Saturday, 22 August 2015

Heisenleman, the third!

The Imperial advance, all later agree, is a splendidly conducted manoeuvre. In perfect step, three lines of musketeers, each of three regiments, march resolutely towards the Bachscuttel positions, each line providing support for the other. Eight of the regiments comprise of trained regular Fenwickian infantry. In the middle of the front line marches the ninth: a unit of mercenary Zentans, clutching muskets and with stout aubergines pushed into the waistbands of their baggy pantaloons. There are no conscripts in this force: these are properly drilled musketeers from the Age of Reason. So there is no out-of-step shuffling; no complaints; no banging on and on about human dignity or the rights of man. There is simply a relentless tramp forward, with little noise in the cold grey afternoon except for the relentless tap-tap of their drums.

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.'
'Righto, sir'.
(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.

(Above) Instead, the fighting in this portion of the battlefield degenerates into a desultory exchange of artillery. Indeed, Barry-Eylund soon comes to the conclusion that he would be glad if his artillery could indeed be exchanged, their fire being especially notable for its ineffectiveness. The General makes a mental note that any future alcoholic ribaldry in local brewery's, or lewdsome frolics in houses of ill-repute should not be organised by his artillery officers.  The Imperial artillery of course proves itself to be a little more useful. The Palatinate light infantry battalion deployed in the nearby field is blown apart by enemy cannon fire. Barry-Eylund  halts attempts to remove their dead and wounded from the field and orders them instead to be dug into the ground - at least then they might then be useful for something.

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!''
Nitzwitz blanches.
'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 ....

Monday, 10 August 2015

Heisenleman, the second!

The six batteries fire upon the village of Popdorf. There is a thunderous, deafening roar. Death, who might have jumped out of his skin if he had any, checks his pantaloons and then remembers with relief that he also has no bowels. The entire battle halts momentarily as the troops from all four armies stare at the village. (Below) As the smoke slowly clears there is no sign at all of the Rotenburg garrison regiment - it has been completely annihilated.

The troops look on in awe.
Even Marshal Cavandish has been awoken: he looks agog at the smoking remains. 'By the power of Grey Skull', he whispers.
'Let's do it again!' says Captain Nitzwitz enthusiastically, training his telescope on a new target. Death, meanwhile, sprints across the field of battle shouting 'Wait! Wait! I wasn't ready!'
Behind the Palatinate line, Barry Eylund looks at Popdorf gloomily. It is Barry Eylund's forces that are nearest to the enemy grand battery. The Bachscuttel irregulars, deployed in a field, begin to dig themselves in amongst the potatoes. The regulars sag noticeably, in the hope that the reduction in their height might produce a commensurate increase in their lifespans. Sergeants set about beating such a notion out of them - 'those are cannonballs', they shout, as another salvo is launched from the enemy gun line, 'not leech fricasees. Stand like rough approximations of men', they growl. It seems evident to the General that the only orders that he is going to need to issue in this battle are those directing the bringing up of dustpans and brushes to clear away the remains of his army.
Behind him, Prince Rupprecht remains oblivious, and continues with his roistering.
'Dammit', says Barry-Eylund distractedly to a staff officer, 'what in God's good name are they playing now?'
'Gin rummy, I believe' says the officer.
'Snap!' says the Prince, happily.

The initial bloody execution doled out by the Combined Grand Army's artillery line leads Rumpfler and Cavandish to wait out the morning in the hope that their guns can drill further bloody holes in the ranks of their adversaries. But Fate is a cruel mistress, as well (as Death can testify) as being unable to cook terribly well. It becomes apparent that the artillery, like King Wilhelm at one of his evening soirees, has peaked rather too early in the proceedings. The morning bleeds away as the enemy artillery create for the armies of Bachscuttel and Rotenburg the exact same feeling of having one's genitals flicked with a metal ruler: it hurts quite a lot, but it isn't fatal.

