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.