The Runesmith

Chapter 313– Tier 3 Trial Part 9.

Chapter 313– Tier 3 Trial Part 9.

“How long have I been in here… was I able to get this far during the first attempt?”

Roland wasn’t sure of the time frame anymore. Time worked strangely in this place and his mind was becoming weary due to all the sleepless nights he had gone through. Even though there was a lot of the blacksmith NPC could automate he was left inscribing runes on everything. The dream of a rune-powered army went out the door after it became clear that it was impossible to upgrade the smithing building into a runesmithing one.

Due to this setback, he was forced to weigh the pros and cons of using his time. With a hundred men at his disposal, he could pull a few all-nighters to inscribe some basic runes on their weapons. However, when his armies started growing and reaching the thousands he could not continue this feat. Thus, he focused mostly on creating golems and equipment for his commanders. They were the most important units and with the magical equipment, they could turn the tide of battle.

At the moment he wasn’t really worried about that but at the length of this test as it had been multiple months since he had arrived. Things weren’t going that badly but they weren’t going exceptionally well either. He was able to build a large moat around his stone keep, expand the walls and finish all the guard towers. Due to the lack of runesmithing help, he only focused on creating enough generators to power the defensive turrets and then focused on generating some armor for his battle units.

Yet the life of a lord wasn’t so easy, there were so many things only he could decide on. If he didn’t make a decision the wooden people in this world would start making their own choices. There was a type of randomized factor in all of this as these NPCs had their own life. They needed things like taverns and pubs to keep them lively. Then they also needed guards to keep thieves in check and cloisters with clerics to heal the sick.

All of these things affected his cities in many ways. If there weren’t enough guards patrolling the street sooner or later a thieves' den could pop up. Such a city would bring in less gold in general and some functions would be limited. Similar things would happen if they became sick or disgruntled.

Even though there was a lot to manage he was not supposed to do everything exactly himself. Just like in real life, he could give cities to retainers like a lesser lord or a higher-level soldier. If a city was located next to fertile land it was good to send out someone that was versed in cultivating the land. If there was a danger of getting attacked, a unit that was more inclined for combat was the right choice.

Then even if he made all the right choices it didn’t always work out but the reverse was also possible, this randomization factor was ever-present. It was as if the trial was telling him that there is nothing like over-preparing and that he should be prepared for the worst-case scenario at any cost. This he kept in the back of his mind but only for the locations with the most strategic value. Roland realized that he was doing the same thing the nobles did in the kingdom by ignoring most of the smaller settlements that didn’t generate much income. Even when the residents there were overrun by monsters it didn’t affect his bottom line at all.

‘Is it trying to tell me to be more ruthless? Would I be able to make these decisions as easily if the people were real?’

Roland asked himself while bringing down his hammer onto a piece of armor. His eyes were slightly bloodshot as he had finished his latest creation. It was a somewhat upgraded version of the armor he used for dungeon grinding. This one came equipped with two retractable shoulder cannons. With an updated code they were able to quickly pick up any enemies on the battlefield even when he was moving. It was tricky for them to not clip his own body during speedy movement and also to not aim at his allies. Luckily each faction in this trial had a unique mana pattern that could be easily calibrated.

Considering that at this point he would be going up against heavily armored enemies he decided to use his old trusted hammer staff design. It looked more like a bulkier version of a pole hammer. It had an elongated tip on the front that could be used for piercing and a slightly bent one on the other side of the hammer. With this, he would be able to pierce through heavy armor while also delivering blunt damage that it was more susceptible to than cutting.

Though cutting weapons like swords and daggers weren’t that great against heavy armor, they weren’t useless. After tenderizing an armored combatant with a heavy war hammer it was possible to deliver the final blow with a short sword or dagger. Stabbing through a visor in close range wasn’t that rare and he could also aim for the joints where usually the protection was thinner.

Still, this weapon was meant to support ranged magical combat at first. With its thickness and implementation of more exotic metals it would last through several battles and the runes would not deteriorate. The same thing could be said about his armor which was an actual improvement from his real-life counterpart.

