Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 359

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The 4th month of Year 588 was upon them in the blink of an eye. More than a year had passed since the triumph in Balingana. The winners and losers had changed. The battle on Nubissia had profound implications for the future.

The losers, Shiks, not only refused a peace treaty, they also announced the formation of ten new corps and their intent to finish the war. Additionally, they hired Nasri and Canas' allied navy and mercenary corps made up mostly of the kingdoms' discharged soldiers and successfully kept their colony.

The victors, Aueras, fell into chaos because of Stellin X's illness. To effectively exert control over Ranger and stop it from becoming General Miselk's private army, the royal family transferred many of their most loyal officers into the corps.

General Fansnik was one of them, a member of one of the royal family's branches. His grandfather was a first-degree cousin of Stellin VIII and had a hereditary count Title. He had fought against Stellin IX during his reformation, however, and his fief was seized. His bloodline spared him the gallows, but he was made a mere honorary noble. With their annual stipend of 200 crowns and the 100 crowns for being a branch family, they could only barely sustain their old lifestyle.

Shortly after Stellin X's ascension, Fansnik's grandfather passed away and the honorary Title went with him. While his father had been an honorary baron, their stipend was halved. It changed Fansnik's life completely. The noble lifestyle cost money, chests and chests of it, and they no longer had it. His father had made many risky investments to try and make a quick fortune and maintain their lifestyle, but they all failed, and they were pushed to the edge of bankruptcy.

Fansnik knew from his early days that his father would be in the grave before the next king came along. He was not counting on getting any more Titles. He still carried royal blood, but he was a full four generations removed from the last Stellin member of the family and was only still just barely considered royalty. He could not rely on his bloodline, so, he applied to join the royal family's war college during his formative years and worked himself to the bone to build a decent career after his graduation.

He wasn't a brave man. He was absolutely petrified of death, so he found the safest job possible in the military, a desk job pushing papers and doing sums about food, water, ammunition, and salaries. It helped that, while far from a genius, he was quite decent at his job. His surname helped make up for whatever shortcomings he had. While his distance from the main bloodline meant his surname did little for him with the royals, it did still hold considerable sway with everyone else. It only took him 21 years to make it to colonel despite not setting foot on a single battlefield or firing as much as a single round, in battle or on the practice range.

Being transferred to Ranger was a significant first for him. The posting came with a promotion to major-general. He was now 48 and had finally crossed the hardest barrier for every logistics officer: crossing the final hurdle to becoming a general officer. It meant he had once more been included in the list of people to which the royal family paid attention. Perhaps he would eventually be recognised as one of them and be given a Title.

When he received the order, the battles of Balingana were only just beginning. The five Shiksan corps were marching for Cromwell fervorously and Ranger easily gave up on its capital, turning their attention to Balingana instead. The situation looked rather pressing.

As expected, Fansnik feigned serious illness and diarrhoea. He appeared so ill he couldn't even stand properly and no apothecary could adequately treat him. He faced his comrades and friends with a pale visage as he lay in beg and cursed his luck for not letting him participate in the war. He had hoped he would go to Nubissia to fight the enemy with Ranger through thick and thin, but thanks to his illness, his plans were ruined.

He miraculously recovered the moment he heard of Ranger's victory and darted off to the harbour that very same day. He told his associates he had missed the fruits of battle for the last time. Now the war was over and over 300 thousand enemies were captured, logistics would definitely be a huge problem. He couldn't just sit by while his unit needed him most.

Fansnik took just a month and a half to make it to his unit's camp and took over as chief logistician. On the first day on duty, he had the four carriages of luxury goods Claude handed over be confiscated so he could send it to the royal family.

Even General Miselk had never expected the new chief logistics officer to do something so odd. Quite troubled, he gently reminded him that the four carriages had been in his charge so Fansnik could use this change to foster a good relationship with the officers by distributing the goods personally. He persisted, however, and sent it all to the royal family. He didn't care about antagonising the common nobles that were his colleagues. Their ire was nothing compared to the royals' favour.

He even accused Miselk of not considering the royal family's face because his pride had grown too much.

