Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 558

After the rainy season in the 12th month, the region's transport fleet sent two homecoming Shiksan folks over. They wore the same uniforms as the soldiers of Thundercrash and settled down in a camp that had been set up in advance. The security around the camp was incredibly tight. No locals or merchants were allowed to approach. As far as the public was concerned, the camp housed the reserve forces of the region. The reason they were deployed there was for a large-scale military drill to be carried out on the Great Plains.

They had no choice. The royal capital was far too wary towards Claude's troop movements. Even after Claude told Blancarte he had returned to the mainland to reorganise Thundercrash and take the opportunity to attack Shiks, the royal capital was still partly doubtful. Perhaps due to that, Fredrey I announced the ministry of the army would be forming two standing corps soon.

Borkal followed the two Shiksan folks to Northbay. He kept a low profile and didn't don a military uniform, disguising himself like a travelling merchant looking to hitch a ride on the ship instead. He should've been working on Operation Wildfire at the western coast, but thanks to the heightened security and guard of the western colonies, the natives he got into contact with didn't make huge progress. He had no choice but to stop what he was doing to go to Freia after receiving Claude's order.

Three days later, Borkal took three subordinates, all disguised as travelling merchants from the Southern Freian Duchy of Reliaro, on the way to Shiks by catching a ride on a merchant vessel before heading to Bleyotte. Currently, the route to Bleyotte on land had been cut off thanks to the bandit infestation at the border of Mambamark. Small groups of travelling merchants were the favourite targets of bandits like those, so they travelled by sea to be safe.

Another 20-odd days passed. At the end of the 4th month, Borkal sent a report back that he had gotten in touch with Avitelli I and took on the identity of a court merchant the king deeply trusted. He reported that the bandits causing trouble at Mambamark's border were actually Nasrian and Canasian remnants supported by Shiks.

"You can invite Duke Reddragon and Marquis Griffon here for a banquet." Claude tossed Borkal's report onto Skri's desk. Skri gave it a look and chuckled.

"If they find out that the reason you asked them to come was to declare war against Mambamark, I wonder if they'll regret coming."

Duke Reddragon referred to the Lord Militant of the previous king and true commander of Reddragon and father-in-law to Stellin XI, Duke Ellivenson Siegfeld. Marquis Griffon, on the other hand, was the former corpsman of Griffon and general of the kingdom, Marquis Julius Hou Hadro. The two of them were representatives of the old nobility. Ever since the king gave out fiefs, they came to an agreement with the king to withdraw their household's might from the forces of the kingdom for reparations before returning to their respective fiefs.

"Duke Siegfeld seems to have full control over the prefecture of Glasom. Marquis Hadro isn't much worse off either, having most of Welinkdor. However, those two prefectures are connected to Mambamark at their borders. The prefecture of Bismonk, on the other hand, has a severe bandit problem. Life there is hectic, to say the least.

"Interestingly, Duke Siegfeld and Marquis Hadro both want to take control of the trade routes towards Mambamark and set up their vassal nobles in Bismonk. However, they suffered severe losses from clashes with the bandits. Trade routes aside, they couldn't even protect their own vassals, whose fiefs are often raided and pillaged."

Claude looked at the documents in hand, intel Skri had managed to collect, and began, "Currently, Duke Reddragon formed a garrison line stationed in Bismonk, whereas Marquis Griffon also has two garrison tribes stationed in his vassals' fiefs. However, they are merely setting up defence lines to stop the bandits from entering their towns.

"It's said that the bandits are made up of five to six thousand remnant troops of Nasri and Canas. They form small groups and use shock tactics, constantly beating down the duke and marquis' troops. Once, the duke set up a trap and exterminated some bandits, but as they were pursuing them, they were stopped by Mambamark's garrison forces at the border. They had to watch the bandits slip from them into the forests.

"It's probable for the two nobles to support our declaration of war against Mambamark. After all, they wouldn't have to be our cannon fodder and lead the way for us. All they have to do is to follow behind us and protect our supply routes. They can even recoup some losses they suffered from the bandits. All we want is wealth, but I'm sure they want everything from manpower, supplies, livestock and other things that will strengthen their fiefs."

"While Mambamark is a small nation, it has three standing corps. Are you sure Thundercrash alone can defeat them?" Skri asked solemnly.

