Friday, 27 November 2020

Once More Unto the Leech!

In Pfeildorff, Prince Rupprecht has spent the morning inspecting the new plague hospital established by Herr Hans Klenser, his chief medical officer. 'Inspecting', though, is probably too active a term for Rupprecht's efforts, which could more accurately described by terms such as 'loafing', 'laughing', and 'snoring'. Left to his own devices, there is very little that the prince has an interest actively in inspecting, unless those things are on top of a plate or under a corset. Rupprecht's advisors, however, have convinced him to at least make the effort in order to give his subjects the impression that he cares about them, even if that care seems to be expressed in an utterly indifferent way. The plague has hit the town hard. In addition to the large numbers of citizens that have expired, the interruption of commercial activity has caused great financial hardship. Many of the poorest have been reduced to eating their own shoes. Sadly, they don’t always remember to remove their feet first.


(Above) The prince addresses Herr Klenser. 'Klenser, I have spent the morning at your new hospital'.
'Indeed, my lord - and I hope that my progress has pleased you?'
Rupprecht frowns. 'Klenser, conditions at your plague hospital are positively medieval!'
'Medieval?' asks the physician.
'Yes - medieval: you have some explaining to do, chief medical officer!'
'Well I ... I ... have done my best, sire!' replies Klenser.
Rupprecht gesticulates. 'That's my point! You need to explain how things have improved so much! I mean, the hospital doesn't just have leeches, it has a full range of advanced medieval methods - toads, ducking stools - and the trepanning! Splendid drilling! You've brought the practice of medicine in the palatinate roaring into the fourteenth century!'

'You do me too much honor, my lord'.
'No, no, Klenser', says the prince waving his hand at at the doctor, 'never let it be said that I fail to recognise hard work in the service of the state'.
There is an almost audible rolling of the eyes from Rupprecht's grand chamberlain, Leopold von Fecklenburg, who gives a short cough that might also be mistaken for the words 'Me! What about me!'
Rupprecht freezes at the sound. 'Are you unwell, Fecklenburg? You aren't ... infected ... are you?'
'No! No, sire!' says the chamberlain hurriedly, eyeing with some alarm Klenser's attempts to unsheath a meat cleaver. 'I just choked on a ... leech, or something'.

Klenser nods. 'An excellent preventive step, my good chamberlain. Indeed, on that note, my lord, I have been considering the possibility perhaps of instituting a lockdown to control the spread of the plague'.
'Excellent, I love a good drink'.
No, sire - a lockdown: we pass edicts instructing the population to stay in their homes'.
'Excellent - I see too much of them as it is. We should definitely do it'.
'Of course, sire', says Klenser, 'you yourself must set an example'.
'It's a terrible idea', says Rupprecht. 'We should definitely not do it. Anyway, things seem to be progressing perfectly well. Reported incidences of the plague have collapsed!'
'Well, sir, there's nothing like the possibility of a really enthusiatic trepanning to sort out the time-wasters. The numbers of patients in my hospital has reduced significantly'.
'And the the corpses littering the streets around the hospital?'
'My lord, it is a scientific fact that the poor are quite lazy. The state cannot be held responsible if its citizens would rather catch a lethal plague and lie down and die rather than go out and do an honest day's toil'.
'You are a wise man, Klenser - I find your views refreshingly forward-looking'.

'Well, that's that', says Rupprecht, as Klenser wthdraws and Fecklenburg comes forward to converse with the prince. 'Can I go now, Fecklenburg? I've had about all the caring for my subjects that I can take in one morning'.
'Of course, sire. There are, in any case, other issues that we need to discuss'.
Rupprecht flops back into his chair. 'You're surely joking, chamberlain. How many poor people must I smell before I am released from the day's administrative chores?'
'Well, my lord, there are the issues relating to ...', he looks around, and lowers his voice ' ... our business in Schrote'.
'I thought that you said that your Jesuit friend was all over things. When will he contact the bishop?'
'Well, my lord, says Fecklenburg, checking his pocket watch. 'I should say, sir, any time around ... now'. 

