Sunday, 19 November 2017

Hubble Blubble!!

Evening is falling. By the side of the main road into Mittelheim, a small group of women are engaged in a vigorous exchange of views. But their language is foreign: English, possibly, with a strong accent from those parts of the British isles known as Scotland. A land where men are men; and women nearly so. There seems to be some dispute. We come closer and notice that there are three of them. Glenda, Shona, and Morag. It is dangerous for women to be alone at night in these dark times. With the Dirty Ears War still ongoing, women run the risk of being abducted by ruffianly vermin from the armies of both sides, and then being forced to do unspeakable things - washing their uniforms, watching them eat with their mouths open, or listening to them trying to sing. But these women probably are safe enough at the moment since they can hardly be seen: the gloom is gathering; the women seem mainly to be wearing black; and, as already noted, times are dark. Their garb is wild and ink-black; their hair unkempt; nearby is a small stack of broomsticks. It would seem, dear reader, that (without wishing to seem judgemental) we have encountered a coven of witches. From the forest a fourth figure steps into view: it is Mary, the last of their number.

SCENE I: A Forest Road. 

There is no Thunder or Lightning

First Witch (Shona):
When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second Witch (Glenda):
When the hurly burly's done.
When the battles lost and won.
But also, let's not meet in thunder, lightning, or in rain. We could just meet at that nice looking tavern house we saw on the way here.

Third Witch (Morag):
That will be the 'Setting Sun'.

First Witch:
Oooh, yes, that was the place.

First Witch:
Upon the heath?

Third Witch:
No, past the bridge and turn left.

First Witch:
Oooh, lovely.

All:
Fair is foul, and foul is fair
Hover through the fog and filthy air

Fourth Witch (Mary):
Why don't I get any lines? I never get any lines. This trip is rubbish. "Learn German, you said. Go to Prussia, you said." Well, we should never have left Eccelfechan.

First Witch:
I know, I know. I realise that this trip hasn't been as successful as we had hoped. Prussia, sadly, has too much embraced the Age of Reason for our particular abilities to be in much demand. But I'm convinced that in Mittelheim our fortunes will be restored. Such a place as this surely will be receptive to our skills. It's backwards, prejudiced, poorly educated, and the toads seem to be very reasonably priced.

Third Witch:
Yes, that's all very well. But with Mary here now there's four of us. It's really quite integral to the whole "three witches" thing that we should number three. Otherwise, it just doesn't work. No one is going to take seriously predictions from the "The Roughly Numbered Three Witches." I mean, if we can't get our own numbers accurate, who's going to take our foretellings seriously?  How is it going to sound if we say "All hail insert name, king it is not implausible ye might be given the favourable machinations of a number of key variables that we haven't quite put our fingers on." No - four witches won't work. And in any case, Mary hasn't really bought into the spirit of our coven.

First Witch:
Come now, we're a "group" not a "coven," remember?

Morag looks at her own gown, which is black and ragged, and then gestures to Mary. Mary pokes out her tongue. Glenda sighs. 'You see Mary, Morag has a point. Witches ... well, black generally is our thing.'
'We need to move with the time,' replies Mary defensively.
'All hail Hunschmausen, for breakfast
eggs ye might have!'
'Oh I agree, I agree,' says Shona, stepping in. 'And you know, I think that we have indeed done that. Remember, we got rid of the hats. And the really big toads.'
'And the warts,' adds Glenda
'And the cauldron,' says Shona.
'That was really heavy,' admits Mary. 'And the problems it caused with portion sizes. I put on at least half a stone.'
'And,' adds Morag, 'I'm not against adding some discrete lace detail around the hems. It's just the  ...' she gestures at Mary's clothes, '... the purple silk brocade, yellow dress, fan, elaborate wig and jewellery.'
'I'm not wearing black,' says Mary with finality. 'It's so seventeenth century.'
'Couldn't you just wear the basic black dress,' says Glenda, 'and then ... accessorise?'
Mary snorts. 'What, add a ducking stool and a restless village lynch-mob?'

Suddenly, from the west comes the gentle sound of a horse's hooves.
'Look,' says Glenda. 'Come on. This is what we do. It'll cheer you all up.'

SCENE II: A Forest and not a Heath

There is no sound of thunder. Enter a Horseman

First Witch:
Where hast thou been, sister?

Second Witch:
Killing swine.

Third Witch:
Sister, where thou?

First Witch:
A sailor's wife had chestnuts on her lap,
And munch'd, and munch'd, and munch'd:
'Give me,' quoth I:
'Aroint thee, witch!' the rump-fed ronyon cries,
Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o' the tiger:
But in a sieve I'll thither sail,
And, like a rat without a tail,
I'll do, I'll do, I'll do

The Horseman:
What's a ronyon? And what happens when one gets arointed?

