General Redmond Barry-Eylund watches the enemy advance towards his troops. In truth, it is something of a relief - with the enemy's infantry now on the offensive, the Fenwickian artillery have stopped firing, and the army of the Palatinate of Saukopf-Bachscuttel might soon have an opportunity at last to contribute usefully to the battle.
'My lord, should I order our artillery to fire upon the enemy infantry?' pipes up a staff officer.
Barry-Eylund pauses a moment before replying.
'Yes, why not', he says with a shrug, 'I mean, it's the sort of thing that one should do at this point in a battle. Only', he adds, 'tell them to point their cannon at the enemy this time.'
'At once, my lord.'
The General's cannons open fire upon the advancing Imperials; but, as is normal for Mittelheim artillery, its role mainly is to provide some atmospheric smoke to the proceedings. A few of the cannonballs hit the advancing Fenwickian regiments and, with plaintive cries, some enemy musketeers are prematurely shortened and then collapse into the grass, to be trodden over, and, in a few vindictive cases, kicked several times in their wedding tackle, by the next line. Sergeants push men into the gaps and the advance continues without halting.
Barry-Eylund sighs resignedly. Behind him Prince Rupprecht and Count Erlock-Weisse continue their game of cards. Barry-Eylund raises an eyebrow to a staff officer.
'It's Poker, my lord' says the staff officer.
'Snap!' shouts Prince Rupprecht delightedly, taking all of the cards.
Across the meadow, Marshal Cavandish examines the advance through his spy-glass. (Below, left) There can be little finesse to this attack. The left and right of the Imperial troops are blocked by a marsh and a wood (though the the latter must be referred to in Fenwick as a 'leafy obstacle', the word 'wood' being an unwise one to use in Imperial circles. Actually, there are some who also argue for the banning of the phrase 'Imperial circles'. For similar reasons, in Fenwick, ringing bells always make the noise 'ding, ding'). Buttressed by three batteries of artillery, each protected by gabions, the Palatinate's line consists of five infantry regiments. The Bachscuttel horse are deployed to the rear, facing, naturally, in the wrong direction. But Marshal Cavandish has a trick or two up the sleeve of his night gown. He has a veeeeery strong suspicion that, about now, a bout of confusion is likely to afflict one of the Bachscuttel units.
Barry-Eylund ruminates on the object of the Fenwickian attack.
'Do they, perhaps, expect us to to cross the stream and fight them on equal terms?', he muses out loud.
Just to his left, in the front line, the General's words are heard by Graf von Gross-Winkel, Colonel of the von Gross-Winkel infantry regiment, a fine body of elite troops.
'Was than an order to cross the stream?', he says to his second-in-command.
'I don't think so, my lord. I think it was sarcasm'.
'Sarcasm, or irony?'
'Er - I'm not wholly clear on the difference, sir'.
'Or perhaps', gulps the Colonel, 'it was actually a rhetorical question'.
'Or a logical syllogism?' suggests his aide.
'Epistomologically, I'm not sure that we have the evidence to say categorically that the order to cross the stream does not exist', says the Graf.
'Ontologically though, sir, I think that we are making a mistake to assume that simply by asserting that the order exists, that we can then presume that it does indeed exist.'
'Hmm', says the Colonel. 'On the one hand, I might fall prey to an ontological paradox; and on the other, I might be executed for disobeying an order, constructivist or otherwise. Order the advance'.
'An actual advance, sir, or a rhetorical one?'
'An actual advance, Captain - but if it makes you feel better, you can give the order ironically.'
(Above, top) In perfect order, the regiment advances right into the middle of the stream. As the water swirls around their chests, their muskets get wet, making it impossible for the troops to fire. They are within range now of two Imperial regiments.
'Perfect', says, the Graf, beaming.
General Barry-Eylund cannot immediately rectify the mistake, not least because he is speechless with rage: red-faced, dribbling, almost catatonic with molten anger, hitting himself about his own head with his telescope. Eventually, he is able to squeeze out two words: 'R..r..r.regiment ....r...r...r..retrograde'. Fate smiles upon Barry-Eylund - the Imperial volleys are too post-modern in their character; they swirl around ineffably, lacking fundamentally in substance, and so leave on regiment von Gross-Winkel little evidence of their existence. With a short step to the rear, the regiment is then brought back into the line, relatively unscathed and out of range of the Imperial muskets.
(Below) The lead elements of the Imperial infantry approach the stream behind which the Palatinate's forces are deployed. The latter's position is a strong one, but, as is usual with Barry-Eylund, he has constructed a defensive position that, if it is tricky to get into, it is also very difficult to get out of. The Fenwickians are masters of the lethal volley, whereas the Palatinate's infantrymen are not; and the stream makes it just as difficult now for Barry-Eylund's troops to charge the Fenwickians as it does for the Fenwickians to get at Barry-Eylund's forces.
As it transpires, however, bayonets are rather surplus to requirements. The Palatinate's musketeers deliver some deadly fire against the advancing Imperials, causing many casualties; the latter's riposte is rendered largely ineffective by some thick smoke that obscures their view. Raked by canister fire, and with yet another deadly volley from the Bachscuttel lines, the Imperial attack begins to wilt. The Zentans are the first to melt away under the Palatinate's volleys, waggling their aubergines impotently (a particularly sad way of shaking them). Over the course of an extended fire-fight, the advantages of the Palatinate's canister fire proves just enough to give them the edge. A fierce attempt by one Imperial regiment to charge Barry-Eylund's line also ends in an large heap of corpses.
'Hah!', shouts General Barry-Eylund happily, gesticulating in the direction of the enemy: 'You can stick that up your Imperial circles'.
(Below) All three lead Fenwickian regiments break. The Bachscuttel lines are not without some losses. The artillery, for example, lose many gunners. Barry-Eylund shovels irregulars in to help man the cannons - if some potatoes get mixed in as well, they don't seem to be any less effective than the light troops, and they certainly seem to exhibit greater initiative. Despite urgent representations from his Nabstrian ally, Marshal Cavandish is reluctant to throw his remaining infantry again into the jaws of the Palatinate's defences.
Eventually, it is clear that the Imperial attack here is over. Across the meadow, Marshal Cavandish curses and even Keith seems to be off his oats.
'Dammit, Nitzwitz: and to think I stayed awake for that lamentably limp performance. How I loath Barry-Eylund - always winkling himself into his defensive shell like some kind of barnacle-bottomed military crustacean. I feel like getting off Keith, hitching up my nightgown, and then waggling my backside at those Bachscuttel fools, whilst shouting 'Behold Barry-Eylund: here's another crack for you to squeeze your army into!''
'My lord - I think that that would be beneath you.'
Cavandish reflects for a moment, before sliding from his horse.
'Actually, Nitzwitz, I don't think that it would be.'
As the shadows lengthen, Barry-Eylund surveys the field through his telescope. In front, the six remaining Imperial regiments remain halted. The threat from that direction clearly is over. Some way behind, the General can just make out a pale object that looks, if he didn't know better, like a posterior being gyrated derisively in his direction. But then suddenly, to his right, amidst the Nabstrian lines, there is an obvious commotion. Emerging from the gathering gloom marches a mass of infantry - the last great attack before night falls is surely underway! The General turns to train his glass upon his ally's positions: the Rotenburgers are outnumbered. And then, in the centre of the enemy lines, he notices frenzied activity amongst the enemy grand battery. Barry-Eylund gulps - Furst Augustus is about to be subjected to a combined infantry and artillery assault of formidable strength. He realises suddenly that upon the consequences of this final assault rests the outcome of the battle ....