Carrion Crown: Kyle's
The Fall of Feldgrau
Narrator: Further and further back we go, for to understand the present, we must understand the past. Again, a cast list:
• Me, the NARRATOR. It’s always the same Me, there are no others.
• First we have COUNT AERICNEIN NESKA, a ruthless and disciplined aristocratic military commander, in his winter-years though still in the peak of health, with a face not-unlike his pet vulture.
• Next is MARGRAVE CILAS GRAYDON, a young and ambitious military-man, also of aristocratic birth. Viewed by many as the protégé of Count Neska.
• Next is MR TILLYDRONE THE CANDLEMAKER, flustered but determined, elected as the spokesperson of the village of Feldgrau
• Next is MR VROOD THE GRAVEDIGGER, a thin and cold widower.
• Last is AUREN, his eight year old son.
Narrator: It is the hour before dawn, and in the last minutes of darkness Mr Tillydrone the Candlemaker enters the tavern of Feldgrau. He is flanked by two armoured soldiers and ‘escorted’ to the end of the room where Count Neska and Margrave Graydon are in conversation over a table with a map of the area. Count Neska’s vulture sits on a perch nearby. Mr Tillydrone stops when he approaches the two Gentlemen and looks around nervously.
Count Neska: <looks>. Well! Spit it out you scruffy little man. I’ve got a war to win, I haven’t got all day.
Margrave Graydon: My lord, this is the villager I spoke to you about. He claims to represent the village and wishes to speak to you on their behalf.
Count Neska: Which village?
Margrave Graydon: This one my lord, the one we are camped in.
Count Neska: Oh? Very well, get on with it then.
Mr Tillydrone: <clears> Ahem, if I may be so bold, pleasing’ yourself my sirs, as to make a statement reflecting the concerns of the villagers and citizens of this humble town -
Count Neska: <whips> You have precisely five seconds, or I’ll have you executed for wasting a superior’s time. Don’t mistake me for a fool. You have come here to ask something of me. What is it?
Mr Tillydrone: <looks> My lords, the villagers, we have… complaints.
Count Neska: <sighs> Ah… of course. The complaints. <he>. And I suppose outside is the famous Ustalav Mob that tends to gather at such events. <he>. So predictable, so very predictable. Very well little man, what is it you “villagers” wish to say.
Narrator: Outside of the tavern, in the darkness, is indeed (in Count Neska’s words) a mob of villagers, most of the village if truth be told. A few carry burning torches, pitchforks and other weapons, but most simply stand together in a huddle and watch the tavern and the soldiers outside. Low murmurs flutter between the villagers but no communication between the two groups happens. The boy Auren, one of the villagers, tugs at his father’s black tunic.
Auren: Daaaad. I’m tired. I want to go home.
Mr Vrood: <cuffs>. You’ll do nothing of the sort boy. We’re here to get some justice. Damn nobles think they can come here, trod over us folks, destroy our fields, take advantage of our women. Watch and learn boy, you’ll see how honest men make their mark today.
Auren: But I can’t see anything, I’m too short. It’s not fair!
Mr Vrood: There’s nothing to see anyway, not yet at least. Mr Tillydrone has gone inside speak to the Count. He’ll come out soon enough. Now be quiet.
Auren: But Daaaad…
Mr Vrood: I said be quiet you little tyke. <he>.
Narrator: Back inside the tavern Mr Tillydrone is finishing up his list of issues the villagers have with Count Neska and his troops. Given a chance to be vocal, he seems to have found his resolve.
Mr Tillydrone: … and all that is in just the one day of being here m’lord. And to finish it off, I hear a rumour this very night that you’re planning on taking our grain supplies when you leave. Completely out of the question.
Count Neska: I make it a point of principle never to listen to rumours Mr Tillydrone. I listen to fact and fact only.
Mr Tillydrone: Thank you m’lord. The village will be pleased. What d’you say to their other concerns?
Count Neska: Yes, about those. Let’s start with the rape. Call a dark-elf a dark-elf I always say, and rape is rape. Graydon, you will find the men responsible for this and punish them.
