Duke Jiri looked over his group of officers, gathered together on the highest battlements at Douma. He had their rapt attention. His just issued words “prepare…threat…Borduria” hung pregnant in the air and in the minds of the officers and all went still. Jiri steeled himself and continued. “I have called you up here so that we may speak in privacy a few minutes and not be disturbed by Baron Dokovic or some agent of his. All that I say is in the strictest confidence.”
“The Bordurians are overextended and vulnerable and have been since the Venetians and their
Crusade arrived in our lands. Our “friends” the Venetians have managed to convince the Bulgars to join their expedition against the Byzantines and so Viceroy Surov has had to raise both troops and treasure for his Bulgar overlords, even as he looses Ragusia to his supposed allies. One could almost feel sorry for him! Sorov has stripped inner Syldavia and Borduria of men and is raising new taxes. He must be gambling on a quick success, as he is now weak at home and in Syldavia, and almost all of Syldavia is rife with discontent”.
“The tinder for a revolt in Syldavia was simply awaiting a spark, so Surov’s attack on the monasteries is just that. It only makes sense if he sees that his power is slipping. I think that he is attempting to forestall a real conspiracy and has reason to believe that the monasteries are at the heart of it”. Franka pursed her lips as she listened to Jiri and quickly glanced over at Stépan, who, poker-faced, was studiously regarding the floor at his feet.
Jiri went on “ My agents report that the Viceroy has been concentrating his remaining forces in strategic places – Djordjevaro is the one that concerns us – from which he would be able to move against any threats or conduct offensives. Normally, I’d say that weakness among the Bordurians would be a good thing for us, but this is in fact quite dangerous. They getting desperate and they are capable of anything at the moment. The Governor is even more dangerous; he was always rash and a slave to ambition and now he is left to his own devices while the Viceroy is away on campaign. We must assume that he will act opportunistically to exploit any weakness or sign of rebellion amongst us to consolidate his power. With the Viceroy far away and an excuse in hand, he could try to scoop up Hum as a fait accompli…”.
“Why no”! Cried out young Dmitri Vajzek.
“Well, if we are clever, perhaps we can stop this from happening. These rebels managed to catch the Bordurians by surprise and would have wiped out Baron Dokovic and his men if they had possessed enough horsemen. They are no doubt better prepared than we are to fight at the moment; they are at least disciplined and experienced soldiers, as well as our countrymen. Some will know the terrain. However, this morning that worm Dokovic relayed an order from his masters that we are to take the field and put an end to the uprising as soon as possible. The Bordurians, or Governor Nikolic at least, will surely see any failure on our part to end the rebellion as a justification to intervene and move his army into Hum”.
My agents say that Surov has amassed a little over 3000 men at Djordjevaro and has some more yet on the way. That force is dagger pointed at me and it is bigger than the largest force I can put into the field save with all of Hum’s levy behind me, and such a force would include too many untrained peasants to be really effective. It is quite possible for the Viceroy to overwhelm us once has recovered his balance. That would be end of the Duchy and of my family, and most likely the end of all of yours as well”. The group around Jiri blanched and tensed at this declaration. ”It wouldn’t surprise me if this whole rebellion business was a part of some vile plan by the governor to extend his power. Imagine a Baron Dokovic installed here in Douma!" Jiri, like a good Duke, was deliberately nudging his officers into a warlike mood and was grimly pleased to see outrage and anger on his officer’s faces as he sketched out a possible future to them. “By St. Vladimir and upon my honour, this won’t be allowed to happen!” cried out Lord Teodor.
Jiri continued “No, indeed not. So, we have no choice really. We have to muster all available troops and move immediately to face down the rebels before the Governor, or the Viceroy himself, moves to exert personal control. While we are moving, we must also be ready to deter any move the Bordurians might make to enter Hum in force. My friends, I have come to believe that a fight with the Bordurians is inevitable and we must prepare ourselves for it. We can’t leave a revolt to fester or fight two enemies at once, one always behind out backs. We will face the smaller problem – the rebels – first, and then turn to face the Bordurians if the Governor dares to move while we are outside the walls of Douma”.
“Lord Teodor, have you any news of a force moving down the Wladir from Djordjevaro ? Dokovic hinted at such”. Clearing his throat, beefy Lord Teodor replied “No my lord, our scouts have reported only more frequent and larger patrols. I stepped up our own patrols all this week to keep an eye out for your return from Sokolbrevo, they would have reported any force moving south. However, I don’t know how you got by my men without being noticed, my Lord. Perhaps my soldiers are not up to their duties…”.
“No, Teodor, we followed a different route coming south in order to stay out of sight, and a good thing we did. But this is good news, it means we have a little more time. And, my Lord Drogo, do you have any news of the rebels? Where are they now, how many are they?”
