Chapter 147: Overture
In the view of most humans, the Highland Beastmen were deprived of spellcasters. However, to the armies guarding the Northern Lands, such a saying was obviously far from the truth. The Shamans and Witch Doctors of the Beastmen were spellcasters which left people with headaches.
The former were skilled with connecting with the Elemental Spirits to induce all kinds of natural phenomenon to attack their enemies or to support their comrades. Not only was the consumption rate for their spells low, the effects of their spells were also apparent. Their offensive abilities were in no way inferior to Mages, and their support ability was comparable to Priests and Holy Knights.
Even more so, the Shamans were skilled at working with one another, and as such, they had a natural advantage in creating strategic-level magic spells. Their Earthquake Spell was an incredible weapon for raiding cities.
On the other hand, as a highly threatening spellcaster job which had few means of protecting themselves, if a powerful close combatant were to get into proximity with the Shamans….
“We can give him ten seconds to plead for Mother Earth’s blessing, five seconds to draw his weapon, three seconds to do meaningless retaliation or to chant an incantation, and the final second to end him.”
“Every minute, there are fourteen Shamans who are being killed! Please do not slaughter Shamans and support the law allowing Shamans to instant-cast Earth Drifting Spell (Teleportation Spell)! Support the cancellation of the Shamans as a job! —Shaman Self-Help Fund.”
Putting aside their individual prowess and their obvious flaws, the reason why Shamans were often prioritized as a target in battle said much about their powerful support and long-distance offensive ability. This happened to be what the Beastmen, who specialized in physical brawls, lacked.
If the Shamans were the ideal combination with Beastman Warriors, then Witch Doctors were the best backup. They specialized in concocting poisons and antidotes alike, casting all kinds of curses and witchcraft, as well as dispelling curses and healing the wounded.
Even though their treatment methods were a little ridiculous—they used bloodletting to treat all ailments, after all, regardless of whether it was a common cold or a migraine. Even though they didn’t know what went into the medicine that they concoct (there were lizard droppings, pitch-black grass, and many unexplainable ingredients in it), it was a fact that they had saved many lives in the Highlands which lacked doctors and medicine. (Naturally, the ones whose treatment failed had died and the dead were unable to complain.)
Spellcasters were always lacking, and that fact rang even louder for Beastmen Tribes.
For the Beastmen who were skilled at physical brawling, it was difficult to find a clan member who had a good head. Furthermore, the person had to have talent in spellcasting as well. In each tribe, these two spellcasting jobs were severely lacking and highly valued. Shamans and Witch Doctors possessed high standing in all of the Beastmen Tribes and many of them even became Chieftains.
However, at this very moment, the precious Shamans and Witch Doctors became menial laborers. They were walking up and down the altar to check on it while the furious onlookers were frustrated to the point that they started using whips to lash them.
“Dammit! We were already so careful! How could a problem still occur?”
The Blood Axe Tribe’s Eron Bloodaxe wore a grim expression. The tribute ritual had been conducted by his own tribe and most of his tribe’s elite Shamans and Witch Doctors had been devoted to it. The amount of tributes used for it was massive, yet it ended up like this. How could they not feel disappointed?
Was it a failure? No, that’s not it. At the very least, the warm flames in the surroundings lighted by the red-orange light bore testimony to that.
Was a success? That was clearly not the case. The tightknit eyebrows and frustrated expressions on the Chieftains explained it all. At the very least, the results were not as they initially hoped for.
“Lord, the results are out. The blessing was a success and it had the effect of warding off the cold, but…”
Even though the old Shaman reported as such, nobody’s expression relaxed because of it. That was because during the crucial period, that brilliant flame was suddenly cut off and the Demon Lord’s furious howl echoed in everyone’s ears.
“You hope to earn my blessings despite giving tribute to me with such filthy objects? To dare to place fake souls upon my altar! This is blasphemy! You all are challenging my dignity! I curse you all, I curse that you all will face destruction! To think that you all would dare deceive a Demon Lord…”
Upon realizing that there was a problem with the tributes presented to her, the furious Demon Marquess sent the flames of her wrath over. The massive flames morphed into a giant golem with a spear in its hands and it started to wreak havoc in the base. Furthermore, the opened Demon Doors meant that the Demon army was about to arrive at their base.
Fortunately, the old Shaman, who was heading the ritual, closed the connection with the Chaos Abyss in time, making the inferno avatar of the Marquess return back to the Elements and closing the Dimensional Gate. Otherwise, it wouldn’t just be a matter of the failure of the blessings. If things went badly, the entire camp might have even been destroyed by the furious Demon Marquess.
Given such circumstances, for the ritual to not be a failure, the various Chieftains were surprised.
“Huh? The blessing didn’t fail?”
