Saturday, 23 August 2014

Grosse Varnische!

     A seagull cries mournfully in the air; a salt-tanged breeze drifts gently across the open grassland. Around the village of Grosse Varnische, hundreds of small bodies, wrapped pathetically in over-large uniforms lie huddled around smoking campfires. Furst Augustus Saxe-Peste, Knight Commander of the Rotenburg Order of the Golden Fleas, General-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Landgravate of Hesse-Rotenburg-Schillingsfurst shifts uncomfortably in his saddle and ponders sadly on the assembled troops in front of him.

     The past few days have been very, very trying. After extricating the remains of his forces from the carnage at Chestwig, the Furst has had to resort to extraordinary measures to bring his army back up to strength. Having already lost so many men to the bratwurst machine that is Rotenburg war craft, the Landgravate has long ago emptied the farms and even prisons of its able-bodied men to provide the manpower for its regiments. Only the youngest potential recruits are left. Now, seven of his nine regiments have been filled with the sweepings from the worst nurseries and naughty-steps of Rotenburg. Most seem capable of nothing more than sucking their thumbs; the remainder would probably join them if only they could find their thumbs in their ludicrously voluminous coats. Moreover, his army is mutinous. Whilst his two regular regiments spend their time preparing themselves for the next battle, the new troops have distinguished themselves by their stubborn refusal either to drill properly or to eat their greens. The conscripts are also very tired, having refused to go to bed early; and with the lack of any bedrooms to send them to, the Furst has few means of imposing discipline on them, it being a accepted, even in Rotenburg, that to tie infants to a cannon wheel and flog them to death is probably in most circumstances morally wrong and at the very least bad parenting.
     To compound matters, the general military situation is an urgent one. After their minor reverse at Zorninhaf, the Imperial Army of Grand Fenwick has recovered quickly and forced march towards Alexandopolis, hoping, no doubt, to occupy the Landgravate's capital before the Furst can raise a new army. The Furst has made the decision to retreat towards the coast, a decision informed by two assumptions: first, it might draw the Imperials away from the Rotenburg capital. Second, since the Furst's infantry now has an average age of about eleven, the prospect of a trip to the beach, with a paddle and some ice cream, seems like a useful way to prop up the troops' morale.

     Even worse, his headquarters is now host to the Landgrave himself. Mercifully, Landgrave Choldwig has put on a uniform, having learnt from his last chafe-ridden trip to the seaside that loin clothes, olive oil, and vigorous exercise don't mix well with sand. In part Choldwig has arrived to boost the morale of his weary and frightened troops; in part, it is also a chance for him to see if the Imperial troops, the 'Spartans of Mittelheim' are as toned and oiled as their ancient name-sakes. For the most part, Choldwig confines his contribution to the Furst's orders group to complaints about the confining nature of his undergarments and a number of excited 'Arroos!'

     And so, like a Mittelheim Pied Piper, Saxe-Peste has led his army of children towards Grosse Varnische, a small village a mile or so from the Baltic coast. The only positive development has been the presence in the village of a passing Zentan circus which, with the promise of gold and an opportunity later to spank his conscripts, he is able to press into service as mercenaries. Whilst the bearded ladies seem a little rusty in the handling of their weapons, the midgets do look like a tough lot.

     (Above) The Imperial Fenwickian army arrives on the battlefield. Sitting manfully astride his horse, Keith, Marshal Cavandish assesses the situation. Having caught up on his sleep during the battle of Zorninhaf, the Marshal is curiously perky. Around him, his headquarters staff laugh and joke: tales of the slaughter of the Rotenburg forces at Chestwig leave the Imperials in no doubt that this is likely hardly to be a battle at all. Cavandish calls for his telescope: 'Let's take a look at this army of children', quips the Marshal, raising his spy glass, 'by looking through the round window'. There is movement in the Rotenburg ranks: it looks like Furst Augustus intends to attack! Cavandish arrays his troops in a strong defensive position centred on the key ground: a small hill that covers his line of retreat. With his front split by a small watercourse, known locally as the Appisch, he deploys his four batteries of skilled artillery adjacent to it, supported by all but one of his infantry battalions. (Above, top) On his left, he deploys a single unit of infantry conscripts on the hill behind the marsh; his three cavalry regiments he places in line covering the rest of his left wing.

