The Rechburg Story - Chapter 1 - 4


Oct 7th 2012

Bishop der Plonk slowly eased his rather overlarge body down into his somewhat over large chair, the aches and pains from his many sore rheumy joints troubled him beyond belief. He told anyone who would listen that the pain was the price he paid for his devotion to the Emperor and the hard work he undertook on the Emperors behalf. Sadly however most who knew the Bishop were more than aware the truth was Bishop der Plonk over indulged in every manner of gluttony and all manner of pleasures.
He had just finished a rather sumptuous meal of chicken broth and several glasses of wine. He rose rather awkwardly from his chair and made his way in a half walk half waddle to the window.

On the lawns below his companion Countess Bouteville and her 12yr son played hoops, she had been his companion and paramour for several years, she was always attentive to his needs and in return the Bishop housed and provided for her and her son.
I need to find a way of sending the boy away, perhaps to learn a career in the Emperors army; she spends too much time with him and not enough caring for me.

He turned from the window and returned to his desk, he rang the bell and again slowly eased his body down into the seat. Sitting back he gazed around the room, the Bishop loved very little in life, but he did love this room. Once it had been an audience room for the Rechburg noble Count La Fayette who previously owned the chateau, however the noble and his family were dead and the now the Chateau belonged to the Bishop, the audience room was now called the throne room it seemed to Der Plonk the throne room was a name much more befitting a man of his status. The room itself was furnished with all manner of priceless arts and valuables; all liberated from the heretic Protestants that once lived around Quedinburg. Another of the Bishop’s wisdoms was that these material gains were his payment for the heavy spiritual burden he bore in governing his lands for the Emperor. After all he reasoned if he had to suffer the pains of duty he might as well do it in some little comfort and luxury.

Count La Fayette had paid the price for his heretical beliefs as the Bishop liberated him and family from all their earthly valuables by having them burned on the stake in nearby Quedinburg central square. The hasty court that the Bishop had set up had naturally found the Count guilty of treason against the Emperor; it was the perfect example for the Bishop to set. It had in fact been his first act as the new ruler of Ulrichstein; it was his first taste of real power and watching the burnings had fueled an exciting passion in his soul. The burning of the Count and his family was merely the first of such displays of power, the people of Ulrichstein had to know that their lands had a new ruler; and Bishop der Plonk ruled with soft and usually untruthful words backed by an iron fist.

A knock on the door and the Bishops secretary entered
“Henri, please clear the dishes, I have much work to do.”

Henri quickly gathered the plates and bowls, as he made way to the door the Bishop asked
“Is the Colonel here yet?”

“He is sire, he is waiting for you”

“Ahh good, good, well send him in”.

The Bishop leaned back in his chair, lovingly gazing about the room and remembering the rather torturous journey it took to reach here.

Emperor Charles IX had granted him these lands for a specific purpose, his task was to cleanse Ulrichstein of Protestantism, but he had to do it in such a way that it would not reflect back on the Emperor or his Empire.
Following the religious wars of the late 15th century, Europia was exhausted from the conflicts that have ravaged the continent intermittently for several decades, in the Treaty of Kristinavale there had been considerable territorial readjustments in Europia. One of them had been at the expense of Rechburg whose ruler was back then Baron Manfred, a ruler who had up until that time been a loyal supporter of the Emperor. The new lands created became the Bishopric of Ulrichstein, the Bishopric was unique in Europia because it was the only land equally populated with Protestant and Catholic peoples; it was deemed by the treaty as part of the Catholic Hapburgian Empire. The Catholics generally resided in the east of the realm while the Protestants settled mostly in the west. It was to be governed by a Catholic ruler, but the neighbouring Protestant rulers gave their Guarantees of protection to the Protestants that lived in the Bishopric. The first ruler of Ulrichstein had been the weak and ineffectual Bishop Burckhardt, since then the successive Bishops had been likewise weak minded fools, they cowered in the shadows of the neighbouring rulers. Fearful of doing anything to rid the Bishopric of the heretics for fear of starting another war that the Empire could ill afford.

Bishop der Plonk had been one of several spiritual advisors for the Emperor however by various means of manipulation both fair and foul; the Bishop had maneuvered himself to the point where he became confident and friend to the Emperor. From his close relationship and over a period of time the Bishop had sown the seeds for his next step in his own ambitious plans those of one day being he being the ruler of Ulrichstein.

Because from its inception Ulrichstein was a land within the Empire that was equally protestant and thus in the eyes of the Emperor and his counselor Bishop der plonk an ungainly stigma on the Ecclesiastical lands of the Empire. No one wanted another religious war so nothing was ever done to remove the stigma of shame. The treaty of Kristinvale was a very unsatisfactory treaty and it was generally acknowledged privately amongst the signatories that it was likely to lead to more wars rather than long everlasting peace as all proclaimed publicly. However because the Empire was war weary from fighting the religious wars in the north, defending the southern borders from the ever expansive Asiatic Empire to the south and the huge Tsarist Empire to the east; the treaty of Kristinavale had forced upon the Empire.

Bishop der Plonk had studied the Treaty of Kristinavale and in it he had seen the light to achieve his own ambitions. He was certain that the light was the doing of God; it was the wish of the almighty, god was showing him the pathway to his true destiny, that destiny being one day he would rule the Bishopric of Ulrichstein. In his private moments and thoughts he pondered the possibilities he realised that his ambition aided by gods hand could even one day lead him to larger lands, perhaps a Kingdom.
First however he had to maneuver the Emperor to the point where it was seen as the Emperors wish that he be the next Bishop of Ulrichstein. As he explained to the Emperor the key were the clauses in the treaty that gave the ruling Bishop the power of law and order. It meant if the protestants were to revolt, then the Bishop would be forced to act to “maintain law and order” for the benefit of all citizens naturally. None of the signatories of the treaty could react as it was within the rights of the Governing power to act to maintain law and order; Bishop der Plonk explained rather proudly that the secret was to make the revolt happen without it seeming to have been deliberately created by the Bishop or the Empire.
The previous Bishops that ruled in Ulrichstein should all have seen this, but if they had it appeared they were too afraid to act on it, so for many years god waited until the right man would come into his service; and in the body of Bishop der Plonk god had his instrument.

At first the Emperor had been cool on the idea, but over a period of several years the Bishop constantly reminded the Emperor and anyone else in the ruling council that would listen to him what a shameful stigma heretical Ulrichstein was on the holy purity of the Hapburgian Empire.
Finally the then ruling Bishop of Ulrichstein had the good sense to die, and when word went out for nominations for the next ruler of the Bishopric, the name on the lips of all had been the name that had became synonymous with Ulrichstein over the last few years, Bishop der Plonk.

Within weeks of being granted the Bishopric of Ulrichstein the Bishop had travelled throughout his new realm, it had been no easy task and decidedly uncomfortable being carted from hovel to hovel in his new coach; however the exploration of his lands had been interesting and informative. He had gauged and meet the nobles both Protestant and Catholic, many had been impressed by this kindly but rather over large ruler, it was hoped that at last the Emperor had made a choice in rulers that may actually benefit the Bishopric. All the nobles and civic leaders pleaded with the Bishop to do more for the roads, to create stability in trade and above all keep the peace between Protestant and Catholics.
The Bishop assured all that he would do all these things but he begged their indulgence, the Bishopric was virtually bankrupt he claimed and the Empire had larger financial issues to deal with other than miniscule Ulrichstein. No he assured them, we will have to right our own wrongs and the first step was increased taxation.

The new taxes arrived just before a new drought, Europia suffered from these severe droughts every 3 or 4 decades but this latest one was the most severe many could remember. All of Europia suffered crops failures and thousands of people died throughout the continent. Following the drought came yet another plague, not as severe as previous plagues but following on so closely to the drought many of the smaller nations were plunged into turmoil. Ulrichstein was perhaps the worst affected by the forces of nature but Bishop der Plonk did not mind one bit. In fact it seemed as if God was once again offering the Bishop a hand in cleansing Ulrichstein, and der Plonk was never one to refuse the hand of the almighty.

When he had instituted the new taxes, the Ulrichstein nobles protested, but as he pointed out to them not too subtlety they were the same nobles that pleaded for new roads and improvements, not that he had any intention of doing any such thing. The Bishop extended his personal Diocese guard, they had new equipment and beautiful uniforms, the Diocese guard was raised from 700 men to 3 Battalions and 1 Cavalry regiment of Hussars almost 3,000 men; the new taxes paid for his new little army. The taxation protests continued and the Bishop found a way to offer the nobles some relief, people who took the sacraments would be offered tax deductions. The catholic nobles were ecstatic whilst the Protestant Nobles protested; the Protestant nobles refused to pay the taxes and even pleaded with Herzog Constantine II of Rechburg to intervene. There was little any of the foreign Protestant leaders could do, after all taxation was an internal policy, all they could do was urge the Bishop to equalize the taxation in a fairer manner, the Bishop assured their ambassadors that he too was concerned and he would look at the taxation problem as soon as possible. That was an assurance he had no intention of keeping.

But then the drought and plague arrived and the people of Ulrichstein died in their hundreds, food was scarce and law and order began to suffer.
The natural disasters were seen by the Bishop as both a problem and yet another god send opportunity, naturally Ulrichstein had to find food, but since the entire Continent was starving what small crop yields that had survived would be quite insufficient, so prices would rise as they imported food. That would create opportunities for the Bishop to increase his already considerable wealth.

The Emperor rushed what food supplies he could spare into Ulrichstein, but then they did not go all the way throughout the Bishopric. The warehouses in the Catholic east of the realm bulged with food and those in the west were empty or rarely received any food.
The Catholic peoples were soon receiving food while in the Protestant provinces the food supplies were quite insufficient. Der Plonk blamed the inferior roads, bandits, corrupt Protestant merchants almost everyone and everything. He shook his head with despair in apparent sympathy when the Protestant leaders came to plead for help, he promised he would do all he could to ease their plights. With his hand over his heart he assured them he was doing all he could to get food to the west, meanwhile more and more Protestants continued to die.

