Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 207

Perunt returned with more news a couple days later. It turned out the final delegation the kingdom had sent to Nasri to negotiate were humiliated by a Shiksan delegation.

A fight broke out between the two ambassadors, but Aueras' was a born and bred diplomat, not a fighter. He lost the confrontation... badly. He drew his sword and committed suicide when everyone started laughing at him. Nasri should have stepped in to stop the whole thing, but they just stood by and watched. A few rumours said they had been more than just onlookers. Some said they had goaded the two sides into conflict and had been the ones to push the ambassador to suicide after he lost the fight.

The Nasrians realised what the man was doing too late to stop him, however, and now war had come. The king had declared war the moment he saw his ambassador's corpse. The country had now been at war for five days.

There was still some time left before they were deployed, however. War was a long and slow thing on Freia. It took several days just to get orders out to all the forces, then it took weeks, even months for them to stack up their men and be ready to march. Many units were usually understrength in peacetime, and this needed several months to recall men to active duty and train recruits to bring their units up to combat strength. Aueras' forces had been expecting war for several months now, and had spent all that time preparing, but it would still take some time for them to gear up for deployment.

News should have only just reached the nearer Alliance nations, but they'd been expecting this from the day the ambassador had killed himself, and so they'd started making their moves a couple days ago already.

Claude found Freian war a laughing matter. The idea of declaring war while you still needed months to prepare for anything even remotely resembling an offensive made absolutely no sense to him. The declaration acted more as a notice of eventual war, than an actual announcement that war had now begun. The logical thing was to make all preparations, then declare war just days or, ideally, hours, before marching across the border.

Corps Command was in meetings all day long, so Claude and his men busied themselves in the mess hall. They focused on getting all the supplies they would need: food, water, uniforms, munitions, medicine, bandages, et cetera. Each man was entitled to an arm's length of black bread to take on deployment; three day's worth of bread. HQ had ordered each man get 15 days' rations instead. Each thus had to get five loaves; six thousand loaves for the entire base. Salt, dry cheese, jerky, sticks of butter, and dried fruit were also on the menu.

The men had to carry three days' rations on their person, the rest would be brought along in the supply train and distributed as needed. The rations they carried with them was only for when they were on the move, however. If they set up camp, the camp-mess would provide food.

Claude had not thought even something as essential as rations would only be prepared after war was declared. Though they had yet to march, and he thus technically had more time to train his men, he didn't actually get to make use of it. HQ had ordered a full stocktake of their supplies, which meant nothing could leave the storehouses, not even munitions used for ongoing training.

Claude's tribe, the 11th, was one of the corps' more capable tribes. It belonged to the 3rd Line of the 1st Folk. Oddly, only the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Folks were deployed over the next two weeks. The 1st Folk, officially acknowledged as the most powerful in the corps, remained in camp. The folk's high command was getting itchy, but every petition for their deployment was shut down.

Perunt shone with his wide information network. He heard lots of things from all over the place, such as how they were going to fight on two fronts. Reddragon and Griffon were being deployed to the northwest to shoal off any offensive by Nasri. Bluefeather was to march against Sidins on their own and wipe them out.

Sidins was the equivalent of about seven Aueran prefectures, hardly much of a challenge for Bluefeather. They just needed time to clean it up. Unfortunately, the Audin Mountain Range stood between them and the duchy, and the duchy had heavily fortified their side.

Sidins' ruler and his council believed they were completely safe on that front. The last thing any half-decent commander would do is march his army across a mountain range right into extensive fortifications. He might make it over the mountains with little in the way of losses if he was lucky, but to fight against a fortified enemy when his supply chain was all but neutred by the mountain range was suicide.

Bluefeather certainly had more than half-decent commanders in command; unfortunately, they were Bluefeather commanders. They were not the kind to let something as minor as a mountain range stop them from getting in on the action, especially not when their rivals were going to be in the thick of it.

High Command had little reason to try and curb Bluefeather's... enthusiasm for such an offensive. They needed to take the two ports Sidins was contributing to the Alliance in order to complete their cut-off of the enemy navy.

Bluefeather's commanders were not about to waste this opportunity either. They'd won the chance to be deployed from the beginning of the war by fighting for it tooth and nail. They were strong, but not as powerful, or well-regarded, as the royal guard or Reddragon. They'd been sending scouting parties into, and later across, the mountain range from the day they had heard definite news about the war's inevitability months earlier.

Their scouts had found several weak points in the ill-alert defences. If they pushed their attack there with precise timing, they could break right through. If they did so quickly enough, and with enough of their force intact, they could march right through to the enemy capital before they even heard about their presence.

They'd also discovered an old smuggler's passage they could use to cross the mountains undetected.

Perunt also had news that the initial attack had already been launched. It had gone very well and the 2nd Folk had taken Wemis, the nearest Sidinsian city. The 3rd and 4th Folks had taken up defensive positions on either end of the mountain pass to make sure it was not taken or destroyed.

"So why are we still in camp?" Claude asked.

That was one question, however, Perunt could not answer.

Another week passed without any word. Then, finally, on the eighth day, news came. The 1st Folk was being held back to receive the second prince. The crown prince, Hansbach Tam Stellin, had been assigned to Reddragon, and the second prince, Wedrick Tam Stellin, had been assigned to Bluefeather. They'd been sent with two tasks. The first, to announce the kingdom's new policy regarding the three prefectures they'd taken from Nasri in the last war, and to join the two corps as they marched into battle.

The martial law that had been in place in Kafreizit, Lasdonkrun, and Botamia for several decades now, was finally to come to an end. Their taxes would be reduced to the normal rate, however, they had to raise three irregular corps for the war.

The 1st Folk was to be the second prince's personal bodyguard while he was in the field. Claude and his unit was to deploy with the 11th Tribe. While the final preparations were being made, he was sent to the unit's headquarters to join the party receiving the prince and join the parade to be held to display the force responsible for the prince's protection.

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