Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The duel

Ilse’s was not sure the duel was a sensible idea, once the Lieutenant’s foils had been brought she realised that there could be no backing out. A broad square had been marked out and the troops gathered around to watch the contest. At first the protagonist slowly circled each trying to spot an obvious opening in their opponents guard. After several thrusts and parries Ilse realised that the Lieutenant intended to use his greater reach and weight to drive her into a corner. It was no time to play strictly by the rules. She carefully watched for an opening but none appeared and gradually her room for manoeuvre was becoming limited.

Remembering her tutor’s instruction to do the unexpected, Ilse switched her foil to her left hand. It was no longer her strongest hand, but it put her opponent on the defensive while he tried to counter the unusual pattern of her attack. She managed to work her way back to the middle ground before the Lieutenant understood the pattern of sword play and was then no longer on the defensive.

Swapping back to her right only gave a few moments respite and gradually she was being driven back into a corner. The shouts from the Dragoons had died down now, as she must have lasted longer than they expected. There were some shouts of encouragement from the Jaegers and she heard a low voice say “Don’t let your Father down!”

Ilse dummied a switch back to her left hand, but instead side-stepped and the Lieutenant thrust past her into the open air where she would have been. He nearly stumbled and quickly regained his balance, but not quick enough as Ilse had the buttoned point of her foil to his neck. “My contest I believe”

The Lieutenant smiled and dropped his foil and the Jaegers started cheering. Ilse asked “I presume you will now allow me to continue on my way to Welle?”

Of course, and will you be reporting to the city commander?”

“Yes, Colonel Kraut will have the best idea how to contact my father”

“And will you allow a couple of my men to escort, I mean accompany you”

“I have no problem with that”

“And may I ask who trained you to fence; it’s very unusual for a young lady to be schooled in swordplay?”

“That would be Herr Von Fecht”

At this the Dragoons started laughing, to Ilse’s puzzled expression the Lieutenant explained “Then my father has taught you well, fraulein” and bowed.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Niggling doubts

Count Vladislav paced up and down, something was troubling him and he didn’t know what. With the exception of the heir apparent Karl not turning up, the funeral had gone completely to plan. Maybe it was something about tomorrow, when the Grand-Duke’s will would be read? Prior to the Grand-Duke’s death, all the senior Pommaine officers had sworn to uphold the contents of the Grand-Duke’s will, with the sole exception of Colonel Preysing.

The colonel was the godfather and mentor of the young Karl, but he only deferred on the point that any agreement did not contravene Imperial law. Obviously, his stance could not be challenged at the time, without causing the other officers to reconsider, also the Grand-Duke’s lawyers had claimed that a change in succession needed the agreement of the Emperor was a convention not a law.

Still he was concerned; the Alsatian and Prussian forces should have received notification of the Grand-Dukes death by now and be preparing to move to block any Imperial attempts to resist the will being implemented.

Monday, 19 December 2011


As the corporal returned, Ilse expressed her thanks, but Schmitt waved some papers he had found in her saddlebags “Didn’t say at the time Corp, not proper writing, might be some sort of code?”

Ilse realised that she had never checked the contents of the saddlebags and wondered whose horse she had stolen.

“Right we had better get back to the Lieutenant and report this, you lot keep a close eye on this girl?”

As they rode into the hussar's camp Ilse’s heart sank. The Lieutenant was one of those prim and proper types who did everything by the book. Then after hearing the Corporals report “Well done Corporal, it seems you have caught a spy”

“I am not, I have vital information from Pommaine for my father Major Von Barner”

“Sergeant, fetch some shackles, we’ll lock her up until the Captain arrives in the next day or so”

“I’m Ilse Von Barner a citizen of the Frei Stadt and you have no right to hold me against my will”

The Lieutenant just laughed “Secure her”

Ilse leapt forward and slapped him before being grabbed by several dragoons.

“It’s as well you are a girl otherwise I’d consider it a challenge”

“It is. Or are you afraid of fighting a girl?”

Observing his officer’s face the sergeant commented “Sir I don’t think this is wise”

“Fetch my foils, I’m going to teach this whelp a lesson”

Once his batman arrived with a pair of fencing foils, the Lieutenant took off his jacket and handed it to one of the dragoons and took a foil “We do not fight to the death like the French and we will keep the buttons on to avoid spoiling your pretty face”

Ilse responded “I fight for my freedom and the rights of the Freistadt”

Ilse took her foil and was glad to find its weight and balance felt similar to one she had used before in practice. Looking around she could hear the men betting on how long it would take the Lieutenant to beat her. Then she saw an old Jaeger who winked and then shouted “who’ll give me 10:1 on the girl winning”

Friday, 16 December 2011

Family Problems

“I still don’t understand, why couldn’t you be at your fathers funeral, you are the heir after all” ranted Erbhertzog Karl’s wife Lieselotte.

“But Liesel, the Reich chancellor made it clear in his note that Prussia and Alsace were up to tricks in Pommaineand that if I was present then pressure might be applied to me to go along with their scheme”

“What, something like I might not be Grand-Duchess?”

“Yes it could be that bad”

“That’s intolerable; my uncle the Emperor would never stand for it”

“That’s why we are here in Niersteiner-Domthal, with an Imperial army to back up my claim once we know what they are up to”

Thursday, 15 December 2011

State Funeral

The funeral of Grand Duke Otto of Pommaine passed without a hitch. The cortege slowly progressed from the palace to the cathedral past large crowds of silent citizens. All that could be heard was the slow beat of a drum and the slow march of the accompanying troops. There was only one minor problem, his elder son the Erbhertzog Karl had not turned up, so the carriage after the hearse only contained the Grand Duchess Maria and younger son Konrad. It was followed by a carriage with the Grand Duke’s two daughters and their husbands, both minor German princes. All was now set for the reading of the Grand-Duke's will tomorrow.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Border clash

Trying to get the best speed out of her mare, Ilse looked up to see a small detachment of light dragons deploying ahead of her. She pulled up as she reached them and gasped “Help me!”

The larger body of black hussars reined in a short distance away. Their leader trotted forward.

The corporal in charge of the light dragoons ordered “Secure him”. Then rode forward to meet his counterpart, as he passed Sparrow whispered “I’m Ilse von Barner”

The Schwarzgarde sergeant was quite cocky and demanded the immediate return of the criminal escaping from the lawful justice of Pommaine.

The Frundsberg corporal simply asked “On what charge?”

The sergeant hesitated for a moment, then responded “Leaving the duchy illegally”

The corporal turned and shouted “Schmitt, check his papers”

Schmitt responded “He has none”

The sergeant smiled, then the corporal said “Then I have to apprehend him for entering Frundsberg illegally.

The sergeant fumed “Hand him over or else!”

The corporal, lifted his arm in the air and then asked “or else what?”

Although he outnumbered the light dragoons the sergeant spotted that a number of Jaeger had emerged from a nearby wood. "OK you just deal with him, that’s all” and signalled his men to withdraw.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Pidnem Dragoons

Although they were originally the minor cavalry regiment of the Frei Stadt and that at one stage they were mounted on the local pit-ponies, the horsemen raised on the Pidnem hills are renowned for their ability to manoeuvre in rough ground. Like the Kuiraasiers in peacetime a squadron is on permanent duty, this time in Sonnenbad, another training on Pidnem and two dispersed around the local community on furlough.

Figures - all Revell SYW Austrian Dragoons

Monday, 12 December 2011

Black Hussars!

Ilse’s route back to Frundsberg was initially to head in the direction of Illerkamp as it would be difficult to cross the Farret close to its confluence with the Rhine, close to Illerkamp there would be a number of bridges some of might not be guarded and even if that was not possible then she could head into Iserwelt.

Crossing the river was surprisingly easy as none of the bridges seemed to be guarded, but after checking carefully for any hidden observers she crossed. Once clear, Sparrow stopped for a moment in a small copse to rest the mare and to check out the route ahead. She was relieved, less than two leagues to go and nothing in sight between her and the border.

Remounting she headed off only to see a body of black coated hussars emerge from a wood to her left. It must just be a patrol, they couldn’t be specifically hunting her! But they were between her and the border! She turned her horse towards them at a slow walk so as not to raise their suspicions. Carefully she judged the point and direction at which she could best make her escape as she felt sure that she couldn’t bluff her way past them.

At what she felt was the right moment she dug in her hells and set the horse off as fast as possible away from the patrol. She heard the shout of “After him” and the sound of swords being drawn. After a few minutes she glanced back to see that the hussars on their Polish horses were rapidly gaining on her.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Stocwold Kuirassiers

The horse rearing area of the rolling Stocwold hills is the main recruiting ground for the senior cavalry regiment of the Frei Stadt's army. Mounted on heavy horses and equipped with cuirasses they are a powerful force available to Frundsberg generals.
During peacetime one squadron is on duty in Pappenheim, a second undergoing training and the remaining pair on leave.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Noisy afternoon

Having met with the Stadtrat and received their approval for mobilisation, a formality, but still an important one, the baron decided on a bracing walking around his estate. Having reached the most distant corner, he was surprised by the sound of gunfire. Relived that it was not directed at him he looked over the nearby hedgerow to see a line of green coated men rise up from the ground and run backward until halted by a long whistle blast. On two short blasts they turned and fired at a line of turnips placed on posts, too considerable effect.