     (Above) Furst Augustus cannot guess for certain what the likely outcome of this battle will be, but, like King Richard III, he has a good hunch. Recognising that the odds are against him, Augustus stakes his chances of victory on a high risk gambit. He masses his entire force on his right wing. To the front, he places his cavalry, his intention being to overwhelm the Imperial horse with a brisk cavalry charge, and then swing left to take the enemy guns and infantry from the flank. But it's all or nothing - the left of his infantry line, including the Zentan mercenaries (in blue, red flag), are in range of the Imperial artillery: four batteries with Artillery Academy training are likely to do great execution, especially if they hit conscripts.

     Seeing the Rotenburg troops deploy, the Imperial morale is raised further: surely the Rotenburg cavalry attack is doomed? Cavandish has a supply of stirrups that his cavalry can throw against the enemy, and there is some bad terrain out there that is certainly not on any map. Captain Nitzwitz, the Marshal's aide-de-campe, laughs loudly:
'A single roar from my pet lion will see those rascals off', he comments
Cavandish looks round slowly, 'Your lion, Nitzwitz?'
'Yes my lord', he replies jingling a lead that he holds in his hand, and pointing to his pet.
Cavandish's brow creases: 'Captain, I'm not sure that that's a lion. I think it's a ..ur .. someone help me here...'
Baumgartner, his orderly, chips in: 'I think it's a stoat, Nitzwitz. If it's a lion, it's a very small one.'
'Christ in a sedan chair', growls Nitzwitz. 'I've been fleeced'. Mumbling something, he picks up a chicken and runs back towards the baggage train.
Cavandish looks at his orderly: 'What did he say?'
Baumgartner shrugs: 'I think my Lord, that he also wants his money back on his elephant.'

     (Below) With a loud shout of 'huzzah!' from his regular troops, and a cry of 'where?' from his conscript hussars, Augustus orders forward his entire cavalry force in a hell-for-leather charge on the Imperial Fenwick left. His troops head forward, following their officers more from a sense of curiosity than from any real belief that success will follow.

     (Above) But fate has better things in store for the Rotenburg horse. Through his telescope, Cavandish can see the unfolding drama on his left: with rising consternation, the Marshal realises that things are not going to plan. The sudden appearance of an unmapped marsh slows down the yelling Rotenburg cavalry not at all, and they 'find their way' across without disorder. Worse for the Imperials, their firm belief that they would have a hefty set of stirrups to throw into the impending melee turns out to be a mistaken one - instead, some crafty espionage has delivered said stirrups into the hands of their adversaries! Could the Rotenburg cavalry succeed? Could the Furst win his rapid victory?

     (Above) Augustus' need for a rapid victory to his front is reinforced by the unfolding events elsewhere. With thunderous roars, the Academy-trained Imperial artillery opens fire upon the static Rotenburg infantry. Pausing only to snicker at Cavandish's compliment that they are 'bouncing their balls most effectively', the Imperial artillery fires another volley and the Rotenburg left takes a thrashing. First in line are the Zentans: their commander sees the Imperial guns trained on his troops and gulps - the first thing that goes through his mind is how accurate the enemy fire seems; the second thing that goes through his mind is a 12lb cannon ball. Behind him, the bearded ladies get rather more trimmed off the top than they expect and the mercenary battalion collapses quickly. Then a second unit, this time of conscripts, are crushed by the weight of Imperial cannon-fire. Behind them, there is consternation and tears as the raw Rotenburg infantry realises what's in store for them if the Furst's plan goes awry.

