Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 519

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Claude did not expect so many troubles. He thought the conquest of Canas and Nasri would bring a swift end to the war, and that the kingdom would quickly start on the road to recovery. He was hoping to set off for home as soon as their awards were given.

But now, he was the interim governor. Now, he couldn't leave. He had to sit around in a damned office, and read and write reports and sign documents all day. It was torture. If he'd known they'd saddle him with cleaning up the mess he made, he'd not have bothered conquering Nasri.

Fredrey I had set things up so he, Birkin, Eiblont, and their men were working for him for free. They were originally only supposed to be on the continent until the war ended, but now they were being kept on to deal with what should be the mainland's problem.

Claude and his two minions had been turned into free administrators, and their men were now free police. They technically had no authority to police the territory, but they had little choice if they wanted to keep control of it until they were relieved. They were collecting taxes and governing in the royal family's stead but were not being paid for it.

In fact, Claude suspected the council's aim was to use them to control the populace while they taxed them dry to get their treasury back in the green. It was more than likely that the supposed 'lack of officials willing to take up the positions' was just an excuse to keep him there and exploit his and his men's labour. Luckily Claude had settled most of the matters of immediate concern in just two months and he handed the Canasian territory over to Eiblont. They just had to do some regular patrolling, uprising suppression, and continue to collect taxes.

Bolonik arrived in Polyvisia after the rainy season ended -- sometime in the 3rd month. He had stayed in Eimis for half a year to organise the relocation of the hundreds of thousands of captives they'd caught over the campaign. The captives and their families were being resettled in the Loki Mountains to work in the mines.

Claude immediately moved to dump everything even remotely related to administration on the poor bastard. Bolonik would have none of it, however. He said he was only there to pick up another 200 thousand captives to be taken back to the region.

The region's council had taken note of all the captives Claude had captured and were eager to get their hands on them to shore up the region's labour force. Henderman had been particularly eager, so much so he'd even given a public statement to the effect that the captives were essential to the further development of the region.

Aduras was also eager to get their hands on some captives, ideally, they wanted a hundred thousand. The tobacco industry was still exploding and they needed every pair of hands they could get.

Aueras didn't technically have slavery. They had forced labour, but the captives did receive a stipend which they were paid upon their release. The prison labourers' wardens -- in this case Claude and the two corps -- were entitled to a fee for the use of 'their' captives, which was what Bolonik had come to negotiate.

Claude grimaced at the war's unpleasant aftertaste. He felt like a slaver, like he'd not just fought a war to save his kingdom, but had gone on a pillaging campaign for slaves and plunder.

It reminded him of a letter he'd gotten from Myjack not long ago. The man had said the first prince's former troops he'd taken over had been begging him for months to let them migrate to Nubissia. They couldn't rest easy with the spectre of royal vengeance for their support of the first prince during the civil war hanging over their heads.

Myjack had also suggested they use those men to replace some of the losses Thundercrash had suffered during the campaign. Myjack had 80 thousand men with him, 60 thousand of which had been rescued from captivity. The rest were deserters.

They'd fought a guerilla campaign against Shiks when they'd based their operations in Askilin. The biggest contingent had been led by Claude's former superior from his days back in the 1st Rangers, Lederfanc, whom he'd not met in a decade.

Myjack believed they were fruit ripe for the picking since their tree's roots had been cut out. They were especially positively predisposed towards Claude's side because they'd been the ones to recapture Askilin and liberate them. On top of that was the de facto neutral stance Claude had taken in the civil war, whereas the mainland Aueran elite had been the enemy, and likely still bore a deep grudge against them.

They had fought against the invaders, but the rulers still considered them traitors from back in the civil war. They knew how deeply and longly the old nobility held their grudges. They would come after them in every way they could once they got their hands on them. Fredrey I might have waxed forgiveness and reconciliation, but he was not the one under whose heel they had to live their daily lives.

They'd settled in to become farmers when they were not fighting their occupiers, but Myjack thought they could be far better used as proper soldiers again rather than wasting away on their farms. He had initially hoped to form local garrisons to relieve their troops, but he had only been able to cobble together enough volunteers for two lines. It wasn't that the men were fundamentally against serving again. They were deeply afraid of having to stay on once Claude's men withdrew and exposing themselves to persecution. There was also the little matter of envy. They deeply envied all the benefits Claude's men enjoyed.

All the incentives were aligned to make them want to switch allegiances.

Myjack also mentioned that his efforts in the three southern prefectures had also finally started bearing fruit. The first rifle-ammunition production line was complete. Workers were only picked from the families of Claude's men set to migrate to Nubissia. They currently produced 500 thousand rounds a month, though they were quickly running out of materials. They were in particularly bad lack of brass.

The conditions to produce ammunition for the new cannons, however, still weren't fulfilled. They still lacked most of the giant machines necessary to make the shells and casings. The reason for that was during Shiks' occupation, they moved many large machines back to their kingdom, causing the manufacturing standards there to fall greatly. There was no longer any way for them to produce large parts, like the shells used for the cannons' ammunition. That alone required three different large machines.