First Witch: 
A ronyon? Well it's ... it's not unlike an onion. Probably.

The Horseman:
And an arointing?

Second Witch:
Look, I don't think that the actual specifics of an arointing are strictly relevant. I think that one can just assume that being arointed is something best avoided.

First witch:
I myself have all the other,
And the very ports they blow

The Horseman:
Well, you strangely-dressed apparitions. That is all very well, but name yourselves! Why have you waylaid me?

'All hail Hunschmausen, lunch is a distinct
possibility at some time around twelve!'
ALL:
Well, we're witches and we have come to comment upon your fate!

Fourth Witch:
Yes, indeed. With speed because we don't want to be ... er... too late!

First Witch:
Stop improvising, Mary!

Fourth Witch:
But I never get any lines!

The Horseman: 
Out of my way, oddly dressed crones (though I exclude from that last description the youngest of your number who has a most comely ensemble). For I am Baron Munch ... I mean Baron, um ... Hunchmausen, and I am on my way to Mittelheim for some perfectly ordinary reason that no one need pay any attention to.

First Witch:
Nay, for by the pricking of my thumb,
Something wicked has this way come!

Fourth Witch: 
Thank you sir: the purples and yellows of my dress do look well, I think.

Second Witch:
For pity's sake Mary. Look Herr Mister Hunchmausen Horseman, hear now our visions for your future ....












Monday, 13 November 2017

A Mysterious Stranger!

The scene, dear reader: a single horseman clops slowly down a road that leads from some minor Prussian-owned statelet in east-central Europe. Why our weary traveller is upon this road, we do not yet know. Probably he is lost. Or perhaps he is being pursued by some bloodthirsty brigands; or some dangerously hungry local wildlife. A wolf, perhaps. A large one, with something against men in tall hats.  Our horseman's reasons for taking this road must surely be pressing, for the road that he is on is not one that any traveller normally would take voluntarily. If one were to find this road upon a map, one could trace its eastward destination with one's finger. Upon discovering this destination, one would probably be moved to say something such as: 'Turn around! Turn around!''; or 'why has this bit of the map been crossed out and replaced with the words "Best left undiscovered;"or 'who has cut this big hole here in my map ?' Such words would be entirely understandable, given that the destination of this road is the Duchy of Mornig-Hesse-Burcken - westernmost of that collection of electorates, kingdoms, bishoprics, pig sties, baronies, mud pits, and landgravates termed by  geographers as "Mittelheim."  And the time: generally, some two months before the encounter between competing freibattalion forces at Donaukerbad, the outcome of which has so recently pleased Prince Dimitri von Osterburg-Feratu, Voivode of Vulgaria. More specifically, the time is sometime before dinner: sufficiently early that one might feel guilty at broaching a glass of wine; sufficiently late that one would drink it anyway.

We continue our perusal. A short time passes. Soon, ahead on the road can be espied a small border post. Our traveller, however, seems unperturbed that he is rapidly running out of Prussia and likely, in consequence, to end up in Mittelheim, a region which, when it was encroached upon by the Enlightenment, had it arrested and beaten for disturbing the peace. The border post itself is not owned by Mornig-Hesse-Burcken. States in Mittleheim realised long ago that the commitment of travellers to entering their region was probably already so low that adding any additional obstacles, such as the need to show papers at the border; to pay customs duties; to pause in order to adjust shoe buckles; or, indeed, to slow down to anything below a gallop, was likely simply to give them an unhelpful opportunity to reconsider their decision to enter Mittelheim at all. So instead, this is a Prussian border post. It's function in part is to offer helpful advice to any travellers going eastwards, on the assumption that anyone wanting to go in that direction is lost or mad (unsurprisingly, a high proportion are both). But the post also serves to offer warm congratulations to any personages heading westwards and leaving Mittelheim.

The object of our study approaches the post and halts to address the two figures manning it. The latter seem to be Grenzers - mercenary Croats. Technically, as noted, this border post does not levy customs duties on visitors. The Grenzers, however, tend to view themselves less as soldiers, per se, and more as an example of the hardworking self-employed. On their own initiative, therefore, they do impose a form of customs duty, it being the custom of the Grenz to introduce visitors to the Croats' duty to relieve them of their valuables. The two Grenzers approach our horseman warily, though. There is something strangely familiar about him.

