Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Gloria in Anates Vulgaria!

'"On our right," continues Count Arnim von Loon, reading from Van Rentall's report, "our force consisted of Vulgarian freibattalion foot commanded by Colonel Dieter Wilhelm von Offte-Ruthe. Colonel Offte-Ruthe's column comprised of  two companies of Pandur infantry and one company of Pandur skirmishers. Also attached to this force was a cavalry squadron under the command of Captain Jacobus von Throte: a squadron known as 'Throte's Horse'. Scouting ahead, these troops found a little known route that brought them into play much further up the battlefield than the enemy expected (below)."

'"At this stage, our forces had yet to encounter any of those of the enemy, a condition of battle particularly suited to the Vulgarian way of war. Colonel Offte-Ruthe ordered Throte's Horse forwards to cover the centre of the battlefield, whilst the three companies of Pandurs moved swiftly up the right flank towards a small farm. The farm itself seemed to have within its bounds either some sheep, or some very short, very old peasants, bending over. First to reach the farm were the skirmishers thanks to their agility and also the frequency with which the rest of the column seemed to halt to "do up their shoebuckles," buckles which seemed, in any locale remotely in the vicinity of the enemy, to come loose with remarkable frequency. Colonel Offte-Ruthe's second-in-command, one Captain Janke, recounted after the battle his conversation with his light troops as they first espied the contents of the farm's fields. Within it, there were some sheep, but also some other creatures that caused the light troops some puzzlement:

'What do you mean "Are those sheep?'" asked Janke, in reply to a question from a soldier. 'What do you think that they might be?'
'I think that they might be sheep, sir,' replied a Pandur. 'I mean - I'm fairly sure. I don't think that they're horses because we tried riding one and it didn't work.'
'So your definition of a sheep is anything that isn't a horse?'
'It's quite a general definition, sir, but you'd be surprised how often it's right.'
'I certainly would,' replied Janke sighing. He then asked of the soldier: 'You're not acquainted, then, with the Enlightenment and associated principles such as the application of reason?'
'Oh no, sir. I have some acquaintance with lights, obviously, though I try not have them near me when I happen to go courting. But I've certainly never tried raisins.'
'Well,' replied Janke,' and leaving aside your spurious reference to dried fruit; I have some acquaintance with reason, and one of its key principles is the application of evidence. So, if we apply this to our current situation. The first point of evidence is that sheep have four legs, whereas these creatures have two.'
'But we haven't got any currants at all,' said the Pandur, confusedly. 'But then, is that why we have to apply raisins instead?'
'What? No, no, no! Reason. We apply reason. So, if we apply it to ... this situation then the first point of evidence is that sheep have four legs, whereas these creatures only have two.'
'But,' said the Pandur. 'I have two legs.'
'Which means?'
'I'm a sheep?'
'Or ... ?'
'Or ... I'm a horse?'
'Could one of your companions ride you?'
'I wouldn't like to say, sir.'
'Very well, a second clue would be that sheep go 'baaaa,' whereas, if I'm not mistaken, these "sheep" are actually making a mysterious quacking sound. Which might mean that ....?'
'These sheep are slippery customers, sir, and know how to throw us off.'
'Or ... ?'
'Or ... these are ... are ... not sheep?'
'So, they're not sheep.'
'Notsheep? Well, I've never encountered Notsheep before.'
'But,' sighed Janke, 'I'm presuming that you've encountered ducks, no?'
'Oh yes,' replied the Pandur. 'Obviously. Everyone knows what a duck is.'
'So ... ?'
'These damnable sheep are pretending to be ducks?'
'It's close enough - take them as well,' added Janke. 'Oh,' he added, seeing a pig. 'And take that ... horse ... as well.'"

Prince Dimitri quaffs contentedly, waiting for the orchestra to cease a particularly vigorous triangle solo. 'I sense another victory in the offing!' he says delightedly.
Loon gestures placatingly. Raising his voice to cover the sound of the triangulist, who is now trying to destroy his instrument by bashing it into the ground, he continues 'We shall soon see, my lord. Let me continue with the report.'

