Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Froehliche Weihnachten!

A note to reassure the heads of state of Christendom that His Grace Herzog Ignaz retains his ducal dignity and extends Christmas wishes to his cousins at the other courts of Europe.

Watch this space for the resolution of the Prinzessin Sophie-Vittoria's interview with the enigmatic Comte de St. Germain, the mysterious affairs surrounding the death of Kapellmeister Volker, and the depredations of the nefarious Prinz Friedrich, Pfalzgraf von Waldreck

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In the Bellows-Room

HUNSRUCK, Aug. 16--Entering into the bellows-room, Sophie-Vittoria paused a moment to survey the equipment which dominated the room. Six large lead-weighted leather bellows in column covered most of the floor of the long room, each bellows discharging into an airtight wooden ductwork running underneath the front of the bellows to a juncture at the midpoint of the room from which the windtrunk ran to the reservoir and windchest in the cabinet separated by another small door in the wall to the right. A narrow passageway for the calcants ran the length of the room on the right, permitting access to the door to the windchest, and to the small window on the far wall which illuminated the room during the day. Maria-Aurora, working the bellows-pump nearest the exit experimentally, asked, "So what is it exactly that we're looking for? I don't see anything at all mysterious."

"Perhaps it's in the windchest cabinet," Sophie-Vittoria replied, sidling along the passageway to avoid dragging her panniered gown over the bellows. Reaching the door she unlocked it and stepped inside. A long, narrow room with ladders on either end going up to hatches about six feet off the floor confronted her along with the continued windtrunk feeding into the overhead windchest, but without any evidence of anything untoward.

"Anything?" queried Maria-Vittoria.

"Nothing that looks odd."

"Well that's a silly prank to play. I'm going back downstairs."

"Don't go; there was something about the Count's warning which seemed so pressing. Let me take another look about before we go."

"It is your party, but I'm getting out of this dreadful little room."

"Let's think about this. If there is something here that Herr Volker wanted hidden, it can't be someplace that anyone would be able to go without his foreknowledge."

"Certainly, but there's nothing in the bellows rooms."

"But it isn't just Herr Volker who goes in the bellows room--the calcants are there almost every day."

"True, but the calcants aren't there if he's not--they wouldn't be able to poke about if he did leave something about."

Relocking the doors behind her, Sophie-Vittoria and Maria-Aurora retreated to the organloft proper. Sophie-Vittoria surveyed the massive organ console and the pipes towering over it. The three 45-key manuals and 36 stop pulls loomed over the wide bench and polished pedals below. Sophie-Vittoria felt under the bench--nothing but canvas the jute strapping and canvas-lined horsehair padding could be felt. Maria-Aurora perched herself on the bench and began to silently finger out the minuet she had mastered on the harpsichord for her own debut some months ago.

"Everything seems to be in order with the keyboards," Maria-Aurora observed as she reiterated her perfomance mutely on each manual in turn.

"But the stops..." mused Sophie-Vittoria. "Pull them all out."

Working from left to right, Maria-Aurora complied. She pulled each stop out with a smooth sliding of the wooden sliders and levers actuated by the stops, until she reached the reed stops, and drew the pullknob labeled "Vox Angelica." The knob slid without resistance a full two inches from the console with Maria-Aurora's initial pull, and when she, after a moment's hesitation, continued, the entire knob with a two foot dowling was drawn entirely free of the console.

"I think that is out of the ordinary," declared Sophie-Vittoria triumphantly. Racing back to the organloft door back to the second floor corridor, she paused a moment to relock the door, returned the organ console and tipped her candle a bit to let a bit of wax run onto the console and set the candle down on it.

"Help me out of these panniers," she ordered Maria-Aurora, "I'm going up onto the windchest."

"You're what?" hissed Maria-Aurora. "What if someone comes in?"

"I'm sure your family is troubled by all sorts of devotions in the chapel during a ball, just as ours is," replied Sophie-Vittoria archly, "but I'm willing to take that chance."

With Maria-Aurora's assistance, Sophie Vittoria was able to extricate herself from the framework maintaining her skirts' silhouette, and, gathering up the fabric now pooled about her in one hand and her candle in the other, she proceeded back to the bellows-room. Fumbling a bit with the key, she called out, "Aurora, come hold the light for me."

"I do this all under the strongest protest," intoned Maria-Aurora solemnly.

"I don't believe you for a minute. The first irrefutable evidence that something is amiss and you want us just to go back and make pleasantries with the dowager Duchess of Birkenstock? Please."

Taking Maria-Aurora's lack of response as confirmation, Sophie Vittoria reopened the door to the bellows-room and proceeded to the windchest cabinet. Opening that as well she paused to permit Maria-Aurora to catch up to her with both candles, and proceeded inside to the ladder on the right side wall of the room and proceeded cautiously up the ladder to the trapdoor overhead. Opening it she reached down to Maria-Aurora.

"Give me the candle--I think I know where to look."

"Look--for what?"

"Whatever it was that Herr Volker went to the trouble to hide in the organ-pipes."

With a pained expression, Maria-Aurora passed her a candle and watched her disappear through the hatch onto the windchest above.

Once on the windchest, Sophie-Vittoria could see that she was squarely in the heart of the organ. 60 ranks of wooden and tin pipes, formed in battalions 10 ranks deep, marched out before her, nearly the entire width of the chapel. Momentarily confronted by the thousands of pipes before her, she paused a moment.

"What do you see up there?" Maria-Aurora called up.

