Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Part the XIIIth - The Intaking of Ruritania

Oct 10th, A.D. 1683

From the Province of Ruritania
In the Realm of the Sublime Porte

To Madame Nelle Lyzzard-Penruddick
Marshalsee Debtor's Goal

Dearest Mother,

As I expected, I have been rescued once again by the valiant, powerful, manly might of my dearest Waddie. How is my cat?
As I last wrote, but two days ago, I was taken prisoner by the Turkish garrison of the principle city of Ruritania during our search for Father Sergius. The Turks did place me in a dungeon hardby their execution field. I was joined there by two brave troopers of Colonel van der Snaecht's Walloonish Regiment of Foot who had failed to flee the city timely enough. These, Jules and Jacques Fufroque, proved to be most jolly prisoners, more concerned with what their mother, a woman of the camp named Toothless Margot, would think of them being dishonoured by capture. Throughout the day they spoke of nothing but how to provoke the Turks into injuring them more grievously so as to assuage their mother's wrath.
I gave to them upon my word as an honest virgin that Waddie wouldst soon be here to rescue us. At which the Walloons fell into an e'en greater despair. They asked if I minded telling their mother that they had ravished me, lest, and I quoth, "Mum will think us Nancy boys for sure." For, they said, their mother had no use for virgins, saying that a virgin was just a girl with no ambition. Which I thought passing strange for I remembered oft hearing the same words from your lips, dearest Mother.
Our disputations were soon arrested for we were called to audience before the local Pasha. Betimes we were brought to the Great Hall where the Pasha, one Murad by name, was holding council. I was most distressed to see that with him was the whole body of Gypsies who had attended upon the Bloody Countess when first I was held in Constantinople. But fortunately, the attention of the Gypsies was upon one of their number, an old crone, who didst peer into a crystal ball.
Upon our entry the Pasha turned his attention unto us and did inquire most violently where the rest of our party was hid and what did we intend. He said that he knew that a Christian force had come into his province and that we should answer him fully lest we be put to torture.
At which the Fufroques became most joyous and began to give instruction unto the Pasha's torturers. There was much lively talk as to the best manner of cracking ribs and rupturing of spleens. Then the old Gypsy did cry out that she had found Sandorius who was to the west. Afore she could state more, Jules did manage to fling off one of his shoes which struck the old woman with such force that she swooned dead away.
When revived, she could not recall what she had said of Sandorius but did relate that an e'en greater magical emanation, for she did speak in such a superstitious manner, lay to the south. So great was this emanation that the aura of Sandorius could scarce be discerned. Afore she could relate the source of this power, Jacques flung his shoe and struck her head as well.
At this the Pasha was most vexed and finally did threaten me with being forced to partake of flesh cut from the Walloons lest I reveal where the Prince's camp lay. To gain time, did I fling mine arm out and say "He is in that direction" intending to send them upon a false trail. Unfortunately, I had become disoriented and did in fact point to the west. With a cry of triumph, Murad Pasha said that I had confirmed the hag's prophecy. He said that he knew the country hereabout and the only at the old castle of Tarlinsk could a force be hid and still be in position to threaten the capital. Thus he gave orders that all his troops save a small garrison would begin a march to Tarlinsk at sunset and would put the Prince's army to rout at first light of dawn.
He ordered that the Walloons should be impaled on the morn and that I should be forced to observe. The following day I would be subjected to the same death. At which, I admonished him that I was a friend of the Grand Vizier who would punish any who harmed me and my companions.
To which, the wicked man replied that Kara Mustafa had sent most specific instructions regarding my treatment. "Do not worry" spake Murad. "The Grand Vizier shall be here is three days and though impaled, you shall still live when he arrives. We shall celebrate our victory over your Prince neath your dying bodies."
To which I replied with as much heat as I could muster, "Do not celebrate your victories so quickly. You Turks have had a notable lack of success heretofore."
