Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 349

Combining four colonies into one theatre and giving military power entirely to one person had no precedent in the kingdom. It had little choice, however. The kingdom had already given up on Cromwell and Balingana. Robisto and Anfiston would be the most contested. Even if Robisto was lost, Ranger could still fall back to the Claude Defence Line to protect Anfiston.

The two sides had been unevenly matched from the start. Shiks could mobilise their entire military might, whilst Aueras was tied down almost entirely with their new territories on the mainland. Despite the latter's best efforts, they'd only managed to field one corps in addition to Ranger.

As Miselk had said, however, Shiks had not fought a day in forty years and they were behind in the technology game. Ranger had to make the best use of its experience and weaponry if it was to stand any chance. Shiks could send oceans of reinforcements while Ranger couldn't rely on the kingdom for any further support. It wasn't that Aueras didn't want to, it just couldn't.

The last war had drained its coffers almost completely, and it would not have anything with which to fill them again for years to come as it rebuilt its new territories. It could not be put on hold, either, since Nasri and Canas still stood and were building up their military strength with everything they had. They might have signed a treaty, but that didn't mean they were content with the situation.

There were also the issues in the kingdom's old territories as well. Extant internal schisms and longstanding grievances still plagued the kingdom. Stellin X had been bedridden for a while now and had been forced to hand over his governance to his subordinates. The new and old nobility were fighting within the chambers of government over their conflicting interests as well. The new war on Nubissia had only made things worse.

Everyone was fighting over how to handle the situation and who should foot the bill. Even worse was that the colonies had been a key lifeline for the kingdom since the end of the last war. They'd been supplying desperately needed food and other raw materials. That said, the kingdom desperately needed peace and Shiks had offered to end the fighting if they ceded three colonies.

The nobles and other powerful private subjects weren't interested in peace however. They saw this as the perfect opportunity to wipe out the royal family's growing power by sending their forces to Nubissia and letting them rot and die before considering peace.

They'd started with Ranger. It was a convenient excuse, and unfortunately a true one, that the rest of the army was tied down. Reddragon and Griffon were stuck on the border with Nasri. Bluefeather had was still settling in after reforming and was still being kept busy with Canas. The royal guard would never be moved from the capital, that was one thing the royal family would never allow and the nobles and company, for all their scheming, did not want to ruin the kingdom. They understood that if the royal guard was to be wiped out on Nubissia, Shiks would not be content with three colonies, they'd want them all. So they were okay with letting the royal guard stay put. Ranger, however, had to go.

The three new corps had to defend a conquered duchy each and couldn't be mobilised either. And, while Ranger hadn't been a corps in its own right, it was an elite force and known to be equal to a full corps. So they'd been sent to Nubissia.

It had taken them half a year to make the journey, and they'd not disappointed, or they had, depending on one's perspective. They'd eliminated two corps, a flotilla, and retaken all the lost land. The kingdom had taken the opportunity to send an envoy, hoping to successfully sue for peace without any territorial losses.

Shiks did not share their intentions for peace.

Shiks' losses were a national humiliation, especially because they were inflicted by a single mere folk. They clamoured for another round and had five corps already sailing for Port Vebator.

No Aueran foresaw this. No matter how powerful Ranger was, they were only 30 thousand strong. They stood little chance against ten times their number. The two new colonial corps didn't mean anything in the fight either.

The move to create a theatre with just four colonies, meant the kingdom had truly written off the other three.

Hansbach had told Miselk the kingdom's position. While they would give up on the three other colonies, they were not going to leave a single subject or intact square metre of land to Shiks. Ranger was to move everyone out of the colonies to be abandoned, and burn every tree, bush, and blade of grass, and every building.

Robisto was the same. Most of the natural barriers near Dorinibla River had to be used for defense to maximise enemy casualties. They could only fall back to Anfiston after their jobs were done in those colonies.

It was already tough enough to support the only unit to reinforce the colonies, this far away. The long transport routes were a serious obstacle. Shiks would definitely pay a much higher cost by maintaining five corps, however. Aueras hoped the war could be dragged on until Shiks couldn't foot the bill any longer.

Before the first prince left, he announced an arms factory would be built in Anfiston to ease the burden on the supply lines by producing arms and munitions locally. It was a sign of how desperate the situation was. No arms factory had ever been built in the colonies before, it had been too much of a risk. It still was just as much of a risk, but the situation was desperate enough that the kingdom just had to ignore it.