"The pipes are set into the windchest in rows, hundreds of them, but one rank at least has been put out of use by Herr Volker. That set of pipes is where he hid the secret he didn't want anyone to find."

"It would take hours to go through them all, and I don't think you could move the biggest ones without a team of men."

"Well, we can eliminate those right off. Herr Volker would only use a pipe he could unseat and reseat himself. And we know its a rank of reed pipes so we can rule out all of the straight ones."

"So how many does that leave?"

"Well, not more than three or four hundred, I think."


"Let me think!"

"If we were three people, one of us could work the bellows, while one pulled the stops one at a time, and I eliminated the ranks until we were left with the ones which didn't work any longer."

"Should I go get a boy from the kitchen, then?"

"I guess so--no, wait; I think he might have labeled the ranks. Go read off the stop labels to me."

"Hold on a moment, then."

After a pause, Sophie-Vittoria could hear Maria-Aurora call out, "Prinzipal, Koppelflöte, Gedackt..."

"Wait, let me see which way this runs," Sophie-Vittoria called out. "Yes, he did; he put an abbreviated label by most of the ranks. Skip down to the ones around the Vox Angelica."

"Um; let's see. All right--Mixtur, Dulcian, Schalmei, Vox Humana, Vox Angelica, Tremulant--"

"Found it!" Sophie-Vittoria cried out exultantly.

Ninety pipes stretched out in front of her behind a small mark "VxA" pencilled onto the top of the windchest on which the pipes rested, in the third rank of the second section from the front. The pipes were nestled in a wooden rack two feet high, securing the entire length of their conical resonators. On a hunch, Sophie-Vittoria proceeded about a third of the way down the narrow passageway between the rank sections and proceeded to peer down the resonators of that third rank. A little more than halfway down the rank she found what she had expected--a scroll of paper rolled tightly and wedged down the resonator of the pipe.

Pulling the paper out, she called out to Maria-Aurora, "I found something!"

"What is it?"

"Papers; the first one is a note: 'I, the undersigned Conrad, Prinz von Sickingen, do acknowledge value received from the Prinz Friedrich von Waldreck in the sum of fifteen thousand pfalzthalers this first day of June in the year of Our Lord 1757'...and then there's a note on the back in another hand, 'Owes Weißenheimer 8,500' and another: 'I, the undersigned Otto, Freiherr von Thurgau, promise to pay Prinz Friedrich von Waldreck or his agents, the sum of 23,000 pfalzthalers on demand this Michaelmas or any time thereafter'...and then on the back, again 'Owes Weißenheimer 15,000.' And another half dozen like them, at least."

"But what does it mean? Who are these people?"

"Von Thurgau commands the Kürassieren, some of the others are officers, too, but the others...I don't know, but they all are deeply in debt to Friedrich von Waldreck and owe lesser amounts to Weißenheimer--I presume that's our Hoffaktor Abraham Weißenheimer."

"Odd; he's my father's Hoffaktor as well, and I understood that both our fathers were to consult with him tomorrow on the financing of the war. I thought my father was introducing him to your father because your father was in a tight spot. That and the staff consultations were the reasons my father told me he was attending your debut in person."

Waldrecker Third Parallel Completed

DOLMEN Aug. 29--As the siege guns pounded away at the beleaguered Schloß Dolmen, the Waldrecker engineers continued the approach of their works to the Dolmen counterscarp this week, completing the third parallel facing the northwest demilune. The emplacement of Coehoorn mortars proceeded in conjunction with the progress of the entrenchments, raining down shells on Bastions Gertrude and Magdalene as well. The progress of the Waldrecker engineers, although temporarily slowed by the daring raid last week by the Dolmen defenders, has resumed almost to the initial speed of the first parallel, indicating that the loss of skilled engineers in Maj. Trimbach's detonation of the Waldreck mining gallery was less than the Dolmen defenders had originally hoped.

With the completion of the third parallel and the steady work of the short-range mortars, an assault on the covered way and other outer defence works is expected at any time. Whether Maj. Trimbach is able to prolong the defence of Schloß Dolmen past the initial assault, or whether he will yield the fortress to prevent further bloodshed remains to be seen.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

To the Chapel Loft

Arriving at the top of the grand staircase, the two princesses, instead of passing to the left and the double doors to the Imperial hall and the guest chambers on the south wing beyond, proceeded straight across the salle de garde to the service door on the opposite wall. With a self-conscious nonchalance more conspicuous than all but the most clumsy subterfuge, the two liberated a pair of candlesticks from the maid's cabinet beyond, and proceeded down the service corridor to the south wing of the palace.

The southeast corner of Schloß Moritzburg consisted of the seldom-used Imperial Apartments, in which the Sachsen-Veldenz guests had been ensconced, and the Sachsen-Veldenz and Wittelsbach servants shuttled up and down the corridor moving clothing and luggage from the guest apartments to the service rooms down the servant stairs.

Passing into the south wing from the corps de logis, Sophie-Vittoria led Maria-Aurora past the library and the tutor's rooms, deserted these past weeks of Monsignor de Chiaroscuro's journey to the eastern marches of the Empire on some obscure Church business. "My tutor taught at the Collège Royal Henry-Le-Grand before my father retained him to teach us; he might be able to tell us more about the comte when he returns."

Maria-Aurora considered this, "Your Monsignor What-a-Waste could tell us a great many things, no doubt. Did you know that art students in France study nude models to master anatomy?"

