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The First Night
Chapter information

Semper Invicta



Written by




Release date

1st June 2015

Last chapter


Next chapter



Water. Earth. Fire. Air.

Long ago, in a time of oppression and war, there existed a country called Poland. For a while we lived in peace and harmony. But then, everything changed on the first day of September, 1939 when the German war machine invaded. My parents died during the opening hours of that fateful day, and I was imprisoned by the invaders.

After making my escape, I joined the Armia Krajowa, a band of freedom fighters seeking to reclaim Poland's freedom. Now, the time has come for the people of Poland to rise up and take back what is ours. But I will not be apart of the Uprising. My superiors have assigned me to protect and escort the Avatar, a girl named Tanya.

The coming days won't be easy, but I will face them head on. I will do my duty and protect Tanya, I will avenge my parents, and I will prove that Poland is Forever Unconquered.


The soldiers, ordinary ones, saluted before and opened the door for him. Walking through, he lifted his cap to thank them, though he couldn't stop wondering why his personal headquarters, though technically a concentration camp, should be guarded by ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers. Before him, two long tables, filled with all kinds of traditional German and Polish food, stood parallel to each other, and further ahead, another table stood at a right angle to the others, filled in the same way. At the parallel ones, the lower ranks dined, while he headed to the third table, reserved for him and his officers. As he got closer, however, he realised his seat was occupied already, by someone in the grey uniform of a Wehrmacht officer, who ate an entire plate of sausages and potato salad, drank an entire litre of beer, and told a story, all at once. Yet not one bit of food, not one drop of beer, not one single word was wasted by or on him, Kruckenberg knew. He knew this man and the story he was telling, rather well.

"...und åft håt da Krucknbeag oan Bleara låssn!" spoke this officer, his volume swelling, " ...and then Kruckenberg cried out!" He made a pause to take sip from his glass. "De Britn kemman! De Britn kemman!" He did his best to mimic the young Kruckenberg, "The Brits are coming! The Brits are coming!"

The officers, Kruckenberg's officers, were all silent, intrigued by the tale.

"I håb de Gfå gseng und schô åvisiert, und – BÄM – vui in de Eia!" After taking a bite and a sip, he continued, "I saw the danger and aimed already, and – BAM – totally in the balls!"

"Ne!" exclaimed Kruckenberg's second-in-command, Sturmbannführer Möller, "No!" Neither he his, nor any of the other officers could contain their laughter. "De Brittn hattn wirklich so 'ne blöde Offiziere?" he inquired, only partially serious, "The Brits really had that stupid officers?"

"Nimma, seit dåmois," he received as an answer, "Not any more, since then."

Kruckenberg walked up to the table, and while Möller and the Wehrmacht officer continued talking, the others silenced themselves as they noticed Kruckenberg and especially his expression. He took out his bayonet and rammed it into the table, taking the sausage the officer had intended to eat with it and missing the latter's hand only by a few millimetres. All remaining laughter, all conversation, all movement in the entire hall ceased.

"Was bilden Sie sich eigentlich ein, Sie, ein Hauptmann, der meinen Platz, den eines Standartenführers, also eines Obersts, derart zu okkupieren?" Kruckenberg displayed the most feared of his attitudes, a playfully infuriated one. "What were you actually thinking, you, a captain, who occupied my seat, a Standartenführer's, thus a colonel's, in that way?"

The officer rose, beer glass in hand, to face him on an equal level. "Reg nimois oan Boarn af, der sei Bier ned astringa kå!" He spoke, poking Kruckenberg at each syllable. "Never piss off a Bavarian who can't finish his beer!"

"Nein, ernsthaft, Poidl, ich will auch mal zum Essen kommen." Kruckenberg wrenched his bayonet free and sheathed it again. "No, seriously, Leopold, I too want to eat."

"Imma do, Willi! Haptmå Leopoid Meyer, stets zu Dienstn!" he answered with the hint of a chuckle, "Always, Willy! Captain Leopold Meyer, always at your service!"

Kruckenberg, still agile for his age, leapt over the table without knocking anything down and was about to start eating, as shots were heard in the distance. Leopold took his almost ancient Gewehr 98 and started leaving, but when more shots followed, this time definitely fired from fully-automatic weapons, he turned around. Leopold positioned himself at the windows and took a quick look around with his binoculars, after which Kruckenberg shot him a brief, inquiring glance, to which he nodded. Thus, Wilhelm rose and struck the table with both his fists. "Leute, wir gehen jagen," he decided, "People, we're going on a hunt!"

