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"Better Late than Never" Cutlass Play 9/2/519...Really?


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Admiral L’eonce,

I doubt your title is recognized by any, anymore, but I choose to use the honorific out of respect, albeit tempered with frustration. France has fallen, and some did not fight through the long and complex war to save her.

It was the toppling domino of a rumored invasion of Noire by the forces of Kleef that started the cascade. Suddenly His Excellence Percy’s machinations to install Lord Bonadventure to his rightful throne had been thrown into disarray - for Robespierre and his Tri-Color thugs had weakened France with the bane of “Republic,” and her enemies would wait no more.

Alain Gignot had become known to Robespierre, and had recently been captured during an ill-fated errand. Gignot had escaped his captors with feigned turned loyalty to the Republican cause, and had caught up with our party - myself, Nemo McMoridin and Jean LeBeouf, along with Thomas Guy, David Stanton, Birmingham Brown and Jorgez DuLac de Nantes; agents of His Eminence and Lord Bonadventure. The celebration of Gignot’s return was the last joyous moment we would all spend together for years.

Our group was travelling to Nantes to gather information (through contacts cultivated by Jorgez DuLac, naturally). We had already learned the Germans intended to support “France” while the Scots were sympathetic to the cause of Marshal Duclos and Noire. In Nantes, DuLac’s contacts proved to have no further information, while my own inquiries confirmed Scottish support, and clarified the Germans stood for the Royalists, while Russia, Spain, and England stood united against our land. Rumors of action from Kleef had ignited a spark which had caught true in the brush of Europe. Whole countries were forming shifting alliances which threatened to erupt into the fires of war.

Thus we resolved to venture to Marseilles with a messenger. We captured, and I Captained a Tri-color vessel for the voyage (later sold by Stanton), and, along the way, confirmed that Ansbach was sending troops to defend Noire. Discipline was lax during the crossing, and, several times, I was forced to use a heavy hand. Jorgez DuLac introduced the men to a “game” he called “ale pong.” The indulgence in alcohol led Brown to rambling diatribes about some unknown foe.

David Stanton assigned a sailor who, shockingly, was unable to swim to man the crow’s nest. As Captain I was forced into rationing of ale, grog and rum, and to assign Stanton to double shifts as lookout.

McMoridin veered off course, and took us several days off our charted path. McMoridin blamed the grumblings of the now sober crew for the lapse, and I was required to assign him to thirty hours at the wheel.

Gignot discovered Republican sympathizers in the crew. He was attacked, and forced to defend himself with lethal results. One of the traitors skull was crushed with a thrown cannonball. Cowed, the turncoats fled, but, with nowhere to run, they were quickly apprehended. With little choice, they were executed, but not before we unearthed their plans to murder the special envoy we had aboard. Then, for unknown reasons, Thomas Guy chose to lead the crew in Reformist masses. Given we had but recently executed sailors for similar leanings, I was left no choice but to have one of my own officers lashed.

Our envoy was Lord Charles of Nice, and his safety was paramount. It was he who informed us that the other nations of Europe not only lusted for the hills and valleys of weakened France, but turned jealous gazes on one another. Genoa and Carpathia were at war with one another. One supported France, the other the Coalition of Russia, England and Spain. With the myriad changes that were to come, I no longer remember which was allied to whom, for the blazing battles for Europe had begun, and the metaphorical smoke obscured all.

His Eminence Percy and Marshall Duclos added Guy, McMoridin, Gignot, DuLac, Stanton, Brown, LeBeouf and myself to their War Council. We gathered every remaining contact and loyal solder that could be found who had been called Vert Valliant or Sons of the Vert Valliant. Retired soldiers came from homestead and farm, Those who had become mercenary remembered their true loyalties. Others, who had regaled their families and neighbors with stories of Salerno and beyond came with their sons - eager to follow in their fathers’ heroism. The Valliant had been a force for France under the reigns of Alexandre and Maxime. We had brought new colonies and new resources to the Realm, we had protected her from threat, and we had suffered the indignities of slander and assault from the traitorous Robespierre and his uncouth allies. Yet the loyalty of these soldiers, these brothers remained unshaken, and, together, we carried out action after action to protect our land and restore the Absent King to his Throne.

