen.  But he was dead and had left his position within the faction to Hansk, the idiot. He'd also left behind Hansk, Spiel, and Kedan as the house's administrative talents, his dying wish had been that they help Lorist make the house prosper. The house now was already far beyond what the old man had dreamt. It stood at the zenith of vassal houses, in terms of reputation, size, might, and rank. It could only climb higher by switching to the mountain of independent forces.

Each of the three talents had their own specialty. Spiel was great at saving money, even stingy, Kedan was slick, and quick to adapt, and Hansk was great at managing the normal day-to-day goings-on. Had he stayed in the house's old lands, he might have been known as a great servant, he might even have been mentioned alongside Gleis, by future generations.

But, the house broke out of its three-century mould when Lorist took over. It underwent historical, if not legendary, growth. No house of similar size had ever risen from bottom-of-the-barrel to cream-of-the-crop in such a short time before. It usually took several generations, two at least, working their entire lives to see this come to pass, but Lorist and House Norton did it in just ten years. Hansk, having lived in the middle of nowhere his entire life, was very conservative, shortsightedly so. Lorist, on the other hand, had spent half his life at the time of his return in the continent's capital. When given the choice between such a shortsighted man and his long-time friend and fellow progressive, he naturally trusted Charade more, and thus gave the position of head administrator to him.

He didn't neglect Hansk on purpose, the man just wasn't capable of performing satisfactorily in the positions Lorist had given him. Rather than learn from his mistakes, and ask for advice so he could become better, he resented the newcomers and formed his own faction to try to force things back to how they used to be, where he could do well. He'd also grown bold over the year and crossed Lorist numerous times, the worst of which saw him all but expelled from Lorist's inner circle and exiled to the bastide.

To think that would not be enough punishment for him, that he would come back with even greater schemes for trouble, going as far as to plunge the house proper into chaos just so he could get some power for his corner of it, was unbelievable. Lorist was reminded of the old saying, 'the enemies at the door will never kill you, it is the ones sitting at your table that will deal the killing blow.'

"Did the king agree?" Lorist asked.

"He did. I arrived too late. Hansk had already announced Lysecott's appointment to regent. Charade smuggled a letter to the king explaining everything, it reached the front-lines long after everything was done. The king only realised his mistake after reading the letter. The three legions returned after they read it as well."

So that's what Tarkel meant when he said the king was regretful. He'd not acted as the mastermind in this rebellion, but was instead a victim as well. He had thought he was doing Lorist a favour, instead he was throwing him under the bus. He thought the house was asking for his support in making Lysecott regent, and, by extent, heir de jure, because Lorist didn't want to play the bad guy and make his bastard son heir when he had a legitimate son that had a stronger claim to the position.

The king must have thought that he might as well do this favour for Lorist since he could and win some points with him. There would be no problem for Lysecott to become the heir de jure with the king's endorsement, so he didn't hesitate to write the decree.

"Hansk declared Ovidis the rebel the moment he received the decree and prepared to assault the city. He ordered Glacia to take command of the assaulting forces, but she refused. Instead, she went to Lady Sylvia, and the two negotiated a short ceasefire.

"With Kedan and Glacia, Lady Sylvia your concubines and children escaped the city and are now in Cherry Blossom Ridge. Howard and Ovidis left the city as well and, along with the forces they have with them and the three blademasters, are all now at the palace as well.

The only good news out of this whole debacle was that no one important had died yet and no major battles had been fought. This did not have to turn into a full blown civil war.

"Where are the three legions now?"

"They're still in Frederika. They've run into a little trouble."

"Oh? What kind of trouble?"

"Firmrock and Tigersoar occupied Bluwek and Ritt in the plains. The king had Whitelion take Krido and Jaeger raided the countryside in Gudlink and Mauvlin--"

"Wait, where is is that? I haven't heard of those places before."

"They're in the former Teribo kingdom. They split the kingdom into five provinces, those two border the plains."

"I see. Continue."

Lorist stroked his beard, somewhat embarrassed. He remembered now Tarkel had told him this in a report long ago but he was too focused on his own lands to listen properly.

"The Union is extremely rich, even its minor nobles are quite wealthy. We've inned quite the haul. We need at least a thousand carriages to transport everything, and then there's the 500 thousand migrants we caught as well."

Tarkel's face reddened somewhat as he spoke. If this was told to any outsider, they would think the house were nothing but land pirates. All they did was raid and plunder. Even Lorist had to admit that was pretty much what his armies were at this point; a bunch of well-trained nobility-sanctioned privateers. He would never admit it to anyone else, of course.

"That's all fine and good, but what's this trouble they ran into?"

"They're short on food, Milord. There are too many people for their current supplies. They can't start the journey back without a large resupply, and, given how things are looking in The Northlands, that won't be happening anytime soon."

"I know what you're thinking, Milord," Tarkel quickly added, "We did prepare enough for our forces in Winston, but then you sent back the immigrants from Anderwoff, Bodolger, and Kanbona. Three hundred thousand have been settled in The Northlands and can feed themselves, but 500 thousand are still waiting in Winston and are being fed by that stockpile. The only place that can spare the resources needed to resupply the legion and the refugees still in the south is The Northlands, but that's now under rebel control, so..."

