Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 416
Absorbed into the Theatre
Soon, Claude got to see Bolonik. However, the latter didn't look too well, though, that was to be expected from someone shot in his right abdomen. The viceroys and high-commissioners of the three colonies didn't give him the best treatment and environment to recover, so his wounds still hadn't healed much after half a month.
There was nothing much to say about the capture of Port Cobius. Thundercrash's Tribe 131 reached the city outskirts without the enemy noticing. The guards only started to close the gates in a hurry once they reached the inner city. When the viceroys and high-commissioners of the three colonies hurriedly ordered their personal guardsmen to go on the walls, they realised they were completely trapped.
They had wanted to threaten Claude with Bolonik's life and demand he retreat. However, Claude had the ambassador hand them a letter. Once the old ambassador was hauled up the walls with a makeshift rope elevator, they were completely stupefied when they read the letter.
Claude merely wrote a few short sentences there, stating the same things he did to Skri before he set out. If the slightest bad thing happened to Bolonik, he would simply send the viceroys and high-commissioners to meet the war god. Claude swore that if Bolonik came to serious harm, he would have them and their family members hanged from the trees along the streets without exception.
It finally dawned on them that the situation was completely different from what they had imagined. The imprisoned Bolonik was now a hot potato. Bolonik's life, something they had intended to use as a bargaining chip with Claude, had turned into the instrument of Claude's threat.
Just as they were arguing about what they should do, Claude ordered Tribe 131 to fire mortars up the walls. The first wave of explosions made sure not many remained standing on the walls. The city gates were blasted apart and the soldiers of Thundercrash stormed the city, capturing all the viceroys and high-commissioners.
Claude's operation went on without a hitch, but Moriad had a little trouble attacking the docks. As it was a military dock, it was built like a mini stronghold and manned by a tribe of naval marines to prevent pirate attacks. The tribe that guarded the area didn't report to the high-commissioner of the colony, but the tribesman had been convinced by Tyrrsim's viceroy to pledge allegiance to the first prince.
So, the tribe of marines resisted Moriad's unit heavily. However, the cannons built on the stronghold were meant to be fired at sea rather than inland. Line 1302 launched a fierce attack and after three volleys of mortars, the defenders raised their white flag to surrender.
That was how Tyrrsim fell to the hands of Claude. Bolonik was helpless to stop him. Claude justified the attack by calling it punishing treasonous traitors. He then started a purge in the three colonies. Every official that signed their names to pledge allegiance to Hansbach and their households were arrested and what awaited them was ten years of labour.
Unlike the colonies governed by the war theatre, the local authorities in these three colonies were tightly intertwined. For instance, the viceroys and high-commissioners could only effectively govern the capitals and the nearby towns. The other towns were ruled by local strongmen and other factions. Claude had heard Eiblont and Birkin mention that before. Now that the three colonies would be absorbed into the war theatre, Claude decided to use this opportunity to wipe out all insurgent elements in these colonies for good. In future, nothing could be done without the explicit permission and order from the war theatre.
Skri and Birkin rushed to Tyrrsim around 20 days later. Bolonik had recovered more or less by then and was healthy enough to get out of bed and move about. Eiblont, however, didn't come, as he had to stay put and guard Port Vebator. They had little choice; the eight colonies' territories were far too wide. It took up to a month to travel on horseback from Aduras all the way to Vebator.
Bolonik, Claude, Skri and Birkin held a meeting on the future trade of the eight colonies. They decided to take Tyrrsim, Aduras and Mormaly into the war theatre's administration and decided to cancel downsizing their troops. Thundercrash and Monolith would retain a combined number of 130 thousand men. They also decided to form 18 garrison lines, each having 5600 men, to spread them out across the eight colonies. They would maintain order of the territories as well as serve as reserves for the corps.
Bolonik decided to expand Lanu and formally elevate it to city status. It would be where the war theatre's headquarters would be located. The initial plan to move headquarters to Wickhamsburg was scrapped as Lanu had become the centre of the war theatre ever since the inclusion of Tyrrsim, Mormaly and Aduras.
Claude suggested for the colonies to have their own defence fleet formed from the thousand naval officers that didn't join the first prince. While most of the ships they sailed back were light-class long-distance warships and transport vessels, there were also six light-class high-speed patrol warships, two mid-class warships and one large-class warship. Coupled with the four light-class patrol warships obtained from Shiks that were docked at Port Vebator, they had enough to form a naval force that could ensure the safety of the colonies' waters. The nearby trade routes' safety could be ensured.
However, Bolonik was a little hesitant about making such a move. While forming a fleet could indeed make the colonies safer, it also meant the war theatre would have to bear another expensive burden. The cost of running a fleet was far higher than funding a normal ground force. A simple fleet with tens of high-speed light-class warships could cost as much as an irregular corps.
Claude merely laughed and brought up the spoils they got from sweeping the three colonies that amounted to around 1.3 million gold crowns. The viceroys and high-commissioners alone contributed more than 400 thousand crowns to that sum. Claude believed that funding a fleet would take up to 300 thousand crowns a year. Now that the three colonies were ruled by them, the tax they could collect would amount to far more after the sneaky middlemen and the questionable factors had been taken out of the equation. Funding a fleet of their own shouldn't be a problem.
As the head of logistics, Skri was rather satisfied with the amount of wealth they gained that helped make up their deficit. However, he didn't agree with Claude's assessment of the finances of the war theatre. He straightforwardly said that the three colonies' taxes wouldn't increase. Instead, it would decrease. The reason for that was the three colonies' taxes came mostly from maritime trade. It was the yearly trade with the kingdom that gave the colonies their prosperity and stable taxes.