“I’ll get to test this out pretty soon, that faction had fallen already while I was trying to expand my own influence. They will probably start conquering all the other nations before coming here…”

The Woodlanders had become rowdy in the north and conquered the western nation. The two middle ones were in a power struggle but now with the north getting involved, they would probably start buckling under pressure. He had not remained passive through all of this as he had already learned his lesson with the previous trial.

While the Woodlanders were attacking their western neighbors Roland’s lands were invaded by the southeastern faction. To his surprise, it was the same Kindlings that he had to compete against in his first trial attempt. They had gained new lands and were a lot better equipped than last time. Their first push was for one of the smaller settlements that they were able to easily capture.

Before they arrived he was sure to pull back most of his soldiers that then bunkered up at the fort that he first started in. It had been equipped with some runic turrets when he was there and had enough firepower to last through the first siege attempt. Soon after he was able to arrive with his own army to push them back. Just like after all battles he was sure to capture all the enemy soldiers and start his conversion tactics.

If the defeat of the Lumberling faction was the first step, then attacking his own neighbors was a big leap. This was the beginning of the first struggle and already months had passed since a few back-and-forth encounters with the Kindlings. None of them he took part in but instead it was up to his commanders and captain. Some fights were lost but most of them were won. Now there was one last thing to do and it was finally worthy of his time.

‘I guess the Overlord should never appear until the last moment, is that how it’s supposed to work?’

Finishing his new runic armor was just the first step, now he needed to test it out on the battlefield. While the largest faction was already looking at attacking their southern neighbors he still needed to add the finishing touches. His own target had barricaded themselves out in the mountains in a similar stronghold to his own. Now there was a moat and actual towers with defenders.

“Is everything ready?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Good, I’ll leave the place to you, manage it well, and follow the instructions that I laid out.”

A different aid bowed before him, this one was over level one hundred and had actually advanced into a prestige class called ‘The Lord’s Hand’. This wooden man was like a high-class noble and secondary commander. If this castle he established was attacked he would be able to give the defenders an almost identical morale boost as him.

The armor that he had made was already worn by him and felt quite natural. The runic symbols started gleaming and the two turrets that were on his shoulders retracted back for the time they would be needed. On the outside a wooden horse covered in armor was already waiting for him. After getting on he looked to the large group of mounted knights that he was the leader of. After being here for close to half a year it didn’t feel so off to command them but he wasn’t sure if this place wasn’t affecting his mental state.

‘I need to go back as soon as I can but I also can’t rush it…’

Thanks to his various skills that allowed him to clear his head he knew that if he pushed it too much that he would fail. Luckily not everything had to be done in real-time in this place. This army of his that was moving out would normally need several weeks to get to their destination. With the help of the trial’s fast travel system, it would skip through it all the way until he arrived. Usually, he didn’t use this method as the skipped time could have always been used to craft new items.

A prompt appeared before him, it was asking him if he wished to fast travel to the enemy stronghold. Slowly he moved his fingertips to confirm his choice and instantly his vision started blurring. He could see his army moving through the lands at an increased rate. A window representing the progress of the army was on the upper right side.

It was possible for him to stop their advance manually and also for an unexpected event to occur. Previously when he was going through the world with a smaller troop he had encountered some monsters. It was also possible to skip through things like that and let his wooden men take care of it for him.

However, it was always better to get involved in these things if he could as skipped time could never be taken back. It was a quality of life improvement but it was an obvious trap for lazy people. No one that skipped through all the hard work could ever hope to become an Overlord and using this function for fast traveling was the only good thing about it.

‘So we are here… Looks a bit gloomy.’

The scenery stopped moving rapidly past him and a large black castle on top of a small mountain appeared. The sun had just gone down so the whole thing was illuminated by torches. Compared to the first stone keep he attacked, this one would be a tougher nut to crack. First of all, there would not be a possibility of him pushing down the walls with a battering ram. A large moat was blocking the way and the bridge to the main gate was a type that could be raised.

‘There aren’t any infiltration units in this trial, the best move would be to have an assassin get in and lower the bridge during the siege.’

