Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Aren't you a little short for a cavalry trooper?

We stand, dear reader, in the inky blackness of the dungeons of Schloss Feratu. From our left, somewhere in the distance of a long corridor, appears the faint glow of lanterns. Soon, the light approaches. It reveals, in the orange gloom, the forms of Dimitri Feratu und Osterberg; his brother, Lucas, and a troop of mercenary dragoons. 
'Hang on - what's this?' says Dimitri, pointing at a small door in the left-hand wall of the corridor. The Prince pauses, and peers into a barred aperture near the top of the door.
There is movement inside and suddenly a female voice  whispers fiercely:
'A rescue! It is a rescue party! Thank the good Lord!' 
There is a moment of shocked silence from the party of soldiers.
'It is I, the Princess Freya', says the woman's voice. 'And now you must save me from the terrible fate that otherwise awaits me at the hand of the fiendish Bishop of Prick!'

In happier days - the dungeons of Schloss Feratu

Shock quickly gives way to an embarrassed silence. 'Well rescue me then', says Princess Freya. 'Get a move on.'
Dimitri then whispers: 'Madam - It's not that we don't want to rescue you, but we are embarked upon an enterprise of heroic adventure and we're a bit short of time'.
'Look' says Princess Freya's voice, 'Just rescue me, sir. It's easy - there's a rubbish chute nearby: we could all slide down it and escape, without any difficulties whatsoever. Probably'.
Dimitri turns and looks at his troop of soldiers. One could, I suppose, try and describe at length the low quality of these mercenaries, but what is the point. Suffice it to say that, in the middle of a terrible European war, with the armies of Prussia, Austria, Russia, France, England, Hanover, Sweden, Saxony and all of the Imperial Circle desperate for new troops, these were the men that were unemployed.
The dragoons return the Prince's gaze with a look that contains the same sort of inquisitive intelligence found in badly educated, hung-over cows.
'No. No', says Dimitri, 'I'm really not feeling a great deal of enthusiasm for that. In any case, my lady, as you can see, we're a bit busy, what with organising a revolution and...'
'I am extremely beautiful and my family are very wealthy'.
'... on the other hand, let me bring my lantern up to this grille and set eyes upon you'.
A shape appears near the door.
'Excellent. Now get out of the way, old crone, so that I can see your mistress, the lovely Princess Freya'.
'But it's me'.
'Kiss me - you know you want to'
Dimitri recoils. 'Madam, I fear that you have been here for quite a while'.
'Kiss me', the Princess croaks, urgently.
'No, my lady - for I fear that our moustaches might get fatally entwined'.
There is an embarrassed silence.
The Princess continues: 'I'll let you touch me'.
Dimitri shakes his head, vigorously. 'No, madam. Something might fall off'.
'I have miniscule undergarments cunningly fashioned from chain mail - hang on, just give me a minute and I'll ...'
'No! No!', gulps Dimitri, 'Look, we'll come back for you -  I give you my word, as a Prince, and an Osterberg, and, most importantly, as a Vulgarian'. As the Princess wails, Dimitri leads his small force on into the Stygian dark.

'We're never going back for her, are we', says Lucas, as the group pauses at an unexpected intersection.
'Of course, we are - I promised', says his brother.
'No - never. We're never going back'.
By the light of their lantern, the two peer at a small map. Suddenly, there is a rush of footsteps: with urgent cries, swords are drawn, and from the left hand corridor a swarm of armed men confront Dimitri and his company. For a moment, the two sides are frozen, like a tableau from the gardens of the Burgrave of Nabstria (but with less ducks, and a lot, lot cheaper). Pistols and swords point menacingly.
With a loud round of 'Har! Hars!' a tall fellow pushes himself to the front.
His large hat, tattoos, and belt full of loaded pistols indicate straight away that he is a pirate and also that he places less emphasis than he should on sensible health and safety precautions. His crew behind are a likely lot, even in the bad light. They might be taken for a swarm of armed rats if weren't for their size and the fact that rats would certainly have better groomed whiskers.
The fellow eyes Dimitri's company. 'Well', he says, 'You look too alert to be guards'.
The dragoons look back blankly, like salamanders confronted by Lutheran critiques of reformed theology.

