Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 344

Claude moved into Robisto after new years. He had no choice. Krado was turtled in Balingana and their ships would soon bring them the winter gear they needed. He'd tried everything he could, but they just would not budge from Jinkle.

He could not move against them directly, however. He just didn't have either the manpower or the firepower. He thus moved into Robisto to do as much damage as he could while he didn't have to worry about an entire corps barrelling down on him. He did leave a clan to keep an eye on them, however.

Robisto had suffered less than Balingana, thanks to Port Patres having among the best fortifications in all of the colonies. Fearless also had a permanent presence in the waters off the coast as their regional HQ was in the city. The kingdom had spared no expense in fortifying its strategic settlements during the war because of the pirate and naval threats.

It had worked as well. Not one pirate had dared test their mettle against the city thus far. The only fight the city had ever had was with a Shiksan corps shortly after they'd burst into open hostilities. Pancry, the unfortunate corps in question, had been forced to withdraw from the city's immediate vicinity after several failed assaults which had left the attackers all but crippled and combat ineffective.

Despite their crippling losses, they still stood equal in size to Patres' garrison, so though they could not attack anything beyond their own fortifications, Patres' forces could not push them off theirs either. They could at least still make a substantial nuisance of themselves, however.  Their scout units, still largely intact -- which was a rare thing to be able to say at the moment -- regularly raided villages within a day or two's ride from their encampment. They even occasionally dared a soiree into Balingana; that had stopped once Claude had shown up.

Since Claude's departure from the colony, however, Anfiston's miraculous ability to kill everything that moved, went with him, and the scouts had slowly started testing the waters again. They could still not cross into Balingana, however, as Sevict had Ranger Line 034 close off the border.

Their little excursions suffered again with Claude's return. Some even left wills before each of their outings. It took them a clan of men, but after several weeks of suicide missions, they finally discovered Tribe 131's base: Mordo.

Mordo was a modest town on the banks of its namesake stream, a tributary of Dorinibla. It started in the Mosraka Mountain Range that separated Anfiston and Balingana. Most of its inhabitants were either farmers or lumberjacks. Between the town and the surrounding hovels, ten thousand people called the place home, a full 1300 households. In the broader region, some 70 thousand mix-bloods worked as labourers. The town was 150 kilometres from Patres as the carriage waddled.

The town's garrison was a full tribe. They should have been in Patres, but they were cut off from the capital before they could depart. They had set out, of course, unaware of that fact, and had suffered several significant defeats before giving up on making it to the city and pulling back to the town. Their separation turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it forced Pancry to split its attention and forces, which had thus far contributed no small bit to keeping both unoccupied.

Pancry had heard there was only one light-cavalry tribe in the enemy's reinforcements. Tribe 131 was assumed to be a light-cavalry tribe due to their mounts. Added to the tribe of garrisoneers in Mordo, they would be only two tribes. Hence, Pancry decided to get rid of the troublesome town since there wasn't much they could do against Port Patres currently. It would be better to wipe Tribe 131 out first so that they would no longer cause so much trouble to their scouts.

In that sense, Pancry was far braver than Krado. They at least took the initiative to make a move.

Pancry sent out a light-cavalry and an infantry line to Mordo. Perhaps they thought having four times the enemy's numbers was more than enough to wipe out Tribe 131 and the town's garrison tribe.

After five days of travelling through the snow to Mordo, the two lines from Pancry noticed that they were a step late. Apart from the rampant nikancha people causing chaos happily, not a single trace of an Aueran civilian or soldier could be seen. After capturing a few of the natives and asking them about it, they found that the enemy had found out about the two lines being sent there. They retreated to the town of Rockbear some 80 kilometres away.

Rockbear was another town that had yet to fall to Pancry. It was located between Anfiston and Robisto somewhere along the foot of Mosraka Mountains. The town was famous for a gigantic rock in the rough shape of a bear and was named after it. Rockbear produced a few kinds of valuable ore and rock that were used to decorate high-class statues.

After finding out that the Auerans had left Mordo, the wooden houses and wood-processing plants in town became the party grounds for the nikancha. They lived into them without permission and the two lines of Pancry had to chase them out of town and back into their ghettos before settling down in the town themselves.

There were tons of firewood stacked up in each of the buildings, mostly used by the former residents as fuel through winter. Even the streets were full of broken furniture and sawdust. The soldiers of Pancry thought that the mess was caused by the unruly nikancha people. They couldn't be bothered to clean the place up after their long and tiring march and decided to rest well in the middle of the residential sector first.

The two lines of troops were so tired that they casually scheduled their patrols before going to sleep. They were quite disappointed their enemy left so early. Rockbear was around 80 kilometres away and it would take the lines of Pancry around three days of non-stop travel on snow-covered roads to reach it. So, it was decided they rest well before continuing their journey. They didn't make the slightest preparation and believed no enemy would dare to attack them, given their superior numbers.

