Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 370
Work Horses, Donkeys, Mine, and Factory
Time flowed rather quickly. In a flash, half a year had passed since Miselk's return to the mainland. It was currently the 5th month of Year 589, fifteen years since Claude's transmigration. He was now 31 and the youngest peasant officer ever to be made major-general in the history of the kingdom. He was also the field marshal of the Nubissian War Theatre and folksman of Thundercrash.
Claude was really thankful for Miselk for giving him a chance to climb to this level. Miselk had also set up the command structure of the war theatre and picked cooperative subordinates for him, allowing Claude to smoothly take over operations of the war theatre and continue operations without delays.
Currently, nearly 80 thousand settler households had arrived. There was only one batch left. The first and second batches that arrived had already scattered the seeds over their fields and were awaiting harvest in the 9th month. Similarly, nobody expected that settling them down would cause so many problems to pop up. While Sir Bernard and the rest of the civil administration solved most of the problems, many others popped out and sapped most of Claude's attention.
Thundercrash was the first among the five folks to be fully staffed, followed by 1st Monolith, 2nd and 3rd. Only the last, 4th Monolith, wasn't fully staffed. It had to wait until the last batch of settlers arrived.
Claude had asked Major-Generals Eiblont and Birkin why their units, 1st Reserves 2nd Reserves, had been renamed to 3rd and 4th Monoliths. His seniors replied that they think Reserves was a bad name that made one sound inferior to the rest, so they brought their objections to Miselk and pestered him for a good part of the day to get it changed.
Thankfully, Claude's minions worked really hard and dealt with most other matters that didn't require his personal attention. They managed to complete their training in the half-year deadline. Currently, Moriad and Berklin led most of the men in Thundercrash on an excursion in Balingana and Cromwell to familiarise themselves with the terrain. Only Myjack's fully veteran Strike Tribe remained in Lanu.
"General, what worries me most now is the workhorses and racehorses. Most of the settlers want to buy workhorses for carts or farm work and need racehorses as mounts. But there's no way the three rear colonies can provide them. The price of work and racehorses has risen nearly three times in the past three months. They now cost almost as much as war horses..." Sir Bernard was so plagued with worries that his hair had whitened considerably.
But this wasn't a problem Claude could solve. The five enhanced folks themselves didn't have enough horses at their disposal. They only had around 30 thousand war horses and some ten thousand work and racehorses, yet Thundercrash alone was assigned all the war horses and a few thousand war and racehorses. They were a mobile assault force, after all, that tried to mimic the Ranger folk. They had to have at least that many horses to ensure their efficacy.
The other horses were split among the other four corps. Logistics had also been making a huge fuss about not having enough horses to make their shipments and demand for more to be bought, but the problem now was there was nobody to buy it from! Transporting horses from Freia would easily triple the price, and that wasn't taking into account the possible problems that could kill off the horses mid shipment. Transporting horses was a risky business indeed.
When the lack of horses first surfaced in Sir Bernard's first few settler towns, Claude had taken out a few thousand horses from the five folks and assigned them to the civil administration to distribute to the rest of the populace to use. Fortunately, Claude instructed for those horses not to be sold, but only rented as he thought the settlers wouldn't be able to afford them anyway.
Time came to prove that Claude had thought too much. After the horses were distributed, they realised that the demand for them had far overshot the supply. People of this world used horses instead of bulls to farm, after all, and most of the settlers wouldn't use cows for farming or pulling their carts either.
Anfiston was a rather large colony with a sparse population, so it didn't have complete traffic facilities. What the new settlers needed most at the moment were racehorses to mount and workhorses to pull their carts and help with farming. As most of them had received a sum of money from the new nobility when they chose to emigrate, buying a workhorse or two wasn't that big a deal. But the problem now was the supply of horses in the war theatre simply wasn't enough. All the colonies in Nubissia weren't able to do even that.
"Perhaps we can purchase some donkeys from the nikancha to replace workhorses for pulling carts," Skri suggested.
The people of Nubissia preferred to breed donkeys as mounts and beasts of burden. Most nikancha also had a few donkeys in their households. Perhaps buying them would indeed be a good idea, but Claude worried the settlers would simply slaughter them for meat to eat. Donkey meat was considered to be a delicacy in Aueras, after all.
"I heard some breeders in the three rear colonies have started a large horse-breeding initiative. Looks like the demand for horses made them aspire for wealth," Major-General Bolonik said, "I know a few friends who have requested to be granted seed war horses to breed with the workhorses and improve their stock."
This was a fine solution in itself, save for the time required for it to work. It would take at least two to three years for any adult horses to enter the market. However, the war theatre was in urgent need of more horses overall. Even if only a third of those 100 thousand households bought only one workhorse each, they still needed some 30 thousand of them. It wasn't a small number that could easily be met.
When Claude returned home, he noticed Weyblon had come to visit with his wife again. The two cited Claude's new child as the reason for their visit and brought with them lots of baby products. Around a month ago, Kefnie delivered Claude a new child which they named Beuergarcy, which means 'blue lake' in Ancient Hez after the beautiful Lake Lanu. Claude was now the father of two sons.
