Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Attack!

'Well, my lord, I think we're almost done!' Landgrave Choldwig III of Rotenburg's tailor stands back admiringly. Choldwig is in his dressing chamber. Eschewing his usual Macedonian style of dress, the Landgrave's midriff is mercifully covered by a stylish waistcoat and jacket. His green silk britches ensure that his lower portions also are covered and that they are generally terrapin free. Also in the room with Choldwig are his key advisors: Wilhelm, the Baron Woffeltop, Choldwig's shrewd Austrian diplomat; Baron Lothar von Prohlaps, Minister for Alexandrification; Count Lenz von Haut, Minister for War, Alcohol, Sharp Instruments and Children's Welfare; and Graf Theodor von Poppenzeitz, Minister of Finance. The Landgrave is trying to multi-task. On the one hand, there seem to be important matters of state that need attending to. On the other, he is preparing for a night at the opera. By the grim set of his advisors' faces, however, it would seem that the balance of Choldwig's interest is focused rather more on the latter than the former. They shift impatiently.

Baron Woffeltop has pushed Choldwig hard for this meeting, if 'pushed hard' is the right phrase for a series of gentle suggestions in which the harshest words include 'if it would please you, my lord'. Choldwig III is a man whose ambitions are as vast as his loincloth is skimpy, and one has to handle him with care (or not at all, if he has been oiled). The landgrave takes his prerogatives seriously, being a firm believer in the old adage that 'power corrupts, and absolute power is great fun.' But for Woffeltop and his compatriots it is clear that Rotenburg has a moment of opportunity, and Choldwig must be encouraged to realise this. Latest reports indicate that the army of the Margravate of Badwurst-Wurstburp has been terribly defeated by Rotenburg's Vulgarian allies. They have retreated, and are now in eastern Gelderland licking their wounds (an activity which seems, even by the standards of the time, rather unhygienic.) Rotenburg must make the most of this opportunity and attack the weakened Wurstburpers forthwith! But only Choldwig can order this.

'An evening at the opera, my lord?' asks Woffeltop, trying to move things along.
'Ah yes', replies Choldwig. 'I'm going out this evening with Lady Eugenie'.
'Lady Eugenie?' asks Count von Haut.
'Yes, yes: I asked her out again.'
'I thought that she refused, my lord.'
'That was last week. She called me a pimply bone-headed buttock.'
'Didn't she also kick you heartily in your, ah, ... that it to say ... in your illustrious crotch?'
'Yes, she gave me quite a punt,' admits Choldwig.
'So, she changed her mind yesterday and agreed to accompany you?'
'No, no. She called me a buttock-headed bony pimple and then punched me vigorously in my crown jewels.'
'Well,' says Woffeltop, 'I'd count that as progress.'
'I hope so, I hope so,' replies Choldwig.  'I don't think my heart can take any more rejection. Or my gonads, for that matter.'

'Excellent!' says Choldwig finally, admiring himself. He has spent quite some time preparing for the evening, a process that has required more than the usual quantity of dabbing, primping, preening, painting, gluing, hammering, and sawing. The tailor begins to clean a selection of shoes.
'So', says Choldwig finally. 'These matters of state ...'
'Indeed', says Poppenzeitz. 'We believe that recent events have created an opportunity for our forces in this war.' A clicking sound emanates from under the Graf's wig. Thanks to a terrible accident resulting from a poorly conceived practical joke that comprised a loaded cannon and the line 'this cannon barrel is really big: why don't you stick your head down it and look', Poppenzeitz was once the recipient of a terrible head wound. Graf Theodor's life was saved only by the efforts of the famous engineer Wolfgang von Kempelen, the world's foremost expert in cutting-edge clockwork technology. Much of what is now under the Graf's rather extensive wig is now machine. The upsides of this include a remarkable capacity for logical analysis, and great powers of concentration; the downsides include a constant and rather disquieting whirring sound that emanates from under his wig and also the fact that, since he has a clockwork brain, Graf Theodor is rather easy to wind up.

'The Wurstburpers have been badly defeated', continues Graf Theodor. 'They are vulnerable to an attack from our army if you are willing, my lord, to order it forth.'
'Badly defeated, you say?' says Choldwig, admiring the selection of shoes.
'Oh yes, sir', says Woffeltop. 'The Wurstburp army has really been given a most vigorous whacking.'
Choldwig considers this. 'Hmmm. But I was under the impression that our troops were in a poor way after our defeat at the hands of the poltroons of Nabstria.'
'Yes, my lord,' replies Woffeltop. 'But the Wursburpers are in an even worst state than we are. Besides which, our forces have been augmented. We have only recently acquired a goodly quantity of chasseurs britanniques.'
'Excellent,' says Choldwig. 'I'm really quite peckish.'
'No, sir, no: that would be chicken chasseur. This is different. We have managed to recruit a new regiment comprised of English prisoners of war.'
'Are we at war with England?' says the landgrave, looking confused.
'No,' admits Woffeltop. 'We aren't - but they still keep surrendering to us anyway. They tend to be quite drunk. And rather inexperienced at the moment.'
Choldwig nods. 'I understand. So - when can I eat them?'
'No, my lord,' replies Woffeltop patiently. 'The chasseurs are part of your new regiment: the Legion Britannique; whereas chicken chasseur is a recipe. I can see how the confusion could arise: one comprises of wine-marinated chickens, and the other is a delicious stew.

