Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 380
"Why did you come all the way here?" Claude asked linesman of 3rd Monolith, Major-General Eiblont, with a smile. He had the orderman outside get a basin of water for the general.
Eiblont seemed frustrated.
"I came here as fast as I could because I heard you had encountered the Canasian reinforcements and were outmatched. I came to help and reap some benefits. I didn't think you'd defeat them in just 20 days... You move too fast."
Claude shook his head.
"Eiblont, I appreciate your goodwill, but you have to consider your men. Thundercrash travels on four legs, 3rd Monolith on two. If things go south, we can just pull out, you'd be stuck."
Claude knew Eiblont had come with good intentions. Useless teammates usually just sat on the sidelines and watched you fall rather than jump in to save you.
But, as field marshal, he couldn't approve of the man's recklessness. The issue was mounts. After Miselk's scorched earth, Balingana had not a single intact hovel. It was very risky to move an infantry unit into such terrain, even worse when they knew little more than nothing about their enemy's disposition.
If the Canasians hadn't fallen into his trap, they would've discovered Eiblont's unit soon after they set foot on Albator Plains. Claude didn't doubt that, given their leader's cautious nature, they would have split off a force to deal with 3rd Monolith. As Claude had mentioned, 3rd Monolith was a bipedal unit. They couldn't outpace the Canasians so they would have stood no chance of getting away and would have been wiped out.
Cavalry was at its strongest on the flat open stretches of the plains. Large Infantry formations might be able to hold out for a while, but they stood no chance against cavalry in these places unless they had considerably greater numbers.
Eiblont immediately caught his drift and shook his head as he wiped his face with a wet towel.
"I did consider that. I'd hoped you had failed to defeat them and would ask for my help once I arrived. I've been itching to test the cart formation. Training and actual combat are worlds apart, so it's always good to test something out in the real world.
Claude smiled once he realised what the general had been intending to do in a confrontation. Claude had come up with the cart formation. He and a couple other officers had been running simulations about half a year earlier and the setting had been the Canasian plains. He'd been put in charge of Bluefeather and Bolonik, one of the other officers, commanded the Canasians. Everyone had expected the fight to end with Claude's complete and utter defeat.
Claude, instead, took inspiration from the wagonforts used most famously by the frontiersmen of Southern Africa and North America in the 17th and 18th centuries on Earth and built makeshift walls by linking carts and carriages together, leaving gaps only wide enough for a cannon muzzle to shove through and fire. Claude had lost, but just barely, thanks to Bolonik's cautious initial assault. Because the latter had held back most of his men, he had enough reserves to counter the tactic once it was revealed.
Everyone who'd witnessed the fight had quite enthusiastically made the tactic part of their repertoire. Claude had also been quick to introduce them to the slanted carriage. They were easy to construct and link together to make various fortifications. He'd not expected Eiblont to prepare the necessary materials and train his men enough to use the tactic so quickly, though the man had not been quick enough on his response and had missed the battle.
"Where did you get all the workhorses for the carriages? We lack horses the most right now."
The major-general grimaced.
"Don't bring that up, please... I begged everyone I could get to lend me an ear. I threw away all my dignity to borrow some horses. In the end, Sevict and Bolonik lent me enough. I have two thousand with me at the moment, just enough to put one on each carriage. That's enough to move them on fine terrain, but if they get stuck or we pass through a rough patch the men have to jump in and help push or pull the carts and carriages. It's been slow going the whole way."
Claude let slip several short laughs.
"Alright, fret not. The Canasians are all dead. We've enough war and workhorses to replace the ones you've borrowed. I'll send workhorses to the market to satisfy the demand. You can switch your workhorses out for war horses. I'm sure two of them pulling one carriage will greatly increase your speed."
"Oh, right! How could I have forgotten that? No... I have to get them to switch them out quick to test the speed out."
Eiblont left without waiting at all. Having no choice, Claude got Anders to tag along with him and solve any problems that might arise so as to prevent any accidents. The spoils were Thundercrash's, after all, so Eiblont was likely to run into trouble to ask for the horses without his permission.
But soon, the general returned. Claude was approving some of his folk's documentation, inspecting the ways issues were dealt with and checking the accounts of logistics. Those documents could only be archived after he signed them. As long as he wasn't satisfied with certain matters' settlement, he would have to write down how he thought it should be done and let the corresponding department implement it according to his new plan.
Eiblont knew the procedures well. He was a folksman himself, so he merely sat there quietly and tasted the red tea. Claude went through the documents rather quickly. Most of the matters were dealt with in a satisfactory manner. He easily signed his name and stamped his folksman's seal to close the cases. The last thing he had to do was account inspection, which would take a little longer.
It was only after he finished dealing with it that he noticed Eiblont sitting there blankly, seemingly thinking about something. After checking the time, Claude pulled on the bell-rope and summoned Anders from outside the tent. He asked him to go to the cafeteria to get them some food. He would be hosting Eiblont in his tent.
Eiblont had snapped out of his daze and wasn't opposed to sitting in for the meal. When Claude asked him what he was daydreaming about, he said he was recalling the formation of the colonial corps a couple of years ago.
Claude didn't have a good understanding about them and only knew that Miselk appointed Eiblont and Birkin to pick out the best men from the local colonial defence forces to form the colonial corps as reserve forces for Ranger.
