Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 465
Meeting and Surprise Attack
Claude only arrived at the river at the end of the 10th month. It took 28 days in total to travel from the defence lines at the eastern border to there. He was six days slower than Eiblont and his men, but there were now four floating bridges, which Line 108 helped construct. Colonel Rimandok respectfully welcomed Claude at the crossing point.
Rimandok and Line 114's linesman, Frius, were Claude's former subordinates who had served in Thundercrash's 1st Folk. The reason for the former's transfer was his injury to his waist, while Frius felt his age catching up with him and applied for a transfer to a local-defence posting.
"General Eiblont has arrived at Lanu with Thundercrash 2nd Folk. They've already wiped out a light-cavalry line and an infantry tribe in the initial clash while suffering two thousand casualties. General Bolonik suffered light injuries. He led two lines and a tribe and held Lanu for 27 days. Half of the city has been reduced to rubble. By the time they met General Eiblont, he only had around four thousand men left," Rimandok reported in detail.
Claude's adjutant, Masonhughes, highlighted the battle zones outside Lanu.
"Your Line 108 and Frius' Line 114 will be stationed at Dorinibla River Defence Line. Now, there are three garrison lines there. The reorganised Line 117 has been ordered by General Eiblont to head to the town of Jinkle to reinforce Claude Defence Line further. The garrison lines stationed at the coasts of Balingana have also arrived at Claude Defence Line."
Claude dropped his pen with a satisfied smile. He could finally be relieved. Eiblont had done rather well. He didn't gather up all the garrison lines to save Lanu together, but rather strengthened the forces defending two other crucial areas to take them off their list of worries.
"Major Masonhughes, order the troops to cross the river. We'll set up camp and rest for two days once we're on the other side. Also, get me Colonel Myjack and Captain Bloweyk," Claude instructed, "Colonel Rimandok, I'll still have to trouble your men to help my troops set up camp so they can rest sooner. They've been marching a day and a night and need nothing more than sleep."
"Understood, General. I'll get my men to immediately start. We'll get some food ready for you too." He saluted before leaving.
Myjack and Bloweyk soon came.
"I need you two to do something." Claude tapped on the map. "The fishing port town is the Shiksans' crucial weakness. While they can forage for supplies or food in our territory, they'll have to count on the port for their ammunition. 1st Folk will stay here for two days to recover before going to reinforce Lanu.
"However, Tribe 131 and Wolfang can only rest a day. Set out tomorrow night for the town. I don't need you to occupy it. Just do some damage and burn it down. Cut off the Shiksans' access to the bridges and their ships so they can't get any more supplies that way. As long as you destroy the town, the Shiksans will have nowhere to escape. We can harvest them for merits as we please later, understood?"
The two of them saluted in unison. "Understood, General."
Claude waved them away. "You two, cross the river with your units first and camp at a well-hidden area. You don't have to notify me when you depart tomorrow. Take care not to be discovered."
After the two left, Claude turned back to the map and focused on the intersection between the two forces. He was quite curious about the sudden change in the enemy's style of attack. They launched their attack in the eastern mountains to draw the theatre's full attention before secretly getting ashore at the fishing town. It was the classic misdirection tactic.
However, the Shiksans' attack became stiff and textbook again after they got ashore at the town. While Lanu was where the theatre's headquarters was located, and occupying it would be a great boost to morale and cast a veil of doom across the theatre's troops across the colonies, Dorinibla River Defence Line was far more crucial in comparison.
If Claude were the Shiksan commander, he would only send a folk of light cavalry to keep an eye on Lanu. They didn't have to attack and only had to keep the defenders inside. Then, he would send the rest of the light cavalry to Dorinibla River Defence Line and wipe out the defenders there. After the two standing corps arrived, he would send them to conquer Port Patres, an excellent deep-water port, with the help of their two navies. That way, Seaking and the Alliance's navy would have a good place to dock, which was crucial to the war.