Eron was astonished. He knew how difficult it was to deal with Elisa and he had prepared himself for failure.
“The effects of the blessing aren’t complete and they can only ward off the cold temporarily. Also, based on the rate the Element is dissipating at, the blessing will cease to be in thirty days.”
Hearing those words, the Chieftains heaved a sigh of relief. When the ritual failed, everyone was prepared for the worst. Even though the original three months of blessing was cut to less than a month, this was much better than the worst case scenario they had prepared themselves for.
“Have you checked on the issue with the tributes? Which tribe was the one that used an imitation at such a crucial period? I want the Chieftain’s head to be staked on a flagpole!”
Eron was furious. They almost passed by this hard to come by opportunity, even offending a Demon Lord at that. There would be trouble awaiting them in the future.
The Demon Lords were well-known for being difficult. It would already be a blessing for people if they did not cause any trouble of their own accord. If someone wanted their assistance, aside from waiting on them properly, the summoner had to pay the expensive “appearance fee” as well.
The most stable currency in use in the Lower Realm was the souls of the Upper Realm. In order to please the Inferno Marquess, the tributes used this time were top-quality slaves from each and every tribe.
It was impossible for the ritual to fail for no reason. The Demon Lords were known for being fickle-minded, but they were even more reputed to care to speak the truth (If they were displeased with someone, they would immediately make a move. If there was a treasure in sight that they wanted, they would immediately snatch it.). Since the Demon Lord roared at them because she was unsatisfied with the tributes, it was very likely for there to be a problem with the tributes.
“This…” The old Shaman of the Tortoise Tribe slightly hesitated. However, upon seeing the confused gazes the Chieftains were shooting him with, he knew that he had no choice but to say it. As such, he gritted his teeth and spoke.
“The tributes have been all expended, but the blessing was incomplete. Given that there was a loss in power in the ritual, the souls used in the ritual must not be enough. However, it was impossible to check on it since the tributes are no longer here. However, based on the timing when Lord Elisa became enraged… It matches with the timing when the Blood Axe Tribe’s tribute was being presented!”
Instantaneously, the furious Eron who was still interrogating others became speechless. To think that his tribe would be the cause of the trouble?
Hostility appeared in the eyes of the surrounding Chieftains. They also seemed to recall that the inferno statue’s howl was directed toward the Blood Axe Tribe’s camp. Even so, Eron was so determinedly pointing the blame to other tribes, wasn’t this a case of a thief calling another a thief?
Unknowingly, the seed of discord had been planted. One still required prestige to head the other tribes, and the consecutive failures had struck a blow to Eron’s prestige. In the eyes of some others, Eron losing his ability to rally all of the others tribes could mean that they might be able to replace him as the Great Chieftain.
Putting aside those seemingly peaceful but discordant Chieftains, when the short ritual was terminated abruptly, the will of a certain someone had already descended onto this world. The person had taken some of the tributes for her personal use.
Currently, the altar was a mess. In the midst of the tributes, a fiery red apparition was slowly becoming corporeal.
Breathing the cold air that was finally without the smell of sulfur, a smile appeared on the familiar, beautiful face. Similar to the avatar of the Goddess of Storm in the City of Rain, the silver-haired Demoness had secretly sent an avatar to the mortal realm.
“Master, do you miss me? Have you made preparations to welcome me? I did say that I would conduct sudden inspections.”
When large-scale aerial battles had yet to become a possibility, terrain remained an important aspect of surface battles.
Kamo’s Tear, rebuilt from the remains of the Mist Country’s original Steel Fortress, was surrounded by sharp cliffs. The heavy city walls had been plated with the expensive enchanted alloy. What flowed in the moat of the fortress was a type of unfreezable oil made of alchemy. Once lit, the flames would burn furiously for two months straight before the fuel ran out.
A third of Sleuweir’s military strength and forty percent of the country’s spellcasters were gathered in the city. A total of nine large-scale Mage Tower and thirty midscale Mage Tower faced the ravine near the Beastmen’s territory. Furthermore, the fire ballistae placed throughout the wall were so dense it made goosebumps rise by looking at it from afar. Two hundred years of painstaking effort and investment had turned it into one of the few impregnable fortresses on the continent.
As an infallible fortress, it had locked the Beastmen out from the human society for two hundred years. It was said that its establishment was heavily supported by the countries of the Northern Lands and the several powerful empires of the continent.
Ever since its establishment, those city walls which even Giants were unable to climb over became one of the greatest obstructions to the dreams of the Highland Beastmen. Lacking siege weapons, they found themselves helpless against it. Conquering a fortress of such size with the few aerial tribes and troops they had was a mere dream. Even the previous Great Chieftain of the Beastmen Tribes had died beneath the walls of the fortress.