"Monsignor de Chiaroscuro only teaches landscapes." Sophie-Vittoria replied somewhat sharply. "The chapel's just past the solarium and the conservatory," she changed the subject, "The organloft entrance is at the end of the corridor to the left."

Stopping a moment to light their candles from the hall lamps, the two proceeded down the side corridor, past a door on the left back to the conservatory to a door on the right shortly before the corridor itself terminated before a window overlooking the triangular south garden, given an ethereal aspect by the starlight reflected in the fountain basin in the garden's centre. Holding the candle close to the door, Sophie-Vittoria fitted the key into the doorlock, and after a moment's fiddling, turned the bolt with a click. Pushing the door open, Sophie Vittoria held the candle in the doorway, pausing a moment to let her eyes accustom themselves to the darkness as the high ceiling and size of the chapel swallowed the candle's light for a moment.

Sophie-Vittoria had only been up in the organloft a few times before; the organ was a man's instrument, since most players were expected to begin their lessons by working the bellows and otherwise familiarising themselves with the mechanics of the instrument. Sophie knew that the small door immediately to the left, behind the main door into the loft, provided access to the bellowsworks and windchest of the massive instrument, but had never herself even seen the inside of the room. The instrument itself was fairly new, completed about five years ago, the chief triumph of Kapellmeister Volker's tenure, after another five years' of work by the renowned Stumm brothers. The three-manualed console backed to the cavernous chapel, with the flickering tabernacle lamp at the far end of the chapel indicating the altar and sanctuary.

Entering, with Maria-Aurora behind her, Sophie-Vittoria proceeded to the narrow staircase leading down to the chapel's ornate ground level, straining to hear a moment, although she couldn't have said for what. The chapel, lit only by their two candles and the sections of the dim starlight spilling in through the gothic stained glass windows, was still and silent. Satisfied that they were alone, Sophie-Vittoria turned back to the bellows room, and tried the door, which was locked. Looking up at Maria-Aurora, she asked, "Ready?" and turned the key in the lock. The bolt slid back and the door opened with a groan...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Up the Grand Staircase

Making their courtesies to the older ladies sitting as chaperones at the base of the grand staircase in the great hall, the two young ladies flitted up the staircase, pausing a few times to allow Maria-Aurora to pause and fan herself in a perfunctory attempt to sustain her indisposition. At the first such interlude securely out of earshot of the chaperones, Maria-Aurora leaned against the marble balustrade a moment to reseat her heeled pump, to which she was still becoming accustomed, and, reflecting a moment, enquired, "but I don't see why Oma would be such a fright to this comte, she spends all her time at her needlepoint, and I don't think she's ever been to France."

"Not our Grandmother Annelise, my grandmother Vittoria. She travelled widely during my father's childhood, in order to keep up appearances on behalf of the duchy until he was old enough to assume the coronet. She must have met him somewhere and gotten on bad terms."

"With your grandmother? I cannot fathom how that could have been," Maria-Aurora replied archly.

Sophie-Vittoria refused the bait. "The important point is that the comte somehow had the key to the organcase in the chapel--at least it's easy enough to prove or disprove that, without involving anyone else."

"Why don't you just give the key to your father, and tell him everything that's happened?"

"The comte said that the enemies of my father had agents in the household. If we give it to him; he'll give it someone else to investigate--probably Chancellor von Schirnhausen, but who knows? If the key gets handed to the wrong person, the whole thing will disappear, and just be put down to a girl's fantasy. And besides," concluded Sophie-Vittoria with irrefutable insight, "it's my party, and I'll pry if want to."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Soiree into the Dawn

The dancing was scheduled to continue at the ball until nearly four o'clock in the morning, but Prinzessin Sophie-Vittoria was too agitated to dance another set. Retiring to the cloakroom to collect herself, she was able, en route, to encounter her cousin, the Prinzessin Maria-Aurora of Sachsen-Veldenz. Most of the adult members of the Sachsen-Veldenz family had travelled to participate in Sophie-Vittoria's debut, both as a gesture of familial and political solidarity with their inlaws, united both in marriage and in suspicion of the ambitions of the von Waldreck family vis-à-vis their own possessions along the Mosel. Prinzessin Maria-Aurora, though, was a particular friend of Sophie-Vittoria, being a few months older, and the two had exchanged frequent extended visits throughout their childhood.

Taking Maria-Aurora by the arm, Sophie-Vittoria pleaded some excuse for assistance with her habit in the cloakroom, and detached her from her conversation with the dashing Oberst von Scheurebe of the von Kostenwand dragoons. Somewhat sulkily, the Saxon Prinzessin whispered on the way to the cloakroom, "All very well for you to strike up associations with gatecrashers, but let poor me talk to a dragoon and you whisk me off to exile. Can I hope to see at least one last set, before you completely finish my night?"

"He wasn't a gatecrasher; he's a French count--de St. Germain, I think. He says he has evidence of a plot against both our fathers, but cannot approach them directly because of some affair to do with Grandmother. There's something in the choirloft in the chapel left behind by Herr Volker which is supposed to shed light on this, locked in the bellows-works of the organ--to which he says this is the key," said Sophie-Vittoria, displaying to her cousin the small trilobate key secreted into her hand before the Comte's abrupt departure from the ball.

"I need your help to make an excuse and retire upstairs without undue notice, so that I can escort you. Otherwise, if I leave formally--it's my party--everyone will start to leave, and the Comte told me that conspirators against your father and mine are in attendance at the ball."

"Very well, then," replied Maria-Aurora. "One vapourous swoon as you wish, but you must be in my debt at the next ball."

