"Strike while the iron's hot."

Lorist started designing handmade grenades. They were simple porcelain containers with gunpowder pellets inside and an ignition fuse. The explosive force of a gunpowder sack was huge, but they were too big for easy use on the go. They were also vulnerable to premature ignition, especially in siege situations where fire sources were abundant.

Lorist came upon a satisfactory design after a few trial runs and ordered their production. They were very destructive against buildings, but they could clear out a room very effectively.  They were slightly unsafe, though. The fuses were unreliable, but they were good enough for a first design. Els’s eyes practically glowed when he saw the small balls of death and immediately demanded his sentry legion be the first armed with them.

Lorist couldn’t fulfill his request, however. Gunpowder was still at a premium and Northsea and the artillery brigade could not be under-supplied, so he could only make a small cache for specialist use.

Els almost cried when his dream was crushed.

“Please leave Fort Linston to me. It will be an easy victory with these bottles. Your Grace need not expose yourself,” Reidy asked.

But Lorist shook his head.

“Occupying Fort Linston isn’t about blowing people up. This is just a distraction. Our aim is to destroy the ranged weapons so our cannons can get close enough to do damage. You’ll be in trouble if they have a couple of top blademasters in the fort. I have to go to keep them off your back.”

Reality played out as Lorist expected. Reidy, Els, and six other strong and agile knights each carrying 20 grenades scaled the walls in the black of night. The enemy blademasters were nowhere to be seen. Only the common troops were left to try and repel them.

Lorist took out the projectiles as they entered his domain, keeping the pressure of the others as they went about destroying the weapons. They ran down the corridors on the inside of the wall, tossing a grenade into each room as they passed.  The explosions echoed up and down the wall, soon drowned out by agonised 

The cannons moved up during this chaos and the first volley was rattling the gates of the main entrance by the time Lorist and his companions were descending the walls to clear out the catapults in the bailey. The remaining defenders realized it was only a matter of time until the fort fell, so they charged out of the eastern gate, abandoning the fort.

Lorist went to the commander’s quarters and slept for the whole morning, leaving everything to his subordinates. When he woke up, he felt more energetic than ever before. He activated his domain, suspecting something had changed, to see it a meter larger than it had been before.

So I just have to use the domain and then rest to make it bigger?

It was unfortunate this had not come up during his last meeting with the windstorm swordsaint. He suddenly realised he knew little about training and improving in the swordsaint realm, and he couldn’t just go find the old man for advice now. The two had agreed on a truce so he couldn’t meet him until after he was out of the Union, which was not likely to be very soon.

Malek’s arrival snapped Lorist out of his stupor. The general reported Fort Linston’s capture. The retreating enemy tried to burn the fort down, but the men reacted quickly enough to save it. Only a few food storehouses and the armory were lost.

“I’ve put you in charge of this operation, it’s up to you to decide what to do,” said Lorist when the general asked permission to press the attack.

Malek took it to heart and pushed Tigersoar and Whitelion into Sylugnika. He’d learned from a few captives that the Union was massing two legions to push against them and it would be best to take them out before they finished mustering.

The sentry legion and the Free Union’s army continued their attack on Feldunba. The remaining provinces of Casirota and Tenelik could be dealt with after Feldunba and Sylugnika were conquered.

Malek returned to Lorist with a report, grave faced. Word was that most of Fedunba and Sylugnika was abandoned. The villages, forts, towns, and cities were empty. The guild had packed up and left the region entirely. As such, this latest offensive turned into a marching exercise.

Mayflower fled?

This was completely unexpected. After a short discussion with Malek, Lorist decided Els would march his legion on Tenelik to seal off Mayflower’s escape route.

The four provinces being targeted were shaped roughly like a rhombus. North of the occupied Feldunba were Sylugnika and Tenelik, and south was Casirota. Lorist thought Mayflower was trying to retreat through Tenelik and return to the Union. He believed the guild would head north to huddle up with the other guilds. There was nothing for them in the south and thus no reason to go there.

With Sylugnika being conquered, Mayflower would naturally not head there, leaving Tenelik as the only path northward. A few days later, however, he learned that the guild had indeed gone south. They had last been seen entering Casirota.  When his men finally got there, they were gone from there as well. Where to, no one knew.

Tigersoar reported the enemy legions destruction a few days thereafter. Sylugnika was now completely conquered.

Lorist and his forces spend the next two months cleaning out the provinces.  Mayflower was the only guild to escape. But, just as Duke Nikolas had predicted, Lorist couldn’t pursue them so far south. The guild was safe.

The Union turned to the tried and tested strategy of trench warfare to stop House Norton’s advance. They had not expected Lorist to move that fast, however. Lorist declared the Kingdom of Mokby’s restoration a month after conquering the four provinces, a few days later the Duchy of Cabasy was reformed, and within the next week so, too, were the Duchies of Samarita and Zikdor. They immediately joined the Alliance and its mutual defense pact.

The Trade Union felt like it had been knocked hard on the back of its head. It had antagonized House Norton and Andinaq, and now it suddenly had another adversary in the Alliance. Even worse, Lorist withdrew his forces immediately after the new countries were founded, giving the Union little excuse to charge in without starting a war with the Alliance.

On the 1st day of the 10th month, Chikdor declared its secession from the Union. It sent out two legions to take over the five remaining Union provinces in the region. Ten days later, on the 10th of the 10th, Mayflower declared its independence and founded the Kingdom of Mayflower. Surprisingly, the now Duke and Swordsaint, Magrut, declared his guardianship over the two new kingdoms.

The two new kingdoms immediately signed a mutual defence pact and sent ambassadors to the Free Union and the Alliance’s member nations to establish diplomatic relations.