(Above) 'Van Rentall goes on: "The farmyard related antics perpetrated by our Pandurs were interrupted by the sudden arrival of four companies of Wurstburp's Infanterie Regiment No. 1. By "sudden arrival," of course, I mean that their presence had been evident for an hour or so, but that the Pandurs' attention had been focused on watching what they regarded as the miraculous sight of sheep that paddled on water. Still, Colonel Offte-Ruthe nevertheless was able to form a skirmish line behind a nearby hedge. Using the fire from these troops, and the stern threat posed by Throte's horse, the remaining Pandurs began to retreat with their sheep. At this point, the centre column of our forces had arrived upon the battlefield."

Loon interrupts his reading of the report and shows Dimitri one of the woodcuts. 'See, sire, if you look at this woodcut (above), behind Throte's Horse and to the right, one can espy the left-most of the Vulgarian centre column, which consisted of four companies of the regiment Blasco commanded by Prince Bishop Brad von Schnail und Planck and a captain named Heinz Erich von Meyer-Fleischwund.'
The Prince wrinkles his nose. 'And no one recognised him as the actual Prince Bishop Brad von Schnail und Planck?' (Below).
'Apparently not, sir: seemingly it was assumed that he was just another Prince Bishop Brad von Schnail und Planck who, presumably, spent much of his life embroiled in socially awkward situations caused by the remarkable similarity that his name bore to the repellent, and often semi-naked at gatherings, form of Prince Brad, son of Count Ivan.'
'And also, of course,' adds Dimitri, 'the problems of looking exactly like the actual Prince Brad, as well as being, in addition, actually Prince Brad.'
'Well yes, sir. That too,' says Loon, looking searchingly at his feet. 'I suppose so. But as the report indicates. Meyer-Fleischwund did have some suspicions. As the report indicates .....'

'"Noticing the remarkable similarity that his new commander bore to Prince Bishop Brad von Schnail und Planck, the captain asked searchingly: 'Are you Prince Bishop Brad von Schnail und Planck?' to which his commander replied: 'No - I think you'll find I'm taller.' Reassured, the captain set about helping Prince Brad deploy the troops at their disposal. With the arrival of the Wurstburp regular infantry, it seemed expedient to lay out our troops in a blocking position on a low hill. This was soon completed, Prince Brad apparently commenting: 'Excellent! And now, at the opportune moment, I shall order these Vulgarian troops to run away, thus handing victory to Wurstburp.' The captain thought that this was an odd thing to say, but, his eyes streaming from a dose of snuff, it was some time before he was in a position to interrogate the Prince with a perceptive 'Um, that's an odd thing to say.' The Prince, apparently, replied: 'Just joking,' and also 'You know that's not snuff, right? Those are raisins.' At this point, with the enemy beginning gently to probe the front of our position, and the captain probing deeply into his nose for dried fruit, there came from the left of the enemy line the sound of galloping horses "'
'Hmmm,' says Dimitri. 'That's never good ....'

Friday, 29 September 2017

Gloria in Gemma Corona Vulgaria!

'"Run!" shouted the men of the Fifth Company of the Regiment Blasco. "Hasten! Hurry! Scamper! Bolt! Flee! Fly! Escape!"'. Count Arnim von Loon pauses. 'So you can see, sir, that it was, alas, a really very comprehensive retreat by Major Koch's lead element.'
'Depressing', sighs Prince Dimitri Feratu und Osterberg. 'But at the same time, not wholly unexpected. It does seem, my good count, that from the fruit bowl that is Mittelheim soldiery, we do seem to have chosen a superabundance of lemons.'
'Sadly true, my Prince,' replies the Count. 'Still, as the report goes on to note, though one company was soon in flight, the Major was able to order up his remaining two companies and thus seal off the enemy advance' (Below).

 'Really?' asks Dimitri.
'Oh yes, sir. It says here: "Though one company was soon in flight, the Major was able to order up his remaining two companies and seal off the enemy advance". The report then goes on to say: "With the Sixth and Seventh companies formed into line, there followed an extended period of stalemate, in which both sides fired occasional volleys. In the intervals, our troops goaded the enemy: hurling oaths upon them, questioning their parentage, waggling at them various bodily appendages, casting aspersions upon their ability to organise alcholic frivolity in an establishment for the production of fortified beverages, and mocking their mistaken apprehensions as to what might comprise the most credible theoretical basis for the analysis of international relations.'
'That sounds ... rather highbrow', replies Dimitri with surprise.
'I suspect, sir, that that would be the influence of Captain Spank. He is reportedly a most learned officer, and spends most weekday nights with his nose in one book or another.'
'Hmmm', says the Prince. 'With a name like "Captain Spank", one might presume that his evenings might be occupied with other sorts of activities.'
'Well, sir,' says Loon reflectively, 'I suppose he still has his weekends. Alas, however, it would seem that Kock's position on the left then began to crumble.' (Below)

