Friday, 14 October 2016

Wimmintzhauer, the Final!

Accompanied by Captain von Stumpe (who, as usual, is camouflaged in his hussar uniform of inconspicuous bright yellow and blue), Burgrave Falco and General von Rumpfler advance towards the fighting (below). By placing himself between his infantry and cavalry, Rumpfler eases his command and control problems a tad. However, a significant difficulty with his sequential parallel plan begins to emerge. With his musketeers engaged in a punishing exchange of fire with their Imperial adversaries, they soon seem to need rallying. However, Rumpfler quickly determines that if he rallies his infantry, he cannot order forwards, or rally, his cavalry, the latter of course being crucial to his intent to turn the Fenwickian flank. Thrust painfully upon the horns of this dilemma, the general wiggles ineffectually for a while before concluding that, with losses in his infantry mounting faster than King Wilhelm in a a two-for-one bordello, rallying the foot must take priority.

The general rides to his infantry. Ignoring the nearby regiment of red-coated Nabstrian mercenaries, whose painful death, of course, would merely constitute prudent long-term financial planning, Rumpfler seeks to inspire his musketeers with another of his famous speeches. Above the crash of gunfire and the roar of soldiers' voices, he shouts: 'Men! Rally to your colours! Reform your ranks! Some scoundrels have said that the Nabstrian army is the least successful army in Mittelheim, with a poor record in both attack and defence. I say to those scoundrels: statistically, this is probably correct. But the key point, men, is - it has never been my fault!' Rumpfler's troops seem surprisingly uninspired by these words. As the infantry duel continues, the Nabstrian infantry line begins to buckle as catastrophically as  Princess Caroline of Bachscuttel's corset after a heavy sneeze. Nevertheless, despite the problems faced by his infantry, Rumpfler decides to take a risk and refocus his energies on his cavalry attack.

Ceasing to rally his infantry, Rumpfler once again orders forward his right wing cavalry  in an attempt to break the Fenwickian flank. 'Forward again?' asks the Comte de Finay. The messenger nods gravely - 'General von Rumpfler says that we must make a point to the enemy.'
'Hmmm,' says the Comte, 'Is the point that we're idiots?' With a sigh, he orders the trumpets to sound the charge. Given the  importance of the ensuing encounter for the outcome of the battle, it is worth quoting, for accuracy's sake, the account of the combat contained within the Nabstrian Official History:

'And so, the trumpets sounded the charge and the great mass of Nabstrian horse thundered forwards. And lo! leading them was Alain, Comte de Finay: great was his wrath and he had a fell hand and doom was written upon his brow. And his adjutant cried: 'My Lord, why have you got "doom" written upon your brow?' And the Comte replied, 'For I am wrath.' And his adjutant replied, 'Then, my lord, I should advise writing "wrath" upon your brow because "doom" has two 'o's; and what you have written upon your brow means something rather different.' And the Comte was doubly wrathful, and invited his adjutant to take an unlikely anatomical excursion with a spoon; and he ordered the horsemen of Nabstria once more unto the attack.'

'And so, the horsemen of both sides fell upon one another again. And there was a great shout; and the men of Nabstria set about those of Fenwick, and their eyes were fierce and their swords sharp and their riding predictably mediocre. And there was a great shivering of swords upon swords; and dire blows were struck; and painful wedgies administered. (Below) But the Nabstrian host was well nigh overrun; and they were sorely bested and were driven back; many flying, and some going hither and thither; and others whither and zither.'

'But the Comte rallied them with brave words and loud threats of sharp implements applied to wrinckly sacks; and the Nabstrian horsemen gathered about again; and seeing the enemy banner ahead with few men about it and being filled with dudgeon and having their blood pressure raised dangerously, they drew once again their swords and it was like glittering of stars; and their shouts were like the bleating of many very annoyed sheep. Then, the Comte de Finay's anger burned hot again and he was filled with red wrath and he cried aloud 'Verily, I am really wrathful; let us fall upon these  fellows and give them a smiting'. And his men cried 'A smiting! Yeah, verily, foresooth and whatever! Let us give it to them!' And they came against the horsemen of Fenwick with a great press of men. Great was the clash, and loud the moaning about it really hurting, but more skilled and bitter were the Nabstrians and they clove through the Fenwickians like King Wilhelm en route to a free buffet. (Below) And the Comte broke through the press and threw down the enemy chieftain who cried 'Ow! Ow! Stop smiting me, sir!'and he hewed the enemy banner-bearer and seized their standard and all that was left of the enemy company turned and fled.'

'But lo, suddenly the sky dimmed and the dark turned about and it looked like it might rain; and the Nabstrian cavalrymen, worried about their wigs going frizzy, fell back. But the second body of Fenwick's horsemen, fearing not the darkness, were emboldened. And, unusually for this battle, receiving an order from headquarters, they swept forward against their enemy. And there was a great smiting and soiling of undergarments and falling off of horses; and no quarter was asked or given because neither side was good with fractions. And the Nabstrians, being sorely knackered by their previous fight, were dismayed at the ferocity of the enemy's onset and they were greatly afraid and also greatly worked over; and so they did a runner. And the Comte cried aloud 'For Christ's sake, not again! Come back you lazy bastards!' But it was to no avail. And General Rumpfler, hearing of these events, was not rightly pleased and uttered very many naughty words.'

With the defeat of his cavalry assault, Rumpfler's attack is over. Having risked all on the cavalry breakthrough, his infantry have not had the benefit of his rallying efforts. The Nabstrian line is raked by musketry and pulverised by cannon, tearing off legs, knees, and feet reducing both the morale and the average height of the infantry. Rumpfler's vain attempt, too late, to rally his infantry raises neither their spirits nor their tallness. (Above) The entire Nabstrian front line is broken by Imperial fire. (Below) Burgrave Falco surveys the shattered remains of the Nabstrian.
'Well,' he says to Rumpfler, 'That fell apart quickly. My dear general, I think, once we have returned to the capital, that we should have a conversation.'
Rumpfler nods wearily. Whatever is in store for him, it is a fair guess that it is unlikely to be a promotion and a commemorative tankard.

Meanwhile, aside from the single 'charge' order issued to the cavalry, the Imperial headquarters has remained royally inactive. The Fenwickian staff indeed has been rendered insensible once again thanks to the wearing Fenwickian sensitivity to double entendre. Nitzwitz, intending to point out that the small copse that divides the Fenwickian line might provide the perfect avenue for a counter-attack on the exposed Nabstrian left had tried to outline this to his compatriots. Sadly, the Captain, who really should have known better, got no further than commenting that: 'Since the wood is already in our hands' before the Fenwickian staff 'fnarred' themselves into a swoon.
As the fighting dies down, Marshal Cavandish passes wind loudly and wakes himself with a start.
'Grenadiers forward!', he blurts out, in a daze, 'Rabbit onesies on!' His eyes snap into focus, aware now of the stares of his staff officers.
'Excellent,' he says, 'My plan has been a famous success.' He turns to his horse, Keith. 'Now what was it?'

Monday, 3 October 2016

Wimintzhauer, the Second!

