Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The Grand Masquerade
In spite of the wind and rain, the grand processions are conducted with suitable pomp and circumstance, though the drum and brass section occasionally seemed out of key and off beat during the lightning and cloudbursts. Armored against the wet by plentiful potions, the people of Frankfurt party. There are, alas, a few regrettable incidents between the German and Gallian participants in the street which bring quick reactions from the dragoons posted at every corner. Arrests of disorderly house parties are also reported, the dark wagons of the constabulary rolling through the streets accompanied by the jeers and thrown empties of reeling revelers to the new jail.
A major break with tradition, however, is that the military, outside of their formal functions and patrol duties, seem to be absent from town ... and a frisson of rumor of great battles nearby runs through the crowds.
Some of the major Foreign notables who are specifically honored with carriages and escorts and participation in the rituals include the following:
Consular military attaches, Major Karl von Lager:
who of course will be feted by various ladies, invited to the Council of Knights and other ceremonial functions. In private, the Hurtshog and Gen. Meyer will be interviewing him about a coordinated response to Stagonian irritations. What they are looking for, of course, is acquiescence to the Frankszonian “protection” of Offenbach. He will also be offered a run down farm for the construction of a Saxe-Bearstein consulate near of the city. Le Comte d’Beauphaup assures him that Frankszonia would rather throw a barbecue than a battle!
. For the masquerade, he will be costumed as a fairy knight. He is promised a “noble lady of high estate, breeding, and appearance” for the Masquerade. In the meantime, however, there seems to be a strong likelihood that he will make the acquaintance of Martha, Lady Pettygree’s maid. Who, of course, will be at the Masquerade as one of the many fairy girls in attendance.
Generalmajor Paul von Scheider and wife Roswitha von Scheider are also in the glittering train of nobles and officers at these events. Again, In private, the Hurtshog and Gen. Meyer will be interviewing him about a coordinated response to Stagonian irritations. What they are looking for, of course, is acquiescence to the Frankszonian “protection” of Offenbach. On the other hand, Frankszonia is concerned to preserve the unique nature of the Soweiter League, especially as they provide handy entre-pots to regional markets often under the thumb of more grasping, larger powers.
They are to be costumed as members of Oberon’s (and who IS Oberon?) court.
Helga Freitag, Under-Secretary for Minor Matters on Even Numbered Months, will, of course be closeted with Stuftliana and Professor DuBois discussing ideas for educational establishments (as in military academies). Rumor has it that they will be costumed as the other set of “Lovers in the Forest.”
Fraulein Francine Oppenkopf, if she attends as a Stagonian representative, will be granted a constant bodyguard / protector due to the current tensions vis a vie Stagonia. She is told that Frankszonia simply can’t tolerate interference with the Soweiter League due to vital economic interests. (On the other hand, she’s been offered a deal by some disaffected Frankszonian merchants at terms which, in their words, they would be cutting their own throats).
At the dance, she may be torn between a person with a commanding air who is costumed as the Ducal General of Cuirassiers (Lord Bastille, in half armor and in command of security) and the heroic figure of the Marquis d’Hottatrot, dripping with gaudy medals and enjoying his moment of glory .... playing up his wound for all it’s worth (nor is he adverse to groping groupies).
Lady Rosenschnauz will be playing a fairy godmother near the alcove where the Urpprinz will be nursed and nestled. What as or who with her husband will attend is not known. Rumor has it that he will be unable to participate due to his wound.
Those who know him might recognize Phillipe, either as a waiter with a tray of drinks or dancing with a young girl of the local nobility. The lass is dark haired, animated, and roguish in her behavior, as well as being a good dancer. Alas, she seems deaf to all the various importunes of dubious opportunities with various officers and burgomeisters which will be offered to her.
Sir Tom, the count Saucie: the tall, dark envoy from Duke Alfredo of Bologna ... middle aged but in good shape, having established himself as a decent cavalry officer prior to this appointment, will arrive escorting another of the local debutantes, but will also make a pass at Fraulein Oppenkopf ....
The squire Charade, who is part of Pettygree’s and Masquerade’s entourage, attends as the human slave swiped by Titania from Oberon (and, oh yes, who gets to play Titania?). His costume of decorated ballet leotards displays his youthful and athletic figure much to the distraction of several of the local frauleins.
Naughty gossip has it that the poor Comte l’Beauphaup, having been rebuffed by Lord Charade and by a French officer is not attending. On the other hand, his skill with costume and disquise is legendary. Will anybody spot him before the unmasking?
Prior to the entrance of the Hurtshog and his wife (separately as “the Lovers in the Woods”), the crowd is entertained by the hilarious high jinks of Puck and a rotund fellow wearing the Donkey’s Head.
While this offsets the tension in the crowd caused by rumors of battles approaching Frankfurt, the tension is revived when people notice that the ceremonial guards are not standing to their normal rigid, formal poise, but are instead at arms - ready, and obviously scanning the crowd, the various rooms, and the grounds with martial intensity. There are also rumors of some little outbreaks by mechanics against the Gallian laborers who had, of course, also been included in the festivities.