On the other side of the battlefield, events have proceeded in a manner that might be described as 'gentlemanly'; if the gentleman in question were aged, quite forgetful, and periodically incontinent. A few Landgravial cannon balls have been thrown into the Nabstrian lines, eliciting a rousing cheer from the Rotenburg troops. The fire, however, has succeeded only in maiming a few of Rumpfler's light troops, eliciting a rousing cheer from the rest of his army. (Below, top) This geriatric military fumbling continues for a while until Rumpfler decides that it is time to advance his light troops; a bit of gentle probing might induce some response from his Rotenburg foe. However, it soon becomes clear that the Nabstrian probing has penetrated the Rotenburgers rather too deeply, since it evokes an immediate and violent response. Positioned on the right between the woods and Dangalbalz stands a dismounted Colonel Michel-George du Vicque, commander of the Rotenburg Landgravial cavalry, along with his second in command, Captain Dietrich von Stadtmaffin, and his trumpeter, Ensign Hans Standt. Du Vicque and von Stadtmaffin wait patiently, eyeing the Nabstrian light troops as they caper forwards. Their calmness contrasts with that of the ensign, who points excitedly at the enemy jager, saying repeatedly 'Shall we charge? Shall we charge? Can we? Can we? Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on!'
'Patience, Standt, ' says du Vicque, 'A professional soldier obeys orders always. We must wait for an ... ouch, dammit!'
'My lord?' says Stadtmaffin, concerned.
'I've injured myself on this nail' says du Vicque, examining his boot gingerly.
'I don't think that's a nail,' says Stadtmaffin, leaning in solicitiously, 'its much shorter, its more of a ... a ...'
 'A tack?' says du Vicque.
'Attack? Attack!' shouts the Ensign, blowing his instrument harder than Landgrave Choldwig in a Turkish bath.
'No! Nooooooooooooooo!' shouts du Vicque - but it is too late (Below, bottom) With wild neighs, not all them from the horses, and loud shouts of Huzzah!', the Landgravial cavalry surges forwards.


Galloping onwards in march columns, the Rotenburg horse are soon  dangerously positioned on the flank of the Nabstrian Army.

Viewing events through his telescope Barry Eyland jumps up and down in frustration: 'We agreed!' he shouts out furiously to no one in particular. 'We agreed! No displays of initiative! None! No brain storming! No left-field thinking! No creating a metaphorical box so that we could think outside of it!' In Saxe-Peste's headquarters, the Furst, too, is apoplectic 'What's picqued du Vicque?' he asks angrily. Saxe-Peste can espy the cavalry riding forward, with du Vicque hopping behind, waving his hands about like a loon. 

Actually, though, the sudden advance of the Rotenburg cavalry causes Rumpfler some difficult problems: the enemy horse have merely to wheel left, and they will endanger his whole flank. (Below): Rumpler hastily orders the jager to turn towards the enemy cavalry. His own cavalry can do little immediately - being in march column, they cannot counter-charge the Rotenburgers, and they cannot change into line where they are because this will leave their flanks exposed. Rumpfler has no choice but to send his cavalry leftwards, still in march column, ready to deploy next turn.

(Above, left) The Rotenburg cavalry halts and begins to form to line. Du Vicque and Stadtmaffin manage to catch up.
'We seem to be fine, my lord', says Stadtmaffin relieved. 'See, the enemy horse are still deploying. There's plenty of time for a measured, carefully thought out series of manoeuvres that will allow us to return to our lines'.
'Yes', says du Vicque, mopping his brow. 'We'll put the men into line and then begin a retrograde movement. We might be able to retire through the wood - there might be a road'.
'There's certainly no road, my lord', says Stadtmaffin, 'but there might be a path thingy.'
'A track?' Says du Vicque.
'Attack?' Attack!' shouts the ensign.
'Christ's bunions, noooooooooooooo!' wails du Vicque despairingly.

(Below) With much shouting and waving of swords, the Rotenburg cavalry hurls itself at the Nabstrians, who have now been able to form line. The confined space means that the lead two Rotenburg regiments must face three Nabstrian units - but the intrepidity of the Landgravial advance wins the combat, even if the Nabstrian horse remain unbroken. Charge and counter-charge ensue, with sundry hacking, slashing, and twisting of melons.

