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Capilean Reich Press [READ ONLY]

A place to put national factbooks, embassy exchanges, and other information regarding the nations of the world. [In character]
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The Grand Duchy Of Nova Capile
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Capilean Reich Press [READ ONLY]

Postby The Grand Duchy Of Nova Capile » Fri Jul 31, 2020 4:23 pm

1. After some vacillation, I've decided that this thread will be read only once again. No posts, please; instead of tagging, please consider bookmarking this thread with the handy button located to the right of the Board Index at very bottom of your page. Any feedback is welcome in my telegram inbox.

2. The writing contained in this thread does not represent my IRL views. Everything here is the product of a propaganda press and should be considered as truthful as Soviet or Nazi scrawlings.

3. Make sure to visit AkopTA to read both sides of the story.

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By direct order of the Reichskanzler, English translations of select publications of the Capilean Reich Press are now freely available to the global public.

OUR PUBLICATIONS:
  • Der Sieger (The Victor)
    The official newspaper of the Party, Der Sieger will keep you informed on both Capilean and international affairs.
  • Der Vormarsch (The Advance)
    An alternative newspaper sanctioned by the Party, with a wide following amongst the working classes.
  • Der Befehl (The Command)
    The official newspaper of the Stoßwehr, the Capilean army.
  • Der Kavalier (The Cavalier)
    A sanctioned newspaper with a following amongst the Capilean nobility.
  • Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil)
    A monthly newspaper with a focus on agriculture and health.
  • Heldentaten (Heroic Deeds)
    A monthly magazine for boys and adolescents, chock full of adventure stories and useful guides.

ARCHIVE:

PARTNER PRESSES:
  • AkopTA — "The Voice of the Republic"
    The premier news agency of the Reich's foremost ally, the Republic of Akordania.
Last edited by The Grand Duchy Of Nova Capile on Wed Aug 19, 2020 11:24 pm, edited 7 times in total.
Capilean News (Updated 6 August)
Where is the horse gone? Where the warrior?
Where is the treasure-giver? Where are the seats at the feast?
Where are the revels in the hall?
Alas for the bright cup! Alas for the mailed warrior!
Alas for the splendour of the prince!
How that time has passed away, dark under the cover of night, as if it never were.

The Wanderer

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The Grand Duchy Of Nova Capile
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Founded: Jul 12, 2015
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Postby The Grand Duchy Of Nova Capile » Fri Jul 31, 2020 4:27 pm


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1 December 2018

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REICHSLEITER PROCLAIMS TOTAL VICTORY

Today marks two enormous events in the history of the Capilean Reich. For one, the Great Hall of the Capilean People has been completed! In a mere four months the project went from a dream to a glorious reality — truly a marvel of engineering, accomplished by the singular confluence of skill and purpose indivisible from our race. Yet it could not have been done without the indefatigable passions of our beloved Reichsleiter, Walther Nemetz, who personally supervised the construction alongside master architect Winfield Fenster.

Who better, then, to dedicate the Great Hall and hold the first of many rallies within it?

This morning the Reichsleiter stood before a crowd numbered at 112.000, as well as the entirety of 1. Stoßwehr Panzer-Division "Kapilea", and delivered an explosive oration wherein he proclaimed the utter victory of our Reich over its enemies. Following is a brief excerpt from the crux of his forty-minute speech, which moved several thousands of our countrymen to tears and everyone to his feet:
Capileans! You remember when I said that we were standing on the knife's edge of history? We are no longer there. We stand in a new era! An era of prosperity and strength! A Capilean era!

By the merit of our commanders, by the valor of our soldiers, and by the might of our will, we have triumphed in this struggle of struggles! The Royalists have abandoned their pharisees and flock to our banners by the hundreds of thousands. The Communist menace has been reduced to mere embers, and even now our valiant army moves to root out the red cravens who have not yet been destroyed. Yes, my people, it is with indescribable pleasure that I can proclaim to you our total victory!

That is right. This victory belongs to you — to the men who bled upon the floodplains of the Rei and the marshes of the Frankgau; to the workers and the farmers who toiled hour after hour, day after day to furnish those men with munitions and food; to the wives and the sisters who provided aid beyond what any could expect in the capacity of factory workers and field nurses. It belongs to each and every Capilean who, rather than rejecting the truth, embraced it. Let us all take a moment to applaud our courage, our will, our victory.

But let us also not forget what had to be sacrificed. Let the hundreds of thousands of men who gave their lives that the Reich might triumph be remembered forever as champions of legend. Let the woe of a generation of razed cities, of deep wounds, and of slain sons be healed, but not forgotten. No, we must never let the sacrifice of these heroes go in vain! Let us safeguard that for which they died, and be willing to die for it ourselves! For dying for one's nation, for one's Volk, is the utmost honor one can achieve, is it not?

After we have celebrated our victory and commemorated our fallen, we can look to the future. For the first time, we will no longer be burdened by the uncertainty of war. Instead, we will look eagerly unto each coming day, for it will hold a new source of triumph. There will be trials in our future, yes, but they are obstacles to be conquered, not threats! Our victory, Capileans, is secure!
One wonders if such a speech could ever be topped by any other to resound in the Great Hall. But this author is sure that the Reichsleiter will never be stymied, especially not by his own tongue.

In any case, Capileans everywhere may finally rejoice in knowing that the worst has passed. Klaus' War had been ebbing for some time now as our enemies were reduced to mere holdouts in the far corners of the realm, but now that our final victory has been declared by the Reichsleiter himself, the war may be said to be over. Indeed, it is time for all Capileans to look, as Our Leader advised, to the future. There are many questions to be answered by our new government, which, while impervious, is still developing. Only one thing is certain: we must be ever vigilant. Our comrades have bought us this victory with blood and toil; it is up to us to keep it!
Benno Liefenräder, Editor-in-Chief of DER SIEGER
Capilean News (Updated 6 August)
Where is the horse gone? Where the warrior?
Where is the treasure-giver? Where are the seats at the feast?
Where are the revels in the hall?
Alas for the bright cup! Alas for the mailed warrior!
Alas for the splendour of the prince!
How that time has passed away, dark under the cover of night, as if it never were.

The Wanderer

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The Grand Duchy Of Nova Capile
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Posts: 3915
Founded: Jul 12, 2015
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Heldentaten Vol. 11

Postby The Grand Duchy Of Nova Capile » Thu Aug 06, 2020 1:09 pm

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THE JADE IDOL
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A HANS KRAFFT STORY
by R. A. Flunker
In the dim lamplight I could make out only silhouettes, shadowy, caricature-like forms. There was Inge, her slender body pressed against the deformed askari's, his jagged knife held taut against her pale throat, her china blue eyes wide with terror.

"Give me the Idol," he growled, "or the girl dies."

Who knew so much evil could come from one ugly little totem?
+ + +
It all began in the early summer of 1939. I had barely returned to Capile after my adventures in India when I received an urgent summons from the Governor of Abyssinia. 1.000 Reichsmarks — and all I had to do was hear him out. It seemed an odd request, but who was I to refuse him?

