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Your name is Brandford Bronzebiter, and you are the 28th king of Stonekeep. Two decades ago The Deluge began, and an apocalyptic quantity of hellspawn and abominations were released into the region, putting the kingdom under existential threat. Only now has that threat began to lessen, and has Stonekeep dared to reclaim its former lands.

It is currently the 68th day of Rebirth, 1383 years After Salvation. Your morning was spent in a fierce battle against the demons, who have converted the abandoned capital of the kingdom, Blue Ridge, into a keep of their own. Now you and your men rest for the night, listening to a tale as you eat. You sit quietly as a soldier with greying hairs and a booming voice narrates the Torching of Northpoint, an event long ago in which humanity overcame an invading race, much like how humans resist The Deluge today.

Thread #1: https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2022/5115951
Thread #2: https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2022/5174571/
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The early ages of humanity were ones spent in hiding. Savage giants ruled over the land, and humans were only able to survive in the darkened corners out of reach of their seemingly endless tribes. Of these bastions, two were the largest and most notable. The first was The Great Forest of the West, a place so dense in greenery that the giants could never penetrate deeply into it, located even further west than the 'western' kingdoms of today. The second was The Great Forest of the East, located a ways south of where we are now.

Both forests produced their own legacies. The Great Forest of the West witnessed the descent of Brynn, who with godly strength and earthshaking magics rallied humanity and waged war against the giants for over 100 years before slaying the giant king Radulfr. Such a legacy is what allows humanity to reign supreme now, and is why The Great Forest of the West is now known as the birthplace of humanity.

The Great Forest of the East's legacy is far more infamous. Shortly after Brynn's victory over the giant king another being descended, this time upon The Great Forest of the East. It goes by many names. Its spawn refer to it as The Earthmother, and those in the west know of it as the Tree of Desire. To us it is the Mother Goddess of Depravity, a being that corrupted humanity to create its own race, and which bids them to oppose Brynn to this very day.

With the Mother Goddess of Depravity's intervention, the corrupted were born. They declared themselves the elves, recipients of the Earthmother's blessing, and took one of humanity's bastions for themselves. Within two centuries what was once The Great Forest of The East became The Darkwood, a land that humans couldn't step foot in.

After unifying The Darkwood under themselves, however, the corrupted didn't stop. In service of their 'Earthmother' they sought to expand the wood and drive humanity back in the process. This continued for many centuries as their armies gradually marched north, their horrid wood spreading throughout a third of the Lake Countries, covering where we eat right now and even further.

Fortunately, there was a hero to stop the corrupted. While he was no Brynn, the first emperor of the Carpathian Empire served a similar role, uniting a great many people against the corrupted and stalling their advance. A score of years later his nephew, the third emperor, followed up on this and committed to not only stopping their advance, but to pushing the ever-growing forest back. Thus begun The Great Crusade against the corrupted.

Unfortunately declaring that a war has begun is not enough to wage it. The movement of men and supplies lasted the better part of a decade, and it wasn't until the rule of the fourth emperor, Cassian, that The Great Crusade intensified. The united forces of the Carpathian Empire, the Spirit Emperor, and the remaining independent Lake Countries fought against the Darkwood, baptizing the entire region in blood.
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>>5219331
It wasn't until after eight years of pitched fighting, in 843, that the greatest battle occurred- The Torching of Northpoint. With the frontlines set at the border of the Darkwood, the forces of humanity struggled to push forward despite having superior numbers. The terrain that had once defended humanity from the giants now kept it at bay- something had to be done.

The forces of both sides met at the northernmost point of the Darkwood. The disciplined armies of the Carpathians mixed together with the seasoned warriors of our Lake Countries made up the bulk of the forces, although the impact the Spirit Emperor's arcane specialists had couldn't be underestimated. The enemy however, was powerful as well. The corrupted were able to raise mages in greater numbers than our own, and used the territory to their advantage. Besides that, an assembly of massive, earth-shaking creatures accompanied them, their eyes shining with a green light and some of their bodies a mixture of plant and beast. Trees parted as they passed, and a foreboding air accompanied them.

The corrupted referred to these servants of the Mother Goddess of Depravity as "protectors of the forest", and they destruction they caused was massive. Small-scale spells were useless against them, and normal men merely ants to be crushed. But humanity was not helpless! Among the forces the Spirit Emperor sent were a shocking number of archmages which had lain hidden, unknown to the rest of humanity, let alone to the Darkwood. An archmage fought against each behemoth, massive amounts of magical resources the Carpathians had assisted in gathering at their disposal.

With their matches met, the massive beasts released their own inborn abilities. Massive spells rocked out on each side, squads of mages serving only a minor assisting role on each side, and footsoldiers only focused on protecting them. In the middle of the battlefield stood archmages and beasts facing each other one on one, no one on either side able to approach even close enough to fire a bow without risking being killed by the aftershocks of their battles.

After a standoff that lasted for the better part of a day and a night, an opening was created in the enemy forces as two archmages felled their enemies. From there, humanity launched its finishing blow. An unnamed archmage of unparalleled might, said to be the disciple of the Spirit Emperor himself, appeared from the crowds of soldiers and ended the battle with a single spell. From his hand a blue fireball the size of a castle appeared. It gave off no heat, and as it was launched it initially went at a snail's pace- before it split into a sky full of fire and shot towards the forest.
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>>5219336
The remaining beasts attempted to stop the attack, but tied down as they were they had little chance. The flames fell upon the forest, setting it aflame all at once. From there the enemy was sent into chaos, and the battle became a slaughter. The greater half of the beasts were slain before they could flee, and the corrupted were sent fleeing back into their still-burning lair.

