Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 347

Claude glanced at Myjack perplexedly. The kid had become his brother-in-law so easily, and his pretty and obedient sister had become the brat's wife out of nowhere. Despite his almost-feeling-sorry for the kid, he also felt the brat had lucked out big time. He was just in the right -- or wrong, as Myjack might see it -- place at the right -- or wrong -- time. Perhaps it was just good karma. Myjack had tried to save her life and Angelina happened to leave home because her mother was pressuring her to marry, and somehow, he was now a Ferd.

Bloweyk was elated. He was greatly amused when he saw Angelina ordering Myjack around like a dog instead of him. So, he wasn't most in favour of the marriage. He thought that if Myjack married her, his life would be doomed and he would definitely be worked to suffering bronchitis at the very least.

Had Angelina not been a magus, Myjack would have thanked his lucky stars for the marriage. He had never imagined becoming Claude's brother-in-law and hadn't even had the thought of getting together with the haughty Angelina. He had quite the inferiority complex. He had never considered himself the equal of people like Claude and didn't think he would eventually become a proper, commissioned second lieutenant.

Myjack saw Claude as his master. Claude took him, all helpless, in during his cadet training and taught him how to survive and develop. He had taught him how to read and write, all sorts of skills a soldier would need, made him a distinguished officer and his trusted assistant. He had decided long ago to devote himself to his superior for the rest of his life.

When he was young, he had begged in the town with a crippled old vagabond. When he heard him chat with some tavern-goers about magi, they intentionally tried to frighten him. They told him magi loved turning people into frogs or sheep or other monsters. The ordeal had left him traumatised. When he found Angelina was a magus, his mind half shut down and he just cowered in the corner.

He'd thanked his lucky stars when he had kept his form, and had wished to never meet the woman again, but now he was to share the rest of his life with her, as her husband no less! That said, in spite of his fear of magi, he was quite happy, though he was somewhat terrified of how Claude would react. Once he'd calmed down and thought about it some more, he'd also decided to hell with it. If he could take such a beautiful maiden as his wife, he didn't care whether she was an evil magus or not.

Decisions were made quickly in wartime and Angelina was not one to let Claude stop her from doing what she wanted, so he had no choice but to consent to the marriage. It would be somewhat inappropriate to get married this quickly, however, so they decided to hold the marriage in a week in the colony's capital, Grinosburg. Claude invited a few of his closest comrades and the couple had a simple ceremony at the city's moon shrine.

Normally the groom would be given leave for a couple weeks to consummate the marriage but they were in the heat of war, so he had no such luck. The earliest chance of that was after they'd defeated Pancry and Krado. Luckily for him, Angelina decided to stay in Lanu until she could drag him home and show him off to her mother to get the old woman to stop nagging her.

On the 11th of the 5th month, Ranger approached Pancry's base. As the corps' scouts had been suppressed, Ranger got to within five kilometres of the base undiscovered. Miselk ordered his men to mount up and play light cavalry.

Luck was truly on Ranger's side. Pancry had been split in two. Only half was currently in the base. The other half was off attacking Patres. The men left behind to hold down the fort at the base stood no chance against Ranger and were soon overwhelmed.

Without their supplies and support, the rest of the trapped corps raised the flag in just three days. Ranger suffered only light casualties and Miselk quickly led it and one of the colony folks against Krado.

They had heard about Pancry's fall and quickly withdrew from Brikaman to set up three lines of defence around Jinkle. They were far weaker than the enemy currently marching against them, however, so they fell as well after another three days of fighting.

Claude had led the previous failed attack against the town and had taken the lessons for which he'd paid in blood and comrades to heart. He levelled the buildings along the corridors of attack before sending in his men, and they marched over the enemy corpses to the main fortifications. There they pummelled the enemy rather than leading frontal charges until they surrendered.

The assault took a week and by the end, nearly none of Krado's men still stood. The few who could still move enough to raise the flag, did so, and the town fell to Ranger. Claude wished dearly to give the man who'd caused the death of so many of his men a beating, but they quickly learnt he'd been buried on the second day of fighting.

The victory was staggering. They'd wiped out two corps in just over a month. Their reputation all over the kingdom, and even beyond it, soared. They set about repairing the bridges Claude had burnt down, almost daring the enemy to try and cross. Naturally they weren't as daft as to do it without preparing for exactly that happening. They set up three cannon positions on the banks near the bridges.

