Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 423
Among the eight Aueran colonies on Nubissia, there was no need to worry about the nikancha in Vebator, Cromwell and Balingana. Apart from the nikancha servants the travelling merchants bring into the colonies with them, no other nikancha were living permanently in those colonies.
As for Tyrrsim, Aduras and Mormaly, Claude's purge was ongoing. Coupled with the new regulations targeting the nikancha, their numbers there would only decrease as time passes. The environment in those three colonies was no longer suitable for any development for them.
There were, however, quite a large number of nikancha in Robisto, but they didn't have fixed tribes. Instead, they were there because they had served Aueran households for many years. Robisto was among the first places where the new regulations would be implemented, so there would be no worry that they would eventually establish their foothold and status in the colony.
But as Birkin said, the tribes in Anfiston were the biggest headaches for Claude. The mining association that had cooperated much with him were the staunchest objectors to the new nikancha regulations as that would harm their bottom lines since most of their miners were nikancha folk.
In some sense, the nikancha miners in Anfiston were of the best stock among the rest in the colonies. Thanks to years of hard training by the mining association, they stuck to the rules, cared for their families and loved learning new things and good habits. Among ten nikancha youths, at least one or two of them would have elementary-school-level education and could read newspapers, public notices and manuals for machinery.
The mining association's training and cultivation benefited the nikancha much. In the mines and quarries, the nikancha youth were treated more or less the same as Aueran miners, save for the extra benefits the Auerans got. As a result, the nikancha tribes in Anfiston were the most disciplined and obedient. All they needed to live a good life was to work at the mines properly.
That was why when word of the founding of the nikancha nation spread to Anfiston, most nikancha folk weren't interested in moving in the slightest, save for a few that had no tethers to the local land. The majority of them enjoyed rich lives in the mines and quarries and there was no need for them to suffer and move north.
As one tribe elder had said, there was no need for them to move. Their tribes had been mining to make a living for so long and the territory the nikancha nation would assign to them was pointless, since most of them didn't know how to farm anyway. Even if there were other mineable resources there, who would they sell them to? It was far better to stay in the colony for a stable life. As long as they had enough money, they could even enjoy luxuries some Aueran settlers couldn't even afford.
That was the state of the nikancha population in Anfiston and it would be really difficult for the war theatre to implement the new nikancha regulations. However, Claude didn't want to deal with that mess. He left it to Bolonik and Skri to figure out. He did have a method he could use to solve the problem at its root, but the conditions still weren't right for it. Perhaps he could put it into action in two more years.
Claude stayed in Tyrrsim until the middle of the 5th month before leaving for Lanu in Anfiston with Thundercrash's three light-cavalry lines and Tribe 131. The matters of Tyrrsim, Mormaly and Aduras were all handed over to Birkin, who would be holding the fort in Port Cobius and monitor the situation as the final 800 thousand nikancha migrated north.
The three colonies were now in complete control of the war theatre. It had been almost a year since Claude first sent troops there. The only thing he felt was a shame was the complete cessation of trade with the mainland. Not a single ship from the mainland reached the shores of Nubissia, and nobody knew how the power struggle between the two princes developed. There was no word on who held the upper hand or if either one managed to emerge the victor.
Bolonik, on the other hand, sought out a few captains of a few long-distance smuggling vessels and hoped that they could go to the mainland to seek out news updates. However, no word came from them after they set sail, and they didn't return after a year since their departure. Even odder was how even the smuggling ships from other nations didn't come to the colonies. It was as if the war theatre had been completely forgotten by the kingdom on the mainland and the continent of Freia by extension.
This time around, Claude had many things to deal with during his return to headquarters. He had to first transfer the veteran soldiers from Thundercrash to the local garrison forces and form six new garrison lines to be stationed across various colonies. After that, he would be recruiting new troops for Thundercrash. Fortunately, among the 12 garrison lines the war theatre just reorganised the last time, two had been sent to the colony of Vebator to take over the Thundercrash troops stationed there. Eiblont could finally return.
They held a short meeting in headquarters. Claude had heard from Skri that Bolonik managed to deal with the mining association and convinced them to support the implementation of the nikancha regulations. The way he did it was simple: make up for their losses with an even bigger benefit. The war theatre was going to start their own bank in the colonies and if the mining association wanted shares in it, they would have to support all policies of the war theatre.
The capital for the formation of the bank was set at five million crowns. The war theatre would take up half the shares, and Bolonik, Claude, Skri, Eiblont and Birkin each had their own two percent. Of the remaining forty percent, twenty was given to the mining association. Ten percent of shares were offered up for sale to other people in power in the colonies, such as Bernard and Saljorak, who now took up the posts of chief constable across all eight colonies. The last ten percent would be reserved to be given away as rewards.
The war theatre didn't actually have that much money. They didn't actually have to pay for the fifty percent of shares they owned. The twenty percent of the mining association was also given for free, but they would be handing over the coin-minting plates. The ones who would really be paying for the shares would be the local tycoons.
According to Viscount Godic, a bank didn't need that much capital to start. All the war theatre had to do was to gain the rights to mint coins and to print paper notes, which would be replacing all coins beneath the silver thale. The notes would be backed by the war theatre and soon, they would circulate through the eight colonies.
Apart from that, the war theatre would also be transferring the annual taxes to the bank to be processed instead of the national bank branches. Godic also resigned from his supervisor position in the branch and took up the post as the first chief supervisor of the overseas bank.
