Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 477
Shock at the Banquet
It was the ultimate humiliation! The ambassadors had never suffered such a slight in their entire lives. Not only were the tribe of marines that were supposed to protect them entirely captured, the garrison line even sent a tribe of cavalry to ride along both sides of their carriages. On paper, they were protecting them, but it could also be construed as escorting prisoners. They were ambassadors sent by the king, after all, not prisoners that had to be kept an eye on.
However, they had no choice but to play nice, seeing as they were not on home ground. The only thing they could take comfort in was the fact that the colonel of the garrison line travelled with them instead of letting some low-ranking officer deal with them. At least, they weren't being looked down upon.
When the four nobles from the new nobility gave the order to capture piglets, they only wanted to roast some for food. They weren't trying to cause an incident at all. Back on the mainland, they were spoiled and waited upon no matter where they went. Their whims were always catered to and their orders were absolute.
The piglets they saw from the carriage windows were cute and lively. However, one of them brought up honeyed pork, a delicacy served in the court. The areas they scoured in the mainland were mostly desolate and few farmsteads still ran normally. So, they hadn't tasted honeyed pork for a really long time.
And so, somebody suggested for a few piglets to be captured so that they could finally relish in that delicacy once more. They gave the order without much thought and were also used to not paying for anything back on the mainland. Whenever they saw something they liked, all they had to do was point a finger and somebody would serve it up to them.
So, they had forgotten they were in the colonies as the kingdom's ambassadors and did the same thing out of habit. Had they been in the mainland's prefectures, the farmstead owners would've knelt and begged for the troops to not take everything away from their family.
But here in the colonies, the farm owner not only shot the marines that attempted to rob them, they drove them away in a melee before getting into a firefight. They even lit a smoke signal to get the other citizens in the area to their aid, causing a huge commotion to brew from the small desire to eat some pork. Now, they were even being escorted by a large force to the border.
They had lost all the face they could. Fortunately, they were in the colonies. Had that happened on the mainland, these ambassadors would immediately be the butt of the jokes of the nobles. However, they had no choice but to keep their feelings of revenge to themselves and force a smile to get in with the good graces of the colonel to try to get a measure on the real situation of the theatre.
Then again, it was quite laughable with how the ambassadors were secretly cursing the naval officers of Storm for being fools and idiots. They had managed to escape to Port Cobius for nearly three years and didn't do much apart from escorting merchant vessels for some pocket change and spending their money at taverns at the docks. They didn't get a grasp on the changes in the colonies at all. Most of the things they heard of were from rumours or discarded newspapers they found in taverns.
The ambassadors had tried to ask them something about the colonies during their voyage, but the officers only replied with 'perhaps', 'or' or 'should'. They were always uncertain about whatever they reported, since they got it all from taverns. Who could be sure whether they were absolutely true?
As those officers had no basic understanding of the colonies, the ambassadors didn't manage to form any concrete impression about it at all, which resulted in their embarrassing debacle. Thankfully, they managed to get some information out of the colonel due to their efforts.
For instance, they were told that the defence cooperative effort was a policy designed to maintain local security. Basically, any person in trouble would have reinforcements from all other directions. That was to prevent the farmsteads from being attacked by outside forces.
When Shiks' three corps surrounded Lanu last year, Royal Cavalry sent two light-cavalry lines to swarm the whole of Mormaly. Mormaly's garrison line had been transferred to defend Port Cobius back then, allowing the colony to easily be taken by the Shiksans.
Right after, the Shiksans sent out many light-cavalry tents to raid the farmsteads and pastures, causing more than two thousand innocent deaths. Had this defence arrangement been in place back then, the Shiksans wouldn't have been able to gain much by splitting into tents. Instead, they might lose their men for good instead.
Ever since then, the theatre instituted a united defensive arrangement in the various colonies. Not only could it increase security, it could also work against sudden invasions the theatre wasn't prepared for.
