Friday, February 26, 2010

Dropping from the Cathedral Eaves ...

Eaves Dropping

Mack knelt in the darkness, leaning into the shadow of the great pillar. He smiled ironically. Frankfurter was mostly Anglerican / Lutheran and pro-Protestant. Still it had a sizable population of Papists, including the scandalous Later-In-The-Day Saints. That cult had very enjoyable festivals and celebrations, so everybody pretended to belong. Still, most days, the Ducal Cathedral was almost empty. Naturally, the foolish children thought of it as a private place for their trysts ... not realizing that anybody who actually entered the building was almost always noticed by somebody, and gossip blazoned their romantic secret across the market in seconds.

So, his informant being an imaginative lass from the mercantile class (which actually runs Frankszonia), had arranged her “secret contact” there.

It was no loss. The mother of the family came from the Reich Duchy of Beerstein, so folks would already assume that he would contact them. Then again, she was healthy, pleasant looking, and quite cheerful. Having himself linked in gossip with her could only enhance his carefully contrived reputation.

So, suppressing a quiet chuckle in the stained glass colored shadows, he began to cross himself and to rise ... but froze instead.

Another had entered the nave. Unlike most folks, who went softly and even attempted furtiveness, the figure strode quickly over to the candle stands and dropped some coins into the collection box.

“Do you need a lighter, my son?” an older cleric queried from the sanctuary.
“Certainly, Light is Needed,” the stranger replied. Mack could hear the capital letters and the Italian accent.
“Adjutorum nostrum in Nomine Domini,” said the monk.
“Qui fecit Caelum et Terram,” the stranger responded.
There was a moment of quiet as the two regarded each other and swept their eyes around the dark interior. They seemed to miss Mack still reverently kneeling behind his pillar.
“He’s been spotted,” the stranger.
“How close?”
“We don’t know yet. The General Secretary thinks he sailed on to Trieste and has alerted the Tyrol brothers.”
“But you?”
“Up through Croatia to Vienna and then across to the Main somewhere.”
The priest demurred, “A Turkish Captain General going through Vienna without being spotted?”
“He’s a Fhartz. They have a low opinion of the Wieners’ intelligence already, and he would be a traveling German noble. Hardly remarkable or even noticeable in the waltzes or beer gardens.”
“You’re right,” the priest mused. “He also is remarkably well suited to come as one of the Croats or an Hussar. What do you suggest?”
The stranger sat in a pew, and Mack noticed that in spite of his martial bearing he wore no sword. “I sent a Postulant to Father Feurenkopf. They’ll be watching the inns to the west of Vienna. I think we need to get higher up the Main and stake out the boats. He could easily make entrance from Offenbach.”
The priest began to pace nervously. “What shall we do if he makes it?”
“I honestly don’t know,” the stranger complained. “I know that the Secretary and his cronies have their ideas, but none of them are really used to working in the field. What’s old Stinky up to? This could be a subtle bit of pressure on the Reichs Rat in Wien. It could be a trigger for some rumpus inside Stagonia. It could be merely working out a new route to smuggle in more spices for their Frankfurters.” He grunted wryly, “it could even be a purely sentimental desire to visit again. They were quite close when the Hurtshog was little.”
“Do you think the Hurtshog might reinstate him?” The priest was very worried at this prospect.
“It’s possible,” the Italian threw up his hands. “Everybody forgets that the Apostate is legitimate, and he’d make a very skilled Regent if it came to that.”
“Gott in Himmel!” the priest paled. “We’d lose our status versus the heretics!”

One of the ornately carved doors creaked open somewhere and banged shut. The priest quickly turned to trimming the candles while the Italian rose and knelt before them. A young man, plainly dressed but in fine cloth, came in peering around. “Father Silenius?” he called from the back, is that you?”
“Yes, Richter. I’ll be with you in a minute.” Father Silenius turned to the Italian, “I’d be blest to hear your confession, traveller,” he covered quickly. “Come, let’s step into the sacristy to be private a moment.”

