General Herz van Rentall nods, peering into the swirling smoke below the hill from which the sound of battle emanates. 'Yes, Duke, dat's about it. De Nabtrian's will never expect it. No one ever regretsh shticking to the plan and pushing on - maintenance of da aim is key in war.'
'Hmmm,' my lord,' says the duke. 'That might not always be true. Flexibility also can be a virtue. I mean, Prince Paris, for example, on his trip back to Troy with Helen: imagine if he'd just thought: "You know what, on reflection she's not all that - I'm just going to drop her off in Greece and head to Ephesus for a few beers instead." Or the great Julius Caesar: imagine if he'd said on the morning of the Ides of March: "Bugger the forum - I'm just going to have a lie in." What I'm trying to say, sir, is that perhaps now might be the time to reconsider our involvement in this battle and embrace instead the gentle art of the tactical withdrawal.'
Rentall gestures into the valley below. 'Too late, my good duke. 'Shee, our next attack hash already commenced!'
(Right) Supported by the Liebgarde Feratu-Osterburg, Count Barlow's regiment fire a volley and then storm forwards! The regiment launch a vigorous Vulgarian bayonet charge, which is like an ordinary bayonet charge but with a lot more biting. Their target being yet another regiment of raw troops, the Nabstrian regiment collapses - this wasn't what they signed up for: route marches, yes; cadenced drill; occasional cruelty to rodents, but not the sudden violent assault of these be-wigged Vulgarian loonies. As Stumpe stares down onto the battlefield he begins to notice with horror a terrible development. Though words such as "sensitive," "caring," and "emotionally delicate" usually never appear in the same sentence as the words "Nabstrian troops" (actually, they rarely even feature in the same book), it seems that Stumpe's army is taking each of today's battle losses very hard indeed. Stumpe suffers the yawning realisation that, though his losses still are less than those of his Vulgarian adversary, the morale of his army is now little better.
Stumpe looks at his infantry line. 'Our men seem to be losing their enthusiasm for the fight,' he says, watching as a number of the troops drop their britches, pull their underbreeks over their heads, and in the hope of being sent to the rear on account of incipient madness, begin to hop around like frogs and "baah" like sheep.
As the Vulgarians drive forwards, Stumpe faces a dilemma: should he stay with his infantry, perhaps rallying them; or should he ride pell-mell to his cavalry and bring them forwards in preparation for an impetuous charge against the Vulgarian rear? Stumpe thinks for a moment - what would General von Rumpfler do? Stumpe considers the answer but then rejects it - he cannot afford the time to moon over Frau Hindquarters and in this crisis it would be best if he kept his britches on. Finally he decides.
'Saxe,' he says, interrupting the marshal, 'stop fiddling under that blanket and hold the fort: I ride now to call von Pfanenstiel hence!'
'Call him hence?' replies de Saxe, 'I think that you should call him 'Pfanenstiel" or he might not understand.'
(Left, at the top) Finally, the Nabstrian cavalry begins to move forwards. Von Pfanenstiel is relieved. As it turns out, battle is not what his father's tales had led him to expect. There is a lot less charging; or fighting; or, to be frank, proximity to the enemy. His troops have spent much of the fight amusing themselves by watching the lamentable Nabstrian light troops accidentally shooting one another. Now, with orders to join the fray, the Nabstrian horsemen charge forwards. This is more like it! Advancing towards the enemy with drawn swords! Riding down one's own line of light troops! Hurrah! Hurrah!
(Left, at the bottom) In front of Marshal Horace de Saxe, however, the Vulgarian counter-attack begins to build even more momentum. Like a military juggernaut, though with longer wigs and more frilly lace than juggernauts one might usually encounter, both Count Barlow's regiment and the Osterburg-Feratu Liebgarde hurl themselves into the Nabstrian line! Though one of the defenders again is composed of raw troops, the Vulgarian Lieb-garde must face elite adversaries.
A vicious hand-to-hand encounter ensues, but (right) before Saxe even has a chance to take his hands out from under his blanket, the two Nabstrian regiments break!
From across the battlefield, Stumpe through his telescope sees the appalling result of this fight and howls. 'Are our troops really so terrible?' he asks.
'Only in a literal sense,' replies von Pfanenstiel.
The Nabstrian situation is now equally as perilous as that of their adversaries. Both sides' morale is now so low that the loss of a single additional unit will likely decide the battle. In front of each of the Vulgarian regiments is a raw Nabstrian infantry unit, ripe for the biting. But the Vulgarians themselves are heavily disordered and thus vulnerable. The battle hangs in the balance. If the two Vulgarian units are granted a little time to rally themselves then they will be able to resume their advance. Desperately, the Nabstrians lower their muskets and fire a volley at the Vulgarian Liebgarde: the muskets blast and smoke spews forth wreathing the battle field with smoke...
(Below) Having finally run of morale (and also pretty much of live troops), Rentall signals reluctantly for his army to retreat. A victory for Nabstria! Hurrah for "General von Rumpfler!" But there are far fewer Nabstrian troops at their bivouac fires that evening: half the infantry has been lost and six of the regiments in the Nabstrian army must now be reconstituted with conscripts.
Still, it is nevertheless a Nabstrian victory. But a Nabstrian victory that means that the Burgraviate's army is in Vulgaria and not in the vicinity of the Empire of Fenwick. This fact becomes important, dear reader, as the next part of Saukopf-Bachscuttel's nefarious plan begins to unfold along the banks of the the River Strudel!