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 III)

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

Marie Luise lay upon a comfortable reclining couch, her baby son wrapped in warm blankets in a crib at her elbow. Sonder sat beside her, while Eisen, kneeling beside the crib, amused the tiny but active occupant, with small but intricate movements of his great metal hands. Sonder regarded her for a long moment, then took a thermometer out of a small liquid filled glass on the table next to him, and put it into her mouth, beneath her tongue to hold it firmly in place while he checked her pulse.

"One, thermometer with just enough mercury on the inside to do it's job, and just enough alcohol on the outside to make it interesting." Sonder said flippantly as he checked her pulse against the seconds clicking by on the hands of his pocket watch. He nodded after a minute, then retrieved the thermometer, her temperature was still a tad high but not abnormal, particularly for a young woman still recovering from her first pregnancy. Her pulse was steady and strong, which reassured him as to her slow but stable recovery. The birth had been an extremely difficult one, and there had been a few moments during the procedure, where he, his assistants and the midwife had all been extremely worried they were going to lose one or both of them.

"The abdominal pains, have subsided, Marie Luise?" Sonder inquired. She nodded, he had warned her firmly and repeatedly not to over exert herself and especially not to go riding on horse back, no matter how well she felt until he judged her fully recovered. Her son had arrived in the world on schedule, he had not been too late nor had he been too early. He had been a good weight without being excessive in that regard and and looked to be thriving. Marie Luise was still acutely worried about him, which did not surprise Sonder, all first time parents (particularly the conscientious and diligent ones), were a just a little anxious when dealing with their first new born.

Marie Luise, had felt a bit trapped by all the attention that had been focused upon her by her own palace staff, her doctors, her friends and the people of Graz during the long months of her pregnancy. She had been bombarded by letters, particularly from Archduke Karl, and from Napoleon I. She had deeply appreciated it, but at times felt more then a bit uncomfortable and even suffocated by it. Sonder had taken her aside, when she had voiced this to him, and pointed out that people were worried about and for her, and that if she was inconsiderate enough to do something outstandingly stupid or worse try and die on them from some avoidable pregnancy related complication, they would all be extremely put out. On top of that Sonder commented with wry exasperation, the Archduke Karl would have his head, and rightly so if anything happened to his adored lady. What Emperor Napoleon would do, was of course another thing entirely, if Sonder somehow managed to lose both her expected child or her.

Since the child's birth, Marie Luise, had existed for nothing else but her son, she attended to him as he required, feed and bathed him and amused or engaged him as took both their fancy. Some of the doctors had demurred at this, it was not seemingly for a woman of her rank and station, that was the duties of wetnurses and nannies after all. Sonder and the midwife, Frau Anje Rieger, had taken Marie Luise's side in the debate however and beaten down the opposition. Frau Rieger had birthed and raised a dozen of her own children, all of whom had reached adulthood and gone one to have their own families, and had midwifed scores more over the years, Sonder was not prepared to accept that she did not know a thing or two about having and rearing children! In fact she had probably forgotten more then most male doctors would every know in their collective lifetimes.

"I understand, Marie Luise, you want your son, to be baptized in the Roman Catholic faith but that you are having some difficulty arranging it?" Sonder remarked casually as he placed his various articles of doctor's paraphernalia back into his black medical bag. Marie Luise looked up from her son, she was gently smiling as Eisen playfully tried to snatch his fingers away from the grasping hands of her son. He had a good grip and fast limbs so as often as not he was able to catch hold of a metal finger tip before it evaded him and hold fast.

"Yes, I have not been able to find a priest in Graz who is willing to do it." Marie Luise, sighed. "I expected there would be some trouble over, my son's illegitimate birth... but..."

"So I was given to understood, from my discussions with some of the city's junior intendants and the Hospital medical director. They informed me of the Bishop's refusal to allow your son's baptism to be done in the city cathedral or to allow it to be conducted by any of the parish or district priests. Not I understand a very popular decision amoung either some of the priests and certainly not amoung the Graz laity. I was given quite bluntly to understand, that the Bishop's standing in the community has fallen considerable as a result. The antics of one of his favourites -- who is not anyone else's favourite -- at the moment, has not helped him much. It seems his personal chaplain -- a Father Tobias Schowe -- made some very insulting and disparaging remarks about you during a religious service commenorating the siege and the city's gallant defenders in Graz's Innere Stadt. He managed to trigger off a full scale riot amoung the attending congregation. Father Schowe is I understand a new comer to Graz and was not even here during the siege, unlike the majority of the people who live here and lived through it. On top of that, he is a very young, extremely narrow minded, pompous, self-righteous, and insufferable bastard."