'Sir, sir, I think that you must be lost,' says one of the Croats to the gentleman traveller. 'Because to go any further eastwards can only lead you to the states of Mittelheim.'
'Indeed, my man,' replies the horseman. 'I am not lost. Now, out of my way for I have urgent business to attend to.'
'But sir, you don't understand, sir,' says the other Croat. 'You've clearly got your map upside down because, although no doubt you intend to go westwards and thus increase the distance between yourself and Mittelheim, you are inadvertently going eastwards, straight into Mornig-Hesse-Burcken and thus the distance is decreasing. You are,' he says ominously, 'getting closer to Mittelheim.'
'Indeed, that is my intended destination,' replies the gentleman.
'Your intended ...?' The Croats look at one another in the same manner as if the traveller had said in a falsetto voice: 'Beware! I have a goblin in my britches. And he's loaded.' One of the Croats begins to inch slowly towards a nearby shovel, in case the traveller needs hitting on his head to let all of the little imps out.
'Indeed, yes, my good fellow,' says the horseman. 'Out of my way, for I have business to attend to,' he points eastwards, 'in those parts.'
'Those parts?' queries a Croat. 'Are you sure, sir, that there aren't any other parts that you'd like to see. In all honesty, sir, from what I've smelt of Mittelheim, a donkey has parts I'd rather visit ...'

Suddenly, however, the other Croat gives out a shout. 'But, sir, I know you! I knew I'd seen you before. In woodcuts! You're famous! You're the famous Baron Munchausen!'
'No, I'm not.'
'You are! You are!' interjects the other Grenz excitedly. 'You so are!'
Our horseman pauses, and then sighs resignedly. 'And what if I am?'
'But you're famous, Baron sir! And rich!'
'I'm not rich. And if I'm famous, it's only because of the lies told by my damned cousin in his silly after-dinner speeches. I've had enough. I intend to find my way to a place where no one can find me, and there I shall make my fortune.'
'But sir - why? You're the talk of Europe!'
'I didn't ask to be.'
'But you're famously amusing, sir!'
'No, I'm not. That's the problem. This is the fault of my damned cousin, Gerlach Adolf: making up stories about me to make fun of my lack of a sense of humour and my complete absence of imagination. But fools believed him and took them seriously!'
The Croats look aghast. 'But, but, Baron, sir! What about your famous love of japery? And your adventures across the kingdoms of this and other worlds?'
'I hate japery. I like long religious sermons. In Latin. And I have never left Prussia.'
'But what about your trip to the moon?'
'I drank five bottles of port. After that, I could float to any heavenly body that you care to mention.'
'And the trip on the cannon ball?'
'Gerlach promised me that the gun wasn't loaded, the bastard.'
'But you picked up a carriage!'
'A marriage.'
'And the hot air balloon made of women's underwear?'
'Not a balloon. My wife.'
'But you were found inside a whale.'
'Again, my wife.'
The Croats look crestfallen. 'And your travels underwater, baron?'
'More port. I fell out of a boat.  It's not a great challenge.'
'But ... the King of the moon: whose head came off and his moon queen wife who loved you!'
The Baron nods. 'Oh, well yes: of course that's true.'
'Hurrah! really!'
'No.'

Dejectedly, the two Grenzers wave our baron onwards. There seems no reason to keep him here. As Munchausen is about to pass, one of the twosome pipes up again: 'So you've really got no funny stories?'
'No,' says the Baron firmly. 'I don't like humour, and I don't like adventure. I do like collecting potatoes and going to bed early.'
'But, you're witty and amusing ...'
'No. I'm Prussian.'
'Come on sir, I bet I can make you smile - two parrots on a perch: one says to the other "Can you smell fish?"'
Munchausen keeps riding.
'No? Nothing?' shouts the Croat. 'Well, how about two cannibals eating a clown: and then one says to the other "does this taste funny to you?" No? Not a glimmer, sir?'
Munchausen trots onwards, leaving the border post behind.

After a way, he halts. Behind, the sound of a cart can be heard. A Prussian farmer has arrived at the border post, bringing pigs to Mittelheim. Munchausen sighs. Looking down at the road, it's clear by the state of the highway where civilised Europe stops and Mittelheim starts. Then, visibly bracing himself, he spurs his horse forwards once again. But why is Baron von Munchausen entering Mittelheim? What is he really fleeing from? And what does he really hope to achieve by entering a region of Europe so backwards that even morris dancing might seem civilised by comparison. Perhaps, dear reader, if we follow the Baron, we might find out .....

Monday, 30 October 2017

Gloria in Fugeret Vulgaria!

"Led by the mysterious Baron Hunchmausen, the enemy hussars began a concerted attempt to cut behind the flank of our infantry (below). Inspired also, no doubt, by the distant sight of our sheep and the floppy hopelessness of our accompanying pandurs, Hunchmausen's squadron prepared to increase their speed to a gallop, our position being everywhere vulnerable to a really good cavalry charge."


