Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 512
Prelude to Battle
Per Claude's plans, one of his two folks had to stay behind to guard Polyvisia to defend the walls and watch the captives. So, he only had access to one mobile combat folk. The enemy, however, would be coming from two directions, the northeast and southwest respectively. No matter where Claude sent his folk, however, he wouldn't be able to stop the other side's troops from approaching Polyvisia. That would effectively cut the two folks off from each other.
That was the reason he wasn't able to make a decision until the very end. No matter where he sent the one folk, he wouldn't be able to crush the enemy that had a few hundred thousand men. They could hold them back a little, but not stop them completely, despite putting themselves at huge risk, especially with them being on unfamiliar Nasrian terrain.
Berklin suggested to Claude they should use Miselk's tactic against the five Shiksan standing corps in Balingana and Cromwell. Using Thundercrash's mobility and penetrative capabilities, they should completely obscure all enemy reconnaissance so they could only march forward blindly and eventually run out of food from their slow march, causing them to ultimately surrender.
However, it was shot down almost immediately. The environment of battle was too different. Back then, Miselk used scorched earth on those two colonies, so the Shiksans were basically walking into his trap. They weren't even given a chance to properly fight and were instead pulled around by their noses.
Thundercrash was now on the invading side in enemy territory where the civilians were extremely hostile. Claude suspected that if the scouts he sent out weren't careful, it was likely they would be attacked by Nasrian civilians. The enemy, on the other hand, could easily gain respite at the towns and villages, obtaining food and information while they were at it. It wouldn't be an easy task to cut off the enemy's information source.
All Berklin's attack with 1st Folk could achieve was harassment and attacking the enemy's rear. They would also have to be wary of any ambushes or traps the enemy set for them. He didn't let Dyavid's 2nd Folk attack because he was worried about Dyavid's reckless temperament. It wasn't off character for him to attack the enemy without regard for casualties. Claude wanted to win, but he didn't want to pay a huge price for it. Being in enemy territory, every single soldier was an asset to be cherished. Their lives were of utmost importance.
Even so, Claude still couldn't grasp the whole picture of the battlefield he was on. First, the 400 thousand enemies retreating from the southwest approached Polyvisia, but the 300 thousand troops coming from the northeast stayed put without advancing instead of working together with those coming from the southwest. Prince Vedario's rendezvous with the troops in the southwest also earned him three Nasrian standing corps immediately. Similarly, the army from the southwest also set up camp and stopped advancing.
Claude had no choice but to instruct Berklin to stop his attack. He didn't understand what the Union was up to, for them to give up on such a good opportunity like that. It was only some five days later that Wolfang caught a Nasrian logistics officer from the northeast and interrogated him to find out about what was going on.
The troops in the northeast stopped because Moriad's Ironclad successfully destroyed Seaking and captured near a hundred transport ships carrying food and military gear which Shiks sent Nasri's way. Currently, the two new Nasrian corps formed in the five northeastern prefectures were practically unarmed, with only a small portion of 120 thousand soldiers armed. They had to wait for further aid from Shiks.
Had Shiks' two corps not managed to get ashore and Canas not sent another light-cavalry corps as reinforcement to protect those two Nasrian corps, they might've disbanded long ago. Shiks was hoping to make another shipment to them so the two corps could be fielded.
Even so, Shiks wouldn't be transporting them through the sea any longer, with Seaking already defunct. They had no warships to escort another transport fleet and making any attempt without an escort was akin to donating supplies to Ironclad. So, they would be transporting the goods over land through the kingdoms of Bleyotte and Mambamark. Shiks still required some time to negotiate an agreement with those two kingdoms for passage before battle could resume.
It was worth noting that the commander of those two Nasrian corps was the third Nasrian prince, Prince Daklid, who was the son borne of another one of Nasri VII's concubines. He was said to be not as cherished by Nasri VII. However, he was given a decent post as his uncle was a Nasrian duke and Lord Militant. However, that Lord Militant was now imprisoned in the palace by Thundercrash with the other high-profile captives alongside the king.
