Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 339

"Sir, I've got answers. These are the kingdom's citizens in Anfiston. They said the Shiksan scout tents raided the colonies mercilessly the last month. High-Commissioner Machek's forces were defeated in a single battle. Less than a quarter of them made it back.

"The viceroy, Viscount Franz, gathered what remained of their garrison and decided to defend the capital, Grinosburg, to the death. He gave up on everything else. It allowed the enemy scouts to come and go as they pleased. The town administrations are worsening and the nikancha appear about to revolt. The kingdom's subject are perturbed and have packed their bags. They've fled from the front," Myjack reported.

Claude was now on a small hill beside the road on horseback. He could only smile bitterly at the sight of the long, winding road congested with carriages. Tribe 131 marched a force for 13 days only to be blocked by the people fleeing from Anfiston. Given the size of that caravan, who could tell how long it would take for them to pass?

He thought there were so many refugees because Shiks had conquered Robisto and Balingana and were targeting Anfiston. However, Myjack's survey revealed the colony-spanning chaos was caused by just a few enemy scouts.

"Have everyone dismount. We'll continue once the convoy's passed," Claude decided.

He expected to have about an hour to himself, but just a few minutes after they'd stopped, Gum reported the convoy had sent representatives to talk with him.

A few middle-aged, elderly gentlemen in prime attire appeared before Claude. They introduced themselves as the people in charge of Anfiston's mining association. They had initially decided to give up on their businesses and flea to Tyrrsim, from whence they would sail to the mainland. When they saw the kingdom's elites resting on the side of the road, they were certain the war would turn in their favour. They wanted to know how many reinforcements had been sent. If it was substantial, they would wait for the war to turn and return to their homes.

Their numbers were no secret, so he informed them.

The representatives were overjoyed. The colony had clearly not been abandoned. They might not lose Anfiston at all, if the defences Claude had discussed were formidable enough.

Claude was quite curious why they didn't organise their own resistance since their livelihoods were at stake. The Shiksan forces had only sent scouts, after all. Was there a need to abandon their homes?

He was informed that the viceroys and high-commissioners were all... eccentric. Tyrrsim's high-commissioner had sold the army's arms. Anfiston's high-commissioner and the late Machek, were anti musket ownership. They strictly prohibited peasants from owning any firearms.

Anfiston was the largest industrial area in the seven colonies and produced more than 30 different products and resources, primary amongst them were gold and silver. In Aueras, gold and silver ore were considered the kingdom's greatest military resource. Everything was state owned. Most of the businesses and the members of Anfiston's mining association were owners and entrepreneurs of other types of ore and mostly used mix-blood natives in their mining operations.

As Anfiston's peasants were forbidden from owning firearms, so the mine owners were allowed to use only cold weapons like crossbows. The garrisons were usually well armed and supplied, and the natives were well treated, so no one had ever feared rebellion.

That all changed when Shiks invaded Cromwell. First, High-Commissioner Machek led his garrison out of their strongholds to reinforce the colony. Then he was killed along with the majority of his men. Only a couple escaped the massacre. Most of them fled straight to Port Patres, Robisto's capital, where they were pushed onto the walls to hold it.

When news of the loss spread, Viscount Cruz, who wasn't familiar with anything military, lost his cool and gathered all his men in Grinosburg. When Machek left to reinforce Cromwell, he left a clan of garrison troops in each town and was barely able to keep them in order. But the situation quickly worsened after the viceroy recalled all the troops.

The natives were called nikancha because of their horrid habits. Lying and stealing was normal and they didn't think what they were doing was wrong. Instead, they would get frustrated if their lies were seen through or when they were arrested. No matter how badly they apologised, if one felt sympathy for them and released them, they would giggle gleefully at their own smarts.

That was the general view the people who had interacted with the mix-blood natives. Only through whipping would the nikancha do what they were told obediently. All one needed to do was tell them what they could and couldn't do, not listen to their excuses as most of what they said couldn't be differentiated between truth or lies anyway. Who knew whether they were mocking you to be a fool for being so easy to cheat if you let them off? They wouldn't be grateful for the kindness shown to them at all and would instead revel in their perceived intellectual superiority.

While the garrison forces were still stationed in the towns, the nikancha still behaved obediently and did their work. But the moment they were called to Grinosburg, the nikancha began to go haywire. They stole, robbed and committed countless other atrocities in broad daylight. The kingdom's citizens had no choice but to band together to protect their homes and families, but their cold weapons didn't pose much of a threat against the nikancha. Instead, some of them who knew how to hunt and had crossbows were a larger threat to the kingdom's citizens.

