Ludwig Sebastian Retberg, Trabant Heiligensturm Fähnlein

Trabant Heiligensturm Fähnlein
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Chad Volpe
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Ludwig Sebastian Retberg, Trabant Heiligensturm Fähnlein

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2018-06-25 21.25.35.jpg
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(Me with my Hauptmann behind me, protected.)

Ludwig Sebastian Retberg, Trabant (captain’s bodyguard) von Heiligensturm Fähnlein considers his place in the Fähnlein to be his birthright, and considers himself to be at only the beginning of a long career with even greater glory preordained. The only son of Leissl (a beautiful, dark haired woman partially of Venetian descent) and Nikolas (a Captain of the Town Guard of Stuttgart), Ludwig had a bright future planned out for him before he was even born. As benefit of his father's friends and acquaintances in high places, Ludwig had the best education, opportunities and lifestyle that could be had for a youth not of Noble blood.

Ludwig showed signs early on that he had a knack for the soldier's life. Having been granted an apprenticeship to a local fencing master through his father's influence, Ludwig used his boyhood years (between scrubbing, cleaning, fetching water and trying to stay out of the way) to absorb the concepts and theories of the Leben des Schwerts long before he received his first informal lessons from the Fechtmeisteren during his early teens. He demonstrated a natural talent for fencing, and took to lessons in philosophy, tactics and strategy as though born with the knowledge. His dream to train to someday be a Fechtmeister himself however would not be realized. Like the squire who never becomes a knight, this opportunity was not to be his. Ludwig was not old enough to have been formally indoctrinated into the Fechtschüle and study his chosen trade when things turned bad. And when things turned bad, they turned terrible.

To this day, Ludwig has never known why his father was forced to resign his commission and imprisoned. Rumors ran rampant about all manner of possible evil doings, from adultery to murder to simply being the victim of political intrigue. Whatever the cause, it was too much for Leissl, a pious Catholic woman, and she fled their home heading south for the Venetian Republic. Having been schooled like all moneyed children of Stuttgart, Ludwig could read the letter of forfeiture nailed to the door of his father's house himself, and having never known any other family besides his parents, at the age of sixteen he could do little to stop the seizure of the family estate. He was turned away at the door of each of his father’s friends without explanation. In the one day that was left foretold by the notice, Ludwig ransacked his own home for anything he could find. His mother had taken most everything of value, but he did find a small cache of weapons under the floorboards below his parents' bed that had not been seized by the magistrates when his father was arrested. The note left with the sword and dagger by his father revealed that they were to have been given to him as gifts on his pending indoctrination into the Fechtschüle in a month’s time. Taking the Schwert und Dolch with him, Ludwig left and didn’t look back. Though he had been quite fond of the lifestyle he had enjoyed in Stuttgart, surely justice lay elsewhere...

***

Ludwig quickly decided that since his mother had abandoned him, apparently to seek out her family in Venice, he would go adventuring as a soldier, the only trade for which he was equipped and the only likely path left to him. Fortune must have been smiling on him and rewarded his decision to go south, because upon his arrival weeks later in Lower Saxony he was amazed to hear the thunder of muster drums. A regiment was forming! What luck! He would not have to beg for food or grovel for work! - Having his own weapons, and being healthy and strong (though not as tall or stout as many of the other men both young and old alike arriving to answer the call to arms and riches) he nonetheless was accepted through the arch of the halberds and eventually after the ceremonies and readings of the letters (things he had learned of in Stuttgart) with the Soldaten of Jakob von Ems being led by the local Baron Friedrich von Scoenvortz. He soon struck up a friendship with the redheaded son of Friedrich named Dieterich (Dieter to his friends) who was about Ludwig’s own age (but clearly an experienced soldier). Again what luck! With this new friendship to guide him, he would soon learn the ropes of the soldier’s life.

Life in a Fähnlein was not like life in the city. Absent were the refined mannerisms of the Fechtschüle, the comforts of a warm bed and the love of family. Yes, campaign life had its share of rough and tumble, but decided that perhaps a complete change was for the better. Surely, anything was better than what he had just left behind in Stuttgart. At least justice in the Fähnlein was swift and sure, an approach which suited Ludwig just fine at this point. He studied the ways (and differences from civilian crime and punishment) of military justice carefully. He liked this way better. Charges were read aloud. Explanations were provided for the actions of the Schultheiss and the Provost and the Freimann: punishment was just and appropriate and no one was led off in secrecy. Soldiers were necessary and were hence accounted for at all times.

