Wherein the army of the Burgravate of Nabstria under General Hieronymous von Rumpfler encounters the army of Imperial Fenwick, commanded by Marshal Ignacio Grace-a-Deu Cavandish.
Mittelheim throbs to the booming of the drums of war; to the clarion call of the brazen trumpets of conflict; to the harsh clash of the cymbals of martial struggle; and to the tiny maracas of military competence. Heeding the call of King Wilhelm, the armies of Nabstria, Saukopf-Bachscuttel and Badwurst-Wurstburp, together comprising the Spasmodic Army, mobilise their forces against the Vulgarian Convention. This is easier for some than for others. In Nabstria, the officers, with some relief, quit their games of war having concluded that real war is more gentlemanly and less stressful than its miniature counterpart, the latter being marked by relentless bickering over angles of fire, dice roll modifiers, and rule 126.96.36.199.4: 'Cessation Cured Rallying of Disordered Interpenetration Movement Whilst Expanding Ranks.'
|Toy soldiers: sending ladies wild since |
the ninth dynasty
In Wurstburp, mobilisation is preceded by an urgent search for a dictionary in order to determine the word's meaning, and then another extended search in the Margravate's taverns, bordellos, prisons, dog kennels and pie shops to find an army; or at least something that might at a distance look like one. In Bachscuttel, on the other hand, the Palatinate's forces are quickly assembled: Prince Rupprecht conducts a great parade of his troops. For the forthcoming war, the Palatinate's soldiery will be accoutered in coats of splendid white after the fashion of the Saxon army, there being rather a glut of these uniforms since the battle of Pirna.
Lady Luck, making a whimsical choice, seems to favour the Nabstrians. Whilst Marshal Cavandish tries to implement the plan for a rapid Fenwickian strike against Nabstria in order to pre-empt the latter's mobilisation, the Imperial army's advance descends quickly into chaos. As the Fenwickian forces march northwestwards from the capital, Pogelswood, they encounter a farmer's wife leading a wagon load of melons. By the lavish application of the swords and spontoons of the officers and sergeants, the troops' double entendres barely are kept under control. At that point, however, the wagon is struck by an out of control cart full of dairy products. The danger is obvious, but before the feld gendarmerie can arrest the woman, she complains aloud about the vast quantity of cream that is now all over her melons. It takes two days to beat the 'fnars' out of the imperial army, handing the initiative firmly to the forces of General von Rumpfler.*
Recognising that his waning popularity can only be reversed by a decisive victory, Rumpfler tasks his forces with a direct assault upon Fenwick. The first objective is the Duchy of Bahnsee-Kassell: this is easily taken since the Duchy's army has been given the day off in order to visit his elderly mother. Pausing only to release a symbolic Nabstrian mallard back onto the surface of the captivating rococo duck pond at Nottelbad, the Nabstrian army crosses the border into Fenwick. An hours march further, and the Nabstrian scouts report the presence of the Imperial army, arrayed in defence at a place known as Wimintzhauer hill. Rumpfler smiles grimly - he intends to pile such a super-sized serving of whupass on the Fenwickian army that it will never recover. He urges his troops on, eager for the fray!
(Below) Behold! Here is the battlefield of Wimintzhauer, flatter than a Mittelheim growth forecast. Cavandish's army (below, left) has taken advantage of what little terrain is available. On and to the right of the hill he places in three lines eight regiments of his regular infantry. Just to their left, the four batteries that comprise the Imperial artillery are dug into place. On the extreme left wing are two regiments of cavalry, deployed one behind the other. Between the guns and cavalry is the remaining regiment of foot. The right wing consists of a single regiment of cavalry; it is positioned beyond the small wood. The marshal is in a jolly mood, and not even trying to explain how he wishes the right wing cavalry to deploy without actually using the word 'wood' can compromise his sunny disposition. As his troops move into their assigned places, Cavandish yawns loudly: his job here is nearly done and, once the battle commences, he can retire to his camp bed for a well earned rest. (Below, right) In response to the Fenwickian deployment, the Nabstrians now form line of battle.