Claude immediately understood why the 400 thousand troops of the Union stopped halfway before reaching Polyvisia. It looked like Prince Vedario was to thank for that. Only two Nasrian princes weren't in the royal capital during its fall, so they didn't fall captive. As a result, both of them had personal ambitions and wanted to use that opportunity to one-up one another. Perhaps they were secretly thankful to Thundercrash. Had it not been for them, the one to succeed the Nasrian throne would no doubt be their eldest brother.
The three Nasrian corps in the southwest answered to Prince Vedario whereas the two new corps in the northeast were in Prince Daklid's hands. Had Nasri not already been involved in a war which involved so many other nations, such a civil war would've broken out between the two princes.
It was a shame that with the Shiksan army in the mix, any clear-headed Shiksan officer wouldn't allow the two princes to come to blows. Given how the Union's forces were mostly counting on the five Shiksan corps, Nasri's little squabble would easily be quelled. Nasri might even become a vassal state of Shiks under the ambitious Majid III.
With things having developed this way, Claude had no choice but to continue the war to the bitter end. Nasri had to be eliminated for lasting peace to exist in Eastern Freia. The two princes had to side with Shiks to be able to lay claim to the throne. No matter which one became king, they would no doubt become Shiks' tool anyway, so as long as Nasri still existed, Shiks could use them to instigate even more conflict with Aueras. What the weakened Aueras needed the most now was enough time to rest and recover.
However, it still came as quite a relief, as the matter between the two princes would require quite some time to resolve even with Shiks mediating between them. And time was precisely what Thundercrash lacked. At the very least, he could start transferring the captives and wealth away without worrying about an attack.
He believed those two princes wouldn't bother to rescue their captured brothers and Nasri VII and would be more willing to see them sent to Aueran prison so that they would have fewer people to compete with for the throne.
After some consideration, he stopped Berklin from attacking. Apart from sending out a line to scout around and monitor the two enemy camps, he had his other three lines escort the captives to Eimis in old Sidins. He also wrote to Eiblont there for him to set up a camp for those captives until the war ended, after which they would be transferred to the region.
As long as they had enough time to transport the captives away from Polyvisia, Thundercrash would've freed their own hands for combat. Nevertheless, making such a move was still a huge move for Claude. If the Union suddenly attacked Polyvisia in the midst of the transport, they wouldn't be able to hold on with only one folk of troops.
It took around 18 days on horseback to make a round trip between Polyvisia and Eimis, but it was hard to say the same with escorting captives. Even if Claude used all the carriages in Polyvisia to transport them, the many changes and accidents along the way put the fastest estimate of a round trip at 25 days.
Meanwhile, the 400 thousand troops in the southwest were only 15 days of marching away, and that figure only applied to infantry. The light-cavalry troops of Canas would only take a week to arrive. Fortunately, they only had a folk of them. If they dared to attack Polyvisia alone, Claude was confident he could take them all down.
It turned out that things played out according to his predictions. Even though the two princes were aware that Thundercrash was moving the captives, they made no moves whatsoever. While it was understandable for Prince Daklid to do so, since his two corps still weren't fully armed, it was likely that Prince Vedario didn't act out of fear, given how shocked he was to see 18th Standing Corps crushed by the two lines Dyavid led.
And so, a fragile, odd peace descended on Nasri. Thundercrash transported the captives to Eimis in an orderly manner whereas the 700 thousand troops of the Union made no moves, save for the two princes' heavy initiatives to gather food from the surrounding area.
In time, Eiblont finally arrived at the royal capital with ammunition. Half a month later, the last batch of captives departed for Eimis. It was then when the enemy troops from both directions made their move, but they didn't head for the royal capital, but rather, the prefecture of Bismonk.
