Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Part the IXth - Unto The Far Country

Oct 1st, A.D. 1683

By Special Courier
From the Province of Ruritania
In the Realm of the Sublime Porte

To Madame Nelle Lyzzard-Penruddick
Marshalsee Debtor's Goal

Dearest Mother,

I send my regrets that I cannot return to my home and family as I have now been conscripted to save the universe from imminent destruction by the Powers of Darkness. How is Cousin Eugenia's scrofula?
Upon my most welcome release from Babylonian captivity, I have been attended upon by the most gracious Prince Ladislas Radziwill, whom, with his great humility and good humor, insists I call him Laddie, or as he pronounces it in that charming accent, "Waddie". It is through his generosity that I am able to send by this special courier, an amount in gold to satisfy all your creditors as well as provide for Honoria and her child for several years to come.
Which brings to mind the only unpleasant aspect of my rescue. Master Cherrycoate was present in Vienna throughout the great siege and, through his prevarications and posturing has convinced many here that he is a hero of the siege. More's the pity that the only countryman of mine in this land of strangers is such a scoundrel. Could my new friends but see what a true, honest Englishman is like, they would assuredly give our country the respect it deserves.
As it is, Waddie is most solicitous of my welfare since he rescued me from durance vile last month. In addition to the funds he gave me, he has also provided me with new clothing and jewelry. Unfortunately, these are all of the immodest sort found in the Turkish camp, Waddie stating that no European clothing are to be had in such a destitute war-wracked realm.
Whilst on the road, he has oft instructed me in riding since he is a most accomplished equestrian. At the end of a long day in the saddle, he will oft massages my neck and back with his own hands. It is quite charming to see this noble man bumble so in such an unfamiliar task with his hands straying inadvertently from their intended target. Also, he has insured that I have a private room with a hot bath in any place we stay; himself standing guard at the door to prevent any, like Cherrycoate, to play the Peeping Tom.
Many odd things have transpired since my rescue. But two nights following the great battle, I was lodged near King John's apartments in the Arhcbishop's palace. I was closeted with dear Sufi, practicing the art of toenail painting, which we had made of study of during the long period of our forced confinement. There was a great commotion and terrible groaning without. When, after comforting Sufi, I entered the hall and saw Waddie and several others engaged against what appeared to be a mist, the entry of which was caused no doubt from window being left open. How strange thinks I that they should fight so against mere effluvia. But then I discerned that the hall was filled with great rabid rats who attacked us with tremendous fury. After much tumult, the King and his guards arrived and dispatched the nasty beasts, who had grown to a large size and virulent temperament, no doubt due to the privations of the siege.
Their appearance caused much consternation and we were closeted with the King and Archbishop. Now much foolish talk was made, for the King, despite being a valiant soldier and gracious monarch, is quite superstitious. This is no doubt made worse by his keeping of the charlatan Sandorius nearby together with the even greater scoundrel Cherrycoate.
The final result of all this talk is that we, who had first met in the tavern of the Turk's Head, had been fated to be some sort of fellowship to oppose the plans of the terrible Countess. The King commanded us to journey south to find the library of Doctor Dee which had been sent to far country in secret for hiding.
The whole purpose of this expedition to my mind is frivolous but Waddie is going and I would not be so ungrateful as to avoid assisting him in this little errand.
So we left Vienna, Waddie and I together with the members of his entourage. Amongst these is the girl they call the Little Orphan who is most warlike and cruel. On one occasion I offered, quite courteously as one woman to another, that she might be better tempered if she allowed me to make her elixir of St. John's Wort to relieve the fatigues of her monthly visitor. At this, she flew into such a rage that she had to be restrained from firing at me with a pistol. I do sometimes wonder why so many with whom I come into acquaintance have this reaction to me.