General Rumpfler looks out across the battlefield. He turns to his aide-de-camp, Captain Hugo von Stumpe. 'Von Stumpe,' says the general, twirling his moustache, 'you know what it's like to have that satisfying feeling that comes from inflicting on the enemies of Nabstria an absolutely crushing defeat; the joy of seeing a well-executed plan grind one's opponent into the dust?'
'Yes, sir?', replies von Stumpe.
'Well', says Rumpfler, 'I don't.'
From his vantage point Rumpfler surveys the field of combat. It is choked with dead, most of which, sadly, seem to be in the familiar blue uniform of the Nabstrian army. The dead are food now for the carrion birds that cluster thickly across the open meadow. Some birds nip suspiciously at the corpses, most gagging at the revolting taste of Mittelheimer; others circle the field warily, searching in vain for some kind of condiment that will render palatable the dead Nabstrians.
'How could we have failed,' wails Rumpfler,' for my plan was perfect!'
To understand this turn of events, dear reader, we must make our way back to a point in time some two hours before.....

(Below) From the Imperial positions, the Nabstrian foot seem a reassuringly long distance away. Cavandish's aide, Captain Fabius Nitwitz, brushes crumbs from the marshal's chest and then brings around Cavandish's horse, Keith. By the time Nitzwitz has the stirrups adjusted, the good marshal has slumped forward and is now engaged in very close examination of the bottom of his pie dish. Soft snores emerge gently from between the chicken and ham. The Fenwickian staff contemplate waking Cavandish but then, after a whispered debate, conclude that not being given any orders hasn't, in previous battles, seemed to be an insuperable burden for the army. Besides, if there are any really knotty problems relating to doctrine or military strategy, they always have Keith. Nitwitz raises his telescope - in the distance, the Nabstrians seem to be up to something.

'Splendid!' says Rumpfler, 'My plan unfolds with rigorous precision.' The general points to his right, drawing Burgrave Falco's attention to the advance of the Nabstrian cavalry.
'See, my lord, how perfect is the formation of your horse; how impetuous their desire to fall upon their enemies.'
'Indeed, yes, dear general,' replies the Burgrave. 'But isn't it usual to have riders upon the horses?'
Rumpfler nods. 'They'll catch up soon,' he says, pointing to the sweating, ragged mass of cavalrymen running behind. Alain, Comte de Finay, the Nabstrian cavalry commander, is with them, although his forward progress seems to be impeded somewhat by one of his dragoons, who seems to have placed one of Finay's booted feet further than might be strictly comfortable up his posterior. 'Onwards, you sluggards!' cries the Count, 'Charge! Charge!'

A series of loud booms rings out from the Imperial lines: the well-trained Fenwickian cannoneers bring their pieces into play, directing their fire upon the vulnerable columns of Nabstrian infantry. The Burgrave grimaces as nearby musketeers are disarticulated by the enemy artillery. The Burgrave leafs through the pages of Fun Szu's Art of War: but there is nothing in it that can prepare him for the sight of an infantryman losing a head-butting contest against a 12 pound cannon ball. Nor do the military philosopher's crude potato prints seem especially relevant to the problems of mounting a combined arms assault on a prepared enemy position.
Rumpfler considers the situation in front of him and then suddenly gives the order for his infantry to advance.
The Burgrave frowns slightly. 'I don't want to seem pedantic, my dear Rumpfler, but isn't the point of a sequential attack that one act should follow another?'
The general considers this for a moment. 'Well, indeed sire, in a purely temporal sense that could be said indeed  to be the case. But, famously as with Pope Clement when he was discovered bound with leather thongs, in a small wine barrel, with three young novitiates, flexibility can often be a requirement for success. I'm sure that my parallel advance will be quite as effective.'
The Nabstrian march columns are ordered forwards: there is something about their advance that indicates that this is not a popular order - something about the the reluctant, shambling gait of the troops; something about the miserable hunch of their shoulders; something about the voices crying out 'Lord no! We're all going to dieeeeeeeee!'

On his hill, Nitzwitz and the other staff officers contemplate the Nabstrian advance. One minute the Nabstrians are very, very far away, but then, behold (below, at the top) through the combination of march column and cadenced step, Rumpfler's infantry are suddenly in front of the Imperial positions!
'He is throwing his infantry into the teeth of our muskets and canister,' says Nitzwitz to his brother officers, 'what can we conclude from this?'
'That he hates his infantrymen?' suggests one.
'Should we issue an order?' says another. 'Wouldn't that be the sort of thing that we should do?'
'I don't know,' says Nitzwitz. 'Has anyone got some parchment and a quill?'

As the Imperial headquarters debates the merits or not of issuing orders and, if they should, whether Keith the horse should be included in the decision, Rumpfler continues his attack. The Nabstrian infantry are well deployed and present a menacing appearance with their fine drill and splendid uniforms. (Below) With his infantry deployed just outside of canister and musketry range, the general now orders his cavalry forwards, stirrups in.

Unsportingly, it transpires that the Imperial horse also have their fair share of stirrups. There is a fierce melee, with much hacking, slashing, and unnecessary use of fruity language. The Comte de Finay, having extracted his boot from the dragoon, urges his troops to greater efforts. Sadly for the Nabstrians, however, the Imperial cavalry are in fine form; in part, no doubt, because, having received no orders thus far in the battle, they are in the happy situation of having no idea at all about what's going on. Unburdened by the pressures of such things as an objective or higher direction, the Imperial cavalry drive the Nabstrians back (below). Moreover, in being driven back, Finay's men are also subject to the musketry of a small portion of some nearby Imperial foot.

Contemplating the situation, Rumpfler makes the decision to send his infantry forwards into musketry range (below). Though the cavalry has not yet succeeded in turning the Imperial flank, still, the pressure applied by the Nabstrian infantry will surely create command dilemmas that will place Marshal Cavandish under an unbearable moral and psychological burden. The Imperial commander inevitably should crack under this pressure and then, unmanned, must surely be expected to flee the battle, wailing in lamentation and making noises like a little pig.

Behind the Imperial lines, Cavandish's pie-face snoring has escalated, though this is less due to the pressure of command and more to his involuntary snorting of a piece of leek.
Nabstrian drums can be heard sounding the advance all along the line.
'What should we do?' asks Nitzwitz worriedly, his voice raised above the din of battle.
'We should definitely take counter-action,' replies a brother officer.
'Oh yes, ' says another, 'I'm all for countering whatever's going on.'
'So, we should issue an order?' asks Nitzwitz.
'Whoa, hold on there!' say several staff officers in unison. 'Let's think this through. An order could get us into trouble.'
The others nod vigorously.
'Well,' says another, 'we could seize the initiative; increase the tempo and momentum of our operations; and then defeat our enemies in the decisive non-material aspects of this battle.'
'Yes! Yes!' clap the officers.
'Or, we could ask the horse.'
'Get some paper!' cries Nitzwitz.

(Below) And so, the Nabstrian infantry advance into musket range. An enormous musketry duel commences with volleys rolling up and down the lines. Cavandish's forces, however, have the advantage of supporting canister fire. With the artillery being the only Imperial units so far to receive an order, the Fenwickians have taken perhaps the most relaxed approach to command and control yet seen on the battlefields of Mittelheim.
With cries of 'Fill the gaps!', 'Hold the line!,' and 'Look, for God's sake, someone must have a quill!' volleys of deadly musketry are exchanged.