“Goodday Baron”

Baron Wilhelm turned to see one of his farmers tugging his forlock

“Ah Dimnitz, what’s going on?”

“It’s them new Jaegers, sur. They be practicing”

The silence was broken by another blast of rifle fire as the Jaegers devastated another line of turnips.

“They don’t look like they need much training, and who’s paying for the turnips?”

“Well sur, they are all Freishutze so they certainly know how to shoot already, they are learning how to act under orders. And the turnips, they are your’s suur. Once they have finished I’ll be turning the sheep out to graze so nothing will go to waste.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Clear of the city

Once they reached Mersburg, Sparrow thanked the driver dismounted from the cart and untied the horse. The carter waved as he headed off and shouted “If you’re quick you might get back in time for lunch”

On the way out of the city Ilse had pondered for a while for the reason why no alarm had been raised, then she heard the tolling of the Cathedral bell and remembered that the Grand-Dukes funeral was today and that nothing would be allowed to disrupt the ceremony. However that didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be pursuit, so she mounted up and headed for the border. Hopefully she could keep ahead of anyone sent to intercept her.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Final arrangements

Count Vladislav rode out for a final inspection. Everything was in place for the funeral. Each regiment had provided a company to act as part of the escort and the remainder of the Lieb grenadiers would line the route between the palace and the cathedral. The Schwartzgarde Grenadiers had taken over all the normal duties of guarding the various public buildings and the city gates. In addition the Schwartzgarde Hussars had been sent to the borders with Pommaine and Niersteiner Domthal with specific instructions to intercept anyone leaving the Grand Duchy from the day after the funeral. Hopefully that would delay the news of what was contained in the grand-Duke’s will getting to unfriendly ears.

Pausing for a moment near the main square the count heard raised voices and rode over to find an officer and sergeant arguing.

“So what’s this about Von Amstell!?”

“Sorry sir, this idiot wanted to ring the watch bell”

The sergeant butted in “it’s a horse thief sir, we need to shut the gates”

“Very good sergeant, but at this time we cannot ring the watch bell as it would interfere with the funeral. Send your men to warn each of the gates” The sergeant turned to advise his men.

“Lieutenant, head for the barracks immediately and get the reserve detachment of the Piosasque Hussars to sweep around the city”

Satisfied that everything was back under control the Count headed back to join the cortege.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Out of the City

Ilse had no intention of following the obvious route out of Traunsberg, after galloping a sufficient distance to gain attention she doubled back via back streets to the other side of the city.

Pausing to slightly dirty herself and the horse she led it forward into the main thoroughfare leading out of the city. Spotting a passing carter she shouted out “can you give me a lift to Mersburg for a schilling?” Receiving assent she tied the horse to the wagon and hopped up on the bench with the carter and passed him the schilling. In response to the carter’s questions, Sparrow claimed that his master wanted the horse taken home and he couldn’t ride.

“Must be a good master to give you a schilling”

“Yes, but that was for my lunch and I’d rather ride back with an empty belly, than walk”

The carter chuckled as they passed through the gate

Monday, 5 December 2011

Horse thief

Walking into the courtyard of the inn Sparrow headed straight for the stables, various grooms and stable boys were at work. She perused the various horses as if assessing their merits, but in reality she was selecting the most suitable mount. In one stall she found what she needed, a calm rested mare, and its tack was neatly laid out nearby. No one reacted as she entered and started brushing her down to ensure that everyone thought she was preparing her for her master. Her lessons with Hans on saddling meant she had little trouble and she remembered to adjust the stirrup length.

As she led the horse out into the courtyard, very few staff gave more than a second glance, so she swung herself up into the saddle.

“Stop thief” came a cry from the door of the inn leading into the courtyard, but it was too late Ilse was off through the inn gate and into the square.

A gaggle of Grenadiers ran out of the main door of the inn, but tumbled over a drum and had no chance to fire before Ilse turned off down a side street.

The sergeant cuffed the drummer boy and shouted out “Warn the watch”

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Bad news

Even as the Baron turned from the window a despatch rider galloped up the drive. It was the news that the Grand Duke of Pommaine had died. War was now almost certain, if the information about the Dukes will turned out to be true, and he had little doubt that it was given the arrangements made by Pommaine with both Prussia and Alsace.

So the Stadtrat would be summoned and with their agreement the army would be put on a full war footing.

Friday, 2 December 2011

A chance encounter

Ilse awoke with a start, already the town as astir and she needed to leave as soon as possible with her news. Looking out over the main square with all the servants hurrying on their way she came up with a plan. She dressed again like a boy and tied her regrowing hair back in a queue, then tidied away any signs of her presence in the house. She wasn’t prepared to tramp across country this time so she made her way to one of the major inns on the main square.

Slumped outside the inn was a drummer boy, Sparrow trying to concentrate on looking the part of a groom almost walked straight past.


“Juli, what..” he blurted out until Ilse placed a finger on his lips

“What has happened to you?”

Albert explained all that had happened since he had last seen her on the square, how he was suspected of killing the sergeant, beaten and then eventually assigned to be a drummer boy once they concluded she was the one they wanted. “Did you kill him?”

“Shhhh, I can help you escape”

Albert raised his arm; he was manacled to the drum and to a hitching post “I’ve tried before”

“OK, not now, but believe me, I will return and free you”

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Artillery Preparations

Baron Wilhelm looked up as the loud roar of cannons shattered the quiet. Looking out his windows her could see the artillery exercising ready for the coming conflict.

Looking down he could see the post being delivered and wondered whether there was any fresh news from Pommaine

Monday, 28 November 2011

Out of the Palace

Once all became quiet again, Ilse opened the latch on the window and checked that all was clear she dropped into the garden. Again, carefully checking she rose and closed the window, gently tapping it so the latch partly closed. Her mission had become more serious now, she had satisfied her curiosity and in doing so found out that the Prussians had informants inside the Frei Stadt.

Cautiously following her familiar route out of the palace grounds, Sparrow paused several times, sure that she was being observed, certainly Katzwesel had unnerved her. Continuing her cautious route she made her way back to her base taking particular care to ensure she was not being followed. Once back she collapsed asleep until morning.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Prussian spies?

Moving close to the door Sparrow heard “Very interesting but why are you prepared to provide this information”

A thin rasping voice replied “because it suits me to do so, and for the moment there is no conflict with my Prussian masters objectives and…”

“Here’s the money, it’s all there you don’t need to count it” and the sound of what must have been a heavy purse being dropped on a table.”

“It’s all there sir, a complete list of the forces promised by Frundsberg and Glowstein to support the Emperor, if requested, it even includes the newly formed Battenburg regiment”

A pause, then “Thank you, Katzwesel, It’s worse than I expected”

Ilse heard a noise and quickly hid behind the curtains. Moments later the door burst open and the thin voice was clearer now “I thought I heard something in here?”

Then the corridor door was thrust open and a Grenadier entered with his bayonet raised. Seeing the Count “Sorry sir, I thought there was trouble” and stood to attention.

“See Katzwesel, you are being too nervous, all you heard was the guard”

“Yes, but I survive because of my instincts”

“Hmm, I think we have concluded our business, guard, show this gentleman out”

Monday, 21 November 2011

Escaping from the palace

Satisfied that she now understood why the Duke had changed the rules of succession Sparrow considered how to escape from the palace. Back the way she had entered was not possible as the rope would remain hanging and could be discovered before her contact could remove it. It might also risk him getting captured. It would have to be the window she had used before, but it was in the guarded area of the palace. Thankful for the servant’s uniform Ilse set off hoping to bluff her way past the sentries. On her way she found a tray left outside a room so she rearranged it with the cloth covering the porcelain and her lantern on top. Opening the shutter and picking up the tray she calmly head off. Turning the corner she surprised a weary sentry who quickly stood up and grabbed his musket before relaxing and saying “evening miss” before sitting back down on a bench outside the Duke’s office. Passing by with a quiet “good night” She continued on her way.

Uneventfully passing another sentry she neared the target room and shivered slightly remembering what had happened there before. Noticing a faint glow from the adjoining room she carefully opened the door, entered, then quietly closed it behind her. There was sufficient light from the windows so, so she put down the tray and blew out her lantern. There were voices in conversation and approaching the communicating door Ilse could hear the Count’s voice.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Finding the proof 5

Opening the shutter on her lantern fully Ilse carefully inspected the desk but only found all the usual correspondence from friends and acquaintances. A locked drawer was simply picked but it had nothing of particular note. More careful examination revealed a possible hidden drawer and some faint marks indicated where it could be opened.

