Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 362

"General, I have a question," Claude said after some deep thought, "It's about the 100 thousand settler households. What's the career you mentioned each household will get?"

Lord Militant Miselk replied, "It's actually rather straightforward. If they want to farm, we'll give them a piece of land up to eight acres of land. All we need to do is state clearly that they own the land and leave everything else be. You should know that peasants have a really hard time to become landowners in the kingdom. Only in the colonies can they get the land we assign them for free. Whether they develop the land well will depend on their own efforts.

"This isn't something you have to worry about as a field marshal. All you have to do is to make sure that the department that manages those settlers, which is under your jurisdiction, is ready to settle 100 thousand households down when they arrive. It is barren and vast here. Choose three suitable locations to build two to three towns for those settlers. Also, we'll need more manpower for mining development. So, those who don't wish to farm can head to those four mining towns to earn a good keep."

Claude nodded in agreement. With those arrangements, the 100 thousand households of settlers will be able to make a decent living in the colonies. The settlers didn't have to bother with anything and didn't even have to spend the money needed to settle down. By the time they arrived, they would come with the huge subsidies the merchant nobles provided to finance the development of their own homes.

Of 100 thousand households, each one of them had a retired veteran. There were also another 20 tribes of keepers, so that made 120 thousand experienced soldiers who served during the five-year war. Coupled with most of the ex-Ranger soldiers in the local garrison forces and the men from the colonial corps, they would have a sufficient number of men.

Each of the five enhanced folks had to have 32 thousand people. They totaled up to 160 thousand in number. Shiks on the other hand was going to send in ten standing corps, each numbering around 60 plus thousand people. In other words, they'd have more than 600 thousand men. Being outnumbered nearly four to one, only by fighting defensively at the defence line at the natural barrier, Dorinibla River, and Claude Defence Line could they stand a chance for victory.

"General, I understand that having enough troops is no longer an issue. But what of the funding? How do we deal with our logistics and gear maintenance?"

"Ahem..." Miselk cleared his throat and looked frustratedly at Claude. "I have to explain this to you one by one. Part of the supplies mainly the daily necessities, will rely on local produce from Mormaly, Aduras and Tyrrsim. Our colonies' agricultural harvest has always been quite bountiful and they are also the economic powerhouses for our kingdom. We can count on them for the troops' food.

"As for weapons and gear, the ministry of the army has agreed to provide the five folks with enough gear. They will arrive during the 3rd month. But as the war budget has been exceeded, this will be the last batch of gear they'll send. The required weapons and ammunition will be provided by the factories that are to be opened here. We'll have to fund it with the income from the war theatre.

"And lastly we have the issue of funding. The ministry of the army has announced that they'll only be able to set a budget of 100 thousand crowns in the next two years for this war theatre until the day Shiks starts attacking. However, as the situation here is dire and we urgently need to prepare, the prime minister, Duke Cryus Man Duncan has suggested for us to collect taxes from the settlers in the colony for our war funds.

"According to our records, Mormaly, Aduras and Tyrrsim's taxes amount to about 300 thousand crowns. I believe it's enough to sustain the costs of the five folks, so I agreed to that proposal. If that's not enough, we'll have to try to cut costs in the war theatre and make do."

Claude's expression was grim. An enhanced folk with 32 thousand men would cost up to 60 crowns for the yearly salary of the soldiers alone. Each soldier earned around 2 crowns, and that didn't include the various bonuses and benefits they enjoy. Officers' salaries were double that. Five enhanced folks in total would amount to more than 300 thousand crowns, which was far above the income made from Aduras, Tyrrsim and Mormaly combined.

That wasn't all, however. The cost for basic necessities for soldiers and food for horses was astronomically huge. While these supplies would be provided by the three colonies at the rear, they could only provide meats and horse feed. Fresh vegetables and fruits had to be sourced locally. Not to mention, there was the cost to maintain the ammunition and gear factories. The ammunition used to train troops was also nothing to be scoffed at.

The five folks had to be drilled after they were formed and partake in all sorts of battle simulations so that the new recruits could acclimated for the upcoming war in the colonies. The ministry of the army's 100-thousand-crown funding was far from enough. Claude estimated that they would require up to 400 thousand crowns in the next two years to make sure the five folks were fit for combat.

While Miselk said that the funds could be sourced from within the war theatre itself, it was much easier said than done. There were four colonies in the warn theatre, but two among them, Cromwell and Balingana, had been completely deserted. The civilians had all been evacuated. Who would they tax for military funds? As for Robisto, it was a heavily defended area with a Dorinibla River as its natural barrier. There were few to no civilians of the kingdom staying there.

Anfiston, on the other hand, was where the main command post would be located. It was the most developed colony out of the seven, with four cities, one town and one fishing port. Apart from the fishing town, Lanu, which would be able to provide some meat and fish, the other four cities were industrial centres focused on mining. Each year, it cost quite a lot for them to import food from the other colonies.

Around 100 thousand households were going to immigrate to Anfiston to start agricultural endeavours and change the structure of the colony. However, they would enjoy three years of no taxation, so they wouldn't be able to help with the funding much. According to Anfiston's tax records, it would be rather decent if they could get around 100 thousand crowns.

"General, what do we do? We still lack 200 thousand crowns for the next two years. That is crucial to making sure our folks can be properly developed and for our defence lines to be fleshed out. Since the ministry of the army isn't willing to fund us, does that mean they're going to abandon the colonies?" Claude was about to go insane.

"How did you come up with that number?" Miselk wondered, "I thought this was something logistics should have to worry about. You shouldn't have to care about small things like funding as a field marshal. Just focus on getting those folks into shape."