"This, of course, helped limit our vulnerability somewhat, since the chances of a really good cavalry charge being launched by any Mittelheim horsemen are somewhat lower than King Wilhelm's self-control in a room full of bosom-shaped custards. Moreover, displaying a quite remarkable element of initiative, Prince Brad ordered his infantry to about face and attack the hussars with the bayonet (below). The energy of our musketeers was matched by that of their commanding officer, Prince Brad being seen to jump vigorously up and down and shout 'Charge men! Charge to a terrible defeat and a miserable outcome!'"
Prince Dimitri waves his hand, trying to silence some duelling clarinets. 'Ah - a masterful attempt at reverse psychology, eh?'


'No,' replies Count von Loon, 'actually it was at that point rather a statement of fact. (Below, left) Alas, the hussars put up too vigorous a resistance, what with them standing and facing towards our musketeers and raising their voices slighty and waving their swords around a bit. As General Rentall's report concludes: "Our infantry were driven back onto the hill. Captain Meyer-Fleischwund was heard valiantly rallying our men, whilst Prince Brad declared despairingly: 'Ha, ha, ha, ha: you're all going to die, you flaccid Vulgarian poltroons!'"


'Flaccid?' asks Dimitri. 'That's rather insulting.'
'But also, my lord, at that stage probably another fair statement of fact. Still, the situation was rescued, by all accounts, through the intervention of Throte's Horse (above right). "Seeing the discomforture of our infantry, Captain von Throte committed his men against the enemy hussars. Having cuirasses, heavy horses, and being trained for just this sort of tussle against men in silly hats, Throte's troops rode down the enemy after a sharp and brutal action. No sign was then seen, however, of the enemy commander, the mysterious Baron Hunchmausen. At this point, Prince Brad was heard to cry triumphantly 'Useless! Useless Vulgarians! I can't even expect you to lose when you're supposed to. That's it - everyone retreat! Flee the battle! Concede the field to the enemy! Throw aside your weapons! Scream hopelessly! Place your thumbs in your mouths and waddle rearwards!' This our troops did, running so fast that it proved impossible for the enemy to catch them. And so ended the battle. Here ends my report. I remain, sir, General Hertz van Rental etc etc. P.S. please send me some more stockings."'

Loon lowers the report.
'Um.' says Dimitri, crestfallen. 'So our troops actually were defeated?'
Loon shrugs. 'Only in a physical and psychological sense, my lord. In terms of the key metric of victory in modern war, by which I mean sheep, it was a solid success.'
'Well, then,' cries the Prince. 'Hurrah to that! Send forth messages to our people! Let the world know of our triumph! And wake Lola up as well - those clarinets have given me an idea!'

xXx

In Gross Schnitzelring, Vlad IX, erstwhile Baron of Herzo-Carpathia wrinkles his brow. 'And you're sure of this news?'
Count Matthias von Sachsenblaus, Gelderland's Minister for War and Strudels, nods. 'The reports are everywhere, baron.'
'So - my son was involved in the enemy victory?'
'Yes my lord. Actually, he was in command.'
'In command?'
'Very much so, my lord. He issued orders. He was in the thick of the fighting.'
'Are you sure he wasn't just running off and that it just looked like he was in the thick of the fighting?'
'No, no, my lord: I am assured that he was a very paragon of soldierly virtue.'
'And you're sure it was him?'
'I think so, sir.'
'Because he has such bland features, it could have been anyone ... '
'No sir. He was instrumental to the Vulgarian success. He gave the decisive order for the Vulgarian army to run off.'
'Well, well. A chip off the old block.'
'Yes sir. Which is ironic, given that you named him after a tree. Of course, since he commanded the enemy forces, he lost the battle for our side.'
Vlad shrugs. 'Hmmmm, so he's a work in progress. Well, this is a new feeling.'
'That might be the prunes. Should I call for the physician again, baron?'
'No, no: I mean Sachsenblaus, that when I think of my son at this moment, I don't feel an urgent desire to have him executed - I feel only a mild and general disappointment. Could this be fatherly pride?'
'As a father myself, baron, I'd say it was possible. Though I'd still say there's also a strong chance that it's the prunes.'



Monday, 23 October 2017

Gloria in Extremis Vulgaria!

Count von Loon gestures. 'In the distance, it seems, our forces could see the movement of a squadron of enemy hussars. And of course, when hussars are present upon the battlefield, then adventure, daring exploits, and incidents of colourful livestock molestation, are sure to follow.'
'How exciting!' says Prince Dimitri. 'Did they charge upon our forces, only to be driven off after a sharp bout of heroic fighting at close quarters?'
'We shall see, my lord, as I continue reading General van Rentall's account of the action. As an aside, though,' says Loon, musing, 'I should say that that outcome would always strike me as highly unlikely. In my experience, close quarters combat in the Wars of the Gelderland Succession seems mainly to involve idle threats, a few harmless, if rude, hand gestures, and some commode-related accidents the main casualties of which are the britches of the troops involved. The combat itself generally is less dangerous to the troops than the beatings, delivered by officers, that are required to get the men to advance in the first place. But still, I digress, my Prince. Rentall's report continues thus:'

