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Three days passed rapidly and the Rothschild's Estate was a buzzing hive of activity. Wagons of food and barrels of wine were constantly delivered to the Estate while messengers and couriers shuttled to and fore between the City Citadel and Titanna's chancery.

Titanna sighed as another stack of scrolled were placed on her desk, her work seemed to be never ending. She had passed the word that all matters of governance were to be approved by her before they could be submitted.

She decided on this when they found several clerks had over stepped their boundaries and gave favorable terms and conditions to whoever that paid them the most. Hence she and a few trusty worthly staff were buried deep in work, as they had to screen every document and contract one by one.

And to make matters worst, she hasn't appeared in public ever since she was attacked, leading to rumors that she had fallen ill. Her enemies even spread rumors that she had either died or ran away from the city.

Every day, couriers, messengers, and even the City Ministers and Lords came to beg an audience with her but all were rejected which enforced the rumors that she was gravely ill. Those that stood on her side started to worry if they had chosen the right side to support when they receive no news of her.

While she was buried under the mountain of paperwork, Intel Officer Trism and Knight Captain Judis had formed an ad hoc working relationship. Both of them worked together to gather intelligence and information regarding their enemies.

She sighed as she read through another contract regarding the loan of lands for farming and logging and rejected it. She suddenly got reminded of Mills and she crumbled the scroll into a ball in anger as he still has yet to give her a satisfactory answer!

-----

The coffers of House Rothschild were depleted rapidly as gold and silver exchanged hands. Spies that could be recruited, bought or bribed, while those belonging to the other factions were placed on careful surveillance.

Traitors and those who accepted bribes or favors from the other factions were noted down and kept on watch. All in all, it was a fruitful and busy three days for both men as they barely slept.

"Lady Titanna," Both men had dark eye circles bowed before Titanna seated at the head of the table. "We did our best to get as much information regarding or enemies as we could in this short period of days."

"Thank you both for your hard work!" Titanna said, gesturing for them both to be seated. "What have you both found out?"

"Well, we managed to uncover several people of standing in the Citadel staff accepting bribes from House Taron and House Delfin." Knight Captain Judis reported. "Very likely, they had been bought over. I have my very best men watching them now."

"Also, the East Gate and South Gate guard commanders and both inner districts City Watch commanders had been bought over by them too," Judis read off from a list. "The city harbor's second in charge, seven 100 men leaders from the 18th Spears, four 100 men leaders from 20th Spears, elven Captains from the 33rd, 34th, and 37th Imperial Dragons Corps."

Judis continued to list out the names and positions and even businesses of those they had investigated to had joined the other faction. The list consisted of names from the City Guards and Watch, to administrators, clerks, Army, Dragon Corps and even the merchants and businesses in the city.

As Judis continued down the list, Titanna's facial expression changed from ugly to pale as more and more names were read out. Finally, after over sixty names, Judis finished his report. "These are the only ones we managed to uncover in three days. We suspect there might be more we had yet to discover."

Titanna leaned back on her chair and gave out a deep breath of helplessness. "If so much of our own have joined them, what are our chances now of winning?"

"To be frank," Trism answered. "Very low."

Titanna lowered her head, "Should I just give up the seat if there is no chance of winning? At least, there will not be senseless deaths..."

"I estimate at least half of your remaining forces have joined the other faction," Trism said with a confirmation nod from Judis. "You have roughly, what? Nine thousand soldiers still loyal to you?"

"If you include your household guards, the city guards and watch," Trism added. "You probably have fifteen hundred men in total."

Judis sighed, "Our opponents should have at least three times our numbers..."

"How can we defeat over forty thousand soldiers?" Titanna looked defeated. "Even if we cut off their supplies and money flow, how much time can we buy for an inevitable outcome?"

"We can still prevent some of those soldiers from joining the other side," Trism said. "Arrest all those people in this name list and promote someone else loyal or not in the pay of the other faction."

"For merchants and businesses, shut them down till further notice," Trism said. "And the best time I can think of to do this without the Houses from finding out till it is too late... It's at the Ball tonight!"

Titanna nodded in understanding before she turned to Judis, "I will need your men to carry out the arrests tonight! I will distract everyone at the Ball long enough for you to do what you need to do!"

Judis nodded, "I will take my men and execute your order when all the guests have arrived."

Trism said, "It will also be a good time to target certain businesses of both House Taron and Deflin."

"And it will be best too to bring in your two brothers if they are not attending the Ball tonight," Trism said. "With them in your hands, the fewer troubles they can make and the other side has one less accusation to pin on you."

Judis shook his head, "I do not have enough manpower, already this list is stretching the limits of my people. If you want to disrupt House Taron and House Deflin businesses and capture your two brothers back, I do not have the troops needed."

Titanna turned to Trism and asked, "Can you help me bring my two brothers in?"