Aftereffects of the torching left the corrupted in turmoil. The fire quickly spread further into the Darkwood, and it wasn't long before they discovered that the archmage's fire was extremely difficult to extinguish by normal means. The entirety of their forces dedicated themselves to extinguishing the flames, giving up on battling entirely. At the same time rumors of a great many of the corrupted in the south of the Darkwood seeing the light were heard. It was said that they were rebelling against those who were fighting us, wanting to found a new kingdom, separate from the Darkwood. Whether these rumors were true or not a great many more of the enemy troops disappeared, and humans stood unopposed in their crusade.

The northern border of the Darkwood remained wreathed in these flames for more than a year, and with the assistance of more traditional methods, were intermittently on fire for a much longer time. The corrupted had lost the ability to oppose humanity for the time being. Even with the withdrawal of the Spirit Emperor's forces and the eventual collapse of the Carpathian Empire the Darkwood was eventually pushed further and further south, until the border eventually reached where it has resided for the past two and a half centuries, and where we now make sure it stays.

With such a story told the mood rises, memories of humanity's greatest deeds reassuring your men that they can do they same. Even if such events are not in living memory for all but a few decidedly inhuman creatures, and even if you do not have the support of a great empire or of the Spirit King, that doesn't matter. Your opponent certainly isn't the Darkwood of ages long gone, after all.
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>>5219339
The rest of the night passes with little note, and in the morning you relocate your camp to an area almost directly south of Blue Ridge. Upon your arrival at your new camp site you make a point of quickly assembling your tent, and begin taking care of some visits.

First you speak with the Court Mage who, for once, is rather free of research commitments. It appears that both his brewing implements and research equipment won't arrive in Blue Ridge for some time, meaning that he can neither perform the finishing touches on your potions, nor satisfy his very clear desire to research the specialized demon corpses he obtained yesterday.

On that note, you take care of the arrangements with said corpses. Both will be magically frozen, and the one you slayed will be kept as one of your possessions as a "trophy of battle". The other will be kept among the other corpses retrieved which are normally sold for materials or used as food, where applicable. Both will find their way back to the Court Mage when it's convenient- likely when the first big caravan arrives, and supplies get shifted around.

Before dismissing the Court Mage, you make sure to inform him of your ambitions for the griffon taming plan and ask for his cooperation, if and where it is applicable. While he does not show quite the same enthusiasm as for his own research, he readily agrees, noting that such a project is interesting, and going on for a bit about the possible connections between demons and their beasts. You don't quite get all of it, if you are to be honest.

After the meeting with the Court Mage you speak with General Warton about the status of the "siege". Your discussion results in a strategy that amounts to little more than "keep an eye on the enemy if possible, wait until the ice barricade begins melting, and then decide what to do based on how many men are on hand". With that said, your men are left with little to do- the camp only takes so long to erect, after all.
>Have the majority of them assist in constructing fortifications around the camp. For the time being, you should stay the safest course of action.
>Lead a detachment of the men to search the battlefield where you fought the flying detachment of enemies yesterday. If you're lucky, perhaps you'll find an enemy creature that was injured but survived the night. If not, you'll get more corpses to trade or experiment on, at the very least.
>Write-in
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>>5219342
>>Have the majority of them assist in constructing fortifications around the camp. For the time being, you should stay the safest course of action.
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>>5219342
>Have the majority of them assist in constructing fortifications around the camp. For the time being, you should stay the safest course of action.
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>>5219342
>fortify
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>>5219342
>>Lead a detachment of the men to search the battlefield where you fought the flying detachment of enemies yesterday. If you're lucky, perhaps you'll find an enemy creature that was injured but survived the night. If not, you'll get more corpses to trade or experiment on, at the very least.
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>>5219534
>>5219695
>>5219892
>>5220211
There are certainly spoils to be had on yesterday's battlefield, but you are in no state to retrieve them. While it's more than likely one or two injured creatures may remain on the battlefield, without several men in good condition and assistance from the magic the Court Mage employed yesterday to capture the demon, it's unlikely that you would be able to capture them. That all leaves aside the risk of running into more enemies, who may even attempt to ambush you. No, for the time being you'd rather stay in the forest south of Blue Ridge and fortify the camp. Your force is simply too small to do much otherwise now that the element of surprise is lost.

The next few days are spent constructing a proper camp of small scale and waiting for more men to arrive. The easiest approach to fortifications in such a case would normally be to construct a temporary wagon fort, but given the rush you were in to get here, you brought no such vehicles- there are only a few on hand, brought along by the forward soldiers beforehand. For the time being you will have to focus on temporary earthworks.

Your camp is situated in a sizable clearing surrounded with forest to three sides, and a cliff to the south. The cliff is just over 20 feet in height, making it extremely unlikely that the enemy will be able to approach from the south unless they just so happen to find some siege ladders lying around. As for the other three directions, you plan to line the western side with trenches completely, while leaving two entrances to the camp from the north and east.

