Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 351






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Rodeman Hills was named after a settler-adventurer. A small range of hills in the far east of Balingana some tens of hills long, the tallest three hundred metres above sea level.

Shiks' Tanya corps encountered Aueran resistance there. The Auerans had set up strongholds on the hills to stop Tanya's advance but the corps steamrolled them out of the way. Their brave soldiers drove the Auerans off seven of the hills in a single day.

Tanya's 1st Combat Folk was now deep in the range. Another was protecting their supplies in the rear outside the range. Their casualties had thus far been heavy. They'd lost seven tribes. Even after consolidating, they were still three whole tribes short.

The ranking officers weren't phased, however. As long as they could break through here, they would arrive at Dorinibla. They'd be the first Shiksans to have fought their way there. Quite an achievement indeed.

The officers, all in the rear, of course, celebrated their imminent victory with a grand feast that evening. They would break through the next morning and be on the banks of the river by that evening. They would have driven a wedge right through the range, rather than clearing it entirely, but who cared about the few uncleared hills on the fringes? Any men hiding there could be cut down leisurely later.

The drinks continued to pour and the food vanish. It took them quite a while to notice their cutlery starting to rattle on the tables.

"Attack!" one of the officers eventually shouted through slurred lips.

......

It happened in the cool hours of dawn. Ranger's forces launched a surprise attack on Tanya's main rear camp. More than 20 thousand men on horseback galloped across the red Nubissian dirt amongst the woddle of tents, blades glinting in the moonlight against a slowly greying eastern sky. The soldiers, just startled awake, couldn't put up any effective resistance. They cast their gear away and scattered into the wilderness, many darting for the hills. Those who managed to get out knew their only chance was to run to their comrades encamped amongst the hills.

Ranger didn't hunt the escapees down. They cleared out any surviving resistors in the camp and captured near five thousand prisoners before fortifying the defences and keeping the enemy trapped in the hills.

The hills had one unique feature of which Tanya was oblivious; it had no water. The only source was the small stream by the now-captured camp. Not a single drop of water ran between the stones and grains of sand in the hills.

Some officers mustered their courage and led their men against the remaining forts in the hills, hoping to break through to the river, but they were easily rebuffed. They didn't even make it to within 50 metres of the walls.

This was the first time in forty years they'd tasted war. All the doctrines they'd learned from their libraries and libraries of textbooks were useless. The neat formations, the orderly marches, the drills, the impeccably maintained uniforms and polished weapons did them no good.

They knew nothing else, however, and so they executed their textbooks page by page, and their men died hundred by hundred. They marched in close order against the fortifications. From several hundred metres they were pounded by the cannons, at 200 metres they came under fire from the enemy muskets, at a hundred metres they were sprayed with scattershot. Not one Shiksan drop of sweat or spray of blood made it to the fortifications.

The attacks continued until the men refused to march and turned their muskets on their officers. Daring them to try fighting iron pellets with orders.

The 26 thousand remaining men were broken. The eagles were released and flew off in search of the other corps to deliver the shakily scrawled pleas for help. A couple returned that evening. They were told to hold on for four or five days before the first help could arrive.

They might have made it were food their problem, but lasting even three days without water was asking too much. It was over.

The men surrendered the next day.

They were sent off to the labour camps for ten years where they met their Pancry compatriots and started building the enemy's infrastructure.

Only Tanya's logistics line, left in a town even further back than their main camp, made it out of that battle intact. Twenty thousand had died or been wounded, and 40 thousand captured. The loss tore at Shiks' morale once news got back home, and it did even worse things to the other four corps on Nubissia.

Wicklan, Cybok, and Faybort arrived at the hills three days after the surrender. They were only in time to find the bloated, rotting corpses of their countrymen and the abandoned forts. They sent out their scouts to find out where the rest of the corps had gone, but found only enemy ships anchored in Dorinibla. They knew immediately the enemy was hiding in wait somewhere.

According to Tanya's reports, the officers decided the enemy had probably suffered severe casualties. They had to be licking their wounds and counting their dead. Certainly they could not be ready for a fight at the moment.

