Saturday, 2 July 2016

These Aren't the Secret Assailants You're Looking For!

In the doorway stands a liveried servant, dressed in a cloak. He is perched on a box and holds a giant stuffed bat which he seems to be on the verge of mounting on something above the doorway.
'Er....', he says. 'What's going on?'

'Uh', says Hohenlohe, taking the initiative, ' Uh, everything's under control. Situation normal.'
The servant gets down from the box. 'What happened?', he says suspiciously, peering into the gloom.
'Uh, my pantaloons', says Hohenlohe. 'We had a slight ... we had a slight pantaloon malfunction but, uh, everything's perfectly alright now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. Um, how are you?'
The servant drops the bat. 'I'm going to call some guards up'.
'Uh, uh, no. The pantaloons are leaking now - give us a few minutes to sort it out. Large leak, very dangerous'.
'Who is this!', barks the servant, 'identify yourselves!'
'Uh ...' stutters Hohenlohe.
Dimitri looms out of darkness, and whacks the servant over the head with the butt of his pistol. The fellow falls to the floor, his eyes almost as startled as those of the bat.
Hohenlohe looks disappointed - 'It was a really interesting conversation - I thought he was good company.'
'Really?' says Dimitri icily. 'This is a palace revolution, which I think could be taken to imply the need for a modicum of celerity in our activity'.
'Celery?' murmur the dragoons behind. This is bad - if vegetables are essential to the success of the operation, then they are woefully unprepared, having only pistols, sabres and carbines.

Schloss Feratu: It's usually better to stand
Meanwhile, high up in the tower, Bishop Brad is dealing with his own concerns.
'So you're telling me', he says to Graf Feodor, 'that there is currently no garrison here?'
'Well' the Graf wheezes, the stress setting off his asthma, 'there didn't seem much *wheeze* for them to do, so I sent them off to take a look at the *wheeze* small ship that was found abandoned a few miles further down in the valley'.
'I don't care, Feodor! Find some troops! Call out the goblin guard! Release the flying monkeys! Whatever it takes, get down there and deal with this situation!'
'At *wheeze* once, my lord', says the Graf.
Graf Feodor exists the chamber. A moment or two later, Bishop Brad hears the Graf trying to have the alarm bell sounded.
'No', shouts the Graf, 'that bell, you fool!'
A familiar dinging sound peals out.
'No, no, that's the dinner bell! Ring the alarm bell! Alarm! Bell!'
A strange sound follows.
'No! No!' shouts the Graf, 'That's a pair of maracas. For the love of God, let me do it!'
As the alarm bell finally sounds, Brad contemplates the door for a moment before saying out loud 'I think that I'm going to need a plan B'.

Brad walks slowly to the window. From somewhere down below come shouts, loud bangs, and running footsteps that head back and forth.
The lamplight picks out Prince Brad's strangely sallow skin and his pronounced teeth.
'Igor, bring me some wine', he says to the hunch-backed minion that came with the title of Bishop.
'Yesh mashter', replies the little fellow. Stepping over the supine form of a buxom local peasant girl, he pours wine into a goblet and then capers towards the window.
'Mashter, thish ish the finesht we have'.
Brad takes the proffered goblet, and then says 'You know, Igor, Feodor's gone - you can stop that now'.
Igor nods before unfolding himself to his full six feet five. 'Excellent, master', he says removing his false hunch. 'My back was killing me'.
'And you, Wanda', Brad says to the busty peasant girl on the floor.
'Yes your excellency', she says, getting up and removing the turnips from the front of her bodice.
'Hmmm', says Brad admiringly, 'that's a lovely pair of vegetables'.
In the valley below, wolves begin to howl mournfully.
'Ah', says Brad approvingly, 'Listen to the children of the night - how sweetly they sing'.
'I don't know, sir', says Igor, 'I can't hear for the terrible wailing of those mangy wolves. And anyway, isn't it a bit late for children to be out?'
Brad listens to the wolves for a few moments before finishing the wine in one decisive gulp.
'Dammit, I'm the Bishop of Prick and the ruler of Vulgaria. I must not be captured by these vagabonds. It behooves me to protect the dignity of the Rolodvan aristocracy and the Catholic church. Igor, take off your trousers ...'

