Friday, 30 June 2017

Putschdorf, the Third!

Sure enough, perhaps only a further minute goes past before Saxe-Peste’s plan is revealed….

The Nabstrian soldiery suddenly have to check their step: what's that in front of them?
 A messenger rides urgently back to Rumpfler's headquarters. 'Sir, sir,' he reports, 'there is a large, fetid, ill-smelling obstacle right in front of our advancing musketeers!'
'What!' roars Rumpfler. 'What in God's name is King Wilhelm doing in front of our troops?'
'No my lord,' replies the courier. 'It is a marsh - or at the least a very poorly maintained duckpond.'
‘I’m terribly sorry, sir’, says Captain von Stumpe, as the veins on von Rumpfler's forehead begin to bulge alarmingly. ‘It simply wasn’t on our maps!’ he explains. 'If only there were some cartographic method to mark them on our charts. Like scribbling on our maps a small picture of a marsh. But until we invent some solution, we seem doomed to repeat this calamity!' 
Von Rumpfler groans, and slaps his right hand onto his forehead (which has suddenly broken out with beads of sweat).  ‘Not this again!’, he cries.  ‘A swamp has ruined all my plans and hopes before!' von Rumpfler exclaims.  Yet the old campaigner isn’t beaten yet…

On the other side of the field, Saxe-Peste is chuckling away to himself…
‘Thought you could just march up and beat me, did you?,'  he says to no one in particular.  ‘Well, I’ve got news for you, Rumpy my old lad!  Once your floppy soldiers have gotten up to their knees in that swamp, they won’t be in any condition to beat my musketeers, do you hear me?!’
Saxe-Peste might be up to his eyes in Burgundy but he has a point.  Even Captain Wankrat begins to look at his commander in a different, more appreciative, light.  The unexpected swamp is bound to break up the Nabstrian formation, disrupt the onward march, and make the separate Nabstrian battalions vulnerable to defeat in detail through whatever Rotenburg counter-attack Saxe-Peste decides to muster.

‘Too much time cheating at those games of war, Rumpy me lad!  Thought you had me?  Looks like I’ll be having you!  Saxe-Peste shouts across the field.  Needless to say, his voice does not carry across to von Rumpfler, who is now busy issuing orders to his battalion commanders. Quickly, Nabstrian drill sergeants begin to enact those orders physically on the backs of the long-suffering troops. The Nabstrian infantry lines convulse, and Rumpflers troops begin to manoeuvre ....

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Putschdorf, the Second!

Tum, Tum, Tum,  tum-te-tum, Tum….the steady measured beat of the Nabstrian drummers can be heard from afar as they mark the time essential for the flawlessly executed march of the Nabstrian infantry.  Long, long hours of exercise on the parade ground (not to mention fearsome punishment for any man dull enough to drop out of step) have their reward on the field of battle.  The Nabstrian soldiers look like animated automatons as they march up in column – and then just as quickly use their cadenced step to change formation into line without missing a single step or beat.  Before Saxe-Peste or his army can react, the Nabstrian infantry are deployed in a three deep line and are now approaching the Rotenburg cavalry….

Yes, this doesn't look good for the Rotenburg cavalry

‘Should we charge them?’ Asks Colonel Fogelstein of Honevell’s Horse uncertainly.  ‘Well, sir, I don’t know, it does seem like a good idea….but we haven’t really got standing orders to charge unbroken infantry…’ replies his adjutant, equally uncertainly.  Fogelstein is well aware of the perils of charging an unbroken line of infantry that is marching towards you at a remarkably rapid pace but he certainly isn’t used to giving up ground voluntarily…

Just as Fogelstein has made up his mind to order the charge….an orderly gallops up.
‘Sir, sir, you are ordered to retire, sir.  Saxe-Peste has a cunning plan and he has an important mission for you and your men on the other side of the field’, the orderly relates breathlessly.
‘Well, damn his eyes, I’ve never heard such nonsense, We must ch-‘. Before the last word is out of his mouth, his adjutant sadly feels bound to remind him of “that letter” and it’s embarrassing contents which mean that he must, simply must follow a direct order…

With much cursing and fretful looks at the advancing Nabstrian soldiery, Fogelstein orders the retreat to be sounded – and where Honevell’s Horse lead, the rest of Rotenburg’s cavalry will follow.  Without a shot being fired, the Rotenburg cavalry begins to withdraw…

