Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 447
After being informed of the current situation, Claude could only smile in resignation. It was obvious that the Shiksan commander had seen through his plans. That was why the Shiksans mounted a full retreat at the eastern front and gave up on the whole eastern mountain area they conquered. The three folks of Shiksan troops stationed at the border of the northern mountains also called back the reinforcements they sent and were holed up in defence.
Now, Claude only had two choices. The first was to go on with his original plans to work with Eiblont and attack the three Shiksan folks in a pincer attack. The other was to send a line of troops to escort the 20 thousand captives away while he headed east with his three lines to take out the retreating Shiksans.
The first choice was less risky. At the very least, he wouldn't lose the victory he gained. The same, however, couldn't be said for the second option. Nobody knew whether the three folks stationed at the northern border would take the initiative to attack and save the captives. It would be really difficult to transport the captives to rendezvous with Eiblont with only a single line. Additionally, even if Claude were to lead three lines of troops to pursue the retreating Shiksans in the east, there was a good chance he wouldn't be able to keep the enemy trapped within the mountains.
Since the Shiksan commander had figured him out, he should long be prepared for Claude, should he choose to go there. Eiblont only had a folk of troops at the northern border and it would be really difficult for him to be able to apply any pressure on three Shiksan folks. If Claude went to the eastern front, the three Shiksan folks might be able to cause trouble from his rear. If his supply line ended up cut off, he would be under greater threat.
Another negative factor was how the ambush set by Moriad and Dyavid's lines failed, leading to more than nine thousand soldiers wasting five days in the wild. While two days of rest allowed them to recover somewhat, Claude doubted that they would be able to hold out if he took them to the eastern front.
In the end, he decided it would be better to have only gotten one bird than to let a hundred escape. He gave up on going to the eastern front and decided to attack the three Shiksan folks per his original plan. As long as he achieved that, he would've eradicated two standing corps including the folk he took out at the Shiksan supply base. It would be a huge blow to the Shiksans and their momentum.
Having made his decision, he informed Eiblont per carrier eagle to attack the Shiksan strongholds to hold them back. At the same time, he could have the tens of nikancha tribes come under his wings to bolster their numbers and make the Shiksans think the theatre has launched a full-on attack.
But three days later, Claude found that the battle didn't progress well when he met up with Eiblont by circling around the Shiksan bases through the dried-out river. Eiblont's Thundercrash 2nd Folk and the 16 nikancha tribes breached the first Shiksan defence line, but the enemy countered in a melee using their numbers and managed to chase the attackers out of the newly occupied line.
"Our attacking forces suffered rather huge losses," Eiblont said with a pained look, "2nd Folk sent in four lines to attack in rotation, but only three came back. We lost 7 of the 16 nikancha tribes too. Now, they refuse to come with us on the offence. Mortar consumption is also really huge. Our stocks are no longer able to support us in another large-scale attack."
The failed attack wasn't Eiblont's fault. He led his men to attack the Shiksans' first defence line during the night with mortars and caught them off guard. With only small casualties, he managed to take over the first defence line. It was a flawless move both in leadership and tactics.
But Eiblont had underestimated the stubborn fighting spirit of the Shiksan veterans as well as their desire for vengeance. Additionally, the Shiksans retreated to a point with higher elevation. Eiblont and his men didn't notice it at first when they were attacking the first defence line. It was only after taking it that they noticed the second defence line was on average three metres higher than the first. The enemy cannons could easily cover the entire area of the first defence line.
Usually, there were two kinds of camps, namely, permanent and temporary ones. Permanent camps referred to those where troops are expected to stay for a long, indefinite period of time while temporary ones referred to impromptu ones built during wartime. Oftentimes, permanent camps had walls and trenches as well as security outposts and lookout towers, whereas temporary camps only had simple trenches or simple log walls at best. They would also be built without much consideration for the terrain.
Both types of camps did have the similarity of needing a defence perimeter, within which the soldiers lived, separated according to their units. Defensive camp strongholds were usually considered permanent camps, but the area they occupied was a few times more than normal permanent camps. It was a composite strategic location that housed troops and defended the area at the same time. It was also where troops could be deployed from.
