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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Chapter 3 – On the Ulrichstein Rechburg border


Chapter 3 – On the Ulrichstein Rechburg border
Prince Wilhelm sat astride his horse on a high hill overlooking the Rechburg-Ulrichstein border. Below him in the distance he could see long lines of straggling refugees on the main road from Northern Ulrichstein, the great majority of them would be fleeing the persecution against people of their faith, others fleeing because of starvation. For over a week now Wilhelm had waited here patiently, as far as he was concerned he had waited too long already.
Many of the units he was to use in Ulrichstein had only started to arrive very early this morning, it would take the best part of the rest of the day for them to complete the concentration, meanwhile all Wilhelm could do was sit anxiously watch and wait. Every day he rode up here, he would spend an hour or so just watching, looking eastwards into Ulrichstein then back over his shoulder along the roads that lead back into Rechburg, looking and hoping to see his small army arrive.
 Day and Night he had been approached by notables from Ulrichstein pleading, imploring him to move; to do something to help their people. Always the answer was the same as he tried to explain the difficulty of moving an army from winter quarters over a 100 miles to the rear to being ready in the field, it all took time. The fact it was just over a week and had as many units as he had here was in itself a miracle, a miracle only achieved because his father Herzog Constantine had decided he had to release the Guard, which were the only units not in Winter Quarters, the Guard had been with him for 2 days but their baggage train like the rest of his army was somewhere to the west of him, on its way.
Prince Wilhelm looked to the skies, in the east the large white clouds were thickening and growing darker, the first of the winter storms was fast approaching.
Deciding there was little to be achieved by sitting with frustrations eating away at him here he turned his horse rather dejectedly and began the all too familiar journey back down the hill to his headquarters at a large Chateau several miles west.

As Wilhelm approached his headquarters he was surprised to see several new and strange flags flying, spurring his horse he raced ahead of his escort to see what was happening.
As he passed through the gates of the chateaux Wilhelm say the uniforms and flags of a Duchy of Flensburg Hussar Regiment and as he approached he saw a rider in the uniform of a Flensburg General making his way towards him, moments later he recognized him as  Prince Styrum the Duke of Flensburg’s eldest son.
Prince Styrum rode towards him very easily and quite casually and Wilhelm recognized him first by the huge smile Prince Hans was well known for, secondly by the over large mustache which seemed to dwarf the rest of his face.

Wilhelm called out as they neared each other, “Well met your highness, but what on earth are you doing here.”
Prince Hans turned his horse alongside that of Wilhelm’s “Greetings Willy, you didn’t think I was going to let you chase that damned over sized piece of lard der Plonk out of Ulrichstein on your own did you?”
Wilhelm replied, “Well actually Hans I did, I was sure you would be too busy wenching to bother with a little thing like a war”
“Funny you should say that” Prince Hans replied with that infectious smile, “Father said something similar but it went more like, For god sake Hans put that woman down, get dressed I have a war for you to go and fight. You know father his priorities are always arse about tit when it comes to a woman and wars.”
Wilhelm looked at him for a few moments, he sometimes envied Hans his care free attitude to serious affairs, however he also recalled that Prince Hans had a reputation as a considerable womanizer; despite being married with several children. However his ability with Cavalry was also renowned, possibly more than his womanizing.
 It was just one aspect of Han’s personality that puzzled Wilhelm. They stopped their horses beside the steps that led to the chateau, “So you have come to join us, how many men do you bring Hans?” Wilhelm asked.
“Well there’s the thing Willy, we in Flensburg  like Rechburg had our troops placed in winter quarters when all this blew up, so I could not bring any other than  you see over yonder, “ he was pointing to a collection of troops to the side of the chateau.
“I only have my own Hussar regiment, an artillery battery and a Battalion of Grenadiers that were until last week due to be placed in winter quarters. Sadly father could not send anymore and he has also sent a message to your father explaining that he cannot help until the spring at the earliest.”
Looking almost embarrassed Prince Hans dismounted, handed the reins to an aide and moved around his horse to join Wilhelm who also had just dismounted.
“Willy, Flensburg has been hit hard by the drought and plague, its much worse for us than the last drought and our country was still struggling to recover from that one when this next one hit us. Combine that with the fact that the bastard King in Danemark has been threatening war all damn summer if we don’t concede territory to him, it has meant we have been fully committed. Quite frankly Wilhelm Flensburg is exhausted and we are all hoping the winter won’t be a bad one, because if it is my friend we are in a world of worry.”
He sighed heavily and shuddered and then that smile returned, once more he put his hand on Wilhelm’s shoulder,
“So dear cousin I and my few fellows over there are all there are, not much I grant you but what we lack in numbers I assure you we make up in the ability to see the Bishop dance us a jig or two before we hang him”.

