We based most of the campaign on the Plague City supplement to the game. Our heroes had to sneak into a zombie-infested city to get to a bishops abandoned palace to find a holy book that might give some clue as to the cause of the plague. They also had to save the daughter of the head of a band of local survivors who was trapped while scavenging in the city. In the process they learned a great deal about the undead.
The undead have a singular incapacity of crossing low obstacles, like strung rope.
As the undead lack a need for breathing, the moat is a most efficacious hiding place.
Who would have imagined that a grave yard would be frequented by the undead?
One should not engage the undead unless a means of egress is readily available
Oft times, other survivors present a greater danger than the undead.
A well furnished room is a definite asset when forestalling the undead
A good back-stab is the height of gallantry when encountering the undead
One must not be overly sentimental about luggage when attempting to flee the undead.
An unceremonious exit is the height of good manners when leaving the abode of the undead.
Monday, April 30, 2012
My regular gaming group just finished a short campaign of Pike and Shot and Zombies. It was our first time with the system and we found it to be fun and fast playing. The challenge of only having muzzle-loaders and melee weapons was a change from the regular zombie genre.
The characters were a couple of English mercenaries, Danny Smallbeers and Jack Shrapnell, who left service in the Swedish Army to follow a career as "petermen," men licensed to seek out salt peter for gunpowder. Unfortunately, they chose to start their career in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.
The family Frufroque, a scruffy band of Walloon camp followers
Running to catch a ferry
The heroic Captain Torkilsen
The characters were a couple of English mercenaries, Danny Smallbeers and Jack Shrapnell, who left service in the Swedish Army to follow a career as "petermen," men licensed to seek out salt peter for gunpowder. Unfortunately, they chose to start their career in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.
The family Frufroque, a scruffy band of Walloon camp followers
Running to catch a ferry
The heroic Captain Torkilsen
Interview with Roxy Smothers, 1973:
Somehow Schwarz and Ilsa had gotten away before the blast. They would cause us more trouble later.
The Germans were beaten back from Hcentzov for the moment at least and the big Demon was locked away inside his Tesla Coil and Magic Prison. But we knew it was only a matter of time before the whole weight of the Axis war machine was down upon us. The decision was made to evacuate while we still could. So we packed everything up and headed for Freedonia. It is amazing how much luggage a giant robot can carry by the way. I never understood why they didn’t catch on as bellmen.
Of course, Ruprikt was the last to leave Ruritanian soil. He probably would have never left if I hadn’t had all those shiny nickels to toss in front of him, leading him to safety.
So, three days later a huge convoy of trucks, wagons, cars and anything else that could move bore the surviving units of the Army, the Government, the Royal Court, and a host of refugees across the border into Freedonia.
Now Firefly, the sleazy little rat, was under huge pressure from the Germans to intern all of us. But when a sizeable fraction of the Ruritanian gold reserve was deposited into his personal bank account, he changed his mind. Having a death ray pointed at his house was also very persuasive.
At the time, the Germans didn’t push the matter, they were still fighting in Poland and Roosevelt apparently made some vague warnings about protecting all the ex-pat American citizens living in Freedonia.
So technically, we were all interned but the camp near Port Teasdale was probably the first one with a revolving door.
The Royal Navy was finally shamed into coming to pick us up. Unfortunately, crammed into a troop ship filled with the 3rd Leutonian Bicycle Regiment was hardly anyone’s idea of relaxing sea cruise. But after what we had been through, it was better than a trip on the Queen Mary.
A couple of days later, we were in France. The Ruritanians, soon to be followed by the Poles and then a flood of others, became the first of those sad nations-in-exile that festooned Paris and then London during those years.
And that, darling, is how I was in at the start of the Second World War.
What? Oh, of course, I ran into all them again, several times during the war and after. All that is, except Tesla. He went to work for the US Government and vanished during some experiment in Philadelphia.
Hozzenka stayed in Ruritania. She ended up hung by the Russians or hanging people for them. I was never sure which.
None of the rest could return to Ruritania, since the Russians ending up “liberating” it.
Broni headed the government in exile throughout the war. Safely behind a desk in London. Afterwards, he dabbled in big business, and starlets. Of course, all that high living put him off his aim when Milna finally caught up with him for their duel. It was in ’57 I believe, when Puppyface finally cornered him. Of course Broni survive but he never quite danced the same again, if you know what I mean. After all those years, it was nice to know someone who would keep a promise to me.
Good Old Ruprikt was the great old hero up to the end. Dying the way he wanted to during the Battle of the Bulge, surrounded with the Ruritanina Armored Brigade in that village in Belgium, the Germans asking him to surrender, and his response was that immortal defiant cry of “Soup!”
I regret that things never worked out for Puppyface and I, I’m sure it would have been fun. Of course, he became another big hero of the war, leading the Ruritanian Patroop and Rocket Regiment. Now a days, he is proud but certainly no longer poor. And still dreamily handsome. Mores the pity.
Chicolini, as far as I know, ended up selling ice cream on the board walk in Atlantic City – which really is not a bad end for a Freedonian Government official, most ended up dead or in jail.
The Shmengies returned to Chicago, had their own network television show in the 50s.They ran out of steam in the 60s, Acid Polka never caught on. But they have had something of a come back recently with this new Disco sound of theirs. Oddly, they never appear in public during a full moon.
Tura became something of a leading man during the war and great at selling War Bonds. Afterwards, he could never go back to Poland of course. Then he started going bald. I was never sure what he regretted losing more, his country or his hair. After going bald, he could only get work in B movies and dubbing over the screams in horror films. His latest work has been on the commercials as Mr. Clean.
Waggsie and I had some interesting moments during the war and after. He ended up as head of some department of the British government concerned with the darker side of Intelligence; I guess that moment he spent in hell taught him a thing or two. Or maybe he knew all about it before that. I think we were married for a few months sometime during the war. Well it IS hard to keep track of that sort of thing.
Then dear old Eric. We had our fights and arguments like any director and his most talented, beautiful actress. I was so sad when he died two years ago, screaming at the salesman over the cost of his new beret.
We all know about Hummingbird. Such an epic life. Such Huge Appetites. Such an Insufferable Bore. His death did come as a shock. Now I’ve heard all the theories and whether it was suicide, or accident, or even, as I recently read, suspected murder. I still maintain that he didn’t deserve to end up as marlin droppings.
What about Zoya? Well, everyone hears about her. Yes, I still occasionally see her or read about her or hear about how wonderful Zoya is. Heroic, talented, philanthropical, a model for women everywhere, the great heir to the Royal Throne of Ruritania, if it ever comes back, the Grand Duchess Zoya Radzivillovna Bupkis-Milna. Of course the worst thing is that she ended up with Puppyface. Any that they are ridiculously happy. With all those children. And it’s the first marriage for both of them!
Oh, the Demon in forest? No it didn’t stay there. But that is another story….
Interview with Roxy Smothers, 1973:
After the heartwarming reunion of these two idiots, we were invited into the little cottage which was not quite as grim on the inside as it had been outside. Oddly, it seemed to be much larger within than first appeared with corridors that seemed to stretched off into a vaguely defined interior. I asked Zoya’s mamushka, Baba Mischka, why she had brought us here to this charming little forest.
She told us, “Once, four thousand years ago, this land was populated by the Kurgans who were a good, simple people, moving with their herds from mountain to steppe on the changing of the seasons. But somehow they were seduced by the promise of the mysterious gods whose voices called to them from the primeval forests. All fell under this spell save a few shamans who saw the evil of these gods and who were driven to hide in the far places of the land. So the Kurgans built great temples to these gods, piling up high earthen mounds topped by monolithic stones. And the gods gave them power and wealth and the Kurgans spread across the Balkans into the steppes of the Ukraine and then beyond into Asia and even unto the mountains of what is now Tibet. All this was done in a single lifetime.
But the Kurgans had sown the seeds of their own destruction. For when they had reached the height of their power, they obeyed the call to bring forth the king of these gods, who they called Zmey, the Black God, the Breather of Fire. They were told Zmey would bring even greater power to them when he came to this earth. So the whole nation of the Kurgans gathered here at the forest temple and they chose ten thousand maidens to be brides of Zmey and ten thousand youths to be his minions and this brought the evil thing into the world. It is said the whole nation of the Kurgans died in the instant Zmey came through the portal, burned in the all consuming fire.
