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Chapter 15: Chapter 15. Fortress Nord

Tomorrow afternoon they and his hostess's brother did indeed set out on their journey. Remesis paid him fifty shelengs for the journey.

Shelengs, small copper coins, were used by the commoners. They were considered an inferior unit of money, so they were paid mostly by the poorer classes. One hundred shelengs equaled one silver coin, a sekel. And ten silver ones — one gold thaler.

Aristocrats usually did not use shellengs, because they were nicknamed «beggar's money» and it was considered something shameful for the upper class to pay with them. Even Remesis, who lived in Duke Carter's mansion, had never seen a single copper coin. The first time she had ever picked up a cheleng was when she had specifically asked Seyla to exchange her silver for them.

Of course, bringing real silver and gold with her to the crime-infested north was extremely reckless. Remesis didn't want to add to her problems and become a target for the local bandit gangs. So she kept only one gold thaler, a few sekels just in case, and exchanged the rest for coppers.

It was much safer to pay in the North that way.

As a result, her few gold coins, a couple dozen silver coins, accumulated over the years, turned into a whole bag of copper coins. Remesis kept them carefully in her possession, and still observed certain safety precautions: such as never showing her money in a crowded place.

The cabman had asked them for only fifty shellengs for the trip to the capital. To be honest, it was rather small. Remesis had expected him to ask for at least one silver, for the journey was indeed a long one. But apparently, in the North, people who were already surviving on the edge of poverty grabbed at any job. So, fearing to lose their rare customers, they charged the lowest prices.

Remesis didn't mind paying the cabman more, especially for the two of them. But if she insisted on raising the price, it would be even more suspicious. Besides, the man was a stranger to her. Who knows what a hungry northerner would do when he found out that his little passengers were loaded with money. The girl didn't take any chances, as their own safety was more important.

Eventually, having «gotten away» with fifty shellenges, they set off.

It was not even a carriage, but an open-topped wagon pulled by two shaggy horses. In one day they traveled about a hundred miles, and the whole journey was not without adventures. As a rule, because of the dangers of the northern lands, any kind of carriages had to be guarded by men.

However, the common people of poor villages could not afford to hire guards. Therefore, they used separate paths that were considered safe for their travels. Allegedly, there are fewer monsters and other creatures on them. However, «safety» in the North, of course, was a relative concept…

Fortunately, they were lucky not to encounter barbarians. However, almost every day Asil had to deal with monsters who came to the smell of human meat like flies to honey. The charioteer just watched with a sagging jaw and eyes popping out of his orbits as a child half his size slaughtered the monsters in cold blood.

Remesis, frankly, was just as shocked.

The monsters held the North in fear on par with the barbarians. However, despite their intimidating appearance, it was not that difficult to kill them if you knew the location of their weaknesses. However, due to the lack of experience in fighting them, few people knew about it. Unless they were experienced warriors or barbarians who had been fighting in the North for years.

Remesis, like Asil, had not arrived in the North that long ago. Before that, they had only had to deal with the wolves they had encountered while living in the caves. Because of this, Remesis was involuntarily amazed at Asil's savvy. Perhaps, since she herself resembled a beast, she could just sense it…?

Remesis tensed up a bit while pondering this. At any rate, she decided to stay out of things she didn't understand. Especially in a place as obscure and unexplored to her as Asil's head. After all, the important thing was that they were alive, right?

After ten days of protracted and undoubtedly arduous travel, they approached the city. Remesis couldn't take her eyes off the long-awaited sight of the iron towers as their days of wandering finally came to an end. In her former life, she had only been able to see this view after six months of wandering more like hell.

A massive, iron-clad gate appeared before them. A sentry standing on the wall spotted them and reported something to the rest of the guards. Soon the drawbridge creaked as it lowered. The greased chains rattled, pulling up the bars. Guardsmen emerged from the gate.