Before opening the drawer Sparrow checked all around for any traps or alarms but nothing could be found so she slipped her knife into the concealed slot and released the drawer.

The drawer sprung open to reveal a heap of letters, the top one was much used so Ilse set it to one side and concentrated on the others. They were all love letters from the Grand duke’s son Johan to Maria, who was now the Duchess. Many discussed what they would do after the war was over, including marriage and where it should be held.
Not sure if it would contain the answer Ilse carefully opened the last letter, it was tear-stained so some of the word were smudged. But she could read

My darling Maria, do not worry that you might be pregnant, as soon as I get back I’ll marry you immediately so there will be no stain on your honour. I hope it will be a boy who will succeed me in due course as Grand Duke, but I’d be just as pleased with a daughter who would be as beautiful as you.
Just in case anything should happen I enclose a letter you can take to my father and also asked my great friend Igor, Count Vladislav to make sure you are safe.
Your loving Johan

Carefully Ilse replaced the letters in the drawer and carefully closed it so the catch engaged again.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Finding the proof 4

Looking out of the room into the pitch black of the corridor Sparrow stepped back and lit her lantern. It was enclosed on all four sides so the light would only shine if a panel was opened and only shed a small amount of light though the ventilation holes. Typically it took several attempts for her flint to set it alight even given the slight addition of a touch of gunpowder.

Creeping though the corridors she found the back stairs and ascended to the main floor. Carefully looking out she spotted that several guards were on duty around the Grand duke’s chamber. Obviously his body was still lying in state there, before being taken to the Cathedral for the funeral. As a consequence it did mean she had little chance of gaining access to the Duke‘s office and checking the correspondence there. Creeping back to the stairs she climbed up to the servants’ quarters and then headed towards the west wing and its matching set of stairs.

The west wing was quiet with no sign of guards and Sparrow headed towards the Duchess’s chambers, this wing overlooked the place gardens and was normally used for family rather than guests. The Duchess’s suite comprised three rooms with a large reception room facing the flower garden with her bedroom to one side and her son Konrad’s to the other.

Entering the reception room Sparrow opened the shutter for a moment to spot the large writing desk she remembered. Then leaving the shutter slightly ajar she ensured that the heavy curtains were shut so no light could be seen by the outside sentries.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Emir

Von Barner was quite startled as he waited for his regular meeting with Baron Wilhelm. A silked robed oriental gentleman with a turban swept out of the Baron’s office and headed down the stairs. Looking back to the door, he saw the Baron “It’s the emissary from the Emir of Bling, he’s just agreed to but two thousand muskets and associated equipment at a good price Our agent in Rodos arranged the deal without the knowledge of the Porte”

“Indeed sire, but we have to be careful that we do not provide any excuse for the Sultan to attack the empire”

“Yes it is tricky to ensure that the goods and payment are not apparent to the Ottoman authorities, however our Levantine contacts have managed this fairly well in the past."

“and the Emir’s objectives?”

“Quite clearly Ali Clumpha intends to assert full control over his fiefdom without interference of the Porte.”

“Therefore distracting the Sultan from Europe and freeing up Imperial forces”

“He also left some oranges and dates, would you like to try some?”

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Combined Grenadiers

When necessary the grenadier companies from the line regiments are combined into a single grenadier regiment. Separately they would not be sufficient, but an additional company from the staff corps is usually mustered to join them. Since this units is entirely composed of veterans it has pride of place on the right of the line.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Finding the Proof 3

By evening the city was exhausted and there was little activity, even so Ilse waited till late before venturing out in dark clothing, moving through the back streets and shadows to the back of the palace overlooking the river. Waiting until a patrol had just past she slipped into an area of darkness beneath an old bastion. She was gratified to find a rope hanging down from a window high above, but quite invisible in the gloom. Double checking for any patrols she started to climb. It wasn’t easy and part way she froze as a patrol passed by below, hoping that they wouldn’t look up and that she was dark enough to not be visible in the murk.

They passed by and gratefully she climbed the remaining stretch and entered through the window of a linen store. Quickly she hauled up the rope and hid it at the bottom of a pile of linen. She would have to find her own way out!

A surprise was lying nearby, a servants uniform that was her size. Her contact had been thorough, being in uniform meant that she would be less likely to be stopped if spotted. Quickly she changed and stuffed her other clothes in her knapsack.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Welle Infantry Regiment

Practising their musketry skill is the third and last infantry regiment of the Frundsberg line that raised in and around the cathedral city of Welle to the south of the Pidnem hills. Their nickname the "Bishops bodyguard" is an obvious reference to their origins but also their role in maintaining order during the events held in and around the cathedral.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Death strikes

Ilse awoke with a start, it wasn’t the trap at the top of the stairs that had caused her alert. It was the bell of the cathedral had just rung. Five minutes later it rang again and repeated this every five minutes, it could only mean one thing, the Duke had died. She had to act quickly and hoped that her arrangements would work for the next night. A short while later, as dawn broke, the city was in turmoil, the citizens were in animated discussion and couriers were obviously setting off for all the various capitals to pass on the news.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Sonnenbad Infantry Regiment

The second oldest Frundsberg regiment is that raised and based around Sonnenbad, the cultural centre of the Frei Stadt

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Finding the proof 2

To find more evidence Ilse now needed to gain entry to the palace, and as it was founded on the old castle it was built to prevent access, so inside help was needed. Ilse did have a contact inside the castle, who could not be compromised, but did periodically leave the palace on business. Ilse found a location that gave a reasonable view of the servants exit and settled down for a long wait. A couple of hours later he emerged and headed off, as expected, towards the market. Ilse carefully followed at a distance, watching for any one else that might be following or observing him. Once he was in the market she waited until he was in conversation with a stall holder then simply walked past and slipped a message in a coat pocket.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Pappenheim Regiment

The most senior regiment of the Frei Stadt with its distinctive red facings, which gives the regiment its nickname of the "Bloody Pappenheimers". The regiments normal base is in the capital city of Pappenheim.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Finding the proof 1

Once she had established that the housekeeper really did keep to the ground floor Ilse slipped out after midnight to check out the easiest source of information. It took little time to find Doctor Tölpel’s house, and entering it was just as easy as before, but she still took care in case any traps had been set. Passing through to the Doctor’s dispensary she found his diaries by his desk just where she remembered. Searching back she found the entries for March 1780, here it was, “Born to the Duchess Maria a healthy baby boy, no complications” and a couple of days later “Mother and baby doing well, no need for daily visits” The jigsaw was beginning to fit together.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Frundsberg Muster

Given the likely onset of war the Frundsberg army has been mustering and checking its arms and equipment. The line infantry comprises three musketeer regiments and one of combined grenadiers

Monday, 3 October 2011

Back in enemy territory

When Ilse arrived back in Traunsburg, no one seemed to bother checking the people entering the city, even so, she had entered with a large number of farming folk with their carts on their way to the market.

Keeping an eye open for patrols she made her way to a point close to the safe house she had used before and waited to see if anyone she knew appeared. When Franz arrived she slipped out of hiding and greeted him.

After a second glance Franz responded “I thought you had escaped?”

“Yes, but I need more information”

“But isn’t that dangerous, since they know you?”

“Yes and no, most people know me as a girl and won’t look twice. I need somewhere to hide without risking you or your father”

“OK, I’ve an idea, follow me”

Franz led Ilse to the back of an old mansion “Now the merchant who owns this and his family are away in Heidelberg and there is only an infirm housekeeper in residence”

“But won’t she notice my presence?”

“No, she can hardly climb stairs, so provided you keep quiet and stay on the upper floors no one will know”

Franz then pointed out a route over the stables that led to an upper floor window. “You go up though there, while I distract the housekeeper at the front.”

It was a simple climb up to the window and reasonably concealed. Ilse had no problem quietly slipping the latch on the window with her knife and as she entered she could hear the faint sounds of conversation downstairs. She then took stock of her location and headed toward what would be the servants stairs and ascended to the top floor. Here she found a well positioned room that gave a view onto the main square as well as an escape route across the roof.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Preparations for war

Discussions on the latest intelligence between Major Van Barner and Baron Von Altfeld were coming to and end.

“Well Major, what do you think of our preparations for war?” asked Baron Wilhelm.

“The preparations seem to be progressing well sir, General Wurst seems to have a firm grip on the situation and the attachment of the Battenberg Regiment will be useful”

“Yes, I’m glad the Count decided to loan us the regiment until the end of hostilities, I’m sure he’s got some arrangement with the Emperor. But tell me was my letter of introduction enough to get your daughter into Frau Wurmser’s academy?”