The Saxon Prinzessin's performance was masterful; returning to the main ball room after a suitable application of rouge to simulate a over-cinched corset-flush, she fanned herself conspicuously and settled herself in a chaise in one corner of the ballroom between the dowager Duchess of Pfalz-Birkenstock and Graf Ernst von Kostenwand, Duke Ignaz's chamberlain, who were engaged in a debate at some length with the Prinzessin von Florshein and Countess of Altberg on the best means of securing reliable tutors for their households. Feigning interest in the conversation, Maria-Aurora gradually increased the frequencies of her sighs and sudden inhalations, fanning herself more and more vigorously, until at last she folded her fan, slumped back on the chaise, and lolled her head back with a fluttering of eyelashes and a soft moan.

Sophie-Vittoria seized her cue and descended immediately to her assistance, begging apologies, along with the murmured protestations of Maria-Aurora, and both detached themselves from the assembly, begging the Countess of Altberg to convey to their parents their temporary retirement to the upper chambers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Raid Disrupts Waldreck Siege Operations

A daring nighttime sally by a handful of troops under Maj. Andreas Trimbach on the evening of the 17th succeeded in storming the leading saps of the Waldrecker second parallel and detonating a bundle of howitzer shells at the entrance to the main mining gallery of the Waldreck engineers. An unknown number of Waldrecker miners and engineers, along with numerous impressed Dolmen labourers, are believed to have been at work in the galleries below, and are now believed to have been trapped by the detonation.

Approach to the Waldrecker siegeworks seems to have been accomplished by a countergallery terminating near the second parallel, fired at the same time as the detonation of the Waldrecker mines. The approach to the Waldrecker works was aided by the nearly moonless night, coupled with the dense night fog following the thunderstorms which pounded the area over the preceding days. Rescue efforts by other Waldrecker engineers and miners are now underway, but the extent of the collapse achieved by Maj. Trimbach's raid is still being determined.

In spite of this notable success by the defenders of Dolmen, the work of the Waldrecker siege guns has been continuous and merciless since their siting in the first parallel, silencing the guns of the opposing bastions in the first two days, and commencing the pounding of the Bastion Gertrude and the demilune adjacent to it and Bastion Magdalene, suggesting that the Waldrecker plan is to storm the demilune as a precursor to an assault on Bastion Gertrude. Hastily constructed traverses along the adjoining curtains have limited the effect of ricochet fire, but the overwhelming superiourity of the Waldrecker guns makes the obliteration of those defences merely a matter of time.

The completion of the Waldrecker second parallel is imminent, and the movement of guns into firing pits along those new works is expected this week, in spite of the raid. The movement and disposition of the main body of the forces of Duke Ignaz remain obscure, but the prolongation of the defence of Festung Dolmen beyond the end of the month seems unlikely, even in light of the valiant intrepidity in defence of the works by the officers and men under Maj. Trimbach's command.

The reader is invited to consult for more details describing astronomical conditions of the 18th century.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Magical Night

Despite the Prinzessin's morbid certainty of her inevitable humiliation, Sophie-Vittoria's debut ball remains the talk of a dazzled Hunsruck. Beautiful ladies and dashing gallants from throughout the Rheinland made a sparkling eclat across the city as their gilded and ornate carriages rattled through the winding streets of Hunsruck to the ducal palace overlooking the Herzogpark, bathed in the silvery light of the stars throughout the cloudless night.

Arriving at the palace, the badinage and bons mots of the gay aristos provoked musical laughter from the ladies gathered in the receiving line forming in the Duke's great hall abutting the grand ballroom from which the chamber ensemble's initial tunings could be heard. After the guests had been given proper time to see and be seen, the Duke's dancemaster called the guests to the ball and the crowd formed itself into its proper precedence and began filing into the ballroom.

As the precedences were being worked out in the great hall, a great commotion arose out on the grounds, as a gilded sedanca drawn by six prancing white Scandalusian stallions wheeled to the porte-cochere before the palace, with 4 scarlet-liveried Ethiope footmen riding on the back and sides of the coach. The footmen descended and readied the carriage step, opening the carriage door to permit the descent of a handsome gentleman tailored in the Italianate fashion. Striding briskly up the stairs, the gentleman nodded an acknowledgement to the doormen,tossing them his walking stick as his footmen explained, "His Highborn, the Comte de St. Germain."

Entering the ballroom, the Comte attracted only slight notice as the opening allemande began, with Duke Ignaz, dramatically returned from the his army along the Waldreck frontier, drawing all eyes dancing the first dance with his daughter, the belle of the ball. Examining the Prinzessin intently through his quizzing glass, the Comte remained thus transfixed throughout most of the courante, which the Prinzessin danced with the male guest of honour, Prinz Franz von Sachsen-Veldenz. Walking over to the Duke of Birkenstock with an affable familiarity during the sarabande, the Comte engaged him in a short conversation swiftly concluding with the Duke and Comte approaching the Prinzessin just before the gigue, the Duke presenting the Comte to the Prinzessin and the Count engaging the Prinzessin for the gigue.

