Wherein the army of the Burgravate of Nabstria under the command of General Heironynous von Rumpfler encounters the army of the Landgravate of Rotenburg commanded by Furst Augustus Saxe-Peste.
The reasons why the states of Nabstria and Rotenburg have developed an unreasoning hatred of each other are now lost in the mists of time. Some say it dates back to pre-Roman times when the Nabstiri tribes were the terror of Gelderland. Some say that the inhabitants of Nabstria suffered terribly at the hands of Rotenburg protestant zealots during the Thirty Years War. But others say that the beginning of the rift between the two states can be precisely dated to the visit by Choldwig III of Rotenburg to visit the newly married Burggrave and Burggravina of Nabstria in the heady days of peace in 1742. It is said that the young Choldwig forgot all the manners so long drilled into his head by his long suffering tutor, Herr Docktor Schnoggesbor, and behaved not only boorishly but barbarously. It is even rumoured that he ate every single Viennese pastry that had been created to celebrate his visit to the couple. Whatever the truth of these rumours, one thing can be stated for certain. Relations between Nabstria and Rotenburg have rarely been good but it has to be said that today they have descended to a level lower than a hedgehog’s nether regions. The antipathy between the two states may have started as a personal matter between the Burggrave and Landgrave but it has grown, festered and is now shared by almost all the inhabitants of the two states. This has enabled itinerant bards and storytellers to make a good living by simply swapping the butt of their jokes and stories between a Nabstrian or a Rotenburger – depending on whether they are in the Landgravate or Burggravate. (Most of these stories are low and crude like the most common one: “Have you heard about the Rotenburger/Nabstrian who walked into a tavern and…”) The variations of such stories are endless but, woe betide the storyteller who forgets where he is and makes the wrong substitution. Printers and woodcut artists in Gelderland are also able, at minimal expense, to produce a different Nabstrian or a Rotenburger edition with the substitution of a just a few words, guaranteeing higher sales and very good reviews amongst their readership.
Yet this general sense of antipathy reaches its highest form whenever the armies of the two states clash on the field of battle. The fortunes of war have carried the Nabstrian Army deep into Gelderland, close to the borders of Rotenburg. Soon, Saxe-Peste, with a heavy sense of destiny or perhaps just an oncoming case of dropsy, orders his army to strike at their enemy's vitals. Just outside the small hamlet of Putschdorf, Furst Augustus Saxe-Peste, has drawn up the mighty Army of Hesse-Rotenburg, watching and waiting for the hated enemy to march straight into his trap….
Liberally supplied with his favourite Burgundy from his own special campaign cask (which travels with Saxe-Peste everywhere – one might almost say they were joined at the hip but it is less of a hipflask and more of a barrel), Saxe-Peste is confident of victory over the hated Nabstrians. ‘We have fought these dogs on many an occasion, have we not?’ he says to no one in particular, although Captain Wankrat, his orderly tasked with the onerous task of ensuring his campaign cask never runs dry, is listening. ‘Erm, yes, sir’ he hurriedly remembers to say. ‘And on many occasions, we have chosen to assault the Nabstrian positions, have we not?’ Saxe-Peste continues with a serious expression. ‘Erm, yes, sir’ Wankrat echoes. ‘Well, this time, we shall deploy on an open field and meekly elect to defend while the damned Nabstrians waste their time with their fancy manoeuvres and foppish marches, … that damned von Rumpfler needs to be taught a lesson or two, with his uppity ways and his buxom mistress and his, …his, …his’ Saxe-Peste’s speech fades off into a silence yet fuelled by a pleasant haze of Burgundy.
‘Yes, but sir,’ Wankrat, with more urgency, presses his chief, ‘We have deployed for defence but what is your plan, sir’. The Rotenburg army is indeed strongly deployed with its powerful force of four horse regiments on the right, with its infantry and guns anchored upon a low but formidable hill. ‘Eh? What?, Ah, yes! continues Saxe-Peste, ‘ So those damned Nabstrians will try their fancy manoeuvres, “ooh look at us, we can do cadence!”, mocks Saxe-Peste. ‘But then, they’ll find out, oh yes they’ll learn that there’s something that isn’t on their effete, bloody useless Nabstrian maps! Oh, yes, they’ll know then! Says Saxe-Peste with a particularly unpleasant leer on his face…
‘And what’s that sir?’ Wankrat asks his commander.
‘Well, I’m not bloody telling you, am I?’ Says Saxe-Peste swaying a little unsteadily in his saddle. ‘Bloody spies, everywhere – think I’m going to tell a bloody orderly my masterplan before a battle? Now get off with you and find some more Burgundy, I think I’m going to need it today…’
Even as Saxe-Peste is having this not entirely coherent conversation, the Nabstrian Army marches into view…
Meanwhile, von Rumpfler has a cunning plan of his own. If his plan was a carpet, then it has to be said that it would be wearing a little thin by now. As he gave the orders for the order of march of the Nabstrian Army, Hugo von Stumpe, his ADC, even had the temerity to question von Rumpfler’s judgement:
‘But sir, have we not attempted to use the oblique order on many occasions recently? Asked von Stumpe.
‘Yes, yes,’ replied von Rumpfler, more than a little annoyed that von Stumpe was getting uppity. ‘But the great, the marvellous point, von Stumpe, is that each time we have used the oblique order, we’ve used it against a different foe! Unless our opponents have all been in correspondence – which I greatly doubt, those Rotenburgers don’t even know what a quill is for – we are quite safe to use the manoeuvre again!’, said von Rumpfler. ‘And what’s more to the point, my dear von Stumpe, this time, I aim to add a variation’.
‘Oh really?’, asked von Stumpe, trying to remain interested.
‘’Yes!’ said von Rumpfler, with a note of excitement in his voice. ‘This time we shall march our infantry against the famous Rotenburger cavalry! They won’t dare charge our well drilled troops and we shall slowly but surely march them off the field. Then, having outflanked the Rotenburg’s infantry, they won’t stand a chance – and voila! A Nabstrian victory, and then I can expect more honours and awards from the Burggrave! I might even mention you in despatches, von Stumpe, as you know that I can’t actually reward you publicly for your, erm, recent services against the Vulgarians. You do understand, don’t you, my dear von Stumpe?
‘Why of course sir’, says von Stumpe, snapping to attention.
And so the two commanders of these hated rivals have made their plans, and their troops are already in motion…battle will soon commence but who will snatch the laurels of victory?