"I'm confident," Claude answered casually, "While we have reorganised into smaller folks, we now have four. Our total number of troops is even 1.5 times more than back when we only had two folks. Even if we fight one against two, we'll be able to dominate. Not to mention, Mambamark's three corps are disjointed and weak. They won't be our match.

"The only worry is the backlash we'll get from the capital. That's the real reason I want you to invite the duke and marquis to a banquet for me. I heard they've already requested aid from the royal capital, but all the royal court did was send an ambassador to Mambamark to complain. They didn't achieve any sort of deal. In fact, they even said local, small-scale conflicts with bandits should be resolved by the nobles themselves. If it's not a large problem, the kingdom won't deploy troops.

"I trust we'll be able to come to an agreement with Duke Reddragon and Marquis Griffon. If they want to expand their power, they have nowhere but to extend into Mambamark. We won't ask much of them either. All they have to do is to form an allied noble corps to ensure our supply line. They are free to take advantage of any opportunities they encounter. I trust that they'll agree to those terms. Additionally, they'll have to be the ones to bear the brunt of the pressure from the royal capital. Our troops are merely being hired to deal with the bandits for them."

On the 7th of the 5th month, Year 604, Skri held a banquet to celebrate his 50th birthday and invited many nobles to attend. Duke Reddragon and Marquis Griffon also came to Northbay for the banquet and went into a round of secret talks with Claude, Skri and Eiblont through the night.

On the 21st of the 5th month, bandits using the banner of the Canas-restoration Army raided a village in Bismonk in the Nasrian region, only to fall to an ambush by the local garrison. Unable to overpower their enemies, the bandits mounted a fighting retreat towards the forests of Mambamark. The pursuing garrison didn't relent, but were stopped by Mambamark's border guard.

Such situations usually ended in a shouting match between the two sides before Bismonk's garrison inevitably left empty handed. However, the argument raged more intensely this time around and a firefight ensued, resulting in a few casualties. The next day, Duke Reddragon proclaimed that Mambamark was supporting the bandits that harassed Bismonk and declared war against Mambamark with the allied noble corps he was about to form. Marquis Griffon supported the motion as well.

On the 23rd of the 5th month, Mambamark's king, Mambamark VI, proclaimed that he would accept the declaration of the nobles and even said they would suffer a humiliating defeat should they dare to invade the kingdom. The kingdom rallied its three standing corps at the border, confident it would be able to repel an enemy invasion. Mambamark VI also announced he would send an ambassador to the Aueran capital to make a statement to Fredrey I that he had nothing to do with the bandits and had no intention of going to war with Aueras at all.

As far as the king and ministers of Mambamark were concerned, the duke and marquis' threats were empty. Even if they managed to form a corps, they would have no ability to attack their kingdom. They were only making so much noise to save some face.

That was why they jokingly accepted the declaration of war and sent an ambassador to the royal capital to petition the Aueran king to discipline the obstinate nobles. As long as Aueras itself didn't declare war, Mambamark didn't care about the allied noble army.

But something out of their expectations happened. Before their ambassador even set out, word of the allied noble army's invasion came from the border. One of Mambamark's standing corps stationed there wasn't able to hold on for even a full day, being completely eliminated in their camps by the enemy. The enemy only rested for one night before heading to Mambamark's capital, Sugrasson, the next day.

On the 30th of the 5th month, Mambamark's standing corps, the Romak Musketeer Corps, clashed with the allied noble army, only to end up completely wiped out. Shocked, the ministers and king only found that the force they were fighting wasn't the allied noble army Duke Reddragon claimed to have formed, but rather, Thundercrash, the famous corps of the Aueran Autonomous Region. By then, Thundercrash was already less than a day's march from Sugrasson.

On the 2nd of the 6th month, Thundercrash encircled Sugrasson. Mambamark VI sent an ambassador to criticise the region for not declaring war and demanded them to leave the kingdom at once. However, the answer they received was that Thundercrash was part of the allied noble army, as Duke Reddragon had paid to hire them to join it. Mambamark VI, having accepted the declaration of war with the commander-in-chief of the allied noble army, Duke Reddragon, should have no legitimate qualms with them.

