Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 378
The Canasian reinforcements' camp was set up some 2.5 kilometres away. However, the Cansian captives had been forced to dig some seven or eight trenches outside the Aueran camp, effectively expanding the defences far beyond the walls themselves. The first probing attack by the Canasian reinforcements had completely failed, ending with them losing some even to eight hundred men.
Even so, the Canasian officers weren't incompetent. After realising that their probing attack didn't work, they didn't push for another attack and wisely chose to retreat back to camp, managing to end the first bout prematurely. It appeared that the officers were rich with experience and talent. They wouldn't be as easily dealt with.
That was why when Claude saw trenches spreading out from the enemy camp towards his side, his lips curved into a smile. They had taken the bait and everything was going according to plan. Did they think he had his captives dig trenches for no reason? Getting the enemies to dig their own trenches was exactly what he was trying to achieve.
Digging trenches on the plains was quite an easy task. Within a short five days, four long trenches stretching a kilometre away were dug out. The enemy's trenches were encroaching upon his own. In the eyes of the Canasian officers, the enemy definitely hadn't seen that move coming. They had used cannons and muskets to fire back and dealt quite a number of casualties to the Canasian cavalrymen, but that wasn't a big deal for the reinforcements. They didn't really consider the death of the 180-odd people as a big deal.
However, the further their trenches were, the more Aueran fire they came under. Those were only trenches, after all. The tops weren't covered and the enemy had built higher firing platforms that allowed them to aim into the soldiers in the trenches.
Faced with such a situation, the officers of the Canasian corps came up with four out-of-the-box solutions. They decided to go far beyond just four trenches. Instead, they would dig 40, or maybe even a hundred trenches to spread the enemy's defences thin. As long as one trench could connect to the enemy's trenches, they could let their soldiers through to swarm the enemy camp and render their fortifications useless.
So, in the following ten days, the 700-metre stretch outside the enemy camp became a complicated maze. The Canasian reinforcements put in four lines of manpower, around 25 thousand soldiers in total, to dig the trenches, suffering two thousand casualties as a result. They eventually managed to engage the Auerans in the trench maze.
But when the two trench networks connected with each other, the Canasians suddenly noticed that they were at a disadvantage. Thundercrash had already constructed a platform some three metres in height with cannons and multi-coloured flags to help direct their forces around during the defence. One such platform or tower could be used to monitor the 100-metre vicinity around it. The accurate manoeuvres made the Canasians feel like they were engaging a far larger force than they actually were. They constantly felt like their numbers were constantly decreasing whereas their enemies' was always increasing.
Within three days of the trenches connecting, the four Canasian combat lines found that their casualties had piled up quite significantly. They were losing men at a rate of a tribe a day. While the enemy did have casualties too, they suffered only a third or quarter of what the Canasians did. In other words, if the four Canasian lines were to be wiped out on the battlefield, the Auerans would only lose a line of men.
The realisation of that caused the Canasian officers to put a stop to the attacks to restrategise. According to the soldiers who managed to return from the critical zones of conflict, the enemy was exceedingly cunning. They would often use a small force to bait the Cansians into chasing them only to bring them to an area covered by cannon fire. They would fire scatter shot from a raised wooden platform to completely eliminate the pursuing cavalrymen before launching their counterattack to retake lost territory.
Not only that, Thundercrash's troops would always have a light-infantry cannon positioned at the end of each trench. The moment the Canasians entered the trench, the sudden round that was fired couldn't be avoided in time and the whole trench of men would be killed at once.
The Canasians always felt like they were duped by the enemy and gave up on attacking on horseback, something they were adept in. All their men seemed utterly clumsy when fighting the troops of Thundercrash. The enemy also led the now-turned Canasian infantrymen through their well-defended maze trenches and caused them to lose some six thousand men over the next four to five days.
By then, regret was far too late. There was already a labyrinth between the two camps and surprise attacks on horses would no longer be possible. The only edge they had was their riding scimitars, which had far better reach and were far more devastating by the Auerans' shortswords. According to ten-odd captured soldiers of Thundercrash, they had near seven thousand Canasians taken captive. They also found out that Thundercrash only had two not-fully-staffed combat lines and three battle-ready lines, with them having fewer than 16 thousand men in total.
The testimonies of the captured Auerans were the only things that stopped the Canasian officers from calling a retreat. Even after losing some six thousand men, they still have around 30 thousand troops. The commanders believed that as long as they continued fighting, victory would be theirs. They might even be able to destroy Thundercrash entirely.
After some more discussion, the Canasian officers decided to throw in even more men. Corps command would send a cannoneer line and two enhanced tribes into the attack. They were going to use their cannons to destroy the earthen platform towers Thundercrash built near their trenches while also counter firing on other cannons.
The plan seemed like the exact panacea they needed for their ailment. In three days, they managed to destroy most of the tower platforms and swiftly conquered the two outermost trenches of the Aueran camp. They were now only some hundred metres away from the actual camp site. While they suffered heavy casualties, Thundercrash didn't fare all that better. The ratio of Canasians lost to Auerans was closing in from two-to-one to one-to-one.
No matter how fierce Thundercrash's resistance, the Canasian officers thought them to be nothing more than their final death struggle. With the extermination of Thundercrash within sight, they decided to throw in two more keeper tribes into the attack in hopes of conquering the enemy camp and stamping out Thundercrash once and for all.
"The enemy only put four combat lines into it initially. They later added one cannoneer line and two enhanced tribes, before they threw in two more keeper tribes. I suspect the enemy invested nearly all their men into the attack. Our plan has taken shape. We will only need to hold on for two more days before retreating from this camp and handing it to the enemy. I'm sure they'd be really surprised."