Rotenburg conscripts: cheaper than manure and just as likely
to end up fertilising the ground.

Choldwig nods.
Woffeltop paces the room. 'This new regiment, my lord, has been raised by one of your most loyal admirers, the Lady Allison.'
'The Lady Allison?' asks Choldwig with interest. 'Does she like opera?'
'I cannot say, my lord.'
'How hard can she kick?'
'Again, my lord, I cannot say. But what I can say is that now is the time for action! Order forwards your army! Let us fall upon the sheep of Wurstburp like a great quantity of something that sheep don't like! The day will be ours! The fortunes of this war will be reversed! The victory will be all yours, my lord! A victory that will make you universally admired! A victory, my lord, that will render you irresistible to anyone in a petticoat!'

'Well hurrah to that!' cries Choldwig, leaping up. 'Yes, let us strike now! To the colours! Rouse the men! Onwards to victory!' He quaffs from a nearby cup. 'Gah!' he cries, wincing. 'Blkah! Hnnurh!' His body crumples. 'Blee! Blee! Flaargh!' He keels over.
'My lord! My lord!' cry his assembled advisors.
'I'm alright, I'm alright!' says Choldwig, pulling himself to his feet. 'That leech brandy,' he says looking at the cup. 'It's certainly improving.'
Woffeltop nods. 'That was shoe polish, my lord.'

Monday, 9 July 2018

Wallenover, the Final!

General Bazyli Antonin Unpronunski gnashes his teeth in ire.
'Not on the map?' he shouts. 'But we've been over this ground already! I mean, quite literally, that we have walked over this ground and it was solid, and now there is a marsh here! How can that be! Magic? The work of a very large flock of incontinent sheep? An unwanted visit from Biffo and His Great Piddling Circus?'

Of course, Unpronunski is not the first general in Mittelheim to have been confronted  during a fight by an unwanted geographical obstacle that wasn't on his map. But he seems at this late stage in the battle to be taking it particularly badly. Unpronunski gesticulates wildly, red faced, agitated, sweating like Martin Luther at a Jesuit barbecue.
'How can a marsh appear on ground that my troops have already walked over? Surely that is physically and logically impossible?'
One of the general's staff officers, Adjutant von Hardtpumping, takes his career, and probably also his life, in his hands by interrupting the monologue.
'But we have a card or two up our sleeves, though general. I should think our opponent will be smiling on the other side of his face when we play them ...'
'We wouldn't want them up our sleeves!' says Unpronunski snarling, 'after I've taken them and shoved them up our opponent's ar ....'
'General, you must calm down ...'
'I mean right up it,' shouts the general, miming vigorously the action with his arm.
'That would indeed be quite far up,' agrees his staff officer. 'But in the meantime, what orders should I issue?'
'Bah!' says Unpronunski. 'There's nothing for it but to continue the assault! Order our two flanking units into the marsh: We must hope that we have both the time and and a sufficient break in my temper to permit me to order them further forwards later!'
(Below, at the top) In front of the general, two regiments splosh quickly into the marsh.


(Below) The remaining two regiments Unpronunski orders forwards in a vigorous bayonet charge!
'Forwards my fine fellows!' urges the general.
'I suddenly have a warm feeling,' says Hardtpumping.
'You're optimistic about the outcome of our attack?' asks Unpromunski appreciately.
'No sir,' replies the adjutant.  'I've wet myself.'


At this late stage in the battle, the ensuing combat is like that that one might see between two wrestlers locked in an engagement, if it turned out that they were not wrestlers, but actually a pair of inebriated ducks trying to honk one another into submission. (Below) Finally, outnumbered two-to-one, Orlok's regiment is routed from the battle, but not before they have sufficiently disordered one of their attackers so that it, too, quits the field.


(Above) In front of the Wurstburpian columns stands the red-coated Vulgarian troops of the Grand Prior's Regiment. The original regiment was a militia unit in the service of the Herzo-Carpathian army, raised by Grand Prior Valerian Vafa in 1690. The Grand Prior himself had not lasted long, what with the weight of his responsibilities, and the weight also that resulted from a diet consisting mainly of pastry products, with green introduced only if he happened mistakenly to drop his pie in the grass. But the honourific title remained. With Wurstburpian morale now lower than something that was already really quite low indeed, Rentall senses his opportunity. (Below) He orders the Grand Prior'sRegiment forwards with the bayonet. With a cheer, the Vulgarians march forwards.


With clerics long ago expended, and in some disorder, and without the attacking benefit of their bayonets, the Wurstburpian situation is perilous. Moreover, as battle is joined, the Vulgarian unit pushes forwards its grenadier contingent.
Unpronunski cannot see the fight from his position. But soon Adjutant von Hardtpumping rides to his position with news.
'Their grenadiers are advancing forward, whereas our grenadiers have shrunk from combat!'
'And our privates?'
Hardtpumping blinks. 'No change from this morning, as far as I'm concerned.'