Captain Fabius Nitzwitz fusses around the marshal, brushing crumbs from the aiguillettes on Cavandish's dressing gown. Having been advised that his military narcolepsy might be held at bay if he took up an involving hobby, the marshal has, in search of a 'flow activity' taken up pie-eating. If some at court have criticised the quantities of flabby pastry products now consumed by the marshal, Cavandish seems not to care, dismissing the evidence of his critics with the observation that there are 'Pies, ham pies, and statistics.'
(Above, right) The Nabstrian army prepares to assume the offensive. Surveying his enemy, Rumpfler begins to see the glimmerings of a plan. His preparations are not helped, however, by the noise emanating from his headquarters. The Nabstrian headquarters has never been especially dynamic, differing from a cemetary only by two days and one more barrel of port. Thanks, however, to the reputational damage caused to the general by his involvement in the bitter 'toy wars', he is now no longer fully trusted. Reflecting the widening view that von Rumpfler is not really up to it (a problem identified by his mistress, Nora Hindquarters, some time ago), the Burgrave himself has accompanied the army. Whilst, on the positive side, Burgrave Falco's presence has certainly improved the catering, it has not helped in the decision-making. Keen to demonstrate his command of things military, the Burgrave has spent several weeks educating himself through the medium of great works of strategy. Eschewing Maurice de Saxe's work as 'too intellectual'; Carl von Lackwitz's tome as too papery; and Horace de Saxe's 'My Hangovers' as too technical, the Burgrave finally plumped for a little known translation of an ancient Chinese volume on military advice by Fun Tzu, Sun Szu's more entertaining elder brother. Author of such works as 'The Art of War: Drawing Little Stick Men With Tricornes On', Fun Tzu's works are notable in particular for the focus on such maxims as: 'An army crawls on its stomach'; ''The moral is to the physical as the cat sat on the mat'; and 'Never interrupt one's enemy when they are eating a steak.' Though a loyal servant of the Burgrave, Rumpfler nevertheless is getting a tad annoyed with the Burgrave's helpful suggestions for how the coming battle should be fought.
'Straight at them! That's the way!' says Burgrave Falco enthusiastically. 'Just like General Feltch in my father's day. There was a general! He died with his boots on!'
'Indeed, sire,' nods Rumpfler evenly, 'And nothing else. One has to admire a man who meets a bayonet attack wearing nothing but his size tens and an enthusiastic smile. But I think that I have divined a cleverer way to crush these Fenwickian fools.' Quickly, the general issues his orders. (Below) The general deploys his troops for a two part assault that will focus on breaking the Imperial left wing (opposite the Nabstrian right). On his extreme right, his deploys two regiments of cavalry. These troops will dash forward, taking advantage of the fact that the Imperial cavalry on that wing is deployed one behind the other. Well equipped with stirrups, the Nabstrian horse will combine to defeat each Imperial regiment sequentially before turning to threaten the flank of their enemy. The second part of his plan involves his infantry. He places all of it in a (lamentably untidy) formation of march columns. Combined with their cadenced drill, the infantry will be able to rush forward, pinning the Nabstrian troops to their front. The Imperial army will then be caught in a vice from which they will not be able to escape.
The artillery are placed on the right wing between the infantry and the cavalry. Since he has no intention of fighting on his left, Rumpfler places his two units of light troops and his remaining cavalry regiment. The cavalry regiment mainly is there to stop the light troops hurting one another.
With his dispositions made, Rumpfler rides to the front of troops and addresses them:
'Men! There stand our enemy! Soon we will engage them in battle! Some of you are afraid; some of you are fearful; some of you are amusingly short; and others of you have strange lumpy faces. But none of this matters! That way to victory! Immortality awaits you: you have only to shuffle slowly towards it and grab it while it isn't looking! Forward!'
With that, the regimental drums strike up, trumpets sound, and to the rolling thud of horses' hooves, on the right wing the Nabstrian cavalry begins its advance. General Rumpfler rides back to join the Burgrave. 'We cannot fail,' says Rumpfler, triumphantly, 'for my plan is perfect!'
* A point, of course, which Marshal Cavandish cannot make to his officers since in Fenwick no sentence could even be uttered that contains both the words 'hand' and 'firm' .