Saturday, 23 January 2016

That way to the gunpowder!

In parallel to the events proceeding inside of the capital's walls, an array of frolicsome antics are under way outside as well. Captain Stefan von Kobblerz's force is tasked with destroying the bridge that links Gross Schnitzelring to the outside world. It is a task that many have dreamed of undertaking.

(Above, the very top) In the distance, the white uniforms of Kobblerz's regular company can be barely discerned. The captain has led this force forwards to screen the rest of his troops. Some of his regulars occupy a small wood, whilst the rest have positioned themselves in a prosperous looking house in the wood's immediate vicinity. In response to orders to fortify the house against attack, the troops have rifled through the drawers and cupboards, stolen all of the spoons, made themselves some elevenses and deliberately left the washing up. (Above, bottom) The sedan chair heads towards the bridge. Immediately behind are the two squadrons of dismounted cavalry.

Nearby, two cloaked forms watch the proceedings with mild interest. One is tall and carries both a scythe and an air of disappointment. The other is small, corpulent, and gives off the menacing ambiance of a hungry cannibal midget at dinner time. It is, of course, Death and Famine, who have halted their journey on the way to the battle at Heisenleman for a bit of a break. Death is exhausted, dead tired even, and is hoping secretly that the coming battle features a large role for both artillery and cavalry so that he can catch up on his sleep. Of course, technically Death doesn't need to sleep, but he has found that it provides a useful way of avoiding having to talk to Famine or his bone headed chums War and Pestilence. An evening with the three of them Death has concluded, is about as entertaining as French-kissing a halibut.
Famine says 'I'm hungry.'
'That's the point', replies Death, wearily.
'What?' says his lardy companion.
'Your supposed to be hungry', says Death. 'I mean, what's the point of having a Famine who's not hungry? What's the point in having War, Pestilence and No Thanks I'm Full. You're supposed to terrify man-kind by visiting fearful events upon them. Otherwise, why have War, Pestilence and Famine? Why not Celery, Lard, and Zumba'.
'What's zumba?'
Death shrugs, which creates a dry clicking sound. 'I'm not really sure - a kind of undead rumba I expect'.
Nearby, muskets begin to go off.
Famine brightens up. 'I've invited War and Pestilence to that gig in Dresden', he says cheerily.
'Really?' says Death, his voice expressing the down-turned mouth that his actual mouth can't perform. Then, with a particularly fruity expletive, he begins to stomp off moodily.
Famine jogs after him. 'Hey, where are you going?'
'To find a bloody halibut', says his comrade, disappearing in a puff of smoke.

The muskets are being fired by the Nabstrians. Kobblerz's musketeers are quickly in action. Sweeping onto the field of battle come the two companies of Toplitz-Hande's relief column. The Croats exchange some desultory volleys with the Nabstrian musketeers before the Colonel orders them to push forwards at any costs. (Above, top) The Croats flank the Nabstrian musketeers, threatening to break out of the woods. Blocking their route however, they find a solitary officer in the uniform of a captain in the Nabstrian army. With his two squadrons of dismounted cavalry some way to the rear, Kobblerz finds himself suddenly in the front-line. The Croats halt  confused: this must be some kind of trick - one man against a company? They look around nervously like meerkats at a firework party, expecting at any moment that a terrible surprise will pop up and scare the nipples off them.

Staring down the company of Croats, Captain Kobblerz looks surprisingly relaxed. Sergeant Steiner sprints quickly to his side.
'Sir, we must run for the safety of the house'.
'No, Sergeant', says Kobblerz patently. 'We're quite safe'.
'But we're going to die, sir: and my wife needs me, sir - who'll polish her when I'm gone?'
'Au contraire, sergeant', says Kobblerz, risking some experimental French. 'We cannot be targeted by enemy fire separately when we are so close to our own troops. So we are quite safe, sergeant: certainly safe enough to do this', he sticks his tongue out at the Croats, 'or even this' he says, gesticulating in an Italian manner that both dishonours the Croats' mothers, sisters, and wives and also implies, generally, that they might actually be the same person.
'But...' says Steiner.
'In fact', says Kobblerz, interrupting, 'I've never liked Croats. This should really rile those bulbous Balkan boar bonkers. To Steiners amazement and concern, the Captain begins to gyrate rythmically, and then he begins to sing ...

