It was already a quarter to nine by the time Claude entered the meeting room, still 15 minutes before the meeting. By the time he reached Grinosburg, it was already midnight at three. He simply found an inn to settle his men down and rest for three hours. However, his rest wasn't a pleasant one given what was awaiting him the next day. Claude would be Miselk's successor. He would formally show up in front of others as the field marshal.
He didn't think that the others had long been waiting for the meeting to start. They quieted down a little eerily when he entered. It seemed that Miselk had already primed them for the revelation, so they knew Claude would soon be a field marshal.
The atmosphere was a little odd. Nobody spoke and a hint of awkwardness was in the air. At that moment, one person stood up and came to him with a face full of smiles and his arms wide open for a hug. Claude suddenly understood and hurriedly went to hug the man and patted his shoulders for a greeting. The awkwardness disappeared just like that. The meeting room's tension defused and people soon began chatting with one another again.
Two more people stood up and headed for Claude.
One of them was the vice logistics officer of the corps, Colonel Skri. He had quite an extensive relationship with Claude and used to be his superior back during their days in 1st Rangers. Claude was quite happy to see him. By the time Skri found a seat, Claude asked him with a surprised look, "So you're staying back too?"
Skri nodded. "Congratulations, my future superior. When Lord Militant Miselk came to see me and told me that you're being made field marshal, he asked whether I had any thoughts about it. I was truly happy for you back then and said I would be glad to work with you. After all, we're old partners."
Claude recalled the conversation he had with Miselk. The man did say there would be six other colonels that would stay back on Nubissia to be promoted to major-general together. Apart from Colonel Bolonik of 1st Monolith Folk and Colonel Sevict of 2nd Monolith Folk, there were four others. Since Ranger had around seventeen colonels in total, he couldn't guess who the others would be.
To his delight and relief, Skri was staying back. This meant that he wouldn't be on his own in the war theatre. At least Skri would side with him. Claude was well aware that he wouldn't be able to dominate the hierarchy that soon after assuming his position. As Miselk had mentioned, Claude only had direct command of Thundercrash and the four other enhanced folks had their respective commanding officers.
While Claude had the right to command the four enhanced folks around as field marshal, he could only inspect them without moving them directly. Anything he wanted to do with the folks had to go through their folksmen. Claude was worried there would be some who wouldn't be convinced of his credentials and go against him after Miselk left the place. Claude would then fall into a power struggle and duke it out with his own allies before he could focus on preparing for war.
However, Skri revealed something that made him feel relieved. It was obvious that when Miselk was picking people to join the new folks, he had asked each of the candidates what they thought of Claude being the field marshal. The officers who participated in this meeting were no doubt the ones who expressed support for Claude being Miselk's successor.
As for the officers who expressed their objection to that idea, Miselk would keep them in Ranger and take them back to the kingdom. He knew that preparing for war was a perilous task and there could be no tolerance for anyone who would object to Claude. They simply couldn't afford the time for infighting. To obtain victory in the war theatre, there could be opposing opinions, but they definitely couldn't be rooted in personal bias. Opinions should be made out of genuine concern instead of vindictive motives.
Colonels Sevict and Bolonik came over and greeted him. While they knew that Claude was going to become field marshal and their superior, their attitude towards him didn't change. They acted as they usually did as seniors to their junior as they talked about the matters in the corps. That helped Claude relax considerably.
Bolonik seemed to have recalled something as he waved for two other familiar-faced colonels to come over.
"Do you remember these two?" Bolonik asked.
Claude gave it some thought and nodded. "I know that they are my seniors from the high-level strategy class. If I remember correctly, you should be Eilon and he is Bick. I remember the two of you deeply for beating me so many times in the sand table simulations. I don't know if I remember this correctly, but I haven't heard anything about you ever since coming to Nubissia, nor did I see you two in corps command. Where have the lot of you been the last couple of years?"
"Hahahaha..." Sevict broke into a laughing fit. "Claude, you remember how many times they win but can't recall the time you defeated them? Those who have remembered you well. You've become their nightmare ever since and they kept wracking their brains to think of a way to defeat you..."
The rest broke into a hearty laugh. Claude scratched his head in embarrassment. "I really don't remember... I only know who defeated me and I had been fussing over how to win it back..."
Bolonik patted on Claude's shoulder and smiled. "Alright, let's not linger on our school memories. Claude, these two had been transferred to the colonial corps. That's why we didn't see them in Ranger. Eilon was in command of a local keeper line in the corps and he defended Port Patres from Seaking. Bick, on the other hand, reorganised the garrison forces in the three rear colonies and set up a coastal guard. The two of them have made some great contributions and are now going to be in the new war theatre with us."
Claude now knew that the two colonels would be the folksmen of the two reserve folks. However, Miselk did say that there would be seven people who would be promoted to major-general. There were only six people now present, so where was the last one? Claude swept his eyes around the room and saw only majors and lieutenant-colonels. There wasn't anyone else.
"Why are you lot gathering here?" a familiar and annoying voice sounded. He looked back and saw General Fansnik of the corps' logistics department. He marched into the room and looked stunned. "There's a meeting today? Why wasn't I notified?"
All of them ignored him and didn't answer his question, much to his rage. "Oh, you're not obeying your superior's orders, eh? Gathering privately and planning something sneaky, I see. Don't tell me this is a meeting called for by the corps. If so, why haven't I, the chief logistics supervisor, been given notice?"
