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

Monday, June 6, 2022

Storm Clouds 1866 (Part I)

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

Fürstin Marie Luise von Eggenberg, gazed into the flicking and twisting flames of the cavernous fireplace set into the wall of the great library. Winter had not yet released the Styrian countryside from it's grip and the warmth of the roaring fire was most welcome. The glittering lights in the darken room, bathed her in flickering shadows and golden red hues. She wore surprisingly simple garments for one of her rank and wealth, a short grey jacket with grey embroidery, and a high standing green velvet collar. The short jacket merged with an long skirt of jewel toned green, embroidered at the hem with black and silver lace. A frilled, white shirt, was visible at her throat, which was decorated with a black silk stock, and a broach that bore the Eggenberg family's full coat of arms in decorative enamel. Soft beige gloves, encased her hands where they emerged from the jacket's green velvet cuffs.

Marie Luise's green eyes sparkled with the flame light. Her hair, formally a lovely blond, now softened by age into a pleasant blend of silver white and gold tresses was held in place by a mix of braids and a gold, engraved tiara. One of her hands, rested upon the mantle piece, as she continued her silent contemplation of the news that had been brought to her attention tonight.

Three guests sat around the fireplace, with her, either in chairs or upon a nearby settee. Two wore the uniforms of officers of the Imperial and Royal Army, while the third wore the uniform of the Moniteur-Bureau . The two soldiers were Oberstleutnant Friedrich Graf von Beck-Rzikowsky, and Feldzeugmeister Matthias David Graf Baird de Auchmeddan. The third person, a young woman, sat upon the settee silently smoked a cheroot set into a metal and enameled cigar holder, was Dana Ritterin Timková von Krönungsschild.

Marie Luise tapped the stone mantle piece with her gloved fingers several times meditatively, before looking up from the fire place and addressing herself to her guests.

"You think it will come to war, Matthias?" Marie Luise finally said into the quiet that surrounded the small gathering. Matthias looked up from the cup of coffee he was sipping, and considered the question for a long moment. He nodded soberly and silently, his dark brown eyes intensely thoughtful then began speaking in that dry, matter of fact tone that she had learned to expect from him. Matthias Graf Baird de Auchmeddan, came from a very old Anglo-Scottish-Irish family of mercenaries who could be found all over Europe, where various branches of the Baird de Auchmeddan family had gone in previous centuries seeking service. Matthias was nearly fifty years of age, had been born in Austria (like several generations of his forebearers) and had served the House of Habsburg loyally and with courage and quiet competence for all his adult life in it's various wars, insurrections and border disturbances. He had also risen to his current high rank, almost completely on merit, as he had few patrons within the power structures of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This was less exceptional then it might have been in other nations, because the Habsburgs (both past and present) often had an eye for talent and were less concerned about where a person was from and what their social background was, then they were concerned about a person's competence and loyalty.

Matthias, wore his dark brown, almost chestnut black hair unfashionable but practically short. His one concession to current fashion was his thick side burns and mutton chop whiskers, which were the same dark colour, although fringed in places with touches of silver. Otherwise, his face was clean shaven and neat of profile marked by a strong jaw and a pleasant mouth more given to smiling then frowning. Gold rimmed glasses rested on his patrician nose. He possesses a high, broad forehead which gave a hint of his keen brain and powers of concentration, his hair line show signs of receding to which he was ruefully indifferent.

"Bismarck, is hounding the cabinet into a corner - has been since the War in '64 - with his 'issues' about the condominium that currently governs and administers the duchies of Holstein and Schleswig. The ability of the government to find a peaceful solution to the crisis he is busy creating is being sharply reduced with each passing day. What's really at stake, is not the two duchies, but who dominates the German Confederation. Austria or Prussia."

"The cabinet, believes it has found a way to side step, Bismarck, and force a final agreement over the duchies. Although I do not think their plan will satisfy Bismarck, in fact I think it will enrage or fluster him into doing something drastic and something he probably does not want to do."

