Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chapter 7- Prelude to War

The border town of Gublatz lies on the east bank of the Pisswassere at the fall line, the most southerly navigable point. The town serves as a main trans-shipment point in the area for goods in- and out-bound along the river. This area of Lagerburg has been long in dispute with the Prince of Slobbovia.
Before and after the SofanOttoman occupation, the area was clearly in Slobbovian territory. After the anschluss, or annexation of the Lagerburg region by the Holy Roman Empire, part of the border of Lagerburg was established along the west bank of the Pisswassere River to include that area formerly within Slobbovia, to include Gublatz.
This “paper invasion” sorely incensed the Prince, and he spent many a long night planning in vain to retake Gublatz. With his limited military resources, the possibility seemed remote.
Seemingly to add insult to injury, the Herzog recently established a sizable supply and artillery depot in the town. The town was not heavily guarded. The building military presence was predicted by many as a prelude to an attack upon the Principality.
“Who does he think he is fooling, with all that equipment and stores in Gublatz?” shouted Prince Sergei. “What nerve! What arrogance! Not even a decent garrison. He thinks I’ll just sit here and let him waltz in and take over?”
“Sire, there is an alternative” replied Sheik Yerboudi, the Prince’s chief advisor. “You could strike now, while the town is unready. Think of it; you could take the guns and the stores, and return here with them. It would set Albrecht back for months, perhaps more, if he is preparing to attack. And it would give Major Wan guns to train more gunners. We would triple or more our artillery arm. The advantages are obvious.”
The Prince leaned forward in his chair, resting his chin on his hands. “I’m not sure we are strong enough now to start a war with that son of a gondolier. We have only our uhlans, a regiment of grenadiers and two grenzer battalions. And of course Wan’s rockets. Not much of an army to start a war with.”
Yerboudi smiled craftily. “Sire, as you recall, the mines have been a constant source of considerable, not to say obscene, profits for both you and I. We have been able to afford to augment our army with hired foreigners for a long time now, but until now have not had the need to do so. Anticipating such an eventuality, I took the liberty of contacting some business acquaintances in Seville. I have secured the services of some troops, a total of a brigade and a battery of field guns. They have arrived in Trieste just yesterday, and are on the march here as we speak. I can have them alter their route of march to arrive at Gublatz at the same time as our force does.”
Sergei sat up with a start. “You did what? How long have YOU know about all this Gublatz business? So, are you intending to have me done in and take over again? I should have known you planned to eliminate me!”
“Calm yourself, Sergei. Our business arrangement is quite secure, I assure you. The last thing I need is to give the Sultan an excuse to send his assassins after me. I am only thinking ahead to our own futures here. I have had spies in the town for a fortnight already, and one in certain circles in Lagerburg for nearly a year. That is how I knew to hire the Spanish troops and have them sent here.”
The prince looked visibly relieved. “All right, all right. You had me going there for a moment. So, you seem to have thought this all out already. Why not just take the town and fortify it? That would show that upstart that we mean business.”
“Not necessarily. If we take the town, then we have to use some of our own men to entrench there, and we do not as yet have trained sappers to do it. Also, it may force his hand to declare an all-out war, one that we cannot yet win even with the mercenaries. We need to leave him the town, at least for now. It will give us breathing space to form batteries using the captured guns. That will also give him pause, thinking that we can use the artillery against him.”
“All right, I’ll issue the orders to put our troops on the march. Will you be leading the attack?”
Yerboudi smiled. “I will not actually be on the field, but you can be sure I will not be far from it. I leave immediately.”

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