Around ten during the night, the lookouts and patrol soldiers were assailed. The broken furniture and chunks of wood and sawdust on the streets began to burn. Soon, the buildings and wood processing plants around the outer areas of the town began burning. The fires spread inward the town gradually and by the time the soldiers in the residential sector woke up, they were completely surrounded by fire and unable to escape.

The gunshots were the loudest and most frequent around the stable south of town. Pancry's light-cavalry line's mounts and their infantry line's cannons and supply carriages were all situated there, and that was where Tribe 131 made their strike. Claude wanted to take the war horses and workhorses as his spoils.

It didn't take long before the cavalrymen noticed Claude's intentions. They gathered a large number of troops outside the stable and got into a heated battle with Tribe 131, but they had little time to respond to the sudden attack and were ill-prepared. They sent out however many men they had to dash inside the stables to retrieve their mounts.

However, their efforts and sacrifice were all rendered void by Tribe 131's four light-infantry cannons. No soldier was able to make it there as the scattershot covered both entrances of the stable. The ones that tried only perished. They could only watch as Tribe 131 broke through the walls of the stables to take the surviving horses away before setting them on fire too.

The fires around the outer areas of town burned even fiercer. More and more houses in the residential area lit up. Pancry's officers and soldiers only just realised that the buildings were doused with fuel beforehand. The chunks of wood and broken furniture on the streets were no exception. The slightest ember was enough to set a large pile of wood alight, trapping them in the middle of town without any avenue of escape. Their shrieks and cries for help reverberated throughout.

Fortunately, it soon began to snow and the fire was held back a little as a result. Some sharp-witted men began trying to save themselves. They used all manners of tools to move the fallen snow onto the fires burning away at the buildings and after much effort, they made a route that led to the outside of town. Just as they were cheering about being able to leave the burning town, the rangers were waiting outside for them with their tens of cannons and muskets.

Half the men there raised both hands and surrendered. Even the reckless officers had to calm down and give in, as most of their supplies and ammunition had become sacrificed to the god of the pyre. Less than a third of the soldiers were armed and most of them weren't even donned in thick clothing, seeing as they had run out the moment there was a fire.

Mordo burned for another night and day and the last embers were only put out after heavy snowfall during the afternoon. The whole town had been turned into rubble. Only the western end of town where the nikancha ghetto was, was still intact. The ghetto had been a few hundred metres from town in the first place outside its walls. That was to prevent a possible uprising by them but that ironically spared their homes from the fire.

The actual Pancry soldiers injured or killed by the fire numbered far fewer than the casualties suffered at the stables south of town, but the fire did destroy most of the cannons, weapons and supplies the two lines of men brought with them. Even their mounts had been acquired by Tribe 131. The soldiers and officers of Pancry that managed to escape the fire had no choice but to surrender to survive. There was no way they could survive the five-day march back to their main camp.

The burning of Mordo concluded with Tribe 131 exterminating two lines of Pancry and capturing more than eight thousand prisoners. It was a harsh blow to the Shiksan corps and something they couldn't imagine even in their wildest dreams. Two lines of troops left and didn't return, not even sending any word back. It was not only after a few fortunate scouts that managed to circumvent the perimeter set up by Tribe 131 and saw the burnt remains of the town and getting confirmation from the nikancha people that they were made aware of the two lines' demise.

As a result, Pancry wisened up and learned from Krado, withdrawing into their camps and insisting on not leaving. They would only decide what they should do after winter passed and their reinforcements and supplies came.

Claude could do naught but lead Tribe 131 back to Anfiston to rest for winter. From the 10th month of the previous year to the 1st month of the new year, Tribe 131 stormed through colonies and suffered quite a number of casualties through their subsequent battles. There were only around 1100 men of the original 1800 who were still in fighting condition.

The 2nd month was a slow month in Robisto and Balingana. The enemies remained turtled up in their respective campsites and Claude didn't do much other than send Berklin's clan to monitor Pancry and Krado. The reports he got were always the same. The enemy kept to themselves without leaving camp.

After the rainy season during the 3rd month, a large naval fleet arrived from Shiks. Pancry got a folk of reinforcements and Krado got two lines of infantry. Additionally, the warships that came along with the fleet began to bombard Port Patres once more. But this time around, their luck didn't fare well and one of their warships was sunk. They could only leave with the fleet with their tails between their legs.

The reinforced Pancry and Krado began their attacks anew on Brikaman and Port Patres respectively. Robisto and Balingana were once more bathed in the flames of war. Claude led his tribe back to those two colonies but the enemy was prepared for them. They guarded their supply convoys heavily with one line of forces at all times. Apart from being able to eliminate some enemy scouts, Tribe 131 wasn't able to achieve much.

But at the start of the 4th month, Claude finally received good news. The rest of Ranger folk had safely arrived in Anfiston. General Miselk summoned him back to folk headquarters.


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