(Below) There is a temporary pause in the cavalry melee. Each side has lost one of their regiments: but the remaining Nabstrian cavalry are in some disorder. Still (below, right), Rumpfler has a key advantage - one regiment, at least, of his jager are able to bring some of their muskets to bear on the flanks of the lead Rotenburg dragoon regiment. A few volleys might be able to cripple the Rotenburgers. Volley after volley demonstrates, however, that the jagers couldn't hit the side of a barn even if they were actually deployed inside it.

Rumpfler gallops over to remonstrate with them. Strangely, the jager have dirty smudges of grey around their mouths. They all seem to be sucking something.
'What have you got in your mouths', shouts the General impatiently.
One jager halts and answers. 'We've been given lots of lovely gob-stoppers, my lord'.
'Spit it out', orders Rumpfler. The jager complies and out pops what looks suspiciously like a musket ball.
Rumpfler looks aghast. 'What in God's name have you been loading your muskets with?' he says.
'Loading?', asks the jager.
A fellow leaps by, and aims at a cavalryman - 'Bang!' he shouts, 'Bang, bang, bang! You're dead!'
The jager beams at the General. 'See the rate of fire we can get, my Lord?'

Meanwhile, Colonel du Vicque seems now to have restored some order to the Rotenburg line. He looks askance at Ensign Standt, murder in his eyes.
'If he does that again', says du Vicque to Stadtmaffin, 'I shall give that fellow the most violent smack'.
'Careful, my Lord' says Stadtmaffin, looking alarmed 'in the din of battle the words 'a smack' sounds dangerously like ...'
'Attaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!', shouts the Ensign, and then blows his trumpet so hard that his tongue pops out of the end. 'A-ack! A-ack!'
Again, the Rotenburgers gallop forwards!

(Below) The final cavalry battle occurs! There is a brief, savage, clash of steel before the Nabstrians, riding their horses rather less skilfully than other horses might, collapse in the face of the impetuous Landgravial assault. Both remaining Nabstrian regiments flee! Rumpfler's flank is open!

Desperate, Rumpfler sends a courier to Marshal Cavandish - in order to occupy the enemy, he asks for the Imperial infantry to begin their assault on the right wing. Cavandish is unconvinced by Rumpfler's logic, believing that the Bachscuttel defence is still too strong.
'I'm unconvinced by Rumpler's logic', he says to the courier, 'and I believe that the Bachscuttel defence is still too strong'.
However, as Nabstrian cavalrymen begin to stream past his headquarters in cheerful rout, the Marshal recognises that needs must when the Devil rides his horse as badly as a Nabstrian cavalryman.

And so, the orders are sent; the drums begin to roll; the banners wave; and, bayonets fixed, nine regiments of Imperial infantry begin their attack against Barry-Eylund's line......

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Heisenleman, the first!

Wherein the Combined Grand Army of Imperial Fenwick and the Burgravate of Nabstria encounters the Grand Combined Army of the Landgravate of Rotenburg and the Palatinate of Saukopf-Bachscuttel.

Above the meadows of Heisenleman, grey clouds are banked menacingly. The heavens, it seems, are ready to add their own drama to the events unfolding below.
'And so', says General Barry-Eylund with gravity, 'we are witness to the great struggle of our times. Who can guess what the outcome will be? The efforts of man alone will surely not suffice. Only Fate, it would seem, can decide.'
'Yes', says Furst Augustus Saxe-Peste. After a pause, he adds 'How long do you think that he'll take to work it out?'
Through his telescope Barry-Eylund continues watching Prince Rupprecht of Saukopf-Bachscuttel, as the latter tries to work out which way around his tricorne should go. 'It could be some time. It's probably best if we get this battle out of the way.'

Two armies face one another in the clash that will surely decide the War of the Spanish Suck Session. (Below) On one side stands the Grand Combined Army of the Palatinate of Saukopf-Bachscuttel and the Landgravate of Schillingsfurst-Hesse-Rotenburg. Furst Augustus and General Barry-Eylund have held a brief council of war, agreeing on the dispositions of their troops for the coming battle. (Below, top) The forces of the Palatinate hold a third of the line, occupying the position between the village of Popdorf and a small stream. The infantry are in two lines, with guns interspersed. Light troops occupy a small field to the right of Barry-Eylund's line, mainly because the General cannot think of anything better for them to do, and also because it is important to keep the irregulars away from any habitations that might be sources of leech brandy and women's clothing. To the rear, all three regiments of Horse are deployed in march column, held ready to cross the stream, swinging out, perhaps, onto the Grand Combined Army's left.

