Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 424

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War was a battle of logistics, as Miselk had often repeated in his advanced strategy class. Had the Aueran treasury not run dry in the five-year war, they wouldn't have had to sue for peace and could have unified the entirety of Eastern Freia. But because they couldn't keep funding the war effort, they had to seek a premature resolution.

According to Angelina, each new rifle's construction cost seven to eight crowns. Claude wasn't the least bit surprised. The new rifle's mass production required a new arms factory and eleven new production lines to ensure everything was standardised. Sonia said half of the cost of the 100 thousand initial-order rifles was just for the production lines.

Had Claude not gotten the arms-making equipment Shiks had left in Port Vebator, the price might've been double. The new rifle would have shared the revolver's fate of being just a collector's item for the rich and powerful instead of a standard-issue weapon.

Claude wanted to arm Thundercrash with the new rifles to create an elite force that was beyond its time. However, Thundercrash had 65 thousand men and they would need at least 70 thousand new rifles to be fully armed and have some to spare. Assuming each new rifle cost a set eight crowns, it would cost up to 600 thousand crowns for Thundercrash to switch to the new rifles. That was akin to two years of the combined operating costs of Thundercrash and Monolith.

And that was just the cost for the rifles. A hundred of those cartridges would cost 300 sunars, which was equal to three thales. However, a hundred was only the standard number each soldier would be supplied with before being deployed. That didn't include any they would use during training.

According to the Aueran training regime, each new recruit would be trained for a whole month and they had to fire 30 shots each day. Errors and mistakes necessitated even more training than that. On average, one soldier had to consume a thousand live rounds each month to get a grasp on the Aubass Mark 3's abilities.

If the new rifles were adopted, all soldiers would also have to go through similar training to familiarise themselves with them. The training alone would be a huge expenditure. Each soldier would consume a thousand live rounds over the course of a month and cost them 30 thales, or six crowns in ammunition. Imagine how much 65 thousand men in a corps would cost.

And that was only the beginning. After initial training, the soldiers would still have to be trained firing live rounds on a regular basis three times a month, with them shooting at least 30 times per session. In other words, each soldier would be using approximately a hundred rounds per month, and 1200 per year, which was another seven crowns down the drain.

All in all, the ammunition costs for switching to the new rifles would be at a whopping 1.4 million crowns, which was equal to five to six years of the operating costs of both corps. That was why Angelina warned Claude about the difficulty of arming his troops with such expensive arms.

However, Claude didn't really mind. He believed that once Bolonik and the rest saw the new rifles, they would understand how much more strength the weapons would bring to the theatre. The cost of the rifles would be worth the potential number of soldiers' lives saved. Claude would be fully certain he could defeat the enemy if his corps was armed with the new rifles.

In the following two months, Claude went to Wickhamsburg in Cromwell to observe the reorganisation and training of new troops. Thundercrash was an assault-based cavalry corps. Each new soldier had to be given normal training, apart from live-fire exercises with the Aubass Mark 3. Additionally, they would have to be trained in equestrian skills and various mounted fighting tactics as well as Claude's live-combat training.

The busy days passed quickly and soon, the eighth month had come. Claude had returned from monitoring the troops' training and received an eagle message from headquarters a messenger brought him. A battered smuggling ship docked in Port Vebator after a heated naval battle and the captain was a Nasrian.

The ship was confiscated and her surviving captain and crew had been sent to the headquarters in Anfiston. Bolonik summoned Claude back and wanted him to listen to news of the kingdom and Eastern Freia together.

It wasn't something that could be delayed. Claude immediately set off to Anfiston and arrived after eight long days of travel. By then, the ship's captain and crew had repeated all they knew for the second time.

Skri handed a set of documents to Claude before he even settled in and wiped himself down. "Their testimonies are recorded here. We've sorted them to have news of the kingdom's civil war on top. We still can't tell if what the smugglers told us are correct, since they are Nasrians, our sworn enemy."

Claude nodded and opened the folder. It seemed that the power struggle was still ongoing and even now, Prince Hansbach and Stellin XI, also known as Prince Wedrick, were still in a heated fight. How could it be possible?

According to the Nasrian captain, Wedrick led Reddragon and the royal guard towards Ibnist Plains. Prince Hansbach had long led his standing corps and two new irregular corps to set up a defence line along Lake Bryanopest.

Even before the battle started, people believed that Wedrick would suffer a heavy defeat. Hansbach had captured the capital and purged those that didn't support him. He had control over the manpower and resources of the kingdom, which was a huge advantage.

Wedrick, on the other hand, didn't perform well at all since his coronation. His own faction had many internal conflicts and fought each other for their own interests and benefits. They reacted haphazardly and half a step slower to Hansbach's rebel army. After locking Hansbach's forces at Audin Mountain Range, he had gotten careless and thought that Hansbach would no longer be able to threaten the capital at all. He had believed all he had to do was to fight a battle of attrition to wear down Hansbach's troops.

Nobody would've expected Hansbach to strike up a deal with Shiks. He took the initiative to exterminate Fearless, the kingdom's fleet, and used the Shiksan navy, Seaking, and the Alliance's navy to escort Bluefeather through the sea to attack the kingdom's heartland and take the capital. Wedrick fled during the night and left the capital in Hansbach's hands.