The revolt occurred in the small village of Piesen one of the many small villages in the north on the road between Zerbst and Newhausen. Piesen was in the Catholic area of Ulrichstein; its main source of income was the Eura river a large waterway which was a major trading route for nations further east. Barges travelling the river would call into Piesen and unload tradeable goodas asw ell as load produce for markets further along the river. The revolt started out merely has an attempt by several protestant leaders to break into a warehouse and take the food stored there for their people back in the protestant lands, they broke into the warehouse without any difficulty and loaded four wagons, however before they had gone too far they were stopped by four men of the Diocese Guard; a struggle ensured and three protestants and one Guard were killed.
The rest of the Protestants were arrested when more Diocese reinforcements arrived, they were taken back to Quedinburg for trial.
Bishop der Plonk pretended to be sympathetic, even writing to their extended families that he would do all he could but this was a matter for the law and he could not intervene. Meanwhile the judge had been given instructions by the Bishop to ensure the men were guilty and would receive the death penalty for theft, killing of Diocese troops and attempting to incite a riot.

“Where the hell is that Colonel?”

The Bishop rang the bell once again.

As the Bishop sat back in his chair absent mindedly rubbing his aching knees he contemplated the last 18 months of his rule. It seemed to him it had all gone to plan, with the almighty’s aid he had fulfilled his plans in becoming the ruler of the new lands of the Empire. He had maneuvered the Protestants into acts of violence and now he was to complete the next stage of his and gods plan, the religious cleansing of western Ulrichstein.
His thoughts were interrupted, by the knocking of the door, the door opened and his secretart Henri entered once more,

“You rang sire?”

“Of course I rang you idiot, do you see anyone else in the room. Where the hell is Colonel Sully?”

Before Henri could answer from behind him the Colonel entered the room, dreesed as usual in his new and immaculate uniform.

The Bishop waved Henri away.

Colonel Sully marched almost arrogantly to the desk and bowed,

“I apologise by the delay Sire, I was somewhat inconvienced by matters in the palace”

“Inconvienced was he, I wonder which servaning wench he rumbled this time”.

“Don’t make a habit of making me wait Colonel, I am a busy man and will not be delayed while you trounce one of my servants.”

The Colonel made to protest but the Bishop waved hum to be silent

“Colonel it is time we started our little project of ridding the heretics out of our lands, are you ready?”

“I am sire, the men could do with more training but as we are not going to war, just chasing peasants it will be no serious problem.”

The Bishop slowly eased himself up from the chair, inwardly groaning at the aching joints and bones, indicating a table near the window

“Come please Colonel, the map table if you will”

The Bishop moved slowly, almost waddling, finally reaching the table he stood and turned to face the man that could be instrumental in making him a King or a corpse.

The Bishop took a moment to study the man beside him.
Colonel Sully had been in the Franconian Army, he was cashiered for dueling and killing Duke Frerar one of the Franconian Emperor’s nephews. He was tall and slim, his face disfigured by an ugly scar the result of a duel many years ago. After leaving the Franconian Army the Colonel had been in the service of several rulers, he had either been dismissed or simply moved on when offered more money.
When he was approached to join Bishop der Plonk he found a man of his own style, ambitious and greedy.

“Colonel I want you to start a revolt”
“A revolt Sire, excellent.”
The Bishop smiled, "Yes you are going to start a revolt right here, in Ulrichstein”.

The Colonel looked down at the map, and then to the Bishop who was by now making his way awkwardly to the windows.

“Well Sire starting a revolt in one’s own country is always easier than in someone elses”
“Very true Colonel.”

The Colonel moved to the window as well, they both stood there for a moment gazing down on the gardens. The Bishop turned to Colonel Sully.

“You are going to start this revolt, and then you are going to squash it and the Protestants very quickly. You see Colonel I do not want a protestant left in the west at all, they either recant their faith in which case they are to be left alone, or they die or leave, I am not of a mind which one; so long as you do it quickly”

The Colonel stood looking down at the map,
“I will need more men Sire, I only have around 3,000 and there must be at least 60-80,000 Protestants and if this is to be done quickly then I will need a larger force”.

The Bishop sighed deeply, “Well you don’t have time to train recruits Colonel, I want this done before the winter, also remember as you often have said there may be 60,000 Protestants but they are peasants and merchants, no match for your Guard I am sure".

The Colonel nodded walked around the table and stood with the Bishop admiring the gardens below

“Sire there is the question of casualties, I mean the Protestants ones. Once we start this revolt the butchers bill may become shall we say – impressive. That may force the hands of the Protestant realms such as the Rechburgians and their cronies”.

“That Colonel is precisely why you must strike quickly, there are two factors in our favour, first if we act now and get this done quickly the Heretic leaders will not have time to act before winter. Secondly I also have waited until now because I know the Emperor himself will be attending the annual maneuvers near Buckwitz in Vandahalla in 2 weeks. As Buckwitz is only a week’s march from here I consider it rather convenient for us don’t you think”.

“So the Emperor is in on this as well, well that would certainly change things”

“No Colonel", the Bishop sighed rather deeply "The Emperor is not in this at all and must never be involved, at least not yet. However having his army near the Pomoanian border does have a indirect and implied threat don’t you think, again Colonel it is gods way of showing us how he favours our little enterprise.

Naturally the other rulers will never believe the Emperor didn’t know and had quite accidently had his army nearby when we move. Should things go badly for us we may have to call on the Emperor, but be reassured Colonel if we do, both of us may lose our heads. So Colonel get it done quickly and efficiently”.

“So my understanding is you want me start a revolt, and chase 60,000 protestants out of the country with 3,000 men and not start a war with the neighbouring protestant countries, all without disturbing the Emperor”.

“Yes quite so Colonel, do you see a problem”

“Oh many sire, but I have a feeling none of them will change your mind, so I best go and get this done”

“Exactly Colonel, that’s the spirit, quickly and ruthlessly, and you would do well to remember Colonel if this goes as I expect, you will be a general in charge of a much larger Ulrichstein army and very much richer, do you get my point”.

“Yes sire I do, get it done I get promoted, fail and I lose my head, excellent incentive ideas sire”.

“You may go Colonel”

The Bishop realised he was weary and perhaps it was time to lie down, but then he considered an alternative to luing down alone. perhaps he could spend some time with Countess de Bouteville she may have ways to amuse him for a while. her gentle stroking hands always had a way of relieving the pain.

The Bishop rang the bell, moments later Henri his secretary came in

"Where is the Countess Henri”?
“I believe she is walking the gardens with her son Sire”
“Excellent would you send for her, tell her I have need of amusement; I have had a very tiring day”.

Chapter One – Herzog Constantine II

For Herzog Constantine II, Sunday’s were usually the one and only time of the week that he could say he was happy. The reason being Sunday was reserved for the family and occasionally the family’s intimate friends, This Sunday however though it started out as a relaxing day was to have far reaching consequences for Constantine, his family and Rechburg.
His daughter Princess Caroline had kidnapped him, well actually she harangued  him long and hard enough to convince him he should go down to the lakes with her; she claimed she wished to show him where the gardens should be extended.  
Caroline always had plans for the gardens, Constantine reasoned it was one of the reasons his palace was one of the most beautiful in all of Europia. He often wondered at the frustration of the gardeners as they tried to keep up with all her whims and fancies, often he would see her marching the head gardener from one end of the grounds to the other, and then back again.
He remembered thinking as she dragged him along, surely we don’t have any land left on the palace grounds to lay yet another Garden.

The surprise was complete however when they walked arm in arm through the large Britannic ash trees that hid the lakes from the rest of the Palace, sprawled out before him were several small tents and some 8 or 9 guests and a half dozen servants.

“Here he is” squealed Caroline with delight, she had thought the secret was probably one of the worst secrets of Rechburg; but it had actually worked and her father was stunned silent with surprise.

Everyone cheered and roared with laughter, the look on Constantine’s face was enough amusement for most of them.
“Good God Caroline how on earth did you get this organised and yet kept a secret”
Caroline dragged her father over to the lake edge and taking a fishing pole from a stand thrust it into his hands.
“Papa is was not hard, you are hardly ever out of that accursed office, and all you see are officials and other toffy people, so all I had to do was not tell toffy people” she replied rather excitedly.

She stood back as the family and friends gathered around.

“Now Papa convince us that you are as good a fisherman as you used to tell us you were, you know those fishing tales that are legendary. At least as young children we thought they were”

Taking the Pole in hand, Constantine looked his daughter, he dropped the pole and gave her a huge kiss on the cheeks. He whispered in her ear
“I still can’t believe you kept it a secret, not a word reached me.”

Constantine’s eldest son Wilhelm came up putting a hand on his father’s shoulder having overheard the whisper,

“It was not difficult father; you are so oblivious of what Cal was doing during the week it really was not that hard for her to organise”.

Constantine felt a pang of regret in that remark, he looked around at his children’s faces, Caroline as usual flushed with rosy cheeks and bubbly with excitement, Leopold his youngest son sitting astride his horse wasn’t he always on or near a horse, his face with so many of his late mothers features was a constant reminder of her and her beauty; finally Willy he was truly the strong one who held all in rein, he was tall and determined. There was a lot of Constantine in Wilhelm’s personality, determination and a strong work ethic, one day he will make a fine Herzog or maybe even King.

“Yes Willy you are right, and I am terribly sorry for being so neglectful this week, but terrible things are afoot and…”

“Enough father” scolded Caroline, “we don’t want to hear, we are here to have fun; so have some fun”.
Willy picked up the fishing pole and thrust it back into his father’s hands with that sympathetic smile the men of the family gave each other when Caroline started picking on them. ”

“Father you know if you don’t do as Cal says, she will get into a terrible funk and we will suffer for it”.

Caroline took a swing at Wilhelm but he ducked.

Constantine took the pole, realising there was little he could do but go with the flow, thus he allowed himself to be led down to the lake edge.

Standing there, with a glass of wine in hand was Caroline’s best friend and confident the Britannic Ambassador Lord Geoffrey Anders.  Lord Anders was the son of the Duke of Bedford one of Britannic’s greatest Generals and also one of Rechburg’s greatest supporters within the Britannic Parliament. Geoffrey as the family called him on unofficial occasions had started a career in the Britannic Kings Horse Guard but had lost an arm in the Battle of Grafton Mill in Gurania. Having to leave the army the Herzog had personally asked the Britannic Government if they could appoint Lord Anders as their Ambassador, an unusual request for a foreign Government but in this case and no doubt with considerable pressure from Duke Bedford and his supporters they agreed.