Anna was terribly upset, but I reminded her that with 1.000 Reichsmarks our dream of marrying and settling down in a nice neighborhood would be a lot closer to reality. I packed my bags and left alone the next morning. Armin (whom I called Quex after Quecksilber for his restiveness), the tenacious little scamp whom I'd somehow picked up along my journeys, was still recuperating from the nasty cutlass-wound he'd gotten from that big lascar back in Colombo, so I didn't have to endure his pleading to come along. I would come to miss his help.

The flight to Wilhelmsburg passed uneventfully; I was right tired and sleep came mercifully upon me not a minute after we left the runway. I awoke just in time to catch a glimpse of the city through the window. It was a brilliantly sunny day, and the capital of Abyssinia sparkled like a diamond in the rough, a city of marble and glass rising out of the scrubby countryside. We touched down and I disembarked, suitcases in hand. The Governor, whose name was Egon Hummel, and his entourage were waiting for me on the tarmac. He was a little round fellow who looked convivial enough; his bald pate was red and he was sweating like a demon under twenty layers of tweed. In my tan bush shirt and trousers I thought that Abyssinia was a welcome reprieve from the great outdoor sauna they call India.

"Captain Krafft, I'm so glad you've come!" cried the Governor, and he took my hand in his and greeted me like an equal. His aides took my suitcases and drove us in a fancy car through the city. Along the way Hummel told me how much he admired me, praising me for recovering those jewels for the Geyers family back in Ceylon and asking me about my military service, but gradually he ran out of compliments. Instead he went into great detail about the city’s history, as well as the story of this skyscraper and that bank, and I got the feeling he was evading the real reason for my presence.

"Governor, I understand you have a job lined up for me?" I asked, keeping my voice polite.

"Oh, all in good time," Hummel chortled, and he smiled. But the remainder of the drive was silent.

The car pulled up to the Governor's Mansion, a stately home on the city's outskirts surrounded by hedgerows as big as houses, and I was shown inside. The interior was much like the exterior; gilded, stuccoed, and, amazingly, cool. Fancy grand pianos and marble tiling may be expensive, but cold air is priceless.

Hummel led me into his office, a big room whose back wall was mostly one window, out of which acres of sprawling gardens could be seen. He settled behind his desk and I in front of it, but before our conversation began, we were interrupted by a singularly beautiful woman. She came in with a tea tray, her eyes clear blue and her hair white blonde, a willowy thing in the flower of her youth. She smiled once to me as she laid the tray on the desk, a carefully hidden smile which told me she had taken to me quite a lot already. But I reminded myself that I already had a wonderfully beautiful woman waiting on me back in Capile.

“Thank you, Inge,” said Hummel, and the girl gave her father a peck on the cheek. But instead of leaving, she hovered near the door, even edging toward one of the plush seats. “Thank you!” he repeated, a note of exasperation in his voice. And she left at last, though I suspected she remained at the keyhole to listen.

“Now, Captain, on to the specifics of this job,” Hummel said, straightening his tie. I could tell he was nervous, nervous about my reaction to whatever he had to say, because he wasn't acting like a governor. Governors don't come out and wring the hands of lowly captains; they let their henchmen do that, while they stay mysterious and omnipotent behind mahogany doors. “You already know it is highly paid, or you would not be here. And I expect that you have inferred that such a highly paying job is also exceedingly dangerous.”

I nodded, but raised a question. "What exactly is the payment? You offered 1.000 Reichsmarks for me to hear you out, but I don't think you specified how much I'd get for actually doing the job."

He smiled. "Just as sharp as they say you are, then. Well, Captain, I can offer a sum ten times that if you succeed." I could feel my eyes widen comically, but I quickly got over the surprise and moved on to suspicion. A payoff that big was fishy. But Hummel headed me off. "I know you may be tempted by such a hefty sum, but I can assure you, Captain, that this is no easy task. I have hired many men over the past few months, and that many men have failed. Some of them are dead."

In hindsight, I should have walked away at the first gut feeling that something was underfoot. But I didn't. My mind was already thinking about the shiny car and white-picket house Anna and I could buy with 10.000 Reichsmarks.

“This job," Hummel continued, "is rather similar to your previous Ceylonese engagement, in that you will need to retrieve an artefact for me.”

I quirked an eyebrow, intrigued. “What artefact, sir?”

Hummel leaned forward as if sharing a valued secret, his eyes sparking, and whispered, “It is known as the Jade Idol. An ugly little elephant-man, if legend is to be believed, but immensely valuable, nonetheless. You see, there are a number of mystic powers attributed to it.”

I had heard of many eldritch artefacts and their cosmic powers before, but had yet to witness any proof of magic with my own eyes. Were the sum Hummel was offering not so extravagant, I might have scoffed. Instead, I asked, "What sort of powers, sir?"

“Oh, it varies from custom to custom," Hummel answered, greed evident in his eyes, "but the inextricable belief is that it is a source of endless wealth." My eyebrow went still higher. "Enough wealth to be of interest to the entire Reich!"

"Who is currently in control of this idol?" I had no desire to make powerful enemies, and the possessor of such a thing was likely to be very powerful indeed, even if its magic were myth.

“No one, at moment,” Hummel replied with a sigh. “It is lost, you see. But it is believed to be hidden within the Harenna Rainforest, somewhere in the Bale Mountains.”

At this, my patience began to wear. “Sir, with all due respect, I believe you have the wrong man. I do not chase after fairy tales.”

Hummel started. “Oh, Captain Krafft, this job is nothing of the sort, I assure you! I have found, at last, a man who knows where the Idol is.” My suspicions were not eased; madmen and cheats were common in those corners of the world. The Governor hurried to the door, and called out into the room adjacent, “Mustafa!” He returned to the desk, a rather shocking man behind him.

Mustafa was a former askari, revealed by the patched tan uniform and cylindrical cap he wore, and had seen vicious combat; there were deep scars across his cheek, and a great chunk was missing from his nose. But the worst injury I only noticed as he crossed the room; his right leg was fashioned from wood rather than flesh.

“An honor, Captain,” he said in his gravelly voice, bowing to me. His gray beard was like a scraggly clump of steel wool, and his dark eyes were curiously luminous upon his coal-black face. I nodded to him, persuaded that, at the least, he would not be able to harm me had he wanted to. I was to be proved gravely mistaken.

“Mustafa here will serve as your guide, leading you to the Jade Idol,” the Governor explained.

“Sir, why must I be the one to retrieve it?” I questioned suddenly. “Surely with resources such as yours, you could send an entire army after it.”

“I could,” Hummel said with a hint of impatience, “but I am not the only one after the thing! Stroke of luck that Mustafa came to me instead of the British, for instance.”

“I serve Germany alone,” croaked Mustafa, an assertion that should have raised red flags in my head, but which I failed to recognize.

Hummel smiled at him restively before saying, “Moving rashly would alert my competitors as to my intentions. No, I intend to seize the Idol stealthily, which is why I require a man of your caliber.” I nodded in understanding. This, if nothing else, made sense. “You will take a small force of my most capable men and plenty of supplies into the Harenna. It should be a week-long expedition, at most. Any questions, Captain?”

I weighed my options for a moment. The circumstances around this job were bizarre — but I had followed crazier leads before. Not to mention the enormous payoff the Governor had promised. In hindsight, I should have stood up, walked away, and never set foot in Abyssinia again — but I chose a different path.