The whole world would have died that day, had not the faithful shamans watched. Using all their knowledge and power they fought Zmey and all but one were slain but they had driven Zmey back into the Otherworld, and the last shaman placed a seal upon the gate. Then she took up her watch, tying herself to the forest, gathering all the spirits who dwelt therein to make sure none would ever be tempted to upon Zmey or his minions again.”
“Yes, I am that shaman, the last of the Kurgans.”
“Wait a minute sister,” I said. “Are you telling me you are four thousand years old?”
“She wooks gweat fow hew age, doesn’t she? I’ve awways been attwacted to oldew women!” said the King.
She ignored this outburst from the King, probably being use to his complete lack of verbal self-control, and said to me, “It does not matter whether you believe me or not. It only matters that you believe that the Nazis are trying to open the gate once more, to summon up Zmey, to help with their plans for world conquest. But if they summon him, it will likely mean the end of the world.”
“What about the Cup?” asked Waggsie.
“That was what we used to drive Zmey back to his own, what you would call, dimension. It is a focus of power, we mixed the demon’s own fire with the sacred fires of the White God and the sun’s own pure light to push him back beyond the gate and lock him there.”
“If it is a key, why keep it. Would it not be better to get rid of it so as not to have it to open the gate?” Waggsie asked.
“The key is not the only way to open a door; one may break it down. That is what the Nazis plan to do and if they succeed there will be no closing of it again.
“Let me show you something,” she said as she produced from a cupboard a small stone tablet. On it was an intricate carving depicting a huge host of people being horrifically burned by a huge demon, fully one hundred feet high, with great horns and thick dark fur.”
“This is Zmey.”
“He looks vewy fwuffy,” said the King
Von Schnitzel shouted, “A creature who is intent on destroying the world is horrific, terrifying, maybe even repellent, but not ‘fluffy’!”
Mishka ignored them, “I knew that only fear would make men avoid this place and so I made carvings of what I say when the gate was opened and had these carving strewn throughout the former lands of the Kurgans as a warning. I then used my skills to give powers to the creatures of these woods, making them the legends that terrify, the vampyr and the leshy. But these Nazis are strong in their evil and I do not know if my creatures will keep them out. This science of your age is something I have never been able to account for. That is why I need your help now.”
Further discussion was interrupted by a loud whirring and sputtering sound coming from the sky overhead. Tura shrieked and nearly fainted. The rest of us rushed out of the cottage with guns at the ready. But instead of a Luftwaffe attack, we saw it was a small autogiro surrounded by a swarm of men bearing rocket packs on their backs. The autogiro had Ruritanian markings on it.
They came to a landing in a small clearing just beyond the edge of the birch tree grove. One of the rocketmen ran toward us. He stopped when he saw the King, apparently not at all surprised to see his aged monarch in a loin clothe. He was a very young man, little more than a teenager. He gave the traditional one-pinky Ruritanian salute and shouted in an adolescent crackling voice, “Your Majesty, Loft Poruchnik Baltazar Koma of the Rocket Patrol, University of Hcentzov Reserve Officers Flying Rocket Corps, reporting. His Royal Highness, Prince Bronislav begs to see you.”
I could see that Broni was not waiting the formalities. He dismounted from the autogiro and hurried towards the cottage. A very beautiful young woman in a tight uniform with too short a skirt followed him.
“Hewwo Fathew. I’ve come to fetch you back to Hcentzov whewe you’ww be safe. Genewaw Huwka’s fowces have awwived, Teswa is even now pwepawing his machines to defend the city. With wuck, we might even be abwe to get out to Fweedonia befowe the Nazis awwive.”
The King settled a grim eye on Broni, “Who is this “fathew” you mention?”
I interrupted, to save everyone from multiple speech impediments, “Oh, Broni, remember how you used to throw it in my face that I was not born royalty? Well it seems neither were you. Your dear Mama was, ah, indescreet.”
“With Doctor Tesla, right around the time you were born.”
Broni looked with surprise at the King, “Does this mean I am not wewated to you?”
“You most cewtainwy awe not!” said the King sternly.
“Oh, thank God! Now I can stop using the ridiculous speech impediment. I could never understand how I could be so brilliant and you so…
Hewoic? Wuggedwy Handsome?” offered the King.
“Precisely. Still, Your Majesty, we have no time to lose, the German aircraft and zeppelins are even now attacking the outer defenses of the city. Their armored columns are approaching. We can salvage something from all this, to carry on the fight. For the sake of our country.”
“No, Bwonswav, if that is youw weal name. Sometimes, countwy does not mattew, when the wowwd is at wisk.”
“Wadda he say?” asked Chico.
“Sometimes country does not matter, when the world is at risk.’” Tura suggested, “You know I think I am getting the hang of this, I don’t even need subtitles.”
“Oh Broni,” I asked, “Who might your little friend be?”
“Oh, that’s my new …aide, Lieutenant Koko.” The girl giggled vacuously.
“He picks some real dimwits, does he!” said Zoya.
“You’ve got that right, sister!” I responded with complete sincerity.
Broni seemed to notice Zoya was clasping the King’s arm and got a quizzical look on his face.
“Yes Broni, when you were with Zoya, you were the one who was actually the plaything of royalty. She’s the King’s daughter.”
Broni raised his hands in disbelief and then I saw that sly look working on his face.
“So Your Majesty, the only ones who know about the … accident of my birth are you and your friends? Well, a martyred king is as good a rallying point as a live one. I shall leave you to your heroic last stand. Come Milna, bring any troops that you have,” Here Broni looked contemptuously at the Shmengies, “No matter how poor quality, we shall need every trained man if we are to get out of this.
“No sir! I may be from a poor family but we have our pride. Poor but…”
“Yes, yes, I know. What’s your point?”
“I will stand with my King and my country, against the very armies of Hell!”
There was a high-pitched squeak that, this time at least, wasn’t from Tura. The rocket boys were all shouting that they would stay as well.
“Suit yourselves,” said Broni. “I’ll be thinking of you while I am sipping cognac at Biaritz.”
With that he left and we fell to making our plans to stop the opening of the portal.
Waggsie asked whether there was anything in the book that he had stolen from the German archeologist that would help.
“Oh my,” said Mishka as she thumbed through the notebook. “Most of it is wrong but there is some half-truths he had uncovered. He found the spell that would summon Zmey’s minions here but this one, it would have allowed him to cross over into the Otherworld. The fools.
“Why would crossing to their side be foolish? Might it not be better to fight them before they reached our world?”
“No one who has crossed the portal has ever returned. No, there was one, but only one. That was Sandorius, an alchemist to the first King Vlad. In fact, the spell in this book is his. But his was a special case and we wouldn’t want to follow his path.”
We could hear the sounds of the German air attacks in the distance, punctuated by loud explosions. Soon we could hear the distinctive banging of the German artillery and the rumble of large numbers of tanks.
Skinny Shmengy in his wolf form began whimpering and shaking his head towards his fat brother. Mishka said that the “dog brother” is sad because he was a slathering werewolf but his fat brother had not been turned into anyting so interesting. Baba Mishka petted the wolf and then turned to Fat Shmengy and waived her hand over him. She made him into something impressively disgusting, some sort of bog creature, wreaking of swamp gas and of a size and odor that would have given the Everglades a run for their money.
She sent them off with an unintelligible command. Wolf Shmengy ran up a nearby rise and began howling. This was soon matched by a number of other howls and a large group of wolves gathered around him.
Meanwhile, Swampy Shmengy oozed to a nearby bog that soon began burbling and exuding an even more noxious vapor. Soon, figures that were vaguely human in form began rising from the bog, one far bulkier than the others.
“You see, my forest children will try to hold off any of the enemy that comes by land.
“And we shall fight any that comes by air.” said Puppyface as he cocked a tommy gun, a rocket pack strapped to his back.
At this point, Bob Frnko finally seemed to rouse himself from a slumber, “I say, this whole endeavor raises profound theological questions. Baba Mishka and her minions are traditionally considered evil. Can one aid evil in fighting other evil and not become evil oneself?”
“Oh stuff it, Bobo. Mishka’s my giwfwiend!”