The two plotters exit, and the youth advances up the aisle, anxiously watching them go. Mack slips quietly away and down the stairs to the cellar. So he missed the quick light-footed entrance of a pretty farm girl who hurried up to Ricther and quickly gave him a sisterly peck on the cheek.
"Rose Marie," Richter greeted her. "I always love to see you, but here? Now?"

"You have to know," she grinned as if she were flirting but kept her voice low. "Beerstein is getting involved."
"Stagonia again?"
"Possibly, but this reunion ... there's Fhartzen whom the Reich Duchy Lace would love to see expelled and blown away."
There is a noise of a chair scrapping across the floor in the sacristy. Rose Marie flies back out again, calling, "You HAVE to come to our cookout!"

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The General is indisposed

Somewhere in the Hessian scramble of states, a great army sits muffled against the winter cold. They are depressed as they seem to have stumbled on the threshold of a complete victory. Hesse-Seewald and Germania with British aid have stopped their advance. The cold, iron logic of the situation requires them to fall back on their ample depot near Frankfurter. Around their fitfully smoking campfires, the men are glad that the ground is firming up from the last winter storm. Marching in frozen mush is horribly uncomfortable, and the damage to their kit has all the sergeants practically incoherent. In their iced tents, they listen to the clatter and rumble of the endless wagon traffic bringing hay for the horses and taking the latest casualties ... most with frostbitten toes through the hills.

A low growl of noise seems unending from the thousands of men and their various implements and animals. Through this constant muted cacophony the sentries’ challenges and the clatter of couriers hooves occasionally places a stronger note in the mix. Tonight, however, some of the men at the fires stand up to watch, and some of the men raise their heads from whatever half frozen knapsack serves as their pillow. There is a rush of couriers, a cavalry horn sounds assemble, and staff officers and Brigadiers are seen hurrying about.

In his commandeered manor, General Chevert is irritably listening to an agitated Intendant Bastille. “This couldn’t have waited until the morning?” the General grumbles peevishly.

“Our own agents confirm the broad outlines of their warning,” Bastille asserts. “There could five or six thousand already mustered and more coming. It would be big enough to lob a lot of bombs into the depot, even if we keep them well out the supplies.”

“Really,” General Chevert replies, “shopkeepers, apprentices, farmhands, and the odd old noble who thinks himself a general!” He snorts disdainfully, “these seem hardly a threat.”

“You spend your summers on campaign, mon General,” one of Bastille’s aides intervenes. “These Frankszonians are weird. They pride themselves on their status as a Free State and as the traditional locale for crowning the Emperor. Their summer cook outs are accompanied by competitions in drill, manual of arms, and even marksmanship.”

“And I suspect that a lot of these wounded and prisoners going into Frankfurt are small units of Germanians or British, heavy on sergeants to provide the nerves for the force,” Bastille continues.

“Wounded and Prisoners to Frankfurter?” The General finally shows alarm. “They were supposed to concentrate on Mainz!”

“And, my agent pointed out another concern, General,” Bastille grabbed his advantage. “Many of the reliable and experienced Frankszonian units are involved in this affair down in Alesgarden. The people of Frankszonia are mostly Protestant and support the Elector against the Emperor. There is a good chance that some of the regiments in Frankfurter will turn coat. If they do, our foes could have twenty thousand men, many veteran regiments within yards of the Depot before any response could be made.”

“And Stagonia?” Chevert required.

“They definitely were involved in both the zombie affairs and in this recent mutiny which drew reliable forces out of town through the Stadt Wald ... and possibly in getting them mixed in with this Alesgarden Affair with the Reich Duchy of Beerstein.”

All of the aides now looked worried. Stagonia had the forces and the position to endanger all communications with Vienna and also would be a cancer in any defense of Bohemia. Since Aftschaftenberg was also in turmoil, the entire Gallian position could be fractured.

“What have you done already?” The General asked Bastille. Bastille was an excellent staff officer, and he had not shirked the firing line when his turn had come. The General was sure that the Baron had used his position to start some response already.

