Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 376
The Second Encampment
Moriad and Dyavid stood before Claude crestfallenly. The two of them had been far too greedy for achievements and led their men in a charge towards the final tent area where the enemy was still stubbornly resisting. Little did they know that their foes would take out two light-infantry cannons and unload scatter shot on their men. In an instant, near a hundred men were injured, causing nearly a third of the total casualties suffered in this battle.
The cries for help and the curses of the enemy could be heard from the distance, but that wouldn't do much to change the fate of the dying soldiers. The last troops to surrender were the discharged Canasian soldiers. Humiliatingly faced with the gun barrels and bayonets of the victors, they could only watch as their comrades were massacred. Apart from their objections, begging and cursing, there was nothing else they could do to delay their deaths.
Claude had ordered for everyone among the last batch of surrendered soldiers to be put to death. He wasn't trying to avenge the injured and dead members of Thundercrash. Instead, he was going to make an example out of them to shock the other Canasian captives so that they would have a much easier time controlling them.
As Claude was about to leave with most of his troops to the east of the bull herd to attack the campsite of the other two Canasian lines, he wouldn't be able to leave too many people behind to watch the captives anyway. So, he killed off the most outspoken resistors to ensure that nothing huge would change once his unit left.
If Shiks was Aueras' number-one enemy, then Canas would definitely take a close second place. In any other battle when the gates were conquered, the Shiksans would've quickly surrendered.
Yet, the so-called Canasian volunteers, even after being completely caught off guard by the mortars and startled by the huge damage done to their walls, were still able to resist the soldiers of Thundercrash who were pouring in to their camp, managing to cause them some two hundred casualties.
And that was what they had done without instruction from any superior officer. They either fought themselves or formed into their own tents before mounting a resistance. Claude had ordered that all those who resisted to be put to death even if they eventually surrendered. As for the veterans that ambushed Moriad and Dyavid's men with cannons, Claude gave the order for them to be massacred the moment they dropped their weapons and surrendered!
Two lines, numbering 12 thousand men in total, had around 5400 of them taken captive. It could be seen how serious their resistance was. Apart from the 700 plus stubborn enemies, Claude also ordered for around two thousand injured veterans to be sent on their journey to the afterlife earlier regardless of their state of injury. Thundercrash had neither the need nor energy to bother with treating them. As for the five thousand plus captives who were terrified by the massacre, Claude got some men to escort them to Lanu to work as free labour.
"Lieutenant-Colonel Anders," Claude called.
"Awaiting your orders, General!" Anders, the linesman of Line 1304, stepped forward from behind Moriad and Dyavid and saluted. Claude's massacre order didn't only frighten the five thousand Canasian captives. Even most of the officers in Thundercrash were appalled by his fierce methods.
Shots were still being fired and the final cries of the dead always lingered in the corner of his ears. However, he heard Claude's order nice and clear. "Pick two tribes from your line to escort the heavy support tribe and the captives back to Robisto. Hand the captives and our injured to 1st Monolith's Major-General Bolonik. After that, hand my order to Mister Weyblon and get the mortars produced from the workshop to the frontlines, understood?"
"Yes, Sir," Anders replied loud and clear.
He took out some pencil and paper for Claude to scrawl up an order on the spot. Claude stamped it and signed the document before putting his fingerprint and personal seal on it. He then handed it to Anders.
"Alright, I'll leave the rest here to you. If the captives behave unruly mid transit, I grant you the authority to deal with them on the spot," Claude said, before he turned to Moriad and Dyavid. He gave them each a kick. "Buzz off and get your units back into order. I'll give you thirty minutes! We'll head out immediately and go to the east camp the captives told us about! This time, be careful!"
"Yes, General, we won't disappoint you this time." The two of them seemed revitalised after that kick; it meant Claude had forgiven them. They saluted and ran back to their troops.
The Canasian light-cavalry corps had two lines stationed near the east. They weren't aware that the two lines in the west had already been exterminated and were still busy hunting the bulls. When the vanguard, Myjack's Strike Tribe, appeared in the Canasians' line of vision, they thought it was a small Aueran scout unit that happened to stumble to where they were.
They wondered how the enemy scout tent managed to break through the defence perimeter set up by their western comrades. Even so, they didn't recall those that were hunting the bulls and instead chose to send out a clan of men to drive Myjack and the rest away.
Myjack reacted really swiftly and immediately turned tail with the other ten-odd riders, baiting the clan of enemies to where they wanted them to be.
By the time the tens of Canasian troops near the front crossed over a slope, they were shocked by the sight that greeted them. They could see a thousand soldiers in neat formation aiming at them with guns. They were no more than 40 metres apart.
Further in the distance, another even larger force was coming their way. They roughly estimated there to be some 30 thousand troops.
"E-enemy attack!..." The leader croaked out a growl. He thought he had yelled pretty loudly, but only a few soldiers near him could pick up what he said.
The rest of the riders had swarmed up on them from the rear, only to be stunned the moment they saw what their comrades had.
"Fire!" Myjack waved his hand down.
Gunshots rang out nonstop as the landscape was decorated by the intermingling of muzzle flare and rising smoke. The Canasians gathered at the top of the slope were wiped out almost entirely in an instant. Corpses and carcasses of horses piled up on the mountains as those fortunate enough to not be killed in the first exchange cried out in pain. Only a few who were lucky enough not to be shot immediately turned tail to run.
