"This place looks rather prosperous..." Baron Fegri praised as he looked into the distance. The three other ambassadors with him in the carriage, on the other hand, could hear the hint of greed and desire to possess in his voice.
"Haha, Tyrrsim has never been involved in the war before. Or, perhaps the theatre is governing the place rather well. The cities here are indeed prosperous. A few years ago, this was just a port for intercontinental trade. It seems like ceasing trade with the colonies for a few years didn't affect Port Cobius much." Viscount Anklink also sounded rather satisfied with the place.
The four ambassadors seated in the carriage were members of the new nobility and Stellin XI's trusted aides. Not only must they not let their liege down by scouring wealth for his sake, they also carried the responsibility of expanding the new nobility's influence in the colonies.
Had it not been for the fact that they didn't have any long-distance ships, the six viceroys and high-commissioners would've loved to come along with the ambassadors. They were also all too happy to join the new nobility's faction, but they would have to wait for the next trip after the ambassadors returned to the kingdom first before they could take up their posts in the colonies. Without escort ships, a voyage to Nubissia was really dangerous.
"It's not that Tyrrsim wasn't involved in any conflict before," Viscount Olibut darkly remarked, "If you read the report the theatre sent to the ministry of the army, you'll know that when Storm from Whitestag turned traitor and joined Prince Hansbach, intercontinental trade was cut off.
"Tyrrsim, Aduras and Mormaly's viceroys and high-commissioners were going to side with the first prince as well and even took the acting field marshal, General Bolonik, prisoner when he was there to negotiate. However, the theatre reacted really quickly and immediately put an end to the rebellion. The three colonies then fell under their jurisdiction."
"You mean to say..." Baron Fegri and Viscount Anklink had a look of ecstasy on their faces.
Viscount Olibut nodded. "I brought a copy of the report with me. It stated that the theatre only punished the viceroys and high-commissioners without dealing with the others involved in the rebellion. This time around, we've come as ambassadors to look into the rebels that sided with the first prince and to punish them. So, after we take over in the theatre, we can start investigating the traitors that are hiding among the populace..."
"Hehe... I was wondering whether tax was collected before they rebelled... Did the immigrants of those three colonies escape taxation?" Viscount Anklink smiled sinisterly.
However, Olibut and Fegri weren't surprised he would ask that. It was a basic technique they used back in the mainland. Whether the locals of the prefectures were conscripted or taxed by the first prince, they were all traitors in the eyes of these 'debt-seeking' ambassadors. They went on a purge of those that had allegedly supported the first prince. Many a family was destroyed, unless they could satisfy the endless depths of the debt seekers' greed by offering up enough wealth or heirlooms.
"That wasn't stated in the report," Olibut honestly said, "But there are many ways we can use to get ahold of their weaknesses. All we need to do is to check the taxation logs of the colonies. As long as they were taxed once during the rebellion period, we'll have reason enough to label them traitors."
"I think you're too optimistic too fast," Count Dawanil said, turning away from the carriage window, "Did you not notice the odd attitudes of the local officials over the past few days? They don't seem to be willing to mingle with us on a personal basis and only interact in an official capacity. Our living quarters, food and carriages are standardised, not better or worse. It's completely different from how the local officials in the kingdom's prefecture spoil us.
"Also, did you notice the looks of those people from outside the carriage? I seem to think they're not afraid of us ambassadors. Instead, it's as if they hate everything about our arrival here. When a few soldiers from the naval ground forces in my cohort took a few apples from a roadside store without paying, the seller didn't kneel and beg, but rather yelled at them and even wanted to charge at them and fight. He was only stopped by the others around him. I really wonder if a normal fruit hawker wouldn't fear our troops' rifles."
"I think it's easy to explain what you saw," Olibut said after some thought, "We've seen the standard reception procedures of the theatre. They're really detailed and were perhaps drafted to prevent the local officials from overspending to bribe others to do them favours and getting the administration to foot the bill. Without extra chances to make money, the officials have nothing else but their jobs to do. Just like us, if we didn't get a chance to pocket some wealth for ourselves, we wouldn't have bothered going on a mission like this that needs us to offend others.
