Release that Witch Chapter 683
"Your Majesty, do you plan to go on an expedition of conquest to Southernmost Region?" Iron Axe's ever peaceful face showed a rare agitation. "But the Months of Demons are drawing near..."
"How many soldiers do you think should be left in Neverwinter to tackle the swarming demonic beasts?"
"Well..." Iron Axe deeply inhaled to suppress his agitation. "Judging from the number of demonic beasts from last year, 1,000 soldiers would be able to guard the city wall."
"So to be on the safe side, 2,500 soldiers would be sufficient to guard the city. Besides, a new round of recruitment has begun, which will safeguard Neverwinter," Roland said, and then walked to the French window, "so tell me about Southernmost Region. You should be the most familiar with the people there."
"Yes, Your Majesty." Iron Axe saluted. "Over a half of the land in the Southernmost Region is composed of yellow sand. Oases are scattered along the western side of the desert along Silver Stream. Over 90% of the Mojins live amongst those oases. There's a city built on top of the biggest oasis, which is also the only city in Southernmost Region—Iron Sand City."
"So Silver Stream is a river?"
"It could be counted as half a river." Iron Axe explained. "Most of it is buried underground, just like an underworld Styx's River; the parts that appear above the ground have formed oases. For this reason, the Mojins also call it the River of Life."
Roland turned around, asking curiously, "Where did it come from? Judging from the map, there were no high mountains or lakes near it."
"It originates from the sea, so it's a gift of the Sea God." Iron Axe walked to the desk and pointed at the juncture of the west of Southernmost Region and a piece of green land. "There's a huge limestone cave located here where the sea water constantly flows backward into. One could feel the trembling underneath the feet when standing on the ground."
"Do you mean Silver Stream originates from the sea? But it has bred oases."
Since it breeds oases, it means Silver Stream is freshwater—seawater contains too much salt, which makes it unsuitable for irrigation or drinking. So what Iron Axe said did not make sense.
"Mother Earth absorbed the salt in the seawater. White salt residue can be seen on the ground all over that area, which also isolated the grassland of the Kingdom of Graycastle. When people need salt, they only need to lift a bucket and scoop the salt from the ground."
"Is this the superb craftsmanship of nature? The dirt underneath the yellow sand filtered the salt and made the area into saline-alkali soil." Roland could not help but exclaim. It seemed that besides petroleum, now he had one more sort of resource to exploit.
"How many residents are there in Iron Sand City?"
"Even more than the old king's city of Graycastle?"
"Your Majesty, the city of the Sand Nation is different from the king's city." Iron Axe smiled. "There's only one nuclear urban area which provides residence for the power-holders of the six clans. The surrounding areas are filled with tents or thatched cottages. After layers of extension, the city became the way you see it now—as soon as one steps onto the oasis, one enters the domain of Iron Sand City."
"Then how about the Mojins that live in other oases? There should be quite a few of them, right?" Roland asked. Human resource was the key to quickly convert the local specialty into a practical resource. But it was unlikely that he would send a lot of people from the city of Neverwinter to mine petroleum, so he had to rely on the locals to work for him.
The commander-in-chief nodded. "There are no statistics about it, but I think there are at least 100,000 residents."
Then I could build several mining stations and one pipeline, which should be enough. The next problem would be deciding how to control the residents.
"Well, last time you mentioned the holy duel. What was it about? How did the Mojins determine the right to rule?"
Iron Axe gave a very detailed reply to those questions. It took almost half an hour before Roland finally understood the Sand Nation's ruling structure and succession.
Putting aside the promotions within the clans, strength was the only thing that was considered trustworthy to those aliens who upheld force. The ruling parties in Iron Sand City were usually constituted by six clans who did not get their powers by inheriting but by fighting with strength. But in order to avoid the clans from losing too many of their own whilst pursuing power, which would consequently weaken their combined strength in the face of external danger, picking a few representatives to duel became their best choice.
Over time, this rule was universally acknowledged over the Sand Nation and was bestowed with a sacred meaning—the big clans which were stationed in Iron Sand City and the newly born small clans that lived in oases all respected the result of the holy duels. Anyone who tarnished the duels would be condemned by all the civilians of Sand Nation.
"Do you mean the prime rulers of the Mojins are the leaders of each clan?" Roland asked in confusion, "Don't you have a figure like the chief?"
"I mean a leader who rules all the clans, someone like the King of the Kingdom of Graycastle."
"Well..." Iron Axe hesitated. "Among the clans, they used to say that there were two ways that the Sand Nation civilians would obey willingly—one was to get the acknowledgment and blessing of the Three Gods. The other was to open up the unmeasured vastness of oases for the nation to eliminate the overwhelming sandstorm, so as to remove the threats of thirst and death for the Sand Nation."
"The acknowledgment of the Three Gods... How does that work?" Roland asked, frowning.
"In the Land of Fire, one is supposed to offer the sacrifices to the Three Gods who're the Giant Scorpion with Armor that governs the earth, the Unicorn Sea Beast that dominates Southernmost Cape, and the Four-winged Eagle that rules the sky." Iron Axe stopped for a while. "These three beasts appear and disappear mysteriously. They've taken numerous lives yet their dens remain oblivious to the humans. Baits and traps don't work on them—I assume they're some sort of hybrid demonic beasts which might have gained basic wisdom."
"Both ways aren't easy to achieve, especially the second one. To make an oasis out of a desert is almost like the power of God." Roland fell into a deep meditation. By making Echo the chief again as revenge for being framed five years ago won't help much with my integration of the entire Southernmost Region. Although the six clans have different social status, they don't have a direct affiliation, not to mention those Sand Nation civilians scattered in the oases. I have to find a way to make myself the Grand chief of the Mojin Clan.
Besides, I should also consider the way of the holy duel. The First Army probably could defeat the guards of Iron Sand City like smashing rotten wood, but to make the Sand Nation civilians submit to me willingly isn't that easy.
The most suitable way to annex would be by following the rules made by the Mojin Clan itself.
"Can an outsider be invited to attend the duel?"
"That's not a problem," Iron Axe replied with affirmation, "I'm a mixed-blood, but I could also attend a duel representing the Osha Clan. As a matter of fact, brave gladiators are usually well-liked by the big clans. This is also the only hope for the small clans to have a chance at climbing the ranks—if there are three or four brave warriors among their descendants, they have a better chance to get a good rank during the holy duels."
"Is that so?" Roland said with a smile, "That makes it easier."