Tuesday, 2 August 2016


It is morning. Bright sunlight streams through the leaded windows of the council chamber in the palace of Pogelswood. Emperor George XIII of Imperial Fenwick sits at the head of his assembled advisers. Herzog Franz, his brother, sits on his right hand.
'Get off my hand,' says Emperor George.
'Sorry, George,' says Franz.
'Sorry, Your Imperial Highness,' says Emperor George.
'Um', says Franz, 'I thought that you were the Emperor.'
The Emperor rolls his eyes. 'And I thought that you were my wily adviser. If ever we were in need of some wily-ness, I should say that it was now.'
'Is that a canoe in your britches, or are you just
pleased to see me?'
'It's a canoe.'
Towards the back of the chamber comes a faint clanging sound as Duke Joachim, the emperor's son, leans back and crosses his legs. Poking visibly above the tabletop is the Duke's latest codpiece creation from Herzo-Carpathia: the 'Spanish Inquisition'. Although in general, of course, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, in this case it is really rather hard to miss, consisting as it does of elongated polished silver-work topped with a miniature pope. Whilst the phrase 'my loins are on fire' might normally be considered a boudoir-related euphemism, with Joachim's codpiece it is, in fact, a statement of the literal truth, given that the Inquisition model also features a marvelous rendition in fully working miniature of a heretic being consigned at the stake to the fiery flames of Hell.

The assembled advisers try their best to ignore Joachim's embarrassing accouterment, but this is difficult to do: it seems to follow the eyes around the room.
'This is a disaster!', says Freiherr Gunther von Goebelgass, Minister for Fruit, Vegetables, and Public Morality. 'We are staring, your Imperial Highness, at the possibility of an apocalyptic war in which all of Mittelheim will be arrayed against us!'
A derisive snort emanates from Johan von Schmeligbad, Minister of Toast, Breakfast-Related Bakery Products and War. 'It's hardly an apocalypse, Goebelgass - stop exaggerating.'
'If it is not an apocalypse, Schmeligbad,' replies Goebelgass, 'then it will be something very like it!'
'Hmmm,' says Herzog Franz, 'an approxalypse, perhaps?'
Emperor George thumps the table. 'Cease this bickering! We must have a plan! Herzog Franz, tell us of your communications with Rotenburg. Are they likely to forgive us for implicating them in the Vulgarian revolt?'
Franz sighs. 'My intelligence suggests that Landrave Choldwig isn't very happy.'
'How unhappy?' asks Goebelgass. 'Are we still not popular, then?'
Franz nods. 'Remember when Bishop Frottage decided to lighten the mood at the concave to elect Pope Clement XIII by turning up in a comedy Martin Luther costume?'
'Well, that.'
The Emperor holds his head in his hands.
Schmeligbad then says 'Fear not, your Highness. I have a plan.'
Emperor George gestures for the Minister to continue.
'It is like this, my lord. We must prepare immediately for war and a rapid rapier-like thrust against Nabstria. Nabstria undoubtedly will use this present crisis to mobilise King Wilhelm's support for an attack on us. They still blame us, no doubt, for the failures of the last war. We must strike them now while they are still vulnerable!'
'Vulnerable?' says the Emperor.
'Indeed', replies Schmeligbad, 'the Nabstrian flirtation with model soldiers has provoked further divisions within the Burgraviate's military. Ceaseless arguments over the rules have utterly undermined the credibility of General von Rumpfler. He is widely cursed now as a rules-meistering cheat with a strangely flexible concept of an inch. He is now known to his officers as "Benda".'
'Benda?' asks the Emperor.
'After Franz Benda,' interjects the Herzog, 'the great German fiddler.'
'We'll need Rotenburg to join us,' continues Schmeligbad. 'We must strike first and win the war before our adversaries have time to mobilise!'
The Emperor nods. 'Hmmmm, this plan carries with it great risks - will Landgrave Choldwig agree to join us?'
Schmeligbad nods. 'Oh, I think so, my Lord - I have taken some steps to encourage them ....'