Nearby, Death looks down at the carpet of bodies strewn across the meadow land. Some, the lucky ones, are actually dead. But many more are merely mainly dead, having received wounds that should under normal circumstances have been mortal but which now, for some reason, don't quite seem to have carried them off. Mainly expired and partially disarticulated Wurstburpian musketeers crawl  hither and thither, moaning and wriggling like English Members of Parliament after a little lunch-time drink.
Death sighs. 'This just can't get any worse', he says, fairly sure as to the source of this necrotic naughtiness.
'Wheeeeee! Look at me! Look at me!', says Cheese, bottle in hand.
Death turns to look at him.
'I've got no clothes on! I've got no clothes on!' shouts Cheese, waggling his scythe with one hand.
'Look at that', says Death ruefully. 'I was wrong.' He gestures admonishingly at Cheese. 'Nakedness and playing with scythes don't mix well. Stop this!'
Giggling, Cheese hares off across the battlefield. 'Chase me! Chase me!' he shouts.
Death stares at his scythe for a moment, and then rather awkwardly, tries to sweep the blade through his own neck. The weapon passes through him as if he were incorporeal.
Death sighs. 'It was worth a try, I suppose.'


(Above) The Vulgarian charge ends with the rout of the Wurstburpian musketeers. With their collapse, the Margravial morale also breaks, and their army begins to stream from the field!
Rentall slaps his thigh.
'Dish ish a most convinshing victory! Da field of battle ish littered with da enemy dead! Order da purshuit!'
'Huzzah!' cries Cameron von Muller.
'Pip pip!' adds Duke Neucheim.
'Gottle a geer!' notes baron Tostov, reflectively.
Meanwhile, general Unpronunski looks on in despair.
'I am in Hell.' He looks around the battlefield and then sighs. 'No, actually Hell I suspect has better views.'

Hurrah for general Rentall! A convincing victory for Vulgaria and for the forces of the Vulgarian Convention!

Friday, 29 June 2018

Wallenover, the Sixth!

Whilst the footguard use volley fire, Rentall hurls Count Orlok's regiment forwards. The results are decisive. Though the Vulgarians may sport comedically laughable uniforms from a previous age of war, they prove to be deadly in this combat, the Wurstburpians suffering an experience somewhat analogous to being tickled under their arms with a feather whilst, simultaneously, being fed through a mangle on its smallest setting. With a single volley the Vulgarian guards shatter both of Bragge's regiments. Bragge himself manages to survive and joins a nearby regiment. Count Orlok's regiment goes in with the bayonet against a third enemy regiment, driving it from the field. (Below) The Vulgarians have cleared all three enemy regiments from their front!


(Below, bottom right) The earl of Bragge has joined the nearest Wurstburpian regiment: the errant unit that has finally cleared the marsh. The improvement in the Vulgarian position is clear to see.In the Vulgarian headquarters, the mood has lightened considerably. Cameron von Muller claps his hands delightedly as reports are received at Rentall's headquarters of the collapse in Unpronunski's attack. To do this, he has to lay aside the small watercolour painting that he has been working on during the battle: as an artillery commander, he really has very little to do except work on his hobbies and make weak jokes about having his barrel polished.
'I wouldn't like to be in Unpronunski's shoes!' says Muller, beaming.
'Neither would I,' agrees Duke Neucheim. 'He has such tiny feet.'


(Below, top right) We can just see, dear reader, with their red uniforms and red-cross-on-white flag, the Vulgarian footguards. This unit is about to exit the woodcut and so, alas, our story. However, it is as well to recount their further exploits because they do indeed continue to have an impact upon the battle. Rentall continues to push the unit forwards, even though it then leaves them rather out on a limb, because by doing so he brings them within volley range of the isolated Wurstburp regiment, now commanded by the earl of Bragge, that is positioned just beyond the marsh. As events, as we shall see, unfold elsewhere on the battlefield, the guards continue a musketry duel with this Wurstburp regiment. It is, alas for the earl of Bragge, an unequal duel, since the Vulgarians are in line whereas the Wurstburpians are in a mass that reduces their firing and makes them a better target. Inevitably, Bragge's troops have the worst of things and eventually rout the field. This time, however, there is no lucky escape for the earl. Trying to rally his troops with a stirring 'I've never liked you, you lazy bast ...' the earl is caught in the throat by a musket ball. His final words are an enigmatic 'Urrg! Urgh! *gurgle* Blargh!' and he then slips from his horse. With the loss of this regiment and also of this fine notable, the Wurstburp army's morale sinks alarmingly.


(Above) The margravial army, however, seems to have quite a relaxed attitude to danger helped, no doubt, by the fact that so many of them are actually dead. The Wurstburpians still seem committed to seeing this battle through. Having conducted an about turn, Unpronunski orders his remaining troops to march towards the Vulgarian line. He has only four of his original nine infantry regiments in the field. However, since Rentall had only five to begin with and has lost one; and since his footguards are now far away engaged in their musketry duel with Bragge's regiment, the Vulgarians have only three infantry regiments to hand at the critical point.