'Is that supposed to happen?' says Burgrave Falco, viewing the smoke-wreathed firing lines from the Nabstrian positions.
Rumpfler chews his lip. 'Well, my Burgrave. it is fair to say that the first portion of this battle didn't go quite to plan; and also that this second portion has gone equally not to plan.'
'I sense a "but" general?' asks Falco.
'No, not really,' says Rumpfler. 'Still, the fight isn't over yet. Come, my Burgrave, let the two of us go forwards! Let us inspire our troops for one last effort!'
And with that, the two spur their horses towards the enemy for the final climactic events of the battle ....

Monday, 19 September 2016


Wherein the army of the Burgravate of Nabstria under General Hieronymous von Rumpfler encounters the army of Imperial Fenwick, commanded by Marshal Ignacio Grace-a-Deu Cavandish.

Mittelheim throbs to the booming of the drums of war; to the clarion call of the brazen trumpets of conflict; to the harsh clash of the cymbals of martial struggle; and to the tiny maracas of military competence. Heeding the call of King Wilhelm, the armies of Nabstria, Saukopf-Bachscuttel and Badwurst-Wurstburp, together comprising the Spasmodic Army, mobilise their forces against the Vulgarian Convention. This is easier for some than for others. In Nabstria, the officers, with some relief, quit their games of war having concluded that real war is more gentlemanly and less stressful than its miniature counterpart, the latter being marked by relentless bickering over angles of fire, dice roll modifiers, and rule 'Cessation Cured Rallying of Disordered Interpenetration Movement Whilst Expanding Ranks.'

Toy soldiers: sending ladies wild since
the ninth dynasty

In Wurstburp, mobilisation is preceded by an urgent search for a dictionary in order to determine the word's meaning, and then another extended search in the Margravate's taverns, bordellos, prisons, dog kennels and pie shops to find an army; or at least something that might at a distance look like one. In Bachscuttel, on the other hand, the Palatinate's forces are quickly assembled: Prince Rupprecht conducts a great parade of his troops. For the forthcoming war, the Palatinate's soldiery will be accoutered in coats of splendid white after the fashion of the Saxon army, there being rather a glut of these uniforms since the battle of Pirna.

A Wurstburp recruiting party.
Officer, ruffling hair: 'Why, my tiny friend, you have in full measure
the stunted porcine physique and witless visage of a general officer!'
Soldier: 'This way, my fine lads; or it shall be another
wack for you from my impressive bratwurst.'
Fellow: 'Not the face, sir! Don't ruin me looks.'

Lady Luck, making a whimsical choice, seems to favour the Nabstrians. Whilst Marshal Cavandish tries to implement the plan for a rapid Fenwickian strike against Nabstria in order to pre-empt the latter's mobilisation, the Imperial army's advance descends quickly into chaos. As the Fenwickian forces march northwestwards from the capital, Pogelswood, they encounter a farmer's wife leading a wagon load of melons. By the lavish application of the swords and spontoons of the officers and sergeants, the troops' double entendres barely are kept  under control. At that point, however, the wagon is struck by an out of control cart full of dairy products. The danger is obvious, but before the feld gendarmerie can arrest the woman, she complains aloud about the vast quantity of cream that is now all over her melons. It takes two days to beat the 'fnars' out of the imperial army, handing the initiative firmly to the forces of General von Rumpfler.*

Recognising that his waning popularity can only be reversed by a decisive victory, Rumpfler tasks his forces with a direct assault upon Fenwick. The first objective is the Duchy of Bahnsee-Kassell: this is easily taken since the Duchy's army has been given the day off in order to visit his elderly mother. Pausing only to release a symbolic Nabstrian mallard back onto the surface of the captivating rococo duck pond at Nottelbad, the Nabstrian army crosses the river Queltch. An hours march further, and the Nabstrian scouts report the presence of the Imperial army, arrayed in defence at a place known as Wimintzhauer hill. Rumpfler smiles grimly - he intends to pile such a super-sized serving of whupass on the Fenwickian army that it will never recover. He urges his troops on, eager for the fray!

(Below) Behold! Here is the battlefield of Wimintzhauer, flatter than a Mittelheim growth forecast. Cavandish's army (below, left) has taken advantage of what little terrain is available. On and to the right of the hill he places in three lines eight regiments of his regular infantry. Just to their left, the four batteries that comprise the Imperial artillery are dug into place. On the extreme left wing are two regiments of cavalry, deployed one behind the other. Between the guns and cavalry is the remaining regiment of foot. The right wing consists of a single regiment of cavalry; it is positioned beyond the small wood. The marshal is in a jolly mood, and not even trying to explain how he wishes the right wing cavalry to deploy without actually using the word 'wood' can compromise his sunny disposition. As his troops move into their assigned places, Cavandish yawns loudly: his job here is nearly done and, once the battle commences, he can retire to his camp bed for a well earned rest. (Below, right) In response to the Fenwickian deployment, the Nabstrians now form line of battle.

Captain Fabius Nitzwitz fusses around the marshal, brushing crumbs from the aiguillettes on Cavandish's dressing gown. Having been advised that his military narcolepsy might be held at bay if he took up an involving hobby, the marshal has, in search of a 'flow activity' taken up pie-eating. If some at court have criticised the quantities of flabby pastry products now consumed by the marshal, Cavandish seems not to care, dismissing the evidence of his critics with the observation that there are 'Pies, ham pies, and statistics.'

(Above, right) The Nabstrian army prepares to assume the offensive. Surveying his enemy, Rumpfler begins to see the glimmerings of a plan. His preparations are not helped, however, by the noise emanating from his headquarters. The Nabstrian  headquarters has never been especially dynamic, differing from a cemetary only by two days and one more barrel of port. Thanks, however, to the reputational damage caused to the general by his involvement in the bitter 'toy wars', he is now no longer fully trusted. Reflecting the widening view that von Rumpfler is not really up to it (a problem identified by his mistress, Nora Hindquarters, some time ago), the Burgrave himself has accompanied the army. Whilst, on the positive side, Burgrave Falco's presence has certainly improved the catering, it has not helped in the decision-making. Keen to demonstrate his command of things military, the Burgrave has spent several weeks educating himself through the medium of great works of strategy. Eschewing Maurice de Saxe's work as 'too intellectual'; Carl von Lackwitz's tome as too papery; and Horace de Saxe's 'My Hangovers' as too technical, the Burgrave finally plumped for a little known translation of an ancient Chinese volume on military advice by Fun Tzu, Sun Szu's more entertaining elder brother. Author of such works as 'The Art of War: Drawing Little Stick Men With Tricornes On', Fun Tzu's works are notable in particular for the focus on such maxims as: 'An army crawls on its stomach'; ''The moral is to the physical as the cat sat on the mat'; and 'Never interrupt one's enemy when they are eating a steak.' Though a loyal servant of the Burgrave, Rumpfler nevertheless is getting a tad annoyed with the Burgrave's helpful suggestions for how the coming battle should be fought.