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Schrotal Cogitation!

'No! No! No! No! No! This is is completely unacceptable! I must retaliate!'
'Indeed, sire', says Leopold von Fecklenburg, Grand Chamberlain to Prince Rupprecht of the Palatinate of Saukopf-Bachscuttel, 'your lunch was indeed unreasonably small. But I think we should instead focus our efforts on the report from the Zentan ambassador, Ritter von Dweeb'.
Prince Rupprecht has been forced to leave Schloss Tanvaund and return to his capital, Pfeildorff. He is to tour a state of the art plague hospital set up in the town by his chief medical officer, Herr Hans Klenser.
'Dweeb is still alive then?' asks Rupprecht.

The chamberlain nods. 'It would seem so, my lord. You have to admire that back and breast plate of his. But the intelligence that he has sent us is incendiary! It would seem from this Zentan letter that there is a Fenwickian and Zentan plot to force our nobility to have you replaced, on pain of a renewal of the war against us!'
'Replaced?' Rupprecht seems to consider this. 'Would that mean that I could stay in bed for longer?'
'No my lord, because you wouldn't have a bed - they'd take that. And your throne as well'.
Rupprecht reflects on this. 'And my shoes - would they take those?'
'Almost certainly, sir'.
'What about my cufflinks?'
'My lord, I think that we need to focus on the bigger picture here'.
'But, generally Fecklenburg, you're saying that I wouldn't have to do as much work?'
'But they'd take everything, sire! They'd oppress your people ...'
'A bit of light oppression would do most of them some good ...'
'And strip you of your pigs!' 
The prince chokes. 'What! What! Insupportable! This means war! Mobilise the troops! Strip the peasants of their cash! We cannot accept this threat to our royal dignity!'
The chamberlain gestures placatingly. 'It is winter, my lord, and so no war is immediately likely. The threat, I think, will emerge as spring arrives and the campaigning season starts. And anyway, too precipitous a war against Fenwick would be dangerous without allies. We need time to prepare. We need time to develop our stratagems'.
Rupprecht scowls, looking under his throne and then checking his pockets. 'And where will we find these cunning stratagems, Fecklenburg?'

There is a long silence. It is clear that, wherever these clever ideas are to be found, it is unlikely to be anywhere in the immediate vicinity of the prince. Then, Fecklenburg snaps his fingers.
'I've had a thought, my lord! George of Fenwick is to be crowned King of Gelderland in the cathedral in the Bishopric of Schrote!'
Rupprecht nods. 'Didn't I used to be the bishop of Schrote?' he asks sadly.
'Indeed, sir', says Fecklenburg, 'until you were so cruelly stripped of the position in the wake of the latest war'.
'Yes', says Rupprecht sadly. 'I loved that hat'.
'It was so very tall and red', agrees the chamberlain.
Rupprecht sighs. 'Yes, and as a bishop, I was allowed to do all of those naughty things'.
The chamberlain chews his lip. 'I don't think, strictly, that you were allowed to do them, sire: I just think that, as a bishop, you got away with them. Anyway, my lord, a counter-plan is forming in my mind! There might be something that we could do whilst George is in Schrote for the coronation - he would be practically on our borders, and be protected by only a limited bodyguard. We'd need the cooperation, I suspect, of the new bishop of Schrote. We'd have to blackmail or bribe him - probably both, given that he's a bishop'.
Rupprecht nods. 'Have we got anything on him that we can use for blackmail?'
'He's a catholic bishop, sire - it's just a matter of digging hard enough. Hmmm, it just so happens that I play bridge with a Jesuit inquisitor. Let me see what I can rustle up ...'

Sunday, 8 November 2020

With These Chocolates You Are Really Foiling Us!