Also with us is Mister Zagloba. He is a great jolly round man who can consume quite prodigious quantities of meat and drink seemingly without surfeit. He is always tinkering with some outlandish toy or trinket. Also, given his size and his favor for wearing furs and red silks, he would make a most wondrous Father Christmas at the county Twelfth Night celebration. I once thanked him for his kindliness to me and he responded, jokingly of course, that I had kept two of his greatest nuisances at bay, Kara Mustafa and the Prince, so that he could accomplish his work. He is always playing the gruff curmudgeon. No wonder the Prince keeps him as the Court Fool.
We also travel with Doctor Sandorius, the disreputable Cherrycoate and Mister Mirski, one of Waddie's captains. Two troops of Waddie's cavalry are with us as well as a train of light artillery. Recently released from the emperor's service, the gracious Countess Georgina has joined us together with a regiment of Walloon foot commanded by the soldierly if lazy Colonel van der Snaecht.
Now we had gone but one day from Vienna when we were met by a carriage filled with Spanish priests. These did round upon Waddie and demand that he relinquish Doctor Sandorius for trial to them. Now I have no great sympathy for charlatans but do hate injustice. I was therefore middling proud when Waddie did inveigle them in tortuous legal discourse to enable the Doctor to escape. Soon however, the evil men saw Waddie's intent and signaled to their hidden allies to attack.
Much to my surprise, these proved to be none other than Khan Gersai and his Tartars who charged from ambush upon our encampment. Truly this was an alliance made in hell. Whilst all about me the Tartars raged and plundered, the Khan rode straight toward me with his saber raised and screaming imprecations at me.
Now, Mother, you know I am not of an angry nature nor have I had any martial training but I was an Englishwoman and could not let these nefarious brigands see aught but an example of our Nation's strong spirit. This was especially so after I noticed Cherrycoate cringing amongst the baggage train, no doubt soiling himself for fright.
So I produced the pistol that Mister Zagloba had given me and fired. The ball struck the Khan's horse in the head but the wiry old man was upon his feet in a moment and came towards me brandishing a large saber and with a look of intense hatred in his eyes. Using the skills I had learned from the acrobats who regularly entertained us in the Vizier's Tent, I somersaulted backwards away from my assailant. Fortunately, directly behind me was Countess Georgina with blade drawn. The Khan practically impaled himself upon her sword and in a thrice the villainous ruffian was lying dead in the road.
All about me, the struggle was in full course. Waddie's troops were most excellently trained, having the valorous Prince as an example, and in no time at all they had the matter well in hand. Mister Zagloba cut down many with his great multi-barreled gun whilst the Orphan Ann and little Eduard, Waddie's swordbearer, competed in the number of Tartar heads they struck off.
Twas then I noticed that Waddie was alone in the tumult beset by the Spanish priests. I rushed to his side and struck down one of the false priests with the butt of my pistol. I soon discovered that Waddie had no need of my assistance. Using his considerable charm and presence, he had convinced the priests to suffer his instruction in the art of fisticuffs. They were so gulled by this stratagem, that they commenced to strike each other into unconsciousness.
And Cherrycoate accuses Waddie of being a dunderhead. How absurd! Although I can see how one could misperceive his boyish high spirits for a certain lack of intellectual wherewithal. But truly, Waddie must be a bright fellow, mustn't he?
There was some dispute then over what to do with the captured priests but in the end, by Waddie's mercy, they were released.
And so we set off for the country of the Ruritanians. The hills here are quite lovely and remind me somewhat of Father's home in South Wales, although I would prefer that it rain a bit more.
Once we have found this silly book, I am sure I shall be able to return to my beloved home. I wonder if I might impose on Waddie to journey again to England?
Do give my regards to Honoria and Rodry, if he has returned home. Do advise me how fairs my cat; I do pine for my little Monsieur Descartes.

