The Markgraaf mentally re-read the last line of his son Andrew's most recent letter home. "I hope that both you and Mother approve of my accepting this commission with the Pilsner Horse Grenadiers here in the Reich-Duchy. Father! I will command the Leib Squadron! Your Loving Son, Andrew"
His boys' decision had cause some tension between the Markgraaf and his wife. She felt that a soldiers lot would be far too hazardous; while the Markgraaf felt that if anything unfortunate happened to himself and his oldest son, Wilhelm, that military experience would stand Andrew in good stead. In addition, he would not spend his life waiting for a throne that might never be his.
The Markgraaf refused to send his second son to war with anything less than the best equipment he could afford, yet he didn't want to spoil or pamper his boy with a lot of useless impedimentia at the start of his career. His life might depend on being able to move light and swift. So far, the most important acquisition had been "Medium" Dolf Krause as young Ritter Andrew's servant. Krause, a Sergeant from the Hayburningnag Dragoons, had come with glowing recommendations from Colonel von Straw as a man with good character, high ability, and intelligence. These were characteristics that the Markgraaf prized highly, and he had volunteered to serve in the Markgraaf's Household.
He was of medium heighth, medium build, medium weight, brown hair, and brown eyes. In the prime of life, he had the kind of face with regular features that could get lost in a crowd of three. There was intelligence shining behind those eyes, though. The Markgraaf hoped that the Sergeant's experience would be a good, steady influence as a friend, confidant, body guard, cook, chess opponent, and, if necessary, trigger-finger.
Sergeant....err, Herr Krause would be leading a well turned, nimble footed road horse, a sturdy pack horse, and two Saxon bred cavalry mounts. The horses and their equipment would be lead by easy stages from Raubenstadt to Beerstein. Two other former soldiers/servants would accompany him on the journey on their own nags.
The Markgraaf sent his son a sturdy brass bound travel trunk. Inside, in addition to the spare clothes, were a brass telescope, a Bible, a Letter of Credit, a travel chess set and board, a brown wool cloak lined with silk, and a Cologne-steel forged sword with a scabbard. On one side of the blade, the name Andrew von Meltzer was etched. On the other side, the motto, "Draw With Need. Sheath With Honor." was inscribed.
General Schwillingstaufenstein had given the young Ritter a cased set of silver mounted dueling pistols, complete with powder and ball. He had included his own copy of "The Code Of The Duel", and a note saying, "These muzzles were the last things the Russian Count Vronsky saw on this Earth. Use a light charge of powder with a heavy ball, and mind the hair triggers!"
Given how his wife felt, he was surprised to see her come for Krause's departure. He saw her slip a package of her own into the trunk before it was closed and loaded onto the pack horse. He didn't see her approach Dolf, nor did he overhear their conversation.
Krause doffed his hat as the Margravine drew near. "I will guard your son well, my lady.", he said.
"Perhaps this will help you do so.", she replied.
Dolf looked down to see what she had placed into his hand. A straight, slender, serrated, black bladed, Damascus steel dirk with a brass knuckle bow guard was there in a forearm sheath.
"The handle has a special feature.", she said, as she twisted the pommel and pulled it away to reveal a retractable piano wire garrotte. She let the wire retract back into the handle and twisted the pommel again.
"What was it the Spartan mothers would say to their sons as they marched away, Krause?"
"With your shield or on it, my lady."
"Yes! That was it! Return with your shield or on it. See to it Dolf. See that my son sees to it.
There is another dirk in the chest - twin to yours. See that he learns to use it. ALL of its special features."
Dolf nodded, and tried to ignore the odd feeling in his throat. "Yes, my Baroness. I shall make a point of it." As the Margravine turned away, Dolf wondered what kind of family she had come from, where a dagger would be considered an appropriate coming of age present?
He put his hat back on and mounted the riding horse. His other two companions got upon theirs as well. The General came over and said, "Its a long way to Beerstein, so pace yourself. When you get there tell that young sprig from me that a soldier's life can be a good life, but he takes a soldier's chance along with it. When you see Major Thirst and that reprobate Professor - Dryasdust, tell them, 'Job well done!', and they have the choice of staying in Beerstein or coming home. Whatever they want. Good Luck Sergeant! I shall expect regular reports from you. Godspeed!"
With that, Herr "Medium" Dolf Krause saluted, touched spur to horse, and started the grand adventure that lay before him.