Wilhelm was disappointed but realised he should not be ungrateful as he had not expected any outside help,
“Well Hans I am sure you and your men will tip the balance for us huh, indeed my friend you are most welcome and a sight for sore eyes.”

As the climbed the steps towards the great doors of the Chateau they were met by Major Westerman, Williams current  second in command; he bowed to Prince Hans and Wilhelm and stepped forward with a dispatch.
Wilhelm quickly opened it and read the contents. It was a message from his father providing a list of the units he had sent as well as other news indicating Wilhelm’s younger brother Prince Leopold was on duty to the south on the Bergatonia border. It also included a letter from his sister which he decided he would read later.
As he finished Major Westerman said
“The Army is almost completely here sire; we are just waiting for the baggage trains and the supply wagons. I am told they will be here by this evening or early morning at the latest”.
Wilhelm sighed deeply with relief,
“Thank God, at last we can move.”
Hans took his hat off as an aide stepped forward to take it, Wilhelm likewise removed his, and he then turned to Major Westerman.
“Major we will move at first light. I don’t give a damn how tired those drivers on the baggage trains and supply wagons are. I am not waiting another bloody day, we go in the morning”

Hans almost squealed with joy
“Haaaa, looks like I arrived just in time for the party, and speaking of parties Willy where do you keep the ladies?”

“Good God Hans don’t you ever rest; now gentlemen if you will excuse me I have work to do, I hope to join you for supper this evening.”

Wilhelm made his way into the office; he sat down and looked at the list of the units his father had written, he then wrote on the bottom the two extra Flensburg units.

2nd Light Cavalry Brigade - Major General Robert Hawkesbury (2800 sabres)
Leopold Uhlan Regiment” (4 squadron) (Uhlan)
Newstadtal Hussar Regiment, (4 squadrons)
Leeds Hussar Regiment, (4 squadron)
Attached Temporarily - 1st Albany Uhlan Regiment

Rechburg Grenadier Guard Regiment  (2 battalions (1st & 2nd)
Guard Jager battalion (1 battalion - 1st)
Guard Artillery Battery 6 x 12pdr, 2 x 5.5 How

2nd Infantry Brigade -Colonel Emmerick Dalberg (4,200 men)
1st Albany Fusiliers Regiment, (1st & 2nd Battalions)
2nd  Kently Musketeer Regiment (2 battalions- 3rd & 4th)
3rd  Royal Fusiliers Regiment (2 battalions - 5th & 6th]
1st Line Battery – 6 x 9pdr, 2 x 5.5 How

Attached.
1 Flensburg Grenadier Battalion
1 Flensburg Hussar Regiment
6 x 6pdr artillery Battery

As Wilhelm read the list he whistled to himself, his father had practically denuded the country of troops, he realised just how important he father considered this operation, yet the numbers were totally inadequate for the task ahead, especially if the Emperor entered the fray.
Herzog Constantine had also written that he had instructed the Britannic Government to return his troops which had been hired out and had requested military aid; he had not received a reply yet from Lord Anders.

The letter from his sister Caroline was all the more refreshing because as usual it was all chit chat, she begged him not to say a word about their discussion at the ponds, Wilhelm shook his head in disbelief that she would think Wilhelm had nothing more to do and tell father about her budding romance with Lord Anders the Britannic ambassador to Rechburg.

Wilhelm leant down into a map folder and drew out a map of Ulrichstein; Major Westerman had been continuously updating it all day with reports on the whereabouts of the Diocese Guard. Attached to the map was a report from the last patrol sent into Ulrichstein some 5 hours ago, the report indicated that after several separate interrogations of refugees it was confirmed that Imperial forces may have arrived in Ulrichstein as much as a week ago.  Naturally as none had been seen the sightings remain officially unconfirmed.

Wilhelm spent the next few hours planning his moves for the morrow; he also sent a report back to his father of events this far including the very real possibility that the Emperor had sent forces into Ulrichstein.

Quedinburg  1 week earlier

Quedinburg maybe a capital, but as far as capitals go it was a sorry sight, the only thing memorable about the town was the huge Cathedral, the rest of the buildings were the usual shambolic mixture of cottages and hovels intermixed with various merchants the buildings themselves nothing remarkable and of the type one would find all over Ulrichstein.
On the outskirts of the town a large barracks had been built near the Chateau that Bishop Der Plonk called his palace, the Barracks would likely have been the only new buildings erected in the last two or three decades.