Your Loving Daughter

Excerpts from the Diary of Leviathan Cherrychoate:

September the 18th, A.D. 1683

Up betimes and on the road early. We travel north on the supposed mission of giving the King's disdain to Marshal Sapieha who missed the battle. Tis to be done by presenting the Vizier's golden pisspot to the old Lithuanie skeinsmate. But all tis a masquerade for we shall turn south tomorrow and perhaps finally shall find Dee's book on constructing the Tabula Primera.

All about me is the clapper-clocked Prince's entourage who are all puffed and vain as gamecocks for their victory o'er the Turk. Mine ass doth ache in the saddle, as well as other areas of mine anatomie for I have not found satisfaction for near a week. Such troubles do I endureth for knowledge.

I am, however, well-equipped. For I have killt the two birds with one stone. I have played a merry confidence upon the Walloons, starting with hambrained Jules and puzzleheaded Jacques, whereby I have obtained the return of my purloined goods with interest and solved the problem of the Cherrycoate Pox. Although now I am perforce to listen to great cries of "Maximus Effluvium Exeunt Testicus Rex! Maximus Effluvium Exeunt Testicus Rex!" throughout the town and camp[1].

September the 19th, A.D. 1683

Our journey was nearly suffered to end ere it had begun, thanks to the officiousness of Roman fish-munchers and the hatred which Penruddick is capable of inducing in all who must deal with her.

I was up along with the rest of the camp, saving of course, Colonel van der Click who is an even greater laggard and layabout than I. I had just broken my fast and was walking to the woods to take my morning ease, for the Walloons did provide me with an embarrassment of riches in the form of Turkish Kaffee, a foul black drink much stronger than the coffee found in England and prodigiously laxative in effect. The boy Eduard accompanied me as always, regaling me with tales of disemboweled Turks. I think I shall give to him one of my ribald novellas, which I obtained when last I was in Paris, so as to get his mind off the subject of Turkicide.

Suddenly, I espied a coach approaching, heavily laden with Dago priests, all stinking of garlic and incense. I quickly tried to hide my countenance from them. Fortunately, they approached the chalkwitted Radiville and demanded the arrest of both Sandorius and myself. I say twas fortunate, for they at first tried to reason with the dim-wicked muscleskull. A truer Parliament of Dunces had I never seen; twould have been better if they tried their sophistry upon White Cliffs of Dover than try to reason with that flybrained clodpole. Betimes even the Dagos realized this and they fired a signal for their confederates to attack us. In a thrice the place is filled with a great charging mass of Tartars whose Khan I later learned had conceived a enormous hatred for Penruddick, truly no surprise there, and agreed to aid the Dago wafer-tossers in hopes of avenging himself pon her.

So once more I am in the midst of battle, beset all about by furred little men on small ridiculous ponies but bearing not-so-ridiculous sabers, bows and spears. I had the foresight to bring with me my pistols and shot down one who came too near. The boy Eduard in great enthusiasm began to hew at the little yellow-hued plunderers in such a way as to grant me a path to safety. For I fled amongst the cannoneers of Ziglova's artillery train, big stout fellows well-armed with his percussive musketoon. Now, I am not such a poltroon as to fly at the first sign of trouble but I had already seen enough of battle, am not of a martial nature and this was not my fight. Betimes, the Polacks and Walloons did drive off the Tartars leaving many of their saddles empty and their dead in the road.

When all tumult had ceased I went out from the train and saw Sandorius and Ziglova attending the mutton-brained Prince who was surrounded by prostrate prelates and clutched the urchin-snouted Spinola in his puissant if dimly-directed arms. There was a hot dispute over what to do with the shard-borne miscreant priest, with my Master wishing to fillet him like unto an halibut. But I perceive that the sheep-biting Gudgoen-Prince and quaking jelly-bowl Ziglova will have none of it. So do I attempt to temper Sandorius' rage, all the while obtaining satisfaction with quite a few boot-strikes to the Dago's Inner Sanctum. Finally, Sandorius relents and goes off by himself. Ziglova then orders the plum-plucked hedge-priest to be returned under guard to Vienna and the rest of the company to prepare for the march.