“When do I leave?”
+ + +
We left early next morning, it turned out. It was a gloomy morning, but everyone was thankful that it was cool, rather than searching for ill portents. We all assembled in the Governor's yard, where a line of Kübelwagen was waiting. There was I, Mustafa, a few of his askari confederates, the Governor and his daughter — though they were not going, of course — and an outfit of tan-uniformed soldiers under the command of a square-jawed major with a scar on his cheek and a chip on his shoulder against men like I.

"This is Major Metzger," the Governor introduced us, beaming. He was in mountainously high spirits. Metzger gave a gruff sort of grunt and inclined his head an inch in my direction. He had a brown toothbrush mustache which seemed to twitch whenever he was annoyed. It twitched when I nodded in greeting. He quickly excused himself to oversee the loading of the cars with supplies. I started to help with the bustle, but stopped at the noise of a woman crying behind me. I turned to see Hummel red in the face, scolding his daughter Inge, whose pallid cheeks were wet with tears. At once I started forward.

"What's the matter, sir?" I asked, making sure to keep my tone deferent.

"Inge here is under the delusion that she should accompany you!" Hummel huffed. "Perhaps, Captain, you could remind her that the place of a woman such as she is within the ballroom and the dining hall, not the African jungle!"

I smiled sympathetically to her. I do not know how I could have survived were I born a woman, as my lust for adventure is far too strong to be repressed. "It is certainly a dangerous place," I said, struggling to find words of comfort that would not offend her father. "Not one for any ordinary woman." Her pale blue eyes flashed upward, and I worried for a moment that I had affronted her. But her gaze was surprisingly warm upon me. After a moment's silence, Inge hurried back into the house, and I turned back to the loading. There was something I needed to say to Metzger. Finding him, I checked that no askaris were within earshot before taking him aside.

"Major, you know what we've got to do, don't you?" The mustache twitched again, and his gray eyes were glacially cold. "As soon as we're clear of the Governor, we've got to get the information out of this Mustafa. We can't trust him not to lead us into a trap, or to have any clue what he's doing." I had carefully planned this ever since agreeing to do this job. Mustafa could easily be insane or nefarious, or both, and so what he knew — if anything — had to be shaken out of him before we left. We could not rely on him as our guide.

Metzger's barrel chest busted a few of its hoops as he swelled up and barked, "We will follow the Governor's orders, not yours, mercenary!" I felt like reminding the major that he was not the only officer present, but just then the cars' engines roared to life and we had to depart. A driver, Mustafa, Metzger and I piled into the foremost Kübelwagen; the Governor said a few words of inspiration and bid us good luck; one last callow soldier sprinted out of the house and into a car; and we were off.

Before long the clouds parted and the sun was blistering upon us. It was not the most pleasant journey; I spent most of it trying to work out how to convince Metzger that Mustafa was not to be trusted with our lives — or, if he could not be swayed, to get the location of the Idol out of the old askari. I would have to corner him alone — and even then, without Metzger's support I had little chance of strong-arming him. I decided it might be better to try and get the information out of him with friendship rather than force.

I got the sense that something was off around dusk. The cicadas were hammering out their tattoo, which was loud enough to dull thought, and we were passing through rocky scrubland. There were plenty of big boulders behind which a dozen men could hide, and my gut told me that they were hiding there. I decided not to press Metzger, but kept my eyes peeled just in case. Sure enough, less than five minutes later a flurry of darts flew out of the semi-darkness.

Our motorcade ground to a halt. Metzger swung into action, as did I, shouting orders. Rifles were produced from nowhere, and the tan-uniformed soldiers leapt to action. Even the askaris shouldered rifles and fired into the dark with perfect, well-remembered form. We stayed near our cars, ready to deliver a stunning volley should the foe appear, but all we got were harrying darts. They missed us, mostly, though I heard a few men cry out in pain, and later one of them nearly died from poisoning. And then, after a spell, there was a great war cry and a shadowy horde rushed at us from behind every rock in the valley.

I shouldered my rifle and fired alongside my comrades, felling an onrushing tribesman, but I had no time to fire another before the others were upon us. My bayonet was ready, and I jabbed out into the blackness, catching something penetrable and spilling its blood. I retracted my rifle just in time to clang it against the down-coming spear of a tribal, a big man naked save for furs and feathers. He slammed his cowhide shield against me, and I stumbled back, the wind knocked from me. The big man was after me again in a second, thrusting his spear down at me like I was a rabbit. I rolled to the side at the last moment, feeling the spear catch and rip the back of my shirt, then swung my rifle at him wildly. Instinct had taken over and left reason by the wayside, but that time, it worked. The gun cracked the tribesman hard across the head, and he doubled over. I took the moment to recover myself.

The din of battle was deafening all about me, the clash of metal and the crescendo of gunfire and the screams of anguish all in hellish concert. The ambushers were high in number, but their spears were poor matches for a German. Or a Capilean, for that matter. I drew the Walther P38 at my hip and leveled it with my assailant's head. He rushed at me and managed to start a spine-chilling cry of rage before I pulled the trigger and put him down. It might not have been honorable — but not much in Africa was. I turned on my heel and took aim with my sidearm, taking care not to hit any of my compatriots. I discharged five of my seven remaining shots into the throng, and judging by the yelps alone, all of them hit. I was looking for a new target when one presented himself to me.

He was the tallest African I'd seen yet, a good head above even me, with a fire in his eyes that directed the spear and shield in his hands. By the brightness of the plumes sticking from his forehead I reckoned him the chieftain of this tribe. He was coming for me. I raised my pistol and emptied its clip. Two shots; one missed entirely because of my haste, and the second pierced the chief's shield but not him. I was running out of time. I rushed to reload, but by the time I brought my P38 up again he was over me. I fired blindly, and at such close range he stood no chance of dodging. He cried in pain and anger, but raised his spear to kill. I pulled the trigger over and over, but at last it clicked impotently. I grabbed for my knife, not intending to go down without a fight. But there was no need.

A tan-clad soldier charged forth and propelled his bayonet into the chief's chest. Pierced by countless bullets and now by steel, the big man wavered and fell. I exhaled with relief. My savior flashed me a smile, and I noticed just how young and graceful he looked — his pale face marred only by a fresh, red cut below the eye — before he was whisked away into the fray. The skirmish was ebbing, however. It seemed the enemy had no wish to fight in pitch black, and what remained of them were streaming off into the night, chased by shots from our men. I surveyed the scene.

The dirt road was littered with corpses, most of them dark-skinned but a few in tan. After twenty minutes of waiting to ensure that no second attack was forthcoming, we packed up the cars, taking our dead with us, and continued our journey. Everyone was exhausted. Four Germans had been lost, and an askari, too. A dozen more of our number were wounded, some badly so. Metzger, his self-isolation forgotten in the excitement of battle, speculated wildly with me on the nature of the ambush. The natives of this province were not especially unruly, he assured me; but it is not unusual, in my experience, for primitive tribes to be provoked into battle by the slightest of misunderstandings.