Soon, they arrived at the border between Tyrrsim and Mormaly. The colonel passed the ambassadors' convoy over to the tribe of light cavalry from Mormaly's garrison line before going on his way. This came as yet another act of humiliation to the ambassadors, who felt like they were being handed around like prisoners.
Seven days later, the ambassadors reached the border of Anfiston. This time around, they were treated much better, given that their escort was a light-cavalry line from Thundercrash 2nd Folk, which was more befitting for their status.
After getting a briefing from the tribe of Mormaly garrison troops, the linesman of 2nd Folk frustratedly returned the muskets to the marines, who were much more obedient than before, and allowed them to arm up again so that their dignity as kingdom soldiers wouldn't be besmirched during the reception ceremony.
Two days later, they finally reached the outskirts of Lanu. The acting field marshal, Bolonik, as well as Skri were waiting to receive them.
There were celebratory drums and colourful flag decorations. Monolith 1st Folk 1st Line's logistics troops were dressed in neat and dashing uniforms and armed with polished rifles. They marched on both flanks of the ambassadors' convoy as a welcome parade.
A red carpet two metres wide was rolled between the two square formations of soldiers. On both sides of the carpet were citizens of Lanu, who had gathered to witness the fanfare. The local officials brought their beautifully dressed female family members and wore bright smiles, standing in front of the crowd and being the first to greet the ambassadors.
Six luxurious carriages stopped not far away from the carpet. A few young soldiers ran over with a roll of red carpet before unfurling them beside the carriages to connect it with the red-carpet walkway. The colonel escorting the ambassadors dismounted and ran to Bolonik, saluted, before announcing the completion of his mission.
The ambassadors watched the goings-on outside from the windows of their carriages and almost couldn't contain their excitement. They immediately decided to carry out the first plan they had agreed upon on the way there to announce the orders of the king immediately to get the five generals to resign. That way, they would immediately be able to take over. All the troubles they suffered on the way there would slowly be paid for by them in the days to come.
As for dissolving the theatre, disbanding the two corps and taking the Alliance's fleet away, they could slowly deal with that at a later date. Their priority now was to announce the taking of power before the public to make it an established fact. By then, it would be too late for anyone to stop them.
"I knew that not a single local official would dare to go against the king's own orders. It has been so in the past three centuries, even in the distant colonies. But we still have to stay calm. We'll have time to celebrate after we make the announcement. The days ahead will be long. We don't have to rush," Olibut reminded the three others.
"Understood. After we announce His Majesty's orders, we'll have to take the five generals captive and stop them from going anywhere. We'll imprison them and keep an eye on them for a while and tell them we need time to deal with the various matters of the handover. On the way here, the soldiers told me the five generals here have a really high reputation among the populace. They deal with matters justly and also pushed for great economic development, so they're really respected by the people.
"However, we can easily order them to sign His Majesty's fine. That way, they'll be the ones to levy the tax against the populace. We'll see if they still like them then. We can even stand out to mediate between the generals and the people to clean up the mess. That way, the powerful locals will come to curry favour with us with all sorts of gifts and benefits..." Dawanil said with a dark smile.
"Alright, that's enough. Let's get off. We'll let these colony bumpkins witness what true noble grace looks like," Fegri said, tidying up his formal robes once more.
The seven ambassadors disembarked from their carriages with friendly smiles. They greeted Bolonik and Skri with the most welcome of gestures and hugged them to show their amicability. The crowds cheered loudly and joyfully for witnessing this historic moment.
Bolonik invited the seven generals to inspect the elite troops of the theatre. The two troop formations also followed along beside the red carpet.
As Dawanil walked, he whispered, "General Bolonik, aren't there three more generals? Why are they not here?"
Bolonik smiled and replied, "General Claude has been busy these days dealing with an urgent situation in the colony of Vebator. He's rushing back to us now that it is dealt with. General Birkin is in the distant Cape Loducus, so he'll need some time before he can return. As for General Eiblont, his old wounds resurged and he's still recovering. He cannot receive you lords."