But if I had to speak, it was all a mistake from the very start.
“Does an impregnable fortress really exist in the world? You may be able to defend yourself against a regular army, but are you able to guard yourself against assassinations and Forbidden Spells? Placing all of their eggs into a single basket was the wrong strategy. Even if the fortress was truly impregnable, the enemy could choose to circumvent the fortress. Even if there is no plausible route at the moment, it is possible for the enemies to simply pave one themselves.”
The Maginot Line* of Earth had already proven that only establishing a fixed defensive line against an enemy was a foolish decision. However, the generals and military officials of this world viewed fortresses as an important and classic defense strategy. Sleuweir was also a country that believed in the importance of fortresses and had benefited for centuries due to the existence of the fortress. After this painful lesson, all of the military schools would probably research the causes of failure of this war and use it as a case study—a negative role model for why being overly obsessed with fortresses was a foolish decision.
The trade and communication agreement which Sleuweir had just signed with the Beastmen was instantaneously torn apart. Without any forewarning, the Beastmen had infiltrated into deep into their lands, ferociously tearing apart every single human they could see.
The Earth Elemental God Emordilorcan was definitely much more low profile than his colleague. With a single high-intensity earthquake, he changed the geographical structure of the Northern Lands, causing another narrow ravine leading from the highlands to the Northern Lands to appear, thus making that impregnable fortress-like the eyes of a cave-dweller—ornamental.
The Beastmen army had charged directly to the core of the Sleuweir Kingdom before spreading all around to assault and take down the various cities. Of which, half of the entire Blood Axe Tribe headed straight for Sleuweir’s capital, Antuen.
In order to create even more chaos and keep the military of the various fief lords under control, more than a hundred hunting squads consisting mainly of Wolf Knights conducted guerilla attacks on the various armies. Given how they themselves were in a precarious situation, the fief lords chose to utilize the army for their own needs. As such, in less than a single month since the outbreak of war, Antuen was already in an emergency situation. Sleuweir’s downfall came even faster than anyone had expected.
At this moment, I am helpless.
It was not that I didn’t want to do anything, but the first round of snow had struck before I could return to the East Mist Communal Country. Even though its arrival was within expectations, it was still unwelcomed. There were too many things that I needed to attend to and the snow truly fell at an inopportune time.
The winter of the Northern Lands was exceptionally brutal. The white snow had already covered all of Diffindor. Snow half a meter deep piled up on the streets. There were barely any pedestrians in sight on the streets.
Such weather was a disaster. The horses would sink into the snow if they tried to traverse this weather. The weather would cause their body temperature to fall rapidly and precious war horses would simply die for naught.
Given the underlying rule that had gradually come into place in the Northern Lands in these few years, when a country had been invaded by the Beastmen or other foreign race, the other countries had to provide them a certain level of aid or send their troops to reinforce them. Back then, the one to enjoy such aid was often Karsomi Communal Country.
However, it was a pity that the snow that affected most of the countries in the Northern Land had changed it all.
The resources were unable to arrive on time and the reinforcement was stuck on the way. On the other hand, the Beastmen were still persisting in their attacks to capture the capital of Sleuweir. This was a hopeless situation.
The cruel natural world was equal for all. Traditionally, there would be a ceasefire when the snow was sufficiently heavy to lock down the mountains. After all, to the warriors, dying on the battlefield was a kind of dream. No matter what, it was somewhat a shame to freeze to death on the battlefield; the family members of the soldier would often be tempted to curse at the military officers if their family member had died so meaninglessly on the battlefield.
Fortunately, as the effect of the Fire God’s Blessing faded, the Beastmen gradually started to limit their sphere of operations and used the cities they had taken down as their base.
Truthfully, even without Elisa’s Fire God’s Blessing, the war would have still broken out early.
On another aspect, while Elisa’s name had been cursed at by the higher echelons of the Beastmen, Eron and his Blood Axe Tribe—due to the accumulation of rage and resentment against them—started to be isolated within the Alliance army while their reputation plummeted.
Although the Beastmen Alliance army being split into four had strategic considerations, it also showed that Eron, who had meager prestige, was unable to hold onto his leadership position.
At this moment, the other three Chieftains also had tribes that supported them. The next Beastman Sovereign would be determined by the results of this battle.
Everyone knew they could not delay this war to spring of next year; the human kingdoms would not watch idly as Antuen fell and Sleuweir was destroyed. The moment the snow halted and the army was able to move, it would spell the outbreak of war.
Furthermore, given that the war would be conducted in the midst of winter, it would determine the survival of the various races within the lands. The war was bound to be exceptionally cruel. Even the non-combat forces would find their numbers dwindle significantly.