As Miselk had predicted, the Shiksan navy's Nubissian flotilla made their move and sent seven warships and eleven merchantmen down Dorinibla River to the crossing in Balingana with the intent of destroying the floating bridge and bombard Ranger's campsite, only to fall for Miselk's trap. The three hidden cannon formations opened fire on the ships when they were at their closest. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Had the fight happened on the shore with the ships in the open ocean, the cannons would have been obliterated, but in the narrows of the river the enemy ships couldn't turn to bring their cannons to bear without running ashore. They'd have had to drop anchor and pull themselves about to bombard Ranger, but they couldn't do that while under heavy cannon fire, not while confused and panicked as they were by the ambush. The battle lasted an hour and a half and ended when the enemy abandoned four warships and eight merchantmen and fled with what they had left.

With the oceanborn threat out of the way, Dorinibla River could no longer be used by the enemy. Ranger crossed in the middle of the 6th month and reclaimed the lost towns. By the end of the 7th they had entered the last lost Aueran colony, Cromwell. They were outside Wickhamsburg's gates by the 8th and took it in that month. One corps had successfully fought to the capital, Wickhamsburg during the middle of the 8th month, and reconquered it. Ranger had successfully reclaimed all lost territory on Nubissia.

"General, why haven't we pushed into the enemy colony? We could kick them off the continent entirely."

Shiks relied on Port Vebator to link their colonies to the kingdom. Without it, the rest of the colonies would be cut off and would certainly fall. They'd not set one foot across the border, however. They'd contented themselves with reclaiming all the lost land. Instead they'd just set up camp along the border and kept a vigil.

This was not the first time the question had been brought up, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. The men were itching to take the fight into enemy territory, especially since they had such a juicy target that could in one fell swoop kick their enemy off the continent entirely.

General Miselk smiled bitterly at his men's enthusiasm.

"Gentlemen, Ranger has reclaimed all our lost territory and exterminated the offending vermin. We hold 250 thousand captives.

"Personally, I wish we could march on Port Vebator as well, but that's not going to happen. High Command has forbidden us from crossing into enemy territory. They don't want this to get out of hand and spill back onto Freia. We can win a war far away from Shiks, but it's an entirely different matter if the fighting starts closer to home.

"Shiks might still be persuaded to accept the loss of two corps and half their flotilla without making a further fuss, but they will not accept losing their newfound colonies. We can't afford a war back home right now. As much as we want to kick them off Nubissia, we have to swallow our anger and settle for bloodying their noses.

"We already have an ambassador on his way to Shiks to sue for peace. If we take Vebator, they'll march on the kingdom back home. If we keep the door open to Nubissia, however, they're more likely to try and come through it rather than fight at home.

"We already have the advantage and the better footing. They can't defeat us with the dripfeed of forces they can maintain through one port. We can just sit here and wipe the flies until the mountain of corpses is tall enough for them to give up from the stench alone. Are you confident you can do at least that, gentlemen?"

"Yes!" the officers bellowed.

Miselk smiled happily. He next handed out the missions, most concerned the training of more colonial corps and the maintenance and repairs of various fortifications. A couple units were ordered to recruit more men for their own units. They were settling in for a possibly long minor war.

Claude's mission was simple. He was to go to Anfiston and fill up Tribe 131's holes and make it a proper line. He could pick the recruits from commoners of fitting age. Line 131 was to report for duty again in six months.

131 had only acted as scout once they'd rejoined the corps and, as such, had suffered few casualties. Sevict said that since the tribe had the chance to shine before the main force arrived and had gained many merits, it was time for the rest to get a share.

Tribe 131 returned to camp near Lanu nearing the end of the 10th month. Suitable youths were recruited and training started. It was quite an endeavour. Several new tribes had to be made from scratch and their entirely greenhorn contingents trained into combat-ready formations. Despite the bustle, however, Claude was focused solely on the business of sending his sister and now-brother-in-law home.

Myjack was given the whole six months off to go home, consummate his marriage, and play good son-in-law to his new mother-in-law. He actually only had 4 months of leave available, but Claude gave him one for travel and another to make up for having to wait after the marriage to get his leave. The night before they set off, Claude brought Bloweyk to Angelina's cottage and showed them two designs.

They were weapons he'd designed since coming to Nubissia. He hoped his sister would research them. Myjack was to help answer any questions she had about the weapon side of things. Claude would have preferred to work on the project himself, but he had a war to fight.

The first design was of a long-handled grenade, a stielhandgranate. A rather simple design as far as hand grenades went, but nothing easy to make with Freia's technology. The second design was of a revolver. The gun itself was easy, just a casting of metal. The real issue was the rounds.

Claude had given up on developing flintlocks and decided to skip straight to revolvers. He had seen several wild-west films, and had learnt from them what basic components made up a cartridge: a casing, gunpowder, and a blast cap.

Revolvers didn't have range, but Claude didn't want a replacement for the musket. He wanted a supplement that could fire faster to improve his firepower at close range. He believed that if his sister could develop actual cartridges, the days of the matchlock would be limited. Regardless of whether she could actually research it, one thing was certain: they had to keep it an absolute secret.

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