We had not been far from our destination, a primitive village near the edge of the Harenna, and we arrived around midnight. Mustafa, who had been seen fighting bravely even despite his broken body, explained that we were to camp here until morning, when we would make for a nearby outpost and thence set into the jungle itself. I was very wary of this whole situation, thinking that our encampment would be easy prey to a renewed assault; but after a spell's spirited debate, I was talked down by guarantees that the villagers were friendly to our cause and would ward off the rogue tribe — which, in any case, was too badly bloodied to soon make battle. Still, we kept a vigilant watch at all hours of the night.

We set up our tents, tended to our wounded, and cooked wurst over bonfires. The soldiers assigned to watch duty played cards on the hood of a Kübelwagen — though each of them was far more focused on the horizons than on the game — and the rest went to sleep soon after eating, winded by combat. The askaris, however, remained awake, huddled about their campfire. I joined them, positioning myself near Mustafa. It seemed that so many of them being together was a rarity, for they were swapping old war stories. Mustafa came last, and everyone waited for his story with bated breath, seeing as he was the most scarred of them all. When at last his time had come, he splayed his wooden leg beside the fire, which was reflected in his glassy eyes. Glassy, yes, but keen in spite of their years.

"This I got from a Khaki bayonet at Tanga," he said, his voice like gravel, pointing at the scar across his face. Then at the chunk missing from his nose: "This, from shrapnel at Mahiwa. But this — this is the story worth telling. Lioma." He patted his wooden leg affectionately, and the askaris leaned closer. "We were on the run. Der Löwe von Afrika knew we had to retreat, the enemy came in ranks too deep. My captain — Tannhäuser was his name — led us up a bluff, but the Khakis were just behind. One, two, three, four, five, six askaris fell as we scaled those rocks, never to stir again. We reached the top, carrying all we could with us, for we needed every bullet like we needed water. The Khakis flung bullets back at us like rain. More of my brothers fell. I thought I would die on top of those rocks. But then — just then, in the middle of the storm — Captain Tannhäuser raised the cry, shouting 'Gott mit uns!' and all my fears were vanquished."

The askari nodded and smiled grimly. So absorbed was he that it was if he were recounting the story to himself aloud, not telling it to others. "From that moment on I fought with magic strength, and held back the British for another hour at least. Ten Khakis I felled with my rifle — the notches are there!" And he reached for a gun that he no longer possessed, then deflated with disappointment. "Ten Khakis for my leg. It was a good trade." He smiled a graying smile into the fire. After a pause it became clear that he would provide no further details — whether they had been lost to his memory or were never there to begin with I never discovered — but the other askaris were satisfied, even if I were not.

Then one of them, a small, wizened fellow I knew as Yessuf, spoke to me. "You served Germany. Or how else did you become a captain?" His words held a not-so-carefully hidden accusation, and I felt many skeptical eyes upon me; but before I could even speak, Mustafa came to my defense.

"Did you not see him fight today?" he said, scratching at his wiry beard. "He is the equal of Captain Tannhäuser, and so deserves his rank."

At the time, I felt honored to receive his praise; I do not look back upon it now so fondly. "Thank you," I said, inclining my head to him, and he did the same. "I doubt my stories are anything compared to yours. I was too young to fight in the war," I continued, and scratched at the growing stubble on my chin. "But I have been on adventures out of uniform; and a few of those are worth telling." And I related to the old askaris my work in Ceylon, and before that in Jerusalem, and before that in Capile; how I had recovered the Geyers' jewels from a thief-ring, and brought down the Sicarii — a Jewish mafia masquerading as revolutionaries — and, most notably, stopped a socialist attempt on the Grand Duke's life. I made sure not to describe myself in terms too glowing, lest the askaris feel outshone, but simply told it as it happened. By the time I had finished the dawn was near and I could sense a growing form of respect out of my swarthy companions. We bid each other goodnight, intending to rest for at least an hour or two before tomorrow's march, and I began to feel that getting on Mustafa's good side might not be too hard of a task.

I retired to my tent, which was miserably hot despite the early hour, and stripped to the barest minimum of clothing to stave off a death by burning. I could barely keep my eyes open and dreaded the physical trials of the coming day. But just as sweet sleep was descending over me, the tent flap opened. Thinking the natives were upon us in a silent attack, my pistol was in my hands in a moment, pointed toward the stranger — who, to my relief, was distinguishable as a German soldier even in the pale moonlight.

"What is it? Are we leaving already?" I called out, fumbling with my lantern. There came no reply. I switched on the light, and the tent was bathed in an orange glow. I beheld the soldier plainly and recognized him as the boy who had saved me from the chieftain. At this distance I became even more puzzled as to his age, for there was not a trace of stubble on his smooth, thin face, nor were his limbs and body muscled like a man. I thought for a moment that I was approached by a boy of fifteen or so who had infiltrated the army, but at that moment the soldier tore off his cap, and long tresses of silvery hair spilled down his face. He was not a man at all. She was Inge, the Governor's daughter, in German uniform and in my tent!

I hastened to cover myself, well aware that I was bare-chested in front of a lady, but my modesty was soon overtaken by my surprise. "Inge," I spluttered, utterly taken aback, "what — how?" I recalled, tired as I was, her vain wish to accompany the expedition; her running into the house several minutes before we departed; and a late-coming soldier joining us just as we left. The cogs clicked into place, and I buried my face in my hands. "Never mind what or how. We've got to get you back your father at once." I glanced at the bandaged cut under her eye and winced, grateful, at least, that more harm had not yet befallen her.

"You can't send me back!" Inge cried, tears pooling in her wide blue eyes. "I'm already here. I just need someone to keep my secret, to keep the others from finding out. Someone to protect me. Someone like you, Hans — may I call you Hans?" I nodded, half-amused, and earned a smile from her through her tears. My mind was alert once again, the cogs which had just come together were turning, and deep inside I was starting to realize that she was right. I couldn't send her back. That would entail either splitting our party — which would leave neither enough men to complete the mission nor to protect Inge on the perilous journey back to Wilhelmsburg — or turning back entirely; and, at that point, prolonging this job by any length of time seemed to me a dire option.

"You said that this mission was not for any ordinary woman," Inge said softly. "I am no ordinary woman, Hans."

I looked to her. Her eyes were shining pale blue and her hair was the color of moonlight, and she was staring at me with so much hope... At that moment, she rivaled Anna in beauty. I thought I could protect her, that if I were by her side, she would be safe from any harm in the Harenna. And so I vowed to keep her secret. It was the first in a series of mistakes.
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Be a KRAFFT!
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At the first light of morning we were off again. We skimmed along the edge of the Harenna before we reached a little blockhouse. There our wounded were able to get treatment and be replaced by abler men. There was no time for fraternization with the garrison; we stowed our Kübelwagen, gathered our supplies about our persons, and struck out into the Harenna.

Mustafa served as our sole guide, his askari friends helping him blaze a trail by machete through the ever-thickening brush. It was like wading into a great lake. At first the underbrush was just that — under, scratching at our ankles and calves and thighs, a source of irritation but not of fear. Quickly it deepened; we became waist-deep, then chest-deep in the dark green sea of fronds and vines, fighting a losing battle against the rising verdant tide, slashing away at creepers with our machetes and bashing back branches with our arms, only for a fresh legion of floral foes to replace them. And then, before we knew it and long after the possibility of turning back had gone, we were totally submerged, underwater in an unknowable ocean. Great jungle trees loomed from on high like citadels blocking our way, blotting out the sky with their green ramparts, the mess of falling vines their artillery and the uncountable horde of briars beneath out feet their sentinels. We were intruders into a foreign realm; and our presence was unwelcome.

