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An Adventure of Baron Munchhausen, part I
"Herr Baron, what is this I hear about you having impregnated the Pope?"

The question caused quite a commotion, to Toby's delight. He had timed it just when the Colonel had a mouthful of brandy. The fine spray from the Colonel's mouth would have been enough of a coup, but it was directed over the candle in the middle of the table, and there was an impressive gout of flame from the Colonel's lips. Lady Clarisse, sitting opposite the Colonel, was not as impressed, and had seriously underestimated the flammability of her headdress.

Baron Munchhausen regarded Toby carefully while the other diners at the table beat out the remains of Lady Clarisse's hat. "I am not certain that your ears are old enough for my account of that incident." The Baron picked up his glass and drank the last inch of it's contents. "Although I suppose if you are old enough to fetch me another brandy, then you are old enough."

Toby flagged down a passing serving girl, and after a brief word and exchange of coin, she headed off.

Seeing this, the Baron started. "This would have been, oh, 30 years ago. I'm sure you all remember the problems Rome was having at the time with Janissary infiltrators threatening the papacy. No? Surely you do Colonel? That just goes to show how hushed up the Holy See kept the matter. Be sure to ask me about it some other time. After a few Janissary assassins were caught on the Vatican grounds, His Holyness decided that, for safety, he might be better off in Avignon, in the old Papal Palaces there. They left Rome under disguise, to throw off any of the Sultan's men.

"At the time, I was not with the Pope, as I was travelling with a different party, on my way from southern Italy to Zurich. Our two caravans, both travelling north, met outside of Sienna. I suggested that, as we were headed in the same direction, it would be prudent to combine defenses, at least until Genoa.

"If I had known it was the Pope, I, being a good Protestant, might not have made such a suggestion, but he was disguised as a noble woman and I did not recognize him.

"Tut, tut, Colonel. I do believe that glass of brandy is mine, courtesy of young Toby here. If you want your own, get it yourself. Now don't sputter like that, it was your fault you wasted your last glass, don't blame it on Toby.

"Now where was I. Oh yes, our two caravans joined up, and I spent a delightful couple of days flirting with the noble woman we ended up escorting. At least, I was trying to flirt; she seemed more demure than expected. The reason became obvious later, of course.

"When we were outside of Massa, we ran into a gypsy encampment. Having had some dealings with gypsies before, I insisted we stop and join them for the night. While they don't like outsiders very much, they travel constantly and share amongst themselves. If you can get yourself in with them, they are a valuable source of news. Of course, I was well-known to them, as I had previously saved the Gypsy King from death most foul -- what's that, you didn't know the Gypsies had a king? Well you know they say you should learn something new every day.

"I had shared my news of the south with them and was about to get their news of the north, when Jaelle, the daughter of the head of that band of Gypsies, tripped over the outstretched feet of our 'noble woman' -- the Pope -- causing His Holiness to spill his dinner onto the ground. His outburst at this shocked us all, for it was both unwomanly and unholy, calling into disrepute both Jaelle and her mother's honor. I had not known until then that the woman I had been courting the past two days was a man, and I was as shocked as the rest.

"Our host responded in the Gypsy tongue, proclaiming that if the Pope was going to pretend to be a woman, then he should be cursed with being a woman. When I explained this to His Holiness, he was dismissive. Gypsy curses, he says, are meaningless superstition, and besides, he had the blessings of God.

"It's true, of course, that Gypsy curses are just words, and have no power. I do not dispute that. However, if I were in the Pope's place, I would not have accepted the replacement bowl of food offered as an apology. The Gypsy talent for potions, as I was well aware from previous experience, was formidable. You should remember that if you've insulted a Gypsy, never eat or drink anything they offer you.

"What does a Gypsy look like? Why Colonel, I thought you knew that the lovely Nuri, who just brought you your brandy, was a Gypsy. Isn't she also the serving girl who told you twice tonight she was engaged, and not available for whatever you were suggesting?

"Anyway, it wasn't until the next morning that we realized the extent of the problem. Jaelle and her family had already packed camp and headed out when a terrible, high-pitched, shriek came from the papal tents. When we rushed to see what was the matter, we discovered that the Holy Father was now, unexpectedly, a Holy Mother!

"Ah, I see that the landlord is putting up chairs and glaring at us. It is time to retire for the night. Shall we continue this tale some other time? And Colonel, you've hardly touched your brandy. Are you not thirsty?"

So what do you think, should I continue this tale some other time?

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Yes! I wanna know what happens next!

More! More!

You have a nice way with dialogue.

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