Bishop der Plonk lay on his bed; beside him was his mistress, companion and Bergatonian spy Countess de Bouteville. The Bishop lay back on the bed the countess in his arms, he was feeling very content and self satisfied.

His campaign against the Protestants was going very well, he had devised a cunning plan and on its completion it would ensure there would not be a Protestant in the west, if there were; the Protestants that remained would be totally under his thumb in the east.

Bishop der Plonk and his Diocese Commander Colonel Sully had decided to denude the west of the Bishopric totally of any and all supplies and material that could help sustain the Protestants who tried to remain in the west through the winter. Wagons were travelling day and night hauling back to eastern Ulrichstein all manner of booty.
The confiscated or looted goods included stocks of grain, furniture; valuables farm equipment, cattle, horses and even clothes. As far as the Bishop was concerned over the winter he would use the confiscated stocks of food as well as the food he had stockpiled or hoarded to feed his own people; the Catholics and few Protestants under his control. In the summer the Bishop expected most if not all Protestants in the west to have fled. Then the Bishop would make a fortune selling the confiscated Protestant properties. It was a perfect plan and it was going well, as long as Colonel Sully kept his wits about him and didn’t tangle with any Rechburgian units there should not be a problem.
As far as Rechburg was concerned The Bishop had been pleasantly surprised, there had been reports a few units had been moving to the border but there had been no sign that they had crossed or intended to become involved.

In his mind’s eye he could see that damned Herzog sitting on the border fuming that he had been hoodwinked by a far greater mind than his own. There he would sit, unable to do anything until the spring, and by that time the Emperor would be ready for him. Naturally he would have to explain the complexities of the operation the Emperor and his minions and no doubt coerce him them into dealing with the heretic duke.
The Bishop rolled over, kissing the countess on the shoulder and then slid his considerable body out of the bed, taking a robe that had been flung on the floor in a moment of passion a few hours earlier, he waddled to the window.

Indeed there is more than one way to skin a Herzog, he pondered to himself.

Movement caught his attention, near the walls there seemed to be a considerable body of men moving along the road just beyond the walls, no it was Cavalry and they were now coming through the gates. Moments later Bishop der Plonk had the feeling his day was about to go from excellent to disaster, among the many flags and banners he recognized the Imperial banner; the Emperor had come.
“Henri” he screamed, the countess flew out of bed in a mild panic, then stood wondering what on earth had happened to make the Bishop go even whiter than he was normally.

“Henri” he screamed again, pointing out the window.
The Countess having put her own gown on made her way to the window, she looked out and there in the courtyard was Archduke Ferdinand one of the Emperors sons, and with him was an ever increasing amount of men, an army.

“Henri” they both shouted making a joint rush for their clothes. The Bishop’s secretary was far from their rooms they were far from his mind at this moment. He was standing at the top of the steps, face ashen white, his body uncontrollably trembling awaiting the Archduke, a man that was not known for his civility nor humour.

“Mother of God, preserve this sinner” he muttered to himself, and then he raced down the steps to greet the
Archduke.

Archduke Ferdinand dismounted his horse, handing the reins to a functionary that raced up to him. Ferdinand looked around; it occurred to him that what the Bishop called a Palace was nothing more than a large Mansion.
It also occurred to him that the Palace looked cold and uninviting, just like the rest of Ulrichstein that he had ridden through.
Bishop Der Plonk’s secretary raced down the steps, stopping before the Archduke
“Sire, I welcome you to Ulrichstein”
The Archduke looked Henri up  and down with an air of indifference,
“And you are?” he asked.
“Sire I am the Bishop’s Secretary Henri Contracoeur.”
“And Pray tell me Henri Contracoeur where is the Bishop?”
“Sire we were not expecting you, the Bishop is at work in his office which is to the rear of the Palace Sire”.
“So Mr.  Secretary, instead of telling your master he had guests you raced out here to great them, correct.”
“Err yes sire, I mean no sire” Henri decided he was sinking into a deep hole so there was only one thing left to do; lie.
“I sent a messenger to inform him of your arrival Sire”.
At that moment Bishop Der Plonk finally made an appearance, clearly out of sorts he waddled and wobbled down the steps, bowing in his best courtier manner, his wig askew.

“Welcome Sire, this is an unexpected pleasure”
The Archduke merely nodded
“We will see.”

The Archduke and his entourage of staff officers began to ascend the steps, before they had gone too far however, the Archduke turned to Der Plonk,
“Tell me Der Plonk; do you always greet your royal visitors in your slippers.”