Claude didn't really want to expand Thundercrash, as three folks already put their numbers at 120 thousand, with each folk having around 35 thousand. A corps normally only had two folks, one direct line and four logistics tribes, numbering near 82 thousand people. However, an additional folk was added to the roster before the war, raising that total to 125 thousand people, which Claude found to be a little inflated.

Having more troops wasn't necessarily a good thing. For starters, they would greatly exceed their military budget, but that alone wasn't enough for the formation of a whole folk. Expanding meant that the number of support staff had to be increased as well. Back during the line-and-shoot era of warfare, it used to be that sheer numbers were enough to render troop casualties fairly negligible and allow their men to maintain combat ability.

It was said that wars in days past were focused only on gathering troops in wide, expansive areas for all sorts of battle formations. The commanders of both sides would command their men to shoot before entering a melee battle, resulting in huge casualties that saw a whole corps used up within half a day. Grand battles lasted three or four days and casualties in excess of 100 thousand were all too common. As such, numbers used to be king, and each corps usually had 60 thousand men.

The Union realised that they wouldn't be a match in such wide-open battles against Aueras during the five-year-long First Great Eastern Freian War, so they chose to fight with mainly defensive tactics to wear away at the attacking Aueran troops. In the end, the war dragged on until both sides were too worn to continue, following which a peace deal was signed.

In some sense, that war had fundamentally changed warfare over the past century on the continent. Even the smaller nations knew that they couldn't use brute force to fight any longer. Later during Aueras and Shiks' war on Nubissia, traditional norms of combat were completely broken down.

It all started with the Ranger folk using baiting and ambushing tactics to trick the enemy into giving them two unprecedented victories. Later, the five enhanced folks formed in the war theatre swept the floor with Shiks' four standing corps and even conquered Vebator, making it Aueras' eighth colony.

Those three wars opened the eyes of everyone on Freia for good. By the time Shiks leased a colony to send their troops to, the other nations had already begun to take note of those tactics. When the Aueran civil war was ongoing, the war theatre only had two corps while Shiks sent ten standing corps to fight. Nobody could tell which side would win.

In their first surprise attack against the main Shiksan base, Thundercrash managed to obtain a landslide victory. Shiks, despite losing 2.5 corps, could still fight. Later, the Shiksans paid them back by docking at a fishing town near Lanu and reduced the city to bits.

However, Thundercrash's quick turnaround helped the war theatre live through those troubled times. They also managed to get rid of those three Shiksan corps in the meantime. Thundercrash later surprise attacked the main camp of Shiks with Monolith, managing to eliminate the Shiksan force for good and obtaining ultimate victory.

Those conflicts brought the new rifles of the war theatre to the attention of the various nations. The rifles were far more advanced than existing muskets, but the secrecy maintained by the region prevented them from being leaked to the outside world.

Later during the turmoil on the Aueran mainland, the war theatre changed themselves into the autonomous region. Then, Shiks invaded the new Aueran territories with the excuse of helping Sidins and Rimodra restore their duchies. Then came the coup that sat Fredrey I on the throne and the formation of the Union proper by Shiks. Nasri went to war with Aueras over the debt they owed and the other nations in Eastern Freia also began to interfere with their invasion.

Then came the troops from the region that decimated the Union's forces, causing them to lose most of their 700 thousand troops and the fall of four nations. The new weapons and ironclad warships exhibited during that war completely awed the enemy with their might.

One folk of Thundercrash alone was able to fight off four corps, sending them into a fighting retreat. They also managed to lure the enemy forces to Polyvisia to clean them up in one go, setting their victory pretty much in stone.

Only then did Claude think that they could simply replace corps with folks as the largest operating unit. With enough elite soldiers, they wouldn't fear enemy troop numbers at all.

However, Bolonik wasn't of the same opinion. He told Claude a piece of insider news which Blancarte wrote to him about. Basically, the kingdom had no intention of sending people to take over the Nasrian, Canasian, Askilinian, Sidinsian and Rimodran regions in the next three years. Those were unproductive areas with low yield, after all, and the kingdom couldn't spare any funds to invest in them. As such, the region's two corps would be expected to remain there for around that time while the kingdom recovered to a point it could take over administration of those regions once more.

It was truly a piece of shocking news. The region's forces were basically being asked to rule in the court's place for up to three years without any announcement at all. Bolonik said that it was a reward for the troops of the region. Since they didn't have funds to reward them properly, they 'rewarded' the two corps with the right to administer those regions in the meantime.

Ruling the regions for three whole years would earn them exorbitant amounts of wealth. All taxation rights and trade profits would belong to the region alone, not to mention they could transfer the immigrants to the region freely within those three years while the court closed a blind eye to it. The folk in that region would be former citizens of enemy nations anyway, so the fewer of them there were, the better.

"Alright, then. We'll let Thundercrash expand for another folk. Also, use the first prince's men to fill out the casualties we suffered in the two corps. Let General Birkin make a trip to deal with this matter. Myjack will help him as his aide," Claude decided. Like Bolonik said, Thundercrash really needed to expand to be able to guard so many places.

"As for the captives you want, you can take all 100 thousand soldier captives and their families to Aduras. However, the remaining 100 plus thousand are the kingdom's captives, so we won't be bringing them back to the region. Instead, we'll let them repair roads here instead."

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