Upon taking the port, he would send a standing corps to Dorinibla's defence line to defend against reinforcements sent by the theatre. He would then use the two fleets to control the waters and have the other four standing corps moved over before slowly chipping away at the garrison troops in the other five colonies south to the river. That way, Shiks would end up the final victor.
Yet, Shiks' light-cavalry corps and two standing corps were flung at Lanu after they arrived. It ended up with the whole matter dragging out over nearly a month, and even then, Lanu still stood. The moment Eiblont crossed the river with 2nd Folk, the Shiksans had lost all hope of winning the war.
Claude found it really odd that the Shiksan troops' direction varied so greatly. It was as if their commander had been immediately changed. For instance, with 2nd Folk's arrival at Lanu as the first batch of reinforcements of a 30-thousand-strong light-cavalry folk, the Shiksans still persisted in trying to fight in Lanu. They were simply asking for trouble.
While they still had two standing corps, only a folk remained of their light-cavalry corps. Royal Cavalry had been too careless in the beginning. They barged into Lanu only to fall for the defenders' ambushes, managing only to retreat after losing nearly two whole lines of troops. They no longer dared to attack Lanu ever again and merely maintained a security perimeter from a distance. They also sent two lines of troops to Mormaly for foraging food and other supplies.
Later, the two Shiksan standing corps arrived and began their fight in Lanu. While only four thousand plus of the 13 thousand defenders were left, the Shiksans ended up losing a few times more that number. The kill-death ratio wasn't even 1 to 5. One of the two standing corps was practically out of commission, while the remaining 70 thousand men were really low on morale and fighting spirit.
Under such circumstances, Claude couldn't understand why the Shiksans would face off against Thundercrash outside of Lanu at a time like this. Did they still think they held numerical superiority?
Claude didn't have a way to deal with the Shiksans back in the mountains because the roads were cramped and one couldn't spot Shiksans from a hundred metres away from the top of the hills. But to reach them, they would have to first go down to the foot of the hill before climbing up again. By the time they reached, they would've run out of breath already. Not to mention, Thundercrash was an offensive light-cavalry corps. In the mountains, they had to give up on their mounts to become infantry. The theatre was quite short on troops, so Thundercrash had no choice but to be mobilised.
A third of Anfiston was mountainous, while two-thirds were plains and lakes. Lanu was located on the plains beside the lake, which was incredibly suited for light-cavalry hit-and-run tactics. Even if the Shiksans had double their two standing corps' numbers, Claude wouldn't bother to take them seriously.
Two days quickly passed and the troops recovered their stamina. The war horses that travelled far were no longer fatigued after proper feeding and care. Claude was quite satisfied with the state of things after his check and blew the horn tune to gather up.
"Colonel Dyavid, 3rd Line shall be the vanguard this time. Maintain marching pace and reach Lanu in three days. If you encounter enemy light cavalry, don't spare them. Tell your men that the Shiksans have their asses lined up ready for us to kick! Go. Don't disappoint our enemies."
"Yes, General!" Dyavid saluted before leaving the main tent spiritedly. Back then, the vanguard would usually be Berklin's 1st Line or Moriad's 2nd Line. It was finally 3rd Line's turn, and he also got permission to fight. He decided he would make his line the pride of 1st Folk without letting 5th Line of the 2nd Folk steal all the glory.
Eiblont's reports were delivered by a messenger. 2nd Folk had departed for Lanu after resting for only one day following the river crossing with Line 1305, also known as 5th Line, as the vanguard. It took them two and a half days to reach the outskirts of Lanu. 5th Line's leading tribe detected a Shiksan stronghold near the city that served to prevent the defenders in the city from escaping. It was manned by only a tribe of men.
So, 5th Line's light-cavalry tribe immediately charged into the camp and started slaughtering away, managing to draw Royal Cavalry's attention at the same time. A tribe of enemy cavalry came as reinforcements just in time for the rest of 5th Line to arrive. They walked right into a deathtrap. The Shiksans only continued to send more and more men. In the end, the whole of Line 1305 was involved in the fight with the two Shiksan cavalry lines.
