Chapter 582: Military Strategy
Translator: TransN Editor: TransN
Once the war order was issued, Neverwinter immediately went into overdrive.
Bags of wheat plundered from Fallen Dragon Ridge quickly filled up the previously-empty granaries. A portion of these would be shelled and powdered into rations for the soldiers participating in the war.
Other than food, there were also firearms and ammunition. The soldiers recruited during the Months of Demons had already completed their basic training, and the outstanding cadets were hastily incorporated into the ranks of the First Army and given new weapons and uniforms. Those who performed average were placed in the reserve force and assigned to one of Roland's cities, where they replaced the veterans stationed there.
By doing so, Neverwinter's available military strength was rapidly increased to 5,000 men. In theory, this put them on par with the Judgement Army's numbers. However, due to limitations on transportation capacity, the further the battlefield was from Western Region, the fewer the number of soldiers who could enter battle would be.
Because Roland assessed that the Tooth Extraction Campaign would not be too difficult, he eventually decided to send out 1,500 men, with Iron Axe serving as the commander. In this expedition, the Adviser Department was absorbed into the First Army, and the key members were made up of nobles, knights and commoners from Longsong Area. This included Sir Eltek, who was Morning Light's father, and Trevor, Chief Bodyguard of the Honeysuckle Family. The criteria was that they had to have experience in artillery warfare, or had served in the Second Army.
Although the people Roland selected were not professionals in this field, Roland trusted that they could learn on the job, and in any case, it was good to have a few more people to provide counsel to the commander. They did not possess any actual power to command. It was entirely up to Iron Axe whether to adopt their plans and advice.
After considering that the First Army might encounter the church's Pure Witch during the expedition, Roland decided that "Eye of Magic" Sylvie and "Confinement Cage" Iffy would be following them as well. The former could detect magic power and alert the army to the enemies' positions, while the latter could capture Pure Witch under the right circumstances. Sylvie would also bring along a Sigil of Listening so that she could contact Neverwinter at any time. As a result of these preparations, an army with modern military structures, firepower, and communication capabilities slowly began to take shape.
The Tooth Extraction Campaign was mainly targeted at Redwater City, Silver City and Impassable Castle, the three cities which were closest in distance to Western Region. The preparation for the expedition required four days of time. Apart from choosing which of his reliable guards to send towards the old holy city, Roland spent the rest of the time discussing various details of the war together with the commander and the Adviser Department.
One such detail, which Roland found difficult to resolve, was the location where they would intercept the enemy.
Everyone had their own views on this issue, and nobody could convince anyone else that they were right.
The commander of the gun battalion, Brian, was adamant that the army should intercept the enemy within Western Region. His reasoning was very substantial. "The battle has to be carried out in Western Region for the First Army to fully utilize its advantage in firepower. With our paddle steamers providing logistical support, we'll be able to replenish ammunition and manpower in less than a day. No matter how long the battle drags on, we can be assured of victory. This distance from their base will also be extremely disadvantageous to the church. If they cannot break through within a month, they won't even have any food left."
Conversely, Edith was the main advocate of fighting outside the Western Region. "Do you really think that they'll have no food? Do you know how many church believers there are in the Kingdom of Graycastle? Even if all of the churches are burned to the ground, the Pope simply has to issue an order and these people will bring all the food they have to the Judgement Army. Mid-July is also the ripening season of wheat. As long as the enemy occupies one or two cities, they'll surely have a continuous supply of food. And this is not the scariest thing. Don't we already know that the church possesses Pills of Madness which can turn ordinary people into enchanted monsters? If the war situation turns bad for them, they may willfully force the commoners in these places to consume these pills, and manipulate them to fight against our army so as to wear us down. What will we do then?"
"You don't understand anything about gunpowder weapons." Van'er was on Brian's side regarding this issue. "Transporting cannons and ammunition is very costly and difficult. They aren't like swords, which can be used many times. A single battle will require many ships to replenish the supplies that are expended. If we do as you say and intercept the enemy before they enter our kingdom, what will we do when we run out of ammunition?"
"I admit that I don't understand gunpowder weapons, nor the specific methods which your army uses to fight. What I do know is that the objective is the most important thing in a battle. If we cannot achieve our intended objective, even victory will be a failure." Edith remained unrelenting. "His Majesty needs every one of his citizens. How can you allow the church to enter our kingdom and wantonly destroy the populace?"
"If we cannot win the battle, everything else is meaningless."
"What we have to do is to solve those problems that seem unsolvable."
The only two people present who could provide a final verdict were Roland and Iron Axe. However, whenever Roland was around, Iron Axe would never speak more than he needed to. No matter what order Roland issued, he would agree and execute it unconditionally. As both viewpoints in this argument had their pros and cons, Roland was not able to make a decision immediately.
The most effective way of using gunpowder weapons in battle was to set up a crossfire net and wait for the enemy to enter it. The Western Region was undoubtedly the ideal location for something like this. However, if the church indeed used his citizens as a vanguard for their army, his losses would be huge. While the army's weapons could easily subdue the enchanted people, the population loss would be hard to make up for in the short term.
It was only on the day before the army set out that Sir Eltek made a suggestion which brought an end to this dispute.
"Why don't we place our troops and supplies in the border cities in advance?" He suggested while stroking his beard. "This way, we can substantially shorten the transport distances."
Brian shook his head in disapproval without giving the idea a second thought. "That's only possible if we can know beforehand where the church will be attacking from."
"Sir, the Northern Region doesn't have enough riverways. If we gather our troops in the wrong positions, we may even be unable to catch up with the enemy's movement." Carter added. "Furthermore, the border between Kingdom of Graycastle and Kingdom of Dawn is very long. We won't be able to keep watch on every passageway."
"It's true that we don't know where the enemy will attack from. But we can induce them to attack from a particular point."
Everyone was stumped when they heard this suggestion. After a long while, Brian frowned and remarked. "I'm afraid that only the Pope can do something like this."
Meanwhile, Edith revealed a thoughtful expression on her face.
Sir Eltek was unperturbed by the sarcastic response he received. He candidly replied, "The truth is, I got the idea from Miss Edith. If we can estimate the time of the church's invasion based on the transportation of food supplies, then the church would also be able to detect the approaching of war based on changes in our border cities."
"Coldwind Ridge!" Edith suddenly exclaimed.
"Indeed." The old knight laughed. "If we amass supplies in Coldwind Ridge and station the First Army in the nearby Deepvalley Town, we can be confident of directing the enemy to attack from a certain route, agree?"
"How so?" Brian remained puzzled.
"Because Coldwind Ridge is too near to the holy city," Edith explained. "Rather than wait for the church to attack, it's better for us to assume an offensive stance and compel them to concentrate their forces in this area."
"I see." Roland was quick to understand what was going on. Deepvalley Town was the only town connected to the central network of rivers. Although it was far away, his fleet of paddle steamers would be able to ship large quantities of supplies over there within one or two months, while the last leg of the transportation journey, which had to be done by land, could be reduced to only three days. Although a number of supplies might not be completely sufficient, it would at least be able to maintain a large-scale battle for some time. Of course, a better way would be to set up a defense line below Coldwind Ridge and wait for the enemy to enter the position that was made up of bunkers, barb wires and trenches.
"What if they insist on not going this way?" Van'er enquired.
"Then the holy city of Hermes will be completely flattened," Roland answered.