It is a continuation of my Tangled fanfic series "The Soldier's Story."
The Soldier's Story. Chapter One
The Soldier's Story. Chapter Two
It features Pelycosaur24's OC Marie Luise von Eggenberg.
Der Feldmarchall und die Dienstmädchen
Eugene took a moment to check his appearance one more time before leaving his chamber to accompany Rapunzel to a minor state function. He was wearing his best dress uniform today, no armor, or helmet, but he was wearing his sword belt and saber. He leaned close to the mirror to make sure his moustache was in order. It had come in nicely in a short period of time. He still sometimes missed his goatee, but he’d had to shave it off to comply with regulations after accepting his Captaincy in the Third Horse. Satisfied at his appearance, he tucked his hat under his left arm, and walked out into the hallway.
Rapunzel was just leaving her chambers, with Cassandra in tow. She turned to him with a pouty expression on her face.
“They’re making me wear shoes again.” She whined.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake Raps, they’re just slippers. It’s not like you have to wear soldier’s marching boots.”
“It’s the principle of the thing.” Rapunzel replied.
She then gave Eugene a quick hug and a kiss.
After an exchange of morning greetings, the three of them headed downstairs.
The state function today was to greet an emissary from the Austrian Emperor. The King and Queen were already standing on the steps of the castle when Rapunzel and Eugene joined them. Rapunzel gave each of her parents a hug, and Eugene bowed to them. Presently, a herald announced that the emissary’s coach was approaching.
The coach came clattering up the hill, escorted by a small detachment of cavalry. The escort turned aside and drew up in formation opposite the castle steps, the coach stopped at the foot of the steps, and a team of footmen stepped out to meet it. One took the reins of the lead horses, another set a small step stool in front of the door, and the third opened the door.
The first person to step down from the coach was a stern looking man in a military uniform. As he climbed the steps, a herald announced him.
“Your Majesties, I present his Grace, Archduke Johann of Austria.”
The Archduke stopped, came to attention with a click of his heels, and bowed.
“It is my honor to meet you your Majesties. My brother, the Emperor, sends his greetings”
The King replied.
“We are honored to have you here your Grace. May we present our daughter and heir, Her Royal Highness, Princess Rapunzel, and her fiancé, Capitan Fitzherbert.”
The Archduke turned to Rapunzel and bowed, smiling warmly.
“My pleasure your Highness.”
He turned to Eugene, who gave him a military salute. He returned the salute, then offered his hand, which Eugene shook firmly.
He then turned his attention back to the King and Queen.
“Allow me to present my personal secretary, Baron von Müller, and my military aide de camp, Feldmarchall von Eggenberg.”
The secretary, and the Feldmarchall both bowed. But it was the latter of the two that caught Rapunzel’s attention. The Feldmarchall was a woman. Though only five feet tall, she carried herself with great presence, and her ice blue eyes had a piercing gaze. After bowing to Rapunzel, she turned to Eugene who again saluted. She returned the salute and offered her hand. Eugene shook it firmly, as he would a man’s hand. Rapunzel noticed how her eyes flicked up and down, inspecting Eugene’s uniform from head to toe.
She reached up and touched the outer loop of the red Fourragère.
“I see you were at East Pass. You would have been in Wittman’s Regiment yes? He was a great soldier. And you hold the Legion of the Sun? Well done Captain.”
She turned to Rapunzel.
“Your Highness, your fiancé is a formidable man. My congratulations on catching yourself such a hero.”
Rapunzel wasn’t quite sure how to reply, but thanked the Feldmarchall for her comment.
Formalities concluded, the guests were shown to their quarters, and Rapunzel, Eugene and Cassandra walked back inside the castle. As soon as they were out of public view, Cassandra started jumping in excitement.
“OH MY GOD! Do you know who that woman is? She’s one of my heroes. I can’t believe that she’s actually here in Corona!”
Rapunzel and Eugene looked at Cassandra in amazement. They had never seen her show this kind of excitement before. She was practically gushing like a love-struck teenager.
“I have a copy of a monograph she wrote on organizing a militia. I wonder if I could get her to sign it?”
“Why don’t you bring it with you to dinner tonight?” Rapunzel suggested.
“Oh, I don’t know if I have the nerve to ask her.”
“If anyone has that kind of nerve, it’s you Cass. But if you want, I could take it and ask her for you.”
“I might take you up on that offer. But I will wait until dinner, and pass to you if I really can’t work up my nerve.”