Says he, "Ah Feringhee woman, Kara Mustafa comes with far greater power than against Vienna for when he arrives, it shall be in a great ship which flies and which shall bombard your Prince to dust from above.
Afore I could supply a retort to this absurd utterance, he ordered us back to the dungeon to await our fate.
Twas upon our return to the dungeon that, with great joy, I received one of the clockwork pigeons that Mister Zagloba had so ingeniously wrought. In it's metal beak was a message asking me to relate my whereabouts. I hastily jotted down a few words of thanks to the Prince and some helpful suggestions for the future. However, the pigeon's paper was small and I could not complete my writing. So I did speak my thoughts at the artifice bird, knowing that it did contain a device which copied the human voice upon wax discs within. After little o'er an hour and one half, the bird departed. And with its fluttering wings went my fluttering heart filled to brimming with my fondess for dear Waddie.
All night we heard the sound of warlike preparations and of marching troops. Upon the following day, closer to mid-morn than dawn, we were taken from our cells into the courtyard of the castle. The Walloons were most gallant in their behavior, knowing they faced death and did continue to give instructions to the two Gypsy torturers who had remained to oversee their destruction.
Of a sudden, did we hear a great cacophony like unto musical instruments, all out of tune and playing different songs. To which, Jules said, "I'll be happy to dance a jig to that tune if it means our rescue."
The noise was joined by great cheers and then a jaunty tune played on fifes. At which, Jules and Jacques cried out in joy, "That's the boys! Somebody must've told them there's free beer here!"
Murad Pasha ran into the courtyard and gave orders that our throats be cut if any Christian gained the walls.
Above us, upon the keep's gun mount, the Turks prepared to fire their great cannons. Of a sudden a bombard shot struck the keep and I did hear the sound of bees and there was much consternation amongst the Turkish gun crews.
Then I heard a great shout echoing o'er all, which belike was "For King John." Then, one of the bastions, hardby the dungeons did explode with incredible fury and leave but little trace. Through the smoke, I saw Sandorius, who must have placed a great petard against the wall. Beyond him and approaching quickly upon the breach was a vast multitude of armed Ruritanians, all shouting for the Turks' death.
I felt the blade of one of mine captors press hard against my throat and I prepared my soul for death. The blade was suddenly away and next to me was my faithful Sufi who had hid himself in the castle in anticipation of my rescue. Afore I could state my thanks, he was away shrieking like a kite and striking at the Turks with scimitar and clawing nails.
Jules and Jacques were also laying about their captors with flailing chain and flung shoe.
As I did struggle against my captors, a sudden quiet came o'er the tumult and I heard the quick hoof beats of a single horse. Then there was Waddie flying o'er the ramparts, fifteen feet high if an inch, his winged harness thrumming in the breeze. The Turks were astonished by this act of horsemanship and could scarce defend themselves against his flashing blade.
At the same moment, the Ruritanian mob rushed into the courtyard through their breach whilst the Walloons entered more slowly through a postern.
Waddie confronted the Pasha who whirled his scimitar and shouted, "come face death 'Emir of the Ruritanistan' for I have killed over one hundred men with my own hand." Waddie saluted him and began a charge towards the big Turk. Then suddenly there was another great explosion and one of the high watch towers did begin to collapse unto the yard and well and truly upon the head of Murad Pasha.
In a thrice I flung myself upon the back of the Prince's horse and he turned to me and gave a kiss of much passion which I did shamelessly return until I nearly fell into a swoon. In greatest honesty and confidence, I must admit, Mother, that had we not been in public, my maidenhead would surely have been forfeit.
Betimes I came to my senses and sought out Mister Zagloba who I knew to be a man of sagacity and wouldst tell him of the Turks' plans. But I found him with the robber girl, Laylah, a strumpetish whore if ever I saw one, clung upon the round man like marmoset upon melon. But I was able to relay my intelligence to him and thus did we begin to form a stratagem.
So, dearest mother, I am once more set on the road away from my home and family for Waddie does lead his army to the south in order to lure the Turks into an ambuscade. And where goest he, also go I.

