Lederfanc brought another tent to the camp. He was there to inform Claude of his promotion and grant him his knighthood.
"You really lucked out this time, kid. I didn't think His Highness would actually grant you a knighthood."
Lederfanc wore an envious expression. Perhaps he would be less taken aback if Claude was promoted to major instead of being given a knighthood.
As part of 1st Ranger Tribe, Lederfanc had also received one first-class merit like all the others. He needed only one more to earn a promotion to lieutenant-colonel. With the reinforcements now coming into the three southern prefectures, he left the checkpoints to the keeper tribes and had two clans launch a rebel sweep of the area. The results were rather good and security in the area was strengthening. By the end of the year, he might be able to earn a silver crescent-moon on his shoulder mark.
Claude, however, was ignorant of what being knighted entailed. Was it the same kind of award given through an honours system like on Earth? Or was it worth money? His boss on earth had gone to Russia and spent a huge sum to purchase a military uniform from the Soviet days with over ten decorations. The North Korean soldiers wore so many decorations for their parades they looked like olden days' armor. He didn't think there were orders of merit for knighthoods in this world.
Lederfanc sighed at his subordinate's ignorance, though he wasn't surprised. Claude had only the most superficial of experiences with military hierarchy. He'd gone straight from the drill yards to the battlefield.
Normal grunts would only hear about the value of obtaining an order of merit after climbing the ranks over several years, after which they would strive hard to earn some. The war had broken out for nearly three years and Claude had spent most of the time at the frontlines. He didn't have time to learn up on the basics and nobody bothered to tell him either.
Lederfanc explained the meaning of obtaining a knighthood to Claude. It meant that he was already halfway into the noble circle of the kingdom. In fact, in the Kingdom of Aueras, bearers of the knight order commanded even more respect that nobles who inherited their Titles. Normal nobles inherited their Titles from their fathers, while knights earned their order through unquestionable contributions on the battlefield, often having to risk their lives and show great courage to earn that honour.
The badge was placed within a little, flat box. Upon opening, a black, round badge could be seen on the violet velvet cushion. The badge depicted a gunner on horseback aiming. Three centimetres across, it wasn't very eye-catching. It looked just like a normal memorial coin.
Major Lederfanc couldn't tear his eyes away from it, however. He muttered he would have no more regrets if he got the same order of merit. He would die a proud and happy man.
Claude joked about giving it to him instead, but the major glared at him more furiously than he'd expected and warned him that such jokes might just see him dishonourably discharged. It was a criminal offence to hand one's order to anyone. Only the designated holder of the order was allowed to wield it. The person to whom he gave it would also suffer. Fraudulent possession of an order carried a ten-year penal labour sentence at the lower end, and a death sentence at the higher end.
"This is a badge, so you can keep it or wear it on your chest," Lederfanc said as he unwillingly handed the little box over. "When you have it on, others shall address you as Sir Knight, regardless of whether you're among civilians or military personnel. But if you don't wear it, the others can address you by your name instead of Sir Claude."
"Wait, Sir, what does this order represent?" Claude asked.
Lederfanc sighed a laughed.
"There's the badge, and there's the actual medal. Don't tell me you thought the knighthood was a small thing? The real medal's as big as a child's palm and made entirely of gold with a violet ribbon. You'll have to wait until the end of the year for it. His Highness only confers it during an annual award ceremony at the end of each year. The medal itself isn't worn since it's too cumbersome, especially for a soldier, so you have the badge instead. It isn't flashy, but has all the authority of the order itself."
He didn't think there was so much to military decorations. Since they were on the topic, he asked the major to pin the badge on his uniform so that he would remember its position, lest he wore it wrongly the next time.
After that came the promotion. It was a simple affair. He only had to switch out his shoulder mark for a captain's with three black stars. As for the certifying documents, Lederfanc had prepared all of them and all Claude had to do was to sign them. Lastly came the prize money. Claude received more than sixty crowns for his achievement and promotion. The major joked that Claude could get rich if he could win a few more such battles.
After all that was said and done, it was the others' turn for the promotion. The first prince awarded all soldiers that participated in battle a one-rank promotion and the whole of 1st Ranger Tribe was given first-class merits. As Claude jumped straight to captain from his promotion, he wasn't included in the tribe-wide promotion, but he still earned the first-class merit. He needed only two more to be promoted to major.
Lederfanc brought a clan of men from the headquarters to simplify the promotion and merit-giving. He personally tended to Claude's matters and delegated tasks to his men to handle the awards to the other 130-odd soldiers. It took the better part of the day before it could be completed.
Apart from Claude's subordinates, Mazik, Moriad, and Dyavid, who were promoted to second lieutenant, two tentsmen were promoted to second lieutenant, much to Mazik's annoyance. The two used to be his subordinates, but now they were his peers.