Eugene took his leave, giving Rapunzel a quick kiss, then headed back to the barracks, and his unit.
He returned to the castle in time to clean up and shave before dinner. He put on an everyday uniform, as the dinner was to be an informal one. He went to Rapunzel’s chambers, and knocked on the door. She called to him to come in, and he found her making her final preparations to go to dinner. She was wearing one of her usual, simple dresses, and was barefoot as was her preference. She greeted Eugene with a kiss, and declared herself ready. With Cassandra in tow, they headed for the dining room.
The King and Queen were already there, along with the Austrian delegation. The King stood, and acknowledged Eugene, and the others stood for Rapunzel. Eugene bowed to return the King’s greeting. He still felt very odd about having the King salute him like that, but it was a prerogative that came with the Legion of the Sun. As the highest award for valor in the kingdom, it made him a certified hero. He did not think of himself that way though. He then held Rapunzel’s chair for her, and everyone else took their seats.
Cassandra was attending Rapunzel, and standing behind her chair. Out of the corner of his eye, Eugene could see that she was much more focused on the Feldmarchall than on Rapunzel, and that she was very nervous. She leaned over to whisper in his ear, and passed him a small book.
Dinner conversation was light, and casual. Eugene waited until after dessert was finished to ask the Feldmarchall to sign Cassandra’s book.
“Feldmarchall von Eggenberg, may I ask you the favor of signing this copy of your monograph on militia organization, for a friend of mine who is a great admirer of yours?”
He passed the book across the table to the Feldmarchall, and motioned for one of the footmen to bring a pen and ink.
“I see that the owner of this book has read it often, it shows the wear. How would you like me to inscribe it?”
“To Cassandra, and whatever other sentiment you may wish to add.”
The Feldmarchall, seemed a bit surprised to be asked to inscribe the book to a woman, but she smiled, and began writing. As she did so, she recited what she was writing.
“To Cassandra. My very best wishes for your future career as a soldier.”
She blew on the ink to dry it, before passing the book back to Eugene. She also made eye contact with Cassandra, who turned pale.
“Am I correct is guessing that you are Cassandra?”
“Y, y, yes Feldmarchall.”
Eugene was concerned that she might actually faint, and eased his chair back from the table so that he could move quickly to catch her.
“I am glad to meet you Fraulein. Women like us are few. How did you come to have an interest in martial subjects?”
“M, my f, father is Captain of the Civic Guard. I grew up wanting to be a guard, and training for it.”
“So. You are more than just a lady in waiting then? A bodyguard you are as well. A sword in a satin sheath one might say. So, what is your preferred weapon? I’m fond of the curved saber myself, and a good pistol is very handy to have sometimes.”
Cassandra had to swallow the lump in her throat before replying, but she was now on familiar ground, and much more at ease every minute.
“I like a light, strait blade. A rapier or side-sword. I can’t match a man for brute strength, but I am fast, and agile. Tactics and technique are my edge. I have trouble with most military pistols because they are too big for my hands, but I have a couple of custom pieces that I’m a pretty good shot with.”
“Indeed. I have found that speed, and aggressiveness of action usually make the difference in close combat. Perhaps we can meet on the training field and test each other.”
“I would be greatly honored Feldmarchall.”
The Feldmarchall nodded to her, before turning to Eugene.
“So, Captain, you lead a troop of the Third Horse now. I should like very much to meet your men, and perhaps see them in action.”
“That would be my pleasure Feldmarchall.”
“Would tomorrow morning be acceptable Captain?”
“Certainly. I was already planning on taking the Troop out for a training ride. I’ll have a horse saddled for you.”
“Excellent. I shall see you in the morning.”
With dinner over, everyone rose from the table to go their different ways. The Feldmarchall again made eye contact with Cassandra and smiled. Cassandra was flustered but managed to nod in acknowledgement.
Eugene rose early the next morning, shaved, and donned a field uniform, with armor and helmet. He went to the Feldmarchall’s chambers and knocked on the door. A servant opened the door, and motioned for him to come in. The Feldmarchall was just sitting down to a small breakfast and invited him to join her. They briefly discussed the plan for the day, before heading down to the barracks.
When they reached the barracks, the Troop was already assembled, and drawn up by platoons, one on each side of the street, the men standing beside their horses. Eugene led the Feldmarchall up and down the two rows of troopers, for a quick inspection. She expressed approval for their appearance and bearing. Eugene had a brief conversation with his Platoon commanders, and First Sergeant.
“Sergeant Morris, have you inspected carbines and pistols, and had the men load?”