Work goes well enough, and after three days you're rather satisfied with the progress of the makeshift trenches and the dirt piled behind them. While you would've liked to establish more than earthworks, it's not as if you have tools, laborers, and nails needed to build proper fortifications- you're not even sure if you could've convinced the nobles here to do their part if you hadn't been helping with the labor yourself.

In addition to such projects, your men do take care of a few other miscellany. Those with the skills to do so put together a two makeshift ladders from what they can find. Not siege ladders, but escape ladders, in case the enemy surrounds from all sides but the south. Some hunting is also done in the nearby forest, to both provide additional food and help secure the nearby area.

On the 73rd day of Rebirth, you happen to be in a midday meeting with your de facto "military council". For the moment it consists of General Warton, the Court Mage, and Duke Graye. Currently, you're discussing when your reinforcements should arrive. Final preparations likely delayed them a day, and given that whomever was sent after you was likely not fully mounted you can likely add another week to their travel time. Regardless the first wagons and men should come soon- in a few days at most, you expect.
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>>5223031
...Unless the weather near Stonekeep suddenly became rainy of course, in which case you may need to add a week to that estimate.

After speaking, again, about when the reinforcements will arrive, you go over the state of the injured. Nothing stands out to in particular, except the fate of those who were severely injured in the last battle, but who survived. While the rank and file soldiers have done as you expected- half alive, half dead- the one mage and two nobles who suffered such injuries in the last battle seem to be recovering well, seemingly safe from death. Curious if it's simply luck or something else, you inquire as to why.

The Court Mage and Duke Graye help to enlighten you. While "healing magic" is essentially nonexistent outside of some extremely powerful mages and unverifiable legends of foreign healers, what does exist was enough to insure the survival of these three. The lack of healing magic is mainly due to the difficulty of healing another person's body specifically, not healing itself. This caveat means that self-healing magic is actually somewhat practical, and that quite a few mages grasp it- thus guaranteeing the injured mage's life.

From self-healing magic, self-healing potions which can be used by others also exist in small quantities; the Potion Vitalie the Court Mage has promised you being one such example. While mages are in short quantity, and mages capable of brewing potions even more so, almost any mage who has dabbled with the subject will know how to brew such a potion. More importantly, any such mage will also eagerly sell them to nobles willing to pay, meaning that such draughts find their ways into the hands of the upper and middle ranks of the nobility. Thus, while their potions were presumably much weaker than what you'll have on hand, in this case they were just enough to tip the scales of survival in their favor.

As you're being informed of this arrangement, a soldier requests entry into the tent. You grant it, and he informs your group that smoke has been sighted to the west. This is quite odd as it's not in the direction of the demons' main forces, which should mainly be to the north and northeast, and not from where your men should be approaching, from the east and northeast. Somewhat concerned, you leave the tent to catch sight of it yourself.
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>>5223033
It becomes clear over the net half an hour or so that the smoke is not natural. The plumes of smoke rapidly multiply at a rate that would be exceptional for a forest fire, and then suddenly stop growing before burning steadily. It's most likely from a camp of some sort. And several times yours in size at that- you would estimate that the force behind it is at least 300 strong based on the fires. Not a great number, but certainly more than the less than 70 able men you can field.
>Send a few scouts to secretly approach the fires. Before performing anything else, you must know what lays behind them.
>Arrange a messenger to be sent to the force behind the fires. While there were some countries your relations were tense with before The Deluge, war has been practically nonexistent in the region since the demons appeared. Any human force is a friend of yours.
>Lead a detachment of men towards the camp. Given their superior numbers, it would be best if you speak with them yourself.
>Tell your men to gather their things so that you may return to the eastern camp immediately- it may be unsafe. Perhaps it's a trick by the enemy, or perhaps the force could be a hostile third party. Diplomacy is only viable when two sides have similar levels of strength after all.
>Write-in
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>>5223037
>>Send a few scouts to secretly approach the fires. Before performing anything else, you must know what lays behind them.
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>>5223037
>>Send a few scouts to secretly approach the fires. Before performing anything else, you must know what lays behind them.
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>>5223037
>Send a few scouts to secretly approach the fires. Before performing anything else, you must know what lays behind them.
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>>5223037
>>Tell your men to gather their things so that you may return to the eastern camp immediately- it may be unsafe. Perhaps it's a trick by the enemy, or perhaps the force could be a hostile third party. Diplomacy is only viable when two sides have similar levels of strength after all.
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Rolled 48, 93, 41 = 182 (3d100)

Rolling to see if your scouts get spotted. Given that night will be falling around the time I arrive and they'll presumably be careful, bo2d100 vs 1d100. First two dice are for them.
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>>5223777
Nice trips
Hopefully they are friendly. Maybe we can say we where just scouting our land
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>>5223783
er, I just realized my last post was terribly unclear, them was for your scouts both times I used it and they rolled the bo2d100, they had the advantage due to cover of night and knowing they were going towards the other camp ahead of time
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>>5223787
Ah okay then
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>>5223154
>>5223173
>>5223521
>>5223585
>>5223783
For the time being, you'll dispatch a few scouts to evaluate the situation in more detail. Perhaps a bit of observation is all that will be needed to help you decide on the proper response to this incident. With this in mind, you select a few reliable men and send them off to scout the area where the smoke was spotted. Hopefully they will return with useful findings by the end of the night.

