(Above) The prince addresses Herr Klenser. 'Klenser, I have spent the morning at your new hospital'.
Friday, 27 November 2020
(Above) The prince addresses Herr Klenser. 'Klenser, I have spent the morning at your new hospital'.
Saturday, 21 November 2020
'No my lord, because you wouldn't have a bed - they'd take that. And your throne as well'.
'But, generally Fecklenburg, you're saying that I wouldn't have to do as much work?'
'But they'd take everything, sire! They'd oppress your people ...'
'A bit of light oppression would do most of them some good ...'
'And strip you of your pigs!'
The prince chokes. 'What! What! Insupportable! This means war! Mobilise the troops! Strip the peasants of their cash! We cannot accept this threat to our royal dignity!'
The chamberlain gestures placatingly. 'It is winter, my lord, and so no war is immediately likely. The threat, I think, will emerge as spring arrives and the campaigning season starts. And anyway, too precipitous a war against Fenwick would be dangerous without allies. We need time to prepare. We need time to develop our stratagems'.
'Indeed, sir', says Fecklenburg, 'until you were so cruelly stripped of the position in the wake of the latest war'.
'Yes', says Rupprecht sadly. 'I loved that hat'.
Rupprecht sighs. 'Yes, and as a bishop, I was allowed to do all of those naughty things'.
The chamberlain chews his lip. 'I don't think, strictly, that you were allowed to do them, sire: I just think that, as a bishop, you got away with them. Anyway, my lord, a counter-plan is forming in my mind! There might be something that we could do whilst George is in Schrote for the coronation - he would be practically on our borders, and be protected by only a limited bodyguard. We'd need the cooperation, I suspect, of the new bishop of Schrote. We'd have to blackmail or bribe him - probably both, given that he's a bishop'.
Rupprecht nods. 'Have we got anything on him that we can use for blackmail?'
'He's a catholic bishop, sire - it's just a matter of digging hard enough. Hmmm, it just so happens that I play bridge with a Jesuit inquisitor. Let me see what I can rustle up ...'
Sunday, 8 November 2020
Sunday, 1 November 2020
Radu Pasha fishes a scroll from his robes. 'Dread Lord, it would seem that another campaign against Persia is in the offing. Since peace now reigns in Mittelheim, the Sublime Porte thinks that there is no reason why you can't spare your troops for the fight. The Grand Vizier has ordered that you prepare in spring to mobilise your army and lead it to the muster of imperial troops in Istanbul, in preparation for a march to the Persian border.
Casimir groans. 'Spring break in Isfahan. Lovely. Is everyone else going?'
'I understand, Aweful One, that messages as we speak are landing on the palace doorsteps across the Balkans'.
'Persia', says Casimir, angrily. 'Persia', he says again, as if trying the word on for size. 'Persia, Persia, Persia'.
Radu nods sympathetically. 'I remember, Lord, that you have been there'.
'Lately', says Casimir slowly, 'being hospodar has been really rather trying. And now, Istanbul is making things even worse. It's even affecting my appetite. Am I losing weight?'
'Surely not lord!' replies Radu, feigning a shocked tone. Actually, Casimir has looked a little leaner of late. However, Radu isn't fool enough to say so. The hospodar is sensitive about his weight - or rather, any indication that he lacks it. The hospodar is keenly aware that losing weight would be a dangerous sign of weakness, signalling either either that he could't afford enough food or that he cared what other people thought. In Zenta, it is wise for the ruler to maintain recognisably hospodar levels of corpulence.
Casimir gives this some thought. 'Too peaceful to require our army here?' says the hospodar, fiddling idely with one of the tassels on his turban. 'Well, let's see what we can do about that then, shall we? I have an idea. Where's that Bachscuttel ambassador? Get a scribe here as well - it would appear that we have received another letter! We just need to get the contents right!'
Saturday, 24 October 2020
Now, dear reader, our focus turns to events in the Sanjak of Zenta. Some general background to this area of Mittelheim has already been discussed in this humble publication, as well as a few more details on its nefarious links to Rotenburg. But our concern is rather more specific - it is with the palace of Hospodar Casimir, and that locale known as the harem. The hospodar is technically an Orthodox Christian. But he is technically Christian in the same way that, technically, he rules according to the law.* In this vein, he has actually modelled his court along the lines of Ottoman custom: or rather, the customs that he likes. On this afternoon, Casimir is holding court in the harem (below). In Turkish, harem simply means "private", although in Zentan, it could also be loosely translated as "get your hands off, you dirty pervert". Casimir likes to hold his council meetings here; at least when his wife, Roxanne, is out shopping.