Margrave Graydon: Already done my lord. I heard about this incident last night; it was two men from the 6th Dragoons. I had them executed on your orders, to save on time.
Mr Tillydrone: E…executed? I thank you for your justice m’lord, but isn’t execution a bit harsh?
Count Neska: Ha! It is lenient, not harsh. The punishment for rape is 200 lashes followed by execution but Graydon accompanies his initiative and efficiency with a soft heart.
Margrave Graydon: Thank you my lord.
Count Neska: It was not a compliment. And now, onto your other matters Mr Tillydrone. The fields I can do nothing about. Soldiers need places to piss in and to pitch their tents, often the two are the same. Your harvest has already been brought in and I’m not interested in this nonsense about fallow ground. You will have to deal with the consequences yourself. Likewise, your plea for neutrality is rejected. This really is a simple war, so simple that even ignorant peasants like you can understand. You’re either loyal, or you’re a rebel, there is no ‘neutrality’. You aren’t a rebel are you Mr Tillydrone?
Mr Tillydrone: Gods, no!
Count Neska: Then you have nothing to fear. Besides, your complaints make little matter. We are leaving today, in just a few hours time.
Mr Tillydrone: The village will be pleased to hear that m’lord. <he>. You’ve been more than fair. And we’re pleased that you’re not taking the grain.
Count Neska: What makes you say that? Of course we’re taking the grain. The vegetables, sheep, boar and cows also. My soldiers need food and the supply line is cut off.
Mr Tillydrone: <stops> But you said…
Count Neska: I said never listen to rumours, listen to fact. The fact is my men need the resources for our push, and in the greater scheme of things, for the greater good, this “Feldgrau” of yours is of no importance to anyone, nor ever will be.
Mr Tillydrone: It’s important to me! To us! There’s a harsh winter coming sir, and we’ll starve without that food. <he>. I’m afraid I cannot accept that answer m’lord.
Narrator: Neska sighs and walks over to the bar, where his large greedy-looking vulture sits on a perch. He opens a bag and pulls out some strips of meat, tossing them to the carnivorous bird.
Count Neska: Do you know why I keep a vulture as a pet Mr Tillydrone?
Mr Tillydrone: Sorry m’lord?
Count Neska: Don’t think I’m not aware of what people say about me. They say I’m a monster, a tyrant. They say I keep a vulture out of vanity and viciousness. None of this is true of course. I keep a vulture, not as a pet, but as a goal. You see, I only feed my vulture on the flesh of rebels. <he>. It is truly my goal that one day there will be no more food to throw, that this bag here will remain empty and the vulture will leave, seeking food elsewhere. That is my dream Mr Tillydrone, a new Ustalav, a country without prey or predators. Do you understand what I’m saying?
Mr Tillydrone: I’m not sure I do m’lord. Nevertheless we must have our grain. I insist again.
Margrave Graydon: Stop, stop! You’re making it worse. My lord, you don’t have to do this.
Count Neska: And do you see any other way Graydon? Tell me Mr Tillydrone, if my soldiers just take, will you forgive us?
Mr Tillydrone: Most of us will starve, but the ones that live, no, I don’t think we would forgive you.
Count Neska: You see Graydon; he has left us no choice.
Narrator: Outside the inn, Mr Vrood and the other villagers wait expectantly as the first rays of light creep over the building and through the street. A cock crows, silencing both soldiers and villagers With a heavy creak, the door opens and a man steps out.
Margrave Graydon: The Count has spoken. Round up the villagers and execute them all. Leave no one alive. We march in two hours.~
Narrator: Twenty four hours later not a sound can be heard in the village. Houses lie empty; the tavern door swings in the wind. The eye cannot but help be drawn to the town square, which is entirely taken up with a mound of bodies, hundreds of them, twisted limbs, severed parts, oozing blood. The stench is almost unbearable. The eye looks around again, but there is nothing, no life at all, even the cockerel is gone. All hope is lost. But wait – there is something! A small hand, possibly of an eight year old child claws its way desperately out of the grave of bodies and into the morning air.