After a morning inspection and saber drill with his squadron of Saddlesore Lifeguard Lancers, Colonel Somerussian Guyovich casually wandered through the palace grounds, looking every inch the "Beau Sabreur" he was, while searching for his sister, Sharon Elaine, the Markgrafin of Raubenstadt. He eventually found her having a light lunch in a "Repose Temple" in the formal gardens. A squad of his brother David's Guard Musketeers was discretely scattered about nearby to insure that no one approached unchallenged.
"Ah! Colonel Guyovich! There you are. You certainly are a dashing figure in your Cossack uniform. Do you have to use that sword to fend off all the ladies that throw themselves at you?!", she teased. "Will you join me?", she said gesturing to a seat across from her.
"Thank you, Milady.", he said as he claimed a chair, keeping up the pretense that they were not closely related. "What's on the bill of fare? I'm frightfully sharp set and hunger is indeed the best sauce."
"The potato salad goes remarkably well with the bratwurst and a bit of mustard. I also recommend the iced strawberry cordial. It's very spritely."
"And this is...?", Guyovich inquired.
"A salad made with three kinds of beans as the main ingredients.", she replied. "There are rumors that the Frankfurters are working on a salad with five beans!", she confided.
"Remarkable.", he responded, as his plate and glass were filled.
As soon as the servants were out of earshot, the conversation took a more serious turn.
I'm surprised that you have enough of a saber left to carry, Paul. Is it true you hone it everyday?", the Markgrafin inquired.
"Sargent Malik looks at me every morning and says, 'Hetman, a dull sword is of no use to anyone.', then he puts an edge on it that would do credit to a razor. Father always thought I was an indifferent 'hack and slash' man, and Uncle Mack spent many a long hour drilling with me, but I've come a long way since then. I have done my best to pass on those skills to your own sons."
Sharon nodded and changed the subject.
"All of my requests for an audience have been courteously rejected, but rejected none the less."
"They're obviously stalling for time, but why and to what purpose? Who gains from the delay?", her brother pondered. "Uncle Mack is very concerned about the reliability of his sources.", he continued,"Even the Badmann network may have been compromised. He says he feels like...how did he put it? Ah yes! 'A one legged man in an ass kicking contest.'. He always had a gift for a colorful turn of phrase.", he laughed.
"Poor Uncle Mack.", she said as she joined in the laughter. "Well...he knew the job was dangerous when he took it. It's a very tangled web, and there is no easy way to unravel it. We tug on a few threads here and there to no avail. Legend says that Alexander used his sword to cut through the Gordian Knot. We may have to use similar means. We need friends in high places and leverage. I believe I can supply both!".
"Oh?!", her brother injected. "How?"
"Let me demonstrate." She pointed her closed fan at a dish that had been set upon a nearby stand. The dish suddenly shattered and the pieces fell to the ground. Both Von Kerns turned to see their brother David wave from a palace balcony and start to reload his air rifle.
"Friends in high places indeed! And the leverage?", Paul asked.
"It will be interesting to see how the Court reacts when I mention that the cabbage and Saurkraut contracts between Frankzonia and Raubenstadt are due to expire soon."
"Well that shall certainly set a cat among the pigeons", Paul laughed at his sister's audacity.
"I hope so!", she replied. "It's a good thing David is an excellent wing shot, when the pigeon we want takes flight."
Their glasses clinked as they toasted their plans.
"Death to Stagonia!", the Cossack Colonel said in a soft tone.
"Confusion to our foes!", the Markgrafin replied.
In the shadows of the carefully clipped and trimmed hedges and shrubs, von Mack slipped his spyglass back into a pocket. It looked like it was going to be another long day.