Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 415
Claude departed with Myjack and Thundercrash's Tribe 131 from Wickhamsburg. Even though they were light cavalry and rode nonstop, it took them twelve whole days to reach Anfiston's border. However, Berklin's Line 1301, Moriad's Line 1302 and Dyavid's Line 1303 were already in place. They rushed there seven days after receiving Claude's eagle message.
The three lines were in a standoff against the united local garrison lines of Tyrrsim, Mormaly and Aduras. Each line numbered around six thousand and they outnumbered the reformed lines of Thundercrash. Additionally, they also dug three rows of trenches along the borders along a few hills and three citadels to make a simple defence line.
Claude had Myjack's tribe raise the general's banner so the army of the three colonies knew that the general had arrived. They immediately sent ambassadors to request an audience. Berklin, Moriad and Dyavid, however, still didn't understand the reason Claude asked them to gather.
The ambassador was an old man in his sixties that sported a long moustache. His two pea-like eyes spun quickly, giving him the air of a sharp-witted talker. As expected, he launched into a performance the moment he entered the main tent. First, he praised Claude for his exploits and achievements and brought up his amazing contributions during the colonial wars. Then, with a twist of his tongue, he expressed his feelings of regret that Claude had been relieved of his position as field marshal. Finally, he told Claude that the viceroys and high-commissioners were willing to cooperate with him.
As long as Claude joined them to pledge allegiance to the first prince, they would be willing to recommend Claude to the first prince as a candidate for the position of field marshal, giving him control over the military affairs over the theatre.
Claude narrowed his eyes and looked at the superficially smiling old man giving his spin of the military exploits of Prince Hansbach and illustrate all the benefits joining his side would bring. When he was finally done with his long-winded rant and wanted to ask for some refreshments, Claude summoned Gum, pointed at the old man and said, "Watch him. If he opens his mouth to speak, give him a slap. Remember: one slap for every word out of his mouth."
"Yes, General." Gum stood in front of the ambassador and watched his lips without blinking even once.
Claude then turned to Berklin and the others. "You still don't know why I've called you here, do you? It's simple. I'm giving you half an hour to prepare for an attack on the defence line. The bastard viceroys and high-commissioners had apprehended General Bolonik when he was there to negotiate about the taxes and military funding to threaten our theatre to pledge our loyalty to Prince Hansbach.
"I'm ordering you to get rid of the trash in front of me within three hours. Castle Moknad is being built and the silver mines nearby really needs more labourers. I would be more than happy to recruit these fellows who seem all too eager to work in the mines. Don't let a single free labourer go. Trust that the mining association would be more than willing to increase our military funding if we hand them these fools."
"Understood, General!" Berklin and the others' faces were a picture of bliss. They rubbed their palms together as they left the tent. Just moments ago, they were still unaware of the reason they were called there, but they didn't doubt the orders they were given. They had been getting shouted down by the allied soldiers on the other camp and couldn't wait to vent their frustrations.
They had thought they were there to witness some sort of military drill. After all, the garrisons of those three colonies were still their allies. So, they instructed their troops to ignore the insults and decided they would give them a good beating during the drill. They were all too used to slapping the faces of fools, after all.
The moment they set up camp, the other side sent them ambassadors to get a grasp on their forces. Berklin initially didn't really mind as he thought they were merely running a friendly military exercise, so he told the ambassador that he had come on Claude's orders. He also asked why the drill was being held and whether the garrisons of the three colonies would be reorganised into a single force, managing to confuse and deal with the ambassador temporarily.
It was only after Claude's arrival that they felt that something was off. What did the old ambassador mean when he mentioned joining the first prince? The theatre had already refused that offer during the start of the year. It was common knowledge among the higher-ranking officers in the theatre and they knew that they had utterly offended the first prince and would be seen as traitors.
It was only when Claude gave the order that they knew things were getting serious! They were so angry that they felt their rage boiling over. For some reason, the viceroys and high-commissioners actually dared to hold Bolonik, the acting field marshal, hostage. Would their trash-level forces really be able to withstand Thundercrash's attacks?
