Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 518

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The extermination of Canas and Nasri sent ripples across the continent. It meant Aueras had nominally united Eastern Freia and become a superpower yet again. Military historians would come to call it the Second Great War of Eastern Freia.

It couldn't be denied that the two corps from the autonomous region had been key in turning the tide. Their new rifles and cannons also became even more famous, came under even greater scrutiny, and became even bigger targets for any and every espionage endeavour.

Losing weapons on the battlefield or breaking them was unavoidable. Many broken rifles were sold to spies from various nations at ridiculous prices. It was not too hard to reverse engineer them and create workable, if somewhat inferior, homebrew versions.

The Kingdom of Lesnia in Southern Freia, for instance, soon declared they had their own rifles now. They had made a crude bolt-action rifle. It looked suspiciously similar to the Sonia 591 and was quickly nicknamed the oneshot.

Whilst Lesnia had reverse engineered the rifle, they had yet to do the same with the ammunition, so the rifle was of little use to them. Some rounds had found their way into many nations' hands, but their production processes remained a complete secret. They could make alternatives to the flash powder in the firing cap, but those were all prohibitively expensive, making large-scale adoption of the rifles impractical.

Just giving every Lesnian soldier fifty rounds would bankrupt the kingdom. Then there was also the matter of the massive expense to manufacturing the rifles. Each rifle cost seven times the price of a musket.

Aueras' researchers made their own knockoff they called the Tygston Type-600 but they ran into the same problems. They, however, could ask the region directly to supply them with ammunition. So they told Bolonik to negotiate with Claude and hash out a trade deal.

Claude offered to supply them with the ammunition they wanted at one riyas a round. The ten million the kingdom wanted would thus burn a 200-thousand-crown-size hole in its treasury. The same number of musket rounds would have cost just twelve thousand thales. The kingdom tried to renegotiate, but Claude would have none of it.

The first general assembly of the court in Year 601 saw another controversy when Claude was appointed the interim governor of the former territory of Nasri. The ministers didn't want to affirm the appointment.

Everyone had a different excuse; some cited illness from old age, whilst others were mysteriously injured. Regardless of the reason, however, not a single minister showed up at the meeting. Some newspapers even had betting rolls going on whether the king would be able to get enough officials together to set up a government for the new territory at all. The capital's inhabitants were in for quite the circus.

There were no fools amongst the ministers. If an administrative post opened up within the kingdom's prefectures, there would be tons of people scrambling for it, but Nasri was different. Work there was bound to be troublesome and unrewarding. It might even cost them their lives. Taking up such positions was akin to standing on a barrel of gunpowder. Old Earth would have called it a 'ticking time bomb'.

Anyone with a sound mind knew going to Nasri now was risking their lives. Nasri had been Aueras' archnemesis for centuries. They'd fought five bloody wars and both nations' peoples hated one another with a bloodthirsty passion, one which fed on defeat.

Additionally, the posts were administrative, not military. There were no guards or protection. With Nasri newly annexed, one couldn't just go there with one's family. As a local official, one had to hire bodyguards out of one's own pocket. Exposing oneself to the locals was asking to be assassinated.

Lastly and most crucially, it wouldn't pay well. Given the current state of the territory, it was all risk and no reward. It was no surprise nobody was willing to go. While Aueras and Nasri were both in Eastern Freia, they were in very different situations. Aueras had phased out feudal rule in favour of a bicameral parliament under the king.

The Council of Lords, or simply the high council, executed policies scrutinised and decided upon by the Council of Dignity, creating a fine balance of power. As the king held command over the army, military affairs were separate from civil affairs, the latter of which was under the prime minister's care. He kept the high council in check and was the most important person in the kingdom during peacetime. There were the rare exceptions, such as Stellin XI's rule, but those were generally exceptions for the worse rather than for the better.

Nasri was the exact opposite. Individual noble houses ruled over their own fiefs with absolute sovereignty save the duties of tax and levy to their sworn lords. The kingdom was held together by the willpower of the king and the ingrained sense of honour in the personal vows of allegiance held by the nobles alone. This difference was also what had united Nasri, Shiks, and Canas against Aueras. They hated, feared, and loathed the kingdom for its anathema to their way of ruling.

In all of Nasri, apart from the royal family's subjects, most of the rest of the common folk were serfs, slaves in all but name. A few freemen made their home in the kingdom, mostly as rich merchants, but everyone else belonged to their lords the same way the land on which they lived did, and they lived in abject poverty as a result.

Thundercrash had swept the entire kingdom clean but had gone after the nobles and richest of the merchants only.

The better-connected Aueran court members naturally knew about Thundercrash's profit. Rumours had it that they had nabbed at least 30 million crowns' worth of goods. However, jealousy was no use as the spoils were well deserved. The court had the right to demand part of what was found in the national treasury, but treasures and money scoured from private residences, noble or otherwise, was beyond their reach.

The nonstop wars, however, had drained both the Aueran and Nasrian treasuries. Aueras could only shake off eight million crowns of debt with all their spoils from Nasri. While Fredrey I had decided to default on the loans when he triggered the war, he had not expected them to join the war because of it. The debt was gone now thanks to the debtor's fall.