Geoffrey smiled as he was joined by Constantine
“Well Sire it seems we were both hijacked, I was led here because I was told you wished to see me, you are here under the guise of a fisherman it seems.”

Constantine returned the smile with a nod and then turned to Caroline, “Well my dear I see you told some toffy people,”  they all roared with laughter.
Caroline hooked her arms through her fathers and Lord Anders

“Father, Geoffrey is hardly toffy, Now come along papa, stop the chit chat, the fish will hear you”

She tugged Geoffrey on the arm,
“Geoffrey did you know that it is said that father has a gift when it comes to fishing, rumour has it that all he need to do is cast a line in the waters and fish will leap at it with gay abandon.”

Leopold now down from his horse and making his way to the group said

“Well actually Cal, the rumours if I remember came from father therefore, I suspect a little biased”.

“Maybe Leo” Wilhelm said “but now we will see. Have we been misled perchance does father have the Midas touch when it comes to fishing or is he merely another teller of fisherman tales”.

Constantine made to explain the vagaries of fathers little tales to his small children when Caroline pushed him closer to the edge

“Oh poofs, you two, now come let’s leave father to do some fishing, Leo could you go and tell Cook we will be ready for a meal shortly, and Willy come with me I want to talk with you”

Putting her arm through Wilhelm’s arm she led him over to several chairs near the rose gardens. The fragrance from the roses was still quite strong even this late of the season, though sadly most of the roses were past their best.

“Sit down Willy; I have something to tell you”

They both sat, and Caroline looked her brother in the face, she loved him dearly; he was always there for her and they seemed to enjoy an energy that bonded them close together. When they were children one would know how the other felt, if one was sick the other felt unwell, if one was sad; the other would be depressed.

“Willy” she said, just as her cheeks went red, “Willy, I want to marry Geoffrey”.

Wilhelm did a very good impression of how her father’s face must have appeared when he had been surprised not so long ago.  For a moment he too was stunned.

“Cal you must be joking, I mean you can’t…”

“Willy I can and I will, I have decided”

“No wait Cal, please just listen for a moment”.
Wilhelm paused and drew a deep breath and said,

“I know you and Geoff are good friends, good god cal we all love him; he is like another brother to me. But Cal there are so many reasons why you shouldn’t, no cannot marry him, but first tell me why?”

“Well I thought that was obvious” she pouted “I love him”.

“Cal you seem to love everybody these days, but you don’t necessarily have to marry them. Why only last year you were in love with Prince Bernhard and we all thought that was going to end in a marriage proposal, but as usual you fell out of love just as quick as you fell in.”

“Bernhard was a boy 15 years younger than me, I liked him, a lot but I could never marry him. I would never marry someone younger than me, I told you then and I am telling you now. Geoff is an older man, yes older than me by 10 years but that is what I love about him; he is older and mature.”

Wilhelm again drew a long breath, realising that this was going nowhere, when Caroline made up her mind nothing could move her, but he would try anyway.

“You know father expects us all to marry into other royal houses, marriages to strengthen Rechburg’s position in Europia. Geoffrey is a Lord admittedly but a marriage to him does nothing for Rechburg, he is not of royal blood.”

“Willy we both have had this discussion with father, and it was agreed we could marry whom we chose” Caroline said, perhaps showing a little anger that Willy was being obstructive.

“Cal, it was agreed we could marry whom we liked as long as they were royals, not just anyone.”

“Well I am not a chattel, and Geoffrey is not just anyone; he is the man I will marry. I will not be married off to some weak wristed over self indulgent royal, I will marry the man I choose and I choose Geoffrey, besides which Royal is left in Europia that would make a suitable match; no its Geoffrey”.

Wilhelm realised the futility of this argument, particularly when Caroline was like this, he would have to have a quiet word with father, he will know how to handle this.

“Cal I am not the one to convince, it is father” he said feeling rather defeated.

Caroline added “Father and Geoffrey”

Wilhelm looked at her incredulous “You are telling me Geoffrey doesn’t know about this yet?”

“No he doesn’t, and you will not say a word to father nor Geoffrey until I am ready, Geoffrey wants to marry me; but he will not ask because of the very reasons you just gave, so I need to gently prod him. Then I will deal with father”.

Wilhelm rose from his chair, “No Cal I will not say a word, but come on we better get back to the others, father is already getting restless.”
They both saw Constantine was standing at the lake edge talking to Geoffrey and several other guests, he was clearly oblivious to the fishing rod he was waving around.

As Caroline and Wilhelm made their way back to the others, through a gap in the trees Wilhelm saw a dispatch rider arriving at the palace; clearly he had been riding hard. He was met on the steps of the Palace by Colonel Natzmer, his father’s aide.
Pointing to the dispatch rider Wilhelm whispered in Caroline’s ear “That man is about to ruin your picnic”.

By the time Wilhelm and Caroline were back with the group everyone was aware that a dispatch rider had arrived, all were watching Colonel Natzmer has he walked towards them as fast as decency would allow; it was clear the message was of some urgency.
Constantine handed the rod to one of the servants and made his way to meet the Colonel Natzmer, clearly out of breath he handed the message to Constantine

“It is from Major Westerman Sire, he is with the 1st Uhlan regiment currently on Ulrichstein border duties”.

Constantine nodded to the Colonel and wandered slowly away from the group as he opened the message, it took only a few moments to read. Wilhelm knew it was bad news by the way he saw his father’s shoulders sag, his father turned and waved to him to come over.

Constantine looked at him and said
“It’s started again, its Ulrichstein the report says refugees are pouring across the border and there are reports of massacres of protestants inside Ulrichstein.”

By this time both Leopold and Caroline had made their way to their father and Wilhelm. Constantine explained the brief message and put his arms on Caroline’s shoulder,
“I am sorry my darling, but I must go; there is much to do.”
Caroline looked so disappointed, but knowing her father she had expected nothing less
“It is alright papa, I do understand and there will be other days; at least I hope there will be”.

Constantine made is way over to his guests, all of whom were watching and waiting to see how this intrusion would transpire.
Constantine said
“Friends I am sorry but I must leave our little gathering, Bishop der Plonk it seems has decided to purge Ulrichstein of Protestants, not merely to drive them out but to massacre them as well”
The gasps and shock was quite evident amongst the guests, many of whom will have had friends or relatives living in Western Ulrichstein.

Turning to Wilhelm, Leopold and Lord Anders
“Would you three be so kind as to come with me, Caroline my sweet could please help our guests continue with the picnic.”

With that the four men made their way to the palace.

 Once in the study they were joined by Colonel Natzmer and Lieutenant General Ernst Molyneaux the Chief of Staff.

Constantine made is way over to a large table, Colonel Natzmer was already in the process of laying out a map of Ulrichstein over the table, the corners being held down with ink pots.
Constantine began “Gentlemen you know why we are here, we have to discuss our options and come to a decision and do it quickly”.

Leopold was the first to speak; Constantine already had inkling of what was to come for his youngest son. Leo’s passion for the protestant faith was as well known as was his dislike of Catholics.
 “Father, there is little to discuss I would have thought, we have to send troops in and deal with that fat prick der Plonk”.
Wilhelm then spoke “I agree we need to do something, but we cannot just order troops into Ulrichstein, the main reason being most of our troops are in the process of settling into winter quarters, the snows will hit us in about 4-6 weeks and we assumed the risk of trouble was over”.

Leopold now rather excited
“Well you assumed wrong, and our brethren need us, not in 4 weeks time but right now”.

Constantine waved to Leopold
“Leo, calm your passions, I agree we have to do something, but the difficulty is doing enough of the right thing and not running of like a headless chicken.”

General Molyneaux spoke “Sire there is another complicating factor, we have reports that the Emperor is in Western Wartenburg with his army. The reports all indicated that they were there for maneuvers the Imperial army undertakes around  this time of the year, but these events and the fact that the Emperor is with the army does rather add another dimension to what now seems  now more than a coincidence”.

Constantine looked at the General
“Why the hell wasn’t I told the Emperor was in Wartenburg?”

“Sire the reports were sent on from my headquarters, we only got them at the end of the week; you should have had them by now.”

Constantine looked at Colonel Natzmer, who quickly walked over to the desk
“The reports are here sire, on your desk, I only received them yesterday and brought them in with all the other reports and clearly with all your responsibilities you have been too busy to read them yet.”

Constantine stood looking at the Colonel, then realised that the error was his own, there just didn’t seem enough hours in the day to read reports and govern Rechburg.
“Very well, bring them over here; I will need to see them now”

He turned to Lord Anders,
“Geoffrey what will the position of the Britannic Empire be on this matter?”

“Well sire I will clearly need to send for instructions, I can predict my Government will be not be pleased and I have no doubt Lord Heaphy our Ambassador to the Hapburgian Empire will already be protesting. But as far as Rechburg is concerned sire,  I fear it will take too long before I receive definite instructions and I doubt they will want to go to war over a small Bishopric in central Europia. If on the other hand Rechburg was attacked then have no doubt my Government will respond with immediate help”.

Leo butted in “I should bloody well hope so, considering you have several thousand of our troops away protecting your colonies”.
“Quiet Leo”, Constantine snapped rather annoyed at his son.

Constantine nodded his head and turned back to Geoffrey,
“Very well Geoffrey I would appreciate it if you would kindly get word away to your masters as quickly as possible, I will send word to you as to our response once we have determined a plan of action.”

Geoffrey nodded, took his hat from the side table and bowed
“Sire, I will have that message away within the hour, I should have a reply within the week”, he turned to the others and bowed to them all “gentleman, your highnesses” and then left.

Leopold sputtered “Good God, a week, by that time bloody der Plonk will have killed all our brethren; a whole bloody week before we hear and then how long before they act; presuming they do act.”

Wilhelm said “Leo it will take us at least a week to get some of our forces ready anyway, probably more like 2-3 weeks”.
Constantine was just finishing reading the intelligence report Colonel Natzmer had handed him, he was then handed another.
He looked at the Colonel “What is this?”

“It is report from Bergatonia sire, they haven’t put there army in winter quarters as of yet either, though the report does indicate some units are moving to them now”.

