Monday, November 26, 2012

Chapter 16 - War looms

Europia Overview

The onset of spring, was a time which came with sun, energy and the vibrancy of a new season, it also brought armies on the march; this spring more so than any ever.
It was not unusual that in Europia the coming of any campaign season brought a skirmish or two along the borders of the many realms, generally however a month or so into the summer the martial spirit lessened and Kings and Dukes of Europia went back to doing what Kings and Dukes do well, wenching, drinking and an occasional hunt.
This year, it is quite clear things will be different, though all the realms were making war noises, whether they transpire into actions only time will tell. At this stage Europia was split into two theatres of war, each distinct from the other but with the potential to spread into one total Europian war.
The spring of 1785 saw two areas in Europia that were bound to draw armies like magnets. The first being that rebellious province of Wartenburg, the ambitious Prince had rebelled against the Hapburgian Empire to become the self proclaimed Wartenburg Kingdom. The newly elevated King Konstantin knew that the Hapburgian Emperor would come seeking revenge breathing fire and brimstone to reclaim his lost province, however Konstantin felt now more than ever he had a chance to hold him off; perhaps even to encourage other areas of the empire to revolt against the Emperor.
Konstantin had been promised support from several neighbouring realms, some he doubted would ever transpire into actual soldiers, Kingdoms like Franconia promised troops to help him, but the word of King Juan I of Franconia was like a mist, it changed direction with every new breeze. Then there was Wartenburg’s southern neighbour the Duchy of Badenwald, King Konstantin did not even particularly care for the prickly natured Duke Bevelar, but it turned out he was a man of his word and he already had troops crossing over the Wartenburg border.

It probably helped that Badenwald was a Franconian client state despite that however it was generally well known that Duke Bevelar was his own man and did not do all Emperor Juan’s bidding. For years it was common knowledge that King Juan of Franconia would fight to the last Badenwald soldier, but a few years ago Duke Bevelar had decided enough was enough and things changed; he had become his own man almost overnight and for the last few years he merely played lip service to the Emperor.

On the other side of the Wartenburg saga was the Hapburgian Empire. Emperor Ferdinand took over his troubled realm following the death of his elder brother and was immediately beset with problems. He had a war in Ulrichstein that was not going well, His brother Archduke Eugene tried to usurp the throne with the aid of the then Prince Konstantin whose wife Princess Arabella was also regrettably Ferdinand and Eugene’s sister.
However Ferdinand dealt with all those issues and now his old enemy Rechburg was a new ally as were several of Rechburg’s own allies, Archduke Eugene had been forgiven and sent to command an army in the backwater of the southern borders, leaving just the now self proclaimed King Konstantin and his Kingdom to be settled.
Ferdinand was still laboring under many issues, not the least that because of the rebellion in Wartenburg and his marriage to a Protestant Princess the nation’s morale had plummeted. Many towns were close to rebelling so Ferdinand had to step lightly and could not afford to send his entire army racing into Wartenburg, much of it was required to police the trouble spots within his own kingdom.
However after a considerable effort he had gained enough troops together to start thinking about his plans to regain his lost province and to settle issues with his brother-in-law.
He was to be assisted in this by his old ally King Otto of Vandahalla. Otto was Ferdinand’s first cousin and a very good friend and loyal supporter of his Emperor. As soon as he heard of the troubles that plagued his cousin, Otto moved large bodies of troops onto the Vandahalla-Wartenburg border; there under the command of Prince Christian II Otto’s only son they awaited Ferdinand’s command.

Ferdinand could not expect much help initially from his new protestant allies the Rechburgians because they were involved in their own war.
A state of war had existed all winter between Bergatonia and Rechburg. The Bergatonian ill fated invasion of southern Rechburg had been brought to a halt at the battle of Briel just a few miles inside the Rechburg border. Following his defeat, Duke Rupert had fled back to Bergatonia with his army and now waited for the inevitable response, the Rechburg counter attack.

