Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 561
"What are these Bleyottean monkeys up to now? Why did they not leave again today?"
Baron Hendrik sounded quite unhappy. His mission would've been completed after he had sent those Bleyotteans to Lonwayork as cannon fodder. Once they defeated Aueras' 'region', he would have received his reward and that would have been the end of it. Even if he hadn't done much to contribute, he would at least have been acknowledged for his duties and might have been promoted.
Everything had been going well until they reached Saint Cyprean. The large reward Majid III promised the Bleyottean mountain corps had completely disappeared, so had their grand feast. All the soldiers were given were two cups of ale and a catty of rock-hard jerky left out for who-knew-how-long. It destroyed the men's morale. They marched at barely a crawl once they were out of sight of the capital. It took them three days to make it to Dademoss. Now, they were so lazy they hadn't even bothered to look for an excuse for why they had yet to set out again.
"I saw some cavalrymen leave the scout tribe's camps this morning. I asked one of the first lieutenants where they were going. He told me with an incredibly sour attitude they were probably going to get some fresh meat. It really is laughable for our king to give these monkeys jerky dried 20 years ago... They don't even have the teeth needed to bite through meat that hard," joked another Shiksan reservist in hopes of cheering up the baron.
He and some ten of his compatriots currently present were the baron's loyal minions.
A smile finally surfaced on Hendrik's face. He didn't think Majid III was wrong in reducing the reward those monkeys got. The expression when those monkeys got the jerky really was funny. Hendrik managed to see one soldier take a bite out of the jerky only to break one of his teeth. The mere thought of that scene would always cause him to chuckle.
"I heard the Bleyottean monkeys are trying to figure out how to make that jerky edible. Immersing it in water before cooking it doesn't work. The cooks even ruined two good blades by trying to cut them. So, it's no surprise they want to eat some proper meat. Anyone would get sick of eating black bread every day," said another local official. While Shiks was in charge of supplying the food of the mountain corps, they mostly provided fruits and black bread. There was little meat if any. Even the Shiksan officials in charge of transporting the supplies had to get their own meat.
"Let's go see General Beck during noon and tell him that logistics will only return to normal after they reach the destination. By then, they'll definitely be fed as well as our kingdom's standing corps. Currently, they're only two prefectures away from the frontlines. We have to send those monkeys over quick. After our mission is done, we can head back and end our suffering with these monkeys," Hendrik decided. No matter what, he had to send the monkeys on their way. This matter couldn't afford to be delayed any longer.
"Lord, General Beck's adjutant came looking for you just now. He said the general is treating us to roast mutton today," Hendrik's attendant reported.
Hendrik had to admit that the corpsman of the monkey corps was a rather decent noble general who knew how to treat people rightly and generously. In the half a month they were travelling together, Beck had invited the Shiksan officials to a few feasts already. Hendrik also found him to be a rather decent conversation partner. It was a shame he was a Bleyottean. Otherwise, Hendrik would definitely love to become better friends with Beck.
During noon, the fragrant smell of roast meat wafted through the camp. When Hendrik and the rest went towards the main tent, they noticed that the Bleyottean monkeys all got roasted mutton. He looked closely and saw that each band had a whole sheep. It wasn't a small sum the general had spent. The force had 70 thousand men, and each band had roughly 50 men. So the general had bought at least 1400 sheep!
The sheep yet unfinished were being grilled on a number of spits just outside the main tent. The soldiers in charge of roasting were brushing spices and sauce on the mutton. Hendrik's appetite immediately soared when he smelled the food. He immediately got himself a silver plate from a table nearby and picked one of the pieces he was satisfied with.
"It tastes rather good," he praised Beck as he chewed, "I didn't think you'd manage to get so many sheep. However, it's a little wasteful to let these soldiers have this. You didn't have to feed them roast mutton to raise their morale. Giving them mutton soup is already enough."
As far as Hendrik was concerned, the soldiers were mere cannon fodder. It was a waste to feed someone a good meal if they were going to die on the battlefield soon anyway. To feed them till their stomachs were full was already really generous. There was no need to waste money to sate their desire for meat. If he were the general, he would give out one sheep for each tribe for them to make mutton soup to go with their black bread.
Beck smiled and raised his wine glass for a sip. "I was rather lucky. All the sheep in a farmstead near town have been brought here. Don't worry, there are more than five thousand sheep. It's enough for our men to have mutton roast three times over."
