Chapter 81 Artillery training
Every day Van’er’s group had to train for two to three hours with the new weapon, and even after the training was finished, Van’er had to return to the wall to continue his old, boring job. One of the men from Van’er’s dormitory had signed up for the new firearms squad, and now he had a brand-new firearm and stood behind him to show off the weapon. If the discipline didn’t forbid infighting, Van’er would have already sewn up his hateful mouth.
However, Van’er also thought that there was something fishy.
Didn’t my compatriots join the firearms squad only several days ago? Yet, they were allowed to directly start their shooting training through fighting against the demonic beasts, but what about our artillery team? We aren’t even authorized to shoot. Moreover, the cannons are so heavy, it’s impossible to transport them onto the wall.
When he looked at the top of the wall, he could see that the wall-walk was almost full with people standing side by side in pairs. Usually, everyone was used to running on the inside of the wall-walk. Even if it was steep, it was still better than interfering with teammates’ fighting movements. As for cannons... the two wheels alone were wider than the whole wall-walk, and using a cannon to shoot downwards didn’t seem very practical.
Could it be... this cannon wouldn’t be used to fight against the demonic beasts?
The next exercise confirmed his conjecture.
Iron Axe brought the four artillery teams to the river. There, Van’er discovered- though he didn’t know when it happened- an actual, huge “ship”! No... he wasn’t sure if it was right to call it a boat. The shell looked to be made out of the same gray stone that was used for building the wall, and its dimension was very wide but short. So in addition to two bare masts, was there any other similarity with a ship? Regarding this point, he and his teammates had a heated discussion.
"This is clearly a pontoon bridge," the first one who came up with a conclusion was Jop, who belonged to the team that followed the ships transporting the ore to Longsong Stronghold. Because of this, he often thought himself well-informed. "They built the deck so wide to make it more stable! During my travels into the south I saw many of them, and if this is a ship, then how can it be moved by the wind? Previously, the river was too wide to ford, and a decade ago the former bridge was washed away by a flood. Now the former bridge should be replaced with this pontoon bridge. They will just place several of them side by side and connect them with an iron chain to make it more stable!
"The furthest place you have traveled to is Longsong Stronghold, yet you call yourself knowledgeable," Rodney sneered, "If this was a pontoon, why would it have two masts? Wouldn’t they need to worry about it being blown away by the wind?
"And when you look towards the end, don’t you see the steering wheel? Pontoons don't need this." Nelson directly jumped into the frying-pan to help Rodney. These two brothers would take every given opportunity to vent some anger, "In addition, look at the construction between the two masts, doesn’t it seem to be a cabin? it’s just not finished yet. This is a ship, no doubt.
To Van’er this discussion was of little interest, he was only concerned about the next training’s content. To his luck, he soon got his answer when Iron Axe asked them to drag the horses that pulled the cannon towards the Small Town – yes, this was the ship’s name, personally appointed by His Highness. After listening to Iron Axe’s introduction, Jop’s face became suddenly stiff, while the two brothers showed a triumphant expression instead – and then they began to drag the cannon onto the deck of the ship.
On the deck were two groups of stopping poles, each group consisting of four poles. These stopping poles were located in the middle of the deck, with one group behind the other. This apparently indicated that one ship could store two cannons.
Well, with this, Van’er was sure that they wouldn’t be needed to deal with the demonic beasts – the Chishui River flowed from the North to the South, and there wasn’t a large river hidden in the demonic-beastinfested forest.
When they embarked for the first time, they immediately discovered the outstanding stability of the ship. Even though the river flowed quickly around the ship’s hull, the ship was still motionless; it just felt like standing on solid ground. Only when the horses came on the ship did they feel a little swing.
Van’er also noted that when a team finished their firing practice, Iron Axe would count the time and note it down. When Van’er saw that there were only two places for cannons, it was clear that only the two fastest would get a place on the ship. So, Van’er secretly told his discovery to the rest of his group, which immediately gave rise to their strength, with each person putting at least 10 percent more effort into the training. If they weren’t chosen for the artillery team, upon losing much face, their life would become more trifle, but the most important matter was that they wouldn’t get improved pay!
Van’er had to wait until the seventh day, but he finally received his first live shooting training.
On this day, His Royal Highness the Prince also came to visit the scene, watching the artillery exercise. Everyone in the four groups walked with a broad chest and large steps.
Because of their training, his group became quite familiar with the loading of the cannon, so it didn’t take long until the first shot was fired by Van’er’s team.
This was the first time he saw the power of a cannon. With a deafening roar, the cannon ball was shot out and landed around 500m away in the snow, blasting a lot of snow and mud into the air, and afterwards, it bounced once more into the air. With his eyes, it was impossible for Van’er to track the iron ball.
Seeing this, Van’er wondered how the Prince, managed to create such a terrible weapon. If you had to face artillery attacks, even with body armor, I am afraid it would be to no avail.
After each shot, the group was changed and the Prince ordered someone to mark the landing position. Afterwards, he let someone measure the distance between the muzzle and the flag. After four rounds, it was finally Van’er’s turn again, but then he heard the command to change the cannon’s angle.
A scale marked with 0, 5, 10, 25, and 30 was placed at the cannon’s end, where the cart was connected. Although Van’er saw this scale, he didn’t understand what it meant, but as long as they just followed the instructions, everything would be alright. Iron Axe shouted, "Shoot at the angle of 5!" Hearing this command, Jop, who was the one with the greatest strength in Van’er’s team, took the ramrod, inserted it into the muzzle, waited for them to open the hook which held the barrel at the right angle, and pressed it upwards until the scale showed 5 and snapped the hook in.
Compared with the angle of the barrel at the beginning, where the barrel was a little low, the barrel now pointed a little higher. This showed that the scale marked how high or low the barrel’s muzzle pointed into the sky.
When everything was ready, every group fired one more shot with the new angle, and after every shot, the distance was also measured.
Van’er could gradually understand what the Prince did.
He recorded the distance of every shot fired, and the higher the angle of the barrel, the higher the iron ball would fly.
This was a point where Van’er could use his experience from shooting with a bow, the higher up the aim, the further the arrow would fly. The flatter the shooting angle, the earlier the arrow would hit the ground. However, he hadn’t thought about that in the case of the cannon. Just because it is faster, the flying distance would be so much further. Suddenly, he got this crazy idea- if the iron ball got faster and faster, would it be possible that it would never stop?
At Chishui River, Little Town’s testing phase was also underway.
Since Wendy would act as the ship’s driving force, the ship's personnel needed to be absolutely reliable. So, Roland picked some people who already knew about the witches as the first crew of Little Town. Carter became the captain, the helmsman was Brian, the sailors who had to set the sails were Carter’s subordinates, and the job of correspondent went to Titus Pyne, Nana’s father. These people often came into contact with the witches, so coupled with their own mental transformation where they got rid of their prejudice against the witches, there shouldn’t be a problem. In the case of Sir Pyne, it was even less the case, since his beloved daughter was a witch.
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