Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 469

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Claude looked at the three distant Shiksan patrol ships and breathed a sigh of relief. During the two-and-a-half-hour-long check, there were a number of flaws that showed up. For instance, a few sailors of some ships were rather lazy and didn't clean up the mess left by the soldiers on the deck the night before. It was suspicious upon first glance.

A few transport ships didn't have the entrances to the cabin properly camouflaged. It would be easy to think that many people were entering and leaving the cabin. Other things aside, the glossy surface of the boards was a huge flaw. Fortunately, Zeek managed to turn the attention of the soldiers and major away by treating them to a few cartons of fine wine. When the next ship approached, the check on the previous one was done.

When the three patrol ships left, Claude and Zeek immediately rebuked the careless captain and sailors. They were joking around with the lives of the 30 thousand troops in 1st Folk. If the major or the other soldiers had discovered something off, nobody would be able to escape, as the cannons on the patrol ships had already been aimed at them.

The moment one of the ships showed any flaw, there wouldn't be a point in Claude taking the Shiksan troops hostage. The three patrol ships wouldn't waste the chance to deal with big fish like the transport ships for the sake of a handful of soldiers. They would fire if needed and Claude would only be able to order the ships to sail for the shore to salvage as many as he could.

Thankfully, the check was finally over. Claude felt a heart attack building up. He ordered all ships to conduct their own checks to wipe out all flaws that could expose them before raising their sails once more. However, they didn't have any more such encounters for the next two days. Even when they ran into Shiksan ships, they merely waved a greeting before continuing on their way.

On the 28th of the 2nd month, Year 594, the fleet finally arrived after eight days of sailing at Cape Loducus.

The main supply base near the city had already been notified of the arrival of the wild-bull company's fleet, so they made space at the docks for them. However, the base was some distance away. Thankfully, they arrived at night and it suited their operation.

Zeek took Claude with him to the docks near the base to transport the luxury ingredients and some fruit wine, some among which were private gifts to the logistics officers there. A few Shiksan officers gathered at the docks, waited for the ship to dock, before getting aboard. They hugged and greeted Zeek before going to the cabin to claim their gifts in a practised manner while calling their guards to get their carriages.

Once they got their gifts, the Shiksan officers got to business with Zeek. Claude was asked to bring the accounts. Zeek also introduced him to the officers as the accountant of the company. Next came the haggling, though it wasn't for the price the goods were purchased at, but rather, the discounts the officers were going to get for their personal purchases.

Soon, they reached an agreement; they were rather satisfied with the half-off discount they got. The only thing that would suffer was their national treasury, since most of the goods were bought at double the market price. They opened a few bottles of wine to celebrate. The officers also extended a friendly offer to Claude and Zeek to party in a tavern in the city.

However, Zeek refused, saying that it could wait until they handed over the goods first and promising to treat them. It would be far better than letting the greedy sailors sneak some of the goods for themselves.

On the way back, Zeek lamented to Claude that it was a shame such deals would no longer be possible in future. Doing business with the Shiksans really netted them huge profits. They were really agreeable in their payments and were also rather trustworthy. Everyone stood to profit, save for Shiks itself. However, Thundercrash's operation that night would see to it that there would no longer be any Shiksans in the colonies of Nubissia.

Claude didn't know how to react to that. He finally understood why business with the Shiksans in Cape Loducus went so well. Not only did the informants not expose themselves, they also became practised and experienced merchants. Who wouldn't like dealing with such great customers like the Shiksans?

Around half past eight, the three Shiksan patrol ships of the Alliance's navy returned to Cape Loducus and docked where the rest of their ships were. After that, a large number of marines and officers of the navy got ashore and headed to the bright Shiksan supply base.

"The Alliance's navy has docked 78 warships here and 28 long-distance transport vessels. There are 106 of them in total. Most of the marines will be spending winter in the supply base. According to our observations, each ship will be overlooked by a tent of marines. Their shifts last a day and they switch at nine in the morning.