Loon continues. 'Sadly, it would seems that the enemy freibatalion had rather more vim and vigour than one might normally expect from such a slovenly band of quasi-irregulars. Their fire became disconcertingly accurate and our troops began to waver. Then, just when our troops most required the application of some strong leadership, or at least some suitably uplifting threats to reduce measurably their time on earth,  a most unfortunate incident occurred. An enemy musket ball struck Major Kock in his *cough* unmentionables.'
The Prince frowns. 'His *cough* unmentionables?'
'Yes, sir, you know ...,' Loon points downwards.
'No, not really, because you seem explicitly intent on not mentioning them.'
'You know,' Loon gestures. 'His gentlemen's ... parts.'
'Oh ... I see.' Dimitri looks suitably sympathetic. 'Well, that would be quite a shock. I suspect that, given Major Koch's name, that his um ... crown jewels ... were quite a large target.'
Loon shakes his head. 'Au contraire, my lord. In yet another example of those strange ironies that persist in Mittelheim, if the Major's ... fruit and vegetables had indeed been crown jewels, then they would have been those of a rather small and poverty-stricken monarchy from eastern Europe. Anyway he fled the battle on his horse, and our remaining musketeers followed.'
'So our left was broken and we lost?'
'Well sir, yes and no.'

(Above) Loon gestures. 'Because, whilst the Croats thus far had made a contribution to the battle as timely and effective as something that was very ineffective and not at all timely, they are very good with livestock and furniture. So, whilst all of our regular troops ran off, the Croats did, whilst everyone ignored them, succeed on the left in obtaining our key objectives, which was two flocks of sheep, as well as a reportedly lovely little side table which one of the men wanted to marry. As the report notes, "With our primary objectives achieved on the left flank, our forces conducted a skillful withdrawal in the face of the enemy. Major Kock valiantly led the withdrawal, motivating his men with cries of 'Bloody Hell! Find me a physician! Keep the swelling but get me something for the pain!"'
'Hurrah!' cries Dimitri. 'Less musketeers, more sheep - that seems to be the route to victory. And were our forces in the centre and on the right equally as wildly successful as Major Kock?'
'Well sir,' says Loon. 'Let me read you the next part of the report ...'

Monday, 25 September 2017

Gloria in Pastillus Vulgaria!

'Wait, my lords! Wait!' shouts a chubby servant, bursting through the door.
Von Loon claps delightedly. 'Excellent! Excellent!'
'What's this?' asks Prince Dimitri.
The servant hands Loon a thick bundle of papers. 'My lord,' replies Loon. 'Realising that we had no first hand woodcuttings of the actions at Donaukerbad, I took it upon myself to commission a local artist to complete some illustrations inspired by the battle report and, where appropriate, by his imagination. By a stroke of luck he has completed them in the very nick of time!'
'Well, that is splendid,' says Dimitri rubbing his hands. 'Now we have music and pictures! If those woodcuts contain some inappropriate nudity and some clever visual jokes involving the rude application of cucumbers, then this really could be my perfect evening!'
'Well, my lord, I don't think that you should get your hopes up because ... oh, hang on.' Loon peers at some of the pictures and then recoils, alarmed. 'On the other hand, my lord, you might well be in luck. But I think you'll need a stiff drink.'
The Prince gestures. 'Save those for later - let's have the report, along with the other wood cuts: whittle them down so that we only have to look at the best.'
'Of course, sir', says Loon. 'I'll just remove those that have too many ... pixies,' he says, removing a fat sheaf of papers; 'and also those with ... giant pigs, probably,' he removes another portion of the pictures; 'and also those that contain ... armadillos, possibly,' he removes most of the remainder. Von Loon sighs. 'I think, my Prince, that it's fair to say that the artist might have focused on a balance between fact and imagination weighted in a way that I had not, perhaps, anticipated. Still, let us commence.' Loon takes a deep breath, and begins ...

