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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Prologue Part I


Artur pressed his face down into the cool grass and fought to catch his breath and still his wildly beating heart. Almost without him consciously realizing it, his hands began clawing at the side of the small rise as if he could somehow burrow into it to protect himself. Over the top of the rise, which was really more of a slight sloping of the ground next to an old sunken farm road, and just above his head, the air was filled with the angry buzzing of bullets flying past. Soon artillery shells began landing all around him. Some flew overhead to land in the road behind him and others struck the rise above his head. With each impact came the urge to cry out in fear, and after a while he did so. He forced his hands to stop their useless digging and clamped them over his head as he shut his eyes and gave voice to his fear. His shame was only slightly lessened by the knowledge that no one could hear him screaming over this terrible and deadly storm.

The crackling of a ragged volley of rifle fire came to his ears and he opened his eyes to see his comrades exposing themselves to the deadly rain above them in order to fire on the enemy. He knew he should join them. His rifle was lying next to him and he reached out to grab hold of it. When the time came, however, he could not bring himself to rise up and instead rolled onto his back with a sob, his rifle clutched sideways across his chest.

Lying on his back, he looked up towards the sky and found his eyes drawn by a flicker of movement above him and to the left. There, hovering in the air above him, was the Blessed Virgin. Her hands were held in front of Her chest and joined at the fingertips. Her neck was bent so that She seemed to be looking down at him. He stared at Her, transfixed. Her image fluttered in the wind, sometimes becoming obscured. For just a moment She was replaced by a black eagle before reappearing once more to hover over him, bullets tearing holes in Her gown as he watched.

Suddenly, the drums behind him began beating out a new tune. They were calling for the advance. He saw the Oberst climb over the side of the rise, waving his sword over his head and shouting for them to go forward. All around him his comrades were going over the rise and following their commander. Many fell back again screaming. Others fell silently to lie still.

Artur looked to the Blessed Virgin and saw that She was falling. He cast his rifle away and launched himself over the rise and was able to catch Her before She could touch the ground. He lifted Her up high and charged forward into the storm.
 
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volksmarschall

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A very interesting beginning. I assume that the Virgin is a figure of sight for Artur. And judging by his commanders being a colonel in German, I would guess he's with either Prussia or Austria (or perhaps a German Minor!).

Though the name Artur sounds Italian, I ruled this out because it's not Artur(o). Excellent writing as always! And very eager to see where this will go and what is to come next!
 

tcnc

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Oh my, this seems interesting :) I'm ashamed to have never read 'Return to Glory' in depth, but I loved the gangster atmosphere in 'An Irishman's Story' (that sure was different!) Let's see where this one leads.
 

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volksmarschall: Actually, he did indeed see Her. In fact, it's a clue as to what army he is serving with.

tcnc: Thanks. An Irishman's Story was fun for me, I'm glad you liked it. I put up the introduction mostly to see if any interest could be drummed up. What exactly is going on will be fleshed out to a greater degree later.
 

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Ah avast, another Hardraade story. Seems to be Prussia to me. One headed eagle or two?
 

Enewald

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Intriguing definitely, leaves so much open.
More I demand!
 

robou

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Saw you writing this last night and got all excited. You were just too slow at posting it ;) Certainly an intriguing opening that, as Enewald says, leaves a lot of options open as to the rest of the story. Continue, dear friend!
 

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Hmm... What do we have? A soldier named Artur. Not Arthur, not Arturo. Possibly significant. Artur is commanded by an Oberst, which, as volksmarschall points out, is german for Colonel. There is symbolism with the Virgin Mary and a black eagle. I first thought this referred to different banners, but upon a re-read I'm not sure anymore. Either way, the black eagle could refer to Prussia, or maybe Austria.

Two scenarios seem to fit these clues: one, a minor German nation is fighting Prussia (I forget, are there still any German Archbishoprics left in Victoria, or is that only in EUIII?) or two, the Papal States fighting the Austrians over mastery in Italy. The latter is a bit of a stretch, but could work if you assume that the Oberst is a German-speaking officer in the Swiss Guard. It could also help explain the rogue spelling of Artur's name.

Anyway, I'm sure all will be revealed in good time. In the mean time, plenty of food for thought. :)
 

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Kampf_Machen: No, not Prussia. And it's two-headed.

Enewald: Thanks. The next update will come soon.

robou: Thanks for the support. I truly appreciate it.

Stuyvesant: Close very close. You seem to have a knack for guessing things in my AARs.;)

tcnc: I'll definitely update before the end of the week.
 

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Austrian then. Austria is a Catholic German country with a two-headed eagle as her symbol. She's a perfect fit.
 

