Lord Militant Pillag Xi Feriot rode on his beloved mount, a majestic white horse without a single strand of messy hair, as he watched the sight of troops marching endlessly with a solemn sigh. For some reason, he felt rather troubled and disturbed. However, when the troops saw him, their commander-in-chief, they would burst out in cheers.
"Long live the duke!"
Those should be the citizens from his fief. Only they would call him that.
"Long live the Union! Long live the Lord Militant! Long live Shiks!"
The other slogans and cheers were a tangled mess.
As the new commander-in-chief of the Union's army, he might not have the reputation he did now had he not led the Canasians in their beautiful ambush that rid them of the Aueran attacks at night. Nasri's Prince Daklid wouldn't have heeded his advice to launch that fierce attack the next day either.
He had to admit that his king's choice in letting Daklid succeed the Nasrian throne instead of the cowardly Vedario was rather sound. Vedario had always been spreading word of the enemy's terrifying might in the camp, often exaggerating them out of proportions and claiming that it wasn't his fault he suffered those losses. It was the enemy being far too strong for them to take on.
While the Shiksan king, Majid III gave the Lord Militant the right to choose the heir to the Nasrian throne, he ended up deciding to go with the king's choice of Daklid. He sent Vedario back to the kingdom as an ambassador, but he was actually sending him there to be a hostage. At the very least, Daklid was willing to follow his orders to fight the enemy while Vedario only wanted to hide at the rear and reap the benefits.
However, Daklid was quite the merciless fellow. Pillag had to be more wary against his plots in future. He let the prince lead the troops against Shiks' former rivals, the troops of the autonomous region, for him to experience their might for himself.
Little did he know that the attack against Thundercrash's defences would cost them the three corps of troops that joined Vedario. Currently, the 100 thousand plus Nasrian troops remaining were Daklid's own men, whereas the ones who joined Vedario numbered few and far between.
Pillag didn't want to interfere in the kingdom's troublesome matters. He knew well what the two princes did to one-up one another. While it was quite dastardly of the two princes to not send any troops to rescue their royal father, Nasri VII, and other relatives, Majid III was clear in his letter that this was an ideal opportunity for Shiks.
The first commander-in-chief of the Union's forces, Count Norbridon Bang Belondi, was quite the unlucky fellow. He had been sent to Nubissia into the colony of Fochs to attack the Aueran Autonomous Region, only to lose horribly. In the end, he was summoned back by Majid III, who thought he was getting dull with his age.
However, when Majid III's beloved general, Marquis Kralio Dor Sirius, was sent to fight on Nubissia, he also suffered a loss. Even though their docking at the fishing town near Lanu was shocking, the region's troops still managed to neutralise their forces. The three corps were wiped out just like that.
Following that, Marquis Kralio Dor Sirius soon fell horribly sick and had to be transported back to the kingdom. Before the kingdom found a suitable candidate to send there to take his place, word from Nubissia was that the two corps overseas had been eliminated by troops of the region. Even the colony they leased had been conquered. Shiks had utterly failed in the colonial conflict and Majid III lost lots of face for it. The perception of Shiksan military might among the other nations fell considerably as well.
However, Pillag was more than aware of the reason his king insisted on fighting that war with the Aueran colonies no matter if they would win or not, being a spectator of the whole spectacle. If they won, Majid III could send the landed nobles to the colonies. If he lost, he would be expending the forces of the local nobles.
Right now, which noble would dare stand against their king? Putting aside the nobles who were put down during the rebellion, the king even reclaimed the fiefs of a few of them for their failures on Nubissia. Nowadays, more than half the territory in Shiks belonged to the royal family. There were no nobles who could band together to fight the royals like before. Now, all policies in Shiks were dictated by the king alone.
Naturally, the loss in the colonial conflict did still humiliate Majid III somewhat. That was also why Norbridon was counted on by the king once more. He proposed the plan of conquering the new Aueran territories with help from the other nations in Eastern Freia. The pretense for the war was to help the two dukes who fled to Shiks restore their nations.
