Captain Redbeard, who led the 13th Riflemen Company, slowly went down the stairs of the Royale Hotel, his temporary Head Quarters. This fine building was once one of the best hotels in the country. Enough space to fill in thee hundred people, and provide them with the finest accommodations ever to be seen by a man’s eyes. In the basement there was a gigantic swimming pool, once with heated water and ten small Jacuzzis all around it. Each room was covered in ancient paintings; curtains from the finest cloth accompanied each window. Beds, which were large enough to hold eight people, were meant to be for only two. If there was anything left of the kitchen, and any people still working there, it would be a heaven for fighting troops, very demoralizing.
At the current moment Hotel Royale was only a ruin, a shadow of its glorious self. Most of the painting stolen, some which were destroyed lay in the corners of some of the rooms like a heap of trash. The curtains too were gone; the beds were either broken into pieces or stolen, most likely through the holes in the walls, most likely done by the thieves themselves. The swimming pool was perhaps the only thing which stayed untouched but due to destroyed water pipes in other areas of the hotel it was out of use, but it did a wonderful job as a weapon and equipment storage. The hotel was now a place where troops could rest, where orders were given and taken and also it proved to be a great philosophical spot for the more thinking men. Also, a repair station was prepared behind the hotel, in the un kept park, once a sight to see. Some ‘pieces’ of the hotel were salvaged and turned into anything useful. And even though the Hotel internally was going through a process of decay, its outer structure was almost untainted.
If Redbeard had any idea on architecture, he would gladly describe it to each and every next officer he would meet behind the lines. To him, it was just a great composition of solid blocks and sculptures, which made the Hotel look like a palace somewhere from France. Even though Redbeard could not enjoy all the joys of a bed, swimming pool or even properly cooked food there was still much to see and awe.
When he reached the bottom of the stairs he turned around to watch the entrance. Two fine Oak doors, with carved animals on them. A wolf, owl, lion and horse, each one with a quarter of a space for themselves. To present themselves the best way they can for the guests.
“May I join you captain?” came the clear and loud voice of Redbeard’s friend Antony. Redbeard turned around and greeted his friend with a wide smile.
“You may Lieutenant; just keep up with my pace.” Antony was not a tall and proud man as his voice would suggest. He was a keen opportunist, of medium height, messy hair and a tiresome aura always surrounding him. He always knew the importance of loyalty. Also, like most officers he enjoyed some peace and quiet and he was more than happy to be sent to Redbeard’s company. They saluted to each other and then started their walk. Around the Hotel building, to spot something unusual or simply to talk about the past. To some the glorious past, to others just the past. After a number of minutes of silence, and after passing the first corner of the hotel structure Antony pointed at the starting park in the distance.
“Did you ever wander what was behind this cover of trees and bushes?” he asked, it usually meant a longer conversation which would then jump to a more up to date topic. Redbeard watched the foliage and kicked a pebble which was on his path.
“I expect at least a battalion of enemy troops, with tanks hiding on tress and trees disguised as apples.” Antony only managed a sigh, which was meant to cover both laughter and resignation.
“I will get to the point then.” Said Antony taking off his officer hat and brushing his hair with his hand. “I think you do not take enough time with your men. It would improve their morale and keep you slightly more occupied…” Redbeard gestured him to stop.
“You do not have to tell me such things, I am fully aware of this. Yet there is not much I can do at the moment.” As they turned another corner around the hotel Redbeard pointed at a group of soldiers sitting at the great balcony at the read of the hotel, relaxing. They noticed him and in less than a few moments all the cigarettes were put out and bottles of wine from the Hotel’s cellars hidden. Then they all stood to attention and waited for Antony and Redbeard to pass by, only to resume their time taking work.
“Did you see that?” Redbeard asked as they turned the third corner. Antony shook his head.
“They do not look for a friend like me. I am their leader and they put their trust on me during a battle, where I give out orders. Most of them have only seen me, never spoken to me, yet they still trust my judgment as if we were old friends. Morales without my intervention are already very good. I do not know what to talk to them about, and I think they alone form a perfect family.” They walked slowly in silence. Antony watched the parking lot which they were slowly reaching, while Redbeard observed the sky above. The weather was clear, and according to incoming reports it would be so for a much longer time.
“You see,” started Redbeard “The difference between true friends and troops is clearly visible. A friend’s trust you gain slowly. Their loyalty to you, their friendship, comes with time. A soldier always puts his absolute trust in his commander. If a soldier does not trust his commander, he never will. Forcing him to do so would only prove him right. Small talk works for your friends and relatives Antony. Soldiers look at victories and casualties. Nothing else matters.”
“What am I then?” asked Antony looking at Redbeard quizzically.
“You, are a friendly soldier, and let’s stick to that.” As they turned the last corner of the hotel Redbeard noticed that somebody higher in tank just arrived. He saluted to Antony, who put his hat back on and saluted back. Then in a quickened pace Redbeard walked to the annoyed and waiting officer before the double Oak door.