7 September 1713
Leaning against the rail amidships on the Lightning, General Ritter Petr Kotrimanic felt the ship being carried away in the tide. A puff of wind fluffed out the Lightning’s sails and the ship began to move with a sense of purpose. Soon the sounds of Dbrnouks’ wharves faded away and then the building of the town’s seafront and their bright roofs began to fade from sight as the ship pulled way into the Adriatic. The ship’s crew settled into their busy routine while out of their element, the passengers, Kotrimanic with them, settled into a mood of listless waiting.
Ritter Kotrimanic, now more properly entitled Ambassador and retired General, reflected on the expected two days of isolation ahead of him. Kotrmanic’s appointment was a newly-created position as Ambassador-at-large to the states of the western Mediterranean, his orders were to establish contact with the states of the region, including the newly-seceded Catalonia, to determine which, if any, might become useful allies and trading partners fro Syldavia, It will be a chance to breathe and catch my thoughts he thought, not that it will be too restful here… was his second thought, as his cramped personal cabin came to mind. To avoid that stuffy and mouldering space brought the necessity of sharing the deck with the ship’s sweaty crewmen, the Syldavian officers travelling with him, and his own small troop of hussar body guards. Five young officers hung together in a knot exchanging absent-minded conversation. They were a cadre of officer-cadets on their way to a secondment in one or another regiment of the Imperium, part of the training of more Syldavia’s more favoured (or well-connected) young officers. None seemed too sure of their footing on deck or of the ship’s unnatural and destabilising movements.
Already in a worse state were the half-dozen hussars forming the Ambassador’s Kotrimanic’s troop of bodyguards. These men were hand-chosen from amongst the older enlisted men in Syldavia’s pair of hussar regiments, experienced and competent veterans who had survived years of la petite guerre with Syldavia’s Bordurian adversaries, and who were approaching the legal end of their term of service. They re-upped for the less onerous and more exotic circumstances of service and somewhat better pay of a diplomat’s bodyguard (all more tempting than going back to the farm…). For all of their fierce moustaches and leather-hard faces, they looked hopelessly out of their horsey element on board the ship. Their booted heels and scabbards skittered about on the deck, they smacked their furred hats off their heads on the low door-frames and ropes and a few began to turn noticeably pale and fingered their dolmans’ buttons as the ship began to pitch and roll ever so insinuatingly. Ritter Kotrimanic was wholly a landsman as well and wondered about his own stomach. So far so good for me, it wouldn’t do to be caught in a weakness in front of these men, thought the Ritter.
The Lightning was to land at Monfalcone, a small port at the very northern tip of the Adriatic, Kotrimanic was then to begin his mission by traveling in the opposite direction, going to Wyenow (the Syldavian rendering of Vienna), where he would shepherd the officer cadets, and where the Emperor was convening an assembly of his allies. Kotrimanic would meet the Syldavian ambassador at Wyenow and they would begin to conduct their diplomatic missions in light of the meeting’s outcome. Upon arriving at Monfalcone, Kotrimanic would rendezvous with the Syldavian ambassador to Venice, Ritter Mathej Musiloj and they would travel on to the conference in Wyenow together. He was somewhat worried about the meeting with Musiloj, one of Syldavia’s wiliest and most experienced ministers, and one who had long held one of the country’s most important foreign postings. With his years of experience as diplomat Musiloj would surely have some advice to offer.
The whole affair was bittersweet to Petr Kotrimanic. Only two years ago, he was a newly minted Lt. General with the favour of the King and a brigade under his hand, and the Polishov War turning, full of opportunities, in Syldavia’s favour. Those were two tense and bloody years to be sure, but ones with a momentous and a glorious result for Syldavia. But barely a few months later, the old warrior King Ivan « Ironhead » was dead and gone, a new regime presided in the Könikstzrwa Zyldav krag ministarstvo (Royal Syldavian Ministry of War) and the doorway to Kotrimanic’s career advancement and even his chances at further senior command snapped suddenly and irrevocably shut. Instead, here he was watching the Syldavian coast, with the mountains of his native Travunia far off in the eastern horizon, fall away as he and his career were shipped off into what might turn out be a dead end. No, I must not look at it like that, thought Petr. It isn’t the stuff of dreams to be sent away to an ambassadorship at the far end of Europa but it isn’t the end of the road. Petr still held a royal commission, a new title and land grant that would help keep him confortable in his waning years. His mission, was truly an independent command and one that could lead to great distinction. Who knows, perhaps there will be a new war next year, and a need for officers like me….