Sunday, 13 March 2016

The County of Roldova

The County of Roldova comprises the western half of the Barony of Herzo-Carpathia. Unlike the Sanjak of Zenta, Roldova was never more than temporarily occupied by the forces of the Sublime Porte. Saving his forces from the slaughter at Mohacs in 1526 by virtue of not actually turning up, the Roldovan Count Istvan II 'The Navigator' claimed to have taken a wrong turn in Hungary. The confusion then caused to the Roldovan march by the army's attempts at a variety of multi-point turns, combined with the time taken to get so many of them freed from local prisons, led the Roldovans to arrive five years late for the battle, though fortuitously just in time to greet the Ottoman Sultan on his tour to extract tribute from his newly conquered vassals. Carrying a substantial treasure to contribute to the Christian cause of ridding the lands of the hateful Turks, it seemed a shame for it to go to waste; so the Roldovans handed it over to the Sultan with the stern warning that 'if the Turks returned next year, they would hand over some more'. So, for a period of five years, the Roldovan-Ottoman war settled into a comfortable routine. In summer, just after the harvest, the Roldovan army would flock to the banners of the Count. Having mobilised, they would then march to the frontier. Upon encountering the relevant Ottoman border post, they would launch a barrage of foul language against the occupants; they would then hand over their treasure, sign the relevant piece of paper, and receive a receipt. Returning, they would then burn down some Vulgarian villages, and steal away some of their less combative looking women folk.

Eventually, having grown tired of accepting Roldovan treasure that seemed mainly to consist of tinsel, shiny buttons, and dubious publications featuring ladies undergarments, the Ottoman army invaded the County. It was then that they discovered that they had, indeed, been receiving the very best that Roldova had to offer. Ottoman veterans of the Roldovan campaign would later admit that being garrisoned there was about as much fun as being custard pied in the face whilst having one's wedding tackle shut repeatedly in a door. Trapped there by their pride and the glutinous local mud (as well, of course, as the door), the Ottomans tried to make the best of things. But it was a disappointing occupation: the only thing that the Roldovans hated more than bathing was a foreign interloper attempting to establish a more effective system of government. Roldovan histories tell of a long period of guerrilla warfare against the Ottomans, led by the hero General Stefan Bakyadi. This was a trying time for the Turks. Unsuspecting guards might have their ears flicked; isolated border outposts would hear loud knocks on their doors -  but when they answered, no one would be there; their pantaloons would be stolen from washing lines; and, though they couldn't be certain, it seemed likely that someone was piddling in their bath houses. Eventually Bakyadi, inevitably, was betrayed by his own side and spent the remainder of his life in Istanbul (this was annoying for the Sultan, who tried on many occasions to send him back). Bakyadi's supporters claimed that Count Istvan had grown jealous of the General's growing popularity. Others, however, argued that Bakyadi's removal was a godsend, since the General seemed to have become confused over the difference between 'an effective campaign of irregular warfare' and 'a sustained campaign of titting about'. Eventually, though, the Ottomans grew tired of having to brave the cold Roldovan winters in their underpants; and of taking their baths in water that smelt suspiciously of asparagus. The Sultan's Pashas having concluded that fighting the Roldovans was expensive and ignoble, the army of the Porte withdrew to Zenta where more manly fights could be had, even against children.

The current Count of Roldova is Vlad IX; also known as Vlad 'Cagul' (this being a waterproof cape peculiar to the region, and an epithet applied to Vlad because, despite rumours of a variety of unpleasant crimes against humanity committed by the fellow, the charges always seem to roll off); and also Vlad 'Tipecs' (the latter applied because of his predilection for re-writing history). In keeping with the dictates of the Spasmodic Sanction, he is also Baron of Herzo-Carpathia, a political entity that brings together Roldova and the Voivodate of Vulgaria. Vlad is wildly unpopular in Roldova. Even in a land like the County of Roldova where most take the view that the law, like a good Pirate code, is actually 'more a set of guidelines', Vlad is exceptional in his willful efforts to, as it is known in Roldovan legal-speak, 'make stuff up'. Taxes on haircuts, knees, and elderly relatives are among the saner of his most recent laws. Of course, these initiatives have not induced the ever-thrifty Roldovans to part with more of their cash; instead, they seem to have led to the sudden creation of abandoned piles of long-haired grandparents, many with their legs inexpertly sawn off. Though less popular in Roldova than a French kissing plague-carrier, this makes Vlad very popular indeed compared with how he is viewed in Vulgaria. Vulgarians blame the Roldovan Counts for the murder of their ruling house, the Feratu-Osterburgs, on the basis that (a) the Roldovan Counts benefited most from the act; (b) the Feratu-Osterbergs all died whilst feasting in Roldova, and that (c) on their death, the Roldovan Count sent out a missive that began: 'Splendid - my evil plan has triumphed'. There are rumours, however, that not all of the Vulgarian ruling family might have perished.

Roldova is, like most of Mittelheim, primarily a land of agriculture. Still, the Herzo-Carpathian economy has a well developed cottage industry based on the production of cod-pieces. But most of this is carried out in Vulgaria. In Roldova, only the village of Suck is fully integrated into cod-piece production, mainly producing the mounting pieces for the Vlad the Impaler models. Elsewhere, Roldovan industry is more diverse. In Brasdov, many are employed in the production of false hunches to service the numbers of those who try to gain employment with local nobles as evil minions. Hakdov is well known for its turnips, often used by local women as 'cleavage augmentation' in an effort to gain employment in castles as 'abducted busty peasant daughters'. Shamefully, the County is also well known for its lively trade in body parts. Isolation, the plethora of abandoned strongholds, and the high incidence of lightning laden storms, has made Roldova something of a haven for deranged European scientists keen on pushing the frontiers of experimentation into revivification and the opportunities to become the new Prometheus.

The most notable of these is the Austrian-born emigre Baron Victor von Spanckentheim. Spanckentheim was the first scientist in Mittleheim to discover that certain kinds of eels could be induced to discharge a form of novel energy, an energy which he labelled 'Eel-Lecktricity'. As a child Spanckentheim was discovered by his parents in the bath, indulging once too often with his menagerie of eels in what he called his 'fuzzy tingly time' . Taking rather too literally the words of his irate mother that he should 'go out and make some new friends', Spanckentheim has made it his life's work to challenge God (and also annoy his parents) by taking sundry collections of fingers, knees, a head or two and some random wobbly bits, and creating from them new forms of life. Resident at Castle Spanckentheim, a modest two up-two down in Mausenburg, just next to the Turkish Pantaloons tavern, the Baron is rumoured to one of the many that makes use of the opportunities in Roldova to procure fresh raw materials. The centre for this trade is the village of Fritzwurst (twinned with Karlsbad).Travellers there are often warned not to leave any of their limbs unattended, and, before sleeping at night in unknown inns, to check their beds for unwanted leather straps, metal frames, saws, hammers, minions, connections to roof-mounted lightning conductors and so forth.

Still, such things as intense animosities, deeply entrenched historical divisions, poor practices in governance, and crudely amputated body parts have never previously been an obstacle to peace in Mittelheim. And so, surely, no sane commentator on political events could expect anything other than that the current period of peace should persist. For ages and ages. Possibly even a bit longer, perhaps.

No comments:

Post a Comment