And so in great haste do we set off, marching very hard south by little-traveled routes disclosed by the Musselman Mirski and Little Orphan Annie who had been set to reconnaissance.

And so after a day's march of over thirty miles, we encamp in the field and sleep without use of tent or other shelter. But ere I sleep I do consider the heated debate betwixt Ziglova and the Dago inquisitor. There seemed to be much animosity betwixt them, more than should be from the recent ambuscade. Twas then that Ziglova gave reference to himself as being a Master of some secret Popish order. If so, twould explain much about the man and his inventions. Why, e'en now, his plans for a steam-powered chariot are well advanced. But could it be that the hippopotamic landmass really was an agent clandestine of the Pope set to espy upon Sandorius? And so, much troubled, to bed.

September the 30th, A.D. 1683

Up betimes and once more pon the road for another long day's travel. According to Mirski, we shall be in the land of the Ruritani on the morrow or the day after. I for one shall be most gladsome for this journey was marvelously wearisome. We marched near twenty miles each day with only two days stopping in our trip entire thus far. Worst is that we have exhausted our beer rations near a fortnight ago and Ziglova is always upon me to make more. Thus in peevishness do I find the most brackish foul water to convert. But the tottering swag-belly, whose thirst is greater than the camels that lapped up DeDulier's Elementalis Aqueous, quaffs the stuff, the fouler the better.

Throughout our journey we have had scant occasion to encounter the Turk for they are all most afeared since the battle at Vienna and fear that the local Christians shall rise up against them. Thus do they stay locked into their fortresses and strong towns and ne'er so much as a scouting party hath molested us upon the road thus far. But we are most careful not to reveal ourselves and avoid these places as much as possible.

We have passed through wretched hills made mud slides by the cold autumnal rains. A fouler, wetter, nastier place I have not seen this side of South Wales. I did find my pleasure but twice pon the road, once with a Bosnian goose girl who spoke only passing German and no Latin at all. Thus through barely understanding her and through being of such need and desire, for she was a pretty buxom thing, I didst end up with the reckoning of her services to be that I purchase the entire goose flock. The second occasion was but a week ago when, out of desperation, I took myself to one of the Walloons' laundresses, one Toothless Margot. This lady was perchance once handsome in her youth but was much passed that flowering. Still she made up for in enthusiasm and experience what she lacked in appearance and did provide much services for the cost of one thin goose.

October the 4th, A.D. 1683

We have crossed this day into the province of Ruritania. If, that is, one can believe the peasants that Mirski and Little Orphan Annie bring unto our camp. For I can scare tell the difference twixt one miry Balkan shithouse from another. Accordingly we did cross the mighty Uddymaya Flumens which markth the boundary of the province. The crossing was most difficult and several pack mules were lost including the one bearing two hogheads of tobacco which Colonel van der Snip had taken as plunder at Vienna. The good Colonel is most heavily inclined to the usage of snuff and so viewed this treasure as God's true reward. When the mule went under the torrent, the Colonel, who is most backwards and unindustrious, did scurry about like a flea and would have flung himself unto the water had he not been restrained by Jules and Jacques and their mother, Toothless Margot….

October the 6th, A.D. 1683

We do encamp this day at a ruined castle hardby yet another miry Balkan shithouse honored by the absurd name of Tarlinsk or some such. This we were shown by a local goatherd named Milos, who in addition to wreaking of every foul goat odor under the firmament, looks upon the toad-brained tickle-spot Prince as Christ Jesu come again. And the only reason for this is that the goatherd was presented whilst the clot-pole was performing his morning ablutions, standing naked and pissing into the Vizier's gold pot. Not thinking Milos a catamite, I can only surmise that he was impressed by the huge amount of piss and flatulence which the thimble-witted puzzler canst produce.