In the first phases of War, Stanton and Brown attempted to gather information about Russia. Stanton was wounded attempting to sneak aboard the Russian flagship, and Brown exhausted three horses in his escape, yet they obtained the needed information. The difficulties they encountered drew attention that aided in my own mission to assassinate a high-level Russian agent. Meanwhile, LeBeouf, Guy and Gignot took action in Spain. LeBeouf was unable to buy his information, but did purchased a fine knife - delivered to his back - for his coin. Guy teamed up with Scottish allies. Their efforts to disrupt Spanish supply lines were successful, yet not without cost to the hot-tempered Guy and the impatient Scots. Guy himself returned limping, while several Scots were slain. DuLac’s efforts to gain information in Bavaria led to nothing. DuLac barely avoided arrest!

DuLac remained in Bavaria, where an unseasonable cold snap hindered his efforts to disrupt Bavarian supplies, as Stanton and LeBeouf turned their efforts to England. Stanton spread tales of a Ghost Ship, created by the evils of this long War, while LeBeouf’s men attempted to harass British patrols and identify the most likely bridges to be used in major supply routes.

Meanwhile, Brown and I continued our efforts in Russia, joined now by McMoridin and a new contingent of Valliant loyalists. McMoridin took his men deep into the Medieval State in search of the Marshal of Russia’s armies, where they were able to gain gossip and information of doings in England. Brown found himself propositioned by the Church to exchange information on the political climate of England for a promise to leave Russian supplies and roads be. Brown declined the offer, but found himself stopped by Scottish intervention when his forces attempted sabotage. Brown’s confidence was shaken by the development - for the rest of the War his plans would rely on straightforward actions, forgoing Cunning.

My own efforts involved subterfuge and rumor regarding development of some of the more worthless land in Russia - the rumors had an uplifting effect upon speculators. The Russians became more inclined to exploit their own “resources,” rather than expand into France. I was also able to gather rumors of developments in Spain. While events in Russia played out, Gignot and Guy took action in Spain. Gignot’s ruse as a simpleton failed to grant him access to the inner sanctum of Spain’s General, but his efforts bore fruit in the form of intelligence on Genoa. Guy’s attempts to disrupt Spanish supplies, however, ended in disaster - a major bridge for a major thoroughfare was destroyed… It was within France, not Spain, and Guy’s face became notorious inside Spanish lands. Yet Guy learned the news that House Merovech, from exile in Naples, had declared it’s Patriarch the True Absent King of France.

This was around the time the ailing Republic of France made it known to the bankers of Europe the French treasury had been depleted, and that the bankrupt “nation” would be defaulting on it’s debts. The mismanagement of Robespierre had truly weakened France. Shortly thereafter, the Republic of France disbanded her Army. Soldiers cannot be maintained by a failing realm that cannot even feed it’s citizens. The “solution” posed by Robespierre was to promote more of his own friends and family into what was left of the positions of power.

Stanton moved his men into Spain to replace Guy. Stanton and Brown combined forces in their efforts to convince a local sheriff to compromise himself and aid in diversion of Spanish supplies (rather than risk destruction of roads). They failed, but the negotiations allowed both men to heal from earlier injuries. At the same time Gignot managed to locate the Spanish military, penetrate their camp and slit the throat of General Juan de Acuņa y Bejarano, second Marquess of Casa Fuerte. Acuņa had been a whisper of conquest in his King’s ear. Silenced, Spain turned it’s aggression elsewhere. Gignot turned his aggression elsewhere, too. He and McMoridin entered England in search of her General. Their first efforts to slay the man met with failure, and the pair only narrowly escaped capture. Thomas Guy was in England as well. His work destroying English storehouses was overly masterful. In fact, so successful that Guy was unable to feed his own troops!

LeBeouf was, at that time, opening negotiations with Russia to appeal for Honors of War and a truce. The Russians declined. In retaliation, I removed General Boris Petrovich Sheremetev. His death could not be traced to my actions, yet the Russians became suspicious, their attitude towards Duclos further soured. During this time, DuLac still found himself unable to act from unusual inclement weather, but used his time to drill with his men. All found their marksmanship vastly improved by the tenacious training.

