Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Barony of Herzo-Carpathia

'Herzo-Carpathia: land of dark forests, dread mountains and black, unfathomable lakes. Still the home of magic and devilry'. Thus run the opening sentences of the publication Invest in Herzo-Carpathia - Your Gateway to the Balkans (Quill and Scimitar, 1752). The Barony of Herzo-Carpathia comprises of two formerly separate political entities. One is the Voivodate of Vulgaria; the other the County of Roldova. According to the irregularly enforced political agreement known as the Spasmodic Sanction, the occupant of the Baronetcy of Herzo-Carpathia alternates between the Count of Roldova and the Bishop of Prick. The agreement was signed after the sudden death of the majority of Vulgaria's native ruling family after attending a Roldovan cheese and wine party. The current Baron is Vlad IX of Roldova. The Spasmodic Sanction was in 1692 guaranteed by the Kingdom of Gelderland which felt that it was useful in propaganda terms to have a state in Mittelheim that was likely to be even more dysfunctional than it was.

Historically, there have been strong links between Herzo-Carpathia and Transylvania. It was to Herzo-Carpathia that many of the Transylvanian nobility fled after their lands were occupied by the Turks. The Herzo-Carpathian barons had as their stronghold a mountain fastness known because of the fierceness of their resistance to invaders as the Kaninchenschanze, or 'Rabbit's Lair'. It was there even, that the famous Prince of Wallachia, Vlad III, known later as Dracul, stayed briefly in 1470. Upset by the small-minded meanness of the locals and their enthusiasm for watching little people hurt one another, the Prince soon quit the Barony for his home country, finding Wallachia, a backward, mean-spirited land of badly dressed psychopaths, a refreshingly open and forward-looking society compared with Herzo-Carpathia. Historians note that it was probably during his stay in Herzo-Carpathia that Vlad ceased to be known as 'Vlad the Kind and Sensitive', and developed instead an interest in shoving large bits of wood into places that he probably shouldn't.

Though Zenta may have fallen under the sway of the hated Turks, the Barony of Herzo-Carpathia has continued to resist their depredations. At least, that is their claim, though in reality it is not certain that any there actually could define the meaning of the word 'depredations' even if they were being heavily predated upon. Still, after the collapse of the the Christian cause in the wake of the battle of Mohacs it is true that the population of the Barony refused fully to accept the Ottomans even after the arrival of the vanguard of the latter's army. It is not impossible that this resistance was the cause of the eventual Turkish withdrawal, although Ottoman sources tend to attach more significance to the bad weather, worse roads, poor food, cold, boredom and the fact that the next destination on from Herzo-Carpathia was the Kingdom of Gelderland.

The Austrian traveler Florian Bauke described the Barony as the 'the tenth circle of Hell: the circle of mud' - in it, he argued that malefactors were punished by being trapped there as endless days of dreary rain made it impossible for their coaches to leave. Miscreants were instead subjected to weeks holed up in inns that could be distinguished from the water closets only because the former had doors on them. In these hostelries, weary travelers were subjected to interminable renditions of dark Herzo-Carpathian folks tales that seemed almost exclusively to involve castles, full moons, local womenfolk with inappropriately low cut blouses, and undead nobles thirsting for blood after centuries of hanging around in poorly ventilated cellars. In fairness, not all travelers have been so unkind. The Welsh nationalist Rhoddri Barrabrith, fleeing from English oppression in Borth, remarked that the Barony had 'more going on in it than Carmarthen'. It is certainly fair to say that the locals are rather suspicious and superstitious. To smooth relations in encounters with villagers, newly arrived travelers are therefore likely to find it useful to drop into conversation such comments as : 'Garlic? Why, I can't get enough of it myself'; or, 'Hunchbacked minions? No thanks! They're taking honest work from local people'; or even, 'Stitching together body parts and bringing them back to life through the medium of lightning? Personally, I'm not in favour of it'. All things considered, it is also probably better to avoid saying such things as 'Dammit, something must have bitten me last night'; or, 'Yes, it had me in stitches'; or, 'Igor, release the werewolves'.

However, from a geo-strategic perspective at least, the Barony could be said to have some positive features. One is its political and economic stability. The Barony's negligible economic development over the years has eliminated the problems caused by 'boom and bust' economics by settling long-term on the latter. The advantages of a sub-subsistence economy include that the lack of any noticeable financial investment in it has made the Barony strongly resistant to wider economic shocks, since serious downturns in the regional economy still constitute booms by Herzo-Carpathian standards. Relentless, grinding poverty has also made the population too tired to engage in sedition and revolt, both activities that require much more spare time than the average Herzo-Carpathian peasant can divert from the task of masticating their own shoes (an activity expressly forbidden in Grand Fenwick).

The Barony also has by regional standards strong healthcare and education policies. Healthcare is free at the point of delivery because, given the plethora of miasmic swamps and choked watercourses that permeate the state, leeches can be picked up for free almost everywhere. Much emphasis is also placed in the Barony upon preventative medicine, reflected in the fact that, cognisant of the great dangers posed by contact with impure water, the population has the lowest bathing rates in Europe. Other indices also show the barony holding up well: under five mortality rates are slightly better than Grimsby, hovering around the 30 Year War mark, and there are relatively low rates of cannibalism. Moreover, the education system in the Barony is fully up to 18th century standards, the peasantry's worldview being well informed by hearsay, rumour, dislike of foreigners, fear of black cats, antipathy towards especially warty old women (particularly those that cackle a lot), and a morbid suspicion of cleanliness.

Indeed, many might actively be attracted by the Barony's busy cultural life. For those interested in whittling wood and starting fires, evenings in the Barony can be especially frenetic, particularly if these practical skills are accompanied by a parallel interest in religious genocide, the poking of sharp stakes through the tender bits of captured Ottomans, or the immolation of any well-endowed woman unlucky enough to acquire a love-bite. Also in Herzo-Carpathia can be found the fascinating Museum of Hunches, sited in the town of Brasdov; the University of Mausenburg, which runs fully accredited courses in Latin, Witchfinding and Cruelty to Toads; and the Weeping Bishop of Flopdov - an actual Bishop, in the town of Flopdov, who was reduced to tears after the locals burnt down his mother on account of her having 'a cleavage likely to attract the undead'. Visitors might also enjoy trips to view such traditional Herzo-Carpathian activities as dwarf-stretching; tossing the Frenchman (not recommended family viewing); and 'Kicking the Bishop', in which a Bishop is kicked for being 'a cry baby who can't take a joke'.

In this haven of southern stability, there could certainly be no expectation that anything would happen here that might disturb the new golden age of Mittelheim peace. Not at all. Never. That's a fact.


  1. Thank you, sir, for this gazeteer. I have striven to find information on this obscure region without much success. No one in Nabstria would ever tell me anything other than to mumble under their breath and entreat me never to go there. I imagine that Zentans have different sources of information to the more civilised and Christian regions of Gelderland which accounts for your knowledge. Unfortunately, I suspect that, with the benefit of this gazeteer, Horse Guards will insist that I pay a visit to this unhealthy and unpleasant region....

  2. I should recommend a trip to Herzo-Carpathia, good sir: it is a sure cure for depression. There is no existential angst too profound, no black melancholia too heavy, that it cannot be lifted a tad by that sudden feeling of optimism that comes from the act of leaving Herzo-Carpathia.