“Yes sir, very helpful”

“You do know I have my doubts about some of the families that attend the academy”

“As do I sir, and that is why I think Ilse might be able to discover something”

”Hmm, I trust your judgement, but will a mere slip of a girl suffice?”

“It’s exactly that, it means she won’t be noticed”

“And she’s happy doing this job?”

“It runs in the family sir.”

“Will she be starting straight away?”

“When the new term starts, sir”

Friday, 23 September 2011


“So Klinkell, everything seems to be in order” asked Count Vladislav, having noted his subordinates slight hesitance “was there anything else”

“Well sir there is still the matter of the boy Albert”

“Yes, just flog him thoroughly and sent him on his way. No wait, he might still be of use, is Pomfrit’s company still short of a drummer?”

“Yes sir”

“Not anymore, just make sure he is not allowed to move anywhere without his drum, it's better than a ball and chain and not so obvious. He could be useful if this Juli turns up again”

“Very good sir”

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Off again!

“Sorry Sir, but Ilse’s slipped off again” explained Hans “I know you asked me to keep a special eye out, but somehow she disappeared?”

“It’s OK Hans, she did leave a note, apparently she felt that the evidence she had gathered did not fully explain the change in succession and she felt that she had to find out what it was!"

"An admirable or stupid action I can’t say, but this will be her last summer of freedom”

“Should I try and track her sir?”

"No Hans, I’m sure that you taught her all your tricks so you won’t be able to follow her. Besides I need you and the Aufklarungskorps to gather information on the status of Pommaine forces as it seems that war is imminent. Oh, and she did promise to be back in time for the new term at Frau Wurmser’s academy.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Furore in Vienna (2)

The Field Marshall paused for a moment as his aide a Colonel of Cuirassiers whispered in his ear. “Noble sirs, it appears that this young gentleman has an idea and pointed to the cadet behind the Colonel, now please tell us your idea”

Although he looked hesitant the cadet confidently stated “Sirs, I happened to have noted that there has been a minor frontier dispute between Kernow and Niersteiner Domtal and that they have both appealed to the Emperor to arbitrate in the issue. Of course, it is so minor, that normally….”

The Field Marshall cut in “Excellent thought young fellow, I understand your proposal and I endorse it fully. Sires, Niersteiner Domtal lies on the southern border of Pommaine and we could send a force there to assist an arbiter in enforcing his decision on the dispute. Somehow I feel that your idea was that the force should be sufficient to enforce the decision of both the parties.”

“Indeed sir”

“Sires, here we have a solution, a strong force of say 10,000 troops will be sent under General Kalterersee, he has a record in sorting out these disputes, and is well suited to managing the mission.”

As there was a murmur of agreement, the Emperor said “So it’s agreed, I just have two requirements, firstly that the force contains some of the unemployed Grenz to prevent them stirring up trouble with the Turks. Secondly this young fellow” waving his hand at the cadet.

“Radetzky, sir”

“should be found a suitable position.”

The colonel responded “I have a lieutenancy in my regiment that is available”

“Excellent” responded the Field Marshall “you’ll go far young fellow”

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Furore in Vienna (1)

Following the revelations of the “secret” Frundsberg report the members of the Imperial council are in uproar.

“Why wasn’t this discovered earlier?”

“This is consistent with what our agents have already seen in Prussia and Alsace

“Why did we get this information from a minor state, aren’t our agents any use?”

“The Prussians have always planned for this, ever since they stole Silesia

“It’s the Alsatians; it’s another chance for them to establish a foothold across the Rhine

Nobles, at this time we should not consider the causes of our current situation, but rather our actions” calmly stated the Emperor.

“Yes, invade Pommaine forthwith” shouted one member.

“No, invade Prussia

“Or Alsace

“Noble sirs, this is only intelligence not proven fact, we cannot take any definite action until there is clear evidence of a breach of Imperial protocol, without creating grave international consequences” stated the Reich chancellor

“The French will intervene again”

“But the French are bankrupt following the American war” stated the Finance Minister

“Field Marshall what are your views?” asked the Emperor

“Well sire, it’s too far from our territories to act quickly, so we need to find a means of getting a force close without causing an incident by their presence.”

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Baron Wilhelm was visiting a female acquaintance when suddenly there was an enormous bang that shook the windows. It was followed by a second by which time the Baron had crossed to the windows and could see the cause. The artillery were practising on the Recreation Ground close to the mansion he was visiting, and two more discharges swiftly followed.

Excellent he thought, I expect we will need those skills shortly. Then spotting the Postman striding up the drive he wondered how his report on the events in Pommaine were being received in Vienna.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Final Report

“Well gentlemen, it appears that the Duke of Pommaine’s plan is quite simple” explained Von Barner to the selected members of the Frundsberg assembly. “The intention is that the Duke’s youngest son Konrad will become Duke after a period of regency. This of course is subject to Imperial law, as any change to the natural law of succession is subject to the Emperor’s approval. They know that the Emperor is sure to object, as the current heir Karl is well regarded in Imperial circles. So they have arranged two treaties with Prussia and Alsace to ensure that that even if the Emperor objects it will be too late to impose his views by force as troops from both these nations will be firmly in position to prevent any attempt to unseat Konrad without causing a major war”

"But what’s the benefit for Alsace and Prussia?” asked a member.

"Well for Alsace, it is associated with trading concessions on the Rhine. But for Prussia, it’s a chance for the new their King Fredrick William II to assert himself, and both would like to demonstrate that the Emperor’s influence is waning.” Explained Von Barner. “It also appears that following the bad treatment of its ambassador and the treaty with Alsace Glowstein is likely to support any action decreed by the Emperor” said Baron Wilhelm von Altfeld “I have sent a courier with the information gathered so far to the Emperor so he can decide what action to take, but I am sure he will require robust action”

A general murmur of agreement was heard from the assembled members.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Interrogation continued

The maid knocked on the door and entered “it’s Hans sir”

“Well show him in” responded Von Barner

Hans entered the major’s study, “Sir I have bad news..” Then spotting Ilse stopped. “Is it possible to speak to your daughter sir?”

“Of course, continue”

Hans looked again at Ilse and then exclaimed “You rascal, what have you done, everyone has been worried about you!”

“Yes she sneaked back down river” interrupted Von Barner “but what have you heard?”

“Well sir, a courier turned up in Welle, but had lost the message. He was one of the drivers of the Duke Von Danewald’s coach and they were thoroughly searched before being allowed to proceed.

“It was exactly to the letter of the Imperial protocols so the Ambassador’s portable possessions were not searched, but everything else was thoroughly searched and when they found a message their departure was delayed for a day.”

“Interesting, so they are obviously worried about spies”

“Yes and they have both embarrassed and infuriated the Glowstein Ambassador, who according to his servants was getting information from some lad in the palace”

“That would be that worm, Albert” interjected Ilse

Friday, 5 August 2011

More interrogation!

“Now young lady” said Major Von Barner trying to seem stern “I’ve a good mind to send you off to a proper school somewhere like England, where you can’t get into trouble”

“But!” interject Ilse.

Von Barner held up his hand for silence ”However I am sure that you would abscond as soon as you had chance so it would not be fair on the school. Therefore I am sending you to Frau Wurmser’s academy in Sonnenbad, where you will learn how to act like a lady. If you abscond then the Freishutze will hunt you down”

"But Father!”

Again the hand was raised “No, I am determined. If you are set on becoming a spy then you need to be able to emulate a lady as well as a scullery maid”

“Yes Father. But when did you find out I was Sparrow?”

“Well two ways, firstly that the code in the messages was too correct, most agents seem to have common mistake they make when coding and then it was obvious that Hans was taking too much interest in these specific reports. So tell me again how you managed to get a job in the palace?”

"Quite simple really, the servants talked quite openly about their origins and for female staff the route was via Bishop’s housekeeper. I simply broke into the Bishop’s palace and copied a reference from a parish priest with appropriate changes. Our man in the palace then arranged for some staff to suffer food poisoning so there was a need for more staff.”

“So how did you know about our agents there?”

“Simple the information is in your office, and the idea of sticking a hair across the door as an additional check only works if no one knows it was there! And the lock was easy to pick.”

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The return

“Ilse? How did you get back, what happened to your hair, what…..”

Juli looked up “Father, follow your own rules, I shouldn’t tell anything until someone else assists you in my debriefing. Besides I’m hungry”

A short while later Von Barner returned with Otto von Stupenhagel, his deputy with pens, ink and a large sheaf of paper. “Now young lady tell us what happened”

“Well the important thing is I know what will happen once the Duke dies”

Von Stupenhagel started writing trying to capture every detail and interrupting whenever he felt a detail was missing.

“So how did you escape?”