The trumpeters are at it again. There is a blare of horns, and then both cry out 'Tremble and despair, mortals! Behold, Hospodar Casimir: the Shadow of God, God's Umbrella and Also Possibly His Hat!'
There is a pause. A head pokes itself hesitantly around the door. It is the Bachscuttel ambassador, Ritter von Dweeb. 
'Ah, ambassador - I suspect that you are wondering why we have summoned you here' says Radu Pasha. Two days have passed, and Ritter von Dweeb has finally been induced to appear and present his credentials.
Dweeb steps into the harem and looks around nervously, a sheen of sweat on his face. 'I did wonder why. Because I haven't managed to fill in the paperwork correctly yet to apply formally for a meeting. My .. ah dog ate the forms'.
'Your dog must be getting quite full of such forms by now', says Radu.
Dweeb nods distractedly, glancing furtively around. He seems to relax slightly when he realises that there are, as yet, no immediate signs of any such instruments of torture as hot coals, branding tools, pliers, or English food.

Radu pasha gestures to one of the eunuchs who appears with a tray covered in a pyramid of golden objects. 'The ambassador has provided us with some sweetmeats, my lord. They look all golden. I'm sure that they are delicious'.
'Do try them, my lord', says Dweeb. 'They have been made especially'.
Hospodar Casimir nods. 'Well, you know, I think that I shall'.
There is a moment of silence. Casimir looks at Radu and raises an eyebrow.
'Oh yes, of course, of course, Dread Lord', says Radu hurriedly, 'I should try one first'.
Radu looks speculatively at one of the golden chocolates, and then pops it into his mouth. Before Dweeb can say anything he chews vigorously.
'Aaaak! Aaaaak!' he squawks. 'Eees 'ocolates are orrigle! Aaaak! Aaaak!'
Casimir nods. 'Horrible? Slave Radu, by their look I think that the gold is some kind of foil wrapping. You need to remove it first'.
'Oh. Oh, 'es', says Radu exploring the contents of his mouth with his tongue. 'I 'eed oo sit it at'.
'Well, go on and spit it out then', says Casimir.
Radu looks around. He briefly contemplates the pool but rejects it. He then starts to panic - he isn't sure that there isn't an explicit rule about gobbing half-masticated sweetmeats onto the floor of the harem,* but he is willing to bet that the Hospodar would probably find one if he did.
He looks at Dweeb and gestures. 'Or 'at - I eed or 'at.'
'You need, what? Oh, you need my ... hat?'
''Ive it 'ere'.
Dweeb looks on horrified as Radu takes his hat, deposits the chocolate into it and then hands it back.
The ambassador bows, thanking Radu politely, before contemplating the effect on his very expensive headwear. He sadly tucks it back under his arm, judging that it would be politically inexpedient to punch the Zentan vizier in the face, shove his staff right up his nose, and kick him mightily in his dangley tassels.
Casimir meanwhile is already tucking into the sweetmeats.
'Not bad, not bad' he says. 'With these chocolates you are moderately spoiling us'.

Casimir catches Radu's eye. Radu coughs and then gestures to Dweeb. 'Ah, er, ambassador. Before the Dread Lord Casimir deigns to engage you directly in conversation, you must just wait over there for a minute, out of ear-shot. The hospodar and I must discuss a recently arrived and very secret letter that contains secret and recently arrived ... things'.
Dweeb bows and wanders away (above). As he contemplates the harem's decor, the vizier talks to the hospodar in loud pantomime tones, Radu clearly enunciating such words as 'conspiracy', 'Fenwick', 'absolute secret','must not fall into anyone else's hands ever', and 'ever, ever, ever, ever, ever'.
'You may return, ambassador' says Radu finally, gesturing.

As Radu turns, a letter falls from Radu's grasp and floats downwards, ending up just by Dweeb's foot (above). Dweeb freezes, and then glances around. No one appears to be looking ... He weighs up the chances of getting caught purloining the document against the chance of an intelligence coup that might get him promoted out this ambassadorial role. This mainly involves weighing up the chances of immediate torture versus the much larger number of chances of more torture spread over a longer period of time. Furtively he drops his hat over the document and then, as he bends down to pick up his hat, he also scoops up the letter, which in the process becomes quite chocolatey...