Although a ruin, the castle is wondrously well hid and a most excellent refuge. Thus did I plan to abide whilst Miski and Little Orphan Annie do reconnoiter this Father Sergius, whom the infectious fat-kidneyed Archbishop did send hence with Dee's library. Tis then that I receive most unwelcome intelligence for I must needs abandon this strong position and the protections of Radiville's soldiers and go into Strelsova, the chief town of the province, in search of the priest myself. For it seems that Sandorius and Ziglova did counsel together, which always means grave danger for myself, and did proclaim the mission by most absurd logic. According to both, they would fear an attack 'pon Strelsova would risk the killing of this Sergius so he must be got out clandestine. Further, these two great clouted dog-hearts believe that we, that is to say, the Company of the Turk's Head, had been fated to accomplish this goal as a companionship and so must be the ones to undertake to do the job ourselves. Thus tomorrow shall we all go unto the lions' den for the town of Strelsova is well-held by the Turks on account of the gun and powder works there.

Thus do we go in disguise with the frothy flirt-gill Prince and spleeny Ziglova presented as Tartars selling the plunder they had snatched afore Vienna. Van der Kline who is as ignorant as he is lazy shall masquerade as a French soldier of fortune while Sandorius shall play at a seller of weapons. Now the only bright spot in this dismal plan was that Penruddick, Georgina and Little Annie the Orphan must needs play whorish slave-girls and I their Jew pimp. I had a most wondrous time choosing the costumes, or lack therefore, for the women, who were most vexed by my choices, but could say not since, we all being on errand of the Lord, all sins shall be forgiven. Thus do my imaginings from afore come ever closer to fulfillment. And so to bed.

From the Collected Ruritanian Folktales, ed. A. Esterhazy (Nish-Strelstova 1932), excerpts from the story of The Wedding of Hozzenko the Brigand:

And so the son of Brankovic was wed to the daughter of Frankopan and the whole city of Streltsova knew rejoicing and much Brefnish[2] was quaffed. And even the evil, heathen, pagan Turks, the filthy, pig-loving, Sabbath-breaking Turks, the stinking, nasty, tea-totaling, evil Turks joined the celebration by not impaling anyone for the whole day. Even the threat of the brigand Hozzanko to disrupt the wedding was discounted.
Now when the feast was well underway, the Great Childitz[3], Bobo Frnko, came out of the Goorali Mountains to prophesy. All fell silent when he entered the city square. Now Bobo Frnko was a holy man who had not washed in over sixty years and so all the people stood away from him since most could not bear the odor of such sanctity.
After he had quaffed his fifth firkin of Brefnish, he finally spoke, "I have had a dream last night…Soon, my children, soon…A king shall soon come among you and drive out the evil Turks.
And the people all cried out, "How shall we know this King, Bobo?"
And Bobo Frnko replied, "He shall be bearing with him the great Golden Chalice of Saint Blchva! And upon him he shall bear the royal mark of the Trayzub[4]! The same chalice that was lost when King Rolandro, son of Mendoggo was slain with the Servians at Kosovo field. When you see these signs, you shall know that the King has returned and Turk shall be put to flight. But you must protect and aid the bearer with all your strength and all your heart. If you do this, then the Ruritsy shall be free once more!"
When Bobo Frnko had finished prophesying, he pulled out his rusty shears and asked, "Alright, who needs a trim?"
At this the men of Streltsova were sore afraid since they knew that when Bobo Frnko was in his Brefnish, his aim was often very poor and he would often confuse the job he had been hired to perform…
[1] The meaning of this passage has been disputed for years. A recently uncovered letter found in an oddity shop in Flipville, Wallonia and dated to about the time of the Relief of Vienna, shed some light on this mysterious passage. (See also Appendix)

"Gentlemen Frufroques

"No doubt you have become aware of the recent outbreak of what has been called "The Cherrycoate" and have heard many nasty descriptions of the woeful ills that befall those who are unfortunate enough to contract it. It has further been alleged that I am the source of the scourge. I'm here to tell you that whilst the tales of the symptoms of the affliction are patently false." Pause for dramatic effect.

