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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Wow. I am very impressed with your writing skill. Very good job, and keep up the good work! Meisen is a good choice for an AAR. Wouldn't have thought of it myself. :)
 

Farquharson

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J.Passepartout: The main thing is that we now all know just what sort of a guy the Margrave is. He is commonly known as "Friedrich the Belligerent", though I don't think historically he was as nasty as I'm painting him!

Duke of Wellington: Yes, Johann now owes his life to the Margrave, but that only gives the Margrave more power over him.

Lord J.: Yes, I enjoy using the first person. The narrative can be much more vivid. The only drawback is when the geographical scope of the action starts to widen - the narrator can't be everywhere at once!

Director: Thanks! The fact that at least one reader prefers this style is a great encouragement for me to keep going!

coz1: I don't know if Johann's life is going to be quite so fraught with trials as Job's, but he is going to need all the wisdom he can get to deal with what life throws at him.

Grundius: Whew! :D

Paynetrain08: Thanks! And as I said, I chose Meissen completely at random, but even the first eight years of the game have been pretty interesting. Also historical research for that part of the world is relatively easy.

Ok, the next instalment...
 

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Chapter 3

They carried my father's lifeless body out of the tunnel entrance not longer after I had come out myself. In my heart I had known long before this that all hope was lost but up till that point my mind had clung to the remotest of possibilities. Now grief overwhelmed me and I fell upon the broken form with an anguished cry. Since my mother's death ten years before I had known no other family. Now with my father gone I was utterly alone.

Utterly alone! A hundred questions that I had refused up till then to even think about now crowded into my mind. All were related to one central question - what was to become of me? And what was to become of my father's mine? Our house? My future?

Needless to say, the Margrave took charge immediately. I suppose I should have tried to oppose him, but in my grief it was almost a relief that he had the answers to all my questions so readily to hand. Thus it was that, somehow or other, I found myself taken on by the Margrave as an "apprentice mining officer", while my father's mine was commandeered by him and our house rented out to the foreman, who along with the entire workforce was kept on in the same employment. All this, explained the Margrave, was in compensation for years of irregularities in my father's tax payments which had now come to light.

That my father had cheated the Margrave of some taxes I had no doubt whatsoever, since he had admitted as much to me himself. But that the "irregularities" could be on such a scale as to merit such a wholesale takeover seemed altogether incredible. Nevertheless I felt powerless, and in any case the Margrave was offering me a promising career, if only I were not being taken into the service of such an odious specimen of humanity.

They buried my father that same day in the churchyard of Freiberg, and I was then taken with the Margrave and his men back to the town of Meißen. There I was lodged with the Margrave's Chief Officer of Mines, whose assistant and student I was to become. To my great relief, he was a friendly and likeable man who went by the name of Heinrich von Frauenstein. He was in his late forties and lived with his wife in a modest townhouse in Meißen. His only son was now in the Margrave's army, and his three daughters all married off satisfactorily. This then became my new family.

I soon discovered that the Margrave considered his Chief Officer of Mines to be an important person in his employment. The Margraviate of Meißen was wealthy chiefly because of its rich natural resources that lay hidden underground - silver, gold, copper and other metals. As well as overseeing the technical aspects of the mines that were directly owned by the Margrave, Herr Heinrich, as he had me address him, was also responsible for surveying for new veins throughout the territory.

Only a few weeks after my father's death I had my first taste of adventure in the Margrave's service. The Hussites had only recently seized power in Prague, driving the Bohemian royal court into exile in Breslau. The city of Pilsen was still nominally loyal to the Emperor, but it was said to be crawling with Hussites under the leadership of a certain priest named Wenceslaus Coranda. The Emperor had called on all true Christian rulers of Europe to unite against the heretics, and this of course included the Margrave of Meißen, particularly as his lands bordered on Bohemia. Anxious to make at least a show of support, the Margrave had thus sent a regiment of knights to Pilsen under the command of a certain Oberst Güttingen where they could keep an eye on the situation without getting into too much danger. And as this western part of Bohemia was, like the Margraviate of Meißen, somewhat mountainous and rich in metals, Herr Heinrich was ordered to accompany the regiment in order to undertake what surveying he could, taking his new apprentice along with him. Thus I found myself, for the first time in my life, venturing into a region threatened by unrest and civil war.

What I remember most vividly about our first arrival in the city of Pilsen was the smell. Herr Heinrich explained to me that this was the result of the brewing of beer, an enterprise which practically all the citizens of the town seemed to be involved in to some extent or another. Needless to say, we were viewed by the townsfolk as "the Emperor's men" and as such were not made particularly welcome, although they were ready enough to sell us beer if we wanted it. It may even have been the presence of such a large body of armed men that sparked the trouble in the city a few months later.