From the outside, the Shiksan defensive camp in which their three folks resided seemed no different from a normal permanent camp. Their outer wall was similarly made from logs and clay. There were lookout towers every 100 metres and three trenches outside the log walls.
According to the scouts at the front, they could see from their higher vantage point that the Shiksans built another wood-clay-composite wall 300 metres behind their log wall. Between the two walls were five more trenches.
When Eiblont attacked with the folk, he had them sweep the lookout towers first. Using Line 1303, the line armed with new rifles which Claude left behind, they managed to mount a few successful interceptions and ambushes against the Shiksans who were sent out. After that, the Shiksans only dared to stay within their camp without approaching the border of the northern mountains.
Since the Shiksans' hurried retraction of the reinforcements they almost sent out, they held up within their camp and didn't even respond to the harassment attacks Eiblont mounted on the base. No matter how the soldiers of Thundercrash provoked them, they didn't come back out to counterattack. It was as if they would remain within until their deaths.
Then, Eiblont received Claude's eagle message that had him attack the Shiksan camp head on to draw their attention. After Claude came with 1st Folk, they would have the Shiksans in a pincer attack. So, he laid out his plan and launched a night attack the day after he received the message to take the first defence line.
However, he felt as if he shook the hornet's nest in taking the defence line. When he was attacking the first defence line, the Shiksans behaved like meek turtles and didn't even bother to respond to the harassment. But the moment it fell, they suddenly seemed invigorated and counterattacked nonstop.
It was only when 2nd Folk's soldiers charged into the first Shiksan trench that they discovered a huge problem. The first trench was much lower than the second, which meant soldiers could shoot out from the first trench, but not in towards the second while prone. They had to kneel or stand, which made them easy targets.
From the outside, the distance between the first Shiksan wall and the second didn't seem significant, save for the minor elevation. Yet, the soldiers and the nikancha fighters suffered huge losses in the following five trenches. They couldn't hit the enemy at all and were instead easily shot down.
For the trained soldiers of Thundercrash, it wasn't a huge issue. They quickly mounted an effective counterattack thanks to their experienced superiors and calmed their fellow nikancha down. After taking the first two trenches, they decided to attack the third. However, the Shiksans had planned to use the five trenches as a buffer in the first place to keep the attackers held up so their superior numbers could retake the initiative.
The Shiksans had many catapult-like launchers set up behind their second defensive wall, whose range easily covered the fourth and fifth trenches. They had catapults for every sector. The nikancha and the Auerans who weren't aware of that were dealt a great blow as they attacked the last two trenches. Near a thousand were killed by the Shiksan mortars.
Back then, EIblont led the attack personally and almost lost his life from the sudden cannon bombardment. It was only thanks to his alert guard leader for pulling him into a nearby trench that spared the theatre from having to lose one of its five leads. However, Eiblont's adjutant and two guards weren't that lucky and were killed by ten or so fist-sized round shots.
It was his personal experience that made Eiblont understand the Shiksans had complete control of the area between the first and second wall. When he decided to go onto the battlefield, his different uniform immediately caught the eye of the Shiksan scouts. Thankfully, not the whole 300-metre distance between the walls could be reached by the iron pumpkins. Otherwise, Eiblont would've been met with an even greater surprise.
Even so, the Shiksans still managed to cobble together more than ten light-infantry cannons to attack Eiblont's group, though he still did manage to escape alive. Only by personally going to the battlefield was he reminded of how dire the situation there looks, and that his men wouldn't be able to take the fourth and fifth trenches at all.
In terms of equipment, the soldiers of Thundercrash armed with Sonia 591s and Aubass Mark 3s had the superior firing range. When they finally got over the obstacle of height, they posed a threat to the Shiksans at the final two trenches.
However, the Shiksans didn't bother to get into a shootout with them at all. They easily gave up on the last two trenches and retreated behind the second wall without even poking their heads out, rendering the precision-shooting tactics of Thundercrash useless.
The last two trenches were in range of the iron pumpkins, and if Thundercrash was to attack the second wall, they'd have to take those trenches first. Only by taking the two trenches could they use their own mortars to destroy the catapulting devices behind the walls and turn the two trenches safe.