"You see, "The Cherrycoate", as it is called, is not a venereal disease but the effects of a devious magical casting by the Turk so to demoralize our forces and the good people of Vienna. Further by associating the imagined affliction with my name, they sought to discredit me and blunt the future effects of my assistance towards our cause for the defence of Christendom."

"But, powerful mage that I am, I have turned the bloody Godless bastards' spell to our advantage. With my recently completed, and successful, casting, the result will now mean unparalled carnal enhancement for those who are aware of, and believe in, the magical effects of the spell. You see the Turk's spell, once cast, forced those individuals who possess extraordinary attractive potential to the opposite gender to magically, and falsely, believe that there is an over-abundance of the drip, pox, squiggly, musty, or whatever Disease of the Consequence of Pleasure is generally pervasive. The result is that no one "engages". This is a most distressing result and as time marches ever forward the subsequent imbalance of humours in the populace gradually builds thus affecting all with considerable tension and ill demeanor."

"My counter spell has now transformed these errant energies into a potentially volcanic-like release of venereal passions to be actuated by only the utterance of a magical phrase in coitum. The only preparation requisite for anyone to take advantage of this remedy (thus increasing the available pool of rutting tarts of which to diddle) is to, one, tell the prospective partner of the false nature of the Turk's casting and their foul attempts to discredit the defenders of Christendom, two, explain the nature of the counter cast but being absolutely certain not to relate who cast it (for it will reverse the spell and make the imagined affliction become real)."

"The truly genius effect of the spell is that anyone who knows the existence of the Turk's spell and successfully communicates its existence to a partner, or partners, will be endowed with remarkable stamina and in receipt of pleasures multiplied one hundred fold... as will the partner! All that is needed is the proper preparation and the utterance of the magical phrase at passion's peak to release the partner from the spell of enchantment...then one is destined for a rather lengthy period of unbridled carnal gratification."

"So, good gentlemen, my proposal is this, in exchange for your procurement of certain trifles, including some from the former belongings of the Grand Vizier, many of which your brethren Walloons possess, I shall give you the magic phrase so that you can take advantage of the counter spell. Remember, if you reveal who cast the counter spell or do not truly believe in the nature of this magic, the beneficial effects of the spell will be canceled and you, and the partner, will actually contract the diseases you both fear...ten fold worse and one hundred fold long. Given the choice between gathering a few paltry items to be able to have the bloody best fornicating of your life and spending your spare time becoming intimate only with Madame Palm and her Five Sisters, which would you choose?"

If they accept (and who of baser tendencies wouldn't) I would ask them to collect the items. Upon success I will give them some gibberish phrase such as "Maximus Effluvium Exeunt Testicus Rex" and have them off to lay about the good news. Cherrycoate would expect that this little "secret" would spread like a drunken doxy when the Fleet's in Port since anyone with the knowledge will endeavor to tell any perspective partner of their remedy and their willingness to rise to the occasion in the name of Public Health.
[2] Brefnish is the national drink of Ruritania, made from, among other ingredients, fermented mink sweat, honey and boiled grass. There is an old Ruritanian saying, "one cup of Brefnish will clear the brain, two cups of Brefnish will gladden the heart and three cups of Brefnish will…rangrling daa fuulso nammmaaa...zzzzzz.
[3] Childitz is an old Ruritanian term for the ubiquitous class of men that combined the role of itinerant preacher, holy man, seer, barber and pig-spayer.
[4] Trayzub is a reference to a secret birthmark, traditionally carried by the Mendoggie family. The Mendoggie dynasty ruled Ruritania from 1230 to 1389, when the last member of the family, King Rolandro II was killed by the Turks at the Battle of Kossovo Pole in 1389.

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