General Molyneaux said “Sire we cannot risk a war with the Empire, if Brittania does not stand by us we would simply be swamped, and if the Bergatonions are in on this then we are truly in a bad place”

Constantine went on to read the new report, he made is way back to his desk and slowly sat down, tossing both reports on the desk he sighed.
“Well this is a fine damn mess. If I don’t act and forego the pledge we gave at Kristinavale when we made the treaty, Rechburg’s word will never be worth the paper it is written on. If I do act I risk a winter war with the entire Hapburgian Empire and Ulrichstein on the one hand and Bergatonia and possibly the Iberians or Franconians on the other.”

He sat looking directly at Wilhelm
“Willy what do you recommend?”

Wilhelm made his way to the desk

“Father I have to believe either this has been planned for some time and that we and the Protestants in Ulrichstein are the victims of a grand alliance or as I believe it is a deck of cards and will fall over at the slightest touch.
Look at it realistically father, the Bishop leaves his move to the last possible moment. I mean even now winds are chilling dramatically, in another month the first winter storms will hit eastern Wartenburg. Even if the Emperor were to move now his whole army would take 2-3 weeks to reach Ulrichstein, that means he will not get his army back into winter quarters before the snows have arrived. That is unless of course he winters over in Ulrichstein itself, and knowing the food supply there I am picking that his army would suffer severely over a bad winter.  So I believe the Emperor was not aware the Bishop would move just now, the timing is good for the Bishop but the worst possible for the Emperor.”
Wilhelm walked over to his father’s desk gathering more of his thoughts.
“As for the Bergatonions I believe their delay is merely precautionary and as the report indicates they are just now beginning to move to winter quarters, I guess we will know by sure in the next report”.

Constantine watched his son make the report, he was pleased how quickly he had analyzed the situation and arrived at the same conclusions as he was considering.
“Excellent thank you Willy, Now Leo what do you think?”

“I cannot fault Willy’s assumptions father and I believe we have to accept that his conclusions are correct, however I believe there has to be a way we can out bluff the Bishop and met our requirements to the treaty whilst at the same time save our brethren in Ulrichstein. Can you all imagine the look on the Bishops face when he is told he is in a war and he will have to go to the Emperor cap in hand and explain why he must risk a winter war”.

“Thank you Leo” and looking at General Molyneaux he asked “What do you think Ernst?”

“I have to say sire I am very encouraged by the strategic conclusions off the two young Princes, it bodes well for Rechburg’s future.
My only fear is first that if we march we may force the Emperor to respond merely to protect his claim to Ulrichstein, it will matter little what our own real motives are. He will see a Rechburgian Army marching into Ulrichstein and he will conclude if he doesn’t act we may well take it over. A Rechburgian controlled Ulrichstein will be a stain on his honour as well as a considerable territorial loss.” The General added with a smile “We all know how prickly he is about his honour. So we have to be measured in our response and not go off on a wild tangent with our passions aroused”. Looking at Leo who he considered rather a hot head typical of young Princes these days, he then and then turned back to face Constantine.
“This is war, not a crusade so everything we do has to be measured, otherwise our motives will be totally misconstrued”.
The General slowly walked over to the Constantine’s desk. “Finally Sire there is Bergatonia. I am not convinced that it is just tardiness that is keeping their army from winter quarters, I believe knowing full well how many spies that mad bastard Duke Rupert has in Ulrichstein he is probably very aware of what the Bishop is planning, why our own Chancellor Bernstein and his spies have suggested in his reports that he believes that the countess that the Bishop keeps in tow is actually a Bergatonian spy. So I have a mind to believe the mad Duke will wait until we respond in Ulrichstein and then he will strike at us in the back, if we don’t respond to save the Protestants he will quietly go to winter quarters but knowing we have lost a huge amount of prestige for not reacting in Ulrichstein. To him even our loss of prestige would be a victory”.

Constantine rose from his chair, he walked slowly over to the window, down below he could see the guests were finally leaving, there was no sign of Caroline but he assumed she was likely in the Palace somewhere by now.
He walked from the window over to where the map was spread out; he stood there absent mindedly tapping his finger on the map edge.

“Hmmm well I am also of a mind that der Plonk is acting without the Emperors knowledge. I know the Hapburgians are only now just recovering from their war with the Tsarist Empire, I doubt very much they can afford another war right now, especially a winter one. Remember if they go to war against us they will also end up in a war against Pomonia and Flensburg, possibly even the Britannic Empire that is if that fat King can get his arse off the throne and do something positive. I doubt anyone except der Plonk wants a war for fear of the escalation.”

He turned, looking at Willy for a moment and then returned to tapping the map

“Well one thing is certain, we have to act, but it has to be in a way that everyone can see we are responding to the conditions of the treaty and not trying to take over Ulrichstein, so that means we must strike with a smaller force than I would wish, but large enough to defend itself if attacked.
The priority will be to try and reclaim the protestant areas and no more, but if things go badly the next priority is to get as many Protestants back over the border unmolested by der Plonk’s thugs.
As for the Bergatonions we are going to have to take a gamble, I will delay putting the troops into winter quarters for late as possible and we will move troops to their border, but if they do attack let there be no mistake we will be in trouble.”

Constantine sat looking at the men before him, considering his options

“Willy I am putting you in command in Ulrichstein. I know this is your first command but I believe son you are ready”.

Leo interrupted, “Please father let me go with Willy, I want to help our brethren as well”.

“No Leo, you are going down to the Bergatonia border, you are going to drag your tail all over the country and try to make it look as if we are concentrating the army. I will send you some militia but Leo let me make it plain; you are not to cross the border, not one man. You will watch and observe and make it appear you are stronger than you actually are.

Looking at General Molyneaux, “Ernst we will need to prepare for a winter campaign, just in case and if  things go from bad to worse and we have to fight a full campaign, you will take command. For now I need you to make the preparations for both a winter war and for logistics to Ulrichstein”.

Looking back at Willy he went over to him, taking him by the elbow he led him to the map

“Willy are you up to this, I can send Ernst if you feel you are not ready yet”.
Wilhelm replied without hesitation, “Father I am ready, and I can do this”.
“Good, good I knew I could rely on you my boy. Now you will be in command of a smaller force than we really need to send, I pray and hope it is enough, but if things are too bad you are to withdraw back towards Rechburg screening the army concentration and then place yourself under General Molyneaux is that clear.”

“Perfectly father, but there is so much to organise will we have time”.

“No we don’t have any time, we are already to late for some. That is why I am sending you out tomorrow, you will go directly to the border and discuss things with Major Westerman. He is to hand over his command to his second and he will join you as your second in command. You will take command of the border forces until your own command arrives which should be a few days after you arrive there. When you move Willy  you will need to strike quickly, hit hard but remember do not go into Catholic territory. You are there to either protect the Protestants or escort out those who wish to leave”.

“What if I run into the Imperial forces” Wilhelm asked.

“Willy I will have your orders ready later this evening, we will discuss the details then, but for now if the Emperor is in Protestant territory and you meet his forces you will need to make your own judgments, if he is strong retreat, if there are only a few stand your ground”.

“But father if I stand my ground we will risk a full blown war”

“Yes Willy and if it is war then I would rather fight it in Ulrichstein than Rechburg, there can be no half measures and we cannot cover every eventuality. There is much at risk here son, and you are learning that being a ruler everything you do and think comes with unforeseen risks.”

Wilhelm looked over his shoulders towards Leo who was in discussions with General Molyneaux and Colonel Natzmer.
“And if it is war, what of Bergatonia, we don’t have enough strength to fight on two fronts”

Constantine put his hand on Wilhelm’s shoulder
“Willy you take care of the Bishop, I will worry about the mad Duke”.

Constantine took his sons hand and shook it, he slapped him on the shoulder and whispered, “I am so proud of you Willy.”

Constantine turned to the others, “Gentleman we have work to do, so Willy and Leo go get yourselves ready; you both will be away by early morning, we will talk more this evening”.

His two sons both bowed and left the room, Constantine looked rather mournfully after them.
General Molyneaux noticed the concern on Constantine’s face, realising sending two sons to war for the first time was difficult for any father; he said
“They are fine sons and officer’s sire, you raised them very well and both are have are well trained. They will do just fine Sire.”

Constantine nodded, “Yes I suppose you are right, but I worry for Wilhelm because we are sending him to a war totally ill prepared and against an enemy that may outnumber him 10:1. That is difficult for any commander, but for one with little or no experience it is a huge risk.”

He stood watching the door for a few moments, then turned and went back to his desk

“Right Gentlemen, we need plans”.


Chapter 2 - New Madrid Capital of the Duchy of Bergatonia.

“You are incompetent fool, I should have you hung from the gallows, my god if I didn’t know you were a bloody idiot I would say you were a treasonous scum, you aren’t  treasonous scum are you General?”
Duke Rupert was almost lathering at the mouth, picking up the ink pot on his desk he threw it at General Guizot in complete frustration, the General quite experienced at the Dukes furies  managed to duck the flying ink pot, turning only briefly to see it crash onto the floor behind him; the trail of ink leaving a pathway of its ill aimed flight.

“No sire I…..”

“Don’t you dare answer me back you traitor, just tell me; what the bloody hell do you intend to do now”
“Well sire our options …..”
“Our options general are nil, do you hear me you bloody incompetent fool, absolutely bloody nil. Good god man you have sabotaged years of planning and preparations”.

“Sire it is not too late I can bring the troops out of winter quarters, it would only be a matter of weeks.” The general quickly added hoping to prevent the next missile being better aimed.
“General you have just placed my army in winter quarters, which means the supply wagons are empty, the ammunition is stored and the troops spread out all over my bloody country and you did this because you are an incompetent idiot or worse a traitor.”

“What are you Guizot?” asked Duke Rupert.

“I believe Sire you said I was an idiot earlier on.”

“Yes quite right and I am glad to hear I’m not the only one who knows that”

“Now get out of my sight Guizot”

“But Sire what about the Rechburg… should we ……”

“What we should do you low life traitorous scum is attack them while they are busy in Ulrichstein, but no because you have put my army in winter quarters I can only stand on the borders and wave them good on their way, now get out of my sight”

The general bowed and quickly made for the door, just making it through and in the process of closing it before he heard a loud crash against the door, looking at the guard at the door he nodded with an embarrassed smile.

“Paper weight”

The Guard merely nodded; after all it was a common occurrence.