The national bank branches couldn't do anything about it, mainly because they lost support from the mainland due to the cessation of intercontinental trade. The other reason for that was the national bank wouldn't acknowledge the legitimacy of the paper notes the overseas bank issued. Since taxes would be collected in the form of paper notes anyway, only the overseas bank could process them. The war theatre had announced that paper notes could also be used to pay taxes and notes amounting to one thale could also be traded for a thale coin from the overseas bank.
The formation of the overseas bank meant the war theatre would have enough funds to invest further into development and also alleviate the problem of the lack of coinage. However, that wasn't what Claude was interested in. He also handed the matter of recruiting and training new troops to Eiblont. He even refused to meet with Skri to discuss the matter of raising Lanu to city status and headed straight for Weyblon Manor.
He had stayed in Tyrrsim for nearly a year without returning home and his second son, Beuergarcy, didn't even recognise him. The moment Claude hugged him, he burst out crying, resulting in an awkward scene. He rested at home that night and left for Anna Farmstead with his personal guard. He hadn't seen the new rifle before and didn't know how well they performed.
Anna Farmstead had become something of an elementary school. Claude had taken in roughly 150 orphans there and hired seven tutors to put them through elementary and secondary education in both physical and academic subjects.
Only Angelina was in the lab. She was tutoring five new students, the only ones to be picked out for having a talent for magic. Sonia's son, Marcus, was among them.
Claude ruffled Marcus' hair and asked, "Where's your mother?"
"She's out of town."
Angelina came over and said, "Master Boyd called her to Vebator to set up that arms factory there. I heard he found a black-firestone mine there and wants to set up his workshop there. That way, he would be able to convert the water-powered machines to setups using hot-air engines without a hitch since there's enough black firestone to burn. He called Sonia there to help him, so they left lil' Mark in my care."
Incidentally, coal was known as black firestone in this world.
Claude looked at the other four children. "Are they all your students?"
She nodded. "Yes. Apart from Mark, the other four are more or less on Blowk's level in terms of talent. So, after I evaluated them, I had them start meditating two years early. Once they mature, they'll be three-ring magi at least. They'll be useful enough."
"What about Mark?" Claude asked, concerned.
She shot him a thumbs-up. "He's about my level."
Mark was as talented as Angelina and could be considered a genius. However, she didn't explicitly state it so as not to put any pressure on the four children. Among the Ferds, Angelina had the highest talent, followed by Claude, then Bloweyk. While the four had a talent for magic, it wasn't that high. Then again, for four of them to be found among roughly 150 orphans was quite a lucky feat. If they could be cultivated, they might as well.
After Claude's near brush with death by the hands of the assassin magi, Angelina realised that the Ferds needed a secret magic force as a foundation of their power. For that, she was willing to personally instruct magically talented children. She didn't think Marcus' talent would be as high as her own, which was a welcome surprise.
"By the way, I'm here to check on your prototype rifle. I haven't even seen it for myself once since you settled on the design." He looked around the laboratory, but saw no trace of the new rifle.
"They're all next door. I'll take you there. The new rifle has a name now: Sonia 591, like you said. To be frank, I never would've been able to create a rifle to your specifications without Sonia's help. She really is a gifted gunsmith." She was quite thankful Sonia was there to head the development of the rifle. Angelina, was, after all, a herbalist, and her understanding of design principles couldn't possible rival Sonia's.
There were five new rifles hanging off the wall of the wooden shed next door. They looked almost identical to the designs Claude drew up. Claude picked one up and noted that it felt a little bit heavier than the Aubass Mark 3 matchlock.
Angelina picked one up herself and began her presentation gleefully. "Stock included, it's 1.45 metres in length. It's 1.8 metres with the bayonet. The whole gun weighs around 8.7 catties, roughly one catty heavier than the Aubass Mark 3. However, the guards that tested the guns out think it's an acceptable compromise, considering the improvements made to this rifle is enough for the Mark 3 to be tossed in the trash.
"The rifle is exactly to your specifications. After increasing the cartridge length by two centimetres, the firing range has increased to 480 metres. Its accuracy is 91 percent within 200 metres.
"The testers believed that their subpar skills influenced the accuracy rating, not the gun. And according to your requests, we added an opening to the wooden stock and designed a magazine that can store five cartridges. After each shot, the bolt can be pulled for the next cartridge to be automatically loaded for one more shot."
"Let me try it out." Claude analysed the rifle in his hand lovingly. Fourteen whole years had passed since his middle-school days when he tried to make his own flintlock. Now, he finally had a brand new rifle and could say goodbye to matchlocks for good. Ever since he got his revolver, he had a feeling a brand new rifle was inching ever so closer. Now, he finally had a chance to make Thundercrash the most elite armed force in the whole world.
He used up more than 30 cartridges at the shooting yard behind the shed. Every one of them struck the targets, much to his satisfaction. Gum and the other guards that tagged along played with the rifle to their heart's content and were full of praises for the new Sonia 591. They couldn't wait to get their own.
"Did you notice any shortcomings of the rifle during the design process?"
"We did. After Sonia fixed the design, she made a rough calculation of the costs of mass production. She said producing ten thousand of these would make the cost of each be around eight crowns. The selling price for these should be around ten crowns. If one million are produced in a batch, however, we might be able to lower the cost to five crowns each. Basically, the war theatre might not be able to bear the cost of making these rifles standard issue."
Claude grimaced. Other things aside, the Aubass Mark three only cost two crowns and three thales to be shipped from the mainland. The new rifles could bear the cost of four matchlocks. However, their relative formidability justified the high costs.
"There's another piece of bad news. Don't forget the cost of the cartridges. If we make a million of them, each one will cost around three sunars. Multiply that by ten and we will be able to decrease the cost to two sunars. That's the lowest you'll get. Increasing production past that will only yield diminishing returns."