Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 413

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"I see... so we're all merely a side dish..." Bolonik grimaced.

The map of the kingdom's mainland was laid out on the table. On it, a red line drawn across it marked the route Prince Hansbach used to attack the royal capital. The generals now understood why he had sent the order and prepared to hand Shiks Cromwell, Balingana and Vebator.

They had thought Prince Hansbach had gone crazy for the throne, hence his irrational decision just to get Thundercrash and Monolith to add to his forces. Now, they understood that the first prince's agreement with Shiks also included getting their cooperation to take out the unprepared Fearless before transporting Bluefeather and another standing corps around Audin Mountain Range by sea to appear in Ibnist Plains to take the capital.

It was a genius manoeuvre that was out of everyone's expectations. The wide expanse of the sea had actually been used by the first prince to move his forces. The bigwigs in the capital only knew to congregate in the Audin Mountain Range to stop the first prince in the newly conquered territories and wait for Prince Wedrick to stabilise the situation in the kingdom before crushing the first prince.

No matter how one analysed it, Wedrick, who had occupied two-thirds of the kingdom's mainland was far more powerful than Hansbach. While nearly a decade had passed since the five-year war, the kingdom's economy hadn't recovered much and the newly-conquered territories weren't doing well either. Dragging out the civil war would not be beneficial for the first prince.

As Bolonik and the others had personally discussed, they didn't really see a future for Prince Hansbach. He had insufficient manpower and even less firearms and ammunition. The new territories couldn't take on the rest of the kingdom. War was a battle of logistics and economic power, after all. Claude had wondered how the first prince was going to sustain his rebellion when he inevitably ran out of resources.

Other factors aside, Wedrick controlled the capital and his reign was rightful. Most of the kingdom's factions supported him. He also had the support of the old nobility's five military industrial complexes. The first prince only had the incomplete industrial sector in the three southern prefectures, which couldn't even begin to compare.

That was why his order infuriated the generals. Claude also used it to break off from the first prince for good in fear of Wedrick, after he emerged from the civil war and solidified his position, coming for them for affiliating with the first prince. It was too bad the bigwigs in the capital didn't take his secret order serious, even ordering them to downsize.

It was too late to regret now they finally understood the first prince's true plans. No wonder the first prince was willing to offer three colonies to Shiks. Without the help of Seaking and the Alliance's navy, he would never have pulled off this manoeuvre.

The generals had made the wrong move. They didn't think the first prince had much of a chance to succeed and refused to obey his orders, which was a betrayal of their benefactor. They now had to bear the consequences. The surprise attack had succeeded and the prince now had the capital. The second prince had fled and the war had turned.

"We've already refused the order. Why would Shiks still help the prince?" General Eiblont asked.

Skri shook his head.

"Don't forget we don't have full say over the colonies. If the first prince defeats the second and becomes king, we cannot stop him from handing over the colonies regardless."

"Most importantly," Birkin stressed, "We've got on Prince Hansbach's bad side. I doubt anything good will happen to us if he wins. I understand his temper too well to think otherwise. He's generous to low-ranked officers, but extremely biased against high-ranked officers like us. We'll not be forgiven for this."

Skri nodded helplessly. He had served as the prince's aide during the five-year war. He, too, knew him well. He was kind to the grunts, and cold to the generals. He mocked and laughed at them at best, and humiliated them at worst.

Claude smiled resignedly. The prince had turned a useless hand into a royal flush. Nobody could be sure he didn't have any other tricks up his sleeves. If this didn't end the war, the rest of the kingdom would be dragged into it shortly.

Claude didn't regret his decision to break with the prince, however. He had to defend his and his family's honour. Even if he had obeyed, the first prince would still blame him and his companions for the colonies' loss. They would be forever branded traitors. Only a fool willingly became a scapegoat.

"There's no point talking about this anymore. Since we've pledged our loyalty to Prince Wedrick, we must go all the way. Hansbach has taken the capital, but the rest of the original kingdom is still against him. Wedrick still has Reddragon, the royal guard, Griffon, three of the four standing corps, not to mention the rest of the kingdom's territory and all the industry and manpower that entails. And they'll all rise up at his word. Hansbach might still be chased out of the royal capital by its very citizens before the year's out," Bolonik consoled.

Claude nodded.

"There's no point in panicking until we receive orders from the mainland. Let's focus on downsizing and reorganising for now. I've come up with a plan. If we don't reorganise around a full folk and a skeleton folk for either corps, why don't we go for a three-three command structure? We'll have both folks in each corps maintain similar combat capability."

"Three-three? What's that?" Eiblont asked.

"It's simple--" Claude took out a piece of paper and started writing. "--Currently, when each corps is fully-staffed, it uses a four-four-two structure; so we have four tents in a band, four bands in a clan, four clans in a tribe, four tribes in a line, four lines in a folk and two folks in a corps. Each corps has 63 thousand men.