“Ah my lord, it is your son, young lord Constantin, who should report, he undertook the last patrols in that direction”
“Oh, yes? Well, what is your report Lord Constantin ?” asked Jiri, swelling a little with fatherly pride. Konstantin, somewhat nervously, replied “My lord, I have made two patrols with a troop of chosen horsemen. The first time, the day after the Bordurians arrived here with their wounded, we sighted a large force of infantry a little over a dozen miles west of Starisveta. They must have remained close to their battlefield expecting the arrival of a second Bordurian force. There was easily over a thousand men there, perhaps more were hidden in the woods. Starisveta was burning, Father, the monastery was almost all gone. The locals said that is was Baron Dokovic who ordered it burnt during his retreat from the battle ." " St. Vladimir's beard! The vandals! " Jiri exclaimed, aghast and fuming. Konstantin continued; «Yesterday, we spotted a cavalry patrol just a few miles west of Starisveta and so we kept our distance. It looked like the rebels had advanced and moved camp. We could see the smoke from many campfires»
" Many fires ? Enough for a thousand men or more?"
" Oh yes, there were dozens of fires so I should think so. The monks in Starisveta told us that some rebels came to them and said that they meant them no harm. And they invited any of the townspeople to join them. These men apparently spoke in the accents of Hum, Klow and Travunia and Moltuja German. We also saw a steady trickle of men, alone and in groups, heading west towards Starivseta, They looked like peasants for the most part but I imagine that they were intending to join the rebels. Their numbers are growing by the day".
"Hmm… Men from all over Syldavia… I need to see them for myself, and as soon as possible " muttered Jiri. "Stépan, Drogo, we need to raise the levy immediately. We will need at least a thousand men right away in addition to the regular soldiers in Douma to meet this group on equal terms and at least two thousand to cow them. We won’t have time to collect more than the local levy from the lower Wladir valley and the coast. Perhaps we can find one thousand… ".
Drogo moved to speak but Constantin cut in first "Forgive me father, but Lord Drogo and I… in your absence we took the liberty to call up the levy around Douma".
Drogo continued « Yes my lord, once we learned about the presence of the rebels and the Bordurians, we thought it best to gather up the your vassal knights and the most capable local men from around the Wladir valley in case we needed to protect Douma. As well, the Bordurians were demanding that the levy be called up and placed under their command. So, we began to muster the levy from the countryside north of Douma as quietly as possible, to keep them out of the sight and control of Baron Dokovic. Douma’s levy is still here. About 800 men have assembled at the village of Zilusi, north of here. It is in the woods off the Roman road and easily overlooked… ".
Jiri broke in "easily overlooked but still well-placed to strike at Starisveta or cut off the Djordjevaro road or relieve Douma if need be. Well done, and my thanks! This was an admirable bit of foresight. With them we shall indeed march with enough men".
"It was in fact Lord Konstantin’s idea, my lord" said Lord Drogo.
"Was it now? Well, you have profited then from your lessons with old Drogo, lad! So, speed is now of the essence. I wish to march tomorrow to face the rebels, win a rapid conclusion and return before the governor is too tempted by an empty castle. Here is my plan: Stépan, you will ride this afternoon to Zilusi to take command of the levy there. Take your troop of young knights with you. March on to Starisveta tomorrow and wait for me on the plain east of the town”.
“Lord Drogo, we will need to turn out the Douma garrison and town’s levy and prepare it to move. I will march with the bulk of it at dawn tomorrow; 600 foot, 200 crossbowmen and 250 horsemen and meet Stépan. That will give us a force of nearly 2000 men before Starisveta, with nearly all of our regulars ”.
"Lord Drogo, you are to ready Douma’s fortifications for a siege as best you can and organize the muster of the rest of the general levy here. I will leave you 100 footmen and 100 crossbows to garrison the town until we return. Enough to keep the town’s door shut. Lord Teodor, you are to organize the levy around Rivajow and the land to the west; these men you will use to garrison Rivajow and hold up the passage of the governor’s army, if he dares to move south. Baron Dimitri, you are to muster the levy east of the Wladir, these troops are to go to the bridge over the Wladir at Kripat and be ready to move to Rivajow or Douma at my orders. “Konstantin, you are to come with me, you shall guide me to these rebels yourself. And that is the sound of Baron Dokovic’s voice down in the courtyard, we finish just in time! I’ll tell him that we shall head out tomorrow. That is all, to work my lords! Lord Drogo, let us inspect the walls together”.
Dismissed, the group quickly dispersed. Passing by Stépan, Duchess Franka whispered “We have a visitor. He wishes to meet you. Be at the market at noon”.