‘They are susceptible to flames at least…’
Roland had decided to face the small army of Lumberlings that had replaced the Kindlings that were in the first trial. The only flames coming from these wooden puppets were the ones that he had fashioned himself. By foregoing the old strategy of placing mines everywhere and spending days crafting explosive arrows he was able to be a boss-level threat out on the field.
First of all, he saved a lot of time by not needing to bumble around the settlement and just staying in the throne chamber. There like a proper lord, he could give out orders by clicking the interactive menu while previously he even visited all the buildings to see what they were for. All the resources were now allocated and his city was growing just like before but with his spare time, he was able to gather more iron and actually prepare a better set of armor for himself.
Thanks to it he was able to blast the approaching enemies with a cone of flames that were quite potent. This battle allowed him to confirm one theory, the enemies didn’t really care that much about the base if he was out of it. The moment he went in front of the walls the enemy switched their tactic. Instead of trying to conquer the fort, they decided to kill the lord first.
These puppet soldiers were quite weak. The vast majority of them were on the levels of his own soldiers that were comparable to the level nine or ten monsters in the Albrook dungeon. Their approach also wasn’t different as they tried to swarm him from the front and this was the worst possible tactic against a magic user like him.
All of the attackers were blasted by aoe-type spells. Killing ten of the puppets at once was as easy as throwing a flame blast into their group. With the difference in stats, there was no way of them surviving the spreading magical flames. However, they still posed a threat, considering that his armor was only made of steel, the more he used the more the runes continued to deteriorate.
‘Fighting out on an open field is different than in a dungeon but… it isn’t necessarily more difficult.’
As a couple of arrows were bounced away by the magical shield that was around his body another group of around twenty soldiers attacked him from all sides. Before they could get to him, however, the earth under their feet started becoming soft. The sprint was interrupted by an area of effect that turned everything around him into a pool of mud. With them all being stuck he just needed to harden the ground back and blast away with a torrent of flames to finish them off.
This was one of the bonuses of fighting alone. He did not need to worry about hitting his own men, the archers behind the fort gave him some support as well. Roland just needed to point out with his hand to generate a magical blast, the tight-knit formations were a detriment to fighting him and it was impossible for them to get into close range. Fighting from outside was also not possible as his mana shield could not be pierced by the flimsy arrows shot by low-tier 2 archers.
Nevertheless, after getting rid of around a hundred of the wooden soldiers his armor started becoming undone. The metal that he made it from could not handle the constant use of spells and had burned right through it. Luckily to counter this effect he had one new very helpful skill.
Rapid Machine Reassembly was activated on the armor he was wearing. The holes that had been created by the magical symbols started to get filled back by more steel. For some reason, this skill worked not only on golems but also on runic armor like this. He had no idea how it created more steel out of nothing but it didn’t matter. With the armor mended back into its original state he could take care of the next batch of soldiers without much of a problem which only left their commander.
This time around there was no challenge as their leader just charged along with their troops at Roland. Perhaps if he had noticed the danger beforehand he could have offered a better fight but after suffering so many deaths the enemy troops' morale was too low. It didn’t help that their leader wasn’t equipped with any magic-countering items. Even a simple mana shield necklace could have given him some options during the last confrontation.
Congratulations on your victory, the enemy forces tremble before your might and have lost the will to fight.
“Huh, what is this? I don’t remember this part.”
The battle was won and he expected the enemy combatants to run with their tails between their legs. Instead of running, they started dropping their weapons and looking in his direction. It seemed if the enemy troops were overwhelmed they would just toss their weapons and give up. This wasn’t all however as they just remained there without moving.
‘Are they waiting for something? Could it be possible?’
An idea popped into his head after seeing the demoralized troops of the Lumberlings. This trial was similar to a strategy game and it could also have a diplomacy mechanic behind it. Perhaps it was possible to convert the units of the opposition to his own side. This happened in real life, after the enemy leaders were dealt with, a takeover took place. Some madmen did kill all opposition without taking any prisoners but usually, a lot of people would be spared and then used as a resource.
‘Think they are waiting for me to say something, what would a lord say in a time like this?’
Roland was aiming to become an Overlord but he had not really gone through any proper noble training. His manners weren’t all that refined as no one had bothered to teach him when he was young. A noble was supposed to lead people, even though that usually wasn’t true a proper one was supposed to be a leader. They needed to either inspire respect or engrain enough fear in people to force them to obey.
“Your leader is dead, surrender to me and I promise to spare your lives. If you try to run away, none of you will be spared, this I promise you!”
After picking up the large halberd that the enemy commander dropped he pointed at the enemy troops. When he raised his voice he could actually see the wooden soldiers trembling out of fright. Then after a moment, they started dropping down to their knees in defeat, no one actually dared to make a run for it. There were about thirty of them left on the battlefield, if they spread in all directions even Roland wouldn’t be able to get to all of them in time.
You have successfully dominated the demoralized Lumberling Troops but they are not yet ready to join your faction.
Roland noticed a new message pop up before him. By the looks of it, there was a possibility of turning the opposing soldiers into his own. The hidden requirements weren’t met though but this gave him a few tips toward them. First of all, the key element was the lack of morale and any leader unit present on the battlefield.
‘This sounds about right, usually, soldiers would need to go through some kind of re-educating process or even get tortured to renounce their pledge to the old leader… wait, could there be an option for this?’
Previously he bunkered up in a fortress and didn’t really take into consideration that there were other choices to gain power. If it was possible to take over other settlements it wasn’t strange that he would gain their resources and the wooden people were also part of them. This could save him a lot of gold that he would need to spend on training soldiers but first he needed to go check back in his throne room for any new options that appeared. It wasn’t strange for options to be hidden in tests like this and it wouldn’t be strange if new ones appeared in the research building.
