Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 210
In the Heat of the Matter
Had Prince Wedrick been a firm, resolute and serious person, the army's plans would've been realised to ideal perfection. Aueras would've been able to take the entirety of Eastern Freia and doom the Alliance. There wouldn't need to be three years of drawn-out war and that many stunning occurrences.
Perhaps only the passing of time could allow light to be shed on plans made in darkness. The only thing on which Bluefeather could blame their misfortunes was that they had made a bad choice for a prince. They had to endure his laid-back and leisure-seeking personality and watch as their opportunities and chances to fight slipped away.
Reddragon and Griffon were still advancing into Nasri. They relied on their cannons to bust through one fortress after another, but the casualties were rather high. Even though two-thirds of Sidins had been occupied, the delays caused by Prince Wedrick wasted the gains. The arrival of reinforcements from the duchies of Askilin, Rimodra, and Canas made it a real possibility that Bluefeather would have to fight a pitched field battle against superior numbers when they reached Efenasburg.
They had predicted such a possibility, however, though they'd hoped to avoid it, and made appropriate preparations. In the original plan, called Operation Sickle, Bluefeather would sweep into Sidins through the mountain range and force the duchy's forces to surrender before they occupied the two port cities and attacked Efenasburg within a fortnight, wiping the duchy out before it could even figure out what was happening.
With Sidins neutralised they would push into Nasri from the east, catching them between two sledgehammers. No one on the enemy side considered the possibility of the duchy falling this quickly since everyone assumed the mountain range and the duchy's fortifications on their side of it made any attack, while not impossible, so costly that Aueras wouldn't even bother trying. The lands between the duchy and Nasri were all open plains, so once the duchy fell, they were as bare as a kneeling maiden.
That was the ideal case, which had clearly not come to pass. Bluefeather were standing at Efenasburg's gates, but they could not push through. They were forced to stand by and watch as thousands of enemy reinforcements streamed into the city.
It had still been accounted for. The plan was for the leading forces to pull back some 20 kilometres if this happened. They would hold back until all of Bluefeather could muster, then besiege the capital and flatten it to the ground, enemies inside included.
Since that was now the plan to execute, the more enemies got into the city, up to a certain limit, the better. So they left the enemy to their own devices, contenting themselves with keeping count of how many enemies were in the city. At the moment, that count stood at 220 thousand men. At least a corps from each nation.
Bluefeather's 2nd Combat Folk had set up a defensive position some 20 kilometres back as planned.
High Command believed that as long as the irregular corps arrived, they had nothing to worry about despite the enemy's numbers. Quite a few also believed Wedrick's delays weren't all curse and no blessing. They could lead the battles themselves instead of carrying out Operation Sickle and joining up with Reddragon and Griffon this way.
The officers thus stopped nagging the prince to speed up, and just marched along at the pace he set. The procession finally arrived in Eimis in the middle of the 8th month, two and a half months after the war started. The prince rested for three days before finally attending his duties. After the surrender ceremony, Bluefeather's 1st Combat Folk prepared to set out for the front lines. Given the hot weather, Prince Wedrick remained holed up in a mansion in Eimis. He tasked two of his honorary generals with managing things in the port cities in his stead. The two irregular corps each left a folk in Eimis.
Claude's 11th Tribe was the only normal military unit to remain in the city. They were tasked with the prince's continued safety. It was a boring job; they couldn't even play peacekeeper since that duty had been handed to the irregulars. But they could not disobey the prince. He was quite the paranoid bastard, actually. He constantly fretted over his safety, even when he was so far from the conflict. His paranoia saw him holed up in the mansion more often than not.
Claude took frequent walks. Eimis was the fourth largest city in the duchy, but, though it had been famed for its agriculture, occupation had robbed the city of all vitality. The only thing people did outside their houses were fetching water and visiting the shrines.