While in Pilsen Oberst Güttingen received ample information regarding the strength of the Hussites in and around Prague, and it was truly frightening to hear of the size of the armies they had been able to muster. We heard too of Tabor, the new community founded by the Hussites to the south of Prague. Though barely more than a fortified camp, already it seemed to becoming their unofficial capital, and a magnet for all who wished to join them and fight for their cause.

Meanwhile Herr Heinrich and I made a number of profitable expeditions into the southern regions of the Erzgebirge Mountains, noting some of the existing mines there and identifying a considerable number of sites where Herr Heinrich thought certain ores might be found in the future.

In March of 1420 the Emperor finally declared open war on the Hussites, calling on all loyal Christians to join his "crusade" as he called it against the heretics. Naturally his own Hungarian troops were brought in to fight alongside the loyal Bohemians, and the Duke of Austria also sent troops to his aid. Other than that, however, there was a disappointing response to the Emperor's call to arms. Too many people had heard about the Hussites' strength and numbers and preferred to turn a blind eye.

For us in Pilsen the tension now mounted. The priest Coranda could be heard almost daily preaching in the marketplace, stirring up the townsfolk with his holy fervour. Oberst Güttingen and his knights began to feel more and more vulnerable, for it was quite obvious that the Hussites would prefer to see the back of us. Herr Heinrich and I were well placed to follow these events since, unlike the knights who were encamped just outside the town, we had found lodgings right on the marketplace.

Then one morning in April I awoke to the sound of bugles in the street. Something was happening! Herr Heinrich was not in the room, so I hurried to dress then clattered down the stairs to find what was afoot. I hurtled out of the doorway and straight into a group of armed men who were already holding Herr Heinrich quite obviously against his will. One of the burghers of the town was with them.

"That's another of them - seize him!" he cried, and before I could do anything they had grasped me with strong arms.

"We have done nothing!" protested Herr Heinrich.

"You are spies!" replied one of the soldiers who was evidently in command. "You will be taken to Tabor to stand trial."

"You cannot do this!" cried Herr Heinrich. "We are under the protection of Oberst Güttingen!"

"Not any longer, you're not," replied the Hussite soldier, "Your friends struck camp and left this morning - at our request."

When I heard this a wave of dismay swept over me. Had they forgotten all about us? More likely it had not been possible to warn us. We soon learned that a large body of Hussites had arrived that morning from Tabor, and were taking control of the town. Oberst Güttingen had in all probability had no choice but to comply with their request immediately. To have done otherwise would be to have risked taking Meißen into open war against the wishes of the Margrave.

Thus we found ourselves taken prisoner and with no hope of rescue. And what, I wondered fearfully, would the Hussites do to two Germans whom they were convinced were the Emperors' spies?


═══════════════════════​

GAME NOTES

Pilsen is in Sudeten province, to the south of Meissen. I sent 1000 cavalry there when the Hussites broke away from Bohemia, to assess the possibilities of a war with them. Here's what they saw:


In March 1420 the "Crusades against the Hussites" event took an alliance of Romanist Bohemia, Hungary and Austria into a war with the Hussites. In April 1420 there was a large revolt in Sudeten (still officially part of Romanist Bohemia) and the province was immediately captured by the rebels, with my cavalry being forced to retreat to Meissen. I waited to see how the Imperial Alliance would fare against the Hussites, who seemed to have fantastically effective armies.
 

Specialist290

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Farquharson said:
I waited to see how the Imperial Alliance would fare against the Hussites, who seemed to have fantastically effective armies.
Indeed; I've seen armies of 20,000 Hussite soldiers beat back seemingly endless waves of Hungarian and Romanist armies almost three times their size before. Trying to duplicate these feats while playing them myself, however, has gotten me into a bit of trouble before, although I did win quite a bit...

Meanwhile, I hope Johann can manage to escape from his captors while he still has his life. This is truly riveting stuff.
 

J. Passepartout

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Gah! Land (as good as) lost to the bleeding margrave and body lost to the bleeding Hussites! This looks like it will be quite a situation.
 

Grundius

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Nice story! Do you have any goals, even if you're gonna play only sixty years or so?
 

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The account of the mine rescue and the Margrave's coldblooded response to Johann's thanks was very good. Nice to have a ruler who truly cares for his beloved subjects! :p

That Hussite army is ... awesome! :eek: So you didn't fell like challenging them with your powerful 1K cavalry? :D

Good luck to Johann getting out of the espionage charges.
 

coz1

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Indeed, the Hussites are tough. Not knowing any better, I lost my enitre country to them not long ago as Bavaria. :rolleyes: They seem to spring up like partisans in Vickie. :mad:

And now what is Johann to do now that he is captured by them? Surely he is small fry compared to real spies, but will the Hussite's realize this in time?
 

unmerged(58610)

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This format has interesting possibilities. Johann could be executed and the story ends. He does have skills the Hussites need. The Margrave might ransom his people back. Doubtful, but I have faith that deep down he's a wam sensitive human being and no-one else can manage the mine.
 

