Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 592
Fochs had really gone insane. Half a year back, they owned the most colonies on Nubissia. Yet, they lost all their colonies in a short few months. The worst part of all was that those three colonies weren't lost to the enemy they had been so wary against, the region, but rather and what they considered their allies and pirates.
The allies Fochs had counted on stabbed them in the back twice, with the central colony and Lupsal being conquered by Reliaro and Opsaro respectively. That was the most shocking part for Fochs. The two colonies, having been managed by Fochs for so many years, had many settlers and riches. They were among the most reliable sources of income for Fochs on both continents.
Wades Mountains being taken by pirates was yet another piece of bad news, but it couldn't really be helped. It was far too rural and served only as a hub for mineral resources, so there weren't many settlers there. Apart from ore ships and slave owners, few others sailed there to trade.
The colony only managed to get some development before Fochs wanted to have their own shipyards and refineries there. However, all that was ruined by Blacksail. After that colony was raided by Blacksail, Fochs no longer paid too much attention to it, only for it to be conquered later.
Having lost all their colonies, Fochs reacted desperately. Within the span of three months, they sent three different ambassadors to the region. The first came with enough money to make an order for twelve second-generation warships to be delivered half a year later. The second came to discuss having their officers schooled and trained on operating those ships. They paid 100 thousand crowns for the region to agree to let them use Cape Loducus as a training base.
The third ambassador came to purchase cannons to be fitted onto those ships. However, the region no longer produced the old muzzle-loading cannons. Fortunately, Moriad recalled that their old sail fleet managed to capture some ten smuggling ships with those cannons. So, he had them be used to fulfil the ambassador's request.
Half a year later, the twelve ironclad warships were gathered at Cape Loducus. The naval officers were also fully trained. They confidently departed with their coal-filled ships to retake their lost colonies.
However, Claude didn't think Fochs would be able to do much. Their situation was far too stacked against them. It was no longer a time when having a strong navy allowed one to dominate. With their navy alone, Fochs wouldn't be able to reclaim their lost colonies. Even if they could, they wouldn't be able to keep them.
As expected, Fochs' first target was the colony of Lupsal which Opsaro took. However, Opsaro didn't have a strong navy at all and had no intention to fight a naval battle with Fochs. Instead, they seemed rather regretful and took the initiative to avoid conflict with Fochs' ironclad fleet. They moved their citizens living within 15 kilometres of the coast inland in a self-imposed blockade of sorts, allowing Fochs to do whatever they want at the coast.
Though, there was nothing to be gained from doing so. The empty coastal towns had nothing. Fochs' only option was to send ground forces inland, but that was their greatest weakness. It would be suicide for their naval troops to leave their ships. So, they lingered for some three days before feeling the pointlessness of it all and left, this time, for the central colony conquered by Reliaro. There were more than 100 thousand Fochsian settlers there, so they should be able to get help in reclaiming that colony.
However, Reliaro fortified their coastal defences with cannons and used them to fight the Fochsian fleet alongside their first-generation warships. They employed a hit-and-run style of harassment attacks. In two to three days, the Fochsian navy took the initiative to leave. If they stayed any longer, they would've run out of ammunition and would have their ships captured.
The fleet only had enough resources to make a trip to Wades Mountains. As long as they could reclaim that colony, they would be able to resupply their ammunition. The Fochsian naval officers had never wished so badly to have a naval base on Nubissia before. They believed the pirates of Blacksail should probably not be a match for their ironclad fleet. Usually, pirates would flee at the sight of the proper navy.
Yet, Blacksail now considered Wades Mountains to be their territory and installed cannons around the port as well as waterways in and out to sea. They seemed to be willing to face off the Fochsian fleet to the death. However, the Fochsian troops were already worn out from their string of failures and weren't nearly as dedicated as Blacksail.
Blacksail sent their ships out and fired their cannons, leaving bumps and dents across the Fochsian ships. One of the pirate ships sailed close within 20 metres of one of the Fochsian second-generation ships and fired rapidly. A few other pirates dropped a shark-shaped metal object into the water facing the second-generation warship and lit the fuse from above.
Once the fuse was lit, black smoke wafted out of its back and it started moving in the water towards the Fochsian ship at a mediocre speed. However, the Fochsian sailors didn't know what that was and thought it was some kind of sea creature. They watched as the object rammed into the hull of their ship.
A large explosion could be heard, accompanied by a water-show ten metres in height. The warship looked as if it had suffered a sharp ram and tilted heavily to one side. The crew at the bottom of the ship crawled up and reported that the explosion caused a huge breach in the hull which caused water to seep in. The steam engine had been submerged and the ship was done with, so they might as well abandon ship to save their lives.
Four such explosions rang out, ridding Fochs of three of their second-generation ironclad warships. There was one that was quite lucky that had its breach sealed up in time and managed to leave the battle. The nine remaining ships finally managed to reach Fedro's colony right before their supplies ran out for maintenance and rest.
Fedro's colony didn't produce and blackstone coal, so Fochs had no choice but to purchase large amounts of charcoal as fuel. They brought their nine damaged ships back to the Vebator for repairs and bought a large number of steam engines and propellers before returning to Fochs. In the coming decades, Fochs' fleets would no longer sighted near the western coast.
Before Claude was the design blueprints of the shark-shaped weapons the pirates used. What he didn't expect was that they were named mobile aquamines.