'Our forces comprised three elements, and I shall begin with the report of the activities of our left wing. These forces comprised (above) one company of Croat mercenaries and three companies, the 5th, 6th, and 7th, drawn from the Regiment Blasco. These troops were under the command of Major Rupprecht von Koch and Captain Willi Spanck.
'Ah,' interrupts the Prince. 'Major Koch. No doubt a brave, educated, subtle leader; well-versed in the ways of Enlightenment warfare.'
'Yes,' replies Loon. 'He's brave, very brave.'
Loon then continues. 'The Croats, more enthusiastic about sheep than was perhaps warranted by their status as tasty food, were detailed to cross into the environs of Schloss Donaukerbad and requisition there the livestock that were believed to be present. Of the reminder of the force, the 5th company was detailed to move forward to cover the main possible line of enemy advance. The remaining two companies were held in reserve. (Below) Soon, movement to our front indicated the arrival of enemy forces.

These were quickly identified as four companies of freibattalion infantry from the Margravate of Wurstburp. It was known that these forces were under the command of one Sigbert Clemens von Mausfahrt, colonel in the Wurstburp army.'
'It was known?' asks Dimitri.
'Oh yes,' says Loon. 'The report notes that General van Rentall obtained a complete set of the enemy's orders thanks to the operation of our intelligence network.'
'Our intelligence network?' enquires the Prince, evincing the predictable Mittelheim scepticism at any tale of efficient military staff work.
'Well, a Wurstburp staff officer sold a local tavern wench a complete transcript of their orders for two pints of ale. We bought them off her for a mop and a fruit pie.'
'A fruit pie?'
'I know sir - we were diddled: but I wasn't there to ensure that we got the proper value. Still, though we were a fruit pie down, we did at least have the enemy orders.'
'Isn't that very, very useful?'
'In Prussia, where they tend to obey orders, perhaps so. In Mittelheim, my lord, not so much. But still, we did get as much of an understanding of the enemy order of battle as they had. Which is to say, a rather general and hazy one.'
Dimitri nods. 'Fair enough: continue.'
(Below) 'At this point, there began a general fire along the line, with 5th company engaging two companies of enemy freibattalion in a duel of musketry.'

'But weren't our troops outnumbered?' cries the Prince. 'By at least ...' Dimitri's brow furrows, ' ... by at least ... four to one?'
'That is so, my lord. But our troops were regulars. The enemy, however, were merely volunteers: and a volunteer in Mittelheim, as we know, is certainly drunk, and probably also unconscious.'
 'How very exciting!' cries the Prince. In the background, the orchestra reaches a dramatic crescendo, an event that sounds not entirely unlike the noise that might be made by a moderately sized herd of cattle, if they were trapped in a large shed with an impressive acoustic echo, and they were suffering from the onset of an acute bout of digestive trouble.
'And the enemy were driven from the field in disorder,' shouts Dimitri, 'crushed by the weight of musketry from my brave soldiers?'
'Well,' says Loon, gesturing philosophically, 'let's see shall we ...'

Friday, 8 September 2017

Gloria in Excelsis Vulgaria!

Leaving events in Grand Fenwick, dear reader, we now turn our attention once again to Vulgaria. There, another clash in the ongoing kleiner Krieg, this time in the vicinity of Donaukerbad, has produced a sudden surge in that rarest of Vulgarian commodities - optimism.

'A Vulgarian victory!' shouts Prince Dimitri, Voivode of Vulgaria, in a state of high excitement. 'An actual military success!'
'We should keep a sense of perspective my lord,' replies Count Arnim von Loon, the Prince's majordomo. 'It was a success in the kleiner Krieg, sir, with a small freibattalion force. We still await news of the main clash between our army and that of the Margarvate of Wurstburp.'
Prince Dimitri strides briskly around the throne room of Schloss Feratu, his footsteps echoing in the gloom. 'But a victory nevertheless! A proper victory! Glory. And also booty, no doubt - cannon; prisoners, baggage; enemy banners?'
'Well, my lord, actually mainly sheep.'
'And also, I think, some ducks.'
'Hmm. How many ducks?'
'Three, I believe, sir.'
'So, a glorious victory!' crows Dimitri.
'Yes, I suppose so, sir. If one likes ducks.'
'But a victory! A real success! I feel reinvigorated, Loon - Lola is in so much trouble this evening!'
'Yes my lord, ' replies Loon, evidently not sharing quite so much in the Prince's air of warm enthusiasm.