With the crude cultural stereotyping so typical of europeans, it would no doubt be thought that the harem is a den of oriental debauchery, where sweaty nakedness and unchristan acts of carnal satisfaction take place all day, every day; or for at least as long as the participants can bear the chafing. But this would not be true. Such things take place only on Thursday mornings after 11. On Mondays, for example, the pool is used for under-sevens' swimming. And on Tuesdays, the harem is the location of a usually well-attended coffee morning - although, to be fair, this mainly involves all the activities of a Thursday, but with the addition of hot beverages.
mean having an opponent sawn down the middle and then looking at the results.
'In a manner of speaking, slave Radu', replies Casimir. 'The hangings over-ran, so I really didn't get to bed early enough'.
'Did you hang them all, Awful One?' asks Radu. 'I thought that you intended to release some of them because there was no evidence against them?'
'Yes, but then I decided that the gurgling noises would improve my mood', replies Casimir. 'Besides which, slave, evidence or not, they were all guilty. This is Zenta. Almost everyone here is either actively plotting against me or plotting to have a plot. Ask any random subject of mine if they want to do some plotting against me, and I know that, rather than saying "Nay, nay, let me not betray my lord, where is my honour", they would say instead something like "How much does it pay and what are the hours like?"
'But, Dread Lord, if being more discriminating with prisoners would help to get you to bed earlier ...'
'How long have you known me, slave Radu?'
'Four years, Dread Lord', replies the pasha. 'The happiest and most rewarding of my life', he adds quickly.
'And how would you characterise me?'
'Well, Dread Lord, aaah ... oooh ... it's so difficult to ... to put into words'.
'Come on - it's not a trick question', says Casimir, a sure sign that it is probably a trick question.
'Well, Aweful One, I would say that you are a sovereign who, when it comes to making omelettes, understands that one needs to break a few eggs'.
'Yes, breaking eggs is necessary. And also boiling them, skinning them, hammering them, and then displaying the results for several days at strategic points throughout the Sanjak. Anything less than disproportionate and indiscriminate violence I think my subjects would see as weakness and a sign that I was mellowing'.
Casimir yawns. Radu waits patiently. 'On the subject of hangings', says Casimir, 'I haven't yet seen a sight of the new ambassador from Bachscuttel'.
'No, Magnificant One. He arrived last week; but he is the most reluctant applicant for an audience in court that I have seen for some time. He goes through the motions of applying to see you, but he keeps losing the paperwork, apparently. He has also made the point that he is undoubtedly the most boring man in Bachscuttel, and that no sane ruler would want to talk to him, and he says that it is likely, anyway, that he is suffering from the plague, or something worse'.
'That's a shame', replies the hospodar. 'I'll wager that breast and back plate of his might heat up nicely'.
'Anyway', adds Casimir, looking at Radu, 'I suspect that this polite preliminary circling of the issues means that there might be some bad news in the offing?'
Radu nods and gulps. 'We have been sent a letter, Terrible One. From the Sublime Port'.
* The sanjak tends to work according to the principles of cutomary law - that is, things are lawful if the hospodar customarily likes to do them.
Friday, 16 October 2020
'And who the devil is this, Fecklenburg?'
'It is I, Bastian, Ritter von Dweeb, you most potent highness', says the new visitor.
Sunday, 11 October 2020
'It fights off disease and ailments?'
'No, sir - it makes potential patients too frightened to come and see me. Whenever I appear, rates of reported illness tend to drop off quickly'.
'Since the patients don't get treated, presumably other things quickly drop off as well?'
'It is the way of things, my lord. Life is "nasty, brutish, and short"'.
'The philosopher Thomas Hobbes?' interjects Chamberlain Fecklenburg.
'No', says Klenser. 'my mother - although I think that she was actually describing my father. Anyway, the point is that life is pain'.
Rupprecht snorts. 'Mine isn't. It's actually quite nice'.
The physician nods. 'Oh yes, sir - for the nobility that is so. But for ordinary people life is rather less entertaining'.
'Well', says Rupprecht, 'it serves them right for not working hard enough to inherit their father's wealth'.
Klenser bows. 'I have often had the same thought, sir'.
Fecklenburg intervenes swiftlty. Rupprecht generally only has two responses to difficult emotional situations: lunch or executions. And since it is too early for lunch, it is better for Herr Klenser that the conversation is moved on.
'Which says that we should do what?' asks the prince.
'Well, my lord, the standard treatment recommended in situations of a pandemic would be a course of leeches'.
'But that's the same treatment that physicians always recommend! I had a bad back and they recommended leeches!'
'A wise choice, sire'.
'But they weren’t even applied to my back! He applied them to my testicles - how was that supposed to help. It really hurt!'
'And did that pain take your mind off the pain in your back, my lord?'
Rupprecht considers this carefully. 'Yes, I suppose that it did'.
'Well, there you go, sir'.
Eventually, to Rupprecht's delight, the meeting ends. A part of his mind registers vaguely that some decisions have been made to which he might have assented; the rest of his brain makes fun of that part and returns to princely ruminations about pigs.