The Northern Guardsmen were stabbed in steel from head to toe. A sturdy collar covered their throats, and on their heads was a helmet with a white wolf adorning the visor. The crest of Fortress Nord and the North.

Several of the guards looked closely at the faces of the unknown travelers. Although they recognized the coachman at once, they were suspicious of the travelers themselves. In the North, they were extremely wary of strangers.

The older man came forward. Tall and stout, he towered over the others like a boulder. In some ways he looked like a barbarian. His beard, coarse and black as iron wire, covered his cheeks. The guardsman spoke threateningly:

— Your identification? If you don't show it, we'll assume you're from a barbarian tribe and won't allow you to enter the city.

Remesis took Asil by the arm and led the way. The princess did not resist as the girl led her towards the guardsmen and declared:

— We have come from the capital. This is Princess Asil Nara Asheloth, the new Lord of the North. I, her wife Remesis Rania Asheloth, accompany her.

Remesis showed them the ring of the Northern Lord that was worn on Asil's finger. The man, dazed at first, slid a wary glance at it.

Then, recognizing it, he shifted his gaze to Asil. Apparently he was surprised that the new ruler of their lands was… A child. Although he had heard that it should be someone from the imperial family. However, he hadn't expected that the lord wouldn't even arrive in an imperial carriage, and… In such a form. However, one way or another, the sign of the northern lord forced him to fulfill his duties.

Without much pleasure, the guard soon dropped to one knee, and primly said:

— We have been informed that the new lord is due to arrive shortly. Greetings, Princess.

— Greetings, Princess!

All the other guardsmen followed suit.

Remesis sighed. Even if they were doing this under duress, at least they recognized Asil as their lord. Though it was no secret that the northerners hated the Imperial family, and regarded the lord sent to them as more of a mockery. It would be a long time before the princess established herself in the eyes of these people.

In the meantime, Remesis turned her attention to the girl herself. Asil was always nervous in the presence of new people. Right now her amber eyes were twitching, a hint of confusion in them.

Remesis took her hand firmly in hers just in case. Asil stared at her.

— Your Highness, it's all right. Let's go.

— Ahhh…

— You're hungry, right? There's definitely food in the castle.

— …Food?

— Yes.

At first, Asil resisted, anxiously looking towards the nearby forest like an animal that longs to break free and run away. But after the words spoken by Remesis, she magically calmed down. Her eyes lit up.

— Food. Food. Food.

Remesis laughed softly.

— Yes, food. So come with me.

The guards escorted them outside the gate as Remesis continued to hold the princess' hand. Soon she felt the fingers in her palm move and slowly grasped it back. Thus they walked hand in hand.

The coachman who gave them a ride looked at the children's backs with his mouth open. Of course, he had no idea that the personalities of his little passengers would turn out to be so… But it was too late to ask anything as the gate closed.

The Iron Castle, which represented the main residence of the capital of the North, was quite small. A single fortified tower, a wooden house, and a stable sheltered under a low wall of rough stone. The castle itself was old and shabby.

Remesis sighed at the sight of the grounds. Honestly, the view before her was depressing. It didn't look like any lord's domain at all.

Once upon a time, this castle was huge and majestic. But after decades of neglect, it was certainly far from that. The fortress was subjected to numerous barbarian raids, and then was «cleaned out» by local brigands. In the end, all that was left was this pitiful semblance, which no one had looked after for thirty years.

In that life, for the first few years, Remesis and Asil suffered from cold and poverty. Often they starved or ate scraps, because there was simply not enough money to maintain the castle. But then… Things changed.

As Asil's influence grew day by day, everything else couldn't stay the same either. The Iron Castle transformed and grew larger before his eyes. Eventually, after a few years — the place was unrecognizable.

The dilapidated poor residence had grown dozens of towers and changed dramatically, now fully reflecting the name of the Nord Castle. And this majestic castle became for Remesis like a big cage… The girl involuntarily shuddered from not too pleasant memories.