The Prince halts as his eyes lock onto his majordomo's slightly depressed visage. Dimitri looks suspicious. 'Loon, you're not just making this up to make me feel better.'
'No, my lord.'
'Because you did do that when we were playing billiards - you let me win, didn't you?'
'Yes, my lord: that is true. Although you did threaten to have me hung, drawn, and quartered if I didn't let you defeat me.'
'Just a little princely japery, Loon. You should have stood up to me - speak truth to power, and such!'
'Yes sir. Although, for the record, I did speak the truth and you then used your power to have me hung, sir.'
'Yes, but it was just a little jest, Loon. They let you down.'
'You mean that the rope broke, sir.'
'Broke, schmoke: you see, I trusted in fate and a weak rope.'
'It broke because you were pulling so hard on my feet, sir.'
'Well, yes,' admits Dimitri. 'But look, if everyone I tried in a huff to execute took it personally, I wouldn't have very many friends left, now would I?'
Count von Loon contemplates the empty throne room. 'No sir, that would no doubt be true.'

The Prince strikes his thigh with a pair of velvet gloves. 'But come now, Loon - you are in danger of ruining the moment! Let us talk more of this success! So, which of my brave Vulgarian military titans was responsible for this success. Tell me who - they must be rewarded! Lavished with titles, lands, money. Perhaps given a day off.'
Loon pauses for a moment before continuing. 'Well, my lord, how should I put this. Our freibattalion was commanded by Prince Brad von Schnail und Planck. It was he who oversaw our triumph against Wurstburp.'
'Prince Brad?' says Dimitri confused. 'Brad the Inhaler?'
'The, um, the very same, my lord.'
'But hang on: isn't Prince Brad the son of my arch nemesis, Vlad the IX: Vlad Cagul, the former Count of Roldova and Baron of Herzo-Carpathia?'
'Yes sir. The son of Vlad, previous ruler of Harzo-Carpathia, whom you deposed in order to re-establish Osterberg rule in Vulgaria. Brad escaped from your clutches in this very castle.'
'So,' says Dimitri gesticulating, 'what was he doing in command of Vulgarian troops?'
'That's not entirely clear, sir. Certainly, there must be some long term nefarious purpose of which we are as yet ignorant. He has since disappeared.'
'But ... but ... didn't anyone notice that our forces were being commanded by one of our chief antagonists? Brad is famously distinctive in his looks: you know - the sallow skin; protruberant canines; aversion to garlic; the penchant for capering hunchbacked minions? And the dark cloaks, and drafty castles.'
'Oh yes, sir, Brad is well known. And many at the time apparently did point out that he looked the spitting image of Prince Brad, even down actually to being called Brad. But a stringent investigation was conducted and it was concluded that, although he looked exactly like Prince Brad von Schnail und Planck, he promised that he absolutely wasn't Prince Brad and had never met him. And also, of course, apparently he had some orders that put him in charge of the Vulgarian troops.'
Dimitri looks aghast. 'Didn't anyone check the veracity of these supposed orders?'
'Oh yes, sir - we wouldn't let a stranger take command of our forces without stringent checks on their orders.'
'Well, apparently the orders seemed vague, poorly expressed, badly spelled, and largely irrelevant. So they seemed entirely authentic.'

Duke of Marlborough: 'Captain Haverley - these fellows under my
command; they are His Majesty's troops and not, say, the French?'
Haverley: 'Indeed, sir - from their red coats and general unwillingness
to learn a foreign language, I should say that they are, indubitably,
Duke of Marlborough: 'Splendid!'

Dimitri shakes his head. 'Well, let's just keep that part of the battle quiet shall we.' He then brightens again. 'Now, show me the woodcuts of the battle and describe the action!'
'I'm afraid that there are no woodcuts, my lord. They forgot to make them.'
'No woodcuts? But how then am I supposed to know what happened?'
'Well, sir, I could just report to you verbally - read from the dispatches.'
'But where's the drama, dammit Loon. Where's the sad tragedy?'
Loon sighs. 'I think there's enough of that here already, sir.'
'No, it won't do,' barks Dimitri.  'I'll tell you what - call the orchestra: you can read the dispatches out, and they can add some dramatic music to really conjure the atmosphere.'
'That's not usual, my lord. Aren't you afraid that the music might distract you and so cloud your comprehension of the finer points of the engagement?'
'Blazes, Loon. It's just a battle: what points of subtlety can there be? I tell you there's nothing that can't be improved by the strategic addition of a clarinet! Call the orchestra! Tell them to get their hands off their instruments and onto their trumpets!'