What a large and enticingly open space between the armies: hmmm, best
check our maps ,,,,,,

Von Rumpfler looks on admiringly as his well-drilled infantry continue their march.  He has discomfited his opponent and – within minutes – the Nabstrian battalions will have outflanked the Rotenburg line.  Then the thunder of Nabstrian lethal volleys will soon begin to roll and win the day!
Yet…to the now very anxious Captain Wankrat, Saxe-Peste seems remarkably unperturbed.  It could be that Saxe-Peste is confident or it could be that he has just drifted off into a Burgundy fuelled reverie.  Wankrat decides to risk asking a question: ‘Should we not react to this dastardly Nabstrian manoeuvre, General?

‘Mind your own bloody business, Wankrat!  I begin to grow tired of your constant interruptions!  Can’t a man have peace with his own thoughts on a day like today?!’  Saxe-Peste answers violently.  ‘Anyway’, he says with another leer, ‘they – and you – are about to learn of my cunning plan!’

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Putschdorf, the First!

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…

The Rotenburg deployment: A long, long, thin line.
What could go wrong?
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?

The Nabstrian deployment: march columns. Again.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

That's not a pillow you're holding!

'It's alright, my lord Dimitri,' says the winsome courtesan, 'these sorts of failures happen to every monarch. We can just wait a while and try again.'
'No, we can't,' replies Dimitri sadly, rolling over in bed. 'We've tried twice to no great effect. Let us face up to the reality, Lola: I am a failure.'
'No, no, no,' says Lola Frumpe, the latest of the Prince's paramours. 'The failure is not yours, my lord. Surely, it is your army's. Two battles and two defeats! What, are you expected to fight the war yourself?'
Vulgarian statecraft: less diplomacy than one might
 expect; and quite a lot more nakedness
'It would be cheaper,' admits Prince Dimitri. 'But I am a lover, not a fighter. Battles seem so dangerous. And they would interfere,' he adds, rummaging under Lola's coverlets, 'with important matters of state.'
'I'm shtill here,' pipes up Vulgaria's Generalissimo, Hertz van Rentall, averting his eyes.
'Oh yes,' says the Prince, removing his hands quickly. 'That's right. You were reporting on the battle. So, to recap: we really didn't win at Hednitz?'
Rentall shakes his head. 'Not ash shuch, my lord. But, ash wid our lasht battle, our army did sheem to get better as a reshult of our defeat.'
Dimitri frowns. 'So ... as we lose, our army seems to improve?'
'It ish one of da conshequenshes of da depot shyshtem dat we have. And da Guard du Corps,' replies Rentall.
The Prince nods. 'So we're ... losing our way to victory?'
'Yesh, shir, in a manner of shpeaking I shuppose dat we are.'
'That doesn't sound quite right,' says Dimitri frowning. 'Wouldn't it be better to win sometimes? To ... win our way to victory?'

Lola begins to gesticulate. This has an interesting effect upon the coverlet that, as it is, struggles (and largely fails) to retain her modesty. Both of them. 'The fault, my lord, lies with the feeble lackwits that command your armies,' she opines, loudly.
'Shtill here,' says Rentall.
'And,' she continues, 'the pointless, pimple-brained, poodle-faced, planks that advise you.'
'I am also here, madam, 'says Count Arnim von Loon. 'Though I do appreciate the alliteration.'
Dimitri, ardently admiring Lola's modesties, suddenly wakes from his reverie. 'Well, quite, quite. But now: run along my little princess of pulchritude. For I fear that I cannot escape from some dull decision-making and such. Run along - and call in Drumpf when you leave; he is waiting outside.'
Loon groans audiably.
'Are you not an admirer of my Principal Councillor, von Loon,' asks Dimitri, sounding surprised.
Loon sighs. '"No" seems such an inadequate word, my lord.'
With a giggle and a curtsy, Lola retreats from the bedroom.
'What happened to that lovely red-headed wench, my lord?' asks Loon. 'Danila, or Daniela, or somesuch.'
'Ah, Daniela,' replies Dimitri, rapturously. 'The lovely Daniela. The lovely, bubbly, chubbly, rubbly, wubbly Daniela. Happy months. Yes, what a shame.' He sighs. 'She was just too close.'
'Ah yesh,' says Rentall sensitively. 'Too closhe. Unable, my lord, to open hershelf emotionally to you.'
'No, no,' says Dimitri. 'I mean too closely related.'
The slightly awkward silence is filled by the sound of the entry of Principal Councillor Ranald Drumpf.