'"With our left and right flanks creditably encumbered with sheep and other livestock (the identification of which was less subject to local consensus) it became doubly important that the four companies of our infantry deployed under Prince-Bishop Brad should hold firmly the centre of our position. The likelihood of this became more doubtful when, in addition to determining the presence of enemy cavalry, our musketeers were confronted by the converged elements of the enemy's centre and left. These deployed into a long firing line and proceeded to engage our forces (below)"


"According to our intelligence the Wurstburp left, comprising of the first four companies of Infantry Regiment No.1, was under the command of Colonel Otto Ernst von Woebbling-Lippe, with his second-in command being Captain Jurgen Daun. The Wurstburp centre was made up of the three remaining companies of IR No.1, commanded by Colonel Frederic Eben von Trumpenbad, and a certain Captain Zapt. Also attached to Trumpenbad's force was a squadron of hussars commanded by a recently arrived and mysterious officer by the the name of Hieronyous Karl Friedrich, Baron von Hunchmausen. Colonel Woebbling-Lippe it would seem was a true officer of the Enlightenment. As his troops wavered under the fire of our infantry, he restored discipline by threatening to lighten his musketeers by removing from their bodies the heavy encumbrance of their heads (below)."


"With order thus restored, the Margravate's musketry began to have a telling effect upon our troops. By all accounts, Prince Brad's response to this was somewhat unconventional, him being heard to rally the troops with the comment: 'Marvellous, soon my position will collapse and a stinging defeat will be inflicted on the vile Vulgarian usurper Dimitri."'
'What?' cries Prince Dimitri.
Loon gestures placatingly. 'He probably meant some other Prince Dimitri who also by some coincidence has recently taken over the throne of a small European statelet. Anyhoo, the report continues:'

'"Our return musketry inflicted little damage. Colonel Trumpenbad's command in particular remained in good order. The looming threat to our position was that the Margravate's infantry, their cardio-vascular fitness forged historically in the heat of a great deal of long-distance running to the rear, would begin to apply this advantage through a rapid advance to the front and strike us with the bayonet."


"However, as both sides traded volleys, Colonel Trumpenbad was seen meeting with Captain Zapt (above). Evidently, the good colonel is an exemplary soldier of the Age of Reason, for, reasoning that such an advance might be a tad dangerous for an infantryman, he issued orders instead for his hussars to advance at the canter; concluding, no doubt, that whether his cavalry rode down our infantry and slaughtered them or the hussars themselves were instead cut down like fur-coated dogs, these were both outcomes likely to improve the morale of his own musketeers. Despite Baron Hunchmausen's claim that he could see no canter to advance at, the enemy hussars soon found themselves  advancing rapidly towards our position. It was then that Captain Meyer-Fleischwund reportedly noticed a slight problem with our deployment, a problem most associated with the words 'flank' and 'open.' This moment was then accompanied by Prince Brad's loud shout of 'Bravo! Our defeat is inevitable! Men, I suggest it is time for you to place down the back of your britches any spare reading material that you might have lying around - because I predict that you are about to be subject to a royal spanking! Hurrah!"

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Gloria in Anates Vulgaria!

'"On our right," continues Count Arnim von Loon, reading from Van Rentall's report, "our force consisted of Vulgarian freibattalion foot commanded by Colonel Dieter Wilhelm von Offte-Ruthe. Colonel Offte-Ruthe's column comprised of  two companies of Pandur infantry and one company of Pandur skirmishers. Also attached to this force was a cavalry squadron under the command of Captain Jacobus von Throte: a squadron known as 'Throte's Horse'. Scouting ahead, these troops found a little known route that brought them into play much further up the battlefield than the enemy expected (below)."


'"At this stage, our forces had yet to encounter any of those of the enemy, a condition of battle particularly suited to the Vulgarian way of war. Colonel Offte-Ruthe ordered Throte's Horse forwards to cover the centre of the battlefield, whilst the three companies of Pandurs moved swiftly up the right flank towards a small farm. The farm itself seemed to have within its bounds either some sheep, or some very short, very old peasants, bending over. First to reach the farm were the skirmishers thanks to their agility and also the frequency with which the rest of the column seemed to halt to "do up their shoebuckles," buckles which seemed, in any locale remotely in the vicinity of the enemy, to come loose with remarkable frequency. Colonel Offte-Ruthe's second-in-command, one Captain Janke, recounted after the battle his conversation with his light troops as they first espied the contents of the farm's fields. Within it, there were some sheep, but also some other creatures that caused the light troops some puzzlement:

'What do you mean "Are those sheep?'" asked Janke, in reply to a question from a soldier. 'What do you think that they might be?'
'I think that they might be sheep, sir,' replied a Pandur. 'I mean - I'm fairly sure. I don't think that they're horses because we tried riding one and it didn't work.'
'So your definition of a sheep is anything that isn't a horse?'
'It's quite a general definition, sir, but you'd be surprised how often it's right.'
'I certainly would,' replied Janke sighing. He then asked of the soldier: 'You're not acquainted, then, with the Enlightenment and associated principles such as the application of reason?'
'Oh no, sir. I have some acquaintance with lights, obviously, though I try not have them near me when I happen to go courting. But I've certainly never tried raisins.'
'Well,' replied Janke,' and leaving aside your spurious reference to dried fruit; I have some acquaintance with reason, and one of its key principles is the application of evidence. So, if we apply this to our current situation. The first point of evidence is that sheep have four legs, whereas these creatures have two.'
'But we haven't got any currants at all,' said the Pandur, confusedly. 'But then, is that why we have to apply raisins instead?'
'What? No, no, no! Reason. We apply reason. So, if we apply it to ... this situation then the first point of evidence is that sheep have four legs, whereas these creatures only have two.'
'But,' said the Pandur. 'I have two legs.'
'Which means?'
'I'm a sheep?'
'Or ... ?'
'Or ... I'm a horse?'
'Could one of your companions ride you?'
'I wouldn't like to say, sir.'
'Very well, a second clue would be that sheep go 'baaaa,' whereas, if I'm not mistaken, these "sheep" are actually making a mysterious quacking sound. Which might mean that ....?'
'These sheep are slippery customers, sir, and know how to throw us off.'
'Or ... ?'
'Or ... these are ... are ... not sheep?'
'So, they're not sheep.'
'Notsheep? Well, I've never encountered Notsheep before.'
'But,' sighed Janke, 'I'm presuming that you've encountered ducks, no?'
'Oh yes,' replied the Pandur. 'Obviously. Everyone knows what a duck is.'
'So ... ?'
'These damnable sheep are pretending to be ducks?'
'It's close enough - take them as well,' added Janke. 'Oh,' he added, seeing a pig. 'And take that ... horse ... as well.'"

Prince Dimitri quaffs contentedly, waiting for the orchestra to cease a particularly vigorous triangle solo. 'I sense another victory in the offing!' he says delightedly.
Loon gestures placatingly. Raising his voice to cover the sound of the triangulist, who is now trying to destroy his instrument by bashing it into the ground, he continues 'We shall soon see, my lord. Let me continue with the report.'


(Above) 'Van Rentall goes on: "The farmyard related antics perpetrated by our Pandurs were interrupted by the sudden arrival of four companies of Wurstburp's Infanterie Regiment No. 1. By "sudden arrival," of course, I mean that their presence had been evident for an hour or so, but that the Pandurs' attention had been focused on watching what they regarded as the miraculous sight of sheep that paddled on water. Still, Colonel Offte-Ruthe nevertheless was able to form a skirmish line behind a nearby hedge. Using the fire from these troops, and the stern threat posed by Throte's horse, the remaining Pandurs began to retreat with their sheep. At this point, the centre column of our forces had arrived upon the battlefield."

Loon interrupts his reading of the report and shows Dimitri one of the woodcuts. 'See, sire, if you look at this woodcut (above), behind Throte's Horse and to the right, one can espy the left-most of the Vulgarian centre column, which consisted of four companies of the regiment Blasco commanded by Prince Bishop Brad von Schnail und Planck and a captain named Heinz Erich von Meyer-Fleischwund.'
The Prince wrinkles his nose. 'And no one recognised him as the actual Prince Bishop Brad von Schnail und Planck?' (Below).
'Apparently not, sir: seemingly it was assumed that he was just another Prince Bishop Brad von Schnail und Planck who, presumably, spent much of his life embroiled in socially awkward situations caused by the remarkable similarity that his name bore to the repellent, and often semi-naked at gatherings, form of Prince Brad, son of Count Ivan.'
'And also, of course,' adds Dimitri, 'the problems of looking exactly like the actual Prince Brad, as well as being, in addition, actually Prince Brad.'
'Well yes, sir. That too,' says Loon, looking searchingly at his feet. 'I suppose so. But as the report indicates. Meyer-Fleischwund did have some suspicions. As the report indicates .....'