Mishka beckoned for us to follow her. Zoya, Hummingbird, Wagsie and I followed her on foot together with the Shmengies, both two-footed and four-footed varieties. She showed us to the mound where the ruined temple of the Kurgans lay. It was as she described, a hill covered with tumbled monolithic stones carved all around with arcane symbols. We hid ourselves behind some of the stones at the rear of the temple.
Chico, von Schnitzel, Tura, Hozzenka and her brigands took a more sensible approach and jumped in the stolen truck and drove to a secluded place along the path that served as the main road through the forest.
Mishka looked around and nodded her head. Then her form began to fade slowly into invisibility.
“Mamushka, where are you going? Stay with us and help us!”
“Do not worry, my daughter. This is my forest, I am a part of every leaf and blade of grass. You shall know what to do when it is time.”
That was when we heard a familiar hovering whine and saw the trees being whipped about as a German hovercraft rolled low over the forest canopy. It came to land in the small clearing in front of the temple. In the distance, I could just make out several big walkers thrashing through the forest.
After the hovercraft landed, its occupants began to be disgorged from its belly. The malignant little Nazi Schwarz was in the lead followed by that tramp Ilsa, more of the Tibetan monks, more she-wolves and two big Frankensteins’ monsters. In their midst was the mad-looking Russian priest, Roskolnikov.
“Hey, didn’t we blow that guys brains out, I whispered to Wagsie who was crouched next to me.
“Seems he got better,” was Waggsies’ laconic reply.
Roskolnikov strode into the center of the ruined temple and began muttering while the monks moved up chanting. An SS cameraman was filming it all.
As the walkers moved up, Swampy Shmengy and his bogmen flung themselves upon legs of the machines. Although they did not stop them, appearing more as something nasty you step in during a walk in the woods, the machine lost a bit of traction and definitely slowed.
Chico saw this as his chance. He drove the truck from out of its hiding place up next to the hovercraft. Von Schnitzel, in his best All-actors-are-slime-mold voices, began haranguing the crew of the hovercraft that the Fuhrer had ordered the operation to be halted.
Surprised and intimidated by the mad director, the crew was slow to respond when Chico leapt from the driver’s seat and ran into the cockpit of the hovercraft, knocking out the surprised pilot. Hozzenka and her brigands rush out of the back of the truck and charged after him. A short sharp fight and they had captured the hovercraft. Chico, said, “You know dissa getting to be a regular habit, huh.”
Meanwhile, the chanting went on. Thunder clouds began forming overhead and bolts of lightening shattered the sky. Several large stone blocks in the floor of the temple began to buckle and the fumes of sulfurous vapor wafted up. With a sudden crack, the blocks split and a sickening reddish-green light beamed forth.
A host of large, bat-shaped creatures, dark blue with glaring yellowish fangs sprang from the hole. They circled the ruins, forming a living shield around Roskolnikov and the Germans.
Skinny Shmengy and his wolf pack charged down on the mass, ripping into the bat-like creatures. The Skinny Leutonian latched himself onto to one of the Frankensteins, gripping its leg with a ferocious bite. The monster shook its leg furiously but couldn’t get rid of Shmengy, sort of like the rest of us for the whole trip. But the battle that was going the bats way since there were far more of them than wolves.
From behind one of the stones, Hummingbird fired his big hunting rifle at the Russian monk’s head. Roskolnikov was knocked flat but hurled himself back up, chanting all the while. As his chanting continued, the rift in the floor of the temple widened. I could see a sickly green glow coming from the hole and strange, inhuman shapes, too numerous to count that were hovering near the opening. Behind them a dark form of enormous size stirring in the nightmarish miasma beyond.
Wagsie and I looked on all this with growing horror. Our few shots with pistols at the blue bats proved inconsequential.
Wagsie looked at me strangely and sighed as if coming to some decision. Then he kissed me quickly but with great passion. Before I could say anything he leapt up and raced across the temple floor, muttering something, the book of the mad Nazi archeologist clutched in his fist.
Then he leapt into the crevice into the other world.
I screamed but then one of the bats came clawing at me. I rammed my barrel of my pistol into its mouth and fired. The bat flew backwards away from me and fell limp on the ground, a greasy liquid flowing from its shattered head. But more of the creatures were headed toward me.
Suddenly, I heard a warbling cry coming from woods. Out of the trees burst the King swinging on a vine, screaming in his best Weismuller voice, “AHHHHHAAHHHHHAHHHHH!” Under one arm, he had tucked Bobo Frnko who was holding aloft some sort of relic, some moldy saint’s knee cap, and yelling out prayers of exorcism. Behind them flew Puppyface and the boy scout rocketeers blasting away at the bats with their machine pistols.
The bats pealed off to fight these new intruders.
Meanwhile, Wagsie found himself in a strange, blighted place, without gravity or oxygen, the atmosphere a viscous thing, neither liquid nor air, sulfurous in composition. Great red devil-like creatures clustered about the gate through which he had just come. He saw the huge form of the great demon, larger than a battleship hovering just beyond the mass of red devils.
Wagsie bobbed as stilly as possible, trying to comprehend his surroundings and desperately holding his breath so as not to breathe in the searing substance in which he floated. The red devils for some reason took no notice of him, perhaps the book contained some talisman, perhaps given Waggsie’s early life of crime, he was just that good at laying low.
On our side of the portal, Chico swung the hovercraft over and directed he blades at group of the monks and SS women. The shocked group couldn’t get out of the way fast enough; all killed but one ancient monk. The old monk threw down his staff in disgust and said, “The hell with this evil stuff. All you Nazi do is kill monks. I leave, get job as short-order cook in Chinese restaurant in Firefly City.”
Tura who was perched behind the truck tossed a grenade towards Roskolnikov. He kept his eyes open this time and so missed, the grenade hooking to the right. It came to a stop at a huge dead tree standing on the side of the temple hill. When it exploded, the blast struck at its roots. The tree collapsed on the remaining Frankenstein and SS.
Wagsie, with the last breath of his tortured lungs, incanted the spell of summoning from his side of the portal. Suddenly, the bats were pulled as if by a suction back to the other side of the portal, their screeches of panic and confusion echoing across the hillside.
Hummingbird, called in his minds eye to Baba Mishka and asked her to give him the cup. It miraculously appeared in his hands. He pulled a small, hand-held radio, a gift from Tesla, out of his pocket. He called upon the mad scientist who yelled that he was busy destroying Germans and to call back later. When he told Tesla what he wanted done, the scientist voice grew silent. Hummingbird told him to direct the fire of his most powerful death ray onto his position. Then he pulled out his flask which was filled with his favorite Scotch, took a long drink, and poured the rest into the Kurgan Cup and held it up over his head.
A bright fiery beam shot across the sky from the direction of the city. It hit the rim of the cup. Hummingbird smoothly sidestepped the blast. The beam became an arc, a silvery rainbow arching out of the portal back to its source.
Roskolinkov rushed forward and thrust his hands into the fiery beam, calling out as his hands burned away, “Come forth! Come forth, oh Great One! I summons thee to this world!”
Suddenly Wagsie appeared in front of the shocked monk and shot him.
“Sorry, old boy. I think you called up the wrong guest.”
But then a rumbling shook the ground and an enormous clawed hand thrust out of the portal, its dark fur glistening in the light.
Meanwhile Zoya was crouched beside the fallen tree. A small flame appeared in front of her. It was vaguely in the shape of a woman and Zoya heard her mother’s voice inside her head, “Daughter, your friends have made only the first step, the key has been placed in the lock, now it must be closed. Take me to it.”
Zoya grasped the doll-like figure, barely conscious that it was flaming but did not burn her. She flipped over the branches of the fallen trees, and continued up the hill as the great hand broke wider the hole between the worlds.
Inside the hovercraft, Chico muttered, “Looksa lika we going to need a big a boom to stoppa dis thing.”
He pushed the throttle forward and the hovercraft barreled toward the giant hand. At the last moment, Chico, Hozzenka and the rest leapt from craft.
As the craft hurtled forward, Zoya, who was only a few yards away noticed that fuel was streaming from numerous bullet holes in the fuselage.
Her mother’s voice called out, “Throw me Zoya! Now!”
Zoya threw the flaming doll towards the hovercraft. The fire seemed to grow as it went and the craft was engulfed by flames as it headed toward portal. Zoya stood in stunned silence awaiting the explosion that would kill her but perhaps close the evil gate.