The Bishop looked down at his feet, they were covered by two golden fluffy slippers; the Archdukes entourage followed their master, snickering as they passed the dumbfounded Bishop.

The Der Plonk gave his secretary a withering look and then raced after his royal master, puffing and panting as he waddled up the steps.
Once inside, the Archduke to face the Bishop,
“I will take the best rooms in the errrr Palace”, looking at Henri he said “please have them made ready immediately. Meanwhile my dear Der Plonk let us go and have a little talk and you can explain why it was  necessary for me to be here”
Der Plonk’s jaw was left flapping as the Archduke made his way into what must have been the mansions reception room, now it was decorated by some of the grandest artworks and furniture that the Archduke had ever seen”.

“Good God my dear Bishop, you have been a busy Bishop, very busy indeed”, he silently walked the length of the room, looking and studying the paintings. At the end of the room he saw a very elaborate throne, gilded in Gold, and trimmed in red; he made his way to it and quietly sat down.

His entourage moved in behind him, some clearly the more senior officers stood behind the throne, the others spaced themselves evenly and in good military order around the sides of the room. The Bishop was still standing in the doorway not sure whether he was to move, the Archduke waved a finger at him; indicating he should come closer.
Once the Bishop was in front of him the Archduke asked,
So my dear Der Plonk why am I here?”
“Sire there must have been some misunderstanding, I did not request for you to come sire, however I can assure you I will find out who made this gross error and the individual will be dealt with most severely.”

The Archduke, pulled at his riding gloves, passing them over his shoulder to an aide.
“But my dear Bishop, it was you who made it necessary that I come.”
“No Sire, I assure you I…”
The Archduke waved his hand for the Bishop to be quiet.
“I am here Der Plonk because you have possibly put the entire continent at war, a war which my father expressly told you top avoid.”
‘B…B….But Sire I don’t understand” stammered a very flustered Bishop.
“What is it you don’t understand my dear Der Plonk. Could it be that you didn’t understand that by murdering hundred of Protestants and leaving their bodies decorating the Ulrichstein roads you would might somewhat annoy the Protestant leaders like Herzog Constantine who had signed a treaty to protect them. Or perhaps you didn’t understand that by plundering their land and hoarding their food you would drive them into starvation, something else that might just send the Protestants in the northern alliance into a frenzy, tell me Der Plonk what exactly is it you do not understand”.

“But Sire, I did these things at the instructions of the Emperor, he specifically instructed me to drive the Protestants out”

The Archduke quietly rose and stepped towards the Bishop, with his right hand he hit the Bishop on the side of the head, the Bishop was sent sprawling on the floor.
He nodded to a nearby officer to pick the Bishop up.

Ferdinand bent down, his cold steely eyes looking into the Bishop’s petrified eyes.
“Do not try to blame my father on your butchery; do not blame him for your total ineptitude, your stupidity”.

The Bishop wiped the side of his face, he was sure he had a broken jaw, but again he stammered
“B.b.. Sire the Rechburgians haven’t moved,  and I have done as I was err asked to do; drive the Protestants out”.

Again the hand came back and struck the Bishop on the side of the head; again the same army officer picked him up.

Ferdinand returned to the throne,
“Clearly Der Plonk you have not bothered to look around at the consequences of your stupid actions. Can you imagine the embarrassment you caused the Emperor when he had Protestant ambassadors coming to the maneuvers with complaints of murder and plundering. Actions which you have undertaken without even bothering to ask or notify the Emperor. Can you imagine the concerns you caused my father when he was told the Pomonians are at this very moment gathering on the northern borders of the Empire? That our agents tell us that a Rechburgian force probably has already crossed the borders. Can you imagine how angry King Friedrich of Vandahalla is at you because he has a Pomoanian army concentrating on his northern border?”

The Archduke rose once more, the Bishop cowered back, but this time the Archduke didn’t hit him, he bent down and said
“My father, your Emperor told you to be subtle” he then step back but quickly turned and in a loud enraged voice yelled down into  the Bishops ears,
“Murdering hundreds of Protestant women and children, torture and plundering is not bloody subtle you bloody imbecile, they are the actions of a mad man, they are the actions of a mad Bishop who hoped by causing enough trouble he could get the backing of a large army. Well you bloody stupid fool, you have an army, mine and I am here to correct the results of your stupidity. I am here to take over”

The Bishop looked in horror,
“But Sire” he whined through a bloodied mouth, “The Bishopric is mine, I was promised….”
The Archduke returned to the throne,
“Der Plonk, after this you will be lucky to keep your head, let alone a Bishopric. If it were left to me I would have you out there on one of your roads hanging from a tree, that  is of course if we could find one strong enough to carry your bloody weight. For now the Emperor has asked that I send you back to Hapburgia, so he can deal with you; meanwhile I am to straighten out this mess”.