Farquharson

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Specialist290: The Hussites do seem to have amazing military advantage. First they seem to get huge armies which just appear, presumably by event, then they seem to be able to win practically any battle whatever the odds. To be fair though, historically, the Imperial Alliance that fought against them was unable to properly defeat them for over ten years. In the end it was the Hussites' own in-fighting that was their downfall. So their invincibility in the game is obviously just an attempt to reproduce actual history.

J.Passepartout: Never fear, Johann is about to show what he's made of!

Mettermrck: Thanks! The game notes I feel are desirable to make it clear what's actually happening. I was hoping purists wouldn't object!

Duke of Wellington: My feeling entirely regarding the Hussites. When the Hungarians, Austrians and Romanist Bohemians all ganged up on them I was hopeful, but not for long - the Hussites are thrashing them!

Grundius: No, no goals as such. Except to get bigger! The usual drill for a one province minor, you know - start grabbing your neighbours provinces whenever you can! ;)

jwolf: Johann will have more dealings with the Margrave in the future. We'll see how he manages to cope with his overlord as time goes by. And also how the Margrave manages to cope with the Hussite challenge.

coz1: I played a few practice games to start with, sometimes going to war with the Hussites. I invariably got cooked by them - game over! :eek: The trouble is that scripted events in the game reflect the fact that Friedrich Margrave of Meißen was in the Imperial favour, which he was precisely because he played such a large role in fighting the Hussites. I was wanting to recreate that in-game - but without losing my country!

Chief Ragusa: Hmm - all interesting ideas, but none of them is what actually happened!

All will now be revealed...
 

Farquharson

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Chapter 4


Herr Heinrich and I were to be taken to Tabor to stand trial as Imperial spies. However, help was to come from a very unexpected quarter. How thankful I am to this day for the beer-brewing industry in the town of Pilsen! For later that day, the day of our arrest, we were put onto a cavalcade of wagons which were already loaded with kegs of beer destined for Tabor, and we set off on a journey which would take several days. We were both bound hand and foot and separated so we lay in two different wagons.

That night the Hussite soldiers in charge of the wagon train stopped and pitched camp near a small wood. I was given some bread and water, but left lying in the wagon to sleep. The soldiers sat round their fire and enjoyed a more substantial meal. They decided it would be a good idea to break open one of the kegs of beer. Once open, they decided they had better empty it. And once empty, they decided they could do with some more of the excellent Pilsener beer and opened a second one. Some time much later, every one of them was snoring loudly in a drunken stupor.

Up till this moment I had only been listening to these goings on, and had not been able to see anything. I did not know, for example, whether one of the soldiers had perhaps managed to stay sober in order to stand guard over the two prisoners. I now very cautiously raised myself to a kneeling position so that I could see over the side of the wagon. In some excitement I assured myself that every one of our captors was unconscious, and I began to look for a way to rid myself of my bonds. My hands were tied behind my back, but aided by the suppleness of youth I managed painfully to get them round under my feet so that they were now in front of me and I could work at the knots with my teeth. It took perhaps half an hour of patient work, but finally I got the cords loose.

My attention now turned to a rolled pack lying in the wagon which obviously belonged to one of the soldiers. I undid it and soon found a razor which made short work of the bonds around my ankles. There were also some other items that I could see would come in useful, including some food, so keeping the razor out I tied up the pack again. I then slipped over the side of the wagon and lifted the pack down after me. I was free!

The next thing was of course to find which wagon contained Herr Heinrich. There were only four wagons in all, so I soon found him and sliced his bonds with the razor. He was very stiff and made a deal of noise as he clambered out of the wagon. I watched the soldiers, terrified that one would wake up at this point, but all that happened was that a couple of them rolled over restlessly. As noiselessly as possible we then stole away from the camp into the woods where we could stop for a while and discuss our plans.

"You're a wonder, young Johann!" exclaimed Herr Heinrich. "How on earth did you manage to escape?"

"Never mind that now," I said, "We're not safe yet! One of those drunkards could come round at any moment and spot that we're gone. What do you think we should do?"

"You're right," replied Herr Heinrich. "We need to get as far away from here as possible tonight. We need to move fast. What's in the pack?"