Your loving daughter,

Excerpts from the Diary of Leviathan Cherrychoate:

October the 10th, A.D. 1683

And so didst spend this evening last as hostage in the camp of the brigands, which lies in a wood whose barbaric name sound like unto a grasshopper chirping. I was entertained by this scurrilous band of miscreants wherein I was the object of much speculation as to the method of my demise, the faire Laylah apparently being most imaginative in the manner in which to dispatch prisoners.
I assured them that I had no doubt that the wise Prince would form an alliance with the Lady Laylah. To which they replied with much laughter that I should hope twas not too close an alliance lest their leader have no need for a plaything such as I. At which I did fret much remembering the ease with which the Prince did blacken my name with the Cherrycoate pox.
Betimes, Hrvno, who was Laylah's lieutenant amongst these miscreants and also a low man but little o'er four feet tall and half again as wide around, spent the night sharpening innumerable daggers and regaling me with tales of all the murder he had committed. To which I asked if he had ever sired a child in the Commonwealth for there was a young lad named Eduard who was much alike him.
About midnight, Laylah returned and did seem much distracted for she would not answer Hrvno's inquiries as to the alliance, merely giggling and repeating the word "Bumpies." The prince hath plowed that furrow well and truly, thinks I. And I am much pleased to think of what reaction the chaste Wendyleen shall have when I do tell her of her dunderhead's infidelity.
After an hour or so, Laylah immerges from her hut and order all to prepare to march to join the Prince. I approach her and do make some playful inquiry. She responds with vexation and high words, telling me to leave off the bother of her. Now am I much chagrined by these words, marveling at most skilled a lover the Prince must be to so quickly replace me in the brigand's heart thus.
A few hours afore dawn, we ride from the camp and are soon met with the Prince's Company. Sandorius is not present, having gone unto the town in advance to prepare the high magics in secret. Soon Laylah and I are taken to counsel with the slack-wit Prince with whom is beef-bellied Ziglova.
Much to my astonishment, Laylah hardly acknowledges the Prince afore she flings herself upon the befurred rotundity of Ziglova, kissing him most passionately and calling him her "Chatki". At which my world doth tumble as in a quaking and I am near to swoon. I saw within my mind's eye an image of what such a mating must have seemed and well and truly did cast sick into the road. Thereafter were many high words that I canst scare recall and soon I am off to join Sandorius. But along the road, my imaginings which are oft of a voluptuary nature were intruded upon by the thought of the lard-encased Polack bethumping all my imagined doxies, all the while stuffing great handfuls of shevapchichi unto his mouth. I didst thus vomit some three times upon that road this night.
When I arrived at the town, twas ill-guarded as had been reported and I was able easily to enter among the old breaches in the wall. Having familiarity with the Town Hall, I did hasten there and ensconced myself in the clock tower. I thus did o'erlook the cannon works and it was no matter to discern a powder magazine hardby the walls of the fortress.
