Baron Tompost was a famed defence expert in Shiks with a background in architecture. At the age of 41, he was sent by Majid III to Bleyotte to help the Bleyotteans build a strong line of defences to weather a possible invasion by Aueras.
Baron Tompost's father was a noble of the Shiksan court. In terms of bloodline, he had a distant familial relation to the royal family. The court nobles referred to nobles created by the court itself but didn't have any fiefs to their name. Instead, they held various posts in court. They could be seen as the royal family's most reliable subordinates.
Baron Tompost's father had hoped his son would grow up into a famous explorer. Perhaps, that way, he would be able to find a valuable resource for his household and provide them with a constant stream of wealth that would eventually allow them to support a fief of their own. That was why Baron Tompost was sent to the royal family's mining engineering academy to study resource surveying when he came of age.
Much to his father's disappointment, however, his son became obsessed with architecture during his studies and lost all interest in his main field of study. When he graduated three years later, he was already an architect of humble reputation but only barely qualified to be a surveyor for mineable resources.
What made him stand out was a simple defensive camp design he made for a mining base. Some nobles owning gold mines bought that design and built it accordingly. Four months later, the gold mines came under attack by bandits. There were only 17 miners manning the defences at the storage area, yet they managed to drive close to a hundred bandits away and held on for half a month, suffering only one death and four injuries in the meantime, before military reinforcements finally arrived.
That event reverberated throughout the Shiksan kingdom and the designs of the defences Tompost drew up received a lot of attention. Quite a number of mine owners realised that if they built their bases according to that design, their security could be improved a few times over. Should there be a bandit attack, there would be no way for them to breach the defences without powerful cannons. In time, Tompost's defensive layout became the standard for mining base defences.
Currently, Tompost was fuming over how lazy the Bleyottean labourers were. He had wanted to try out a new anti-cannon trench he had been designing, so he was really strict on the Bleyottean labourers. However, they didn't take him seriously and casually dug out a trench before calling it a day.
Even when he exasperatedly told them that they could minimise casualties if his designs were followed carefully, the supervisor of those labourers didn't really seem to mind. He told the baron all they needed was a trench, and the brave Bleyottean soldiers weren't cowardly tortoises. They would rather charge into a melee than hide in their shells and shoot cold bullets at the enemy. That simply wasn't the warrior way.
Tompost was furious, but he wasn't able to convince those stubborn Bleyotteans at all. He had wanted to build a rocky cover above the trenches to protect the soldiers within from harm, but the Bleyotteans didn't want it, thinking that the cover would impede their charges and attacks. Not to mention, the stuffy air the cover would result in a claustrophobic sensation which wasn't conducive to battle.
Fuming, Tompost decided to complain to Bleyotte's head engineer, but was stopped by his colleague halfway there. That man was a Shiksan captain who had come to Bleyotte with Tompost. He was covered in mud, but his expression seemed really excited. Tompost curiously asked why he looked to be in such a sorry state.
The Shiksan captain excitedly shared that he had been scouting at the borders of Mambamark, having hidden in a muddy puddle for close to two hours and managing to evade the Aueran patrols. Eventually, he found out that the enemy camps were hollow shells where the allied noble army's troops dwelled. Thundercrash, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen, with half the tents in the camp not showing any signs of having been lived in.
It was obvious the enemy wouldn't be attacking Bleyotte. Instead, this looked to be a distraction. Thundercrash's attack on Mambamark was possibly just to divert troops from the Shiksan coast to the Bleyottean border, weakening the defences at the coast and giving them a chance to get ashore there. In fact, conquering a port city before beginning their fight on Shiksan land was far more direct than crossing Bleyotte on land to reach Shiks.
Tompost seemed a little disappointed. If what the captain said was true, all the defences he was building would go to waste. Perhaps the Bleyotteans also found out the same things the captain scout had, so they decided to slack off instead of spending so much effort building a defence line that might not be utilised anyway. They probably kept that fact a secret thanks to the huge military relief and funding they were receiving from Shiks.