At the last moment, Milna came whooshing down and snatched her up, hurtling skyward as the craft impacted with its target.
With the first blast, I hit the dirt as great gouts of fire blasted out of the temple floor and explosions after explosion rumbled over the top of the hill.
The silence that followed was astonishing. The first sound I recall hearing was that of birds singing. Then I heard Hummingbird’s radio crackle and Tesla’s voice yelling that the Germans were retreating from the city defenses, falling back everywhere.
When I looked up I could see that the walkers unsteady in the marshy ground were being tipped into the swamps. A host of SS troopers on foot were fleeing the forest, chased by packs of wolves. Bulge calls sounded and horse hooves pounded as the Ruritianian cavalry charged into the rear of the retreating Germans
I saw that the top of the hill had been blasted flat. Where the portal had been was a jagged hole in the ground criss-crossed by a glowing cage-like structure.
“So is the gate destroyed?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” said Wagsie, “but blocked certainly. An amazing thing, that demon is now held by an amazing combination of weird science and magic, a cage of pure electricity and eldritch power….”
“And Scotch!” added Hummingbird.
Milna landed and set Zoya down, their hold on each other lingering for just a moment. The King limped over and shook Puppyface’s hand, “Weww done my boy, weww done. You have saved the wife of my new found daughtew! Pesky when you wose twack of them, isn’t it?”
“No thanks are necessary, Your Majesty. It has always been my family’s duty to serve. Though poor we are pro…”
“Poow? Weww, we shaww have to see about that.”
“But Pappushka, does this mean that Mamushka is dead?”
Bob Frnko spoke up, “No, my child, I think her spirit will be forever awake in this forest, guarding against evil, the last great treasure of the Kurgans.
“This does, however, raise some serious theological questions, you see according to the writing of Saint Methodius, in the sixth century…”
“Well thanks, Bobo.” Zoya had returned to her usual vacuous self. She turned to Milna.
“So Puppyface, how often do you work out? I try to exercise for at least two hours a day. I mean, usually, you know, not, like, when the end of the world is coming like today. How many squat thrust can you do?”
Milna glanced at me ruefully as he walked off her.
Then I saw Wagsie approaching. I went up to him, grabbed him by the lapel and smacked him as hard as I could across the kisser.
“You big lug, what did you think you were doing, jumping into the pits of hell! Don’t ever do that again…without me!” Then I planted a big kiss of that sweet scoundrel, and he returned the favor.
After a moment, I noticed that Hummingbird was standing across form us and looked very chagrined, like this was first time he lost out on a dame. Of course it probably was, at least in his own mind.
Before I could say anything to the writer, Skinny Shmengy came up to him and said, “Hey, look Mr. Humpingbird, me and brother Yosh back to being Human. I no more wolf, he no more goo! Um…oh…Mr. Humpingbird, I hate to say but just before I turn back from wolf, I whee’d on your leg. Sorry. Nice beard by way.”
I turned back to Wagmore and we kissed again. It was perfect.
Interview with Roxy Smothers, 1973:
As the sun was coming up, the battle still raged around Strelzov but it was clear that the Germans were getting the worst of it. The fields around the Bosko suburb were littered with smashed and burning tanks. The filthy fascists would not be getting into the capital today.
We saw that the road south was relatively open. So after a brief discussion, we decided to continue with our original plan of having the motorized troops act as a decoy, heading south on the main road while we took the King and Bobo Frnko down smaller side roads.
Waggsie and Tura both still had their SS uniforms. Puppyface, who could speak passable German donned another German uniform. Chicolini found a dead Sylvanian and grabbed his uniform, the blood stains not being too noticeable for a usually slovenly Sylanian. They would act as our “guards” and the rest of us would be VIPs (Very Important Prisoners) in case we hit any snags in our trip.
Just as we were setting off, Waggsie fired off one of the rockets as going away present. It smashed into a long column of tanks with great force, destroying several of them.
We loaded into one of the communications trucks from the rocket battery. Again, thanks to Waggsies’ purloined code books, we were able to figure out where most of the enemies ahead of us were located and avoid them. Along the way, we tried to help the motorized brigade with radioed warnings of enemy positions and though they still took a beating, they kept moving south.
Heaven help me but it was Zoya who showed us the way. She had grown up in Hcentzov Province, in some backwoods cabin so she knew most of the back roads. She occasionally would blather about the pretty kinds of birds you would find this woods or the sound that a particular burbling spring would make but the occasional rap across the noodle with a rolled up copy of the Strelzov Tattler (Sunday edition with the sales insert) kept her focused.
Because of an occasional air patrol, we would have to hide in the woods that often lined the roads. Now I had never been to this part of Ruritania when I was married to Broni and I realized how different the countryside here was, dank forests and swamps, so very different from the charming royal forests in the north. They were dark with strangely twisted trees and an air of menace. No wonder Zoya was so odd.
The other problem we had was that the woods were full of vines. King Ruprikt was still got up in his Tarzan outfit and, at every stop, would go for a swing. It usually took us the better part of an hour to get him back, especially after we ran out of bon-bons to coax him back into the truck. When we stopped for the night, we had to tie him to the spare tire to keep him from wandering off.
We got up early the next day. Zoya said we should reach the forest she grew up in by about sunset. The city of Hcentzov was just beyond that forest. About the middle of the day we accidentally drove into an enemy checkpoint in a small village. Having been eavesdropping on the Germans all this time, it came a surprise when we turned a bend and there was a large mechanical man astride the road. Soldiers in funny pointed caps hovered around it.
Chicolini must have been distracted, probably trying to come up with his next con job, since we nearly drove right into one of the walkers despite Waggsie yelling repeatedly for him to stop. A burst of machine gun fire from the walker in front of the truck finally got his attention.
The soldiers swarmed around us, poking long bayonets in Chico’s and Waggsie’s faces. I could see that the soldiers weren’t Germans, or Graustarkers, or even Sylvanians. They had big red stars on their cap and I could just make out that the village inn, which they were using as a headquarters had a big red flag with a yellow sickle on it hanging from an upper window.
Oh, these weren’t Germans. They were Transbalkanians with the odd Ruski advisor. Reds!
Now everyone back then in Hollywood knew some Commies but these tended to be whiny writers and bad waiters. These thugs were very different. They looked about the size of a house and block-headedly brutal.
There was a large group of civilians being kept behind a make-shift barbwire fence. A commissar was haranguing them on the wonders of class struggle and saying they would learn more when they arrived at their re-education camp three miles below the Arctic Circle.
An officer yelled at Chico and Waggsie in broken German, asking our business, so Waggsie and Tura go into the whole SS act, going on about what an important mission they were on and how Comrade Stalin had ordered complete cooperation. The discussion ended with Waggsie and Tura being escorted into the inn to see the General. This didn’t look good.
While this was going on, Hozzenka and her boys slipped out of the side of truck and ran to hide behind a stone wall near the village inn. Zoya followed after them, calling out in a loud whisper, “Wait for me, Hozzenkushka, I am your commanding officer!”
Too bad I hadn’t rapped her noggin a little bit harder, I thought. Fortunately they got there just before another of the armored walkers moved up behind our truck.
Just as Zoya and Hozzenka and the brigands began to move toward the inn, with some sort of mayhem intended no doubt, several Reds noticed them and charged over with their bayonets. When the soldiers shouted at them for their business, Zoya responded by claiming to be a troupe of traveling acrobats looking to entertain the brave comrades.
Fully expecting this claim to be followed by a volley of Bolshevik bullets, I turned away. And noticed that Puppyface had left the truck and wandered over to the prisoners. He had an adorable but very dangerous look on his face, a sort of My-Honor-Won’t-Let-Me-Stand-by-and-See-These-People-Suffer-So-I’m-Going-to-do-Something-Incredibly-Brave-Yet-Stupid look.
Then I noticed the really big Walker that was in the village square just in front of the inn. Chicolini stood beside it arguing furiously with the dismounted driver who towered over the Freedonian. This couldn’t end well either.
Then Hummingbird said, “Don’t worry, I know just what to do. It will be perfect.” Then he leapt out of the back of the truck.
I didn’t feel reassured.