Majid III took the suggestion and gave him command over the troops. Things went smoothly as he had planned, with Shiks now gaining their own patch of territory in Eastern Freia and the two duchies being restored. Shiks also started to gain their respect from the neighbouring nations back. Nobody dared to mock the Shiksan king any longer.
Had they stopped there, the matter would've ended nicely. However, the king formed a Union with the other four nations and pointed their sword at Aueras. Nasri, not willing to become a minion of Shiks, formed their own faction in the Union and didn't really listen to Majid III's orders. They then started that war of debt with Aueras.
Things would've been fine if the king had been content on seeing Nasri and Aueras ruin each other. However, the king wanted to teach Aueras a lesson using this opportunity and called for the formation of the allied army. At the start of the war, they were making good progress. Despite their casualties, their advance wasn't much affected. Aueras was horribly defeated and even lost their famous royal capital.
And so, Majid III happily rushed to the royal capital to hold his parade to humiliate Aueras. He also gave a speech, highlighting his dedication in wanting to wipe Aueras out for good as revenge for the colonial conflict. It was after that when the autonomous region sent their troops to the mainland.
Almost immediately, the Union's army suffered heavy defeat and lost up to half their numbers. Thundercrash also docked at Port Floric in Rimodra to retake the new territories as they exterminated Sidins, Rimodra and took the new territory Shiks just got. Thundercrash then conquered Polyvisia, Nasri's capital, and things kept on spiraling downwards.
Back then, Norbridon was afraid his route back would be cut off, so he gave the order to retreat from Aueras into Nasri, earning him the king's ire. He was fired and summoned back to the kingdom to reflect on his actions. Then, Majid III visited Pillag in his fief and appointed him to be the new commander.
Pillag was quite the legendary figure in Shiks, having inherited the ducal Title before the age of twenty. As his fief was located at the northern border of Shiks and often came under raids of the northern barbarian nations, his father perished on the battlefield when he was still young.
Once he became duke, the young Pillag worked hard to manage his fief. He sold what he could from his household to build an army of six thousand soldiers armed with firearms. A year later, he led his troops to wipe out two of the northern barbarian nations nearest to his fief. The rest begged for forgiveness and peace in fear of death, offering many gifts in the process and promising they would never raid the fief ever again if they were spared.
Pillag's achievement of forging new territory for the kingdom was a little too much. Coupled with his Title of duke and status as Majid III's nephew, he was made Lord Militant at a young age. Back then, it was a mere empty position that came with honour and an annuity. It wasn't an official position in the army, otherwise, even Majid III wouldn't be able to sleep well.
Fortunately, Pillag knew his place and didn't leave his fief often once his vengeance for his father was complete. He didn't cause trouble for the king with the other nobles either. Before the civil rebellion, he told both the nobles and the king he wouldn't be participating in the civil war.
This time around, he only agreed to take the position as commander-in-chief because of his familial relations with Majid III and his curiosity towards the troops that managed to wipe out nearly 20 Shiksan standing corps on Nubissia. The first time he saw those cannons and rifles he looted from the battlefield, he knew he wasn't dealing with a traditional Freian army. It was foreign and completely different from troops he could ever conceive.
But in another sense, Pillag also noticed Thundercrash's flaws, namely, their pride and carelessness. Without their superior weapons, they would be no different from slightly strong mounted infantry. So, Pillag completely ignored the range advantage Thundercrash had and ambushed them in close range, causing them heavy losses from facing off against the Canasian cavalrymen.
But the most terrifying part of Thundercrash was their ability to reflect on their shortcomings. During their first attack against the five Nasrian corps, they relied on their superior numbers for an advantage. However, they realised that the enemy had made up for their weakness. Nasri used the same tactics but ended up with a completely different result.
