Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 547
General Skri's Secret Message
Claude was certain the only benefit to interfering with the western colonies was getting Fochs' colony, Cape Loducus, without any worry about the future. The colony was connected to the northern and eastern edges of the Loki Mountains -- just right to make the state complete.
Not to mention, Cape Loducus didn't really have any natives. That alone made it attractive. Nubissia's western and southern sides were separated by Cape Moroks, a small peninsula which stretched out into the ocean from Loki Mountains. Cape Loducus was the bay sandwiched between the mountains of Cape Moroks.
Fochs had not invested much in Cape Loducus since it was established. Neither had they sent any nikancha labourers there. They only constructed a city near the bay, Cape Loducus City, whose residents were mostly Fochsian settlers. There was only a tiny minority of nikancha servants.
Claude would much rather kickstart a chain of native independence movements than send in his troops. He didn't want this to come back to bite him at an inconvenient time. The whole western coast had a population of about 60 million, of which only one-tenth was settlers.
The region sat along Nubissia's southwestern coasts, sandwiched between the ocean and the Loki Mountains. Beyond it was Cape Moroks, and then the sea. There was a gap between the mountains and the coast at the one end of the region's territory, one of the few easy entrances to the region from the rest of the continent, and Cape Loducus sat right in the middle of it. Another of the Lesnian colonies sat on the far side of Cape Loducus, slightly smaller than their first.
Moloshik's colony sat on the far side of that. The pamigar occupied most of it nowadays and were about to found their own country. Even further along the coast sat Wasilisk's colony, and yet further again, Opsaro's colony. Another hop, skip, and jump along the coast was another Fochsian colony.
The region could absorb Cape Loducus into Loki Mountains because not that many natives called that area home. It was peaceful and easy to administer and would make it so much more convenient for the transportation of their mining yield if they occupied it. Not to mention, a naval base could be built there to prevent them from having to worry about threats from the western coastal waters.
If the region decided to stretch their hands further out to conquer Lesnia, Moloshik, Wasilisk and Opsaro's colonies, they would have to wrack their heads on how to deal with the native tribes, or rather, so-called races that branched off from the nikancha.
For instance, Lesnia's colony was a half-desert, half-mountain area where more than three million losman lived. Moloshik's colony, on the other hand, had five million pamigars. Wasilisk's colony had two different races, namely, the skro and the jisdor, each having a population of two million.
Claude had used the nikancha nation's founding to remove the nikancha from the colonies. He forcefully relocated over two million nikancha, kicking them out of the kingdom's colonies under the ruse of 'helping them migrate to their homeland'. Thereafter, only Freian settlers, specifically settlers from Aueras, lived in what would become the region. Well, there were a couple thousand stray nikancha, but they were such a minute minority they weren't even worth knowing about.
That was why the region had no desire to conquer the western colonies despite inciting one revolt after another. The region had too much territory and too few people as it was already. It would be at least a century before they had enough people to make further expansion worthwhile.
The goal of Operation Wildfire was to create a friendly backyard for the region where its wares would be sold -- the establishment of a long-term market. As long as the natives could found their own nations, their huge populations represented a great demand for the region's products. It was more than enough to sustain the region's industrial and economic growth for a long time.
"Enter," Claude said.
His newly promoted adjutant, Captain Fachselin, entered. He used to be an executive officer of the department of logistics in charge of general policy. There were many officers like him in logistics. Even he didn't know how he got Masonhughes' attention to warrant him being recommended to become Claude's adjutant. Even so, he appeared to be a decent performer and hard worker across the past half month of his duties.
"Lord Militant. General Skri sent an eagle message with an eagle feather."
Fachselin held out an envelope with a feather stuck to it.
If a letter came with three eagle feathers, it meant it was top secret and urgent and had to be dealt with immediately. If it only came with one, it meant it was classified and the reader of the letter wasn't allowed to publicise the letter's contents after reading it. It was mainly to prevent the gossipy signallers from accidentally leaking crucial information. Letters without feathers attached wouldn't be a problem if they were talked about, but anyone who leaked information about feathered letters would be dealt with by the inquisition.
Skri was busy with the consolidation and development of the noble fiefs in Eastern Freia, specifically, Northbay and the Great Plains of Canas. Since the letter wasn't marked as urgent, it could afford to wait a while, since Claude was busy approximating some supply numbers at the moment.
"Put it on my desk. I'll read it later," he said.
Fachselin placed the envelope carefully on the desk, saluted, before quietly leaving Claude's private office.
Claude put down the documents in his hand after some ten minutes, signed his name and stamped his seal. The document had now been checked by him thoroughly and could then be sent for execution. Naturally, the letters Claude had to personally deal with were only those of critical importance from the military administration. The document he was just going through, for instance, was related to the transfer of Monolith 3rd Folk to the frontlines, specifically, how much manpower, supplies, ammunition and Shiksan voluntary folk uniforms they needed.
While the staff officers had mostly calculated the numbers and amounts of all things required, Claude insisted on giving his own read through to see if anything was missed. As the highest-ranked person in charge of the forces, most of his efforts were focused on logistics and deployment, true to his signature 'war is logistics' saying.
He opened Skri's letter and froze, immediately understanding why the letter was marked with a feather. It didn't have anything to do with Skri's project in the Canasian region. Instead, it was about the fate of the repatriated Shiksan captives.
Back when Claude returned to the region, this was one of the first things he had to deal with. Around 500 thousand Shiksan captives have served a full five to eight years of labour in the region and earned their freedom. However, the ongoing war between Aueras and Shiks caused them to be unable to return to their nation, so they worked in the region to make a living.