Excerpt from The Sun’s Also Shiny, The Great American Novel, by Ernest Hummingbird:
They were in a tight squeeze; carrying the King and Kurgan Treasure and now trapped in Red roadblock. How to escape? The Writer knew the answer, there was only one answer. The perfect solution to any problem. He would offer them drinks.
The Writer rolled out of the back of the truck. He pulled out his cocktail shaker, the one with the dent where it took the bullet instead of his heart that day along the Ebro. He quickly mixed up a batch of Maiden’s Prayers, using some leftover brefnish instead of rum and drippings from the crank shaft instead of triple sec. The drinks were perfect.
He stood alone in front of the metal walker, its twin machine guns aimed directly at him, waited for the wrong mover to cut him in half. He waggled the shaker next to his head, the universal sign that the bar was open. The Writer knew his Reds. A hatch on the front of the walker popped open and the driver gestured greedily for a drink. Soon, other guards noticed this and began to wander over, their officer having left to escort the disguised Professor and Actor into the headquarters building.
Then he saw the Young Officer by the prisoner pen. He knew the Young Officer would try to rescue the prisoners. An open assault would have caused a massacre. But he saw the look in eyes of the Young Officer. He new that look, it meant trouble. With a Capital T. That rimes with D. That stands for Death. My old friend, thought the Writer, Death. But not today, Death would stay home, nursing a hangover like you get when you mix scotch and vodka, about a half gallon each. No, Death would not win today, the Writer had the perfect solution.
Before the Young Officer could act, the Writer sent the Fat Musican to knock out the guards remaining at the prisoner pen. He warned the Fat Musician that it must be done quietly. It was a wonder how a man as big as the Fat Musician could move so swiftly, so silently, but the Writer had that effect on people. The Fat Musician rolled over the first guard, his fat smothering the unsuspecting sentinel, crushing him. The Fat Musician took out the next guard, fairly flowing along the side of the wire, propelled by gravity, the second most powerful force known to nature, the first being the need for a drink.
The Movie Star came out of the back of the truck, all eyes upon her. She didn’t look at the Writer, knowing she could not resist him and there was work to do now. There would be time later for her to lose herself in his magnificent beard.
She coyly began flirting with the guards, distracting them from the nearby fight. She hiked up her skirt and placed her shapely leg on the foot of one of the walker, asking if they could take a picture of her and Writer inside these fine products of Soviet Science. The Reds readily agreed.
She and the Writer got in the walkers.
The Skinny Musician saw his chance and went over to the wire with a big pair of wire cutters. But the only problem wrong with this plan was that the Skinny Musician was an idiot. He cut the wrong strand, and it coiled around him in perfect circle. This alerted two of the guards and the commissar who was obviously a sissy since he didn’t drink the Writer’s drink. They charged towards the Skinny Musician who flailed around with the strands of the barb wire tube in which he was trapped. He tipped over onto his head and the coiled wire sprang him back. The movement was not without Beauty, it was a movement that could be described as slinky. Finally the Skinny Musician caught the commissar in his coils and subdued him. The Young Officer took out the remaining two guards with a burst from his submachine gun fire.
On the other side of the prisoner pen, the crew of a heavy machine gun prepared to fire. They were too late. The Fat Musician rolled towards them, an inescapable Doom that crushed them both and there weapon of Death.
The Young Officer lead the prisoners out of their pen.
A large explosion shattered the office of inn.
Then they heard the shot of heavy caliber cannon. Chicolini was at the controls of the big walker, having stabbed the driver in a disagreement over chipped paint. He had turned the gun onto the Headquarters and was preparing another round.
The soldiers who should have been guarding the Headquarters were all distracted by the acrobatic performance of the Dancer. Her sinuous twists and turns distracted them from the unenthusiastic flourishes that the brigands tried to aid to her performance. When the firing started, the brigands turned their guns on these soldiers, who gave up without fight.
The Writer and Movie Star turned the guns of the walkers. With the legs of her walker canted at a seductive angle, the Movie Star called out, “Drop your weapons, comrades!” The Reds did so.
It was Perfect.
Interview with Roxy Smothers, 1973:
Wagsie later told me what happened inside the inn. After Waggsie started name-dropping to the officious little snot who commanded the roadblock, the little Commie rat tried to impress the new allies. He told them that the General would love to speak with them, especially about a problem that just came up.
It seemed that they had caught a spy, a tough old bird who wouldn’t talk, and knowing the fame of the SS at interrogation, would the Herr Officer mind giving some advice.
With little choice, Waggsie and Tura followed the officer into the headquarters. There they were introduced to an incredibly fat, Shmengy-sized Russian General, in monumentally oversized hat. He expressed his warm fraternal feeling for Dear Old Adolph and admired the efficiency of the Nazi security apparatus. He asked them to help break the spy who they had caught wandering apparently aimless in the nearby woods. They showed Waggsie the contents of his pockets, several large electronic devices of advanced design and obscure purpose and a gold and gem incrusted cigarette case with a large “G” on the lid.
That was when the brought the spy in. He was an thin old man with a thick mustache and shock of white hair. Waggsie immediately recognized the face of Nikola Tesla, Ruritania’s most famous scientist.
Around the turn of the century Tesla had been one of the most famous men in the world, appearing everywhere with lectures about his inventions, about free electricity, and about the use of robots to free man from menial labor. Then something happened to him during the Great War, no one knew what. But once Ruritania was liberated from the Central Powers, he retired from public life and concentrated on research at the University of Hcentzov. He became a virtual recluse often disappearing into the countryside for long periods of time. It must have been on one of these walks that the Commies grabbed him.
When the old man saw that Waggsie was handling his cigarette case, Tesla flung himself on the Professor, screaming for the return of his dearest property. This was surprising since Tesla had never met Waggsie so the cigarette case must have been extremely important to him or else Tesla was an amazingly good judge of character. The guards roughly brought the under control.
Hoping to gain time, Waggsie asked for a pair of pliers and a pinapple to use for interrogating the prisoner. When asked what they would be used for, Waggsie went into such an imaginative description of the intended torture that even the Russians blanched and Tura fainted.
Fortunately, the Reds had no pineapples. But they did have grenades that looked something like pineapples. Waggsie picked up one of the grenades. He menacingly approached Tesla who stood silently defiant.
That was when shots began to ring out below. This was Puppyface who had begun firing his submachine gun.
The General and several of his officers ran over to windows to see what was happened, their backs to Waggsie and the prisoner. Waggsie pretended to fumble with the grenade and then lofted it over his shoulder. It landed at the General’s feet. Waggsie hit the deck and Tura tackled the old scientist.
The blast shred through the office, killing the General and his staff. The remaining guards were trying to recover when the shell fired by Chicolini from the big walker blasted a corner of the building. The guards gave up.
Tesla shoved Tura off him and said it was good thing the world was going to end, he was sick of being manhandled by ruffians.
Diary of Zoya Bupkis
September 12, 1939
Now that I am back home, I am very happy. Oh not as pleased as if I had been coming home as a prima ballerina or married or something and certainly not with all sorts of fascists and Nazis and Communists chasing me.
This is how I came home. We had the fight with the Russians and Transbalkanians who Roxy referred to rather colorfully as Dirty Reds, although they didn’t seem to be any more unwashed as any of our peasants, least of all Leutonians but I guess Americans are very particular about cleanliness what with all their soap and detergent advertisements.
After we freed Doctor Tesla and the other people, the King and Doctor Tesla began arguing about the dead Queen, Gigi. Apparently, Doctor Tesla was sweet on Queen Gigi, when she was alive that is. Both old men were very angry and they went at each others throats. It was very strange to see two such old men fighting like that sort of like an Easter Pageant.
While they were fighting, a big cigarette case fell out of Doctor Tesla’s pocket and several pictures. One was an old picture of a Can-Can dancer and the other was a picture of Bronislav!
Tesla knelt down and picked the pictures up with great care, wiping the dust from them. He made a soft crooning sound about his beloved queen and his dear, dear boy.
Roxy shook her heard, “You mean…Bronislav is Tesla’s son? That would explain a lot!”
“Yes, he is our love child. Gigi was the great love of my life, she was worthy of so much more than this idiot King!” Then Doctor Tesla flung himself on the King and they wrestled a bit before we could separate them again, Andrei holding the Doctor back.
