The Curmudgeon

April 01, 2003

The phrase, 'Don't shoot the messenger'; wasn't in circulation when governance issues arose throughout early history. Still, messengers weren't always shot. Sometimes they were drawn and quartered. Come with us now as Attila the Hun calls his advisors to his tent on the banks of the River Danube:

'Let's get this meeting started. There's a lot to do. I think we're all here. Wait, where's Murga'

Somewhere from within the knot of advisors comes the response: 'You had him skewered, remember?'

'Frankly, no,' says Attila.' There've been so many. What about Bleda, where's he?'

'Drawn and quartered,' calls another voice.

'Me again?' asks Attila.


'Damn. Then who, by Dikkiz's beard, is in charge of finance now?'

'That'd be Pusillus,' says one from the crowd. 'We plucked him from a monastery when we plundered Padua.'

Pusillus, now pushed forward by the huddled councilors, reluctantly faces the Scourge of God. Trembling, he reads from his scroll:

'Liege, sacking and pillaging are up 15%, but there's been weakness in tribute. It's down 8% ....'

'No, no,' bellows Attila. 'Save that for another time. I need to talk about retirement. I've grown tired of all this. That last dust-up with Aetius really made me think, 'What am I doing this for?' I want to leave a legacy for my sons Erp and Eitil, and just take up farming in Dacia.'

'No can do, Scourge,' pipes someone.

'And why, in Etugen's name, not?'

'You ate Erp and Eitil.'

'Well, never mind that. I want out of the sacking game nevertheless, but I figure to stay on the board to keep my eye on the lot of you. There are a lot of sharp knives among you and I've got a pretty broad back. There's an oxcart load of wives and offspring I have to see to.

'Now, Pusillus, here's how it'll work ...'

Stuttering, Pusillus interjects: 'Oh, but we can't do as you wish, my lord.'

'We CAN'T? What do you mean we can't?' roars Attila.

'The new HunPERS standards say you can't serve on the board after retirement.'

Vexed, Attila replies: 'Is this some sort of Thracian-inspired ploy to undermine me? When did all this happen?'

'Sire, you gave your proxy for the last board meeting to Akurz when you went off to depopulate Verona,' says Pusillus. 'But now Akurz is ...'

'Skewered?' shoots back Attila. 'And I suppose I had a hand in ...'

'Er, not, skewered actually. Cleft in twain, he was.'

'Let's move on,' retorts Attila. 'I'll retire, but we'll put one of my wives, say Gudhrun, and her oldest boy, oh, what IS his name, on the board to watch my back.'

'My humblest apologies, Master,' replies Pusillus. 'That's not possible, either.'

'Don't tell me. HunPERS again?' queries Attila.

'Yes,' answers a now-emboldened Pusillus. 'Even if you're off the board, your half-brother, Egaz, remains. That would make three insiders. HunPERS rules dictate a maximum of two now.'

'Looks like I'll soon have to sharpen my quartering knife for old Egaz,' mutters Attila.

'And you're not safe, either, Pusillus.'

Forced to labor on, Attila prepared to sack Rome, but on the night of his troth to a young bride, mysteriously died of a nosebleed. The Hun empire promptly collapsed thereafter .

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