In the hall below, Dimitri's force has stormed the gate, opening the way for the arrival of the forces of colonel Hertz van Rentall. Combined, the force now stands in front of the inner doorway. Lucas steps forward in front of the assembled troops, rummaging in his pocket for another key. Before he can open it, the door swings slowly open with an ominous moan.
'Stop that noise', says Dimitri to Lucas.
'Sorry', says Lucas.
Graf Feodor stands there, blocking the way. In his black attire he looks imposing, intimidating, and also a little out of breath.
'You cannot pass *wheeze*', he says. 'For I am Graf Feodor,  right hand of Bishop *wheeze* Brad, ruler of Vul ...' He pauses, squinting at Lucas, and then steps forward uncertainly.
'You ...' he says, softly.
'Er, me?', says Lucas.
'Can it be so?' says the Graf.
'I don't know if it can be so', says Lucas, 'because I don't know what it's supposed to be'.
Dimitri and his troops seem non-plussed by this odd turn of events.
'Cut him down, Lucas', says Dimitri.
'Lucas?', says Feodor, weighing the name. 'Well, Lucas, you must know who I am'.

'Er, no, no: I really don't'.
'I am Graf Feodor: I am your father'.
'No. No, I really don't think ...'
'Search your feelings, Lucas - for you know it to be true'.
'No, no, I was born in ...', says Lucas
'1736', says Feodor.
'1728', replies, Lucas.
'In Heidelburg ...', says the Graf.
'In Paris'.
'To a mother named Esmerelda who was a fish seller?'
'To a mother named Louisa who was an actress'.
'And ... a mysterious ... tall, dark,... German father?'
'To a short Vulgarian father named Mihail'.
There is a silence.
'Actually', says Feodor, 'Now I look at you more closely, *wheeze* I think that I might be mistaken. Which means that I can *wheeze* lop something off you - your hand, probably'. He then pauses, registering for the first time the crowd of mercenary dragoons, their weapons pointed at him.

'But first', says the Graf, 'Oooh, what's that' he then interjects loudly, pointing behind Dimitri's party. Startled, Dimitri's band looks back - when they turn around again, all they can see are the heels of Graf Feodor's boots as he sprints away.
 'The castle is ours', shouts Dimitri: 'Now let us crown our glory and capture the Bishop!' With a cheer, the dragoons surge forwards, heading for Prince Brad's chambers. 

'Ah, the music of the children of the night -
they sing "Flee! Run for your life"!
Brad is quickly subdued. His chamber is otherwise empty except for a flat-chested peasant girl and an open window from which protrudes a long line of curtains and bed clothes that have been tied together. The girl explains that she has been airing the linen. Soon the whole castle is firmly secured. In the courtyard, Dimitri gives an exultant speech to his troops.
'The Schloss is taken, and with it the capital, Urbanspraul! Vulgaria will rise up! Liberation is at hand! But now is not the time for revenge - now is the time to restore to these ancient lands a regime of justice, liberty, and the rule of law!'
'Really?' asks Lucas.
'No - of course not. Bring in the prisoners and break out the mangle! It's time to celebrate!'
As Dimitri begins to get medieval on the small group of captured Roldovans, Lucas eyes Prince Brad disapprovingly.
'You know', says Lucas disappointedly, 'I think I was expecting someone taller'. He regards critically the short, hunched-backed capering form of the Bishop . 'And also', he adds, 'that he would be a bit less ...well, buxom'.
Far below, in the frigid night air, a dark form scrambles, cursing, on the steep rocks. Almost stumbling over what seems to be a pirate hat and the crumpled remains of some kind of chainmail women's undergarments, the real Prince Brad slinks off into the dark ...

Soon, panic spreads through Vulgaria! In Roldova, Vlad IX issues orders for his troops to resist Dimitri's forces to the last man, and then hurriedly quits Herzo-Carpathia entirely, his carriage taking himself and his immediately family to Gross Schnitzelring. And so dear reader, thunder clouds gather upon the horizon of Mittelheim's golden age of peace. Still, the troubles in Herzo-Carpathia surely are nothing that that even a small band of sane and sensible diplomats could not resolve amicably, given the moderate application of some intelligence, empathy, compromise and forethought. Oh dear.

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