Shiks was really alert and careful against the autonomous region. The moment it heard that Thundercrash swept through Mambamark and gathered all the Canas-restoration Army members Shiks had been backing and eliminated them, the alarm bells in the Shiksan court were rung. They immediately raised their guard, given that the two nations were still at war. It would be no surprise for an attack to come from Thundercrash at any time.
That was also why Majid III was so generous with the military aid he gave to Avitelli I. Usually, he was really cautious towards the strongest vassal nation under his belt. Shiks had never actually managed to properly make Bleyotte submit to it. It was only after a slow grind over the past few decades that they managed to get that unruly little brother to be obedient.
But with Thundercrash in the picture, Bleyotte didn't seem to be as big of a threat anymore. Since Avitelli I volunteered to prevent an invasion from the region, Shiks naturally had to respond with generous support. Majid III couldn't wait to see Bleyotte and the region fight it out with each other. That might solve two of Shiks' biggest problems in one go.
The top Shiksan commanders in their ministry of the army weren't fools either. They came to understand the true might of Thundercrash after the Second Great Eastern Freian War. They believed that one Thundercrash folk could take on one of their own standing corps in an open battlefield. The ideal move for Shiks to make was to sign a peace deal with Aueras to end the war. Only then would they be able to gather their manpower and resources to research new weapons with which to seek revenge against Aueras and its autonomous region in the future.
It was too bad Majid III rejected that perfectly rational proposition. He believed Aueras wouldn't be able to pose much of a threat to them, seeing as they were separated by two nations on land. If the sea route was used, they'd at most be able to send over a corps or two. If the region dared to send Thundercrash onto Shiksan shores, he would send all his troops to wipe them out at the coast.
Majid III didn't believe his eight standing corps wouldn't be able to wipe out Thundercrash and Monolith. Even with the most rudimentary swarm tactics, he would be able to bury them. As long as the enemy dared to get on their shores, Shiks could even call for the formation of up to 20 more reserve corps should eight standing corps not already be enough.
The Shiksan officials and officers were helpless to that. It was their bad luck for having a king like that. Even so, they didn't dare speak out against him and did the second best thing they could, which was to expand the defences of the five port cities, priming it for any seaborne threat.
When they heard that the region's troops swept through Mambamark, the officers in the Shiksan ministry immediately ran sandtable simulations in hopes of finding a concrete conclusion on whether Thundercrash was coming for Shiks or merely wiping out the Canas-restoration Army.
Bleyotte's request for aid to Shiks, on the other hand, was the first cause of conflict in the Shiksan military. Quite a number of officers believed that the region was highly likely to attack Bleyotte, occupy it, before going for Shiks.
They pointed to the fact that Thundercrash was a light-cavalry corps with great mobility. Only through land could they use their abilities to their maximum potential. If they came from the sea, they couldn't possibly bring their war horses alongside their troops. At most, they'd be able to send small numbers of them over. That would be akin to them giving up on an edge they had. It was most irrational.
Additionally, once Thundercrash swept through Mambamark, they set up a large camp capable of holding up to five corps at the Shiksan border. Coupled with the reports from informants in Northbay that the region sent over three corps recently using Ironclad, it was clear their next target was Bleyotte.
However, some other officers maintained that the region would mount a surprise attack from the sea by conquering their port cities before launching their main assault. They scoffed at the notion they would be attacking on land, thinking their contemporaries to have forgotten about a crucial point: Bleyotte was covered in mostly mountainous terrain. Light cavalry would have a hard time moving freely there.
As for the routes between the mountains, they were easily blocked and destroyed. Not to mention, the defensive strongholds across the mountains meant that Thundercrash would have to dismount and fight all the same to conquer them one after another to advance along the paths. Not to mention, Bleyotteans were eager fighters who wouldn't let Thundercrash cross their territory easily to attack Shiks. If Thundercrash wanted to secure their supply line, they would have to occupy the whole of Bleyotte and eliminate the threat in the mountains.
