Welcome Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Welcome Lords, Ladies and Gentlefolk.

This blog will be devoted to my literary and cosplay interests and stories set in my own alternative historical steampunk background. I hope people enjoy the stories, as much as I enjoy devising and writing them and that it stimulates their own artistic interests, entertains them or if nothing else fires their own imaginations.

A special note to new readers of this blog, the entries "Nation States" are gazetteers of the nations as they exist in the An Age of Steam, Steel and Iron background, each with a few remarks/observations about each nation as they exist within. Any post headed by the title containing the words "Story Snippet" or "Fragments" is a stand alone, snapshot of the background, they will be developed into fuller stories in future, but at present they serve to give the viewer/reader a measure of what this world is like, what is going on in it and who some of the players are. Full stories, will be headed by their title and a roman number, as they will generally be in several parts.

Comments, suggestions or remarks by readers are welcomed.

I would like to thank the following people:

Yaya Han, for getting me seriously interested in cosplay at a time when things were looking very glum for me back in 2006 with several extended stays in hospital due to illness, and motivating me to get actively involved.

Ashley Du aka UndeadDu, for her unfailing friendship and cheerful support since we first met in 2014 at the Hamilton Comic Con, and for being my Cosplay mentor and advisor.

Sara Marly, for her interest in and support for my writings, since we first met in 2016 at the Hamilton Comic Con and incidently helping me make up my mind to finally do this.

Stephen Thomson, my friend, for his advise and assistance with creating and setting up this blog.

Daniel Cote, my friend and co-worker for his advise and friendship over the years.

The People of the The Aegy's Gathering (particularly Jonathan Cresswell-Jones, Scott Washburn and Jenny Dolfen, all of whom I have kept in contact with over the years), who were brought together in friendship by a certain randomness of chance and a common interest in the Honor Harrington books and stayed together despite distance and the strains of life.

The People of the Wesworld Alternative History website, who gave me the opportunity to sharpen my writing and story telling skills while directing the affairs of Lithuania and briefly France during their 1930s timelines.

My parents Mary Ellen and Logan, my siblings Adam and Danika and various friends both online and at work and play for putting up with me, encouraging and supporting me both in the very good times and the very bad times.

I remain as always yours very sincerely, your obedient servant, Matthew Baird aka Sir Leopold Stanley Worthing-Topper

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Storm Clouds 1866 (Part II)

Schloss Eggenberg, City of Graz, Crownland of Styria, Austia-Hungary, January 1866.

Ferdinand Ulrich Fürst von Eggenberg, emerged from his study in the Schloss Eggenberg, and made his way towards the Great Library of the palace. His mother was entertaining several guests this evening, and Ferdinand Ulrich had excused himself after they had finished an excellent dinner, prepared by the palace staff, to deal with some personal letters that had arrived with the evening post. His wife and children were away in Vienna visiting relations and friends over the remainder of the new year, while he had lingered in Graz at attend to family estate affairs and discuss with his mother, their plans for the coming year. In all it had been a pleasant, contented and quiet yuletide season, although prospects for the new year of 1866, seemed a bit disheartening, due to the ongoing conflicts and arguments between Austria and Prussia within the German Confederation.

Bismarck had caused a major political fuss in the Bundsrat, by trying to bar Denmark from formally entering the Confederation, a move welcoming by almost all the member states, Prussia included. He had been furious of course, when he had been over ruled by the Bundsrat and his own sovereign. So he had gone out of his way to increase the friction between Austria and Prussia over the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. The diplomatic discussions with Denmark and the Confederation were however ongoing and Bismarck found he could not derail them, they would probably wind up sometime in later in the year or early spring of 1867. Evidently King Wilhelm I, had put his foot down, hard, and Bismarck had had a most unpleasant interview over the matter.

Ferdinand Ulrich, was worried, there was talk throughout the member states of the possibility that the conflict between Austria and the states allied to it and Prussia and it's allies would combust into open conflict, perhaps even outright war. That same worry was in all the papers, the cities and countryside. Everyone hoped it would not be so of course, and the belief that cooler and sensible heads would prevail as it had in the past. Ferdinand Ulrich was not sure that would be the case, he sensed trouble in the wind. Bismarck signing political treaties with both the Kingdoms of Italy and Poland, signaled warning bells in his mind, about the Prussians intentions.

