Recap on TAS:
After the escape from Fortress Riedon, Brendel recruited Amandina and set out to his new destination. He encountered the Grey Wolves Mercenaries’ leader, Makarov. The latter was someone under the Royal Faction and betrayed the Grey Wolves Mercenaries. This incident caused Brendel considerable trouble as he was forced to get involved with an enemy faction, but he managed to get Medissa, an Elven Princess who’s also a Unicorn Knight, and some of the Grey Wolves Mercenaries.
After putting the Royal Faction into their place with the aid of the Silver Elves, he set off to Valhalla under the title of Viscount Gaston/ His goal was to reach a unique land that would increase his army strength because it has considerable ‘wealth.’ (TL: I can’t remember exactly if that place is a Nest of some sort, but I do remember it being desirable to players in the game.)
He passed by Trentheim, the territory near the undead’s borders in the southwest of Aouine. Baron Graudin who ruled there, killed the citizens and mercenaries in Firbugh, the capital of Trentheim, to flaunt his powers to Brendel.
After finding out that his atrocities extended all the way to the nearby Lycanthropes in the outer areas, Brendel was driven into a cold fury that made him swore an oath to defeat Graudin. He managed to do so even when the undead was aiding the enemy.
This outcome has set him up quite nicely with three large mercenary groups, Lycanthropes, possibly the druids, and the city Firbugh. It remains to be seen if they are any stray resistances from other nobles to his claim to Trentheim.
And now, let’s proceed to Volume 3 of The Amber Sword.
Volume 3 – Royal authority and the Rose
Chapter 1 – Letter (1)
=========== Tirste’s POV ==========
The afternoon’s sunlight poured onto the ground’s decaying leaves. The shadows shimmered continuously on them as the top of the trees trembled against the slight breeze.
“The silence here is slightly unusual, my lord.” Gail said with a slight frown.
“There is a particular legend circulating amongst the Highland’s citizens. The abnormal silence in the forest’s certain areas happens because the Goddess of the Lake is watching. ‘In these places, be wary and do not turn your head back.’ — So they say.” Tirste replied. His bony and pale fingers were on his sword’s hilt, while his gaze was cast towards a thin path where a vigilant beast was crossing. (TL: Tirste is a young man from the Unifying Guild who nearly killed Brendel during the auction quite a while back.)
“You jest, my Lord,” Gail felt the hair on the back of his neck rise a little. His eyes wandered all over the surroundings. The shadows seemed to have a pair of eyes hiding in them somewhere: “All manners of Divine Spirits are mere untruths.”
“I think not, Gail,” came Tirste’s reply. “I believe the Divine Spirits are real existences.”
Gail’s gaze went back to the young Viscount’s kind eyes, as though he was trying to find the source of the grisly tales. Tirste was recognized as a Holy Saint in the Unifying Guild. To get to his position, he was gifted with wisdom, talent and was completely loyal to the cause. He was one in ten thousand. Even though he was quite fickle with his personality, no one would believe he utter those words.
“If Divine Spirits exists,” Gail asked with uncertainty, “are our actions not blasphemy towards them?”
Tirste glanced at Gail’s unsteady footsteps; his expression seemed to mock the young knight’s cowardice.
“If there are divine spirits,” he said, “do you think they are always in the right? I don’t.”
Gail fell into silence. He realized the difference between himself and the viscount.
Tirste turned around and observed the nearby lake at the edge of the forest. Knights were approaching the bank on boats. They disembarked before towing them back onto land clumsily.
“Let us continue on our journey.” Tirste snapped his fingers. “Pay attention to your surroundings. We might encounter dark spirits and the likes in this place. Even if they don’t threaten us, they are still troublesome foes.”
He pushed out with his hand to brush his cloak behind him, marching forward. Gail followed him closely. The knights who landed near the shore eventually caught up to both of them.
“My lord, the third, fourth, fifth and seventh squadrons are ahead of us and will join us in the north. However, the other squadrons seemed to have failed to push through the fog shrouding the forest.” The knights’ captain reported to Tirste.
Tirste studied the beautiful forest’s surroundings as he continued to march forward. The ever-changing light that reached his narrow eyes seemed to become soft with a glow.
“That would mean a total of thirty-seven knights have arrived?” He said.
The captain nodded.
“Thirty-seven silver-ranked knights and I included. That should be enough to take care of the ‘Knight of the Lake,’ if the information provided isn’t wrong—”
Gail’s nervous hand was on his blade upon hearing Tirste’s words. Their footsteps shuffled across the soil until he could no longer help but ask a question to relieve his anxiety.
“How big is that particular island, my lord?” He asked.
“Feeling afraid, Gail? The native fishermen have said the Knight of the Lake will not appear outside of the sacred mountains.”
“I apologize, my lord.” Gail relaxed his hand stiffly, taking in a deep breath.
Tirste smiled kindly in response.
When they were finally out of the forest, they discovered the northern squadrons of knights waiting for them. After a short moment of greeting Tirste, they doubled their speed to reach their destination.
A valley of pure white boulders led to tall, rising cliffs. Tirste walked up to the nearby walls and stroked it with his long fingers, savoring the uneven and rough surfaces.
It was the feedback of a certain weight from a venerable history. Many centuries ago, a king had brought along his personal sword and quietly slumbered within the forest ahead.
“A king made his eternal rest here. Do you know who it is?” Tirste said.
“King Erik?” Gail asked.
“No,” Tirste shook his head. “Not him.”
But he did not speak further and merely withdrew his hand, letting it hang limply beside him. After a moment, he continued his footsteps and went deeper into the valley.
The knights traversed the uneven ground behind him, and he led them into a cave and out of it. A verdant forest appeared before their very eyes.