I found excuse to keep Inge by my side at all times, and in any case the others were too beleaguered by the brush to object. The girl was not made for marches through a hostile rainforest, but did not complain, soldiering on as any other in our expedition, though she must have endured twice the hardship due to being unaccustomed to it. I could provide aid only when I was sure my fellows were not watching, so as to avoid casting any doubt onto Inge's identity as a soldier. The journey passed mostly in silence — apart, of course, from the braying and chirping of various jungle beasts and fowl, and the grunts of pain and exertion from us. I did find occasion, as Inge and I strayed off course for a brief minute, to ask her how she had managed so easily to infiltrate us.

"The uniform I am wearing belongs to a young private, Hans," she informed me. "He took to me quite quickly." A small, white smile crossed her face. Now that I knew her, her feminine beauty was more evident, even restricted by a soldier's cap and a day's worth of sweat and dirt. She remained focused on hacking apart the growth before her, her pale blue eyes never straying to mine; nor did the cut of her machete fall foul, as she had taken it up very quickly. I remembered how she had rescued me from the savage chieftain and marveled for a moment. Perhaps it was merely beginner's luck, I speculated; or perhaps she had been training for the day she would be set loose upon the world for a long time. "All I had to do," Inge continued, "was get him dangerously drunk the day before his mission, lift his uniform and weapons from him where he slept, and join the expedition, pretending to be a recently transferred recruit."

I was rather impressed. "I'm surprised you managed to slip past Metzger," I said, carving my own path through the jungle. We had diverged from the main party, and I could no longer see any of them — though this was no new precedent, considering the density of the brush — but began to work my way toward their voices. Inge merely shrugged, more focused on her task than on providing an answer, and we were reunited with the others before I could ask her anything more.

My suspicions waxed with the shadows, so that by nightfall, I was looking upon our guide with very hard eyes indeed. I worried — rightfully so, time would prove — that Mustafa would lead us right into a trap, or that he was stumbling in the dark, leading me and these good German men on a wild goose chase. When we came upon a clearing — a patch of dirt hemmed in on all sides by a wall of boles — and made camp, I took Major Metzger aside and made clear my concerns. To the man's credit, he obliged me in confronting the askari. The pair of us singled out the old Ethiopian and asked him very plainly whither he was taking us.

There was such innocence and surprise and well-meaning in his reflective eyes — whence the snake got it I have no clue — that we believed him when he told us that we were on our way to the nexus of the jungle and that the map to the Idol's sanctuary was inscribed not on paper, but on his heart. We had a private conversation afterward, Metzger and I, over the askari's soundness of mind. Despite my objections to plunging onward, Metzger would not hear of turning back; and, though my mind was in uproar, I knew that I had sworn to do this job for the governor, and that to abandon the mission was to besmirch my name. So, with no further talk, we made camp and slept, watched always by the unblinking boughs.
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Two more days passed much like our first in the Harenna. We were at all times drenched in sweat, teetering on the brink of exertion from the accrued cost of toil, our once-high spirits steadily wilting beneath the jungle canopy. It was not until dusk on the third day when something happened.

We were casting about for a spot to camp, the fear that we would not find such a place before nightfall mounting, when there was an uprush of air and leaves, an earsplitting scream, and a thunk of flesh on wood. Tropical birds squawked and fled from the treetops in all directions at the disturbance, and we all looked around for its source. There, in the middle of our party, stood a gaping hole where once had lain solid ground. Six feet down in a crudely dug pit was a jagged bunch of wooden spikes, and, impaled upon four or five of them, a tan-clad figure. My heart leapt into my throat for one moment as I wondered whether it was Inge — but she was at my side, eyes like overflowing pools as she beheld the tragedy. The impaled man twitched a few times, then was still, the skewers having stuck through his chest and neck. At last, we had come across proof that more than the underbrush was bent on preventing our passage.

A collective shiver ran over our men — except for Mustafa, whose dark face was lit with a graying grin. "That means we are getting close!" he assured, though it did nothing to buoy our spirits. If anything, the prospect that the Idol was not guarded by vegetation alone unstrung our will. Unwilling to put another foot forward, we thrice checked the ground beneath us and then set up camp where we stood. We filled in the pre-made grave into which our comrade had fallen; an ignominious end, to be sure, but we could not bear a corpse throughout the rest of our journey — and, in any case, it was not the worst fate to befall a member of our party.

We set off the next day with long poles for testing the ground before us, a precaution we should have adopted from the first — and of which our guide should have advised us — and, though we sprang a few more devious traps, none claimed a life. The great, green-and-gray-mottled forms of the Bale Mountains were coming into sight as the jungle thinned, the dense swamp of leaf after leaf subsiding into a much more curious clime. The trees here were a reflection of the massive mountains which overshadowed them: twisting and gnarled, like the work of a schizophrenic landscaper adorning the lawn of a ruined estate. That estate was the Bale Mountains; great houses of rock looking down upon us with wizened faces. Some stretches were like rolling hills speckled with green; others were sheer cliffs and great gray mesas. The whole place evoked not a natural beauty, but an otherworldly-ness. The sense that we were out of place — we small band of foreigners standing beneath those stone deities, interlopers in an alien cosmos — descended upon us uncomfortably.
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(L) The Harenna Rainforest; (R) The Bale Mountains
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We regrouped at the foothills of those mountains, glancing tremulously ever so often at their impassive faces. Mustafa informed us that we were drawing ever closer to the Idol, and that it would take one more full day of journeying before we were upon it. Unimpressed with the idea of camping somewhere in that rocky labyrinth, we whiled away the rest of the afternoon taking stock of our supplies and having a much needed respite from four days' unabated march. The enlisted played a rousing game of cards with me, and endowed with the knowledge I had picked up at Monte Carlo, I walked away with a considerable portion of their pocket money, though I threw the last few games so as not to curry any enmity with them. Inge made sure to keep out of sight of the others while staying within mine, never attracting attention to herself, a trait rare in a woman so beautiful. Through stolen glances and playful smiles I intuited that her interest in me had exceeded admiration.

As dusk darkened and we pitched our tents, excited rushes swept through our party. Before this had seemed a fool's errand, but the fey aura of this place, eerie though it was, made us believe that the Jade Idol — and even a Jade Idol instilled with magic — could exist. Whisper went this way and that, carrying some tale or another attributed to the artefact, and each of the askari was consulted for his account of the legend. Even I began to ponder the Idol's true nature as I slipped into my bedroll; whether I was suffering from some form of tropical madness or the mountain mists really did possess some addling essence, I never knew, but whatever the reason, my better sense deserted me.

By morning none of us could think of anything but the Idol. We were packed and marching by the time the sun could be seen, wending through the foothills and coming ever nearer to the great mountains themselves. Any notion of military cadence and regimen had been lost back in the Harenna, and so the men chattered carelessly of mysticism and treasure, Metzger irritated but not bothering to reproach them. I watched the askari limp along at the head of our column, going with great haste for a one-legged man, and so surely that this unbeaten trail could have been his driveway, the hiding place of the Idol his home. Presently Inge came beside me, and beneath the din we could speak privately.

