Friday, 21 December 2012


The Battle of Heyenkarbz, July 1756

Wherein the army of the Landgravate of Hesse-Rotenburg under Furst Augustus Saxe-Peste encounters the army of the Empire of Grand Fenwick commanded by Marshal Ignacio Grace a Dieu Cavandish

     The village of Heyenkarbz, half a mile south of the Rotenburg capital, Alexandopolis: the Seven Beers War reaches its final climactic encounter. After three victories, the Mockers' star is in the ascendent - the Transylvanian pretender to the throne of Gelderland, Count Vlad Drakul, is already reputedly measuring the Gelderland palace for new blackout curtains and an extension to the graveyard. Rotenburg now stands alone: after two sharp defeats, their Nabstrian allies have fallen back in disorder on their capital Falkensteinburg. The Rods' candidate for the throne, Juan Cornetto, now mopes disconsolately in the Rotenburg capital, praying for a miracle and also a meal that, for once, doesn't include pickled leeches.

     Luckily for Choldwig, the Landgrave of Hesse-Rotenburg, the Mockers' plan for a two-pronged Bachscuttel/Fenwick assault on Rotenburg has come to nothing. The Bachscuttel commissariat has collapsed, leaving their army stranded in the Nabstrian town of Wunderdorf. Completely out of scones, and having emptied the surrounding countryside of waffles, stollen, and all available morning goods, the Bachscuttel army now barely survives on salads and a foul local concoction known as muesli. Rubbing their swollen tummies and scratching their hessian underbritches, the Palatinate's army is in no condition for campaigning. Undeterred, the Imperial army under Marshal Cavandish has marched northeastwards across Gelderland, intent on invading Rotenburg and ending the war. Having crossed the border two days ago, the Imperial army is barely hours from the capital. There is nothing for it: Furst Augustus concentrates the Rotenburg army in a blocking position, and leads his forces onto the attack to save his Landgrave, his country, and his honour. On a bright summer's morning, the two armies array themselves for manly combat.

     Ordinarily preferring to command from the comfort of his bed, Marshal Cavandish is fully awake, an unwelcome and unnerving condition for him, caused by the capture, at the battle of Furkohl, of General Tonifruttipandi's entire stock of cappucinos. Surveying the Imperial army, Cavandish tries to devise a plan that can be communicated to his adjutant through the medium of mime: for the Marshal has long ago realised that the Fenwickian love of double entendre has rendered pointless any attempt to conduct a conventional orders group. In the past, the Marshal's attempts to issue verbal orders have rarely got beyond the opening comment 'Adjutant, will you hold my baton, please' before the Imperial officers are reduced to a hopeless scrum of snickering 'fnars'. (Below, right) Through crude gestures, not all of them related to orders, the Marshal succeeds in deploying his troops into two lines. The open terrain allows him to concentrate his cavalry on his right; his infantry is positioned astride the Heyenkarbz road; his artillery is deployed into two batteries to give maximum fields of fire.

     (Above) To the rousing beat of regimental drums and flutes, the Rotenburg army leaves its encampment and readies itself for battle. Deploying his cavalry in front of Heyenkarbz on his left, Furst Augustus concentrates his infantry and artillery to his right. Two units of mercenary irregulars are deployed into the woods that connect his infantry and cavalry: there, they can cover the centre and menace any woodland creatures of moderate size or smaller. The globular Furst Augustus has a cunning plan: well-equipped with some wiley stratagems, he believes that he is in a position to advance upon the Imperial line, steal the first volley and augment it with some deadly fire: combined with the Landgravial army's capability for lethal volleys, this will surely carry the day. 'What can go wrong?' he coos to the handsome tavern wench with whom he has spent the night frolicking, a maid by the name of Tabitha Fenwick-Spye. 'What indeed', says Tabitha, twirling her moustache and rummaging through the Furst's pockets.

     (Below) 'Forward!' orders the Furst; 'forward to glory; also, where are my trousers?' Orders pass down the line; the drums beat; the flutes shriek; harness jingles; and the Rotenburg line advances. Marshal Cavandish rides up and down the Imperial lines: at the sight of him the troops roar 'Fenwick forever!,' 'Death to Rotenburg!,' and 'Who is that fellow on the horse?'

     (Above) As the Rotenburg troops advance, the Imperial artillery, professionals all, pour fire into the outside of the Rotenburg line, forcing it to halt momentarily to dress ranks in order to fill the bloody holes. Losing himself in the moment, Cavandish howls 'That's it, men: give them a taste of ball!', a comment which has the predictable effect of replacing the volleys of cannon fire with a fusillade of 'fnars!'. The Rotenburg line begins its advance again:  'Death or glory!' shout the Rotenburg troops, 'but preferably the latter!'