The audience finishes. As soon as Dweeb has left, Radu bows to the hospodar.
'Well, my lord - he took it'.
'Yes, he did, slave. Let us see what happens when our "secret information" is revealed in Bachscuttel!' Casimir pauses. 'The Bachscuttel leader ... you're certain that he can read?'
Radu nods. 'Oh yes'. He considers this further. 'At least, I'm certain that somebody there can'.

*In Fenwick, of course, there are strict rules against the use of the word 'masticated', half or otherwise. 

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Zenta Letter Too!

Casimir purses his lips. 'Well, let's have it then, slave Radu. What do they want? We're up to date with our tribute, and if they don't like the devshirme levies that we send for the household troops, then I want to know what else I'm supposed to do with all of those ginger-haired left-handers we find wandering about'.
Radu Pasha fishes a scroll from his robes. 'Dread Lord, it would seem that another campaign against Persia is in the offing. Since peace now reigns in Mittelheim, the Sublime Porte thinks that there is no reason why you can't spare your troops for the fight. The Grand Vizier has ordered that you prepare in spring to mobilise your army and lead it to the muster of imperial troops in Istanbul, in preparation for a march to the Persian border.
Casimir groans. 'Spring break in Isfahan. Lovely. Is everyone else going?'
'I understand, Aweful One, that messages as we speak are landing on the palace doorsteps across the Balkans'.
'Persia', says Casimir, angrily. 'Persia', he says again, as if trying the word on for size. 'Persia, Persia, Persia'.
Radu nods sympathetically. 'I remember, Lord, that you have been there'.

The Hospodar nods wearily. 'I have. It's too hot in the summer, and it's too cold in the winter. Spring is too much like autumn; and autumn is too much like sitting on an ice block while hostile locals pelt you with scorpions. It's as unpleasant as England, but with more aubergines. But really, the main problem with Persia is that it is full of angry, angry Persians. No, I don't think that we really want to go to Persia'. Casimir subsides into resentful silence. 
There is some splashing and then some raucous giggling from the pool.
'Stop that!' shouts Radu to the miscreants, 'the under sevens are in there tomorrow'. He then waits as the the hospodar cracks his knuckles.
'Lately', says Casimir slowly, 'being hospodar has been really rather trying. And now, Istanbul is making things even worse. It's even affecting my appetite. Am I losing weight?'
'Surely not lord!' replies Radu, feigning a shocked tone. Actually, Casimir has looked a little leaner of late. However, Radu isn't fool enough to say so. The hospodar is sensitive about his weight - or rather, any indication that he lacks it. The hospodar is keenly aware that losing weight would be a dangerous sign of weakness, signalling either either that he could't afford enough food or that he cared what other people thought. In Zenta, it is wise for the ruler to maintain recognisably hospodar levels of corpulence.

'But, Dread Lord, the Sublime Porte's logic sadly is irrefutable. With the situation now so peaceful in the lands of infidel Mittelheim, there is really no reason why we need to keep our army here'.
Casimir gives this some thought. 'Too peaceful to require our army here?' says the hospodar, fiddling idely with one of the tassels on his turban. 'Well, let's see what we can do about that then, shall we?  I have an idea. Where's that Bachscuttel ambassador? Get a scribe here as well - it would appear that we have received another letter! We just need to get the contents right!'

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Zenta Letter!

Now, dear reader, our focus turns to events in the Sanjak of Zenta. Some general background to this area of Mittelheim has already been discussed in this humble publication, as well as a few more details on its nefarious links to Rotenburg. But our concern is rather more specific - it is with the palace of Hospodar Casimir, and that locale known as the harem. The hospodar is technically an Orthodox Christian. But he is technically Christian in the same way that, technically, he rules according to the law.* In this vein, he has actually modelled his court along the lines of Ottoman custom: or rather, the customs that he likes. On this afternoon, Casimir is holding court in the harem (below). In Turkish, harem simply means "private", although in Zentan, it could also be loosely translated as "get your hands off, you dirty pervert". Casimir likes to hold his council meetings here; at least when his wife, Roxanne, is out shopping. 