"Do you take stock in the legends?" I asked, smiling to show that I did not.

Inge, her nymphlike body made somehow leaner by the past days' labor, looked up at me with interest. "My father does, of course, or he would not have sent you here. He is convinced of it, having heard of it by a hundred witnesses of all extractions. I heard some of those reports myself, and he told me the rest."

"And do you believe them?" I pressed on.

She thought for a moment, the corners of her mouth creasing, and then smiled at me again, a rejuvenating smile, like a cool drink of water on a scorching day such as that. "I suppose, Hans, that I would not be risking life and limb to retrieve any ordinary old idol." Then she suddenly increased her pace and flew up to converse with a pair of privates, winking over her shoulder at me as she went.

Our party marched through the foothills, across a dried-up gorge, and thence up a perilous skyward trail. It was slow-going, and though we had some mountaineering equipment, we chose always to circumvent the scarped cliffs and seek the safest path. At midday we found ourselves in a gulley, two great walls of rock rising to our left and right all the way to the heavens, the path between allowing but two men to walk abreast. Our earlier enchantment with the Idol, though still powerful, had faded somewhat, and once more our lives became our primary concern, permitting us to see the grave danger of this passage. No sooner had I opened my mouth to hasten everyone than there was a terrible groan from above, the groan of disturbed earth, or, as it seemed to us then, the roar of a displeased god.

We looked up to see boulders tumbling down at us with the speed of racehorses, some the size of elephants, some as small as a man's fist, every one of them lethal. I had the sense not to gape in awe, but to cast around for my charge, Inge. It was a miracle that she stood not five feet away. Spurred by that primal energy which can only be summoned in the direst of moments, I seized her under my arm and dragged her away from the calamity, diving for the safety of an overhang nearby. We rolled beneath the rocky ledge not a second too soon. I pushed her entirely beneath the rock and then shielded myself, making sure to protect my nape — a broken arm isn't nearly as bad as a broken neck, after all. The crash of stone and a dozen startled cries lasted for about a minute, then ceased all at once, leaving only muffled noises of suffering. When I was sure the avalanche had abated, I ducked out from behind the ledge and grimaced at the sight before me.

The stones had not been merciful to our party. Only a few men stood unscathed. The rest were in varying degrees of pain. Some had been utterly smitten, crushed beneath heavy boulders whose gray faces seemed to be stretched in ragged grins. Others clutched at shattered limbs or flattened torsos, while a few hung in that unhappy limbo between life and death, gurgling blood and thrashing hither and thither on the dusty bed. I did what I could, heaving stones off of trapped men and bandaging the afflicted. Inge joined, and was surprisingly tolerant of the blood and bone which was exposed to the afternoon sun. As we, along with the other survivors, tended to them, I cast wary eyes upon the high bluffs above. I was no mountain man, but an avalanche in these snowless parts seemed a pretty remote possibility to me. I was faced with the prospect that it was no act of nature — that we were not the only beings moving in these mountains.

All told we had nine men — eight men and a woman, that is — willing and able to continue. Mustafa, that damnably consummate survivor, was intact, though none of the other askaris had evaded danger. Two of their number were, in fact, dead, alongside a dozen Capileans. The rest of our number were injured. Metzger had a broken leg, but it was splinted, and he persuaded us that he was spry as a sprite and able to slog on. The wounded we had no choice but to send back down the mountain with the bulk of our supplies. Those with minor injuries could assist those with life-threatening ones, and they might all survive — or so we hoped. I feared for those men, who would be defenseless against a strong gale, much less an ambush, but I knew that naught could be done for them. At the very least, they were safer out of that gulch. And the mission had to be completed. So we pressed on. My heart seemed to be laden with sandbags, and I often glanced over my shoulder, though the cortège had long since passed out of view.

I kept Inge always by my side — she seemed never to cease in thanking me for my heroism in saving her life, no matter how many times I dismissed it as instinct — and was now much closer to our guide. Mustafa seemed nearly giddy, hobbling along with unnatural speed, unaffected by the gruesome end of his askari confederates, urging us onward with a gleam in his mirror-like eyes. We were passing through ever more tenebrous corners of the world; the bright Ethiopian sky was long gone, the sawtooth peaks above forming a sunless heaven of their own. Gone too was the African heat, the buzz of insects, the chitter of birds; this realm was cold and dead. In the very recesses of my skull, an inkling formed that Mustafa was leading us not to some fabled relic, but to our deaths. Had I but heeded that intuition and pushed the old wretch from a ledge! But I did not.

The cloak of night fell upon us suddenly, but we did not halt, for the askari shouted that we were close, so very close! We had lanterns whose beams could light our way, though they were but pinpricks in a sea of blackness. We hurried to keep behind the old man, Inge cleaving to me as to a lodestone. Mustafa began to gibber excitedly in his own tongue, and capered up a steep embankment as easily as a child, leaving me wondering if his wooden leg were flesh after all. We scrabbled after him, hand over hand, up the rocks. A man lost hold of his lantern and it clattered away, shattering beneath us. I heard Inge inhale beside me.

We pulled each other over the lip of the ridge and took a moment to regain our breath. Mustafa, unwinded by all this despite his missing limb, held his own lantern high and pointed wordlessly ahead, his smile manic. I followed his finger to the grim outline of an opening in the rock wall, a tremendous maw with stalactite teeth and an endless, black throat. A tingle swept over my body and I knew I should turn back, that nothing within that Stygian cave could be worth my risk. But the will overcame the flesh, and I followed Mustafa in, the men and Inge behind me. I suspected even then that I would never return.

The cave's mouth tapered quickly into a narrow tunnel, so that we were nearly reduced to groping along the guano-drenched floor on our hands and knees. The quiet smothered us; not even the drip of water or the distant, sourceless groans so expected of these underground places could be heard. The tunnel drove sharply downward, and bore the appearance of a manmade thing, though one primitively built and lost to nature many years before. This observation ignited the feeling of cautious wonder in me once more, and at least staved away the suspicion that Mustafa would turn around and murder me at any moment. By degrees the burrow began to widen, and presently we could stand erect once more, and fanned out into a cavern, the bloated stomach of this beast into whose throat we had willingly clambered.

"My friends," said Mustafa, his low voice booming again and again as it echoed from the unseen walls of the cave, "we have made it. I have led you true. There it is — the Jade Temple." We all held our lanterns aloft and gasped. The pale shafts of light fell upon a entryway of carved marble, its splendor made all the grander by its state of disrepair. The vine-strangled masonry seemed to crumble under the strain of our lanterns. It was a sacred place.

Mustafa started forward, and we came after. We passed the tall, chipped columns of the portico, deprived of time to study the eroded glyphs etched upon them. The floor beneath was cracked marble, too, and my every footfall sent up storms of dust. The way ahead was pure black; I held up my lantern like an aegis against the dark, Inge close by my side as ever. We picked over what seemed to be a ruined atrium, stonework crunching under our feet, and stopped in its center, beside a fountain long dry. We threw our lantern-light from side to side, uncovering a portal or corridor at every try. We were standing in the midst of a labyrinth — but inexplicably, Mustafa knew the way. He started for an egress I would not have chosen, a thin and uninviting passage, and I became again uneasy. The air thickened with must and mildew, but the silence pervaded, disturbed only by the clunk of the askari's oaken leg on the stone floor.