"The same is the case for those three patrol warships. They switch out every two days. I heard a soldier of the navy say in the tavern that their captain would draw lots to identify the three unlucky ones who would go on the next patrol shift. The only good thing about it is that the three that lost the draw would be spared from drawing the lots the next three times. The hundred plus ship captains treat it like the lottery. There are often many soldiers gathered nearby during the drawing.

"Each patrol shift lasts two days. They will have to remain at sea for one night, so it's tough work for the captains. It's said that one captain had paid 30 gold keptons to another person to take his place for the shift since his winnings that night was great. But right after he settled on the deal, his losses began to rack up and he ended up in huge debt. He never dared to pay others to take his place again.

"You really are lucky that the three patrol ships are back tonight. You can take them out all at once. However, security at the Alliance's docks are really tight and nobody is allowed to approach. There are 13 trestle bridges stretching out from the cape into the deep sea. On both sides of those bridges are the docked warships or transport vessels. They are connected to the bridges by a rope net, which is also used for boarding and disembarking.

"A tribe of naval troops handle security at the docks, but they're now cooped up with that row of wooden buildings with only a tent of guards at the lookout post near the main entrance. They send four tents to inspect the trestle bridges before and after noon, twice at night as well at ten and four in the morning respectively. There are no other activities for the rest of the day. They can't be bothered to move in such cold weather like this...

"I would suggest that you approach the Alliance's docking area from sea. The Shiksans' guard towards the sea is rather lax, probably because they're in a cape. If anyone comes for an attack, an alert from the lighthouse outside the cape will be given. They'll have enough time to react that way. It's better to use a few smaller boats to sail to the lower parts of the ships before climbing on board to commandeer them."

The one explaining the latest information to Claude was a supervisor of the wild-bull company working in the city. He was also the leader of the informants and left the city without trouble to come to Claude's ship.

"Then, we can use a few transport ships to quietly sail to that docking bay and use grappling hooks to get our troops up there to commandeer the warships and transport vessels," Berklin said.

Claude shook his head. "There's no need for us to do this. It's the 2nd month, which is the coldest time on Nubissia. A thin layer of ice will form on the docked ships. The sailors have to clean the deck and hull nonstop to prevent slipping and falling. That's why, using grappling hooks will only cause us more trouble. The slippery surface of the ship will make it hard for us to scale, even if our hooks secure themselves.

"We can easily attack directly from the docks to eliminate the naval tribe hiding within the wooden buildings before using the rope nets to climb aboard to wipe out the tents of defenders. Myjack, your Tribe 131 will be in charge of taking the docks. Lieutenant-Colonel Drivick, your Tribe 123 will help Colonel Myjack eliminate the Shiksans defenders still on board."

Myjack and Drivick slammed their fist on their chest as an affirmation, since they couldn't yell 'Yes, General!'.

On the desk was a hand-drawn map of the cape. Moriad pointed at a docking zone not far away, where pictures of several ships were also drawn. "General, what do we do about these near-shore transport vessels? Will we let them go?"

It was an alternate docking zone of the cape. The ships docked there were mostly near-shore ships belonging to the various nations with colonies at the western coast. Some of them were transport ships that just arrived, but most of the near-shore transport ships were hired by Shiks to transport their troops and supplies.

For instance, the three corps being sent to the fishing town was their doing. There were around three hundred of those ships docked there in large clusters that looked like floating islands.

Claude waved and said, "In combat, if those ships are transporting Shiksan troops and supplies, we can destroy them or confiscate them. However, they're merely docked there now without any troops or supplies on board. So, we can't touch them. Let them go. Otherwise, it'll cause trouble for our theatre.

"While we're not going to touch them, we have to prevent the Shiksans from going into these ships to hide. Lieutenant-Colonel Anders, send two tribes out from 4th Line to set up a security perimeter between the main supply base and the city to stop escaping enemies.

"We're going to attack the main Shiksan supply base, so please remember the locations of your attack well. Colonel Dyavid's 3rd Line will be attacking from the main gates. Colonel Berklin's 1st Line will attack from the left, Colonel Moriad's 2nd Line will take care of the right flank and Lieutenant-Colonel Anders' 4th Line will set up two defence lines. The rest of the troops shall be the reserve.