The mood is slightly tense among your 'war council' until the scouts return. By that time some hours have passed and night has since fallen. The leader of the group, a knight of some renown, narrate what they encountered for you.

The first thing that your scouts realized is that the camp was further away from yours than expected, which also mean that the fires spotted and the number of men which had built them were should also have been greater than expected. With this in mind, they made their trek towards the camp with great care. While it was near the edge of the forest to the southwest of Blue Ridge, it was luckily not outside of it, giving your men the chance to approach it under cover of foliage.

Patrols were lighter than expected, allowing your men to get rather close to the camp itself. The reason for this soon became clear- everyone there was in the midst of eating. Your scouts estimate that the assembly of men numbered somewhere between 500 and 700 heads, most, but not all of them armed. Everyone in the camp, with almost no exception, looked foreign. Based off of their features, most of them appeared to be from the Western Kingdoms, with a minority possibly hailing from the north. Whether they would be from the northern reaches of the Western Kingdoms, or the frozen wastelands where the giant's empire used to be focused around is unknown.

Besides the men themselves, two more things of notes were spotted. The first was that a great number of wagons sat at the far end of the camp, items occasionally being unloaded from them. The number seemed too large for a short excursion, making it likely that the men were on a longer journey. The second item of note, was a peculiar flag that could be spotted near the center of the camp, next to where the leader's camp would presumably be pitched. While the bottom was hidden from view, most of the flag itself could be spotted. From what your men say, while they were too far to tell what crest was upon it, it had some resemblance to that of Stonekeep. Given that crests in the Lake Countries and the Western Kingdoms vary massively in style, that should, at the very least, mean they identify with some force in the region.
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>>5225246
Given the situation of the camp, the most logical conclusion is that these men are mercenaries and settlers who came to the Lake Countries after hearing of the The Deluge. Given that Stonekeep is in the southeast of the region, however, it's almost impossible that they're new arrivals to the region. The common route from the Western Kingdoms to Stonekeep would first pass through the northwest of the Lake Countries, going either through or around the central Lake Countries, before entering the area. Other routes were previously possible, but given the swarms of demons covering parts of the region and the Darkwood sealing themselves off in the north to minimize involvement, the chances are more than 10 to 1 that this is the route they originally took. Combined with the flag sighted, it's likely that this group aligned themselves with a force in the region along the course of their journey.

You thank the scouts for their work and ask a few final questions before dismissing them. It is time to decide on a course of action.
>Prepare to visit them in the morning. It is unlikely that they'll be completely hostile, and if you bring along all those on-hand as a "mounted detachment of guards", they should be unwilling to fight even if they do hold ill intentions.
>Increase patrols and keep an eye out, but do nothing else. There's no guarantee the other camp will even come across you. On the off chance they do, and that they hold malice towards you... well, at least you have some proper fortifications already set up here- something you can't say about the old camp.
>Issue an immediate order to move out. Regardless of their allegiance or their likelihood of being hostile, they have at least 400 fighting men on hand. You should avoid them until you have enough soldiers on hand to speak with them on equal terms, assuming they don't leave before then.
>Write-in
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>>5225252
>Increase patrols and keep an eye out, but do nothing else. There's no guarantee the other camp will even come across you. On the off chance they do, and that they hold malice towards you... well, at least you have some proper fortifications already set up here- something you can't say about the old camp.

We are still quite a small camp. Our soldiers need to move. Who can they be ? Probably a new power.
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>>5225252
>Prepare to visit them in the morning. It is unlikely that they'll be completely hostile, and if you bring along all those on-hand as a "mounted detachment of guards", they should be unwilling to fight even if they do hold ill intentions.
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>>5225252
>>Increase patrols and keep an eye out, but do nothing else. There's no guarantee the other camp will even come across you. On the off chance they do, and that they hold malice towards you... well, at least you have some proper fortifications already set up here- something you can't say about the old camp.
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Rolled 90, 46, 8 = 144 (3d100)

Alright, rolling for the next few days. If a die is 80 or above, the newcomers stumble across your camp, if not you go unnoticed that day. If all of them are below 80 then more of your men arrive at your camp first.
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>>5228172
Well, they found us pretty fast
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>>5225345
>>5225990
>>5227650
You feel too hesitant to approach them with your disparity in numbers. Assuming that they're part of a faction within the region your position as King of Stonekeep should hold enough respect to discourage blatant aggression, but given the foreign nature of the newcomers it would be best not to rely on such an assumption. For now you'll simply heighten patrols, reduce the amount of travel outside the camp, and wait more men to arrive. Hopefully before the newcomers spot you.

Unfortunately, your hopes are for naught. The tense mood of the camp is interrupted the next afternoon, when a pair of foreigners on horses are seen nearing the camp. Once a patrolling soldier spots them you're immediately called for.

By the time you arrive, your guests have also spotted your camp. As a guard is hesitantly asking if they should attempt to capture them, he's interrupted by one of the foreigners loudly whistling and then waving at your camp. His companion disappears into the forest, likely to inform the rest of their camp of your presence. As the man continues getting your camp's attention, the guard asks again, this time sounding even more unsure.