'Straight at them! That's the way!' says Burgrave Falco enthusiastically. 'Just like General Feltch in my father's day. There was a general! He died with his boots on!'
'Indeed, sire,' nods Rumpfler evenly, 'And nothing else. One has to admire a man who meets a bayonet attack wearing nothing but his size tens and an enthusiastic smile. But I think that I have divined a cleverer way to crush these Fenwickian fools.' Quickly, the general issues his orders. (Below) The general deploys his troops for a two part assault that will focus on breaking the Imperial left wing (opposite the Nabstrian right). On his extreme right, his deploys two regiments of cavalry. These troops will dash forward, taking advantage of the fact that the Imperial cavalry on that wing is deployed one behind the other. Well equipped with stirrups, the Nabstrian horse will combine to defeat each Imperial regiment sequentially before turning to threaten the flank of their enemy. The second part of his plan involves his infantry. He places all of it in a (lamentably untidy) formation of march columns. Combined with their cadenced drill, the infantry will be able to rush forward, pinning the Nabstrian troops to their front. The Imperial army will then be caught in a vice from which they will not be able to escape.

The artillery are placed on the right wing between the infantry and the cavalry. Since he has no intention of fighting on his left, Rumpfler places his two units of light troops and his remaining cavalry regiment. The cavalry regiment mainly is there to stop the light troops hurting one another.

With his dispositions made, Rumpfler rides to the front of troops and addresses them:

'Men! There stand our enemy! Soon we will engage them in battle! Some of you are afraid; some of you are fearful; some of you are amusingly short; and others of you have strange lumpy faces. But none of this matters! That way to victory! Immortality awaits you: you have only to shuffle slowly towards it and grab it while it isn't looking! Forward!'

With that, the regimental drums strike up, trumpets sound, and to the rolling thud of horses' hooves, on the right wing the Nabstrian cavalry begins its advance. General Rumpfler rides back to join the Burgrave. 'We cannot fail,' says Rumpfler, triumphantly, 'for my plan is perfect!'

* A point, of course, which Marshal Cavandish cannot make to his officers since in Fenwick no sentence could even be uttered that contains both the words 'hand' and 'firm' .

Sunday, 21 August 2016


The Royal Palace in Gross Schnitzelring. It has the same smell as all the palaces in Mittelheim: the odour of power; of arrogance; and of people for whom the prospect of a bath appears on the horizon about as regularly as a delivery of salad to northern Scotland. Graf Petr Peiper-Pickderpeck, Lord of Pickelpeipers, King Wilhelm's Royal Chamberlain moves to rap on the door to the King's chambers; he then winces and halts himself. From somewhere beyond the door a voice is raised in incandescent anger.
'Infamy! Treason! Insurrection!' the voice cries.
The Graf turns to his companion, Count Matthias von Sachsenblaus, Wilhelm's Minister for War and Strudels. 'So, my dear Count, it would appear finally that the King has  read my report concerning the Vulgarian revolt.'
Count Matthias shakes his cherubic head.
'No, no, my dear Graf - the chef, unwisely, has tried to give the King some vegetables for his luncheon.'
Graf Peiper makes a silent 'oh' and nods resignedly.
'Abomination! Expectoration! Evisceration!' howls the King's muffled voice.
Count Matthias sighs. 'We're going to have to find another cook for the King. Alas, the current one has been struck dead by a glass of port.'
The Graf frowns. 'But a glass of port can't kill one.'
'It can,' replies the Count, 'if it's on a table thrown by the King.'

The Graf's shoulders hunch miserably: until the Vulgarian fiasco, it had all been going so well. Perhaps not excellently, but certainly better than expected. The King's enforced sojourn in the dungeons of Nabstria had given Wilhelm the time to reflect on what he really wanted in life: and what he really wanted, apparently, was a lot more pudding. It turned out that Wilhelm's pavlovian response to desserts made from meringue and cream meant that the mere promise of them could induce the King to agree to almost anything: so much so that Wilhelm had become known in some quarters as 'Wilhelm the Concurrer.' Life was sweet; the King malleable; the government ran efficiently; or at least, without more than the usual whiff of loondom. But now, here was the Vulgarian crisis, stinking things up like a Herzo-Carpathian codpiece after a forced march in summer.

Don Penguino contemplates the best point in a conversation to
reveal casually that his britches have no seat in them.
Waiting before the doorway, Graf Petr and Count Matthias talk through Gelderland's options and the possible responses to the prospect of Baron Vlad's activation of the Spasmodic Sanction.
'Can't we just refuse to honour the agreement?' asks the Count.
'What!' scoffs Petr. 'Impugn our honour? Hide behind the chaise-longue and pretend when Vlad comes knocking that we're not in? Or bump into him and tell him that my favourite hunting dog ate our copy of the document? Ridiculous!'
'Why?' asks the Count.
'Because I've already tried those things and they haven't worked. Our only hope is that there are no further dramas. We don't want a war with Fenwick, Rotenburg and the Vulgarian rebels. A few days of peace and quiet is what's required. Then, Vlad will realise that Herzo-Carpathia is something that he's best rid of anyway. We need to calm Vlad down; get him to realise that calling on us to honour the Spasmodic Sanction and restore him to the Herzo-Carpathian throne is a bad idea. Actually, we could offer him a bit of Badwurst-Wurstburp: the weather's better and the venereal diseases there less itchy.'
'Where?' asks Matthias, curiously.
'The Margravate of Badwurst-Wurstburp,' replies the Graf. ' It's,' he waves generally eastwards, 'somewhere in that direction. We'll just annex a  bit of it and in return give the Wurstburpers something that they need. Pantaloons. An alphabet. While we're sorting that out, we'll give Vlad a magnificent stay here.'
Matthias nods, thoughtfully. 'Perhaps you could entertain him, Graf Peiper? How do you relax?'
The Graf looks suddenly shifty. 'Oh, you know. This and that.'
'Perhaps you could take Vlad along; ingratiate yourself and help shape his thinking along our lines?' asks Matthias.
Graf Peiper Relaxes: Milk; Bubbles; and
a Midget with a Silly Hat.
The Graf shuffles a little. 'I don't think ... I don't think there would be ... sufficient hats. No, we'll have to think of something else. He must have expressed an interest in something,' he pauses, and then adds quickly, 'that isn't illegal.' He purses his lips. 'I mean, that isn't wholly illegal.' His lips move from a purse to a moderately sized gentleman's money bag. 'I mean, that wouldn't leave any strong evidence behind.'
Matthias nods, 'Well, he has expressed a considerable interest in seeing our glittering balls.'
One of the Graf's eyebrows arches with alarm.
'I mean,' replies the Count quickly, 'state banquets; dancing, that sort of thing.'
Graf Petr nods, 'Ah - excellent,' he says with no small measure of obvious relief.
The Count frowns. 'At least, I think that's what he meant.'
'Well, let's deliberate upon the issues,' replies the Graf. 'Where is Count Vlad now?'
'He is in council. His daughter, Elizabeta, I think is taking a bath in the north wing.'
'Hmmm', nods Graf Peiper. 'Is there any reason to discuss these issues with Don Penguino?'
'No, no', replies the Count vigorously, 'This is one issue of policy that cannot be improved through the application of a comedic Spanish accent. Where is the old rogue anyway - safely out of the way?'
'Oh yes, oh yes,' nods the Graf enthusiastically. 'Actually, I saw him only a few moments ago. He was carrying a towel and some soap and was walking towards the north ...'
The two look at one another for a second, just long enough to emit silent screams and then the muffled ravings of the king are drowned out by the sound of two pairs of shoes pounding the marbled passageways.

