Monday, 28 October 2013


     Framed by the Carpathian and Procksi rivers, the Sanjak of Zenta is the forward outpost of Ottoman power in Mittelheim. Once owned by the Kingdom of Hungary, the former Principality of Zenta was lost to Christendom in 1526 as a consequence of the climactic battle of Mohacs. It cannot be said that the Hungarians were sad to lose Zenta: on the few occasions that Royal officials dared to enter the place, they rarely escaped without losing the hub-caps from their coaches, or without having their sojourns lengthened interminably by delays at every road junction caused by local Zentans making vaguely threatening offers to wash the faces of their horses.

     If the Hungarians were sceptical of Zenta, then the Zentans returned the favour. As a frontier principality, Zenta had long been unaccustomed to those attributes of the Westphalian state system that civilized Europeans took for granted: a functioning civil service, for example; bathing; and the wearing of underpants. Indeed, this resistance to centralised authority has become, like the dirt that covers must of the inhabitants, very deeply ingrained. Accounts even of the battle of Mohacs note that, whilst the Zentan Prince, Igor III, had enthusiastically greeted King Louis II of Hungary on the morning of the battle, Igor's gracious speech to the King had been rather ruined by his pinning surruptitiously to the back of the King's doublet a sign enscribed 'Kick Me.' This, of course, the Turks did. Though most accounts of Mohacs from the period make no mention of any Zentan contribution to the battle, the Zentans claim to have been present at Mohacs in an 'auxiliary role', a role that was later discovered to have comprised the selling of light refreshments. Being forced subsequently to admit that they had sold lollies to the parched Ottoman infantry, the Zentans have always maintained that, reflecting the Ottomans' status as a hated enemy of Christendom and violators of the fair city of Constantinople, they had charged them a substantial mark-up and fiddled their change.

     The ruler of Zenta is Hospodar Kasimir XIV: 'Overlord of the North, the Shadow of God, God's Umbrella and Also Possibly His Hat.' A venal, corpulent psychopath, Kasimir is otherwise a very likable fellow with what is widely believed to be a very jolly sense of humour. If not every prisoner appreciates his combination of whoopee cushions and vigorous dental torture, then Kasimir's Court is still nevertheless regarded by Mittelheim nobility as one of the more entertaining places to visit. Many worthwhile evenings have been spent by sundry ambassadors and plenipotentiaries watching Kasimir at work with enemy prisoners: indeed, few monarchs are ever likely to be as happy as Kasimir is to spend an evening quite literally banging square pegs into round holes.

     Hospodar Kasimir's positon is not an easy one. Zenta comprises a patchwork of petty tribes, baronies and local warlords. To the west are the Carpathian Marches, a silent land of lonely mountains and mournful wind, the latter the product of the lamentably poor diet of the inhabitants. To the east are the grim and freezing wastelands of Gulbaria. The folk that live there are forced to use furs to cover their modesty. Sadly, as the only furry animals in this wilderness are dwarf forest mice, much of their modesty remains open to the elements and swinging in plain view. 'Never drop anything shiny in their company', remarked the French soldier of fortune Armand Gateaux, 'or do anything else that might encourage them to bend over.' In the southern reaches of the Sanjak live the fierce Borat tribesmen that form much of the irregular strength of the Zentan army. The Borat are famed for having a culture that lacks any concept of irony or sarcasm. The fightening consequences of visiting a tribe that literally take everything literally became evident, sadly too late, for the Scottish adventurer Hamish, Laird McCrevis, just after his comment 'No sense of irony or sarcasm? Well, bugger me sidways'.

     The main Zentan town of note is Nehrenvhar: here Hospodar Kasimir has his seat, as well as a chaise longue and also a small Louis XII occasional table. A dangerous place, legend has it that the walls around the city are far more for keeping the local inhabitants in than for keeping enemies out. Slavery provides some of the city's revenues, but in Nehrenvhar every vice is practiced, including thievery, murder, and folk dancing; and, since the locals practice, they are very good at them. Other Zentan places of note include Kayk, a picturesque border town on the River Procksi, opposite the Mittelheim city of Munchausen-by-Procksi; Dojay, populated by the mercurial Giezza tribesmen; and the southern fastness of Montepithon which guards the main route south to the Danube River and Belgrade. Lumberjacks are numerous in that area.

     The Zentan army is led by the fearsome Kurlandian mercenary Captain-General, Taras Bulbous. The Zentan army is known for the quantity of its manpower. This despite the periodic Ottoman devshirme levies that take young boys for service in the Imperial janissaries. In actuality, the strength of the Zentan army derives in part because the Hospodar has not always sent the best of his potential manpower to the Turkish army. Indeed, the Turkish name for the Sanjak of Zenta translates roughly as 'the land of the short, ginger, left-handers.'

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