One of the many reasons those running the three colonies tried to side with Hansbach was because trade between the kingdom and the colonies had ceased. Their goal was to restore trade with the kingdom and continue to profit off it. But now, Claude had declared those six traitors and arrested them, so there was no chance trade would resume anytime soon.
Without maritime trade, Tyrrsim, Mormaly and Aduras' economies would be heavily impacted. They could only count on trade with other colonies. That was the reason the war theatre wouldn't be receiving nearly as much military funding for a time to come. As such, Skri wasn't too keen on the formation of a new fleet.
There was another issue, namely, the formation of the 18 new garrison lines and the disbandment of the former garrison units. The 18 lines would include the aged veterans of Monolith and Thundercrash. Each line would have 5600 men, so 18 of them required around 100 thousand. In other words, apart from the 30-thousand-odd baseline officers and elite veterans that were retiring, they would need to recruit another 100 or so thousand into the force.
That was Claude and Bolonik's intent all along. They wanted to lighten the toll on the families of the soldiers in Cromwell and Balingana, and by recruiting around 100 thousand new soldiers, their families could choose between 5 acres of farmland or 50 acres of pastures. Around 700 thousand family members of the soldiers would no longer have to rely on the war theatre to provide for their livelihoods that way and it lessened the strain on the war theatre with respect to public infrastructure funding.
The other reason was Claude found that the ages of the troops in the two corps were a little too high. That would have a negative impact on the corps and affect their combat prowess. Thundercrash, for example, had an average age of 31. While they were still tough regardless, Claude realised they were slowly going stale. Their application and development of new tactics were starting to stiffen up.
That was why he was more willing to form the corps from the ground up while the corps retained their combat power during the older soldiers' transition to the garrison units. That way, the new breed of troops would be just in time to take the older generation's place as the last of them transferred to the garrison lines. If they transferred all the old soldiers at once before recruiting and training new cadets, the corps wouldn't be able to maintain their combat prowess and that would pose a threat to the safety of the war theatre.
And that was a point Skri wanted to remind Claude about. Recruiting 100 thousand fresh cadets and training them as well as the formation of the 18 garrison lines would cost a lot. While their spoils in the three colonies amounted to around 1.3 million gold crowns, it could only sustain their military for two to three years.
Bolonik also felt rather troubled. Both Claude and Skri made a lot of sense. After trade with the kingdom was suspended, the colonies had to revert to producing their own goods and trading among themselves. As the area of the eight colonies was far too wide, land-based transport costs were high, so developing a local maritime trade route was a priority. But just because they would be sailing near the coast didn't mean they were safe from pirate attacks. Having some light-class high-speed cruisers patrol the nearby waters would bring them much-needed security.
Skri's worries were also reasonable. The war theatre already had huge financial obligations, especially after cancelling their downsizing of troops and having to recruit another 100 thousand and eventually forming the 18 garrison lines, as well as to perfect the defences of their three ports. The development of public infrastructure in the colonies also necessitated huge investment. The financial situation was tighter than ever.
After much consideration, Bolonik decided on forming a patrol fleet of six light-class high-speed cruisers. The other warships would be kept away for now and the fleet would be expanded once the finances allowed for it. That way, they could keep spending on their naval force around 150 thousand crowns yearly, which they were still able to afford.
After settling the matter of the patrol fleet, they began to discuss the administration of the three new colonies. Claude's purge had been a little too thorough and almost all the officials had been locked up. Currently, the three colonies were put under martial law. Otherwise, the local administration would spiral into chaos.
Skri suggested that suitable baseline officers that were about to retire be picked to be officials in the local administration. They would also start a recruitment drive and hold tests to pick new suitable officials. The proposal was unanimously supported by the others.
Bolonik decided that he would return to Lanu two days later with Birkin first to keep headquarters running and form six garrison lines to be stationed at the three colonies to ensure their grasp over them. Claude and Skri were to temporarily stay in Tyrrsim to keep the colonies under control. Claude would only be able to leave with Thundercrash once the six garrison lines arrived.
Two days later, Bolonik and Birkin left with their escorts. Skri and Claude launched into their busywork in Port Cobius. The management of the three colonies was all over the place. Other things aside, auditing the inventories of the three colonies kept them so busy that they had hardly enough time for proper meals.
There was no other choice, however. Port Cobius, being the port in Tyrrsim that directly linked the colonies with the kingdom's mainland, had a large warehouse area. The goods from the three colonies and Whitestag were all concentrated there. Now that trade with the kingdom had ceased, there were many resources that had to be dealt with swiftly, like agricultural products that couldn't be stored for long.
"We can keep mined resources here. There's no use for them even if we ship them back. The colonies don't have large refineries or factories, so we'd be unable to use them effectively," Skri said regrettably.
Large refineries and factories referred to large-scale metal-moulding plants. The kingdom had forbidden the colonies from setting up heavy industries like that and was willing to ship back all ores to the mainland to be refined before shipping the ingots back despite the much higher cost. Perhaps it was a method to limit the economic development of the colonies.
"Tobacco is an Aduran speciality. It's said that they're all over the wilderness and mountains. However, it's an expensive luxury in the kingdom," Skri said, feeling shame for them. "Without the mainland to do business with, we can't sell them off. These aren't worth much in the colonies. Maybe we can count on smuggling these someday. As for dried meats and fishes, we'll have to ship them back and use them as rations. They can only be kept for around three months. Same goes for the leather. If they're not treated soon, they'll rot."