The Enemy Within
Act 1. Scene 1.
Scene: Private room in a Wurtbad inn. Enter GRAND DUKE ALBERICH HAUPT-ANDERSSEN of Stirland, COUNT MANFRED VON SCHIRACH of Krugenheim, BARON IMMANUEL KREBS of Marburg and a SERVING WENCH.
WENCH: It is an honour to be in such company, but now, gentlemen, I’ll leave you to be. Within these walls you may talk without fear. The staff know to knock thrice when they bring the beer. (She exits and there is a lengthy pause).
HAUPT-ANDERSSEN: Gentles, have we not been here before? As you prosecute your private war, the common folk do quail and quake. Pray you, bury the hatchet for their sake! I hear tell that bands of your men-at-arms despoil the land like the direst of blights. Now even a Shallyan sister, as meek as a mouse, would pronounce a plague on each noble house.
KREBS: My liege, this news it wounds me so. Are folk so simple as not to know that the esteemed Krebs are innocent here? ‘Tis the von Schirach house that they should fear! Ever since grave Ottilia gave her generals the orders that brought Talabheim’s forces to Stirland’s borders, the von Schirach family have preyed upon our lands. They subjected our subjects to a robber’s demands.
VON SCHIRACH: Oh spare us the ancient history class! Since such actions occurred a millennium passed. By the bye, the Baron fails to mention that his own forebears caused much of the tension. Let bygones be bygones, that’s what I say. My grievance is due to wrongs still fresh today. My dear Grand Duke, do you recall last Mitterfruhl, when you held a great ball? My young nephew, Otto, a courteous chap, bumped into old Jurgen Krebs and doffed feathered cap. But would the other fellow reciprocate? It was as if his own hate were glued to his pate! Later that day, in a Stahlstrasse inn, a von Schirach retainer was sipping his gin when three Krebs footmen entered the bar and smashed out his teeth with an earthenware jar.
KREBS: I must interject! These things may be true, but it wasn’t us who started it, noble sir, it was you! The reason my men were of such foul mood is because they were deprived of their sleep and their food. The previous winter an Altdorf engineer sought an empty field , all flat, wide and clear, on which he could test a new sort of rocket for which he pledged gold from his very own pocket. He approached us in Marburg, and we told him, “No – it’ll disturb our folk so find elsewhere to go.” We thought that the matter was out of our hands, but on the Stir’s other side are the von Schirach lands. For weeks the nights echoed with bangs and with booms, and a stray rocket burned Marburg’s granary rooms.
VON SCHIRACH: This fellow’s at risk of forgetting his station! I did what I did for the good of our nation! This was a patriotic act, not meant as a slight.
KREBS: Piffle, ‘twas done with the purest of spite! That spring, Marburgers barely slept at night and one poor old woman died out of fright!
HAUPT-ANDERSSEN: Oh good sirs, see sense! All the blood shed! The duels! Small wonder seditionists call noblefolk fools. This feud is down to all of you, from your subjects to your spouses! What would it take to make peace between your two houses?
BARON KREBS: Well if Manfred were to pay for the damage he’s wrought…
COUNT VON SCHIRACH: To assume first name terms isn’t something you ought!
BARON KREBS: What of the Westerland Wars of 2429? A Krebs man was run through by a soldier on his side!
COUNT VON SCHIRACH: That was nothing to do with the noble von Schirachs! And what of 2478, when Kiel was attacked?
HAUPT-ANDERSSEN: This is just futile, I bid you goodbye! (He exits and there is a lengthy pause).
KREBS: Bah to you!
VON SCHIRACH: Go and die!