'A Vulgarian victory!' shouts Prince Dimitri, Voivode of Vulgaria, in a state of high excitement. 'An actual military success!'
'We should keep a sense of perspective my lord,' replies Count Arnim von Loon, the Prince's majordomo. 'It was a success in the kleiner Krieg, sir, with a small freibattalion force. We still await news of the main clash between our army and that of the Margarvate of Wurstburp.'
Prince Dimitri strides briskly around the throne room of Schloss Feratu, his footsteps echoing in the gloom. 'But a victory nevertheless! A proper victory! Glory. And also booty, no doubt - cannon; prisoners, baggage; enemy banners?'
'Well, my lord, actually mainly sheep.'
'And also, I think, some ducks.'
'Hmm. How many ducks?'
'Three, I believe, sir.'
'So, a glorious victory!' crows Dimitri.
'Yes, I suppose so, sir. If one likes ducks.'
'But a victory! A real success! I feel reinvigorated, Loon - Lola is in so much trouble this evening!'
'Yes my lord, ' replies Loon, evidently not sharing quite so much in the Prince's air of warm enthusiasm.
The Prince halts as his eyes lock onto his majordomo's slightly depressed visage. Dimitri looks suspicious. 'Loon, you're not just making this up to make me feel better.'
'No, my lord.'
'Because you did do that when we were playing billiards - you let me win, didn't you?'
'Yes, my lord: that is true. Although you did threaten to have me hung, drawn, and quartered if I didn't let you defeat me.'
'Just a little princely japery, Loon. You should have stood up to me - speak truth to power, and such!'
'Yes sir. Although, for the record, I did speak the truth and you then used your power to have me hung, sir.'
'Yes, but it was just a little jest, Loon. They let you down.'
'You mean that the rope broke, sir.'
'Broke, schmoke: you see, I trusted in fate and a weak rope.'
'It broke because you were pulling so hard on my feet, sir.'
'Well, yes,' admits Dimitri. 'But look, if everyone I tried in a huff to execute took it personally, I wouldn't have very many friends left, now would I?'
Count von Loon contemplates the empty throne room. 'No sir, that would no doubt be true.'
The Prince strikes his thigh with a pair of velvet gloves. 'But come now, Loon - you are in danger of ruining the moment! Let us talk more of this success! So, which of my brave Vulgarian military titans was responsible for this success. Tell me who - they must be rewarded! Lavished with titles, lands, money. Perhaps given a day off.'
Loon pauses for a moment before continuing. 'Well, my lord, it's like this. Our Freibattalion was commanded by Prince Brad von Schnail und Planck. It was he who oversaw our triumph against Wurstburp.'
'Prince Brad?' says Dimitri confused. 'Brad the Inhaler?'
'The, um, the very same, my lord.'
'But hang on: isn't Prince Brad the son of my arch nemesis, Vlad the IX: Vlad Cagul, the former Count of Roldova and Baron of Herzo-Carpathia?'
'Yes sir. The son of Vlad, previous ruler of Harzo-Carpathia, whom you deposed in order to re-establish Osterberg rule in Vulgaria. Brad escaped from your clutches in this very castle.'
'So,' says Dimitri gesticulating, 'what was he doing in command of Vulgarian troops?'
'That's not entirely clear, sir. Certainly, there must be some long term nefarious purpose of which we are as yet ignorant. He has since disappeared.'
'But ... but ... didn't anyone notice that our forces were being commanded by one of our chief antagonists? Brad is famously distinctive in his looks: you know - the sallow skin; protruberant canines; aversion to garlic; the penchant for capering hunchbacked minions? And the dark cloaks, and drafty castles.'
'Oh yes, sir, Brad is well known. And many did at the time point out that he did look the spitting image of Prince Brad, even down actually to being called Brad. But a stringent investigation was conducted and it was concluded that, although he looked exactly like Prince Brad von Schnail und Planck, he promised that he absolutely wasn't Prince Brad and had never met him. And also, of course, apparently he had some orders that put him in charge of the Vulgarian freibattalion.'
Dimitri looks aghast. 'Didn't anyone check the veracity of these supposed orders?'
'Oh yes, sir - we wouldn't let a stranger take command of our forces without stringent checks on their orders.'
'Well, apparently the orders seemed vague, poorly expressed, badly spelled, and largely irrelevant. So they seemed entirely authentic.'
Dimitri shakes his head. 'Well, let's just keep that part of the battle quiet shall we.' He then brightens again. 'Now, show me the woodcuts of the battle and describe the action!'
'I'm afraid that there are no woodcuts, my lord. They forgot to make them.'
'No woodcuts? But how then am I supposed to know what happened?'
'Well, sir, I could just report to you verbally - read from the dispatches.'
'But where's, the drama, dammit Loon. Where's the sad tragedy?'
Loon sighs. 'I think there's enough of that here already, sir.'
'No, it won't do,' barks Dimitri. 'I'll tell you what - call the orchestra: you can read the dispatches out, and they can add some dramatic music to really conjure the atmosphere.'
'That's not usual, my lord. Aren't you afraid of missing the requisite comprehension of some important point?'
'Blazes, Loon. It's just a battle: what points of subtlety can there be? I tell you there's nothing that can't be improved by the strategic addition of a clarinet! Call the orchestra! Tell them to get their hands off their instruments and onto their trumpets!
A short while later, and the palace orchestra blearily arrives. They have all the shambling chaos of a better than average Vulgarian military parade. Suitable threats from Prince Dimitri impose some kind of order upon them.
Dimitri turns again to von Loon.
'So, are you ready to begin?'
'Yes sir,' he holds the dispatch. 'I beg to report the ...'
'Wait! Wait!' interjects the Prince. He turns to his assembled orchestra who peer at him with a mixture of fear and morbid obesity.
'Maestro - something dramatic!' cries Dimitri. 'A proper introduction to a brave Vulgarian battle!'
As Loon prepares his report, violins wail thinly and a tuba emits a low farting sound.
'Splendid!,' says Dmitri. 'This is so exciting. Begin!'
'I beg to report the results of an action of the second of this month by elements of the army of the Voivodate of Vulgaria. It would seem that, with the armies of Vulgaria and Wurstburp in close proximity, General van Rentall dispatched a force of troops to pillage the local area to acquire supplies for our army, deny the same to the enemy, and generally to work off some of the bad humour occasioned by the arrival again of Principal Counsellor Ranald Drumpf.'
'Oh yes,' nods Dimitir, 'I sent him back to the army.'
'I don't think General Rentall likes him, my lord.'
'No, I'm sure that that is the case. But he couldn't stay here. I got so tired of his terrible bird impressions.'
'Ah yes - his witless tweets.'
'Excellent, excellent,' beams Dimitri.
'And,' says Loon warming to his theme, 'I'm sure I noticed in the report a point later on in the battle where these ladies all engage in a rough bout of pillow fighting before falling into some mud.'
'Whereupon the remains of their clothes fall off?' asks Dimitri.
'Well,' says Loon, 'let's just see, shall we my lord? There might even be some rudely shaped vegetables, in the Fenwickian style.'
'Excellent, excellent,' nods Dimitri. He then pauses and frowns. 'It's odd, though Loon,' muses Dimitri. 'Why does so much about war in Mittelheim revolve around nudity and rudely shaped vegetables?'
Loon shrugs. 'It is, indeed, a mystery, my lord. There certainly does seem to be alot less of that sort of thing in Prussia. Anyway, to address ourselves to the battle report: it appears that the battle began like this .......'