Did I mention how handsome Andrei is, even though he is only a Lieutenant and I am a Colonel, I wonder if I could walk out with him? Oh, I know he is sweet on Roxy right now, but she is so much older than he. So much older. And he is very athletic and I am athletic too. Maybe I should ask him to exercise or something. Plus I am sure he is not as Roxy would say a two-timing rat like Bronislav who isn’t even a real prince now but the son of a mad scientist.
Then Doctor Tesla said we could all die since Queen Gigi was no more, having been killed in the Great War, there was nothing left for so he was glad the German were coming to open the door to the Otherworld were the sleeping demons lay.
Everyone began talking all at once, asking him how he knew about the gate and would he help stop the Germans. But Doctor Tesla remained firm that he wanted to die and the whole world should die with him.
Then the king interrupted and said, Weww, genius. Since this is a gate to the othew wowwd with aww sowts of spiwits, why not use that supew sized bwain of youws and waise Gigi from the dead.”
Tesla then got very quiet and you could see he began thinking very hard about. His face brightened and he shouted, “That just might work! I will help you and save my beloved Gigi at the same time!”
Roxy said, “My God, Ruprikt actually persuaded a genius. Tesla must be mad.”
We loaded all of the freed prisoners on the Russians’ trucks and wagons and set off with the big walkers protecting us.
We were still several verst from Hcentzov but it felt more and more like home with each passing minute.
I began to recognize our dear old forest that I grew up in with all its great twisty trees and wonderfully burping swamps. Soon the truck we were in turned off the road and began moving through the woods, the steering wheel turning on its own and not letting Mr. Chicolini drive where he wanted. I said that Mamushka knew we were here and we would be home soon!
The others seemed upset that we were going through this forest this way. The Shmengy brothers were actually very scared with Fat Shmengy pulling out rosary beads and fingering them to a frightened chant of “Chicago Bang Bang, Chicago Bang Bang, Chicago Bang Bang” which was quite a peculiar way to pray but then I guess God can listen even to Leutonians.
They all seemed really upset when I mentioned how Mamushka used to make the cottage walk around the forest on big chicken legs.
Skinny Shmengy got very upset and started telling them stories about Baba Mishka, silly things about being a dread witch. How silly but what do you expect from stupid Leutonians.
Now they got really frightened when they saw some of the tree people walking through the forests and Mr. Tura began screaming when, out of the forest gloom popped up a shadowy figure with a long pale face and large fangs.
“Oh Uncle Nosferatu! How good to see you again!” I cried for he was my favorite “uncle” from among the forest people.
Finally we turned into the path to the old stone cottage in the middle of the stand of birch trees. The truck stopped and the door to the cottage creaked open.
Everyone else was sitting in the truck and shaking with fear over what would come out. At first they saw a dark shadow and heard a cackling laugh.
Mamushka was still as beautiful as when I last saw her which was now almost a year ago. Her long dark hair fell in waves over her shapely figure. Most people who saw her said she looked about thirty but I thought she didn’t look any older than me and I am twenty-one.
Skinny Shmengy said, “Hey, who’s the doll? Wawooo! Wawoo! Woof Woof!”
Now Mamushka looked over at him and I could tell she wasn’t happy. She waived her hand and Skinny Shmengy turned immediately into a wolf, a small skinny wolf that wasn’t very bright.
Fat Shmengy stood up for his brother, “Chicago Bang Bang!” he called crossly at Mamushka.
Mamushka’s face softened and she said, “Don’t worry brave but fat Leutoni. I shall return your brother to his proper form but only after we have had a chance to speak. I don’t want him to interrupt again.”
Everyone seemed happy with that even Skinny Shmengy Wolf who began sniffing at his own poop.
Then I noticed that Mamushka was very quiet and looked at the King. Finally she sighed and said, “Hello, Ruppie.”
The King looked at Mamushka and said with a big smile on his face, “Oh Mishka, its been a wong time. How is ouw chiwd?”
Now Mamushka had always told me my Papa was a great hero who had hidden in our forest during the War after his wife had been killed and how she helped him defeat his enemies and how he had wanted her to come and live in a big palace but she could never leave our forest but said that he will take care of me when I got older.
Then I remembered when I was six years old how Papa had come to visit. And now I realized that the King was him! That’s why he seemed so familiar and not just because his picture was on the money and postage stamps!
Who would have thought that a simple country girl like me would be someday be a real Princess?
“Oh Papushka!” I cried and threw my arms about him
Then he said with the greatest love, “Oh, you wittwe bastawd!”
Monday, April 23, 2012
Interview with Roxy Smothers, 1973:
Our escape from Strelzov proved to be far more adventurous and far more noisy that I thought it would be. After all, we were supposed to convince the king to get out of town before it was surround by the Germans. Instead, we had to wait around for a day and more until “everything was ready.” What “everything” was, I had no idea. They said it had something to do with finding enough fuel for the King’s escort but more likely it was due to Ruprikt not being able to find one of his favorite shiny cufflinks.
As a result, by the time we were ready to leave, on September 9th the Germans had dug in around most of the city. The only road open was to the east. But we couldn’t go that way since the day before, the Transbalkanian Reds had invaded with help and encouragement from Uncle Joe Stalin.
By the way, I later met Stalin, simply beastly man, no manners, hated women, and smelled of cheap pomade, Turkish cigarettes, and old beet soup. Plus he couldn't dance worth a spit.
So it was decided to follow Broni’s plan and sneak the King, along with that Teacup of the Apocalypse, out of the city to Hentzau. That meant crossing German lines.
Fortunately, Puppyface Andrei arrived. He had been trying to open the railroad to the south with his tin choo-choo. He said it was a few miles down the tracks but cut off from the city by German lines. He walked into Strelzov to see about coordinating a sortie to open line back up.
So the plan was that the King’s Walloon Guards and the Capital Motorized Brigade would stage a showy breakout attempt. Meanwhile, Puppyface would guide the King and the rest of us on foot down to an old brefnish brewery or distillery about a mile south of Strelzov, trying to keep communications with the south open, albeit tenuously. Once we reached it, Andrei would radio his train to run in scoop us up and off we would go.
We left the city in the early morning of September 9th. Unfortunately, this was the same day that the Germans decided to begin a full blown, bang-up attack on the cities defenses. As it turned out, it was quite a fortunate turn of events for us. With all the noise and confusion from the attack, we were able to slip out without anyone being the wiser.
Other than the enemy patrols, the city-wrecking assault guns, and the King doing a Johnny Weissmuller impression, it really wasn’t too bad a walk.
Excerpt from And A One and A Two, My Life Following the Demon Rhythm of the Polka, the unpublished autobiography of Stanislaus Shmengy
So this war thing is not so bad for couple of poor Leutonian brothers who are in Army and not getting shot. We get to ride most places with stuck-up Zendarians but since we Majors of the Sergeants, we get to order them around and get best of the food. Even better we get to shoot lots and lots of Non-Talker Nazi Fascist Germans along with some stinking Graustarkers and couple scaredy-cat Sylvanians. Even when Prince Hetman Bronislav take stuck-up Zendarians away to fight for him, we still get to ride with rich people inside car and not on fender or nothing. Then we get to Streltzov and what do you know, we get to stay in fancy-pants hotel with toilets in little rooms on the inside. Plus we not having to sleep in bed crowded with relatives and livestocks. Also they having place in basement of hotel where bombs not to drop on us. Is real nice way to fight war, excepting for there nothing to eat in basement but fish eggs and bubbly wine which is not strong enough to see nothing that not there like good brfnisz back home.
Then we hear stinking Transbalkanias now invade us from east and they take over all of Leutonia since most soldiers are in west fighting Non-talker Nazi Fascists. This give Yosh and me good laugh for who but stupid Transbalkanian would want Leutonia. Hey, maybe now we get to live in nice refugee camp.
But then rich people come and say we got new mission to do and have to leave city. This not so good since lots and lots of Non-Talker Nazi Fascist Germans along some stinking Graustarkers and even couple scaredy-cat Sylvanians have by now whole city surroundeded with lots of tanks and cannon not to mention much aircraft and balloons attack. Also rockets.
But Post Master he say we can get out down railroad track, sneak past Nazi Fascist lines and get to old Brfnisz Works. There we meet with armored train that take us all way to Hcentzov, there to stop Nazi Fascist plot over little cup from Hell and saving whole world maybe.
