Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 211
Initial Signs of Danger
When historians eventually discuss the Battle of Efenasburg, they will unanimously agree that the biggest mistake the Alliance made was to ignore Eimis' strategic importance. Had Nasri's two corps first occupied Eimis, they would've sealed off Aueras' irregular corps and Bluefeather within Sidins' Amilia Plains and wiped them out.
But warfare of the time was focused on fighting decisive field battles. They avoided sieges and urban conflict as much as possible. The Alliance believed they only had to defeat the two irregular corps. The city would fall back into their hands on its own.
Bluefeather's mistake, on the other hand, was their failure to predict the enemy's numbers might double to 400 thousand. Apart from Bluefeather and the two irregular corps having a bloody battle ahead, Aueras had another irregular corps in Sidins split into its many smaller units, instead of stationed in Eimis as the Alliance believed.
The irregular corps from Chanyalar consisted of various keepers and garrisoneers from all over the place. It had four folks. Two had split off after the corps made it to Sidins to occupy the port cities. A third was sent back as escort for prisoners of war. Just one folk guarded Eimis.
And even that folk was scattered by Prince Wedrick for his honorary officers' tax collection assignments. As carriage after carriage of goods was sent to Eimis, Wedrick sent more and more men further and further afield, leaving only one tribe of irregulars at full strength in the city.
Had Bluefeather's 11th Tribe and the royal guard not been in charge of the prince's safety, they might've been sent out as well.
The Alliance's commanders weren't aware of this, however. They didn't think they had the spare manpower to take the city. The front was relatively calm, and they didn't want to wake up the sleeping monster. If Bluefeather realised that it had been encircled and tried to break out of it with the two irregular corps, then the two Nasrian standing corps at the rear might have a hard time holding it back. Their plans would've been foiled if they were discovered.
But they didn't know that only three tribes were left in Eimis. Otherwise, they would've simply sent a folk to take the city and seal off Bluefeather's escape.
The Alliance informant in Eimis had been on his way to deliver his information at one point, but he was caught by one of the patrols. He was beaten nine-tenths into the underworld, then left for dead. A passing farmwife saved him, however, but the Battle of Efenasburg had concluded by the time he was healthy enough to risk the journey.
The battle broke out on the 3rd of the 10th month. Bluefeather was first attacked by the duchies' four corps and their counterattack managed to drive the enemy ten kilometres back all the way to Efenasburg. The report sent to Prince Wedrick that night emphasised the expected cowardice and lack of training of the enemy. They managed to kill over ten thousand enemies in a day and suffered only some two thousand casualties, which only further bolstered their confidence that they would be able to take their enemies out within the next ten days and take Efenasburg.
The prince held a celebratory banquet after receiving the news and invited all commissioned officers to participate. He toasted the crowd and toasted Bluefeather's amazing victory and prayed for their early success in eradicating Sidins. The guests answered the toast with glee and they all ended up dead drunk.
Prince Wedrick didn't only know how to play and slack off. He was actually very sharp. A tribe of irregulars from Chanyalar ran into the Nasrian forces who were on their way to attack Bluefeather. Only a few officers made it back on horseback.
It was now the afternoon of the 4th of the 10th month. The survivors reported their encounter to the prince, who had just awoken. The prince looked at the map of Sidins and decided in less than ten minutes for his attendants to pack his luggage and his royal guard tribe to escort him away from Eimis.
11th Tribe's officers watched as the prince's men rushed their escape as if their arses were on fire. They discarded anything too heavy to bring with them and hurriedly left the city for Audin Mountain Range on 50 fully loaded carriages.
When 11th Tribe's tribesman, Major Jebson, received the news, he rushed to the gates and stopped the prince's convoy and asked whether his tribe should follow. The prince ordered the tribe to stay put and defend the city and handed all administration to him while he left the city himself in the name of transporting the spoils back to the national treasury.
Fortunately, Jebson was a stellar soldier. While he was rather confused at the prince's sudden departure, he noticed that something was amiss and hurriedly sent for patrols around the four gates of the city. When he received a report about the officers that returned haggardly, he hurriedly returned to the city hall and found the officers who were at a loss as to what to do following the prince's departure.
