Thursday, 12 December 2013

12th December 2013 - Of the Black Company Banquet

Last day before we set off for the Black Company Banquet to be held in what is described as the most haunted castle in the Country.. St Briavels in the Wye Valley - now a Youth hostel...  In the run up to arriving I noted the following posted upon the Group Boards - as the preparations started.......  

St Briavels...

"One day left to prepare. Quartermaster Vet started to panic again at the thought. Lists of provisions and dignitaries that had their “special requirements” whirled around his head. And cleaning the barracks. Cleaning! If you ever want to hear the rougher side of language just hand Stink, Locks, Tapeworm and Eunech some scrubbing brushes and tell them to start at the bottom of the castle and work up. Hmm although to be fair, the fines were especially fruitful that day, every cloud a silver lining eh…

All the idea of the Captain’s of course. Great ideas he has, as a rule, of course suicidal charges do sometimes stretch one’s definition of “great” somewhat. Still every unit needs a strategy, even if that strategy frequently involves dismemberment. 

This has been so long in the preparation. Looking back, it was just after the last campaign with the Al’gaia that Captain Marshall called Vet in, “I have an idea Vet. A rather good idea as it happens”. Trepidation, that feeling in the gut that clenches one’s intestine and gives it a good hard tug. “An Idea Sir? Does it involve overwhelming odds Sir? The men enjoy the motivation of overwhelming odds…”

“Not this time, Vet, excellent spirit though, top notch. No, this is an altogether different affair. We have change coming Vet, change that may see our fate follow a different path. We need to celebrate that new beginning and strengthen our bonds with our associates, our allies, those who we may need in the dark days ahead. Do you see, Vet?”

“Um”. Not sure if that qualified as an affirmative, but equally unsure if this was headed in an all together comfortable direction…

“Our employment is currently under debate Vet, d’ya see? So I want you to organize a weekend of banquets and refined dances, so that the ranks may take a well deserved moment of levity and we may strengthen bonds with our allies. I want a feast of epic proportions, the best musicians the local populace can muster, and…maybe a jester. Yes, definitely a jester. Didn't we have one before? What was his name?”

Vet had turned pale. A feast of epic proportions? The cost. The supplies. The carts wearing down the antique cobbles of the ancient castle courtyard. “Devilstick I believe sir. Yes, that was his name, roguish fellow. Seemed to fit in. Liked his mead”.

“Ah yes, that’s the chap. Capital. Well done. I’ll leave it to you to make the arrangements.” Vet recognized the signs that it was time to make an exit, clicking his heels sharply together. “SIR!” A swift turn and he marched to the doorway.

“Oh Vet, one more thing. The company funds. It’s going to be an expensive campaign ahead. There will be allies to …er…persuade, and we may be out of contract for a while. So by Christmas I expect the company war chest to be overflowing. I’m sure you’re the fellow to see to it. That will be all.”

Vet left the room before the news could get any worse. So a party. An expensive party. Feasting and musicians. From the local populace. Vet wasn't too sure if the Captain had met any of the local population but he was relatively convinced that one thing they weren't likely to furnish to the garrison was a refined musical experience. Not unless you counted the coordinated sounds of bar stools breaking across someone's back in the latest tavern brawl. And the company funds. Provision the ball while increasing company funds? 

Safely back in the NCOs mess Vet poured a large tankard of mead. A thin smile appearing as his mind ran through the possibilities. Well meat is sorted, the rat population in the castle is well out of hand anyway. Excellent. It would take a little watering down of the wine and mead stores to furnish the necessary victuals, but hey, the last thing the captain wants is a keep full of comatose privates. Practically doing everyone a favour really. The music will be tricky, but you don’t get to be a Quartermaster without people owing you favours. So that just leaves the company funds. The smile broke into a grin. It’s been an awful long time since we held a Company Tonk championship. So long most of the victims…er participants…had either forgotten or joined the honoured roll of the dead. And pay day is just round the corner too. 

Mayhap things were looking up after all. Now it just remained to resolve the ongoing issue of wear and tear to those cobbles…."

Well - just a day to wait - a Banquet on Friday evening and a Ball on Saturday - no doubt a little fighting and drinking on the way ....

Better ready the Bothy !!!

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