'Don't get into the bath!', the two shout, bursting into Princess Elizabeta's chamber. They halt, brought to an immediate stop by the scene in front of them. The Princess' chamber is well appointed. There is a large, unlit fireplace to the right. In front, there is a commodious, though presently empty, bath tub.
The Princess herself stands by the fireplace. She is young, dark-haired and with a physique solid enough to substitute respectably for an artillery bastion of the Vauban style. Though wrapped demurely in a curtain, she is covered from head to foot in soot.
Two men stand in front of her. One, with sword drawn, is Brad, Bishop of Prick, her brother and until recently overlord of Vulgaria. The other, grinning with a mixture of optimism and low cunning reminiscent of a weasel that has worked out how to operate door knobs and firearms, is Don Pajero de Penguino, Wilhelm's rakish confidant.

Graf Petr sizes up the situation immediately: it is crisis of a very large size; a crisis with a ballroom, two residential wings, an ornamental garden and extensive park lands to the rear.
'Bishop Brad', says the Graf, placatingly, 'I'm sure that whatever has happened here has a perfectly innocent explanation; an explanation that will allow us all to leave the room in perfect equanimity and that would any avoid need for emotional outbursts that might result, say, in the activation of any alliance commitments that might be on our minds.'
Bishop Brad scoffs. 'Sir, I shall tell you what has transpired here and you will see for yourself the terrible dishonour that this Gelderland official has visited upon my family.'
'My dear brother,' interjects Elizabeta, 'this is all just a terrible misunderstanding ...'
'Fiddlesticks!' replies Bishop Brad. 'Securely locked in her room and about to take a bath, this Spanish reprobate tried to enter the chamber, first by the door and then by climbing the ivy outside the window. Once in the room, he surprised my sister, causing her to try and hide in the fireplace!'
'Odd, but true,' adds his sister.
'I, passing this room, heard her strange cries, of alarm no doubt. I then entered the room to find my sister clothed only in this curtain and Don Penguino clothed in that self-satisfied smile! He has terrorised my sister!'
'Weeeeell ...,' begins Princess Elizabeta.
'With unwanted attentions!' continues Brad.
'Weeeeell ....,' continues Princess Elizabeta.
Bishop Brad waggles his sword close to Don Pengino's cheerful visage. 'Poltroon!'
'Que?', replies Penguino.
'Poltroon!' repeats Brad, his voice raised even higher.
Penguino's brow furrows and he starts to flap his elbows.
'No!' shouts Brad, 'not poultry - poltroon! I am not accusing you of being a chicken. Chicken,' he repeats in response to the blank look on Pengin's face. 'C-H-I-K-E-N.'
'You've missed out a "C"', interjects count Matthias.
'Not helping!' hisses Graf Petr.
Penguino extends his neck and bends over.
'No! No! No!', cries Brad, 'Not an ostrich either! Or,' he says, as Penguino begins to honk loudly, 'a duck. Look, I'm trying to insult you, you fool!'
Penguino crouches, smiling, and then neighs loudly.
'No! Fool! Not foal! Look, by The Virgin Mary's commodious undergarments, perhaps you'll understand this!' Brad slaps him across the face with his gloves. Penguino springs back surprised, and then beams widely.
Bishop Brad is taken aback and looks towards the Graf. 'Um, does he like that?'
'Well', explains Graf Petr reasonably, 'he is Spanish. Look, perhaps I should translate in order to avoid misunderstandings.' He switches to Spanish and says to Don Penguino: 'My good sir. Please, for the love that you bear our monarch, pretend that you cannot speak German. Just let me "translate" some suitably unctuous apologies and we still might escape from this predicament!'
Don Penguino considers this for a moment, then grins and nods.
Bathing in Mittelheim: Always More
Complicated Than One Might Think.

'Ha!' says Penguino in Spanish, 'It seems obvious to me, you molester of goats on alternate Sundays, that your father was some kind of small rodent, a hamster, perhaps; and that your mother smelt of some kind of soft fruit or berry found on bushes in moderate climes - elderberries, possibly.'
The Graf nods sagely and then turns to Bishop Brad. 'Don Penguino apologises and says that he meant no harm.'
'He doesn't look very contrite' replies Brad.
Both watch as Penguino points to in the direction of Elizabeta and then begins to thrust his hips back and forth.
'Ah', says Graf Petr, 'well, he's Spanish, and this is an altogether traditional Spanish greeting to a respected acquaintance.'
Penguino seems now to be be moving his hands up and down as if holding, say, two large melons whilst winking suggestively in the Princess' direction.
'Don Penguino is making an important moral point,' says the Graf.
Penguino begins to pace up and down in front of the Brad, ignoring the Bishop's sword. 'You Germans!' says the Don, angrily. 'With your arrogance, and your terrible food; and your long sausages that compensate for short sausages in other departments! I am a Spaniard! Spain! It was we who first threw back the forces of Islam in the time of the Reconquista! It was Spain that has built a world empire upon which the sun never sets! Spain whose King Carlos I straddled Europe like a giant Hapsburg colossus! It was our tercios that terrified the armies of Europe for more than a century!'
The Graf nods. 'So, Bishop Brad, the Don extends his abject apologies and now needs to leave this chamber urgently - it appears,' the Graf's eyes become slits, ' because he has an appointment somewhere very far away from here, probably involving an oceanic voyage.'
'So, he is really very apologetic and admits he is a dishonourable, damnable swine that smells of garlic and soot?' asks Brad, his sword wavering.
The Don shakes his head vigorously and says 'No, no, no, no, no.'
'Oh yes, yes' says the Graf, 'He is really very, very sorry.'
Bishop Brad stops suddenly. 'Hang on - why does he smell of soot?'
'Weeeeell ...', begins the Princess.
'And why is it,' asks the Bishop, peering more closely at Don Penguino's face, 'that his ears are sooty?'
The Don smiles and shrugs. Graf Petr and Count Matthias look at one another despairingly.
Brad peers even closer at the Don. 'And why is your tongue all black?'
The Graf gives up. 'Everybody run!', he  shouts, pulling the Don from the room. Behind he can hear Bishop Brad working himself up into a rage that threatens to burst him at the seams. News of the scandal soon reaches Vlad.

