39 Chapter 39 The Western Kingdom
Joseph had just been informed that they were approaching the border between his home kingdom and the western kingdom, so he didn't think anything of his carriage stopping. But when it didn't start back up again after a few moments, he went to see what was going on.
"I'm sorry, but the king has declared all of the borders be closed." The guard did look very apologetic.
"Surely my pass will work to let me through. It's a very expensive pass to acquire." William looked annoyed as he showed the guard an unrolled scroll.
"Let me get the head of the guards, please. I'm not authorized to let anyone through for any reason." The guard didn't even look at the scroll as he backed away from him and turned to holler for the head of the guard.
An older, more grizzled man showed up shortly looking annoyed at being called here.
"What is the problem? You know that when it's from the king it doesn't matter who is asking, the gates stay shut."
"Yes, sir, but I thought you might like to look over his pass? I can't do it myself."
"Yes, yes, we all know you can't read. Well, let me see the blasted thing."
William showed him the scroll, and the grizzled guard stared at it for a good five minutes, reading each bit carefully. Joseph almost wondered if the head guard could read.
"I'm afraid you'll have to return to your carriage while I arrange some people together to discuss the validity of this pass."
"Like hell I'm leaving it with you. I'll bring it with me when you have these people together. That thing cost a pretty penny and there's no way I'm parting with it." William's tone made the guards eyes scrunch up in annoyance, but he handed back the scroll and marched off.
William turned to him and they walked back towards his father's carriage.
"None of them can read. This just gives me an opportunity to meet with him in private to discuss passage for my caravan." William kept his voice very soft so that anyone who might be listening in wouldn't hear what he was saying.
"Has this happened before?" asked Joseph, curiously. He would have to deal with things like this in the future, with his own kingdom.
"No, but I foresaw it happening at some point, and took the necessary precautions to raise the guard's opinions of me in the past. Their gruff attitudes are just for show because there are other people who were wanting to get through the gates too."
Joseph looked around and saw that there were other merchants who wanted to go through the gates, as well as some normal people, who probably lived around here.
As they got to his carriage, he paused and looked around for a moment, before turning to Joseph.
'It may be a good idea if you stay in your carriage while I work on the details. I would hate for anything to happen while we are exposed like this."
Joseph nodded, knowing that he was referring to the assassination attempts that had happened so far. He motioned for his guards to follow him, and they became even more alert, if that was possible. They were normally really good at spotting possible dangers and taking care of them quickly, but the fact he felt a need to interact with them, meant he was letting them know the area was dangerous at the moment.
It took two days for his dad to smooth talk and bribe the guards to let them through. Anxiety ran high throughout all of the slaves as they started moving the carriages through the gates. A slave had told Stella that an assassin had tried to kill the prince, and had fled in this direction. The king had responded by sending hawks to have all the borders closed so he couldn't escape.
If they had let them through when they had first arrived, there would have been no way that assassin could have reached this border faster than a hawk, but because they had waited two days, he could now be hiding in one of the carriages. So, they insisted on doing a thorough search of each carriage, to ensure the assassin wasn't present before letting them go through.
The other merchants who had also been waiting, were furious that his dad had managed to get through. They kept shooting evil glares at the carriages as they went by.
About half way through, when all of the senior people and William had made it to the other side, the gates came crashing down again, cutting the caravan in half. Joseph had Stella and his guards, and half of his father's caravan on the wrong side of the wall. All of the strongest guards had been around his father, because they had anticipated an attack, but now those left on the wrong side, found themselves under protected.
Suspecting an ambush or a trap, Joseph called all the slaves together, and organized them to stay active all night. It would be during the dead part of the night that some of the other merchants may try something, when everyone was asleep and dark. Because there were so many children, who could be awake at all times of the night, this wasn't that hard. There was always someone up and about, making noise, cooking, fetching things, and basically keeping an eye out for trouble. He made sure that the few guards there were, had enough rest before nightfall to be able to stay alert the whole time.
Because he had just gone through all of the slaves looking for mages, he knew all of their information and who had what skills. As dawn broke over the horizon, there were happy smiles on faces as they realized the plan had worked. If anyone had been waiting for them to settle down in order to attack, it never happened.