Ilse described her journey back from Traunsburg

Scarcely had they started on this aspect, but the cook arrived almost immediately followed by by Bettina. They were both horrified, but Bettina immediately took charge, ordering the cook to go to the bakers to get more rolls, then grabbed Ilse and took her away saying “We need to tidy Ilse up before the guests arrive, and you two need to be ready in ten minutes”

As they ascended the stairs Ilse turned to Bettina “I don’t think I can manage meeting the guests, whoever they are”

“I agree, you look exhausted, what you need is some rest”

Friday, 29 July 2011

Where is Sparrow?

Major Von Barner was pacing up and down within his office, Sparrow’s regular message was overdue and he worried about whether his agent had been caught. He had even sent Hans down to the Pommaine border with a couple of members of the Aufklarungskorps to keep an eye on the likely crossing points. There wasn’t much more he could do and shortly in his official role as Garrison Commander he would be entertaining the Mayor and the local councillors of Stonew. His older daughter Bettina had the situation under control and he had been ordered to keep out of her and the cook’s way. Even in his office he could smell the baking and he decided to take his mind off his problems and have a sneaky look at what had been prepared before changing into his uniform.

Descending to the kitchen level the delicious smell became stronger; maybe he might have a quick taste to check his guests would not be disappointed. Checking carefully, he entered the quiet kitchen, his daughter and the cook must be elsewhere.

To his surprise, he saw an urchin, eating their refreshments, who had obviously drunk most of a pitcher of milk. “You wretch” he shouted and looked around for a suitable club. Grabbing a large ladle he saw the urchin looking up at him.

“Hello father”

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Swept downriver!

In the early morning light, before most people were about, Juli walked into the village. There were a couple of barges tied up on the quay in Wacht, but they were fully loaded so there was little hope of stowing away on board, Juli worked her way northwards along the riverbank looking for any other boats. Looking over a wall she spotted the rear of a small boat peaking out from a boatshed. Checking carefully for anyone, she scaled the wall and crept over to the boathouse door. Locked, but Juli had kept her lock-picks and the door was soon open.

The boat was only tied up and there were a pair of oars resting on the wall, so in a matter of minutes Juli manoeuvred the boat was out on the Rhine and was heading north. On the opposite shore she could see barges working their way south against the current, but otherwise nothing to worry her.

With just the gentle sweep of the oars to keep her close to the centre stream the journey down river seemed too easy. Suddenly Juli recognised the spithead where the Farret fed into the Rhine, so she tried to steer towards Burndorf, the first town in friendly territory, but to no avail, the current swept her on northward.

Realising her problem Juli spent the next hour trying to draw close to the east bank, it was slow, but gradually she made progress and gradually she noticed a reduction in the speed she was travelling downstream.

Thankfully the bank was now a lot closer and she continued her efforts and came ashore at the fringes of a small town. Tying up the boat Juli disembarked and as soon as she moved, realised that her balance was unstable, but she was desperate to find food. The scent of some fresh bread led her into a room where freshly made rolls were cooling. No one was present so she grabbed one and started eating.

Sunday, 26 June 2011


Hunger overcame her guilt, and Juli settled down by the village pump for a delayed lunch. The sun was shining, the water cool and refreshing and the bread and cheese quite tasty. Suddenly she realised that all was strangely quiet and she looked up to see a blue coated hussar looking at her. Behind him she saw more hussars on the other side of the village green.

“It’s OK lad, don’t worry I’m not going to steal your lunch”

Juli’s fright must have been obvious.

“Now have you seen any girls about that are not from round here?”

“No sir”

“Now if you or your friends see any strange girls then they have to inform the Gendarmerie straight away”

“Yes sir, I’ll keep an eye out“

With that the hussar returned to his comrades. Juli breathed a sigh of relief, these were Piosasque Hussars, if it had been the Schwartzgarde then she would have been interrogated far more thoroughly.

A short while later the hussars mounted up and headed off towards Minenhafen. Juli decided to head the same way, but as before keeping to the side lanes. By evening she had arrived close to the small riverside village of Wacht. She would hide up for the night and then investigate whether she could get a boat here in the early morning or move on to Minenhafen.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The road to Minenhafen

Making her way by back lanes and across fields when necessary Juli paralleled the road to Minenhafen, there were a couple of occasions when she saw hussars in the distance, and was glad she had kept of the main highways.

By evening she felt that she must be about half way so she finished the last of her food and although exhausted she burrowed into a haystack to provide a safe shelter for the night.

The next morning Juli considered her position and although she had plenty of money provided by Herr Bohler it was more than any farm lad would ever carry. She then hide most of the cash in the seams of her jacket before continuing.

Juli continued on her way but my midday she was hungry and decided she had to get food in the next village. She wasn’t sure if it was her hunger, but she quickly found the local baker and asked for a quarter loaf. She then added “Do you have anything to go with it?”

“Well how much have money have you got?”

Juli pulled out a 10 groschen coin

Well I could give you a small amount of cheese”

At that moment the baker’s wife appeared, “Now what are you up to sonny?”

“I’m off to Minenhafen, I been told that there is work on the river, there’s no work for me on the farm”

“And, how much more money have you got?”

Juli pulled out a second 10 groschen coin and showed it.

“Well that’s not going to get you very far. Ernst cut him a bigger piece of cheese and I’ll get a couple of last years apples".

Thanking the baker and his wife profusely Juli left promising to stop if he passed that way again.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


Van Danewald’s coach bowled into Bruckewasser in fine time; “at last” he thought “I’ll be out of this accursed state”

The coach rolled through the streets and up to the bridge over the river Farret.
“Halt, who goes there!” challenged the sentry

“The Glowstein ambassador” replied the coachman.

“Stop right there” shouted the sentry aiming his musket at the driver. An officer and an infantry squad emerged from the guardhouse by the bridge, followed by a customs officer.

The ambassador looked out the window “What seems to be the problem”

The custom’s officer responded “It appears that contraband may be concealed on your coach”


“Indeed so sir, however I have my orders. Now if you would alight with your portable personal belongings, which will not be searched in accordance with imperial protocols. We will proceed as quickly as possible”

“I protest”

“Yes, sir, I have arranged for you to take refreshments in the guard house while the search is conducted”

Grumbling the ambassador aligned from the coach with his diplomatic bags and was escorted to the guard house, where a charming lady prepared some fresh tea for him.

The officer entered and apologised. “It appears that criminals are trying to escape from the Duchy and we have to take all measures possible to catch them or prevent them contacting their paymasters”

“Sir, sir!” came a shout from outside.

“Excuse me, ambassador” The officer bowed and exited.

The coachman’s assistant was pressed up against the wall, while a soldier holding him waved a letter.

“Now what is this?” asked the officer.

“Just a letter I was asked to deliver in Welle, sir, they gave me a twenty groschen to deliver it to the landlord at the Rode Leuwe in Welle and said he would give me a drink on receipt”

“and who gave you the letter?”

“Just an old gentleman who said he needed it delivered quickly to Welle and I knew we would be going that way”

“Hmm, the contents make no sense, must be some sort of code”

Entering the guardhouse the officer turned to Von Danewald “My apologies sir, as we have discovered a secret message being carried by your coachman we will have to delay your onward journey until tomorrow in case your arrival without it may indicate something to our enemies. I will make suitable arrangement for your accommodation”

“Oh and would you like to join the officers of the garrison for dinner and a few games of cards?”

“Thank you that is a most generous offer” Van Danewald contemplated making some easy money in compensation for the inconvenience.

Friday, 3 June 2011

On the run

As she approached the Traunsburg to Bruckewasser road Juli kept a close watch out, and observed a coach speed past towards Bruckewasser at high speed. She reconsidered the options of getting a lift from a passing cart in that direction, but discounted it as too hazardous.

Just as she was about to cross the road she saw dust in the distance and shortly after a detachment of hussars passed by, again heading towards Bruckewasser.
Once there were no other signs of movement she quickly crossed the road and headed towards the Rhine road using back lanes, so as to keep clear of anymore passing patrols.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A sudden exit

Van Danewald was incandescent as he ordered his servants to pack his bags. He should have challenged that blaggard Vladislav to a duel, but he was not a gentleman but a vicious thug in uniform. Well, his chances of winning money from the Monte-Cristo ambassador would have to wait, and as for the scheme to trick the Kruppfalzen
ambassador into a rigged carriage race that opportunity would have to be forgone.

He would have his revenge but it would take some time, now he would leave and head back to Glowstein with a short break at the gaming tables of Sonnenbad on the way.

Earlier Count Vladislav had reconsidered the position, At first light the hussars would be sent out to intensively search the countryside for a teenage girl on the run. He had tried to ensure that their orders didn’t cause them to sweep up any young girls that they found, just imagine what problems that could cause, just any girls they found that no one locally could vouch for!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The dunnyman

In the faint morning light Juli was led out into the courtyard of the house, a foul smelling wagon was waiting. Herr Bohler explained “There is a narrow compartment behind the driver where you can hide, the wagon will make all its usual collections and then head out into the countryside. When all seems clear the driver will let you out, Good luck”

“That you for your help sir”, with that Juli climbed up and squeezed into the small compartment. The cart seemed to take forever touring the streets and collecting the night soil, and the stench was almost unbearable.