"Dear God! Was anyone hurt?!" Marie Luise asked in alarm. Eisen, turned from the crib, his eyes blazing with an angry crackling light. If Eisen had a soft spot for anyone in this world, Sonder noted, Marie Luise was that person. Insulting or abusing Marie Luise's name or person in his presence or hearing, was easily the fastest and messiest way anyone who knew Eisen, could think of to commit suicide. He had without any one even asking him to acted as an attendant to Marie Luise with great care, tact and quiet support, acting as a guardian or companion as needed over the long months, as she had struggled through the physical and emotional challenges of her pregnancy. The only time he had left her presence was when he left for a few weeks in January to aide a team of Austrian agents in a secretive and highly successful effort to rescue the Tyrolean rebel leader, Andreas Hofer, from a fortress prison in Mantua.

"Hm? No one of the slightest importance, according to the very outraged city elders I talked to. The Garrison and the City Gendarmes managed to contain things before the rioters got too out of hand. The only injured party was the numbskull priest, Schowe, who was just arrogant and stupid enough to refer to the people of the city's heroine, the 'Lioness of Graz', as a whore and her child as a god forsaken bastard, and think his clerical collar and black robe was going to provide him with the slightest protection. They, the congregation, simply exploded: all of them, man and woman, humble burgher, workman and artisan and gentle born alike, dragged him -- screaming blue murder by the way-- from the pulpit, beat him to a bloody pulp, then dragged him out into the street. Then some enterprising persons who remain unknown brought out the tar and feathers... ."

Marie Luise was absolutely appalled to hear this, although a secret part of her took a certain vindictive satisfaction nevertheless. Sonder shook his head, chucked softly at the remembered conversation with the city elders and city staff, then looked her squarely in the eyes before continuing. Marie Luise, had a lurking suspicion who the persons behind taring and feathering Father Schowe were, the men and officers of Infantry Regiments Nr.27 and Nr,45 were both stationed in Graz, the former had been the regiment that she had first elected to enlist in, back in 1794/95, and the later was the regiment that she was Inhaber to. They had already been involved in several altercations, and even a few duels, with her more vocal detractors in the city.

"Marie Luise, the people of Graz, regard you as one of their own. The von Eggenberg family have been a part of this city for a long time, since 1460 when they first started putting down roots in the area and laid the foundations of this palace. You are the last living representative of that illustrious Dynasty, the Augsburg, Radkersburg and Ehrenhausen lines are extinct, and you are the last of the Graz Line. You did not have to come back in the middle of a war, just to fight for this city, when far more important parts of the country where under threat. You did anyway because, you care about Graz and it's people. That mattered to them even if it mattered to no one else in this world."

Sonder lapsed into silence, and let his words sink into Marie Luise's mind and soul. Sonder was not one for idle or false flattery, he meant what he was saying with absolute honesty and fidelity. Her emotions were a confused torrent of feelings as she grappled with the high regard the people of Graz held f or her. Sonder tilted his masked head to one side and continued as he watched his words sink in.

"As to a baptism, I think I have found a man, who will do it, nor does he care a jot what the bishop will say about it. He is a older brother of one of my fellow Prussian officers. He's of an old Jacobin Austro-Irish family, one of the Wild Geese dispora that ended up in the Silesian duchies. The family has branches in both the Austrian and Prussian provinces of Silesia. Father Noel Bracken is his name, he runs a small foundlings and orphans hospice near Troppau. His is a priest who has lived in the world and knows its joys and cares as much as it's sorrows and regrets, despite which he still maintains a quiet sense of compassion and charity especially for those whom society and the church often deem troublesome or undesirable. Father Bracken regards himself in the business of saving and comforting souls, and damn all who get in his way of doing it!" Sonder laughed. "I have sent him a message via the optical telegraph, explaining your predicament, and asked him to come to Graz at his earliest convenience. He has responded, that 'he would be delighted to be of assistance and will come at once.'

"Have you decide on a name?" Eisen suddenly asked from his place beside Marie Luise. Marie Luise, looked thoughtful for a moment and consulted a note book she had jotted notes down in over her time in Graz.

"Yes, I want him to be christened as Ferdinand Ulrich." Marie Luise, said after a moments reflection, she continued. "To honour both Emperors, Ferdinand II and III, who gave my family it's opportunity to prosper and advance in their service and to honour, the greatest of the Eggenbergs, Hans Ulrich."

"I trust, both Eisen and I are included in the list of godparents?"

"Absolutely, my dear Sonder. Along with Archdukes Karl and Johann."

"Ah, then we are in good company then." Sonder remarked.

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