The Bishop shuffled forward on his knees,
“Please Sire, let me make amends, I can make things better”

He turned to the officer standing beside the Bishop
“Get him out of here, put him on a horse and get him out of my sight, you may need a large escort because I am sure there will be many out there who would want just one more hanging.”

The officer signaled to several others who helped in to drag a crying struggling Bishop out of the throne room.

General Stryker one of the Arch Dukes aides strode in just as the Bishop was dragged by him, he smiled to himself, Archduke Ferdinand immediately called the General into the room,
“Well Andre what have you discovered?”

The General strode forward to the throne, looking with a certain amount of envy at the masterpieces hanging in the room.

“Sire I have just had word that the Rechburgians will likely cross the border in a day or so, it appears the Duke of Flensburg will enter the fray as well Sire.”

Ferdinand rose from the throne, he looked to one of the junior officers,
“Good god, it sounds  like war after all, someone find that wretched secretary and find out where the maps of this wretched country are kept, and for gods sake get some food, I am sure we are all somewhat famished what.”

He  said to the General,” Walk with me Andre.”

The two men walked over to one of the walls, looking at the art work, the General whistled quietly
“God god sire, these works are priceless, where the hell have they come from?”

“Oh I suspect they were the property of the Protestants, you know Andre some of the Protestant merchants and landowners here were the wealthiest in Europia. I could never understand why they stayed, especially if they had wealth to own these”

The General just shook his head in disbelief, and then the Ferdinand continued
“Of course my friend the chances are these very paintings were likely plundered from Catholics during the Religious wars, I dare say our Bishop would say he was liberating them.”

A junior officer came in, with him he had a very mud spattered Colonel of the Diocese Guard, Ferdinand looked him up and down and said to General Stryker
“If I am not mistaken this is the brave Colonel who was responsible for decorating the roads of Ulrichstein, hmm my brave Colonel am I right”

Colonel Sully looked the Arch Duke directly in the eyes,
“Sire Everything I did I did on the orders of Bishop Der Plonk.”

“Ahhh Andre, here we have a man who knows how to defend an impossible position, he just blames his superiors; what should we do with our brave colonel Andre”.

The General looked Colonel Sully up and down
“I think he may be of use to us Sire, at least he knows the countryside.”
“Indeed Andre, you might be right but you know we will never have peace in Ulrichstein if our Colonel here remains in Ulrichstein, he literally has too many skeletons to stay here”.
“Then Sire, we should make sure he doesn’t get to stay in Ulrichstein once we have made use of his ahhh skills.”

Archduke Ferdinand looked at Colonel Sully and said to General Stryker,
“Very well Andre he is your pet, but make sure I don’t see his face again, keep him away from me or I will have his head”.
Colonel Sully made to protest but General Stryker just indicated to him to shut up as he led him away from the Archduke.

As Ferdinand made his way out into the foyer, he noticed a woman and a child standing at the top of the stairs. He said to one of his aides
“That is the Bergatonian spy we were told about, send the bitch and her brat back to her mad Duke immediately and I mean immediately”.

Archduke Ferdinand looked around and then said to the officers remaining,
“Very well gentlemen, let’s get ourselves quartered but don’t get too comfortable, in a day or so we have an appointment with the righteous Herzog and it’s a meeting that has been too long in the making”.

Note:
Ulrichstein's and The Hapburgian Empires actions are all decided by friends of mine, in this way I can make no prejudicial decisions regarding any state other than Rechburg and its allies, similarly in the coming battle/s the Rechburg's enemies will be fought by said wargaming friends.

4 comments:

  1. Excellent work Barry, I really enjoyed reading that.

    Paul

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Paul, Sharpen your sword as you are up against Prince Wilhelm as soon as we get a table arranged and time allows.

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  2. I tried, Barry, I really tried... But upon the doors of the Ulrichstein Cathedral in Quedinburg there appeared this lampoon:

    'The gentle Archduke Ferdinand,
    Taking a delicate matter in hand,
    Clipt Bishop der Plonck over the ear,
    Whereat the prelate retreated in fear,
    Took hotfoot to horse to disappear
    Never again to reappear,
    Vanished forever from the land,
    For fear of Archduke Ferdinand.'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Always worth the wait Ion much appreciated, in fact I may very well publish all these ditties that I have collected from you.

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