Ferdinand Ulrich rubbed absently at his long, dark brown sideburns as he walked. His childhood had been an unsettled one, he had been born in 1810, one of the rare moments of peace during the ongoing Napoleonic Wars. His birth had caused something of a scandal at the time, and still caused him and his mother trouble from time to time thereafter. That fact that his mother, was unmarried had been part of the scandal, the other part had been caused by who his father was. His mother was of a fresh light complexion with beautiful green eyes. His own eyes, were of a cast of equal parts blue and green, a professional artist would have called them cyan. They sparkled like a bright summer sky. His colouring was darker then his mother's, almost swarthy. This was not all that surprising, given that his father was Napoleone di Buonaparte, also known to posterity as Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. The same straight, ever so slightly bent nose, marked his face, as did the same somber and serious expression. There had been no mistaking his parentage as Ferdinand Ulrich had grown up, his resemblence to his half-brother, the Herzog von Reichstadt, Napoléon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte, and head of the Habsburg cadet house, of Habsburg-Bonaparte, or Habsburg -Korsika as it was called, was painfully obvious to all who looked upon him.

Despite the scandal, Ferdinand Ulrich had been loved and adored by his mother, thorough out his childhood. He had nearly become an orphan, in 1813, when his mother had impulsively joined in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. Fortunately his mother had survived what was deemed a mortal chest wound by the intervention of two friends, the Prussian general , Graf Sonder and the fellow Styrian, General Eisen. Who had pulled her from the battlefield and managed to save her life. Both men, were to put it bluntly, some of the odds people in the world, let alone the German Confederation! Graf Sonder had been born in th 1600s, had trained as an alchemist and made a number of useful scientific observations and inventions. However he had suffered a catastrophic accident when a chemical experiment he ha been conduction, exploded in his face, leaving his badly injured and blind. He had directed his assistants in rebuilding his ruined face, body and limbs with exotic metals, leathers and woods and strange elixirs. Graf Sonder was now more construct then human, but lived on and his skills and knowledge grew with each passing year. He had served the Kingdom of Prussia for the better part of two centuries now, having achieved a strange sort of immortality through his accident. He was currently the Inspector General of the Federal Army of the German Confederation and had done much serious work in developing a common tactical doctrine, equipment and organization for the Federal Army. His statutes written at various time up to 1864, were the order of things within the various states, although he had suffered some frustrations particularly with regards small arms and artillery establishments. While he had managed to get common agreement on calibers and weights, he had not been able to get a common weapons design into service, three rifles and their carbine and short rifle derivatives were in service. so while their ammunition had been to some extent, at 11-mm cartridges, the ones in Bavaria and Austria, used metallic copper cartridges, the Prussians used paper ones. On top of that three rifle designs were in co-current use: the Prussians and several German States use the Dreyse or Dreyse-Sunder rifles, the Bavarians used the Blitzgewehr rifles, the Austrians and most of the other southern states used the Wanzel or Werndl-Holub rifles. Further the Prussian artillery establishment was the most backward of the German States, due to Bismarck's and Roon's opposition, consequently the Prussians had fewer rifled guns and too many smoothbores, compared to the other artillery establishements, and the Austrian establishment was the most modern of any of them.