With the crude cultural stereotyping so typical of europeans, it would no doubt be thought that the harem is a den of oriental debauchery, where sweaty nakedness and unchristan acts of carnal satisfaction take place all day, every day; or for at least as long as the participants can bear the chafing. But this would not be true. Such things take place only on Thursday mornings after 11. On Mondays,  for example, the pool is used for under-sevens' swimming. And on Tuesdays, the harem is the location of a usually well-attended coffee morning -  although, to be fair, this mainly involves all the activities of a Thursday, but with the addition of hot beverages.

Casimir's careful cogitation is rudely interrupted, as the doors fly open, and his ceremonial trumpeters announce the arrival of a visitor (Above). Casimir winces at the noise. It is Casimir's vizier, Radu Pasha (below). Radu bows low and approaches.'You seem tired, Dread Lord', says the pasha. After several years as vizier, Radu has learnt to become sensitive to the hospodar's moods. Radu recognised early on that Casimir was that worst kind of bloodthirsty psychopath - the sort that was intelligent and intermittently quite nice. Staying on the right side of the hospodar Radu decided was important, especially if he wished to continue to perform such important tasks as providing advice, and staying alive. In fact, Radu actually has great respect for Casimir. The hospodar may indeed often be violent, bloodthirsty, and judgemental; but balance and open mindedness won’t get one far in Zenta. Politics in the sanjak is like a knife fight in a water closet. One doesn’t survive as hospodar for as long as Casimir has by fairness and "seeing both sides of things": unless, of course, by "seeing both sides", we 
mean having an opponent sawn down the middle and then looking at the results.

'You have a hangover, Dread Lord?' asks Radu solicitously.
'In a manner of speaking, slave Radu', replies Casimir. 'The hangings over-ran, so I really didn't get to bed early enough'.
'Did you hang them all, Awful One?' asks Radu. 'I thought that you intended to release some of them because there was no evidence against them?' 
'Yes, but then I decided that the gurgling noises would improve my mood', replies Casimir. 'Besides which, slave, evidence or not, they were all guilty. This is Zenta. Almost everyone here is either actively plotting against me or plotting to have a plot. Ask any random subject of mine if they want to do some plotting against me, and I know that, rather than saying "Nay, nay, let me not betray my lord, where is my honour", they would say instead something like "How much does it pay and what are the hours like?" 
'But, Dread Lord, if being more discriminating with prisoners would help to get you to bed earlier ...'
'How long have you known me, slave Radu?'
'Four years, Dread Lord', replies the pasha. 'The happiest and most rewarding of my life', he adds quickly.
'And how would you characterise me?'
'Well, Dread Lord, aaah ... oooh ... it's so difficult to ... to put into words'.
'Come on - it's not a trick question', says Casimir, a sure sign that it is probably a trick question.
'Well, Aweful One, I would say that you are a sovereign who, when it comes to making omelettes, understands that one needs to break a few eggs'.
'Yes, breaking eggs is necessary. And also boiling them, skinning them, hammering them, and then displaying the results for several days at strategic points throughout the Sanjak. Anything less than disproportionate and indiscriminate violence I think my subjects would see as weakness and a sign that I was mellowing'.

Casimir yawns. Radu waits patiently. 'On the subject of hangings', says Casimir, 'I haven't yet seen a sight of the new ambassador from Bachscuttel'.
'No, Magnificant One. He arrived last week; but he is the most reluctant applicant for an audience in court that I have seen for some time. He goes through the motions of applying to see you, but he keeps losing the paperwork, apparently. He has also made the point that he is undoubtedly the most boring man in Bachscuttel, and that no sane ruler would want to talk to him, and he says that it is likely, anyway, that he is suffering from the plague, or something worse'.
'That's a shame', replies the hospodar. 'I'll wager that breast and back plate of his might heat up nicely'.

