Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Very Dry Vintage

A Very Dry Vintage

It was a dark and very quiet night (okay, I couldn’t resist). With no moon, the stars over Frankfurter sprinkled back from the wavelets on the Main. Along the unloading piers for the Gallian depot, the sentry marches tiredly on. Quietly, after the sentry has passed, two figures suddenly appear on one of the barges and step quickly across to the pier to one of the ramshackle sheds thrown up by the Gallian suppliers. The smaller fiddles with the door for a second, steps through and then back out and nods to the larger. The large man, who even in this dim light looks like an old copper statue, ducks under the lintel and a moment later steps back out carrying a barrel. The two step back onto the barge and disappear. The whole action taking less than a few seconds.
In the dark, sentries exchange the sign and countersign, and the local private wearily plods back the wier to the other end of his beat. As he passes, a strange, long boat with both ends curved up and together slips silently out into the river. The two passengers steadily and stealthily dip their paddles into the water and cross over towards Saxenhousen.
“That was quick, Moose Hunter,” the short man in the front of the canoe whispered. “Are you sure you got one?”
“Third one I picked up, Johannes,” Moose Hunter replied. “It’s full, but there’s no liquid in it.”
They quietly finish their voayage and get pulled through the muck on the south shore by a couple of soldiers. The barrel is lifted onto a small cart, and the soldiers led by a young Fahenjunker and an Hauptman hurry through the dark streets followed by Johannes and Moose Hunter. They stop at what appears to be a run down boarding house and carry the barrel inside. The soldiers step outside again and march away except for the two officers who move slowly towards a darkened inn.
“So! Our little Gallian lap dog is stealing from his master again!” the Fahenjunker cheerfully commented.
“Hush!” the Hauptman answered quickly. Then he looked carefully around and lowered his voice. “It’s time you started to pay attention to things that a nobleman should notice. And it’s time you learned to keep your mouth shut too, now that Kunegunde has Bastille’s little house to take the blame for his actions.”
“I’m sorry, Father,” the youngster apologized. “What is it that you want me to notice?”
“Frankszonia has fought four wars with other Gallian allies ....”
“And the Hurtshog has carefully held back the best troops at the last moment to ensure that they win!”
“... But under the cover of those little squabbles, the Hurtshog has eliminated the pockets of territory cutting up out Stadtholdings and more than doubled our territory and resources.”
“So he’s a good little Hurtshog who is nicely improving his claim,” the youngster snorted.
“Wake up, Son! The Hurtshog and his councilors are quite serious about Deutschland vor Deutsche Volk. They’ve got this impossible dream of some sort of confederation of little states that can keep the big boys from tearing up our towns for their playground.”
“Isn’t that what the Wieners and their Reich are supposed to be doing?”
“Ja, and you can see for yourself how wonderfully well THAT is working.”
“So what? If our tiny army sneezes, Bastille and Broglie will impress whoever is unlucky enough to survive “
”If Germania and Hesse Seewald win another big one nearby, where will all those Gallian troops be? With the Resistance fighters who always seem to get away, the supposed deserters under Pepperoni and Braunsweiger, and few other friends like Hesse Fedora, I suspect that the Hurtshog will have enough to hold Frankfurter until relieved.”
“So we’re going to double cross the frogs?”
“Only if we have to. We are quite aware that neither Germania nor Hesse Seewald are really all that interested in having a lot of little autonomous duchies to deal with. Now hush. Not a word of this even to Mother or you sister and especially not to Fraulein Busch!” At this point, they open a dark door from which light and laughter spilled.

Back at the rooming house, two nobles carry lamps into the dark sitting room. They are accompanied by a scholar. One of them reveals a prybar and starts to open the barrel.
“Careful, Your Highness!” Johannes urges.
“Somebody has to, and too many have to be hurt for me these days,” the stout man answered.
As the lid rises, a dark powder is revealed. All turn to the scholar who comes forward, lifts a small pinch out and carries it to a lamp where he studies it with a magnifying glass.
“Well, Rabbi?” the other nobleman demands.
“You were right, General,” the scholar answers. “It’s not gunpowder. This looks more like the flash powder they put into fireworks to make the loud noises. Frankly, it could dangerous if somebody charged his piece with a normal measure.”
“Are you positive, Badmann, that the Gallians don’t know about this yet?” the Hurtshog asked.
“I’m not sure,” Badmann responded. “This barrel is marked the same as that spoiled juice that Bastille and all the Gallian peers drink.”
“Then there should barrels like this in the private quarters of almost every Gallian notable around here,” Moose Hunter grunted.
“Do we tell them?” the general asked.
“I’m not sure yet,” the Hurtshog mused. “We do brief our cleaning ladies and so forth right away ... let’s see if we can get this stuff before it goes off. This could be M’Lady’s or Stagonia’s handiwork, but Roquefort has his own nefarious agenda, and we’ve put a monkey wrench in it. He may be looking for some sudden job opportunities for his own agents.”
There was a moment’s silence, and the Hurtshog turned to the scholar. “I’m a bit thin right now, Rabbi,” he said, “but I think that boatman friend of yours and his family ought to spend the next Passover in Jerusalem on a small stipend. Otherwise, let’s get this to a more useful spot. Moose Hunter, Lady Pettygree is nearby. That means M’Lady is too. Hunt her and see if any threads come loose. Guten Nacht!”
The noblemen both walk quickly out of the room and disappear down the hall towards the back of the house.


Fitz-Badger said...

Dry, with an amusing aftertaste.

Bluebear Jeff said...

Interesting . . . I think that the map of the area says, "Here there be Plots".

-- Jeff

Frankfurter said...

Well given that one of the two state religions is the "Later in the Day Saints", I figure most of the population is pretty Plotzed....

Am waiting for Bill to chime in, as I've several options for alerting the poor Intendant of the new concern ...

Shall the guards catch a domestic "stealing" one of the suspect barrels? Will M'seur Peter get wind of something and advise the Gallians to check their wine stores? Will some poor aide de camp get blown to smithereens trying to draw demijohn for his boss?

Of course, the stuff which was bottled at the estate is fine ...
we think ...

Gallia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gallia said...

Dear Arthur,
I was frightfully busy prior to the 6th instant regarding a WWII FOW Normandy game -- and -- all I had to do was set out the terrain mostly brought by others! So I defer to thee to plan as thee wishest. Bear in mind, if you please, that where Pettygree is, there also is her escort and the fellow with the eyepatch not failing to mention "That Old Woman."