I have neglected this blog quite a bit this summer, having been on the road almost continually - I'm just back from yet another trip, this time to Paris! More on that later, suffice to say I spent all the time I could in some excellent museums (when I wasn't sipping champagne on the terrace, of course).
When last I wrote, Duke Jiri had just returned from an eventful hunting trip to his stronghold in the town of Douma. During this trip he learned that there was a popular uprising in his Duchy and that the agents of Hum's Bordurian overlord, the Viceroy Surov, were working in various ways to impose direct Bordurian rule on his Duchy. After vacillating like a Syldavian Hamlet, Duke Jiri has decided on a course of action... I have written a new bit for the story of Duke Jiri (just read on below). I have also prepared a little map of the Duchy of Hum, western Syldavia where I have sketched out the route of Jiri's recent travels and added some place names which have and will feature in the story.
The route of Duke Jiri's recent trip north to his hunting estate at Sokolbredo and of his precipitous return south to Douma are marked by solid red lines and arrows. The number 1 indicates the location where Dragan the huntsman ambushed the Bulgar patrol, 2 indicates the shepherd's cabin where Jiri and his company spent the night and 3 indicates the location of the averted skirmish with the rebel party. The main rebel army is located northwest of Starisveta and is heading slowly toward Douma. The frontier of Hum is marked by a thick, red hatched line.
Duke Jiri Calls a Council of War
Knowing that Duke Jiri would be seeking to hold a meeting with his senior officers, Duchess Franka hurried from her secretive meeting to deliver her load of bandage cloth to the temporary hospital she had organized. She gave the place a quick and approving inspection as the nuns had worked unstintingly to sweep and scrub clean the old barracks, used more recently used as a hay barn and storehouse. Taking Franka in tow, the dour Abbess made a rapid tour of the wounded troops who lay listlessly upon piles of bundled straw and cots. The Abbess then led Franka outside where she gave a curt whispered report. "Duchess, the men you just saw are those with minor wounds, there are twenty eight of them. Fourteen more are seriously wounded. Half of these look very grave and we will likely see several succumb by tomorrow. Also, corruption has set in the wounds of some of the men. Poultices and the new bandages will help but we will need many more yet or others will perish entirely without need, even some of those with minor wounds". "You shall have them, Abbess, and whatever else you need. Perhaps it is best to plan on keeping this hospital open indefinitely. Can you provide me a list of what you will need?"
Back within the Keep, Franka searched out the Duke. She found him on the sun-drenched battlements, where he was assembling some of his most trusted officers at a table set up in the shade of a canopy. The battlements offered a sweeping view of the Wladir river valley to the north and east, the Adriatic to the southwest and, to the northwest, a range of low craggy mountains leading to Hum’s frontier. Jiri was gazing intently off to the north. Jiri had a calculating and decisive air about him and Franka sensed that his confidence had begun to return.
Among those with Jiri were Lord Drogo, Stépan Gladic, Lord Teodor Krevelic and Jiri and Franka’s sons Konstantin and Uros. Stépan was Jiri’s chief lieutenant and was nearly of the same age as the Duke. A terse, observant and practical man, Stépan was the son of a Travunian noble who had fled after the Bordurian conquest, first into service with the Duke of Zadar and finally with Jiri’s uncle; he was also Jiri’s distant cousin. Stépan had earned Jiri’s confidence trust many times during a long career spent in the saddle and training and leading men in the interminable petite guerre of the frontiers. Lord Drogo was fully eighteen years older than Jiri and a life-long retainer of Jiri’s family. The son of a minor knight, Drogo made a rapid rise as a skilled soldier and enterprising field commander, but was finally lamed by serious wound which prevented him from mounting a horse. He nevertheless continued to rise in the old Duke’s favour because of his capacity to train soldiers and his intelligence (notably, he was highly literate). He had tutored the young Jiri in the skills of a soldier and commander. Once he became Duke, Jiri rewarded his teacher with a profitable fiefdom and the position of Castellan of Douma, de facto Governor of the Duke’s stronghold and base of power. Lord Teodor Krevelic was Baron of Rivajow, a key town and fort north of Douma, on the edge of the territory administered by the Governor of Djordjevaro. Lord Theodor’s family were long-time members of the ducal household and his estates would be the first to see Bordurian troops if the Governor ever decided make his presence felt within the Duke’s domain.
Hastening up the stair after Franka and arriving out of breath was Baron Dmitri Vajzek. He was a young and inexperienced soldier but diligent in his duties and devoted to the Duke. He was lord of the town of Brevelno, a town along the Wladir River north of Douma, in the heart of Hum’s farming heartland. The region was a traditional bastion of support for the Duke’s family, young Dimitri already had a reputation as the dashing darling of the region.
“Ah, Franka, you are just in time. And Dmitri, my thanks for hastening to answer my summons” said Jiri, nodding at the young man, who had ridden hard from his estate a few leagues away to attend. “Welcome back, liege” breathed Dimitri, “We rejoice that you are back and at our head. We sorely missed you this last week with all the trouble that broke out”.
“I chose an unlucky week for a hunting trip, that it sure. I saw and learned much on the trip however, and just in time too. We are in danger and were barely aware of it until now”. Jiri addressed the group “My Lords, I’ve called you here because it is clear to me that this uprising that greeted the Bordurians is about to plunge us all into a crisis. The goals of this revolt are still unclear to me but I am confident that there is more to this than the Bordurian’s clumsy move against the monasteries. It was surely organized in advance. In any case, any uprising is a necessarily a challenge to my rule one way or another and I must act to end it quickly”. The officers shifted uneasily at Jiri’s words. He continued “And, at the same time, we must prepare ourselves for an even greater threat which I believe will come from the Bordurians themselves. We are between the hammer and the anvil and we have no friends who can help us, but we are not entirely without room to move”.
To be continued monday!