‘First I need to do something with these soldiers, I don’t think they’ll just wait out here and wait for me.’
The enemy soldiers were down on their knees and not moving. They were probably affected by something like a hidden leader's aura. It would of course vanish the moment he removed himself from the battlefield and they could potentially start fleeing. Luckily there was one place where he could place these thirty soldiers.
“Good, gather up, if you don’t resist you will not be killed, this I promise you as the Lord. Soldiers, detain them and take them to our underground dungeon.”
He still had the ten leftover archers that didn’t leave the fort along with the other troops. Even though it was ten against thirty with Roland around, the enemy combatants would not dare to resist. The place came equipped with a small dungeon that had a few cells, it would be cramped for these thirty wooden puppets but it was a place they could be kept until he found a way of dealing with them.
It went quite smoothly as the Archers descended from the makeshift battlements. With Roland at the helm of the group, they all walked into the wooden fort where all of them were stuffed into the underground dungeon that was under the barracks building. After it was all done he ordered his remaining troops to gather up the spoils of war while he checked the throne room.
‘There is an actual re-education camp for this purpose…’
A prison camp for the purpose of indoctrinating enemy soldiers.
‘Indoctrinating? They really aren’t beating around the bush in this trial huh… but when speaking about indoctrination…’
Roland had unlocked the chapel building and he knew that religion was a big part of indoctrinating people in the real world. If what he assumed was correct then perhaps a new unit besides a battle cleric was possible. To no surprise, an option appeared that required its own research to unlock.
Can convert others to your religion and heal units inside temple buildings. Can be placed in the re-educational camp to speed up the indoctrination process.
‘It can’t be used outside of the city which is a shame but I can use it to convert enemy units, hm perhaps there will be a better unit that will be able to convert units out on the field?’
This was a possibility that couldn’t be discounted. Religion was a thing that brought people together and after building his first chapel he established his own. There had to be some common ground when trying to team up with old enemies and religion was one of them. After seeing the new options popping up Roland also realized that this was probably one of the big reasons that the Solarian Church had such power in the whole kingdom.
Even though they could perhaps be a danger to the king’s rule, they were necessary to hold the reins on the citizens in the kingdom. Something needed to connect people that were living together. In the beginning, it was easy as tribes stayed relatively small but the more everything grew those close ties began to matter more and more. He wasn’t sure if this trial would have anything similar but at least the option to convert others to his side was there. If used right it could save him a lot of military costs.
‘It might have been good that I couldn’t just convert them instantly onto the battlefield, I don’t think my current settlement can even support those thirty soldiers…’
Right next to the gold counter was the population number. While in strategy games it was impossible to go over this number it wasn’t the same here. It was slightly more intricate as he would suffer a debuff if the number went into the red. Starvation didn’t happen in just one day so this could also be used to his advantage. Even if he went over the threshold he would have some time to work things out before a serious problem arose.
‘Hm? Did they capture that settlement?’
While setting up his ‘educational’ system he noticed that the number representing his current population shot up. It wasn’t just that the limit went up, he had also gained more people in general. This could only mean one thing, his attacking force had managed to capture the nearest fort to his own.
To his surprise, there was an update to the system window only after a few seconds the population cap increased. Instead of the white text on a black screen that he was used to he was taken to some kind of graphical interface. There he could see a map of the area that looked like a generic overworld minimap in some games he used to play. He could see his main settlement that was in the middle and in the northern-east region the new one he acquired.
The population limit on his current fort was a hundred people. When counting in the fifty or so soldiers and over forty civilians and workers he had been almost at the limit. This new one had added a further fifty to the cap and it was also possible to build more village buildings and farms there.
‘Hm… that settlement is behind mine and they only had around twenty combatants without a captain unit around, I lost three from the forty soldiers that went there.’
After going through the console again he managed to find a recap of the battle. It really was like in a game as he saw a small recap of what had happened. The soldiers that died were the first ones that scaled the wooden fortification but soon after the whole place was overrun and victory was achieved. No one had surrendered and the faction that was placed there had disappeared from the map entirely.
‘What are the losing conditions to be exact?’
Roland wasn’t sure what he needed to watch out for yet. Considering that he was playing the role of a noble leader he needed to survive. Last time his head was turned into paste by some type of enemy that he couldn’t really remember well. What made up a lord were his subjects and his territory. Probably if he lost all his strongholds then it would be over, without an army and followers there was nothing to lord over. This was a test of being a lord and losing all of his forces and terrain would probably make him a bad one.
‘However… this could mean that I don’t necessarily need to keep this location, as long as I retain at least one settlement it shouldn’t trigger the losing condition.’
At the moment he was in the black as he didn’t recall much past this point. After killing the first commander and building up his defensive structures it became a giant hole in his memory. One of the reasons that he had lost the defensive battle was due to the location of this fort. It had no natural defenses to safeguard him from being attacked. This meant that he needed to equally build up an impenetrable fortress from all sides. If he at least had one side that was safe he would be able to save a lot of gold and perhaps lasting out for longer would have been possible.
‘Could this be a dead-end created by the trial? What if I was never supposed to stay in this fortress, to begin with?’
“Hey Aid, bring me all the information about those Lumberlings, send out the scouts too. I want to know the specs of their fortress.”
“Specs my lord?”
“All the details, the number of their troops but more importantly if there are any natural defenses around them…”
Roland started wondering, probably to be victorious in this test he couldn’t just go to the next extreme that was attacking. Sooner or later while his army was out conquering he would be attacked by an enemy faction. To not lose important strategic locations he would need to at least have enough time to call back the troops. Instead of a full offensive, he needed to settle somewhere in the middle. If this fortress was meant to fall from the start, he just needed to find another one that would allow him to save on some expenses in the long run…