Finally Juli heard “Halt, state your business”

“Ain’t it obvious? Didn’t you smell me coming?”

“Yes, but you know we have to do our job as well”

“Yeah, alright”

“Carry on”

The wagon started moving then, “Stop that wagon” came a loud order.

The wagon stopped. “What do you men think you are doing?” sounded an officer’s voice.

“It’s only the dunnyman sir”

“Have you checked no one is hiding underneath? Obviously not”

There was a sound of a sabre being drawn then loud thumps as it must have been driven through the load. “Now next time check thoroughly, now clean my sword before I wipe it on your arse”

“Yes sir”

The wagon moved off. Once they were well clear of the city and passing between some trees the wagon halted and the dunnyman opened the compartment to let Juli out. “There you go lad. Now the main road to Bruckewasser is about 1000 paces back that way” pointing north “and the other road to Illerkamp is at the other end of this road. God speed”

“Thank you sir”

With that the dunnyman rode off heading towards a nearby farm.

After carefully checking, Juli headed back towards the Bruckewasser road, but she had no intention of going that way. It might be the quickest route, but it was also more likely to be watched, instead she intended to head for Minenhafen on the Rhine. She had decided to be a down on his luck farm lad called Christophe heading there to try his luck working on the river barges.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Ill met by moonlight

Given that Albert had revealed that he was due to meet with the Glowstein ambassador at the strike of nine that evening, the Count put plans in motion. Firstly Captain Pilsner had arranged for a couple of respectable gentlemen to be positioned with himself close to the rendezvous in a back alley close to the cathedral as neutral observers and some grenadiers to be stationed close by.

Shortly before the hour, the Cathedral Kapellmeister turned to the Captain and asked “What exact crime do we suspect this gentleman of committing?”

“Well sir, to put it delicately, similar to the affair involving the Bishop of Finkenstein and a choirboy that was discovered by the Duke’s son Augustus”

“Oh dear!”

“The burgermeister commented “Apparently, he then threw himself off the bell tower in a fit of remorse”

Just then the hour struck, shortly after the Ambassador arrived and spotting Albert asked. “Ah, Albert want have you got for me tonight”

“What’s it worth sir”

“The usual payment”

At that moment Count appeared from the shadows “That’s enough, we know all about your unnatural desires”

“What do you mean sir, Oh Count Vladislav”

“You pervert, corrupting the young for your own pleasure”

“Nothing of the sort Count, you wouldn’t dare to make such accusations in public”
“Gentlemen, reveal yourselves”

Von Danewald turned to see the citizens emerge from the shadows, followed by some grenadiers.

“Now sir, I recommend that you leave the city tomorrow or this will be public news”

“But I can explain”

“Grenadiers escort this man to his residence”

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Preparing the escape

By dark Herr Bohler arrived back and Juli joined him and Franz for a meal and discussion on what to do next. Juli was insistent that she needed to escape from the city as soon as possible but Herr Bohler was not sure. “The guards are everywhere, everyone and everything is being checked as it passes in and out of the city and they have issued a warrant for your arrest. If you wait a few days then the uproar will die down and it will be far easier to get you out”

Juli glowered but before she could saw anything, Franz commented “But father you’ve already said that the longer someone stays here the more likely the authorities are to find out. I’ve also heard that they are conducting house to house searches in parts of the city”

“Very well, but don’t say I didn’t warn you! You’ll leave early tomorrow young lady, I’ll provide some food and money, but you’ll be on your own once you have left the city”

Now we need to change your appearance, right Franz, fetch the scissors and some of your old clothes.

Juli almost cried as her long hair was cut, worse was to come as her visible flesh was stained with blackberry juice. By the finish she hardly recognised herself; she now looked like a young farm lad.

“Now, get a good night’s sleep as you’ll leave early tomorrow morning!” instructed Herr Bohler

Friday, 6 May 2011

Interrogation 2

Once he was free of his social responsibilities, Count Vladislav found Captain Pilsner.

“Now what’s the real story?”

“Well Albert insists he did see this Juli heading towards the south of the city. He had put his old clothes to one side and hadn’t realised that they had gone missing. Now, it appears that the lad had got the job using some dubious references, But what he has really been up to is passing various bits of palace gossip to Von Danewald, the Glowstein ambassador, for a bit of cash.”

“Now that gives me an idea” muttered the Count “anything else?”

“Yes the mention of references made me check on those for Juli and like most the female staff she came via the Bishops household. I checked with the Bishop’s housekeeper on her origins. She said all her girls came from good backgrounds and were able to read, write and respect their betters. Juli came from a parish over near Illerkamp”

“So she could be heading back in that direction, but more likely across the border, maybe to Pommaine or Iserwelt."

“Just a minute, did you say she could read?"

“Yes, sir, according to the Bishop‘s housekeeper”

“If so, we have the motive, the instructions are quite clear that the Duke’s office is only to be cleaned by servants who couldn’t read. That’s why we continue to employ idiots like Suzanne”

“Oh, I thought she was employed for her other attributes”

“That is partly true, after all, she was originally employed by Erbherzog Johan”

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The safe house?

A tall gangly youth opened the door. “Can I help you?”

Not sure whether to trust him or not Juli gave the password “There is a loose slate on your roof, it might fall and hurt someone important”, while preparing to run if necessary.

The youth walked out, looked up at the roof then up and down the street and then said “You’d better come in”

Even after Juli entered the house, he checked the street again.

“I’m Franz Ferdinand, I’m sorry my father is absent, but he was warned to expect you”

“I’m sure the guards will be hunting for me shortly”

“That’s OK, my father thought that this might happen, which is why I stayed here today”

“So what now, I need to get back as soon as possible”

“Well first I’ll hide you until dark, when my father returns. We have a secret room, where you can hide if they search to building. Follow me"

Juli was led up to a second floor bedroom and shown a trapdoor in a closet that gave access to an area under the floor. “Just wait here until dark, if anyone knocks on the door just hide in the hidey hole, I’ll cover up the surface so it’s not visible."

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Out by the front gate

Much earlier, Juli, walking up to the palace gate, boldly waved the note to the Sentry “I have to take this to Dr Tölpel”. She knew the guard was about to change shortly so the replacements would not notice her failure to return.

The sentry blinked and concentrated on the note, he slowly read the Addressee “Herr Doctor Tölpel. Do you know the way miss?”

“Yes it won’t take long”

Juli then calmly proceeded up the main road in the direction of the doctor’s. Once she was out of sight she turned off and headed towards the cathedral. As she skirted round the main square, filled with market stalls, she caught sight of the cook and Albert. Albert may have spotted her, so she headed down a side alley and then turned into another and another. She then waited patiently for several minutes. Slowly she reversed her steps keeping as inconspicuous as possible. As she returned to the corner of the first alley, she could just see Albert back in the main square in the firm grasp of one of the Schwartzgarde grenadiers, while the cook was in conversation with another.

Juli decided to make her way to the safe house through the back streets and hoped she wouldn’t get lost. She had been shown it briefly when she first arrived in Traunsburg and told only to use it when she needed to escape.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


It was late afternoon when Captain Pilsner was shown into an elegant drawing room in the palace to find both the Duchess and the Count present.

“Ah Pilsner, want have you found out?”

“Well Sir, I’m not sure he is the culprit, but I can’t be certain till we find the servant girl Juli, and she seems to have gone missing. I’ve asked the servants to check the palace”

The Duchess interrupted “Juli? is that the new servant girl?”

“Yes Madam, only thirteen and been working here a few months”

“I remember her, she convinced Konrad to put a whole gold crown in the widow’s collection”

“A very generous gesture Maria, now Captain tell me exactly what you know”


Suddenly there was a knock on the door and a sergeant entered and saluted smartly “Urgent news sir”

“Carry on”

“Well sirs, it appears that the girl Juli left the palace this morning with a note for Herr Doctor Tölpel and hasn’t returned”

“Send men round to the doctor’s to collect her”

“Already in progress, Sir.”

“Very good sergeant”

“But sir, no-one in the palace sent her”

The Count leapt up and ordered “Close the city gates and turn out the guards, find the girl”

Friday, 22 April 2011


The young servant was dragged out of the guardhouse, across the palace courtyard and into the barracks. He was flung through an open door onto the floor then dragged to his feet. Looking up he saw the Count staring at him across a desk.

“So, you rascal, we’ve caught you at last, thought you could give us the slip did you?”


“Yes it was fortunate some of my men were watching when you tried to run”

“But I was only going to find out what Juli was doing”

“That’s not what the cook said! Seemed you were too anxious to help with the shopping, and then ran as soon as you left the palace”

“What do you think Captain?” the Count turned to another officer.