Stepping gracefully through the forms of the gigue, the Comte struck up an easy conversation with the Prinzessin, provoking at first a blushing giggle from the young lady, then an animated exchange throughout the piece. At the conclusion of the gigue, the ensemble took its first break, permitting the Comte to escort the Prinzessin onto the esplanade adjoining the ballroom to take the night air. When the ensemble recommenced for its next set, few people noticed the prolonged absence of the Prinzessin and Comte, although some of the older ladies in attendance were attempting to rehearse the various rumours of the Comte's ancestry and provenance. When the ensemble sounded the minuet in the second set, though, the Prinzessin and Comte returned to the ballroom, dancing the piece with somewhat less conversation, the Prinzessin glancing repeatedly at her father, engaged in a prolonged interview with the Duchess of Birkenstock and the Prinz von Pfalz-Zwiebacken across the ballroom.

The Comte took his leave of the Prinzessin then, relinquishing her to the young Duke of Nassau-Sauerbraten for the second gigue, while the Comte retired to the drawing room adjacent, where many of the older gentlemen were playing at whist and quadrille. Making a few polite greetings to some of the gentlemen, the comte took an unobtrusive survey of the games and gamers for perhaps a quarter of an hour, but declined when offered a seat at a whist table upon the somewhat voluble collapse of the luck of another gentleman, the newly apparent heir to the County of Sickingen. Pleading another engagement, the Comte excused himself and returned to the ballroom, where he took his leave of the Duke and Duchess of Birkenstock, a few other, mostly French or Alsatian gentlemen who seemed now to recognise him, and the Prinzessin whom he saluted with a courtly bow and baisemain before striding briskly back to the doormen and his carriage waiting beyond. As more than a few heads turned to watch him on his way, the Prinzessin regarded her gloved hand, into the palm of which the Comte, in his baisemain, had pressed a small, ornately warded brass key...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Prinzessin Sophie-Vittoria's Debut Imperiled

With the final fitting of the ballgown for tomorrow night's debut scheduled for this afternoon, and still no word as to the fate of M. Chretien de Tiretaine, Couturier to the Ducal Household, Prinzessin Sophie-Vittoria has begun to despair of achieving a proper silhouette for the event.

"It's a massive conspiracy!" the Prinzessin was heard to wail. "That Saxon cow--Trixie whatshername--she's trying to keep me from having the perfect debut! Or that frumpy Baltic princess--or one of those French poodles! It's not faaaaaaaaiiiir!"

While the attitude of the various Saxon, Baltic or French courts to the cut, fit or fall of the Prinzessin's gown could not be ascertained, enquiries into the fate of M. de Tiretaine and the rest of the party of the Duke of Cornwall, to which M. de Tiretaine was dispatched on the orders of Duke Ignaz, are ongoing. The Duke of Cornwall's party was last heard from off the coast of Scotland, before storms scattered the Duke's flotilla with, it is feared, signficant loss of life.

If, as seems likely, no word is received prior to tomorrow night's ball, the final alterations will need to be made by local tailors, most of whom have been until very recently completely backed up with final alterations to the new infantry uniforms bespoken by the Duke last month.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Waldrecker First Parallel of Festung Dolmen Completed

Working steadily despite the occasionally thunderstorms over the past week, the engineers of Prince Friedrich von Waldreck today completed the first parallel earthworks against the besieged Festung Dolmen. Siting of the gun batteries began under cover of night last night, with the manhandling of three 24-pound siege guns into the first battery overlooking Bastion Gertrude, the northwest-facing bastion of the fortress. Four other breaching batteries have been excavated, facing the northwestern demilune, and the northern-facing Bastion Magdalene, respectively in enfilading pairs, and it is presumed that siege guns will be similarly situated in those batteries, each approximately 900 yards from the opposing bastion, in the coming nights.

From within the fortress, however, no word has been heard since Maj. Trimbach's initial refusal of surrender upon the completion of the lines of circumvallation.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Duke Announces Reconstruction Aid for Hunsruck

His Grace's ministers today announced a series of initiatives to speed the reconstruction of Hunsruck. Chancellor Gottfried Graf von Schirnhausen, chairing an historic meeting with the leaders of the winemerchants', glassblowers', metalworkers', construction and goldsmiths' guilds, announced the reconstruction platform dedicated to the reconstruction of the strife-wracked neighbourhoods of Hunsruck before a gathering outside the old Rathaus.

The guild leaders in attendance will form a Committee on Reconstruction and Improvement tasked by His Grace with recommending to His Grace reconstruction and improvement projects for the city and the revenue measures to finance them, submitting these recommendations to the Chancellor for review and approval by His Grace.

Additionally, to aid in the reconstruction, Chancellor von Schirnhausen announced that the participating guildmasters would be compensated for their efforts by a temporary reduction in taxes on participating guilds, lowering the ordinary levy from 1 pfalztaler per journeyman enrolled in the corporation to 65 kreuzer per journeyman.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Camp Fever Visits Duke's Forces

The influences of malignant vapours surrounding the bivouac of the Duke's main forces now concentrated northwest of Kognat have taken their toll upon the men and officers of His Grace's army in the form of a tertian species of camp fever. Duke Ignaz himself has been confined by Dr. Thanisch's precautionary orders to his quarters, receiving frequent briefings from Generalmajor Gerhard Graf vom und zum Riesling on the disposition of the army.

Dr. Thanisch opines that the Duke's well-known phlegmatic temperament makes his susceptibility to those vapourous influences less than those of more choleric or bilious temperaments, but the delicate strategic situation dictates that no unnecessary chances be taken.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Vom und zum Riesling Regiment at Drill

Preparing to march to the aid of their beleaguered comrades, elements of the vom und zum Riesling regiment drill with their commander, Oberst Heinz Graf von Trollinger. The men sport their newly bespoken uniforms, just arrived from the renowned tailors of Tipplebruder. It should be noted that the local tailors were responsible for the final fitting, and any imperfections in the fit or cut are of course their responsibility and not those of the Tipplebruders.

