Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cease-Fire

It wasn’t hard to find the inn. Except for the stables, the inn was easily the largest building in the small town. And since the stables were full of wounded men whose moans and occasional screams could be easily heard, Norris had an easy choice of where to go.

As he approached the place where he had been told he could find his Landgraf, Norris noted two men wearing unusual uniforms who were holding three horses not far from the entrance to the inn. The first soldier wore white with light blue swallow’s nests; obviously a trumpeter. The other wore a coat of light blue with white distinctives.

Something about the uniforms looked familiar, and a glance at the horse furniture confirmed Norris’ suspicions. Emblazoned on the saddle blankets, holsters, and the trumpeter’s banner was the monogram of the Prince-Bishop of Zwischen-Andere. There was another item on one of the horses: a large flag of truce.

Entering the inn, Norris expected to find it crowded with officers from the army. Instead he found just a few of them clustered near the door. Across the room at a table, Landgraf Bogey von Hesse-Fedora was in quiet conversation with an officer dressed in the same pale blue as the one outside, but of a far finer material and richly embroidered with lace. On another day the demeanor of the two could have indicated old friends having a chance meeting, discussing the weather or the wine. But not this day.

Norris moved away from the door, avoiding the handful of officers. The junior ones were too rank-conscious to invite the newly arrived major general to join them, and the senior ones were too rank-conscious to invite the newly promoted major general who didn’t have the gentlemanly prefix of “von” before his name to join them either. But his entrance had not gone unnoticed.

Landgraf Bogey raised his voice and called, “Herr General Norris, a word with you please.”

Norris ignored the disapproving stares from the other officers. He marched across the room and came to attention between the two men at the table. They rose as the Landgraf said, “Feldzeugmeister von Dithmarschen, may I introduce Major General Norris of my service. General Norris is the commander—”

Von Dithmarschen broke in. “Of your vanguard. Or rather, your rearguard. Actually, what is left of your rearguard.”

Norris’ face did not betray his surprise, neither at the rude interruption of the Landgraf, nor of the obvious knowledge of the current military situation.

“It is an honor to meet an officer of your esteem, Herr Feldzeugmeister.”

Bogey motioned them to sit, but Norris remained standing. “Feldzeugmeister von Dithmarschen has brought a request from the Prince-Bishop for us to send a representative to a Konferenz at the Prince-Bishop’s palace. I was just telling him that circumstances preclude me from participating, but that I was nominating you to represent Hesse-Fedora.”

Again von Dithmarschen interrupted. “Your Excellency, it is not a request. It is an order from the Prince-Bishop in his role of Kreis Executive Secretary. We have ‘arranged’ a cease-fire between your forces and those of Hesse-Homburg, so your army can lick its wounds in peace.”

Norris asked, “And the purpose of the Konferenz?”

Von Dithmarschen slowly turned to face Norris. “Will be revealed by the Prince-Bishop at his convenience.” The two generals’ eyes met. Neither of them looked away.

Bogey rose in dismissal. “Thank you, Herr Feldzeugmeister. Please convey our respects to the Prince-Bishop.”

Von Dithmarschen also stood. “The Konferenz is next Friday to allow all of the members of the Kreis to attend. Good day, Your Excellency. Herr General.” He turned and walked to the door, which was held open by a Fedoran lieutenant. A moment later the hooves of the general and his escort could be heard pounding down the road and faded into the distance.

Bogey turned to Norris.

“Damn!”

3 comments:

Frankfurter said...

Rats,
This means that those rogue Homburg units can claim to be marching to the cease fire line when they strike at Frankszonia ...
So they can march right through Broglie's troops with no problem!

Ed Youngstrom said...

Think of it as the "pause before the storm."

Bluebear Jeff said...

Arthur,

If you think of them as "flies in the ointment", then you will realize that you will have them trapped.

It is all a matter of perspective.


-- Jeff