Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 409

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"Prince Wedrick has decided to ascend on the 10th of the 8th month. He isn't willing to let it drag on. It's said that the final offer he made to Prince Hansbach was for the former territories of Askilin and Rimodra to be fused together into a principality and be made his fief in exchange for Prince Wedrick's coronation as Stellin XI."

That was the latest news update from Weyblon. Naturally, the first prince had given his reply by the time word of this reached the generals on Nubissia. That was a rather good offer that even broke the rule Stellin IX set to never enfeoff any more land to nobles.

However, Prince Hansbach didn't count as he was a royal prince. If Prince Wedrick was made king, Prince Hansbach would be given the Title of grand prince. They were both Stellins, after all, so no matter how large the territory given away to Hansbach, it wouldn't be illegal to give him any land.

It was said that countless people who had gone to advise Hansbach had been given the cold shoulder. Most of them didn't even manage to meet the prince. The prime minister, Duke Duncan, had made a trip too. Given his position, Hansbach was willing to meet him for two hours. However, he left with a resigned look and returned to the royal capital without a word.

Wedrick, on the other hand, was feeling a little impatient about the coronation. After a discussion with the merchant nobles and top brass in the royal capital, they settled on the 10th of the 8th month as the deadline for the coronation. Whether Hansbach agreed to the terms or not, he would be ascending to the throne on the day. The seat to the kingdom's throne had been left empty for more than half a year, after all. They could not not proceed with the coronation just because they feared the first prince. There were many things in the kingdom that was delayed because of it.

Claude and the rest of the generals decided that no matter what conflict the two princes would come to, they would remain in the Nubissian theatre to watch the show without taking part in all the chaos. All they had to do was to profess loyalty to the king. As to which prince ended up becoming the king, it would have to depend on their own abilities.

However, before the 5th month, the generals received an urgent request for aid from Wickhamsburg, Cromwell. There simply was too large a number of immigrants and the logistics officers were overwhelmed by those that came in with settler status and demanded land and property. Wickhamsburg also required an emergency shipment of food, tents and other supplies from the rear so that the family members of the soldiers wouldn't have to camp out in the wild.

Claude found it rather weird that complaints began coming from Wickhamsburg even though he didn't see many immigrants going through Lanu towards Cromwell and Balingana. But since he received the urgent request, he decided to head to Wickhamsburg with some guards alongside Bolonik and Skri.

When they arrived, the three generals were stumped. The area in the vicinity of the city were occupied by seas and mountains of people. Countless immigrants carrying packs of varying shapes and sizes surrounded the city like refugees to the point that traffic to and from the city was hampered.

"Why are there so many people?" Bolonik muttered in shock.

Claude asked a second lieutenant about it. The man recognised Claude and hurriedly saluted before answering his question. It appeared that the baseline officers that knew about the settler policy had to first register in Wickhamsburg, so they didn't get off at Port Tyrrsim to travel to Cromwell by land. Instead, they rented flat-bottom, short-distance transport vessels and sailed along the coastline to an abandoned fishing village nearby Cromwell, saving half the time they required.

The three generals realised the reason they didn't see many immigrants passing through Lanu. However, that still didn't explain the sheer number of people near Wickhamsburg. They numbered around 300 thousand at a cursory glance.

When they entered Wickhamsburg, they found that it was even more packed inside. When they finally squeezed their way through the crowds to the immigration office, the person in charge cried at the sight of them. With a hoarse voice, he gave a brief explanation of the situation, which dumbfounded Claude, Skri and Bolonik.

"Did... did they move all their relatives and friends over here?" Claude was flabbergasted at the sight of the registration log in his hand. It was one thing to bring over an uncle or two, but what was with the uncles and aunts twice or thrice removed? Could they really be considered relatives?