Seeing Claude order an attack, the ambassador instantly tried to stop it. "Gener--"
Slap! Gum sent his palm squarely into the face of the old man. He didn't care about anything but Claude's order to give him a slap for each word.
"Agh!" cried the ambassador. He didn't think Gum would be that forceful. His left cheek swelled immediately and blood filled his mouth. Whether it came from biting his tongue or having a tooth or more knocked loose, he wasn't aware. He fell straight to the ground.
Gum didn't let him go that easily. He picked the man up from the ground and gave one more slap. "One slap for the word, another for the cry."
The ambassador clutched his face tightly in fear that he would cry out once more and earn another slap.
Claude shot the man a cold glance, not minding the fact that he had just been slapped at all. "You three, wait for a bit. Don't be in such a rush. I'm not done yet. Once you're done with those piles of trash, Dyavid, I want you to leave a unit behind to watch the prisoners. The others, I need you to sweep Mormaly clean and capture everyone that's related to the viceroys and high-commissioners, especially their family members.
"Berklin, lead Line 1301 into Aduras and do the same as Dyavid. As for Moriad's forces, go to Tyrrsim with Myjack and save General Bolonik as well as capture Port Cobius. There's a temporary prison there. I heard near a thousand naval officers who aren't willing to join the first prince have been taken prisoner. Make sure to release them too."
"Understood, General." The three of them saluted before leaving the tent. Soon, the sounds of sharp brass whistles could be heard. The signal to deploy had been given.
"Let us go see witness the capabilities of those three fellows' troops. I hope they don't disappoint me. We shouldn't have to suffer many casualties against our rubbish enemies," Claude told Myjack as they left the tent together, mounted and left camp to watch the battle.
In fact, Berklin, Moriad and Dyavid did live up to his expectations. When the first wave of mortars exploded in the defences laid by the united garrison force, the troops of Thundercrash quickly overwhelmed the enemy formations without sustaining any casualties. Only two unlucky fools had fallen from their horses and sprained their legs, which couldn't really be considered combat casualties at all. Another rode into the trenches and scraped the skin off his forehead.
Claude realised that calling the united garrison troops rubbish was an understatement. Their performance wasn't even worth being called dog shit. When three lines of Thundercrash launched their first move, they fired their muskets in unison without even hitting a single target.
The forces of the three colonies weren't under the jurisdiction of the theatre. When Miselk came to the colonies with Ranger, he ordered Eiblont and Birkin to unite the garrison troops in the colonies into two irregular colonial corps to serve as Ranger folk's reserves. It didn't take the two generals long to be utterly disappointed in them.
The garrison troops of the three colonies were lazy arses who slacked off, bullied the weak and pocketed money. They counted on their firearms to oppress the nikancha. The two generals believed that no amount of strict training would be able to whip the trashy soldiers into shape and soon gave up on them. The three colonies weren't under the jurisdiction of the theatre anyway, so there was no need to spare that effort.
Claude really couldn't imagine where the confidence of the viceroys and high-commissioners came from. Did they really think their trash-level soldiers would be able to withstand an attack for either corps in the theatre? Who gave them that kind of bravery? Now, the disparity between their abilities was plain for all to see. The garrison soldiers merely fired at the sight of the attacking troops of Thundercrash without bothering to take aim or consider their firing range. The barrage did seem imposing, but it did nothing to harm their enemies.
After Thundercrash's sharpshooters fired the moment they reached their firing range, almost all the soldiers of the united garrison buried their heads in the trenches they had dug. They only dared to poke their guns out and pull the trigger without even aiming. The mortar troops behind the sharpshooters didn't even bother to dig their trenches. They charged straight on until they were 70 metres away and began setting up their mortars.
There was nothing that had to be said after that. After the first volley of mortars exploded, the united garrison was completely taken aback. During the next instant, Claude watched as the enemy lines dissolved into chaos not unlike a bee hive after being struck. Any soldier that could still move jumped out of their trenches and ran backwards, casting their weapons away as if they were weighing them down.
By the time the second wave of mortars were fired, only a few of them landed on empty ground. Many groups didn't bother to fire their mortars since the enemy had vanished into thin air. It was a scenario that they hadn't been prepared for in their training. They were completely stunned, unsure of whether they should continue firing their mortars as they had been drilled to.