It would be the first factory built in the colonies period, actually. The kingdom had thus far forbidden any manufacturing industry being established in the colonies. The raw materials were to be shipped to the mainland, where it would be processed and goods shipped back. The colonies had to remain dependant on the mainland kingdom. If they became too self-sufficient, they might start having thoughts of becoming less obedient.

The war was forcing the kingdom's hand, however. If they wanted to keep the colonies, they had to allow limited local production of the most necessary military equipment. It simply took too long to ship things from the mainland. The 100 thousand Aubass Mark 3s Hansbach brought with him was only enough to arm Ranger. Few remained for the colonial forces. Another estimated 100 thousand muskets were required for the new corps, local garrison forces, and replacements for weapons damaged in the previous battles.

The kingdom couldn't do it in the short term, and they certainly couldn't get them to the colonies in time. Despite days of non-stop bickering, the opposition finally caved and it was decided to allow arms and munitions production in the colonies while the war raged.

According to the informants in Port Vebator, Shiks would need at least three or four months to ship their reinforcements to Nubissia. It was doubly slowed by the logistics of moving that many men and then supplying them with equipment and supplies. The new Shiksan colonies were larger than their Aueran counterparts, but they were far less developed. They'd thus far only really hunted and established limited farming.

The colonists were actually dependent on the produce from their Aueran neighbours. That was why Shiks wanted Cromwell, Balingana and Robisto. They did not like the thought of being reliant on a rival.

Their corps were confronted with a serious problem when they disembarked in Vebator, however. Their supplies had not made it. They had neither food, nor arms and munitions. Seaking could only transport so much. They had just barely enough food to last until the next shipment came, but definitely not enough to mount any offensives, and their munitions were in an even worse state.

This problem had been foreseen by Aueras, but they had recent experience at war. Shiks did not. They'd been at peace for so long they'd forgotten the difficulties of war. They'd not fought a war on Nubissia ever before, either, so they knew nothing of the difficulties of supplying large formations on another continent. It didn't help that it was a dangerous journey, either.

So, Shiks' logistics forces had been wracking their minds the last half a year. In the end, they had no choice but to hire Nasri and Canas' navies and expropriated most sea-worthy ships in their own kingdom to secure a stable maritime supply line to Nubissia.

According to an Aueran informant in Port Vebator, the military base there was stocked full of resources. There was an estimate of two more shipments before a large enough stockpile for war could be achieved. Coupled with the two standing corps that had yet to arrive, it might take another four months for preparations to be complete and the attack on Cromwell to start.

The informant asked whether they should send men to sabotage the base in Port Vebator by burning supply warehouses to delay the start of the war.

However, Miselk refused the suggestion. Four months was more than enough for the Ranger corps to finish their prewar preparations. There was no need to delay the war. Ranger had to lure the enemy deep into the theatre, surround them, cut them off and exterminate the corps one by one. Only then could they make Shiks feel true pain. Perhaps the loss of five corps would make Shiks understand that the Aueran colonies weren't targets they could lust after.

The evacuation of citizens from Cromwell and Balingana had been going on without a hitch. All seven colonies had been tasked with recruiting youths of fitting age for the formation of the second colonial corps in Anfiston. Miselk wasn't planning to use them as cannon fodder. All they had to do was take over manning Claude Defence Line after their short-term training.

"Colonel Claude, how goes the expansion of Line 131?" Miselk asked after an urgent summons.

"Sir, the expansion has been completed. All new recruits were picked from garrison units across the colonies, so we saved a lot of training time. Currently, they are familiarising themselves with the use of the Aubass Mark 3 and carrying out shooting practice. They are also being drilled in new Ranger tactics," Claude replied.

"Have there been any difficulties?"

"Sir, we have insufficient war horses. Our line requires another two thousand, but logistics said that the next batch of war horses aren't coming until half a year later. They recommend using racehorses as replacements."

Miselk made his decision after a moment of silent contemplation. "I will have the other lines of the folk transfer enough war horses to you. Colonel, you only have three months to complete your training. The enemy is highly likely to attack beyond that. After the enemy enters Balingana, we need Line 131 to transfer to Cromwell to cut off the enemy supply lines to create the conditions necessary for us to exterminate the five enemy corps."

Claude stood ramrod straight. "Yes, General. We shall complete our mission."

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