Claude tapped on the enemy camp on the map. "According to our hidden scouts, they only have some three thousand men in the camp now. Apart from a heavy logistics tribe, the rest are mostly attendants and stable boys. The enemy had used their two keeper tribes to let their horses onto the plains to graze, but now that the tribes are thrown into the fray as well, nobody is taking the horses to graze. They are severely lacking in manpower.
"Berklin's Line 1301 managed to keep low and sneak to the side of the enemy camp. They are only waiting for our signal to attack. Major Myjack, you will be taking the lead for this operation. Remember, the first thing we have to do will be taking the enemy's war horses. Next comes their food and only after that will we conquer their camp. If the enemy's counterattack is too strong, you can give up on taking the camp and burn all their food. Regardless, you must bring those 40 thousand war horses back, understood?"
"Yes. Please be assured, General. Strike Tribe 131 will definitely complete the mission and return with the horses," Myjack replied with a stiff salute.
Claude nodded. "Set out at ten tonight and bring the remaining mortars there. It will be a great help for occupying the tent.
Stunned, Myjack asked, "General, what about your side?"
"We'll be fine here. We can defend against enemy attack even without using mortars, so don't worry.
"Lieutenant-Colonel Dyavid, after Strike Tribe 131 leaves, escort the seven thousand captives with your Line 1303 and our folk logistics unit away from this camp. Head to our rendezvous point before we settle on our next destination. If the captives don't cooperate, deal with them on the spot," Claude ordered.
"Yes, Sir. Thundercrash Line 1301 will move per your orders."
"Colonel Siegfeld, how are preparations going for logistics' departure?"
"General, the preparations are ready. All supplies to be taken away have been loaded onto the carriages. We've triple checked to ensure we missed nothing out."
Claude nodded with satisfaction. "Then, I wish you a smooth trip. Lieutenant-Colonel Moriad, I will leave the trench defences to you in the next two days. I will provide supporting fire with cannons from the camp walls. Are you confident you can hold on for two days?"
Moriad laughed out loud. "General, two days? We can last a whole week! While the Canasians are famed for their horses, they become crabs once they're dismounted. Apart from digging holes and their scimitar bladework, they didn't achieve much other than throw their lives at our cannons, even though it seems like they're closing in to us from 100 metres away."
It was quite the accurate depiction. The Canasians who launched the attack within the trench did seem like crabs. They often bared their upper bodies and rolled up their sleeves as they charged in suicidally with blades in both hands, only to be shot down by the accurate soldiers of Thundercrash or be turned into meat paste by their light-infantry cannons.
"Alright, I'm glad you're confident. Go prepare then." Claude smiled and let his officers leave his tent. When they were gone, he asked Anders to bring him Bloweyk.
Bloweyk was now a sergeant-major and served in Myjack's Strike Tribe 131 as a tentsman of a scout tent. His promotion had been quite fast thanks to his military talent and Claude and Myjack's care.
Bloweyk soon came to him.
He looked at his younger brother and felt a little nostalgic. The puffball so spoiled by his parents that they carried him up and down the stairs had now grown into a magnificent soldier.
He patted Bloweyk on the shoulder lightly. "What you need to do now is to sneak into the enemy camp beforehand and let the rest of our troops into it. It will be really dangerous, so you need to be extra careful."
Bloweyk humphed audibly and replied with an annoyed tone, "Alright, Claude, I know my limits. Don't worry. I'm not your normal soldier either. I'm also a magus, so I have my methods to deal with those soldiers. I'll be leaving now. My comrades are still waiting for me."
The attack on the enemy camp this time was set during the day rather than the night. So, they needed a tent of scouts that could disguise themselves as enemy scouts to infiltrate the enemy's rear and disable any alerts and lookouts they have there to allow Strike Tribe 131 and Line 1301 to enter the camp for a surprise attack. Bloweyk had scrambled to get the infiltration mission.
Two days later around three in the afternoon, the Canasian officers watched as their flag was plunged into the walls of the enemy camp, only for it to be struck down. One flag quickly took the former's place, only to be removed by the enemy. Even so, the Auerans' fates were sealed. The next flag to be plunged into the walls didn't fall. Soon, the other Canasians climbed up the walls and swung their war banners as they cheered.
They've won! The high-ranking officers cheered beside the corpsman, who was smiling with relief and congratulating his subordinates. He raised his leather whip and pointed it at the encampment a kilometre away. "Let's go take a look."
Nobody was against it. The guards led the few hundred mounted men across the flat land next to the trench network. They heard the cheers of soldiers along the way.
But when they were some four hundred metres away from the encampment, the corpsman heard some chatter coming from behind. It sounded like soldiers' cheers, so he didn't really find it weird. It was only after he noticed some officers of his pull in their horses' reins with a look of utter shock that he noticed something was wrong. Turning back, his face paled in an instant. On their camp was the flag of Aueras' Thundercrash folk. Their flag was being flown above their very own camp, the one they've spent a sickening month in.
Apart from a few of their flags, there were a bunch of soldiers rapidly dashing away some six hundred metres from the camp as they cast their weapons and armor off. It was obvious they were running away from the camp.
The corpsman felt faint and began to fall off his horse. Fortunately, his aide reacted quickly enough and helped him avoid the fate of cracking and bloodying his head on the hard ground.
It was a laughable victory. The moment the Canasians conquered the Aueran camp, the Auerans took the Canasian camp. Currently, most of the Canasian troops were busy flocking to the camp they just conquered for the celebration, so the high-ranking officers weren't able to form their ranks together to mount a counterattack on their own camp.