"Myjack's Tribe 131 and 3rd Line's Tribe 123 will deal with the troops watching the ships. Captain Bloweyk, have your Wolfang deal with the signallers and carrier eagles of the Shiksan base. Make sure to not let word spread to the three citadels at the front, because we still have to attack the strongholds of Fanbix Hill. It'll be much easier if they aren't alerted, as I'm sure you know."

Claude looked at the high-ranking officers around him. "Are there any more questions? If not, go back to your respective ships. Delegate tasks to your subordinates. You don't need me to tell you what to do next, right? Finish early and rest, but be careful not to expose ourselves at this crucial time. We will be attacking at five in the morning, so we'll need to be in position around four. Go back if you understand."

The officers silently fisted their chest before disbanding to return to their cabins with laughter and chatter. They were dressed in casual clothing and looked no different than ship captains or sailors. Zeek, on the other hand, was at the bow, loudly boasting to the two sailors about how he won all the chips in the previous game he played that netted him two thales in a single round.

A few passers-by greeted Zeek when they heard him. However, Zeek refused their invitations to gamble and drink and pointed at the transport ships behind him. He said he would join them the next day once the goods were dealt with. The interactions seemed really amicable with no sign of suspicion.

The sky turned darker and darker. Cape Loducus quieted down gradually. The supply base in the distance began to put out their lights and the chatter from the clusters of ships at the docks began to subside. A peaceful atmosphere enveloped the whole cape all the way to the base and city.

"Wipe your faces to freshen up. Drink some hot soup and stretch your limbs. Then, make sure to check all your gear and line up at the entrance. Take note that we're going to act soon. It's rather dark outside, so keep your eyes open and look closely at the comrade ahead of you."

All the ships carrying the soldiers of 1st Folk had lanterns lit up within their cabins. Thankfully, thick rugs covered the windows so that no light would leak out. One near-shore transport ship could carry around a clan of two to three hundred soldiers. At that moment, the officers were running final checks before the operation began.

One shadow after another poured out of the ships onto the docks before disappearing into the night once more. After what seemed to be a long time or a short instant, a gunshot tore through the silence of the night. Soon, a crescendo of shooting followed in the supply base and the docks, accompanied by symphonies of pained and agonised cries as well as pitiful pleading.

In the distant city and 'ship islands', more and more lights were being lit.

The skies were starting to brighten. It was just six in the morning when Claude received reports that the supply base and ships of the Alliance's navy were now in their hands. All the Shiksan soldiers on the warships were taken out. They were checking whether any of them managed to slip away on the warship.

At five in the morning on the 21st of the 2nd month, Year 594, Aueras' theatre's Thundercrash descended into enemy territory in a miraculous manoeuvre. Not only did they successfully take the base within an hour, they also captured all the ships.

On the 24th, Thundercrash 1st Folk sent three lines to conquer the Shiksan strongholds at Fanbix Hill. The troops of 4th Expedition Corps stationed atop the hill were under the impression that they were reinforcements from the rear and easily let them into their camps. Thundercrash 1st Folk took advantage of the divine miracle to mount a joint attack with 2nd Folk, who attacked from the other side. After three and a half hours of heated battle, 4th Expedition raised the white flag. Around 40 thousand of them were captured.

On the 3rd of the 3rd month, Thundercrash 1st Folk's two lines and Thundercrash 2nd Folk, as well as the two garrison lines reached the border of the eastern mountains. They mounted a fierce attack on 2nd Expedition and 1st Penitence. Shiksan morale tanked when they were attacked from the rear. 2nd Expedition quickly crumbled, with many either surrendering or running. However, 1st Penitence resisted to the bitter end, dragging out the battle longer.

But after Monolith 2nd Folk and the three garrison lines stationed to defend the eastern mountains launched their attack under Birkin's lead, 1st Penitence and 2nd Expedition were surrounded and had their supply line completely cut off. They surrendered after toughing it out for eight days.

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