More Midnight Wine? A bit of smoked savannah slinker? Some snow-white strawberries from the other side of that Border? What tickles your fancy this fine morning?
I was eating a very late breakfast with a few other Green Man staffers after a late night of trading truths, half truths, and outright lies over a poker game a Jack — who had dropped by on his way to yet ‘nother adventure — had started when he walked into the Pub, when a stranger walked in and took a seat nearby. There was nothing unusual about him until over his second cup of Sumatra he said that he was the last King of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire . . . Who were we to disagree? What profit was there in doing that?
Mind you, he was dressed all in black with a smart cut to his slightly old-fashioned clothes and a haughty demeanor of one to the Manor born, but that said little to who he was, and we’ve heard far stranger statements made here by much odder looking individuals. Now I know that most historians claim that Charles I succeeded to the Austro-Hungarian throne during The First World War, and that he abdicated from it a short time later in 1918 when the Armistice took effect and the war ended with the surrender of the Central powers to the Allies. Historians further say he died five years later — a mortal lifetime ago. Our visitor, Karl by name, rejected that history with an angry shake of his head. Indeed Bela, our resident Balkan violinist, has also claimed for years that he was born in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire!
One of the poker players shrugged her shoulders — I think it was Zina who was playing on her fiddle a spritely set of tunes, ‘Never Wed a Hendrake Lass / Hangman’s Reel / Midsummer’s Night’ — and asked him to tell his story. So over the course of that morning, he told us tales of Empires lost and regained, of parties so lavish that vassal states were impoverished to keep the festivities going, of a lover who betrayed him for a handful of silver, of another lover who risked everything for him, of mad priests who couldn’t be killed, and many more tales.
He drained his tankard of Skull-buster Strine beer, picked up his walking cane, and said in his faintly accented English that it was time to catch a train back to His Imperial Capital. Bela bowed deeply to him as he turned toward the door, and that was the last we saw of him — but he left behind ‘nough stories for lifetimes…