At least the winter had given him time to garner some foreign support, the Iberian Empire had promised large amounts of troops, but getting them there quickly was impossible, if they march overland the Iberians would take 2 months, by sea it would still take 3-4 weeks and then there was the Britannic navy to get past.
Duke Rupert did not hold out hope that Iberia would arrive in time, the Rechburgians had already gathered their army just across the border, they were a mere week away from his own army so there was little chance the Iberians would arrive in time.
Then a few weeks ago the Duke Anton Louvois of  the Duchy of Neider indicated they would send troops, and it was on these troops Rupert knew his only hope really relied on, word had been received yesterday that they were already moving over the border and could possibly be with him in a little over a week, but then he had also received word that Brittania a Rechburg ally announced that any nation that interfered in the Bergatonian war would immediately be at war with Brittania, Rupert now wondered about the resolve of Duke Anton; would he risk a war with Brittania over Bergatonia. Sadly it also meant less chance the Iberians may not get there any time soon if ever.

The Empire of Franconia

The Franconian Emperor sat reading the Brittanic warning, his finger kept tapping the piece of paper as he pondered the consequences of the message. He picked it up once more and read it through; it was a long winded diplomatic and legalistic message that when shrunk down to few words warned any nation that interfered in the Rechburg-Bergatonian war would itself have war declared on it by Brittania.

Oddly it wasn’t the threat that surprised King Juan; It was the mere fact that in the first time in several decades Brittania has bothered to involve itself in Europian affairs at all. Normally King Charles would simply sit in his palace and play whist and enjoy rides in the park, to go from that to actually threatening war was a massive step, Juan just wondered what it was that made the Brittanic Emperor so militant all of a sudden.

The King looked up, across to his brother and smiled,
“Would you believe it Louis, King Charles has actually become motivated enough to meddle, and not meddle in a little way either, the bastard actually threatens war on anyone who gets involved in the Bergatonian war.”

Louis sniggered having read the missive earlier he was wondering how his brother would react.
 “Well it has been about 20 years since he last woke up, sadly his slumber couldn’t last forever. So what will you do about it Juan.”

“The one thing I am learning about Europia is that these days everyone wants to be the top cock, it’s the bloody weather that’s causing all this crap about every one wanting to make war on everyone else. Back when we all had a common enemy, the weather; we sat at home and froze our backsides off, all peaceable like. Now the weather improves and I will damned if every nit picking self opinionated self and appointed noble, with even the remotest air of self importance is running around declaring war on every other goddamn nit picking noble. I will be damned if I am going to leap out of the pan and into the fire, I will wait and see.”

“That’s fine Juan but old Duke Anton in Neider is right now sending troops into Bergatonia at your request, now there is every chance he is going to get more than a little annoyed with us if we don’t support him at least”

Juan rose from his chair and walked to the side cabinet, he took his favourite pipe from the rack and started loading the tobacco, it was a habit he had only recently started and it was one he found gave him a sense of relaxation.

“Yes of course you are right Louis; I know that. The problem is if we cast our lot into the Bergatonia wars we will spreading ourselves thin. It’s bloody well annoying that Brittania picks right now to get all high and mighty.
Damn them!  I don’t want to get involved with Bergatonia or Rechburg just yet, at least not until I have dealt with Hapburgia. If the bloody Iberians hadn’t dragged their feet they would already be in Neider, damn them. I needed Iberia to deal with Rechburg while I put paid to Hapburgia.”

Juan picked up the document once more, looked briefly at it and then again placed it down,
“One thing is certs Louis, if I am to get involved in Bergatonia as far as I am concerned the damned Iberians can stay home, Bergatonia will be ours and I will be damned if I will see us do the fighting and then have that senile bloody Pope turn up in his finery and claim my victory and my prize.”

“So we are going to get involved then”

Juan walked back to his desk the smoke from his pipe leaving a path in his wake.

“Yes well as you pointed out I now have little choice, but first we will try a little double bluff, I want you to write to King Charles as your role of foreign minister. I want you to chastise him for sending us such a threatening missive and because of his unreasonable, undiplomatic manner etc etc we in turn will immediately declare war on Rechburg should Brittania attack Franconia or any Franconian allies.
Then I want you to order a division of troops up to the Bergatonia border, just to add metal to our message, finally this week or as soon as you can before Brittania decides to declare war I want you to cram as many troops aboard every ship we have and send them off to Gurania, I would expect we have shipping in ports for about a Brigade or more. We will see how threatening Charles is when he knows we have over a Brigade of troops sitting on the borders of his Colonies.”

