|Early evening after the final battle of the revolt. |
As heavy rain clouds begin to obscure the moon,
an Ulrichstein hussar waits on picket duty.
Accompanied by the aides and staff that could be accommodated in his headquarters tent, Marshal Francois Noailles eyed wordlessly the vision that shimmered gracefully into his tent, bowed and announced himself. Broad shouldered, wasp waisted, and resplendent in the full dress uniform of an Imperial hussar officer, the exquisite creature seemed more suited to the kind of warfare waged in salons and milady's boudoir, rather than in the open field in all weathers. Speaking of which, the Marshall could hear the first drops of rain beginning to fall upon his tent. It was going to be a wet and uncomfortable night.
|Archduke Piccolo handing his|
hastily written message to his Aide-de-Camp
(from a contemporary George Bentlegg cartoon)
'Count Gyulai Tambour,' the apparition introduced itself, 'Aide-de-Camp to Marshal General the Archduke Piccolo; bearing a written message to his Excellency Marshal Noailles.'
|Count Gyulai Tambour delivering the Archduke's|
'Excellency, forsooth!' There was a rare courtesy to a rebel commander. The Marshal did not expect that. By way of reply, the Marshal flicked forth his left hand, palm upraised. The emissary placed thereon a hastily rolled up paper, sealed with a rather worn red ribbon. Before tearing open this roughly assembled document - clearly written in some haste - the Marshal indicated the wine decanter. Silently, but politely, the hussar declined with a smile.
|...to Marshal Francois Noailles, Commanding-in-Chief|
the Rebel armies.
'H'mmm...,' the Marshal begam to read,' "Time to call a halt to all hostilities..."; Humph! The usual form, I see: "shift from my own shoulders the responsibility for further effusion of blood..."; "...call upon you ... surrender ... forces in arms against the legitimate authority of Cornelius ter Plonk, Bishop of Ulrichstein." ... No offer of terms, I see. Unconditional surrender, I take it?'
The emissary seemed to have been well chosen: he understood the question at once. 'Aye, Your Excellency - and of Graf Raunchfester as well...'
'Speaking of whom: he should be here.' The Marshal indicated to one of his aides to find and fetch his Rechburg ally, 'While we wait, was there anything you were to convey to me by word of mouth?'
'Aye,' replied the hussar, 'It was made clear that the Bishop is inclined strongly towards clemency, and, so far as circumstances permit, a return to the status quo. He does want a proper investigation, though, into what happened to his grain convoys last year. There are some names that will be held for trial - I do not have the list, of course. But it has been vouchsafed to me that the Bishop values the commerce and enterprise of his northern flock, whether or no they follow the Church of Roma. So he wishes to see it disrupted as little as possible by large scale executions, imprisonments and exiles.
'There will be some, no doubt,' murmured the Marshal, 'Myself among them I daresay.'
'Exile, Your Excellency,' quoth the emissary at once, 'As leader of the Rebellion's Army, Your Excellency could have expected no less. But I have been authorised to tell you unofficially that you will be allowed seven days from the signing of the surrender document to wind up your affairs in Ulrichstein.' He lowered his voice a trifle, 'I do believe that the Archduke is ready to put in a good word should you ever seek service with the Emperor.'
|Graf Raunchfester, two days later at the formal ceremony|
appends his signature to the Instrument of Surrender.
This was saying possibly too much. Yet the Marshal could be certain that it was neither the Archduke's naivety nor his emissary's indiscretion that was at play, here. Oh, he could haggle and delay and bargain, but what he heard would be as good a deal he was going to get. Might as well take it early as late.
'What of Rechburg?' the enquired the Marshal.
'The forces of Rechburg will leave this Bishopric at once. A week should be ample to get them across the border. All prisoners to be restored - Rechburgers after the corps has quite the country; rebels the same except for those on the list. Your Excellency,' the Imperial aide paused briefly before continuing, 'Perhaps if I can return with your reply this evening...?'
'I'll speak to Graf Raunchfester first,' Barked the Marshal, at which the hussar nodded, unabashed. The Marshal for his part had taken note that the officer before him was prepared to ride several miles in the dark and wet, at great hazard to the splendour of his uniform, to fulfil his master's wishes. The significance of that devotion to duty could not escape Noailles's experienced eye. He knew, the hussar knew, the distant Archduke knew: this revolt was over. It was time the losers took whatever deal they could get...
|The defeated and exiled Marshal riding off after the|
formal Surrender ceremony.
But deep in his inner heart, Marshal Francois Noailles felt he would rather have been stricken down before the Imperialist guns than be the man who, by surrendering the army, extinguished the last flickering hope of the Ulrichstein Rebellion.
My thanks to Robin Sutton, 'Mosstrooper' and others who have recently joined the list of this blog's followers. I am sorry that my output has been less than voluminous lately. I hope to redress that in the weeks to come...