Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 562
The Great Demise
By the time Claude and Avitelli I reached Saint Cyprean, it was the end of the 10th month, ten days since Typhoon attacked and conquered the city. During that span of time, word of Saint Cyprean's fall was spread throughout the continent, coming obviously as a shock to all those paying attention to the world stage. Nobody would've expected the top superpower of Northern Freia to be so easily felled.
Aueras' prime minister, Blancarte, hurriedly travelled to Shiks nonstop with a head filled with regret. He had heard Claude state the goal of his return clearly: to conquer Shiks. Yet, the king and him, the prime minister, as well as the ministry of the army, doubted his words, thinking that there was no way they would so easily be able to deal with Shiks.
Instead, they put up their guard against him in fear that he would mount a coup. After all, Aueras would be much easier prey for the autonomous region than Shiks. As Aueras had been recovering its economy over the past two years, it didn't do much to rebuild its military. When they found that Claude was forming Typhoon at Northbay, the royal court immediately formed two reserve corps to boost their defences.
What the king and court didn't think was Claude rallied his troops at the Great Plains of Canas precisely for the purpose of dealing with Shiks. He had successfully used naval combat to draw the attention of the Shiksans, who sent most of their forces to the coasts to resist an impending attack on their shores by the region.
Claude, however, had managed to convince the Kingdom of Bleyotte to join the fight against Shiks without anyone else knowing. Not only did the Bleyotteans lead the way and open a path into the weakly defended Shiks, they even helped Thundercrash and Typhoon conquer Saint Cyprean and wipe out the Shiksan corps of Ironguard and Soram in one fell swoop.
With Saint Cyprean's fall, the fate of Shiks was sealed in stone. While it still had six standing corps and eight newly formed reserve corps at its southern coasts, they had lost their escape route and supply line. Shiks' supply and ammunition stores at the frontlines weren't enough to last them longer than three months.
This was due to the military organisation of Shiks itself. To effectively control those troops, all supplies and ammunition were to be stored in Saint Cyprean, with supply shipments only made once in two to three months. With the fall of the capital, all those supplies fell into enemy hands. Even if the Shiksans tried to expropriate supplies locally, the eight southern prefectures wouldn't be able to supply enough for so many corps. Hunger alone was enough to doom the Shiksan troops.
Back during the Second Great Eastern Freian War, Aueras' royal capital had been conquered by the Union.. But by then, the Aueran military had left with all the supplies, so they were still able to put up a resistance. Even with them retreating to the three southwestern prefectures, they didn't give up. But this time, the autonomous region's Thundercrash and Typhoon stormed Saint Cyprean immediately, capturing all supplies and top leaders. All the troops at the southern coast wouldn't do much to turn the tables of the situation.
That was why Blancarte was rushing to negotiate with Claude to let the kingdom join the war. After all, they couldn't let the autonomous region steal their thunder and eliminate Shiks, their nemesis, for them. How else would the Auerans be able to hold their heads high against those from the autonomous region?
Even with the king and prime minister clear about the region's intentions and lack of ambition, they still couldn't discount the fact that the region was their biggest threat, especially their three corps. Ever since the formation of Typhoon, it was as if another great force that didn't take the royal court's orders popped up in Eastern Freia.
If the autonomous region eliminated the northern superpower alone, the autonomous region would forever be more glorious than the mainland kingdom itself. The other Freian nations would thus choose to ally with the region rather than the kingdom, and that would be something the king and prime minister couldn't tolerate. No matter what, Blancarte's mission was to make sure they had a piece of the triumph.
Eiblont held a grand military parade in Saint Cyprean to welcome Claude and Avitelli I's arrival. Claude found that the defences of the city were still intact. Upon asking about it, he was told that Typhoon realised that the defences on the walls were undermanned. They had thought it to be some kind of trap initially, only to find out after they breached the gates that the city was indeed not well defended. So, it took them less than half an hour to take all four walls and twelve main gates.
The real problem was how Typhoon fought for five days after breaching the walls before managing to conquer the whole city. The resistance they encountered cost them many casualties. The Shiksan troops left in the city fought to their deaths at the palace before Eiblont finally ordered the rockets to be fired nonstop at the palace where they congregated, reducing a good part of it to rubble. The Shiksan remnants surrendered only thereafter.