At present, I was busy dealing with military affairs as well.
“Has news from Hoyle arrived? What is the progress with the mines?”
Every single Gray Dwarf was a natural miner. They possessed the Race Talents: Rock Treading and Ore Perception. Of which, the sensitivity that the Blacksmith Master Gray Dwarf Hoyle held toward ores was not something his peers could compete with.
Regardless of whether it was for trade or military purposes, the East Mist required endless amounts of ore. At present, given how many newly created divisions were still using wooden training weapons, the military was in dire need of weapons to grow stronger. And the manufacturing of weapons had to begin from the mines.
This was the lifeline of the East Mist. Even when war had already broken out, I still regarded it as our priority.
While I returned to Diffindor in advance due to the outbreak of war, I left Hoyle and the other Gray Dwarves at the Barbarians’ territory to hunt for mines. If even they were unable to find any ore, it would be impossible for the human miners to find any.
“Good news. The mountainous range is indeed a mine deposit. We have already found two superior metal mines, one magic metal mine, and two jewel mines. However, it will take a period of time before we can develop it. Lord Hoyle’s applied for the assistance of machines and spellcasters and he had specifically listed the Beyar Brothers to assist him in his work.”
“Exploding the mines? Seems like it is the only viable solution to achieve results in the short run. Fine, send the Beyar Brothers to help him. However, remember to warn him to take note of their safety. Do not come into conflict with the Barbarians. They are inflexible people; offending them once means offending them for life.”
“Yes, Your Highness. We will convey your words to him. Then, the next matter is regarding the names of the newly created divisions and their flags…”
The various assistants came to and fro my desk, the military documents that had accumulated in my period of absence crushed the desk. Innumerable problems came rushing at me all at once.
While I did not intend to interfere with the governance of the country, just the military affairs themselves were enough to give me a splitting headache.
At such a moment, I couldn’t help but miss Elisa. After all, while others could only serve as assistant, Elisa, who I had brought up personally, had working abilities that were in no way inferior to mine, and I could dump all of my troubles on her so as to slack off.
Alright, Elisa was still in the Chaos Abyss and thinking about all these was meaningless. I should devote my attention to the problems before me first.
“The situation in Antuen isn’t going well. It is possible for the city to fall at any moment now…”
No matter what, we were both offspring from the same origin. Even though we were filled with discontentment and resentment against that country, upon seeing it on the verge of destruction, these young assistants felt uneasy.
I nodded my head, indicating to the other party that I had received his words. After which, I fell into deep contemplation.
No doubt, we had to save them. Even though I was extremely unsatisfied with their royalty, I couldn’t watch as the Mist citizens in those countries were slaughtered. Furthermore, the moment Sleuweir fell completely, East Mist would be embroiled in the war and the current East Mist was not well-equipped for war yet.
While we had to save them, the important aspect to consider was how we should go about doing it. We had to build a reputation for ourselves to gain the initiative in our foreign diplomacy in the Northern Lands while not going too far to rattle the foundations of the already weak East Mist.
After a long time, I finally made my decision.
“Send a letter to Antuen and say that the neutral East Mist requires a sufficient reason to interfere in the war, so they have to request for help publicly. Right, have them send a request to the various Churches as well. Yes, a request for us to send our troops to help them ward off the invaders. Only this way will Lord Wumianzhe recognize the necessity and justice of the war, and we will be able to send our troops to aid them.
“Didn’t you say that I was an imitation not too long ago, claiming that the East Mist was deceiving the world, even sending a report to the various kingdoms and Churches. Now, I will see how you will settle with the aftermath yourselves. Yeah, spread the former part of the message publicly, let the other countries understand the new system East Mist operates by. As for the latter, dump it on the ‘Emperor’ Feimer Carson.”
If you want me to save you, lower your heads and reflect on your actions! Swallow everything that you had spouted previously!
I was not worried that Feimer wouldn’t lower his head. After all, the situation in Antuen wasn’t going well and when there was a tangible threat to their lives, so many people would become much more obedient.
“Hmph, it is truly such an irony. Right after claiming that I am an imitation, they immediately turn around to request assistance from the imitation. Furthermore, the one who will come to their aid will most likely be the ‘demonic army’ they spoke of.”
After pondering the matter for a while, under the current circumstances, the most suitable reinforcements to send them was still my Undead army, who didn’t fear the cold. In the previous report, that fellow termed my army as the “demonic army,” not hiding his contempt and frustration at all.
“How can I miss out on such an ideal opportunity to conduct a Winter Hunt? It is also an ideal opportunity to train our troops. Have every Knight bring along two squires with them! Have those little fellows prepare themselves. We will head out as soon as the snow stops!”
*TL: Maginot Line was the French’s defense line against Germany in WW2