Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 508

"You're finally here, Chief. Now we can have a good drink before getting some sleep. Do you have any idea how worried I have been? I couldn't even sleep with both eyes closed! 1st Folk can finally rest..."

While Berklin held a welcoming parade at the city entrance and made it seem like everything was under control, he started complaining the moment they reached folk headquarters. The surprise attack had been a great success, but occupying the city and waiting for 2nd Folk had severely taxed them.

They were deep in enemy territory. This was an enemy capital, the seat of an enemy's power, their heartland. It was only natural that the people's hatred for Aueras was at its strongest here. The denizens were mostly Nasrians and monarchists. They had also been the war's main benefactors.

There were more than 110 thousand registered households in Polyvisia. Even if most of them were mere peasants, they had complicated relations with the Nasrian nobility. The males in every household were either part of the military or administration, or served some noble in running their businesses. They were the loyal elites of the kingdom.

The Polyvisites were extremely loyal to Nasri VII and supportive of the war against Aueras. They hoped to also reap some benefits once their nemesis was finally defeated. There were white flower rings hanging from many houses in the city, which signalled that one of their male members was out fighting in the war.

The native population numbered to around 600 thousand. Coupled with the outsiders who were there on business and other affairs, Polyvisia had more than 800 thousand people. It was only slightly shy of the one million in the Aueran capital and claimed the place as the second-largest city in Eastern Freia. It enjoyed great prosperity and development in the fields of business and industry.

Berklin's 1st Folk was quite lucky in that they attacked the city on the monthly three-day break of the Nasrian royal guard. During that time, soldiers returned home to spend time with their families. As there was only a folk of troops left guarding Polyvisia, they were completely overwhelmed by Thundercrash 1st Folk.

Not a single Nasrian royal, noble or official managed to escape Berklin's soldiers due to how swift it all was. The citizens didn't even manage to react before the city got taken over. By the time they were aware of it, the officials who could fan the flames of resistance had been captured. Without a leader, there was no resistance.

Berklin was particularly good at taking the initiative. He'd scattered the garrison outside the city while the city had yet to stabilise. Had he not, the local garrison would've encircled the city and started a long fight for the capital.

Most of the men had returned to their homes in the surrounding towns on leave. Some Nasrian nobles had gone to their manors as well. The moment they heard of the city's fall, they recalled all the men on leave and started planning their retake of the city.

Berklin took action the moment he heard about it. He sent three combat lines to the towns in question and massacred the mustering soldiers.

Berklin admitted it had been quite risky to leave less than a line in Polyvisia. 1st Folk lost nearly three thousand men, almost a tribe, in taking Polyvisia. They were prepared to take Nasri VII hostage to stop the civilians from rebelling. If they wanted to save their king so bad, all they would get was his corpse. 1st Folk would simply perish together with them.

Fortunately, the civilians of the royal capital didn't do much as the three lines were clearing out the towns outside. They returned with huge amounts of supplies too, allowing the folk to survive that trying time. However, the following month was by no means relaxing. The citizens were completely uncooperative. Much pressure was resting on their backs from having to watch the captured royals, nobles and 30 thousand plus royal guard troops.

There was also the defence of Polyvisia to worry about. Berklin was constantly on edge about a nasty surprise. He couldn't wait for the rest of the men to arrive as soon as possible to divide the burden, especially with the resistance in the nearby towns not completely wiped out. They often ambushed 1st Folk's light-cavalry patrol tents. They had lost 400 men already, much to Berklin's anger, but he didn't get back at them in fear of inciting a rebellion.

"Just look. All twelve towns within 50 kilometres of the city have been labelled no-go zones. Our troops will always be ambushed by hidden shooters, and we have no way of dealing with them because they turn into civilians the moment they drop their weapons. If we enter the towns for a large-scale search, we'll need a line of troops at least. Otherwise, the sheer numbers of those civilians are hard for us to suppress," Berklin said with a map around Polyvisia laid out.

