Friday, 23 January 2015


Nabstria - the dungeons of the Burgrave's fortress, Falkensteinburg. Dank. Deep. Drowned in darkness. This place has an evil reputation. Legends tell that this was an ancient fastness of the nibelungen, or dark dwarves: these dwarves mined the shadow places of the earth for precious things. But they delved too deep, and they delved too greedily; and they broke the plumbing. And a great evil flooded up from the depths; and it smelt really bad, and it flooded all of the floors, and the dwarves left because their wives nagged them until they moved somewhere nicer.

The ancient Kings of Nabstria:
 a powerful argument for democracy
Later, these dark passages were used by the ancient Kings of the tribes of the Nabstiri as a secret place to hide unspeakable things that were 'Best Not Seen By Man', or at least, best not seen by their wives. But then their wives, searching for towels, found these passages and the dirty things within, and they wailed, gnashed their teeth, and called the Kings of the Nabstiri 'Dirty old men who would go blind and whose bits would drop off' and the Kings were forced to dispose of these things, and the passages were blocked up, and they were lost to history.

It was in the reign of the present Burgrave's great grandfather that the underground passages were found again. Used initially as a place to store salted leeches, they were later converted into a resting place for those foolish enough to believe that, when the Burgrave said that he wanted 'honest, open opinions' on his latest policies, what he wanted were honest, open opinions. It is in this place that Burgrave Falco now incarcerates the enemies of the state: revolutionaries; Italians; anyone that mentions the Burgravina's facial hair. It is here that King Wilhelm of Gelderland is now held: and here he shall stay until he agrees to announce an end to the War of the Spanish Suck Session on terms acceptable to the Burgrave.

Colonel Zeigler arrives in the dungeons and approaches King Wilhelm's cell. Terrible sounds issue from within: strangled cries and sobs: 'No, in God's name I beg you - no more!'. Zeigler turns to the wincing sentry.
'Are we successful yet?'
The soldier shakes his head, sadly. There is more wailing and gagging.
'They are working the King hard, it seems', says the Colonel.
'That's the servants cleaning out the King's chamber pot, Sir: the King is still at breakfast'.
Zeigler is apoplectic: 'God's wounds - this is a prison not a hostelry'.
'We've been quite harsh on him, Sir: nothing but muesli and fruit juice.'
Zeigler storms off. Truthfully, things have not gone according to plan. Despite ingenious forms of torture doled out by the Burgrave's Sicilian Chief of Police, Wilhelm refuses to crack. In fact, there is a suspicion that he might even be enjoying himself. The only words that the King seems able to utter are 'More biscuits, please'. Perhaps the only source of real inconvenience for the King are the regular visits to his cell by Miss Nora Hindquarters, who, having checked that Wilhelm is properly restrained to his bed, then repeatedly kicks him in his conkers, on the basis that, as an activity, 'it never gets old.'

The dungeons of Falkensteinburg: poor views and no
 tea-making facilities - no stars. 
In the Burgrave's council chamber, a fractious debate is in full flow: there is little agreement on how things should now precede. Arguments that the King should be ransomed back to Gelderland for his weight in gold are rejected as 'ludicrous' on the basis that such a sum of gold does not exist in the whole of Europe. It is not entirely clear, in any case, that anyone in Gelderland actually wants him back. Following Nabstria's announcement of the capture of the King, both Bachscuttel and Rotenburg issue strenuous denials, arguing that all Nabstria has done is to create a ridiculous facsimile of the King by putting a walrus in clothes. Nabstria's response of showing Wilhelm in public seems in the minds of most actually to confirm, rather than undermine, this assertion. In Gelderland, the failure of the King to appear in public for a week initially piques the curiosity of some, but the Royal Chamberlain then announces that the King is fit and well, and has merely become wedged in a doorway - and that as soon as he has slimmed down enough to free himself, he will return straight away to the business of government. Indeed, the news that Wilhelm might be unable to exercise the reins of power for a spell has seen a dramatic rise in business confidence within the Kingdom and the sudden hope that the War of the Spanish Suck Session might be brought to a more speedy conclusion.

Above the hubbub of conflicting opinions, Bishop Munschrugge calls for silence. 'If we cannot use King Wilhelm in the way that we had planned, my Burgrave, then can we not make use of the information provided by Miss Hindquarters?
'What information is this?' pipes up Graf Decksluder, for once not banging on about the advantages of contingent maritime power in the joint littoral environment.
Second Councillor Hubert von Wornitzdaun, stands. 'I have seen Miss Hindquarters' report: the Gelderland capital may be surrounded by strong walls of the latest military fashion; but there is a weakness. There exists a little used postern gate in the walls on the eastern side. From there, it is possible to reach the mechanism that controls the main gate. A body of elite troops, well disciplined and well motivated, might be able to exploit this.'
'Yes, yes', says Graf Decksluder, 'but what about our troops?'
Wornitzdaun nods. 'If the force were commanded by an officer of vigour and enterprise, then that might suffice. Perhaps Colonel Zeigler, the man who captured King Wilhelm, would be just the man for the job'.
'Have you asked him?', asks Munschrugge.
Wornitzdaun nods: 'I broached the subject with him this morning when I encountered him in the courtyard.'
'Did he agree?'
'I couldn't quite hear what he said, but the hand gestures suggested that he wasn't keen.'
'Could he be incentivised?' asks Graf Decksluder: 'perhaps we could threaten him with Miss Hindquarters - show him the state of Wilhelm's conkers.'