(CONGRATULATIONS. FOR SUCCESSFULLY LEADING A GROUP OF PEOPLE FOR THE FIRST TIME, YOU HAVE BEEN AWARDED LEADERSHIP AT THE BASIC LEVEL.)
Shortly after that the gates opened, and the rest of the caravan wasted no time in crossing over. The guards looked tired and unhappy with having to search the carriages before letting them pass, but didn't try to tear up anything in the process.
"I'm very proud of you, son! You did an excellent job keeping everyone safe last night."
"The guard captain is a greedy man, and decided to hold half the caravan hostage in exchange for more money. I paid, but I won't be using his gates anymore. There are other routes I'll take in the future."
"Well, I think we should have drills and tactics figured out among the slaves in order to secure the camps." He was thinking about the reports he had read in his previous life that talked about raids on drug lords and their compounds. They discussed the idea in great length, inviting his father's chief guard in to join the conversation.
Brian, the chief guard, loved the ideas that Joseph had. He wanted to know where he had learned them. William told him that he had learned a lot from the books that he had gotten me, but when Brian eagerly asked if he could read the book, Joseph had to tell him he would loan it, when he was through reading it.
After Brian left, his father turned to him.
"You need to be more careful how you share your knowledge. I know that since you remember things so well, it's frustrating knowing something that can help, but we must not ever give away the system."
Joseph nodded. "I can write the book for Brian, but it'll take me a few days."
"Well, I'm still proud of you, regardless."
It took him two days to write the book. He included stories from a few movies but most of it was from after action reports of fighting drug lords or scenarios from video games. He armed the people with magic repeating crossbows instead of guns and took a little creative license on some other places. He made walkie-talkies as magic devices and cameras as magic monitors. With all the magic devises he had plenty of reasons to have read it.
It took the captain several days to read it, but then they had another long discussion about it. Several things couldn't be duplicated with the magic crossbows so most of his ideas and concerns had to do with fighting with swords or normal bows, but they quickly improved and implemented a host of ideas.
When he finished missile to intermediate, it bumped his externalize mana to advanced. He could form runes within himself to cast magic without any warning.
Over the next four days, after leaving the border gates, they traveled through the rough mountain pass that led to the western kingdom. It was mostly uneventful. The road was very well maintained, and they could tell where a section had been destroyed from an avalanche, but had been repaired.
Once they reached the first town in the western kingdom, there was a messenger from the king. He demanded that William present himself before the king immediately. There was nothing William could do. He made arrangements with Brian to oversee the caravan, and to continue conducting business as he had been doing while he went to visit the king. He would catch up with the caravan as soon as he could, where ever they ended up.
Brian wasn't happy about suddenly being in charge, but he was trained enough not to argue. William was going to take Joseph, Stella, Joseph's four guards, and his own guards. They would all be traveling by horseback, in order to travel faster.
This was Joseph's first time traveling by horseback. He was pretty excited about it, even if he didn't really have a clue. No one else, not even Stella, had a problem with their horses. While they traveled the five days it would take to get to the capital, Joseph's enthusiasm wore out. He wished one of the healers had traveled with them, that first morning after riding all day. All of his attempts to focus on spells weren't very fruitful.
During the time of the standoff, while the guards were waiting to be bribed with more money, Stella made sure that any assassins who tried to mess with her Joseph knew better. She took to crouching on the roof of his carriage, keeping an eye on the busy bodies who were eyeing the caravan.
Several merchants, when they realized no one would settle down for the night, complained loudly of the incessant noise of William's slave caravan, and left in a huff. She was amused by this, because she knew that they didn't actually have any wares in their carriages to sell. They didn't sink into the mud nearly enough to actually be hauling anything. And she knew that no merchant would be daft enough to travel without some kind of goods.
The guards were aware that she was watching them, and made a point of patrolling often. There was no way they would be punished again for slacking, even when it may not have been there fault. The two young boys were shaping up to be great guards, and Stella was kind of proud at how well they were doing. They didn't have any of the old bullies in them from when they first met her. Maybe taking them away from the guard town wasn't a bad idea after all.