'Anyway', adds Casimir, looking at Radu, 'I suspect that this polite preliminary circling of the issues means that there might be some bad news in the offing?'
Radu nods and gulps. 'We have been sent a letter, Terrible One. From the Sublime Port'.

* The sanjak tends to work according to the principles of cutomary law - that is, things are lawful if the hospodar customarily likes to do them.

Friday, 16 October 2020

With This Appointment You Are Really Spoiling Us!

Prince Rupprecht scowls.
'And who the devil is this, Fecklenburg?'
'It is I, Bastian, Ritter von Dweeb, you most potent highness', says the new visitor.
Fecklenburg gestures towards Dweeb. 'It is as we were just discussing, sire. See, here is the fellow that we were just talking about'.
'My father?'
'No, my lord. We talked about your father yesterday. I mean just now. Just this minute'.
'Martin Luther?'
'No, my lord. We talked about Luther more than a year ago. I mean literally, mere seconds ago, we were talking about Dweeb here'. 
Rupprecht's face contorts. Either he is thinking hard, or having an aneurysm. Possibly both. 'No, I've got nothing, Fecklenburg - you'll have to give me a clue'.
'It is Ritter von Dweeb, sir. You are going to tell him that you have appointed him to be your ambassador to the Sanjak of Zenta'.
Rupprecht's face contorts again. 'Fecklenburg, you know I hate cryptic clues - just tell me who this is and what he's doing here'.

(Above) Dweeb utters a groan. 'My lord! Zenta? Have I upset you in some way, sire?'
Rupprecht suddenly nods vigorously. 'Yes, that's right! Dweeb! Zenta! Ambassador! Well, you got there in the end, didn't you Fecklenburg!'
The ritter looks extremely downcast. He has struggled for many years to make his way through the Byzantine intricacies of the Bachscuttel diplomatic service. His success thus far in the face of the cut-and-thrust of court politics can be explained by his caution and by the fact that he wears a back and breast plate.
'Yes Dweeb! Rejoice, for you are to be my new ambassador to Zenta!'
Dweeb gulps. 'But it's really dangerous there, sire!'
'Fecklenburg says that it's perfectly safe!'
'Well', says Fecklenberg interrupting, 'I think that I actually said that it was 'generally safe'.
'But the hospodar bites!' cries Dweeb.
'Fecklenberg says that isn't true'.
'It generally isn't true, sir'.

Dweeb snuffles. 'He bit the Venetian ambassador'.
'Everyone bites the Venetian ambassador' says Rupprecht. 'That's practically his only purpose. I myself have been tempted on occasion to have a nibble'.
'But I won't be safe. I'll say something perfectly innocuous, and then Hospodar Casimir will fly off the handle. And then he'll probably take the handle and hammer it right up my ...'
'Those rumours are lies', says Rupprecht firmly. 'Generally lies' he adds quickly with a jaundiced eye on Fecklenburg.
'I think, sire, that those rumours actually are generally true', says the chamberlain.
'Look', says the prince, losing control of his italicising, 'Dweeb, someone has to go. Many of those that have been there say that the hospodar actually is a very jolly fellow and that their time there was great fun'.
'Some of those say that', says Fecklenburg.
'Those that still have their tongues, no doubt', Dweeb adds. 
'It will be fine. Besides, you've got your back and breast plate'.
'That won't help me, sire, from the threats that emanate from ... below'.
'Listen Dweeb, one way or another, you're going to Zenta to be my eyes and ears'.
'Only for as long as the hospodar lets me keep them', says Dweeb sadly.
Rupprecht waves dismissively at the ritter. 'It is decided. No more discussion. Now, begone father. Fecklenburg will fill you in on the arrangements. I look forward, Luther, to your first report!'