'"Noticing the remarkable similarity that his new commander bore to Prince Bishop Brad von Schnail und Planck, the captain asked searchingly: 'Are you Prince Bishop Brad von Schnail und Planck?' to which his commander replied: 'No - I think you'll find I'm taller.' Reassured, the captain set about helping Prince Brad deploy the troops at their disposal. With the arrival of the Wurstburp regular infantry, it seemed expedient to lay out our troops in a blocking position on a low hill. This was soon completed, Prince Brad apparently commenting: 'Excellent! And now, at the opportune moment, I shall order these Vulgarian troops to run away, thus handing victory to Wurstburp.' The captain thought that this was an odd thing to say, but, his eyes streaming from a dose of snuff, it was some time before he was in a position to interrogate the Prince with a perceptive 'Um, that's an odd thing to say.' The Prince, apparently, replied: 'Just joking,' and also 'You know that's not snuff, right? Those are raisins.' At this point, with the enemy beginning gently to probe the front of our position, and the captain probing deeply into his nose for dried fruit, there came from the left of the enemy line the sound of galloping horses "'
'Hmmm,' says Dimitri. 'That's never good ....'

Friday, 29 September 2017

Gloria in Gemma Corona Vulgaria!

'"Run!" shouted the men of the Fifth Company of the Regiment Blasco. "Hasten! Hurry! Scamper! Bolt! Flee! Fly! Escape!"'. Count Arnim von Loon pauses. 'So you can see, sir, that it was, alas, a really very comprehensive retreat by Major Koch's lead element.'
'Depressing', sighs Prince Dimitri Feratu und Osterberg. 'But at the same time, not wholly unexpected. It does seem, my good count, that from the fruit bowl that is Mittelheim soldiery, we do seem to have chosen a superabundance of lemons.'
'Sadly true, my Prince,' replies the Count. 'Still, as the report goes on to note, though one company was soon in flight, the Major was able to order up his remaining two companies and thus seal off the enemy advance' (Below).


 'Really?' asks Dimitri.
'Oh yes, sir. It says here: "Though one company was soon in flight, the Major was able to order up his remaining two companies and seal off the enemy advance". The report then goes on to say: "With the Sixth and Seventh companies formed into line, there followed an extended period of stalemate, in which both sides fired occasional volleys. In the intervals, our troops goaded the enemy: hurling oaths upon them, questioning their parentage, waggling at them various bodily appendages, casting aspersions upon their ability to organise alcholic frivolity in an establishment for the production of fortified beverages, and mocking their mistaken apprehensions as to what might comprise the most credible theoretical basis for the analysis of international relations.'
'That sounds ... rather highbrow', replies Dimitri with surprise.
'I suspect, sir, that that would be the influence of Captain Spank. He is reportedly a most learned officer, and spends most weekday nights with his nose in one book or another.'
'Hmmm', says the Prince. 'With a name like "Captain Spank", one might presume that his evenings might be occupied with other sorts of activities.'
'Well, sir,' says Loon reflectively, 'I suppose he still has his weekends. Alas, however, it would seem that Kock's position on the left then began to crumble.' (Below)


Loon continues. 'Sadly, it would seems that the enemy freibatalion had rather more vim and vigour than one might normally expect from such a slovenly band of quasi-irregulars. Their fire became disconcertingly accurate and our troops began to waver. Then, just when our troops most required the application of some strong leadership, or at least some suitably uplifting threats to reduce measurably their time on earth,  a most unfortunate incident occurred. An enemy musket ball struck Major Kock in his *cough* unmentionables.'
The Prince frowns. 'His *cough* unmentionables?'
'Yes, sir, you know ...,' Loon points downwards.
'No, not really, because you seem explicitly intent on not mentioning them.'
'You know,' Loon gestures. 'His gentlemen's ... parts.'
'Oh ... I see.' Dimitri looks suitably sympathetic. 'Well, that would be quite a shock. I suspect that, given Major Koch's name, that his um ... crown jewels ... were quite a large target.'
Loon shakes his head. 'Au contraire, my lord. In yet another example of those strange ironies that persist in Mittelheim, if the Major's ... fruit and vegetables had indeed been crown jewels, then they would have been those of a rather small and poverty-stricken monarchy from eastern Europe. Anyway he fled the battle on his horse, and our remaining musketeers followed.'
'So our left was broken and we lost?'
'Well sir, yes and no.'


(Above) Loon gestures. 'Because, whilst the Croats thus far had made a contribution to the battle as timely and effective as something that was very ineffective and not at all timely, they are very good with livestock and furniture. So, whilst all of our regular troops ran off, the Croats did, whilst everyone ignored them, succeed on the left in obtaining our key objectives, which was two flocks of sheep, as well as a reportedly lovely little side table which one of the men wanted to marry. As the report notes, "With our primary objectives achieved on the left flank, our forces conducted a skillful withdrawal in the face of the enemy. Major Kock valiantly led the withdrawal, motivating his men with cries of 'Bloody Hell! Find me a physician! Keep the swelling but get me something for the pain!"'
'Hurrah!' cries Dimitri. 'Less musketeers, more sheep - that seems to be the route to victory. And were our forces in the centre and on the right equally as wildly successful as Major Kock?'
'Well sir,' says Loon. 'Let me read you the next part of the report ...'

