The Council and the General

The Council and the General

A Chapter by Scott Free
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We both worked on this chapter together.

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There are many types of kings in the area of the Great South Seas. There are tyrannical kings, who set up secret polices that go around in the early hours of the morning peeking into people’s underwear drawers. There are puppet kings, who, instead of having a Strong Right Hand, are generally controlled by a Strong Right Hand—though a left hand works just as well. There are beggar kings and rich kings and hedonistic kings and fat kings and jolly kings and run-your-sword-through-them-before-they-run-their-sword-through-you kings.

                There is one more type of king. This king is not necessarily different from any of those other kings. This king is perhaps just a bit hedonistic, just a bit fat, jolly sometimes, and perhaps, once in a while, wants to run his sword through somebody.

But mainly this is a king who shouts ‘Shut up!’

                “Shut up!” shouted King Emery the Fiftieth.

                The Archipelagean Council of Elders stopped and, in one uniform motion, all turned to him.

                “That’s better,” said King Emery the Fiftieth. “Now. Let me get the facts, and nothing but the facts, please. Chief Recorder?”

                The Chief Recorder leapt up from his seat at the ankle of the table and strode towards his lord. “The facts are, simply, this, my Gracious Lord. The Empire of Biast has sent a fleet, twenty-five warships and one dinghy strong—“

                “A dinghy?”

                “Yes, my lord, I hear that one of the ships sank and there wasn’t any room on the others.”

                “I see. Carry on.”

                “They have also sent an ultimatum. The terms are this; if you, King Emery of Archipelago, surrender now, you will not be subjected to death at the hands of General Fluct, but will be taken as hostage back to the Capital City of Banner and shall be condemned to a large glass trophy case wherein you shall live with the forty-nine other kings and eight queens who have submitted to His Emperorship of Biast.”

                King Emery’s thick eyebrows pushed together, creating a cloud over his eyes. “A trophy case?

                The Chief Recorder nodded, his Adam’s Apple bobbing. “Yes, sire, though I have heard it is quite comfortable. It is large and glass, and all the kings and queens are fed well, sire. All you, ahem, have to do is wear a signboard that says your name and when you were captured. I also hear that you can play cards with the other trophies—“

                “Shut up!” shouted King Emery. He stood up and addressed the court. “I will not be subjected to such horrendous monkey-doings! This bastar—“

                “Sire—“ the Chief Recorder interjected, “—this court session is being chronicled for the Records.”

                “Oh, fine. This stupid Emperor is making a mockery of Archipelago and all the islands in the Western region of the South Sea!”

                “Well, sire, ahem,” the Chief Astronomer cleared his throat, “this is, ahem, true. However, we do not, ahem, have the military resources or the, ahem, manpower to combat this Emperor. Ahem.”

                The King remained frowning for a moment. The court council remained seated, all watching each other as if they could find the answer in each other’s faces.

                “Chief General!” the King barked, leaping out of his lethargy in a second. Everyone jumped. The Chief Gardener poked the Chief General, who had been napping during the proceedings.

                “Yes, thank you, I wasn’t sleeping,” the Chief General growled, sitting up in his chair.

                The Chief General was by a few years the oldest in the assembly, even older than the Chief Mathematician (who still argued that two and two was five). He was also the baldest one there. If he had been depilated the effect could not have been more complete—his eyebrow hairs were gone, his head was a shiny upturned bowl, and his sideburns were non-existent.

                His wife said that she knew other parts without hair.

                “Chief General,” Emery nodded to him, “how many men are in our army at this time?”

                The Chief General blinked and began counting on his fingers. Finally, he declared, “Eight.”

                Emery sighed. “I thought we had nine, I really did.”

                “Well, we did, Your Em,” the Chief General blinked like his eyelids were stones, “but Ol’ Dirk died last week.”

                “Oh, that’s right,” the King held his chin up by his fist.

                The Chief General itched his bald head. “But don’t worry yourself, Your Em. I’ll start ‘em training again and they’ll be back in shape in a dolphin’s whisker.”

                “Ha!” the Chief Spymaster sneered. “Your army hasn’t bore arms for twenty years, and even that was just the Bucket Rebellion, which only involved five men and one half-starved weasel!”

                The Chief General shot a hostile squint at the Spymaster from across the table. “That weasel was a feisty one, it was.”

                The King raised his hands as a signal for everyone to be quiet (and that anyone who wasn’t would have their rear boiled in Archipelagean custom). “Chief General, the Chief Spymaster is only expressing his disbelief that your army is ‘ready to board’ for defending Archipelago.”

                “Yeah, I know it,” the Chief General wheezed. “And I don’t think it was a very nice expression of disbelief, neither.”

                “Chief Spymaster, I suppose you do have the numbers to back up this expression of disbelief?”

                The Chief Spymaster baulked. He was good at baulking. He shook his head and coughed into his hand. “Well, no, not as such, Your Majesty, but I know that they must have more than eight men in their ranks.”

                “I see.” The King loosed a frown on the Spymaster sufficed to shut him up—for the rest of the meeting, hopefully.

                The Chief Astronomer stood up and coughed. “Ahem, if I may be so bold, the reason that our army is not ‘ready to board,’ as it were, is that all of our, ahem, young men, are either at the, ahem, Academy for Aspiring Great Heroes, or the University for Young Villains. That is where the ‘cream of the sea,’ as it were, ahem, goes, these days.”

                King Emery sat up in his seat. “By the Great Clam, that’s it!”