Two figures stand amongst the piles of Wurstburp dead.
'Have you been drinking?' asks Death suspiciously.
'Maybe,' replies Cheese. 'Maybe not.'
Death looks at him. If it were possible for his eyes to narrow, they would be mere slits.
'I think that you have been drinking,' he says. 'The evidence for which would include the bottles poking out of the tops of your pockets and also the fact that you are holding your scythe the wrong way round; a practice that is, may I say, as dangerous as it is inefficient.'
'Ahhhhhh,' says Cheese jovially. 'You got me. Anyway, what's the harm? This is thirsty work. Besides -  Cheese and wine, we go well together.'
'The harm, my young and strange-smelling apprentice, is that you aren't fulfilling properly your duties. Look,' Death gestures to the piles of bodies that mark the remains of Bragge's regiments. 'Look what a meal you are making of all of this. A mole with cataracts would be more precise.'
'So I missed a few swings.'
'Swings?' retorts Death. 'What you are doing is not "swinging". What are doing with that mortal instrument would make "flailing" seem like precision surgery. You keep missing the heart. Look at that poor fellow. You have missed his heart and instead swept your scythe through his ... his bottom.'
'I've scythed his arse?'
'Yes.'
'He is arseless?'
'In the Halls Beyond,' continues Death, 'they are at this minute receiving the results of your handiwork, and imagine their surprise when, instead of a crop of  precious souls, what instead appears is ....'
'Arses.' says Cheese. 'What will they do with them?'
'I don't know,' says Death tetchily. 'Put them to one side ... or... store them somehow until the rest arrives.'
'There's an arse warehouse?' asks Cheese with interest.
'Cease this,' says Death with finality. 'Stop imbibing wine and instead apply yourself to your task. I sense that this battle is about to reach its final chapter ...'

Unpronunski snaps shut his telescope.
'We must go forwards, Prince Karl,' he says. 'I may be inexperienced, but it seems plain to me that our men need our close leadership in this final chapter of our desperate enterprise.'
'But that will be very, very dangerous,' says Karl, wrinkling his nose.
'We have no choice,' replies the general. 'It is time to tempt fate; to tweak the nose of danger; to call on Lady Luck and tell her that she might have put on a bit of weight.'
Prince Karl says something but Unpronunki cannot hear it - the reason for this being not unrelated to the fact that Karl seems to be encouraging his horse to move away from the general at a gallop.
Unpronunski frowns. 'I can't help noticing, Prince, that you seem to be increasing the distance between yourself and our troops; whereas, I am quite sure that central to the notion of an advance is that the distance should decrease.'
Karl shouts something. It might contain a reference to "reserves"; or "baggage"; or possibly "porridge"; but, whatever his words, they are clearly linked to a desire on his part to adopt a more relaxed form of mission command, his mission being to command from a distance several days march from this battlefield.


(Above, left) Shrugging, the general joins his remaining four regiments and leads them forwards in one last desperate assault. Four regiments face three, in Unpronunski's final throw of the dice. As the infantry's drums roll rhythmically, the general rides forwards with his men.
'We may yet pull this off,' he says to an aide de campe. 'See, two of our regiments have a clear run past the Vulgarian flank - we can then wheel and charge them ...'
Suddenly, Unpronunski's horse makes sploshing sounds. The aide looks down and says 'Hang on, sir: a marsh? But that's not on the ...'
'Don't say it!' says the general slumping. 'Because if you're going to say what I think that you're going to say, then I'm going to be very. very angry ...'

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Wallenover, the Fifth!

Overcoming his interest in finely-made crockery, General Rentall orders his two reserve regiments out of march column and into line. This is in the very nick of time because the attacking Wurstburp troops have moved around the Vulgarian flank. Luckily, thanks to their command and control difficulties, this flanking force consists of only two regiments; but unless it is countered, the grey-coated Vulgarians of Count Barlow's Regiment are in danger of being charged from the rear.

(Below, right) The Liebgarde Feratu-Osterberg (in red) move up to engage the Margravial flanking force. Volleys are exchanged. The guard exhibit the familiar attributes that mark them out as elite troops in Mittelheim: that is, they are still here, and they are mainly awake. Barlow's Regiment, in grey, display remarkable sang froid, standing unmoved as directly behind them the two regiments of Wurstburp musketeers with a shout charge with the bayonet. The earl of Bragge encourages his men in their assault upon the Vulgarian foot guards. 'For God and our margrave!' he shouts loudly. 'Badwurst-Wurstburp forever - or at least for some considerable period of time henceforth!' he roars.


Through his telescope, Wurstburp's commander, general Unpronunski, looks on in concern.
'Our troops are in some disorder!' he says. 'We have taken too much of their musketry!'
Prince Karl scoffs. 'Fie and tush!' he cries. 'Tush and fie!' he continues. 'And also fie and fie, and tush and tush!' he adds for completeness. 'Though our troops indeed have been in better condition, so has the enemy guard regiment - it is badly weakened  - see the ragged state of their lines! Moreover, we outnumber them two to one; and we are skilled with the bayonet; and we have the benefits of the leadership of the earl of Bragge himself. I sense something big appearing soon, and I don't mean my morning motion.'

(Below) Bragge's troops storm forwards in an attempt to get, not just medieval on the Vulgarians, but also somewhat into the early renaissance as well.
 'Hold the line! Hold the Line!' shouts Rentall. The officers of the guard regiment respond, shrugging of the effects of the terrible disorder afflicting the unit with the same insouciance that they might shrug off calls for greater social justice. As hand-to-hand combat is joined, the Vulgarian foot guards fight like their lives depend upon it: which, of course, it rather does.
'Gah!' shouts Pronunski. 'The enemy regiment seems to be ignoring the terrible disorder that it is in!'
Prince Karl taps his nose knowingly. 'That may be, general: but we have another card up our sleeve.'
'Do we?' the general asks. 'Because I'm not sure that keeping cards up our sleeves is strictly allowed ....'
'No, my lord. Not literally. I mean that we have the advantage of our soldiers' religious convictions. See, over there!' he points.


