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"A man who seeks truth and loves it must be reckoned precious to any human society."

- Frederick the Great

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Music Lessons with Mr Handel

Last week I was on assignment for MI6 in Syria, a very unpleasant affair indeed.  When I returned, my human friend Brian began asking questions about the business of international espionage, as he is a great fan of spy movies and was wondering if the reality is anything like the fiction.  Since MI6 doesn’t take kindly to their secrets being revealed to outsiders, however, I politely refused to go into detail, except to say that spying in repressive dictatorships is always a risky undertaking, even for a werewolf.

“Of course I understand that you can’t say anything about your current assignments,” said Brian, “but surely you can tell me something about your experiences in the past, spying for William Pitt and Frederick the Great, for example.  They’ve been dead long enough that they shouldn’t mind.”

“That’s a good point,” I agreed.  “Very well, it won’t hurt to tell you a few things.  First of all, the most important principle of espionage – whether in the eighteenth century or the present day – is to have a good cover.  It’s much easier to hide in plain sight, behind a profession or activity which arouses no suspicion, than to fight your way out after being discovered.”

“Yes, I’m familiar with the principle from watching Alias,” said Brian.  “So you were the Sydney Bristow of the eighteenth century?  You do faintly resemble Jennifer Garner…”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.  Unlike your television heroine, however, I only used one cover during all my years of service as ‘private correspondent’ to Pitt and the Prussians.  My profession was that of a travelling harpsichord virtuoso, which gave me access to the highest circles of the nobility.  Invitations came from all the royal courts, and naturally I used my concert appearances to gather intelligence about the goings-on behind closed doors in the great European palaces of state.  No-one ever suspected me – ‘a mere woman’, as Frederick the Great often said – of political and military espionage.”

“But weren’t musicians generally regarded as servants in those days?  How did you gain acceptance at the courts of kings and emperors?”

“Don’t forget that I was a duchess myself, though the Duchy of Caerfyrddin was rather insignificant by Continental standards.  In addition to my title, I also had impeccable credentials as a musician, since I had studied with Mr Handel in my youth.”

“Handel was your teacher?”  His eyes went wide in astonishment.

“He actually pronounced it Hendel,” I said.  “After all, he was German, even though the English like to believe otherwise.  And yes, I began studying composition with him in 1749, shortly after I arrived in London to live with my aunt.  Handel rarely accepted pupils, so I was very fortunate that he agreed to teach me.”

“This is incredible,” said Brian, “I know several professors of musicology who would give anything to interview you and learn about Handel’s teaching methods.  It could shed new light on his entire creative process…”

“Sorry, but you know the rules.  No interviews and no public appearances.  I’m sure that there are professors in many fields who would love to interview a centuries-old werewolf.  Some would doubtless like to dissect me as well.  But as I’ve told you repeatedly, this little experiment of ours must retain the appearance of fiction.  No-one must ever suspect that I really exist.”

“Well, can you at least tell me something about your studies with Handel?”

“All right, I’ll let you read a passage from my memoirs.  But you must agree not to reveal anything on to your academic friends.  Otherwise, I will have to eat you.”

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A Roman Werewolf at Maria Theresia's Court

In my last post, I revealed several things about the Sisterhood’s most perfidious opponent, that sect of male werewolves known as Apostates.  One astute reader observed that amongst the pictures of my enemies recently posted on my Facebook page appears the likeness of Wenzel Anton Graf von Kaunitz, and wondered if he had been an Apostate as well.

Historians of the eighteenth century will know Kaunitz as chancellor to the Austrian Empress Maria Theresia and as the mastermind of the Seven Years’ War, that great conflagration which engulfed Europe and North America from 1756 to 1763.  Readers of this blog will already suspect that Kaunitz’s motivations were not entirely political. 

I first encountered Graf von Kaunitz almost two years before the war began.  Through my activities as “private correspondent” to William Pitt and Frederick the Great, I had been aware of Kaunitz’s political machinations for some time.  Through the Sisterhood, I also knew that he was an Apostate.  The following excerpt from my memoirs describes our first meeting, at the palace of Prince Esterházy.  At the time, my “cover” (as my present-day colleagues at MI6 would call it) was that of a travelling harpsichord virtuoso, a circumstance which provided access to the highest noble houses in Europe, where the topics of conversation were often of interest to my employers in the chanceries of London and Berlin.
* * *
Vienna, November 1754
It was the first autumn soirée held by Prince Esterházy after his return to Vienna from Eisenstadt where I finally met the most influential of the Apostates at the Austrian court, Wenzel Anton Graf von Kaunitz.  With his rise from relative obscurity to become Maria Theresia’s ambassador to Versailles in 1750, Kaunitz had first attracted the attention of the Sisterhood.  Now that he had been named chief advisor to the Empress, we were observing him very closely, as his efforts to engineer new alliances between the European powers were obviously positioning Austria for a new war with Prussia.  What made the matter all the more alarming, however, was that we knew nothing whatsoever about Kaunitz’s origins, and an unknown enemy was a dangerous enemy.