Fortunately, the brass whistles at the rear dispelled their doubt. It was an order for the light-cavalry units to pursue. Claude shook his head in pity for the soldiers of the garrison. Did they think they could outrun cavalry on their own two feet? No matter how far they ran, they would end up captured all the same. It would be easier to leave their defence lines and surrender right away.
Berklin rode back and praised his unit proudly. Claude had given the three cavalry lines a time limit of three hours, yet, they managed to clear up the trash within one hour. Berklin quickly left with Line 1301 for Aduras, which was the northmost colony and rather far away. So, his unit didn't partake in the pursuit of the enemies here.
Two hours later, the pursuit ended. Most of the united garrison soldiers had been taken captive. Claude felt a little admiration for those local trash. While they couldn't put up a fight at all, they had many tricks up their sleeves when it came to running. Had Claude been more willing to waste some more time scouring for the rest of the trash that slipped away, his men would've been able to do it, but it was no matter. The three lines would soon take control of the three colonies. The deserters would end up captured all the same, unless they chose to live in the wilderness for the rest of their lives.
Claude took Tribe 131 and Line 1302 to Tyrrim. Dyavid and Line 1303 would take charge of Mormaly. Moriad, on the other hand, rode to Claude and seemed to have something he wanted to say.
Claude shot him a glance. "Just say it. What are you hesitating for? Do you think it's inappropriate for me to send troops out to all three colonies at once? No worries. They have already declared their loyalty for the first prince and are now traitors. What we're doing is perfectly legal."
Moriad spat on the ground. "I couldn't care less for them. As long as they're your orders, Chief, I'll even attack the royal palace for you. The thing I wanted to talk about is about some difficulties in the reorganisation of my units. I'm unable to deal with it on my own."
"Reorganisation difficulties? Didn't headquarters already release a clear guideline? What's so hard about following it?"
"Chief, there's something odd about that structure. We are unable to change it and nobody dares to bring it up in fear of embarrassing the generals..."
"Oh? Tell me what the problem is, then."
It turned out to be a problem with the tribe as an organisational unit. During the last meeting, Claude suggested for the use of small lines. In the end, Bolonik settled on making a line a unit of 3600 men. Tribes were also standardised to have 800 men. The issue was each tent had twelve men, and each band had 53. So, a clan with four bands made 212 men. If a direct-unit tent was included, each clan would have 240 men in total. Since four clans made a tribe, a tribe would have 960 men, yet the guideline from headquarters was for each tribe to have 800.
Cold sweat formed on Claude's forehead. They didn't even think to check the numbers when they made the decisions. A normal tribe was supposed to have around 1200 men. Apart from four combat clans, each tribe had a keeper band, support band, cannoneer band, guard tent and enforcer tent, a healer tent as well as staff. Sometimes, a tribe could easily shoot past 1200 men.
Assuming each tribe had 1200 men, each line of four tribes would thus have up to 4800. Coupled with the direct units that reported to corps command, a line would have 5600 men in total. Each folk of four lines including direct units would thus number 25 thousand men, and a corps of two lines would have more than 60 thousand men.
Claude discovered to his disappointment that it was rather pointless to change the standard organisational structure of irregular corps, unless they decided to reshape an enhanced folk into a normal corps. Thundercrash and Monolith had 130 thousand men in total and no matter how they restructured, they could only cut ten thousand men from their roster. It would merely be downgrading an enhanced unit to a normal one.
Curse that order to downsize! Couldn't he just ignore it? With the kingdom being in such dire straits, whether Prince Wedrick could actually lay claim to the moniker of Stellin XI was still unknown! The kingdom's authorities were far away on the mainland and with this military excursion, the theatre would gain control of Tyrrsim, Mormaly and Aduras. Basically, they'd have a hold on the whole theatre! Since they still had to prepare for the Shiksan invasion in the colonies, there wasn't a point in downsizing!
Claude said, "Forget it then. Keep the original structure. I'll have a discussion with the other generals and rectify that error. What we have to make sure is to take Port Cobius the soonest we can and rescue General Bolonik."