And so, thanks again to Don Penguino, circumstances have again conspired against peace. Vlad, furious with Gelderland, insists on invoking the articles of the Spasmodic Sanction: Gelderland is called upon to crush the Vulgarian rebels and their allies and to restore Vlad to the Barony of Herzo-Carpathia. Gelderland orders its army to mobilise. This is a rather extended process, requiring, among other things, waiting for most of the soldiers' voices to break and for them to begin to grow body hair. In the interim, King Wilhelm calls on Bachscuttel, Nabstria and, with the lavish application of shiny objects, the Margravate of Badwurst-Wurstburp, to support Gelderland. At his call, the Spasmodic Army, as it quickly becomes known, prepares for operations to crush Vulgaria. Realising that if Vulgaria falls, they will be next, Imperial Fenwick and Rotenburg sign the Vulgarian Convention, committing themselves to support Vulgaria in its war.

And so, the Perpetual peace comes to an end. The red hand of battle has again raised itself in anger! The conflict which becomes known, because of Don Penguino's sooty-lobed indiscretion, as the Dirty Ears War, is the largest yet in Mittelheim. Who will triumph? War to the death is the cry! No peace without pain!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016


It is morning. Bright sunlight streams through the leaded windows of the council chamber in the palace of Pogelswood. Emperor George XIII of Imperial Fenwick sits at the head of his assembled advisers. Herzog Franz, his brother, sits on his right hand.
'Get off my hand,' says Emperor George.
'Sorry, George,' says Franz.
'Sorry, Your Imperial Highness,' says Emperor George.
'Um', says Franz, 'I thought that you were the Emperor.'
The Emperor rolls his eyes. 'And I thought that you were my wily adviser. If ever we were in need of some wily-ness, I should say that it was now.'
'Is that a canoe in your britches, or are you just
pleased to see me?'
'It's a canoe.'
Towards the back of the chamber comes a faint clanging sound as Duke Joachim, the emperor's son, leans back and crosses his legs. Poking visibly above the tabletop is the Duke's latest codpiece creation from Herzo-Carpathia: the 'Spanish Inquisition'. Although in general, of course, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, in this case it is really rather hard to miss, consisting as it does of elongated polished silver-work topped with a miniature pope. Whilst the phrase 'my loins are on fire' might normally be considered a boudoir-related euphemism, with Joachim's codpiece it is, in fact, a statement of the literal truth, given that the Inquisition model also features a marvelous rendition in fully working miniature of a heretic being consigned at the stake to the fiery flames of Hell.

The assembled advisers try their best to ignore Joachim's embarrassing accouterment, but this is difficult to do: it seems to follow the eyes around the room.
'This is a disaster!', says Freiherr Gunther von Goebelgass, Minister for Fruit, Vegetables, and Public Morality. 'We are staring, your Imperial Highness, at the possibility of an apocalyptic war in which all of Mittelheim will be arrayed against us!'
A derisive snort emanates from Johan von Schmeligbad, Minister of Toast, Breakfast-Related Bakery Products and War. 'It's hardly an apocalypse, Goebelgass - stop exaggerating.'
'If it is not an apocalypse, Schmeligbad,' replies Goebelgass, 'then it will be something very like it!'
'Hmmm,' says Herzog Franz, 'an approxalypse, perhaps?'
Emperor George thumps the table. 'Cease this bickering! We must have a plan! Herzog Franz, tell us of your communications with Rotenburg. Are they likely to forgive us for implicating them in the Vulgarian revolt?'
Franz sighs. 'My intelligence suggests that Landrave Choldwig isn't very happy.'
'How unhappy?' asks Goebelgass. 'Are we still not popular, then?'
Franz nods. 'Remember when Bishop Frottage decided to lighten the mood at the concave to elect Pope Clement XIII by turning up in a comedy Martin Luther costume?'
'Well, that.'
The Emperor holds his head in his hands.
Schmeligbad then says 'Fear not, your Highness. I have a plan.'
Emperor George gestures for the Minister to continue.
'It is like this, my lord. We must prepare immediately for war and a rapid rapier-like thrust against Nabstria. Nabstria undoubtedly will use this present crisis to mobilise King Wilhelm's support for an attack on us. They still blame us, no doubt, for the failures of the last war. We must strike them now while they are still vulnerable!'
'Vulnerable?' says the Emperor.
'Indeed', replies Schmeligbad, 'the Nabstrian flirtation with model soldiers has provoked further divisions within the Burgraviate's military. Ceaseless arguments over the rules have utterly undermined the credibility of General von Rumpfler. He is widely cursed now as a rules-meistering cheat with a strangely flexible concept of an inch. He is now known to his officers as "Benda".'
'Benda?' asks the Emperor.
'After Franz Benda,' interjects the Herzog, 'the great German fiddler.'
'We'll need Rotenburg to join us,' continues Schmeligbad. 'We must strike first and win the war before our adversaries have time to mobilise!'
The Emperor nods. 'Hmmmm, this plan carries with it great risks - will Landgrave Choldwig agree to join us?'
Schmeligbad nods. 'Oh, I think so, my Lord - I have taken some steps to encourage them ....'

In Alexandopolis, Landgrave Choldwig stares down at his terrapin pool.
Baron Woffeltop is hard at work questioning a spy.
'Auric von Blonde,' the Baron says, 'You are here to be tortured at the behest of our glorious Landgrave Choldwig. You are a spy, and you will tell us who it is that you are working for.'
There is the sound of bubbles escaping.
'This really isn't working,' says Choldwig, looking down into the pool. Originally, of course, the pool was supposed to be much larger and also to contain within it crocodiles - very angry, very hungry crocodiles: or at a pinch some kind of giant snapping turtles - ravening turtles, preferably; but Choldwig would have accepted some that were just quite cross.

A Crocodile Pit: 'When you absolutely, positively got to kill
every Mittelheimer in the room, accept no substitutes.'
But budgetary constraints had forced some disappointing modifications. In the pool lies the rather sodden body of a heavy-set fellow of middle age. The fellow is slightly too large for the pool and his shoed feet stick out above the water.
'I'm not enjoying this,' says the fellow, his head propped up on the other side of the pool. 'This isn't very nice'.

Woffeltop pokes him with a stick.
'Do you expect me to talk?' says Blonde.
'No, Mister Blonde,' says Woffeltop 'I expect you to die! There's nothing that you can talk to me about that I don't already know.'
'Then why are you doing this? This is inhuman: my fingers are all wrinkled.'
Woffeltop flourishes a piece of paper. 'Intelligence sent to us by our allies indicates that you, Herr Blonde, are a Nabstrian spy intent on assassinating Landgrave Choldwig.'
'Poltroon!', shouts the Landgrave; 'Craven! Dastard! Villain!'  he continues; 'Teapot! Table! Lamp stand!,' he finishes, after exhausting his rather limited vocabulary. With a violent movement he places a terrapin under Blonde's nose. 'Take that!' cries Choldwig. The terrapin looks lost, and then falls off as Blonde sneezes.
'I haven't done anything!' cries the captive. 'I just came here to buy a wagon load of jellied seagulls.'
Woffeltop chuckles. 'A good try, Herr Blonde. But our intelligence was very specific.' He reads from the paper. 'Be on the look out for a Nabstrian spy. He is a man and he is quite tall. He will be wearing a wig. When asked, he will deny being a Nabstrian spy.'
'But ... but ...that could be anybody!' says Blonde.
'Au contraire, Herr Blonde,' replies Woffeltop, 'We have questioned more than forty individuals and you are the first to deny being a spy.'

