Gazetteer of the Leech Coast

Being a nice and accurate accounte of those lands claimed by Mittelheim in thee far lands of Africa:


The legendary mountains of Absinthia were famous in medieval times as the rumoured site of a fabled lost Christian Kingdom. The ruler of these legendary lands was said to be King John, known, because of his refusal to take a bath, as Fester John. Even the monks in faraway Lindisfarne had heard of ‘Ye Kingdome of Festor Jonne;’ an entry in their ‘Faire and Compleate Historie of Englande with Ye Smalle Appendix Covering Eventes in Wayles and Thee Reste of Thee Worlde,’ noted that Festor John’s Kingdom was ‘riche with gold and turnips.’ Discovering the text in the archives of Lampeter St Bunce University, the noted academic Sir Hugo Frottage in 1746 led an expedition to Absinthia on the basis that, whilst he could take or leave turnips, he really liked gold. Frottage was more than a little disappointed to find that the lax academic standards at Lindisfarne, especially in footnoting and proofreading, had led them to render as ‘gold and’ what should have been rendered as ‘golden.’ In consequence, the plunder obtained by Frottage’s expedition had a rather lower ratio of hard cash to root vegetables than he had anticipated. Frottage’s disappointment was as nothing compared with that of the Absinthians: as is so often the case with indigenous populations, the arrival of Europeans brought immense upheavals. In particular, the value of the turnip-based Absinthian currency was destroyed by the introduction by Frottage of carrots and parsnips. The principal town in eastern Absinthia is the walled mountain fastness of Gabba-Gabba.


Half desert, half scrub, and wholly unpleasant, the Arfanarf Desert is a wasteland in the extreme northeast of the Leech Coast. The desert is inhabited by a tribe known as the Doowadidi: a bitter collectivity of nomads who have an abundance of only three things: sand, shrubs, and resentment. The second of these has become central to Doowadiddi society. Too poor to afford camels, but too proud to dispense with the principle of raiding that is the foundation of warrior-societies in surrounding provinces, the Doowadiddi have been forced to substitute camels with shrubs to produce what is surely one of the saddest ‘rite of passage’ rituals in tribal history: ‘shrub rustling.’ Since shrubs neither move very fast; nor do they tend to have much of a bite; nor, since their milk yield is generally poor, does any other tribe actually want them, the rustling of shrubs itself tends to be substantially less dangerous to the tribesmen than their preparatory warm-up routine. Noted French ethnographer Oscar Foxtrotte noted that as ethnographic spectacle shrub rustling was ‘a bit dull to watch; pretty merde, really’.


These lands encompass the heartlands of the Handzande tribes of the southern Leech Coast. The principal settlement of the Chiefdom of Handzande is known as Umflopi, and comprises an extensive settlement of Handzande huts, paddocks, and storerooms surrounded by a stockade. Rather like the Handzande Chief, M’Wahaha, Umflopi varies in size depending upon the season. In summer, in particular, Handzande tribesmen flock to Umflopi in preparation for annual expeditions against their neighbours. At this time, important tribal celebrations take place. First to occur is the ‘Roger the Small Boy’ festival: named after an incident in which one of Handzande tribes rescued a small European boy, named Roger, whose explorer parents had been eaten by hippos, this is a charming cornucopia of dance and frolicsome behaviour. It is followed soon after by the ‘Roger the Cow’ festival in which Handzande warriors get it on with their livestock.


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.

Loofah Caliphate

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.


This mountainous province provides the watery source of the Dongo river. Populated by the surprisingly numerous Wattamassa tribe, Mussihonki is a site of restless, fiery, geological activity much of which seems to take pace in the loincloth of the local potentate Chief Harharbonk, the so-called ‘Lord Goat with a Thousand Young.’ Embarrassed Christian missionaries have sought to curb the Chief’s extravagant, and rather public, humping by introducing him to the usual array of European prophylactics such as jigsaws, sock puppetry, and monogamy. Sadly, however, a fertile combination of long drinking sessions and short attention span have rendered Chief Harharbonk largely immune to these efforts, though he has managed to develop some unexpected uses for the sock.