     The clash of cavalry! Furst Augustus cheers as his troops fight magnificently! In truth, the combat is already stacked in the Rotenburg favour: two units of the Fenwickian horsemen are raw, much like their backsides, and they are outnumbered and out-stirrupped. Worse, having looked at the map, the Fenwickian cavalry have realised the name of the watercourse to their right. Any way they slice it, 'Appisch Stream' or the 'Stream of Appisch' sounds very, very rude, and the bulk of the cavalry 'Fnar' their way into disorder. (Above) One Fenwickian regiment routs on contact. As the process of charge and counter-charge continues, one further Imperial and two Rotenburg regiments are rendered hors de combat, though none of them are quite clear what thet means. (Below) Despite heroic resistance, the last exhausted Fenwickian cavalry unit succumbs to an attack from both front and flank.

     Could this be the breakthrough that Augustus needs? (Above, top) The Imperial flank consists now of a single regiment of conscripts perched on the hill. But all is not at is is seems. (Below) In the interim, Cavandish has redeployed his artillery to cover his flank. Though Augustus begins to order his infantry up to support his cavalry (below, top right) they have a long way to march.

This is a critical moment. Furst Augustus pauses to the accept the advice offered by Landgrave Choldwig. Contemplating the situation for a moment he then makes his decision: the Imperial flank, with its stream and guns, is too strong. Politely rejecting the Landgrave's plan on the basis that logistic difficulties had left him without the olive oil necessary to lubricate his musketeers, the Furst the now stakes everything on a reorientation of his line of attack. (Below, top) Using oblique manoeuvres, his infantry swings around and, buoyed by their ignorance of war and the prospect of jelly for tea, the Rotenburg line toddles forward towards the Imperial line. 

     (Above, bottom) Cavandish smiles grimly and accepts the challenge. With regular troops, lethal volleys, and a predominantly conscript enemy, he fancies his chances in a clash of infantry lines. He orders his troops to swing out into a battle line to meet the advancing Rotenburg troops. The whole axis of the battle has turned ninety degrees! Cavandish's manoeuvres, though, are subject to some sudden confusion, and there is an almost religious aspect to the deployment of the Imperial troops, as they proceed, like the Good Lord Himself, to move in mysterious ways. Furst Augustus surveys the Imperial line as it moves rather randomly into battle order. His assessment is interrupted by the sight of a small fellow sprinting across the front of their lines: a corpulent chap dressed in an overlarge black robe trailing a scythe that wobbles dangerously. The fellow appears to be saying 'Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!'. The Furst turns to his orderly. Captain Sebastian Wankrat.
'Wankrat, is that fellow being chased by a small lion?'
'No, my Lord: I think that's a weasel or something.'

     (Below) And so the battle lines meet at last in a clash of flame and steel! To the right is arrayed the Rotenburg front line, four regiments strong. Augustus has his single elite regiment (top, two flags), and regular regiment (middle), with the remainder of his infantry being only conscripts. Four Imperial regiments oppose them. The Furst recognises that this is the decisive moment, and despite much wailing and holding of breath from his conscripts, he refuses to let them halt for some hot milk and a nap.

     Crikey! Muskets roar; orders and screams ring out; smoke rolls heavily across the battle-lines. (Below) As the latter clears, it is evident that the Imperials have come off worse, with one of their units routing under the heavy Rotenburg fire. Cavandish sighs heavily. 'Nitzwitz,' he says, turning to his newly returned aide,'we're going to need a bigger stoat.'

     And so it continues. It becomes evident that, with both sides armed with lethal volleys, the fact that the Rotenburgers are mainly conscripts makes little difference in a fire-fight. Indeed, lacking any experience of combat, the Rotenburg conscripts bring an unusual enthusiasm to the duel of musketry. As they fire-and-load, fire-and-load, most appear now to be having a splendid time: actual war seems much more fun than playing at it: there's no soppy girls, and when you shoot someone, they have to stay dead. Moreover, having now four regiments in their front line against only three Imperials, the weight of Rotenburg fire continues to tell. As the fighting continues, the battle slips quickly and surprisingly from the Imperial grasp.