“Yes Captain. I also loaded a pair of pistols and put them in the pommel holsters of the Feldmarchall’s horse.”
“Very good Sergeant.”
The Feldmarchall looked at Eugene with a raised eyebrow. He offered and explanation.
“There was an incident not too long ago involving an attack on the Royal Family. Since then we’ve been on a heightened state of alert. All troops on guard duty or operating outside the city walls are to have loaded arms.”
“I see. Very well then, thank you for providing the pistols Captain.”
A trooper led Eugene’s horse out, along with a second horse for the Feldmarchall. She gave the animal a quick looking over, led it around a small circle a couple of times, and checked the saddle girth. She also checked the length of the stirrup straps, then mounted nimbly. Eugene checked his own horse, then mounted as well. Facing the Troop, he gave the order.
“Prepare to mount!”
The men moved into position beside their horses, gathering their reins.
The men swung up into their saddles in unison.
“By platoons, right, FACE!”
The men turned and formed into column of fours. Eugene moved to the head of the first platoon and motioned them to advance. The second platoon counter-marched and fell in behind the first. They proceeded at a walk until they were clear of the barracks area and on open road, then went to a trot.
It was a fine morning, and the men were in good spirits. The main purpose of the ride today was to exercise and condition the horses, but there would be some mounted drill practice as well.
They had just resumed the march after a mid-morning break when the shit very suddenly hit the fan. They found themselves in an ambush from both sides of the road. The men were startled for just a moment, before training took over, and they counter attacked the ambush. The Feldmarchall had drawn one of her pistols when an enemy popped up twenty feet away and aimed his musket at her. They fired simultaneously, his shot hit her horse, her shot, aimed at his chest, hit him in the forehead, her aim thrown off by her horse rearing. He dropped like a sack of rocks, and the horse staggered back a few steps and collapsed. The Feldmarchall was able to jump clear, drawing her saber as she did so. Another enemy came at her with a musket and bayonet. He grinned at her as he advanced.
“Whadda ya think yer gonna do with that little butter knife girlie?” He jeered.
He had no idea of who he was dealing with. The Feldmarchall leapt forward, striking as she moved. He raised his musket to fend off the stroke. Her blade hit the fingers of his left hand, taking them off. He screamed as he dropped his weapon, but the scream ended abruptly as her next stroke took his head almost completely off.
By this point, the ambushers had realized that they had made a very poor decision in attacking a full Troop of Coronan heavy cavalry, and the survivors were running for their lives, as the Troopers pursued, hacking them down as they ran.
As suddenly as it began, the fight was over. The Feldmarchall sheathed her saber and went to check on a fallen Trooper. She saw instantly that he was dead. Eugene dismounted next to her.
“Are you alright Feldmarchall?”
“Yes Captain, I am fine. This has turned out to be an interesting day to say the least.”
Eugene looked at the fallen Trooper, his face grim.
“He was a good man. A bit of trouble in barracks, but then those are usually the best men to have in a fight. He’d have been a Sergeant if he could have stayed out of trouble. He just got married, and I was hoping that would rein him in a bit.”
First Sergeant Morris interrupted them to report.
“Sir. We have four other Troopers wounded, none seem to be mortal. We captured five of the attackers and count thirty dead. There are squads sweeping the area searching for any others.”
“Very good Sergeant Morris. Get a rider back to the city and have an ambulance wagon sent out. And deliver this to Metford.”
Eugene pulled out a notebook and pencil and wrote a quick message. The First Sergeant took it, saluted, and turned to call for a courier.
They dressed the wounded Troopers injuries and made them as comfortable as they could. The patrols reported back. One patrol found what seemed to be the base the ambushers had operated from. The Corporal leading that patrol had left some men to guard the building.
“It’s an old abandoned farm house sir. Didn’t look like they were living there, just using it as a rendezvous point.”
“Good job Corporal. I’m sure the King’s agents will go over it with a fine-tooth comb.”
Another patrol came back dragging three dead enemy by their heels. All three bore the gruesome wounds of heavy sabers swung from horseback.
The ambulance wagon finally arrived, and the wounded, and dead Troopers were loaded aboard. A farm wagon was found to haul the enemy dead. The prisoners were tethered and made to jog alongside the horses.
Back in Corona, Colonel Metford had immediately taken Eugene’s message to the castle. The rumor mill had also started up immediately as well, as soon as the courier rode through the gate on a lathered horse, and then an ambulance wagon had been hurriedly dispatched. It was the product of the rumor mill that reached Rapunzel’s ears first when she overheard two castle servants talking.