"Pursue!" Myjack ordered.
The first three rows of soldiers who had fired slung their muskets on their backs, drew their riding blades and gave chase immediately. The soldiers in the fourth and fifth row rode up the slope gradually with Myjack and gave any injured but living enemies the coup de grace.
A Canasian light-cavalry clan usually only numbered some two hundred men. Yet, more than a hundred were crushed at the slope alone. The remaining sixty plus were running back to their camp for their lives as they loudly cried 'enemy attack!'.
The commotion caused was rather huge. Even those near the bull herd stopped their hunting. They turned to look back at the running soldiers and seemed to understand what was going on based on their incessant flailing. They left the bulls they hunted and darted for their camp immediately.
By the time Claude arrived with the main force, the two enemy lines had cooped up in their camp and made defensive preparations. Fortunately, the enemy troops were there to hunt bulls, so they didn't bring many cannons with them. According to the captives from the west side, the two lines only had 24 light-infantry cannons, half their usual loadout.
"Let's attack according to plan. We'll take at most half a day to conquer their camp," Claude said.
It was daytime and the enemy would definitely send a note to the reinforcements that were on the way of Thundercrash's attack. If they couldn't take the enemy camp within half a day, they would have to count on Berklin's unit to delay the advance of the reinforcements.
The whole enemy camp had been surrounded. The cannons were in place and the preparations to attack were complete an hour later. Claude waved to mark the beginning of the strike.
First, Thundercrash's light-infantry cannons all fired from 800 metres away at the encampment's walls with fist-sized rounds. Aueran cannons were slightly more powerful than those of their enemy and it was the kind that could shoot the furthest. The enemy cannons could only fire 700 metres away at most, but these Aueran ones could attack from 800 metres away, meaning that the enemy could do nothing to retaliate.
But four volleys of cannon fire weren't able to pose much of a threat to the enemy. In the end, they waited for the dust near the walls to settle. The cannon fire was only there to cover the approach of Thundercrash's soldiers. The first batch of soldiers spread out and approached camp by crawling to avoid volley and cannon fire from within enemy camps. They stopped when they were about a hundred metres from the walls and each drew out a shovel to quickly dig a hole to hide themselves in. They soon began firing at the enemies on the walls, causing them significant casualties to stop them from poking their heads out from cover carelessly.
The Canasians were also armed with precise-aiming muskets that were inferior to their Aueran counterparts in terms of firing range and accuracy. Aubass Mark 3s could shoot a hundred metres away whereas the enemy's muskets could only do 80.
The mission of the first batch of soldiers was to mount suppression fire on the defending Canasians and avoid enemy scatter shot. By the time the enemy was suppressed enough, the second batch of soldiers from Thundercrash made their move. They crawled and entered the manholes the first batch of soldiers dug out and continued digging their way forwards with their shovels.
Soon, they managed to dig out a trench 70 metres away from the enemy camp. They stopped digging forwards and inside focused on digging downwards and then sideways, piling up the unearthed dirt on the side of the enemy camp.
The defenders in camp appeared to notice what they were doing, but didn't seem to mind. While they found the digging to be a little bizarre, they didn't think the Auerans were trying to do anything more than suppressing their fire from a closer distance.
The second batch of soldiers were already within the enemy's effective firing range and began to take fire. However, most of the shots were mitigated by the piles of dirt that stacked up.
The third batch of troops now made their attack. They were all members of Strike Tribe. They set out in groups of three, with one person carrying the mortar and two others slinging large sacks on their backs with four mortar canisters each. They were headed for the large trench the second batch of soldiers had finished digging.
A hundred separate groups from the third batch successfully made it into the trench. There were some ten soldiers who were felled by enemy fire on the way there. The soldiers who entered the trench continued digging until it was wide enough for them to kneel so that the enemy wouldn't be able to aim at them.
The enemies in the camp soon seemed to realise that the Auerans in the trenches only 70 metres away posed a huge threat to them. They decided to use their light-infantry cannons for two volleys of scatter shot, but the earthen walls mitigated most of the damage. Only few casualties were sustained on the Aueran side. Instead, the tens of Canasian cannoneers were the first to be felled by the Auerans' counterattack.
By the time the second batch of soldiers began to shoot back at the enemy on the walls, the artillery had been readied. The sharp tone of a brass whistle could be heard from the rear before the mortar rounds shot out from the trenches and rained down in the enemy camps.
This time around, it played out completely differently from the attack on the western encampment. The mortars exploded and some of them set off gunpowder explosions. After a series of ground-shaking booms, most of the walls collapsed. One of many enemy cannons mangled from the explosion was sent flying into the air before landing on the ground some 40 metres away.
Another sharp whistle could be heard. Tents of soldiers charged forwards with their ladders and laid them over the moat in front of the walls and easily crossed it to climb up to the top to begin shooting at any enemy that still moved.
When the walls were swarmed with Thundercrash troops, the enemy's loss was set in stone.
Claude checked the time; it took three and a half hours in total. They saved quite a lot of time, but used even more mortar rounds than the previous attack. Almost every single group used up all eight of their rounds. When they made their second approach, they were supplied with another five to six rounds from the rear. When Thundercrash set out, they had some three thousand mortar rounds, but now, they had less than 800 remaining.
What he needed to consider now was whether he should take on the enemy reinforcements that were en route.