Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 341

"Sir, there's only one line stationed in Ferro. Their discipline is really bad and their officers don't even live in the camp. They're lodged in the residential area near the town hall, same goes for their colonel linesman. He lives in his mistress' home. Even though his troops stay in camp, they are getting wilder and wilder. Their security is non-existent," Moriad reported.

Ferro was the southmost town in Balingana and about a hundred kilometres from Anfiston. It used to have 17 thousand people, but barely 12 thousand stayed after the war broke out.

The people that remained were unwilling to give up on their businesses and livelihoods. Fortunately, Shiks' army followed the rule for all colonisers on Nubissia. Though they were at war, they didn't harm the peasants from Freia. Pillaging was unavoidable, however, so the people had nothing but bankruptcy in their future.

The reason Claude picked Ferro as his first target was simple: he needed a suitable temporary location for his tribe to set up camp and Ferro was the ideal place. If they took back the town, Tribe 131 could begin harassing the enemy forces' rear. The moment the enemy's main force came for them, Claude could use his tribe's mobility to pull back to Anfiston. Unless the enemy's main force set up camp in Ferro for good, Tribe 131 could just come back later and have another go.

"Let's move according to plan. Capture the officers first and force the soldiers to drop their weapons. Captain Berklin, your mission is most crucial. The light-cavalry clan must seal off all exits and prevent anyone from escaping," Claude instructed.

"Yes, Sir!"

Claude's officers all saluted.

Taking a town with only a tribe, even an enhanced tribe, was no easy task. Even more so against a larger force. However, the officers of Tribe 131 had a different perspective. They believed it would be a relaxing battle as they were an elite force faced with a ragtag group of fools.

Berklin put on a Shiksan uniform. They had quite a few of them from the prisoners they captured. They pretended to be a band of scouts and tried to gain entry to the town with the cover of resting mid-journey. The enemy sentries didn't even suspect them. It took them just a couple minutes to secure one of the entrances.

After that, one tent after another set out. It took just an hour for the entire perimeter of the town to fall. The cannoneer clan was deployed. They set up four light-infantry cannons at each exit.

It was about ten in the evening. Apart from the camp, the tavern, and few houses still lit, most of the townsfolk were asleep. The quiet was most convenient. Claude received one report of success after another. Most of the enemy officers had already been captured and his men were about to move on the camp.

Things never went according to plan, however, as Claude knew all too well. Crisp cracks rang out several minutes after the final report of initial success. Claude immediately knew they came from the tavern. He ordered his two reserve cannoneer bands to move on the camp immediately.

A couple minutes later shots were ringing out everywhere. Ferro bubbled like boiling oil in an instant. The worst of it came from the camp. Claude rushed there just in time to stop a retreat. He had the cannons fire scattershot into the camp the moment he arrived. Two volleys were fired into the entrance and it turned into a river. The enemy stopped firing back. Just moans sounded from the camp.

"Apologies, Sir, when we tried to apprehend the officers at the tavern, a couple of the more drunk ones tried to resist. We had no choice but to shoot all of them," Dyavid explained.

Claude didn't know what to make of the report. He knew drunk men didn't fear death. Earth had called it... Dutch courage. Yes, that was the phrase. The initial plan was for them to be threatened into surrender at gunpoint, but the drunk officers didn't care for the muskets pointed at their chests. They went for their own and started fighting back. They had been threatening to beat Dyavid's men back, so he ordered a volley. The fight ended there.

Claude waved his hand dismissively. He'd known it was a possible outcome. Fortunately, most of the enemy were trapped in the camp, and the capture of most of their officers meant they were nothing more than a disorganised rabble.

"Bring the captured linesman and officers to me. Have them order their men to surrender. If they refuse to comply, shoot them. If the soldiers don't surrender, bombard them with the cannons. Have the men guard the fence strictly. Shoot the moment a head pops out."

The enemy troops were trapped for about two hours before they surrendered. They didn't know how many enemies surrounded them and their merciless methods shocked them to the core. One officer who refused to call for his men's surrender and instead tried to encourage them to resist was shot in the head two words into his defiance. The bullet blasted a good half of his head away. The other officers cried for their men's surrender before the corpse had even hit the ground.

The soldiers in the camp tried to peek over the fence to get a grip on the situation, but were immediately shot. Given how dark everything outside the camp was, they couldn't see their enemies clearly either. Adding to the tension was the cannons at the camp entrance that fired from time to time; it sounded like there were eight of them at least. The occasional fist-sized cannonball would strike a few unfortunate fools that were standing away, causing their cries for help to reverberate throughout the entire camp.

The soldiers within lasted for around two hours before they broke down, dropped their weapons and walked out of the camp with their hands raised. Tribe 131 attacked Ferro and captured around 3300 enemies in one fell swoop. The enemy suffered around 500 casualties while Claude's tribe suffered a small seventeen.

The kingdom's citizens in Ferro had never imagined that reinforcements from the kingdom would come and even wipe out a whole line of enemies. They cheered for Tribe 131's success and gifted them with all sorts of supplies. Some of the youths eagerly came and volunteered for service. Claude ordered Schnak to form a garrison tribe to ensure his back was guarded and ordered Moriad's clan to transport all the captives back to Anfiston.