It only just occurred to Hendrik that Dademoss was famous for being a herding prefecture that produced quality wool and mutton. The mutton from Dademoss was among the favourite foods of the citizens of Saint Cyprean. Usually, a farmstead would only have a few hundred sheep. Specialised sheep farms would already be considered quite huge if they had more than a thousand sheep. Yet, the Bleyotteans managed to get five thousand in one morning alone.
"You must've spent quite a lot, right? You're really loose with your money, for you to buy so many sheep for your soldiers to enjoy. If this goes on, you'll eventually burn through your fortune, even if you have a hill of gold." Hendrik felt that the general's generosity was a little too wasteful. Before he swallowed his meat, he drank some wine to wash it down.
"Hahaha..." Beck poured Hendrik another glass. "We didn't spend anything. We seized all five thousand of these sheep."
Panicked coughing ensued. Hendrik almost choked from the wine. It took him quite a while to stop his coughing, before he pointed to Beck in shock. "W-what did you say?! S-seizures? Who gave you that order?!"
"Our king, Avitelli I, of course. His Majesty wrote a letter to say that, according to the agreement signed with your king, the First Mountain Corps' supplies during our march would be sourced in full by your lot, and that includes meat, eggs, fresh vegetables and fruit. It's a shame that you only provided black bread and some dried fruits to us during the past half month. Oh, there's that jerky that's even harder than steel, and that's supposed to be a bonus from your king.
"So, when I reported that up top, our king said we were free to seize as we pleased. Our troops are more than happy to carry out the order. And dare I say, they did so magnificently. Look, we managed to gather quite a lot of other useful resources apart from the sheep. You Shiksans are really patriotic, I'll give you that. When they found out we were here to fight on your behalf, they even donated their personal wealth to fund us."
Beck opened a large wooden chest beside him. The chest was mostly filled with gold and silverware such as candelabras, bowls and cups. Hendrik even saw a golden tooth covered in some blood, a clear sign of the struggle of an unwilling donor. Otherwise, the donor would've washed the blood off before handing it over.
Clang! The golden cup and silver plate in Hendrik's hands fell to the ground.
He pointed at the smiling general, still enjoying the roast meat, and stammered, "Y-you... how dare y-you seize property on our soil?"
Beck's expression was one of total confusion. "Why not? Since you're not willing to give us any, we'll take it for ourselves. It's only expected."
Expected his ass! Hendrik immediately despaired. It was no longer an issue of whether he could finish his task. Instead, the Bleyotteans had done something treasonous on his watch! It was a complete insult to the northern superpower that was Shiks! At what point had it become acceptable for the army of a vassal to seize goods in the land of their masters? This humiliation wasn't something Shiks could live down!
Other things aside, Dademoss was close to the royal territory. Most of the farmsteads in this prefecture were owned by nobles that live in the capital. Who knew how many nobles the Bleyotteans had angered with their seizures? Now, local officials in charge of guiding the way like Hendrik got dragged down by those monkeys' transgressions!
"You... it's over for you! Do you know how serious this infraction is?! You'll even cause trouble for Bleyotte! The only thing you can do now is to make up to the people from whom you seized things and send your troops to the frontlines immediately! Perhaps you'll get to keep your life this way!" Hendrik yelled.
"Don't get mad. It really isn't that big of a deal," Beck said with a shrug, "Go to the frontlines? Nope, we won't do it. The folk of Dademoss have been most hospitable and welcoming, you see, so I think we'll station ourselves here a little longer to make sure they don't come under harm from the enemy. We'll set our defence line here instead. If the region's troops break through your defences at the frontlines, we'll be here to receive them."
Hendrik felt his head spin from the headache. What did this mean? Beck the monkey general said he wouldn't be leaving so he could continue terrorising the folk of Dademos and set up a defence line there. They were still two prefectures away from the frontlines, so who was there to defend against? Were they trying to commit treason?
"How... how dare you..." Hendrik wagged his finger, but no more words came out.
"Why wouldn't I?--" A chilling, murderous look finally surfaced on Beck's face. "--Lord Baron, it's best you enjoy your delicious meal now, as it'll be your last. I've had enough of you and your men bossing us around. Do you see those gallows over there? We prepared them for you and your colleagues."