At any rate, things would be different now. Remesis was determined to treat the northern fortress truly as her home. At least until her revenge was complete.

Inside, they were greeted by a knight. A sturdy man in his forties with an honest and open face, a broad nose and disheveled red hair. He seemed like a friendly man, and as far as Remesis could remember, he really was. In all the time she'd lived here, she couldn't remember a single bad remark about him.

He was the only person who had truly treated Asil as his mistress from the beginning. And served her faithfully until he was killed by her.

— Greetings, Her Highness! I, Commander of Fortress North, Hannes Reitli, am hereby ready to serve Your Highness faithfully.

— ....

Asil didn't say anything.

Remesis was a little embarrassed. If Asil didn't give the order, he would continue to kneel like this, right? So she decided to do it instead.

— Please stand up, knight.

The man shifted his gaze to Remesis.

— And you are…?

— My name is Remesis Rania Asheloth,» the girl introduced herself, «You may have heard that our families were joined in marriage not too long ago. That is why I have also come to the North as a consort.

A look of surprise flashed across the knight's face. He had never thought that this little girl could be someone's wife… At first, Hannes had even mistaken Remesis for a maid accompanying the princess. But then, realizing his mistake, he hastened to kneel before her as well.

— I beg your pardon! — I apologize for not recognizing you at once… Initially, I was only informed of the arrival of the Princess. Greetings to the Princess of the North!

Remesis coughed.

— Thank you… But you can still get up.

The knight hesitated for a moment before standing up. He looked at Asil once more. But the princess didn't care. She was more interested in looking at the rocks under her feet than talking to the knight.

— Uh…

There was a slight pause.

— In that case, allow me to escort you to your chambers. Your Highnesses must be very tired after the journey.

Remesis nodded hastily.

— Thank you, sire.

— Call me Hannes, Your Highness. I am always at your service!

The knight led them down the long corridors of the castle, which looked more like abandoned corridors due to its neglected appearance. The rare servants looked back at them with suspicion and apprehension. Remesis hesitated for a moment before asking.

— Hannes, how many people work at the castle?

— Uh… There are about seven maids in total. And another fifteen laborers.

— And the guards?

— There are twenty men in the castle defense. There are fifty in our army.

Remesis pressed her lips together as she pondered on the road. Indeed, not that many… In the past, when she was not interested in the affairs of the castle, the girl could realize from the situation that the situation was deplorable. But she didn't realize it was that bad.

There were only fifty men in their troops right now. After learning this data, Remesis was even more shocked at how in twelve years Asil had managed to increase this number to a hundred thousand…

She inadvertently glanced at the princess walking beside her and couldn't believe her eyes. If the girl didn't know the future, she would never have believed it. A brute who couldn't write or read would lead such a large army in the future… Anyone would have thought it was nonsense.

But Remesis, who had seen everything with her own eyes, only grinned grimly.

The knight led them to the master bedroom, which was located in a separate tower. It had been the personal bedchamber of the lords of the northern castle for centuries. The room looked large and bright, and not as poor as one might expect at first.

In the center of the room was a large double four-poster bed. A few armchairs and a marble table with a lamp stood next to it. Flames burned in two hearths, filling the room with a stifling heat. There were even a few paintings hanging on the wall.

Remesis hesitated. This was Asil's bedroom. The same one she had died in… Though it had looked many times better and more luxurious then than it did now. Expectedly, she didn't have the most pleasant impressions of the place. Besides, the girl wasn't going to share a room with her anyway.

Now that they had arrived at the castle, sleeping together for security reasons was no longer necessary. Remesis was going to ask Hannes to take her to another available room. She even knew which one already.

But Asil, as if reading her mind and realizing what she was thinking, suddenly grabbed her arm. Remesis flinched and looked at her in surprise. Her golden eyes burned with a strange fire.

— …Stop.

For some reason, Remesis felt like it was an order.

***

Chapter 18 is already available on Boosty: https://boosty.to/meredit


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