I had just finished playing a new sonata by my young friend Haydn when Graf von Kaunitz entered the salon.  He was a small man, impeccably dressed, and he moved with the self-assurance of one who felt himself vastly superior to everyone around him.  The assembled lords and ladies all bowed to him, except Prince Esterházy, of course, since his rank was higher.  But even the Prince inclined his head slightly, acknowledging the Count’s position of power in the Empire, which in the meantime was second only to Maria Theresia herself.

After he had greeted the Prince, Kaunitz approached me and bowed floridly.  Because my own rank exceeded that of everyone else present, the Count was formally obliged to make this obeisance to me.  I never insisted on such protocols, however, so I suspected that the Apostate had other motives than the strict observance of courtly etiquette.

“My dear Duchess Llewellyn, how splendid to make your acquaintance finally,” said Kaunitz in a tone which bespoke complete sincerity and thus made me even more suspicious.  “Please permit me to say that you are far more intriguing in person than the stories about you have led me to believe.  I do regret to have missed your performance, as I have heard that you are a very fine harpsichordist, but surely there will be other occasions.”

This Apostate was like no other I had ever met.  There was none of the malevolence exhibited by his fellows; in fact, he appeared to be the perfect gentleman.  Even his scent was relatively inoffensive, and his breath lacked the odour of decaying flesh which most Apostates exuded.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Birds, Bees, and Werewolves

Perhaps you have been wondering how werewolves reproduce.  Considering all the claws and fangs involved, some of you may think “very carefully”.  Others may recall the sex-scene from The Howling and suppose that we do it “with animal passion”.

My first admonition is never to believe anything Hollywood says about werewolves – it is nearly all rubbish.  In some future post, I will discuss Werewolf Fact and Fiction.  But for now, forget the lycanthropic legends and movie mythology.  Here is the straight story.

We do not reproduce.

I know that sounds frightfully dull, but once you have learned about the males of our species, you will understand why. 

DISCLAIMER: This article frequently mentions “our kind” or “our species”.  Here I am referring exclusively to the Homo lupus europae (Common European Werewolf), which has been indigenous to Europe, North Africa and Asia since about 10,000 B.C.  The characteristics described here may or may not apply to other werewolf species on other continents.

Among European werewolves there are two main “tribes” – for lack of a better word, since only natural wolves form packs – one female and the other male.  Our two tribes have been mortal enemies since time immemorial.  In fact, most werewolf deaths are caused by inter-sex violence.  (At least this is true of all the lycanthropes I have ever encountered, but once again, your experience may vary.)  The males of our kind are vicious, sadistic creatures, and pretty much live up to their popular image.  We females, on the other hand, are usually more spiritually inclined and therefore less violent, though we can be just as dangerous as males, should the situation warrant.  This behavioural difference has nothing to do with gender, however, but is the result of our social organisation and cultural traditions.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A Welsh Werewolf in Facebook

After my human friend Brian had browbeaten me into starting this blog, I thought that would be the end of it.  But no.  Yesterday he went on incessantly about a thing called Facebook, saying that I should definitely start my own page.  At first I assumed that Facebook was a collection of photographs, like those which American policemen call “mug shots” and use for identifying criminals.  Because my last really serious crime was in 1757, however, when I ate parts of two nuns during the Siege of Prague, I thought that the statute of limitations would have cleaned the slate by now.  Besides, I have reincarnated since then, and am certain that the paw-prints left at the scene would not match my present ones.

Brian corrected my misapprehension, saying that Facebook is what modern people call a “social network”, which humans use to remain in contact with their friends around the world.  He discounted my objection that all of my friends died more than two centuries ago, as with Facebook I would surely find some new ones.  Furthermore, using Facebook would significantly increase the chances that Lysandra will find me, he said, because it would generate more potential Google hits (whatever they are).

So once again, I have allowed myself to be swayed by the argument that the Electronic Media can aid in the search for my beloved Lysandra.  You can help me find her as well.  Simply go to the Facebook page I have created and have a look at the photo album entitled My friends.  The first portrait shows Lysandra as she appeared around 1745.  I appeal to anyone who might recognise the woman in this picture to contact me immediately by eMail.

Kind Regards,