"I see. No worries, I was just asking," Dawanil said with a sigh. With two generals not in Lanu and one bedridden, there would be even fewer obstacles for their plan. Once they took power, it would be too late for the two generals to do anything even if they rushed back.
The troop formations did a gun salute and performed seven basic attacking formations, earning them the ambassadors' praise.
After that came the merchants and local authorities as well as their family members. They greeted the ambassadors with loud cheers and scattered flower petals all across the red carpet.
The ambassadors made some casual conversation with them before they were finally escorted to an elevated platform at the end of the red carpet. That was where they would give their speech to the public as ambassadors of the kingdom.
Bolonik was the first to offer some opening statements. His adjutant took out a magic scroll from his leather sack and tore it open on stage. It was a spell scroll for sound amplification, which the kingdom's Watchers designated to be a harmless spell. It was used for public addresses to ensure every member of the audience could hear the speaker properly.
The only weakness of that spell was its short duration; it could only last for around ten minutes. With each scroll priced at ten crowns, a long speech would end up being quite costly. As such public speaking was something only the rich could afford. Then again, Bolonik was writing it off as a public expense this time.
He passionately said, "When the citizens and soldiers of the theatre resisted the Shiksan invasion and won, we were pining for the praise and reward of His Majesty far away at the mainland. To ensure that the kingdom remains united and to not waste the efforts of the late Stellin X in starting the colonial effort, the theatre stood with its people through rough and hard times and made many brave sacrifices to achieve victory in this war!
"Today, we welcome the kingdom's ambassadors once more. They bring with them His Majesty's words of concern. They will once more help shed the benevolent light of the Stellin royal family on Nubissia. Let us welcome the ambassadors' arrival! It is truly a day for all of us Auerans in the colonies to feel proud! You may proudly claim to be an Aueran citizen and soldier! Now, let us hear what the ambassadors have to say."
Usually, ambassadors would give some casual praise to the local officials at receptions like these to further stoke the crowd's spirits. It was to show how close they were with the local officials. As for private goals and objectives, they were to be discussed in private. They always had to maintain an air of solidarity to the public.
Bolonik's adjutant tore another spell scroll.
However, the crowd, local officials and bigwigs, as well as the soldiers didn't expect that one of the ambassadors would immediately begin reading Stellin XI's decree.
The decree emphasised the disrespect the theatre has shown the kingdom in not pledging allegiance to him the moment he had his coronation and even stopping their tribute to the royal family. The colonies were also lambasted for not immediately sending reinforcements to him during the civil war and watching the harm come to the mainland.
It spoke of how the king was furious, but was benevolent enough to overlook the five generals' crimes for their minor contribution in the colonial war. They would merely be relieved of duty and given an honourable discharge after a one-rank demotion.
As for the power to govern the theatre, it was to be completely transferred to the seven ambassadors. From that day onwards, everything in the theatre was to be decided by them without anyone able to question them!
It was utter shock and despair! The crowd broke into conversation and the officials looked at one another with utter confusion. The troop formation fell into chaos and some even yelled about the unjust decree.
Two ambassadors approached Bolonik and Skri and tore off their lieutenant-general and major-general shoulder marks before demanding they hand in their ceremonial blades.
The commotion beneath the podium got louder and louder. Fegri stood on the podium and yelled, "What are you doing?! Do you want to be labelled traitors?! It's His Majesty's decree!"
Everyone ignored him. The two formations of soldiers huddled together and loudly protested, "His Majesty is unjust! We refuse to accept the decree!"
"Let me handle this," Bolonik said, having apparently just aged ten years.
He slowly approached the podium and asked his adjutant to tear another sound-amplification spell scroll.
"Soldiers, get into formation, please. Your duty is not to protest but maintain order and return to camp. Do your duty like proper soldiers of the kingdom. I, as an old soldier of the kingdom, am willing to accept His Majesty's punishment. I also ask you to do the same as a fellow soldier as the ambassadors are representatives of His Majesty."