(Above, left) Reflecting the importance of this attack, the earl of Bragge is allocated the efforts of one of the margravate's clerics to inspire the troops. To this purpose the cleric delivers a homily to the Wurstburp musketeers that focuses on the core Christian values of  peace, charity, and helping one's neighbours: unless, as in the case of the Vulgarians, one is at war with them; in which case it is not just permissible, but actually practically a commandment, to peel their faces off with a blunt knife, nail their tongues to their foreheads, and then piddle on their eye balls (though it is worth noting here that there is some disagreement in Wurstburpian religious doctrine regarding the order in which these activities should be conducted).

As the cleric really begins to warm to his theme and moves onto an explanation of what Jesus would do if he were subject to Vulgarian musketry, two dark figures stand nearby in conversation.
'What's it like, you know, on the Other Side?' asks Cheese as Death pauses in his efforts.
Death contemplates this question for a moment. 'Have you ever been to Llandudno?'
'No.'
'Well then, it's difficult to describe.'
Cheese nods. 'Very well. But did you get a sense of who was ... in charge, as it were?'
'It's difficult to say,' replies Death. 'I remember that there was a monkey - he was throwing bananas at me and laughing.'
'So, the Hindus were right,' says Cheese.
'Who can say,' replies Death. 'It was a very long time ago.'

Despite the best efforts of the cleric, the Wurstburpian attack falters. (Below) 'No! No! No!' shouts Bragge furiously, as well as using some other words that would not require any expertise in Fenwickian double entendre to interpret. In between casting aspersions on the legitimacy of his own troops, and making other comments highly suggestive of his view that the Vulgarian guards were the sort of fellows who misused goats in inventive ways known only to the very loneliest of herders, the earl makes frenetic, but ultimately abortive, attempts to prevent his troops from falling back.
In the margravial headquarters, general Unproununski gapes. 'God's toenails!' he blasphemes.
'Quite so!' agrees Prince Karl. 'We are defeated!'
'Those poor goats,' says the general sadly.
Bragge's troops fall back.


Despite his success, however, Rentall is far from calm. (Above, at the top) The entire remaining Vulgarian infantry, all four regiments, are now crammed awkwardly into a tiny space. In consequence only two are actually facing the enemy. The Grand Prior's Regiment, having moved up to right and rear of the footguards are in a position to do nothing other than launch a bayonet charge on their fellow Vulgarians in Barlow's Regiment, in grey (though it would no doubt be a successful one given their beautiful position for a flank attack). Barlow's men, of course, now cannot move forwards or backwards because they are wedged in tighter than a hippo in a pair of giraffe size-medium britches.
'We must attack at once! We must make both the time and the space to re-order our lines!' Rentall says excitedly to Neucheim. 'Now is our opportunity! The enemy columns are in disorder! Sound the charge!'

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Wallenover, the Fourth!

In the Margravial headquarters, there is now a certain amount of excitement.
'That's it! That's it!' cries General Unpronunski, looking through his telescope at the unfolding events. (Below, to the left). Three regiments of Wursburpian foot, formed into mass and crying 'a la bayonette' hurl themselves into a single unit of Vulgarian troops in a pile-on so massive that its like hasn't been seen since King Wilhelm of Gelderland last tried under his own steam to climb onto a chaise-longue. To the Wurstburp rear, a unit is wheeled left, and begins to march smartly towards the exposed flank of the Margravial formation to meet the threat posed by the Vulgarians of Count Orlok's Regiment.


(Below) Outnumbered three to one, the Vulgarian troops' chances of victory are smaller than the Russian commitment to the rule of law. Though the Vulgarian musketeers are supported by a battery of artillery positioned behind gabions, their opponents are too numerous, too well drilled in the art of the bayonet charge, and they are, besides, led by a fine officer in the form of Jonathan, the Earl of Bragge. There is the briefest of melees and then, for the Vulgarian troops, it's not just curtains, but a whole matching ensemble of soft furnishings. With cries of 'Flee!', 'Save yourselves!', and 'I never touched your ox!' those Vulgarian musketeers that aren't dead, quit the field in rout.


Through the savage fighting in this part of the line, two figures go strangely unnoticed. 
'So,' says Death carefully. 'I think that it's important for me to reiterate that we only take the souls of those who are actually dead.' He looks at Cheese, who stands amidst a pile of Vulgarian corpses. Cheese leans heavily on his scythe, panting.
'We don't,' Death continues, 'take them because they are, to quote you earlier "a lard-arse who's soon going to croak anyway." Nor do we take people because "they have amusingly shaped heads," "annoying croaky voices," or because,' he looks hard at Cheese, 'they are conveniently closer than the fellow that we are supposed to take.'
'I think I'm improving though,' wheezes Cheese cheerily. 'I took out that last fellow with a swing that I might go so far as to characterise as "graceful"'.
'Graceful - yes; accurate - less so. You missed his heart,' says Death. 'You've got to get them in the heart or you don't catch the soul.'
'Didn't I get him in the heart?' asks Cheese.
'No,' replies Death. 'You caught his nose. What you've done is to send his nose into the Other Place.  The rest of him is still here.' Death points to a nearby Vulgarian musketeer crawling over the corpses of his comrades.
'I can see the light!' says the musketeer in wonder, one finger stuck up his nostril. 'I can see the light! Can anyone else see the light!' The soldier pauses. 'It's a lot smaller than I imagined. Less bright. And it seems to have some kind of warning ...'
'I'll finish him,' says Cheese, hefting his scythe. 'Don't worry.'
'Should I go to the light?' the musketeer says out loud. 'or should I be moving away from it? Is the light a bad thing?'
'Only the dead,' says Death admonishingly to Cheese. 'And also, we don't take squirrels either.'