"Additionally, we're in the colonies. The officials here are under the theatre's direct authority and aren't aware we're here to take control of the administration. They have no need to treat us preferentially. As far as they are concerned, their jobs are over once they send us to Lanu. I believe once we take control and come back, these officials will definitely service us like they do their own parents. We'd even find their wives or daughters obediently bathed and sent to warm our beds...
"As for that fruit hawker, what else can I say? He probably has a screw loose and is nothing more but a ruffian. When we start looking into the traitors, we'll definitely come here again. By then, he would definitely kneel and beg us to not label him a traitor, to say nothing more about offering us fruit. We're merely guests to them right now, so they don't fear us."
Olibut's reasoning earned him the praise of the other three in the carriage. It was the third day since their arrival in Port Cobius. The seven ambassadors had rested for two days after their arrival before requesting the local officials to prepare carriages and send them to Lanu. The officials who saw them as unlucky stars couldn't wait to send them off and quickly got the carriages ready for the ambassadors and their tribe of marine ground forces to depart.
After leaving Port Cobius, the roads on either side were filled with nothing but farmland and pastures. Soon, a farmstead with a bunch of piglets around five or six months old beyond a fence entered the sights of those ambassadors. They immediately called for the carriage to stop.
"Send some men to capture all the piglets from that farmstead. The lords want to have honeyed pork for dinner." The aides of the ambassadors were talented with regards to knowing their masters' tastes. One of the butlers gave the order to the soldiers to capture the piglets.
The tribe of marine ground forces was formed rather recently and weren't originally part of Storm's members. After the ten or so warships from Storm returned to the mainland, they were assigned to the waters near Ibnist Plains to defend against attacks from the sea that would catch him off guard. He also gave those sailors a few long-distance ships to form a small fleet.
Usually, a proper fleet had four to five flotillas, which each had around 20 long-distance warships or transport ships as well as a tribe of marine ground forces. A complete fleet would basically have a hundred warships and transport ships and a line of marines. They would also need a deep-water port as a base for their ships to be maintained and their officers to rest ashore.
Of Aueras' two fleets, Fearless was eliminated by the traitorous first prince using Seaking and the Alliance's navy. Storm, on the other hand, defected to his side and all that was left of them were the 20-odd transport and warships. There was no longer a need for a large port, so they made their base at the coastal area of Ibnist Plains. The current tribe of marines were local ruffians, veterans and sailors that were recruited.
The three years of civil war in the kingdom had worn down the pool of fitting soldier candidates considerably. Even if there were any, the three main corps of the kingdom controlled them tightly. It was already quite decent for their flotilla to be able to cobble together a tribe of soldiers. Due to the limited budget, they didn't enforce strict training or discipline. These troops were the kind that leapt at cheap opportunities but crumbled the moment they were actually deployed in real battle. They were all bark and no bite.
The ambassadors only let them serve as their escorts for a domineering effect. They piggybacked on the namesake of the ambassadors and often didn't pay for the meals or services they got. Thankfully, the amount they owed wasn't that expensive, and they didn't dare to go overboard and cause trouble for the ambassadors with the colonial constables in the area.
Yet, the ambassadors want to eat honeyed pork for dinner right after departing for their destination. The men scrambled to be first and got off their carriages or mounts before swarming to the fence and tearing a hole to squirm through. There were some that went for the piglets, but others that dashed towards the house within the farmstead to get themselves some goods.
After that, gunshots rang out. Soon, four to five soldiers discarded their weapons and armour as they ran back, crying and dispirited. "Murder! Murder!"
A tribe of marine ground combat troops usually numbered a thousand men, but this new tribe only had around 700 due to budget issues. The officials of Port Cobius got them 70 carriages and around 200 workhorses, which should be enough for them to go on their way with extra mounts for cavalry escorts. The seven ambassadors and the officers of the tribe naturally took the newer carriages for themselves.
Only around thirty men had followed through with the order to catch piglets. The rest relieved their bladders at the roadside before sitting down to watch the show. But before they managed to catch nearly enough piglets, gunshots rang out from the farmstead. Six fierce-looking people came out from behind the building. The frontmost one was a burly man brandishing a large sickle. Four other middle-aged men behind him with pitchforks, carrying poles, iron sticks came along. There was also an old man in his sixties carrying a rifle at the very back, still reloading.
The one with the sickle saw another soldier holding a pig in his arms and didn't hesitate to slam the fork into the soldier's head. The soldier dropped the pig and ran frantically away in pain as his head bled away. The other four middle-aged men didn't hesitate either and went around beating the soldiers like mad to the point that they cried out for their parents as they ducked and ran.