The Croats look on, stunned. In front of them, the mad Nabstrian captain cavorts in some kind of lewd mime and dance. He sweeps his hand vigorously down as if paddling the backside of an invisible buxom tavern wench, whilst singing ' butts and I cannot lie, those other brothers can't deny ....'
The Croats look at one another. Is this a trap? The fellow is clearly unhinged. They look around nervously.
'He likes big butts?' asks one, tremulously.
'Yes', says another, 'but I for one fail to see their attraction: I mean, what's so special about a large water barrel?'
'Oooh, tasty', says another, running his hands over the cabinet that he's brought with him.

'But ...' says Steiner.
'Don't interrupt!', shouts Kobblerz, before continuing his song, 'When a girl walks in with an itty, bitty waist, and a round thing in your face!'
'But ...' says Steiner.

'I think this is a most unsuitable song for a battle', says one Croat to the others, leveling his musket.
'I agree', says another. 'And this song can't promote a healthy body image for women'.
'Quite so. I should think that this sort of thing shouldn't be allowed'.
'Yes', says another, 'down with this sort of thing'.
Some of the Croats fire a volley at point blank range at the nearest Nabstrians. (Below, top) At that range even a pacifist with a blindfold couldn't miss. Obviously, then, some of the Croats do miss, but enough hit to cut down the Nabstrian regulars that aren't safely ensconced in the house.

'But...' says Steiner.
'Don't interrupt!', shouts Kobblerz, before continuing, 'You...get ...sprung!'
'Sorry, sir - but I'm off!' says Steiner sprinting rearwards.
'Stop!' shouts the Captain. 'They can't hit me - as long as I'm close to my troops they can't target me separately - so as long as I stay close to those troops over there I ... oh', he says espying the white uniformed Nabstrian corpses lying in the wood.
More Croat muskets are leveled - Kobblerz looks around desperately, taking in his sudden isolation. A small rabbit catches his eye. There is a moment of silence. The rabbit looks at the Croats and then back at the captain. Then the little fellow shrugs, and his little paw moves up and down in a sad goodbye to Captain Stefan von Kobblerz. (Above, bottom) With a final sad imaginary slap to the posterior of his phantom tavern wench, Kobblerz shouts out plaintively 'But I've got so much more to give!' before a thunderous volley from the Croats strikes him to the ground.

(Above) Perhaps because of the death of their officer, or perhaps just because they have seen his dance, the Nabstrian dragoons are unmanned. Their morale fails without them even having fired a shot and they quit field. (Above, right) In the house by the bridge, the dismounted Nabstrian Hussars have climbed through the window, bringing them into close range of some Croats who have also made enterprising use of the windows to gain entry to the building. Unfortunately for Nabstria, the ensuing fight is for the Hussars not so much a combat as a badly handled trolley dash. One of their number falls to the ground, possibly shot, or possibly just begging for his life, and the morale of the remainder also breaks. They, too, quit the field.

(Above) Pursued by some angry Croats, the sedan chair runners decide that it might be better to take another fare. Though their passenger seems literally to be fizzing with anger, they run off taking with them any chance of blowing up the bridge but carrying with them the guarantee of a nasty surprise for the next occupant.
'Huzzah!' shouts Toplitz-Hande.
'They've run off', says his sergeant.
Though the Colonel is tempted to do a tasteful victory dance, in truth the fight is still in the balance. With Wilhelm safely delivered, but the bridge still intact, the outcome of this affray depends now upon whether the Nabstrian regulars that still occupy the building near the wood can escape safely. This should, surely, be a matter of a simple vigorous rout from the field of combat, an activity that all Nabstrian regulars are of course well acquainted with by now. 

But you never can tell ...


  1. Battles and combats in Gelderland do tend to hang on a knife edge but this particular skirmish is so replete with incompetence, bufferoony and violence that one might almost call it a squirmish...

    1. It's the bufferoony that hurts the most: a terrible Nabstrian activity that involves being walloped with a pillow full of mallards.