Woffeltop and Landgrave Choldwig step away from the pool.
'Are we sure that he is a spy?' asks Choldwig. 'He doesn't seem very ... competent.'
Woffeltop shrugs. 'That much might be true - he's possibly an idiot, and certainly from Mittelheim.'
'And the Fenwickian plan - will it work?'
'I cannot rightly say, my lord.'
'Hmm, well can you wrongly say it?' asks Choldwig.
Woffeltop purses his lips. 'It all comes down to Baron Vlad of Herzo-Carpathia. If he can be prevailed upon by Gelderland not to invoke the Spasmodic Sanction, then there will be no need for Gelderland to mobilise. Given time, everyone will forget Herzog Franz's ludicrous book and its fanciful claims about our role in the Vulgarian uprising.'
'Hmmm', says the Landgrave. 'I need to speak to the Gelderland ambassador.'
'My Lord, shall I call you your carriage?'
'No - you can call me "your highness" like you usually do.'

And so, it seems that peace in Mittelheim depends now upon Gelderland diplomacy and the extent to which Baron Vlad can be mollified. This leads us, dear reader, to Gross Schnitzelring, where the question on everyone's lips is 'can the peace be maintained and a disastrous diplomatic cake and arse party be avoided?;'a question soon followed by a second thought - 'Hmmm, where is Don Pajero de Penguino?'

Friday, 15 July 2016


In the chancery of Pogelswood, capital of Imperial Fenwick, all is not well. Herzog Franz, Emperor George's brother and his key advisor, is berating his Chief Secretary, Herr Helmut Shotoff.
'Where's the draft of my novel?' says Franz.
'Novel, my lord?' replies Shotoff solicitously.
'Yes, my novel. It's an entirely fictitious account of a Fenwickian plan, acting in concert with the Landgravate of Rotenburg, to find the surviving heir to the Voivodate of Vulgaria, provide him with men and money, break him into the dungeons of Schloss Feratu, take prisoner the Bishop of Prick and then raise the country in revolt.'
Shotoff emits a strange gargling sound. 'Um. Did it have a black cover?'
'Why yes, and I put it here, just beside my out-tray.'
'My Lord, is that the tray marked "for immediate action upon pain of death?"'
'Yes, Shotoff, that's the one and I ... are you alright, you seem to have gone a little pale.'
'My lord, there's been a terrible misunder...'
'... It's just that I'd like to consider a few changes for another edition.'
'My Lord, I ...'
'I'm having second thoughts about the elephant.'
'Eleph ...'
'And I think, on reflection, that  a rescue party to Schloss Feratu should plausibly have more firearms, and less celery.'
'My Lord, I think that I need to lie down.'
'Well, fine Shotoff: you have my permission to withdraw and, ... oh I see, lie down right here. Well, that's not entirely usual and I ...'
'My Lord,' says a voice emanating from floor level, 'I have something to say of which, I hope, you might see the funny side; indeed, I'm sure that we'll all, at some juncture in the future, probably hoot with laughter when we remember what happened. It's like this. I thought that your novel was in fact a carefully crafted plan. So I had it executed.'
Herzog Franz also pales. 'So, my novel implicating Fenwick and Rotenburg in a plot to raise a revolt in Vulgaria is now a work of non-fiction?'
'Broadly, yes, my lord. Still...,' and here Shotoff seems to brighten, 'no one knows that we are responsible. I was very careful to ...'
Franz pales. 'Shotoff, I'm just going to lie down next to you.'
There are a few moments of silence.
The Chief Secretary pipes up: 'We'll just blame it all on Bachscuttel, my Lord. No one will know that it was Fenwick. Prince Rupprecht is such a numbskull ...'
'Yes Shotoff: except that I've had it published'.
'Published, my Lord?'
'Yes, Shotoff. Our involvement in this revolt is now explained in great detail in all good bookshops across Mittelheim.'
'Published?' repeats Shotoff, in the same tone that one might utter the phrase 'I have discovered an adder in my under-britches.'
'Indeed,' groans Franz. 'It's also available in hardback.'
 'It's not impossible that the plan will never come to fruition,' says the secretary.
'Actually,' says Franz, brightening again, 'that's true - after all, it is Vulgaria.'
Suddenly, there is the sound of approaching footsteps. A courier bursts in.
'Urgent news, my lords,' he gasps panting, 'a mysterious power has found the surviving heir to the Voivodate of Vulgaria, provided him with men and money, broken him into the dungeons of Schloss Feratu, taken prisoner the Bishop of Prick and then raised the country in revolt!'
Franz sighs gently. 'Well, that's knackered it.'

In Nabstria, Burgrave Falco sits in Faltaire's latest invention - the 'horseless carriage.'
'Behold, my Burgrave!,' crows the philosopher-scientist Faltaire, 'this is the future of transportation!'
Burgrave Falco nods thoughtfully. 'Indeed, Faltaire, my good and learned fellow. Marvellous. It's just that, and I don't want to undermine your excellent work, we've been in the carriage for half an hour and we seem to be in the same place that we started.'
The Carriageless Horse: 'It'll never catch on.'
Faltaire nods in agreement. 'Indeed, my Burgrave. One unfortunate side-effect of a carriage without horses is that it doesn't move. But I like to think of it as a work in progress.'
Falco nods amicably. 'As with your homeopathic gunpowder, Faltaire?'
Falco stares out of the window for a while. Though the horseless carriage is less exciting than he had hoped, the meeting with Faltaire has enabled him to turn down Bishop Munschrugge's invitation to an organ recital. Munschrugge's lamentable musical skills are notoriously bad, and not even the fun of watching the Fenwickian ambassador trying to say 'organ' with a straight face can compensate.
Suddenly, though, the Burgave sees a strange sight: it is the Bishop himself, sprinting as fast as his tubby frame will allow. Munschrugge approaches the carriage.
'My dear Burgrave! High drama! Strange events! The  ungovernable machinations of  fate! Emperor George of Fenwick has precipitated a revolt in Vulgaria! Rotenburg also is implicated!'
The Burgrave shakes his head incredulously. 'Madness! To throw away peace! Upon what intelligence is this news based? Is it credible?'
Munshcrugge nods vigorously and flourishes a heavy looking book. 'See here, my lord: Emperor George has had his secret plan published!'
'Yes, my Burgrave.'
'Isn't that a bit, well, unwise?' asks the Burgrave.
The Bishop nods. 'It's certainly unconventional,' he replies. 'But it is marvellously bound,' he says approvingly, running his hands over the spine. 'And this one seems to be signed.'
'Are we sure of the details, Munschrugge?'
'Oh yes, my lord - there is an excellent index. See here under 'T' for 'treachery'; 'F' for Fenwick'; 'N' for 'nefarious plans': it's all here in black and white - except for the colour plates, that is.'
Burgrave Falco jumps to his feet. 'My dear Bishop, we must contact our plenipotentiary in Gelderland at once! And send messages immediately to Bachscuttel - with Rotenburg implicated, we should begin to consider our options.'