He could do nothing, however, as the two now had the requisite merit count. They received two promotions, one thanks to their merits, and another thanks to their participation in the battle.
Lederfanc held a tribe meeting with Claude to discuss the roles in the tribe. Due to the promotion, the sergeants, sergeants-major and staff-sergeants under Claude were double the number in the other bands. They were all elite troops, so Lederfanc decided to transfer some of them to other clans and bands to take up leadership positions. Claude had too many officers under him, anyway.
After taking Blackmaple Castle and seeking the path to the three southern prefectures, 1st Rangers had had to quell rebellions and drive the nobles from Askilin and Canas away. They haven't been able to replenish the men they lost and had more than two hundred vacancies, around a whole clan. Now that reinforcements from the rear had arrived, the top notified them that they could get fresh recruits. However, some of the officers among them had to be transferred to Bluefeather.
Oddly enough, the officers to be transferred out of 1st Rangers didn't include the people who fought the nobles from the two duchies under Claude. As tribesman, Lederfanc had to redistribute them to fill the empty positions elsewhere.
If Mazik, Moriad, and Dyavid, who were away quelling rebellions, were willing, they could take up posts as bandsman in other clans. But all three refused. They chose instead to remain under Claude's command, mostly because he didn't just throw them away as cannon fodder as was all too common for commanders of his rank to do.
This time, Claude had an official post and took up the position of 1st Clan's clansman. It was the first appointment made after Lederfanc brought in the recruits to bolster the tribe's ranks. Lederfanc was worried he might be moved out of the unit after his promotion, and he wanted to ensure Claude would be his successor should that happen. As 1st Clan's clansman, Claude was his de facto second-in-command and stood first in line to take over should he be moved out.
1st Clan was an attack unit. Apart from the four bands in the clan, there was another band of cannoneers equipped with eight light-infantry cannons. The clan still wasn't properly staffed yet, however. Apart from Mazik, Moriad and Dyavid's incomplete bands and fifteen cannoneers with three cannons, the other men and equipment would only arrive in half a month's time. By then, new low-ranked officers would be required. Claude would have to pick the ones to lead his men.
Lederfanc returned to his post with two newly promoted second lieutenants, five sergeants-major, fourteen sergeants and eighteen staff-sergeants. Claude could only watch them leave in resignation. He wasn't too happy to part with the men he fought so long together with, but there was no choice. The tribe had to be reorganised and he could only try his best to cultivate more officers. 1st Rangers was practically his now and he couldn't let down the trust Lederfanc placed in him.
Dyavid returned to Squirrel Village one week later. He lost more than ten men from his band through suppressing the rebellions, but the injured had been sent to get treatment. Lederfanc agreed to send him more men to fill up the vacancies as soon as possible.
The new troops and equipment would only arrive some ten days later, and Claude's current assignment was to defend the mountain path. The band that had been stationed at the entrance of the path had been recalled to tribe headquarters, so he decided to let Dyavid's band guard it. He stationed a tent of men in Blackstone Village and had the rest of his men train in Squirrel Village. Mazik, on the other hand, commanded a band of men to watch over the 400 plus labourers as they worked whereas Moriad took charge of training the replacement soldiers. The cannoneers were training at the valley nearby.
Soon came the 9th month. The three-month-long training of the recruits had concluded and everything in the camp was going well. The captives managed to cultivate near 20 hectares of farmland and the mountain path had been repaired all the way to Blackstone. Claude decided to have the labourers continue mending the stretches of the path further away. Since they had nothing better to do, they might as well revamp the path all the way from Squirrel Village to the pass at the three southern prefectures. They had to work to earn their food, after all.
As the village got so much additional farmland, the village chief became the richest man in it. He was the one who paid the captives to cultivate the land, so all of it belonged to him. The business with his tavern was also going well, so he hired three more young women to serve as barmaids in his tavern to attract the soldiers in the camp to spend their hard-earned money.
The rest of the villagers also found their respective vocations. Some cultivated farmland in the mountains to plant vegetables to supply to the camp's cafeteria while others herded livestock. Some villagers even planted large orchards in the mountains, but the time required for that investment to pay off was much longer.
Some smarter ones went to other villages in the mountains to buy goods and resold them to Claude or the chief. Claude usually bought some rarer stuff and got Myjack to sell them off in town to larger merchants once he hoarded a good supply. The chief, on the other hand, bought cheaper stuff as ingredients for the food in his tavern.
Claude spent those days in relative peace. He had never thought that he would be able to experience such tranquility even though the war was still raging on. It was heaven on earth. The whole tribe as a whole didn't receive any combat assignments either, as if the top had forgotten about them. Lederfanc requested combat assignments a number of times, but the orders he received in return stressed that 1st Ranger Tribe's mission was to rest, recover and restabilise, nothing more.