Little to no news came from other kingdoms, but even then, what did come was available only to nobles, and it was troubling news.
There was a massive riot in the kingdom of Vussia due to the questionable death of the old king. His son who inherited the crown had quickly ordered the city guards to gather up the rioters and executed them all.
Thus Jezebel became the queen of the Vussia kingdom at the young age of twenty.
There were rumors that the new king was a weak-willed man who was completely controlled and ordered around by Jezebel.
After the coronation, there were mass purges of nobles and common people, for the weakest of reasons.
Akira was currently staying at the small city of Swinford. He had been sent ahead of the caravan in order to purchase everything needed for the border castle’s monthly needs and to make sure everything was ready by the time the caravan reached the city so it could load the supplies and leave the same day.
Akira was able to purchase everything on the first day and used the money he had been given to rent a warehouse to store the supplies for the time being until the caravan arrived.
Akira wandered around the town until he came upon a forge connected to a blacksmith shop. The heat was pouring out of the building.
The forge had an open wall so he could see everything happening inside. Akira watched the metal get heated and then hammered into shape. The blacksmith repeated this process over and over again.
Akira had always been interested in blacksmithing. He had no time to learn it due to his hectic life of training and earning money with odd jobs when not on duty at the castle, so it was rare to even get a day off for a short vacation.
When the burly blacksmith finished working on a sword and placed the hammer on a shelf, Akira spoke to draw the attention of the blacksmith.
“Hello, would you by chance need any help?”
“Do you have any experience working with metal?” asked the blacksmith.
“Um...well, no. I don't have any experience, but I have been really interested in it for a long time,” replied Akira.
“Hahaha, you want to help but you don't know how to. Your help isn't needed, you would be too much of a burden. I ain't no teacher and have no time to time to fix the mistakes of others. Go take your hobby obsession somewhere else,” said the blacksmith with a cold smile, while laughing at Akira.
Akira couldn't deny it was a hobby to him. Now that he was a common knight stationed at the border castle, he had even less time for hobbies.
This trip to the city was like a vacation to him. His short time off would end tomorrow as the escort and caravan were due to show up.
Akira was napping under a tree in the quiet woods not far from the city. It was where he had spent most of his time while staying in the village. The shade, along with the slight wind, was a perfect spot to be lazy.
He was woken up by his horse that was tied to a nearby tree, whinnying.
Akira yawned and stretching as he stood up.
He looked at the sky to see the sun was already setting. He had slept longer then he had planned to. It was just too peaceful a place, that he hadn't woken up earlier.
The city gates would soon close if he didn't hurry. He jumped up onto his horse and began moving quickly so he wouldn't be forced to camp outside for the night.
Akira was unaware that he was being watched from afar by two figures silently hiding in the trees. The silent figures leaped from branch to branch, trailing after him with inhuman speed and nimbleness.
They nearly caught up to him but were forced to stop when they reached the edge of the woods.
They watched silently as Akira moved farther away, heading in the direction of the nearby village.
“Is that the guy?” asked one of the silent figures.
"Most likely. There aren't that many people who fit the description we were given," replied the second.
“Well, we were too late in finding him today. Trying to catch him without being noticed will be near impossible now. I guess we'll just have to wait for another chance,” said the first.
When Akira got closer to the city, he saw that the gates were still open. Pulling back on the reins, he slowed his movement to a trot, and then came to a complete stop at the city gate, which was being guarded by two familiar people he had gotten to know over the past few days.
“Cutting it close, are we?” asked one of the guards.
“Well, I sorta fell asleep,” replied Akira.
“You can pass,” said the second guard, waving for Akira to hurry so they could close the gates.
Akira went to the inn he was staying at and ordered some food and a drink from the grumpy landlord.
He sat down at a table in one of the corners where he waited for his food and drink.
An old man entered the inn and looked around the room, searching for someone. When he saw Akira, his expression changed into a smile. He walked over to Akira and boldly sat down at the same table.
“Uh.. hello. Do I know you?” asked Akira, who had no clue who he was.
“Sorry for the intrusion, I thought now would be a good time to introduce myself. My name is Grand. I am the new scribe that commander Brutus has hired to help manage paperwork. I will be joining you and the caravan tomorrow for the trip to the border castle,” said Grand.
“Nice to meet you, my name is Akira,” he said, not sure what else to say.
Akira's food was delivered and Grand ordered food from the landlord before he left the table.
The two did not talk and just ate quietly. Akira listened to the conversations of the other customers. Some rowdy people were talking loudly about unknown creatures roaming the borders.