Tanya picked her way past the civilian volunteers that were filling sandbags, holding aloft the two steaming tin cups so as not to spill any of the hot liquid on herself. Before her sat a low two story brick building, illuminated by the torches and camp fires that had been constructed in the street. To her left, a hastily constructed barricade made out of furniture, vehicles, and anything else they had been able to get their hands on ran parallel to her, terminating at the brick building's corner.

Members of the Home Army stood atop the barricade, their bodies hunched low as they looked out into the area not under their control. It had been several hours since the Germans had given up their counterattack on this area, but that didn't mean that anyone on the barricade was about to lower their guard any time soon. Unlike earlier, Tanya could easily tell the resistance fighters apart from the civilian volunteers. Many of them were wearing some part of a stolen Wehrmacht uniform; a cap, a helmet, some wore jackets, and others full uniforms. Earlier in the day, the Home Army had managed to capture a German barracks and warehouse. They had immediately passed out the uniforms and equipment they had found so as to try and limit the number of civilian casualties.

Even Tanya herself had gotten caught up in the use of German equipment. A helmet with a red and white band rapped around it currently rested atop her head, hiding her flame red hair. Henryk had slapped the bulky thing down on her head the moment it became available, saying that he wasn't going to have a sniper pick her off because of her hair.

Rather than go to the building's front door, Tanya approached the corner of the building that was next to the barricade. A pile of rubble led up to a gaping hole in the corner of the building, the result of a German tank round earlier that day. Several sandbags had been stacked around the top of the rubble pile, and a Home Army member crouched behind the makeshift cover, his Browning wz. 1928 light machine gun at the ready.

As she began to scale the pile, Tanya suddenly found herself dodging the racing form of a young boy sprinting downward. The helmet he wore on his head was many sizes to large, and he had a hand on it to keep from falling off. She watched as the young runner vanished into the night, carrying a message for someone elsewhere in the city.

The sound of drunken laughter turned her attention away from the boy, reminding her of what she was originally doing. Completing her climb, the Avatar found herself in a small room packed with members of the Home Army. On a table along the far wall, a few members were operating a still. Others were filling glass bottles with the vodka being produced and stuffing rags down the bottlenecks, creating Molotov cocktails.

A few of the Home Army fighters were not busy building makeshift fire bombs, but were drinking and drunkenly laughing. Tanya's face flashed with disgust at the sight, but she quickly masked it as she went back to looking for Henryk.

"Hey there, how would like to keep me and some of the boys company tonight?" one of the drinking men said as he stumbled over to her. His words were slurred and his scent made her nostrils burn. She took a step back and felt her internal fire burn a little hotter, as it always did whenever she found herself around unpleasant types. It filled her with terror, a fear that flames might leap from her fingertips uncommanded.

A sudden clang made her blink in surprise and made the drunk's eye's roll back into his head before he collapsed. Standing behind the drunk was Henryk with his revolver clenched firmly in his hand. He had brought the gun down on the drunk's helmet in a bashing manner, knocking the man out. The commotion brought a stiff silence down upon the room, with all eyes upon the earthbender.

"Getting drunk on our weapons with the Germans less then a block away, are you lot always this stupid or is tonight a special occasion?" he asked, a hint of anger in his voice.

"We're just celebrating our victory today," one of the drinkers replied.

"You're just celebrating your victory today, sir! You will address me with the respect my rank deserves, Private, or I'll have you shot on the spot, do you understand me?" Henryk snapped, making everyone in the room jump.

"Yes sir, sergeant," the young men stuttered in response, fear evident in their eyes.

"Good, now get your useless asses out there on that barricade!" he roared. The few drinkers dropped their bottles and sprinted out of the room as fast as they could. Henryk waited until they were out of sight before he cracked a reassuring grin in Tanya's direction.

"You okay?" he asked, speaking much more softly now. The Avatar blinked and nodded. She had never seen Henryk speak in this manner before. She had only ever seen him maintain a cold, silent distance to those around him. To suddenly see him speak out in such a manner was surprising to say the least.

"Yes, I'm fine," she said before offering him one of the cups. He took it with a grateful smile before he led the way to a corner. Henryk rested his sub-machine gun against the wall before he sat down in a chair. Tanya took a seat next to him and began to sip on the liquid in her cup. It was a hurriedly put together stew, mostly broth along with a few vegetables and meats that some people had donated.

"This stuff tastes strange," she muttered after biting into an uncooked carrot.

"Get used to it. Food is what you can find on the road, and its rarely cooked all the way through," Henryk replied before taking a big mouthful from his cup.

