THE MAIN SQUARE—Spurring a flood of preparations throughout the township, an unexpected missive received moments ago reportedly declares that none other than the Imperial Inspector himself is scheduled to arrive by railcar this very day!

Sources confirmed that the parade grounds must be swept, the brightest of ribbons must be displayed, and each of the eight local Allegiant Houses must send forth their most distinguished emissaries, for the Inspector visits but once a year and he will expect to see everyone on their best form.

“Quickly now, quickly, there isn’t a moment to spare!” shouted the Vice Elder, as dozens of harried workers raced into action, criss-crossing in purposeful strides across the central square. “You there, bring out the bunting. Hang it all the way down the main thoroughfare and unfurl the Imperial banner from every spire. And don’t forget the silken tricolor pennons as well. We must spare nothing for the Inspector! If he finds the town in its current state, he will be most aggravated.”

“Oh, if only someone had warned us he was coming today,” he added, dabbing sweat from his brow while checking his silver pocket watch. “My goodness! Look at the hour!”

According to numerous uneasy sources, the Imperial Inspector, known throughout the Northern districts as a severe man not given to humor, is at this very moment speeding here from the heart of the dominion in his personal steam coach, leaving precious little time to patch up the dilapidated clock tower and polish the welcoming bells.

Additionally, incoming reports indicate that the Inspector will be accompanied by his formidable Imperial Convoy, including the Grand Minister, the Builder, and if rumor is to be believed, even the mysterious Captain of the Dragoons.

“Tokens, everyone! Gather your tokens to present to the Inspector!” said the Tokenmaster, as the frenzied citizenry clambered to retrieve their glistening golden ingots embossed with the crest of the local district. “And where are the buglers? They have practiced the Magisterial Tribute March, have they not? Remember that a single misplayed note will displease the Inspector, and we all know exactly what will happen then.”

“Now listen close: After we all deliver our ovations, we must make sure that the children stifle their pennywhistles—there must be total silence as the Inspector delivers his speech in praise of the Empire and her armada,” the Tokenmaster continued, adding that these recitations shall be met with rousing applause followed by a spirited rendition of the Sovereign Anthem.

With mere minutes left before the Imperial coach enters the tram station, sources are emphasizing that all must be careful to keep the Inspector in good spirits, limiting topics of discussion to his hunting trips, his young bride, and the monarchy’s recent conquests in the provinces. Most crucially, sources stated that the townsfolk must take great pains to avoid any mention whatsoever of the Chancellor, with whom the Inspector has long quarreled.

Furthermore, the Sergeant-at-Arms has reportedly instructed the town’s couriers to venture far and wide to gather provisions for the most lavish feast the region has ever seen, emphasizing that no expense shall be spared.

“Pheasant stew. Mutton. And there will be plum pie, and jellies for the children,” the Sergeant-at-Arms said, as an army of townspeople draped a canvas over an unsightly crack in the Banquet Gallery wainscoting that there is simply no time to properly dispense with. “And we must have brandywine! Find the storekeeper and have him bring forth a hogshead of the ’28 golden vintage, posthaste.”

“All gone? Do we still have the ’31? It will have to do,” he added. “Oh, we must hope that the Inspector does not notice, or all is lost!”

Noting that the forsythia are in bloom, anxious sources additionally insisted that all the town’s girls hurry down to the grove and assemble garlands for the evening’s spectacles, wherein they will perform the courante for the Inspector—smiling, always smiling, of course!

“All must attend the festivities,” said the Vice Elder, stressing that the displays of horsemanship and cannonry must be executed admirably with no mistakes. “Even my dear uncle with his ailing leg must be roused. He must be brought out, for the whole town must be seen and assayed by the vigilant eye of the Imperial Inspector himself!”

“And we must—wait, what is that whistle?” he continued. “My heavens, he’s already here!”

At press time, a tense hush had fallen over the townsfolk after scrambling into formation in the main square, with every resident holding themselves stiffly upright and forcing broad smiles across their faces as the Inspector’s dusky rail carriage came to a grinding stop.