With the fattest sheep, the Nasrian nobles, slaughtered and butchered, only the serfs and freemen remained. They weren't worth much and might even have to be fed out of the Auerans' pocket. So, most balked at the prospect of serving in the territory, being superficial and pragmatic as they were.

Usually, the best way to administer annexed territory was martial law for three to five years while the last of insurgents were cleared out. Only when the chaos settled could the populace get used to living under different rule. Eventually, steps would be taken to integrate the local population for the transformation of annexed territory into a proper prefecture to be complete.

But martial law proved rather difficult for Aueras as it was now. They didn't have the funding to field an army there. Had it not been for the region's generous contributions, they would've caved long ago.

Even just recently, they had to rely on the region to exterminate Nasri and Canas, being powerless to do so themselves. The kingdom was so slow in sending troops to the reclaimed territory of Sidins, Askilin and Rimodra due to their lack of funding. Sending officials there seemed even further out of the question. It was almost certain that officials sent there would face grave danger.

Not to mention, martial law required troops to enforce. The kingdom only had three of them remaining, namely, the royal guard, Reddragon and Griffon. While those were the forces of the old nobility, they were split into three factions as well and held in a different light by the ministry of the army. The royal guard was like their biological son, whereas Reddragon and Griffon were disobedient bastards who needed to be punished and disciplined.

While the old nobility held the same stance towards outsiders, they had many internal conflicts. The royal guard was credited with helping Fredrey I to the throne and was so proud it didn't take the other two corps seriously. Reddragon and Griffon, on the other hand, had their own ambitions, given how neglected they were, and was at the point they ignored almost all orders from the ministry. Only by giving funding would the ministry hold any sway over them once more.

With there being not enough money to form new corps and being unable to send the royal guard out, and Griffon and Reddragon not willing to act without money, there was nothing that could be done. There was also the worry that sending the two corps there would allow them to act like they owned the place. That would make it even worse for the court at the negotiating table.

As such, Fredrey I and Blancarte were in a tight spot. They couldn't enact martial law, and local officials didn't want to be transferred over, thinking it was an assignment that would result in their deaths. Having no other choice, they wrote to Claude and Bolonik to have the autonomous region temporarily administer the conquered areas while the court sorted themselves out.

Claude burst out laughing when he read it. He didn't think the mighty kingdom would be that broke. Then again, it was a good thing now that Thundercrash and Monolith had a place to fall back to away from the kingdom's influence. Given their contributions, there was no need to worry about their standing at all. It was almost natural to let the two corps administer the new territories.

In fact, the region directly ruled by the Nasrian royal family was easier to deal with. Levying only 30 percent in taxes was enough to please most of the citizens, as it was almost half of what they were taxed before, not to mention the compulsory month-long labour they had to partake in. With the labour requirement abolished and their taxes falling more than twenty percent, the citizens who only cared about their families were feeling rather thankful.

However, the lands of the nobles were much harder to handle. The peasants there were basically quasi slaves who couldn't afford to sustain themselves without their lords. They didn't have the tools, land, or seeds to plant. The two wars that ravaged the continent also saw many youths sent to the battlefield, leaving the elderly, women and children unable to feed their families.

With their lords gone, their livelihoods were no longer guaranteed. So, letting the region rule them was no different than putting a huge burden on them. The best way to deal with the matter was to give them tools and crops to plant so they could sustain themselves.

However, Claude didn't do so, as he had no right to give the land away to the peasants. Without nobles, the conquered land was basically property of the Aueran royal family. Without the king's permission, it couldn't be given away. So, Claude sent his men to go find locals to delegate administrative and tax-collection jobs to.

Blancarte, however, wrote Bolonik a personal letter, revealing his and Claude's rewards. The both of them would be promoted to Lord Militants and Claude would be given the hereditary Title of duke, whereas Bolonik was made a hereditary count. Birkin and Eiblont were also promoted one rank and given hereditary baron Titles.

Unlike the delightfully surprised Bolonik, Claude wasn't the least bit excited. It was all within expectations. The king had no money in his pockets, so all he could do was use literally priceless honour as a reward for their contributions. While he promised the troops of Thundercrash and Monolith rewards, they were being held back at the ministry of the army as credit, given the emptied coffers. They would only be paid out once the kingdom started getting rich once more.

The announcement made no difference at all. Claude's ducal Title was nothing more than a fancy tag his descendants could attach to their names. While Claude could receive a decent annuity from the royal family, his descendants would have to pay a yearly tribute to maintain that Title or risk being downgraded to marquis, count and beyond, though the fee wasn't that high, to begin with.

It wouldn't be wrong to describe it as the royal family doing business with their noble subordinates. If the nobles did well, they would be given Titles and annuity, but their descendants would pay the price to maintain it. It was no different from a loan which the descendants had to pay back. If hereditary Titles could be maintained for three generations, the annuity given by the royal family would break even and it was then when profit started to roll in.

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