“Is it true that there are those types of things at the border?” asked Grand.
“No, I haven't gone out with any of the border patrol squads, but if some creatures with that description were out there, the castle would have already gathered a small army to subjugate them. The border patrol helps keep the monsters in the forest and mountains at a low population. It's most likely just tall tales of a drunkard,” said Akira.
“For a second, I was worried that I was moving to a dangerous place,” said Grand with a laugh.
“Trust me, it is a really boring place. Nothing has happened in the nearly ten years I have lived there. It could use a bit of monsters to liven up the place,” said Akira with a smile.
They continued to eat their food while exchanging small talk. Akira parted ways with Grand after he finished eating and left for the room he rented to sleep.
“Good morning, Grand,” said Akira as he sat down at the table Grand was sitting at.
“Good morning, young sir.”
“That's a weird way to greet someone.”
“So when will the escort and wagons get here?” asked Grand.
“They should be here a few hours after the gates open. I know the person leading the escort for the caravan. He is normally on time, give or take a few hours,” replied Akira.
They both ate a quick breakfast and walked to the gates to wait for the arrival of the caravan.
When Akira and Grand reached the gate, there was already a small trickle of travelers entering and leaving the city. The streets were getting noisy as the traveling merchants set up shop on the side of the road.
Akira looked through the crowd, searching for any familiar faces and was unable to recognize anyone.
After two hours of waiting, the caravan could be seen in the distance, it was slowly moving along the road.
The escorts consisted of knights on horseback carrying lances and swords, while archers rode on the wagons to give support to the knights.
Thirty minutes passed until the caravan reached the gate.
“Halt, what is your businesses here?” asked one of the gate guards, blocking the caravan from entering.
“We’re from the border castle and have come to receive and escort the supplies bought ahead of our arrival,” a familiar voice came from behind a knight’s helmet.
“Ah, you must be the people he has been waiting for,” said the second guard while pointing at Akira.
The knight pulled off his helmet and grinned at Akira.
“Did we make you wait long?” asked Rodger.
Rodger had been promoted a few times in the short period of time he had been in the army, but he was not able to rise as fast as Marc had.
The king had still offered a spot in the elite guard which Rodger refused and instead decided to work for his father at the border castle.
“Late as usual, I see,” replied Akira with a smile of his own.
“Are you the newly hired scribe?” asked Rodger while looking at Grand.
“That I am. It is a pleasure to meet you. My name is Grand.”
Turning back to Akira, Rodger asked, “Did you manage to get everything?”
“Yes, if you will follow me, we can start loading it onto the wagons and leave,” said Akira.
When they reached the warehouse, it took them a short time to load everything into the wagons with the escort knights all helping.
“Mount up,” shouted Rodger.
The knights had gotten back onto their horses. Grand joined the archers on the wagons. Akira moved his horse to stand next to Rodger.
”We leave for Marsen Castle. We will use the same formation as before. Let's all return alive with the wagons and supplies intact,” ordered Rodger.
The caravan exited the city. When they were outside, they moved to get into a diamond formation around the wagons before they started the journey back to the border castle, where their warm beds awaited them.
Around the time noon arrived, the caravan stopped to have lunch, as well as to water and feed their horses. Akira was listening to the gossip and events that had happened in the capital during Rodger’s last trip.
“When I was in the capital, I was able to see a new army the king was training. Once they are finished training, there will be two armies under the king's control,” said Rodger.
“That must cost a lot to keep both of them fully funded,” replied Akira.
“It's nothing, I was also able to see Ruth when I was there. She seems to have mellowed out and isn't as bossy anymore. She was actually quite nice when I was talking to her. It was a bit weird. There were some rumors I heard from other nobles about Jezebel. They didn't paint her in a good light, calling her a bloodthirsty tyrant queen, saying she is the one who's the real person that is in control of the Vussia kingdom.”
“That sounds nothing like Jezebel, she was always so nice and shy. If I didn't know any better, it would sound like their personalities had switched. It's just probably rumors being spread around by unhappy people.”
Rodger and Akira continued talking until they finished lunch. The caravan began its march again. Akira rode next to the wagon Grand was sitting on, listening to old stories that the scribe knew.
Rodger was commanding the army from the middle of the rear diamond formation. During a break in Grand’s story, Akira glanced back and saw a scout galloping up to Rodger to say a few words. Afterwards, Rodger started moving from wagon to wagon, speaking to each of the drivers before moving to the next one.