In Pfeildorf, Prince Rupprecht heads a meeting of his privy council. He looks bored.
Freiherr Maximillian von Fluck, Minister of Sausages, shifts uncomfortably. 'Is it necessary, my Prince, to hold your council meetings in your privy?'
'I like to multi-task', says Rupprecht, resplendent upon his golden 'throne'. 'Any way, I only agreed to hold this meeting because I thought we were discussing a treat. Where's my cake?'
The councillors avert their eyes as Prince Rupprecht noisily multi-tasks.
Count Geyr von Voeltickler, Minister for Finance and Other Tedious Things interjects. 'My Lord, we are discussing a treaty: in this case, the Spasmodic Sanction and the implications for it of the latest events in Vulgaria. The cake, alas, must wait.'
'Bah!', says the Prince.
Rupprecht's recent lack of enthusiasm for matters of state is notable even by his own lax standards. The origin of this has been a rather surprising enthusiasm on the part of the Prince for literature. In the past, most of Rupprecht's reading was confined to pig reports, accounts of the torture of miscreants, or, at moments when he was feeling especially creative, accounts of the torture of miscreants by pigs. But lately the Prince has a shown a real enthusiasm for actual books. As it turns out, in need of money early on in his career, the English writer Jonathan Swift had written under the pen-name Sven von Hassel potboiling accounts of Lilliput's wars on its eastern frontier against its mortal enemy Blefescu. Thus, Swifts 1726 work Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships actually was preceded by a range of other less well known works, including: Lilliputian Eastern Front Death Bastard BattalionBloody Road to Blefescu Terror Prison Camp; and Lilliputian Hell Legion of the Damned Beast Regiment Without Any Trousers On.
 'The Gonad Gantry:' Another Lilliputian War Crime.
'Sven von Hassel's' claims actually to have performed heroic exploits in the Lilliputian army were widely ridiculed, not least because, since the Lilliputians were one twelfth human size, his lavish claims of victories both at arm wrestling and in the boudoir seemed to be unremarkable in the first case, and anatomically icky in the second. The Prince, however, has currently run out of 'Hassel's' works. In the lacuna between finishing his last book and the arrival of Brobdingnag Slaughter Laundry of  the Horror Assault Virgins, there seems nothing better to do than attend to some matters of state.
'Gelderland is in a state of great alarm' says Voeltickler. 'Vlad may or may not invoke the Spasmodic Sanction and call on Gelderland to restore his authority in Vulgaria. In such a case, we surely will be called upon to provide troops'.
'We must mobilise at once!' shouts von Fluck.
'Excellent!', shouts Rupprecht. 'Will that mean cake!'

And so, the winds of war waft noxiously through the lands of Mittleheim. But peace, surely, is still possible if there is sufficient will and enough battenberg...

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Margravate of Badwurst-Wurstburp

The Margravate of Badwurst-Wurstburp was, in times of old, an eastern province of the Kingdom of Gelderland. Long years ago, however, the margravate obtained its independence through a process that history might label 'secession' but that events might more accurately characterise as 'going bad and then dropping off'.

The current ruler of the margravate is Kasper Johan von Porckenstauffen. The Porckenstuffens hailed originally from the small village of Krackling, where they were in times long past impoverished members of the landed gentry. Being 179th in line to the throne of Badwurst-Wurstburp, Kasper-Johan's ancestor, Gottlieb-Franz von Porckenstauffen, had fully expected to live out his life in the usual manner of the Mittelheim aristocracy: long periods of sleep, interrupted occasionally by trips to church and the commode (though the last could often be omitted by multi-tasking one of the former); a moderate amount of peasant flogging (on condition that they were safely tied up); combined with the occasional persecution of religious minorities (if the weather was good and there was sufficient kindling easily to hand). Gottlieb-Franz owed his ascension to the throne to his failure to attend Margrave Victor Adolphus' coronation. It turned out that the answer to the feeble state of the celebratory bonfire probably shouldn't have been a barrel of gunpowder. The terrible accident that resulted catapulted the Porckenstauffens to the throne because it catapulted their relatives all over the ornamental gardens.

The margravate's position at the eastern geographical extremity of Mittelheim has ensured that it often has been able to avoid being drawn into the petty squabbles and the "yes you did, no I didn'ts" that together comprise in Mittelheim the exercise of diplomacy and statecraft. However, this geography has placed the frontiers of the margravate next to those of Kurland and Zenta. Against the latter, the River Procksi provides a modicum of protection, ensuring that what Zentan raiding parties can steal is limited to those things that can be eaten or that float well. To the north, however, the frontier with Kurland consists of plains as wide as King Wilhelm of Gelderland's nightgown and just as open at the front. Southern Kurland is peopled by the unruly Cassock tribesmen. The Cassocks, they say, are born on their horses; they live their lives on their horses; and they die in the same place. In consequence, the Cassocks hate horses and spend much of their time raiding northern Badwurst in search of wheelbarrows, sedan chairs, or any other mode of transport the using of which doesn't give one terrible sores in excruciating places, or bite when its in a bad mood.

The capital of the Badwurst is the town of Munchausen. Lying on the river Procksi, the town is known formally as Munchausen-By-Procksi. Munchausen draws its wealth through reaping the fruits of the river. On good days this can be fish, but on others it is often strange, bobbly, squidgy things that can be found floating around in its fetid brown waters. Badwurst also has a long-standing textiles industry. This is based in the village of Burstwart. Burstwart produces a unique cloth of hessian, nasal hair, and ginger beard stubble. Most of it is exported to Kurland as punishment for their pervasive border raiding. In the margravate only the poorest wear it, which explains the healthy trade conducted in soothing ointments. The village of Flem comprises one of the artistic hubs of Mittelheim, and is especially known for its schools of painting. In Flem, sensitive, passionate pieces of creative genius are produced for use as fuel by the locals.

However, perhaps the most famous place in the margravate is the town of Shovelin. Shovelin was the original source of the famous story of the pied piper, which was appropriated later by the Saxon town of Hamelin. As told in Hamelin, the legends concerned a famous piper (known as the 'pied' piper for his parti-coloured clothing) who ended a plague of rats by means of a tune on his magical flute. The townfolk having refused to pay the piper, the fellow engaged in the morally questionable activity of luring off the local children, having groomed them with his musical skills. As everyone in Shovelin knows, the Mittelheim reality was even less edifying. In 1348, Shovelin was afflicted by a plague of rats, the rodents having congregated there in preparation for a mass demonstration to complain about the squalid conditions in the town. An itinerant English musician promised to rid the town of rats using the power of his magical flute. The mayor was unimpressed, arguing that 'the notion that a man can do such a thing in this day and age is a bloody fairytale'; but the local burghers were desperate, and the musician persuasive. Spending most of his time drinking, the piper became known as the 'Pie-Eyed Piper of Shovelin'. Finally forced by threats of legal action to take practical steps against the rats, the piper staggered around the town, his main impact being to un-nerve local matrons. It became quickly evident that 'playing his magic flute' actually seemed to be an English euphemism for staggering around the marketplace drunk with his hose down, waggling in plain sight an instrument of an entirely different kind. The English reprobate was finally dealt with by a gang of rats, known as the 'Squeaky Blinders', who were later given the freedom of the town by relieved townsfolk.