Tales of the Reincarnated Lord - Chapter 580
Back during the attack on the four central duchies, Lorist led the alliance of four houses to attack the duchy of Shabaj and raided its territory of Rimad, Messen and Jigzai. The allied noble army that joined in to take advantage only made the three provinces nothing but hell on earth. About 800 thousand subjects became the spoils of the victors and were forced to move to different dominions. Had it not been for Auguslo's arrival, Jigzai would've ended up like Rimad and Messen: completely empty and desolate.
It had been almost a decade since that conflict, yet Messen and Rimad still hadn't recovered their vitality. The population was ever so dwindling. The central areas' predicament was also partly due to mismanagement. Auguslo didn't enact any civilian-friendly policies and focused on rebuilding his army. He raised taxes on the farmers to foot the cost of sustaining his army, resulting in the bandits within the eleven central provinces gathering together. Many nobles that were dissatisfied with Auguslo were in cahoots with them, adding to the difficulty of stabilizing the situation.
That was especially the case after Auguslo left with his 300 thousand troops he trained in the eleven provinces for the frontlines at the Trade Union. With the army gone, banditry rose significantly due to support from certain factions. The eleven central provinces had become the most chaotic area in the kingdom. Auguslo had sent a division of local noble troops to curb the matter, but when the bandits were no longer able to withstand the pressure, they simply went to the forested areas of Messen and Rimad. The pursuing soldiers had no choice but to give up on the bandits who had escaped deep into the woods.
It was not until House Norton prepared to attack the Trade-Union-controlled Majik and Anderwoff that the soldiers stationed in the eleven central provinces were provided with supplies to continue their bandit-curbing operation. Lorist ordered his eldest disciple, Reidy, and Blademaster Shuss to lead the guard brigade and aid Els's sentry legion on a large-scale cleanup operation to exterminate the bandits. Only then did the situation within the eleven central provinces stabilize slightly.
But following the war between the Trade Union and Andinaq, bandit activity in the central provinces recovered and grew even worse. The three bloody years on Falik Plains only served to chip away at the nobles' forces. Even the dukes, Forund, Fisablen and Shazin, returned to their dominions in the central provinces and were only barely able to defend their dominion. They weren't able to do anything about the neighboring provinces.
After Auguslo returned from Falik Plains, he disbanded the remainder of the kingdom's forces and spread them throughout the territory controlled by the royal family to form local garrisons to keep the peace. But due to a lack of funding, much of the plans were never implemented. The best Auguslo could do for the central provinces was send some men over to defend the more important towns without being able to help the smaller towns and villages at all.
When Auguslo's illegitimate son, Wecksas, was in charge of managing the defenses of the imperial capital, he gave the order for tax to be strictly collected in the form of cash due to their nearly emptied treasuries, causing many farmers in the central provinces to be unable to bear that kind of burden and side with the bandits, unleashing even more chaos. A few towns were even taken over by them.
Had Auguslo not taken another Fisablen as queen and relied on House Fisablen's funds and gear to quell those revolts, the consequences he would have to deal with would be even more troublelsome.
Currently, Auguslo was forming a new Fiercegale legion using the local garrison forces that were involved in quelling those revolts. Though the reason for its formation was the extermination of bandits, its placement was nothing short of in poor taste. Geographically speaking, that was a sound decision that showed Auguslo's trained eye for military affairs. Messen was the central hub of transportation and a strategic location in the northeastern area of the empire. The routes from Southern, Yungechandler and even Egret Lake passed through Messen.
For Lorist, Auguslo's stationing of Whitelion and Fiercegale to seal off the two ways out from the northeastern area of the empire was no big deal for House Norton, because they still had the sea route. However, that move severed the connection between the three houses of the alliance and House Shazin. Given that salt merchant committee had proliferated throughout the empire, the secession was even more crucial. In other words, it meant that the committee's activities would be at mercy to the two legions. Should any accident come to pass, the alliance of four houses wouldn't tolerate it.
In terms of strategic battle placement, stationing Fiercegale in Messen was a great move. Rimad and Southern neighbored each other and House Felim's might had recovered rather well over the past two years. Duke Felim ordered his household force, Pegasus, to continue eradicating bandits in Rimad to protect Southern from any raids. And as Messen was an important trade route for salt merchant committee, it wouldn't be out of place for House Felim and House Shazin to have their forces to conduct bandit sweeps there. That made the route from Southern to Shazin's dominion in the central province of Koribia a much safer one.
But after Fiercegale was moved to Messen, that trade route was cut off. That only served to intensify Lorist's suspicions that Auguslo was the one behind the attempted assassinations of Kenmays. Otherwise, why would he do something like cutting off the salt merchant committee's trade
Even more infuriating and causing Lorist to call him a fool was even though House Norton had gained access to a doorway to riches through trade in the south of the continent, he still couldn't give up on the market in the 30 plus provinces of the empire. The goods ordered by salt merchant committee annually would amount to around four million gold Fordes in total and the profit of one or two million was the key to maintaining the alliance. So, Lorist couldn't tolerate Auguslo for coming for the salt merchant committee.
If Auguslo was on good terms with the alliance, then Fiercegale legion might even be welcomed by them in Messen as House Felim could earn a bit from selling supplies to them.
But given their tense relations, Auguslo's actions only seemed to be of malign intent.
The current situation of Messen caused Fiercegale to be unable to sustain themselves from the land either. Rimad was also raided clean. Not only that, Jigzai and Samora were in a really bad economical state and wouldn't be able to offer Fiercegale any aid either. They had to depend on transporting large amounts of supplies from the southern provinces all the way to Messen.