Though Wedrick now had control over Reddragon, Griffon and the royal guard with the help of his father-in-law, Lord Militant Siegfeld, following his arrival in Botarnia, managed to reform his court and started counterattacking with Reddragon and the royal guard. Most people hedged their bets with Hansbach. Wedrick had fled the capital without so much as firing a single shot, after all, which tanked his standing among the observers.

Given that Wedrick had always been inept when it came to military matters, there was no way he would be the experienced Hansbach's match. Some publications in favour of the first prince even described Wedrick's full-scale deployment against the capital was an all-in gamble. They believed it would only earn an even more impressive victory for Hansbach that ended with the complete obliteration of Wedrick's forces, winning him the Aueran crown for good.

In the middle of the 5th month, both sides had a mutual encounter. On the 24th of the 5th month, Reddragon and the royal guard launched a full-scale attack. Much to the surprise of everyone, the standing corps and two irregular corps stationed at Hansbach's defence line were crushed in a single exchange. It took less than five days for Reddragon and the royal guard to once more reach the capital.

The results of that battle stunned everyone who was paying attention. It was only after Wedrick regained control of the capital following the battle on Ibnist Plains that word spread that Reddragon and the royal guard were only able to win because of their use of a new weapon -- the explosive mortars.

Once the mortars were tossed into the defensive fortifications, they exploded. Hansbach's troops were completely wiped out in one go, and the fall of the strongholds soon followed. It was said that the other nations on Freia had begun researching their own mortars in an attempt to copy them. Nobody was willing to fall prey to a similar attack.

Claude felt a little giddy reading that part. He didn't think the assassinated Aljess would be such a huge help to Wedrick for buying the rights to produce the mortars for the old nobility. It was no wonder Wedrick actually dared to deploy so many troops against Hansbach. His courage had been fueled by the mortars.

Skri stood beside Claude; he knew that Claude was the one who permitted the sale of the production rights to Aljess. Seeing Claude zone out, he knew what he was thinking immediately.

He wistfully said, "I didn't think your mortars would contribute that much. If Prince Hansbach actually won, we would be declared traitors. However, the other Freian nations have begun researching their own mortars. The Nasrian smugglers carry some of their own as well. They only managed to survive the pirate attack thanks to them before making it here."

"Are their mortars the same as ours?"

Skri shook his head. "They're completely different. Theirs look like a little jar with a long fuse line sticking out. After lighting the fuse, they launch them with catapults and can reach up to a hundred metres away. The catapults used on the ships are smaller since larger ones couldn't be easily moved. They also call these mortars crackers. Some nations simply call them exploders. While the names are different, they function the same. They explode once the fuse burns up."

"Oh? They only managed to make copies with rope fuses? Not the pull fuses with an internal ignition mechanism like ours?"

"That's right. The captain says the Aueran mortars all use rope fuses. Basically, the length of the fuse gives it a fixed range. They also can't be used in rain as the fuse is exposed and would be put out from time to time"

Skri didn't understand why the military industries modified the mortars to have rope fuses despite the glaring weakness of being limited by weather conditions. He pointed at the documents in Claude's hand. "Just read on and you'll know. Prince Hansbach has also learned how to make mortars and is evening the odds of the battle following his huge loss."

As the ship's captain was Nasrian, he was quite happy about the civil war. He often followed the detailed battle descriptions of the newspapers. While most of them were merely schadenfreude pieces, they were the precise reason the captain knew so much about the war.

After Reddragon and the royal guard approached the capital, Hansbach had a simple coronation in the palace. Since Wedrick had laid claim to Stellin XI, the first prince ascended to the throne in the name of Hansbach I. After that, he declared that he would be surveying the southwestern prefectures of the kingdom and hurriedly had Bluefeather retreat from the capital.

Half a day after he left, the royal guard entered the capital and recaptured it. Three days later, Wedrick gleefully held a parade to celebrate the restoration of the capital and his throne and conducted a series of arrests there. All nobles and officials that sided with Hansbach during the time of the capital's fall were put into prison and would only be released after a huge ransom was paid.

After delaying for more than a month, Wedrick sent Reddragon after Hansbach's retreating troops and decreed for irregular corps to be formed in various territories to exterminate Hansbach's rebel forces. However, his reaction came a little late. He had given a month of time to Hansbach unnecessarily to secure his footing in the tens of provinces in the southwestern part of the kingdom.

The Nasrian captain said that after Hansbach retreated from the capital, he split his units up across the ten plus prefectures in the southwest and exterminated all local forces loyal to Wedrick, winning much time and local support.

During Reddragon's pursuit a month later, Hansbach intentionally had his men mount a fighting retreat to lure Reddragon in deeper before entrapping them in the prefecture of Tamurus. Reddragon managed to use their mortars for a desperate escape, but they were heavily crippled after the battle that came to be known as the Triumph of Tamurus. Hansbach had once more turned the tables with his victory.

Wedrick, worried that the capital would be miraculously taken from him again, would not let the royal guard mount an attack no matter what. He ordered for the formation of ten plus irregular corps and for Reddragon to be reformed and reorganised. It wouldn't be too late to attack after that. Hansbach, on the other hand, firmed his hold on the finances and military of the prefectures he captured. He also obtained mortars from the spoils from decimating Reddragon and had them forged and armed his forces with them.

In the span of time between the 10th month of last year to the 5th month of the current year, the two princes consolidated their forces in their respective territories. The clouds of the upcoming storm were gathering once more. However, nobody could be sure who would win in the following clash.

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