September 22nd, 1873
UPHEAVAL IN BAVARIA
by Lionel Whitcombe
The Times’ Bavarian Correspondent
Munich in Chaos after Royal Abduction
and Failed Coup D’Etat
Bavaria has recently been overwhelmed by two terrible events. Foremost is the horrific news of the abduction of the Bavarian Queen (nee Lady Ismene Door) and the infant heir to the throne. Of no less consequence, but far less urgency for future action, is the coup d’etat attempted by Count von Volker. Although the full details are as yet unavailable, it appears that the two deplorable events are entirely unrelated.
Reliable information concerning the royal abduction is difficult to obtain. Official representatives of the Bavarian Council of Regency, in which most governmental authority resides since the declaration that King Ludwig II is non compos mentis, have declined to comment, stating that any data which they furnish could jeopardize their attempts to rescue the missing members of the Royal Family.
Of the conflicting reports reaching this correspondant, the most certain seems to be the fact that the abduction was carried out in a brazen aerial attack upon the royal residence. Assertions that the vessel used in the crime was manned, if such a word can be said to apply in this case, by mechanical automata seems less likely, but is attested to by several witnesses.
The Failed Coup - An Eyewitness Account
Bavarian authorities were not much more forthcoming concerning the matter of the failed coup. They confirmed that the attempt was led by Count von Volker, who had suborned members of the palace guard. They further admitted that, although the coup failed, the Count escaped from the palace. More than this, they were unwilling to report until they were themselves in full possession of the facts.
However, this correspondant was fortunate enough to be granted an interview with an eyewitness to the incident: Master Cosmo Webrin. Readers of this correspondent’s Bavarian dispatches will doubtless recognize the name of the noted composer whose orchestral work, “The Harmony of the Spheres”, debuted so triumphantly at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Royal Astronomical Observatory last month. Followers of political events on the continent will recall Herr Webrin’s close connection to the leaders of the rebellion in the Austrian province of Hyperborea, of which region he is a native son. Inasmuch as Herr Webrin enjoys a quasi-ambassadorial status with the soi disant Provisional Government of Free Hyperborea, questions concerning that shocking and important matter have also been posed.
Herr Webrin’s personal appearance testified to the turbulence of the evening’s events. His hair -- ordinarily a long, Byronic cascade -- had been partially burnt. His clothes and exposed skin also displayed signs of damage. I am indebted to Herr Webrin for graciously permitting me to interview him at such a time.
Herr Webrin’s Recollection of Events
The Times: How did von Volker’s coup begin?
Cosmo Webrin: I was not a witness to the beginning of the altercation, but it seemed as though von Volker had accused the Countess von Amberg-Kelheim, the Baron von Raiternauren and their associates on the Council of Regency with some sort of treason. I was astonished at several points to hear him specifically mention the Hyperborean struggle for independence. He seemed to be implying that the Countess had betrayed Bavaria by secretly aiding the Hyperboreans, and thus indirectly attacking Bavaria’s Austrian allies.
The Times: As a representative of the Hyperborean rebels, you deny these charges?
Cosmo Webrin: These charges are indeed as untrue as they are monstrous. Although many private citizens of Bavaria feel sympathy for the Hyperboreans, the Hyperborean freedom fighters have received no aid, overt or clandestine, from the Bavarian Regency. Count von Volker’s statements caused me to wonder what relation the Count has with the Imperial government.
The Times: Are you suggesting that the Count was acting as an Austrian agent?
Cosmo Webrin: Sir, I neither suggest nor imply that. However, one is free to infer what one can from the known facts.
The Times: Please continue your description of the night’s events.
Cosmo Webrin: The Count, surrounded by palace guards loyal to him, held the Countess and her son Richard, at gunpoint. The situation was very confused, and guns were pointed in all directions, and naked steel drawn. I borrowed a sword from Captain Campbell and stood beside my dear friend, the Baron von Raiternauren, who had apparently already been wounded by von Volker’s men.
Many pled with the guards to turn upon von Volker, and I attempted to persuade them by calling attention to their sworn allegiance to the Regency Council. My words had some effect, but von Volker had inspired a nearly unshakeable discipline in his guards.
Events Unfold with “Terrible Swiftness”
The Times: How did the situation develop?
Cosmo Webrin: As a prelude to discussion, von Volker ordered the gunman holding the Countess hostage to transfer his gun to young Richard’s head, and then the events unfolded with terrible swiftness.