     (Below) As the Rotenburg line reaches musket range, a strange and momentary silence descends on the field as the two forces poise to fire. 'Messieurs les Rotenburgers, tirez les premiers' offers an Imperial officer. The Rotenburgers peer suspiciously: 'What's he say?'; 'I Don't know - is he asking the way to the beach?'; 'Fire you fools,' orders Furst Augustus, 'Fire first,dammit, fire! Fire!'. It is clear, however, that something has gone terribly wrong. A colossal intelligence failure seems to have given Cavandish the Furst's plan and Augustus has somehow lost the vital initiative that he had hoped to have in the crucial opening volley. As rolling fire begins to commence down the Rotenburg line, the Furst wails: 'How! How has this happened?', whilst Tabitha, wearing a new pair of trousers, shuffles off slowly, staring upwards and whistling tunelessly.

     (Above) But the Rotenburg goose is not cooked yet. The opening Imperial volley is a dismal expectoration of smoke and random musical noise: indeed, only the Imperial artillery inflicts any casualties. The Rotenburg troops now reply with a well aimed salvo, staggering the Imperial line, and an extended firefight begins: each side pouring volley after volley into the other; as casualties mount, only the presence of the respective commanders succeeds in keeping the troops on the field. 'To me, men' shouts Furst Augustus, 'For our Landgrave's sake! For our country's sake! For God's sake, where are my trousers?'.

     (Below) However, as the terrible musket duel prolongs, the Imperial troops begin to improve the accuracy of their fire. Under the weight of deadly volleys, the Rotenburg infantry battalion on the Furst's extreme rightwing breaks and runs. Busying himself with inspiring his troops, Furst Augustus cannot spare the time to put his troops into an extended line, making it more difficult for him to bring his numbers to bear.

(Below) Marshal Cavandish seizes the moment: 'Grenadiers forward! Charge!' he orders, and the Imperial infantry advances against the Rotenburg troops.'For the King!' shouts Furst Augustus, as his troops cross bayonets with the Imperial troops.

     (Below)  In the vicious melee that ensues, two more Rotenburg battlions are broken on the right of their front line: but two Imperial battalions are driven back through their own lines, disintegrating in the process. Again, the attack dissolves into an extended musketry duel.

     (Below) The battered troops on both sides take heavy casualites. Exhausted, four more battalions on each side break.

     Cavandish, though still has his Grenadiers in reserve and orders them up. Faced by a three to two advantage in numbers, the exhausted Rotenburg infantry cannot take any more and they flee. (Below) Having exhausted his stock of infantry, the Furst looks back at his remaining troops, searching for options. In the woods, the irregulars studiously avoid making eye contact with Augustus and instead busy themselves frisking a middle-aged squirrel. Then, to wild cheers from the two irregular battalions, Furst Augustus orders forward his cavalry in a final death or glory charge.

     (Below) Checking their dressing, and some also their life insurance, all four Rotenburg cavalry regiments bear down on the Imperial line. Cavandish sees the threat: with both armies perilously close to breaking, the Rotenburg cavalry aims to pin the Imperial cavalry to the front, whilst hussars ride down Cavandish's guns and then sweep onto the right flank of his remaining infantry. With loud cheers, the Rotenburg cavalry put their stirrups in and crash into the defending Imperials.

     (Below, centre) With anguished cries, the Imperial artillery are sabred to a man! Luckily for Cavandish, no one in the Imperial army sees to care very much: 'I never liked them,' comments one cavalryman. In the cavalry melee, charge and counter-charge commence, before, finally, one of the Rotenburg regiments breaks: with it, the whole army gives up in despair and begins to quit the field. Victory for Grand Fenwick!

     The road to Alexandopolis is open; the war, surely, is now over. On the battlefield, Marshal Cavandish surveys the happy faces of his troops. For a moment, he feels almost well-disposed to his battered soldiery, a feeling that soon disappears when he realises he must now find some way of communicating to them the need to pursue the Rotenburg irregulars, but without using the words 'ride,' 'rear,' or 'wood.' In Alexandopolis, Landgrave Choldwig takes the news of the defeat comparatively well: refusing, on account of his previous good service to Rotenburg, to have Furst Augustus hung and drawn, the Landgrave merely signs an order to have him quartered. Meanwhile, putting on a false moustache, of which there seem to be an inordinate number in Rotenburg, the pretender Juan Cornetto slips out of the Landgrave's palace and searches for the next cart to Turin.

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