Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 1
The Tricolor War
Claude got up relatively early. Were it Chen Xi before he transmigrated, he might've woken up at noon and headed to the company thereafter thanks to his overactive nightlife. But he'd had to wake up early since becoming Claude. He had even, and he was horrified at the thought, gotten used to waking up at five in the morning.
The local wargod shrine in the east of town would ring its humongous, god-forsaken bell at dawn every morning. It woke every soul in town, whether in line with or against their wishes, and shocked the town back into life.
Today, the eastern sky was crimson as light fought through the thick clouds. It would be overcast all day at this rate. The light was good enough to read without a lamp in spite of the thick cloud cover. Claude rubbed his face, waddled over to his desk, and started reading a book on grammar.
He had always considered himself a pathetic transmigrator. There was nothing special about him. He had no unique abilities, no dimensional pocket, no old, eccentric grandfather-like mentor or some other magical items. Besides the memories of his previous life, he was utterly, pathetically, depressingly normal.
Shouldn't transmigrators get cheats?! Try as he might, though, he had not discovered anything special about himself in over six months. The only thing that came even remotely close to being something odd, was his acute hearing. He could hear sounds most people, though not all, could not, and could pick out particular sounds, like the words someone spoke, from a clutter of noise when most people would just hear a cacophony. He also had a rather rampant imagination. He often imagined watching things happen that he could only hear. Like he could see his parents talking downstairs even though he was upstairs in his room.
A new world and a new life meant everything had to be done over again. He had to learn language all over again, and had to attend school again, granted, school in this life was nothing like school in his previous life. Could there be a more pathetic transmigrator?
He hadn't even inherited a decent life. The previous owner of his current body had been a complete dunce in school. He consistently, and this was indeed his only consistency in life, got the worst grades in his class. The bastard had left him no useful information on this new world. He had to learn everything he wanted to know himself.
The bell echoed across the town's rooftops, down its streets and alleys, bouncing back and forth between the buildings' walls, again. Its echoes had just died down when a door downstairs creaked. Must be his mother, she always got up early to prepare breakfast.
Claude closed the book. Fifteen minutes of revision was enough for the day. His efforts had been paying off recently. His grades were on the up, quite considerably, but he made sure to be just average. There was no point in standing out more than was absolutely necessary. He needed good grades for a good future, but it was already too eye-catching that he'd gotten this much better in just three months. There was no reason to make things even more unbelievable.
"Mutton biscuits, fresh out of the oven! Get them now!"
"Honey! Delicious osmanthus flower honey! Guaranteed to give you a rush!"
"Apples! Apples for sale! Three fennies each! -- Ah, thank you."
Hawkers' voices danced up and down the street as carriages rolled down the narrow roads noisily. Every now and again a loose pebble would be crushed or shot out from under the wheel in a random direction.
"Good mornin', Ma'am Ferd. Need milk today? It's straight from the cow's udder! Milked ‘em meself this mornin'!"
He owned a small farm just north of town with just over ten cows. He got up every morning before sunup to milk them. He'd rush into town as soon as he finished to deliver his fresh, often still warm and frothing, milk. He'd peddle the occasional surplus on the street for a while before going back.
Claude's mother was a regular, had been for years. Uncle Grinn often slipped them a little extra, most likely because of who his father was.
"Good morning, Old Grinn. Let me take a look."
"Wow, real fresh today, hey? I'll have a jug."
Claude shook his head. His mother must've taken out their big silver jug today. It could hold twice what normal jugs could.
"One fenny really enough?"
"Yes, yes. One jug for one fenny."
"Thank you, Grinn."
While it was true that Grinn always sold one jug for one fenny, hers was not a normal jug and they both knew it, but his mother was used to it by now.
Claude's father, Morssen Ferd, was the town's chief secretary. He had quite the reputation in town. His position in the larger hierarchy was pretty low, but he oversaw everything that happened in the town. People often came to butter him up. Uncle Grinn, for instance, was counting on Morssen to put in a few good words on his behalf should anything unexpected occur. Such assurances were enough to get the household free milk regularly.
Claude stood up and put on his black school uniform. It resembled a bunt coat worn on Earth, but the collar wasn't western-style. It had an Asian collar, quite similar to what Japanese school children wore. The lower part of the uniform hung straight down and its cuffs were rolled inwards like those of a leather jacket. As the uniform was made out of linen, it was slightly wrinkled.
He took the blue-coloured towel off his wall and went to the washroom downstairs. At times like this he thanked his lucky stars his new world had decent hygiene habits, which was very peculiar, considering the time-period relative to his world he had placed it. From what he could see, this world's development was relatively similar to that of the early eighteenth century in his world, but their hygiene standards were at least one and a half centuries ahead, maybe more.
They had tooth brushes made of wood and horse hair, for one thing. Though they were larger than those from his old world, they still fit in his mouth. And, though they didn't have toothpaste, they used a coarse powder made from salt and plant juices that did a decent job, though far less pleasant to use. He had heard a few rich households had even started installing copper pipes to supply water, and rumors also occasionally made the rounds describing things that sounded similar to flushing toilets and soap. Most houses still used ‘long drop' toilets in outhouses, but they at least had something like toilet paper. It was a little softer that normal paper, but couldn't compare to the kind of silken paper Claude was used to from his old world. Thinking back to his transmigrator ‘colleagues' whose bottoms had to suffer ancient wooden sticks, he couldn't help but thank his good fortune.