                Every head turned—excepting the Chief General’s, which had by now gravitated back to the headrest of its seat and was occupied with quiet snoring.

                The King stood up. “We’ll have the students fight to save their homeland!”

                “But, sire,” the Chief Recorder interjected, “they are villains and heroes! Villains and heroes can’t…fight together!”

                “Who says they can’t?” the King demanded. “Eh? If any of you do, I’ll have your rears boiled in steaming seawater and your mouths washed out with brine. To the UYV and the AAGH!”

                Everyone jumped.

                The Chief Recorder ventured, “Er…are you alright, sire?”

                “What? Yes, I’m fine! What of it?”

                “You said Augh.”

                “Shut up.”

#

 

The Diplomat sighed.

 

In all his years of diplomacy, making treaties with jungle tribes, gathering tribute from scowling lords, braving deserts, mountains, and swamps that belched poisonous gases like an old codger’s rear, the Diplomat had never come up with such a hard task as dealing with a general as stupid as General Fluct.

 

They called him simply The Diplomat. He probably had a name, but no one really cared to know what it was. In fact, even though he had years of experience, he was actually a very bad diplomat. All the Biastite diplomats were. A diplomat didn’t need to be diplomatic when he worked for Biast; that was like bribing a slug not to bother your garden.

 

What this diplomat had was a mind like a rapier—much like the one he wore at his side.

 

“See now, General Fluct, the troops are—are you even listening?” The Diplomat twirled a curl of his wig. “You see General—pay attention!”

 

“Now, come on, Diplomat,” General Fluct grinned. “Don’t you want to see me catch that moth with me tongue, eh?”

 

“No and no! Sit down, you’re distracting yourself and me. Now look—“

 

“Couldn't you just skip all this talking and write down what I should say, old boy?”

 

The Diplomat surrendered. It was one move he knew, after all.

 

“Alright,” he grunted. “I have no idea how you ever passed the University of Tactician’s entrance exam, much less graduated.” He took out a piece of parchment and began writing.

 

“They have a school for Generaling?” muttered General Fluct with vague surprise. Thankfully for him the Diplomat did not hear.

 

Now, the truth was that General Fluct had been through the University of Tacticians—but it was also true that he had slept through most of both semesters. He still aced the exams.

 

General Fluct was what men would call a wunderkind. The problem was, he was only a wunderkind at generaling. He was quite bad at everything else—remembering, believing, thinking, balancing a spoon on his nose. General Fluct’s mind when on automatic shutdown when it had to think, but when he was on a battlefield it ran ten times faster than any mind on the field.

 

General Fluct had just started drift off when the Diplomat dropped a piece of paper in front of him. The General growled, picked it up and skimmed through it.

 

“My, my, you are a great rhetorician, though this is a bit long. I may have to add a semaphore or two—”

 

“Do you mean simile or metaphor?”

 

“Doesn’t matter which. So yes, add a semaphore or two, perhaps add to the overall conjunction and make sure the alliterative…allegorical, feeling, and all, comes through the troops, as well as the morale being raised by the overall feel of soaplessness and complete…erm, soiled tees.”

 

The Diplomat acted like the General knew what he was talking about, for Fluct’s sake if not for the sake of his own sanity. “Fine. You had better get outside, it’s almost noon and your troops will have gathered to hear you say it.”

 

General Fluct took his place at the top of a rather tall pedestal. He stared down at his troops and started his Grand Speech.

 

“We, the people of Biast, have stood tall for many years. We have conquered every nation in our path. We have done this with the braveness of our hearts and the strength of our arms, er—our numbers probably had something to do with it also. We have triumphed over Nations small and tall, and never before have we lost. And why is this? It is because of you, our brave troops who lay down their lives for our Empire, so that we shall conquer the world. We shall go out there and yet another great nation shall under our feet. We will go because we are brave, we will go because we are strong, er—we will go because we have more troops then them. So get ready, troops, your victory awaits. Oh, also, don't worry if you all die, we have plenty more troops back home so be as worthless—er, ruthless as you like. Thank you, Thank you. Your proud General Fluct as your leader. Any questions? Yes, you in the flamingo coat, there, speak up!”

 

“Sir, I—“

 

“Please put that in writing, there, and we’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as possible. Anyone else? No? Good! Off you go, then.”

 

General Fluct looked back at the Diplomat as the men dispersed. Fluct smiled.

 

The Diplomat sighed. “Think you’ve done a good job, eh?”

 

“Not too bad, all things considered.”

 

“Let’s just hope you do something more than a ‘good job’ on your campaign.”

 

General Fluct froze. He straightened. He growled.

 

The Diplomat stepped back. General Fluct was actually rather tall when he stood up, and his eyes had taken a fierce light.

 

General Fluct drew his sword. “Campaign. Yes. Objective—Medvelin. Capital. Archipelago. Swift landing, pincer, 4th, 5th, 7th Infantry to the north, up the mountain slopes, 10th, 6th Cavalry, 8th, 9th Heavy Infantry to the forest, create distraction, infantry attack from the north, hail of arrows, turtle movement with shields, chop the line in half, have the enemy in full retreat.”

 

The Diplomat’s mouth dropped. “All that?”

 

The General shook his head, like he was trying to clear away a fog. “What? Sorry, went off there. Want to have some tea?”



© 2009 Scott Free


Author's Note

Scott Free
I wrote the part with the King and his council, Greg wrote the part with the Diplomat and General Fluct. We both edited each other's parts.
Now, what I'd like to know is, could you tell who wrote which part?

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Added on June 21, 2009
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Scott Free
Scott Free

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