Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 402
The Royal Capital's Response
On the 26th day after the assassination, word of the terrible incident finally reached the capital. Unsurprisingly, it sent waves through the kingdom. Some initially believed those who wrote the message were pranking them because they were drunk. Such occurrences were hardly unprecedented.
The scribes often wrote down rumours and gossip as a pastime, and sometimes, those messages would be accidentally sent out by carrier eagles and cause lots of trouble. The rumours were rarely more than just embellishments on the truth, however. Nobody was brave enough to fabricate an entire tale.
Five days later, a more detailed report arrived from Nubissia. It wasn't just a report from theatre headquarters. Many related departments sent news that corroborated the new field marshal had been assassinated by grey-robed magi suspected to be part of Greytower.
The capital freaked out. Almost everyone in the city paid attention to the incident. Whether Greytower was actually involved was a huge point of contention. The Watchers in the Night provided concrete evidence to the contrary. Some two or three decades earlier, they had sent people to infiltrate Siklos and discovered fewer than three people remained in the organisation. They were a husk of their glory days' selves. The Watch was quite certain Greytower wasn't behind the assassination.
If that was the case, who could possibly have hired 20 magi for an assassination in the colonies? The second more-detailed report stated that the 12 magi killed during the engagement wore uniform grey robes just like the ones Greytower used during their assassinations. It was quite easy to verify the claim as the various nations of Freia had records on the robes.
However, the various departments didn't dare make a light judgment. It took them half a month of arguments to come to a consensus and send an ambassador to the colonies to investigate this matter. However, there was quite a lot of fighting between the factions about who the investigator should be. When everything was finally decided, 23 days had passed. The first ambassador band was sent to Nubissia.
The target of the investigation would be the former field marshal, Lieutenant-General Claude. While he was reported to have been gravely injured during the attack, how he had incurred his injuries was under heavy scrutiny and scepticism.
General Aljess was at the main plaza with thousands of soldiers participating in the ceremony, yet he was killed. Only five magi died killing him. Claude, on the other hand, had had just a tent of guards and was attacked by seven magi. He lost just ten guards and his coachman whilst killing all seven of his assassins.
The two events happened at the same time, yet the outcomes were completely different. It was no surprise most doubted it was what had really happened. The report did say Claude was so badly injured he required half a year to recover, but who knew if it was faked? A few fringe members of the royal family and generals of the kingdom suggested the assassination could have been an inside job thanks to a power struggle between the two field marshals.
Anyone could make a faked report to cover up the struggle. A few generals and members of the royal family believed the former field marshal hated that Aljess had been sent to take Port Vebator instead of him, so he secretly reached out to rogue magi and had them impersonate Greytower to assassinate Aljess.
The hypothesis was not convincing. Everyone knew the kind of people the royal-family-affiliated generals were. They had a personal grudge against the generals in the theatre. Ranger was now a joke in their hands. Had it not been for the fact that it was funded by the royal family, the ministry of the army would've loved to disband them to not let them humiliate the army even further. Ranger was no different from a gathering spot for thugs and lowlives.
Most people were curious about how the first prince didn't really care for the generals, even though they were supposedly members of his faction. Instead, he believed the ambassador band should set out as soon as possible to wrap up the matter. If the results of the investigation revealed the generals were indeed involved, then they ought to be dealt with without delay. The first prince had his attention fully occupied on the royal palace as Stellin X was growing weaker by the day. It didn't seem like he would survive the next two months.
Surprisingly, however, Second Prince Wedrick did put in a few good words for the generals. He believed the assassination incident couldn't have been related to them. The most obvious proof was how Sevict, who was right beside Aljess at the time, was also killed during the incident. There were also ten-odd high-ranking officers from the theatre who had come to harm, including Birkin and Bernard.
As for the old nobility faction in the ministry, they seemed to be the wisest, choosing not to come to any conclusions. They only urged the ministry to come up with a plan to replace the stopped attack to put an end to the war. They could afford to investigate the assassination slowly, but Port Vebator had to be taken as soon as possible.
Regardless, the ones that made the biggest fuss were the blood relatives of the royals. Given that the ascension of the new king was sure to come soon, the prime minister and many other ministries tolerated those who bore the same surname as the royals, so long as they didn't infringe on their own interests. They allowed them to point fingers however they pleased.
After all, nobody but Stellin IX would be brave enough to send his own relatives to see the war god in the afterlife. It was ironic that Stellin IX slaughtered so many royals to reclaim the lands for the royal family, only to afford those that submitted themselves after the war special care. He also formed a council of elders, whose role was to give their blessing to the next heir of the throne.
Perhaps he believed doing so would legitimise his violent power grab in the eyes of the kingdom's subjects and prevent similar power struggles between his descendants. While the council didn't do much on usual days, they would have lots of bargaining power when the time came for the next heir to ascend the throne.
That was why both Prince Hansbach and Prince Wedrick had to curry favour with the council. The royal capital thus picked a few relatives of the royals to be the ambassadors to research the case and picked a good day to send them towards Whitestag. Laughably, however, the third follow-up report from the colonies came less than six days since the ambassador band's departure.
