Kell Martin





This is a fictional story with an unplanned plot.
It is determined by using a grand strategy wargame
and written down as events unfold.

Its aim is to be a solemn and respectful account
of a generation that was destroyed by the First World War.

It begins as the old stories always do;
With the death of Franz Ferdinand,
and the great unraveling.




June 28 - July 7, 1914

"The times change, and we change with them."

- Latin proverb -

A bomb detonates in front of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife

A bomb detonates in front of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife

Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary

Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary

“We have to leave!”

The door flung open and almost hit the cat. Vlad jumped back in terror.

“Pack your bags, brother. We have to leave right now.”

Bete had no later than locked the door to the apartment before he began stuffing their clothes into the suitcase.

Vlad stood there like a fool, trying to find the words to say. He was the very opposite of his big brother: Smaller and younger. Whenever Bete would pace around in the apartment, every plank would moan in response. Now it sounded as if a deaf choir were conducting their grand symphony.

“What is wrong?” Vlad finally strung together two words.

Bete stopped dead in his track as if suddenly broken out of a trance.

“He is dead.” He said.


“The Archduke.”

Vlad dropped his hat in shock. Had they succeeded? Would Yugoslavia be free now?


“They blew up the whole damn car.” Bete’s voice was cracking. It never did. Not even when the hoodlums had robbed them on that night in Belgrade. Bete was a locomotive. A pillar. Vlad would follow him to the ends of the earth. 

“The police is rounding up all the suspects.” He said. “It will not be long until they come for us, brother.”

Vlad’s ears now instinctively turned to the sounds in the streets. He noticed Bete wasn’t the only one causing commotion. The neighborhood was in an uproar. Women wailing and children crying, as angry voices echoed throughout the area, no doubt searching for Serbs.

Serbs like them.

“Open up!” a stern authoritarian voice called out, accompanied by a heavy pounding on the door.

“Open up in the name of the law!”

The cat peeled out of the rear window.

Bete grabbed Vlad by the collar.

London, England

London, England

Captain John Robertson looked down—The medal hung heavy on his chest, staining his uniform. South Africa had been nothing but a disaster for him. He had been awarded a bullet through his shoulder, and cursed with a medal for his troubles.

Whenever his wife dragged him to parties it would be an embarrassment for him. He could still hear her friends ask him about it. 

“I thought we lost that battle” one of them had once said.

Nothing stings more than the truth. 

John adjusted his collar and looked at the sign.


He swallowed. Few things scared him more than paperwork—Miles and miles of names and numbers. Dates and time. Everything had to be connected, checked and rechecked. It was tiring, not to mention tedious. But yet, here he was, ready to begin his new life as a bench boy.

“Looks rather frightening, doesn’t it?” An old rough voice said from behind him. John turned around.

“Excuse me?”

“You’re excused, chap.”

Infront of him stood a short, stout Colonel with a large mustache. 

“Colonel, sir,” John immediately jumped into attention.

“I haven’t been a proper Colonel in many years, chap.” He chuckled. “I’m simply Cecil.”

“Yes, Cecil, Sir.”

The office was a mess: In the middle stood Cecil’s desk overfilled with stacks of paper, with the cramped window leading to the neighboring brick building which barely let any air in. On one side stood two bookshelves filled to the edge, and on the last wall hung a large map of Europe.


“A beauty isn’t she?”

“Who?” John asked, looking around.

“Europe!” Colonel Cecil exclaimed and laid his hands on it, gently patting it as if it was his favorite horse. “The cradle of civilisation!”



“Cecil.” He braced himself, trying not to seem condescending. “I was transferred here to aid you, sir. To organize your papers, relay your messages...”

“Rubbish” Cecil interrupted. and tapped on John’s medal “Such a terrible ordeal.” He squinted up at him. 

John avoided his stare.

“You’re here because I require someone sane.” He pulled away from John to pop his head out into the hallway “Ms. Coward, please be a darling and fetch us some Scotch.”

“Sir... Cecil. If you want someone to talk to...”

“I require a mind who has been there.” Cecil grunted. “A mind who intimately appreciates what happens to all those bloody pins and markers on that map. A mind that can tell me what Tommy is thinking, what the enemy is thinking.”

John was taken aback. The British Government had long tried to tell him how the war went, rather than listening to his version of it. He hung his jacket on the coat hanger and grabbed a seat next to the overfilled desk.

“The enemy?”


“The Austro-Hungarians are tearing through Sarajevo, punishing every Serb they can lay their fingers on.


Nedeljko Čabrinović may have died in the terrible blast, but they have uncovered a whole network of conspirators who were involved in this whole ordeal. All apparently fighting for independence for the Serbs.”


“The funeral for the unfortunate Franz Ferdinand, and his wife took place 2 days ago in Vienna. Austrian Emperor Joseph I was in attendance, as well as other high ranking members of the government.”


“This is shaking up to be a bad one, chap. Yesterday, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey received a warning from German ambassador Karl Max of likely war in the Balkans. Despite all this Grey seem rather optimistic.”


“He says, if Kaiser Wilhelm II went on his annual cruise to Norway, how bad can it be?
Well I believe it’s as bad as it can get. If Austria-Hungary declare war on Serbia, Russia will declare war on Austria-Hungary, and so on, and so forth.
Look here, chap, I’ll draw you up on the map where the nations stand as of today. Look at that. What a sordid mess.”

John scratched his head.

“So what you are telling me, sir, is that Europe is on the break of war?”

Ms. Coward entered the office carrying two glasses of scotch. Cecil grabbed one of them and took a generous sip.

“I’m saying the world is.”

North of Munich, Germany

North of Munich, Germany

Erich’s sister jumped into his arms as he came home from school. Her red bow brushing against his chin.

“What did you learn today?” She asked.

“That Germany is the greatest nation on earth.” Erich professed proudly.

“Didn’t they teach you that yesterday?”

“Well it was also true yesterday.”

Erich was a young man of 17 and Maria had just reached 10. Together they lived at a farm outside of Wangen with their hardworking parents. He took her hand and walked up to the house where their mother was busy making tea. 

“How was school, dear?” She asked as Erich walked in the front door.

“Same old.” He smiled, displaying his crooked front tooth. “Where’s father?”

“Oh, he’s out back” She picked out a few plates from the cupboard. “Reading about the terrible ordeal in the Balkans, I’m sure. He’ll be with us in a moment.”

Maria made faces. Erich ignored her.

“What are they saying, mother? Will there be a war?”

She put the plates down.

“Now don’t you get any funny ideas, Erich.” She said. “We need you at the farm. Besides, Germany has all the soldiers it can handle.”

“Yes, mother.” Erich answered. Dreaming of the dashing German uniform he had seen on the soldiers in Munich.

Father opened the back door.

Maria ran away as he entered the room. Father was a righteous man, but a stern one, and one who could easily scare young boys and girls with his demeanor. It had not been many years since Erich himself had stopped fearing him.

“Cursed Balkans.” He muttered to himself while twirling on his mustache. “Nothing but problems there.”

Mother nodded in agreement.

“We should ride down there and teach them a lesson.” Erich said, seeking to impress his father.

“What do you know about that?” Father said. “What does a naive little boy, as yourself, know about war?” 

Erich sat there embarrassed.

The kettle whistled. His mother broke the tension.

“Tea, anyone?”