Claude's home was a red brick four-story building. The top floor was an attic. He had heard his father mention the building was designed based on Hogg-style architecture which had been all the rage a century earlier. It was built by none other than the famous Biyald Hogg. Stellin VII loved the style and had once ordered three whole streets' worth of buildings in the capital built in it.
A landed baron named Borant Ke Rodeman built Claude's home just over sixty years ago. It was originally the noble's residence and had quickly become famous in the town.
But Prince Karjad Tam Stellin, who would later become Stellin IX, fired the first shot that led to the kingdom's restoration just over sixty years ago in the town. Rodeman Mansion, as it was then known, had served as the headquarters of the prince's local enemies, took the brunt of the fighting.
The situation had been dire in the beginning. They either had to take the mansion in half an hour, or die. A messenger had escaped and was heading to the neighboring town to call for reinforcements and it would take at most half an hour for the garrison to arrive. Most of the troops supported Prince Karjad, but the town's municipality was loyal to the other side, and the men had to obey orders lest they be called traitors to the crown.
The crown had ordered his capture, and he had little power to resist. He had to promise great rewards to bribe the official to keep them from carrying out the order immediately. He had sworn that they would win if only they could take the mansion.
Most turned him down, but enough daredevils were tempted by his offer. He formed a small assault force several dozen strong and charged at the mansion. They lost thirty in the charge, but the rest reached the front entrance, tore down the door, and charged in.
The prince, with a dozen or so he had in reserve, charged in as well. A few minutes later the last defenders surrendered.
With the mansion's fall, the town now belonged to the prince and his supporters. The neighboring town's reinforcements arrived soon after and had to face a difficult decision. They could either charge in and fight a fight they could likely not win, which would see them all die, march home without fighting, and likely be executed for desertion, or join the prince. They chose the last option and became the prince's first full unit.
Thus started the Auerasian civil war, also known as the Tricolour War. The king at the time was Stellin VIII and he and had ruled for eleven years. He had neither any achievements to his name, nor any skill in administration or finance. The eleven years of his reign saw the kingdom decline to the brink of collapse, which it had narrowly avoided several times by the time of the civil war's start. The aristocracy and the peasantry clashed ever more frequently. Some suggested that a civil war would have sprung up within several more years even if the prince had not gotten involved when he did. The king's authority had also been all but eroded into non-existence by the time of the war. Nobles ignored the king and his decrees completely and ruled as though independent. The kingdom existed in name only, and only because it was better to be under the inept king than to see him replaced by someone who could effectively suppress the nobles, or than to declare independence and have to stand alone.
The land was overrun by banditry, it even spilled into the major cities. The kingdom's two neighbors, the Kingdom of Nasri and the Duchy of Berkeley, were also getting angsty and had started testing the waters at the border. They'd even gone as far as occupying stretches of land along the kingdom's northern border. Faced with both internal and external threats, the king turned to a simple solution: dying and leaving the mess to his heirs.
The king's death was of no real consequence in and of itself. He had nothing to do with the kingdom's rule anyway, so the kingdom didn't lose much when he kicked the bucket. The problem was the succession. He had never picked an heir, so two of his children, Princess Elenia Tam Stellin, the elder, and First Prince Aunass Tam Stellin, the younger, both laid claim to the throne. This would usually not be a problem. Unless the king chose a different heir apparent, it was automatically his eldest son. The problem was that his first child had the military and the neighboring nations' support, despite her bad reputation as a harlot. Rumor was she had used four provinces to buy their support.
First Prince Aunass, on the other hand, was supported mainly by the nobility -- the elite that benefited most from the kingdom. His uncle, Duke Brant, lead the faction, they stubbornly resisted any change to the status quo. They mobilized twelve infantry brigades from their personal retinues and fought the royal guard to a standstill.
Despite being in near open war with one another, they did not forget their youngest sibling, Second Prince Karjad Tam Stellin. The prince was a bastard born from the late king's affair with his first maidservant. He would not even have the right to be called ‘prince' if not that his father legitimized him after his mother died in childbirth.
He was raised by the royal palace's gardener and his wife.
Elenia and Aunass both believed Karjad wouldn't pose a threat since he wasn't of the royal bloodline. That didn't mean he wasn't annoying. They could just give him some shithole fief in the countryside and send him off to rot there, but they weren't willing to give him a single pebble of their father's kingdom. Instead, they gave him a position in the military and made him responsible for the security of the province furthest from the capital.
He did just that, and then some. As a prince of the empire, legitimized bastard as he was, he cleaned up the nobles in the province, gave their ill-gained riches to the poor, and exterminated the bandits in the province. He won over the province and its people in just a few months. The minor nobles, knights and the like, soon flocked to his banner, and in less than a year he had a force comparable to his three half-siblings and a good shot at the throne.
The two could not let this happen, however. They ordered his return, by force if necessary, to the capital the day after he arrived in Whitestag Town. It was an order for his capture in all but name, and everyone knew it.
The noble that ruled over the town marched his forces on the prince's camp to capture him, forcing the prince to retaliate with force. Thus started the Tricolour War.