The attacking forces suffered grave casualties, while the defending Thundercrash troops made their response in orderly fashion. Even though they were wounded themselves, they weren't as badly battered as the first time around. They didn't charge out of their trenches to fight the Nasrians in a melee, but rather, calmly shot at them from their trenches.
If it was possible, Pillag would've gotten the five Shiksan corps to retreat fully to the kingdom. That alone showed how pressured he was by Thundercrash's adaptability. If he were honest, he was merely wasting Shiksan lives to allow Thundercrash to test their new tactics. Not only were they unable to leverage their superior numbers to fight the enemy, even if they won, they would have lost far too much.
However, Majid III's orders were for him to chase the Aueran troops out of Nasri completely to ensure that Nasri and Canas still stood in Eastern Freia. Aueras was never to be allowed to unite Eastern Freia, no matter the losses Shiks would have to suffer for it. As long as those two nations still existed, Shiks would be able to interfere with Eastern Freian affairs and would still have a chance to fight back at Aueras.
As long as Pillag could reclaim Polyvisia and put Prince Daklid on the throne for good, Nasri would have no choice but to count on Shiksan support to continue to exist. Shiks would've gotten themselves another vassal state. To achieve that goal, Shiks allowed the two princes' inaction while Thundercrash was transporting their captives away. Yet, they had let up on the best chance to reclaim the royal capital.
The sole reason Aueras still managed to hold on were the two corps from the autonomous region. If Pillag managed to deal them severe enough damage to cause them to retreat, any price he paid would be worth it. What came next would be a peace negotiation with Aueras. In a few years when Shiks managed to forge the new Aueran weapons and reform their troops, the day of Aueras' fall would soon come.
While Majid III's letter didn't directly interfere with Pillag's command, the king's objectives were clearly stated. Polyvisia had to be reclaimed, Prince Daklid had to become king, and Nasri was to completely rely on Shiks. No matter how unwilling, Pillag had to achieve those requirements to the last letter. He ordered his men to march for Polyvisia.
A few riders approached quickly. The guards were just about to stop them, but they saluted when they recognised who they were. The riders ignored the guards and rode uphill.
"Lord Duke, are you in the mood to get a good view from the highlands?" the leading rider yelled.
Pillag chuckled at the sight of Marquis Archiberger Way Chalx, the corpsman of the Canasian light cavalry. The successful surprise attack back then put him in a rather good mood.
"Lord Duke, your mount is a sight to behold!" Archiberger said as he almost drooled at the sight of the duke's beloved steed. "The great northern horses are far better than our Canasian grassland horses in terms of height, leg length, charging speed, bulk and cold resistance..."
"Alright, that's enough. I can't give you my Whitebow, but I have three other northern horses back there. Feel free to take one with you. When the war ends, I'll go back to the north to pick a few fine ones for you," Pillag said, stopping the marquis' praises immediately after sensing his motive.
"And in fact, grassland war horses are still the best fit for cavalrymen," Pillag continued, "Northern horses are too expensive and get sick easily. Their diets also have to be carefully monitored. They can't endure long gallops either, unlike grassland horses. While yours are smaller, they can last much longer. They can even charge at night as long as there's moonlight. It's the best type of mount to field on a large scale.
"Northern horses are practically blind at night and are far too sensitive. They don't like to move at night and are afraid of the dark. So, their stables have to be lit or they'll cry nonstop like children. The sight of a mere rat is enough to get them neighing for days. Horses aside, did you come here to tell me something?"
"Yes, Lord Duke. Our scouts report that Thundercrash's men have all retreated to Polyvisia. The Nasrian informants report that they don't seem like they're going to retreat any further back. They look like they want to defend it to the end. One folk from Monolith and two folks from Thundercrash are stationed within it now. The Nasrians saw Thundercrash enter the city with some ten thousand injured soldiers."
Pillag mulled for a bit in silence before his expression turned serious. "Looks like they want to fight their final battle there. We have no choice but to oblige them."
On the 7th of the 11th month of Year 600, the Union's troops marched to Polyvisia for a grand battle.