This new life quickly grew on Ludwig. Upon closer inspection it was similar in many ways to city life. The bravado of a tough soldier was much like that of the bullies in the neighborhoods of his youth, and dealing with them was very much the same as well: you stand up to them and they most often will back down and go look for an easier target. Surviving by his wits, and without yet having had to demonstrate his fighting skills, Ludwig nonetheless came to be known as someone not to be trifled with. Extra money came in the way of Glückhaus, a dice game that Ludwig never seemed to lose. The weeks dragged on and on and soon Ludwig lost track of the months knowing only the likely season because of the weather, as it seemed the marching would last forever.

Soon enough though, or perhaps too soon, they were in Ravenna. Battle as well, was nothing like the Fechtschülen of the gentlemen of Stuttgart, and Ludwig found himself largely unprepared. Though he knew how to fight (and fight he did), he was unaccustomed to the dynamics of the push of pike, the charge of cavalry or the terrible toll exacted by the cannon. Pressed ever forwards along with his comrades by the Döpplesoldneren in the lines behind him, Ludwig nonetheless found himself with a surprisingly clear head and courage to spare. Unlike many of their comrades in arms, Ludwig was entering military life as a young man with much schooling and training to his benefit, not as a frightened young boy unsure of what lay ahead each day – or if there would even by a next day to see. With his flesh cut and bones and muscles bruised and having seen all too close several near misses that would have surely been his death had they only been a coin’s width closer, Ludwig was uncertain of his worth after his first battle though he had at least survived. Though quite relieved to be alive, Ludwig did not think he had done well.

And Ravenna did not go well. Many of their comrades, Dieter’s father included, were lost to the imperial guns. Ludwig knew from Dieter's stories that the army often had young boys in its ranks, children by practical standards, barely of age to be employed as apprentice tradesmen; many of whom were neither strong enough of mind or of body to fare well in war. Dieter himself had started out his military career in this fashion due to a youthful indiscretion that had threatened his life and caused him to have to leave home at 13. Baron von Schoenvortz’ Fähnlein had been completely decimated (perhaps there had been too many of the younger boys in the ranks). Fortunately though, Ludwig and Dieter had both fared well enough after all as individuals all things considered: Ludwig had seen Dieter personally kill at least two Döpplesoldneren, though Ludwig had no such claim for himself. Still though, it was good to be alive! With the battle lost and the Fähnlein ruined, it fell upon Dieterich to salvage the remnants and take command. And Ludwig followed him as Dieter was now his Hauptmann, his captain.

***

The years that followed leading up to the present were more or less a blur. Ludwig’s ever-increasing skill, experience and continued dissatisfaction with seeing soldiers risk the lives of their comrades by failing the oath of enlistment that each swears upon joining their Fähnlein caused him to grow more and more interested in the offices of the higher ranks. His experience with the discipline and honor of the Fechtschüle of his youth in Stuttgart left him with a sense of leadership that he had not previously considered until now. He longed for the destiny that had been denied him, and he wished to ensure that if he could not have justice in Stuttgart that justice would exist in the Fähnlein.

Ever aware that life and death in battle is the opposing sides of the same sheet of parchment, Ludwig never stops training and continually seeks out new masters of fence with whom to train and better his skills. Of relatively small stature by Almaine standards, Ludwig is nonetheless equally deadly and fierce with either his trusted Halberd or a Zweihander as he is with his Katzbalger.

One interesting final note about Ludwig: It is said that he has never in his entire carrier ever spent a single coin of his pay, instead living off of his Glückhaus proceeds... It is not common knowledge exactly how much money he has banked, invested or hidden about, but it is apparently in fact quite a bit. He maintains a rather modest (though well equipped) home while on campaign, always keeping his eyes on the future.
It's easy to kill a man with a slash of a sword. It's hard to be impossible for others to cut down.
-Yagyū Munenori
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