Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Quiet Fry Up, just a little fishy?

(Apologies for any misspellings of character names here ... a little discomfort healthwise, nothing serious, but I don’t feel like making all the corrections for my bad typing tonight) :_(

After some heated discussions, mostly involving who would be safest where, the whole party removes to the Redan Bastille (a reinforcement of the Frankfurter defenses obtained as a sop to local feelings during the construction of the nearby Gallian prison, both outside the main walls). Not only did all concede that it would be easier to intercept any attacks there, but also there were several crack units already deployed there in preparation for a grand review.
Gen. Broglie was puzzled, however, that the Sage Guard from Frankszonia would not be in the review. Not only was it a Guard unit, and thus usually a part of any formal visit, but also it contained some of the best drilled professionals in the area. Gen. Oscar Meyer grinned wryly and responded, “this week, a lot of the men in the Sage Guard Uniform are better drilled for hunting than for a parade.” The comment confirmed the suspicions that the military members of the party had already entertained about their local honor guard. The presence of squadrons of their own escort was comforting.
In spite of the terror of the previous hour, the Frankfurters cheerfully lined the streets and cheered from their decorated houses as the party paraded through the town under the brightly dyed fabric arches. Cuirassiers following the party scattered silver pennies among the crowd, and a large beer wagon stopped at each corner to hand out a keg. In the side streets, outdoor grills filled the air with enticing smells, promising a flavorful evening to partying throng.
“They seem awful cheerful,” young King Basil commented.
“I’ll drink to that!” The Hurtshog, who was riding with the other sovereigns, responded. “We take celebration as a serious commitment here.”
“So we’ve heard,” laughs Duke Wilhelm. “I wonder how the vivandiers are making out?”
“Fairly often, I hope,” Princes Stuftliana giggles.
“I’m sure,” Princess Alisona said with mock primness, “that their contributions to the general festivities are widely appreciated!”