It was obvious that conquering a Shiksan port city was much faster than wasting time catching Bleyotteans in the mountains. At least, they wouldn't have to make a new enemy of them. As such, that faction of officers believed the troops stationed at the Bleyottean border to be a mere ruse to divert their attention and troops away.
The worst part for the Shiksan military was that the battle was out of their hands. The enemy held all the initiative. Currently, all Thundercrash did was occupy Mambamark and set up a camp at their borders, and that was enough to have the Shiksan military freak out.
Currently, Bleyotte was ready for an incoming invasion, and Shiks was also on alert and wracking their heads over where Aueras would attack from. Majid III even wanted to form a few reserve corps. Fortunately, the court ministers were still clear headed. They stopped him in his tracks.
After all, if Thundercrash had no intention to attack them at all, then forming those corps would be a waste of funding. Shiks was no different from a rat sealed in a box without anywhere to go. Without Seaking, the sea was useless to them and they couldn't transport their troops anywhere. They could only regain parity if they had an ironclad fleet like the region's.
Additionally, they were surrounded by vassal nations which they couldn't go to war with. Unless Bleyotte was willing to open up a path for Shiksan troops to pass through to attack Thundercrash in Mambamark, no military action would be taken. Yet, Majid III didn't have the guts for such a move, nor did his generals approve that risky manoeuvre. As long as they were inferior to the enemy's troops, it would be suicide to provoke hostilities on their own accord.
At that time, the Shiksan military finally received word from a captain on the Bleyottean frontlines. It wasn't just an observation made by him alone, but rather, more than ten other Shiksan soldiers in Bleyotte.
These soldiers were led by the captain to observe the enemy camps at the borders. They even captured a few enemy soldiers and their testimonies revealed that Thundercrash had returned to Northbay. The camps at the border were indeed mostly empty for the purpose of scaring Bleyotte about an impending invasion.
It was an empty front. The faction maintaining that Aueras would attack from sea had a complete victory. The land faction, in their anger, made a proposition for their troops to cross Bleyotte to attack the allied noble army that was in the camps instead, before marching further into the Nasrian region to repatriate Nasri's court in exile.
However, Majid III shot down that proposition. As the others in the army had said, Thundercrash was a light-cavalry unit. Nobody knew whether they truly returned to Northbay as no informants there confirmed that report. If it was a ploy to bait them, they would stand the risk of being totally annihilated.
Thus, the engineers and officers sent to Bleyotte were called back. Majid III was pained at the thought of the ammunition and supplies he gave Bleyotte. Though, he didn't demand them back for the sake of his reputation. However, that didn't stop him from using the Bleyotteans as cannon fodder.
He wrote to Avitelli I and requested the Bleyotteans to send reinforcements in the event of an Aueran attack on Shiksan shores. He was delighted to hear that Bleyotte would be sending over two corps to help out.
On the 23rd of the 7th month, the Shiksan informants in Northbay reported that the region gathered more than 300 transport sail ships at Northbay as well as up to a hundred sail warships. There was a flotilla of 28 ironclad warships accompanying them. Thundercrash, the newly formed Typhoon, Monolith and a reserve corps were all gathered at Northbay. They totalled up to an estimate of 400 thousand men.
Due to the strict camp security, nobody else was able to approach it, so the informants couldn't verify the details. However, some drunken baseline officers in the tavern leaked that the region had decided to mount an attack on Shiks from the sea, though the port they were targeting still wasn't fixed.
On the 11th of the 8th month, Ironclad appeared in Shiksan waters and sunk all their fishing vessels, captured all merchant and transport vessels and bombarded the Shiksan Minslake Island and Jinbak Island for three days before leaving.
On the 23rd of the 8th month, the Ironclad once more appeared in Shiksan waters. This time, they used their land units to take over those two aforementioned islands.