Metal colored light shone across the long table, illuminating the remains of breakfast on the long table. Quite a lot of remains, really, consisting mostly of raw fish sitting on stuff that looked, felt, and unfortunately tasted exactly like cardboard. Further pieces of the stuff littered the floor, where it had been discreetly disposed of by the breakfasters when they found out it’s qualities.
The light also illuminated the features of Count Wallander as he called the session to order.
“Does the man ever smile?” mused the Emir of Rumelia “and he needs better staff; I have seen camels with less stubble then him”.
The Emir looked around the room. He did not really know any of these people, other than Baron Strabinski, the Russian. There were some odd ones in the bunch, though. The one with odd bristly wig, whose stockings appeard to have removed the varnish from his chair. The Catholic cleric, restless to the point of twitchyness in a room full of Lutherans, Calvinists, Orthodox and a Musselman. The Magyar, whose tight breeches were surely cutting off blood flow to something important. He was not really interested in getting to know them, either; they were minor players and he did not expect to see them often.
He did know two things though; he was still completely unclear as to the reason for this Congress, though it had been long, and thirty years of experience told him that if you left this set of people in a room long enough, arguments were going to start, and those arguments could become final rapidly. He knew Strabinski knew this also, so the Emir could not understand why he sat silent, smiling quietly.
The thought was followed by the event; raised voices started at the far end of the table, their tone escalating toward acrimony. The Emir gestured to an interpreter, and heard that there was some sort of dispute about the tariff on pickled pork products from Blankenhiem und Gerolstien going down the Danube past Kietlen Pusztaság.
“Point out to them, please, that down the Danube is Ottoman Empire, where, being muslim, the demand for pork products is ….. limited.”
“Excellency, I already did, they do not seem interested in listening.”
Looking at the broadening smile on Stabinski’s face, the Emir began to understand.
The Magyar leaped to his feet, wincing a little at some form of pants-induced compression, and declared loudly that this meant war! Calling him an “eastern barbarian” and “uncouth thug” the rather prissy looking fellow opposite claimed that dignity of an imperial count could not be so lightly trifled with, and promised to respond in kind. The chap with the odd spiked wig and the delaminating chair promptly made a rude noise about the dignity of imperial counts and promised support to his Magyar colleague, drawing Braunschwieg-Wolfenbuttel onto the side of Kietlen Pusztaság.
Seeing the growing alarm on the face of the man from Blankenhiem und Gerolstien, the Emir decided his time had come. He had never really liked the Sanjak of Avlonya, despite (or possibly because) he was a distant relative on his mother’s side. Now appeared to be the time to drop him in the pig brine as it were, and save Sultan Selim the effort of having to fight a war, or think, or such difficult exertions.
“Tell them that the Sanjkate of Avlonya will certainly support the Imperial Count against the depredations of the Magyar brigands, though my imperial master would be unable to commit himself to a side in this unfortunate dispute. It being about pigs, and all that.”
A rather torpid individual (apparently the thick bitter coffee served had not been to his taste, and waking up was proving challenging) roused himself briefly from his heavy lidded contemplation of the wet cobblestones outside, grey under a grey sky in a grey city, and declared that the Landgrave stood with Frederick, um no that Wolfenbuttel chap and subsided back into his seat.
Strabinski also roused himself at this point, claiming Russia’s need to stand by its good neighbors to the south, against the onslaught of western religious intolerance, answering the Emir’s raised eyebrow of surprise with a small shrug.
The emissary of Groß-Holsten announced it would stand with its fellow duchy, and rather to the Emir’s surprise, the nuncio of Tréves-sur-Rhin announced that his principal would stand with Blankenhiem, apparently finding infidels and schismatics less offensive than heretics.
The Emir stood, nodded politely, and lead his entourage from the room. That was it then; war among the minor states for no clear reason. Blankenhiem, Avlonya, Trève and Russia would fight Braunschwieg-Wolfenbuttel, Keitlen Pusztaság, and Erzgebirgkrweiss in Der Krieg der eingelegten Schweinefuß Steuern.