"1st Folk only has three and a half lines of troops remaining. One line guards the walls, one line watches the prisoners, and the other keeps the business sector in Polyvisia under control. There are two more tribes in charge of defending the palace where the Nasrian royals, nobles and officials are kept. We can absolutely not let anyone know about that. The remaining two thousand plus injured are in the field hospital, so we have no more men to send out. We can only let the forces from the twelve towns slowly sneak up on us. Our scouts and patrol units can only observe from outside the towns," he said with much frustration.

Claude recalled the two towns he passed through. They matched more or less what Berklin described. The townsfolk that Thundercrash chased out of their houses regarded Thundercrash's troops with hate-filled glares. It was not a big deal, however. The guard tribe wanted to clear out the houses as Claude was making his way through for security reasons. They didn't use that chance to pilfer anything from the houses.

Yet, the townsfolk didn't shy away from glaring at the troops coldly as they passed at all. Berklin really didn't have any more men to send in to crush the resistance forces, allowing the hostile fighting spirit of the civilians to continue to grow. It wasn't a good trend and had to be stamped out firmly.

Sometimes, mercy alone wasn't enough to get the enemy to lay down their weapons. It might even exacerbate the situation. Nasri, being Aueras' nemesis, harboured the most anti-Aueran sentiment, especially in the area around Polyvisia. Perhaps only blood and iron was sufficient to remind the common folk in whose hands their fates rested.

"Rest for two days and send more scout tents to surround those twelve towns. Cut off their communications with each other and only let people pass after strict checks only if they have guarantors. Two days later, 2nd Folk will deploy and send one tribe each to encircle each of those towns. The other line of troops will search the houses in those towns and arrest everyone in households owning firearms. Nobles and officers will have their properties confiscated, and anyone, regardless of age or gender, is to be killed if they resist. Anyone hostile to us shall be erased!"

Claude gave his first order in Polyvisia coldly. Unlike the other officers of headquarters, he was aware of the kind of bloody conflict his order would trigger. Troops were not led by the kind, and one had to be merciless towards one's enemies. Only a commander of such calibre was worthy of the troops' trust. It wouldn't do to have a commander who would let his troops be sacrificed for humanitarian gestures towards the enemy.

Thundercrash's two folks gathering at Polyvisia immediately caused tensions to rise. Wolfang reigned the night. Claude didn't let them enter the towns. Instead, he fielded them outside. As expected, they captured more than ten informants in the last ten nights. Some violent interrogation quickly cracked them and they revealed all their secrets.

The operation started the next day and all twelve towns were surrounded. 2nd Folk's 5th Line entered the town of Lodeway to start their search and encountered an ambush less than half an hour in, followed by a complete rebellion. Countless civilians charged at the troops of 5th Line with blades. Dyavid merely spat the grass stalk he was chewing and gave the order to fire.

The 70 thousand citizens of Lodeway swore to fight to their deaths. Two days later, all they got were broken families. Not a single one of them managed to kill an enemy with their bladed weapons. They were all mercilessly felled by bullets. Even those hiding within houses weren't spared. 5th Line used the old cannons they got from the spoils in Polyvisia and blasted the houses apart before dropping mortars above them to clear them out.

Apart from the 10 thousand women, elderly and children who surrendered, the rest of the town was flattened. In an attempt to destroy evidence, the invaders set the town on fire and let it burn for three days and nights. They left with about a hundred carriages filled with supplies and more than ten thousand civilian captives.

Next came the town of Kozinbak. They prepared themselves by building barricades and self-made weapons, engaging immediately the moment 5th Line arrived. However, they were completely no match; none of them could take the bombardment from cannons and mortars, as well as the rain of bullets. As the brave died off, the rest of the civilian resistance crumbled.