He did little else himself, however. All the actual work was delegated to his subordinates. He only concerned himself with tracking down every coin, sword, and fork looted during the campaign. It didn't take him long to discover mentions of the 500 thousand crowns in the reports. It was a godsend. If he could send that money to the royal family, it would practically be buying his re-entry into the royal family. Unfortunately it had all gone missing, and he went after Line 131 and its commander like a rabid dog for letting something happen to his golden cow.

He didn't think the little colonel would be so much trouble. He experienced first hand what true, proud soldiers were like. They didn't even regard him, a general, as a soldier. He was barely more than a filthy civilian to them. He had expected them to bend over backwards to curry his favour, but instead they were treating him like a tick on their back. They'd even called him a 'greedy bastard' and a 'cancer to the corps'.

And then the damned colonel actually ordered his men to not cooperate with Fansnik's investigation! Their burning ire aside, Fansnik was most upset by the damage his failure to nail them had done to his reputation, as he'd accused, without evidence, a decorated and beloved officer. Barely anyone interacted with him at all anymore. Even his subordinates avoided him. He refused to let the matter go, however. The money was all coinage, so while an explosion might have damages and scattered the coins all over the place, but it could not have erased all trace of them.

He personally despised the colonel as well. He'd disliked him from the start because he was an old guard loyal to Miselk, but the way he had stood up to Fansnik turned dislike into open despisal.

He hoped that his continued efforts would see the colonel discharged, or at the very least mothballed and his post freed up for the royal family to fill with one of their loyalists. Instead, rather than face him, Claude simply got as far away from him as he could by taking Line 131 to Wickhamsburg for 'excavation work'. It was all a farce just to get away from him, or course.

Or so Fansnik thought.

A fortnight after arriving in the abandoned city, Claude had made considerable finds. Rather than searching around the crater, he started in the outskirts of the city, reasoning that the coins would have been shot far away by the shockwave of the explosion. He had been right.

News of his success made the rest of Ranger's mouths water. Nearly the entire corps was suddenly back in Wickhamsburg looking for coins. Fansnik rushed over as well. He needed to be there to continue to cast aspersions on Line 131 if he was to get them cleared of command. Unfortunately, he was too late. Claude was won back his reputation by the time he arrived.

Having failed to clean a command spot for the royal family, Fansnik decided to at least send the money to his masters. He could not do that either, however. Too much time had passed since the battle, so the coins found were no longer considered battle loot, and belonged to whoever found them.

He stormed back to camp to find a way to have all the units disciplined. At the same time he ordered the city sealed and had his entire staff digging as well.

A month later he only had 10 thousand crowns' coins to show for all his effort, despite having done everything possible to make sure not a single coin was pocketed.

He was driven to the brink of breakdown by his string of failures. He nearly vomited blood when he had to distribute most of his meagre earnings to his staff as well. If he didn't they might accuse him of using military resources for personal benefit. It was the worst accusation a logistician could suffer. Even he, a Stellin, would not escape severe punishment. If anything, the fact that he was a Stellin would only make his punishment that much more severe.

It all drove him to ask all the officers whose units were involved in the excavation to give him a share of their earnings. He believed he got so little because of how late he was. Most of it had already been excavated by the time he got there.

It only cemented his reputation as a greedy bastard, however. Few had done much better than he had. Sure, some coins were pocketed, but the officers and their men had cried and bled together, and they trusted the men to have not done so excessively. The most it could be was one or two thousand crowns. If each unit only had so much, all the units' yields combined would amount to 100 thousand at most, with Line 131 probably having more of it as they were the first to start.

Of the 500 thousand crowns, the most they got was 200 thousand. The rest was definitely hidden by Fansnik, or so the rumour went. It was one thing to abuse his position to force the men to stop. But he had enough come demanding a share of what they got because he felt he didn't get enough. Claude suspected he was merely pretending to be poor so he could squeeze them dry. Most of the men agreed.

Just as Fansnik was scratching his head to come up with an explanation to dispel the rumours, General Miselk summoned Claude.

"Claude, You're being transferred out of Ranger..." the general said when Claude stepped into his office.

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