"What about Majid III?" Avitelli I asked.
"He's dead," Eiblont said with a shrug, "Don't blame me. I wanted to capture him alive too. But that darned old fart didn't surrender no matter what. I can't let my men die needlessly just to capture him alive, right? So, I used the rockets to bombard his palace and only found half his corpse when we went to scavenge the rubble. He was quite lucky to not have been blasted away by the explosions. Instead, he was crushed in the middle by a falling pillar that split him into two."
Majid III had died just like that; the mastermind that had started the colonial wars died from being crushed by a pillar. It was a little too surreal. Claude felt a sense of loss upon hearing the news. He had run the scenario of him finally meeting the dastardly king face to face too many times just to see his pathetic, defeated look. He didn't think the king would just die in such an unexpected manner.
"Let us go see his corpse then," Claude said.
And so, Eiblont led them to a wood-and-stone building, probably the servants' quarters. The hall they were in was probably where the servants ate their meals. The ground was greasy and the walls were dirty. Within the hall were some 20 coffins. Eiblont said that every noteworthy Shiksan found dead in the palace had been moved there.
"There are three corpses of princes here, two of whom were Majid III's uncles and another being his eighth son. The four corpses over there haven't been recognised yet, but they were dressed in general's attire. Two of them are major-generals, one is a lieutenant-general and the last is a general. The old woman over there was said to have been Majid III's nanny who was given the title of marquise. She was blown to bits by a rocket right beside Majid III.
"This young lass here is Majid III's 17th daughter. She died in her nanny's embrace from a piece of shrapnel that pierced the back of her head. Fortunately, she passed without suffering much pain. That darned old man... I really don't know why he didn't surrender. Will he only be satisfied after everyone around him dies?" Eiblont seemed rather furious, especially with the dead princess who was only around 13 years of age. She could've had a bright future, yet had suffered death thanks to her obstinate father.
Claude finally saw Majid III's corpse. It had been reassembled and covered in a piece of dirty cloth that looked like it was part of a curtain. Had it not been for the golden laces around his collar and sleeves, people would merely take him for an old man in his fifties. However, his expression was harrowing and savage. He looked as if he was shouting something. However, Claude believed that it was merely a cry of pain. He had heard that dying from being snapped in half was one of the worst ways to go.
"When I was 34, I came to Saint Cyprean once," Avitelli I reminisced at the sight of the corpse, "Back then, Shiks was celebrating its 540th anniversary. All vassal nations' leaders were invited to attend. Back then, Majid III looked handsome and dashing and was called the lion king. All the vassal nation leaders were seated at a level lower than his throne, and I was no exception.
"The next year after that, he started the colonial conflict with you folk. We had thought the mighty lion would get what he wanted soon enough. What we didn't expect was that the invincible Shiksan armies in our eyes would actually perform so poorly. Majid III was greatly humiliated by his loss at your hands. After burying 14 of his standing corps in the colonies, he essentially became the butt of our jokes.
"With the end of the colonial conflict, Shiks had been utterly defeated by you from the region. But even so, it is still a towering figure over vassal states like us. We still weren't able to challenge it. By then, Majid III had become a complete tyrant and behaved erratically. Due to the losses in the colonies, he didn't even celebrate the 550th anniversary of the nation's founding. In the next five years, he demanded double the usual tribute from us vassal states.
"It was only after he involved himself in the Second Great Eastern Freian War and was chased out of Eastern Freia by you that I got the notion of allying with you to defeat Shiks and reclaim the lands they took from us. Thank the war god that you didn't disappoint me. Never would I have dreamt I would be looking at Majid III's corpse right in front of me like that. Even if I die now, I can proudly tell my grandfather, father and brothers that the Shiksan king fell at our feet."
After his emotional exchange, he went to take a rest. Claude and Eiblont went on to the field hospital set up in the palace. The place was filled with people. Most of the injured were members of Typhoon, with a few others from Thundercrash.
"We suffered around 14 thousand casualties in the city," Eiblont said with a heavy heart, "That's almost one whole folk of Typhoon. Saint Cyprean is really different from Nasri's capital, Polyvisia. While Nasri is also the nemesis of Aueras, the citizens in Polyvisia aren't that resistant to us. But here, it's completely different. Even after we completely occupied the city, quite a lot of Shiksan civilians still fight us and strike at our patrols when they least expect it."
