In the Service of the Republic Prologue
By Tillman Oxendine
The sun was just rising as the two men on horseback studied the city in the distance from their position on a wooded hill. One, peering through a spyglass, grunted softly, and lowered the instrument, and paused before handing it off to his companion.
As the other man put his eye to the spyglass, the first observer asked, "Well sir, what do you make of it? I trust you recognize those standards and guidons."
Still scanning the fields in front of the city, the man with the spyglass smiled slightly and replied, "I certainly do. Seed, Culgan, Yuber, Lady Lucia and that's Han Cunningham's unit. Amazing. Our scouts didn't detect him yesterday. He must've snuck his entire brigade into the city sometime last night." He lowered the spyglass, snapped it shut, and looked back over at his partner. "Well now, Colonel Harrington, I suppose our Winger and Kobold scouts can't see everything, can they?"
Colonel Harrington looked down at the ground, a little embarrassed. "Sir, Han Cunningham was-and, I suppose, still is-Highland's finest soldier. Who else would be trusted with the defense of their capital?" He returned his eyes to his companion's. "General Flavius, I accept responsibility for the scouts' oversight. Even though Cunningham is one of the best, that's no excuse for-"
The other man cut him off with a wave of his gauntleted hand. "No need for apologies. At least we're sure now that they really mean this to be their last stand. One of my main concerns was that Highland wouldn't commit her main forces to the defense of the city, and use them instead for some sort of guerilla campaign if the capital didn't hold out." He gave his horse a gentle nudge and began to guide it back down the path. "Yes," he continued, "if Cunningham's here, then today's battle will determine the war."
Harrington fell in behind his superior. "Ah, but I think the Jowston forces are ready for it. And so are we, what with General Valeria leading us, and you as her second-in-command, General Flavius Pius!"
Flavius sighed, and turned his gaze to the new morning sky. "Oh, our troops are motivated to finish the job. I don't doubt that. Besides, as you've said, Valeria is the finest commander President Lepant could've chosen for this mission." He also added to himself, But it is still hard to believe that after all these days, and a world away from Toran, that we could be here, about to contest the fate of the Kingdom of Highland at L'Renouille!
And his thoughts strayed back to that day, months ago
when he was sifting through some routine reports in his office. Flavius Pius was the Intelligence and Operations Officer for the garrison at Pannu Yakuta, the great fortress that guarded the eastern marches of the Toran Republic. Most of the staff officers who also held the rank of major were somewhat older (Flavius Pius was twenty-eight), but he had been recommended to the job by General Valeria herself and was considered somewhat of a 'golden boy' by his peers.
He was just about to begin dissecting a report from a certain Captain Cho, whose company was combing the southern end of the Great Forest for a small band of brigands, when there was a knock at his door.
"Enter," he said without looking up from his work.
A young courier opened the door, and marched across the room, stopping in front of Flavius's desk. He saluted smartly and snapped, "Corporal Wells reporting with a message, for Major Flavius Pius, Pannu Yakuta Garrison."
Still not looking up from his work, Flavius put out a hand to receive the sealed message. "Well, who's it from then?" he asked somewhat impatiently.
"Sir, it is from the garrison commander, Valeria, the Great General, Guardian of the Toran Repub-"
Flavius shushed the young soldier and began to read the letter.
To Major Flavius Pius, Pannu Yakuta Garrison:
We have received orders from President Lepant himself to deploy, time now. You will proceed to Banner Town immediately with the First and Second Battalions of the Ninth Infantry Regiment, and the Second Forward Support Battalion. You will receive further orders upon your arrival. Colonel Degas will remain in charge of the garrison until our return.
Puzzled but nonetheless certain of the seriousness of Valeria's commands, Flavius Pius rose from his desk, dismissed the courier, and sent for the respective battalion commanders. He himself went to brief Colonel Degas on his mission.
When he related the word to Degas, he nearly burst into hysterics. "What? They're sending you, Flavius? I should be the one going! I've served the Republic of Toran as my career, and under Kwanda Rossman here at Pannu Yakuta for years! In fact, I would have gotten command of this fortress if it hadn't been for-"
"General Valeria, sir?" said Flavius innocently. "I'll be sure to relate your opinions when I report to her, if you like. Or you can do it yourself, if you wish to disregard her orders and take the detachment to Banner Town."