I took Claude nearly an hour's walking finally to find an open shop. He wanted to buy a couple of bottles of fruit wine to drink with his minions, but the panic-stricken shop owner shook his head furiously and said that he had no alcohol for sale. Only after Claude paid a thale did the owner look around carefully to make sure nothing was amiss before taking out four bottles of fruit wine with no price tags.
He only found out why the owner had behaved like that on the way back to camp. A tent of fully-armed men was led by two honorary first lieutenants as they broke into houses and shops and searched inside. When he went there to ask, he was told that they were expropriating for the prince. They were collecting war tax from the citizens and those without money had to pay with goods or their belongings.
It was rather common for the occupants to collect war tax from the citizens that inhabited the places they occupied. The only difference was that Prince Wedrick's war tax was thrice the normal rate. He taxed every single citizen, newborn infants included. Apparently, he was trying to make a quick buck using the war tax as an excuse.
Claude had no jurisdiction over them, so he hurried back to camp. As the old adage went, 'see no evil'.
The end of the 9th month marked the completion of the initial phase of the war. The two irregular corps had arrived at their destinations and both the Aueran army and the allied army of Sidins had tacitly agreed where the stage for the final battle would be carried out and were making preparations the best they could to increase their chances.
Only the free 11th Tribe remained in Eimis. Some officers craving for merit on the battlefield cursed their misfortune for receiving such an assignment. They couldn't partake in the deciding battle that would set the stage of Eastern Freia for the future to come. It was set to be a battle that would leave a mark in history and missing out on it was far too bad.
Claude, on the other hand, wasn't bothered. He often visited Perunt for chats. Perunt found the days he spent in Eimis rather leisurely. He didn't have to tend to any injured from the 11th Tribe, given that they didn't have to patrol the city or collect taxes. Only two unlucky fellows suffered from food poisoning and Perunt easily got a healer to tend to them.
Having nothing better to do, the two of them often debated with a map of Sidins laid open before them. What made Claude wonder was why the three duchies of Askilin, Canas and Rimodra only sent one corps of reinforcements to Sidins. They hadn't been touched by war before and should've had more than enough time and resources to build up their forces.
Additionally, Nasri should've acted upon hearing about the situation at Sidins. Sending a corps or two over as reinforcements should've been par for the course, but why haven't they done so? Nasri had four standing corps and would form eight more irregular corps after the war broke out. Currently, Reddragon and Griffon only kept three of their standing corps occupied. They could definitely afford to send two more to aid Sidins.
For some reason, the worst of their speculations had actually been realised. A net had been cast on Bluefeather and the other two irregular corps. The Aueran army had committed the fatal mistake of underestimating the enemy in their plans. In their minds, they believed that a single of their own corps could take down two to three of the enemies'. They took it for granted that even the irregular corps could defeat one standing corps of the enemy.
They also thought that the moment they launched an attack, the enemy could do naught but hold their ground to defend or retreat as far as they could until they were forced to plead the kingdom for a ceasefire agreement when there was nowhere left to run. They thought all they had to do was to launch attacks nonstop, not stopping for a second to consider the possibility of the enemy attacking out of desperation.
Nobody could've predicted that the Alliance had set their sights on Bluefeather. Nasri was willing to lose ground on the western front if it meant they could take down Bluefeather in Sidins and rid themselves of the thorn in their eye for good. They had secretly sent two standing corps from the western front away and used three irregular corps to take on Reddragon and Griffon's attacks instead.
The two standing corps were sent to the border of Sidins and they sneaked into the duchy with the intent of attacking Bluefeather and their irregular corps from the rear. They would wipe out the 100 plus thousand enemies for good. The Alliance decided to snap the claw that stretched itself into Sidins once and for all.
That meant that Bluefeather wasn't only just going to take on 200 plus thousand enemies. The three duchies didn't just send one corps to Sidins. They had sent two each instead, unbeknownst to Bluefeather. Coupled with the two Nasrian standing corps and the other reinforcements transported by the Alliance's navy which they intended to deploy at the captured port cities, they intended to prevent Bluefeather from retreating into the port cities.