"...Just keep an eye on him. He's just watching, so we have no reason to incite a conflict." It's doubtful you could catch his companion before he rendezvoused with his allies regardless, but you'll leave that unsaid. With the man's arrival your camp stirs, every man available quietly preparing themselves for battle and taking up defensive positions. Seemingly unaware of the nervousness on your side, the foreigner, a tall, pale northerner, continues staring at you.

Less than an hour passes before you're greeted by more company. The horseman from before returns, accompanying a group of several dozen mounted soldiers. A deeply tanned man in colorful clothes rides at the head of their formation atop a horse with bright red hair and similarly flamboyant armor. Besides him rides a tall, muscular man holding a flag. The flag is likely the one your scouts saw yesterday, and the design on it does not merely resemble Stonekeep's crest. No, now that you've seen it up close it's clear to tell- that is Stonekeep's crest, albeit a more than 50 years outdated version of it. The men slow to a trot as they approach your camp, only stopping a short ways from the camp. Your men, somewhat less tense seeing your own flag, merely stare on.

The tanned man leading the group takes a moment before speaking in a heavy accent. "Greetings! I am Reynaldo Gregorio De los Rios the Third! You're part of the honorable forces of Our Highness Branford Bronzebiter, correct?" A great many of your men move their confused stares from Reynaldo to you, waiting to see how you respond.
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>>5228809
Having already mounted your horse beforehand, you ride it just past the entrance of the camp. You gesture to a few men, and they follow a short ways behind you. "That is I! May I ask why you've visited?" Reynaldo shows a look of excitement upon realizing that you're the king, and dismounts his horse before taking a knee. "Your humble subject greets Your Highness!"

You do your best to hide your confusion in response to this display. "You may rise. What is your purpose for coming here?" Reynaldo stands. "I hail from the west. After hearing that you were graciously willing to accept our towns under your rule, I levied a force to assist you in your campaign!"

It finally clicks. They must be some of the squatters from the western region of the country. ...Or you suppose you should refer to them as 'settlers' now. As you come to this realization, Reynaldo continues. "I have gifts I would wish to present to Your Highness. May I?" You nod slightly. "You may. My men will lead you in." As you say this you return to your command tent, passing along a few instructions on how to handle your visitors along the way.

A few minutes later, Reynaldo arrives your tent. Two of his men follow behind him, carrying a wooden box each. They set them down before leaving. "Greetings Your Highness! We're glad to finally be graced by your presence. With your backing, things will surely become easier than resisting the demons on our own." He pauses for a moment. "I suppose we arrived a bit early. This is a forward camp?"

You feel some barbs hidden within his words, but it's of little matter- you're the only one who can hear them, after all. "Yes, you did arrive a bit early. The bulk of our forces should be here within the coming weeks, with the first reinforcements arriving at any moment. We're mobilizing the nobility's men for this operation as well, so it should surely be an awe worthy sight. The demons should be unable to survive this Firesource."

"Certainly Your Highness- we'll do our best as well to make sure such foul beasts inhabit Stonekeep no longer. It is our duty to assist as your subjects, after all." You show a pleased expression. "Admirable. You may hail from another land originally, but you certainly hold the spirit of our Lake Country's warriors. I look forward to seeing your valor."

"In addition to my men, I've brought along two other gifts." Reynaldo walks over to the larger of the two boxes brought in with him and opens it. Inside is a sword wrapped in fine cloth. He unwraps it, revealing a large blade made of a light-blue metal. "To contribute to the war effort, I gathered together some of the spare arms we had in our storage. Many of us were originally mercenaries, so there were quite a few. This particular blade originates from the far north, and is made of Frost Iron. If it pleases Your Highness, I'd like to gift it to you."
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>>5228816
You perk up slightly. If you recall correctly, Frost Iron is a metal both rare and peculiar, possessing strength and cutting ability similar to steel before being purified, and some special properties besides. This man certainly found an appealing gift. You watch with more interest as he approaches the second box.

"I have a question before I present my last gift. Your Highness, fields are generally left fallow every other year, correct?" You're left slightly perplexed by the question, but answer as best you can. "Yes. Outside of those fields which are blessed, the rest are left fallow every other year to preserve the soil. As for the blessed fields, they're generally left fallow one in three years."

A profoundly shocked expression appears on your visitor's face upon hearing your answer, although he manages to return to normal after a moment. "Impressive! I will have to admit, while I have travelled across much of the world, I have never heard of magic that can affect the soil so heavily. Regardless, I think you will find great use from my last gift." Saying this, Reynaldo opens the second box. Inside is a sack filled with a peculiar plant. You're handed one.

The basic structure of the plant is similar to grains you're familiar with, but the stalk is lined with a great many sealed pods. The pods are easy to open, and upon doing so you come across what seems to be a purple ball. You squeeze one with your hand and it gives rather easily, leaving an imprint of your fingers embedded within it.

"That's a Mura, one of the main crops of the west. If planted when a field would normally be left fallow, and drains little strength from the soil. The traditional cycle in the west is now one year with a traditional crop, one year of Mura or one of the recently discovered substitutes, and one year left fallow. The pods of the plant can be chewed individually, or more commonly, ground into flour."

You don't hide your excitement. If this plant is truly as the man says, then it could allow for the unblessed majority of fields to experience the same productivity as those which your mages are able to get around to! Such a boon would aid you greatly in the reconstruction of the country.