Additionally, the region maintains neutrality on the conflict between the Aueran nobles and Mambamark. They didn't want to make an enemy out of Mambamark. But having been hired by the allied noble army, they had to fulfil their obligations, so they asked for Mambamark VI's tolerance and understanding. Incidentally, they reminded the ambassador that Thundercrash would attack the capital in the next hour and asked the king to surrender soon so that nobody's feelings would get hurt.

When the ambassador returned to report the response to the king and ministers, Mambamark VI was so angered he vomited blood on the spot. The ministers called for him to calm down and said they would use the defences afforded by the city to fight Thundercrash till the end. However, some calmer minds believed they ought to surrender soon. After all, Thundercrash wouldn't harm their lives, so they could wait for the Aueran court to come and talk the matter out. Fredrey I wouldn't let Mambamark die if he cared about his reputation.

After all, the two kingdoms had no qualms with one another, nor did they have any territorial disputes. They knew well enough why it had come to this. It was all thanks to Mambamark VI's greed for Shiksan wealth, which prompted him to allow the so-called Canas-restoration Army to operate within their borders.

The city hoisted the white flag after Thundercrash's hundred cannons had fired about a thousand explosive rounds at the city wall. The gates opened and Mambamark officially surrendered to the allied noble army. As the ministers had guessed, Thundercrash didn't trouble the king or the ministers and allowed them to be escorted to the Aueran capital with their families and personal belongings. They even provided a hundred carriages and an escort of a tribe of cavalry troops.

Defeating a nation within two weeks sent shockwaves across Freia. Even the nobles at the Aueran capital thought it was a joke when they heard the allied noble army defeated Mambamark. But when Duke Reddragon wrote a report to the royal court, Fredrey I and Blancarte found out that Thundercrash was behind it.

However, not a single one of the Canas-restoration Army managed to escape. They were surrounded in their camp and taken care of in one fell swoop. Most of them ended up injured or dead and the rest surrendered and were taken captive. The captive testimonies revealed that Shiks was truly the one behind all the trouble. They had sent Mambamark VI large amounts of treasures and gold to get him to allow them to operate in the borders of the kingdom to cause trouble for the nobles in the Nasrian region. They were even given protection by the kingdom.

The main reason Mambamark fell so quickly was that it wasn't that huge. There were only nine prefectures across the kingdom. After being taken off guard by Thundercrash, they rallied the Romak Musketeer Corps in a hurry, only for them to be eliminated instead. All that remained was the ceremonial guard in the royal capital with pathetic fighting ability. There was no longer time to prepare a resistance against Thundercrash's advance.

After Sugrasson surrendered and the nobles and king were taken captive and sent to the Aueran capital, the remaining prefectures in Mambamark weren't able to resist Thundercrash at all. The local garrison and officials were sucked clean. Organised looting came next.

By the time Thundercrash left with their wealth, the allied noble army came for the worksmiths and young labourers, as well as production tools and livestock. Almost every prefecture in Mambamark was swept clean. Even if the kingdom didn't die just there, there would be nothing but a wasteland for the king and ministers to return to.

Claude wasn't too satisfied. Even though Mambamark hadn't fought a war in the past century, all they got didn't even amount to seven million crowns. The kingdom's wealth was as small as its area. It seemed that he had to count on Shiks to not disappoint him with their wealth.

Bleyotte, that neighboured Mambamark, were on full martial law and mobilised all their citizens. Avitelli I sent ambassadors nonstop to the Shiksan capital of Saint Cyprean to request Majid III for military supplies and resources to prevent a sudden war with Thundercrash.

As a Shiksan vassal ruler, King Avitelli I's volunteer spirit came as quite a delight for Majid III. Avitellli I wrote that the loss of Mambamark showed how strong the Aueran Autonomous Region was, however, they lucked out because Mambamark was mostly flat land and the enemy attacked without warning. They only lost because they were caught off guard.

Bleyotte, on the other hand, was mostly mountains. They were fully capable of preparing a complete defence line to stop the enemy in their tracks. As a vassal nation of Shiks, as long as they were given appropriate military support, the four corps of Bleyotte guaranteed the enemy would be stopped in their borders.

So, Majid III decided to support the Bleyottean army and sent a group of officers and technicians there to help them erect the defence line and monitor them. He wrote to Avitelli I and promised that if war broke out, Shiks would send reinforcements as soon as possible to stop the Aueran invasion.

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