Naturally, the region couldn't just let them go, since they were a fighting force that used to be enemies of the region. They could easily be used again in a war against Aueras. Before a peace treaty was signed, the captives couldn't afford to be returned.
Laughably, however, Shiks and Aueras didn't neighbour one another and hadn't fought in a while. Yet, Shiks still stubbornly refused to send an ambassador to sue for peace, and the Aueran victors couldn't take the initiative either. The insult and humiliation the Aueran ambassadors experienced at the hands of Majid III back then was a deterrent enough. Who knew what other insane antics the Shiksan king could still pull? As such, the two nations remained in a constant state of cold war.
Thus, the Shiksan free men were doomed to be unable to return to their homes. The region was initially rather surprised that Shiks didn't make any attempt to ask about those captives at all. After all, they were the forces of Shiks. How could no ambassador be sent to ask about their situation at all?
However, an investigation showed that all those captives belonged to the forces of the Shiksan nobles. They were either the private troops of the nobles, garrison members of their fiefs or youths they forcefully conscripted. As far as Majid III was concerned, as long as those 500 thousand troops were gone, the local nobles would have no way to resist him. He had Shiks in his full control.
The earliest Shiksan captives had been living in the Aueran Autonomous Region for close to ten years. Some of them wanted to settle down there, while others wanted to go back to their families and bring them to the region. Even more wanted to work in the region and wait for the day the two kingdoms ended a war so that they could be reunited with their families.
Claude received word that up to 100 thousand of those captives wrote letters to request being sent back to Shiks to reunite with their families, so he decided to permit two thousand of them to go back. They would first sail to Northbay before taking a ferry to Shiks through ships of their nation.
Claude recalled that each one of them brought with them a large sack of letters with them to Lanu's train station for their travel to Port Cobius. They were entrusted with sending those letters on the behalf of those who remained in the region. The station had been filled to the brim with the other captives that were there to send the two thousand off. Those who would be going back promised they would deliver those letters to their families to let them know they were still alive.
Skri, however, had cruel news to share with Claude. Once those two thousand captives returned to Shiks, they caught the attention of local authorities and soon, Majid III was informed. Soon after, the king announced that the returned captives were all traitors who surrendered and refused to fight out of fear for their deaths, causing Shiks to lose their colonies on Nubissia and making them the laughing stock of other nations.
The king announced he would be hunting down those traitorous captives and instructed the local authorities to hang them to death from trees by the roadside without trial. The families of those traitors would be punished with forced labour and have their personal property confiscated.
Skri said only around two hundred of them managed to escape and return to Northbay, with no more than 20 of them managing to bring their families along, much in thanks to their homes being near the border or them having friends with good connections that got the announcements early and helped their families escape persecution.
The 200 plus lucky escapees were furious and demanded to go back to the region so they could tell their comrades about this. They also hoped that the region could help them form a force to be sent back to Shiks for revenge. That was the reason for the discreet nature of the letter. He didn't know what kind of ripple effect this news would cause among the 500 thousand Shiksan captives.
Claude's first thought was that Majid III had totally gone insane, but upon more introspection, he understood the rationale behind that decision. Those 500 thousand captives were all affiliated with the noble faction, so letting them return to Shiks meant the now-obedient nobles would regain their claws and fangs. It would negatively impact Majid III's complete chokehold on the kingdom's policies.
So, Majid III used the harshest method he knew of to cut off all hope for the captives to return. He wasn't willing to let the nobles forces grow, lest conflict between the royal family and the nobles sparked once more. The 500 thousand captives were not significant in comparison to the Shiksan population of 30 million, after all, so letting them return was the worst move to make. The 500 thousand noble-aligned veterans were better off not returning to the kingdom.
Claude rapped his fingers on the desk in thought. He decided to write to Skri to let the escapees return to the region. Shiks was now a security risk to them and they had to be given a huge blow. That way, they could make use of the Shiksan captives on the battlefield and also increase the region's population by taking them in.
Since Aueras started limiting the number of immigrants to the region, population growth in the region slowed. Currently, there were only seven million people living there. However, the territory controlled by the region was huge. The towns and cities covered no more than a quarter of all that area, and they were in real short supply for immigrants and workers.
Even if Monolith and Thundercrash returned to the region with the wives they found in the fiefs and their wives' family members, the population still wouldn't exceed eight million. The reason for that was the decade of war that raged on and caused a sharp decrease of young males, leaving behind many elderly, women and children. Many of the soldiers' wives were either lone maidens or widows with few family members remaining, mostly elderly and young children.
If the 500 thousand Shiksan captives were allowed to return to Shiks, the region would gain at least three million new immigrants in the form of their emigrated family members. However, that depended on what the region offered them. If the region agreed to send their troops to Shiks, the 500 thousand captives would immediately become their most loyal guides and vanguards as long as they wished to reunite with their families.
So, letting the 200 captives return to the region to tell the rest about their experiences would stoke the captives' rage and desire for revenge. Only then would the region consider the captives as one of their own and arm, train and command them to attack Shiks without worry.
Naturally, Claude still had to deal with the mess that was the western coast. At the very least, he had to complete the first phase of Operation Wildfire, which entailed swallowing Cape Loducus, forcing the losman in Lesnia's colony to revolt against their will, helping the pamigar in Moloshik's colony found their own nation and defending them from the forces of neighbouring colonies.