Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Meanwhile...In The Fortress of Felsigberg

"The Margravine? She has a merry brightness about her that is hard to describe. No wait! It's the same kind of look the rabbit sees before the hawk's talons close."

Otto von Weisenheimer,
Chancellor of Raubenstadt

After his meeting with the Markgraaf, von Mack was summoned to a meeting with the Margravine. Between the two, he considered the second meeting far more important. He still in his heart, thought of her as Baroness Sharon von Kerns and not the Margravine von Meltzer. The von Kerns were a very old, established noble family; so old in fact, that rumor had it that as the glaciers retreated, the von Kerns moved in.

This rumor might have been inspired by the fourteen foot tusk of some ancient beast that a Kerns ancestor had found and put on display in their family castle. A casual observer might not notice that if a person was thrown from the balcony, they stood a pretty good chance of being impaled. Her father, Ernst the Elder, like all the von Kerns had a vivid imagination, and "riding the tusk", was a special punishment he reserved for any who had betrayed his trust. Von Mack knew for a fact that not all the encrusted blood on the tusk was ancient.

He was drawn out of his reverie, when the gates of the Fortress Felsigberg closed behind him, and the officer escorting him to the Baroness could not be drawn into conversation. The Felsigberg! Von Mack had never been this close before, and he always hoped it would be as an invited guest with an exit pass, as opposed to those who were not! While not the grimmest place in the Germanies, von Mack rated it in the top five. It had always been an imposing pile of stone, and the "modern" improvements that George Fredrick, the First Markgraaf, had made when it was his base of operations a generation ago, had not softened the edges. No. The business of the Felsigburg was intimidation, and it was doing a pretty good job.

His escort stopped and knocked upon a door. It opened and the officer motioned for von Mack to enter. As the door closed behind him and his eyes adjusted to the light, he bowed before her. He was struck by the dazzling combination of her red hair and fair complexion. As he straightened and looked into her snapping brown eyes, he remembered that she had also inherited the Kerns temper, and that the red hair was no lie, and a warning to those who had the wit to heed.

"My husband suspects that his riding accident was no accident, but he has no proof. Without proof he will not act. If Maurice of Stagonia's agents were involved, you and I know that proof will not be found. The Vile King has threatened my family by this action. This will not be tolerated. He is too well guarded and suspicious to strike directly, so he and his agents must be distracted while the campaign against Spires is conducted and concluded."

Von Mack nodded his understanding, and the Baroness continued, " I leave the details up to you as to how to achieve this goal, but I want you to start with this." She handed him a folded note. "Have this printed, smuggled into Stagonia and distributed as far and as wide as you can." Mack the Knife unfolded the note and read, "Pity poor Maurice! His plots go round and round. How uneasy are his people, when Madness wears a Crown!"

"Yes Baroness. That ought to keep him chasing his own tail and jumping at shadows for some time," von Mack replied, "and who knows, it might just spark an uprising, if his reprisals are too severe."

"My son Wilhelm is going to war. Do you have the pistols?"
"Yes, My Baroness."
He brought the case out from under his arm and opened it for her inspection. "Your father's pistols. Ernst was a man who believed in giving himself every advantage.", he said as he pulled out one of the matched set. "Double barrelled, .62 caliber. This one has the right barrel rifled. The left one - smoothbore. The other one has two smoothbore barrels. I have taken the liberty of casting the balls, crosscutting the tops, placed a bit of arsenic soaked paper and raw onion in each cut, and recrimped them. If he doesn't kill his target outright, any wounds he inflicts will be fatal."

"Thank you. You have always been a loyal friend to me and mine." The Margravine whispered.
Von Mack would have sworn that there were tears shining in her eyes as he bowed and kissed her proffered hand. Maurice of Stagonia would pay a fearsome price.