Eisen was a mystery in his own right, he had been born in Styria at some time in the past, although he himself was unaware of where, when or the attendant circumstances or even who his parents or creator where. He towered over normal men, being some seven feet and two inches in height, with a long heavily muscled torso, with a metal covered head and metal limbs. He was possessed of immense, almost supernatural strength and stamina. Mother had told him stories of seeing him hurl heavy bronze cannon and supply wagons out of his way, seemingly without an effort at the battle of Aspern-Essling. A 12 pdr cannon ball had struck him in the same battle and had only succeeded in enraging the towering giant. Eisen had served the House of Austria in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars since he had walked out a wood in the 1790s to join an Austrian regiment that was fighting the French, armed only with a old hunting musket and a massive woodsman's axe. Eventually he had become a general officer in Austria's service, but retained a mind of his own, and often took his own course in the wars. He had joined the Tyrolean Insurrectionists against their Franco-Bavarian oppressors and later played a critical role in rescuing Andreas Hofer after his capture by the French and Bavarians. There was a rumour, that Eisen had told Kaiser Franz I to go to hell, when he had re-demonstrated Eisen for taken part in the affair against his orders. Eisen had remarked something to the effect "that sovereigns looked after their vassals, as the vassals looked after their sovereigns.". Ferdinand Ulrich had heard this from his two informal "uncles", the Archdukes Karl and Johann. Both knew his mother extremely well, and were both warm friends and almost an adoptive family to both his mother and himself. His mother had named Archduke Karl and Johann, as legal guardians for Ferdinand Ulrich, following her near death at Leipzig in the event that anything happened to her before he reached his legal majority. Consequently, Ferdinand Ulrich grew up alongside the children of Archduke Karl and the Archduke Johann. Ferdinand Ulrich enjoyed a close friendship with many of them, in particular Karl's eldest son, Albrecht, who had risen to corps command in the Army. Several of the letters he had been reading moments ago, came from Albrecht and the news was unsettling. Albrecht felt that war if is came would be soon and might go badly, he had entreated his "brother" Ferdinand Ulrich to come to his assistance as he had been placed in command of the forming Army of Bohemia (based in Prague) , which would Austria's principal army if it came to a fight. Albrecht assumed that some higher ranking officer, who enjoyed the Imperial and Royal Court's confidence would be named to formal command, soon and he would be slotted into command of one of the Army of Bohemia's infantry corps. He wanted Ferdinand Ulrich with him, in that event.

Ferdinand Ulrich was somewhat wary of the request, he had been in semi-retirement for some time, more interested in scholarship and scientific studies, then serious military duties. Still, he was an accomplished military engineer and artilleryman with a record of competence in peace and war alike, since he's started his military service in 1831 and if both his monarch and his surrogate "brother" needed him, he could not in good conscience turn down the request to serve.

The Library door was ajar when he finally reached it, lost momentarily in his own thoughts.

The angry vocal blast that issued from the half open doors of the Library, jarred him back into sudden awareness of his surroundings. Even the metal construct servitor standing by the doors, jumped in surprise at the Furstin von Eggenberg's outburst. Ferdinand Ulrich steeled himself to knock at the door, to announce himself. Sudden he felt like a young cadet presenting himself for an important inspection, not the accomplished and seasoned man of fifty-six that he was now. A rueful smile touched his lips for a moment. His mother, possessed a smoldering hot temper that had always been charitably described as "fiery" even by her friends. Something that had just been said in the Library had obviously enraged her beyond endurance.

As he entered the Library and joined the people grouped around the fire place, his mother was swearing in a decidedly unladylike manner, using the sort of language generally monopolized by officers grooms in the privacy of the stables or the drivers of a supply wagon train stuck in the mud or a river crossing. Well, mother had been in the Army since 1795, and had learned to swear like a trooper as readily as anyone else, and the Austrian army had plenty of languages to chose from! Ferdinand Ulrich just managed to repress a laugh, when he saw the expression of Feldzeugmeister Graf Baird de Auchmeddan, his dark eyebrows had shot up his forehead in mild surprise and not a little bemused reproof. Which made little difference to his mother as she stood next to the fireplace, pacing back and forth in what seemed a raging fury.

Baird de Auchmeddan, looked up at him briefly from his armchair, and quietly but humourously remarked.

"Eisen, did call her Prinzessin Höllenfeuer (Princess Hellfire), when they first met." A moments pause. "He was not wrong."

Ferdinand Ulrich, felt a pang of sadness at this, neither he or his mother had seen much of Eisen in the past years, he had retreated into the Syrian mountains and forests he loved best and they only heard from him very infrequently in letters he posts to them. The last two years he had been utterly silent, which worried both of them beyond words. There was a distinct possibility that the strange, part mechanical part human Eisen had finally died. Ferdinand Ulrich felt he and his mother owed Eisen a great deal, certainly more then could ever be easily repaid even if one had a life time to do it. He had been a close friend and guardian to his mother and to him after his birth. He had protected them both from danger, and been a quiet confident and friend when they needed in times of stress or trouble. Eisen had never asked anything in return for this, which said much about his generosity of heart and his value of their friendship.

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