"How did you guys deal with this?" Claude felt a headache welling up. No matter what, Shiks was the local superpower and their citizens were bound to be proud and patriotic. They didn't fear the occupying Typhoon. Any conqueror would definitely have trouble dealing with the local folk there.
Eiblont shrugged. "What can I do? Pay blood back with blood? We already hang the fighters we catch on the spot. However, only a small number of them get caught, with most of them managing to escape thanks to the citizens' protection."
Claude gave it some thought. "How about this... let Drivick and the four homecoming Shiksan folks deal with security. First, search all households for firearms and ammunition. None of the civilians is to be allowed to have any kind of ranged weapon. Make sure to check for secret pathways or rooms to minimise the odds of us being ambushed.
"We can search one district at a time. Once we finish searching the capital itself, we can expand our sweep to the whole royal territory. First, we'll find a place to keep the resistance fighters imprisoned before dealing with them once the situation stabilises.
"Next, we might have to remain here for a year or two. So, we have to get rid of these belligerent elements soon to make sure our soldiers are safe. In a sense, we are still in enemy territory and have to remain ever vigilant. But don't forget we still have eight folks of Shiksans. They will be our best helpers. While they can't help us in the fight against the other Shiksan standing corps, there isn't a better candidate than them to deal with the resistance fighters."
"Then how should we deal with Shiks in the future? Wipe it out and make it our region's territory?" Eiblont asked.
Claude shook his head helplessly. "To be honest, I'm not sure what we should do at all. Initially, the plan was to defeat Shiks and force Majid III to sign a peace treaty with our kingdom and region. Then, we'll sweep through Shiks and bring the riches back to our region, before transferring the eight homecoming Shiksan folks and their families to our region to deal the crippling blow and ensuring Shiks won't rise to prominence again.
"But now, Majid III has died in combat. Shiks is without a leader. So, who will we get to sign the peace treaty? If Majid III was still alive, we could've forced him to get the six standing corps at the coastal area to surrender. Now, we have no choice but to wipe them out. I think we should deal with the insurgents in the capital and the royal territory first before thinking of what to do next."
Eiblont said apologetically, "It's all my fault for giving the order to bombard the palace and killing this old fart--"
"It's not your fault, it has nothing to do with you!" Claude interrupted, "You did the right thing. Our troops' lives are far more important than this old fart's. We can't sacrifice our men just to capture him alive.
"And given how stubborn he is, there's a chance he might not cooperate with us even if we capture him alive. He'd be better off dead that way anyway. Otherwise, he might even insult us nonstop. He is a king, and if we don't want to willingly become kingslayers, we will have to endure his insults. But now, his death from his own stubbornness saves us the trouble."
Eiblont chuckled. "Yeah, you're right. I admit that I ordered the bombardment because that old fart was cursing us the whole time. I tried to advise them to surrender for the good part of the day, but he began shooting at us with muskets while hiding in his palace. There were still around a hundred guards inside back then. We mounted four charges in an attempt to draw them into melee, but were repelled by the firepower they had inside.
"Back then, the palace entrance and walkway were covered in dead and injured soldiers of ours, with there being almost a hundred dead. I called for them to surrender again, but that darned old man provoked us and said he would kill more of our men the more we sent. I was fuming and immediately gave the order to bombard them. After most of the palace was demolished, the remaining guards surrendered. They were all using revolvers and revolving rifles with similar firepower and range to ours."
Claude looked at the mostly destroyed palace. It was indeed as Eiblont said. If they didn't choose bombardment, the only way to approach was to use a charge. The palace was mostly built of wood and stone, with there being some granite on the outside and a keep within. Outside the palace was a beautiful piece of flat land with grass and flowers. There was nowhere any soldier could use as cover, and charging through it would essentially make one target practice for the guards within. Under such circumstances, Claude would opt to use the rockets as well.
"Alright, Drivick and the four Shiksan folks will be reaching the capital this afternoon. Have a chat with him during the evening and start checking tomorrow in the capital. I will be commanding Thundercrash and the two Bleyottean mountain corps to deal with the eight Shiksan standing corps at the southern coast," Claude said.