"Are things really that bad outside of the city?"

"The Germans take anything that's not nailed down in order to feed themselves, and the Red Army on the other side of the river isn't making things any easier. The road to the coast is a dangerous one these days."

"Not as dangerous as the road to Moscow is. Straight through the wall of men and steel known as the Red Army. You'd have to be a madman to face something such as that," Danielius said as he appeared, holding a cup of his own. Beside him stood Dvořák, the man who had guarded Tanya before Henryk.

"What's the word, Danielius?" Henryk asked through a mouthful of food.

"We've had a lot of success today, but much of the city still remains in German hands," the Lithuanian replied as he grabbed a chair and sat across from Henryk.

"A lot of them are running, shitting their pants," Dvořák added as he sat down as well, leaning his rifle next to Henryk's submachine gun.

"Easy Václav, the Germans don't run from anything without making their enemy pay for it first. You know that," Danielius said.

"Unless its the SS, they don't run from anything," Henryk muttered before emptying his cup into his mouth. This earned a sober nod from the other two men. Tanya stood awkwardly nearby, unsure of how to get involved with conversation. Instead she chose to focus on her food and listen in silence to what her protector and the others had to say.

"So Václav, you kept an eye on Tanya before Henryk did?" Danielius asked.

"That's classified, Captain," Tanya said, earning an annoyed glare from the Lithuanian.

"I got clearance, hell, I'm the one who pulled you out of the Ghetto, remember?"

"Yes, Danielius. I was Ms. Rosenberg's personal guard. Although heaven forbid if you mispronounced her name. She brained me with a book on more than one occasion," Václav said, speaking up before Tanya could come up with a retort. The Avatar began to respond, but settled with an amused smirk.

"But enough about my time under the gun. How are you handling the job Sergeant? She brained you with anything yet?" The Czech continued. Henryk's lips formed a firm line as he considered how to answer the question. There were times that he found himself attracted to his charge, but there were a number of reasons why he would never admit that out loud.

"It's been...different. It's nothing like what I'm use to doing for the Home Army," he said.

"What exactly was it that you did for the Home Army before you met me?" Tanya asked. Henryk and Danielius cast a glance at each other.

"After I left Auschwitz, I joined the AK group operating out of Kraków. We mainly raided outposts in the countryside and sabotaged transport and supply lines. A few of us were identified by an officer who survived a raid, and this restaurant courier named Wojtyla warned us that the local SS garrison was looking for us. I got transferred here to Warsaw after that," Henryk said.

"What have you been doing since you got here?"

"Rest and recuperation mainly," Danielius spoke up, "The good sergeant took a bullet to the ankle in an operation this past February." The two men shared a look. Henryk had requested that his involvement in Operation Kutschera on the down low, mainly so that he didn't scare Tanya.

"That's quite a story," Václav said.

"We all have stories, there's no reason why mine should be treated different from anyone else's," Henryk replied.

"German half-track, two hundred meters!" came a shout from a woman on the barricade outside. The rapid buzz of an MG 42 followed, along with the screams of the wounded.

"Let's go to work, boys. The Germans don't seem to want to sleep," Danielius said.

"Des kinnt unschê werdn," found Leopold, leaning on the half-track Wilhelm meant to use. "This could become a mess."

"Was du nicht sagst," spoke Wilhelm, taking back the sheets on his mission he had handed Leopold. "You don't say."

"I moan nur. Wœ, woast eh, des wird Heiserkåmpf, und in oana richtign Schlåcht!" voiced the Captain his concerns. "I'm just saying. Because, you know, this'll be urban warfare and in a proper battle!"

"Was soll das heißen?" Wilhelm had been about to assign objectives, or rather, areas of operation to his subordinates, but the Captain kept distracting him. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Des soi hoaßn, dass du wåhrscheindli lång nimmer in oana soichn kämpft håst, und immer nur hinter de Linien ummernåndkrœt bist." Leopold inhaled deeply and blew his pipe's tobacco smoke into Wilhelm's face. "This is supposed to mean, that you likely haven't fought in such one for a long time and only marched about behind the lines."

Wilhelm shook his head, turned away, and took out a map of Warsaw. He had noted many reports from returning patrols and decided that his target would be in the Wola District, together with the other benders. As he made notes on the map he held against the side of the half-track vehicle he meant to use for part of his mission, he retorted, "München." This was all he replied. "Munich."

"Minga wår ned so. Des is ned des gleiche." Leopold found himself saddened at just how much the world had changed since when the two had swung red flags. "Munich wasn't like this. It isn't the same."

