|Silence was only a different form of music. His back straight, Jan let himself engrossed in the harmony of hopeful breaths and the rhythm of pacing steps as they resonated off the walls of the great hall.
The secret knowledge he learned in the Guild of the Royal Trumpeters offered him a raised status and the right to serve the higher ranks. Only the princes and dignitaries of clerical and secular territories could keep trumpeters and kettledrummers. He served William, Prince of Orange, who assumed the task to lead the Dutch in their bid for freedom.
He learned the secrets of his craft, which could decide the fate of wars, through word of mouth alone. Jan swayed slightly on his feet as he remembered the rules of secrecy. No signal could fall in the hands of lay musicians.
He was waiting for his turn, when he would discuss the trumpet calls with the Prince and his captains. Their sound changed before each battle, and the looming fight was no exception.
The man in front of him let little of his inner turmoil show and even less of what he knew transpired in his words.
Winter ended with hope for the Dutch cause. The Prince's brothers recruited six thousand foot soldiers and two thousand cavalry mercenaries. With the Prince's six thousand soldiers, it was a force to behold.
He heard rumors the Prince's coffers were empty, but it must be untrue judging by the confidence in his tone. He had a baritone voice whose rhythm could command man and horse alike, akin to his trumpet.
"Master Jan Claessen, we must discuss the signals now." the Prince's deep voice returned him from his musings.
"Let's discuss Le Marche, La Retraite and Charge. You can settle the rest with my captains." the Prince invited him.
Jan made a deep curtsy with his hat, proudly adorned with the ostrich feather, the sign of the privilege he enjoyed in the Prince's army.
"Please play the signals for me, Master Claessen."
Years of practice chiseled within his mind the "da", "ta", "ton" sounds. He had served on the field of battle and earned his right to teach. Solely one pupil at a time would gain the right to serve the Prince in combat.
The silence fell as he played the notes of his trumpet.
The trumpet’s chant raised above its rhythm in harmony with the warrior soul. It meant to animate the soul of man, and even horses received emotion from it and become more superb and furious, as a nobleman once said.
"This time the Charge ought be powerful, to rise above the Spaniards. Ride to my brothers and let them know of the new signals before we meet to relieve Leiden."
The spring awakened the nature, and grass covered the levees. Flowers dotted the countryside as he rode over the fields of Mookerheyde.
Jan's breath stopped at the sight of the long line of the Spanish army moving away from Leiden. His first thought was that they abandoned the siege. So they did, however, as they headed the same way, he understood it was only temporary.
Jan pushed his horse as fast as he could, but he only arrived in time to prepare his trumpet.
The Dutch outnumbered D’Avila’s army, and the spirits were high when he sounded Porte Selles. The sound of his trumpet was happy and encouraging making his heart soar with it.
"A cheval" the trumpet urged the cavalry to assemble and prepare for the Spanish Army. Men and horses were magnificent and ready for victory.
Jan ignored the out-of-tune murmur coming from the infantry. Were the rumors about Prince's finances true?
His job was to sound the signal with precision, and he would see it done. At Louis' sign, he sounded the powerful call of the charge. His fellow trumpeters caught it and the vibration spread with the speed and power of an earthquake. The cavalry followed it and crushed the outnumbered Spaniards.
The foot soldiers ceased their murmur and charged the Spanish infantry. Victory sounds still lingering in the air died down as the Spanish discipline prevailed.
Jan closed his eyes and tried to block the cacophony assaulting him as Louis' mercenaries were overcome by the better trained Spanish infantry.
The cries of wounded and dying soldiers howled in discordance with the infernal clatter of hooves. The jangling sound of metal on metal increased as the Spanish resilience gained on the unhappy mercenaries looking now only to escape with their lives.
Jan watched in horror as both Louis and Henry fell leaving no one to command the retreat. He raised his trumpet to his mouth ready to sound the Apell Blasen. The Spaniards spilled enough blood and most of the Dutch army lay dead.
As the thundering sound approached, Jan's horse reared. He could sound the retreat, or he could drop the trumpet, grab the reins and follow his horse's instinct.
He put his mouth to his trumpet, and with a lover's kiss Jan told everyone it was over. His horse, now superb and furious, jerked powerfully at the sound of the trumpet and threw him over the sword of a coming Spaniard.
The trumpet fell, and the cacophony dimmed until the music of the silence engulfed him again.