Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 414
"General, you might not know this, but the prefectures of the kingdom have been thrown into chaos," Weyblon said, handing over the information he just collected to Claude.
It was probably the last of the reports the association received. For some reason, contact with the branches of the association in the capital had been cut. Storm in Whitestag had mutinied and betrayed Wedrick, pledging their loyalty to Prince Hansbach. Following that, the first prince deployed Storm to the eastern coast of the kingdom to take over the eliminated Fearless as the guardians of the area.
Perhaps Hansbach was wary of keeping the waters of the ocean coast safe because he had used them to mount a surprise attack and take the capital. But when Storm set sail for the east, there was no longer a way to facilitate shipment between the two continents as Fearless was unavailable for escort. The small number of naval officers who weren't willing to join Hansbach's side sailed to Port Cobius in Tyrrsim. In some sense, the colonies were considered to have opposing loyalties to Whitestag.
On the mainland, many cities and towns, Whitestag included, declared their allegiance to the first prince. His supporters played a large part in that. In one instance, two towns in a single prefecture of the kingdom declared their loyalties to different princes. Eventually, the garrisons of each town went to war with the other. Both sides declared each other traitors to the kingdom.
After Hansbach's capture of the capital during the 5th month, he ran a large recruitment drive to form a new corps. He also sent the standing corps that came with Bluefeather to set up a defence line along Lake Bryanopest on Ibnist Plains to cut off a route the royal guard could use to return to take the royal capital back. Following that, a cruel purge was held to clear out all the officials and people of power that were against the first prince. It was said that the people captured numbered up to 20 thousand, and more than three thousand had been decapitated or executed by firing squad.
The reports also stated that the prince even ordered for a few elders with blood relations to the Stellins to be killed for the reason of supporting Wedrick's ascension to the throne. Additionally, when they were captured by the first prince, they still banked on their seniority and relation to the royal family and refused to pay any ransom for themselves. In the end, their status was stripped and their families were exterminated.
The reason he decided on conducting the purge with such cruelty was his need for wealth to continue his civil war. Though he had occupied the capital, the treasuries of the royal family and the nation didn't contain that much wealth. There was an abundance of food and ammunition, but what he needed was money with which to pay his subordinates and form even more corps. So, he set his sights on the nobles and officials that were opposed to him. He ordered Bluefeather to put the capital on lockdown before arresting those on the list.
While conducting the purge, Hansbach also sent out notices to local officials all across the nation to beckon the officials to accept him as the rightful heir. He also announced that he would be coronated on the 10th of the 7th month. When the notices were sent out, chaos broke out all over the kingdom. Many factions supporting different princes formed their own factions and fought one another without exception.
Most naval officers of Storm stationed in Whitestag were supporters of Hansbach. Coupled with the fact that Viscount Felidos, the mayor of Whitestag, used to serve in Bluefeather, it was only natural for the city to side with the first prince. When the notice was sent out, Whitestag immediately responded in kind and pledged allegiance to the first prince. The naval officers that weren't willing to betray Prince Wedrick sailed to Nubissia with some of the ships immediately as there was no longer anywhere in Freia they could go, with all the coastal port cities in Hansbach's control.
Wedrick, who had run to Reddragon, hadn't been idling for the last two months either. With the help of his father-in-law, Lord Militant Siegfeld, he gathered the bigwigs and noble officials that escaped from the capital and reformed his royal court in Botarnia. The royal guard and Griffon now answered to the new royal court. Additionally, he declared in the name of Stellin XI that he would return to the royal capital one day to admonish the traitorous Hansbach, Bluefeather and other units that supported them.
That was how the kingdom was faring. Battles broke out almost everywhere and tensions were high as Hansbach prepared for his own coronation. Wedrick had also made his intentions to march the royal guard and Reddragon to the royal capital clear. Everyone in the kingdom knew that the battle that would take place on Ibnist Plains would decide which prince would become the proper, new Aueran king. Only one of the two could become victor.
Based on the current state of affairs, Hansbach held the advantage in battle. Since his surprise attack on the capital and Wedrick's escape, the scales had tipped heavily in his favour. There was no way Wedrick could compare to Hansbach in terms of commanding ability and even Lord Militant Siegfeld paled in comparison.
It was common knowledge that Siegfeld's rank didn't come as a result of his military contributions, but rather, his staunch loyalty over the course of four long decades to Stellin X. It was a reward for his enduring service through the years rather than any magnificent achievement. He definitely wouldn't be a match for Hansbach, who had experienced real battle.
Additionally, Hansbach also held the advantage in terms of resources, having captured the royal capital. The royal guard, in the end, rooted for the losing side. If the royal guard, that was hailed as the strongest among the four main standing corps of Aueras, could only barely keep up with their enemies on Ibnist Plains, their morale would definitely plummet in time. Hansbach had long made preparations and set up a defence line there. He was playing the long game and wanted to buy time to gather even more forces.
Back then, he had been stopped at Audin Mountain Range by Griffon and everyone thought the scales tipped in Wedrick's favour, thinking that Hansbach would soon be defeated. Now, the situation took a complete turn and saw Hansbach as having the lead. And the actions Wedrick took by leading the royal guard and Reddragon towards the capital only made it seem like a desperate death struggle.
Tyrrsim, Mormaly and Aduras' viceroys and high-commissioners held that opinion. When the naval officers that weren't willing to pledge allegiance to the first prince arrived in Port Cobius and brought the news, they began to panic.