Duke Rupert sat back down in his seat, elbows on the desk, head resting in his hands.
He could not believe it, for years he had patiently waited for this very moment, for Rechburg to become committed in a war on another border, too committed to respond to a Bergatonian offensive effectively.
All those years of patient waiting, planning and scheming just to see it pass because his troops were placed in winter quarters.
“Dammit it” he yelled to a empty office, “Every other bloody army is out getting ready for war and what’s mine doing, bloody well sleeping in their barracks.” He again muttered incomprehensible obscenities to the empty office.

He stood up, made his way to the window, stood there hands behind his back, he then slammed the wall beside the French doors in utter frustration. Duke Rupert turned swiftly and stomped his way to the door, opened it  stormed through, once in the hall way he turned to one of the guards.
“Are you capable of understanding a simple order” he asked.
“Yes Sire” the Guard replied.
“Excellent, go find Schaeffer for me and send the officer of the day to me, immediately”
The Guard saluted and quickly marched away, Duke Rupert turned to the Guard on the other side of the doorway, looked him up and down and snorted “Bloody useless” and stormed back into his office.

A few minutes later a captain of the Ducal Guard, knocked on the door and entered, he walked in, avoiding the paper weight, ink pot and ink trail over the floor he approached the desk, saluted and bowed.
“You asked for me Sire”.
“Of course I asked for you, do you think I’m in the habit of having people wandering in and out of here, does this room look like a reception hall captain”
“No sire, it most certainly does not” the captain replied, completely understanding that his Duke was having one of those days.
“You know captain you may very well be the only officer in my bloody army that actually knows where he is and what he is doing.”
The Duke made his way to a side table; he paused and turned to the Captain.
“Well man what is it, why are you here?”
The Captain replied “You asked for me sire.”
“What, why would I do that?” he asked
Then he remembered, “Ahh yes, that’s right, Captain you are to arrest General Guizot for treason take him out and have him shot”
“Treason Sire, shoot him sire” the Captain repeated, then realising he best get out of the office and do as he was instructed before he too was stood at the wall; “Yes sire of course I will do it now”.

Just then there was a knock on the door.
The Duke looked from the Captain to the door
“Good bloody god, this is getting more like a bloody reception room every bloody day, damned people wandering in and out, alright captain you may go”

Minister Schaeffer entered the room, he neatly avoided the fleeing captain, the ink pot and paper weight on the floor.
“Ahhh Schaeffer at last someone who has a modicum of intellect”
“Thank you Sire,” Minister Schaeffer replied. “You asked for me Sire how may I be of help to you.”
The Duke returned to his desk having just poured himself a small brandy, he placed the glass on the table and quietly sat down.

“Have you heard the news Schaeffer, the Rechburgians and the Emperor are likely to go to war; what’s even more delicious it will be a winter war, excellent stuff eh Schaeffer, excellent stuff indeed”.
“It is good news indeed sire, and might I say sire I think it was most cunning of you to place our troops in winter quarters, it means come next spring you and your army being quite fresh will merely have to crush a very weakened Rechburg border guard. Obviously they won’t have much of an army left after a winter campaign. It is inspirational thinking indeed sire, most cunning.”

The Duke quietly drank his brandy, and then with a smiled he eased himself back in his chair.

“Take a seat Schaeffer.”

The Minister slowly sat himself down.
“You know Schaeffer you may be the only one here to understand my plan, you are right of course and I should have known you would see through my plans, winter quarters indeed was the way to go ehhhh Schaeffer.”

He was about to take another drink of the brandy before he realised his glass was empty, the Minister seeing this asked
“May I get you a glass of brandy sire?”
“Yes, thank you Schaeffer, I would like that.”

The minister rose from his chair, collected the Dukes glass and made his way to the side table. Returning moments later he placed the glass on the table and made his way back to his own seat.

“Sire I have a question if I may.”
“What is Schaeffer”?
“Earlier this year you asked me to prepare an operation to assassinate the Herzog, is that operation still going ahead sire?”
“Good Grief, what kill my father, hah Schaeffer good god yes, I like, indeed I do”.
“Well sire that particular operation may not be possible at the moment, we are still working on it; putting the pieces in play so to speak Sire.  However sire, an opportunity has just presented itself to us and I was wondering knowing your unique ability to develop cunning plans whether we should develop this new opportunity further.”

The Duke eased himself forward on his chair, sliding the now empty glass to the side and with a smile he said in a softened voice.
“Yes, Schaeffer, we must work on this plan, indeed we must”

Minister Schaeffer smiled, he knew his Duke.
The Duke slid his chair back, placed his feet up on the desk, hands up behind  his head, the smile on his face revealing his pleasure with knowing secrets, then the smile slowly disappeared and the feet came down from the desk, the arms unfolded and Minister Schaeffer waited.
“Schaeffer, this plan I am working on, what exactly is it about again, you must remind me.”

At last I have him Minister Schaeffer thought to himself.
“Well sire it has come to my eerr our knowledge that the Prince Leopold, that is your youngest step brother has been placed as commander of the Rechburg forces on your border Sire”.
The Duke smiled “Indeed he has, yes you are quite correct,” even though this was news to him.
“Indeed Sire and knowing your desire to strike a severe blow at the Rechburgians I immediately saw that you knew this, after all I reasoned to myself why would the army go into winter quarters if it wasn’t to lull the Rechburgians into a false sense of security.”

The Duke rubbed his hands together, smile the smile of the innocent,
“Haaa Quite right Schaeffer, I cannot pull one across your eyes can I, no you are far too clever.” The duke sat watching his first minister.
“Indeed Schaeffer, you are of course correct, and now that I have fooled them it is obvious I should be ready to spring my trap, yes”
“Oh Sire indeed you should and knowing this I was wondering if we should now pull a small number of troops quietly out of winter quarters and use them immediately. After all sire the Rechburgian spies will have reported your army has withdrawn to barracks for the winter, I doubt anyone will be watching if we were to quietly sneak a few away”.

The Duke was now up on his feet once more, this time he walked around the desk, stood beside his Minister and whispered in his ear.
“Schaeffer you far to cunning for me, I simply cannot sneak anything past you. Indeed, indeed, indeed. So I sneak some units out and the Rechburgians will never know, haaaa; we will surprise them won't we Schaeffer, oh this will be delicious.”

Then a problem occurred to the Duke, he wondered how this marvelous plan of his was going to unfold.
"This plan of mine Schaeffer did I explain how it was to unfold?' 
“Indeed sire, it was brilliant in concept, I believe you indicated, we use certain units namely the 1st brigade to launch a surprise raid on Leopold’s headquarters, capture him and whisk him back across the border, or at least arrange it so he had an accident, perhaps while he was escaping."

The Duke burst out laughing, he slapped Schaeffer on the shoulder,
“Yes, yes I like it, that's right Schaeffer, odd how I often forget some of my more interesting plans. I would love to see that young fool Leopold on his knees before me, just before I ripped his bloody stupid head of his shoulders, you know Schaeffer what I would do then.”
The Minister rose from the Chair to watch his Duke was now pacing back and for rather animated, his arms swinging, face full with a smile, “What would you do Sire?” the minister asked.
“I will place Leopold’s head on a pole outside the Palace gates, indeed; right outside there on the gates”.

Schaeffer doubting the wisdom of having a dried withering head decorating the palace gates was in the best interests of diplomacy, let alone decency but he decided that was another bridge to cross when the time came.

“So my friend” Duke Rupert said” here we are on the brink of a great adventure, so tell me Schaeffer what do you think of my plan.”
“Oh Sire, I stand before you humbled knowing I am in the presence of one with a mind as inspirational and cunning as yours sire, I dare say sire you will have already embarked on the next step”

The Duke was walking back to the desk; he scooped the empty glass from it and made his way to the side table once more. He poured another small brandy and then turned to face the minister.
“You know Schaeffer you must not feel too badly, I know sometimes you feel a little out of step when I divulge my great plans, but in truth my dear friend you are the only one around me who has even the remotest idea of how sharp my mind really is. I am always working Schaeffer, I am scheming, I am planning. You know I see plans within plans, sometime I feel so constrained in this body, my mind and intellect far superior to what this body offers and is capable off. You know Schaeffer I have so many plans and idea racing through my mind, sometimes I forget the details. The burden I suppose of genius.”

Minister Schaeffer realised it was time to bring his Duke back to earth before his great mind started wandering off elsewhere.
“Indeed sire I stand in awe before such intellect, but I beg your indulgence sire and ask that you tell me your mere servant what we should do next”
The Duke returned to the desk, placed the drink on the desk and then walked over to a map and looked at it, for a few moments.
“Yes I am sorry Schaeffer you are quite right, how could I expect you to keep up with the pace and brilliance of my mind. Well my friend here is what we are going to do,” the duke stood at the map looking at it as if an inspirational idea was to leap out from it.

Minister Schaeffer rose from his chair, and joined the Duke who seemed to have slipped into a quiet stupor in front of the map.
“So Sire I expect General Guizot has been ordered to bring the 1st brigade out from winter quarters and placed them near border”
The Duke stood still looking at the map, almost in a slumber; he was jolted by the rattle of musketry fire from outside the Palace.
Minister Schaeffer leapt back with a fright, “Good God what the hell was that?” he asked.
Duke Rupert also shook, the noise of the musketry seemed to have snapped him back to where he was, he looked at his minister who was while still visibly shaken had rushed to the window but was unable to see where the musketry fire came from.

The Duke made his way back to the desk.
“Ahhh my friend I fear we may need a new Chief of Staff, do you have any suggestions”
Minister Schaeffer finally realising what had just transpired.
“If I may ask Sire, why have we just shot our Chief of Staff” asking in almost disbelief.
The Duke sat down, elbows on desk, head in his hands.
“I am very tired Schaeffer, I want you to find a new Chief of staff and get him to work on the plans that I have just explained to you”

Minister Schaeffer realised that the interview was over, but he was quite satisfied with how it had gone, well that was with exception of losing the man who had originally thought of the scheme; General Guizot.

You poor old fool, you just were never quick enough on your feet to avoid or re direct the Dukes fury.

“Indeed sire I will see who Is suitable as Chief of Staff and direct them to follow your plans”.

The Duke still with his head in his hands simply waved the minster away.
As the minister slowly made his way to the door, Duke Rupert wondered at the stupidity of some people, how the hell could that stupid bloody officer of the day just take the General out and shoot him, never even a courts martial. I am surrounded by incompetent fools; obviously the man is a bloody traitor. Who in their right mind arrests a good man like Guizot and shoots him all in the same afternoon. The Duke looked up just as the door closed, the minister having left.
The Minister stood beside the door for a moment, seconds later there was the sound of glass smashing against the door, he whispered to no one in particular
“Brandy glass”.