“Yes, looks likely to me”

The Count placed some clothes on the desk, “Do you recognise these?”

“Yes, I mean no. They look like my spare clothes, but, but they are covered in blood, Oh!” Albert turned pale and collapsed on the floor.

“Right, Captain Pilsner, you carry on the interrogation, but don’t damage him too badly! Let me know what you find out. Oh, and don’t just let the men string him up for killing Sergeant Huber, I want to watch.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Sparrow considered the position, it was becoming far too hazardous to remain and the mission had more than achieved its objectives. The last bit of information had been hidden for collection, but it would be critical if lost and therefore taking the news back in person would make sense.

But how to leave? Servants had to work all day and no one could enter or leave without a pass. At night since the death of the sergeant the sentries were far more alert than before. The two options were either to get sent on an errand, or slip away when the staff went to church on Sunday. The danger was that by running away, the authorities might link it to the death of the sergeant, therefore the need was to maximise the time before any absence was noticed.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Duke's study

The Duke’s office was always guarded, even before the recent troubles, but the sentry just let Juli enter. The room was full of bookcases and tables and every flat place, including some of the floor, was covered in papers. Susanne, one of the senior maids looked up flustered, “Oh good you’ve been sent to help, now be careful. We have to clean, but the papers are not to be disturbed. Just lift them up, dust and replace them in exactly the same place” After a while an adjoining door opened and Juli heard a discrete male cough. Suzanne look across at Juli and said “Just carry on, do exactly what I said, and I’ll be back shortly” with that she entered the next room and shut the door. After what might have been a quarter hour Suzanne emerged looking flushed. Juli tried to look busy as the Count followed Suzanne into the room and pressed something into hand. Looking around he noticed Juli. “Ah I see you have help, quite a scrawny wretch, she needs to grow a bit before I can feed her to my grenadiers” with that he left and closed the door. “So Juli, I hope you haven’t moved anything out of place?” “No Suzanne”

Thursday, 14 April 2011

A respite?

Returning downstairs from a task, Juli cringed, the only other person present in the servant's hall was Albert, who seemed to take an interest in everything she did. Although he was only slightly older than her, he been there a short while longer and he seemed to be doing well, partly because of his persistent volunteering for any task, however unpleasant.

Just then the Butler entered and seemed disappointed to find none of his usual targets there. “You girl, Juli is it?”

“Yes Sir” replied Juli not sure if being remembered by the Butler was a good or bad thing.

“How old are you?”

“Thirteen, I think sir”

“and can you read?”

“I’ I’ I know my letters, sir”

“Please sir, I can read”

”The butler glowered “I didn’t ask you. Juli, get upstairs and help Suzanne clean the Duke’s office”

Monday, 11 April 2011

Chemical Analysis

Once again Baron Wilhelm received an unexpected visit from Von Barner. “More revelations from Pommaine, Major?” “Yes, we have the details of the Duke’s medication. I have just been to the university to discuss the composition with Professor Doktor Kremnitzer. His view was that the major ingredient, Digitalis, was consistent with a heart attack and the dosage was reasonable. His view on some of the other components was that they were as effective as eye of newt and toe of frog.” “So in his view the Duke is not being poisoned?” “Not exactly, although the medication was reasonable the treatment of sweating a fever was in his words medieval and could make the situation worse” “Deliberately so?” “Not in his view, especially when I mentioned that the Duke’s doctor was called Tölpel, he considers the man a charlatan, apparently he was thrown out of Heidelberg medical school for failure to understand basic precepts” "Then there is the position of the youngest son, Konrad, apparently the Duchess refers to him as the heir, Erbherzog " "has all this come from Sparrow?" "Yes, a very useful agent" "But to have gained this much information, he must be very much at risk. Do not push your luck too far Major, it’s not good for our image if our agent get caught." "Exactly sir, a recall order has already been sent, hopefully it will get through"

Friday, 8 April 2011

The son and heir?

After several changes of water, Juli had almost finished the cleaning; it was amazing how much blood there had been. The door creaked slightly and she looked across to see a small face looking in.

“is this where the sentry was killed?”

“Yes sir. Over by the window”

“Was there a lot of blood?”

“Yes it was horrible”

“So who did it?”

“Well the sentries say it must have been a young lad trying to break into the palace”

An elegant woman swept into the room “Ah there you are Konrad, I’ve been searching for you”

“This is where the soldier was killed Mama, and the blood went absolutely everywhere”

“Quite horrible, now come Konrad, you have piano lessons”

“Excuse me Ma’am” said Juli in a low voice.

“What” “The sentry said they were having a collection for the sergeant’s widow and young sons”

“Oooh Mama can I play with them”

"No Konrad, an Erbherzog does not play with common children”

“But Mama, what about the collection”

“Yes, if you want” she sighed and the pair left the room.

Juli breathed a sight of relief; she had forgotten the rules about speaking to the Ducal family and the risk of a beating for speaking out of turn.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


In the early morning, the servants had just settled down to a breakfast of leftovers from the previous evening when the butler strode in and pointed at the youngest servant “you girl, what’s your name?”

“Juli, sir” “Right get a bucket and mop and follow me”

“But” stuttered the girl, looking at the food.

“Get on with it there is no time to waste”

As she collected the cleaning equipment and followed the butler to the door, Dora, the old seamstress who shared her room came up to her and pushed something into her apron pocket and whispered “Eat it later”

She followed the butler up the backstairs and along the corridor to the Green Parlour; a sentry nodded and allowed the butler to open the door. The girl gasped, there was blood everywhere.

“Right girl, don’t gawp, a guard was killed here last night and it needs cleaned up immediately” with that the butler strode off.

Juli grabbed the mop and started on the floor. Just then the sentry walked in. “What happened?” she asked as while mopping.

“Well miss, the Count seemed to think that Sergeant Huber caught a burglar breaking in to the palace, from the look of his clothes he must have been a young lad. It might explain why the Sergeant was caught unawares; he was a hard fighter but a great family man with kids of his own. If it had been a man he'd have skewered him without hesitating."

At that moment Juli just rushed to the open window and emptied the contents of her stomach outside. The sentry followed, and said “That’s lucky; they must have removed the clothes that were lying there. Now I’ll let you get on with your job, but could you let the servants know we will be making a collection for the widow. Don’t know what will happen to her and the kids now”

Juli nodded and returned to her task and spotted some faint bloody footprints heading off into the palace.

Monday, 4 April 2011


Proclaimed by the town-crier of Traunsburg:

Loyal citizens of Traunsburg a horrible murder has been committed by person or persons unknown attempting to rob the Ducal palace. All efforts are being made to catch the murderer, but until further notice the curfew will be strictly applied between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

Anyone having any information on this crime should report it to the Gendarmerie. Furthermore you are reminded to secure your property to help prevent further burlaries

By order of Duke Otto of Pommaine

Sunday, 3 April 2011

A Perilous Return

The task completed Sparrow carefully left the Doctor's house leaving no trace of entry. The streets were quieter now, but at least it was easy in the near dark to check for guards, who carried torches and then slip from alley to alley back to the palace.

“Got you, you little rascal! Thought you could sneak in and rob from the palace did you?” Sparrow was lithe and small and in the dark easily mistaken for a ragamuffin, but it was the Grenadier who had found the ground floor window ajar that made the mistake. Before anymore was said the Grenadier slumped his throat slit. Sparrow cursed quietly, they would trace the blood stains. After a moments thought, Sparrow discarded the blood soaked clothes and cautiously returned naked to the servant’s quarters. The clothes were untraceable, hopefully easily replaced, and a quick wash would remove any remaining traces of blood.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Out at night

Sparrow was worried. The last coded message asked for information on the Duke’s Will, in particular who would inherit the title. The palace was chaotic, with the Duke’s illness, no one seemed to be capable of making a decision and the servants were exhausted by the constant flow of visitors arriving to check on the Duke’s health. Guards now seemed to be posted everywhere only letting those they recognised to pass freely though the palace and watching almost every room. There was no longer any way of slipping around the building at night and entering rooms by picking locks. Therefore Sparrow decided to check another possible source of information.

Although the curfew bell had sounded, there were still quite a number of people on the streets, reflecting quite how strictly the curfew was really observed. Sparrow had slipped out of the palace by a ground floor window and was now heading towards Doctor Tölpel’s house.