In Alexandopolis, Landgrave Choldwig stares down at his terrapin pool.
Baron Woffeltop is hard at work questioning a spy.
'Auric von Blonde,' the Baron says, 'You are here to be tortured at the behest of our glorious Landgrave Choldwig. You are a spy, and you will tell us who it is that you are working for.'
There is the sound of bubbles escaping.
'This really isn't working,' says Choldwig, looking down into the pool. Originally, of course, the pool was supposed to be much larger and also to contain within it crocodiles - very angry, very hungry crocodiles: or at a pinch some kind of giant snapping turtles - ravening turtles, preferably; but Choldwig would have accepted some that were just quite cross.

A Crocodile Pit: 'When you absolutely, positively got to kill
every Mittelheimer in the room, accept no substitutes.'
But budgetary constraints had forced some disappointing modifications. In the pool lies the rather sodden body of a heavy-set fellow of middle age. The fellow is slightly too large for the pool and his shoed feet stick out above the water.
'I'm not enjoying this,' says the fellow, his head propped up on the other side of the pool. 'This isn't very nice'.

Woffeltop pokes him with a stick.
'Do you expect me to talk?' says Blonde.
'No, Mister Blonde,' says Woffeltop 'I expect you to die! There's nothing that you can talk to me about that I don't already know.'
'Then why are you doing this? This is inhuman: my fingers are all wrinkled.'
Woffeltop flourishes a piece of paper. 'Intelligence sent to us by our allies indicates that you, Herr Blonde, are a Nabstrian spy intent on assassinating Landgrave Choldwig.'
'Poltroon!', shouts the Landgrave; 'Craven! Dastard! Villain!'  he continues; 'Teapot! Table! Lamp stand!,' he finishes, after exhausting his rather limited vocabulary. With a violent movement he places a terrapin under Blonde's nose. 'Take that!' cries Choldwig. The terrapin looks lost, and then falls off as Blonde sneezes.
'I haven't done anything!' cries the captive. 'I just came here to buy a wagon load of jellied seagulls.'
Woffeltop chuckles. 'A good try, Herr Blonde. But our intelligence was very specific.' He reads from the paper. 'Be on the look out for a Nabstrian spy. He is a man and he is quite tall. He will be wearing a wig. When asked, he will deny being a Nabstrian spy.'
'But ... but ...that could be anybody!' says Blonde.
'Au contraire, Herr Blonde,' replies Woffeltop, 'We have questioned more than forty individuals and you are the first to deny being a spy.'

Woffeltop and Landgrave Choldwig step away from the pool.
'Are we sure that he is a spy?' asks Choldwig. 'He doesn't seem very ... competent.'
Woffeltop shrugs. 'That much might be true - he's possibly an idiot, and certainly from Mittelheim.'
'And the Fenwickian plan - will it work?'
'I cannot rightly say, my lord.'
'Hmm, well can you wrongly say it?' asks Choldwig.
Woffeltop purses his lips. 'It all comes down to Baron Vlad of Herzo-Carpathia. If he can be prevailed upon by Gelderland not to invoke the Spasmodic Sanction, then there will be no need for Gelderland to mobilise. Given time, everyone will forget Herzog Franz's ludicrous book and its fanciful claims about our role in the Vulgarian uprising.'
'Hmmm', says the Landgrave. 'I need to speak to the Gelderland ambassador.'
'My Lord, shall I call you your carriage?'
'No - you can call me "your highness" like you usually do.'

And so, it seems that peace in Mittelheim depends now upon Gelderland diplomacy and the extent to which Baron Vlad can be mollified. This leads us, dear reader, to Gross Schnitzelring, where the question on everyone's lips is 'can the peace be maintained and a disastrous diplomatic cake and arse party be avoided?;'a question soon followed by a second thought - 'Hmmm, where is Don Pajero de Penguino?'

1 comment:

  1. Ye Gods! Is it possible? War? I shall have to retrieve my dress uniform from the tailors...