Der Alte Fritz: 'I've called you together men, just to check that
you're Prussian and that I am not inadvertently commanding Austrians,
 or Russians, or English, or Portuguese, or badgers.'
General Seydlitz: 'But my King - can you not tell from the fact that the great
size of our moustaches stands in inverse proportion to our sense of humour
that we are indeed your loyal Prussian Subjects! Also, we're mainly
wearing blue and we love sausages.'
Der Alte Fritz: 'Marvellous!'

A short while later, and the palace orchestra blearily arrives. They have all the shambling chaos of a better than average Vulgarian military parade. Suitable threats from Prince Dimitri impose some kind of order upon them.
Dimitri turns again to von Loon.
'So, are you ready to begin?'
'Yes sir,' he holds the dispatch. 'I beg to report the ...'
'Wait! Wait!' interjects the Prince. He turns to his assembled orchestra who peer at him with a mixture of fear and morbid obesity.
'Maestro - something dramatic!' cries Dimitri. 'A proper introduction to a brave Vulgarian battle!'
As Loon prepares his report, violins wail thinly and a tuba emits a low farting sound.
'Splendid!,' says Dmitri. 'This is so exciting. Begin!'
'I beg to report the results of an action of the second of this month by elements of the army of the Voivodate of Vulgaria. It would seem that, with the armies of Vulgaria and Wurstburp in close proximity, General van Rentall dispatched a force of troops to pillage the local area to acquire supplies for our army, deny the same to the enemy, and generally to work off some of the bad humour occasioned by the arrival again of Principal Counsellor Ranald Drumpf.'
'Oh yes,' nods Dimitri, 'I sent him back to the army.'
'I don't think General Rentall likes him, my lord.'
'No, I'm sure that that is the case. But he couldn't stay here. I got so tired of his terrible bird impressions.'
'Ah yes - his witless tweets.'
'Indeed. Indeed. Ooooh,' says Dimitri suddenly, settling into a chair with some wine, 'will this report contain descriptions of a woman without, you know, her clothes on?'
Loon frowns. 'No, sir, of course no ...'. He pauses slightly, noticing the cirrus clouds of disgruntlement that begin to waft across the skies of Dimitri's face, to be followed soon, no doubt, by the strato cumulus storm clouds that promise rains, high winds, and hangings blowing in from the southeast. 'No, sir,' says Loon. 'There is no woman; rather there are certainly, I am reliably informed, many unclothed women in this tale of battle.'
'Excellent, excellent,' beams Dimitri.
'And,' says Loon warming to his theme, 'I'm sure I noticed in the report a point later on in the battle where these ladies all engage in a rough bout of pillow fighting before falling into some mud.'
'Whereupon the remains of their clothes fall off?' asks Dimitri.
'Well,' says Loon, 'let's just see, shall we my lord? There might even be some rudely shaped vegetables, in the Fenwickian style.'
'Excellent, excellent,' nods Dimitri. He then pauses and frowns. 'It's odd, though Loon,' muses Dimitri. 'Why does so much about war in Mittelheim revolve around nudity and rudely shaped vegetables?'
Loon shrugs. 'It is, indeed, a mystery, my lord. There certainly does seem to be a lot less of that sort of thing in Prussia. Anyway, to address ourselves to the battle report: it appears that the battle began like this .......'

Friday, 18 August 2017

Opportunity Flocks!

Being on his hands and knees bringing up his breakfast meant that our would-be poet wasn’t party to the countercharge of von Krütchwärmer’s Dragoons that saw off the remaining Gelderland horse (below).

Still groaning inconsolably Gangulphus also missed the menacing appearance of Gelderland Jägers who seemed poised to rush forward and wreak havoc with the tail end of the convoy but then another wave of nausea ensured he was unable to witness the stirring sight of the dragoons making pretty short work of them too.

Lightheaded, Gangulphus staggered to his feet and shakily began the sisyphean task of gathering his sheep into something approaching a flock. Just as he began to feel that he was getting somewhere they scattered yet again as he became aware of an ominous rumble. To his right across the fields a magnificent and terrifying sight hove into view as gaudily caparisoned Gelderland cavalry first trotted then cantered toward the head of the convoy where Fenwickian sergeants, red of face and loud of obscenity, desperately berated their men into some semblance of order with which to meet the onrush.