At midmorn, I spy Wendyleen and the rascally Walloon codpieces, Jules and Jacques, being brought into the bailey no doubt for some evil purpose. Of a sudden there is a great hallooing and the town is soon beleaguered. From my high perch, I saw the Turks manning two cannons royale upon the keep but had not a care since by agreement, Zagloba wouldst direct the fire of his mortars and rockets first upon this mount. And thus it transpired.
Then I do hear the voice of Sandorius, sounding preternaturally loud, calling upon the spirit of the slain King John and one of the bastions vanishes entire when transmuted thus from Earth to Air. A great mob of Ruritanians, all brandishing pitchforks and tubacens, does storm unto the breech and assails the small garrison. Then does the ham-hearted Prince prick up his steed and flung himself o'er the ramparts. I shall not vouchsafe the ninny-pated Lithuanie whoreson his due, twas as fine a piece of horsemanship as ere I did see.
Now I had not been merely taking my ease at this point but didst prepare a usage of my wand of fire. Thus I hurled a spark unto the powder magazine and did soon see it alight. Much to my vexation, the brigands, who were assailing the castle from this point, now burst into the works and were soon clambering to the castle walls. I shouted a warning to them but to no avail. Then the magazine was consumed and a great explosion sounded. But the force of this was directed away from the brigands and against one of the watchtowers. The collapse of this tower did signal the end of this short fight for, as I later learned, the Pasha of the town was killed, just short of slicing pop-brained Radivill as a roast, mores the pity.
With all the fighting done, I made my way unto the castle where the brigands and Walloons contended for the treasure I had conjured for them. Laylay railed upon me, her breath bursting hotly from her nostrils like a snorting bull, a sort of vixenish Europa to…No I must not go further with such an analogy for I do see in my mind's eye Ziglova as the bull…. Thought of which has just now made me sick again.
Nonetheless, she railed upon me and called me false traitor. To which I replied that she shouldst complain to her loving meat-pie of a man for did he not join me in my counterfeit? To which we are off to see Ziglova but Laylah loses her fury and becomes moon-eyed when the galumpy beached walrus of a man makes lascivious finger plays afore her eyes. To which I say, "Really, woman. I must insist, this is most absurd." To which she replies not but does cling to Ziglova like a tiny barnacle to the great hulk of a man of war.
Unfortunately, Hrvno is not so easily put off and I do feel his blade close upon mine cod and like to wisk it off if we are all not most circumspect. "Wizard," says he, "If I don't not get my treasure ye shall lose yours."
As fortune wouldst have it, Ziglova comes to my rescue and taking up a great chest from the Prince's treasure distributes it to the mob who become more tractable.
At this, Wendyleen, who likewise clutches to the thrice-nippled prince does relate that Kara Mustafa is hard upon the search for Dee's works and shall arrive by flying ship but three days hence.
There is much consternation now for the former garrison is still at large and now comes the Grand Vizier with great magics. So tis decided we shall hie tomorrow to the south to seek the refuge where Sergius left the books. But first, the fat pig-statured Ziglova must render machines to carry the Walloons and the guns with us. And thus does the town now ring with sound of much hammering and constructions despite the late hour. All the folks here are engaged in these work of Revolution so I cannot find even an alley doxie for a quick tipple ere I retire.
And so, much dissatisfied and ill to my stomach, to bed.