France, by then, was shaking herself apart as her populace split along ecclesiastical lines. The adherents of the Church and those who advocated for Reform abandoned the calls for tolerance and brotherhood advocated by His Excellency so long ago. The turmoil caused by the ruination of Robespierre, and the uncertainty surrounding the constant ebb and flow of battle across the continent overflowed into anger. Frustrated French turned against French, as her people’s sense of patriotic national identity became subsumed by squabbling over the purity of one’s prayer. Meanwhile, the Netherlands - perhaps the last nation to succumb to aggression - mustered her armies and navies into readiness.

DuLac, Gignot, Guy, LeBeouf and Stanton pooled resources to take action in Bavaria while Brown joined McMoridin’s cadre in England, while I directed my efforts towards Spain.

I had learned of a plot by Serbia to poison Spanish reservoirs with arsenic. I accelerated the Serbian time-table by tainting the wells of a border village that had been evacuated, then, in the name of Duclos, forwarded our intelligence to the Spanish court - and held up the village as our proof. This act of charity from a “hated foe” greatly improved our relations with Spain.

Brown and McMoridin failed in their efforts to forcefully retire England’s Marshal Lennox, 3’rd Duke of Richmond. Brown himself was badly slashed in the attempt, and the duo retreated into the Netherlands where their follow-up attempt to decommission General Baron van Reede also ended with failure.

Gignot and Stanton’s goal in Bavaria was to displace Generalfeldmarschall von Thalfingen. When news arose of the mustering in the Netherlands, Stanton broke and rode. His efforts to gain news and rumor were fruitless. Gignot’s plot, one involving poison, missed the intended target, yet Gignot was able to acquire insights into Carpathia from the papers in the pocket of the the Oberstleutnant who foolishly served himself from the Generalfeldmarschall’s ewer.

Bavaria’s weather continued it’s trend of wet freeze. Dulac, Guy and LeBeouf intended to harass and redirect Bavarian war materiel, yet the ongoing need to replenish wet powder, provide bandages and wraps against the cold, and to create and maintain hidden shelters in the exposed wilderness caused their efforts to fall so far behind estimates as to be nearly useless.

And then the unprecedented occurred! The Pope himself spoke out against the growing conflicts across the continent and urged patience and love from his flock towards the Reformists: “For they are not heretics, not unsaved like the heathens and pagans across the seas, not guided by evil like the Fatimah, but merely wayward children of the Savior. Like the Prodigal Son, we must all be willing to express the true love of the Almighty and recognize them as family.” This bull, once issued, struck the hearts of the English, who, moved by the Papal plea, directed their armies and navies to withdraw from battle and return behind their borders. Yet, there were many, both Church Loyalist and Reformist alike, who resented the entreaty. Many among the reformists felt they had been treated with mere condescension, whereas the Church faithful felt that, despite the Pope’s declaration, the Reformists truly were heretics. The continuing conclave of Church and Reformists Bishops in Marseilles became seen by some as a weakening influence of the Church, and the enmity over the situation was aimed at His Excellence, Wischard Percy, over his patronage of the debates and Marshal Francois Duclos over his support and protection of Marseilles.

Yet, in beleaguered France the Pope’s words rang true. Frenchman stopped fighting each other and turned their attention towards the nation. Still, the continuing conflicts continued to bear down upon the might of France. Her oceans now teemed with all manner of pirate and privateer. Besieged by land and by sea, would it be possible for France to return to stability? The Valliant’s valiant efforts to reinvigorate the nation continued apace, yet we could sense that the window for effective action was nearing it’s end.

Stanton, Brown and I chose to act in Bavaria. Generalfeldmarschall von Thalfingen had loyal and capable men under his command, and, forewarned about our plans, we found ourselves thwarted. The Bavarians had also obtained information about McMoridin, LeBeouf and Gignot. That trio were to enact a similar scheme against General Baron van Reede. Stanton and Brown fled into the Netherlands to alert McMoridin, LeBeouf and Gignot to the the discovery, while I remained in Bavaria to observe and reformulate a fresh attack.

By the time Stanton and Brown met with McMoridin, LeBeouf and Gignot, LeBeouf had already tired and failed to repeal van Reede. McMoridin, Stanton and Gignot abandoned subterfuge and chose to assault van Reede in his own residence. Stanton was speared and McMoridin rode with him back to Marseilles to recuperate. Yet the fighting surrounding the two served to distract van Reese’s bodyguards. Gignot was able to sanction the Baron. In a daring action, Gignot stole the uniform of one of the Dutch officers, galloped into Bavaria in the guise of messenger and slew Generalfeldmarschall von Thalfingen in heroic, open single combat!

