It had been a long day of training. Ludwig V had been drilling with the men of his regiment. This would be the last season that he served as a Freikorporal carrying a musket amongst the common soldiers of the regiment that bore his name. The next year he would assume the commissioned rank of Leutnant, and Hauptman, the year after that. After the parole that Saturday afternoon Ludwig mounted his horse and rode to the hunting lodge his father had built in the woods near Alt-Schweinfeld. He was accompanied by his tutor and constant companion Leutnant Küster and a troop of the Garde du Corps, commanded by Leutnant Röbel.
That evening Ludwig dined together with his guardian General-Leutnant Krause and Leutnants Küster and Röbel upon venison and capers. Krause quizzed young Ludwig about his lessons and his progress with the regiment, alternately complimenting him and gently chiding him for any shortcomings. In truth, Ludwig was mastering his lessons much faster than Krause had anticipated and the General made a mental note to engage more tutors for the lad. In the distance, the chuch bells of Alt-Schweinfeld could be heard, tolling it was thought, for the passing of a burgher of some import.
Soon Ludwig and his companions realized that the bell must be for a fire or disturbance.
There was a knock at the door. No sooner had Leutnant Röbel risen from his chair than he was greeted at the door by one of his men, who informed him that indeed there was a great clamor in the town square.
“Milord,” he spoke, “a riot has erupted outside of the Green Dragon Inn in Alt-Schweinfeld. I am as yet unaware of the nature of the tumult.”
“Well then,” Ludwig began, “you should ride ahead to find out.”
Röbel blanched and Krause spat his claret across the room.
“Ahead Milord? Surely you don’t mean to go there yourself.”
“Of course. They are my people and I will not have the peace disturbed.”
“It could be quite dangerous,” Krause reminded him.
“Be that as it may, I am going to town,” Ludwig replied. “Have my horse saddled at once!”
Krause, Küster and Röbel, briefly exchanged looks and then rose to follow Ludwig out of the room and out to the courtyard. In the courtyard, all was a flurry of activity as the two dozen men of the Garde du Corps who were present checked their equipment and loaded their pistols and carbines. Ludwig’s massive black charger was led out of the stable by his servant Meyer while others scrambled to saddle General Krause’s mount. At Leutnant Röbel’s order, the trumpeter sounded ‘assembly’ and his men mounted their horses and formed in two ranks. No sooner than Ludwig was assisted into the saddle by Meyer, than he spurred his mount and dashed through the gate towards the sound of the bells still ringing in Alt-Schweinfeld, with General Krause, Röbel and his troopers riding hard to catch up.
In the fading light, General Krause grabbed the reins of Ludwig’s horse and pulled up to a stop.
“Milord, your father entrusted me with your safety and upbringing, just as he left the management of the state to Baroness Schroeder. It is my duty to stop you from pointlessly risking your life. These men,” Krause gestured to the men of the Guard du Corps surrounding them, “are sworn to protect you. I beseech you; let them do their job Milord.”
“You are right of course,” Ludwig nodded.
Leutnant Röbel asked, “Shall I continue ahead Milord?”
“Yes, ride ahead and determine the nature of the alarm,” Ludwig ordered.
Röbel pointed to two trusted NCO’s and shouted “With me!” The three of them galloped off. The remaining troopers formed up around Ludwig and General Krause and Leutnant Küster who had just caught up. Together they rode off at a canter towards the sound of the bells…
Leutnant Röbel and his men returned to the entourage just outside of the town.
“Milord,” he panted breathlessly, “as far as I may ascertain, the people of the town have some manner of criminal cornered in the Green Dragon. They seem agitated and I fear they might attempt something foolish.”
“General,” Ludwig spoke, “It would seem that the men are thirsty. I am told that the Green Dragon has some of the best beer in the land. Let us go there now. Leutnant Röbel, lead the way!”
The men gave a hearty cheer and the party set off through the narrow streets towards the town square and the Green Dragon Inn. As the little column rounded the last turn and came upon the square, the church on their left and city hall on their right, the crowd was gathered at the far end of the square around the inn with pitchforks and torches.
“Leutnant Röbel,” General Krause called out, “Perhaps you should announce our presence.”
Röbel unholstered one of his pistols and fired into the air. The shot echoed in the night and the crowd fell silent. The troopers formed a wedge and with Ludwig, Krause and Röbel at their head rode slowly forward across the square. The crowd gave way and they halted outside the inn.
“What troubles my people so,” Ludwig shouted to be heard among the assembled multitude.
Ludwig had until then not been noticed amongst the troopers of the Garde du Corps by the crowd, but upon the appearance of their sovereign, the crowd kneeled.
A fat burgher stepped forward with an elderly peasant, who looked vaguely familiar.
“Milord,” the burgher began “five men, strangers, in the tavern tried to abduct this man’s sons,” gesturing to the peasant. “A fight broke out. The people of the town stopped the men from taking them, but they barricaded themselves in the Green Dragon with the boys.”
The door of the tavern opened and two men stepped forth. They wore the uniform of Prussian officers. They were disheveled and had obviously been roughly handled by the crowd. Two sergeants and a drummer came out after them leading two ‘youths,’ bound and gagged behind them. The youths were easily 6’4”, lanky and ill clothed. Upon seeing them, Ludwig, Krause and everyone else recognized them as the Schmidt twins, Henrich and Karl Jr. They were renowned in this quarter of the Margraviate for their feats of strength at last year’s harvest festival. Their father Karl Sr, had been served valiantly in the regiment of Schlammersdorf some years before.
“What is the meaning of this,” Krause demanded.
“We have come to gather recruits for der Grosse Koenig, Freidrich II of Prussia,” replied the older of the officers replied.
“Cut them loose,” Ludwig commanded.
“On whose authority,” the younger of them demanded?
As one, the sound of 24 swords being unsheathed rang out and the Garde du Corps troopers glared menacingly at the interlopers.
“On my authority,” shouted Ludwig, “rightful lord of these lands and protector of these people!”
Several troopers quickly dismounted and shoved the Prussians aside and cut the boys loose.
Eyeing the two officers, Ludwig asked, “What are your names?”
“Hauptman Manstein and Leutnant Rohleder.”
Ludwig raised his voice to be heard across the square, “Hauptman, the soldiers of the great and illustrious Frederick may do as they please in his lands BUT may not do so in mine.”
A great cheer rose from the crowd.
“Hauptman, you and your men have my leave to return to your king, but keep in mind what I have said and in the future restrict your recruiting to your sovereign’s subjects, not mine.”
With that, Manstein and his men left town on foot (their horses having mysteriously gone missing in the riot) with as much dignity as they could muster, followed by the raucous laughter of the crowd.
The crowd shouted, “Long live the Margrave! Long live Ludwig!” Even the troopers joined in the cheers. “Long live the Margrave! Long live Ludwig!”
“Perhaps the men would care for some refreshment before we return home.” He tossed him a purse full of coins.
The old peasant Karl Sr approached Ludwig and thanked him profusely. “Thank you for the return of my sons your Milord.”
“Loyal service should always be rewarded,” replied Ludwig and he handed the man a couple of gold thalers. “Don’t you agree General Krause?”