Friday, September 10, 2010

At Colonel Schreiber's Camp

The Markgraaf rode to the encampment where the recently hired Schreiber's Freikorps had been billeted. He approved of the sentries that stopped him at the camp's edge and asked him his business. Thanks to General Schwillingsaufenstein, he knew the passwords that would admit him. He approved even more, that even though he had given the proper responses, he was escorted by the Sergeant of the Guard's squad to the Colonel's headquarters, and was turned over to the Headquarter's Duty platoon. Such caution would be needed in the days to come.

The Colonel was at dinner. The Markgraaf was told to dismount, picket his horse with the rest, leave his pistols in their holsters, and the Lieutenant would see to his sword, while he waited the Colonel's pleasure.

As he did so, he heard laughter coming from the Colonel's mess tent, and the distinctive voice of Ritter Hugo von Schwillingsaufenstein, General of the Army of Raubenstadt, telling one of his favorite stories. The Markgraaf had heard the tale many times before as man and boy, and the good General was just coming to the end. Ritter Hugo was relating it with great gusto to his new and captive audience. The Markgraaf sat down on a nearby camp stool, under a canvas fly, and listened again to the old soldier weave the web that held the hearer's spellbound.

"The enemy was defeated, by God! The Vile Stagonians were retreating; leaving the field of glory to us! Thank God! For our part we were glad to see them go, for we had seen enough of them that day, by God! It was my first triumph as an independent commander of men. A proud moment for me to be sure; and I savored it to the full. Forty years have passed me quicker than that moment!"

Cheers, glasses, and steins were raised in salute. It also gave the General a chance to relight his pipe and take a pull from the foaming tankard by his side. Outside, in the gathering dark, the Markgraaf raised a full water dipper as well, and wet his throat.

"Telling stories is thirsty work. Now then...where was I?" He puffed on his pipe a time or two and continued, "Ah! Yes! But all too soon the sweet taste of victory took on a bitter tang. A local inhabitant was brought to me by the Escort Squadron. I pointed to a nearby collection of houses, and asked him, 'What is the name of that village, my fine fellow?' Imagine how crestfallen I became when I learned that my first victory would be forever known as, 'The Battle Of Halfwitz!'"

More laughter rippled through the audience of Freikorps officers. As it died down, a young cadet spoke up, "But Sir, that's not the name stitched on the flag."

The General took his pipe from his mouth, and pointed the stem of it at the youngster, as he addressed the Colonel, "Mark that one for advancement Schrieber! He notices the details and speaks up about them!" The Markgraaf recalled the thrill of pride that had coursed through him too, when he had spoken up to the General years ago.

"Sit down young man and let me finish.", Ritter Hugo said. "In a desperate effort to retrieve the situation, I just made it worse. I should have just left well enough alone." A hush fell over the tent, as the officers leaned forward to hear the end of the story. "I then asked the lout the name of the walled manor house that our Grenadiers had successfully assaulted, breaking the Stagonian's will to continue the fight. 'That's the House of Stupitz, my Lord.', the clod replied. Gentlemen, that's how the the Battle of Stupitz-Halfwitz became emblazoned on my banner from that day to this! attention to your maps; and if you do have to offer battle to your foe, promise me you'll try to find a decently named place to do so!"

Noticing the time, Colonel Schreiber dismissed his officers, and bade them good night. As they began to disperse throughout the encampment, the Lieutenant came up and said to the Markgraaf, "The Colonel will see you now.", and led the way.

As he entered, Schreiber looked over and casually glanced at the stranger. Medium height, brown hair well sprinkled with grey at the temples, starting to get a little stout in the middle, walked with a slight limp - favoring the left leg.

"So my good man, what can I do for you?", the Colonel inquired; and waited for the farmer to tell his tale of missing livestock or some such.

"Perhaps it would be better if I made the introductions.", Hugo smoothly intervened. "Colonel Schreiber, this is my ruler, my friend, and your employer, His Grace, The Markgraaf Of Raubenstadt. Your Grace, this is Colonel Rupert von Schreiber of the Freikorps you hired."

As Rupert came to his feet, he was relieved when the Markgraaf put out his right hand and firmly shook hands with him. You never could tell with the high nobility. Some of them could carry grudges about perceived slights for very long periods of time.

"Very pleased to meet you, Colonel", he said.

"Beg pardon, my Lord. I didn't know." Rupert began.

"No matter. No matter. Needs must when the Devil drives, as they say.", the Markgraaf responded; doing his best to put the Colonel at ease. "Please Gentlemen, sit down and make yourselves comfortable. We have much to discuss."

As the sentries made their appointed rounds that night, they noticed the Colonel's tent stayed illuminated from within until the small hours of the morning.


Jiminho said...

That is quite a character, Ritter Hugo von Schwillingsaufenstein. I'm hoping to see more of him in the future!


Martin said...

Hi Jim,

I'm pleased you like ol' Hugo. Every time I write about the General, in the "theater of my mind", I see the face of the actor that portrayed Nicholas Herkimer in that most excellent movie, "Drums Along The Mohawk".