DuLac had shifted his men into Spain’s warmer climes. There, they attempt, once more to sabotage bridges and wagons to disrupt the flow of Spanish arms and supplies to their front lines. Seasons of exposure in frozen Bavaria and repeated setbacks in their goals had, by then, served to break the spirit of DuLac’s men and Dulac himself. McMoridin came forth to support DuLac’s actions, but McMoridin, too, was fatigued by constant action, infiltration and danger. The duo were unable to effect significant reduction in Spanish traffic. Still, perhaps their failure was for the best, for they also remained unidentified and at large. Their success might have altered what was to occur for the worse.

Marshal Duclos had sent missives requesting we halt our actions and return to Marseilles. The Marshal and His Excellency, Percy had sent envoys to all the nations of Europe to negotiate for peace, and, for the moment, there was nothing to do but wait

And so we laughed, drank and attempted to make merry as we awaited further news. Tales were told, and deeds were shared. I related the events that transpired in Bavaria after our last aborted efforts directed towards von Thalfingen:

For, as I lay low and observed I found myself recognized my the most surprising souls. Arrays of Pyrates - Asiatics, Africans and expats - identified me. To my surprise and bemusement, rather than apprehend me for ransom, of for one of the several bounties upon me, instead they seemed to have recognized the need for some facsimile of an organized hierarchy, they entreated me to to lead as the “Lord of Rogues.” Their flattery and exhortations almost touched my heart, yet any appreciation I might have felt was tainted by the rueful reflection that whatever tales might be told about my exploits have been twisted in the retelling. I respect the rights of the Asians, Africans, Indians, and savages of the New World to live free and be treated as humans, not chattel. I acknowledge that we highborn have a duty to protect and cherish the lower classes who provide the needed structure to allow men of breeding and education to rule with a wise hand. Yet I do believe in one’s duty to country and family above all. My service has been to France and the Absent King, but my heart belongs to my wife and children. Consequently, I declined their offer, and explained my ethos as a man of honor would to another man of honor. One might expect a horde of cutthroats to react poorly to being spurned, but, in this instance, peaceful accord was reached, and all took their leave in harmony.

The telling of the tale brought more disappointment. I was forced to consider that I am one of a dying breed of me, or one to left behind by the tides of change that were soon to wash over Europe. Rather than appreciate the wisdom of my decisions, or respect for my loyalty, my co-councilors mocked and derided me. Thomas Guy in particular crowed that I was “a soft man,” and chortled that I would die “a coward’s death in bed.” What kind of man aspires to death in action? I am not afraid to die, and I am not afraid of pain - for I have faced torture at the hand of Olaf Porse, and cheated Death more times than I can count. What shame lies in aspiring to die of old age, in bed, surrounded by family and progeny? My reflections led me to the conclusion that men like Guy were not the equal of men such as Marshal Duclos, Viceroy Moridin, Archbishop Percy. Further reflection reminded me that even such stalwarts as Bartolomeu Diaz could be led astray by misguided ideals.

And thus, I was pensive when the messages started to arrive, and the new was surprising: Spain, Netherlands, Scotland and Genoa pledged support, alliance or friendship with Noire, Marseilles, and Japan, Ansbach refused all offers of friendship, while the remaining countries in Europe remained neutral towards the three territories.

On the surface this seemed cause for celebration, yet I noted the wording of the accords. Sure enough, the armies of Europe rose, quickly, once more for a final flurry of fire and fighting. In mere weeks the balance of Europe shattered, then reformed in a new pattern. France, our beloved France was literally wiped from the maps as if the hand of some Creator reached down from the heavens and redrew Europe’s borders in rays of light. The lands of France were split. Spain claimed the lion’s share, while Russia took back Nantes and surrounding lands and England conquered the rest (along with some of Bavaria)! Bonadventure vanished, which left House Merovech, still in exile in Naples as the last vocal claimants of the vanished throne.