“But won’t he like attack our ships?”

“No I doubt it, first we are not at war with Brittania, at least yet. Secondly by the end of this week the Iberians will have their whole navy sailing up our coast on their way to Neider, so the Brittanic navy will be busy chasing after them and they won’t have the strength or time to deal with both fleets. Our fleet is not a direct threat to them, where as the Iberian one will be, so no I doubt the Brittanic navy will worry us. But Louis, it’s all a matter of speed, just get what you can on board and worry about the details later.”

Herzogtum von Rechburg

Herzog Constantine had decided to travel down to Pendalcost where the army had concentrated under the command of Prince Wilhelm and Prince Leopold as his second in command. They sat down to an early breakfast; Constantine was reading through the overnight mail that the couriers had brought down from the capital Albany.
Leopold remarked “Do any of you feel odd, us sitting down with without Caroline here; it always feels like something is missing?”

Wilhelm was buttering some toast,
“Yes I have to agree Willy, she sure has a presence when she is around; I wonder how she is getting along with Ferdinand?”

Constantine looked up and tossed a small parcel to Wilhelm while he continued reading his own mail. Wilhelm recognized Caroline’s writing, he swiftly open the parcel of letters and passed on those marked for Leopold and slid Constantine’s back across the table.
Constantine looked up
“King Charles has sent diplomatic messages to all nations warning them not to get involved in our fight with Bergatonia.”
Leopold looked up as he was opening his letter,
“I wonder how that will go down, I mean its not as if Brittania can really threaten anyone on land, so there is very little he can do except blockade Franconia and or Iberia, and if he does that, I’m wondering how that effects us.”

Constantine placed the letters down and signaled to a waiter to bring some coffee.

“Well it appears he has sent a brigade of troops to Hollandaise, they are to remain there at Memmon as extra security for Frederich II but we are to call on it if Rechburg is attacked.”
Wilhelm placed his letters from Caroline down on the table.
“Father have you any news of Danemark, they are my main worry, we have most of the army here in the south if Danemark was ever to attack, now would be the time?”

“Well Willy, Our Duke Oost Frieze in Pomona have moved troops into Flensburg to help bolster them as well as a indirect threat to Olaf in Danemark. I don’t think Olaf wants to get involved yet anyway, if anything he will wait and see how we fare in Bergatonia, but equally he will be worried about that Brittanic threat as well as the Pomona implied threat.”

Constantine sipped some coffee,
“Actually my main worry is as you know, what Neider will do, they could cause us real problems. I have reports that they have crossed the borders and if that is true next week we could be facing them as well.”

Wilhelm stretched out on his chair as the servant poured his coffee,
“Well father, it means we have to beat Rupert this week so we can beat Anton next week.”

Constantine placed his cup down and looked at his eldest son,
“Willy I admire confidence just like any other man, but it has to be measured to ensure it doesn’t become simple boastfulness, if, err when we beat the Bergatonions, our army will be quite disorganised, if Neider’s army arrives before we recover we will be in real trouble.”

Wilhelm nodded, “Well father I don’t want to split my force, it still won’t be an easy battle taking those Bergatonions on and to ensure a complete win I need all our troops.”

Constantine tossed the last of the reports on the table,
“Yes I know Willy; we have to gamble that at least the Brittanic threat may force Anton to halt his army until he sorts the wheat from the chaff.”

He looked at his two sons, once more he was sending them off to war.
“Well Willy when will you move?”

Wilhelm looked at his brother and smiled, he rose from the table and drew the curtains on the window, in the distance they could long lines of troops moving on the road that lead from Pendacost to Bergatonia.

“We started at 5am this morning father”, he looked to Leopold; “Leo you best take your leave and make a move and join the advance guard, don’t forget, don’t take them all on by yourself little brother.”