(Above, bottom) Furst Augustus' troops hold the remainder of the front. From Popdorf, which is garrisoned with a regiment, to the nearby village of Dangelbalz, the Furst deploys all of his infantry, supported by his two batteries of guns. A wall springs out to the right from Popdorf, providing some potential cover to a portion of his line. A field of turnips to the immediate rear of his troops makes manoeuvre a little inconvenient. On the extreme right of the line, and massed behind a wood, are the four regiments of Rotenburg cavalry, under the command of Colonel Michel-Georges du Vicque. The allied plan is as simple as it is elegant: don't lose the battle. The troops of the two armies must fight until victory is achieved, or failing that, until their Generals and their retinues have been given an appropriate opportunity to quit the field safely. To this end, Barry-Eylund and Furst Augustus have both agreed that there should be no displays of initiative on the part of their troops; no innovative application of the campaign planning tools; no strategic ad-libbing; no displays of tactical flexibility or any other such nonsense. Flair, innovation, and blue-sky thinking are immediately forbidden in both armies on pain of death, or an unpleasant evening with some aubergines and a battalion of Zentan mercenaries (whichever turns out to be cheaper). Only blind, unthinking obedience to orders, the turnip-headed, rigid application of doctrine, and a bovine lack of interest in adapting to changing circumstances will be sufficient to execute the allied plan. If Herr Cock Up comes knocking, then emphatically, no one has permission to answer the door.

Across the meadows stands arrayed the Combined Grand Army of the Empire of Fenwick and the Burgravate of Nabstria. Marshal Ignacio Grace a Dieu Cavandish, Generalissimo of Imperial Fenwick, is already exhausted. He has been up since the crack of dawn. This is not, of course, something that he can say to his staff officers, since any sentences that have the word 'crack' in it are likely to have near fatal consequences for Fenwickians, given their wearisome love of japesome double-entendre. Besides, since General Heironymous von Rumpfler has a cousin named Dawn, it might cause some unnecessary inter-allied misunderstandings.Talking long into the night, Cavandish and Rumpfler have created a plan that seems so cunning it could con a weasel into paying for utterly unnecessary insurance protection for future financial payments. Now, the orders have been sent out and the troops arrayed. Cavandish, who in deference to the solemnity of the moment has pulled his dress-uniform coat over his night gown, looks out over the assembled forces.

(Below, middle) Behold! the Combined Grand Army has concentrated all of its artillery into a stupendous six battery behemoth of potent projectile power. Four batteries are provided by Imperial Fenwick, and these have been trained rigorously at the Camberwick School for Artillery and Gifted Children. This monstrous military mass of gargantuan gunpowder alliteration stands ready to blow a hole in the Wilhelmite line. To exploit the havoc that will be wreaked by the grand battery, Cavandish and Rumpfler have concentrated their infantry forces into two, three line formations. (Below, top) On the right, opposite the forces of Bachscuttel, are the musketeers of Imperial Fenwick. At the appropriate moment, they will launch a resolute attack forwards, cross the stream and drive the bewildered remnants of the Palatinate's forces from the field of battle. (Below, bottom) On the left, the Nabstrian infantry is deployed for an assault upon the Rotenburg line: since the Rotenburgers must defend a longer line than their callow allies, and since they lack the protection of the stream, this is likely to be the scene of the battle's decisive act.

(Above, bottom) Desirous of maintaining for his cavalry the flexibility that comes with deployment into march column, but fearful also of the effects of the Rotenburg artillery, Rumpfler positions his cavalry behind the hill: what could possibly go wrong with that? After his endeavors at Dammenblatz Paul, Duke of Clarkeshire, is now back in his more familiar role as commander of the Nabstrian horse; and also, hopefully, most of the riders as well.