Lurking suspiciously near the headwaters of the Timpopo river, Nurkibahoo is a land of dark and fearsome reputation. If the tribes of the Leech Coast dare to mention the word ‘Nurkibahoo’ it is only in terrified whispers accompanied by vigorous, and not always successful, attempts to avoid soiling themselves. Once, so legend has it, Nurkibahoo was an earthly paradise, home to the Great Mountain Gods and an assortment of lesser deities that did their cleaning and looked after the garden. But these gods long ago disappeared and what crept into the void to replace them were, so stories tell, malignant spirits of terrible evil: fell creatures that would make even the Nazgul shift nervously. The archaeological evidence does not fully support this story: ancient inscriptions tell of the presence in early Nurkibahoo of a proto-Egyptian civilisation known as the Clunj. The Clunj seem to have adopted Egyptian tomb building techniques but their civilisation appears to have ended after rampant speculation led to the collapse of the world’s first pyramid selling scheme. Now, Nurkibahoo is the land that the land that time forgot has forgotten. Tales abound of a wilderness filled with strange ruins and impenetrable jungles; of dismal swamps and noisome smells. English explorers reputedly reached a small part of it in 1678 and established a small settlement named New Grimsby. But even if this were true, nothing more since has been heard from them. Either they died of disease, probably through the filthy conditions; or were reduced to cannibalism, probably through boredom.


Rubtummis is a land of low hills and scrub nestled between the Dongo and Timpopo rivers. The province is the western-most of the lands settled by the Bejam tribe. The Bejam arrived in Rubtummis in the early 18th century: the previous occupants, the M’Bop, had been attracted to the province by the mineral hot springs that exist in the south of the country. Luxuriating in the cleansing effervescence of the springs, the M’Bop were unique amongst the tribes of the Leech Coast in having invented bath-bombs before the spear and shield: the former proved to be rather inferior substitutes for latter when the Bejam arrived and stole their land. Amongst other things, the Bejam tribe are famed for the ludicrous styling of their hair. By coating their locks in a thick paste made from hippo dung and cocoa beans and then brushing it upwards, the Bejam give their locks a shocking, scarified and twisted look that has led to their being termed by European observers as the ‘curly wurlies’. The Bejam are led by the wily fox, Osman Donni, who, luckily for the Bejam, is actually a man, not a fox, and so he can read a map and rarely feels compelled to sift through bins.


Lying along the northern banks of the Dongo River, Snuffle was once the site of the vibrant African city of Thriddle, the Pearl of the Great Grasslands. The city thrived on the receipts of trade caravans travelling overland from Loofah and along the great green river to Kassarol. This golden age ended in pre-history – legends tell of the rise of an evil group of dark witch doctors, who called themselves Ikono M’ists, and the rapid collapse thereafter of civilization in Snuffle. The Ikono M’ists advised the Kingdom to adopt mud as its official currency, and for this reason Snuffle quickly became locked into cycles of rampant inflation (during the rainy season) and deep economic stagnation (when the weather was nice). It was during one of the latter that the Ikono M’ists opened the irrigation canals in an attempt at what they termed ‘quantitative easing,’ and washed much of the city away. Most of what was left of the wealth of Thriddle was then appropriated by the Ikono M’ists as something that they called ‘Abonus.’


The wide grasslands of Yarq are the home to a tribe known as the Hee Hee. The Hee Hee have lived in these lands longer than recorded history, although, since the Hee Hee cannot write, that may not actually be very long. Paradoxically given their name, the Hee Hee in fact are famed for their lack of a sense of humour. Indeed, at least one chief banned the use of doors to remove a dangerous temptation towards ‘knock knock’ jokes. This poorly judged decision resulted in an orgy of theft as the enterprising Hee Hee set about pinching everything from their neighbours that wasn’t nailed down. This was quite a lot, since, in addition to failing to invent writing, the Hee Hee also hadn’t invented hammers. Or Nails. Given that the Hee Hee were thus both very angry and very humourless, it was an unpleasant twist of fate for those concerned that the first white men to encounter the Hee Hee consisted of an Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsmen – having barely introduced themselves, the trio the experienced their very own punchline when they were beaten to death.

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