“Maudie, did you hear? A troop of cavalry was ambushed this morning.”
“Oh dear! That’s terrible.”
“Aye, and they say that it was the Princess’ fiancé leading it. Oh, I do hope he’s alright. But they say that several men are dead.”
Rapunzel didn’t wait to hear more, she bolted, panic stricken, to her father’s office.
The King, his advisors, and Colonel Metford were standing around a table as Metford relayed Eugene’s report, and gave what updates he could on the situation. Rapunzel burst into the room, startling everyone. She stood in the doorway, unable to speak. The King wasn’t sure what to do, but Colonel Metford saw the look in her eyes and spoke up.
“Eugene is unhurt your Highness. I have this dispatch written by his own hand.”
He offered the note to her. She slowly walked over and took it. She couldn’t comprehend the words at that moment, but she could see the familiar shape of Eugene’s handwriting. She handed the note back to the Colonel and fainted. The Colonel caught her, and gently lowered her to the floor, the King rushed around the table to her side, ordering the Royal Physician called at once. Colonel Metford gently patted the side of her face.
“Your Highness, your Highness. Wake up.”
Her eyelids fluttered, and she was conscious again. She looked from one man to the other, then grabbed her father and burst into tears. The Doctor arrived at that moment, with the Queen and Cassandra in tow. Colonel Metford stood up and moved to give the Doctor room. He checked her pulse, then moved back himself, motioning the Queen to come closer. The Queen knelt by her side and looked questioningly at the King. He spoke softly, informing her what had happened.
“Eugene’s Troop was ambushed this morning. He is fine, but he lost one Trooper, and had four wounded. I’m guessing that the rumor mill reached Rapunzel before the truth did.”
He very gently detached Rapunzel from his coat and guided her into her mother’s arms.
“I have to be the King right now sweetheart. Go with your mother and Cassandra. Everything’s going to be alright.”
He stood and helped Rapunzel and the Queen to their feet. With the Queen on one side and Cassandra on the other, they gently led her from the room, and back to her chambers.
Eugene led his men back to their barracks. Before he dismissed them, he had a few words to say.
“Men. I am DAMNED proud of you all. You handled yourselves brilliantly. Colonel Wittman would be proud of you.”
The Feldmarchall also addressed them.
“I too must commend you highly. You showed a fighting spirit and skill equal to any force of cavalry I have ever witnessed in action.”
Eugene then dismissed them to care for their horses. He called First Sergeant Morris aside.
“Keep an eye on them, especially the youngest men. Killing a man the first time can be tough to deal with.”
Eugene’s next stop was the hospital to check on his wounded men. The Feldmarchall went with him. They both took a moment to speak to each man. Satisfied that they were in good hands, Eugene and the Feldmarchall headed back to the castle. They were met by a footman.
“The Lady Cassandra asks that you go at once to her Highness’ chambers.”
Eugene wasted no time. He didn’t bother to knock when he got to her door. She was sitting in the window seat, Cassandra by her side. When she saw him, she jumped up and ran to him, bursting into tears as she grabbed him in a fierce hug. He really didn’t know what to say at that moment, so he just held her close and let her cry it out.
Feldmarchall von Eggenberg returned to her own chamber, took off her sword belt and uniform coat. And fell into a chair. A servant asked if she needed anything.
“Yes. A glass of wine, and a hot bath.”
“At once Ma’am.”
After her bath, the Feldmarchall spent some time writing in her journal. When she stood up from the table, she realized that she had over-exerted her back jumping clear of the dying horse. She decided that a short walk was in order to loosen up her muscles. As she left her chamber, she met Cassandra in the corridor.
“Good afternoon Cassandra.”
“Good afternoon Feldmarchall.”
“How is her Highness doing? She was very distraught earlier.”
“She’s recovered some. Eugene stayed with her for a while, and that seemed to help her calm down. She decided to stay in her chamber for dinner and wants to just be alone for a bit. How are you doing?”
“Other than being very sore from jumping clear of my horse, I’m well. I really wrenched my back though.”
“I have a muscle salve that works wonders for that sort of thing. If you like, I will bring you some.”
“Yes, please do.”
“I’ll go fetch it right now.”
“Thank you. I will be in my chamber.”
Cassandra returned with the jar of salve and asked if the Feldmarchall wanted any help applying it.
“Yes, please. My lower back is where I hurt most, and that’s the hardest to reach.”