I opened it up once more and we sorted through the contents, quickly discarding everything we had no use for. One item of interest to me was a small leather-bound book with the Hussite wine chalice embossed on the cover. Herr Heinrich opened it to discover it was the Book of Psalms, but in German instead of Latin. He tossed it aside in disgust.

"Heretic rubbish!" he said angrily.

But I was curious to see this strange thing, and while Herr Heinrich was engaged in rifling through the remains of the pack I surreptitiously recovered the book and slipped it inside my clothing. I would investigate it later when my master was not there to see!

We now had to make a move. Naively I suggested that if we got going quickly it might be possible to catch up with Oberst Güttingen and his knights. At this Herr Heinrich gave a hollow laugh.

"No chance, son," he told me. "We have left Pilsen in the opposite direction from them, and in any case they are mounted and we are on foot. No, I'm afraid we are on our own, and what's more, this is now pretty hostile country. It seems the Hussites are everywhere. With luck however we may be able to find some loyal subjects who could help us get back to Meißen."

Fortunately our surveying expeditions from Pilsen had given us a good idea of the rough layout of the land in these parts, and we were able to head back northwards giving Pilsen a wide berth to our left. This took us between Pilsen and Prague but we managed to avoid capture by any Hussite patrols. It was a long and gruelling journey, and I will not go into all the details here. We sought help from monks and priests whenever we could, moving on quickly if we discovered they had Hussite sympathies. Thus we made our slow but steady progress back towards the border of the Margraviate and safety. Everywhere we saw signs of looting and pillage, although fortunately we were not caught up in any fighting.

At the first opportunity I began looking into the German psalter which Herr Heinrich had tossed away so scornfully, and I have to confess that I found it fascinating. One of the points on which the Hussites differed so sharply with Rome was their insistence that the Scriptures should be translated into the language of the common man. No doubt there was some good reason for not doing this which the priests and scholars knew about, but of which I was quite ignorant. Meanwhile I took a perverse delight in reading the psalms in German knowing that this was quite clearly forbidden by the Church. Was I turning into a Hussite myself? No, of course not, I told myself. I was just being curious.

It seemed a cruel twist of fate that we should come across the first Hussite patrol that we encountered so close to the border. A dozen horsemen came down the road towards us, having clearly seen us before we had any hope of finding somewhere to hide. Their banner bore the unmistakable red chalice on black, and their leader spoke to us in Czech in a harsh voice. Neither of us could understand a word of what he was saying.

"We are just two German travellers," replied Herr Heinrich, "returning from business in Pilsen."

"Germans?" barked the leader, speaking with a thick accent. "There are no Germans with business in Pilsen these days. You are spies, then!"

Surely not this again, I thought as my heart sank. Now of all moments when we were only a few miles from the border. But then in a flash of inspiration I realized that there was perhaps a way out of this dangerous situation. I may lose much, but it was surely worth a try.

"Not at all," I piped up. "We are your comrades. Followers, like you of the True Way!"

"You are German!" insisted the Hussite.

"German, yes," I said, "but we do not bow to the Bishop of Rome, nor to the King of the Romans."

At this I thrust my hand into my tunic and drew out the German psalter, holding it aloft for the horsemen to see the red chalice embossed on the cover. The leader reached across and took the book from my hands, opening it and examining it carefully. Then he lifted his head and there was a changed look on his face, one of warmth and respect.

"My apologies, comrades," he said. "Go in peace, and may God be with you!"

"Don't mention it," said Herr Heinrich, hurrying to pass the horsemen.

I hesitated, waiting for the Hussite to hand back the psalter. He seemed to have forgotten that it belonged to me. Then he remembered, and passed it back.

"God be with you!" I said, hurrying after Herr Heinrich.

Once we were out of earshot of the horsemen Herr Heinrich turned to me.

"You my boy," he said, "have got some explaining to do!"
 

Grundius

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Some good reading! For a moment there I feared he was going to lose another father figure in such a short time. Fortunately for him, I was proven wrong.
 

unmerged(58610)

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You're riight. I certainly did not see the "we'll walk right out". A very lucky break. I think after all Johann has gone through, he deserve it. Herr Heinrich does not seem to appreciate being rescued.
 

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Knowledge is power...and a little bit of luck as well. Herr Heinrich shouldn't be too upset with Johann as it did save their bacon.

And they really should have helped themselves to that fine Pilsner beer before setting off back towards the border. Shame to miss out on that. ;)
 

unmerged(58564)

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Mmmmm....warm pilsner beer. Some how that makes my stomach churn. :wacko:
 

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And Johann is thinking, 'Well, that's the thanks I get for saving your life! See if I do that again!' :p

As you say you played several 'test' games I won't venture any game advice. For the story, all I can say is I hope Johann gets his own back. A pound of flesh from the Margrave's chest would seem acceptable.