When the party arrives at the redan and takes its place in a pavilion placed on the works, the Hurtshog convenes a quick council. “We have things to consider together,” he comments to his guests, and carefully chooses a spot downwind.
“Your security,” Col. Enigma complained, “seems rather like a sieve. I’d hoped for better after last time!”
“We don’t have the resources of Gallia,” Gen. Meyer snapped. “But we have more than our share of enemies who specialize in secret agents.”
“Gentlemen,” Gen. Broglie intervenes, “there is too much here to indulge ourselves. What information do we have?”
“First of all,” Gen. Meyer responds, “those guns at the Cathedral were northern made.”
“Northern?” Ritter Andrew asks. “I thought they would be Stagonian and from the southern forests!”
“We must consider,” Herr Kunnegunde (Frankszonian Chief Watchman), “that the guns were left behind. They may be a deliberate decoy.”
“But,” the Hurtshog continues, “there is also strong evidence of collusion among our many enemies. We’ve been on alert ever since we found out that Lady Pettygree was coming.”
“I’m hardly an enemy,” Diana protests.
“Indeed not, my Lady,” the Hurtshog responds. “Indeed, we have one regiment that would rather be here to defend you than our southern woods! However, is it not true that when you come this far into Germania, there is a Germanian agent of incredible skill who seems drawn to oppose you? After all, Comte Bastille, we have still received no word on what that little affair near here a couple of days ago was all about!”
Bastille and Broglie look at each other but say nothing.
“Right,” the Hurtshog continues, “and what information did your mother send you, Ritter Andrew?”
“She warns of ambushes, possible sabotage of the powder supplies, and the usual Stagonian poisonous wine.” The young man answered.
“Aha!” Kunegunde exclaimed, “We thought that was Roquefort again!”
“You knew about sabotaged powder and poison?” Bastille demanded indignantly.
“No, M’sr l’Intendant,” Kunegunde answered, “but you must ask the Hurtshog.”
As the group’s attention returns to the portly notable, he calls, “Baddmann! Bring in a keg.”
“So we can drink to it?” Gen. Broglie asked sardonically.
A well suited, middle aged man whom they had seen dancing with each of the ladies on the previous evening enters with another gentleman carrying a small wine barrel. A quick glance passes between Ritter Andrew and the second gentleman as the pair very carefully set the keg on a table.
“I’ve heard of your reverence for wines, your Highness,” King Basil comments, “but this is a tad extreme isn’t it?”
“Gen. v. Pilsner?” Gen. Meyer bows slightly, “if you would be so good as to step to the table to witness, please? Meanwhile, could the rest of you please step into the embrasures to enjoy the bands and the drills out in the drill field for a moment?”
The ladies and their men exchange worried glances ... what new fright is Frankfurter going to reveal? Lady Pettygree, however, pulls loose from Catherine’s worried grasp and steps forward with Cherish Masquerade. “We should probably also observe, General,” Diana insists.
Col, Enigma quickly offers to take her place, but she firmly places her hand on his chest and steps forward. Meanwhile, a double file of large grenadiers forms a solid wall between King Basil and Duke Wilhelm and the military clustered around the table. Baddmann and v. Mack are carefully and slowly working the top off of the keg.
“You will observe,” the Hurtshog begins, “that the keg bears the markings of the Chevert Estate and Vinyards.”
“But! ...” both Broglie and Bastille begin.
The Hurtshog stops them with a sharply upraised hand. “We know,” he nods his head. “Chevert is never shipped in barrels, the estate is very and properly proud of its glass works and its bottling process. An alert shipper brought this to our attention.”
“So that’s why you’ve been burgling the wine stores!” Bastille exclaims. “What is the poison?”
“You’ll be pleased to know, m’lord Comte,” Hzg. Fahrtz replied, “there’s not one drop of poison in the barrel.” He grimaces, “indeed, there’s not one drop of anything in the barrel.”
The collective puzzlement of the party is caught as Baddmann carefully lifts out a small spoonful of black and silvery powder. He flicks the powder onto the floor where it snaps, sparks, and smokes brightly!
“Mon Dieu!” Broglie exclaims. “We could all have small kegs in our quarters!”
“Which is why,” the Hurtshog answered grimly, “why we’ve planned for the fireworks and ball to be an affair in the park. I trust my Grenz and my Jaegers to catch assassins before they get too close out there.”
“May our own light infantry join yours, your Highness?” Gen. Broglie is polite enough to ask.
“We’d appreciate it, but be sure that the sergeants and officers know each and every face.”
“Of course!”
“And, your Majesty and your Highness,” the Duke turns to his guests, “if your escorts could also attend, with swords and whatever, I believe that my Chamberlain, l’Comte Beauphaup has managed to locate enough young ladies to partner them ... it will be a wonderful ball, hosted by the Guilds in your honor, Duchess Lynda. Unfortunately, there will be no masques or costumed waiters.”
“We must be honest with you,” Gen Meyer interjects. “We do expect some more ... ah ... interesting intrusions. But we are quite confident that they will be resolved as thoroughly as the affair Pettygree recently, no?”
The party smile rather nervously, and the ladies press their gentlemen with worried looks. At this, Princess Stuftliana, who had been acting as if a star struck girl to this point, stepped forward. “Dears, your presence would be very, very helpful,” she pleaded. “Besides, the Frankszonian people really have looked forward to seeing you at the ball. We have a wonderful seamstress here, and her girls can create and equip wonderful gowns with interesting features ... like this!” She suddenly displays an expensive pistol, seemingly from thin air. As the group’s collective shock settles, Stuftliana continues, “Alisonia, Diana, no whimpering. I’ve seen the reports on how well you handle pistols. I suspect that the vivandiers are no less qualified also. They are from Monte Cristo after all.” She grinned mischievously, “come, come, girls. Isn’t it time we demonstrated why we demand so much from our guys?” She looked out at the field where a Frankszonian militia unit and some Gallian musketeers were performing an “X” march through drill to the music of drums, trumpets, bugles, and a lot of tubas. “Let’s see if we can bore them as much as they do us!” Stuftliana concludes, laughing.


Capt Bill said...

Between the great hospitality and political intrigue, Frankzonia is proving the most intense stop of the Grand Tour!

Gallia said...

In Rick's Cafe these words are overheard, "I am shocked there is confusion in Frankzonia. Shocked I say."

Ken said...

Brilliant! You set the bar high.

Fitz-Badger said...

A most excellent report! Keep it up.