The grenadiers prepare for a bayonet advance as the companies drill under the close watch of their officers and non-commissioneds on fire by platoons.

Von Trollinger demonstrates the committed leadership which won him the inspectorate of His Grace's infantry, taking his place on the firing line during drills. The close but respectful relationship the Oberst has with his men is both part and a product of this hands-on approach.

Von Trollinger is also a firm advocate of combined arms drill as a necessary preparation for field manoeuvres and action. Here the grenadiers of his regiment provide overwatch to a cannister firing drill of Oberst von Rebholz's gunners.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Atlas of Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn

At the request of subscribers, the political map of the environs of Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn is provided above. By way of a scale, it is noted that it is a full day's walk from Hunsruck to the university town of Achselfraktur.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Duke of Pfalz-Zwiebacken Pledges Support to Duke Ignaz

Demonstrating an unstinting familial loyalty, Duke Kristian von Pfalz-Zwiebacken today announced his support for the continued claim of his neighbour and fellow Wittelsbach cousin, Duke Ignaz von Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn, to the Lordship of Dolmen, now militarily contested by the forces of Prince Friedrich von Waldreck.

The statement of Duke Kristian, while not entirely unexpected, offers the first piece of unalloyed good political news to court of Duke Ignaz, rocked by the week-long riots in the capital city of Hunsruck and the nearly simultaneous news of the Waldrecker invasion of Dolmen, in several weeks. With several regiments now surrounding the beleaguered garrison of Festung Dolmen, this diplomatic support for the claims of Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn is a definite boon to the efforts of Duke Ignaz's diplomats in the other courts of Europe.

The Duchy of Pfalz-Zwiebacken borders both Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn and the Principality of Waldreck along their southern frontiers, providing alternate avenues of advance to any planned movement of forces from or into Waldreck, greatly facilitating either attempts to relieve the beleaguered Festung Dolmen or to drive on the capital of Waldreck, Bruttig, itself.

While the prospect of military aid to Duke Ignaz was not explicitly raised by Duke Kristian in his proclamation, most observers find that prospect unlikely. Pfalz-Zwiebacken has for all intents been a Gallian protectorate since the end of the War of Palatinate Succession, and its newest and best equipped regiment, the Royal Deux-Fours, is in Gallian pay and attached to the army of the Prince de Soubise in Saxony. However, military experts note that its status as a de facto Bourbon protectorate makes it most unlikely that Pfalz-Zwiebacken would be used by Waldrecker forces as an avenue of advance into Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn.

Technical Counselor Dispatched to Edinburgh

Catalysed by the recent translation into German and publication of Experiments upon Magnesia Alba, Quicklime, and some other Alcaline Substances, Ducal Technical Counselor Werner von Traun has been dispatched by his grace to Scotland to consult at greater length with Professor Joseph Black on the gravitic levity of phlogiston and its pyrotechnic implications.

Counselor von Traun's itinerary is to take him to Tradgardland, where he is to secure passage to the Shetland Islands and thence to the Edinburgh. While in Tradgardland, he also hopes to tour the Feuerwerkfabriken and herring packing facilities of that principality.

Siege of Festung Dolmen Commences

Reports from Dolmen continue to trickle out despite the imposition of martial law and establishment of checkpoints all along the frontier.

By impressing hundreds of able-bodied men from across the Lordship into service, Prince Friedrich von Waldreck has established the initial lines of circumvallation about Festung Dolmen, defended by approximately 300 men of the vom und zum Riesling regiment. It is expected that work on the first parallel will now follow.

Major Trimbach, commanding the defence, has refused the initial demand for surrender from the Waldrecker forces, relying upon the promise of relief from the balance of Herzog Ignaz's forces, now mostly detached from the pacification of Hunsruck, and mustering on the edge of the Hochwald forest which forms much of the border between Waldreck and Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn. Major Trimbach, before the encirclement of Dolmen was complete, also assumed personal command of the Dolmen Stadtwache, and was able to bring an undetermined number of the city guardsmen into the citadel to man the bastions.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Marshal von Browne Benefit Cancelled

In view of the sad news arriving from Spain of the death of featured performer Domenico Scarlatti, along with the present unrest both in Hunsruck and throughout the region, the Hunsruck Opera House has announced that the Marshal von Browne benefit concert has been cancelled.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Sad Tally

As order is restored to the streets of Hunsruck, the costs of the late riot are beginning to be quantified. Of the 6 major districts of the city, the overwhelming majority of the physical damage was confined to the working-class Glazierquartier and Kernerhausen neighbourhoods, with the worst looting and arson occuring in the rundown alleyways of the especially blighted parts of the Kernerhausen district just off the waterfront known to locals as the Warrens.

The more burgerliche neighbourhoods of the Bogenviertel and Skt. Cäcilien experienced significant vandalism and scattered looting, but most fires were quickly contained by the guild fire brigades.

The Weinenau district suffered significant damage around the Kanzlerplatz, where rioters engaged in hand-to-hand combat with grenadiers of the von Bacharach and von Bernkastel regiments for possession of the Ducal chancery building, and the old Rathaus across the square.