"This is a meeting for the preparation of the new war theatre, General Fansnik. Please leave." Miselk entered the room, followed by a middle-aged man in formal wear. a colonel dressed in dark-blue keeper uniform and his aide, Lieutenant-Colonel Niwis.
"For the new war theatre?" Fansnik looked around and at the high-ranking officers and his eyes rolled. "Lord Militant, as a general of the kingdom, I request the right to listen in to the meeting."
"Apologies, you don't have that right." Miselk didn't hide his disdain for Fansnik at all. "General Fansnik, please leave immediately. Don't waste precious time."
"I object, Lord Militant, you are insulting a general of the kingdom," Fansnik said stubbornly, "If you don't let me listen in, that means you guys are going to discuss something nefarious. I have reason to suspect that this is a conspiracy against the royal family and I shall report this to the royal family and the ministry of the army so that those who participate in the meeting will be investigated."
"Are you sure you want to listen in?" Miselk said with a sudden smirk, "The preparation of the new war theatre is top secret. Anyone who participates will have to stay to fight the next war against Shiks. If you want to listen in, all you have to do is to sign a letter of oath. That way, you'll get to join and also have to stay for the incoming war. You won't be able to return to the mainland with Ranger."
"Ugh..." Fansnik hesitated for a moment, but he snapped out of it soon. "Apologies, Lord Militant, I just remembered there are many things I have to deal with in the logistics department. I won't take up any more of your time."
Seeing Fansnik leave haggardly, the officers present chuckled softly. Miselk nodded to his aide, Niwis, and he also left the room and shut the double door.
The middle-aged man in formal wear and the colonel of a local keeper force got to their seats. Only Miselk remained at the podium of the room. He cleared his throat and began, "The irrelevant and useless general is now gone, so let's start. As of today, the new war theatre is formed. I'm sure you all here know that Claude is going to take over my position as field marshal. Colonel Claude, please come to me."
Claude stood up and walked to the podium before saluting the others in the room.
"First, the war theatre's command post shall be established to manage all happenings within it. Colonel Skri shall be appointed chief logistics supervisor of the war theatre and be in charge of supply and shipments," Miselk said before he got Skri to stand up.
Skri saluted the rest just like Claude. Fortunately, he didn't have to go to the podium.
"The war theatre's civil affairs shall be managed by Sir Bernard." Miselk pointed to the middle-aged man. Claude had a feeling that guy was the only council member of the House of Dignitarians in Anfiston.
Bernard stood up and bowed to the rest in the room.
"Colonel Saljorak, please stand up." Miselk pointed to the colonel dressed in local keeper attire. Colonel Saljorak will be in charge of local defence, security and espionage."
Saljorak saluted the rest of them.
"Additionally, five new enhanced folks will be formed in the war theatre. Thundercrash will have Claude as folksman. 1st Monolith's folksman is Colonel Bolonik. 2nd Monolith's folksman is Colonel Sevict. Colonel Eiblont will be the folksman of 3rd Monolith. As for 4th Monolith, the folksman shall be Colonel Birkin.
"The heads of command in the war theatre shall be an eight-person council made up of Colonels Claude, Bolonik, Sevict, Birkin, Skri, Eiblont, Saljorak and finally, Sir Bernard. Claude shall be appointed as field marshal and his orders are of the highest priority in matters of war. As for other crucial matters, decisions should be made after joint council if Claude's opinions are not unanimously supported."
Miselk clearly stated each of their roles. In a sense, Claude didn't have too much power like Miselk did. But he could understand why that ought to be the case. He was still young and relatively inexperienced and Miselk worried that he wouldn't be up to the task.
Not to mention, Miselk himself was someone from a purely military background. During his term as field marshal, he had left civil affairs entirely to local officials and had never thought of having a full grasp of the local authorities. As a result, he distributed the roles according to his personal principles. Perhaps he believed that this would help Claude focus more on military matters alone and excel on that front.
"That will be the end of the delegations," Miselk continued, "From now on, this war theatre's formation is no longer a secret. We will iron out the details of the five folks after the men from Ranger are transferred. We'll leave the number of men transferring from Ranger to another time. Let's just assume 20 thousand of them will be transferring for now. Each folk will have up to four thousand former rangers. If there's extra, feel free to assign them in any folk deemed suitable.
"1st Monolith shall be stationed in Robisto's Brikaman and take care of the Dorinibla River Defence Line. 2nd Monolith shall be stationed in the mining town of Rosas and take care of Claude Defence Line in Mosraka Mountains. 3rd Monolith shall be stationed in Port Patres to defend us from enemies coming from the sea. 4th Monolith shall be stationed in Grinosburg in charge of the coastal area east of Mosraka Mountains.
"As for Thundercrash, where do you think it should be stationed, Claude?" Miselk asked out of the blue. He had settled on where to station the other folks and left Thundercrash to Claude.
"I'll station them in Lanu. I intend to move the command post of the war theatre there as well since it's easy to reach and we'll be able to attack quicker," Claude said without holding back.
Miselk nodded. "You're free to decide how to go with this. However, what I'm going to tell you all right now is a little urgent. The kingdom has sent the first batch of settlers here and they'll arrive in another half a month in Tyrrsim. I hope the five folks can have a basic framework within a month. Take the discharged veterans to fill your ranks immediately after their arrival instead of letting them loiter pointlessly in camp."