While it's likely that you would've come across the benefits of this crop soon enough as trade resumed to normal levels and westerners settled in the region, it would still take some time. A few years at least, or perhaps a bit faster if you built up a rapport with your new citizens before then. Keeping that in mind, giving such a gift now can be considered a masterstroke on your visitor's part- it holds great value to you now, and is worth essentially nothing to someone who has a ready supply of it. It's certainly worthwhile to exchange it now for goodwill before it spreads naturally.
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>>5228822
Reynaldo stands in front of you, silent, seemingly waiting for you to respond.
>Commend him on his spirit towards the kingdom and ensure him that his contributions will be remembered. Given his actions today, he is a man worth keeping in mind.
>Commend him for his contributions and mention the topic of a reward. Regardless of what he says, you're sure he didn't do all of this simply because of your prestige. If what he wants in exchange is reasonable, then you may as well grant it to him.
>Write-in
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>>5228827
>Commend him for his contributions and ask for the current nobility or organisation of the western people. Maybe nobility won't exactly suit them, but mayor can be recognized by the court at the same footing than Nobility, granting them recognition and a stronger political presence in the kingdom
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>>5228827
>>Commend him on his spirit towards the kingdom and ensure him that his contributions will be remembered. Given his actions today, he is a man worth keeping in mind.
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>>5228827
>>Commend him for his contributions and mention the topic of a reward. Regardless of what he says, you're sure he didn't do all of this simply because of your prestige. If what he wants in exchange is reasonable, then you may as well grant it to him.
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>>5228827
>Commend him for his contributions and mention the topic of a reward. Regardless of what he says, you're sure he didn't do all of this simply because of your prestige. If what he wants in exchange is reasonable, then you may as well grant it to him.
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>>5228827
>>Commend him for his contributions and mention the topic of a reward. Regardless of what he says, you're sure he didn't do all of this simply because of your prestige. If what he wants in exchange is reasonable, then you may as well grant it to him.
pretty good
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>>5228831
>>5229013
>>5229123
>>5229268
>>5229319
It's fairly obvious that your new arrival hasn't presented these gifts to you simply because he feels that attached to a country which has never supported him, and which he has only informally been considered a citizen of for less than two months. He is seeking something from you in exchange for all this, and pretending like he's not would simply sour the relations between the two of you.

You nod slightly. "I'm impressed by the sincerity you've shown as one of my subjects. Taking the initiative to levy men in this time of conflict is much appreciated, and while we certainly have a great many arms, yours will be put to good use as well." You leave your suspicion that Reynaldo already knew you had more weapons than men skilled enough to use them on hand and merely used providing arms as an excuse to gift you the Frost Iron sword without making it obvious unsaid.

"More importantly, however, is this new crop, Mura. If it's shown to be as useful as you've said, then it will be a great service to our kingdom in this time of little- truly a gift of coal in winter." You pause for a few seconds. "I feel that it would be unbecoming of me to accept such gifts without rewarding you in turn. What do you desire?"

Reynaldo puts on a show of thinking of a moment before speaking. "Your Highness, have you heard of the Isle of White?" A bit unsure of where this is leading, you respond in the negative. "Understandable- it is a land far removed from this one. It lies to the west of The Great Forest of the West, Brynnswood, within the Swirling Seas. They're a terribly treacherous place to sail, but with over a millennia of explorers throwing themselves into it, some safe routes have been found inside of it. The Isle of White lies at the crossroad of two such routes. It is a colony of Arcos, a kingdom of impressive size on the mainland, and my birthplace."

"My father held the position of Island Lord on the Isle of White. Given the time and effort it took to reach the mainland, he had a high degree of autonomy, and was effectively the sovereign of the island, besides a few directives that came from high above. Among his privileges was even the permission to grant lower titles of nobility on the island. Unfortunately, happenings in Arcos proper could not be completely ignored. A civil war occurred in my early youth, and the side we were closer to crushed."
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>>5232942
"It was only a matter of time before my father was asked to vacate his position. Informally, of course- he had not been too closely involved with the war, and so there was room for negotiation. What was eventually decided upon was that he would sell his title, and be given time to liquidate his assets and purchase a small fleet of ships. With that decided we vacated the island a few years later, and sailed away to tour the west. I'll refrain from going on about my journeys and merely inform you of the final outcome. My father passed away in Floria, one the 'Western Kingdoms'. The assets left behind were split between myself and my two elder brothers. My eldest brother holds the most, and stayed in Florencia with my sister, who was attempting to wed into nobility. My other became a merchant, hoping to see more of the world. I came east, hoping that the chaos would provide the chance for new nobility to rise, and for my children to once again hold a title."

By this point, the purpose of this story is clear. Reynaldo was once nobility, and hopes to use the foundation that provided to rise to nobility again. He stares at you as he continues. "If you deign to grant me such a position, I will, of course, do my utmost to assist your endeavors." He leaves the 'if not' unsaid... although you feel the need to ask regardless. You would rather not leave such an important point vague.

"And if I don't?" Reynaldo pauses, before continuing cautiously. "I've heard that you're a straightforward man, so I won't dress things up. I'm a man of my word, and will certainly not take back gifts I have already given. After the siege, however, I may attempt to try my luck in other lands and bring my men alongside me. There are still a great many kingdoms weakened from The Deluge, and some lands left completely unruled besides. I could attempt to acquire a title of nobility in another kingdom, or settle now unclaimed wilderness myself."