However, both those corps had been disbanded, and their men absorbed into the five enhanced folks. Claude wondered if Eiblont had anything to share. Perhaps he had been invited by certain powerful figures and managed to spend some good times with beautiful ladies.
Eiblont merely grimaced and said that it was just an exaggeration. He didn't think his posting in the colonial corps would be so dangerous. He and Birkin had been targets of assassination a number of times. Birkin fared worse and was even hurt so bad during one attempt he had to spend half a year to recover. Nubissia seemed not too far off from the wild west where crimes and under-the-table dealings were allowed to proliferate in that manner, given how far it was from the Aueran mainland.
After that, Claude listened to a tirade of complaints from him. From a certain point of view, it wasn't too appropriate for the kingdom to directly administer the colonies. While military and administrative power was separated in the colonies, they often butt heads. As such, the local people of power could only stand neutral to protect their own interests. If either the viceroy or high-commissioner had a clear head on his shoulders, the colonies could still continue to develop. But if both of them didn't fulfil their responsibilities and only cared about lining their pockets, then the situation in the colonies would only worsen.
That was the reason for the attempts on Eiblont and Birkin's lives. The high-commissioner and viceroy didn't get along and split the colonial government into two opposing sides, effectively giving up on proper management, caring about nothing but collecting taxes. In the end, power fell to the hands of the local people in power, some of whom even treated the local garrison or keepers as their personal army.
Eiblont and Birkin's mission was to gather the local forces to form the colonial corps, but the powerful tycoons in the area took it as the kingdom intentionally trying to suppress them by taking their armies away. They conspired together and decided to show the kingdom's officials what they were made of and tried seducing them with beauties, money, and resorted to assassination when none of those worked.
He complained that he had to sleep with one eye open during the past two years to make sure nobody could snuff him out. Fortunately, he managed to survive that and things got better after the colonial corps was formed. He and Birkin weren't promoted to major-generals because they had been able to complete their mission of forming the corps. Rather, it was mainly due to their overhaul and stabilisation of local affairs and successful suppression of the ambitious local tycoons, which led to the kingdom firming its grasp over the area.
Claude now understood why his two less-heard-of seniors were also promoted to major-generals. Had Eiblont not told him about it, he would've been under the impression that the two seniors had opened some unorthodox doors to be made one of the five folksmen of the enhanced folks.
Food was served and he invited Eiblont to take a seat. After their meal, the orderman poured the two generals wine. Claude had him leave before asking whether using two war horses actually increased the speed by much.
Eiblont said that he didn't use war horses, since there wasn't a need. The whole reason the slanted carriages were employed was to defeat the Canasian light cavalry. Now that they had been exterminated by Claude, there was no longer a need for those carriages. They would simply be distributed to the various folks' logistics departments. Apart from using them as cover against small groups of enemies, there wouldn't be much use for them.
As such, he turned his attention to the war horses themselves. He hoped that Claude, as field marshal, could assign his folk some of them to make a second Thundercrash. That way, they could play an offensive role instead of just sitting around in reserve for 1st and 2nd Monolith.
This, however, just happened to be in line with Claude's own plans. He stated plainly that he already had plans to form 2nd Thundercrash, but he wanted to first check which units of the war theatre were suited to be part of it since this was a crucial endeavour. They would be following his commands to suppress the enemies, after all.
Eiblont was overjoyed and said there was no need to discuss it any longer. He was set on making his own unit 2nd Thundercrash. The reason for that was simple, Bolonik, Sevict and even Birkin were more adept at defence. In terms of offensive manoeuvres, he was second to Claude. He wasn't boasting and this was in fact proven from the sandtable simulations they ran. It could be said that Eiblont was the one who learned and adopted Claude's tactics the fastest.
Seeing him considering the matter, he decided to strike while the iron's hot. He said that after so many simulated battles with Claude, while he did lose often, he did come to understand his tactics somewhat. He could definitely work well in tandem with him on the battlefield and promised he would not go about things on his own and would make sure to obey his command. There was no question that 3rd Monolith was the perfect candidate to become 2nd Thundercrash.
Additionally, 1st and 2nd Monolith were tasked with defending Claude Defence Line and Dorinibla River. The two seniors that commanded those folks were also more conservative and defensive, so giving them war horses would be pointless anyway.
As for Birkin's 4th Monolith, they only had ten thousand men so far. They could barely even be called a proper folk. The last batch of 20 thousand households had yet to be sent over from the kingdom, so 4th Monolith remained a husk. There was no way they could be transformed into 2nd Thundercrash.
As such, he believed his 3rd Monolith was perfect for that role. Claude, as field marshal, could immediately order for the reorganisation of the folk on the spot, with his folk already there, without having to first send the war horses back to the war theatre first.
Claude laughed and said, "Well, I'll give you a chance. Have two of your lines send the captives and workhorses back to Robisto and change the rest of the men into light cavalry. Then, follow Thundercrash to Cromwell.
"I heard Nasri's voluntary combat corps have been felling trees en masse in Wickhamsburg to construct a supply base. I want to get rid of this problem at its root. If your folk performs well in this battle, I suppose I could let it become 2nd Thundercrash."