One last time: if you’ve any thoughts – besides “he said there would be a war” – I’m working on that in chapter three, please let me know.
This short is the final piece of chapter one. And for those of you who have read, or shall soon be reading, “Obligations of Rank,” you’ll recognize who shows up in the last scene. As this book will be from Sergei Konev’s POV, I’ll not let this particular cat out of the bag.
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The next morning, the sun was just over the horizon as they followed the rail line east until it turned south. Even with some brush having grown up around it, the scout unit was still very exposed. The men had heard a few horses from the nearby streets but no motors and so far had seen no one.
They all stopped and dropped to a crouch when the soldier on point went to a knee and held his left hand up. As quietly as he could, Konev duck-walked forward.
“Report?” he mouthed. The lead lowered his field glasses.
“One man, one horse,” he said, equally softly, “about one hundred meters ahead. He’s wearing a uniform I don’t recognize. Looks like he’s making breakfast. And there are two small flags on short poles. One is white.”
Konev lifted his own glasses. Sure enough, a white flag and something red with a gold fringe. Someone about their age in a uniform…
“Shit,” he said softly.
“That’s an imperial legionary,” the sergeant almost hissed out. “The hell is he doing all the way up here?”
He moved back to the rest of the men while making up his mind.
“Only one of him that I see, so I’m going on alone to see why he is here and what he wants,” he told them. “The rest of you stay down and out of sight, as I’m sure his men are doing the same.”
“A legionary?” Zais shook his head once. “Canadians are nothings. But they…”
He trailed off and Konev was not pleased to see the ripple of surprise move through his little unit. He turned around again. Back next to the man on point, he stood and walked slowly south next to the rail line.
Fifty meters away his boots made enough noise in the gravel for the other to look up. He smiled then returned to what he was doing: sliced ham and eggs in a small cast-iron skillet over a fire. His horse snorted, tied as it was to a tree close by. Konev made sure to not point his rifle at anyone.
“Morning!” the legionary said in a conversational tone once he was closer. “Join me?”
Konev looked pointedly at the white flag of truce before nodding once. He came opposite the little fire and squatted down.
“Sergeant Sergei Konev. Imperial Russian Army.”
“Centurion Robert Hardt, legionary to her Majesty, Empress Faustina Hartmann. Here, have a paper plate.”