In the Altstadt and Herzogpark districts closest to the ducal residence, looting was almost nonexistent, kept at bay by the proximity of the palace guard and the vigilance of the footmen of the many noble houses in those neighbourhoods. The only disorder reported to date in those districts was a brawl in the Englischer Kaffeehaus and the brazen looting of the house of the late Kapellmeister Volker, both on the first full day of the riots on Saturday.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Scenes from Dolmen

The final courier to escape the Waldrecker noose descending about Festung Dolmen brings reconnaissance dispatches, hastily penned letters to loved ones back in Hunsruck and a handful of sketches rendered as colour etchings by HAZ staff artists:

Dolmen militiamen crew the antiquated guns defending the fortress.

Major Andreas Trimbach commands two companies, who man the ramparts with grim resolve.

Waldreck Blazon

By request of our subscribers, the arms of Waldreck are here displayed as an aid to identifying the forces of the Prince of Waldreck. The blazon is "or, a lion rampant sable, armed and langued gules, holding in dexter a mullet of six points gules."

Update: at the request of a subscriber, the following explanation from the College of Arms at Achselfraktur is appended: "The overall arms are those of Flanders, the mullet is a cadency marker denoting the Waldreck descent from the third son of Guy Dampierre, Henry of Flanders, who married Margareta of Cleves, establishing the family along the Rhein. The first count of Waldreck was Henry's third son as well, who was established in the ancestral estate along the Mosel near Koblenz which the family holds to this day."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Waldrecker Forces Occupy Dolmen

Declaring that "the spread of Hunsrucker unrest into the territories rightfully appertaining to the serene majesty of Waldreck must be strangled in its crib," Fürst Friedrich von Waldreck today ordered his troops to occupy the disputed Lordship of Dolmen, declaring martial law throughout the province and ordering his forces to secure the town of Dolmen and the lightly garrisoned fortress.

Waldrecker cavalry forces bearing the black lion banner of Waldreck raced across the frontier today, seizing bridges and crossroads, while at least two regiments of infantry, the von Sickingen and von Kreuznicht regiments being confirmed, mustered and marched close behind, leading many observers to conclude that the mobilisation orders must have been dispatched days ago. Communications with Festung Dolmen, garrisoned by two companies of the vom und zum Riesling infantry regiment, have been cut off, and it is unknown as of press time whether the garrison holds out against this surprise attack.

The Lordship of Dolmen, an exclave historically held in fief by the Bishops of Kognat, but whose passage to the Dukes of Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn with the secularised territories of the Bishopric was not explicitly granted in the imperial edict creating the duchy in the reign of Kaiser Leopold, sits on the north bank of the Mosel, over 40 miles from the main territory of the Duchy of Pfalz-Kognat-Obersayn, and is known chiefly for its pottery and earthenware industry, which Duke Ignaz has, in recent years, been attempting to develop to a Saxon quality of chinaware.

The Lordship was created originally in the reign of the Elector Palatine Friedrich III as partial compensation to Ulrich Fugger for the fabulous bequest of his personal library to the Biblioteka Palatina. Upon the extinction of the Protestant branch of the Fuggers, the Fugger family pledged the fief to the Church, donating it to the Bishops of Kognat, shortly before the secularisation of the bishopric in the Peace of Westphalia. The last Bishop of Kognat during the Thirty Years' War, though, was a Waldrecker on his mother's side, and the Waldreck family has persisted in its claim to the lands since that time.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sifting through the Rubble

Three days have now passed since the arrival of the new Herzoger artillery regiment, and two days since the fateful order, given by the Duke himself, to "clear the rabble from every back alley and close of the city," yet the accounts of events leading up to the Great Riot remain as conflicted and confused as the event itself. While the grapeshot of the artillery and resolute advance of the von Bernkastel and von Bacharach grenadiers swiftly cleared away the barricades which the rioters had erected about the perimeter of the Warrens and the Glazierquartier, and broke the back of the main body of rioters, the city remains under curfew and scattered incidents of violent resistance to the Duke's men are still reported.

While the bodies of rioters swing in mute testimony to the predominant restoration of order from each piling of the Kernerfluss Bridge, piecing together the exact trajectory of the events which led to those executions remains difficult. Chancellor Schirnhausen has ordered a special Chamber of Inquiry with summary powers to investigate and root out the malcontents responsible for the late conflagration, but as of press time the identities of the ultimately responsible parties are still being determined. It is alleged by captured participants that the initial riot in the Spandowerplatz was in fact orchestrated by a cabal of journeymen working through the craft guilds, who seized upon the suppression of the scurrilous version of Miss Sara Sampson as a pretext to strike out at unpopular leaders of the guilds and force the restoration of the city's self-rule under their own unprincipled leadership.

The masters of the major craft guilds have in fact been most cooperative in dispatching of the ringleaders of the uprising, identifying the troublemakers associated with their organisations, and assisting the provost-marshals in the apprehension and interrogation of suspects. While the city remains under martial law, with the assistance of the guildmasters it is expected that most of the insurrectionists will be ferreted out of their suspected lairs along the waterfront in short order.

Uniforming the Recruits

To continue from the previous posts on outfitting new recruits into the Herzogerheer, we'll first do some clean-up from the texturising of the bases, and fill in any gaps from the slots on the base we missed with the first coat of sand.

Finishing that, we are still confronted with a flat white figure with little contrast between the raised and lowered parts of the figure. We'll begin by enhancing that shading significantly with a wash of grey paint--I'm using one of GW's newish foundation paints--Dheneb Stone. These paints give excellent coverage, but tend to separate, so we begin with a shake-up.