Excerpts from The Memoirs of Oktawjan Zagloba:

Chapter XXXVII
How I Revolutionized Western Civilization

… And so from the Chamber of Venus to the Field of Mars, I bid adieu to the lovely Laylah, whose heart I could perceive was breaking at the thought of being separated from me even for a moment. But such is the hard life I have chosen as a soldier of our Lord and servant to the Public Weal. Nonetheless, in loyalty to me, Laylah rode off to fetch her men to our aid, even though she sighed heavily with each pace that took her further from me.
After a hasty meal of oxen quarter and but a single cask of Brefnish to slacken my thirst, I was to work upon our stratagem for a coup de main upon the fortress of Streltsova. Late in the night, one of my Mechanical Automaton Pigeons Empowered by a Clockwork Mechanism to Feign a Simulacrum of Life returned with word from the lovely Countess Georgina indicating that she was attempted a rising of the local populace and asking for your succor. I responded with alacrity and sent word that we should synchronize our marches so as to arrive at point of attack simultaneously. I instructed her to attack the city from the south, intending to bring the Prince's forces out of the west, whilst Laylah's brigands should descend from the north.
Now I had fixed upon this plan as the most efficacious method of keeping all of the women who loved me away from one another. For truly, had both Georgina and Laylah set eyes upon me at the same moment, their jealousy would have resulted in a great furor, despite the fact that there was plenty of Zagloba the make the round. Indeed, if every woman who loved me were gathered at one spot to dispute over me, it would make Armageddon appear a skirmish.
A few hours before dawn,I led our army to Streltsova along a wooded byway which the beautify Laylah had shown us. In case I failed to mention it previously, I had lain with the very beautiful Laylah and she had quite enjoyed it.
We had gone upon our march but an hour when the Mechanical Automaton Pigeon Empowered by a Clockwork Mechanism to Feign a Simulacrum of Life I had given to Sandorius returned. Sandorius had gone ahead of us to make his way secretly into the town and prepare his magics as clandestinely as possible. The magician reported that most of the garrison had marched out to attack our camp at Tarlinsk. I was delighted by this intelligence for it meant we should be able to take the fortress ere the garrison returned, proving yet again what great commander such as I can accomplish to confound his enemies.
But a league further, we came upon the brigand band of the incredibly lovely and beautiful Laylah. In case I failed to mention it previously, I had lain with the very beautiful Laylah and she had quite enjoyed it. Therefore she was quite willing to follow my every command. With her was the apprentice Cherrycoate who seemed to be somewhat the worse for his captivity among the brigands. I noticed this as the almost superhumanly lovely Laylah, who by the way, had lain with me and quite enjoyed it, embraced me most passionately. As I released her from my manly embrace, I asked Cherrycoate what was the matter. To which he replied, "You can't mean to say…that you…that she….that you both…." At which point, I was convinced he had taken a fever since he vomited by the side of the road. After a moment, he continued, "Now Zagloba, old man, when it comes to women, I'm as open-minded as the next man… "
Here I interrupted him and reminded him that I was the next man.
To which he made a face full of disgust and said, "How could you do it? I don't mean that from a moral standpoint. Physically, how could you do it? How could she get beyond that Chinese wall of flesh to get to your…." His voice trailed off as Laylah showed him the hollow river reed I had given her as a breathing apparatus.
After this exchange Cherrycoate volunteered to ride ahead and assist Sandorius and add his own meager magical ability to our attack.
As he rode off, I turned to Laylah, whose beauty was so great that any ordinary man would die for ecstasy if she merely smiled at him and who I slept with and she quite enjoyed it, and asked her if Cherrycoate had been as splendid a lover as I. To which she replied, "He was fair enough at the time. But compared to you, my Great Bull Buffalo, all my prior lovers are as neophytes. I have gone fat and I want never to go back." She actually said that.
We arrived before the city at dawn and found the walls but lightly held. As I directed the troops into position, I heard a great shout and saw a host of Ruritanians marching upon the city, led by Countess Georgina and a bookish scholarly-looking man, both deep in conversation.
As I sat with the Prince at the head of these troops, the great crowd, recognizing me no doubt, gave an even greater cheer and leapt towards the town walls. Within a moment, they and the Walloons had swarmed over the walls and broken open the gates.
I ordered the pursuit and we quickly advanced upon the castle in the center of the town. Seeing the Turkish gunners atop the keep preparing to fire upon us, I called upon the crew of the New Lightly-Wrought Field Mortar Based Upon an Easily Drawn Carriage For Rapid Movement Upon the Field of Battle to fire one of our Apiary Shot Containing A Stasisically Held Beehive Which When Fired Upon an Enemy Shall Cause Great Disruption at the gunners. The Apiary Shot Containing A Stasisically Held Beehive Which When Fired Upon an Enemy Shall Cause Great Disruption was soon upon its way, for I had trained our gunners myself, and naturally hit directly upon the tower.