And who we have as guide but pretty boy Milna who is making much moony eyes at Roxie Movie Star so we wonder if he too busy trying to make yeybachny with her to get us out of city to his train.
So we go, just before sun come up. Down railroad tracks in dark with Mr. Professor dressed as Nazi Fascist SS man in front. Before we get far, we hear noises behind and old man wearing only cloth around yarblinkas comes up swinging on broken telephone lines like Jungle King swing on vine. You know what. This King Himself. Yosh and I pretty surprised you bet since King supposed to leave with Motorized Brigade which is now moving up road to get out of city too.
King after getting down yodeling from tree say he come with us to meet with queen who is dead but King think she still alive so maybe she wampyr since he is King and he should know if wife around or not. Also with him is great Holy Man High Bobo of Streltzov, head of whole Ruritanian Church.
Yosh say in warning, “Chicago Bang Bang.”
I say, “I know, no cursing around the holy man or have to do much penance of whacking self in face with carp fish.”
Pretty movie star Roxy explain that when King little boyshik he go on safari to Africa with royal parents and they forgetting him in jungle, he is raised by monkeys which beside improvement he not notice difference. But he come back as young man and is great hero to all Ruritania for many years and is now King.
Yosh and I very honored to protect King and Holy Bobo, so we promise shoot lots of Nazi Fascist for them.
“Oh how nice,” say King and we two very happy Leutonians.
We continue to go down side of railroad tracks and get to right where our lines end and enemy begin. We could see big tanks and lots and lots of Non-Talker Nazi Fascist Germans along many stinking Graustarkers and even more scaredy-cat Sylvanians all over place, attacking city. Whoo boyshik!
There is much banging and boomings with many Non-talker German tanks being blowed up since our boys hide many anti-tank gun and rifle in buildings so surprise Non-talking Germans real good!
Then we hear some enemy coming up tracks. We hide in bushes and they are almost past us. Then bad thing happen.
Now Yosh is known in all Leutonia as winning loudest fart contest at Spring Festival to Celebrate Not Starving to Death in Winter or Getting Cholera. His fart echo over whole province, it very impressive. But when we all hiding from Non-talking Nazi Fascists is not good time to show how good he fart. But Yosh now fart really loud anyway. Must be fish eggs and bubbly wine he not used to. Enemy, they being stinking Graustarkers turn and yell at us. I get up and shoot machine gun, a couple fall. Then Mr. Hummingbirdy and Yosh get up in middle of track, back to back and shoots both their big guns. Since Stinking Graustarkers all in line coming up trail, many killed by one bullet. We shoot and shoot till all dead. It good time.
We go down road some more and then we see big, big tank, bigger than our whole village with big big gun. It shoots at city. Shell bigger than Mr. Klopnik’s beer wagon, is shooted. It go over city and hit Post Office which all tumble down. This not so good. How they able to kill so many Postmans?
We get angry and run up to mortar that firing. King swing on vine and knock over gun crews. We then shoot mortars at Nazi Fascists and killing many. Then we try shoot at big big tank but it no good. Big big tank turns to shoot much machine gunnings at us. This not good but then our boys back in lines shoot anti-tank gun at big big tank in side. Big big tank make big big boom and get all blowed up.
Then we get to brfnish works, a couple of Post men there to welcome us but they look worried, very worried. This not good.
Interview with Roxy Smothers, 1973:
After the gunners were so kind as to blow up the enormous tracked vehicle with the huge gun, our way was much better lit. We passed by it as round after round of ammunition went off like some fireworks display. I saw that written on the side was the name, Frederich der Grosse. Not so Great now, are you Freddie?
With the light from the fires, we were able to find our way easily to the brefnish works.
It was hardly what one would call a fortress. It was a big sturdy building made of brick. It looked like it had been rather hastily abandoned as it had been; there were trash and old barrels scattered about outside.
There were only about a half dozen Postmen inside. They had been here the better part of three days, since the first German troops arrived on the outskirts of the city. They spent that time keeping themselves hidden from the Axis onslaught and occasionally calling to the gun batteries inside the city telling them where to shoot at the advancing enemy.
The postmen were led by our old friend, Mr. Bogush, who was visibly upset by the destruction of the Post Office building. Zoya became visibly upset too, when Mr. Bogush said he didn’t have any cookies with him.
We could hear the sounds of the battle raging outside. The Germans, together with a host of Graustarkers and Sylvanians were going after the southern suburb of the city with hammer and tong. But, by the way it sounded, our boys were giving back as good as they got.
The suburb called the Bosko district was a fairly well-to-do, upper middle class one filled with sturdy stone and brick buildings. The Ruritanians had made each one into miniature forts with all sorts of mines and anti-tank guns hidden in them. The troops were also were using what were being called “Hummingbird Cocktails,” flaming bottles of alcohol to set the Axis vehicles on fire.
Realizing that we had some time on our hands before the train arrived and with the enemy tanks just outside, we decided to make ourselves as comfortable as possible but in the quietest way possible.
Von Schnitzel and, of all people, Tura went outside to help keep watch as well. They warned us that some sort of tank, a self-propelled gun I think von Schnitzel called it, had parked just outside the building.
In meantime, the King, still in his loincloth, asked for a drink, to which Hummingbird happily complied. He made us a Cointreau Sidecar, only using brefnish instead of cognac, sawdust instead of sugar, and instead of the Cointreau, the oil used to lubricate the distilling machines. The drink was amazingly good and I thought what a waste it was that he devoted his life to literature when what the world needs far more is good bartenders.
Seeing Hummingbird working with the old brefnish gave Chicolini an idea but one of a far more homicidal nature. He and a couple of the postmen went to work on making some sort of flame thrower to take care of the vehicle outside.
The Professor, who was apt to wander off on his own, usually to steal a small fortune or military secret, did so now, still in his SS uniform.
Puppyface went to the radio and called to his train. When he got done, he had a decidedly despairing look on his ruggedly chiseled face.
“What’s the problem, Macho Gringo?
My train, the Shmigly, reports that it cannot reach us. It was spotted and attacked by German aircraft earlier this night and was heavily damaged. It has retreated down the tracks about thirty kilometers and may have to run further south to get away from the German planes. We are on our own for now.”
Immediately upon hearing this, the ever resourceful, if hulking, Hozzenka took her thugs and went off in search of a loose German truck she could pocket for our escape.
I turned to Andrei, “Don’t blow your top, hep cat. I’ve been in rougher spots before. Have one of Hummingbird’s drinks. It’s good for what ails you.”
As I handed the glass to him, I could see a vibration coursing through the shimmering liquid in the glass. A deep methodical thrumming could be felt running through the whole building.
Suddenly, the doors to the loading dock were flung open with a crash. In strode a half dozen big gray metallic forms. Robots!
Now I do want you to know that what I am going to say may seem a bit prejudiced against robots and I don’t want you to think me bigoted; I support civil rights for sentient machines just as much as anyone in Hollywood. But you must realize, back in those days, we weren’t used to having household appliances talking back to us. Also, and I don’t mean to stereotype but most robots back then really were the products of mad scientist and usually up to no good.
And these particular robots were in fact Nazi robots. They were lead by one particularly nasty looking one who seemed to have a human head in a fish bowl on top of the tin can of a chest. Its face had that familiar sideswept haircut and ridiculous little mustache that we’ve all come to associate with evil more than bad barbering. I learned later that this particular creature was cyborg, part man and part machine, with the human part made from what today we would call cloning. And the material it was made from was that of old Adolph himself. It was called the Robofuhrer. This thing was man-sized with big scissor-like claws and a squeeking little call box on its chest that squawked out orders to the others along with rants about German racial purity and a thoroughly horrible rendition of the Horst Wessel Song.
Behind this was a much larger robot, dressed in big peaked cap and oversized leather trenchcoat. This was the Gestapobot. It also had a large antenna coming out of its back and I guessed that it must be used to track down enemy radio transmissions. Puppyface’s call to his train was what probably brought them down on us.
Behind them we could see at least six other robots, the chorus line or foot soldiers, if you prefer, each with some sort of machine gun for a left arm, the right arm being used exclusively for sieg heiling.
Of course our first reaction was to unload on them with everything we had. Several of the postmen began firing with their rifles but the bullets either bounced off and lodged harmlessly in the metal skin of the machines.