Putting shading on first does three things: 1) It increases contrast, making it easier to see and pick out details as painting proceeds; 2) It provides a dark undertone in recesses, accomplishing the first shading undertone achieved by priming black, but without the headache of attempting to paint yellow or red over black primer; and 3) It gives gives a darker background for areas to be painted metal, which can be a little too shiny with a pure white undercoat. To enhance the contrast, and encourage the pigment to settle in the recesses of the figure, I thin the paint with flow enhancer to make my wash. In my experience, the biggest mistake I made as a beginning painter is not thinning my paints sufficiently--starting with a wash makes this especially important going forward to not obliterate the established shading.

This company of grenadiers gives a blurry impression of what this accomplishes. The two figures nearest the camera are unwashed--the blank whiteness makes picking out detail difficult, while the two in back have had their detail greatly enhanced by the additional shading. This will be fundamental to later painting, since these troops are going to be modeled on a white, Habsburg, scheme. We'll build up thin layers of white, from khaki, to unbleached titanium, to bleached titanium over the underlying shading.

Another blurry shot, unfortunately, but it shows the first, khaki, layer on the figures tunic, along with the first layer on the hat and exposed flesh. My technique is to work first dark to light, and then inside out, so anything darker than flesh adjacent to exposed flesh gets done before the flesh tone.

The cannoneers take a similar approach, but after the shading wash we follow up with a brown ink wash for the tunics--this is basically all the artillery uniform needs, except to pick out the lanyards, slings and pouches in a moderately contrasting leather tone.

Infantry Units Reuniformed

In the aftermath of the carnage of the pacification of Hunsruck and the accompanying fire which occasioned the unfortunate cessation of publication of the Hunsrucker Allgemeine Zeitung these past days, new uniforms for all infantry regiments have been bespoken. The new standards will be as follows:

Infanterie Regiment vom und zum Riesling

Infanterie Regiment von Bernkastel

Infanterie Regiment von Bacharach

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

French Forces on the Move

Höxter--Our correspondents in Westphalia inform us that the main French army under his grace Marshal Louis Charles d'Estrees has indeed crossed the Weser into Hanover proper and seeks to engage the Hanoverian Army of Observation. The impact of the consequent diminishment of French forces between the Rhine and Weser on the ongoing unrest in the Palatinate remains to be determined.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Prinz von Waldreck Protests Spread of Unrest

A visibly disturbed Prinz von Waldreck, addressing the gathering of notables come to pay condolences, angrily denounced the failure of Duke Ignaz von Pfaltz-Kognat-Obersayn to arrest the spread of the civil disturbances which have wracked the duchy for the last three days to which unrest the Prinz attributed the mysterious shooting death of his trusted adjutant and nephew, Graf Götz von Sickingen, whose badly mangled body was discovered outside the gates to Schloß Bruttig, dragged there by his stirrup by his prized charger, Concorde. The body of the Graf, upon examination, was found to have been shot twice, once in the shoulder, and once in the thigh. Mercifully, it is believed, the Graf likely bled to death and sustained the subsequent disfiguring injuries post-mortem in being dragged several miles back to Schloß Bruttig by his horse.

The Prinz, in addition to offering a reward of 500 pfalzthalers for the apprehension of the responsible party, has also ordered his troops onto their highest state of alert, cancelling all leaves and recalling all military personnel from their peacetime dispositions.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Infantry Battalions Reach Strife-Torn City

The main body of the von Bernkastel and von Bacharach infantry regiments arrived on the outskirts of riot-plagued Hunsruck today and encamped on opposite sides of the Kernerfluss, awaiting further orders pending the return of the Duke. The steady stream of wealthier burghers moving their families and valuables from the city continued, though, and reports from inside the city indicated that disorder and fires continued to plague most neighbourhoods.

At the request of the burgomeister, the von Bernkastel grenadiers and two companies of musketeers ventured into the city to secure the court administration buildings within the city, but met considerable resistance from the rioters. Volley fire was required on several occasions, and a bayonet charge by the soot-and-grime-covered grenadiers proved necessary to expel the rioters from the chancery [pictured, right].

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mustering in Recruits to the Artillery and Infantry Part III

The crucial element of drill instruction is breaking the recruit down into his most basic element and then rebuilding him into the soldier he can become. Here we see the soldiers being clipped from their framework for individual attention.

It is at this point that each individual element of the army, soldier, cannon and horse must be examined and every detectable imperfection removed.

Reduced to his basic form, and freed of flaws, the soldier must then be built back up. We begin this at the base, bonding him to his support with the strongest possible join.

This particular bond is binary, using an epoxy and hardener in equal amounts. The 30 minute epoxy permits maximum fiddling time to ensure the individually based soldiers rank up properly.

One by one, each soldier to be based is dipped in the epoxy and affixed to his base.

The vom und zum Riesling infantry regiment begins to take shape.

Planning to use the troops with the promising Tricorne Wars rules, we then group the individual soldiers into companies using 1½" square sabots cut from plasticard. Ultimately, we'll mount metallic paper on the sabots and magnets under the soldier bases, but for now we'll secure them with bluetack.

Texturising the bases is an extremely subjective area. I paint a bit of white glue (many people say PVA--polyvinylacrylic--but the white glue one typically buys at the normal discount store is not strictly speaking PVA) with a wet brush, and dip the base in fine sand (I use sandblasting quartz) to break up the smoothness of the plastic base and give more of an impression of earth and ground--later on we'll paint and flock the base as well.

We form the men one more time for review with the texturising complete, and dismiss them for retreat and the night.