Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 362

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"General, I have a question," Claude said after considerable thought, "It's about the 100 thousand settler households. What's the career you mentioned they'll be given?"

"It's quite straightforward," the Lord Militant answered, "If they want to farm, we'll give them a piece of land. Up to eight acres should be enough. We just need to state clearly that they own the land and leave everything else be. You should know peasants have a really hard time becoming landowners back on Freia. Their only real chance is going to the frontier here on Nubissia. What happens afterward is all on them, of course.

"You don't have to worry about these things as field marshal. You just have to make sure the department that manages the settlers, which is under your jurisdiction, is ready to settle them when they arrive. Our colonies are still almost entirely unpopulated. Just choose a couple spots and build a couple towns and villages. Don't neglect the mines. Those who don't want to farm will be sent to the mines."

Claude nodded. Such arrangements being in place, it should be a relatively easy task for the settlers to make a survivable living here. For most it would not be much, but it would be much better than what they could get back home.

All the households were headed by a retired veteran. Amongst them, enough were still young enough to form 20 keeper tribes. With all the vets, the old Ranger men in the local garrisons, and the colonial corps, Claude believed, hoped, it would be enough.

Each of the five enhanced folks had 32 thousand men -- 160 thousand in all. Shiks was sending ten corps, six hundred thousand men. By comparison the 160 thousand Claude had would be just barely enough to hold his namesake line of defence, and only because Dorinibla was such a formidable obstacle.

"I understand manpower is no longer a problem, but what of funds? How do we deal with logistics and upkeep?"

"Ahem..." Miselk cleared his throat and looked at Claude, frustration obvious on his face, "So I have to draw pictures for you? Fine. The daily necessities will be supplied by Mormaly, Aduras, and Tyrrsim. They've always produced substantial surpluses, we might as well make use of it.

"The Ministry of the Army has agreed to provide us with the initial gear. It should arrive by the 3rd month. They won't do anything after that, however. The funds have run dry, so this is all they can do. We'll have to look after ourselves with the factories they've permitted to be opened here. As for funds, that's our baby as well.

"Speaking of funds, the ministry can only give us 100 thousand crowns for the next two years. They know this isn't enough, so they've granted you special permission to levy a tax on the colonists.

"Mormaly, Aduras, and Tyrrsim's taxes thus far have equalled 300 thousand crowns annually. It should be enough to maintain our force. If not, we'll just have to cut until it is."

Claude frowned. A force of 32 thousand men, just one of his folks, would suck 60 thousand crowns in salary alone, and that did not include any bonuses and other benefits. The lowest-ranking grunt made 2 crowns a year. The average sergeant-major made double that, and the pay just got more the higher the rank. At the very least, the bare damn minimum, his folks would cost him 300 thousand crowns a year. Again, that was salaries only. He didn't even want to think about all the rest. This alone was already enough to bankrupt Aduras, Tyrrsim, and Mormaly, and that was without considering the funds that were needed to govern those colonies. They also had maintenance costs. They had staff that needed salaries, roads that needed upkeep, and any infinite number of other miscellaneous expenses.

Even if he didn't think about the monetary costs of the folks' other supplies, there were some things that couldn't be bought. Fresh fruit and vegetables could not be preserved and transported in large enough quantities from those three rear colonies even if they could supply them, to begin with. He had to figure out a way to source them locally.

Then there was also the little matter of such costs being purely upkeep. His five folks would be green as spring grass. Brand spanking new! He had to train them, and that would easily triple the associated costs. He needed at least 400 thousand crowns if he was to accomplish anything, even after cutting almost everything down to the bone.

It was one thing to say the money could be gotten from the colonies, but another entirely to actually do it. The theatre over which he had command contained four colonies, but two were completely deserted; there were literally no people to tax. Robisto was basically a giant military base; barely any civilians remained.

Amongst the four, Anfiston was the only one approaching a true colony. It was both the oldest and most developed of the seven Aueran colonies on Nubissia. It had four full-fledged cities, a fishing town, and another town, along with a slew of villages. The four cities focused on industry, mostly mining. Whilst the colony did produce some food locally, most of it was imported from the other colonies.

Now it was going to get an additional 100 thousand households, most to solve that very food problem. They could not be taxed for the first three years of their stay, however, so on that front they were completely useless. Anfiston could just barely make 100 thousand on particularly good years, and with three of its prime customers now all but dead, that was unlikely to be the case for some time.

"What do we do? We're still 200 thousand short. I can't see a way to get anything done without that. Are the colonies going to be abandoned wholesale? I don't see what else could be done with the funds we're being given."

"How did you come up with that number?" Miselk asked, "I thought you'd leave those worries to logistics? You're the field marshal, worry about the war and leave these things to the appropriate people."

"Right now, logistics is our war, General," Claude countered, "We have the numbers, and we can turn them into men capable of defeating the enemy. There is no question of our victory on that front. Our fight is in getting the money and supplies to make that possible."