The Shiksans knew that all too well and allowed Thundercrash to take the fourth trench. With their lookouts from high up, they could easily spot the enemy and signal where the iron pumpkins should be thrown. The attackers that made it to the fourth trench couldn't remain huddled together to minimise their losses.
When Eiblont noticed that, he did something even more sinister. He sent the nikancha forwards in hopes that the Shiksans would waste their iron pumpkins on them. It didn't take long for the Shiksans to realise that, however, so they stopped paying attention to the nikancha and continued to launch their iron pumpkins just as the soldiers of Thundercrash were about to gather.
So, Eiblont wanted to have the nikancha dress up as Thundercrash's men, but they were no fools and didn't believe the reason he gave that wearing the same uniform would make them seem more intimidating to the enemy and refused to switch.
All that happened when they were in the fourth trench. For the fifth, the Shiksans had light-infantry cannons ready with scattershot loaded to seal off the entryway to the fifth trench. They would let small numbers of enemies in, but seal off the entrance with the cannons if the enemy sent more men. Thundercrash's soldiers were unable to approach the fifth trench at all.
So, Eiblont tried to have his men enter the fifth trench in small numbers before blasting the catapults behind the second wall with their own mortars, only to find that it wouldn't work out as he wanted it to. The Shiksans left a small number of veterans inside the fifth trench and any soldier sent into it would be taken out effortlessly.
On that point, Eiblont couldn't help mentioning the Shiksan veterans' fighting spirit. He found them too tough and stubborn. More importantly, they didn't fear death at all and fought ferociously. Their ferociousness extended both to their enemy and to themselves. During the final confrontation of the melee, Eiblont often saw the Shiksan veterans charge suicidally towards the Aueran defence line with a lit iron pumpkin in hand. It caused the nikancha troops on the left flank to eventually falter and caused the area to fall into Shiksan hands.
Just because Thundercrash took the first three trenches didn't mean they held the initiative on the battlefield while the Shiksans hid and defended. Actually, Thundercrash 2nd Folk only occupied a small area of the Shiksan camp. As they continued their attack, they also had to be wary of attacks from their flanks.
In the three days Eiblont took to take the first wall, they had been fighting nonstop. While they were able to gain the upper hand with the new rifles and mortars during the first two days, the Shiksans gathered their troops on the third and flanked Thundercrask's men all of a sudden.
The Shiksans fought from higher elevation and advanced smoothly through the trenches with their wooden boards laid over them. Soon, they swarmed into the third trench and engaged the Auerans and nikancha in a melee.
Thundercrash was able to hold the enemy off initially, but as their casualties grew, the number of the Shiksan troops also grew. The three lines at the front were no longer able to hold on. When the Shiksan veterans started charging at them with lit iron pumpkins, the nikancha completely lost their hold on their positions.
Eiblont said that he didn't know why the Shiksans were trying to take the trenches back to the point they didn't care about their losses. It was only after seeing Claude that he came to understand that the Shiksans also noticed Claude's units' arrival. To prevent suffering even heavier losses from both sides, they had to reclaim their lost territory and heavily wound Eiblont's men. Otherwise, they wouldn't be able to face Claude's attack fully.
"How many casualties are there?" Claude never would've imagined this was how it'd turn out, nor did he think the enemy would choose to hold the fight at a stronghold as effective as this.
"The lightly injured number around ten thousand, almost a third of 2nd Folk's men. Near six thousand died in battle. That's why I said we lost a line." Eiblont seemed rather crestfallen. It was the largest loss since Thundercrash's formation, and they lost ground to the Shiksans despite taking those losses. The morale of 2nd Folk was rather heavily impacted.
"The nikancha also suffered around ten thousand casualties, seven thousand among them being deaths. That is mainly due to them not saving the injured after they devolved into chaos and escaped. Most of the injured left behind were put to death," Eiblont said, shaking his head.
"Now, they blame my orders and accuse me of intentionally sending them to their deaths. They believe taking the enemy camp is Thundercrash's duty while they should just remain and defend the mountain strongholds. That's why they refuse to cooperate with Thundercrash and are no longer willing to continue the attack with us..."