Kozinbak's resistance was like loud thunder without rain. It caused a large commotion, but ended quickly without results, unlike the citizens of Lodeway who managed to resist for two days. Kozinbak couldn't even last six hours. The rest quickly dropped their weapons to surrender after the obstinate, brave ones died off, giving Thundercrash another 40 thousand captives.

Like before, 5th Line set the town on fire after searching it through, reducing it to ashes. People were quite forgetful, after all. Claude wasn't going to let the townsfolk go. They would be held with the soldiers of the royal guard and transported to Loki Mountains on Nubissia to expand its population. They would make fine miners. Perhaps hard labour would make them assimilate easier as a citizen of the region and make them forget their hate for the kingdom.

Dyavid, on the other hand, questioned Claude skeptically. Why hadn't he cut their thighs and let them go like the rest? They wouldn't have to waste a line on guard duty had he done that.

Claude said the Nasrian royal guards were staunch loyalists, being one of the main beneficiaries of the Aueran invasion. They would not tolerate Nasri's extermination one bit. Other captives who were forcefully drafted, however, would instead be spared a dangerous life on the battlefield from the cut and be thankful for it. They wouldn't have to become cannon fodder anymore.

The troops of the royal guard, on the other hand, would still fight even after their whole leg was chopped off, to say nothing of a mere cut. Shipping them to the region will be the end of the road for them. All they had to care about after that was looking after their families and working for their survival and livelihood.

By the same reasoning, the townsfolk would be given the same treatment. Even though their towns were suppressed, they would still try funny business if they were left alone and cause trouble around the capital nonstop. Thundercrash had to make an example of Lodeway and Kozinbak so that the citizens of the other towns knew what was coming for them if they dared resist.

The results spoke for themselves. Apart from the third town that resisted no more than two hours, none of the other towns objected to the troops' search. Even as the townsfolk who were found to be hiding guns were arrested, their neighbours had nothing to say about it, merely peeking through their closed doors and windows.

The submission of the third town completely quashed all signs of resistance in the remaining nine. The ruins of Lodeway and Kozinbak caused the next four towns to react like the third. Apart from a few dedicated resistance fighters, the rest of the townsfolk were meek, sitting ducks who watched Thundercrash tear through the resistance fighters. Those who wielded weapons to fight were publicly shot dead in the town square before their families were taken away.

Apart from a 30-percent tax levied on the towns that submitted, they were free to go about their daily business. Thundercrash only cared whether they were harbouring firearms and ignored normal bladed weapons or bows. They also didn't ransack the homes of the townsfolk.

Thundercrash's officers only captured the resistance fighters and their families. Fighters who surrendered on their own accord wouldn't be shot, but they would still be taken captive along with their families. The ones that dared fight back were given swift deaths.

The houses of the fighters and manors of the nobles and local officials were searched and their property was confiscated. Even the empty houses had to be sealed off to be dealt with later. The townsfolk weren't allowed to enter and occupy them.

By the time they reached the last three towns, the three lines were acting together. Much to many's surprise, the townsfolk had been well prepared to welcome the troops in. They had done everything beforehand, having tied up the fighters themselves and gathering them and their families in the town square.

The sight of the pile of weapons in the square, the curses of the fighters and the cries of their families widened Dyavid's horizons for good.

A few elders of the town humbly said that their townsfolk hadn't caused any trouble and only wanted to live in peace. They were doing the fighters a mercy by tying them up. At least, they wouldn't be shot dead for resisting and wouldn't involve other innocent civilians.

Just like that, the whole area around the royal capital fell under the control of Thundercrash. Claude then gave the order for a large-scale search in Polyvisia that lasted half a month. As sector after sector of residences were searched through, gunshots and explosions rang out nonstop. Some 20 thousand insurgents were killed and around 200 thousand of their families, the soldiers, nobles and officials were separated into prison camps.

Thundercrash finally gained true control over Polyvisia and rid themselves of lingering troubles. The sweep operations killed up to 100 thousand insurgents, earning Claude the moniker of Butcher of Polyvisia.

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