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Prologue Part II


Like a wave the regiment rolled forward toward the enemy and Artur was caught up in their midst. Gone were the perfectly straight lines in which they had marched at the start of the battle. Now each man ran with all speed toward the enemy with bayonet thrust out before him and seeking to close the distance before the fire slashing through their ranks could strike home.

So it was then that, when the survivors of the charge reached the enemy position, they resembled more a mob than a disciplined professional unit. They surged over the earth piled before the enemy trench and jumped down amidst their foe. Bayonets, rifle butts, and bare hands became the weapons of choice as the battle on this section of the line devolved into a swirling melee.

Artur climbed atop the pile of earth above the trench and looked down at the terrible scene. Lacking a weapon, he could do little else but look on while tightly gripping the staff in his hands. Bullets whistled past his head, reminding him suddenly that the Leibfahne fluttering over his head made him the most desirable target on the field. He looked down and to his left and saw a small group of enemy soldiers trying to fight their way toward him and being desperately held back by his comrades.

One of them broke through. He was a big, dark-looking man with a drooping moustache. He leveled his bayonet at Artur and charged up toward him. Artur took his attention off of the charging man long enough to drive the staff into the ground before turning back. The man was almost upon him now and he thrust his bayonet toward Artur's stomach. Artur sidestepped quickly and grabbed hold of the end of the rifle with both hands. He pulled with all his might and tore the weapon free from his surprised foe. Artur then reversed the motion and drove the butt of the rifle into the dark man's stomach. He folded up and crumpled to the ground at Artur's feet, the wind driven from his body. Artur turned the rifle around and thrust the bayonet into the man's back. He quivered for a moment before going still. Artur released his hold on the rifle and pulled the Leibfahne's staff from the ground. He deliberately did not look again at the body at his feet. He had never killed a man before.

All around him the enemy was fleeing, running away from him and his comrades. The battle was, however, far from over. The Oberst was shouting desperately in an attempt to reform the line and restore order. From his elevated position Artur could see a solid wall of men marching toward him, the sunlight gleaming off of hundreds of bayonets. Enemy reinforcements. Slowly, too slowly it seemed to Artur, the regiment was able to reform into a firing line. He could hear the Oberst calling out all the commands for making ready to fire that they had all learned through countless hours of drilling.

The enemy had drawn close by this time and halted their line. There was a flash of reflected light as the enemy soldiers leveled their rifles. Everything seemed to slow down then for Artur. Slowly, ever so slowly, his comrades mimicked the enemy and leveled their own rifles. From where he stood he could actually see the enemy's commanding officer point his sword at him and saw his mouth open to give a command. Then there was a bright flash as they sent hundreds of small pieces of death toward him.
 
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Enewald

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So for Germany they fight.
And the enemy uses still swords. :p
Artillery strike incoming?
 

robou

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So he is Austrian perhaps? Or not. Still unclear. But whatever happens, I'm sure he'll get commendation for successfully defending the King's colours. Survive the battle first, though, and an enemy having the first volley is never a good thing.
 

volksmarschall

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Well, if the Virgin is actually present, then he probably isn't Prussian or North German as they are Protestants. The Virgin would be coincided with the South German states or the Austrian Empire as they are predominantly Catholic.

But, the Leibfahne is most famous for Prussia; but the Austrians carried a very famous ones themselves as the first battalion of every unit was issued one. The Austrians also used a very rare Leibfahne that depicted the (Virgin Mary) I believe or another patron saint of the Catholic Church. I have a nitch that the men Artur is with has to be Austrian.

More I say!
 

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Volksmarschall brings up a good point re-affirming the belief that Artur is an Austrian. Great update Hardraade.
 

canonized

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Impressively executed .

The way you used the flag as an almost miraculous image not only was stunning , but it grabbed my attention as if you shot me in the arm .

masterfully blended and you took full advantage of the your narrative voice to add that mystery that kept all of us guessing .

I'm looking forward to following this ! :D
 

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Enewald: Not for Germany. A bit to the south.

robou: An Austrian indeed. He might gain favorable notice for defending the colors, but he has to survive first (as you said) and for color bearers that's far from certain.

volksmarschall: You are correct. The first battalion of an Austrian infantry regiment carried a very special flag that actually had two different images on it's opposite sides. On one side it had the Virgin Mary and on the other it had the imperial double eagle. All other battalions in the regiment would have carried a flag with the double eagle on both sides. So there you have it: Artur is an Austrian serving with the first battalion of an infantry regiment in the Imperial Army.

Kampf_Machen: Thanks. You and volksmarschall were indeed correct.

canonized: Thanks. I'm glad that you enjoyed the opening. I'll be continuing the story pretty soon.

longlee: Well, my last AAR kind of ended on a down note, so maybe this one will be a bit happier. Then again, maybe not.
 
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