Of course, it was not merely France which paid in soil for blood. Carpathia fell, divided between Scotland and Genoa. While England expanded, they also contracted as Ansbach appropriated London and the lands west. Kleef more than doubled her borders by absorbing the rest of Carpathia and much more of Europe, including the very Vatican, itself!. Needles to say, the representatives of the Fatimah found themselves expelled from every nation on the continent.

Yet the treaties held: Noire, Marseilles and Japan were left, alone of all French holdings, as independent states.

I confess, I found myself shaken, for it seemed that our efforts had yielded only scant reward. The Vert Valliant had failed, and France had fallen. I petitioned His Excellency to return to my family and thanked the Almighty that my Estate near Paris fell within the bounds of the Free-State of Marseilles. With his smiled assurance I took my leave to rejoin my beloved wife, Caterina, and the children, Bailee, and Natalia. Along the way I replayed the events of the wars in my mind. Could France have been saved? Perhaps had we directed our efforts against the reign of Robespierre, and to the ascension of Lord Bonadventure, France would have found the stability to maintain her independence. I considered that there were good men - yourself included, Leon - who hid, vanished or otherwise remained inactive throughout the turmoils. I wondered how many others were led astray by Robespierre’s delusions… Besides the self-styled “Seer,” Diaz.

All this and more weighed on my mind as I arrived at my ancestral home. It had been long since I had seen my family. Caterina was as lovely as the day we first met, while Bailee had reached the age where he was trying, in vain, to grow his first mustaches, and Natalia was on the verge of sprouting towards womanhood. My own father, Lord Bayly Baylee Baileigh, had certainly spared no expense or effort on his part in assuring his daughter-in-law and grandchildren the most secure life possible.Yet, what should have been a joyful reunion, and a return to domestic tranquility was tinged with discontent. Caterina had grown weary of Europe and disgusted with the years of war and conflict. She wished to quit the shores of the continent, and start anew in one of the overseas colonies.

Then, I found myself summoned by Archbishop Percy. The “Gentle Confessor” had a confession for me. His Excellency, Marshal Duclos, Viceroy Moridin, and even Lords Wildemoon and Bonadventure - the Absent King, himself! - had long before determined that the Republican debacle had weakened France to the point where she was doomed to fall to invaders. The advise and directives sent from Marseilles to we in the field had been designed to secure the exact result obtained. Rather than fight a futile war to destruction, Marseilles, Noire and Japan were secured by alliance as the last remaining bastions of French culture. The Free State of Marseilles, the City-State of Noire and the Protectorate of Japan remained free to preserve the French way of life, and to prepare for a future resurgence. I was asked to undertake an important role in continuing the unsullied continuance of the French ethos.

It is our intention to free the colony of New Vert - now called “New England” - from the hands of her conquerors. As yet, the English have held a light grasp over the colony, and, for the most part, allowed the colony to continue it’s trade with minimal interference, other than unreasonable taxation upon trade goods. The colony’s Governor has recently passed away, and the colony has petitioned their English overlords to request myself, as one of the founders of the colony, to return as her new Governor. The English seem to feel that such a symbolic gesture will maintain the morale of the colony, while, to the War Council of Percy, Duclos, Moridin - and now myself - this presents the perfect opportunity to liberate “New England,” and return her to… if not the rule of the French Crown, then to a true and loyal Noble of France.

Thus, the mockery of men like Thomas Guy is proven wrong. Let small minded men dream of being a “King” among “Rogues.” The position is that of a glorified ruffian, whereas “Governor” is a worthy Title for a learned man of Nobility, such as myself. Rather than place myself in a position where I would be a hunted man for the rest of my life, I have the opportunity to preserve the legacy of France, forge a new home for my wife and children, and lead with honor. The English, by granting the petition of the colonists, have planted the seeds for “New England” to return to freedom and French Law. Soon, we shall reap what has been sown.

Thus, my dear Admiral - for your Title was well and truly earned on it’s own merits long before King Alexandre granted you the Rank - I urge you to come out of hiding, to perform one last service for your fallen nation, one final favor for your friends, and one crowning accommodation to the colony of which you were among it’s founders. For the memory of shared deeds under the aegis of a fallen dynasty, I implore you to shake free of your lethargy and sail into the west, once more, to return to freedom the lands that you helped discover, as well as restore your own honor.

Join us, once again, old Friend.

Lord Bailey Baylee Baileigh


Yours,

   Lord Bailey Baylee Baileigh



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