The seesaw that it the battle of Wallenover continues to tip in the favour of Wurstburp, dumping the Vulgarians unceremoniously from their seats and then catching them painfully upon the chin as they try to get up. (Below) To the right of the Wurstburp bayonet attack, Unpronunski has another success. Now, only a single regiment of Vulgarian mounted irregulars remains - the other, finally, is dispatched by Wurstburpian musketry (though it turns out, however, that everyone in the Voidvodate's army hated them, so there is no real effect on morale). 


(Above, top) With the Vulgarian flank sagging as badly as King Augustus the Fat of Saxony's britches after a heavy night on the cake, the Earl of Bragge moves to exploit the situation. He orders one of his regiments forwards into the swamp, putting the unit in an excellent position to swing left and reinforce the Wurstburp push to roll up the Vulgarian defence. One consequence of this, however, is that the Wurstburpian line is now split into three parts - the unit that is in the marsh, and then two equal groups of four units on either side. But this couldn't possibly be relevant for the future, could it?


In some recompense, however, Orlok's Regiment continues to do sterling work for Rentall's cause. (Above, top) Behind one of his batteries, the Vulgarian notable Cameron von Muller looks on as Count Orlok's Regiment pours more fire into the exposed flank of a Wurstburpian column.

(Below, top left) Regiment Orlok's volley scythes down the Margravial troops and the latter are broken. But Rentall's position remains precarious. (Below, top right) In the vicinity of a dangling pink appendage that we must hope, dear reader, is a finger, the Vulgarian infantry struggle to reorientate to meet the threatened Wurstburp flanking movement. With the Voivodate's troops now separated into two groups, general Rentall now faces a difficult choice: should he wheel backwards the grey-coated troops of his centre unit so that they face the enemy columns of attack; or should he bring up his reserve units, currently deployed in march column; or should he quit the military profession and become, as his mother had hoped, a modestly successful producer of artisan teacups?


'Itsh a difficult choish,' says Rentall, ignoring the sturm und drang around him. 'Duke Neucheim, shir: let me have your advishe.'
Neucheim's brows furrow beneath his tricorne. 'I think that we should consult Baron Tostov.'
'But,' says Rentall, 'I shushpect dat I know what da good duke ish going to shay ...'.
'Gottle a geer!' says baron Tostov.
'The baron's views, I think are coloured by his relative military inexperience,' explains Neucheim.
'Yesh,' says Rentall. 'And also da fact dat he ish made of wood.'
'Dammit, sir,' cries Neucheim. 'You cannot insult the baron so! Though he is made of wood, does he not feel hurt like any real officer?'
'No,' Rentall says. 'He doeshn't. Alsho, your lipsh move, my good duke, when da baron speaks.'
'I thought, general, that we had agreed not to ...'
'And in adishion, he hash wheelsh.'
Neucheim falls into sullen silence.
'Shtill,' says the general, resolutely. 'Dish dishcushion hash been very valuable. I have deshided what it ish dat I think will be our most advantageous coursh  of action ...'

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Wallenover, the Third!

'Ish it shupposed to bend like dat?' asks General Hertz van Rentall to the colonel of the Vulgarian Regiment Blasco.
The colonel looks startled, and then looks down guiltily. 'I've never had any complaints,' he replies ruefully. 'I walked into a rake and I ...'
'No, no!' replies the general. 'I mean our line! Why ish our line bent like dat? Why ish your regiment showing itsh flank to da enemy, mashking our guns, and generally shtinking up our position like a dead fish in an orangery?'
'Oh ... oh,' says the colonel. 'I don't know. I got confused. Suddenly confused. And now my regiment is finished ... finished. Doomed! The enemy will fall upon us, and there is nothing to be done about it! Nothing! Doom! Gloom! We are in for a mightily weighty shoeing at the hands of the villainous Wurstburpians! We can do nothing but bless the souls of our lads, pray to God for their immortal souls, and then shovel up their remains.'
Rentall nods. 'Or', he suggests, 'we could jusht order dem back into line. And not do any volley fire.'
The colonel considers this. 'Yes, I suppose we could do that also.'



(Above, at the top) With quick orders from general Rentall, Regiment Blasco simply wheels back into line and the sudden crisis is over. Indeed, since the Regiment Blasco is still within the requisite supporting distance of the remainder of the Vulgarian battle line, Rentall is able also to give other orders to this force. It's time to give the Wurstburpians a taste of their own medicine. And since their medicine, in common with the rest of Mittelheim, consists generally either of various forms of leeches, or amputations with blunt household tools, its unlikely to be pleasant for them.

(Below, at the bottom) Rentall orders the Liebgarde Feratu-Osterberg and the Grand Prior's Regiment into march column: these he intends to shift across to his other flank. (Below, middle) But the shrewd Dutchman also  senses an opportunity. The Wurstburpians themselves have an exposed flank. He orders Count Orlok's Regiment to wheel left. Though the regiment might face a tough fight against the sheep to their front, once they have overcome this four-legged forlorn hope, they will able to threaten the advancing enemy attack columns.