"Three-three has three tents in a band, three bands in a clan, three clans in a tribe, three tribes in a line, three lines in a brigade, three brigades in a folk and three folks in a corps. That way, each folk will have 21 thousand men. For now, we'll maintain two folks in each corps. We can expand to the full three when war starts. That way, we'll have the same 63 thousand men in one corps."

Bolonik made some quick calculations on a piece of paper. Each tent had 12 soldiers and a band with three tents, bandsmen and other staff numbered 40. Each clan would then have 120 soldiers. Coupled with the clansman, guards, signallers, healers, ordermen and other attendants, as well as a cannoneer tent and support tent, a tent would have 150 men.

A tribe of three tents would thus have roughly 560, and a line of three tribes around two thousand. Three lines would make a brigade of 6500, and three brigades a folk of 21 thousand. With the three-three structure, both Thundercrash and Monolith could maintain two folks of similar might.

The generals hesitated at the lines being smaller, however. Aueras usually used large lines with five to six thousand men. Thundercrash and Monolith's lines were enhanced, so they had seven thousand each. Each folk, coupled with direct-command units and the additional enhanced tribe could go up to 32 thousand.

Usually, only two-thirds of the men in a corps could fight. The rest filled support roles or were direct-command units that reported to corps command directly, making a corps rather bloated. Claude's three-three structure used small lines comprised entirely of combat personnel. There was also the additional brigade units in between the line and folk units, which were weird for the other generals. They thought it was nothing more than a different name for a large line since it had a similar number of people.

The generals started arguing over the changes. Some agreed to Claude's use of smaller lines, while others believed shuffling the chain of command wasn't a good idea. However, they were unanimous in that adding a brigade would add another layer of trouble. It meant orders from the top had to pass yet another layer to get to where it needed to go.

Claude believed large lines were out of date. Warfare on Freia had been fought with line-and-march tactics until the arrival of the precision-shooting musket, so the more troops huddled together, the better. Since most attack or defence operations were carried out by a line or bigger, it was preferable to have many troops.

But the five-year war and the colonial wars had proven line-and-march tactics obsolete. Mobile units, precise firing and strong defences were the order of the day now.

Both Thundercrash and Monolith had completely abandoned line and march and moved to precise fire in both attack and defence. With the help of their new mortars, Claude believed using smaller lines was much better.

While the rest agreed with his explanation of the benefits of smaller lines, they didn't agree with the three-three structure. Mainly because of the brigade. Including it would make their organisational hierarchy too different from normal Aueran corps and it would be hard to put the change through the ministry of the army. It could even be construed as a crime.

However, the proposal still did give them some inspiration. After gaining more insights through a heated debate, Bolonik, as the field marshal, decided to use a four-four-five structure for each corps.

It meant all everything up to a line would be untouched. They would still keep the four subunits structure: four tents to a band, four bands to a clan, four clans to a tribe of 800 men and four tribes to a line of 3600 men. A folk of 21 thousand men would thus have five lines and additional support staff.

That way, Thundercrash and Monolith could each maintain two folks of similar combat strength and expand to have another folk during wartime. They breathed a sigh of relief after settling on the new structure. However, Birkin brought up whether they should use the same structure for the nine new garrison lines. After all, they would be reserve forces for the two corps, so sharing a structure might be better.

But if they decided to use the new structure, they would have to form twelve lines instead of nine. In the end, Bolonik decided to station two lines in Port Vebator instead of one, Port Patres and the soon-to-be-rebuilt Moknad for the three additional lines they needed.

During the latter part of the 5th month, Bolonik went to the colony of Tyrrsim to meet with the viceroys and high-commissioners of Tyrrsim, Aduras and Mormaly to discuss military funding. Before he left, he handed the task of restructuring the corps and the formation of the twelve garrison lines to Claude, Eiblont, Birkin and Skri.

By the middle of the 6th month, Bolonik sent word by carrier eagle on how the discussions with the viceroys and high-commissioners didn't go well, and that he would be returning during the 7th month. But during the 7th month, Bolonik lost contact with the rest. War theatre headquarters had sent a few carrier eagles, but didn't receive any reply.

On the 23rd of the 7th month, Weyblon barged into headquarters and brought them a huge bombshell: Tyrrsim, Mormaly and Aduras' viceroys and high-commissioners had declared their loyalty to Prince Hansbach and had taken Bolonik hostage. They had sealed the borders with their private forces and were planning to demand their surrender under threat of killing the field marshal.

Claude's first response was disbelief. Were the viceroys and high-commissioners fools? What were they counting on to threaten them, whom had two corps? They could easily send them north to completely demolish the three colonies. Did the viceroys and high-commissioners think they could fight back?

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