And then — a heart-wrenching clang! A swish of something swift through air, a groan of pain, and the thud of a body against stone. We whirled about.

One of our number was slumped on the floor, a dart sticking from his throat. We looked for the assailant, but there was no one but us in this tight passageway. The dart had come from the wall itself. Inspection by the dim lamplight revealed an ancient pressure plate, upon which the dead soldier had evidently tread, and a small opening in the wall, whence the dart had been fired. There was naught to do but persevere, so we bid our fallen comrade safe passage to Valhalla and continued down the hall, our eyes now fixed upon the ground, our number reduced to eight.

The tunnel opened into a square chamber. As we passed over the threshold there was a rumble behind us, and a huge, vine-covered slab fell in place there, one man barely managing to avoid it. Echoes from the other three walls confirmed that we were truly sealed in. There was a pregnant pause as that realization washed over us, and then we all ranged over the room in search of escape, taking care to avoid springing any trap that might lie in wait. Inge's keen eye uncovered a pressure plate before each of the portals, which, when weighted, cause the heavy doors to raise. The weight of a rucksack was not enough; it took the weight of a man. There was another heavy pause — and then a scarred veteran volunteered to remain behind. Mustafa instructed him as to which door need be opened, and we proceeded. I looked over my shoulder and saw the mustachioed man give me a determined nod as shadow fell over him. That was the last I ever saw of him.

There was a long tunnel before us. We went as quickly as we could without risk, hearts racing and eyes straining in the dark for any spoor of a trap — and then, a scream. A woman's scream. I stopped dead in my tracks, paralyzed by dread, aware that in my haste I had strayed from Inge and certain that she had suffered a grim fate here in this hellish tunnel, the last place a beautiful young woman should be. With tremendous resolve I turned and cast my lantern over her.

She was alive, unharmed, save for the horror written on her youthful face. Those blue eyes were huge and unblinking, seeming to rattle in their sockets as they beheld a cadaver. Focused on the stone floor, I had failed to notice it, entombed as it was in the wall. It was a skeleton wearing patches of taut, blackened skin like rags, gruesome half-face contorted in a ceaseless shriek of pain. I was at Inge's side in a second, helping her away from the terrible sight — but no one else moved. They stared at Inge. After a moment, I realized why.

Her cap was gone, and her silver tresses — matted and tangled though they were — completed the portrait her graceful features and glittering eyes began.

"Inge?" said Metzger, voice the highest I had ever heard it. He limped forward, grunting with pain from his shattered leg, and took her roughly by the arm. "What the devil are you doing here?"

"It doesn't matter," I sighed. Metzger glowered at me with the same incredulous fury that a papist holds for a heretic. "She's here, and we've got to go on." I was too sapped to make more of an argument. Every second wasted here was another second lost which I could have spent back in Capile, content in a white-picket house or a luxury car with Anna by my side.

"Go on?" Metzger spluttered, voice taking on that familiar authoritative snarl. "We are taking her back to the Governor immediately!" He tried to drag an unwilling Inge back down the tunnel, his leg crunching unpleasantly beneath his weight. I moved between them and pried the girl away from his grasp.

"And who will take her?" I snapped, tired of arguing. "Who will escort her back through the dart traps and the tunnels and the ravines and the jungle and the hostile tribesmen? Will your leg last that long, sir?"

Metzger's face contorted with the rage of a man who knows he is wrong but is unwilling to admit it. He drew himself as high as his splint would permit. "You knew, didn't you?" he hissed. "You facilitated this, this, this hoodwink!" He rounded on the girl again. "Inge, you should know better than to be taken in by a rook and a rogue such as this!"

"My friends," broke in Mustafa, and for once I was glad to hear him, "let us not argue when we are but inches from our goal." We turned to face him, and, indeed, a faint light gleamed at the end of the tunnel. No one spoke for almost a full minute, and then Metzger swore violently.

"Very well, Krafft," he growled. "But I will see that you pay for your corruption of an innocent girl." I had been threatened plenty of times before by plenty of people — and a half-mad man with a broken leg didn't scare me any more than the rest of them. We went on, and emerged into an ethereal scene. It came upon us all at once. The sound of trickling water, a heavenly light, and a great open cavern. The seven of us exhaled collectively, and took a moment to survey the heart of the temple.

It was a circular hollow of white-gray stone, and a gash in its ceiling far above us sent a sliver of sunlight all the way into this bosom of the earth. One one side was a tumble of boulders which seemed to be damming a fissure; a clear rivulet leaked through it and dribbled down the rocks, leading into the grassy glade which lay in the center of the cavern. Upon this glade was another ruin, a wreckage of marble bricks and pillars decussated by rope-like vines. And there, upon a moldering pedestal — was that a glimmer of jade?

We started down to the glade with the spirit of sailors stumbling upon a new land. Mustafa even sang, bellowing "Heil dir im Siegerkranz, Herrscher des Vaterlands!" a chorus that was echoed by all of us; even I joined in, feeling that the toils of the past few days — which seemed like the collective stresses of years — were not in vain, after all. We scrambled over the mess of masonry and vegetation, forgetting entirely our precautions against snares, and gathered around the object of our quest. It sat upon the pedestal, the ray of light from above falling directly upon it, a squat elephantine icon of glistering jade no larger than a goblet. Its features had been wrought by a crafter of considerable skill; and yet his talent seemed to have been bent to some foul purpose, for the Jade Idol was not beautiful, but haunting, the fossil of something not native to this world. I dared not let my eyes linger upon it for too long, for it stared back, and its two tiny eyes were searing, molten pools.

We stood in quiet awe, none of us willing to break it by seizing the thing for himself. And at last, recognizing myself as the man whom Hummel was paying the most, I stepped forward and took the little fetish. I knew at once that I had done something wrong. I felt it within my very being, but before I could register the anomalous malaise which passed through the Idol and into my body, I was distracted by another uproar. The earth quaked; I glanced around, grabbing hold of the crumbling pedestal to maintain my balance, and saw the fissure at the corner of the cavern burst open, the boulders blocking it falling away like leaves, a deluge of water spurting forth. It flooded the cavern, its source seeming to be endless, spilling over the glade and steadily rising.

My comrades had not been as quick to regain their bearings. All of them had been thrown off their feet by the earthquake, whose sole cause, it seemed, was the disturbance of the Idol. All of them, that was, except for Mustafa. The old man was perched atop a heap of ancient rubble, looking skyward at the distant hole in the cavern's roof.

"Throw down the rope, Major!" he called, voice resounding in the cave, clearly referring to someone else than Metzger, who was sprawled on the ground near me, cradling his maimed leg. A thick rope fell snakelike into the cavern, its end snapping at the askari's waist level, and the light flooding the cave was suddenly eclipsed, leaving us nearly blind. Disoriented, I wondered how Mustafa had managed to get a rescue party to the top of this mountain as I reached for my lantern. I was not to be left wondering for long. I ignited the lamp and choked.