Monday, 25 September 2017

Gloria in Pastillus Vulgaria!

'Wait, my lords! Wait!' shouts a chubby servant, bursting through the door.
Von Loon claps delightedly. 'Excellent! Excellent!'
'What's this?' asks Prince Dimitri.
The servant hands Loon a thick bundle of papers. 'My lord,' replies Loon. 'Realising that we had no first hand woodcuttings of the actions at Donaukerbad, I took it upon myself to commission a local artist to complete some illustrations inspired by the battle report and, where appropriate, by his imagination. By a stroke of luck he has completed them in the very nick of time!'
'Well, that is splendid,' says Dimitri rubbing his hands. 'Now we have music and pictures! If those woodcuts contain some inappropriate nudity and some clever visual jokes involving the rude application of cucumbers, then this really could be my perfect evening!'
'Well, my lord, I don't think that you should get your hopes up because ... oh, hang on.' Loon peers at some of the pictures and then recoils, alarmed. 'On the other hand, my lord, you might well be in luck. But I think you'll need a stiff drink.'
The Prince gestures. 'Save those for later - let's have the report, along with the other wood cuts: whittle them down so that we only have to look at the best.'
'Of course, sir', says Loon. 'I'll just remove those that have too many ... pixies,' he says, removing a fat sheaf of papers; 'and also those with ... giant pigs, probably,' he removes another portion of the pictures; 'and also those that contain ... armadillos, possibly,' he removes most of the remainder. Von Loon sighs. 'I think, my Prince, that it's fair to say that the artist might have focused on a balance between fact and imagination weighted in a way that I had not, perhaps, anticipated. Still, let us commence.' Loon takes a deep breath, and begins ...


'Our forces comprised three elements, and I shall begin with the report of the activities of our left wing. These forces comprised (above) one company of Croat mercenaries and three companies, the 5th, 6th, and 7th, drawn from the Regiment Blasco. These troops were under the command of Major Rupprecht von Koch and Captain Willi Spanck.
'Ah,' interrupts the Prince. 'Major Koch. No doubt a brave, educated, subtle leader; well-versed in the ways of Enlightenment warfare.'
'Yes,' replies Loon. 'He's brave, very brave.'
Loon then continues. 'The Croats, more enthusiastic about sheep than was perhaps warranted by their status as tasty food, were detailed to cross into the environs of Schloss Donaukerbad and requisition there the livestock that were believed to be present. Of the reminder of the force, the 5th company was detailed to move forward to cover the main possible line of enemy advance. The remaining two companies were held in reserve. (Below) Soon, movement to our front indicated the arrival of enemy forces.


These were quickly identified as four companies of freibattalion infantry from the Margravate of Wurstburp. It was known that these forces were under the command of one Sigbert Clemens von Mausfahrt, colonel in the Wurstburp army.'
'It was known?' asks Dimitri.
'Oh yes,' says Loon. 'The report notes that General van Rentall obtained a complete set of the enemy's orders thanks to the operation of our intelligence network.'
'Our intelligence network?' enquires the Prince, evincing the predictable Mittelheim scepticism at any tale of efficient military staff work.
'Well, a Wurstburp staff officer sold a local tavern wench a complete transcript of their orders for two pints of ale. We bought them off her for a mop and a fruit pie.'
'A fruit pie?'
'I know sir - we were diddled: but I wasn't there to ensure that we got the proper value. Still, though we were a fruit pie down, we did at least have the enemy orders.'
'Isn't that very, very useful?'
'In Prussia, where they tend to obey orders, perhaps so. In Mittelheim, my lord, not so much. But still, we did get as much of an understanding of the enemy order of battle as they had. Which is to say, a rather general and hazy one.'
Dimitri nods. 'Fair enough: continue.'
(Below) 'At this point, there began a general fire along the line, with 5th company engaging two companies of enemy freibattalion in a duel of musketry.'


'But weren't our troops outnumbered?' cries the Prince. 'By at least ...' Dimitri's brow furrows, ' ... by at least ... four to one?'
'That is so, my lord. But our troops were regulars. The enemy, however, were merely volunteers: and a volunteer in Mittelheim, as we know, is certainly drunk, and probably also unconscious.'
 'How very exciting!' cries the Prince. In the background, the orchestra reaches a dramatic crescendo, an event that sounds not entirely unlike the noise that might be made by a moderately sized herd of cattle, if they were trapped in a large shed with an impressive acoustic echo, and they were suffering from the onset of an acute bout of digestive trouble.
'And the enemy were driven from the field in disorder,' shouts Dimitri, 'crushed by the weight of musketry from my brave soldiers?'
'Well,' says Loon, gesturing philosophically, 'let's see shall we ...'