(Below) Our poet stood openmouthed at the magnificent, awful sight; surely nothing could stop the now galloping wall of horseflesh and metal from wreaking bloody death upon the hapless Imperial infantry?

 But Gangulphus had, unsurprisingly, overlooked the presence of Antondekk’s Jägers lining the hedge and despite their casual attitude to military discipline and personal hygiene their fire emptied a number of saddles as the cavalry swept past only to be met with a telling volley from the brown-pantalooned infantry to their front.

More saddles emptied, in fact enough that the Gelderlander cavalry decided that they weren’t really that interested in the convoy after all. As they departed the field the Fenwickians drew a sigh of relief, cleaned themselves up and Gangulphus began to ponder his own chances of making a similarly hasty retreat from the shepherding life when from behind came an ominous, loud and rasping shout of “You! Peasant! Get those bleedin’ sheep shifted sharpish!”

Sunday, 13 August 2017

From Sheared to Eternity!

From what Gangulphus could make of it from his brief acquaintance, military life seemed to consist of angry, shouty, red-faced men in various uniforms threatening to insert things ranging from boots to bayonets into him. Even as he considered that eternal truism of military life through the ages, he spied (below) another group of angry, shouty, red-faced men, this time on horses, approaching rapidly with the seeming intent to insert swords, many of them into himself and also into what, after three days, he was beginning to think of as “his” sheep. Gelderland hussars!

(Below) The Gelderlander hussars swept majestically from the hill, giving the Fenwickian dragoons scant time to react. The two dragoon squadrons formed line.

One squadron of enemy hussars was driven back but the other dealt with the Dragoons in short order and Gangulphus found himself (below), rake in hand deserted by his flocking sheep who’d bolted through the wagons and into the kitchen garden across the road.

Resigned to his fate the poor boy consoled himself that his breeches couldn’t smell any worse, and anyway he wouldn’t be around to make the comparison, when a sudden crashing volley from behind the hedge from the regular infantry served to drive the Gelderlanders back.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Get the Flock Outta Here!

After events at the battle of Putschdorf, we turn our attention, dear reader, to the goings-on in Grand Fenwick. Here, following the success of the forces of Gelderland in the storming of Fort Gertrude, we scrutinise now the Fenwickian attempts to strengthen the defences of Fort Pippin in the face of the looming threat from the armies of the Spasmodic Sanction ....

'A Rake's Progress'
(If 'progress' means being waved at the backsides of some sheep)

“You! Peasant!” Bawled a red-faced Fenwickian sergeant at a hapless looking fellow in a smock holding a rake. “Hmmm? Me, sir?” replied Gangulphus Schnittersplitte trying hard not to trip over the rake in his surprise. “Of course bleedin’ you, you bleedin' ‘orrible specimen! Get those bleedin’ sheep shifted sharpish or you’ll feel my bleedin’ boot so far up your bleedin’ jacksy you’ll be polishin’ it wiv your bleedin’ tonsils!” The words “I really shouldn’t be here you know” paused momentarily on the tip of Gangulphus’ tongue before retreating hastily as his brain took in the size of the sergeant’s feet. Instead he prodded hopefully at the sheep with his rake and said: “Get along there! Good sheep, erm, come by or something...” as the herd ambled it’s way a little further toward the waiting cooking pots of Fort Pippin some four miles up the road.

And he really shouldn’t have been there. Three days ago as an aspiring writer desperate to research the essential truth of Fenwickian peasant life Gangulphus had, in a fit of romanticism, exchanged clothes with a local shepherd. The next day he fell foul of Fenwick’s rather antiquated laws of serfdom when he not only failed to persuade the recalcitrant former shepherd to take back his smock and breeks, but was equally unable to convince the local authorities that he was anything but a peasant with ideas, some of them possibly dangerous, and all certainly well above his station. And now he found himself doing his best to shoo sheep up a dusty road as part of the Imperial attempt to strengthen the beleaguered garrison of Fort Pippin with a delivery of gunpowder, grain and fresh meat. The convoy of wagons was guarded by detachments of regular infantry at head and tail and flanked by further infantry and two squadrons of Pflöpwinckel’s Dragoons to the left whilst two platoons of Col Antondekk’s Jägers busily trampled the kitchen garden of the farm to the right of the column, scrumping turnips as they went.

'A field full of turnips.'
(Some of which are vegetables in the farm's garden.)