As not a single enemy had escaped, Claude's next target was the town of Jinkle. It was around 140 kilometres from Ferro, but only some 50 kilometres from the capital. Krado corps had encircled Brikaman for three months and their supply depot was in Jinkle.

Claude impersonated a Shiksan officer and entered Jinkle, only to discover that security there was really tight. The town was occupied by lines. They had chased all the townsfolk to the south of town. The north of the town was used as the depot. Many supply carriages left the depot, most headed for the capital. Dozens also poured into the town, bringing supplies from further north.

Claude tried to scout the depot before he left. This time around, he led a tent of light cavalrymen disguised as enemy patrol soldiers and rode northward along the convoy. He discovered that, some 15 kilometres north of Jinkle, Nubissia's largest river, Dorinibla, snaked through the landscape. The enemy had built two pontoon bridges in two calm spots. Each end of the bridges was protected by a small wooden fort and a small permanent garrison. Luckily, each garrison was only about a tribe.

Unfortunately, it was still too much for Claude to take with the men he had. If he had had another tribe, he could bait the enemy out and cut them down in the field. They could first attack the small wooden forts and draw them towards Jinkle. They might even be able to draw Jinkle's garrison into the fight. After all, the enemy couldn't afford to leave the floating bridges unattended. As there were two lines of troops in town, they would send one out to reinforce their forces at the floating bridges, and Claude would be able to defeat them with Tribe 131.

If he had another tribe, he could occupy Jinkle even if he had to sustain some casualties. The town was the linchpin of the siege. If he took it, the siege would have to be broken, and quickly.

Claude didn't really mind Krado. They were an infantry corps so they stood no chance of catching him as long as he knew they were coming. They had two lines of cavalry, but he could deal with them easily. He'd already taken out two thousand cavalry, killed and captured, so they had at most one of the lines left.

Naturally, Krado was aware of his presence in the colony by now. Claude couldn't see a way they had not realised something was up after losing half their cavalry. They didn't, however, know the exact number of his men as almost none of the scouts that had encountered his men had returned. The few that had, could only report vague details of being beaten back by enemy scouts.

As such, Krado could only increase the garrisons along their supply lines and warn the rest of their forces in the colony to keep careful watch. The rest was up to fate, as they were presented with the harsh reality that the enemy's light cavalry was far superior to their own. Sending out scouts now was akin to sending them to their deaths. Nobody knew whether they'd make it back.

Claude began turning his sights on the two floating bridges. The officers of Tribe 131 also believe that it would be better to cut off the floating bridges and disrupt Krado's supply line. After much consideration, Claude decided to adopt their viewpoint to burn the bridges first before attacking any reinforcements coming from Jinkle. They would watch for any opportunity to break into the town following that to burn the supplies stored there as well.

Four days later during the night, Tribe 131 mounted a surprise attack on the security camps near the floating bridges. Even though the enemy fiercely resisted, their campsite was soon breached and they suffered heavy casualties. In the end, around three hundred of their men surrendered.

Claude had his men set fire to the floating bridges. He believed that the forces in Jinkle would definitely send reinforcements immediately. Claude also needed some time to build his defence with what he had in the security camps so that he could heavily cripple the enemy reinforcements before setting off with their horses once again.

The first enemy unit to arrive was a tribe of cavalrymen. Their horses, however, were normal workhorses and they came with tens of carriages filled with soldiers. As the bridges were burning, the enemy charged headfirst into the security camps carelessly and ended up surrounded by Tribe 131.

The ambushed enemies reacted rather quickly and the results of their training were apparent. In fact, they almost seemed elite. They quickly got off the carriages and dismounted. The officers had their men line up to start volley firing. It was too bad their ranks crumbled after only two volleys, as they couldn't see where their enemies were and could only hear gunshots ring around them before their comrades fell in tandem with the shots. Their commanding officers also were shot.

With the commanding officers' whistle signals absent, the enemy troops actually fared a little better. Some of them automatically hid behind the carriages and lay flat behind the carcasses of their mounts and fired blindly at wherever they saw muzzle flashes, dealing slightly heavier casualties to the careless Tribe 131.

However, that was soon put to an end by the cannoneer clan's scattershot. Only four shots were required to get the enemy to surrender. The ambush lasted for around half an hour and Tribe 131 suffered around 60 casualties, whereas the enemy had more than three hundred casualties and six hundred captured. The tribe also obtained the carriages and the surviving workhorses as spoils.

Claude heard from the mouths of the captives that another line of reinforcements was on the way from Jinkle. They would require a little more time to arrive as they were travelling on foot. When he was told the enemy reinforcements were coming without bringing cannons, he decided to lay another ambush for them. He was confident he could keep the security camps defended with his cannons.

Much to his surprise, however, the rest of the troops didn't arrive even after an hour of waiting. After sending out some scouts, he found that the enemy had holed up in Jinkle. Claude was quite disappointed and reasoned that the enemy were probably clued in by the sound of cannon fire. They probably knew that even if they could make it to the floating bridges, they wouldn't be able to save them and might even end up giving their lives, so they chose to retreat back into Jinkle.

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