In the dim lamplight I could make out only silhouettes, shadowy, caricature-like forms. There was Inge, her slender body pressed against the deformed askari's, his jagged knife held taut against her pale throat, her china blue eyes wide with terror.

"Give me the Idol," he growled, "or the girl dies."

Who knew so much evil could come from one ugly little totem?

I blinked, trying to piece together what had happened, what was happening, and form a course of action. I had no choice but to stall for time.

"Why?" I said quickly, edging nearer to the askari. Cool water was lapping at my ankles. "Why lead us all this way, why—"

"The British pay more," he answered, sending me a grayish leer. "Now, give it to me."

"You work for the British? The Khakis?" For some reason, this surprised me more than anything else. He merely tipped his head toward the Idol, holding his blade a little tighter against Inge's thin neck. "What of the war? What of Captain Tannhäuser?" The water was rising higher.

He laughed, a low, throaty noise. "Tannhäuser is an opera, not a man!" His glassy eyes were lit with mirth for only a second. "Last chance to hand over the Idol without spilling any blood."

I grappled with myself for a moment. I had forgotten neither my promise to retrieve the Idol for Hummel, nor the protection I had sworn — more to myself, than to her — over his daughter. I looked at the Idol for a second, and felt a pang of disgust at the evil figure. Without further delay, I tossed it in Mustafa's direction. He let go of Inge and shoved her away, throwing himself after the artefact. I caught the girl and set her on her feet before reaching for my pistol.

Mustafa was already pulling himself up the robe, the Idol tucked in his belt. He moved with that same inexhaustible vigor impossible for a man of his age and health. I fired after him, but he was fast disappearing into the darkness. Gritting my teeth, I seized the rope and started after him. He had a sizable head start, and even though I was younger and fitter, he seemed able to keep ahead of me. I pulled myself up hand over hand, pausing to aim a shot whenever I could. One ricocheted from the cavern wall, and another grazed his wooden leg — but he always moved too spryly to be pinned.

I was nearly to the top, and the light of dusk struck me full in the face, blinding me again. I pulled myself up with my eyes closed, hands cut to ribbons by then, reaching up to grab the lip of the hole, the heel of Mustafa's boot, the Idol, anything — I risked opening my eyes and saw the hole of the cave. I was nearly through; but Mustafa was already there, and a dozen pith-helmeted heads surrounded him. I glimpsed a pale, monocled face split into a wide grin — and then the rope was cut.

I fell, and the hole tore away from me and became a point like a single star in an otherwise empty cosmos. I tumbled head over heels into the abyss, my pistol falling away from me, having failed in all my charges, and prayed that my death would be painless.
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Is Hans Krafft really dead? Will the evil askari get away with his betrayal? Will the jade relic be lost to the perfidious British?

Find out in next month's issue of HELDENTATEN, where the tale of The Jade Idol will meet its thrilling conclusion!
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Capilean News (Updated 6 August)
Where is the horse gone? Where the warrior?
Where is the treasure-giver? Where are the seats at the feast?
Where are the revels in the hall?
Alas for the bright cup! Alas for the mailed warrior!
Alas for the splendour of the prince!
How that time has passed away, dark under the cover of night, as if it never were.

The Wanderer

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The Grand Duchy Of Nova Capile
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Iron Fist Consumerists

Postby The Grand Duchy Of Nova Capile » Wed Aug 19, 2020 11:17 pm


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11 August 2020

REICHSLEITER'S ECONOMIC MIRACLE CONTINUES

It has been one year since Minister of Economics Friedrich Holmigt (pictured) presented his twenty-six point Four Year Plan to the Capilean people. Now that we are one quarter of the way through Minister Holmigt's plan, let us examine its efficacy.

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First, Minister Holmigt promised in points one through eight to resolve the unemployment crisis, which at the time was a canker on the Reich. Klaus the pretender's mismanagement of our nation, combined with the devastation he wrought by plunging us into war, put valiant veteran and noble worker alike out of a job; the unemployment rate peaked at 32% in 2018. But under the stewardship of Walther Nemetz, those very same Reich-heroes have found jobs rebuilding cities, producing bucklers for the defense of the Volk, and re-blazing the outdated infrastructure of the old regime. In just one year, the unemployment rate has been more than halved, plummeting to a mere 12%, a testament to the skill of our leaders! At the current rate, the bane of joblessness will be utterly eradicated by the end of the Four Year Plan.

Second, Minister Holmigt promised in points nine through twelve to protect Capilean business interests from globalist industries. Under the monarchy, alien carpet-baggers were allowed to run roughshod over our own entrepreneurs, with bloated foreign conglomerates owning as much as 25% of securities in Capile in 2017. Under the Reich, however, we are on the path to complete autarky. Readers will remember Minister Holmigt's valiant nationalization of foreign-owned business in January 2019. This was only the first step in a series designed to return the wealth of our Reich to its rightful owners, and by the end of the Four Year Plan, Minister Holmigt assures, our Volk will be entirely self-sufficient.

Further, Minister Holmigt promised in points thirteen through twenty to improve the working conditions of the average Capilean. Under the monarchy, the worker was repressed as in no other nation, his back scarred from the whip and broken from the burden of the aristocracy, even lending some limited credence to the dogma belched by Blücher's dogs. But he is already enjoying the fruits of Reich oversight. Under Nemetz, the average worker's weekly earnings have increased by an unprecedented 11%, all while the average hours worked in a week has significantly decreased. One can only wonder what boons he will see over the next three years.

Finally, Minister Holmigt promised in points twenty-one to -six to improve the national economy on the whole. Readers will remember the periods of economic stagnation and recession our nation suffered when helmed by the inept grand dukes. Thankfully, that period is fading into dim history under our new leadership. Already Capile's gross national product (GNP) has risen by an astronomical 7% — a margin of almost 600 million Reichsmarks. And one may rest assured that thanks to the Office of Reconstruction, every penny will be reinvested in our Volk and our future.

So, there you have it, countrymen, in clear and objective terms. It is indisputable fact that the Four Year Plan is working — and fast. If the benefits of Reichsleiter Nemetz's leadership have not already washed over you, rest assured: it is only a matter of time.
Benno Liefenräder, Editor-in-Chief of DER SIEGER

IN OTHER NEWS...
  • Matthias Klavier, 26, of Uthersdorf, Südland, chosen as winner of DER SIEGER's monthly lottery! Klavier, whose wife has so far borne him five children, is the lucky recipient of a 25,000ℛℳ stipend. When asked for his plans as to the money, he responded: "Golly. I just can't wrap my head around it. I definitely want a bigger house for Klara and the kids. Jove. You sure you didn't put an extra zero on that check by mistake?"
  • German band Rammstein have confirmed that they will play at select locations in the Reich as part of their spring 2021 tour across the Pacific. Venues and dates have not yet been released.
  • Five Capilean nationals charged with the murder of a minor Akordanian official; further details unknown. Stoßwehr Sicherdienst declined to provide official comment.
Capilean News (Updated 6 August)
Where is the horse gone? Where the warrior?
Where is the treasure-giver? Where are the seats at the feast?
Where are the revels in the hall?
Alas for the bright cup! Alas for the mailed warrior!
Alas for the splendour of the prince!
How that time has passed away, dark under the cover of night, as if it never were.

The Wanderer


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