"Stimmt, damals waren Zugehörigkeit und Überlaufen eine Frage der Armbinde," he agreed with a smile, "Right, back then, affiliation and defection were the matter of a brassard." He had finished his notes and turned to Leopold. "Was macht die Familie? Wie geht's der Frau, den Kindern?" His inquiry was personal, he knew, but they were the closest either had to friends. "How's the family? How's the wife, how are the children?"

"Ah, der Maria geht's so guat wia's oana Fufzgjahrign gêh kå, de oan Hof leitn muas." Leopold's voice was filled with a kind of joy, as was his face. "Oh, Maria's as well as a fifty-year old can be, who has to be in charge of a farm." He paused, and for a second it looked as if he was chewing his pipe. "De Anna is in Minga auf der Uni, und de Lisl aa. De Sophia is duatn im Hospital, ois Kråknschwester, und der Franzl is in der HJ, und schaut, dass er jo ned êizogn wird." Most of his joy vanished as he continued, however. "Anna studies at Munich University, and Elisabeth too. Sophia is there, at a hospital, as a nurse, and Franz is in the HJ, and makes sure he isn't conscripted." He once more favoured his pipe over speech and enjoyed the first rays of sunlight he felt today. The light made the entire scene, no matter how many gunshots were heard, no matter how many soldiers hurried through, seem peaceful. Out of courtesy, he decided to inquire, "Oiso, wås is mit dir?" He returned the question, after a fashion, "So, what about you?"

"Du weißt, dass ich nur eine Frau geliebt habe, und du weißt, was mit ihr passiert ist," stated Wilhelm, colder than anyone had heard him speak. "You know that I've only loved one woman, and you know what happened to her." The fact that his voice seemed colder than ice and that a hint of tears glistened in his eyes could make anyone flinch, but not Leopold Meyer.

"Wia håt's ghoaßn? Irgndwås mit E... Elisabeth? Na.... Emma! Emma Dvorak!" Leopold teased the one man he knew he shouldn't tease. "What was her name? Something with E... Elizabeth? No... Emma! Emma Dvorak!"

"Es heißt Dvořák, nicht Dvorak," corrected him Wilhelm, shaking his head, and approaching Leopold. "It's Dvořák, not Dvorak." He then made Leopold face him and slapped him. "Und tu das nie wieder!" he ordered, "And don't ever do that again!" He then turned around to find the two officers second to him awaiting orders, Sturmbannführer Möller, and Sturmbannführer Thomann, respectively. "Ah, da seid ihr! Also, wenn man Berichten diverser Patrouillen glauben darf, dürfte sich das Gros der Bändiger im Bezirk Wola aufhalten, unser Ziel wahrscheinlich darunter. Deshalb, meine Herrn, werden wird diesen durchkämmen. Möller, Sie holen sich ein paar duzend Mann und fangen von Norden aus an. Thomann, Sie von Westen. Ich und der Rest der Standarte, plus ein paar Mann unter Hauptmann Meyer, werden uns in den Süden begeben, und von dort aus suchen. Jeder unserer Trupps wird mit den anderen in Funkverbindung treten, sobald wir das Ziel erreicht haben, und uns wieder hier versammeln. Wegtreten!" He ordered, showing his subordinates the approximate areas he meant for them to start in. "Ah, here you are! So, if reports of various patrols can be believed, most of the benders ought to be in Wola District, with our target likely amongst them. Thus, gentlemen, will we search it. Möller, you take a few dozen men and search from the north. Thomann, you from the west. I and the rest of the regiment, plus a few men under Captain Meyer, will begin our search in the south. Each of the squads will radio the others once we have captured the target, and we will meet again here. Dismissed!"

"Und wia håst vur, in n'Südn ins kemma?" asked Leopold once Möller and Thomann were out of earshot. "And how do you think to reach the south?"

"Genau so, wie die Heimatarmee sich fortbewegt hat. Kanalisation ist das Zauberwort," he stated as-a-matter-of-factly, "Just as the Home Army wandered about. Canalisation is the magic word."

Notes & Trivia

  • Leopold Meyer's Bavarian dialect, as well as Sturmbannführer Möller's Ripuarian one, is a mere improvisation on the basis of my, Sep0815's, personal knowledge of the respective dialects and the Wikipedia articles on these.
  • The events Leopold and Wilhelm allude to with Munich are what occurred in Bavaria during the German Revolution of 1918/19.
  • The courier named Wojtyła that Henryk refers to is Karol Józef Wojtyła, better known as Pope John Paul II.

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