Part 114: Russian WinterChapter 9 Russian Winter March 1941 to February 1942
As the snows begin to melt and the days grow longer, the Frankish Realm is at the height of their power and territorial reach, looming over the entire continent as their armies control every city, town and village from Brest to Tsaritsyn.
Their war wasnt over yet, however. They may have defeated Liege, Scotland, Provence, Germany, Russia and the Balkans, but their oldest and strongest enemies still endured, Iberia still endured.
The war also continued on other fronts, scattered across the width of the world. In the distant east, the Manchu Presidency had been unable to advance into the Korean peninsula, with the Red Turbans successfully repelling a simultaneous invasion by the Japanese as well.
South Asia was a mixed bag, with the vast and powerful Almoravid Dominion of Usturaliya gradually gaining ground against Frankish Indochina, whilst the poorly-administered and unruly Almoravid Raj had already suffered a string of losses against the Bengal Raj.
At the same time, the war had finally reached the west, where vicious battles had already erupted between Communist Ibriz, New England and the Berber Union as their conflicting claims to the Panama Canal came to a head.
The first bullets of this war were fired in an attempt to curb Frankish expansionism, but that was a long time ago, and the fires of war had burned until the entire globe was engulfed. At long last, the World War was well and truly underway.
The Iberian Union, however, had already been fighting this war for over four years. Four years of clashes and bombings and dogfights, and the only real advancements were made in weaponry and engineering, as April of 1941 saw new tanks and fighter planes take to the battlefields on ground and air alike.
Supreme Leader Mizanur was determined to put more boots on the ground, especially now that Russia was on the verge of capitulation, but that came with a greater need for resources that Iberia simply didnt have namely, oil and steel.
Most of those needs were quickly fulfilled by Ibriz and Provence, who were forced to accept highly-unfavourable contracts by Qadis, with the Kingdom of Benin also signing new trade agreements.
With thousands of youngsters joining the ranks of the Red Army every day, most of the newly-trained divisions were sent northwards, where Iberian marshals and generals were organising new offensives into Occitania and northern Italy.
Every mile gained came with heavy loss of life, however, as the Franks began strategically-redeploying their troops and reinforcing their lines en masse. This immense redeployment also included thousands of Frankish warplanes, and with Mizanur retaliating by dispatching his newly-constructed fighter planes to the theatre, it wasnt much longer before another massive battle was raging in the skies above Italy.
On the African front, meanwhile, a combined force of German exiles and Maghrebi volunteers was gradually advancing across Libya, meeting with very little resistance.
That is, until they reached the outskirts of Benghazi, where they were met by half-a-dozen fatigued, under-equipped Egyptian divisions. Led by a single Iberian division, the Maghrebi-German volunteers quickly drove the Egyptians from the city, forcing them eastwards as red flags were raised in Benghazi.
This minor victory was soon tempered by jarring news from the east, as the elderly, confused and ill-advised Imperator of the Russian Empire fled his country on a damp morning late in May, accepting an invitation to join the Almoravid Sultan in Usturaliya.
Most of the magnates and noblemen had already fled the Empire, and with the vast majority of Russian industry and economy seized by the Franks, it was past time that the Emperor joined them. The government, or what was left of it, quickly devolved into a military dictatorship as a high-ranking general seized the reins of power.
Acting from his headquarters in Gorki, this general immediately ordered a massive counter-attack all down the front, but little progress would be made over the course of the unusually-chilly summer. The days of the Russian Empire were numbered, it would seem.
As storms swept across the Alps, an influx of new warplanes faster and stronger than Frankish designs proved enough to turn the battle above Italy in favour of Iberia, giving them air superiority in the region.
With the danger of enemy bombers negated and close air support barraging enemy divisions, the two leading Iberian marshals Mahmud ibn Bibil and Ricardo Etxeberria launched a devastating blitz northwards over the course of June and July, seizing hundreds of miles and surrounding 10 Frankish divisions in a resounding success.
As tens of thousands of Franks were clapped in irons and paraded into prisons, Supreme Leader Mizanur urged his marshals to capitalise on their victory and push towards Paris, but enemy reinforcements were already swarming towards the frontlines and plugging any openings.