The report now implicated the Shiksan king, Majid III, as the mastermind behind the incident complete with a few pieces of evidence. The first was testimonies and objects that proved the grey-robed magi infiltrated the houses of Lanu. The second was the fact that the attack on Claude happened slightly sooner than the attack on Aljess, which eliminated the possibility that the mastermind was somebody who had a personal grudge against him.
The final piece of evidence was the answer the magi gave Claude when they were about to kill him. The detailed process of how he managed to kill the seven magi was also provided. There were two items, one broken silver necklace that contained a one-use magic barrier and the new revolver Claude invented which was capable of firing six rounds in quick succession. The testimonies of the witnesses that saw the incident break out from afar were also provided, clearing Claude of all suspicion.
The report also divulged a huge piece of news. General Bolonik of 1st Monolith had led the royal guard folk to conquer Port Vebator so as to not let Majid III's ploy of buying time succeed. The report gave an analysis of the possible reason the assassination was coordinated: the Shiksans were trying to maintain the hold on their port while they quelled the rebellion happening in their heartland. After that, they would send new corps to Nubissia to continue the war.
Most officials of the kingdom felt rather pissed after reading that report. It felt like they had taken a slap square to the face. They received an inference of who the culprit could be right after they sent out their ambassador band.
If the inference wasn't logical, they could simply send a reply to reprimand them for making aimless guesses which could lead to huge shifts in the geopolitics of Freia. Accusing Majid III for sending magi to assassinate the generals in the colonies was a huge deal.
Greytower was publicly known as the most fearsome magi organisation on Siklos. They would use assassination tactics to wipe out talented leaders in the many nations of Freia. Fortunately, there were many obstacles they had to cross to return to Freia, given the number of grudges they formed during their reign of terror that lasted centuries.
But in recent decades, it was said that Greytower was a waning faction on Siklos, which came as quite a relief to the nations on Freia. Yet, word was now that Majid III had hired around 20 grey-robed magi to take action in the colonies. Not only would that put Shiks in a rather perilous position, it would also mean that the other nations had to put their guard up for the magical assassin syndicate had risen from the ashes.
There wasn't a lack of sharp people among the top officials of Aueras. When they read the third report, it occurred to them that there was indeed a rather huge possibility for Majid III to be behind the matter. The inference was quite likely, in fact, eighty percent so, to be right.
Shiks had expressed their stubborn insistence to continue the war with Aueras on Nubissia, after all. So, there was no need for Aueras to hold anything back. The kingdom soon publicised the findings of the third report and the various Freian nations began demanding Shiks for an explanation. Naturally, Majid III outright denied that allegation and called it an Aueran plot against him. The two sides instantly got into quite the argument.
On one hand, the Auerans criticised Shiks and wanted to call their ambassador band back to the royal capital so that they wouldn't have to waste time going to the war theatre to cause trouble. Fortunately, the band didn't travel fast. It took ten days to travel on horseback from the royal capital to Whitestag. As they stopped at every locale to attend welcoming banquets, they only managed a third of their way there before they got the summons to return.
When they were back in the royal capital and got to read the third report, those in the band were still dissatisfied. The generals, who were relatives of the royal family, began to cause trouble. They thought that the war theatre's generals were merely making things up and refused to believe the report. However, the actual people in power in the kingdom couldn't be bothered to deal with their foolish antics, because the generals in the war theatre that survived had made the best decision possible.
No matter whether the capital sent more generals or ambassadors to the theatre, they couldn't have made a better move than the generals there to placate the royal guard folk and take Port Vebator, achieving the strategic objective they had planned long ago instead of completely leaving it in the dust. Additionally, they investigated the assassination and successfully linked it with Majid III.
The top brass was actually rather happy about this. No matter what, the accusation was sound and backed by evidence. Shiks was their enemy and had humiliated their ambassadors before. However, Aueras wasn't able to do much to them save for humiliating them throughout the colonial wars. Now, a rebellion broke out in Shiks and their reputation in Freia began to tank thanks to association with the magi from Siklos. Majid III would definitely be so troubled he would no longer be able to focus his attention on Nubissia.
That way, as long as the conquest of Port Vebator was successful, the colonial war that troubled Aueras so much could finally end. While Shiks still had inland colonies on Nubissia, they were separated by the ocean. The only way for Shiks to keep them colonies would be to surrender to Aueras. Otherwise, they could only stand by as Aueras slowly swallowed their colonies one after another.
Now, the royal capital was forming another band of ambassadors to send to the theatre. Had Claude and the rest waited for the capital to take action, the first band of biased ambassadors would be there to investigate the case.
But since they had done so much to gain the top brass' recognition, the second ambassador band was more balanced. Many of them were representatives from old nobility this time around. Their mission was to deal with the matters of the noble officers killed during the large-scale assassination as well as string up a good relationship with Claude so as to get the weapon he invented that could fire six times in a row.