Stollen and Zichenau are surrounded by several tiny principalities -- Pillau-Zerbst, Pillau-Reuss, Werben-Steinau, Tauroggen-Fiebus, and Zeller-Schwarzekatze -- who vacillate between allying themselves with and/or fighting against either Stollen or Zichenau, depending on how the wind blows on a given day. Typically, war is declared by one or another state in the region at the slightest pretense. Conflicts earlier in the century have had as their catalysts: a royal love affair gone bad, temporarily misplaced crown jewels, a plagiarized monograph on metaphysics by a dilettante academic, an expatriate artist who failed to deliver a commissioned portrait to his royal patron by the appointed deadline, and, during the summer of 1767, the utter humiliation of Zichenau’s late Prince Ruprecht II at the hands of a highly skilled master tailor.
More broadly, this tiny patchwork of Europe is sandwiched between extreme Eastern Prussia, Courland, Poland, and Russia. As a further point of reference, Riga is about two days to the north by northwest, downriver from Krankenstadt, the sleepy Baroque capital of Stollen. Stollen, Zichenau, and the adjacent principalities occupy only about 100 square miles on the map. All were later absorbed by Prussia, Austria, and Russia during the final partition of Poland in 1795, which is why history books have had very little to say on the topic.
The population in the region (mainly ethnic Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, and Slavs with a sprinkling of Swedes) is fairly sparse, explaining the tiny armies that maneuver against each other occasionally. The respective forces number approximately 4-6 units of foot, 2-3 units of cavalry, and a few batteries of artillery each. The principalities surrounding Stollen and Zichenau furnish a few infantry units or some cavalry when absolutely necessary, much like some of the smaller Confederation of the Rhine states did for Napoleon I in his later wars.
How did the current conflict between Stollen and Zichenau begin then? At its root was the disappearance during February 1768 of Pillau-Zerbst’s Princess Valerie, betrothed to the notorious French mercenary officer Phillipe de Latte, which sparked considerable upheaval in diplomatic and social circles of the time. At the time, issues of Der Schimtten Zeitung and Die Krankenstadt Tageblat, two widely read newspapers in the region, were filled with numerous speculative articles on the matter.
Popular consensus blamed Zichenau’s Prince Ruprecht II for Valerie’s abduction. Indeed, agents for Pillau-Zerbst reported that a young woman matching her description was seen at various springtime social events with Prince Ruprecht. Various, convoluted, and half-hearted diplomatic efforts followed, yet these failed to produce an amicable solution. Typically, these high-level meetings carried on for a short while before one or another of the ministers involved in the talks would exclaim at the first available moment, "Oh, I say! Did you hear? The von So-and-sos are throwing a large ball this evening. I do hope the orchestra strikes up Sir Roger de Coverly!"
After some weeks, the parliamentary assembly in Pillau-Zerbst called impatiently for war during an emergency session in late May of 1768. Unable to remain aloof any longer, the fashion mad, and at times delusional, Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II of Stollen, to whom detractors refer humorously as "that overcooked macaroni," offered the services of his army to Pillau-Zerbst several days later, expressing wishes to exact sweet revenge for the loss of the Mark of Schleiz to Zichenau twenty years before during the Brocade Wars of the mid-1740s.
The situation intensified when Zichenau recalled its ambassador from Schmitten at the start of June 1768. Pillau-Zerbst and Stollen followed suit, issuing mobilization orders. Neighboring Pillau-Reuss, Werben-Steinau, Tauroggen-Fiebus, and Zeller-Schwartzekatz, watched the developing situation closely from the sidelines.
After much initial shilly-shallying by the respective commanders and their armies, the first battle -- well, action really -- took place during late December of 1768 at Zollamtstadt. There, the Army of Zichenau managed to cross the Lesser Zwischen and establish a toehold in Stollen proper, driving the weaker Stollenians under General von Drosselmaier from that frontier town. Stollen met defeat again in the later Action at Pelznikkel, fought during August 1769, and once more in the Action at Pickelhaubewicz at the end of November that same year before the armies went into their respective winter quarters at the tail end of December.
Fighting resumed the following spring, during April and May of 1770, when General de Latte struck deep into Stollenian territory with a combined force of Zichenauers and Stagonians, achieving another victory at the Battle for Saegewerkdorf. Fortunately, torrential rain and flooding prevented the total destruction of the Stollenian army, but not before enemy soldiers had occupied and dismantled the sawmill whose parts were shipped back to the Electorate of Zichenau. There followed a relatively quiet 14-month period before the two armies met again, this time in July of 1772 at the epic Battle of Teodorstal. It was there, that the Stollenians were finally victorious, following the surrender of General de Latte to Stollen's General von Tschatschke, or that "Flamboyant Silesian" as he is surreptitiously known among his junior officers.
Clearly, this corner of the continent has enjoyed little appreciable peace since the end of the Seven Years War. Despite their current conflict, which some observers have wryly dubbed the War of the Buttons, it seems that the Grand Duchy of Stollen and the Electorate of Zichenau will continue to occupy the fringes of European political and military affairs for the foreseeable future.