     Cavandish is desperate: enemy fire has destroyed both the trumpets and drums at his headquarters leaving him unable to exert control over the fighting.
'Nitzwitz,we are at a decisive moment: is there no instrument left through which I can communicate my orders to the troops?'
'I think, my Lord, that there is a horn somewhere. I'll ask.'
And so, before Cavanadish can stop him, disaster strikes the Imperial Fenwickian army as Nitzwitz shouts out loudly through the din of battle to the assembled Fenwickian troops, asking them whether any of them have the horn. Holding his head in his hands, Cavandish watches the disintegration of his troops, his musketeers 'Fnar'-ing and 'Snurk'-ing their way into helpless heaps. He cannot even bring himself to stop Nitzwitz when the captain announces that, although no one apparently has the horn, he vaguely remembers that there might be a clarinet lying around, possibly purple in colour, and that he would be willing to blow it if the Marshal thought that that would help. Slowly, Cavandish dismounts from Keith and walks to his tent.
'I'm off to bed now, 'he says wearily,' wake me up in September.'

     (Above, right) And so, as the casualties mount, it is the Imperials who come off worst: two more of their units rout, leaving Fenwick with a front line of only a single regiment, though they do manage to destroy the Furst's only elite regiment. (Below left) With the morale of both sides low, Nitzwitz orders the Imperial troops forward into a desperate bayonet charge: 'For the King!' cry his troops; 'Grenadiers forward!' cries Furst Augustus.

     (Below) But the Imperial assault proves to be so limp that it might not look out of place nestled in Prince Rupprecht of Bachscuttel's underwear.The Imperial bayonet charge is driven back, and the Fenwickians are now heavily disordered and left vulnerable to Rotenburg musketry, some of which enfilades them.

(Below) And so, with a last Rotenburg volley, most of the remaining Imperial troops rout. The Imperial army can take no more, its morale cracks and the remainder flee. To compound matters, Cavandish later takes ill, the result apparently of an infected stoat bite. Captain Nitzwitz too is wounded, the consequence of being badly pecked by an elephant.

     It is, by any standards, a famous victory for Rotenburg. Furst Augustus has triumphed against long odds. True, it has been a costly victory: he has lost two cavalry regiments, and three Rotenburg infantry regiments, including both of his remaining regular battalions. But the Imperials have had all three of their cavalry units destroyed, along with seven out of their nine infantry regiments. Hurrah for Furst Augustus! God save Hesse-Rotenburg!

Friday, 22 August 2014


     My Dear General von Rumpfler,

     It grieves me to pen this missive but fear I must report the strange defeat of the Grand Fenwickian Army at the battle of Zorninhaf by the forces of Bachscuttel. If this news pains you, alas, I suffer yet more for by an accident of fate I became the main architect of Fenwick’s reverse.

     As you know, I have been sent to Nabstria as the military representative of his Britannic Majesty, and I have gained much from witnessing the Nabstrian Army in the field and from our many conversations on the recurring wars of Mittelheim. The Army of Grand Fenwick has gained such a fine reputation through unbroken success on the battlefield that I became anxious to witness these modern Spartans on their manoeuvres if not in action. After an interview with the Burggrave, he graciously consented that I should join the Army of Grand Fenwick for a period and send reports on their performance to him and my illustrious monarch. This being agreed, I journeyed to Grand Fenwick and made my way, with some difficulty due to the recalcitrant nature of the Fenwickian peasantry and a particularly unpleasant episode in a roadside inn, to join Marshal Cavandish and his army on the very frontier of Fenwick, it being at least 3 miles from Camberwick Green.

     Much to my disappointment, I was unable to meet with Marshal Cavandish or his staff on my arrival. Indeed, the only member of Cavandish’s staff I could find was a young Ensign by the name of Baumgartner who informed me that Cavandish and his entire staff were indisposed as they were currently partaking of a three day ‘sleepenfest’ as an important part of staff training. It would appear that the privileges of the Fenwick army staff are considerable, jealously guarded and comprise mainly of the right to sleep whenever and wherever they choose - even while on campaign. However, the junior officers impressed me greatly and they seemed to be young men of enterprise, boldness and considerable determination as they are kept in constant activity and exertion performing the duties consequent with keeping an army in the field. However, all of them admitted that they covet the white silk tasselled nightcap which is the revered mark of a member of the Grand Fenwick army staff and which enables its wearer to dispense with exertion and fatigue and enjoy the drowsy somnolence of a good night’s sleep, a mid-morning nap, an afternoon doze and an evening slumber.

