Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 212

Prince Wedrick escaped Eimis in the afternoon of the 4th. Major Jebson only found out that evening. Claude left for the pass with his band that night as well. A Nasrian folk arrived at Eimis at midnight. They held off their attack until the next morning.

Had it not been for the Chanyalar irregulars the enemy had captured, Nasri wouldn't have sent another folk there. According to some of the testimonies, it was said that one Bluefeather tribe and another tribe of royal guards were in the city. The interrogator found it weird and asked for more details, only to learn that the precious second son of Stellin X was present as the king's representative.

It wasn't uncommon for representatives to monitor army operations, but they were supposed to do so from far behind friendly lines. The officers argued a whole day when they heard this news. Some wanted to charge into Eimis and capture the prince immediately. He would be quite the bargaining chip, and might just get them a beneficial peace.

Others were dead set against breaking ranks and marching into what had to be the enemy command post on their own. If they move out of position, the encirclement of the enemy army would be broken and they themselves would be direly exposed so far away from support at Eimis.

Even if the enemy army didn't exploit the whole in their formations their absence would create and just marched back to Eimis when they heard of their move, they would be sandwiched between the city's walls and the enemy army.

Some of the Chanyalar irregulars were also still loose. They were no doubt on their way to the nearest friendly position to let them know what was going on. There was no stopping the enemy of finding out about their moves. Setting aside the dire threat a withdrawal of the enemy army would pose, at the very least the prince was not likely to still be in the city by the time they arrived.

They also argued that, while the second prince would indeed be a valuable captive, if for nothing other than the sheer national embarrassment his capture would be, and the damage it would do to enemy morale on all the fronts, he would not be as valuable as he might have been were he the second prince of any other kingdom; if anything, his capture was more likely to seal their fate. During the last war, the Duchy of Berkeley captured the crown prince. They sent emissaries to Stellin IX to sue for peace with the prince as a bargaining chip; but, rather than negotiate, the king marched his entire army into the duchy and wiped it clean of every trace of the nobility.

In the end the officers decided to stick to the original plan. They could not ignore the men that had gotten away, so they sent a folk to Eimis to lock it down and keep the enemy from coordinating a retreat of the army.

The general emphasised time and again when giving orders that their mission was to hold the enemy back, keeping them in the city. They were not there to take the city, so if things got too dangerous, they should withdraw.

But the closer they got to Eimis, the more Chanyalar irregulars returning from their tax collection assignments they captured. In the end, the commander received confirmation that only three tribes were left in the city. He was one of the officers who had argued in favour of taking the city.

Sometimes, however, the opportunity to attack vanished before anyone noticed. Had he ordered an attack the moment they arrived, he would have taken the city. The city's loss would have all but undone the entire campaign for Aueras.

Because they held back, however, many of the irregulars made it back to the city and reorganised under the 11th Tribe.

The Nasrians finally attacked late the next morning. They were ill-prepared for a siege, however, and made no gains. They suffered especially severely under the city's cannons.

It took an hour for the Nasrian commander to feel something was off. He guessed the enemy's numbers at three folks based on the stiff resistance, and gave up on taking the city. He pulled back from the walls and laid siege instead.

That noon, the two port cities came under attack. Neither of the cities' defenders could hold and withdrew to the docks. Less than two lines made it out.

By six in the evening, four messengers had broken through and made it to General Feliput.

The general immediately turned the army around and pushed back towards Eimis. He sent a screening force against the enemy to cover their retreat, but it only bought them the night. The screening force broke early the next morning and the enemy poured through after the army.

The orderly, if hasty, withdrawal quickly became a full-blown retreat, bordering on a route in several places. They were surrounded. Behind them were 200 thousand men, to their east were two corps ready to strike at their flank, and to their west two more corps returning from taking the port cities.

One night was only enough to withdraw to a relatively favourable position on the tops of several hills a dozen or so kilometres behind them and set up some basic defense-works. It was a better position than what they'd occupied before the retreat, but it was still far from good. They were still almost entirely encircled. If they lost connection to Eimis, their supplies would go as well, and they would inevitably be forced to surrender.

A surrender meant a lifetime of shame. Their careers would be over. They would also most likely be disowned by their families, if they even still lived when they returned. The decision was made to make a mad dash through the still forming lines in their rear and try to break through and withdraw to Eimis.

It took eleven days and sacrificing all but 40 thousand men, most of whom were badly injured and combat ineffective regardless, but they finally broke through and made it back to the city. Half of the officers were dead, and all of the irregulars had been lost. General Feliput himself was bedridden by multiple injuries, each nearly life-threatening on their own.

Claude spent all that time in the pass with his men being food for mosquitoes. Lieutenant Most took over the downslope defenses with his band of irregulars, leaving Claude to fortify their upslope positions, especially the four cannons.

The breakout happened soon after they finished their work and Nasrian scouts started showing up periodically. They all became fertiliser.

Claude spent most of his evening counting stars as he waited for sleep to free him from his boredom. Several hundred men came their way a day or two after the battle ended, all deserters, and they were sent to the lieutenant for punishment. Word came several days later that Bluefeather had withdrawn to Eimis.

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