Degas's face reddened. "No of course not. Well, you'd better proceed with all haste then."
Flavius saluted and smiled to himself as he left Degas' office. The elderly colonel was a leftover from the old order, the Scarlet Moon Empire, and a political appointee of the late Emperor Barbarossa Rugner. When the "Liberation Army" of Tir McDohl seized power several years ago, they decided he was harmless enough, and would not engage in any monarchist activities. The man was genuinely concerned with the welfare of the nation and the mission entrusted to the soldiers of Pannu Yakuta, but he was too wrapped up in himself and too infirm for any active campaigning.
Still, thought Flavius, there are other officers of higher rank than my own who could go on this mission. I'm only a staff officer, and I haven't even held this rank for long! There're more experienced and decorated soldiers who could do this.
The staff duty officer came up along side of Flavius and informed him the battalion commanders were assembled in the conference room. Flavius thanked the lieutenant and quickened his pace.
I'm about to take command of some of those soldiers now, he thought as he reached the conference hall. A sentry opened the great iron doors for him, which was decorated with scenes of the rise of the Scarlet Moon Empire.
As he walked in the garrison staff stood up from the long mahogany table-at least those who were below him in rank. The battalion commanders, all lieutenant colonels, remained in their seats. Nearly all of them had disapproving scowls on their faces.
Well, I'd better not show any nervousness, thought Flavius. He cleared his throats. "Take your seats, gentlemen."
The staff officers sat down. Flavius did not take the seat normally reserved for him during these meetings, but took the garrison commander's chair-Valeria's place.
A few of the younger officers gasped, most of the staff was taken aback, and all of the battalion commanders' faces darkened.
"Commanders and staff, I have brought you here to relay orders from General Valeria herself. We are to move out immediately to Banner Town, for reasons yet to be explained, known only to the commander herself. I am in charge of the movement."
One of the battalion commanders sank his head into his hands.
Flavius noticed this but continued, "We will move out one hour before dawn tomorrow. The order of march will be First Battalion, Ninth Infantry, then the Second Battalion, Ninth Infantry, and then the Forward Support Battalion. The ballistae of the Second Battalion, Seventeenth Field Artillery will follow them.
"All units will leave in half-hour intervals. I will move out with the Second of the Ninth. Captain Harrington, the adjutant and my second-in-command, will bring up the rear. Are there any questions?"
The Forward Support Battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hodge, stood up angrily. "I demand to see the orders placing you at the head of this column!"
Flavius calmly handed him the dispatch. Hodge read it silently, and he sat down, handing the note back to Flavius. But he was still visibly angry.
Nonplussed, Flavius stood up. "If there are no further questions, I suggest we get packing. See you in the morning, gentlemen."
The assembled officers rose again-and this time the battalion commanders as well. Flavius noticed and felt a slight sense of relief.
Well, they may not respect me, but they'll follow Valeria's orders. Besides, it's only for the movement to Banner-I'll bet she'll place one of them as her second when we get there.
That night, Flavius Pius packed his kit bags. He had already informed the armorer to have his combat load ready for the morning, but there were a few personal belongings that he had to make sure to bring along on this new, unknown campaign. Flavius had nearly finished when there was a knock at the door.
It was Captain Harrington, the garrison adjutant. "Sorry to bother you, sir. I just wanted to let you know all the arrangements have been made, the equipment's been checked, and the supplies are loaded. We're ready to march tomorrow."
"Excellent, very commendable," said Flavius warmly. "Before you go, Michael, I think you should know I believe you're up for this. I know you're almost ready for company command."
Harrington looked down modestly. "Thank you, sir. I wonder if I'll get my chance, in the coming war, I mean. That is what we're deploying for, isn't it, sir?"
"Who knows?" Flavius shrugged. "This could be just some show of force on one of our borders. We can only speculate. Valeria's orders stipulated only that we should hurry as fast as possible. We'll know in a couple of days." He rose and clapped his subordinate on the back. "Now go get some rest. I appreciate the hard work helping me to get the brigade organized."
"Yes, sir," said Harrington. Then he left Flavius to his packing.
I'm wondering the same thing myself, Harrington will it be just a patrol, some sort of operation to quash some small monarchist uprising-or is it something bigger?
Are we going to war again?
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