As the debates rage in the council chamber, a dishevelled officer of Hussars hurries in waving a letter.
'My Lord, my lord! News from General von Rumpfler - our forces have engaged those of Bachscuttel!'
Bishop Munschruge takes the proffered missive and opens it, eager to learn who has triumphed: perhaps the judgement of battle has resolved Nabstria's strategic quandary .....

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


It is morning, in the guest room of the Wobbling Dog Inn, not far from the Gelderland-Nabstria border. The room is the most spacious in the inn; but at the moment it seems curiously confined. This is unsurprising, of course, since the room contains the comatose form of Wilhelm of Gelderland: King; Knight Commander of the Order of St Theresa; and colossal lard-arse.* This latter item rests uncomfortably in a four poster bed, and looms ominously over the supine form of a handsome young woman - Nora Hindquarters; winsome actress; Wilhelm's new mistress; and unknown to Wilhelm, a Nabstrian spy. Nora has had a difficult night of it. Promised by King Wilhelm a 'rollercoaster ride of pleasure and excitement', the actress has experienced something more akin to a short sedan chair ride of dampness and discomfort. If one could create an appropriate metaphor for the the previous nights activities, it would that of a small skiff in a heavy swell, knocking repeatedly against the side of a monstrously large galleon. If the galleon were very sweaty that is, and snored. Really badly. Nor, on reflection, was there much of a swell. Nora has been tasked with eliciting from Wilhelm information that might be useful for the Nabstrian war effort. Using her feminine wiles and a large bottle of fortified brandy (the latter more for her own consumption), Nora has spent the night pumping Wilhelm hard for information: an unsavoury activity, the consequences of which include some interesting snippets on the defences of Grosschnitzelring as well as other, more glutinous, products. Nora shudders, remembering an accidental gaze up Wilhelm's night gown and an unwanted look at the royal posterior: surprised to see the letters 'Backside' stencilled on it in gothic lettering, it wasn't immediately clear if what she was looking at was a pair of buttocks or a storage facility for morbidly obese Yorkshiremen. Still, having slipped a little something into Wilhelm's drink, Nora has ensured that the King won't be waking up any time soon. Smiling, she counts the time away, awaiting the implementation of the next part of Nabstria's cunning plot.

Downstairs, the King's entourage, an assortment of flunkies and monkeys, amuse themselves in the inn, drinking heavily and throwing dominoes at one another. Order is maintained, barely, by the efforts of the local bar maid, Heidi Holl, an intimidating no-nonsense sort of girl with a clear appreciation that the way to a man's heart is through his rib-cage. Outside, the coach drivers occupy themselves making emergency repairs to the suspension of the King's carriage. (Above) The King's guards consist of three units: a platoon of grenadiers drill outside of the inn under the energetic supervision of the guard commander, Colonel Ernst Leopold Rheinfunkt, a Brave but Unpredictable fellow; a platoon of light infantry occupy themselves on a hill beyond the barn, taking a few pot shots at local fauna. A second platoon of light infantry has not yet arrived. They have been charged with carrying the King's commode, a bulky item of reinforced Kurlandian iron: the men take some succour from the fact that, however heavy their burden, it is unlikely to be more substantial than that which is imposing itself on Nora Hindquarters. A few local farmers tend their fields and livestock. They are unperturbed by their new visitors - being pig farmers, the snuffling, grunting, and trumping associated with Wilhelm's presence is nothing out of the ordinary.

(Above) Ooooh, but what's this! The second part of the Nabstrian plan swings into action: an elite force of troops has infiltrated the border and now approaches the inn: their task - kidnap Wilhelm, and return him post-haste to the dungeons of Falkensteinburg! The force consists of three platoons. There is a platoon of the newly raised Nabstrian Foreign Regiment, regulars in lovely white uniforms; but they are accompanied by two platoons of a new type of Nabstrian soldier: rangers! With a Bachscuttel navy imminent and the interdiction of his sea lines of communication a real possibility, Burgarve Falco has ordered the rapid formation of an expeditionary force to defend his far flung holdings in New Mittelheim. Before being shipped off to New Mittelheim, the force has been entrusted with this important mission. The rangers are an irregular force, formed from the worst kind of scum: criminals, villians, ex-politicians. Commanded by the polish soldier of fortune Captain Jaroslav Glosgau, the rangers have been hastily trained as scouts, a process that has seen bemused Nabstrians accosted by green-clad soldiers, saying 'dib, dib, dib', and asking if they can help them with odd jobs around the house or garden.

The force as a whole is commanded by Colonel Zeigler, an Unpredictable Backstabber. Zeigler plans a two pronged attack. (Above top) The regulars form a two deep firing line and move to engage the Gelderland grenadiers and light troops; (above, right) the two units of rangers begin a rapid sweep to the right to take the inn from an unexpected direction.