     Imagine my consternation then, when one of the army’s advanced scouts rode in on lathered horses with news of an advance by the Bachscuttel army. It soon became clear, after the scout had recovered his breath and drained two flagons of ale, that the Bachscuttel army had stolen a march and was approaching our location directly. I immediately impressed upon Baumgartner the seriousness of the situation and the necessity of waking Field Marshal Cavandish. Thrice I shouted ‘Wake the Field Marshal!’ and thrice he flushed and hotly refused. He subsequently informed me, after my passions had subsided and I had narrowly forborn to have him horse-whipped, that Cavandish had made it plain that any officer of junior rank which interrupted the ‘sleepenfest’ would be summarily dismissed the service. In despair, I called out, ‘What is to be done?’ and Baumgartner helpfully suggested that, as I was the senior officer present, and a respected member of the Nabstrian Court, Fenwick’s main ally, it was my duty to assume command of the Fenwickian Army in this moment of crisis. Reluctantly, I understood that his proposal was the only possible option in the circumstances.

     Nonetheless, I laboured under severe disadvantages. I knew neither the officers or the men of the army and the available ground for deployment was far more rustic, rugged and broken up by woods and hills than I would have liked. Two small rustic settlements from which arose a frightful miasma of agricultural ordure and two small but closely forested woods made a proper and formal deployment in accordance with your own admirable principles impossible.

The rugged and rustic terrain of Zorninhaf
     I gave a brief but impassioned speech to all those in earshot, in which I exhorted them to fight for their Empire, their homes, the honour of their arms, their wives, their sweethearts etc etc. It seems to have done the trick as a weak but audible cheer went through the ranks. Baumgartner complimented me on my speech, even though he later admitted that my use of the Nabstrian dialect (I have learned the Germanic tongue to a tolerable level since joining your staff) had probably made it unintelligible to the illiterate pressed peasantry which made up the majority of the Fenwickian soldiery. He also assured me that the army was not used to hearing inspiring speeches such as the one I gave since Cavandish and his staff were invariably engaged in a serious bout of napping before any engagement. I despatched Baumgartner with written orders to each cavalry and infantry colonel giving their dispositions for the coming fight. I had determined on a simple yet I hoped effective deployment. Placing the famed Fenwickian artillery in the centre of the position, I posted the infantry in two wings on either side of the guns. I garrisoned the left-most hamlet with an infantry battalion, and posted a regiment of hussars behind it in reserve. On the right flank, I posted the two regiments of well mounted Fenwickian horse. Although the deployment was considerably broken up and constrained by woods, trees etc, etc, and the garrison of Zorinhaf constantly troubled by clouds of flies from the piles of ordure, I nonetheless believed that the army would give a good account of itself and that the gunners of the army would be engaged in constant labour firing at numerous Bachscuttel targets as they advanced towards us.

The deployment of the Army of the Empire of Grand Fenwick. The cunning deployment of the Bachscuttel Army can be seen in the far left of the print.

     Alas! I had not realised that the scout which had rushed into my erstwhile headquarters was the only Fenwickian scout on duty that day. The rest of them had been given dispensation to join the sleepenfest which meant that I gained no further intelligence on the onward march or deployment of the Bachscuttel forces. Our foes were deployed in a grand column to outflank and fall upon the right flank of the Fenwick army and thus avoid the deadly fire of the well trained and ruthless Fenwick gunners. When I espied this looming threat, I realised that the day was likely to be hard fought. Nonetheless, I believed that the Fenwickian horse would be able to impose sufficient delay to enable an orderly re-deployment of the army. I had also heard that the Bachscuttel forces had a reputation for sluggish manoeuvres on the field, being trained neither in cadence nor oblique manoeuvre.