“I’ve sent the Marquis Hottatrot on with an escort of Hussars and Dragoons under Col. Mirage,” Bastille began, and defended his impertinence (which had already irritated the General), “ .... his men move fastest and the risk of a preplanned ambush could be best met his alert gifts for this sort of thing.”

“What’s done is done. What else?”

“The rest of the Frankszonian Nobles will be sent on back tomorrow with a flying wing of cavalry, light guns, and some freikorps.”

“I assume that you will accompany them, my Lord,” Chevert nodded.

“I suspect that the Hurtshog would cheerfully reinforce our depot guards with his own Lieb Garde and Cuirassiers in my absence, “ the Intendant acknowledged wryly. “It would be more efficient to steal our depot in one coup rather than the blood sucking they’ve used so far.”

“I am sure that his pet fop will write glowing reports of his sacrifice, energy, and dedication in service to our King and his Empress,” Chevert reflected. “I wonder what his real goal is?”

“Stagonia,” Bastille asserted.

Chevert looked at him for a moment and then back to the map table. “No, my lord Intendant,” he mused. “Stagonia is too far, too strong, and he knows we’d stop it until Stagonia stops sending us men, money, and supplies. Also, this whole thing stinks of that cabal’s little schemes. They’re trying to flush somebody out.”

There was a moment’s pause while everyone considered the irritations of the grating effect of the petty games of petty German princelings. One of the Intendant’s aides wondered aloud, “and where is Roquefort now?”


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Die HundeHof in der WodenWald

Much more coming as this post gets edited ...
am having to work in short stints due to household problems impacting health (sigh)

The fabulous paintings of Dame Edith have arrived. Quite fortunately, she had been doing some studies of the flora in the OdinWald when hostilities broke out.

Even though she was enraptured by the precious beauties of the region, she sought out her friends among the Frankszonian forces. She was happily greeted by their commander, Hottatrot, who appeared exhausted but confident of victory.
He informed her of the possibility of a minor action near one of the manors she had been visiting, and she dashed back to catch the action.

(Picture is Wild Roses by Pickren Hall Road)

She arrived not a moment too soon, but thinking there was still time rode forward until she suddenly found herself surrounded by the approaching enemy!

(battle reports will be posted beside the pictures)
West end of area ... all forested (I couldn't get to my primary tree box). the Coalition is on the bottom of the board, and almost entirely Giant of Hong Kong figures (20 mm plastics, allegedly the worst ever made for AWI).
The FRangipani Hussars (Revell) who were in advance post managed to get a first move card and are quickly retiring from the ragged Coalition line of militia, grenzers and jaegers. Behind the Hunde Manor in the upper right, a battalion of good troops awaits to hold the enemy's advance and Jay's Jaegers are hiding behind the forested hill on the left. Hottatrot himself is leading the Frankszonian force.

Having done some sketches in the area, Dame Edith tried to get around their forces by swinging southwest into rough ground, but encountered a developing firefight between Jay's Jaegers and the Jaegers and light infantry of the foe! (ever noticed how hard it is to type when a cat decides to beat the keyboard with its tail in jealousy?)

The Coalition commander, Oberst Taunjyk, orders the advance to begin on the right while his center follows carefully behind the retreating Hussars. The two companies of Grenadiers were ordered to stand as a reserve.
Meanwhile, Jay's Jaegers are sneaking over the hill through the forest.

Now Dame Edith found herself trapped behind the attacking forces, which, though they treated her well, would not allow her to return to the Frankszonian position (the cads! As if such a genteel lady would be a spy!). So she climbed trees and dashed back and forth behind their lines to get quick sketches of the rapidly shifting action.

Coalition forces advance against the Hunde Manor. Grenzer company on the right, a militia company to the left .... this attack would eventually stall, but it would give Hottatrot a few tense moments first.
(Yes, those are chenile craft trees. Fun to make, very light, photograph well, and don't leave bits and pieces and shreds everywhere).

