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Pretender

The plane started its sharp descent. The over-eager prince imperial stared through the small window and watched the moving masses of green and brown sharpen into distinct geographical features. The green stretches became fields and hills, and the dirt-colored patches outlined into well-defined plots of farmland. After more than thirty years, Prince Alexander was not only reclaiming a lost throne, he was returning home.
"Beautiful, isn't she?
Alexander turned his gaze. The elderly Colonel Fritz Hohellensburg was looking at the prince imperial the old man's darkened eyes gleamed with tears that spilled onto his wrinkled cheeks.
"I am eternally grateful I'll get to see her one more time.' Hohellensburg pinned.
The Colonel's emotional display made Alexander regain a more formal composure.
"Should God see fit to make me Emperor today, it would only be because he owes you a favor," Alexander smiled warmly.
Alexander Brattenwolff was the only son of Ferdinand Brattenwolff, who himself had been the only son of Charles Brattenwolff, the last Brattenwolff to occupy the imperial throne. Alexander's grandfather had been pushed from power in a coup. Alexander's father, Ferdinand, spent much of Alexander's childhood fighting in a protracted civil war before eventually being forced into exile. Only to return one other time when again he was forced into exile.
At 41, Alexander had his first child on the way. To the fatally loyal and destiny-minded Colonel Fritz Hohellenbsurg, this was a sign that the time had come for the rightful emperor to return to the palace. Alexander's father had come painfully close. Now it was up to the son to pick up the torch and finish the race.
The plane touched down in a field. It bumped along the uneven ground, the propeller choking off, and while it skidded to a gradual stop in the grass. The engines shut off, and the pilot walked out of the cockpit and saluted.
"Your highness, there is already a crowd here to greet you!"
Alexander was speechless. He looked to Hohellensburg. "Go show them their new Emperor!" The Colonel said triumphantly.
The door opened, and the small metal staircase folded towards the ground. Alexander stepped out first, followed by the Colonel, then the curious pilot. They were approached by a group of seven.
There was a middle-aged officer. Just behind him in a wheelchair pushed by a servant was an old man that looked as if his withered frame had fallen into a uniform and he hadn't been able to claw back out.
"That's Colonel Edwin Von Eulenberg," Hohellensburg whispered into Alexander's ear.
Alexander saluted the officer. "It's an honor to meet you, Colonel. My father told me all about your service during the civil war. I want to thank you per-,"
"I apologize, your majesty," The soldier interrupted. "I am Paul the Colonel's son. This is Edwin Von Eulenberg.” The servant pushed the wheelchair forward. "Your Highness," the legendary Eulenberg wheezed.
"Oh," Alexander said with some embarrassment. "I apologize. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE," Alexander spoke slowly and clearly.
The whithered man held up a trembling hand and finally, with much effort, saluted his sovereign.
Next in the procession was another tired-looking pensioner in a highly decorated military uniform.
Fritz made the introduction "Luitenent Berchrect." The lanky but surprisingly spry old man snapped a salute. He had beady black eyes that were magnified into marbles by his large thick glasses. His scalp was hairless and pale, and his lips curled over a set of blackened toothless gums.
“Fanfk hue your grafe. I will fight for hue to the end." Berchrect's gums flapped the unintelligible words.
Alexander stood quietly, smiled, then saluted the old man before moving on.
The last in the procession was a very young man in a simple military tunic. He stood rather casually for a soldier and only gave a slight bow when Alexander approached.
"And you are?"
"Victor Oscar, nephew of Victor Charles, your highness."
"What brings you to the cause of your Emperor?" Asked Alexander.
"Well, my uncle was on his deathbed, and he said if I wanted any part of his estate, I better get my worthless self up to something. When I asked what, he suggested this."
Alexander was even more bewildered now. Before he could reply, Fritz gasped and collapsed to the ground.
Alexander and the pilot carried the aged Colonel back to the plane. The old man's face was pulsing a deep crimson color as his frail old fingers clawed at his collar.
"Help me get his coat off," Alexander said to the pilot.
"You're going to be alright," Alexander assured him while they stripped off his metal-laden coat.
"Your- your highness," Fritz choked on the words.
"Don't speak," Alexander said as he bunched up the officer's coat and put it under the old man's head.
Frtiz coughed fiercely, and his body spasmed on the floor. His eyes closed, and his red skin began to cool. Then abruptly, he seemed to calm.
"Colonel? Colonel, are you ok?" Alexander whispered.
The pilot checked the pulse.
"He's still breathing."
Fritz's lips slightly parted. "Alex," he whispered.
Alexander leaned in close to his dying confidant and clenched his hand. "When you get the palace back. Please hang my portrait on the wall." Fritz's grip tightened around Alexander's palm. His body trembled, and his throat gurgled as the color faded from his eyes. His hand loosened. Fritz was dead.
Alexander sat on the floor next to the body and buried his face in his hands. After a moment of silence, he wiped the tears away and looked up at the pilot.
"Let's go home, said Alexander.
The gathering watched with confusion as the propellers spun back to life, the plane turned towards the horizon, and sped off into the sky.

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