Then, Dimitri, sweeping off his tricorne, bows low, stiffly.
'I am Prince Dimitri of the house of Feratu und Osterberg, and I am here to liberate Schloss Feratu and take prisoner the fiend that is the Bishop of Prick'.
There are loud 'Har! Hars!' from the scurvy vagabonds to his front.
'And I am Hans Hohenlohe', cries their leader, sweeping down his hat (which also seems to carry with it most of his hair). 'And I am here to rescue the beautiful Princess Freya'. There are more 'Har Hars!'
'What', says Dimitri coldly.
'Rescue the beautiful Princess Freya!', says Hohenlohe, almost drowned out by more 'Har Hars!'
'For pity's sake', cries Dimitri, 'How many secret raids are there on this castle?'
There is quiet, and some embarrassed shuffling.
'Come on. Any more? Does anyone else have any relations that are going to pitch up for this "bring your own rescue party" party?'

There is a moment of silence.
'Look', says Hohenlohe. 'I can see this is a difficult moment, so I'll just be on my way. Carry on. You won't notice we're here. We'll just rescue Princess Freya and then carry her off to my ship, the Centennial Sparrow'.
'Ship?' pipes up Lucas. 'But we're three thousand feet up in the Trans-Carpathian mountains. And we're miles from the sea'.
Hohenlohe nods. 'Yes, yes,  - it took a bit of effort to get it here'. From behind there is a barrage of 'Har Hars!'

Dimitri replaces his hat, sullenly - 'They keep saying that, but it doesn't seem to mean anything'.
Hohenlohe nods, and then puffs his cheeks. 'Very well then, we'll be off. Good luck with the Prick thing'.
Dimitri says a curt farewell and then motions for his party to move .
'Oh', says Hohenlohe, 'One thing - is there perhaps a chute nearby for the rubbish?'
Lucas nods. 'Second corridor on the left'.
'Thanks, matey', says Hohenlohe, and with a last 'Har Har!' Freya's rescuers head off.

As they trudge on carefully for a minute or two, Lucas says to his brother:
'Hmm, something occurred to me. Since we're three thousand feet up in the mountains, won't that chute produce quite an ... extended journey? Shouldn't we tell them?'
Dimitri shakes his head. 'No, we haven't time. Also, I don't care. And in any case, it's so self evident that ...'
At that moment, from far off, they hear the sound of a 'Har Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!' that drifts off, despairingly, into the ether.
'You know', says Dimitri, 'I also think that they've probably got the point'.

Shortly, the Vulgarians reach the stout door that marks the exit from the dungeons and that will lead up to a small hall and then the outer gate.
As one of the mercenaries holds aloft a burning torch, Lucas fumbles in the pockets of his waistcoat.
'I have the keys here somewhere, I'm sure. There were four of them.'
As he searches, and Dimitri's impatience grows, a sound drifts up from behind them.
'Har Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!'
Dimitri nods. 'Hmmm, they're really testing that to destruction'.
Lucas fumbles at the door lock. Then again. Then again.
'My brother', he says worriedly. 'The first three keys don't work!'
'Well, use the fourth, Lucas, use the fourth'.
'Dammit, I can't find it', says Lucas, 'I thought I'd put it ... oh, hang on it's fine, the fourth is with me. Right in my pocket'.

Dimitri says 'Now bring up the torch so that we can see the lock properly. That's right just over ...' - but at that moment, a draft sweeps through the chamber and the lanterns are blown out, pitching the group into darkness. There is moment of confusion before Dimitri hisses:
'Silence - it's fine. I can feel the door handle ...'
'That's not a door handle, sir,' says a dragoon. a strange falsetto in his voice.
'Rubbish, I can feel it here'.
'Again, sir, that's not a ....'
'Yes, I can feel a large key here in the lock, and if I give it a really good twist ....'
Above, in the guardroom, a strange sound floats up from somewhere in the depths of the Schloss. It sounds like a gorilla that has been taught, badly, to yodel, and that has also just stepped in a bear trap which, by some terrible twist of fate, is attached to a galloping horse.

The sound drifts away into silence.
Suddenly, from somewhere in the dungeons there comes the sound of a female voice that wails 'Har Haaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrr!' before disappearing into the distance.
A few moments later, there are foot steps and Hohenlohe appears, looking aghast.
'Oooooooooh, there's been a terrible mistake!', he cries.
As the confusion continues, the door opens slowly. Framed in the light is a tall form, a black cloak spreading like the wings of a giant bat ...


  1. Ah! Drama and rubbish chutes! What could be better?

    1. Booze. Boobies. Battenberg. Though one might be flexible about the order.