At the same time, Sandorius used his magic to destroy one of the bastions on the southern end of the fortress and the Ruritanian mob was soon charging into the breach. The Walloons advanced against a postern gate but were held up when they discovered a gold button lying the dust afore the gate and a dispute occurred as to the right to plunder this bauble.
Unfortunately, this allowed the Prince time to reflect upon the situation. As usual, when the Prince entertains a thought, great danger comes along as its companion. He began to trot his new Arabian horse in circles about the town square, scribbling upon his old tattered parchment with the colored wax I had given him. Such pointless behavior by the Prince rarely attracts my attention but this time, he kept looking at the castle wall which rose a full fifteen feet above the square. Suddenly, his horse broke into a charge directly towards the wall. He kicked it into a leap and, as a hush fell upon the entire crowd, The Prince and his horse flew cleanly over the high wall. I heard a rapturous cheer spring from the Ruritanians within the castle yard.
Someone had exploded a powder magazine in the nearby Works which collapsed one of the watchtowers on the northern perimeter of the castle. This was the signal for a general surrender as the Pasha of the town had been killed in the collapse.
We all entered the castle in triumph. The scene was marred only by the unseemly haste with which the Walloons and Brigands competed in a race to find the "Great Treasure" Cherrycoate had promised them.
In time, they soon realized that there was no treasure and Laylah, who is more beautiful than a full tankard of aged mead and a well-done roast of boar where the skin is so crisp it crinkles like parchment, and whom I slept with and who quite enjoyed it, came to us in a great fury, inquiring as to the treasure.
I told her not to be upset and merely think about the Position of the Two Crabs Walking Backwards Upon Each Others' Back, which we had accomplished the previous night and which I pantomimed with my hands. A dreamy look came upon her face and she gazed, dull-eyed into the distance at the memory. But her men and the Walloons shouted for the treasure
The Prince shouted, "But is not youw fweedom the gweatest tweasure?"
To which Brigand and Walloon replied as one, "NO!"
I then called for a small chest from the Prince's trove and distributed its contents to the crowd.
With this distraction completed, I set my mind to the task at hand of securing the town from the return of the garrison. At this point, Wendyleen who the Prince had rescued, told me that she had been informed that Kara Mustafa would arrive by air in but three days time and that the Gypsies had claimed to have found a site of great magic in the south.
I realized that the Grand Vizier intended to continue the search for Tabula Primera. No doubt the garrison searched for Sandorius but, as soon as the Gypsy witch recovered from her Fufroque-induced amnesia, she would lead the Turks to the greater prize at Zenda. Laylah, the beautiful goddesslike woman with whom I slept and who enjoyed it, told us that, if we road hard down the high road from Streltsova to Zenda we could arrive in but a day. The road from Tarlinsk to Zenda was more difficult especially if autumn rains caused flooding. So the chances were good that our cavalry could beat the Turks to Zenda. But how would our small cavalry forces face the host of janissaries and, should the tales be true, well-armed ships of the air?
I realized that now was the time to create my Self-Propelled Tabor Wagon Containing an Engine which Translates Steam Pressure into Rotary Motion by Means a series of Pistons and Rotary Gears. We were away to the Foundry and there with a speed that was astonishing even to me, my genius became reality. For good measure, I also directed the creation of several Light Mortars Whose Trajectory was Highly Angled So as to Engage Targets Far Above Them.
Thus by dawn of the next day, the cavalry clattered down the high road to Zenda, followed by the entire Walloon Regiment and my gunners all crowded upon mighty vehiculla belching clouds of white smoke…

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

But good King Vlad knew that the brigand Hozzenko had been evil and so must she must be punished for her crimes even though in the end she had served him loyally. So rather than hang her or rack her or impale her or cut off her hands or scourge her or nail her ear to a tree, he found a fit punishment for such a bad girl. The wise King married her to his fool Zagloba. But it was not the regular kind of marriage that good boys and girls make in a church with a priest but a dirty nasty shocking kind of marriage that brigands and czirykoots[1] make.

And despite this just punishment, Laylah Hozzenko soon returned to being a brigand since she was the best brigand that Ruritania ever knew and every true country needed brigands as well as kings and queens and wizards.

[1] Czirycoot is the Ruritanian term for a legendary wood satyr of high libidinousness.

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