Ruprikt lept up and grabbed the chain of an overhead crane. Screaming in his best Tarzan voice he swung over the top of the fray. But rather than hitting any of the enemy, he slammed face first into the loading dock doors. As luck would have it, this was the best thing that could have happened. Four of the robots were still outside. With the king flattened up against the doors, these were temporarily locked outside.
We turned out attention to four inside. Skinny Shmengy blasted away with his tommy gun at one of the chorus line robots. Fortunately, the heavy bullets of the Chicago typewriter, fired at close range, rattle through the metal sheeting covering the robot. Smoke began streaming from it as it caught fire.
Fat Shmengy blasted the other robot minion directly in the chest with his anti-tank rifle. It was rocked by internal explosions as the heavy bullet pierce its vitals.
Far more terrible was the big Gestapobot which was a good 12 feet tall. I rolled one of the barrels towards the big robot. The robot had turned to face Chicolini who was coming up behind it. The barrel therefore hit the thing from behind and took the big machine out at the knees. It then lay on the floor, trying to right its vast bulk.
Andrei, following the King’s example, grabbed one of the crane hooks and swung over dropping a hand grenade on top of the prone robot. The grenade went off, igniting the brefnish contained in the barrel. The lower portion of the Gestapobot went up in the blast. The upper portion, still flaming from the blast clawed its way relentlessly toward us.
Meanwhile, Tura was outside trying to decide what to do. He realized he had two grenades left. Since he was well hidden, he felt he could act with impunity. He decided to toss one of his grenades at the self-propelled gun, which was open-topped. Of course he did so with his usual method of clamping one hand over his eyes and throwing blindly. As in the past, this method worked surprisingly well for him, the grenade landed on target, and the tank burst into flames.
As Tura ducked for cover, a troop of Gruastarkian fascists advanced toward to burning tanks. Suddenly, Hummingbird appeared and led them off towards a nearby rocket battery.
It was about this time, that Hozzenka and her brigands returned. She had easily found several trucks to chose from, several having been left behind after transporting soldiers for the attack on the city. She quickly over powered the driver of one and they drove back to the brefnish works.
As she was returning, she realized that there were several bulky grey figures. These were three of the robots. Unfortunately, the way she discovered them was by plowing her truck into one of the big machines. It didn’t do much good for either the truck or the robot. She and her men got out and began trading fire with the remaining two robots.
Back inside, I ran to the doors to help the King keep them closed. The King had his faced pressed closely against the door, mostly form the impact when he first hit it. But this was doing a surprising good job of keeping the door closed as well as making his speech a fraction more understandable.
Andrei joined me there after his successful dive bombing of the Gestapobot. Fortunately, only one of the robots remained to hammer at the doors. The remaining three, who Hozzenka had encountered, had been in search of another entrance.
While all this was happening, the Robofuhrer advanced against the postmen, slashing away with deadly claws. Three of the brown-clad agents went down in bloody pulps. Bullets from the rest continued to bounce off, but they still tried, hoping that a large volume of fire would at least distract them.
Chicolini came up behind the robofuhrer and doused it with brefnish from one of the barrels he was working on. Some smoke curled out of it but it was not shorted it out. What it did accomplish was to draw the attention of the Robofuhrer to Chicolini. He knocked the Freedonian down, and the robot dictator began slashinging away at the driver with its razor sharp claws.
Chico yelled, “Shoota da fishbowl! Shoota da fishbowl!”
Yosh through some magic of empathy of the English-impaired was able to discern that Chico was ordering him to shoot the Robofuhrer’s glass cowl. The big
anti-tank bullet cracked and the fishbowl shattered into a thousand pieces, the brain of the pseudo-Schickelgruber along with it. The robofuhrer collapsed, right on top of the crawling, still flaming Gestapobot. The two went up in a burst of flames.
In the meantime, Skinny Shmengy had grabbed the jerry-rigged flame thrower and dragged the hose out a side door. There was only one remaining robot there. He quickly torched the hulk, laughing maniacally about being finally allowed to shoot someone.
Outside, Hozzenka used some of her dynamite to destroy one of the robots.
Tura suddenly got another burst of courage, especially since his enemy had its back turned. So he ran up and tossed his last grenade at the last robot. It went off but did little damage to the machine.
The machine turned and knocked the cowering actor to the ground. Tura shrieked in that glass-breaking high pitched whine of his and curled himself into a ball.
Hozzenka and her men continued to fire at the robot but with little effect.
Finally, just as the machine was going to crush Tura, its head exploded. There was a little rumbling and a small Ruritanian tankette came rolling out of the early morning gloom, smoke still coming from the barrel of its small cannon. Behind it followed numerous soldiers, Walloons and Ruritanians of the Motorized Brigade.
They ran over to the prostrate actor and their officer shouted, “Madam, we heard your screams and rushed to your rescue. Your plight inspired us to break through the enemy to rescue you…Oh, I’m terribly sorry, Sir. Do you happen to know if there’s a lady around here somewhere that needs rescuing?”
Excerpt from The Sun’s Also Shiny, The Great American Novel, by Ernest Hummingbird:
Of course, the drinks he made for the King were perfect. But then he heard the sound of the battle. And he knew he must go to it, even though it might be a rendezvous with Death. He took a large canteen and filed it with his martinis. After he drank that he filled it again. He was ready now, ready to face Death as he had some many other times, in China, in Spain, in Ethopia, driving home from the corner bar.
He saw the burning tanks. He saw the cringing Actor. Then he saw the Graustarkers, fascist fanatics, wearing the uniform of the Grethungi Bund. Evil pure evil as bad as the SS. He waited till they moved past him. Then he came up behind silently, like their destiny approaching in silk bedroom slippers, the comfy kind that don’t make any noise.
When he was sure they hadn’t noticed him, he called out,”Hello boys, I’m a famous war correspondent and I want to ask how you feel about the war. I want to ask you what it means to be a Man in an Age of Alienation.”
The fascists swung around to see him. Their surprise was total. So was their confusion since the Writer used a lot of big words. Not that the Writer understood them, he just used them the way some people use galoshes, to keep their feet dry when they’ve had too much drink and couldn’t wait to get to the bathroom.
One of the fascists, a fat officer, strode over and asked for some identification.
“Why, I don’t need identification. I am Ernest Hummingbird, the author.”
There were gasps of amazement. A look of recognition followed naturally enough by applause.
“I read your book!” shouted the fat man.
“The Old Guy and the Big Fish?”
“No, the other one, Who Is The Bell Is Ringing For?”
Ah yes, I was nominated for a Nobel for that one. At least in my mind. Well, boys, how would you like to sit around and talk about me? I promise you it will be the best experience of your poor pathetic bitter lives.”
Then the Writer noticed the Professor was across the road at a battery of the guided rockets. The Professor was still in disguise and he was trying to convince Nazis to fire the rockets at targets he selected. Of course, the Professor was failing. The Writer knew the Professor could use his help, like everyone else in the world could use the Writer’s help. It was that kind of world and he was that kind of Writer. A good one, the writer that is, not the world, which could be very bad. Or very good. That was a writer’s job to tell people what was good about the world and what was bad. And also to drink a lot. That was good.
The Writer told the fascists to follow him to a more convenient spot to hold their impromptu book club. So he led the whole force, about a platoon in size over to the rocket battery.
The director was there, pretending to film the rocket battery in action. Perfect. The Writer suggested that they all gather round for a picture.
“You never know when you’ll be lucky enough to meet me again,” the Writer told them.
So the Graustarkers and the Germans all gathered around with the writer while the Director fumbled with the camera. The Professor went around the back of the crowd and hung grenades of the belts of some of the soldiers. Then he pulled the fuses and ran.
There was a hissing sound but the Writer told them not to worry, it was heat of his fevered imagination steaming in morning dew. They liked that.
Then the Writer excused himself, saying he would do a better job at setting up the photo shoot. The Writer and the Director then jumped behind one of the trucks.
The grenades went off, killing most of the posing soldiers. The few that remained thanked their stars for surviving the blast. That is until the Writer fired his hunting rifle at them. Filled with buckshot, it killed the remaining survivors.
Yes, the Writer had a rendezvous with Death that night. And, once again, Death was the Writer’s bitch.