Logistics is our war.

Miselk mulled thought over for several moments, then drowned in budgets and calculations. When Claude was done, Miselk laughed.

"You're still calculating the men's pay based on full combat pay. Ranger's men are now keepers. Keepers don't make as much. A Ranger grunt made eight riyas before. With averaged bonuses, that's one thale a month. He'd make 12 thales a year, or two crowns and two thales. Ranger was a regular contingent, however. The five folks you have are irregulars, with just half pay.

"They make just four riyas a month, six if you include generous bonuses. 72 riyas a year is just seven thales. About a crown and two thales a year. The whole lot will cost you just 250 thousand crowns. You should have 50 thousand surplus."

Claude stared at the General, shock colouring his face.

"If you lower the salary when the men transfer, how many would stay?"

Miselk smiled and shook his head.

"Claude, the ones transferred to the keepers were members of the original Ranger, not the new recruits. There's only 20 thousand. While their benefits are less, they were all promoted a rank to compensate. With the increased pay of their new ranks and the other benefits, they should be no worse off than they were before.

"You should know men value promotions over income. They're after the benefits, not the salary. Especially the fast track to dignity. Even in irregular corps, the benefits of their higher rank will be better than what they got before in Ranger, especially the reduction to their required service time for dignity.

"They are now the cores of the new folks, so each will only get four thousand of them. Most of the rest will be drafts from the reservists amongst the settlers and new recruits from the other colonies' keeperies. As for the two colonial corps, they were irregulars to begin with, so while their benefits didn't decrease, their salaries aren't as high as you thought. You shouldn't have made your estimates based on Ranger's benefits. You'll save 100 thousand crowns."

Claude finally understood where he had gone wrong. As Miselk had said, calculating the salaries according to irregulars' standards reduced his budgetary requirements by a third. The 100 thousand crowns they were to be given for the next two years might just be enough. If things went well, they could perhaps even have a little surplus.

"And don't forget what we rangers do best. We can save a lot by attacking enemy supply lines and scavenging their ammunition and food. We ordered the colonial corps to send men to Port Patres and Dorinibla too.

"So far, we've gotten a few hundred cannons from the ships and we can use them as suppression fire for the two defence lines. That saved us even more money. I'm sure you know that the cannons are built to the same standard as our own, so the compatible ammunition saved us lots of trouble.

"One more thing: while the ammunition and gear of the Shiksan soldiers are not compatible with our own, we can modify them to work with us. That'll further decrease costs. We just have to pay a small fee for the modification."

Miselk smiled and shot Claude a gentle gaze. "I'm sure you can relax now, right? The supplies we have stocked up is worth around 200 thousand gold crowns. After Ranger leaves for Freia, the supplies will be left behind. So, you won't have to worry about logistics for the five folks.

"Oh, I also have another piece of good news. When the gear of the kingdom's army arrives, there's also another order for promotion. All seven colonels from Ranger transferring to the five folks will be promoted to major-generals. Don't be surprised. It's the kingdom's reward for your efforts at the frontlines here."

It was indeed delightful news. He didn't think the promotion of soldiers transferring away from ranger would include a colonel like him. Unlike promotions from private to corporal or second lieutenant to first lieutenant, a jump from colonel to major-general was huge. In peacetime, it would take a colonel serving ten years for that. During wartime, they would need three first-class merits.

But Claude knew that whether it was him taking over as field marshal or being promoted to major-general, the fact that those promotions were permitted by the ministry of the army meant that their outlook on the upcoming conflict was bad. In other words, they wanted him to be the scapegoat for the loss in the war theatre if he couldn't emerge victorious.

"I'll be here for about three more months, so we're short on time," Miselk said, "I hope that I will be able to help you solve the core issues of the five folks before I go. In the following days, I will summon the other officers and we'll have to finalise who serves in HQ of this war theatre.

"Give the plan I drafted for this war theatre a good look to see if there's something you need to correct or make up for. Write me a report about it. Then, wait for the start of the meeting. You'll have to attend it and have a good chat with your future colleagues."

Claude stood up with the blue document in hand and straightened for a salute before turning to leave.

Just as he stepped out of the door, Miselk remembered something and stopped him. "By the way, Claude, that vice linesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Schnack, will be transferred back to corps command. He'll serve as the vice supervisor of corps administration."

Claude looked shocked. What did Schnack do wrong? The change of post from vice linesman to vice supervisor was a subtle demotion. One had actual power in the corps while the other was a goon doing chores. Apart from having to run others' errands, he'd have to smile out of courtesy no matter how badly he didn't want to.

"Don't blame Lieutenant-Colonel Schnak. He's actually a fairly straightforward and honest person, but he doesn't understand that not everyone bearing the Stellin name represents the royal family, so not every one of them deserves our loyalty. He was tricked by General Fansnik to hand your line's spoil-distribution accounts to the general."

Claude's eyes turned into saucers.

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