‘The Sleeping Forest,’ the natives had named this place so.
“Is this it?” Tirste asked as he looked at the knights’ captain.
“Yes, my lord. According to the report, the Knight of the Lake is patrolling the area within the forest.”
“Is everyone armed and ready?”
The knights’ hands went to their swords as their replies. Tirste nodded with satisfaction.
“Then follow me into battle.”
“For the Chaos above!” The knights responded.
============== Brendel’s POV ==============
Brendel was sitting in front of a table made from a walnut tree, when he felt the Sage Slate in the bag hanging on his belt vibrating.
He paused momentarily in hesitation, before laying down the goose-feathered pen in his hand, took it out and placed it on the table beside his letter.
The Sage Slate continued to vibrate as though it was alive, but it turned silent after a moment.
“Is there something wrong, my lord?” Amandina asked, blinking in confusion.
She had been standing against an arched window. Her posture was upright and graceful, her long neck accentuated by the sun. Brendel’s eyes went to her and were momentarily distracted by her beauty.
“…… Nothing.” He said, his eyes going back to the slab of rock. He prodded it, but there was no response. He pondered for a moment. “It seems to be another low-level resonance, something that’s quite common recently.”
He pulled open the table’s drawer and placed the Sage Slate in it. He dipped the pen into the bottle of ink, and it went back to the letter he was writing earlier. However, the interruption he had gave him trouble to continue writing it. He rubbed his forehead as he felt a headache coming on.
“Are you writing a letter to Miss Freya?” Amandina glanced at the letter on the table.
“Yes. It’s quite a headache. The troubles with Graudin are over, but the real problem starts now.” He raised his head back up at her. “How should we handle Count Randner?”
Amandina’s eyes went back to him, irritated.
“I thought my lord has a solution prepared. Why didn’t you seek my opinion when you marched straight into Graudin’s manor?”
“Are you going to rest easy if I give up on finding a solution?” Brendel gave a short laugh.
She turned her head back sullenly to gaze at the scenery and did not speak anymore.
[There she goes again with the hot and cold attitude.] He dabbed the pen on the paper.
“What exactly did you mean when you spoke with that female mercenary commander?” He asked.
“The words are exactly what they mean.”
“I don’t think so. I understand the complaints in your heart, but you and I both know how straightforward you are. There’s no need to tell an outsider that much.” Brendel shook his head. He took the letter up, crumpled it with both hands and threw into a wastebasket. “That was quite a smart move, Amandina. I’m really fortunate to have a subordinate like you—”
Amandina’s eyes went back to him with a hint of admiration.
“I merely acted on my own when I realized my lord wanted to recruit these mercenaries.” She said.
“So you are not blaming me any longer? I should thank Mother Marsha.” Brendel sighed with relief.
“I never did blame you, but I was a little angry at being left behind.” A faint smile went up before she frowned. “The truth is, I’m afraid that I’m unable to follow your thoughts. If any misunderstanding arises because of my actions, it will become a rift between us and grow increasingly larger.”
[As long as you are willing to work for me, you won’t go wrong very far.] Brendel smiled. He took out another parchment.
“Well, let’s put that aside. Now then, do you have any ideas to handle the Count Randner, Lady Advisor?”
“Somewhat of a plan. My lord has made a dangerous move, and any ordinary means would not be able to resolve the dangers we are going to face. A noble weak in power against someone stronger traditionally deflects the attacks, or borrows influence from another family.
In that aspect, we should try and find someone who’s willing to back us. However, families who have strong traditional values are unfortunately unlikely to lend us their troops.
While we can consider seeking aid from his enemies, our actions have gone against the rules of the nobles’ game. Our name is also weak and unknown to them, and there is probably no one who will accept the risk of going up against Count Randner. We should not expect anything.”
She looked troubled as she pondered on the options. “What remains are illogical choices, but I think they are better than the above. Joining hands with the southern armies, or even Madara—”
“Madara is out of the question. Let’s hear your thoughts on the southern armies.” Brendel waved his hand.
“The reasons why Madara and Count Randner went into an alliance are probably due to one of these few reasons. Count Randner wants to borrow Madara’s hands to eliminate the southern armies, while suppressing the citizens of Randner’s highland territory. My lord, have you noticed that Madara’s undead has not set foot in the Lightning Lake of the Goddess? Their activities have only progressed in busy cities or within the autonomous regions of the Highland’s citizens.
The Southern Armies are cut off from reinforcements, and possibly resent Count Randner greatly for not doing anything. Since they are entrenched in areas of great poverty, their most immediate troubles are the lack of supplies. If we can secure an alliance with them with that reason, putting the war with the Randners aside, we can at least secure our defenses in our backlines.”
“You are referring to Madara as the secondary threat?”
“The plan is a good one.” Brendel was doodling on the parchment subconsciously while his eyes and thoughts were outside the window. “However, the Southern Armies are deeply cut off with the world after Madara’s battles with them. Figuring out if they are still battle-worthy is a problem, and contacting them is another problem.”
The pen stopped moving. He sighed deeply.
“We cannot rely on mere luck. Therefore this plan can only be used as a backup. I will send scouts along to investigate the various regions, but before we receive any concrete information, this will remain as a mere plan.” He said.
“Are the Silver Elves available to aid us? When it comes to military prowess, they are the strongest troops available—” Amandina said.
“The Silver Elves?” Brendel shifted his body slightly as he allowed one hand to support his chin. “Indeed, the friendship I have with the Silver Citizens is of one of my trump cards that I can use. However, unless we have reached a critical point, I will avoid throwing this card out. Do you have any more ideas?”