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

Thursday, June 9, 2022

The Interregnum (Part II)

Schloss Eggenberg, City of Graz, Crown land of Styria, Austrian Empire, November 1810.

Gustav Johann Vizegraf von Blankenberg, the princess of Eggenberg's chief equerry passed down one of the private walks that lined the grounds of the Schloss Eggenberg. He was a man of moderate height, straight backed and straight limbed and a intensely fit build, as one would expect of man who had been born and raised in the Harz Mountains of Germany and spent his military career on the long and dangerous Austrian Military Frontier before being called to serve in the various coalition wars that dominated the 1790s and 1800s. He possessed a handsome aristocratic face, with clear sparkling grey eyes. His mouse grey hair was worn in the now dated fashion, of a long queue tied up at his neck with a black ribbon, with his hair in two double curls either side of his face, while an equally unfashionable but smartly trimmed goatee marked his chin. His style of dress was an understated but elegant grey coat with green velvet at collar, lapels and cuffs, with a black waistcoat, black pants and tall black ridding boots. He held a black, gold trimmed bicorne in his metal and gloved hands as he walked meditatively along the pathway. A walking stick was tucked absently under one of his arms, and a sword hung purposely from his hip, as he moved. His brisk tread did not conceal to any onlooker that not only was one of his hands an artificial construct but that both his legs were as well.

The district that the palace lay in was a quiet one, covered in heavy forests and surrounded by mountains and high hills dotted with several small peasant hamlets and villages, lordly manors and a bustling, populous market town all belonging to the Eggenberg family. The area's chief economic interests were dominated by agriculture and cultivating wineyards on the local hillsides. The only other industry of note, was the Reininghaus Brewery, which made various liquors, wines, ales and lagers from the products of the local farms and vineyards.

The Eggenbergs had established an elementary school and two high schools to tend to the education of local children, largely at their own expense and founded a pedagogical academy which provided training to teachers, administrators and clerics in the district and it's neighbours . An application had been made by the last three generations of Eggenberg princes for an imperial charter to covert the academy into a university, although nothing had so far come of it. They had also worked diligently to expand and upkeep various roads and bridges in the district with the consequent benefit to local travel and trade. As a rule, the Eggenbergs were well thought of by the people of the area for their good common sense, business savvy and charitable and philanthropic works. Marie Luise, was well neigh loved and respected by the locals of the district and by many of the people of Graz, which made Blankenberg acutely aware, that he would be measured accordingly by the people in area. Not that he did not have certain advantages in being the Fürstin von Eggenberg service, that might not attend another applicant.

Blankenberg had joined the palace staff, shortly after the conclusion of the 1809 War, he had lost a hand in the Seige of Graz and was facing a long recovery (he had already lost both his legs in Austria's previous wars against France and his health was increasingly erratic), without great prospects of active employment. His injuries had caused him to be put on an unpleasantly extended medical leave and he had consequently lost his post as commander of the 18th Grenzers. Fürstin Marie Luise von Eggenberg, whom he had served alongside in the siege, where they had developed a mutual admiration for each others skills and courage, on hearing of his predicament had immediately offered him the the vacant post of chief equerry on her palace staff. Blankenberg had been astonished and delighted at the offer, which effectively made him, the princess's senior aide-de-camp and private secretary, and had accepted it with alacrity.

The Palace staff had greeted him with some reserve at first, though they had quickly warmed to him, once he had commenced his duties with a dedication and integrity that impressed and reassured them. He quickly understood why they had been so reserved at first. The princess had landed in a proverbial if not literal bucket of hot water, when it was realized that she was pregnant out of wedlock. The rumours of who the father was, did absolutely nothing for the princess's reputation and standing with her peers and society in general.

The Imperial Court had all but shunned her, as soon as word of it reached Vienna, her relations with her Herberstein and Schwarzenberg relatives had chilled almost to the point of frigidity. Although from what, Blankenberg, had been able to gather both from the other members of the staff and the princess herself, that was not altogether such a hardship. Both these families had a vested interest in the division of the Eggenberg estates if anything happened to the last living member of the House of Eggenberg. Having first cut her off nearly completely, they suddenly realized that Marie Luise having a child would alter the division of her legacy, as illegitimate or not, a son or daughter would complicate matters. Particularly if she revised her will to leave her various possessions, estates and titles to her child.

At this point, Blankenberg, had noted with some contempt and not a little cynical amusement, something like panic had set in, particularly in Marie Luise's Aunt's family. A lawyer had come several times over the last few months before, the child had been born to harass the princess into keeping the provisions of her legal will and testament as had been previously set up by her late parents. That being her Inner Austrian lands and titles would go to her aunt and the Herbersteins, while her Bohemia lands and titles would go to the Schwarzenbergs. To be fair, the Schwarzenbergs had been more subtle, then either Marie Luise's aunt or Marie Luise's Herberstein relatives. Blankenberg figured for his part, that as they were court favourites of the Kaiser Franz I, they had to follow the official line but needed not go out of their way to blot their copy book with Marie Luise unnecessarily. Their thinking was probably along the lines, of condemn her - Marie Luise -- in public but support her in private, and the duchy of Krumlov, would fall into their hands eventually however the cards were dealt. Personally Blankenberg, thought this was a case of playing both sides against the middle, which was where the Schwarzenbergs, might just wind up -- in the middle -- and they would not enjoy it.

Eisen had, at length, become so irritated with these incessant legal visits -- and the disheartening effect they had on an increasingly pregnant Marie Luise -- that he had eventually put a stop to them, violently. He had grabbed the querulous (the staff and the princess had rapidly come to regard him as impossible, and that was only after the second visit!) lawyer in mid harangue and hurled him bodily the length of the drawing room and out of a second story bay window! Fortunately or unfortunately, he then fallen two stories to land unceremoniously in a passing manure cart that had been making it's way to the palace greenhouses. For the staff and Blankenberg's part, their horrified shock had turned to delight then absolute rapture, when Eisen had bolted out of the room and chased the manure covered and by now panic stricken lawyer the length of the palace grounds and out the gate, threatening to flog him if he ever presented himself there again.

The Graz authorities had refused to arrest Eisen on consequent charges of assault, the gendarmes who had arrived at the palace had only wished to take statements from the staff and the princess and Eisen. Blankenberg had found out on a trip to Graz a few days later, that the lawyer had been told to leave the area -- by both the commander of the city gendarmes and the city garrison commandant -- or they would arrest him on charges of harassment of the princess and disturbing the public peace! While Blankenberg had discovered, that the majority of the city and church officialdom had followed the Imperial Court's line on Fürstin von Eggenberg's unseemingly and scandalous conduct, the majority of the citizens of Graz did not care a jot and, were firmly in her camp.

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