The formidable array of the Bachscuttel Army
     However, although the Bachscuttel advance could not be considered a fine example of drill as there were numerous instances of poor marching, their array managed to push forward more rapidly than I had estimated.

Fenwick’s brave cavalry in its attempts to hold off the Bachscuttel horse.
     In the circumstances, I could only order the two regiments of horse posted on the right flank to make repeated charges. Unfortunately, they made little headway, particularly when the left-most regiment found its uniforms splattered by manure from the nearby village. This so discomfited the troopers that they became engaged in attempting to clean their uniforms and so were cut down almost unresisting by Bachscuttel hussars. Fenwick’s horse were undoubtedly brave and did not deserve to meet such a fate but their charges were only partially successful and did not stop the relentless if untidy march of the Bachscuttel infantry.

No British or indeed Nabstrian drill sergeant would ever sanction such a clumsy manoeuvre on a battlefield…
     Alas! Too late did I realise that the left wing of the Fenwickian army needed to wheel across to occupy the centre and bring the Bachscuttel column under fire but the movement could not be completed in time before the Bachscuttel infantry hit the right wing of the Fenwick infantry…

The sadly ill-timed wheel of the left flank of the Fenwickian army.
     This misfortune condemned the hapless infantry regiments on the right flank of the Fenwick line to suffer the massed volleys of the now reorganised Bachscuttel forces. With Fenwick’s cavalry chased from the field, and the right wing of the Fenwick infantry wilting under the volleys of the more numerous and vigorous Bachscuttel forces, I ordered an early withdrawal from the field, with the retreat of the body of the army being guarded by the single regiment of hussars left to us. I despatched young Baumgartner to negotiate an honourable withdrawal from the field. To my surprise, General Barry-Eylund, the Bachscuttel general, was gracious enough to grant this request, and the surviving elements of the army were able to retreat unscathed. The Fenwickian army withdrew from the field of battle chastened, humbled but in good order and in surprisingly good heart.

The brief but fierce firefight which collapsed the right wing of the Fenwickian army

     My thoughts were understandably black as the army marched back towards Camberwick Green but I must say my mood was lifted by the irrepressible spirit of the young Baumgartner who pointed out that, although the two regiments of horse and a couple of foot regiments would need to be reconstituted, the bulk of the army was safe and in good order. He assured me that the fate of the cavalry had brought amusement rather than despair to the army as all of the infantry, officers and men included, believed that the cavalry had airs above their station and swanked about like peacocks on parade. “That dose of cow**** and those Bachscuttel sabres have brought them down a peg or two, I’ll be bound”, he remarked rather scornfully. Much to my surprise, a gunner officer approached me on the retreat and thanked me for my deployment of the guns. He pointed out cheerfully that his men had not fired a shot during the entire battle which pleased all of the gunners greatly – there would be no laborious cleaning, or tedious form-filling for fresh ammunition stocks after this battle. Indeed, he pronounced that the gunners would be raising a subscription to provide me with some memento of my time in command. I dimly perceived that some jest must be at the root of his comments but young Baumgartner insisted that the gunner officer was in earnest.

     However, it was Baumgartner’s comments during the retreat that puzzled me the most. He snapped his fingers at the whole of the Bachscuttel army and claimed that he had entirely bamboozled General Barry-Eylund in their interview after the battle. He remarked that he made sure to cry liberally in the presence of Barry-Eylund and that his blubbering had caused the soft-hearted old fool to grant us the honours of war rather than destroying the army where it stood. At this he gave out a long and braying laugh which I found most trying. I must say that I found his attitude rather shocking and wondered whether such duplicity was common in Grand Fenwick but I was also most relieved that the army had been saved from disaster. Indeed, Baumgartner confided that there was general approbation for my command of the army throughout the officers and men, although he also gave me to understand that this was primarily due to the fact that I had remained awake during the entire action which was a rare occurrence for Marshal Cavandish and his staff.