More than 15 thousand people fought in a chaotic mess, all with riding scimitars. The opposing sides stuck to each other like glue. In the end, the other light-cavalry lines of 2nd Folk arrived and forced the Shiksans to flee. While 2nd Folk lost nearly two thousand light-cavalry troops in that exchange, the Shiksans lost a whole line of light cavalry and the tribe that guarded the stronghold in the first place.
It was one soldier lost for every three enemies incapacitated, which led to 5th Line's rise to the limelight. Eiblont praised the line's courage fiercely in his report to Claude. Berklin, however, had personally told him that the linesman was a bonehead that charged straight at the enemy without even considering whether it could be a trap. It was already incredibly lucky they didn't end up completely wiped out, yet Eiblont wanted them to be heavily rewarded.
Unfortunately, most things didn't usually go according to plan. Three days later, Claude arrived at Lanu with 1st Folk. 3rd Line helped pave the way and took out three tents of Shiksan scouts without encountering any large units like Dyavid had hoped. Instead, the Shiksans outside the city strengthened their defences the moment they noticed their arrival.
To Berklin, Dyavid, and Moriad, the only good thing that came out of the encounter with 2nd Folk was how the linesman of 5th Line had been heavily injured in battle and sent to the rear to recover. As for the tribesman that instigated the conflict in the first place, he had long perished gloriously on the battlefield.
Eiblont and Claude were well aware of the process of the light-cavalry battle. The only reason they spread 5th Line's triumph was to raise the troops' morale and confidence. Thundercrash was a light-cavalry unit, after all. If they could kill three enemies for every one of them lost in melee alone, what would they have to fear if they fought with the new rifles?
As Claude met with Eiblont at Lanu and saw Bolonik with his bandaged arm, Bloweyk and a few members of Wolfang were covered in vines and grass. They looked like bushes from a distance. They were observing the movements in the fishing town with their telescopes.
During the evening, Bloweyk and Myjack sat in their camouflaged tent to plan their operation during the night. "The enemy used the townsfolk's fishing boats and around ten near-shore transport boats to rebuild the floating bridges. Now, four-wheeled carriages can travel across it. The rate of unloading of their supplies has quickened.
"At the end of the floating bridge is a large near-shore transport vessel anchored down with four anchors. The enemy's boats usually dock near the large vessel to receive the load before sailing back to shore. The floating bridge itself has braziers every ten metres and security there is really tight. The patrol routes are only separated by half an hour each.
"The Shiksans also have a warship stopped near the large transport ship. I saw the captain of that warship getting ashore on a carriage to spend the night and only returned to his ship at nine in the morning. I wonder if it's a regular habit. The warship would only start patrolling after that. All transport vessels that approach the floating bridge would have to be checked by the officers on the warship first before being allowed access to unload their goods.
"The fishing town's defences itself don't seem nearly as tight. They have around a line defending the area. Their deployment is really orthodox. There are three trenches outside the town and a cannon platform every hundred metres. The elderly and weak of the town have been chased to a corner near the east to be confined while the youths were forced to help move the goods.
"I would suggest letting my Wolfang approach the floating bridge by diving. We'll see if we can approach the patrol warship that way and take it. We'll set the floating bridge alight if it goes well to get the defenders in town to put out the fire. That's when your Tribe 131 can attack. Trust me. We'll finish this task in a flash."
Myjack asked a few more questions, nodded when he got satisfactory answers and agreed to the plan. He then ordered his men to rest and wait for the attack at night.
At three in the morning of the 26th of the 10th month, Captain Bloweyk and Wolfang managed to commandeer Seaking's Nightingale 2. They also destroyed the floating bridge. Tribe 131 also managed to take the fishing town back after exterminating two thousand enemies and capturing four thousand. They also liberated the thousands of townsfolk there.