Monday, 9 March 2015


.... we're going to have afternoon tea'.
The mood in the council chamber lightens immediately, the assembled councillors agreeing amongst themselves that there is no knotty problem of strategy, no fundamental misalignment in the means, ways, ends relationship, no disharmony between tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war, that cannot be made better by a scone and a cup of tea. As a bell is rung to summon the afternoon's refreshment, Bishop Munschrugge addresses the council expansively:
'What we face, gentlemen, is a difficult problem of strategy. We have King Wilhelm; but now we don't really want him because it would seem that our adversaries are fighting this war slightly better without him. But we can't just give him back, because that would make us look weak. So what do we do? We face, good Sirs, a strategic Gordian Knot.'
'Gordon who?' says the aged Count Beckwurz, Minister for Treacle and Public Education.
'Gordian knot', says von Wornitzdaun.
'He's not what?' says the Count.
Groans and hoots ensue, until someone loudly shouts 'Treacle leakage!', causing the aged Minister to hurry from the room to deal with this presumed crisis.
The Chamberlain arrives, organising the servants as they provide the assembled councillors with high tea: toast, biscuits, and ...
'What's this', says Munschrugge: 'Where are the scones?'
'Well my lord', says the Chamberlain apologetically, 'It seems we have a shortage of scones; so I took the liberty of replacing them with ...'
'Brussels sprouts. Why am I looking at Brussels sprouts', says Munschrugge.
'It's King Wilhelm, my lord', says the Chamberlain. There is a groan from around the table.
'Out with it: what has that Dark Lord of Lard done now?'
'Well, my lord, it seems that he has been whiling away his hours of captivity by engaging in eating games with his guards.'
'His guards?'
'They get bored, sir. Guarding his door seems so pointless because he's too porky to get through it. To open a means of egress large enough from him to escape through would require the use of a substantial piece of siege artillery; and the guards are confident that they could hear the squeaking of the cannon's wheels from some distance away. And if Wilhelm could make a sprint for it, he would be able to escape the pursuit only with a seven month head-start and a system of winches and pulleys that would be very, very difficult to sneak into the prison in a pie.'
'And so his guards saw little harm in humouring him when he desired to engage in a traditional Gelderland eating competition.'
'And it's a competition with scones?' says Munschrugge.
Yes sir - the Game of Scones. You win or you barf, apparently.
'And the prize?
'More scones.'
'I see. Chamberlain...'
'Yes, My Lord?'
'Leave this room and go to the guardhouse. Tell the guards to arrest you and have you executed.'
'Chamberlain?', says Munschrugge, as the Chamberlain walks dejectedly towards the door.
'Yes, my Lord?', says the Chamberlain, turning hopefully.
'Get us some more jam, first.'

Finally, to the late afternoon sounds of birds, distant harpsichord music, and a small firing squad, Bishop Munschrugge outlines his plan: 'Our witless opposition will presume that the campaign season has now ended. But we will surprise them. What we will do is to send messages post-haste to our allies in Grand Fenwick. As soon as our army has recovered, we will order von Rumpfler to march and join up with our allies: this combined force will march rapidly upon Grosschnitzelring, crushing our divided opposition on the way. In the meantime, Colonel Zeigler and a small force of troops will wheel King Wilhelm back to Grosschnitzelring, and, using Ms Hindquarters' information, they will break the King back into the capital city, wedging him into a convenient doorway. Our army will advance upon the capital and lay siege; but with King Wilhelm back in command, Grosschnitzelring should be easier to get into than a butter covered midget. We'll have complete victory and be back in Falkensteinburg in time for tea and scones. Or at least', says Munschrugge, eyeing his plate dubiously, 'tea and a more acceptable scone substitute.'

After a moments silence, the council room erupts into a round of applause.
Von Frerkingheil hops up and down excitedly: 'This is going to be brilliant! Nothing at at all, ever, could possibly go wrong with this plan, my Lord.'
Graf Decksluder groans: 'You had to say it, didn't you Frerkingheil; you just had to go and say it.'

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