After breakfast, Claude took Weyblon to his study. Weyblon took a few documents out of his bag and handed it to Claude. "General, the association has agreed to let you have possession of the iron vein in Mosraka Mountains. You may construct your refinery there. We will also take you in as a member of the association and this comes with assorted benefits. This is your permit for owning a mine and the deed for the land nearby."
Claude was elated. "Thank you, my friend, you really did me a huge favour."
However, Weyblon still seemed a little perplexed. "General, can I be direct and ask what this is for? Iron mining is an investment that doesn't pay off. The kingdom produces iron the most and the resource least tapped into in the colonies is iron. Our association only has one iron mine, but we only produce enough to fulfil the needs of the colony. It's the lowest-yielding part of the industry.
"Just last year when the first and second batches of settlers arrived, the demand for iron rose slightly to make the tools they needed. But now that most of the settlers had submitted their orders for our ore to our association, how are you going to turn a profit with your own mine and forge? The settlers can't possibly need that many tools, after all."
Claude laughed heartily. "Don't worry, my friend. Tell your association's other mine owners that I'm not trying to compete with them with my mine. I'm going to produce military equipment, not daily necessities or farming tools. In fact, it's going to be a weapon. That's why I refused your offer to provide me with supplies for free. The reason I want to own my own mine is to maintain a level of secrecy over our project."
Weyblon breathed a sigh of relief, but his curiosity was renewed. "General, as far as I know, the kingdom has had a tight restriction on the production of military gear, right? Equipment used here on Nubissia have to all be shipped here from the mainland. Why would they let you form your own forge in the war theatre to produce weapons?"
Claude shook his head. "They didn't allow us to start our own forge. All the gun workshops and gunpowder labs here are built with the kingdom's approval and are strictly regulated. However, I don't need the kingdom's permission as I'm going to invent my own weapons. I'm not going to produce the kingdom's weapons. That's why I need an iron mine and my own forge. I'll make some for my own men to test out. If they are effective, we'll mass produce them in the war theatre."
Weyblon's understanding finally snapped into place. He looked at Claude admirably. Claude had managed to forge a certain path to wealth for himself. Even if Claude's mine didn't reap much in raw profit, every enemy killed on the frontlines would justify the efforts. As the field marshal, Claude had no problems with ordering logistics to produce anything he wanted and making a huge profit using the battles as justification.
In truth, Claude wasn't nearly as sneaky as Weyblon imagined. He only wanted an unexcavated iron vein to get a secret place where he could test out his grenades and maybe mines in the future. This was the trump card he wanted to develop for the upcoming war.
However, the explosive experiments he had his sister carry out had mostly failed, well, not all of it did. Angelina was able to synthesise a safe explosive by using Nubissian red clay as a solvent to stabilise nitroglycerin.
The problem was there was no way to produce it on a large scale as the right temperature had to be achieved to produce nitroglycerin itself. Angelina could control the temperature easily with her array through the use of Freeze, but she had no idea how to scale up production, and neither did Claude.
The amount of nitroglycerin that could be produced in a single array was meagre, only enough for three grenades each time, but it took a really long time. The first production run alone took up to five hours. Claude couldn't have her working day in and out doing nothing but making gunpowder for him, could he?
Since that was the case, they had no choice but to make the grenades heavier to contain more gunpowder and change the way they had to be thrown. What mattered was their explosive range. This would definitely give the enemy a huge surprise. Claude decided that if he managed to invent mines, he would try to research canister shot next.
It wasn't too hard to change how he used grenades. Normal soldiers could only throw them as far as thirty metres away, so all Claude had to do was to design a mechanism to fire the payload further away. He used shock-absorbing spring carriages and an iron plate to make a simple firing mechanism. When in use, the iron plate would be flattened on the ground with the spring underneath it. The grenade would then be slotted into the delivery chamber and would be launched some 60 metres away when the spring was loosed.
After a few tests, Claude believed it fit for the battlefield. That was why he requested the mining association for the iron mine that had been abandoned for nearly half a century and decided he would start his own forge to produce his grenades, mines and other contraptions. Weyblon was the one who brought his request to the association and got the paperwork done.
"Friend, I still require your help. If possible, I hope you can be one of our shareholders and manage my weapons forge. I lack a reliable supervisor," he said honestly.
Weyblon thought that Claude was trying to give him that position as thanks for his help. After all, there was no need to strictly manage a simple iron refinery and forge. He humbly said that he was just helping a friend out and had no need for thanks, but under Claude's insistence, he ended up taking out two thousand crowns to buy a share of 20 percent and signed the shareholder's agreement and non-disclosure agreement.
Weyblon didn't think much of the 20 percent share. He thought that since Claude was willing to offer him an opportunity, he might as well be more generous with it. The way he saw it, two thousand crowns was more than enough to hire the workers required to develop the mine and build a refinery and forge. Claude didn't need to use much of his own money and could start making a profit by managing the logistics in the war theatre right.