"General, I'm afraid you're mistaken. Most of the war is fought in logistics. Only with a proper stream of supplies can we secure the conditions for victory," he argued, before going on to detail his estimates.

Most of war is fought in logistics? Miselk mulled over that thought before his mind was taken in by the budget estimates. When Claude was done, Miselk laughed. "Claude, you estimated the salary of the soldiers wrong. Don't forget that the soldiers of Ranger had been transferred into the local keeper forces and their salary is to be adjusted.

"For instance, soldiers of Ranger earn eight riyas a month. Including bonuses, that makes around one thale. Each soldier only earns 12 thales at most, in other words, 2 crowns and 2 thales. That's why the salaries for five folks should be around 300 thousand crowns. But you've forgotten that Ranger is a standing corps of the kingdom and their benefits are double that of the irregular corps.

"The local forces only earn four riyas a month, six if you include bonuses. So that's 72 riyas each year, around 7 thales. That means, each soldier earns about a crown and two thales each year, so a whole folk's yearly salary is 50 thousand crowns. All five would be 250 thousand crowns. That means you'll have an extra 50 thousand crowns of funds each year."

Claude looked shocked. "General, if you lower the salary of the rangers when they transfer, how many of them would stay?"

Miselk smiled and shook his head. "Claude, the ones who were transferred to the local forces were members of the original Ranger folk, not the new recruits who joined after the Triumph of Balingana. So, there's only around 20 thousand of them. While their benefits are decreased, they are all promoted one rank as compensation for becoming the main backbone for our five new folks. That way, they'll enjoy similar benefits to those of Ranger.

"It shouldn't surprise you that soldiers see promotions as far more important than salary, as the priority of treatment and retreats are contingent on rank. Getting promoted also means having to serve fewer mandatory years. Even though your five folks are considered irregulars and locals, your ranks are still equivalent to those of proper kingdom soldiers. That's why most of the transferred are satisfied with the promotion despite the salary reduction.

"These 20 thousand rangers will be the core of the five folks, so each folk will only get four thousand of them. Most of the rest are going to be the settler soldiers and new recruits from the keeper tribes. As for the two colonial corps, they were irregulars to begin with, so while their benefits didn't decrease, their salaries aren't as high as you though. You shouldn't have made your estimations based on Ranger's benefits. You'll be able to save 100 thousand crowns from that."

Claude now understood where he went wrong. As Miselk had said, calculating the salaries of the troops according to irregulars' meant a reduction of a third in costs. The 100 thousand crowns they've been given for two years might just be enough. They might even end up with some left over.

"Also, don't forget what we rangers do best. We can save a lot by attacking enemy supply lines and appropriating their ammunition and food. We ordered the colonial corps to send men to Port Patres and Dorinibla River too to scavenge the sunken ships of Seaking.

"So far, we've gotten a few hundred cannons from the ships and we can use them as suppression fire for the two defence lines. That saved us even more money. I'm sure you know that the cannons are built to the same standard as our own, so the compatible ammunition saved us lots of trouble.

"One more thing: while the ammunition and gear of the Shiksan soldiers are not compatible with our own, we can modify them to work with us. That'll further decrease costs. We just have to pay a small fee for the modification."

Miselk smiled and shot Claude a gentle gaze. "I'm sure you can relax now, right? The supplies we have stocked up is worth around 200 thousand gold crowns. After Ranger leaves for Freia, the supplies will be left behind. So, you won't have to worry about logistics for the five folks.

"Oh, I also have another piece of good news. When the gear of the kingdom's army arrive,s there's also another order for promotion. All seven colonels from Ranger transferring to the five folks will be promoted to major-generals. Don't be surprised. It's the kingdom's reward for your efforts at the frontlines here."

It was indeed delightful news. He didn't think the promotion of soldiers transferring away from ranger would include a colonel like him. Unlike promotions from private to corporal or second lieutenant to first lieutenant, a jump from colonel to major-general was huge. In peacetime, it would take a colonel serving ten years for that. During wartime, they would need three first-class merits.

But Claude knew that whether it was him taking over as field marshal or being promoted to major-general, the fact that those promotions were permitted by the ministry of the army meant that their outlook on the upcoming conflict was bad. In other words, they wanted him to be the scapegoat for the loss in the war theatre if he couldn't emerge victorious.

"I'll be here for about three more months, so we're short on time," Miselk said, "I hope that I will be able to help you solve the core issues of the five folks before I go. In the following days, I will summon the other officers and we'll have to finalise who serves in HQ of this war theatre.

"Give the plan I drafted for this war theatre a good look to see if there's something you need to correct or make up for. Write me a report about it. Then, wait for the start of the meeting. You'll have to attend it and have a good chat with your future colleagues."

Claude stood up with the blue document in hand and stood straight for a salute before he prepared to leave.

Just as he stepped out of the door, Miselk remembered something and stopped him. "By the way, Claude, that vice linesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Schnack, will be transferred by me back to corps command. He'll serve as the vice supervisor of corps administration."

Claude looked shocked. What did Schnack do wrong? The change of post from vice linesman to vice supervisor was a subtle demotion. One had actual power in the corps and the other was merely a goon doing chores for the corps. Apart from having to run others' errands, he'd have to smile out of courtesy no matter how bad he didn't want to.

Miselk then said, "Don't blame Lieutenant-Colonel Schnak. He's actually a fairly straightforward and honest person, but he doesn't understand that not everyone bearing the Stellin name represents the royal family, so not every one of them deserve our loyalty. He was tricked by General Fansnik to hand your line's spoil-distribution accounts to the general."

Claude widened his eyes in realisation.

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