Drumpf curtsies. 'Good news, my lord. As punishment for our two defeats in battle, I have sacked Lord Konstantin von Kutchenzink, Keeper of the Privy Privy.'
Loon bridles. 'But Kutchenzink has nothing to do with our defeats in battle. Actually, wasn't he investigating you for that newt thing?'
Drumpf scowls. 'No, no. These are lies put about by the liberal press.'
Rentall shakes his head. 'Dis is Vugaria. We don't have a presh.'
Loon interjects. 'Except that press for the britches. But I cannot vouch for its political views.'
'No press?' queries the Prince. 'But what about that special publication that I receive each month?'
'We import that for you, my lord,' replies Loon. 'From some quite particular sources.'
'Why don't we publish it here?' asks Dimitri.
Loon shrugs. 'Because even here, my lord, public decency laws prevent it.'
Dimitri looks puzzled. 'We have public decency laws?'
Loon nods. 'Not many, my lord, it's true. But those that we do have I think are quite specific about not allowing the things in the pamphlets that you are so fond of.'
'So where do we import such material from?' asks the Prince.
Loon says sotto voce, 'The Vatican, my lord.'
'Are dey exshpenshive?' asks Rentall with interest.
'Oh yes,' nods Loon. 'Of course. Because the subject matter means that the artists that make the woodcuts tend to go blind quite quickly.'
'Are dey a bit ... fruity?' asks the Dutchman.
'Like a banana, nestled between an especially fruity pair of melons.'
'What's a banana?' asks Dimitri.
'In truth, my lord,' replies Loon, 'I'm not entirely sure. But I had a long conversation about them some years ago with a merchant who had Caribbean interests. The details are rather hazy sir, but I distinctly remember that they were shaped in an amusingly rude fashion.'
'Like a turnip?'
'Quite probably.'

Dimitri yawns and waves his hands dismissively. 'Now, Rentall: you have delivered your report. We, and by that, of course, I mean you, must come up with a clever plan that will rescue the situation and allow me to retain my God-given position as Voivode of Vulgaria.'
Drumpf jumps up and down excitedly. 'Can we build a wall and make the enemy pay for it? A big, beautiful wall?'
'No, Drumpf,' replies Loon. 'We need an adroit, subtle plan.'
'I know!' replies Drumpf. 'We should build a wall and get them to pay for it!'
'No, Drumpf' says Loon. 'That is a silly plan. It will never work. It is madness. In fact, I suspect that a madman might reflect on your plan and say something like "Oooh, that's a bit unhinged that is."'
'I know!' says Drumpf. 'Couldn't we get our enemies to give us money, and then build a wall with it?'
Loon's lips tighten. 'No, Drumpf. Because that is the same mad plan, but in a different order.'
'I know!' says Drumpf. 'What if we built the wall, and then billed the Spasmodic Sanction?'
Loon begins to shake. 'Drumpf, if you ask about that wall once more, then I'm going to take a hammer and I'm going to take some nails and I'm going to nail your feet to the floor - how does that sound?'
Loon turns to Prince Dimitri. 'My lord. Leaving aside the Principal Councillor's plan for a moment. I think that you will find that events are already moving. The Nabstrian army has withdrawn from our lands. Even now, it would seem that a force from the Landgravate of Rotenburg is about to launch an attack upon them. As for our forces, General Rentall here (Rentall nods) has discovered that an army from the Margravate of Badwurst-Wurstburp approaches the Voivodate. Our troops march tomorrow to do battle. See, my lord: soon the dice of battle will be thrown again. I am sure that, this time, they will roll double sixes and thus allow us to roll again.'
Dimitri nods, seemingly placated. Drumpf raises his hand.
Loon sighs. 'Councillor Drumpf, You seem to have a question.'
'Yes, Have you got a hammer?'
'No.' says Loon suspiciously.
'Have you got some nails?'
'No, not to hand.'
'So,' replies Drumpf, ''Can we build a wall and make the enemy pay for it? A big, beautiful wall?'