And so, the stage is set; the pieces arrayed; the game afoot; the metaphors exhausted. General Barry-Eylund peers through his telescope, moving it down the opposing line - when he reaches the enemy artillery, he gulps, and then, to make himself feel better, he turns the telescope around, making the grand battery look much, much smaller. Behind him, Prince Rupprecht and his entourage are making merry. The Prince has been in a boisterous mood. Rupprecht also has been up at the crack of Dawn. Having dismissed Dawn, by tipping her a few shillings, the Prince has been whiling away the hours by playing cards with one of his favourites, the young rake, Count Ferdinand von Erlock-Weisse. Rupprecht is munching on a chicken leg. His subordinates ignore the flapping and squawking of the bird. Swiftly Rupprecht slaps down a card, his tricorne, the right way around but the wrong way up, wobbles alarmingly.
'Snap!', cries the Prince.
'Um' says Count Erlock-Weisse
'What are they playing?' asks Barry-Eylund to a nearby staff officer.
'Whist, my lord', he replies.

Across the meadow, General von Rumpfler waits a moment longer. From each of the armies drifts the banging of drums and the trill of flutes; except, that is, from the direction of the army of Bachscuttel, where Rupprecht's military orchestra produce a delicate tinkle with the fruits of Rupprecht's brief dalliance in the triangle trade. In the middle of the Palatinate's musicians stands a single woman, banging on a tambourine. The musicians look askance at her: as the paramour of the conductor, they fear for the future of the band. Finally, Rumpfler turns to a courier and says simply 'It is time'. Bowing, the courier mounts his horse (not something that could be done in the army of Imperial Fenwick) and gallops towards Cavandish's headquarters.

The courier approaches Marshal Cavandish. The Marshal is upon his horse, Keith, and attended by his Chief of Staff, Captain Fabius Nitwitz. The courier bows. 'My Lord Cavandish', he says, 'General von Rumpfler begs to suggest that it is time now to commence the bombardment of the village of Popdorf.'
Cavandish says nothing. Indeed, he is slumped forward on his saddle, with no sign of life except the gentle sway of the tassle on his night cap.
'Um', says the courier. 'My lord Cavandish?'
Nitwitz interrupts: 'The good Marshal is cogitating'.
'Cogitating?', says the courier. He watches the Marshal for a moment. Cavandish moves slightly and sprawls even further forward onto Keith.
'Cogitating?' says the courier again. 'Are you sure he's not asleep?'
'No, no', replies Nitzwitz, 'just the moment before you arrived, the Marshal was entertaining me with a most amusing story about the poor footnoting conventions in Marshal de Saxe's 'Mes Reveries.'
The courier peers a little closer. 'Is that dribble on the Marshal's saddle?'
'No, no' says Nitwitz vigorously. 'He is certainly awake. My lord Cavandish, should we open fire with our artillery?'
There is a short silence. Cavandish starts suddenly, then breaks wind, and murmurs 'More lard, less pixies: that's the trick.' He slides slowly from his saddle onto the grass and begins to snore loudly.
Nitwitz turns to the courier. 'Lord Cavandish agrees: let the firing commence!'
'Fire!' shouts Nitzwitz.
'Fire! shouts the courier.
'Fire! shout the surrounding staff officers.
'Blimey, where?' murmurs Cavandish blearily alarmed.

Nearby, Death settles down for a nap against the trunk of a tree. The sudden activity amongst the nearby cannons can signal only one thing: the traditional symbolic start of a Mittelheim battle, comprising the noisy, and casualty free, making of smoke by the artillery arm. Death rests his head gently, experiencing once again the sense that naps aren't half so much fun now that he has no eye-lids.

Meanwhile, in the village of Popdorf, one Rotenburg musketeer turns to another:
'You know', he says, 'I have a good feeling about today.'
'Really?' says his compatriot, clutching his musket tightly.
'Well yes. The birds are singing, life is good. In fact, I think it's time that I started paying into a pension or something. I have the strong feeling that something really big will be coming my way very shortly.'

'Fire!' cries the Fenwickian artillery officer.
'Fire!' shouts the commander of the Nabstrian artillery.
Thirty six porte-fires are placed into thirty six vents....