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)

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

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 and 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 who a few moments before had been quietly dozing 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 quickly put her own gown  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, in fact 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 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 countryside 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?”
“We were not expecting you Sire, 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 turned once more 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 off 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 to 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,
“Indeed Sire, Colonel Sully commanding officer of the Diocese Guard, Might I say sire that 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”.


Chapter 4 - The Bergatonian war

Chapter 4 - The Bergatonian war

For Prince Leopold this had to be the greatest day of his  life, to ride out of Albany at the head of Rechburg’s own Guard cavalry brigade. To have seen the pride in his father’s eyes was to Leopold worth far more than all the frustrations in the years he had spent learning and training how to command. As his father had pointed out “This is your time Leopold, I know you can make me proud of you; I know you can do this thing.”

Prince Leopold knew his command was only a secondary command to the true offensive in Ulrichstein but to the survival of the Herzogtum it was vital that Bergatonia remain at peace and that would only occur by a Rechburgian show of strength. Essentially all that was required was for Leopold and the 3 Guard Cavalry regiments to ride south from Albany to Pendalcost, once there to join up with the Militia Brigades that will be concentrating there and then to create the impression that the Rechburg army is guarding the southern or Bergatonian border in considerable strength.
It was nearing winter so no one expects the Bergatonian to be so rash as to try anything while the regular Rechburg army was away, this was simply a precautionary move and Leopold assumed his father approved of Leopold commanding on the basis all he had to do was march up and down the border for a few weeks.

 It had only taken Leopold and his Cavalry Brigade 2 days to ride south to Pendalcost and when he rode over the crest of Laughleys ridge on the northern outskirts of the town he saw sprawled below him and surrounding  the town there were literally thousands of tents and military paraphernalia.
Riding beside Leopold was Lieutenant General Ernst Molyneaux  Leopold’s second in command and defacto advisor, he was a veteran of many wars and no stranger to campaigning for his Herzog, when he saw the militia encampment he just whispered loud enough for Leopold to hear.
“Good bloody God what a damned abominable whorehouse”.

Leopold pulled over to the side of the road, he glanced behind and as far as he could see the Guard was still in perfect formation and all coming to a halt, Leopold leaned over towards General Molyneaux.

“Well Ernst you have 3 days to whip them into shape and then I am moving to the border.”

General Molyneaux simply grunted,
“It’s not the men sire, for Militia they are damned good men, many of them old soldiers I have commanded many times, and if you can’t have regular soldiers I would take Rechburg militia any day, nah its not them.”
He pointed to a rider approaching up the slope from the town,
“The problem Sire, is the like of him.”

Leopold asked “Whom might he be.”
“That Sire is “Colonel Sir Sidney Gentz, late of the Britannic army. It is said he left Britannia just in time before he was shot by his men, I have no idea why your father agreed to employ him sire, but that specimen there is as a big a bloody idiot as you would ever hope to see.”

Leopold nodded “Well we will have to watch him closely won’t YOU Ernst”.
“You can guarantee I will do that sire, him and the other bloody idiot we have for brigade commander is Colonel Antoine Goethe, at least Goethe is Rechburgian and has some fight in him; if nothing he is just a little uncouth.”

“Well uncouth I can live with, as long as he knows his business,” remarked Leopold.
“He does that Sire, just a bit slow in thinking and foul speaking, but his men love him, aye I will give him that.”

Colonel Gentz finally arrived to join Leopold and General Molyneaux,

“Greetings Sire, it is indeed a pleasure to see you this far south, indeed it is. In fact just a few nights ago I remarked to Lady Ambleside that we don’t see the Royal family down here, pon my soul we don’t.”

“Yes Sir Sidney, you are right, it is one of my father’s greatest regrets that he does not get the opportunity to get away as much as he used too.”

Sir Andrew nodded to General Molyneaux
“Greetings to you General, still able to stay in the saddle I see, truly remarkable, pon my soul sir it is.”

General Molyneaux growled a snarl but before he could respond Leopold interrupted,
“Well I have mind to ride down and see for myself this army I have been given to command”.

Sir Sidney answered “Well sire I hope your expectations are not too great, that rabble down yonder is not really a true army, not like the men I used to command back in the days when we really commanded real soldiers.”

General Molyneaux grunted “Aye those will be the real soldiers these men below whipped in Gurania I expect”

Leopold decided not to stay and listen to the two men banter, he simply rode on leaving Molyneaux and Gentz to follow along behind.
As they rode through the northern outskirts of the town Leopold passed the first of the militia, the men were cherry enough and Leopold noted that though they looked older than the regulars he commanded, despite  their appearance which was noticeably a little disheveled at least their equipment was in first class order.
The men cheered the Prince, some nodded, and others bowed while a few saluted, but as he rode through the town without a doubt they were all cheering; one thing was clear  their morale was exceptional Leopold thought to himself.
Turning back on his horse  to face General Molyneaux, Leopold with a huge smile on his face said,
“They will do Ernst, they will do”.
He looked at Colonel Gentz,
“Your men are in fine spirits Colonel.”
 Gentz replied
“These ruffians are not my men Sire, pon my soul if my men yell and cheer as this mob does I would see the bones on their backs I would.”

Leopold pulled the horse up and leant over in his saddle so only Colonel Gentz and Molyneaux could hear
“I will have no un-necessary lashes in my army do you hear me Sir Sidney. These men are militia, they may be ruffians to you but you only have to look at them to know they know how to fight, beat them unfairly general; and you will beat the fight right out of them.”
Having said that Leopold turned his horse once more and rode on.

Colonel Gentz growled “Pon my soul General Molyneaux, that was decidedly uncalled for, what.”

General Molyneaux smiled at the discomfited Gentz he added as he rode away.
“Thems Interesting days ahead Sir Sidney, interesting days indeed.”
He too rode on with the broadest smile.

It took Prince Leopold another two days to finally get his army fully concentrated and Leopold wasn’t surprised to learn it was Colonel Gentz units that were the last to arrive. Using the delay Leopold ensured the men were well supplied and feed.
The Albany Uhlans were out on border patrols while the jaegers were on piquet duty around the entire encampment. Reports came in of a buildup in Bergatonia just across the border, but that in itself was not surprising considering Leopold was here with a concentration of his own.

Leopold had been quartered in the Estate of Baron von Mansfield, it was perhaps the most comfortable quarters available and Leopold felt ill at ease because of it. He would rather his men could see him roughing it as they had too, however he pondered to himself he had to learn that each to their own and Generals and leaders did not rough it unnecessarily.
 He had available 9 militia battalions, 3 Guard cavalry Regiments and 2 artillery batteries or approximately 7,000 men, it was not a large force however  he knew it was enough to do what his father had required of him.
Leopold had learnt another lesson, generals should not go to war without secretaries, he just spent too much time writing out orders and doing mundane tasks.
Having just finished and feeling somewhat dreary with all the paper work he thought that he may take a stroll out onto the court yard, just to refreshen himself. The day was bitterly cold, with the first of the sleety rains upon them, Leopold shuddered in the brisk chill and all of a sudden realised that he was now quite glad he was not roughing it with his men.

He had just walked back inside and was about to talk with General Molyneaux who was waiting in the foyer for his young commander when a courier burst through the door. He was a young Uhlan, obviously he had ridden fast and hard, his face red with being lashed by the icy rain, his uniform and cloak saturated.

General Molyneaux strode up to the courier, who came to a sliding halt and saluted the general, handing him the dispatch.
General Molyneaux scowled at the young man, “That was no way to present yourself in the Royal presence nor to senior commanders, what the hell is this army coming too”. The young officer went even redder in the cheeks and said
“Sorry Sir it wont happen again”.
General Molyneaux quickly opened message he quickly read the contents and smartly handed it too Leopold.

From Lieutenant Karl Meyer, 1st troops second squadron Albany hussars.
This morning a large Bergatonian force crossed the border south of Pendalcost, I estimate a force of around 8-9000 men and seems to include a full Infantry Division, 3 Cavalry Regiments with considerable artillery support.
At their current rate of progress I estimate they will be in Pendalcost by Dawn tomorrow.
I am continuing to screen and probe until I receive further orders.
A deserter has told us that Duke Rupert rides with them.

Lieutenant Karl Meyer.

Leopold looked up at General Molyneaux smiling,
“Well Ernst it looks like we will get to see some action after all, damn beating a full Division of Bergatonian regulars now that will look impressive in the papers back in Albany, but beating the mad Duke now that will be a boast I will gladly hammer home to poor old Willy who just gets to take on a crazy Bishop.”

“Aye Sire, it would, except we have to beat them first don’t you think.”

Leopold slapped the old General on the shoulder,
“Good God Ernst, all I have to do is show them your grizzly old face and have a few of your old comrades out there standing behind you and those damned Bergatonions will be running home looking for their mothers teats, Huzzah we ride to war”.

General Molyneaux shook his head in wonderment at his young Prince, The innocence of the young, god bless him his ignorance… and protect us from it.

It only took a few hours to get the army formed up and ready to move, further dispatch riders had come back reporting  further progress of the enemy advance, it seemed incredibly slow, a fact Leopold and general Molyneaux were grateful for.

In discussions with the two Militia Colonels  Sir Sidney and Gothe both of whom knew the area well it was decided that the Rechburgians would meet the Bergatonions at the hamlet of Briel just a few miles south of Pendalcost.

The Battle

The day dawned crisp and clear, the rain had passed but the chill remained. Leopold had woken well before daylight and had wandered the camp talking with a few of his men who could not sleep. They made him feel proud, and a little daunted because he knew that if they could see how nervous he really felt their confidence would be more than a little diminished.
Once the day dawned properly he along with General Molyneaux and the two brigade Colonels rode out to a small hill locally known as Pepper ridge, it was just a few hundred yards behind the small hamlet of Briel.
From its summit they could see that the enemy camp was largely hidden by the two slopes to the North east and north west, the North eastern slope Leopold now knew was called Pearce’s ridge the other pointing like a long finger directly at Briel hamlet was named after the hamlet. At the foot of Briel ridge was a large building that looked like it had once been a chateaux but was now in some ruin.
Leopold could see the Bergatonions had established two heavy batteries on Pearce’s ridge along with 3 light cavalry Regiments, he also saw 2 or 3 Infantry battalions, obviously supporting the artillery. The bulk of the Bergatonian Infantry were now in the process of forming up, mainly on the road that ran down the valley between Pearce’s ridge and Briel ridge.

