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Chapter 5

Oliver reached the purple tent that had been reserved for him. Inside, sitting on a campstool and filing his nails with a little silver file, was none other than Azzie.

"Hi, Chief!" Oliver cried.

"Welcome to your command, Field-Marshal," Azzie said. "Is everything to your liking?"

"It's wonderful," Oliver said. "You've gotten me a wonderful bunch of soldiers. I had a look at some of them as I came up here. Real toughs, aren't they? Anybody trying to stand against me is going to be very sorry. Is there anyone I have to fight, by the way?"

"Of course. On your march south, which I expect you to begin immediately after we finish this briefing, you will encounter the Berserkers of the Death's Head Brigade."

"They're not tough at all. I gave them that name because it sounds good to the press. Actually they're a bunch of disenfranchised local peasants, farmers from the district who have been put off their land for nonpayment of the exorbitant taxes. They are armed only with axes and scythes, have no armor, no bows and arrows, not even proper lances. Also there are only a couple of hundred of them against your ten thousand. Not only are these men poorly prepared, they are also guaranteed to betray their comrades and flee at the first clash of arms."

"That sounds okay," Oliver said. "And then what?"

"Then you'll march into Venice. We'll have the press prepared."

"The press? Surely I haven't done anything to warrant torture!"

"You don't understand," Azzie said. " 'Press' is our name for the various persons who make things known to other people: painters, poets, scriveners, that sort of thing."

"I don't know anything about that," Oliver said.

"You'd better learn if you expect to become famous for your victories. How will you become legendary unless the writers write about you?"

"I guess I thought it just happened," Oliver said.

"Not at all. I've hired the finest poets and writers of the age, headed by the Divine Aretino, to sing your praises. Titian will do a huge propaganda poster of whatever victory we ask him to portray. And I'll hire a composer to write a masque in memory of the victory, whatever it is going to be."

Azzie rose and walked to the entrance of the tent. A few fat drops of rain were falling, and big black clouds had come up from behind the Alps. "Looks like a bit of weather making up," he said. "It'll blow over soon, no doubt, and you can get your men on the road to Venice. Don't worry about how to address them, or in what language. Just tell Globus and he'll make sure everyone understands."

"Good. I was worried about that," said Oliver, who hadn't thought about it at all but wanted to sound alert.

"Good luck," Azzie said. "I suppose I'll see you in Venice by and by."


Chapter 4 | A Farce To Be Reckoned With | Chapter 1







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