Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 208
The Prince's Summons
It was Claude's first time in the HQ and his mind was once more blown by the scale of everything. He recalled how the soldiers proudly told him about their main camp when he first arrived in Gourneygada. The soldier mentioned how grand the base was and said that one couldn't see the other end from one end.
It was indeed rather grand. Countless tents were grouped together in fours and arranged together into bigger squares that filled one's vision from end to end.
The closer he got to the base, the more he heard the commotion. Bluefeather's three main folks had gone to the frontlines and only the 1st remained. However, he heard from Perunt that two irregular corps had already made their way to camp. One of them would accompany 1st Folk to Sidins and the other would remain as reserves and train the new recruits.
As the commander of a keeper and stretcher band, Claude worked quite closely with Perunt. After he finished settling his men's accommodation, Perunt asked Claude to go to the infirmary.
It was located on the eastern edge of the camp. Within the tents were near a hundred injured that had been brought back from the frontlines. Most had injuries consistent with falls. Apparently they'd taken tumbles off cliffs as the two folks had made their way across the mountain range.
Perunt had come looking for an old friend, the person in charge of the infirmary, Doctor Mozart. Unfortunately he was absent at the moment. Prince Wedrick had arrived in Gourneygada the day before and had been invited to a banquet by a couple. He became ill soon after, however, and Mozart had been summoned to treat him.
The two returned crestfallenly.
Claude remained in the base for the better part of three days with little to do. Perunt, by contrast, was drowning under his workload. The soldiers of 1st Folk and the two irregular corps butted heads a lot. The 11th Tribe alone had more than ten brawls. It kept the enforcers quite busy.
Fortunately, the brawls only resulted in light internal injuries that could be treated with simple concoctions. Perunt said the war was stringing tensions high and troops were easily triggered by stupid things. Usually, as long as a large-scale beatdown didn't break out, high command didn't crack down on them.
When Claude returned, he warned his minions to watch their men properly and make sure they stayed in their tents. If they didn't have anything to do, they ought to sleep. Whatever they did, they were not to wander around.
They were summoned to the parade grounds the next morning. Prince Wedrick would be inspecting the units before they departed for Sidins.
As the prince would be accompanied by many other rich and powerful people, the soldiers were instructed to wear new uniforms and be well fed and rested so they were fit and in high spirits during the parade.
Claude's bands weren't part of the parade. Command knew what kind of men were in his unit and worried they would disgrace the corps. They were instead to replace the camp guards.
Berklin spat hatefully as the horns blared to announce the parades start.
No one was happy being excluded from the parade. Claude was the only one who seemed indifferent.
"Don't you wanna see what the prince looks like?" Moriad asked.
"What for? He's a man like any other; two eyes, a nose, a mouth, some hair on top... He just happens to have a cushy heritage."
"But if we can win his favour, we'll soar up the ranks," Aboyev complained.
"Hehe," Berklin chuckled, "Dream on. Do you really think you'll actually get anywhere near him? Only people who are already elites get to meet him. He's not going to call up a grunt like you or me."
"Berklin speaks sense," Dyavid chirped, "I'm not too interested in the second prince. I'm just pissed that we're on sentry duty while all the city's cutest girls are all out there fawning over the prince."
"Forget it, don't make a fuss. Why don't you take a couple men to the woods and see if you can catch something. I want meat. Heck, didn't they say that the parade will start at ten? It's already twelve. It'll be at least close to sunset by the time they finish. Then the HQ will probably hold a private banquet to welcome the prince officially, which will keep the kitchen busy and we won't have dinner tonight."
Prince Wedrick had only just arrived, so the ceremony started late. The men had been on parade for several hours already, while the nobles and top commanders watched on under parasols, drinking tea and snacking on biscuits.
In the end, however, the folk were to have a quick lunch after the parade before heading out. The irregular corps would stay the night and depart the next morning.
Claude finished his rounds just in time to receive the order to prepare to depart.
It was a huge joke. Though Stellin X had assigned his two sons a royal guard tribe each, in addition to their own tent of guards from the Watch, Bluefeather believed it wasn't enough and added the 11th Tribe.
The prince, however, seemed to forget that they were to depart and stayed in his manor. Two days had passed since the parade now, and he had yet to make an appearance. Perunt had just heard he was holding yet another banquet, to which half the city's noble beauties had been invited.
The generals finally felt something was off when the third day came and went without an appearance from the prince. They headed to his manor, and he finally agreed to depart the next day.
The 11th Tribe would march at the column's helm. They would set off after breakfast and half an hour's rest. Two hours after their departure, however, they were told to make camp for lunch. The prince was going to have lunch and then rest some.
The afternoon was nearly halfway past before they got orders again. It was not to break camp, however, instead it was to expand camp since they were going to spend the night. The prince would be joining them, so they had to make space for him as well.
The men almost threw rocks at the messenger. At this rate they wouldn't even reach the mountain range before the war was over.
Regardless, they had their orders, and Bluefeather was nothing if not sticklers for following orders. The men thus set about preparing for the prince's arrival. The prince marched into the camp at sundown. His entourage was accompanied by droves of women, all of considerable background.
The night was almost out when Claude finished his rounds again and prepared to turn in. An attendant came to him at that time and told him he'd been summoned by the prince. He didn't have the smallest inkling as to why, but when a royal snapped his fingers, a commoner could do little but obey.
The tent to which he was led appeared to be high command's tent. It was at least several times larger than the tents Claude's unit had been issued. Even before he came to it, he could hear the merrymaking going on inside. He could see the shadows of a buffet dancing on the inside of the tent's wall.
He was told to wait in one corner while the prince finished the dance. At least three generals were present, each had wine and red faces.
The dance soon came to an end and a blond-headed man sauntered past Claude after giving his dance partner an elongated smooch. The attendant shadowing him motioned for Claude to follow.
"I have brought Claude Ferd, Your Highness," the attendant then announced.