Skri was rather calm and soon understood what was going on. "This is indeed our mistake. We forgot to remind them that only their direct relatives qualify for settler status. Almost all of them brought their whole extended families here to avoid the possible conflict between the first and second princes. They wouldn't want their families to be forcefully conscripted to serve as cannon fodder. Additionally, they hope that their relatives will be given a chance to enlist in Thundercrash and Monolith when we start drafting. That way, they'll be able to get their own land or property as well."

The logistics department of the theatre had actually drafted clear-cut requirements for settler status and the land-giving policy. Retired officers that brought their direct relatives to Wickhamsburg only had to go through a simple verification to be given farmland, pastures or property. They would then be allowed to build their own houses, manage their farmland and start planting with their family members.

Little did the theatre expect that the officers would bring so many relatives here with them. The workers of the immigration office were overwhelmed. Having to register the distant relatives of those officers, they could do little else. Fortunately, most of them were led in by retired officers, so while the number of people was mind boggling, the proceedings were orderly. Even so, food and supplies were running out to accommodate so many people at once.

The three generals immediately put their heads together to figure a solution out. Bolonik would return to headquarters in Lanu immediately and get those from the rear to start sending over manpower and food. Claude would remain to reorganise Thundercrash and maintain order. Skri would take charge of the immigration process and give out land and property per the regulations to the officers so that they may leave with their family members.

After that, Skri decided to open a recruitment point to hire the relatives of the soldiers for jobs like building irrigation and cultivating public farmland. It would be better to give them something to do rather than leave them without a purpose. However, that tightened the financial situation of the theatre even further. Employing such a large pool of labourers for the construction of public infrastructure would cost quite a huge sum of money. While they could sustain the food cost, they would have to resort to their military funds for payouts.

Fortunately, the 5th month would soon be upon them and the yearly migration of the wild-bull herd across Albator Plains would begin anew. Claude led two of Thundercrash's cavalry lines to hunt bulls. Berklin and Moriad led one line each. The bull meat would be able to make up for the food they consumed and the rest could be traded for funds with other territories.

From the 4th month of Year 591, the two relatives of the soldiers of the two corps in the theatre poured into Cromwell and Balingana nonstop. The wave of immigration only ended during the 3rd month next year, making it the largest wave of immigration in Aueran history that lasted nearly a year. The two million immigrants had come to Nubissia for land, property and to avoid being involved in what seemed to be an impending civil war in the mainland.

Later estimates put the average number of people each soldier took in to be around 30. That included not only their direct family members but also distant relatives as well as those on the wife's side. Skri regretted offering benefits and subsidies for the travel costs as the theatre had to pay out approximately 200 thousand crowns to cover them.

Claude was so busy he seemed to be losing weight. All sorts of problems came when the number of people increased. In the end, he decided to half-invite, half-kidnap the discharged Saljorak to the post of constable head to take over security in Cromwell and Balingana, easing his burden somewhat.

Near the end of the 10th month, most things were on track. Only then could Claude find the time to go back home. He also received news from the mainland. As most had expected, civil war broke out between the two princes.

According to Weyblon, Prince Hansbach mocked the offer made by Prince Wedrick. Even after the elders of the Stellin royal family went to advise Hansbach to respect Stellin X's pick for the heir to the throne, he claimed that the will left behind by the late king was forged because he didn't meet the king before his death as he had been forbidden from entering the royal palace. The so-called will that named Wedrick as heir to the throne had come out of nowhere. Hansbach had never heard his late father mention anything about such a will.

So, he suspected that a scheme was afoot. It was rather simple. If Stellin X hadn't intended to make him heir, he wouldn't have let him run the kingdom before his death. He had been on the sickbed for more than eight years, during which Hansbach took over the duties of regent. He had worked with Duke Duncan to solve all matters of the kingdom, big and small, and most of the ministers and officials already considered him the heir and next king.

Yet, the will popped out of nowhere after Stellin X's death, naming Wedrick as the heir instead. It shouldn't have been possible. Wedrick had no experience administering the nation at all and was nothing but a womaniser. How could he have been named heir over Hansbach all of a sudden like that? If Stellin X had really picked Wedrick to be his successor, he would've relieved Hansbach of his post so that his brother would be able to gain some experience running the nation instead of letting Hansbach continue with his duties till the very end.