Meanwhile, Fettucine is happily pairing off with young and old of either sex alike to lead them through a few figures for each new number that Moosart’s musicians bounce through. Tumblers, acrobats, mimes, jugglers, and other entertainers wander through the crowd performing their stunts whenever they hit an open spot. There are even folk dancers and actors imported from a region famous for their arts.
All goes well with the chattering, gay, and glittering company swirling and jumping and bowing through polkas and minuets and waltzes (with a few going off to enjoy some waltzes of the Straws). The colorful costumes above the polished marble floors amid the mirrored walls and sparkling chandeliers make a dizzying whirlpool of color. All of this turbulence of color is framed by the deep, polished wood and plush, velvet drapery (a few which drapes seem occasionally agitated from behind by pairs of brightly polished or beaded shoes).
After midnight, the crowd gathers onto the balconies and into the paved courts (it’s been raining most of the day, after all) to enjoy the fireworks against the dark clouds. The firewheels, sprinkling lights, multi-colored boms and lofty rockets dazzle against their sable backdrop. After a grand finale with Moosart’s most bombastic piece accompnied by fountains of light, flights of rockets, and spreading blasts of golden showers high in the air, everyone bestows their dancing partners and other suitable targets with grand, flourishing, romantic kisses. Oh, embarrassed laughter as the unmasking shows who kissed whom!
Then the frivolity is suddenly shattered by a loud roar! “Hold up there, ye conniving Italian bastard! I’ll carve yooor tripes tae haggis! Ye’ll cozen me lasses nae mair!” There is a sudden flash and clatter of swords rippling in a wave of screams and shouts. As some soldiers push through the crush towards the disturbance, others take quick steps away from the people and cock their pieces alertly ... One reveler tumbles bleeding into the mirrored hall holding a shattered rapier while another breaks through the bewildered guests and vaults a stone wall into the night.
As the officers converge on the wounded man, who sinks into (and promptly ruins) and elaborately embroidered seat, the young stranger looks up and says in clear English (for those who understand that uncouth and disordered tongue), “Fettucine! Ah well, old chap. You know, I was sure you were the one supposed to assassinate me. Pettygree! and that old laird as a lover!” He grimaces for a moment, then asks, “What will poor Georgie say?” As the court physicians try to clear away his finery to reveal a horrible slash through his rib cage, he gives a wry smile, winches, and in best Hollywood tradition, dies.
Among the confused and clamoring guests, the Intendant Bastille finds that the Hurtshog is suddenly standing beside him with a drawn sword and pistol, watching the crowd as if he was the Intendant’s body guard. Then, even before Bastille can frame an appropriate comment or question, another sudden alarm descends on the estate. With loud shouts of challenge and response, a troop of both Frankszonian dragoons and Gallian Hussars gallop into the estate. Their officers fling themselves from their horses and smash through the crowd to the Intendant. One has no hat but a bloody bandage, and another’s arm had been shot.
As the Intendant and his own officers draw their own weapons, the Hurtshog barks, “Vell?!”
The Frankszonian dragoon replies, “You and Moose Hunter were right.”
The Gallian captain interjects, “He committed suicide.”
The Frankszonian agrees, and adds, “Some got away anyway, and they’ve got a few of their damned martyrs now.”
“Pferde Schizen! Bauergraben Mucken! VerDamnt!” roars the Hurtshog. Then he spins on the Intendant angrily. As the Gallians prepare to shoot the Hurtshog down, he tells Bastille, “Ach! Now vill you some Frankszonian marks earn, Mein Herr! Ve were ov dem dumbkopf Stadt Constabulary suspicious. Und! Ve var Ricthig! Diesen Baurenfoofs macht on Sein Bastille an attack. Alle ist aber, nicht kaput. Vir haben diesen Furhren gerumpt, und alle die arsenalen secured.” The Hurtshog gets control of himself, and continues, “it seems that a few of our prisoners did escape anyway. After all, the constables were all veterans. But now, Ich mussen eine Reich von Armee declare ... which makes you, m’Lord, my ranking und most responsible minister as General der Ober Kommander.”
General Schwann steps up to the Intendant and salutes. “General, he asks, “may we secure these nobles here until your command have declared the city safe?”
A lieutenant of the Sage Guards marches up, salutes: “The Princess and the Urpprinz are safe, M’lord. The Rosenschnauzes have put squares about them and the great ladies.”
Two other officers (note, one Gallian and one Frankszonian) ride in from the city. They clomp up to the Intendant, “we are in luck, General. The mob did not riot, thanks to all the rain; and once the constables started shooting, everybody actually fled to their homes. Except for the troopers doing the house to house searches, All seems quiet .”
Who was Oberon and Titania?
What happened to Puck and to the donkey?
How will this batter the poor Paranoid Bastille?
Who was the Englishman, and why did he die?
Will the Ducal family and the Noble Ladies be rushed to Gallian safety, or will Frankszonia now be secure, even enough for Bastille?
Meanwhile, how have the Frankszonian Battalions under General Chevert fared?
We wonders, aye, we wonders.
August 20, 2007 (12:06am)