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Medical professional!

At Schloss Tanvaund, Prince Rupprecht of Saukopf-Bachscuttel has been forced yet again to attend unwillingly to matters of state. This time, Leopold von Fecklenburg, Rupprecht's Grand Chamberlain, is bothering him with issues relevant to the current plague.
'A chief medical officer?' asks the prince, bewildered.
'Indeed, sir. It seemed prudent that you should have an expert advisor on plague-related issues. He is here for you to meet - a noted physician by the name of Hans Klenser'.
Rupprecht sighs. 'If I promise to meet him, will you promise to go away?'
Fecklenburg bows.
'Very well' Rupprecht says wearily. 'Let's have him'.

'Aaaaagh!' says the prince. 'What a horrifying visage, Klenser!'
Herr Klenser bows. 'Thank you, sire: I find that it keeps incidences of illness low'.
'It fights off disease and ailments?'
'No, sir - it makes potential patients too frightened to come and see me. Whenever I appear, rates of reported illness tend to drop off quickly'.
'Since the patients don't get treated, presumably other things quickly drop off as well?'
'It is the way of things, my lord. Life is "nasty, brutish, and short"'.
'The philosopher Thomas Hobbes?' interjects Chamberlain Fecklenburg.
'No', says Klenser. 'my mother - although I think that she was actually describing my father. Anyway, the point is that life is pain'.
Rupprecht snorts. 'Mine isn't. It's actually quite nice'.
The physician nods. 'Oh yes, sir - for the nobility that is so. But for ordinary people life is rather less entertaining'.
'Well', says Rupprecht, 'it serves them right for not working hard enough to inherit their father's wealth'.
Klenser bows. 'I have often had the same thought, sir'.

'Anyway, who's this with you?' asks the Prince. 
'My assistant, sire'.

Rupprecht blanches. 'I must commend you, Klenser, for such an act of charity - to allow such a snaggle-toothed crone, withered and bent with age to accompany you. I'll wager she helps to scare off some of the worst of your patients!'
'She is my wife, my lord'.
To be fair, even Rupprecht is capable of some measure of shame and embarrassment. There is a moment or two of awkward silence before the prince provides the best apology that he can.
'Bloody hell she's ugly', he says solicitously.

Fecklenburg intervenes swiftlty. Rupprecht generally only has two responses to difficult emotional situations: lunch or executions. And since it is too early for lunch, it is better for Herr Klenser that the conversation is moved on.
'Herr Klenser has already formulated some excellent advice on treating the current pestilence', says the chamberlain.
Rupprecht nods. 'Hasn't that Vulgarian minister, Ranald Drumpf, already come up with some perfectly good suggestions: catching the disease in a small net; killing the pestilence by snorting mouse traps; or having a shark eat the affliction out of our bodies?'
Klenser shakes his head wearily. 'I am a medical professional, my lord. Such suggestions are dangerously uninformed hearsay. In such times, we should abide by the clear scientific evidence'.
'Which says that we should do what?' asks the prince.
'Well, my lord, the standard treatment recommended in situations of a pandemic would be a course of leeches'.
'But that's the same treatment that physicians always recommend! I had a bad back and they recommended leeches!'
'A wise choice, sire'.
'But they weren’t even applied to my back! He applied them to my testicles - how was that supposed to help. It really hurt!'
'And did that pain take your mind off the pain in your back, my lord?'
Rupprecht considers this carefully. 'Yes, I suppose that it did'.
'Well, there you go, sir'.

Eventually, to Rupprecht's delight, the meeting ends. A part of his mind registers vaguely that some decisions have been made to which he might have assented; the rest of his brain makes fun of that part and returns to princely ruminations about pigs.
'Excellent!' says Rupprecht. 'So I think we're all done here aren't we?'
'There's just one more thing, my lord', says Fecklenburg.
'It's never ending', groans Rupprecht. 'I've been working for nearly twenty minutes!'