     Unfortunately, it appears that the sleepenfest of Fenwick’s general staff has been extended, there being no immediate threat of another engagement and I have still not managed to secure an interview with Marshal Cavandish. I have seen that the army is well quartered and I propose to return to Nabstria forthwith or even sooner to ensure that I am not placed in inadvertent command of another army on another field. I had most sincerely hoped to bring you news of a Fenwick victory and it pains me particularly to have to tell you of a defeat. However, the Fenwick army survives and I sincerely hope that it can be captained by a man of energy and decision. In this respect, my dear General Rumpfler, I can only own that I have failed you, although

     I remain your most loyal and obedient servant,
     Malileu Fitzbuttress


     The remains of a grand indigenous Muslim Empire that once stretched to the Niger Delta, the Loofah Caliphate is now a modest African princedom that clings precariously to the shores of Lake Chav. Standing at the crossroads of ancient caravan routes, the Caliphate’s principal settlement, the town of Rubadub, is a key hub of commerce for the Leech Coast. Mentioned in ancient Egyptian scrolls of the Middle Kingdom, the place was known in the age of the Pharoahs as Merenptah, a name comprising the Egyptian hieroglyphs for a fly, a chamberpot, the rear end of a goat, and something that is a long way away. These days, Rubadub is the meeting point for caravans that have travelled from the mysterious interior of Africa. The Loofah Caliphate reached the apogee of its power in the 17th Century under Sultan Pongo XII, who defeated the armies of Sokoto and Bornu. However, a series of terrible civil wars led the Caliphate to fragment.

     The rump of the Caliphate has been ruled for the past 20 years by Sultan Benj-i Bair III. Described according to his formal titles as ‘Sultan, Caliph, Overlord, and Master of All That He Can See’, the Sultan is so gargantuan of girth that the last of his titles necessarily limits his sovereignty over those portions of the caliphate that are below his belly button. For this reason the space around the Sultan's feet is regarded as place of traditional, if rather sweaty sanctuary for fleeing criminals. Indeed, having seen little of his nether regions for a decade or so, the Sultan reputedly commanded his master architects to create a replica of his posterior so that he could watch people kissing it. Putting the mental back into the word 'monumental', the Sultan spent 5 years and used 10,000 slaves constructing from mud bricks a passable facsimile of his own Royal fundament, an edifice that was 200 feet high and complete in every detail, down even to some of the stray criminals that tended to get sat on accidentally at public ceremonies.



     Spread majestically across the western shores of Lake Khazi, the city of Khazibar is the largest city on the Leech Coast. It is an African metropolis of high, bone-white walls and houses, fragrant with the smell of lemon groves, exotic spices, and local armpits. The city is the capital of the sultanate of Khazibar, founded in 1653 by the Zanzibari prince Mehgoat I. The sultanate extends some ten miles to the south and includes a key hub for the export of coffee and chocolate, the port of Mochadishu. Traditionally, Khazibar’s wealth has been built upon slavery, and slaving expeditions once regularly traversed the Leech Coast in search if victims. More recently, the exploits of Mittelheim slaving companies have undercut the Khazibaris and times are now, unlike the Sultan himself, rather lean.

     The current Sultan is named Bahsheep II. He is an indolent, venal ruler whose love of gold combined with his straightened financial circumstances has resulted in an ever more oppressive and inventive system of taxation. One of the main groups to suffer have been the large flocks of goats that form a staple source of income for the poorer folk in Khazibar. Sultan Bahsheep has moved from taxing farmers according to the number of goats that they own, to a system that taxes according to the number of goats’ legs. As a result, the ever tax efficient Khazibaris have taken steps that have resulted in poorer-than-expected tax returns for the Sultan and a goat population that tends to wander only in circles. Britain maintains a consul in Khazibar, His Excellency Sir Marmaduke Drye-Humping, a sensitive fellow with a great love for animals and port. Some of His Excellency's time is taken up by attempts to curb the influence of the French; much of the rest is spent running the Drye-Humping Home for Injured Goats. Gelderland also maintains a plenipotentiary, but he spends much of his time being ignored by Sultan Bahsheep and being given wedgies by his bored and boisterous European colleagues.