Monday, July 28, 2008

The Fog of War

NIEDERSOHREN, Aug. 16--Braun's Wachtmeister, Ernst Kathol, had scarcely had time to bellow the orders to advance after his Rittmeister before the collapse of the officer's mount threw all into confusion. Riding up to Braun's aid, the bulk of Braun's squadron followed at a trot, but slowed to a walk as Kathol dismounted to attempt to succour his commander.

Uncertain as to the Rittmeister's condition, Kathol shouted for the squadron to form line before their stricken commander. The Waldrecker dragoons, having dispatched the last remnants of resistance from von Fischbach's squadron and seeing the movement of Braun's squadron towards them had begun to reform into line of attack to meet the expected Obersaynisch charge.

Half a furlong behind them, the stricken Braun, still gathering his breath and wits, could see von Dornfeld's infantry regiment finishing its deployment into line from column of march. His Wachtmeister glanced back, and then forward, where the Waldrecker supply wagons could be seen rolling down the road toward Kirchschloß. Seeing the muddled Waldrecker reformation underway between the Kürassieren and the wagons, Kathol sensed an opportunity.

"Squadron will make ready firelocks!"

The Waldrecker dragoons continued to sort themselves back into their two-rank formation. In the stress of battle, though the two ranks were forming improperly close, almost muzzle to hindquarters, in the din of melee.

The men primed their carbines and cast them about and began loading. The Waldrecker dragoon officers saw the threat before them and began to scream their orders to fall in along with their bugler's call.

"Present..."

The Obersaynisch Kürassiere remounted their ramrods and 100 firelocks were raised toward the Waldreckers.

"GIVE FIRE!"

The carbines of the Obersaynisch trotters bellowed fiery smoke and lead towards the bunched Waldrecker dragoons. The volley fell on the Waldreckers like a poleaxe. Horses reared and screamed; men falling and cursing. What had been nearly an intact squadron of moderately disorganised dragoons was now a mob of writhing men and horseflesh.

"Squadron will advance!"

The Waldrecker dragoons disintegrated at the first forward movement of Braun's squadron.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In the Chambers of Prinzessin Sophie-Vittoria

HUNSRUCK, Aug. 15--The Prinzessinnen Sophie-Vittoria and Maria-Aurora pored over the documents recovered from the cache of the deceased Kapellmeister for over half an hour. No obvious connexion linked the eight names--three members of the ducal court, two leading burghers of the town, the Rector of the Cathedral of Kognat, the Chancellor of the University of Achselfraktur and the Stadtlan of the Hunsruck Judengasse--except a degree of social prominence and an income approximate to loans on the order indicated by the promissory notes and the notations on their reverses.

What did seem clear was that Kapellmeister Volker had not had anything approaching the resources to engage in the sort of moneylending necessary to accumulate the notes by normal trade or even the sharpest dealing, and there was no notation to indicate that any of the notes had been transferred from the original holder, Friedrich of Waldreck.

As the Prinzessinnen wrestled with these riddles, Anna, Sophie-Vittoria's dressing maid, entered to remind them of the imminent commencement of the midnight pyrotechnics, concluding the formal programme of the debut, from which Sophie-Vittoria's absence could not fail to be noted. Repairing their toilettes, the two ladies made ready to descend again to the ballroom.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Into the Cauldron

NIEDERSOHREN, Aug. 16--The fleeing remnants of Maj. von Fischbach's squadron reeled back along the Hohenstraße, hotly pursued by the Waldrecker Hussaren. The Waldrecker Dragoons milled about the unhorsed Kürassiere, dispatching the last knots of resistance in the remnants of the Obersaynisch line.

Rittmeister Braun saw the bloody scene through a yellow haze. The bleeding men and frothing horses seemed desaturated, washed out; his field of vision narrowed before him. As through a tunnel he urged his mount forward; the din of the slaughter before him strangely flattened, as if heard emanating from beneath a blanket or behind a door.

With a jolt he was suddenly brought back to focus by the stumble of his mount. Transfixed as he was by the plight of Maj. von Fischbach's squadron being butchered before him, he had overlooked a rabbit hole in the meadow beneath him. His gelding buckled beneath him, and he tumbled headlong over the horse's neck as the stricken animal twisted about its ruined fetlock, itself falling in sprawl to the turf behind him. With a thud Braun struck the ground and knew no more.