Dawn -- February 28, 1768
Late February in The Grand Duchy of Stollen is never pretty. Cold with patchy, icy snow still on the ground and a biting wind blowing in off the
Two small groups of men faced each other that day in a minor square in the capital city of
The precise reasons for the duel have been lost to history. They were hazy enough that morning in February 1768 and have not become any clearer during the intervening 239 years. Some alleged exchange between Klatschen and Von Cranz about their respective choice of beverages and a mother who wore boy scout shoes beneath her dirndl (South German/Austrian folk costume). In any case, the two men took their places in the empty square 50 paces from each other.
Klatschen stood atop his Armory paint bottle, his Games Workshop Goblin Green base still glued in place, armed only with an unloaded musket. Von Cranz sat on his fine Arab charger, his unsheathed rapier gleaming despite the early morning light. No words were exchanged as the two stared passed each other.
Suddenly, a white silk handkerchief was dropped to the ground by one of Von Cranz's juniors, signaling to all who were present that the duel could begin. Not a breath of air stirred. The silk floated to the ground as if in slow motion. . .
At once, Von Cranz spurred his charger forward, gathering speed. Klatschen stood absolutely still, atop his Armory paint bottle.
Von Cranz, now at the gallop, closed in. The arrogant and conceited young colonel held his rapier straight out, pointed slightly downward toward his target. The oberfeldwebel remained silently at attention, his empty musket still shouldered. Calmly, he emptied his clay pipe at his feet and pocketed it.
The space between the two men now reduced to a just few feet, Von Cranz raised his sword to bring it down on Klatschen's head, emitting a peculiar, high-pitched shriek. The hooves of his grey steed thundered on the damp cobblestones, echoing around the four-sided square. Klatschen's group of fellow NCOs held their breath. Was this the end for their beloved sergeant major?
At the last possible moment, in a single, flawless move, Oberfeldwebel Klatschen unshouldered his empty musket and raised it, butt first, to catch Von Cranz squarely on his chin, knocking the renowned braggart and wastrel from his saddle to the ground faster than you can say "Ich moechte gern sauerbratten und pils, bitte."
Von Cranz fell to earth unceremoniously, landing on his seat in a pile of something unpleasant, his rapier clattering loudly to the ground beside him. Dazed, the red-coated fop shook his powdered head and tried to straighten his wig, imported from the Paris H&M last summer.
Before Von Cranz could recover, however, Oberfeldwebel Klatschen was on him, yanking the younger man up by his yellow lapels and boxing Von Cranz's ears soundly, to the cheers of his fellow grenadiers. The grizzled infantry veteran then shook the much younger dragoon violently and asked, "Vell, who's your daddy now?"
Sniffling and choking back tears, Von Cranz tore himself from the oberfeldwebel's grasp, grabbed his rapier from the ground and ran back toward his men, who hissed and made loud raspberries in the direction of the Leib Grenadier NCOs now gathered behind Oberfeldwebel Klatschen. The group of scarlet-coated dragoons then mounted their horses and exited the square at the gallop, followed by a series of catcalls from the victorious Klatschen and his men.
From atop his Armory paint bottle, Oberfeldwebel Klatschen reshouldered his musket, raised his fist, and shook it after the retreating group of dragoons, yelling to Von Cranz, "Und anytime you vant to come beck und discuss your mamma's appalling taste in footwear, dat ist fine vit me!"
Klatschen turned to his men and said, "Boys, help me down from this damn paint bottle und I vill treat each off you at our favorite haunt, Der Andere Schuh." The small group of light blue-coated grenadier NCOs chuckled in agreement as they assisted their sergeant major, clapping Klatschen good naturedly on his shoulders.
As the sun peeked over the ornate gables of several merchants' houses lining the eastern side of the square, the grenadier NCOs shook off the morning chill and accompanied their sergeant major to his favorite cafe for steins of fresh, full-bodied Turkish coffee, a good chat, and clay pipes full of strong tobacco. Naturally.