Ten years ago, in 1866, European peace was shattered when the Iron Chancellor von Bismarck of Prussia declared war on the Austrian Empire, and moved his fearsome war machine south, intending to roll over the small country of Bavaria on his way to Vienna. The Battle of Konigseig, in which the hopelessly outdated Austrian troops were saved at the last minute by the arrival of the steam-powered Bavarian Aeronavy, King Ludwig bought his country the time it needed to save its skin.
The sinister organization known only as the Illuminati brought together its brightest aspirants to found a Bavarian Cell to deal with the problem. Among its members were the Bavarian Prime Minister Theodore Klein and the Iron Chancellor's right hand man, "Pointy" Helmut von Moltke. A backroom deal struck between the two diverted Prussian ambitions elsewhere - for the time being.
Bismarck was happy to follow his general's advice to take time out to conquer the largely defenceless and neutral Netherlands, and due to the dithering of its allies, notably mighty France which seemed to have lost its taste for war, the conquest went off successfully, the major hitch being when the rogue Prussian patent clerk Friedrich Kasselhof assisted the citizens of Amsterdam in lifting their entire city off the ground and navigating it southward, where it went on to eventually sink in the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile von Moltke and Klein were aggrandizing themselves with their joint foreign policy in Turkey and Indonesia, massacring innumerable savages for their resources and instating Kaiser Wilhelm as the Emperor of Baghdad. But back at home other forces were being stirred.
In Russia, the anarchists had found a figurehead in a man named Karl Marx, leader of a shadowy cabal which included such bogeymen as Friedrich Engels, John Lenin and the Red General. Intent on spreading their reign of terror throughout the civilised world, they deceived the Tsar into mobilizing his troops against Prussia. Fortunately for that country, the true enemy of Russia was quickly revealed to be France, when a French agent provocateur infiltrated the Tsar's summer home, slept with his daughter, shaved his beard with an epee and left him inextricably tangled up in the Tricolore. Enraged, the Tsar struck a deal with Prussia whereby they would be helped into Scandinavia, a fine base of operations for strikes against the French.
Free from the threat of invasion, Prussia turned its attention southward again. Bismarck would never realize his ambitions of conquest: he died by an assassin's blade, though whether this was instigated by Marxists or one of his most trusted advisers is not entirely clear. Certainly both General von Moltke and the noted philanthropist Baron Brodenbach were swift to attempt to fill the gap left by their beloved superior, and the rivalry between Prime Minister Brodenbach and First General von Moltke reached legendary proportions.
Moltke had the loyalty of the troops, and knew that his military genius could secure the fall of Austria. To divide the attention of the Austrian leadership he helped foment a Hungarian revolution under the charismatic folk hero Miklos Toldi - while the Austrians were occupied in throwing huge quantities of their troops against the fiercely patriotic Hungarian diehards, Moltke was planning a blitzkrieg strike that would bring Austria to its knees in one fell swoop. The duplicitous Theodore Klein was of course nowhere to be seen when his longtime allies in Austria desperately needed his assistance.
Perhaps von Moltke could have gone on to conquer the entire world, but we shall never know. While Austrian negotiators were attempting to cajole him into restoring their nation to autonomy, he met with death by slow poison, upon which tragic incident Prime Minister Brodenbach was unable to find the words to make a comment. Certainly the situation has thrown the Prussian armies into turmoil, and they have retreated from Austria in disarray.
Back in Bavaria, Prime Minister Klein met his comeuppance when shortly prior to his predicted landslide victory in the elections, incontrovertible evidence was delivered to the offices of the Suddeutsche Zeitung that for some years he had been controlling the Bavarian Postal Service in order to blackmail and manipulate his opponents. The polls swung against him, and the Leader of the Opposition won by a landslide. Few now doubt that the country is in the control of Queen Irena, acting as Regent until her young son is of age to assume the throne, following the tragically unlikely deaths of her brother-in-law King Ludwig and her husband Prince Otto.
A final item of great political significance: for a long time France maintained the sanctity of its borders by dint of the devastating Verne Cannons ranged along its border, capable of shelling invading armies with some accuracy from two hundred miles. A freak meteor shower managed to cripple the vast majority of these fearsome weapons, in what was surely a million-to-one chance against.
The key players in Europe then: Prussia, who occupied a full half of Europe only five years ago, but whose future is uncertain since the death of Moltke and the departure of Brodenbach to tour the Americas; France, once indisputably in the best military position in Europe, now dangerously open to Russian attack; Russia, the recently awoken bear, with the largest army ever seen at is disposal; England, whose industrialist Steam Lords have been quiet of late, but whose navy has carved them the largest Empire in the world. The Scorpio-run countries of Bavaria and Hungary have enough in their favour to hold their own in the near future at least. And what of the might of the Americas, or the mysteries of Cathay? Only time will tell...