The current viceroy of Tyrrsim was no longer Claude's so-called godfather, Viscount Jerrihausen Van Cruz. That old man had retired to the capital with the riches he scoured from his colony two years ago. The new viceroy and high-commissioners were rather unfortunate. The moment they took over, the three colonies were being taxed for the military effort and there was no room for them to pocket anything.
But since those two managed to get on positions of power, there were many other ways money could be made so long as they were smart enough. They quickly turned their sights to intercontinental trade. The specialties of Nubissia were monopolised by the merchant guilds formed by the nobles and delivered only to the royal capital. However, it would still be possible for the ones ruling the colonies to stick their hands into it for some profit. The viceroys and high-commissioners of the three colonies outside the theatre partnered up and forced the ones in the capital to give them a cut. That alone made sure their pockets were filled to the brim.
However, the naval officers who reached Port Cobius brought them horrible news. Storm had betrayed Stellin XI and declared their allegiance to the first prince. In other words, contact between the two continents would be completely cut off. There would no longer be hundreds of transport vessels facilitating intercontinental trade. They might only be able to rely on a handful of private smuggling ships to travel between the continents.
The viceroys and high-commissioners didn't really care which prince they pledged allegiance to, as long as they could watch the chaos from the sidelines. None of them were actually willing to take part in the mess. All they had to do was to wait in Nubissia until one of the princes emerged the victor and pledge loyalty to him.
That was exactly what most of the officials in the kingdom had planned to do, but most of them were now involved in the mess and forced to take sides before the victor could be decided. The officials of the towns and local factions wracked their brains over which prince to choose and many who had planned to sit on the sidelines were forced to make a choice as their lives and those of their families were threatened.
Tyrrsim, Mormaly and Aduras' viceroys and high-commissioners, however, took the initiative to dive into the chaos. Their wallets were their main priority and without intercontinental trade, their bottom-line profits were heavily impacted. They believed that by pledging loyalty to Hansbach, they would stand on the same side as Whitestag and trade between the continents could resume as usual.
Blinded by profit, they were completely ignorant of the conflict between the first prince and the theatre. All they knew was the ministry of the army had sent the theatre a rebuke and an order to downsize their army, so they turned their sights on Bolonik, who had come to negotiate. They believed that if they were able to convince him, and the theatre by extension, to join the camp of the first prince together, it would be seen as a contribution to the first prince.
They didn't think they would be running head first into a dead end with no room for negotiation. The two sides got into a heated argument. No matter how they tried to explain to Bolonik about the advantage Hansbach held and how they believed he would eventually become the Aueran king, Bolonik staunchly refused to declare his loyalty for him with them.
Angered, they sent guards to Bolonik's residence and after a short-lived conflict, Bolonik was injured and his guards were exterminated. He was later imprisoned. They intended to hand him over to the first prince as a token of their contributions and loyalty to the cause.
The way they saw it, Bolonik was a stubborn fellow and there would definitely be other generals in the theatre who didn't see the situation the same way. So, all they had to do was to arrest Bolonik and someone else would step up as the new field marshal to take his place. They could even use Bolonik to threaten them to join up with the first prince. It was a rather simple plan. If they weren't willing to comply, they'll release Bolonik and that would inevitably result in a conflict between him and the new field marshal.
They thought the generals to be no different from them. They believed they could use Bolonik to deal with the whole theatre. First, Bolonik's capture would leave the theatre without a leader and give rise to internal conflict. Second, some of the generals who wanted to take Bolonik's place would definitely work with them to pledge allegiance to the first prince. Third, they could use Bolonik's life as a threat to keep the theatre in check so they didn't send their troops to attack the three prefectures. Otherwise, they would have inadvertently become Bolonik's murderers.
After capturing Bolonik, the viceroys and high-commissioners did not rest and immediately dealt with the naval officers at Port Cobius who didn't want to join the first prince. They held a grand banquet to welcome them and once they were drunk enough, they sent their local garrison troops to capture them and put them into a cell.
After that, they posted their three local garrison lines at the border between Anfiston and Mormaly to lock the paths down, preventing the theatre from sending any troops to Bolonik's aid. They believed that the theatre wouldn't dare to send too many troops to risk getting Bolonik killed, so negotiation would be the only option. The moment they got into contact, they were confident they would be able to convince one of the generals to join up with Hansbach and might even be able to stir up internal conflict among the generals of the theatre.
That way, they would've resolved the threat of the two corps of the theatre. More importantly, if the theatre fell into chaos, they could then work their magic and earn more profit. Other things aside, they could swallow up the taxes intended to be sent to the theatre as military funding all for themselves. Without the funding, the troops of the theatre would definitely mutiny. By then, nobody would be able to challenge their three colonies.
However, they had underestimated the extensive information network of the mining association which the theatre had access to. They had thought they'd be able to keep the fact of Bolonik's capture hidden for up to half a month. They didn't think the signallers of the association in Port Cobius had recorded everything that happened quickly and sent word to the theatre about it along with the updates that came from the naval officers of Storm that refused to betray the kingdom. Weyblon then forwarded the information to theatre headquarters.
Claude waved his horsewhip around as he gave his orders. "Thundercrash Line 1301, Line 1302 and Line 1303, assemble and depart immediately. Make your way to the border of Mormaly within seven days. Myjack, take your enhanced tribe and leave with me."
Skri seemed rather anxious. "General Bolonik is still in their hands..."
Claude responded with a stoic look, "If anything happens to General Bolonik, I will have the viceroys, high-commissioners and all their families hanged from the trees along the main streets, be they elderly or infant. There will be no exceptions."