<i>Who in the world named them? They have a poorer naming sense than even me!</i> He changed their names to shark mines instead, since they looked similar to sharks.<sup id="footnoteref1"><a href="#footnotefn1"></a></sup> It was said that one of Eriksson's rune magi played a part in their creation. That fellow had originally wanted to create normal water mines that were deployed and left there, but he wasn't able to come up with a timing mechanism for the explosive fuse. So, he made them explode on impact instead, creating a torpedo-like weapon at the end of the day.
The torpedo's construction was rather simple. It had a shark-shaped silhouette with balancing fins to help maintain trajectory in water. At the tip of the weapon was an impact fuse and at its tail was a small propeller and coiled spring. Upon deploying it in water, it would propel the whole projectile forwards, though its distance was a short 20-odd metres and it didn't travel fast. It moved at the speed of a person walking on land. Warships could easily avoid them if they detected them quickly.
If an evasive manoeuvre wasn't made, the torpedo would explode upon impact, creating highly pressurised jets of water that could breach even the armoured hulls of warships and cause a leak. However, they posed no threat to the region's third and fourth-generation ironclad warships, which had separate ballasts near the hull. Leaks in those areas weren't particularly threatening.
Those shark mines Blacksail developed could perhaps be considered a primitive torpedo. Claude ensured that they would focus development efforts and funding on better versions until they were fit for practical use. His requirements were simple: the shark mines had to be able to be shot by the warships themselves up to a distance of a thousand metres at a speed twice that of ironclad warships. That would ensure the ship attacked would be sunk for good and thus make it useful in actual battles.
Apart from the delightful surprise of the primitive torpedos, Blacksail brought Claude another piece of news he wasn't that interested in: the Fochsian ironclad fleet sailed north. There was no way they would be able to reclaim all their colonies without a proper ground force, especially when their enemies also had ironclad warships. They couldn't even enforce proper blockades with their new ships. There was also the fact that they didn't have a base at which they could resupply on Nubissia.
He went back to dealing with other matters of the military administration. Shiksan Voluntary and Thundercrash had been reorganised and were ready for deployment. Soon, they would be deployed along with one pamigar standing corps to Wasilisk's neighbouring colony where the jisdor and skro were fighting an ethnic war on a humanitarian military mission to stop the senseless war and restore order to the colony.
The two groups had been fighting one another for up to four years. Initially, their total population numbered around five million, but now, less than two million were left. It was said that another million among the old and unfit fled to Opsaro's colony as refugees.
Currently, the two groups were holed up in their respective mountain strongholds for self-preservation. It was as if they started to live like cavemen once more and upheld a reclusive, isolationist attitude, refusing all contact with outsiders. If they didn't have enough supplies, they would go out to raid and rob. That was part of the reason why Wasilisk's troops had to give up on retaking their colony. Their local defence forces were far from a match for these savage natives and suffered many casualties in confrontations with them.
As the region and the pamigar republic sent their troops into the colony, they destroyed the skro and jisdor's wooden strongholds one after another before evicting the different groups of natives to the east and west respectively.
Within three months, Wasilisk was swept through and all the natives were isolated in the two separate strongholds. However, the region's two corps continued their advance and soon reached the borders of Opsaro's colony. Opsaro hurriedly sent their troops to block their path and sent the region an ambassador to negotiate the issue of border violation.
However, Birkin didn't think it was even an issue at all. He demanded Opsaro's forces to move aside to work with the region to solve the matter of the fighting native groups.
As the region's troops swept through the colony, they found many leads that suggested Opsaro was the mastermind behind this ethnic strife, which resulted in this inhuman tragedy that saw the deaths of more than two million natives.
Opsaro's ambassador naturally denied the claim. He countered by saying the region was merely trying to use that as a pretence to violate Opsaro's colony. Birkin merely laughed and said there was nothing they could do even if that was the case while reminding him he had proof to show that they were the masterminds behind the war which the region could use to turn the natives against them. For the sake of peace, Opsaro had better surrender obediently.
Naturally, that was nigh impossible. Opsaro's troops immediately started building defence lines at the border, but their efforts were completely thwarted by Thundercrash and Shiksan Voluntary. All three of Opsaro's corps were wiped out. Most troops raised the white flag the moment an attack began.
After that, Thundercrash occupied Lupsal, which Fochs lost to Opsaro. All of a sudden, they had another two corps of Opsaroan local garrison soldiers under their wing.
The natives in Opsaro's colony were jisdor or skro to begin with. They were no different from their brethren in Wasilisk's colony. After the ethnic conflict began in Wasilisk's colony, Opsaro immediately sealed the borders of the two colonies and put their own natives under high guard and oppression to stop them from tearing each other apart from the hatred.
The region was, of course, aware of the baseless allegation, but that didn't stop them from blaming Opsaro. They were the ones who didn't want to surrender, to begin with.
After the region conquered the colony, they implemented a huge migration plan to move the skro to Wasilisk's colony and the jisdor to Opsaro's colony. That way, each group could have a colony to themselves. The two colonies were separated by a 300-metre-tall wall at their borders. Apart from a few checkpoints, anyone that showed up near the border wall would be shot at by the guards on the other side.
That was how the skro and jisdor republics came into existence. The two nations continued to see one another as enemies even after their founding. As for Lupsal, that colony was given to the local lanstobuk natives. That was how the Lupsal Federation of Liberty was founded. The region then leased Port Lupsal from the lanstobuk to use as its second naval base for 99 years.
<sup id="footnotefn1"><a href="#footnoteref1"></a> In Chinese, torpedoes are literally called fish mines. However, the justification the author gave (that they looked like sharks) doesn't really come through in English. It doesn't help that sharks in Chinese are literally called 'shark fishes', so the nuance is once more lost. I've chosen the term 'shark mines' to maintain consistency with the justification for the name.</sup>