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”