Leopold looked back at his own army, he had been assured by General Molyneaux that if put his Militia in good defensive positions they would stay there no matter what. The Militia commanders had by now both returned to their units to ready them for the coming battle.
The Rechburgians had not camped overnight in the Briel Hamlet, that was occupied by piquet’s during the dark, the Rechburg encampment had been just a mile or so behind Pepper ridge. As Leopold looked down from the ridge he could now see the 4th Militia Brigade was forming up to the south side of the Hamlet. The 5th Militia Brigade was forming on his right behind Samuels Woods and Colliers woods both densely wooded areas.

Leopold had decided to defend the centre and Right, the three Guard cavalry regiments would cover the left, he felt the enemy seeing the Guard Cavalry over on the left would hopefully intimidate the Bergatonian cavalry commander and prevent him from moving out that way. Even now he could see the early morning sun reflecting off the Guard Cuirassiers armour. They remained out of range of the heavy artillery for now.

The Battle opened at 9:45am, Leopold had expected a sudden bombardment from the artillery, but instead there had been just 3 shots which obviously signaled the beginning of the battle, the bombardment followed shortly after that signal.

The Bergatonian 1st Brigade was 5 Battalions strong; its objective clearly was first to clear and hold the hamlet of Briel, this move surprised both Leopold and General Molyneaux because it was the Rechburgian Centre that was strongest point of their line, the hamlet was also covered by the two artillery batteries placed on the hills behind.

The Rechburg 4th Militia Brigade consisted of 6 battalions each 700 men strong its commander Colonel Antoine Gothe  had as been instructed sent the 8th Regiment into the Hamlet, the 15th Battalion of that Regiment occupying the buildings and the 16th moving in behind the stout hedgerows that ran parallel with the road that ran east or west through Briel.
The 9th  “Smiegel” Regiment with 17th and 18th battalions formed in line behind the hamlet ready to reinforce either the town itself or the hedgerows where the 16th battalion was currently placed.
The remaining 10th Regiment was further back directly behind the 9th Regiment.

Prince Leopold sat astride his horse on PepperPeak, the artillery battery just to his left was already engaging the Bergatonions that were moving south past the ruined chateau.
General Molyneaux pulled his horse up beside Leopold’s,
“I have no idea what they are doing, why are they attacking straight at our strongest point.”
Leopold pointed to southern slopes of Briel ridge, “There’s your answer.”
The General raised his glass and through it he could see a rather agitated man waving his arms all about.
General Molyneaux smiled, “Good God the mad Duke himself is here”.
 “Who is that General with him” Leopold asked.
“Lumsdorf” General Molyneaux replied, “he is without a doubt one of the best military minds in Bergatonia.”

He watched as the Mad Duke seemingly was still yelling at the general and his aides,
“Well he may be one of their best generals but is clearly he not in command over there”.

The Rechburg artillery  on Peppers Ridge engage the Bergatonian Jaegers, the Hamlet of Briel can be seen in the left foreground.

Meanwhile the Bergatonian Battalions of their 1st brigade were still advancing towards Briel; equally they were taking horrendous casualties from both Rechburgian Batteries with each step they took. Every time the artillery fired Leopold would see entire rows of men fall to the ricocheting cannon balls. Now the 15th  Battalion in the Hamlet and the 16th battalion behind the hedge were firing , the leading Bergatonian battalion shook visibly as they were pounded by the combined fire until it all became too much and they broke, not in a rout but they certainly withdrew is some disorder.
The Battalion behind seeing the leading battalion fall back  also stopped and then started moving back in disorder as well.
The Bergatonions attacked with several more battalions, none were successful and in each occasion they suffered considerable casualties, each time they pulled back to recover and when they did the Rechburg `artillery resumed pounding them.
The 16th battalion which had occupied the southern row of hedgerows along the roadside now leaped over the hedge and occupied the next hedgerow on the other side of the road, all the while keeping the fire on the Bergatonions.

Leopold turned to his right and instructed one of his aides,
“Tell Colonel Gentz of the 5th it is time for him to move, his objective is the ruined Chateau.”
The young Lieutenant wearing a red sash indicating he was one of the Princes aides and he therefore spoke with the authority of the prince rode his horse down the slopes i an expert manner heading for the 5th Brigade.

Leopold looked out to his left, he was wondering why the other Bergatonian artillery Battery was only firing intermittently, he saw the answer. Brigade General Groen Printserer the commander of the Guard cavalry was slowly edging the guard Cavalry around the Bergatonian right flank, ensuring all the while he was just far enough out of range from the guns but close enough to threaten them, every time the Bergatonian guns turned back to fire on the Rechburgian Infantry the Cavalry would move thus forcing the gunners to respond the possible threat. This cat and mouse game was clearly favouring the Rechburgians.
Leopold remarked:. “It seems General Printserer is having an enjoyable time.”
General Molyneaux had also been watching the cat and mouse game, “General Printserer is a good man, he will keep that lot busy, see even the Bergatonian cavalry don’t want to mix with the Guard and those Infantry behind the guns will go to square the moment Printserer moves, so he is tying up their entire flank over there, Good man indeed.”
Their observations to the left were interrupted by an enormous clamour to their front, quickly turning they saw 2 Bergatonian Battalions smash into the 16th battalion. The 16th defending the hedgerow fought back and finally broke the two battalions.
To the rear of the 16th,  the 18th battalion had moved up to towards the Hedgerow the 16th battalion had originally occupied, but now that the Bergatonions had pulled back far enough from the Rechburg line their heavy artillery started firing down upon them, this time with accurate fire. The 16th started losing men and were becoming shaken so Colonel Goethe ordered them to the rear and moved the 18th Battalion up to take their place in the front line. The enemy artillery fire continued but now once more slackened as the Rechburg cavalry had threatened to move.
 “That damned 12pdr battery is doing filthy work Ernst.” Leopold noted.
“Aye sire but it won’t last much longer now, that Bergatonian Brigade is bloody well shot up, Goethe is an unruly bloody Colonel but by God he and his men know how to fight.”

From the Bergatonian side.

Duke Rupert had ridden at the head of his army, it was after all only befitting that he as gods instrument should be the one to hurl death and destruction at the Rechburgians. Part of the Dukes ambition for this sudden invasion was partly to rid Europia of another heretical ruling house, but it was also to seek revenge against his natural father who had spurned him as a child and thrust him out into the world. Unwanted and alone his mother had sold herself in marriage to his stepfather Duke Franz of Bergatonia who was a cold and bitter man. Of course Rupert realised his mother was no better than that heretic Herzog, she was  a whore who betrayed her class, station and religion to bed with a protestant, well she was well taken care of now; she was constrained to roam the Schloss Palace as a virtual house prisoner as she had done for many years.
So now here he was, without a doubt pinnacle time of his life, admittedly it was sooner than expected and perhaps not the right time but god had created the opportunity to smash the heretic and now Rupert would be Gods instrument.

It was fitting that the Herzog had created the opportunity by sending his army into neighbouring Ulrichstein thus leaving southern Rechburg clear of any real opposition. Of course there were militia, but they were not a problem to his army, they were not real soldiers.
General Lumsdorf and that whining Baron Schaeffer both had been constantly irritating him with problems and reasons why they shouldn't invade. According to them it was either too soon, not enough time to prepare, too late in the year and winter was coming; the objections just came and went like water on a ducks back. For all the reasons why he shouldn't invade they also applied to Rechburg, thus if his army has not had time to prepare then Rechburg’s will not either. If the winter was an issue for his army, it was doubly so for the armed Rechburg farmers and peasants calling themselves militia. No this was his time god created and in all things he was proudly god’s instrument.

The progress of the army had been very slow, much slowly than the Duke liked. He had threatened and cajoled General Lumsdorf to move quicker, but the issue was the collection of wagons in the baggage train, they were simply so ill prepared for this operation that they broke down or were so slow. The bullocks pulling the carts and wagons just seemed to crawl across the Rechburgian border.
On crossing the border the scouts had reported seeing Uhlan patrols, naturally General Lumsdorf took this as evidence that elements of the Rechburg army were already on the border. However as Duke Rupert told him "he had expected this", in fact it was because his agents warned him that Prince Leopold would be in the area with Cavalry that initially he had intended to raid into southern Rechburg to take or kill the Prince, but when news arrived that the Rechburg regulars had gone to Ulrichstein that Rupert turned the raid into an invasion. So yes, naturally the regular cavalry were expected, what is more it was proof the Prince must be near so equally the time for revenge was near.

On the evening of the first night they had crossed the border they were  some 4 miles south of a small town called Briel, all day they were warned the enemy cavalry screen was getting thicker, that they had suffered some losses, possibly due to desertion. That night as Duke Rupert sat alone, he glanced out of the window of the squalled house he had commandeered, looking at the skyline as it was flickering with the lights from thousands of small campfires, fires that General Lumsdorf claimed to be from several Brigades of Militia. To Duke Rupert they were the fires of the devil and they were proof that his step brother Leopold was nearby, waiting for his destruction.

On the new dawn Duke Rupert was up early and he instructed his staff including a very unwilling and unhappy Baron Schaeffer to follow him as he went out to look over the enemy army. He rode up a long narrow ridge line that the map said was called Briel ridge, from its northern extremity he had an excellent view over the battlefield. Almost directly opposite just behind a small hamlet which Rupert assumed to be Briel, was a small hill, and on that hill he could see Rechburg artillery forming up. As he looked through his telescope he could see horsemen riding along the crest, clearly staff officers.
General Lumsdorf was also watching the group, first he pointed out the man on the left as General Molyneaux, he was the Chief of Staff to the Rechburg army, he muttered to himself,
“What the hell was Molyneaux doing here?”
He looked at Rupert,
“The Rechburgians had to know we were coming, otherwise what would bloody General Molyneaux the Chief of staff to the Rechburg army would be doing on a hill in southern Rechburg”.
The Baron had the answer as he also swiveled his glass along the distant ridge line,
“Your answer General is in the name of the man beside him, that is Prince Leopold and I expect the Herzog has sent the General along to watch over him.”
On hearing Prince Leopold’s name mentioned Rupert once more concentrated his glass on the group, yes indeed there he was, the youngest son of the man Rupert most despised in all the world also his step brother.