The corps thus set up their camps on their side of the river and waited for their supply trains to catch up. They had their soldiers fell trees to make barges and floating bridges in preparation for moving on Robisto.

After receiving the eagle messages from the three other corps, Kujoa's top brass, all the way in the eastern corner of Balingana, breathed a sigh of relief. While Tanya had been obliterated, the enemy had retreated. In other words, no more enemy troops stood in their way. Kujoa could march to Dorinibla without worry of harassment or ambushes. They could take their time finding a place to cross the river and move on into Robisto on their own time.

They were attacked a couple days later while on the march.

Everyone knew cavalry ruled the plains. Despite their numbers, Kujoa's infantry could do little against Ranger. They held for just fifteen minutes before breaking.

A few officers rallied their men and formed spiked islands, but the enemy didn't have to get in close to kill. When they noticed the enemy islands forming, they pulled back to range, dismounted, unshouldered their muskets, and pelted the enemy from a safe distance. Shiksan infantrymen and cannoneers alike, despite their best efforts and valiant pledges to drag the enemy down with them, bled and died with little success.

The men held out as best they could and sent out their own pleas for rescue. Those pleas arrived at their comrades on the riverbank in the middle of that afternoon, too late for them to do anything. The endeavour had been doomed before the battle had even started. It would take six days to send reinforcement to them, and they would be dead by nightfall.

Another corps fell thusly. Another 40 thousand were captured and sent off to labour. Ranger came off worse for wear this time. They lost a line's worth of men. Luckily only a thousand were permanent. Most were just temporarily out of action.

While Ranger had been given the green light to expand, they kept their folk structure throughout their battles against the two Shiksan corps as the recruits from the Aueran mainland hadn't arrived on Nubissia. Miselk had been fighting with a severe disadvantage. First, he used the defensive strongholds to bait the enemy into his trap before attacking the rear camp of the enemy with light cavalry and trapped the rest of the enemy forces in a place without a water source. He made the rest of Tanya despair with the last few heavily defended strongholds and forced them into surrender.

After eliminating Tanya, the other three standing corps were attracted and drawn away, leaving Kujoa alone at the westernmost part of Balingana. Ranger then took advantage of Dorinibla River's waterways to transport themselves to the west of Balingana and relied on their mobility to silently encircle Kujoa before going in for a sudden attack, instantly crushing enemy resistance and eliminating them whole.

The two standing corps' downfall gave the three remaining corps a false impression that they had fallen into an Aueran trap. The reason they were unobstructed through Cromwell and Balingana was so that they could be baited in. So, Wicklan, Cybok and Faybort decided to stay united and not split off like they had before so as to not let the enemy have any more chances to break them apart.

It was at that time when they received word from the rear that almost all their supply lines and convoys had been attacked. Not a single shipment was being made to the three standing corps at the frontlines. After some discussion, the three corps sent out a combat folk to secure their supply line at the rear, but it was then attacked by Ranger on the march.

The combat folk had two light-cavalry lines, but they weren't a match for the cavalrymen of Ranger. After much difficulty, the Shiksan cavalrymen managed to break out of encirclement and ran back to the main camp of the three corps to report their encounter. The rest of the folk ended up swallowed by Ranger.

The encounter of the folk further convinced the high-ranking officers of the three Shiksan corps that they were in fact heavily encircled. Furthermore, none of the scouts they sent out ever returned. Some of their men also noticed enemy light cavalrymen spying on their main camp not far away. Traces of the cavalrymen could be seen from time to time.

Fortunately, the three corps brought with them a month's worth of supplies. They could make them last longer if they rationed them properly. They weren't willing to leave Dorinibla River in hopes that Seaking could break into the river and deliver the supplies they needed and also take them across it into the heartland of the Aueran colonies.

As long as they could cross the river and establish defences there, the Aueran defenders in Balingana would be cut off from the rest of the colonies. They would have no other option but to surrender. All strategists of the three corps agreed that their only choice to turn things around was to cross the river, given that the enemy had surrounded the three sides of their camp.





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