That was the reasoning behind Hansbach's doubt of the will's veracity. He believed that someone had altered the will to plot against him, and that his life was under threat so long as he remained in the royal capital. So, he snuck out of the royal capital with his attendants to the eastern border, took control of Bluefeather, and decided to fight for the throne he deserved.

Those in the royal capital, on the other hand, were worried that Wedrick's ascension to the throne would spur Hansbach into all-out war. So, they hoped to use negotiation and a good offer to convince Hansbach to give up on his claim to the throne. They decided to push back the coronation and even offered to enfeoff him territory, but Hansbach's mind was set. He refused the olive branch they had extended and prepared for battle. He also took control of two other standing corps formed in the three southern prefectures and the Rimodran area.

Wedrick was finally crowned as Stellin XI on the 10th of the 8th month. When word of that reached Hansbach, he declared himself king on the 18th of the 8th month and proclaimed that Wedrick's coronation wasn't legitimate.

He announced that Wedrick had conspired with others in the royal capital to change the will left by Stellin X, and said that he, the true heir to the Aueran throne, was the only person who could restore a life of peace and bliss to the subjects of the kingdom.

Naturally, those were nothing but empty platitudes. The first prince acted quickly and sent his troops to Efenasburg in the former territory of Sidins within half a month. The single standing corps defending it resisted for a short hour before they opened the gates while chanting 'long live the first prince' and joining the rebel army.

That was right, they were known as rebels. When Prince Hansbach declared himself king, he was declared to be a traitor to the nation by the royal capital. All the troops under him were designated to be part of the rebel army. However, their men were all trained elite troops and all the territory conquered during the five-year war of Eastern Freia was now under the control of the first prince's troops.

But, when the first prince's troops launched an attack on Audin Mountain Range during the 9th month, they were stopped dead in their tracks by Griffon corps, which the royal capital sent. Griffon was one of the four main corps of Aueras and they were most proficient in fighting in mountainous territories. Prince Hansbach had wanted to encourage them to surrender, but the ambassador he sent was executed on the spot by Griffon for the crime of treason. Infuriated, the first prince led two of his corps to mount fierce attacks on the defence line at Audin Mountain Range.

Despite half a month of battles, the first prince's faction wasn't able to gain any ground at all. Both sides suffered heavy losses and Hansbach had no choice but to retreat to Eimis for reorganisation and recuperation while awaiting reinforcements from the rear. The royal capital, on the other hand, was gathering the local keeper forces to form irregular corps. The royal guard was also sent to Audin Mountain Range in preparation to seal Hansbach on the other side.

The war had lasted nearly two months and both sides seemed formidable. Neither seemed to hold advantage over the other. In terms of strategy and tactics, the first prince was top notch and would be able to defeat any tactician or strategist in the royal capital. However, the royal capital had numerical superiority, far more supplies and could afford to fight a battle of attrition. It was hard to tell which side would emerge victorious.

The generals were more concerned about the fact Miselk wasn't mentioned even once in the news updates. The Lord Militant should be with the first prince, being his loyal retainer and military advisor. However, the royal capital didn't so much as mention Miselk's name even though they declared Hansbach a traitor, which was rather weird indeed. Miselk was last said to have suffered severe injuries from an assassination attempt on the first prince. He had left the royal capital to recuperate and two years had passed since then. No matter how serious his wounds, he should've recovered by now. Yet, there was no news about him, despite his status as one of the three Lord Militants in the ministry of the army.

Apart from asking Weyblon and the mining association to look into Miselk's whereabouts and information, Claude and the rest couldn't do anything else. All they could do from Nubissia was watch the show unfold. They weren't even in the mood to run battle simulations. One of their major concerns was what they would do if Miselk sided with the first prince. They were, after all, his students, and it was hard to say where their loyalties should lie!

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