Within the fortnight, the Iberian advance was brought to another infuriating standstill.
The Iberians werent alone in their frustration, however, because the Frankish advance in the east had also been brought to a baffling halt. This Russian general was allegedly arming children and cripples alongside men, throwing entire generations to their deaths as wave after wave was smashed against the Frankish line, a futile attempt to postpone their victory.
August brought good tidings, fortunately, as the Bengali army finally shattered the Almoravid levies in India, surrounding and annihilating dozens of divisions in a ruthless campaign that saw large parts of Orissa, Delhi and Deccan capitulate to the Bengali. By early September, they would be shelling the colonial capital of Madras.
As always, however, this good news was soon followed by its bitter cousin.
After successfully holding the New English at the Mississippi and even gaining ground against the Franks in Cascadia, a triple-pronged attack from the east, north and west overwhelmed Ibrizi lines and flooded into the northern half of the country.
Having been recently-subjugated to far-reaching purges, the fundamentalist north was already fickle in their loyalties, with its strongholds and population centres surrendering to Albionorian and New English forces as they advanced. This sparked a refugee crisis as thousands fled southward, past the fragile communist lines as the peoples army desperately reorganised along the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers.
Unfortunately, however, they had scarcely reached the riverbanks before more bad news arrived.
Whilst communists and fascists clashed in the north, Berber troops were gradually marching across New France, with the sweltering summer heat putting up a bigger fight than the French themselves.
Before very long, the government of New France formally surrendered to Imariz, with the King personally travelling to the Berber capital to plead for his crown. The Three Viziers didnt care who ruled in New France, however, what they wanted was military access through the country and into Panama.
Needless to say, they now had that military access, with Berber troops reaching Panama a scant few weeks later, the city and canal falling on the 26th of October.
With that, the catalyst of the western war was captured, but the fighting wouldnt end there. The New English were rampaging across Ibriz in the north, crossing the Rio Grande by early November and reaching the west coast before years end.
All semblance of order and discipline in the Ibrizi army was quickly collapsing, and with the New English driving southward on an unstoppable offensive, military experts began speculating that theyd be standing in Madinat al-Gharb before the spring equinox.
The Three Viziers, of course, couldnt allow that to happen.
Word of the Berber invasion of Ibriz reached Qadis a few hours later, and needless to say, the high command quickly descended into chaos. The Supreme Leader closeted himself away with his leading supporters and commanders, but their meeting was quickly interrupted by more news, this time from the Russian front
Despite their shoddy equipment, despite their morale-crushing defeats, despite the flight of their Emperor, the Russians had somehow recaptured Smolensk, stunning their allies and enemies alike.
And with the coldest winter in living memory sweeping across Eastern Europe, that wasnt their only victory. With his mass assault doctrine finally reaping some reward, the Russian general-turned-president launched another series of counter-attacks across the frontline, flooding into Finland and Ukraine as the rest of the world watched in horror and relief, depending on allegiances.
In the west, this had been precisely what Mahmud ibn Bibil had been waiting for. The Iberian general had drawn up a number of ambitious naval invasions that sought to circumvent Frankish lines along the River Garrone and the Alps, only to rebuffed time and again by the Supreme Leader until now.
With the Franks pinned down by the Russian winter, Mizanur provided his marshal with the fresh troops and air support to finally launch his operation, desperate to capitalise on their distractions.
And immediately, it became clear why hed been so unwilling to approve the plans, as the Red Navy was all but annihilated in two decisive battles in the Bay of Biscay.
Tens of thousands of Iberians were sunk alongside hundreds of submarines, but as far as Ibn Bibil and the Supreme Leader were concerned, the operation was a success. 6 divisions touched ground in Brittany and Poitou, quickly striking out and seizing feebly-garrisoned ports.
With reinforcements quickly pouring in and the region largely under-defended as a whole, the entirety of Brittany was quickly captured by Iberian troops, opening another front against the Franks. And this time, if only temporarily, they held numerical superiority.
The victory was met with celebration in Qadis, but the Supreme Leaders response was sharp and simple start marching, and dont stop until an Iberian flag was fluttering above the Eiffel Tower.