When he finally arrived at the wagon Akira was next to, he was able to hear what was said, “We have uninvited guests following us. So there might be a fight. You need to be ready for it. For now, please pick up the pace.”
Everyone was now on alert, scanning the area as they continued to move, trying to find the hidden enemy.
Their pursuers did not show themselves for over an hour as they continued to travel. This lasted until the woods they were passing by had ended.
The enemy showed themselves and started shooting arrows after the caravan, clearly announcing their hostility.
The arrows rained down on the escorting soldiers. Most missed their mark or bounced off the knights’ armor and shields, while the rest of the arrows had embedded themselves into the wagons. Only a few people were lightly wounded by the attack.
A horn was sounded from one of the enemy horsemen, who looked to be well equipped along with the others following him. At the sound of the horn, they began their charge after the caravan and its escorts with their weapons drawn.
“Wagons, keep moving forward, archers shoot them down!” shouted Rodger.
The enemy horsemen split into three groups when the arrows started to come after them. The horses they rode were a strong breed, allowing them to slowly catch up to the caravan.
When they finally caught up to them, the enemy horsemen kept clashing with the knights, attacking from three sides, the left, right, and on the rear.
They were like a pack of wolves biting at an escaping deer's legs.
Again a battle horn sounded slightly further away from the fighting. Everyone's attention was drawn to the sound, there was a horseman who was shouting something and pointing in the general direction near Akira.
Akira turned his head to look behind him and saw only the wagons full of supplies.
Then the enemy surprised them and disengaged from the fight, escaping back into the woods. The archers on top of the wagons sent arrows after them until they were out of their bow’s range, and they managed to kill a few of the enemy soldiers and their horses.
Rodger did not order them to chase after the fleeing enemy. He feared they were trying to lure them into a trap. His mission was to protect and transport the wagons to the castle, not chase bandits.
The knights returned to their diamond formation and continued traveling at a quick pace. Rodger galloped over to Akira, joining him next to the wagon Grand was riding.
“Do you know who they were?” Akira asked.
“I have no clue but they seemed too well-equipped to be bandits. They wore no mark or emblem linking them to a noble or faction, so I can't be sure. For some reason they seem interested in this wagon and its contents,” said Rodger, pointing at the wagon.
“That's odd, there's nothing of importance in it, just food and other common items.”
“Then I have no idea what they want but we will have to keep an eye out for them. That probably wasn't the last time we’ll have to deal with them.”
“Well, at least no one died in the fight. We should be able to handle them since only a few were wounded,” said Akira.
“That last attack wasn't all too hard to repel. I'm sure if they really wanted to fight, they would have done more damage to us. It's troublesome, but we will soon reach one of the outpost fort. We can rest there for the night. We won't have to worry too much once we get there,” said Rodger.
They continued to travel to the outpost fort.
They were surprised again when the enemy appeared two hours later, and this time they had managed to get ahead of the caravan. The enemy horsemen started to charge at them from the front, causing the wagons to slow to a halt.
“Akira, I'll leave you in command of a few soldiers to protect the wagons,” said Rodger quickly.
“I will see that they are protected,” said Akira.
Rodger took a horn from his saddle and blew out a tune.
“Knights, charge the enemy!” Rodger ordered with a shout.
Rodger led the knights in a charge to intercept the oncoming enemy horsemen. The two forces clashed with the sound of metal clanging against shield and armor.
The cries of pain from both men and horses alike could be heard from those who had been wounded.
Every time one of the enemy horsemen escaped the fight around Rodger, they continued charging towards the wagons that Akira was guarding.
But instead of trying to loot the supplies from the wagons, all of the attacks were focused on Akira and the soldiers around him.
With the help of the archers on the wagons and the soldiers, Akira was able to easily kill the enemies as they all came in small groups.
Rodger and the knights fighting against the main enemy raiding force were not having a difficult time fighting and were driving the enemy back.
The battle only lasted for another ten minutes until the last enemy that was unable to escape was killed.
There were many of the knights who were wounded but they used their own potions they had been carrying to heal themselves. Although the potions cured the wounds, it did not get rid of the fatigue they felt from the two fights.
Rodger ordered the knights to resume their positions around the caravan and they once again continued their march to the outpost fort.
“I knew it,” said Grand, who had fought next to Akira.
“What?” asked Akira.
“Ah, did I say that out loud? It's nothing much, I was just thinking that my suspicions were correct,” replied Grand.
Thank you for reading this chapter.