Frederick was woken by a series of frantic knocks on his door. He opened his bleary eyes and focused on the voice outside.
"Your Highness, Your Highness, it is urgent. Please wake up!"
At first, he could not recognise the voice as it was muffled by the door but as he came closer to the door, he realised it was Phillip's voice. It was actually the first time he had heard him shout like that before and so Frederick quickly opened the door.
Phillip immediately apologised before telling him the urgent matter.
"Your Highness, I received a dispatch only moments earlier from our spy watching over the Styrian party. Earlier in the day, the Princess was attacked by an unknown band and suffered heavy casualties, they managed to beat them back after the spy rushed to help but the Princess has been injured. It is only a minor wound but, the spy fears the blade was poisoned. They are currently rushing to Erlangen and should be there in a day if they ride day and night."
Frederick stood there in shock as he processed the ramifications of this information. A guest, no a foreign princess had been attacked and injured on his lands. A princess, not from an insignificant country but from a major nation like Styria. Frederick knew this would become a major headache. He needed to go back to Erlangen as quickly as possible and investigate the matter thoroughly in order to account for his failure to ensure their safety. He also needed to do everything to ensure the Princess survived otherwise, Styria would undoubtedly declare war.
"Phillip, how did this happen? Was the Princess not travelling with the Styrian Royal Guards? Surely they could not be so easily killed?"
"Your Highness, that may have been so before firearms were widely distributed. But the assailants planned meticulously, they first attacked the camp at the light of dawn before retreating. This put the Styrian party on edge and so when they arrived before the Valley of Gorz they chose to go around it by taking the Forest of Gorz. However, it appears this was part of the plan and so as they settled down for the night in a clearing in the forest they were suddenly fired upon from the trees. The sentries were all killed prior to the attack, so the camp was not forewarned. They fired a volley before they charged right into the guards as the muskets had too long of a reload time. The spy estimates the band numbered about thirty odd people while the Styrian party had about twenty-five people left after the first attack earlier in the day. Their first volley on top of the deaths of the sentries left them with about twenty people. The spy had heard the gunshots and ran over to assist. He says the new weapon you had made for him allowed him to kill five of the attackers very quickly."
"Wait, who was the spy?" Frederick asked with curiosity.
"Jacques, Your Highness."
Frederick had met Jacques just under a year ago. He had been visiting Franz in his territory and had been staying at Saar the centre of his domain. It was there that he had met Jacques on a day where he had been wandering the city.
Frederick had been looking for a gunsmith to see if he was able to turn one of Frederick's schematics into reality. Saar was the industrial heartland of Erlitz and was where the best blacksmiths, gunsmiths and heavy industry experts were gathered. This was also partly the reason why he had decided to visit Saar.
Although most of the guns being made were still the standard smooth-bore, muzzle-loading muskets which were far inferior to the rifles being made by Prusen. It did not mean the skills of the smiths were any worse off, in fact Frederick believed if there was one thing Erlitz was good at it, it would be the skills of its heavy industry experts. After all, people all over Agenor would pay vast sums to have their child apprenticed to a master smith or gunsmith in Saar, as having such a prestigious master would guarantee they were set for life.
The only reason rifling had not become widespread across Agenor was because of the lack of knowledge about firearms and the natural sciences behind it. As a result, the gunsmiths may have the skills but they lack the imagination to innovate and create new designs or create new theories after all they were tradesmen not academics. In fact, Agenor was severely lacking in scientific discoveries from areas such as biology, chemistry and physics, the most advanced science was astronomy.
Frederick believed that this world was round, just as his last one was, however, there was yet to be the counterpart of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. People knew there was another continent to the south, but no one had bothered to explore the east nor the west of Agenor. In fact, there was no known sea route across the north of Agenor as no one had really bothered to explore beyond the Kingdom of Svea.
As for the east, well there was a big mountain range that cut off Agenor from the rest of the world. No one had ever managed to cross the range and come back. In fact, no one knew how far the range stretched for and where it would end. As for attempting to circumvent the mountains by following the coast, many had tried, and many had failed to return. The weather along the coast in the eastern part of Agenor was incredibly wild, with strong winds and powerful and tall waves. Of course, Frederick had never seen it and had only heard from others and from books he had read.
Erlitz had once had a port, it was connected by a narrow strip in the south east that led to the coast.
However, about sixty years ago, during the time of his Great-Grandfather it was seized by Weser during his struggles with the other nobles when he attempted to abolish landed titles. It was also at this time that Albert's sister married Sophia's father at the behest of their families. Which is the reason why Sophia called Albert 'uncle', as they were actual relatives.
As Erlitz was undergoing civil strife it had no power to stop Weser's seizure of the port. As a result, the relations between the two nations have been tense ever since, it was only with the mediation of Styria and pressure by Pruse did his Great-Grandfather begrudgingly not declare war. However, there had been no acknowledgment by any other country besides Pruse that the land was now Weser's.
The nobles eventually managed to force Frederick's Great-Grandfather to abdicate and had his Grandfather only eighteen at the time to acknowledge the rights of the nobles and promise to never attempt to abolish their titles during his reign. Having grown up in such an environment where the nobles had managed to force a Prince to abdicate, no wonder Albert had been so confident in his attempt to force the same situation upon Frederick. Alas, history would not repeat itself much to Albert's chagrin.
Frederick had been looking for a well-known gunsmith by the name of Wesson, he had laughed when Franz had recommended the gunsmith to him. After all a well-known arms manufacturer in his past life was founded by a certain Wesson.
Frederick had been walking through the streets when someone stumbled into him, grabbed his shoulder, quickly apologised and ran off. Well, at least that was what the thief thought would happen. In reality, as soon as the man stumbled into Frederick, it had automatically triggered Frederick's reflexes and the thief soon found himself thrown onto the floor. Frederick had executed an over the shoulder throw and pinned the thief to the ground with his knee on the thief's chest. Frederick was surprised to see that it was a person that looked about the same age as him. However, the man was dressed incredibly shabbily, he had a shirt that had a couple rips on the front and his pants or what looked to be pants were very worn out.
The man grunted and tried to throw Frederick off, but Frederick was immovable.
"Who are you? Why did you try to rob me?" Frederick asked in annoyance. He noticed a small crowd was gathering around him, but he chose to ignore them while he questioned the man.
"Why should I tell you." The man answered indignantly.
"Hmm, I guess you can come back with me and we can have a good chat back in the castle."
The man's eyes widened in shock and he began to panic.
"Castle? Milord, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have tried to rob you. I know better now. Can you let me go? Please?"
However, Frederick remained unfazed as he noticed the man's calm eyes. Although they would occasionally show signs of panic along with the rest of his face, there was an unmistakeable placidness in them, and Frederick knew this person was only putting on an act.
"Interesting. You are very interesting. Say are you looking for employment?" Frederick asked with curiosity.
This time the man's eyes widened in shock for real, as he realised, he had been seen through.
"Your Highness, could we uh, speak somewhere a little less crowded. As much as I enjoy the view from here, it is still a little embarrassing." The man teased.
Frederick immediately pulled the man up and held his arm in a lock behind him and pulled him back towards the castle. The crowd naturally opened up a path and looked on in awe at the man who would be their next Grand Prince.