A ground floor window was easily opened with a slim knife blade. The window was blocked by some heavy drapes, but they could be pushed away and Sparrow entered the house. This was the dinning room, so Sparrow exited the room into the main corridor. After trying several doors the dispensary was found. Slipping inside there was little light, but Sparrow had come prepared with a candle and tinder box so quickly there was enough illumination to investigate. Sparrow was amazed by the vast array of labelled bottles, but the desk was where any evidence could be found. After several false starts, a book revealed the details of various medicines the Doctor had provided to his clients. Flicking quickly through the pages Sparrow found the entry for the Duke. Taking a scrap of paper Sparrow copied the instructions.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A fleeting visit

The Baron’s carriage drew up outside the Stadthaus in Stonew. The Baron would have preferred to have ridden, but the carriage allowed him time to study various papers while he was travelling and the Freistadt couldn’t be run just from his office. The door was promptly opened as he walked up the stairs and he was shown into Major Von Barner’s study, a fine room with a view over the Rhine. The Major was standing in anticipation.

“Please sit Major, this is purely a passing visit, and I’d like to pass on a bit of gossip”

“Really Sir, it must be more than that”

“Well it could be, you should be the judge. It was heard indirectly, but by reputable sources that the Duke of Pommaine has changed his Will. Unfortunately there is no other information on what might have happened”

“Interesting. I have also been investigating deeper into the affairs of the Ducal family. It appears that the Duke’s son Johann, Count Vladislav, and his current wife were all at Berbersdorf in Saxony nine years ago at the time of the scandalous surrender to the Austrians”

“You mean when Count Nauendorf surprised the Prussians a second time and took them all prisoner?”

“Yes, the Duke of Courland, who was in charge of the Prussian garrison, was later executed for the crime leaving his family destitute”

“and his daughter became the Duke of Pommaine’s wife, Intriguing”

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Servants Hall

The servant’s quarters were rife with rumours; Sparrow struggled with the problem of sorting out the truth from wild allegations and speculation. Certainly the duchess seemed to be influenced by Count Vladislav, but the wilder rumours alleged that the Duke was being poisoned, Konrad was the Count’s son not the Duke’s and that the army was preparing for war. It was a matter of synthesis gathering all the stories and then trying to establish the facts behind them. The Count had certainly “seduced” several of the chambermaids, but there was no direct evidence that the Duchess was or had been romantically involved with him. Poisoning of the Duke was more serious, but without interrogating the doctor little evidence was to be found. As for the army, there was evidence from various orders, dispatches and muster reports to show that the Duchy was being gradually put on a war footing.

So nothing definitive to send back in the next report, but perhaps they might have other information that would make more sense of the rumours.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Dark goings-on?

The teenager ducked back, but not quick enough. “I saw you!, get over here you idle wretch” shouted the housekeeper. The girl emerged sheepishly round the corner “Now take this warming pan straight up to the Duke’s chambers” she was commanded. Grabbing the handle she started to leave, but not swift enough to avoid a cuff.

Ascending the servant’s stairs she emerged on a long corridor, where a grenadier stood guard next to the Duke’s chamber. Thrusting the warming pan forward she approached the sentry, who seeing her approach held up his had to signify that she should stop and then knocked on the door. Moments later another grenadier opened the door from inside and seeing the pan, gestured for the servant to enter.

There was hardly any light in the room as the drapes were almost shut and the atmosphere was suffocatingly hot and stuffy. The Duke was propped up in bed and looked close to death. His physician Doctor Tölpel was present along with the Duchess.

The doctor looked up and told her to wrap the warming pan and place it under the covers next to the Duke. “We need to sweat the sickness out of him” he explained.

Stepping back the girl waited, seeing her still present the Duchess screamed “what are you still doing here?”

Curtseying she asked “Was there anything else ma’am”

“Yes, get rid of that” pointing at a full chamber pot.The girl left the chamber breathing a sigh of relief.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

It’s in the family

As the General marched off, Von Barner pondered over his remarks. Yes, it must have something to do with the Duke of Pommaine’s family; hopefully that was the clue to the activities in Pommaine. The two oldest sons had been sent off to serve in the Prussian and Austrian armies as part of the Dukes policy of keeping a foot in both camps. Johan, the oldest had joined the Prussians and as a chip off the old block had become involved in various non- military enterprises. He, luckily? had been killed in action at Berbersdorf just after his deals involving the loss of a supply train had come to light. Karl, the next oldest, was a complete contrast and served with distinction and became a clear favourite of the Prince De Ligne and was currently in command of his regiment of Walloon Dragoons. Then there was Augustus, cast very much in the same mould as Johan, as the third son, he had been packed off to the church and had risen rapidly. He always seemed to be in the right place, especially when more senior clergy had apparently strayed from the path of righteousness and was now a Papal Nuncio, with aims to become a cardinal.

The two daughters had been a disappointment to the Duke, being quite plain and with not much inheritance they had only married minor nobles.

Then there was the Duke’s youngest Konrad, the only child of his second marriage to Maria of Courland, he was only eight and very little was known about his character, except that his mother spoiled him.

No it was unlikely that anything was happening in the short term within the family, Augustus was off sorting out the church in Ireland and with the possibility of a Cardinal’s hat he wouldn’t be interested in Pommaine. Karl was well established in the Austrian army and his succession looked secure.

No, this must be some left over from a deal set up by Johan; he would need to investigate further in that direction.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Head of Intelligence

After the General and Major left the room, the General turned to the Major and asked how he was getting on in the job?

“Well it’s quite a change of style from regular soldiering, even compared to the Klein Kreig. But we have a lot of good agents out in the field and luckily they don’t need too much supervision, which means I can concentrate on analysing their reports and combining it with information from our traders and diplomats.”

“Excellent, and the family?”

“Good and not so good, Bettina my oldest has just dismissed our housekeeper, without consulting me I should add. She says she is perfectly capable of taking on the role and I believe she’ll be fine. However Ilse youngest is a complete tom-boy always up to something. I don’t know where she is half the time.”

“and Sergeant Schmidt who you took with you?”

“Oh Hans has been invaluable, trouble is my daughters dominate him, and Ilse in particular has persuaded him to teach her all the skills of a hunter.

“Well I’m sure it will all turn out well and that you won’t regret leaving the military life”

With that the General turned and headed for the Army Head Quarters leaving Von Barner puzzling over their discussion.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Intelligence report

On receiving the latest intelligence report from Pommaine, Major Von Barner requested an immediate audience with Baron Wilhelm and General Wurst. After handing them copies and giving them sufficient time to adsorb the contents, he asked for their views.

The Baron opened “It’s quite interesting that they use the term defensive alliance and that the Duke has committed his heirs and their representatives.”

“It’s the composition of the Alsatian forces that is also of interest, there is double the amount of cavalry being supplied compared to infantry, and therefore compensates for the severe losses in that arm that Pommaine suffered in the Seven Years War. It means that they would be capable of putting an army into the field.” stated the General

“You see the dilemma gentlemen” said Von Barner “We don’t know what event is intended to be covered by this secret treaty, but from other sources I know that the Alsatians can’t afford to maintain their army at its current strength for very long, so whatever is planned it must be likely to occur within the next year or more likely 6 months”

“I also see that the Alsatians in return get immediate access to Bruckewasser for their Rhine river traffic, do you think they have any plans afoot downstream? asked the Baron.

“Nothing has been reported by our agents, but I have alerted them to the possibility”

“This agent, Sparrow, seems a pretty resourceful chap, he seems to have access to some useful information, long may it continue, if possible pass on our thanks”

“Yes Baron”

“and obviously we need to keep this knowledge confidential, thank you gentlemen”

Friday, 11 March 2011


Sparrow softly cursed, it was so easy in practice, but picking a lock in near total darkness while listening out for sentries was proving impossible.

That evening the celebrations between the Pommainers and Alsatians had dragged on into the small hours and all the waiting staff were exhausted by the time the last revellers had staggered off to their beds. Sparrow had waited till all was quiet before sneaking down to the room where the secret treaty had been signed.

It had not been at all clear what was being negotiated and there had been too many guards around the conference room to prevent any chance of overhearing what was being discussed. It was taking quite a chance to break into the room in the hope that something useful could be found.

A thump and a cough in a nearby bedroom set Sparrow’s nerves jangling, but then reassured by the sound of a chamber pot being filled. Once all seemed calm again , the task was renewed and as if my magic the pick-locks engaged and the lock turned.

On entering the moonlit room, it was even more of a relief to see that a copy of the agreement was still lying on the table where it was signed. Presumably the Alsatians had taken their copy away and this was the Pommaine copy. Sparrow took the document to the window to study it's contents and commit as much as possible to memory.

Hmm, seemed mischief was certainly afoot!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Another problem?

Baron Wilhelm paced the floor of his office, he hadn't been in office long but the news from south of the border was disturbing. During his meeting this morning with General Wurst and the new head of intelligence Major Von Barner, the Major had revealed yet more news from Staunwitz. His agent Sparrow had just reported that the Lieb Regiment had been replaced by the mercenary Schwartzgarde.

Something is going on, but what? The Duke is old, and his latest wife Maria is rumoured to be infatuated with the commander of the mercenaries Count Vladislav.

Certainly Pommaine had been significantly increasing their forces, but there was no sign of belligerence towards any of it's neighbours yet!