"That shouldn't be much of a problem!" Trism grinned.

"Thank you for your help!" Titanna replied. "I will not forget this favor!"

"Hopefully, tonight we can cut off some of their resources," Titanna said. "And give us more time to recruit and train troops! As long as we have time until autumn, after the harvesting season, we can recruit more people!"

Trism raised an eyebrow at Titanna's words. "That's like 3 months?"

"I doubt the other side will give you so much time!" Trism said. "I suspect they will make their move once they find out you are still alive!"

"But I need at least three months to gather more troops," Titanna sighed. "Men need to be outfitted with weapons and armor. And even trained! All this needs time!"

"Well, there is a simpler solution..." Trism smiled. "Use your slaves."

"The slaves?" Titanna frowned. "But the slave army has been left behind at Orwell's Point... Do you want to train another slave army? It will take a lot of gold... "

"No," Trsim shook his head. "Offer all the slaves in the city freedom... In exchange for fighting for you!"

"What?" Judis looked bugged eye at Trism. "Are you crazy?"

Trism gave a shrug. "Give the slaves a chance. Freedom in exchange for serving you for one or two years."

"Boom! Instantly, you have thousands of soldiers!" Trism grinned. "And you don't need to wait a few months!"

"Do you know how many people will revolt if we did that?" Judis hissed. "All the merchants! The trade ships captains! All of them will be crying for our blood!"

Trism gave a shrug, "You need troops urgently and you have so many slaves here whom at least a third used to be a soldier."

"Your people might hate you for freeing the slaves and taking away their cheap labor," Trism said. "But the freed slaves will give you their loyalty forever for their freedom."

Titanna shook her head, "Impossible... Norshelm's economy will collapse if the slaves were all suddenly freed. There will be no one working the docks, mines, farms, and even stores!"

Trism said, "Well, that is up to you. I know suddenly freeing slaves will causing the economy to crash, but you can always do it step by step."

"Not to mention, sooner or later, the United Nations will require you to stop slavery," Trism added. "Since it will happen later, why not make sure of it now? Do it step by step and introduce reforms that will please both your people and the freed slaves."

"I need to think about this more," Titanna sighed. "It is not a simple matter, it needs properly planning and discussion!"

Trism nodded, "Don't think too long. Your enemies are on your doorsteps already."

"Thank you for the help and advice," Titanna nodded. "We will talk again later, now I must prepare for the Ball later and you two have your orders and duties to see to."

Trism and Judis both stood up and bowed before they exited. "Lord Trism, we might not see eye to eye and being enemies before, but I sincerely hope you can help Lady Titanna." Judis stopped Trism and said in a serious voice.

"I do not wish to see her head in a basket..." Judis said and gave a bow. "So please lend me you and your United Nations' strength to us!"

Trism eyed Judis's bowing down at him and sighed. "Come on, don't do this. We are here to help so you don't need to bow or plead, we will do our best to help her."

"Thank you!" Judis sincerely said. "I shall arrange my men to arrest everyone on this list."

Trism watched Judis walked away with a double feeling in his heart. "Well, we will do what we can for her, but if worst comes to worst, our orders are to fall back..."

-----

Dozens and dozens of expensively adorned carriages rolled up one by one into House Rothschild's Estate. Guests dressed both fashionably and richly strolled into the Estate, escorted by servants into the Great Hall where musicians played music in the background.

All the guests were curious as to whether Lady Titanna would make an appearance or were the rumors true, that either she was ill or had run away.

As all the guests had arrived and the sun set over the horizon, the majordomo ring a bell, causing the voices to quietened down as they turned their attention to the announcement. "Her Ladyship, Countess Titanna Rothschild, Governer Of Norshelm, Mistress of House Rothschild, Overseer of the Southern Territories."

Dressed in a lilac sleeveless spider silk gown that bared her shoulders, her blonde hair pinned up with a crystal hairpin, she walked down the red carpeted staircase gracefully. Claps and cheering accompanied her entrance as the male guests in the great hall warmly welcomed her arrival.

Almost instantly, she was swamped with male suitors and curious guests, who wanted to know what happened to her and if her health was doing fine. She answered the guests' questions and politely fend off her suitors' advances.

As she mingled around the crowd, two pairs of eyes glared daggers at her from afar. Lord Taron and Lord Deflin each held a crystal goblet of wine and watched her with barely suppressed hatred and surprise.

"Didn't the Stalkers kill or badly wounded her?" Lord Taron whispered to Lord Deflin. "Why is she still here?!"

Lord Deflin's wrinkled face frowned as he watched the girl entertain her guests. "Something must have happened! The Stalkers never fail!"

"Seeing her so energetic, it just meant that they had failed!" Lord Taron hissed.

"Than, we shall move our plans forward!"

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