She sat down on a small wooden chair, facing the back, and pulled up the bottom of her shirt.
“One of the many advantages of wearing men’s clothes, you don’t have to strip all the time to do anything.”
“That's the truth.”
The Feldmarchall leaned forward, and Cassandra sat behind her, and began applying the salve. It had a strong, but pleasant smell, and seemed to start working at once. But it was the skillful massage of Cassandra’s soft, warm hands that seemed to be doing the most good. Cassandra finished, and the Feldmarchall pulled her shirt tail back down.
“Ahh, thank you so much Cassandra. That feels much better. Would you care to join me for dinner? We can have our little chat.”
“Yes, that would be great.”
A servant was summoned, and dinner ordered brought to the Feldmarchall’s chamber. She and Cassandra sat down at the table, and the Feldmarchall poured them each a glass of wine.
“Thank you Feldmarchall.”
“Please, when it is just the two of us, you may call me Marie.”
Their “little chat” turned into several hours of conversation, covering a great variety of subjects. Some was just plain girl talk, the foibles of men and such. They laughed themselves to tears trading stories of various inept attempts at seduction that had been practiced on them by clueless young men. Military subjects were also well covered. At one point, Marie declared that she needed to lay down to ease her back. Cassandra offered to leave, but Marie asked her to stay and continue talking.
“I’m not tired, I just need to relax my back.”
Eventually, Cassandra stretched out on the bed as well. They talked until they both fell asleep.
Marie woke up slowly and turned to look at the still sleeping Cassandra.
“Was I ever that young?” She thought.
Cassandra’s eyelids fluttered as she woke up. She seemed to be embarrassed to realize where she was.
“Oh my. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude by falling asleep while we were talking.”
“That’s quite alright my dear. I must say, I most thoroughly enjoyed our talk. You are a fascinating young woman. And we do have so much in common.”
“Thank you, I enjoyed it too. Well, I must be going. I have a princess to tend to.”
“Very well. Have a good day.”
Cassandra got up and slipped out of the room. Marie lay there for a while thinking of their conversation. She had never imagined that she would find someone like Cassandra, who shared so much in common with her. They were, in many ways, soul mates. Not that she had any romantic ideas about the girl, they just fit together like two peas in a pod.
The Austrian delegation stayed in Corona for another week. Marie and Cassandra spent several more evenings in deep conversation. Marie even recovered enough from her sore back to try a fencing match. Marie had the advantage of actual combat experience, but she was still not a match for the younger woman.
At the formal farewell, Marie actually hugged Cassandra, who blushed at the public attention, but also returned the hug. Later that day, Rapunzel noticed that Cassandra seemed a bit sad and wistful.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I just can’t quite believe that the last few days were real. To meet someone I thought of as a hero, and to actually get to know her as a person. She’s just fascinating.”
Cassandra and Marie exchanged letters regularly and often. One day, after reading Marie’s latest letter, Cassandra seemed concerned. Rapunzel asked her what the letter had said.
“There is a major campaign afoot, and there is a battle coming. Marie has been given a field command in the Austrian Army. I can’t help worrying about her.”
Cassandra followed the news from the war as closely as she could. One morning, a newspaper told of a major battle near Leipzig, that had resulted in a serious defeat for the French Emperor Napoleon. She also waited anxiously for a letter from Marie. Weeks passed, and no letter appeared, Cassandra was becoming very worried. Then one day, a parcel arrived for her. It was from the office of a lawyer in Vienna. She sat, just staring at it, trying to work up her nerve to open it. Rapunzel and Eugene sat nearby, watching her with concern. Taking a deep breath, she began opening the parcel. Inside she found Marie’s saber, and an envelope. She opened the envelope, and found a letter, and a second envelope inside it, that was addressed “To Cassandra” in Marie’s handwriting. She read the first letter with trembling hands.
It read in part:
It is with our deepest condolences that we must inform you that Her Highness, Princess Marie Luise von Eggenberg was killed in action in the recent battle at Leipzig. She had made arraignments with us to see that you would receive these items in the event of her death…
Cassandra opened the second envelope. It contained a lock of Marie’s hair, and a letter.
My Dearest Cassandra;
If you are reading this, I have fallen in battle. My only regret in that, is that I shall never again read one of your letters, nor have again the chance of seeing your face or hearing your voice.
Know that your friendship has been one of the greatest treasures of my life. I can only pray that by the kindness of Providence, we shall one day meet again in the land beyond the sky.
Until then, I remain, your loving friend;