On the 16th of the 10th month in Saint Cyprean, the atmosphere in the royal court was tense. Majid III's cursing and scolding could be heard nonstop. He had been yelling for nearly half an hour, and all the ministers and nobles in court lowered their heads, taking the mad barking silently.
Just that morning, they received word that the two mountain corps from Bleyotte couldn't take the stingy treatment they were getting from Shiks any longer and rebelled. One corps pillaged Dademoss and held feast after feast, unwilling to head to the frontlines. Instead, they built a defence line where they were and decided to hold their ground. The other corps was heading towards the royal capital. Word was that they were there to raid and burn the royal sector of the capital.
Majid III immediately decided he would go to war with Bleyotte after this war. He proclaimed that as long as they defeated the region in this attack, he would declare war on Bleyotte to wipe out that ungrateful, dastardly nation.
He was so generous and sincere towards Bleyotte, having helped them out without compensation when they were facing many dangers. Little did he know that the Bleyottean monkeys were all cold-blooded wolves. For a rebellion to start during such a crucial moment, Majid III made a note to not let any of the officers that rebelled off.
"Your Majesty, it's best we start thinking about how we should deal with those two traitorous mountain corps," said General Philmos, the chief supervisor of the ministry of the army. He knew that the battle of words would never end, at least not within the next two hours.
"Deploy! Let's wipe out those traitors once and for all! Tell our brave warriors that we're not taking any captives this battle! Hang all those captured alive!" Majid III ordered.
The decision to send troops out was easy, but the question was which place to deploy and whether they would make it in time. Philmos found it to be quite fortunate that First Mountain Corps set up camp and stopped instead of heading to the royal capital. Perhaps they were too spoiled by the mutton they didn't want to leave. Little did the court expect Second Mountain Corps would show up, giving Claude an enormous advantage.
Majid III also personally decreed Soram to head to Dademoss to wipe First Mountain Corps out. The officers of the Shiksan military were rather confident, as Soram was among the main fighting forces of the kingdom and would definitely be able to contribute lots.
It would be all too easy for them to deal with a corps of Bleyottean monkeys, especially when the two corps of Bleyotte were less used to fighting on land. Dademoss was mostly covered in flat, herding pastures. Once those monkeys got off their tree branches, they would be helpless against the Shiksans. They believed word of their victory would come soon.
All that remained was Second Mountain Corps. According to intel, they were said to be marching quickly towards the royal capital, being fully aware of the wealth stored in it. That kind of wealth exceeded even that of three Shiksan prefectures. The royal capital was definitely far more developed and prosperous than the other prefectures.
Almost all the nobles and ministers of Shiks requested the military to be ready to fight their foes. They also couldn't afford to let the Bleyotteans into the royal capital, lest they lost their wealth to the monkeys.
After General Philmos' considerations, he ignored the advice and requests of his compatriots and decided he would have Ironguard Corps in the royal capital exterminate that corps of Bleyottean monkeys. Ironguard was the Shiksan analogue to the Aueran royal guard. While they were considered to be the strongest troops of the kingdom. They were more than capable of taking on those monkeys.
What came as a headache for the officers, however, was how a number of brave princes volunteered to serve. They joined the ranks of their household troops with their personal guards.
The nobles' forces amounted to nearly one folk. Philmos had wanted to cut another folk from Ironguard initially. But now that they were replaced by the private forces of the nobles, he straightforwardly requested permission to send an armoured folk to chase after them. It was best to get Majid III to fix the situation for them. Even if Ironguard fell to the monkeys' attacks, they could simply send even more reserve troops after them. The Shiksans were nothing if not persistent, after all.
On the 19th of the 10th month, Soram left Lonwayork and arrived in Dademoss. After three hours of rest, they mounted an attack on the Bleyotteans. The battle was fought till two in the morning, ending with them retreating from suffering great casualties.
On the 20th of the 10th month at ten in the morning, Ironguard and the private forces of the nobles came under a surprise attack from the cavalrymen of Typhoon and were all eliminated. By the time Typhoon surrounded Saint Cyprean, it was already five. The royal capital finally fell to conquest at eight in the evening.
At the same time, the Bleyotteans' First Mountain Corps in Dademos launched a counterattack at eleven in the morning and encircled Soram at three in the afternoon.