"How so, Matthias?"

"Bismarck I think is gambling on pressuring us, to lay down leadership of the German Confederation, voluntarily so Prussia can take the role. A political or diplomatic victory that gives him both that and possession of the two duchies is what he is after, as I see it. A war amoung the states of the German Confederation is probably the last thing he actually wants, particularly as he will have to take a backseat to the Prussian military and the Prussian king, once the shooting starts."

"I'm afraid, that is more or less also the view within his Majesty's Military Chancellery, the Hofskriegsrat, the Ministry of War and the Cabinet." Beck suddenly said from his nearby chair.

Friedrich Graf von Beck-Rzikowsky, was a much younger man then his companion, being only thirty-six, his family was from the Grand Duchy of Baden rather then Austria proper, but his devotion and competence was just as proven. Beck had served in every conflict or operation undertaken by the Austrian Army since 1848 in a mixture of staff, troop, mapping and geographical expeditions. Beck had also been badly wounded a number of times in his service. Like Baird, he wore his hair short and trim, was good looking in mild, affable way, and wore fashionable side whiskers and a smart moustache. He also possessed one of the most reforming, cunning and calculating minds within the Austro-Hungarian General Staff Corps. Not surprising given he had passed out of the Kriegsschule near the top of his class in 1854.

"What is the cabinet's solution to this?" Marie Luise, asked after she had considered these comments. Baird, nodded to Beck, who looks like he wanted to speak.

"The government is going to throw the matter of the disputed duchies before the Confederation council and the High Court, at the next meeting of the Bundsrat in Frankfurt-am-Main, this coming February. Putting the matter before the member states of the Confederation will put the whole affair outside of Prussia's hands, and ours too." Beck remarked ruefully. "It might not produce a political result we desire but it will definitely create one we can live with, although the Prussians will likely be less happy about it."

"I think, they are wrong, on this being a solution everyone can live with." Timková, finally remarked from the settee. Marie Luise, turned her gaze on the young woman. Like, Beck she was young, although her age was hard to judge, given her finely chiseled, beautiful slavic looks, set off by dark black hair and sparkling amber coloured eyes. Her family was of Austro-German and Slovakian origins. Her service had not been as long or as varied as either Baird's or Beck's but it had been distinguished, both by steady competence and quiet courage. Timková belong not to the regular military branches of the K.u.K Wehrmacht, but to the Moniteur-Bureau. An organization that had overseen and overwatched the Austrian military since it had been formed during the revolutionary and napoleonic wars under the aegis of the Hofskriegsrat.

"The Confederation is split, fractured if you like, on two lines. Those that support us, and those that support Prussia. On our side is the states of the South: Bavaria, Wuerttemberg, Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, and the Free city of Frankfurt-am-Main. In the West and North we have, Hesse-Kassel, Nassau, Schaumburg-Lippe, and Saxe-Lauenburg. In the Center and East, we have Saxony and Ruritania. The rest of the north German states are firmly in Prussia's camp: Anhalt, Oldenburg, Lippe-Detmold, The Hansa towns, Waldeck, the Mecklenburg Grand duchies, and Brunswick. They also have the lone south German state of Hohenzollern on their side to complicate things. It is anyone's guess who the disputed duchies will support if it comes to a trial of strength. The same can be said of Luxembourg."

"What ever the diplomatic manoveurings of either of Austria or Prussia, this issue is going to come down to a fight, a nasty one and it will be soon."

"How can you be sure?"

"The Prussians have signed an diplomatic agreements with the Kingdoms of Italy and Poland, and I do not have to be a mind reader to guess what that agreement is for and what provisions it contains, particularly the secret provisions."

"She's right, I am afraid." said a voice from the library doorway. A major wearing the uniform insignia of the Imperial and Royal Evidenz-Bureau remarked softy.

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