Based on what was being transported, Lorist would never believe that Auguslo's reason for stationing Fiercegale there was to eliminate bandits. First of all, how could they deal with the bandits if they couldn't defend their supply line properly? If they were really going for the bandits, the right thing to do was to head to Handra's household dominion and start exterminating the bandits in provinces where their presence was weaker step by step. Only with that and good management could the situation really be stabilized. The towns and villages should be defended to wipe the bandits out completely instead of sending troops directly to Messen.
"Your Grace, Duke Kenmays sent an urgent letter to report that one of the salt merchant committee's trading convoys that left three days ago lost contact after passing through Egret Swamp. The duke has already requested Duke Felim to send Pegasus out to investigate," reported Jinolio. Lorist had been expecting news like that for a long time.
"Hehe, no need to wonder. Who else but Fiercegale can engulf a trade convoy of three thousand people? Send an eagle message to Freiyar and get him to work with Duke Shazin's forces. We can act now. NOtify Duke Felim to send Pegasus to seal off Rimad as well," ordered Lorist.
After waiting for three agonizing months, it was finally the time to strike. Lorist sent Jaeger to Koribia, Shazin's dominion, on the grounds that the duke himself requested aid to deal with bandits. Actually, they were there to disguise themselves as bandits to attack the supply line of Fiercegale. Auguslo's troop spent a grueling three months in Messen with huge ration shortages and their messengers they sent out would be spirited away for no reason. Their communication with the outside world could be said to have been cut off.
Under such circumstances, the trading convoy of salt merchant committee seemed like a juicy sheep waiting to be eaten. Other things aside, they could at least sate their hunger with the rations of the convoy and charge them a huge toll to be allowed to pass. Even though salt merchant committee was considered to be an imperial trading guild, Duke Kenmays usually didn't pay much heed to the officers of Fiercegale, especially elites like the general, so they had long received secret orders from Auguslo to cause trouble for salt merchant committee. That was a chance that they wouldn't miss.
Yet, the trading convoy refused to adhere to the legion's demands. Usually, the convoy would be refused passage if they refused to pay a toll. The convoy had two choices: give what was demanded of them or go home. But given how desperate Fiercegale was, they would never let the convoy go, so they acted and managed to force the rest of the convoy into their army camp after killing some hundreds of people.
It was only then that the general and commanding officers knew they screwed up big time. The most glaring fault of their actions lay with the casualties both sides suffered. Fiercegale suffered a few hundred casualties, and even more resisting merchants perished as a result. If it was a small trading convoy, the general could just give the order to silence them and toss the corpses into a valley somewhere and refuse to admit fault. But the large convoy had about three thousand people, and silencing them would prove to be no easy task. Now, they could only imprison them in the army camp and report it to Auguslo to await further instruction.
But the moment Fiercegale sent out the report, it was attacked by Jaeger, Pegasus and Shazin's forces. House Nortons stormed Fiercegale with tens of cannons and soon decimated them. The soldiers either discarded their weapons and surrendered or ran around chaotically. However, thanks to the tight encirclement of Pegasus and Jaeger, they were captured and taken prisoner in the end.
That incident proved to be the greatest scandal in the empire during Year 1784. One of the three newly formed imperial legions, Fiercegale, whose task was to exterminate bandits, had resorted to banditry themselves and were about to kill off three thousand people from salt merchant committee's trading convoy to silence them! Fortunately, the moment the alliance of four houses received word of the missing convoy, they immediately sent their troops to break into Fiercegale's camp before the convoy members were harmed, successfully saving them.
If the alliance of four houses attacked Fiercegale when nothing like that happened to the convoy, Auguslo could declare the alliance of four houses treasonous traitors and summon all other nobles in the empire to wipe them and their leader, House Norton, out. Even if they weren't able to win, it would help quench Auguslo's fire and he could apply more pressure on Lorist during negotiations to accept even the most egregious of Auguslo's demands.
However, Fiercegale was caught red-handed and the proof was undeniable. Not only did the merchants provide testimony to that case, even a few of the simpler-minded commanding officers of Fiercegale admitted everything, thinking that Auguslo would stand behind their backs. The report they were going to send to Auguslo was also intercepted and had the handwriting and personal seal of Fiercegale's general, making it undeniable proof. Even Auguslo wasn't able to explain his way out of it.
Duke Kenmays had a long novel written about the whole affair, containing the testimonies provided by the officers of Fiercegale, the accounts of the surviving merchants, as well as the report Fiercegale attempted to send Auguslo, and spread as many copies as far as he could. Virtually every noble in the empire received a copy and some even made their way to the Free Union. In a fit of rage, Auguslo was said to have destroyed every single article of furniture in his quarters. But he had no choice but to step out for damage control. He wrote Duke Kenmays a letter of apology and admitted his fault in trusting the wrong sort of people.
The Fiercegale plundering incident was a fatal blow to Auguslo that caused his reputation to suffer greatly. Not only was the new legion he spent so much effort to form completely wiped out, the eleven central provinces didn't have a single imperial force unit remaining, further exacerbating the bandit situation. But now, Auguslo no longer had the means to gather funds and rally more troops.
Lorist was quite glad that he managed to give Auguslo a square slap in the face, which he had to take without complaint. Some had noted in the testimonies of the officers that the reasoning for laying hands on the convoy was a shortage in supplies. However, when prompted for why they didn't have enough supplies, the response was always 'bandit attacks'. When further questioned on why they didn't wipe out the bandits that pillaged their supply line, those officers weren't able to come up with anything in response.
Auguslo was also at a loss for words. He couldn't acknowledge that the reason Fiercegale was stationed in Messen was to curb the alliance of four houses. Even though it was common knowledge, bringing it to light would only make it awkward for everyone. So, he didn't pay the 30 thousand captive soldiers of Fiercegale any heed as if the legion had never existed. Lorist wouldn't feed those parasites for nothing either, so he sent them to the newly established Montside to serve as laborers.