William tried not to think about what he was doing. It was best not to consider that he was going into a place with four dozen potentially armed and trained men that might want to kill him. Worse yet, he was doing it alone. Except, he wasn’t alone. Chris was with him, and that meant a whole lot. Besides, if it actually came down to a fight, he would move to a location where he could fight against one to three people a few dozen times. That was quite different.
Not that he expected it to actually go that way. That was what plans were for, and intimidation… and the fact that most of the guards probably didn’t care who they worked for. The intimidation factor would come not from his physique, but from his deeds. Lord Harridan was dead… and William was uninjured. The few cuts he had didn’t count… and by the time they arrived at his manor a few days later his robe had repaired itself so they couldn’t be seen.
The biggest reason William had to do this whether or not it was dangerous was because it needed to be done. They needed a power base, more than just one prestigious academy, and more than farmers and common folk, though both of those were a good start. Of course, one or two nobles weren’t going to matter either, but it was a starting point.
Once the driver said that they were on William’s grounds, he expected to arrive at the manor soon, but it was an entire hour before they actually arrived. He hadn’t considered how extensive the lands would be… and these weren’t even close to the largest holdings.
The manor was actually surrounded by a wall, except for the worked metal gates. From the inside, William could see the walls were covered with magical formations, but without closer study it was hard to tell what they did. It could have just strengthened them, or they could be to activate wards.
The manor itself was only visually in the style of a castle. It wouldn’t handle any sort of real castle situation, as evidenced by the many windows. William also doubted its walls had any significant degree of thickness, unlike the walls surrounding the grounds.
When he stepped out of the carriage, the servants who were waiting immediately noticed something was off. The carriage driver announced him. “As you can see, we have a new lord. He defeated and killed Lord Harridan in single combat, thus earning the right to his title. Pay your respects to Lord Josef Rutten.”
Everyone bowed, which William found strange, though he tried to avoid showing it on his face. Instead, he smiled slightly, in a manner he hoped showed assurance in his actions. “It is as he says,” William produced the signet ring, “I am the new lord. Some things might change around here, but for now I expect all of you to continue to fulfill your duties, as normal.” William planned to meet with each of them individually for inspections in the coming days, but that announcement could wait.
William gave some time for the news to spread throughout the manor before summoning Lord Harridan’s mistresses. In total, there were five of them, and with the clothing and jewelry they were wearing he had to wonder exactly how much money was spent on them. He had no doubts that they didn’t have even more fancy and expensive things. He tried to calculate how many villages… or cities that might have fed, and for how long. Well, probably just one city at a basic rate. He would have to look over the finances he had available.
All of the women were astoundingly gorgeous, but he supposed that was their job. A few of them were obviously nervous, but the other two projected confidence. After a few moments of surveying them, William spoke. “As all of you have no doubt heard, Lord Harridan is dead, and I am the new lord. In the interest of not wasting everyone’s time, I will be blunt. I have no need of you. I expect all of you to move out within a few weeks. You may take anything you originally owned, plus any gifts Lord Harridan gave you that you can carry or that fit in a single carriage.”
The most confident woman looked slightly shocked, but quickly recovered. She put on a seductive smile, and leaned toward William over the desk, “Come now, surely you could find use for a least one of us?” She licked her lips, “The bed does get very cold at night with just one person…”
William had to admit her display was sufficiently seductive. Unfortunately for her, that was not enough. He smiled, “Unfortunately, I am not interested in keeping someone else’s mistresses, if I were even interested in keeping any at all. But… I already have all the woman I can handle.”
“Oh come now… I’m sure a strong man like you can… handle… more than one woman.”
William laughed, “Oh, well perhaps that would be possible. Just not when one of them is her. If you really insist, I’m sure you can ask the Archmage if she is willing to share. I’m sure the results would be… spectacular.” William couldn’t help but imagine the scenario in his head. Though the details weren’t all there, he knew at the very least someone would need a new window… and probably a coffin.
The seductive woman’s face fell. “The Archmage?” She pondered for a few moments, then sighed. “I would be willing to compete in womanly charms with anyone you could name… but from what I’ve heard she far surpasses me in… most other areas.” She headed for the door, only to pause before stepping out. “It’s a shame she got to you first. I bet you’re quite the catch.”
Behind her, the other mistresses filed out. The most timid one stopped briefly at the door and looked back, but said nothing. Then, William found himself in a room that suddenly felt very… empty. That was probably for the best.