General Lumsdorf began eyeing the Bergatonian troops as they came up, Lumsdorf plans as he described them to the staff and Duke Rupert the previous night was for a swinging flank attack around the enemies left flank, with pinning attacks against the enemy centre at Briel.
Duke Rupert was also watching the columns of troops coming up and yet in another one of his sudden mind changes he announced,
“I’m making a change, I want those 5 battalions below to move near that old chateau, they will form up there and we will attack straight through that damned village and up that hill where the brat sits, the other 3 battalions will take place on the right along with the Cavalry and artillery.”

General Lumsdorf was dumbstruck for a moment,
“Sire you cant… it would be….”
“Quiet Lumsdorf I am sick and tired of your whining and objecting to everything, which of us is in command here you or me.” Rupert demanded.
General Lumsdorf started once more
“Sire naturally you command, I wish only to explain that for our 5 battalions you will allocate to the attack on that village below, they will have to fight their way through hedgerows, the village and then up that slope against the artillery, even before we attack there sire we are outnumbered two to one. I count 5 or 6 enemy battalions around the village and over behind those woods on the left I see flags of what is probably an entire Brigade. I see no other infantry elsewhere sire, we are attacking them at the exact point they expect us to, and with inferior numbers”.

Duke Rupert squirmed, “If they expect us to attack here General then we won’t disappoint them, in fact all the better to break them sooner, after all they are only militia are they not. Goddamn Prince Leopold is sitting not a half mile from me on that ridge over there, so you will attack it and take him”

“Yes Sire they are militia, but Rechburg militia are not just a collection of farm boys, the majority of those men over there have been serving in the Regular army, they are trained soldiers sir and we should expect them to fight as such.”

“Lumsdorf” Rupert said” I sometimes wonder why you are not a Rechburgian General; you sound like you prefer their abilities over ours. I tell you they are a rabble, and my army will brush them aside.”

He turned to face the collection of officers, “The plan is simple, there in front of you is the enemy, attack them there, take that damned hill over there and kill that bloody brother of mine, anything else is failure and I will not brook failure, so get it done.”

The other staff officers looked to General Lumsdorf but he just quietly shook his head realising the futility of argument.

It was only a matter of two hours and the army was ready to begin the attack, the 1st brigade was 5 battalions strong they were lined up on the road below Briel ridge, the 2nd Brigade really only a regiment of 3 Battalions was to the right and intended to cover the right flank of the 1st Brigade attack. There were another 2 battalions on the ridge known as Pearce’s ridge, they were to cover the two 12 pounder batteries placed on the slopes of that ridge. On the extreme right of Pearce’s ridge were 3 Light Cavalry regiments, they were there to watch the Rechburgian cavalry which had been seen lurking out there.
General Lumsdorf let out a huge sigh and signaled to his aide to wave the signal flag to the battery to fire 3 rounds, the signal to start the attack.

No sooner had the echo of those shots resounded around the valley below and the Bergatonia army advanced to attack.
The 1st brigade advanced with 3 battalions in line and 2 in reserve. One Battalion occupied the damaged chateau and immediately came under fire from the Rechburg artillery, the old damaged walls not taking kindly to the concentrated fire became more of a hindrance than shelter to the men inside. Within minutes the battalion commander ordered his men out, they had suffered almost 50 casualties and they were still not in musketry range.

The other 4 battalions numbering 1-4 continued their march past the old chateau towards the hedge line just south of Briel village.
The Rechburg artillery had obviously seen this concentration of troops and they changed targets. This was the first real battle the Duke had seen and he shuddered as his men were mown down by the rain of shot against his battalions, then from behind the hedges a line a fire knocked down the leading ranks of the attacking battalions.
The 2nd Battalion lost over 150 men killed and wounded in less than 10 minutes so accurate was the enemy fire.

As they neared the hedge line the 2nd Battalion stopped clearly shaken they made to the rear, but the 1st and 3rd battalions charged the hedge line attacking the single enemy Battalion defending the position, but both battalions were repulsed. One of the Battalions the 3rd  now broke and made for the rear, the 1st fell back in good order facing the enemy, it was joined by the 2nd Battalion which had quickly reformed itself and both battalions began a firefight with the stubborn Rechburg battalion.

From the ridgeline above, the Duke was clearly agitated and started fuming at the repulse; turning to General Lumsdorf he started pushing him physically,
“Get down there Lumsdorf, do something man I want that bloody town taken”.
The General was clearly frustrated by the Duke,
First he ignored my advice, then he ripped my plan to pieces and now he wants me to act the junior officer, well I am probably better off down there for all the notice he takes of me up here.

The general made his way to his horse and without a word he saluted the Duke and rode down to the mess below, as he did so the baron strode up to the Duke.
“Sire, do you really think General Lumsdorf can do anything down there on his own, I mean sire surely you are the man the men look to, it is in your presence the men are ignited in their righteous mission and dare I say it sire you are the man they look to, the man they need.”

The Duke stood watching the general make his way down the slope, he nodded in agreement.
“Yes baron you are quite right it is only proper that I lead this attack myself”.

With that he mounted his horse, then looking at the Baron, “Well come on man, this is your chance to prove your worth to me.”

“Me” squealed the baron, “what do I know about soldiers sire, surely I will better used up here co-coordinating things for you.”

Duke Rupert sighed, “Get on your horse now Baron or leave the horse and start walking home now.”

With that the baron and the Duke rode down to join the General. The area around the old chateau was a mass of wounded and stunned men, General Lumsdorf was moving amongst the men creating order out of the chaos. The men responded well and before long he had 3 Battalions ready to resume the attack on the hamlet.

He heard the men cheering and when he turned there was Duke Rupert and that damned Baron riding through,
The Duke was ready to give the men a speech, when the drums rolled and they quickly formed up and began to move on the attack, so his message of the righteousness of their cause when unsaid.
All three men watched the three battalions go forward once more, only yet again to be repulsed.
“What the hell is wrong with our men” demand the Duke, he started swinging out at some of the unfortunate infantry that had wandered to close.
“God damn you, they are only Militia over there, what the hell is so hard about moving Militia from the hedge.”

The battalions that had charged had returned and general Lumsdorf was busy reforming them yet again.
The Duke rode up,
“The next unit that retreats I will have 20 men taken out of it and I will have them executed.”
“God damn you sire, these men are doing all we can ask of them, don’t forget this was your brilliant bloody plan to advance into the face of a strongly defended line.”
Duke Rupert’s jaw dropped open, “How dare you speak to me like that, how dare you.”
The battalions were reformed once more and their officers were preparing them for yet another attack. General Lumsdorf mounted his horse.
“I dare because sire I don’t give a damn anymore, if you want to squander your army that’s your bloody business, but I will be damned if I will just sit by and watch you do it”
The General turned his horse to move towards the battalions ready to attack.”
“Where the hell are you going Lumsdorf?”
“Sire I am doing the only thing I truly know, being a soldier.”

The 3 Battalions moved out once more the General turned to follow when all of a sudden the air was filled with thud and ringing of shot from enemy artillery falling all around them.
General Lumsdorf turned to the Duke,
“Now god’s sake man you must not stay here, I will command here, he pointed back to the hill the Duke turned to see where he was pointing, there they both saw the Baron as he scampered over the ridge line clearly heading for Bergatonia.
“I fear sire you have a greater enemy there, than what I face here….”
He didn't finish the words, as the generals head was blown from his body by a cannon ball, the bone and brains splattered all over his Duke.
The men around him saw the Generals headless body remain on the horse for a few moments before it fell off at the feet of the Duke's horse. Then more artillery fire was tearing through the stunned Battalions, what organisation and discipline remained died with the general. The men had bravely fought for the hedge line but the combined artillery fire and the deadly fire from the Rechburg infantry was just to much. The death of the most beloved General in the army was the final straw, many of them screaming with horrific wounds and shattered nerves started simply walking away and before long a few started to run and minutes later the entire Bergatonian Brigade was simply melting away. The duke was stunned with fear unable to move, he just kept muttering amongst his tears.
“My brave, General, the whore-sons of heretics killed him, why, what was he doing down here, he was one of my closest friends you know; he loved me,” one of his aides took control of his horse and the Duke was led muttering and weeping through the fleeing remnants of the Bergatonian army.

Duke Rupert’s dream of conquering Rechburg was over, he was led from the field, beaten, blood covered and in shock.
The army was fortunate that the 2nd brigade and cavalry covered the retreat, for any enemy pursuit would have created huge damage to this army.

Over on the Rechburg Lines.

The 5th Militia Brigade commanded by Colonel Gentz was making a real mess of its advance; from up on the hill Leopold could see the Colonel was clearly creating confusion out of order, he spoke to General Molyneaux.
“Ernst go down there and tell Gentz to get himself sorted.”
Prince Leopold didn’t add anymore because the men of the battery were cheering and pointing and when he looked to where they were pointing he saw an army in panic, the Bergatonian army was fleeing and retreating from the field. It was just starting to rain with light sleet, which was probably just as well as no one could see the tears of joy on their Princes face.
He looked at General Molyneaux,
“Good God Ernst we have done it, we have beaten them, we should pursue them.”

The General rode back to Leopold, “Sire I would advise against it, pointing to the dark clouds threatening, we are due for a storm and we have to get the men under cover, I would think it will snow soon and I would rather the weather kill off Bergatonions and not our men.”

Prince Leopold nodded, and realised that he had won a great victory and there was no reason to push these men any further.
“You are right Ernst, get the men back under cover quickly”.

By the time Leopold rode down from Pepper hill snow was beginning to fall, he glanced back at the battlefield and thought that in an hour or two of this and that bloody battlefield will look a pristine picture of beauty once it was covered in snow, how quickly nature hides mans folly.

The Bergatonions lost 900 men in the battle some 200 may come back from recovered wounds. The Rechburg militia lost 150 men, some of whom will also return. They do not pursue as the snow that had been threatening all day finally begin settle in.

The next chapter will report on the battle that was fought in Ulrichstein on the same day as Bergatonian Battle of Briel was fought.

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