He heard what they had to say and checked the map out and immediately understood the reasoning behind the prince's actions. He cursed out loud, not for the sudden departure of the prince, but for his selfish behaviour. He spent the whole afternoon packing up and expropriating carriages and horses without bothering to inform Bluefeather about it. Currently, the three corps they had on the frontlines were in grave danger from being encircled by the enemy.
Major Jebson sent out three tents of messengers right away and ordered them to inform Bluefeather about it no matter what. On his side, he had 11th Tribe fortify the city's defenses and sent out a few tents of mounted scouts to check on enemy troops movements and the locations of the scattered irregular corps that were sent to collect taxes to order them to drop whatever they were doing and return to defend Eimis.
After the chain of orders, Jebson finally let out a relieved breath. The thought of the departed prince gave him another urge to curse out. At that moment, inspiration struck and he thought of a problem. He called for his guards urgently and ordered the two of them to ride to Audin Mountain Range to see whether Prince Wedrick's carriages had entered the mountain range.
At that moment, 11th Tribe was completely occupied. The four clans were sent to guard the four gates of the city respectively, bolstering the city's defenses so that it wouldn't fall upon first contact with the enemy. Major Jebson also ordered what remained of the irregulars from Chanyalar to maintain order within the city while transferring some more experienced officers and their subordinates to be reserves for 11th Tribe.
Amidst all that chaos, Claude suddenly found that his keepers wasn't assigned anything at all. That was mainly because the officers were more than aware of the type of men Claude had in his unit and didn't bother to consider him in their defensive plans at all.
So, Claude decided to ask Second Lieutenant Most what he should do with his keeper band. In his eyes, his men were the most effective and accurate shooters with the Aubass Mark 3 and had trained with live rounds before. They should be able to perform quite well in defensive operations.
But he found that he came to camp at a bad time. The tribesman and some other officers were greatly enraged at the unreliable prince. Their messengers had informed them that when the prince's cohort arrived at Audin Mountain Range, their carriages were too loaded and had a hard time scaling the mountains. As such, he actually ordered a tribe of Chanyalar irregulars defending the place to leave their post and help with moving the carriages!
Fortunately, the major had considered that as a factor and sent some guards to ask about it. The word they got back was that Audin was completely undefended now. The prince was dragging them down once more! Every officer that had heard that couldn't help but curse.
Eimis was only a few kilometers away from Audin Mountain Range and controlling Eimis was akin to controlling the entrance to the range. But there was still some distance between the two locales and now, the prince had brought the tribe of soldiers defending the range away with him. The entryway to the mountain paths was completely unguarded.
If an enemy sent a tent of men to occupy the entrance to the range and took over the empty defensive fortifications there, it would be over for the Aueran troops. They would have no more escape route. Even a small number of men defending the mountain range was enough, since the kingdom's troops would be pursued by enemies from behind. That would be the last straw for the troops' survival.
Some mounted scouts returned to report that some officers of the Chanyalar irregulars encountered a separate folk of Nasrian forces heading Eimis' way. Yet, the troops within the city were still far less than one folk and it had to rely on 11th Tribe for defense. As for Chanyalar's irregulars, the officers of Bluefeather didn't think they were capable in combat at all.
What troubled Jebson the most was that he couldn't send some troops from 11th Tribe to defend Audin, not a single band. He wouldn't be able to be relieved by sending the irregulars there either, as he was afraid that they would run the moment an attack came. Nobody trusted in their abilities in the slightest.
And Claude happened to walk right into all that. Jebson's eyes brightened when he saw him enter and cried, "It'll have to be you!"
Quite a number of officers had seen the combat simulation at Fokby Hill and instantly found Claude's keeper band to be the best fit for the operation. Since they didn't include them in the defense of the city, they could send them to defend the entrance of Audin Mountain Range.
That was the first official order Claude received as a bandsman. He led his men along with a band of irregulars commanded by Second Lieutenant Most to the mountain range.