Bismonk was situated at the border of Nasri and Mambamark and was the neighbouring prefectures of Durmel and Glasom, which were near the royal capital. Those three prefectures had been swept through by Thundercrash 2nd Folk, so the troop movements of the Union immediately drew his attention.
The troops that gathered in Bismonk were split into three parts, with the five Shiksan corps being in the middle, the five Nasrian corps taking the left flank and the three corps made up from 1.5 Canasian corps and the local Nasrian garrison forces taking the right flank.
After ten days of resting in Bismonk, Nasri's five corps now flew the flag of Prince Daklid before the main force headed for Glasom. The vanguard comprised the nobles from the local prefectures who willingly enlisted, numbering around 80 thousand men. The five Nasrian corps followed behind them, who were in turn followed by the five Shiksan corps. Canas' three light-cavalry folks flanked them on both sides for security and also had a unit with the vanguard at the front.
Birkin finally rushed to Polyvisia with Monolith 2nd Folk, while Bolonik and 1st Folk remained in Eimis to watch the 100 thousand captives and their family members. Preparations were being made to transport them from Port Floric to the region.
Claude could finally go all out. He left defence to Birkin and Monolith 2nd Folk whereas he and Eiblont took the two folks of Thundercrash to meet the enemy vanguard in Durmel.
Glasom and Durmel were mostly plains with few small hills dotting them. There were many waterways in those two prefectures, with most of the famous rivers in Nasri branching off in them. It was said that decades ago in Nasri, there was a proposal to form a waterway transportation network through the kingdom. However, as that infringed upon the nobles' fiefs and wasn't able to gather enough funding, the plan was never implemented.
The two prefectures were developed extensively thanks to ready access to water, making them the main food producers of Nasri. It was also a place where all sorts of artisans gathered and made their products. As those two prefectures were under the direct control of the Nasrian royal family, there was no need to keep the nobles' interests in mind, so the civilians led fuller and richer lives, making them greatly supportive of the royal family's rule.
However, the troops of Thundercrash only came to understand the true meaning of entering enemy territory once they were in Durmel. Not a single town or village's civilians were willing to cooperate even with the prospect of being paid.
Fortunately, Dyavid's 2nd Folk easily swept the local garrison forces under the rug and knew how best to deal with the stubborn Durmelians. For instance, if the troops wanted fresh fruit or vegetables, they would go pick them without permission before tossing the money that should've cost to the owners. It was something the Durmelians had gotten used to. Since the soldiers didn't default on their payments, the civilians solemnly and unwillingly tolerated it to make a side income.
It took eight days since their entry into Durmel before they encountered the Union's army. It was the 14th of the 10th month of Year 600 when Thundercrash's light-cavalry scout tent ran into a cavalry clan from the Union's vanguard near a town called Bodra. Roughly three to four hundred enemies charged towards Bodra when they discovered the scout tent with their riding blades drawn.
The scout tent, however, turned tail and executed a firing retreat, continuing to lead the enemy on nonstop. Soon, the two cavalry clans joined the tent and turned around. The Union's troops had become the hunted, leaving only little more than ten lucky cavalrymen managing to escape once they encountered another clan of infantrymen on their side. The tribe that attacked the Union's troops managed to kill around 300 enemies while suffering only 18 injuries and zero deaths.
The enemy immediately retreated some five kilometres away, but before one night had even passed, Berklin personally led 1st Folk on an offensive. He only used a volley of cannon fire and 300 rockets to completely flatten the enemy camp. 1st Folk and 2nd Folk continued the pursuit till daybreak and greatly damaged the vanguard, with only a couple ten thousand escaping.
While the first encounter was a beautiful victory, Claude wasn't too excited. He knew that the 80 thousand vanguard troops were merely a disorganised bunch. They were cannon fodder used to test out the artillery of Thundercrash, so nobody really cared about their victory or loss. Thundercrash's real enemies were the 12 corps of Shiks, Nasri and Canas.
On the 14th of the 10th month, the Polyvisian Battles, as they had become later known, had begun.