Lieutenant Montoya threw the Countess to the ground and leaped upon her, shielding her from the fierce fusillade that followed. The Countess called for von Volker’s death; it was astonishing what price she was willing to pay to prevent the palace coup, for her son faced certain death. Indeed, the pistol pressed to his temple discharged almost immediately.
The Times: Surely he died instantly?
Cosmo Webrin: One might have expected so. Indeed, certain indications proved to my senses that he must have died. However, by the grace of God, Richard von Amberg-Kelheim has survived. No doubt my lack of familiarity with the medical art accounts for my erroneous assumption. Similarly, my senses must have been deceived concerning the extent of Lieutenant Montoya’s injuries. For, as von Volker’s men tried to injure the Countess, their shots found their mark in her back. I feared that she, too, had perished in the attack, but happily this has turned out not to be the case.
The Times: I understand that you did not have much time to examine the casualties.
Cosmo Webrin: Quite so. It is fortunate that I did not, for I would have surely fainted had I done so. Instead, I ran at Baron von Raiternauren’s shoulder as we chased down the treacherous Count. Unfortunately, he had too many men in his following. The Baron, already wounded as I have mentioned, was dropped by a bullet. I felled my man with a lucky thrust and pressed on, accompanied by His Highness, the Ottoman ambassador. The next of von Volker’s men gave me considerably more difficulty. Our weapons clashed, and my utter lack of ability began to tell in the conflict. The Prince’s shoulder was deeply pierced by a sword, and I soon found myself alone, facing three or four of the Count’s men. I disengaged and allowed the Count and his guards to get away, fearing what mischief he might wreak should all resistance drop at his feet.
The Times: If you will excuse me, Herr Webrin, another witness has asserted that you evidently do not suffer from an ‘utter lack of ability’ with the sword. Would you care to comment?
Cosmo Webrin: I object strongly to the insinuation that I am a liar. God alone knows why He protected me from injury, when better men are fallen.
The Times: I beg your pardon, Herr Webrin. What events followed the coup?
Cosmo Webrin: Being the last person on his feet, I did my best to round up medical attention for the fallen. Lieutenant Montoya, the Countess and her son had already been taken away, but Hans still lay unconscious. Hans’ first words upon regaining consciousness were an inquiry after the Count. I was mortified to have to inform him that the Count had escaped, unharmed but for a pistol ball in his shoulder which had been fired, I believe, by Professor Schlichter.
The Hyperborean Rebellion
The Times: Perhaps you would care to comment on the current state of the Hyperborean revolt?
Cosmo Webrin: I have recently received word that the freedom fighters have liberated Popushki, the capital city of Hyperborea. The provisional government is restoring services to the capital, while the armed forces are engaged in recapturing the remainder of our homeland.
The Times: Do you feel that the rebellion has any chance of success against the entire Austrio-Hungarian army?
Cosmo Webrin: Stated in those terms, our cause seems a hopeless one, but there is cause for a cautious optimism. Austria’s recent activities outside its borders have drawn the censure of many nations. Their naked war of aggression in Mexico has earned the active enmity of the powerful nations of the New World. Their patronizing tone in recent communications with Bavaria have angered many Bavarians. Should it develop that Austria was involved in some way in the failed coup, war would be the certain result. Be that as it may, their belligerent stance in external politics has drawn attention to their brutal internal policies.
The Times: The Austrian ambassador to Bavaria has, I understand, called for your extradition to Austria to stand trial for treason. Do you have any comment?
Cosmo Webrin: The situation is as you have stated it. However, my only crime is to spread the truth of Hyperborea’s plight to the people of other nations. Austria would prefer that these truths remain hidden, and thus hope to deprive me of my liberty to speak, just as they have deprived me of the liberty to visit my homeland. Fortunately, the Bavarian authorities are bound by honesty and justice. They have refused to submit to the Austrian demands for my extradition, unless and until the Austrians can provide tangible proof of their baseless assertions against me. This haughty demand of the Austrians is just further evidence of the essential arrogance that is turning the nations of Europe against the Empire.
The Times: Do you really think that Bavaria, a nation that has been one of Austria’s historic allies, is likely to enter a war against the Empire?
Cosmo Webrin: In light of Austria’s recent activities, the people and rulers of Bavaria may soon have to decide which virtue they value more: tradition or honor.