Both Leopold and Constantine rose from the table, looking out the window as long columns of infantry crossed the ridges in the distance, on the other side of those hills lay Bergatonia, the Duchy of Constantine’s bastard son and step brother to Wilhelm and Leopold”.

Constantine murmured, perhaps a little sadly, “This day has been a long time in coming, but I cannot say it brings me any particular joy, after all said and done Rupert is my son.”

Leopold turned to his father, looked at Wilhelm and gave his father a hug before making for the door, just before he left he turned,
“Father he is of our blood, but he has never acted as a son or brother, so don’t waste your tears on him, Willy and I won’t”.
With that Leopold left the room to rejoin his beloved Cavalry in the advance guard.

Constantine looked at Wilhelm and spoke quietly, “Willy if it comes to the point of decision I would rather have Rupert dead than alive, I love him as much as I can but I can’t have him becoming the focal point for trouble in later years.”

Wilhelm knew how much hurt and anger his father must be feeling right now, after all there were many nights over the last ten years or so they did nothing else but talk about Rupert and Bergatonia, he knew his father carried a lot of guilt over the past.
“Father, Rupert may not even be with the army, more than likely he will scarper across the Neider border before we even find his army”.

Constantine turned to the side table, gathering his hat,
“No son, he will be there, this is what Rupert has lived for; it’s his judgment day.”

They walked out of the room and down the long corridor, stopping on the top of the steps they get here the distant rumble of artillery, the Advance guard was crossing the Bergatonia border.

“Well Willy, take care of yourself son, and for god’s sake watch Leo otherwise he will be off looking for more bloody glory than any of us can handle.”

With that they shook hands and Constantine mounted his horse, giving a salute to his son he signaled to his escort as he rode off through the gates back home to Albany.

Wilhelm watched his father go, once out of sight he turned to his staff,
“Right let’s get this moving, we have a war to fight.”

The Duchy of Neider forces in Rechburg

It had been a long and difficult week for Prince Eduard, at the end of last week he had been issued with orders to ride with the 2nd Light cavalry Brigade to the Bergatonian capital New Madrid, once there he was to familiarize himself with the situation and assist Duke Rupert in defending against any Rechburg
attacks, his father Duke Anton Louvois would send on behind two Infantry Brigades to reinforce the Neider cavalry.
Preparing his cavalry for the journey to New Madrid had taken longer than expected but 4 days ago they had crossed the border and passed through the town of Leinster, they were surprised to find Rechburg scouts were lingering on the northern outskirts of the town, after spending an hour so reassuring himself they were nothing more than a long range scouting patrols his Cavalry brigade continued their journey. While he was in Leinster he heard that Duke Rupert was now with his army up near the Rechburg border, so instead of marching to New Madrid he made directly for Ostwald where the Bergatonian army was reported to be.
All along the road to the next town from Leinster the Neider patrols reported sightings of the occasional Rechburg scouts, they didn’t try to interfere with the Neider cavalry and if approached the Rechburgians they simply vanished.
He reached Bimberfeld and made camp there, tomorrow he would join the “Mad Duke” as he was universally known, Eduard had heard all the stories and the gossip, there were so many about the man that Eduard found he was rather looking forward to meeting the real man.

During the night Eduard was woken by the duty officer, a courier with a heavy escort had ridden in with an urgent dispatch from the Duke.
As Eduard read it in the lamp light on his night table, he couldn’t believe what he was reading,
His father was ordering him under no circumstances to engage the Rechburgians; he was to withdraw back to Neider immediately.

Eduard stood looking out off the open door way of the tavern his staff had taken over for him, the night was quiet, the stars shone and it seemed remarkably peaceful for a country at war. He picked up the message and read it once more, and then he asked the captain in command of the escort, was there any thing he could add, the Captain looked around the room at all the officers gathered around.

“Brittania has threatened to go to war with Neider if we engage the Rechburgians; Duke Anton definitely doesn’t want a war with them so we are ordered back with all haste.”