A little way off, two figures, dressed in black, are in an argument. 'Where's your knife?' asks Death in a bemused fashion. 'I lent you one of my knives - where is it?'
Cheese glowers. 'Why can't I have a scythe? Please let me have a scythe. Pleeeeeeeeeeese. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please.'
Death shakes his head, an act which makes his jaw wobble slightly alarmingly. 'Look. We've been through this. A scythe is a dangerous weapon. I can't give one to an inexperienced apprentice. You need some practice with something smaller. You need to pass some courses. Get some certificates.'
'Please, please, please, please, please,' says Cheese falling to his knees and clasping his hands together in supplication. 'It's why I signed up. You have the largest weapon amongst all of the reapers of souls. Not even War has a bigger chopper than you.'
Death pauses. 'What has Lady Luck been saying?'
'Please, please, please, please, please. I'll be careful,' promises Cheese. 'I'll look after it myself - clean it and so on.'
Death is silent for a moment, and then sighs despairingly. 'Fine. Fine. But if you lop something off from yourself by accident, don't come running to me. Of course, if it's a leg that you lop off, you certainly won't be able to come running to me. But if that's the case, don't even bother to hop, crawl, or otherwise perambulate in my direction either.'
'Thank you! Thank you!' says Cheese excitedly. 'You won't be disappointed!' He pauses. 'Actually, previous experience suggests that you might well be slightly disappointed. And also perhaps a bit disgusted. You might, for example, throw up a little bit in your mouth.'
'Go!' says Death holding up a hand. 'Just go and do as I've shown you, apprentice!'

At the Vulgarian headquarters, Rentall is busy issuing orders. Volleys have been exchanged between the main bodies of the respective armies. But now is the time for the Voivodate to seize the initiative. Pointing towards Count Orlok's Regiment, the general declares boldly: 'I intend dat we should launch an immediate bayonet charge with Orlok's troops. It will terrify da enemy.' Rentall looks at the assembled officers. Their faces evince a lack of enthusiasm not seen since Attila the Hun was invited to a workshop on inclusivity and diversity.
'Hmmm - you sheem unconvinshed.' says Rentall.
Cameron von Muller nods. 'I've seen our bayonet charges. They're rubbish.'
The general looks a little hurt. 'Really? But da fierce onshet of cold shteel ....'
'... like being poked gently by a very elderly, and especially infirm, relative,' finishes Muller.


Rentall snorts. 'Dish ish no time for faint heartsh! Forward to victory!'
With a gesture, the orders are given! (Above) With a loud 'hurrah!' Orlok's troops charge!
'No - this is terrible!' wails Muller.
'It's a disaster! We'll fail!' cries Duke von Neucheim.
'I have a good feeling about dis!' says Rentall.
The target of the assault is a regiment of Wurstburp mercenaries. Taken in the flank, things don't look good for them. Moreover Count Orlok's Regiment is composed of elite musketeers. But the Margravial troops have the benefit of their faith: surely the mere metal of the Vulgarian bayonets is no match for the righteousness of the Wurstburpian cause! To the rear, a Wurstburp cleric inspires the troops.
'Fear nothing, my brave fellows!' he cries. 'Fear not the evil ox coveters! Let them not look upon your oxes and say such things as "I really covet that"! Believe in God, and your faith will protect your oxes, and probably also all other similar domestic beasts of burden!' 
There is a brief and savage fight.


(Above) But the Vulgarians are too strong! The Margravate's mercenaries are routed, and the Vulgarians are now on the flanks of their enemies.

Across the field, General Unpronunski surveys these dispiriting events through his telescope.
Prince Karl turns to the general. 'We must break the enemy before they can roll up our line! Order a general advance across the whole of our force!'
Unpronunski nods. 'I have carefully considered the situation, Prince Karl, and I have decided to order a general advance across the whole of our force!'
Cheering breaks out up and down the Wurstburp line as their massed columns storm forwards with the bayonet ....

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Wallenover, the Second!

With loud 'huzzahs!' the soldiers of Badwurst-Wurtburp march purposefully forwards. The Margarvate's musketeers advance with all of the vigour and confidence that comes from never having been in a battle before. As the distance closes between the battle lines of the two armies, the artillery of both sides each provide the traditional Mittelheim supporting fire: which is to say, a small one, upon which they make themselves hot beverages to while away the time spent watching the fight between the infantry. The Margravate's cavalry provide protection to the left of Unpronunski's line. Left to their own devices to decide how best this should be done, the cavalry apply a doctrinal approach based upon the principle of not moving or doing anything at all.


(Above) The notables Jonathan, Earl of Bragge and Boris Katsonov are committed to the command of front-line units. With the help of these experienced professionals, the Wurstburp line advances quickly, all gleaming bayonets and marvellously executed drill. With its units formed into mass, the Margravate's army has concentrated a considerable proportion of its combat power against the weakly held Vulgarian positions to their front, some of which seem to be defended only by sheep. Amidst the dense units of infantry, Wurstburpian clerics are hard at work, stirring the troops' martial ardour with inspiring declamations based upon all of the usual themes most prominent in religious doctrine: heaven for the faithful; hell-fire for the enemy; damnation for those who covet their neighbour's oxes. The clerics succeed in working themselves into quite a lather. In Wurstburp, Catholicism has been given quite a local make-over, the church there having  removed some of the most robust and logical doctrinal elements of the Catholic faith (fish on Fridays and the kissing of Bishops' rings) and replacing them with additional helpings of intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and, reflecting the impact of Jacobite immigration, porridge.

