Thursday, March 12, 2009

Now It Can Be Told: The Crown Prince's Ride

Blast, thought Crown Prince Joern Carlos as he, unable to sleep in the unseasonable heat, stewed in his tent. The fall maneuvers were decidedly less crisp than the previous year's, the weather was oppressively warm and muggy for the place (Llano del Caballero, the Plain of the Plain Thanes) and time (late winter), and the two regiments of Moerish Arnauts accompanying the Corps of Observation were maddeningly enigmatic.

The officers and men were plainly brave as individuals, and they appeared to have more in the way of expert marksman than anyone had a right to expect, but they knew nothing of the discipline of the line, of the cadenced step to the drum, or to the measured volleys that ensured a battalion always had some firepower in reserve against the sudden appearance of a previously unmarked or concealed foe. Instead, these Arnauts almost reveled in their individual prowess. Worse, some of the officers, particularly the younger ones, were almost openly insolent toward what they called the soldiers of the Franj. This boded ill, if the Crown Prince were any judge, for the future tranquility of La Union Real.

For his own account, Joern Carlos would have been just as pleased to send the Moerish Dominions on their own way, could he be assured that they would not turn immediately to expansionist Mohammedan powers, or anyone else who might wish Casa de Yayubetja ill. All too well he knew he would find no such assurance this side of the gates of Heaven.

Fond as he was (despite the whispers of which he was well aware) of his father the High King, the Crown Prince thought his father entirely too sanguine about the prospects for continued peace in La Union Real. A large and powerful Gallia, restive Moers, and the other intrigues that always swarmed like lice across the continent made the position of La Union Real precarious. Large enough to draw suspicious, covetous, fearful, and/or unfriendly eyes from a number of quarters, yet not large enough to be able to bid defiance to all foes without powerful and reliable friends, Casa de Yayubetja stood poised on the razor's edge, Joern Carlos thought. The Crown Prince had no desire to be the man who reigned over the dissolution of his country.

So he sat in shirt sleeves in the dimly lit tent, and sweated, and stewed, and drank claret, lamenting that he had not even a detachment of his all-female household guard, the Guard Gretadiers, to cavort with. Or was it disport? He had always had trouble untangling the troublesome English verbs. He had left his guard-cum-seraglio back in Nuevo Narviki, thinking it best to cultivate a serious, sober, professional mien at this season's maneuvers. Stupid. At the very next opportunity, he mused, he would invite two Gretadiers to his tent, cavort with one, disport with the other, and see which seemed more appropriate. Stupid polyglot tongue, English, he thought, taking another swallow of claret. The Gretadiers were not the only (heh) "monstrous regiment," as the saying went, in Europa, he knew, but the custom in other lands was that to admit only maidens to the ranks. Where was the sport in that?

The Crown Prince's increasingly morose reverie was suddenly interrupted by hoofbeats and a flurry of excited voices outside the tent.

To be continued....

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