My recent game of Horizon Wars brought a new hero into the fray, the former military academy headmaster and war hero Reinhard Muller, brought back to the front line to fight once again.
This is his story, behind the somewhat dry game report…
“You know, Zita, I could almost believe Hargas has got a little more pleasant since we were last here. There’s two bars now, and the hospital isn’t a tent.” The silver-haired man stretched out, his face contorting as the movement clearly caused some pain. “And the new abbott of the Planetoi monastery is a distinctly more pleasant man than his predecessor. Much less worried about his patients drinking and such like.”
“You’ve got some nerve, sir, charging out like that.”
“It would have worked against those stupid little tanks they used to have. Those things flew damn well when you shot them, lit up like fireworks. It’s because they made them light, for desert warfare.”
“I feel more than a little self-conscious lecturing my general on the latest developments in the enemy’s capacity. Don’t make me do it again.” Reinhard Muller, well over six feet tall, bearded and dignified and bearer of the stern, lined features that had decorated the one hundred crown note since his heroic deeds in the Second Meravian War, laughed. He had been discharged from the monastic hospital two days after his escape there during the Battle of Hargas, and subsequently put into the KKL field hospital for further inspection. Now he was back on his feet, and the Capitoline Knights had, figuratively speaking, collectively breathed a sigh of relief.
“Zita, I have been teaching children how to lead men for several years. Forgive an old man given the chance to raise arms with his long-missed comrades again.”
Zita Andras had a reputation. As one of the Imperial-Royal Laufpanzer School’s top instructors, she had been the nightmare of many an overly-arrogant noble son – and it had taken significant impetus from General Muller to see her, too, abandon her teaching role. Indeed, Chancellor Gelt had passed a much-quoted and distinctly acidic comment about how certain old war heroes seemed to be taking this very real threat to Prenzer as a chance to play soldiers again. The Capitoline Knights had been called the Geriatric Brigade in the Prenzeran Daily News the very next day.
That Muller had not deigned to even respond to Gelt‘s jibe had caused worried murmurings at court. Was the old man making a show of aloof dignity, or snubbing the Chancellor who was just making a harmless joke?
That had been a week ago.
Reinhard Muller walked into the Prenzeran headquarters in Hargas’ town hall and slammed his walking-stick into the rough flagstoned floor. “Is that drunkard from the Daily News anywhere to be seen? And his imbecilic photographer? I will have that damned interview now.”
“My God, General, it’s good to see you back on your feet. Now, as you’re aware, the Supply Unit-”
“Oh, it’s you. Yes. I’m alive. Get Tamas or Olivier to deal with the damn supplies.” Muller completely dismissed the supply officer. “Where is that godforsaken journalist? I just damn well wiped out the Meravian XII Corps and I want my damned interview!”
“I think he is in the bar, sir.”
“It’s nine in the bloody morning.”
“He’s a journalist, sir.”
As Muller swept out of the headquarters, the quartermaster looked slightly bemusedly at Zita.
“You’ve not met the general before, have you?”
“He… well, he isn’t… wasn’t any different in the classroom. His students used to leave his lessons with their brains thoroughly encircled by knowledge and then smashed a little at a time with overwhelming force.”
Otto’s Bar was a small, Southern Prenzer-style drinking-house in the middle of a small and forgettable town in the Arolan plains. Its wooden beams were made from pale desert woods badly painted dark brown, its walls were a dusty off-white and the mountain flowers and hanging meats that decorated it like a hunting lodge were very obviously paper-paste and silk.
At one of its heavy tables an ill-shaven, lank-haired man and a bedraggled woman in a cloth cap were nursing cups of strong coffee.
“There you bloody are. I’ve been looking for you. You’re the little rat who called my men the Geriatric Brigade, aren’t you?”
“Yes I’m bloody well Reinhard Muller you damnable oik. Were you born yesterday? Did you complete school?”
“Our plane only arrived yesterday, sir, and you had not been discharged from hospital then. Nobody mentioned you were here, the telegram from Oberst Andras didn’t make it-”
“I don’t care. Now, get your notebooks or whatever you want to use and start writing, because I have a statement for the nation that your newspaper is going to run.”
“As you wish, sir.”
“I want it to begin like this with no alterations, you hear? The Geriatric Brigade, as this newspaper has christened the Capitoline Knights, recently gave the upstart little urchins of the Meravian Empire the thrashing any good schoolmaster should give an unruly pupil. And like any lesson, it will be reinforced by repetition until the miscreant relents.”
“Look, I am sorry about that editorial.”
“I don’t actually care. If that’s the line Oscar Gelt wants to take then I wouldn’t expect a newspaper to say anything different. I’ll just serve the bloody Chancellor victory after victory until he’s damn well fit to burst from them. And don’t write that down, you stupid oik.”
“Thank you for that statement. Is it all right if we… interview some of your subordinates? Take some photographs?”
“Yes, please do go and annoy someone else, particularly Lansel. Does this place serve breakfast?”
“I think so?”
“If you see Andras tell her I need a clerk brought up from the headquarters, I have a message to send to Chancellor Gelt and the War Ministry.”
NATIONAL HERO DELIVERS SOUND BEATING TO MERAVIANS
Nils Magnusson, 15/7/27, Hargas
The Geriatric Brigade, as this newspaper has christened the Capitoline Knights, recently gave the upstart little urchins of the Meravian Empire the thrashing any good schoolmaster should give an unruly pupil. And like any lesson, it will be reinforced by repetition until the miscreant relents. The words of the truly heroic General Reinhard Muller, an incomparable force of national spirit and personality.
Prenzeran forces forge on towards the Meravian border, scoring victory after victory in their rush to relieve the Frontier Group! General Muller, a hero of this nation’s past conflicts, devises masterful strategies and cuts off and wipes out entire corps of enemy troops with heroic efficiency! Reliable sources from within the Prenzeran army suggest that a full-scale counterattack is imminent, and for the first time in years undisputed control of the Arol will be in the hands of Archduke Leopold Josef!