Fuck you, Hansk!! Lorist slammed the table, disintegrating it.

"What are Potterfang, Loze, and Josk doing about it?"

"Potterfang will stay at Frederika to watch over the immigrants while Josk and Loze return to the plains. They hope to plunder enough supplies to be able to return by winter. They'll skip back on the snow."

"And what will they do when they're back in Winston? It's not like the city will have supplies waiting for them. Without proper preparations they'll only make things worse. We can't just suck in a million people like it's nothing," Lorist critiqued.

"I think they're planning to attack the rebels."

"Attack The Northlands? Do they think it's easy? There's a reason we chose to haul up there for so long before breaking out! All Hansk needs to do is destroy the bridges and all the forces in the world will do us no good! He'll just declare them rebels the moment they arrive.

"How is the situation on the information front?"

"When Supervisor Hansk gained control of the first local guard legion, he sent his men to take over the eagle hub at Firmrock Castle and forbade any contact with the outside world. We can't send letters in or get anything out. The Northlands is completely cut off from the rest of the world. Our only chance is by sea through Northsea. But Hansk sealed off that route as well. The ships are stopped at Bullhorn Bay and forced to anchor. He ordered the Northsea Fleet to stand by Lysecott's side, but Admiral Senbaud moved it to Silowas instead."

Lorist would have moved the eagle hub to Ragebear when he moved, but he couldn't do that without retraining them all, so it had been left there. It turned out to have been a fatal mistake. He had established a second hub in the capital, but it was still in the process of growing and was nowhere near ready to take over from the old hub. Hansk made brilliant use of this weakness and cut off all hope of calling for help and letting the world know what was really happening before anything could be done.

"--Apart from the messenger eagles, though, the rest of our network is intact, outside of the Northlands, of course. Without the eagles, however, we can't get the information within anything approaching a reasonable time," Tarkel continued.

"Silowas and Northsea?"

"Not good. I escaped The Northlands through a secret cave Furybear uses for covert travel. I headed for House Kenmays and switched to a larger ship from there and headed for Silowas. When I arrived I saw the island and Northsea were facing off. Hansk had sent word ahead of the fleet in case they didn't obey him. He told Pajik that the fleet was the one rebelling and ordered him to capture or eliminate the fleet. Pajik has no clue what's happening, so he believed you were the one that sent the order. When I told him what was going on, and to ignore all orders accept those coming directly from you, he stood down and the fleet was allowed to dock.

"I went to the plains from there to deliver news to the generals. The three nearly collapsed when they heard what was happening and began mobilizing immediately. The king tried to stop them, but Loze nearly jump on him and beat him, so he shut up and let them leave. I was heading back to The Northlands when I ran into Reidy on Silowas and he brought me here."

Lorist paced around the room, stroking his beard furiously. Hansk's rebellion was shaking the house to its core. Even if everything ended immediately and went back to how it was before, his plans were still set back by years. First things were first, though. The most immediate issue was the immigrants still waiting to go to Winston. In his dominion's current state, they would be nothing but a burden and a source of unneeded trouble. Luckily, Camorra wasn't in The Northlands when the rebellion broke out, but in Windbury, so he would deal with things in the short term.

"The rebellion isn't our biggest problem right now, I'll deal with it myself when I've completely recovered. Right now we need to settle the unrest in the rest of my lands. The immigrants should already be on their way to Winston, we need to deal with that first.

"I'll have orders ready for you shortly. Take them to Camorra. Hand it to him directly, the letter will only leave your hands to enter his, no one else's. First have him clean out our forces, anyone that rouses even the smallest amount of suspicion is to be executed. As for our legions, have Tigersoar and Jaeger borrow food from nearby friendly nobles. They have my permission to promise on my personal honour that the nobles will be paid back double what they give us.

"Also, Reidy, find the strongest whip you can and give Josk and Loze each a hundred lashes. Punishment for disobeying my orders and marching off on their own. Give their subordinates fifty lashes each for not stopping them. Potterfang will move two Firmrock divisions to Silowas where he'll wait for further orders. Senbaud and Pajik will get as many transport ships as they can together in the meantime."

"By your will, Your Grace."

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Hi guys sorry for hijacking the end of the story page, but we have an important announcement to make. Do read on.

As some of you may know, we are holding an event where you answer questions about our other novel, The Sword and The Shadow, to win access to one extra early access TRL chapter (which our patrons can also benefit from!). In other words, folks reading the novel in Liberspark can gain access to one early access chapter following the publicly released one and patrons can read one chapter ahead the furthest one afforded by their pledge tier.

The answer to last week's question, 'Name Leguna's childhood friend', is Eirinn! Congratulations to those who won. The links to the early access chapters throughout the week has already been sent out and the chapters should be accessible shortly.

And now, we have this week's challenge: Name two of Leguna's gifts (aspect abilities).

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