The ambassadors were furious. How dare filthy commoners fight against the kingdom's soldiers? The people in the farmstead had to be traitors! An order was given for the traitors to be captured and killed without exception.
The people from the farm saw that the soldiers' comrades were on the road and retreated behind the building. They picked up the guns the soldiers dropped from behind the cover of the building and began to face off against the troops. A smoke signal was also rising from the farmstead as the alarm bells rang.
A clan of marines had been sent to attack the farmstead, but after the first was beaten to death and the second was beaten to the ground crying, the rest no longer dared to rush in and fired randomly at the building beyond the fence. The volley achieved nothing but make some ten holes on the walls of the farm building.
Olibut had surveyed Reddragon before during the civil war. Among the ambassadors, he was the only one among the five new nobles who had some military knowledge. The other two were representatives from two old noble families. He angrily motioned at and ordered the troops, "Send another clan and charge in! They only have a few muskets and can't kill that many of you. Send another band to the back of the building! Don't let these traitors escape!"
The naval officers dallied and hesitated to obey Olibut's orders, choosing to instead blow their whistles to call for a retreat. Olibut was so mad he wanted to spit blood. "How dare you go against my orders?!"
One of the officers pointed at their surroundings and said, "Lord Viscount, you might want to look at our surroundings first."
Olibut turned back and was stupefied. Before they even noticed, black figures showed up on the road all around them and surrounded their convoy. Even more terrifying was the fact that they all had muskets aimed at them with their slow matches lit.
What in the world was going on? How could mere citizens of the colonies own so many muskets? What were they going to do after surrounding them?
A horn signal could be heard further away. A tent of four rows of garrison troops dressed in grey-black uniforms ran over in neat formation. A few officers rode ahead and asked, "Who sent the alert signal? Where did these bandits come from?"
The ambassadors were overjoyed. They were finally saved. Just as they were about to announce their identities to have the men around them captured, the people in the farmstead yelled and reported to the officer as they pointed at the marines. The officer's expression darkened before he waved for his troops to surround the rest of the marines.
"How dare you disrespect us so?! We are ambassadors from the kingdom!" a few of them yelled.
"Ambassadors?! Ptooey!" A colonel with a shoulder mark with three silver moons spat at them. "We've received ambassadors from the kingdom a few times before, but not a single one has ever trespassed into farms like robbers! You call yourselves ambassadors? Show proof, or we'll charge you as bandits for impersonating ambassadors and have you executed on the spot!"
Proving their status was no trouble. They only had to take out the order signed by Stellin XI. Just as Viscount Anklink was about to go to the carriage to get the order, Dawanil grabbed his arm and hissed, "Are you crazy? If the orders are leaked, it's over for us!"
The ambassadors only just recalled what their king had planned for the five greats and the officers of the two corps. Having them leaked would immediately result in their deaths. Only after announcing them at headquarters with witnesses could that be made an established fact. By then, they would've properly taken over the theatre's jurisdiction and wouldn't have to worry about any changes. They couldn't show the order no matter what.
"Apologies, His Majesty's orders can only be unveiled before the field marshal. We can't show them to you," Fegri said as he went over to greet the officers with a smile. "We are indeed the kingdom's ambassadors. Look at those carriages and the passports the local officials gave us. We are not bandits trying to impersonate ambassadors."
The colonel looked at the documents and ordered, "Disarm all of them and give thirty canes to all who entered the farmstead. They have tainted the reputation of the kingdom's soldiers! Anyone that resists will be shot on the spot!"
Before the fierce officers of the garrison, the marines could only obediently hand their weapons in and gather the thirty-odd troops that went pig hunting on their own accord, before watching them stripped and caned at the roadside.
"There are two others we killed and one we hurt in the farmstead," one middle-aged man said.
"They are your spoils. Do with them as you please. For the injured one, heal him up. He'll serve as a labourer in your farmstead for the next ten years. Just make sure to have him registered. If he can't be saved, feel free to do whatever you want with the corpse. Feed it to the dogs if you want," the colonel nonchalantly said, before looking around and instructing, "All of you, disband. You did well to respond. We will escort them away to the border later and make sure they will no longer disturb the peace."