Blocked by dense woods and debris from an ice storm, she failed to find a route around the enemy's right flank either ... and then the horrible sound of cannons, rifles, and muskets firing fouled the air!

Fire erupts along the entire line. Jay's Jaegers have advanced to the forward slope and have engaged the jaegers of the coalition forces in a deadly fire fight.
BAR rules permit saving throws, which tended in this game to favor the Frankszonians (No, I did NOT have Dame Edith throw all of them, but Hottatrot is her second favorite character in Frankszonia).

Chocking on the vapors of the battle, she imagined that she dimly perceived vast forms manipulating the brave mortals through the trees .... (Okay, so I had to keep checking the rule book, and getting a tad flustered on turn sequence. Give me a break, I'm isolated, solo, and this was my first run through).

The Coalition presses forward in the center with alarming success.
Most of the cannoniers of the Frankfurter column actually fall to a musket volley (only two saves for the whole gun!). Since the very good troops (Minden Miniatures, alas, none of the pictures from that side turned out well) from Hottatrot's own regiment are taking a pounding, the General is worried, but orders the companies to hold fast to the manor house, hoping that Jay's Jaegers and their supporting battalion will be able to overcome the Coallition left.

The giant mist (state of my brain trying to remember rules and use them) seems to loom over the action and to push Jay's Jaegers dangerously close to their foes in the forest.

This picture shows the intense fighting around the Manor house. The Superior Hottatrot muskets not only flay the attacking force, but are making about twice the save rolls ... but the central battalion of Oberst Taunjyk's command is still pressing forward, and the Hussars are even further away though reforming (out of picture to the left).

Jay's Jagers wipe out the foe's Jaeger company and decimate the rest of the Coalition's left battalion!

This enables Jay's Jaegers supporting musketeers to begin to threaten the central advance of the Coalition. Taunjyk calls his grenediers to begin to advance to support the central force's flank.

Dame Edith perceives that after their strong advance, the Coalition appears to have stalled. The elemental giant does not seem to be intervening any more.

(Der Grosser is considering whether to charge with the Hussars now ... and is wary, considering the historical value of troops in line facing off a cavalry charge. Given the nature of the BAR cavalry rules, he decides he has to fudge (table is too, too small) and start them trotting now).

And, she notices that the Frangipani Hussars are returning to the fray, advancing on the shredded battalion which had pushed recklessly into the field between the Manor and the jaeger filled woods!

Meanwhile the Grenzers on Taunjyk's right finally crumble under the disciplined volleys of Hottatrot's musketeers ... this enables Hottatrot to bring a cross fire on the central battalion just as it is trying to face the advancing Hussars!

Smoke blooms again as the Frankszonian forces press back toward Dame Edith's tree.

The Coalition central battalion attempts to halt the Frankszonian advance to give the Grenzers time to reform. However, the Hottatrot battalion is now concentrating on their front and the fire from the flank is galling. The Hussars break into a canter, and the center battalion gives ground!

Dame Edith wisely clambers up a nearby hill and finds another good tree limb to observe the last moments of the conflict.

Oberst Taunjyk gathers what troops he can around his grenadiers and retires into the mountainous forest. Hottatrot considers that he has achieved his local objective of persuading the Coalition forces to take the northern route through much clearer terrain. Besides, in the forest, the wiley Taunjyk just might turn the tables again!

So once again, as a hawk swirls above the mess, memories of the moment when Colon almost burst through!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Becoming Endarkened ....

Well, during a thaw, we clawed out over the mud and slush to the paved roads and drove into the next county .... in part, because that's the closest place to get film developed.
So I dropped off the roll which Edie had shot of the Odenwald battle ...
That night, as I was emptying my pockets, I found my nitrostats had mysteriously transformed themselves into a roll of film!
Yep, I had ...
Fortunately, I hadn't needed them (they're the emergency pills when my ticker takes off) and I'd a new bottle for back up at home.
Mall Wart has recovered my bottle and will hold it at their pharmacy for a few days ...
When, I hope, the pictures WILL be submitted for development.

Anybody need a court fool?