The Wurstburp line halts when it reaches within musket range of the Vulgarian irregular cavalry positioned in the marsh. General Unpronunski, seeing this through his telescope, orders Prince Karl forward.
'Go hence, Prince Karl - lead our troops from the front! Push the enemy from the difficult ground and sweep leftwards to roll up the enemy line!'
Prince Karl chews his lip for a moment, considering his reply.
'Well general,' says Karl. 'I could give you my diplomatic answer to that order; or I could give you my undiplomatic answer.'
Unpronunski thinks about this. He is an old gentlemen, who prefers to maintain where possible a civilised atmosphere in his headquarters. 'I should say that I would prefer your diplomatic answer.'
The prince nods. 'Then I must say in answer to your request, general "Bog off, you haddock-faced squirrel tickler."'
The general looks shocked. 'So you're not going to lift a finger to help our forces?'
'Au contraire, general. I am going to lift this finger,' says Prince Karl, raising the middle digit of his right hand and extending it towards Unpronunski. 'Which I think should communicate fairly clearly my feelings about my likely involvement in this enterprise. What you are asking is really quite dangerous to my person.'
'Hmmm,' replies Unpronunski. 'I feel that I have to say, Prince Karl, that, inexperienced though I am in the ways of war, I believe that it is normal presumption in military organisations that, as you are under my command, you in fact are compelled to obey my orders.'
'Sadly, general, since I am of the house of Porckenstauffen, your authority over me is weaker than a haggis helmet.'
There is a pause. The general sighs dejectedly.
'Is my face really reminiscent of a haddock?'
The prince considers this carefully for a moment. 'There is certainly a ... piscine quality to it. Or perhaps something dolphinish. And crab-like. I think that it is your wobbly lips.'
'Oh,' says the general sadly. 'And the squirrel tickling?'
'I made that up,' admits Karl. 'But it certainly sounds like the sort of morally questionable activity that might be engaged in by fish-faced people.'

'Dish dushent look good,' says General Hertz van Rentall to no one in particular. At the Vulgarian headquarters, it is clear that the Voivodate's army is in some difficulties. After only a short period of time, the main Wurstburpian infantry line is within range of the Vulgarian irregular cavalry in the marsh. Though the initial enemy volleys largely are ineffective, the irregulars cannot reply and are no match for the musketeers in a frontal attack. It is a mark of Vulgaria's lack of options that (below, top right), Ranald Drumpf, Principal Councillor and, at the moment commander of the Vulgarian troops, is forced to order his artillery to open fire.


'Councillor Drumpf!' calls von Neucheim. 'What is our plan!'
Drumpf brushes crumbs from his waistcoat and then, rather theatrically, he flourishes a large sheet of paper in front of the rest of the officers.
'Behold!' he says.
There is a moment of silence. In the background, the sound of fighting continues.
General Rentall raises an eyebrow. 'Itsh, ah ... itsh a piesh of paper.'
'It contains my plan!'
Rentall raises the eyebrow a little higher. 'Itsh, ah ... itsh a blank piesh of paper.'
'Precisely!' says Drumpf, waving his little hands. 'I refuse to conform to predictable military thinking! We must be agile! We must be adaptable! This is a beautiful moment - really beautiful. In having no plan, we also have every plan!'
'I don't understand' says von Neucheim.
'Gottle a geer,' adds Baron Tostov.
'I'm pushing forward the frontiers of military thinking,' replies Drumpf.
'Hmm,' says von Neucheim. 'I can only assume then that those frontiers are quite close, because I don't think that this plan is going to get us very far.'
'No, no, I can assure you that it is a splendid plan!' retorts Drumpf.
At that moment, a breathless courier arrives, ending the disagreement. 'My lords! Disastrous confusion in our ranks!'


(Above) And indeed, it would seem that conditions for the Vulgarians have further worsened! Whether through bad luck, fate, the friction of war, or congenital idiocy, the left flank Vulgarian battalion wheels rightwards and advances against the Wurstburp line! In doing so, it masks the supporting artillery and exposes its flank to flanking fire and an enemy charge.
'Dammit! Dammit!' Ignoring Drumpf, a cursing van Rentall spurs his horse towards the emerging crisis.
Drumpf looks confused and non-plussed. 'Is this bad? Is something bad happening?' He turns to Cameron von Muller. 'Von Muller - what do you think?'
'Well,' replies Muller. 'The word, "cack" seems to be jigging around at the front of my mind, shouting "Pick me! Pick me!" I should say that we are in a spot of bother.'
Drumpf bridles. 'What about my battle plan?'
'You don't have a battle plan,' says Neucheim. 'You just have a sheet of paper and some honking sounds.'
Drumpf listens for the moment to the rising tide of battle. The he says decisively: 'I have an idea. I'll be back in a minute. Victory is assured.'
'Excellent,' replies Muller.
'That's splendid,' says Neucheim.
Muller and Neucheim wait for a while.
'He's not coming back is he,' says Muller.