Sunday, November 2, 2008

What's Eating Colonel Stein?

Colonel "The Terrible" Heinz von Stein was a very worried man, and he had very good reason to be so worried. His little brother, "The Horrible" Horst von Stein had come back, very close to home and he had not been alone. A considerable number of battalions, squadrons, and batteries had marched with him towards the city of Frankfort. Horst had left his native country, Raubenstadt, under a cloud of suspicion for a series of homicides that had advanced him remarkably quickly in rank, for service in foreign parts with the army of Hesse-Homburg about
a year ago. The immediate plan was to get him out of the country and away from vengeful relatives; then he was supposed to die gloriously in battle. This would hush up the entire matter, and give everyone involved plausable deniability as to the fate of Stein the younger.

Unfortunately, as of yet, young Horst had not fulfilled his part of the bargain. To be fair, this was not entirely his fault, since he was unaware that he was supposed to "shuffle off this mortal coil". Not only had he not died gloriously in battle, he had thrived in the Hesse-Homburg service, and had secured further promotions in rank and favor. (We can only wonder what nefarious and perhaps gory deeds had earned him these advancements and considerations, but whatever they were, they appeared to rest lightly on his soul.) Heinz had often wondered if the Homburgers really knew what kind of poisonous asp they had sheltered, as the months wore on and no word of Horst's long hoped for demise arrived.

Now, in addition to his fraternal concerns, the Colonel had received his orders for the campaign against the Prince-Bishop of Spires, and was getting ready to take his regiment, the Truerpfalz Frei Corps into action. It didn't look good. He was absolutely sure the General had never really forgiven him for the eighty piece Sterling Silver Tea Set that had come up missing when the Frei Corps had been the baggage train guard a couple of campaigns ago. Stein's account of a thieving battalion of Croats, that no one else had seen, was a mighty small fig leaf to stand behind, but that was his story and he was sticking to it. According to the General, the tea set had been given to him as a gift by the Russian Czarina for some mysterious service the old fellow had rendered. Ever since then, the General called upon von Stein whenever there was a particularly difficult mission to perform. It was a shame that the set had been melted down. He was sure the fence had cheated him as well. Stein had seen to it personally, that the last of the spoons had gone into the melting pot a couple of days ago, and that the fence was silenced forever. Now the von Stein family estate was free and clear of all debts, for the time being.

Colonel Stein thrust these thoughts aside and assumed the blank, wooden, somewhat stupid mask he wore whenever he reported to the General. As General Schwillingstaufinstein put it, "Colonel Stein, do you know how they hunt tigers in India? No? Well.... they tether a goat in a clearing, then the hunters take their place in some nearby treestands. Now the goat, the silly old thing, doesn't realize that it is being sacrificed, and it begins to bleat because it's thirsty, hungry, or needs to be milked. Eventually, the tiger comes around and while it is busy killing the goat, the hunters have a clear shot, or two, or three at the big kitty. Once they're sure the beast is dead, they climb down from the stands and tell each other lies about how brave they were and were hardly terrorized at all."

"Now your situation is very similar. I'm sending you out on our extreme left flank. Your corps will BE our left flank. No other supporting units will be available for you to fall back on, or call for assistance, if you get into trouble. Your mission is to make the citizens of Gerolburg cower behind their walls. You will be the tiger to their goat, so let some of their bleats for help get away to the Prince-Bishop. Make those peasants and burghers think that your rabble are the advance guard of our mighty host. They are not trained military observers lots of bugle calls, drumming, campfires, and whatever else your fertile imagination suggests. Do you understand Colonel?"

"Yes Sir! But sir, if I let some messengers through, won't the Prince-Bishop respond? Instead of being the tiger I would be the goat!"

"Exactly Stein!", the General cheerily responded. "When the Prince-Bishop and his men come storming up to smite you hip and thigh, and gobble you up, the rest of our army will have an opportunity to hit him on his left flank while he is strung out on the march! This makes him the tiger to our hunters. Dismissed Colonel!"

"It's going to be awfully hard on the goats, sir." Stein said as he saluted and left the command tent.

"The goat should have left my damned spoons alone!", the General whispered to himself.

1 comment:

Fitz-Badger said...

Excellent and amusing bit of background/story.