A bit of shame, although not a surprising response. Few nobles are willing to give up their station, particularly when they hold hope of retaining it. "A final question. What is the state of the settlers in the west? What is your position among them?"

You receive an answer quickly. "We can be separated into 14 groups based off of the origin of the settlers and where we settled. I control the largest, the town of White. After your decree came down, factions quickly formed among us: Those who wished to stay and become citizens, those who wished to leave and settle new lands, and those who wished to fight for the lands they'd claimed. I can be considered the unofficial leader of the first group, which is the largest. The second is around 4 or 5 settlements in size, while the last is small enough that it's not worth mentioning- a show of force will be enough to scare them off."
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>>5232952
With your information about the western region of the country obtained, you sink into thought. It is certainly not impossible to grant this man a position of nobility, but it is not a trivial request either. His words indicate that he his hoping for a significant position- something that comes with lands and that can be passed down, and not just an empty title. That would make him among the middle nobility, at the bare minimum. If you grant his request you may earn his support, but in exchange you could earn some ire from the established nobility, as well as a few further requests for positions from your new citizens due to a precedent being set.
>His request is not impossible. Inform Reynaldo that titles of nobility will be granted at the end of the reclamation campaign- roughly a year and a half from now, or a year longer if things fall behind schedule. If he can put forth sufficient merits by then, he can be granted a position, the resulting annoyances be damned.
>The main thing making you hesitate is his foreign origin. Inform him of when titles of nobility will be handed out, and inform him to focus on forming bonds with the current nobility by then. If he is able to do so and minimize the complaints you'll get when the time comes, you can grant him his wish.
>You are unwilling. Nobility is something that is given to those with a noble spirit- not something that is bought. Stonekeep cannot be bribed.
>You're a straightforward person, and he has shown his sincerity. Inform him that he will be granted such a position in the nobility when they are handed out. In exchange, you expect him to do his utmost to assist you effective immediately, as he promised. You will make the best use of this man as you can.
>You're unwilling to give out a position of nobility. But perhaps there's something else you can offer him... [Name what]
>Write-in
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>>5232955
>His request is not impossible. Inform Reynaldo that titles of nobility will be granted at the end of the reclamation campaign- roughly a year and a half from now, or a year longer if things fall behind schedule. If he can put forth sufficient merits by then and/or form bonds with the current nobility he can be granted a position
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>>5232955
>>You're a straightforward person, and he has shown his sincerity. Inform him that he will be granted such a position in the nobility when they are handed out. In exchange, you expect him to do his utmost to assist you effective immediately, as he promised. You will make the best use of this man as you can.
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>>5232955
>His request is not impossible. Inform Reynaldo that titles of nobility will be granted at the end of the reclamation campaign- roughly a year and a half from now, or a year longer if things fall behind schedule. If he can put forth sufficient merits by then, he can be granted a position, the resulting annoyances be damned.
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>>5232955
>His request is not impossible. Inform Reynaldo that titles of nobility will be granted at the end of the reclamation campaign- roughly a year and a half from now, or a year longer if things fall behind schedule. If he can put forth sufficient merits by then, he can be granted a position, the resulting annoyances be damned.
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>>5232955
>>You're a straightforward person, and he has shown his sincerity. Inform him that he will be granted such a position in the nobility when they are handed out. In exchange, you expect him to do his utmost to assist you effective immediately, as he promised. You will make the best use of this man as you can.
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Might get a chance to update tonight/tomorrow or might disappear for a couple days, heads up. Most of the past 48 hours have been spent coding in a great panic to make a deadline and I have been left worse for wear for it.
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>a couple days
Whoops.
Update in anywhere from a few hours from now to 30 hours from now.
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>>5233136
>>5233168
>>5233264
>>5233297
>>5233592
"I cannot simply award you such a title now, but your wish is not impossible. Titles of nobility will be handed down at the end of the reclamation campaign proper. That will be either one and a half or two and a half years from now. If in that time you can put forth sufficient merits to be deserving of such a position, I will grant it to you. If you happen to be acquainted with the nobility by then, better still."

With that said, Reynaldo seems to consider his options for a moment before bowing towards you. "Thank you for your offer, Your Highness. I hope that my contributions will noticed, so that I have a position where I can give my all for the kingdom." It seems that he is satisfied with the opportunity to become regain his nobility for now.

The discussion of gifts and rewards out of the way, you speak about Reynaldo's forces for a short time. Their headcount is just over 500 armed men, with some 150 civilians accompanying them to help in managing the camp. Among them only a scarce few can actually be properly communicated with. Reynaldo, his son, his steward, a few locals from the region who joined the group, and a few others besides are the only ones properly fluent in your tongue. Besides those ten or so, less than one in twenty of the others have any skill beyond some scattered words and phrases in your tongue.

The silver lining, if it can be said to be one, is that there are quite a few among your new citizens who are fluent in Ibbiya, the Philosopher's Tongue. The well-educated, mostly. While it's still only a minority of those arriving, it will be a bit easier to communicate with them with, at least until you can make sure they can make out basics commands you issue. ...Although it will have to be done through an intermediary, as the language is unpopular enough here that you have never bothered with it.