Prince Eduard just couldn’t believe it, they were what, no more than 8-10 miles from the Bergatonian army, so close and then to have to turn around and march away with their tails between their legs; it was a disgrace, worse it would be seen by all of Europia as his disgrace. God knows how the Bergatonions would react; but if this foul deed was to be done it should be with some haste, before the Bergatonions or the Rechburg patrols knew what he was about.
Prince Eduard threw the order on the floor, turned to his officers.

“Well don’t just bloody well stand there, rouse the men and let’s get the hell out of here.”

He walked outside and in the distance he could make out the faint glimmer on the horizon, the light of fires from thousands of soldiers who were preparing to fight possibly tomorrow or the next day, men who were expecting him to come and help, instead like a thief in the night he was skulking away.

The Duke of Bergatonia
Duke Rupert was surprisingly calm, he had joined the army two days ago and still the Rechburgians had not attacked, and then late yesterday he receive reports that they had crossed the border, so he guessed the battle would likely be today or tomorrow. Yesterday he also had received a message from Duke Anton’s son Prince Eduard that he was billeting in Bimberfeld overnight and would join him tomorrow, the Neider Infantry would not be here for at least another two days and would likely be too late for the battle, but at least a damned cavalry Brigade would be a really good boost to his army and their morale.

Now it was early morning, Rupert had breakfasted well and then he had walked out and surveyed what would be the battlefield. He had to fight here, he could not risk a battle any closer to the capital and here was the best place between Rechburg and New Madrid.
At first light he had sent scouts out to find the Rechburg force, they returned within the hour to report Rechburg Cavalry were only a few miles away, so he ordered his army to stand to.  He wondered where the Neider cavalry were, they should have been here. His patrol returned from Bimberfeld not long after, they reported the Neider Cavalry had simply gone, when Rupert asked the officer in charge of the patrol.

“What the hell do you mean they have gone, gone where?”

The officer handed him a message form the Tavern keeper in Bimberfeld had found on the floor of his tavern, the message was from Duke Anton ordering Prince Eduard to return to Neider urgently, not to engage any Rechburgians if at all possible.

Rupert waved the document in the face of the officer,
“What the hell does this mean, why are you showing me this, where is my Cavalry Brigade, didn’t you look for them.”

The officer stood rigidly still,
“No sire it was evident that they had left Bimberfeld, the tracks indicated they went west and then we had this message and I thought it was best to advise you as soon as possible.”

“Advise me, advise me, what the hell good is it advising me that my supposed friends have run away, I can see that” He stormed to the entrance of his tent and waved his arms out over the expanse of the terrain before them.
“Do you see Neider Cavalry out there anywhere, because I don’t, and if I don’t see them I bloody well know they are not here, what I don’t know is why they are not here. Did it not occur to you to ride after them and ask or even demand they return?”

“No sire “the officer replied nervously “as I said I felt it was urgent to let you know immediately they had gone”

“Good bloody god man, who the hell made you an officer, you are an imbecile, now I am expected to fight a battle without my supposed ally and you don’t know where he has gone, the best you could think of is to tell me what I can plainly see, the Bloody Neider cavalry are not sitting out there.”

Rupert stormed back into his tent, he screamed at everyone present,” Get out, all of you out, out, you are all as useless as tits on a bull get out of my sight.”

As the last man left an object sailed out of the entrance of the tent narrowly missing the man and landing on the ground in front off one of the sentries, one looked down and whispered to the other

“Paper weight”.

Rupert sat on the edge of his camp bed, he had been deserted by everyone, he was on his own. He looked down at his hands, they were shaking but he didn’t know if it was rage or fear.
Rupert looked down on the camp table, the scrawled message form was there, there was also a small painting of his son sitting there, he picked it up and as he stroked it gently. He stopped for a moment, looking at the smiling youngster, he realised he wasn’t alone, he had his son and if for nothing else he would make sure Bergatonia was going to be there for him, his bloody father wasn’t stealing his son’s birthright away from him; not again. Damn them all, if they want a fight, then goddamn them it’s a fight they will have.

He walked outside of the tent, his staff were gathered around the top of a knoll nearby, he strode over and spreading out before him was the Rechburg Army.
Rupert murmured to himself,
“So it’s to be today, Good”.