In that situation, the members of the mining association decided to see the viceroy in hopes of temporarily removing the ban on firearms and distribute some of them to the town's peasants. That way, they could form their own garrisons and stop the eager nikancha and survive this time of tribulation.

It was a shame that the stubborn viceroy refused the proposal, citing the Shiksan forces would be attacking Anfiston soon as a reason. He said he had decided to fight to the bitter end for the sake of the kingdom and defend Grinosburg.

The firearms in the stores had to be used to resist the invaders and couldn't be distributed to the peasants. The viceroy saw arming the peasants as benefiting the enemy as they hadn't been properly trained to use them and could easily lose the guns to the nikancha, thus making them even more of a threat to the garrison forces.

So, it appeared that the harassment of the Shiksan scouts wasn't the reason for the citizens' frantic escape from their homes. They only raided a few orchards or farms near the towns' outskirts and burned down a few buildings while killing a few nikancha and kingdom citizens. They didn't dare to barge into the towns that brashly.

The real reason was the worsening of security in their towns and the fact that the townsfolk didn't have the firepower necessary to suppress the mix-blood natives. They had to leave the towns for another colony to make sure their families were safe.

Having encountered Claude's Tribe 131 in the midst of their journey, the citizens saw hope in being able to return to their homes. None of them would willingly abandon the livelihoods and homes they tried so hard to build up if they had a choice.

Most of the carriages on the road began to turn around as the beasts of burden groaned. Those who weren't going to return and had set their minds on going to the other colonies were separated out and allowed to continue their way. However, there weren't many of them and they wouldn't affect Tribe 131's advance.

Claude gathered all his clansmen and rolled the map open to delegate tasks.

Apart from Grinosburg, Anfiston had four mining towns, one town and one fishing town. The four mining towns were located in the mountains and mainly produced ores. The single normal town was the only one located on flat land in the whole of Anfiston. Orchards and farmland surrounded the town, making it the colony's breadbasket. There was another fishing town located near Grinosburg.

"Captain Berklin, have your light-cavalry clan head to the town of Lanu. Maintain order there and send a few scouts into Robisto. Remember, don't let the Shiksan scouts enter Anfiston ever again."

"Understood!" Berklin saluted.

"Captain Moriad, your mission is to lead your clan to Rosas. It's the nearest mining town to Balingana. Make sure to send scouts into Balingana as you suppress and revolters and maintain order. Get a good grasp on the situation there, understood?"

"Yes, Sir," Moriad replied.

"Captain Dyavid, lead your clan to Fenkayka. You know what you need to do, right?"

"Don't worry, Sir. I do." Dyavid smiled.

"Captain Cashmille, bring your clan to Avikra."

"Yes, Sir," Cashmille said with a salute.

"Captain Andruk, I'll leave Bodeman to you."

Captain Andruk was a staff officer who had been promoted by Claude to take the post as clansman of Berklin's clan. He didn't talk much and did his work without any fuss, much to Claude's appreciation. Now that Berklin was made clansman of the light-cavalry clan, his empty post was filled in by Andruk.

Claude looked at the clansman of the cannoneer clan, Captain Abovik, and instructed him to send out five tents of cannoneers each to accompany each of the five clans. That way, each clan would have the support of two light-infantry cannons, making it easier for them to defend the towns.

"Gentlemen, your main objective after arriving at each of these towns is to stop the nikancha revolt and restore order and safety. Help the kingdom's citizens settle back into their homes. Additionally, you are to scout and patrol the borders to prevent the Shiksan scouts from entering Anfiston once more. Send out an elite tent to Balingana and Robisto to observe the situation.

"Furthermore, form a tribe of garrison troops in each of those towns. This is our top priority. I will send you the armaments to arm the men with after entering Grinosburg. Please note that only after forming those garrison tribes will our rear be kept safe. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to continue our advance into Balingana and Robisto to fulfil our mission.

"Alright, I believe the guides are ready. Let's depart." Claude clapped his hands to encourage his men.

"Sir, how should we deal with the revolting mix-blood natives?" Cashmille asked.

Claude shook his head with a smile and a cold gaze. "Shoot those who resist dead. Hang the leaders by the roads. Capture the followers and use them as labourers. We have to be strict and forceful in wartime."

When the officers left, Major Schnak looked at the map and reminded Claude, "Sir, you forgot about the fishing town in Anfiston..."

"I know. This fishing town is only some 15 kilometres away from Grinosburg, so half a day's travel away. It's quite far back and is still safe for now. I've asked the mine owners and members of the mining association about it and there were no refugees from the fishing town. We'll send a clan over there to check it out after we enter Grinosburg."

On the 11th of the 9th month in Year 584 of the Sacred Light Era, Claude and Tribe 131 entered the capital of Anfiston, Grinosburg.

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