Given the difference in language and culture, you make the decision to keep the camps separate for the time being. With unfamiliarity comes conflict, and now is a particularly bad time to invite such a thing, even if it's inevitable in the future. For the time being Reynaldo will be staying a short distance away. If either of you happen to come under the attack, the other will be able to reinforce with only a slight delay.
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>>5244262
The next few days pass with little of note occurring. While it's impossible to force your new arrivals to serve as the main force in an attack, with your reinforcements you do feel much more secure against sudden intrusions. Full use of fires resumes, much to the joy of your men. While it's warm enough outside to make the heat optional, stew is much better than hardtack. At the same time, Reynaldo and the Court Mage lead a decent force to scavenge over the battlefield at the edge of the forest. Much to the latter's disappoint, no living specimens are left. The group merely returns with a small collection of beast corpses that are still in good shape. Most are destined to become supplies for trade or the Court Mage's experiments, as those which would be edible have been out too long to serve as food.

On the morning of the 77th, a great many fires can be seen in the distance to the east. It seems that by afternoon at the latest your reinforcements will finally be here, accompanied by the few men you left behind to tend to the old camp. Your men are in high spirits from this news, and even the foreigners' camp seems to become more active, the news having passed to them through some source or another. Around 11 in the morning, wagons begin rolling into camp one after the other. A great many men, both on foot and mounted, accompany them. You speak with the leader of the first to arrive to get an understanding of how the mobilization is going.

It seems that your men were delayed a few days by a storm in the east that took place shortly after you left. It made a great deal of road muddy and collapsed a bridge besides, forcing those coming behind you to find a detour around the old route until it's repaired. All in all it will take the better part of a month for most of your men and supplies to assemble here. It is not all bad, however- today, at least, a large amount of supplies and a thousand men will be arriving in the area. That's enough to make military action a real possibility, although you still have quite a bit to consider about when and where to attack.

As you go over the final details with the new arrival, you're interrupted. "Your Highness!" You turn towards the voice only to see Beatrice, Count Graye's daughter, standing in front of you. She's wearing an outfit made for women to hunt in with a short hem that won't drag against the ground- dress traditional of Highwood, if you remember correctly. Besides that she looks... quite the same as usual, oddly enough.

"Beatrice... why are you here?" You ask you question after only addressing basic formalities. You can't imagine why she would come here- you've spoken with Duke Graye and courted her enough to know about her lack of physical skill, let along martial skill. Perhaps something worrying occurred in the city.
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>>5244271
"I had a gift I was preparing to give you before your departure, but as you left so suddenly I wasn't able to finish it quite in time." "I see. Unfortunately, the demons couldn't wait." She nods slightly. "Of course, Your Highness. I came here so that I may give it to you."

A young woman who you recognize as one of the servants in Duke Graye's manner approaches, a folded cape in hand. Beatrice takes it and presents it to you. "A cape I embroidered, to accompany you in battle." You unfurl the cape and examine it closely. The needlework is delicate and well-done, and while you've only recently joined high society, you can tell that the designs are in-line with what is currently considered fashionable. It is a cape you imagine one would find worthy of gifting even if they had merely commissioned it.

More important than the cape, however, is what is represents. Even before being forced to understand the euphemisms and indirectness of the nobility, this is a gesture you would understand. A woman gifting a man a cape, generally before heading off to battle, is a sign of courtship. It used to be constrained to only stories, written or otherwise, but in recent decades it jumped from fiction and become rather common in the military.

You nod appreciatively. "I'm impressed. Did you manage to finish it before leaving, or was part of this done on horseback perhaps?" Beatrice shakes her head. "Oh dear, it was neither. We left far too early, and I certainly couldn't make such a thing on horseback. I did it while riding in the wagon."

"With the men?" You ask this somewhat disbelievingly- while you would certainly be willing to do so, reputation aside, you can't imagine that a noble woman would be willing to. Beatrice laughs a bit. "Of course not! The fine sir Jenson was kind enough to furnish a wagon for my and my servant's use. It was rather cramped, but I've handled it well enough.

...She came here in a furnished wagon. You glance at the man next to you to verify, and he assures you that Ms. Graye and her servant were given a furnished, covered wagon to themselves, and treated as well as they could, seemingly afraid that you may think otherwise.

An entire wagon that could have been filled with men or supplies to speed up the pace of the siege, and instead it brought with you a noble lady who cannot fight. Lovely. You would be lying if you said you were not upset, although your face doesn't show it.
>Accept the cape and excuse yourself. You suppose you'll just have to get used to this culture gap, although you disapprove of such wastage.
>Accept the cape and go to see Duke Graye. You will need to make it abundantly clear that his daughter will not be paid any special attention if she stays here, and that she's best off returning home. This is a war, not a picnic.
>Avoid accepting the cape for the time being. You may have to reconsider courting someone who doesn't seem to properly understand war, connections to the nobility or not.
>Write-in
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>>5244277
>Accept the cape and excuse yourself. You suppose you'll just have to get used to this culture gap, although you disapprove of such wastage.
>Take half an hour to one hour a day to educate her on the military thing. Do it subtly, as if asking her advice on important matters where you lay the arguments on both sides, for example.