He wasn’t sure why his scouts couldn’t evolve into those sorts of units but it seemed that this place didn’t want him to use underhanded methods. Instead, only strategic approaches or pure might was allowed. In his case, he was trying to mix both together. His class was poised for intelligence but thanks to his crafting skills he was able to make up for his deficiencies during combat.

Usually, without battle skills and passives upgrading all those, it was impossible for a crafter to last out. At first, the higher multiplier might have seemed like a game changer but it had its limits. In a battle of strength, he could potentially win against someone that possessed a warrior class but if that class had any skills to enhance their power then it would be impossible.

This chasm of skills that had hidden multipliers that could go against the tiers could only be scaled thanks to his runes. With his armor on he could mimic buffing spells and also produce magical attacks that were on if not over the level of proper skills. Then if coupled with exterior factors like runic batteries and golems, he could potentially become a one-man army.

These golems were already getting ready for some action. Even though it was a grueling grind to achieve he was able to enlarge the chassis of his spider drones. Instead of being the size of a middle-sized dog, these were closer to a horse. They weren’t as mobile as their smaller counterparts but their cannons were much bigger. Their job was not to dodge but to damage and soon they would be used to conquer this keep. Normally, what he would have to do would be to create multiple catapults or trebuchets to get those walls down. That is if this was just a regular world with normal rules. With magic being part of it, there was no reason to produce huge siege weaponry when he could just use something different. In this case, the enlarged spider golems would use their cannons and the reservoir of runic batteries to do the trick.

Roland was doing most things by the book, in this case, there was no reason not to. First, he made sure to stay out of range of the archers and ballistas. The spider golems were automatons with a program to make their own measurements. They didn’t require test fires and could quickly place themselves in the best spot for continuous fire. In a way, they were like mini tanks that could fire various magical projectiles.

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For the time being, he just needed to wait in the back while his army got ready. The enemy commander certainly didn’t expect the large golems to be part of the siege. They had barricaded themselves inside due to losing multiple skirmishes with Roland’s wooden forces. On the surface the two wooden kingdoms were about equal in most regards, the only variable was their leader. Thanks to the various golems and magical weaponry that was powered with runic batteries most battles could be quickly shifted in his favor.

This didn’t mean that such things would last forever. The enemies he was facing had around a thousand soldiers and he was the same. If the war continued and the number of troops kept increasing, keeping up with the runic weapons would become quite strenuous. At the moment a few spider-cannoneers were enough to get through a castle’s walls but this would not be enough when going against ten times the troops.

‘They really have nothing to defend against these, good that I kept them hidden away…’

Keeping an ace up a sleeve was something a good leader needed to have. This trial was changing with each day and sometimes he would find the enemy commanders performing smart tricks. In the future, it wouldn’t be strange if a way to counter his spider troops was discovered.

From the information that his scouts started gathering the Woodlanders were in possession of some magical troops. If these Kindlings had something like a magical shield to enhance their walls, the magical cannon fire would have been severely diminished. It would be even possible for them to launch a counterattack. As it stood now it was becoming a slaughter, his faction had just advanced too quickly.

‘They are certainly stuck in the old era of weaponry, they should have invested more into magic than only physical troops…’

It was obvious that his enemies had a lot of troops and the walls were quite sturdy. Their setup was robust but it was also outdated. After the bulky spiders had dug into the ground they commenced with the bombardment. It was quite a one-sided show as the enemy archers were sent flying all over the place by various magical explosions.

Crimson flames filled the guard towers that were meant to fire large ballista bolts and arrows from afar. The walls were starting to buckle under the pressure after they were bombarded by heavy rocks made from earth magic. There was no reason to move, no reason to push until all of the defenses had been destroyed. Only after his golems blew a large enough hole in the wall would he decide to risk his troops.

‘It’s working but these golems use up a lot of mana, if the walls were much thicker or had a second layer on the inside…’

While the siege had only begun Roland was already thinking about the next big move. The damage to the castle and the troops inside would be best kept to a minimum as he needed those soldiers for the coming battles. After field testing the golems he could finally decide to produce more units for future confrontations with his real opponent in the north. This was only a little side quest to get more leverage for the future encounters that would decide on the test results that he could not afford to fail.


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