The early fight goes well for Nabstria. Being rather too unpredictable for his own good, Rheinfunkt moves a little distance from his own troops and is spotted by the Nabstrian regulars: a volley crashes out and, before you know it, instead of covering himself in glory, Rheinfunkt gets covered in his own brains. Still, the Colonel's untimely expiration seems to have no effect on the morale of his troops. Being phlegmatic, they view the glass as being half-full, unlike their Colonel's skull: they haven't so much lost an officer, as much as gained a promotion slot. Suitably inspired, volleys from the Gelderland light troops and grenadiers combine to inflict heavy casualties on the Nabstrian Foreign Regiment. With cries of 'Retreat!', 'Flee!' and 'Help, this attack is rubbish' the surviving Nabstrian regulars fall back beyond the hill (Above, top).

(Above, left) Nevertheless, the Nabstrians press their attack. Glosgau's rangers move up behind the inn, but, clearly having failed to obtain their badges for excellence in camouflage, they are spotted! The Gelderland infantry exchange fire with them for a while. Inside the inn, Wilhelm's flunkies hear the commotion and decide that someone should be sent out to find out what's going on. Old Fritz is pushed outside to see what the commotion is (above, middle). Blind to the festivities, indeed, blind to everything since he is, in actuality, blind, Old Fritz steps out of the door of the inn. What he should then have said, of course, is something along the lines of 'Jupiter's nuts! There's a contingent of heavily armed Nabstrian rangers heading for the inn! Alarm! Danger! To Arms! Get with it! Tool up!' Instead, Old Fritz pauses for a moment, comments 'Blimey, it's still dark out' and returns to the warm comfort of the inn. Still, with the Nabstrian regulars driven off, things don't look too critical. With no sign yet of the King, his minions arm themselves with swords, pistols and dominoes, and prepare to the hold the inn until the King is ready to make his escape.

(Right, to the left) Zeigler makes his move. The first ranger platoon rushes towards the doors; the second takes position behind the walls of the field, engaging the Gelderland light troops with musketry. In a brisk melee for control over the door handle, Old Fritz gets what he deserves and is pummelled to the ground, forcing one of the rangers to give up his badge for helping the elderly. The rangers burst through the door into the inn! Upstairs, Nora prepares for her rescue. She dresses herself quickly, before rolling Wilhelm off the bed. Outside the inn, the Gelderland Grenadiers gird themselves for a counter-attack into the inn: with a 'Hooah!' they fix bayonets and prepare to get medieval on the Nabstrian interlopers.

The result is a Gelderland disaster of epic, Homeric proportions. The rangers assault into the ground floor of the inn sweeping aside one of the clumps of Gelderland civilians. One ranger reaches a window, and, seeing the grenadiers massing outside, looses a shot into them - one grenadier spins to the ground, gurgling in a fountain of blood. Shot at close quarters, the grenadiers scream like Rotenburg conscripts and quit the field. About the only thing medieval about their performance is the way that they bravely Sir Robin their way down the road, having first stolen the King's coach (below, top).

As it transpires, the only real man amongst the Gelderland defenders turns out to be the inn's serving wench, Heidi. As more rangers burst into the inn, she uses a pistol to dispatch one ranger; a tankard to dispatch another; and a third is consigned to Hell with an impressive combination of imagination, a quantity of dominoes and some remarkable manual dexterity. Sadly for Heidi, the rangers are made of sterner stuff than the Gelderland grenadiers and their morale holds - as her compatriots are shot, hacked, or captured, Heidi is finally driven out of the inn (above, middle) and then taken prisoner. In the interim, the first Gelderland light platoon counter attacks, giving the rangers a good biffing; only to be thrashed, in turn by the second ranger platoon, which rushes into the inn.

Still, all might not be quite lost. The second Gelderland light infantry platoon has arrived! (below) Dropping the commode, with a hippety hop they storm through the window of the inn.

But it all comes apart faster than the stitching on Wilhelm's britches! After a brief fight, Zeigler himself stabs one of the light troops in the back, and the Gelderlander's morale collapses. With cries of 'Run!', 'Help!', and 'Chase me, chase me!' they rout robustly from the field of battle. Still, the fight has not been an easy one. In the end, their are only three Nabstrian regulars and two rangers left: just enough, with the aid of a crow bar and a wheel barrow, to extract Wilhelm from the inn, and propel him towards the frontier! As Nora views the snoring King wedged into the wheelbarrow, looking for all the world like a hippo perched on a flower pot, she reflects on a few suitable words to sum up the sight: something with pathos; or bathos, perhaps; something that encapsulates the ephemeral nature of earthly power, the perils of hubris, and  the strange machinations of fickle fate. Sadly, time is pressing, so she confines herself to kicking him in his conkers, and with that, the little troupe heads off rapidly to the frontier. King Wilhelm is taken!

* This strange phenomenon was studied by the famous mathematician, Dr Lukas Wurmer from the University of Wittenburg. He refered to it as the SIDRAT effect, since every room with Wilhelm in it felt markedly smaller on the inside than it appeared to be from the outside.