Sunday, 2 October 2022

Grosse Katzick, the First!

Wherein the army of the Burgravate of Nabstria under General Hieronymous von Rumpfler encounters the Sanjak of Zenta, commanded by Captain-General Tara Bulbous..

The Nabstrian army is quickly mobilised, a process that merely requires setting fire to about four of the local taverns. Soon, the nine regiments of regular foot, three regiments of regular horse, two batteries, and two regiments of irregulars are placed into column of march. General von Rumpfler hurries the Nabstrian forces forwards, aiming to catch the invaders as near to the River Strudel as possible. 

Surprisingly he succeeds in out-scouting his Zentan adversary, and he decides to take up a defensive position on open ground near the village of  Grosse Katzick.

(Below) Rumpfler deploys eight regiments of his regular infantry into two lines, his pair of batteries entrenched and interspersed amongst the front ranks of troops. The right-most portion of his foot will also benefit from being on a hill.

His left wing (below) is anchored on a wood, and is held by one of his regiments of irregulars.

On the right wing (below), he places his remaining infantry regiment in the village. The gap between his main line and the village contains a wood, and this wood he occupies with his other regiment of irregulars.

On the extreme right of the Nabstrian line, Rumpfler deploys all three of his regiments of cavalry. The very rightmost, in the position of honour, are the Pfannenstiel hussars. For maximum flexibility, the troops are deployed in columns of march, ready to to leap into action and do whatever it is that Nabstrian cavalry do when they are approached suddenly by the enemy cavalry and realise that they are still in march column.

With his flanks well covered, and his centre solidly deployed, Rumpfler approaches the coming battle with a strong measure of confidence. This is exactly the sort of encounter that his long hours playing at games of war with his finely crafted military miniatures have prepared him for. Of course, in a real battle such as this, he has much less scope to ignore the rules or threaten to imprison his adversary if he doesn't let him win. Or so one might think.

Ready for battle, the Burgrave surveys his enemy through his telescope. The Zentans comprise of a horde of troops, impossibly large in number, repellently ripe in stench, and horribly bad with cutlery ...

Thursday, 29 September 2022


In Falkensteinburg, Burgrave Falco is engaged in one of his favourite activities - not being in the company of his councillors. As he gazes out of the window of his private apartments, he considers how it is that he could spend this valuable time: reading a book, perhaps; playing the violin; or chasing one of his maid-servants. He has only just decided that it might be entertaining to combine the last two of these, when there is a sudden and unwelcome commotion at the door.

'My lord Burgrave!' cries a voice. It is His Excellency Reinhardt, the Bishop of Munschrugge: diplomat and advisor.

Wearily, Falco orders the doors opened, and the Bishop enters, accompanied by the rest of the Nabstrian council - Heinrich, Graf Deckscluder, Second Chancellor; Hubert von Wornitzdaun, Second Councillor; Werner von Frerkingheil, Burgravial Treasurer; Count Leopold von Beckwurz, aged Minister for Treacle and Public Education; and Baron Friedrich, Minister for Corsets and Public Transport.
'Ah', cries Falco with false enthusiasm, 'Your presence, good gentlemen, tells of the imminent arrival of another guided open-top carriage tour around all seven circles of Hell, tips not included!'

'My lord! Grave news!' says Munschrugge, feigning not to notice the Burgrave's comments. At a gesture from Falco, the assembled gentlemen sit. 'Intelligence from Zenta, sire!' continues the bishop. 'The Sanjak's forces are assembling for war! Rumour has it that they intend to march north!'
'Well, that sounds fine', says Wornitzdaun. 'North would put them in Gelderland. Let them fight Gelderland!'
Munschrugge sighs. 'They are now allied to Fenwick-Gelderland, bad news that would also merit a council; but I thought I'd just have one gathering and get all of the unfortunate updates out of the way in one big melancholic meeting. If one wishes to be accurate', continues the bishop, 'I understand that they are probably heading northwest, and by river'.
'Oooh', says Graf Decksluder, a tedious enthusiast for the flubbering lie that is maritime power. 'We must gather boats and destroy them afloat!'
'No!' says Munschrugge.
'Let's destroy them afloat!' repeats the Graf.
'No! No!' says Munschrugge.
'Let's destroy them afloat!' repeats the Graf.
'I keep saying "no" - what do you think I'm saying - "wobbly jelly"? We have no ships!'

'Oh, get up and don't be such babies - Nabstria
is just over there!'

'Wornitzdaun - what's your view? You seem unusually quiet'.
'Apologies, sir: but my mind is elsewhere. There was a terrible incident at my son's birthday party'.
'How so?'
'The entertainer: he ... wasn't as advertised'.
'Didn't you hire a magician?'
'I thought so - but as it turned out he was a mortician: it wasn’t quite the show my children were expecting'. The Second Councillor collects his thoughts for a minute. 'The Graf's plan may not be so ludicrous, bishop'.
Munschrugge frowns. 'I think it highly likely that it is', he replies.
'But we have time, sir, before the Zentans reach us, says Worntizdaun. 'Time to mobilise our maritime capabilities ...'

At that very moment, a servant bursts through the door, carrying a bird.
'Sire! Lords! A message from our river outposts!'
'Is it a carrier pigeon?' asks Count Beckwurz.
'It doesn't look like a carrier pigeon', replies Baron Friedrich. 'It looks more like a crow!'
'Or a swallow', says the count.
'African or European, because there's some debate amongst experts'.
'I suppose that would depend upon whether it was carrying half a coconut'.

Munschrugge lifts a tiny piece of paper wrapped around the bird's leg and swiftly reads it. 'Zentans, sir - thousands of them! They have already landed upon our soil!'
'Mobilise our forces!' cries the Burgrave. 'Let us meet them swiftly in battle!'

Saturday, 20 August 2022


As yet another awful conflagration ignites in Mittelheim, events in Zenta proceed in the usual manner.
'You wished, my lord, to speak to the High Executioner?' says Radu Pasha to Hospodar Casimir. Both are in Casimir's harem. In due deference to the death, destruction, fear, poverty, and violence that the hospodar's machinations have unleashed across this corner of Europe, Casimir is drinking a coffee.
'No, slave. I did not ...' replies the hospodar, slurping his beverage, '... because, as you know, that position no longer exists'.
Radu winces as he suddenly remembers.
'Of course not, Awful One. I am incompetent beyond belief. I do not know how you put up with such a witless worm as I. I'd kick myself in the head if it didn't involve exposing an unseemly amount of my leg to your precious harem'.
'Do it later', says Casimir, shrugging. 'In private'.
As Radu has, too late, remembered, Casimir, concerned to show at least a modicum of engagement with the enlightenment, and to illustrate a more rational and scientific approach to affairs of governance, has abolished the position of  High Executioner. It has been replaced instead with an Equality and Diversity Officer. This is on the basis that, despite the great ethnic and religious diversity in Zenta, everyone is equally likely to be tortured to death. Equality before the law, or at least the law as Casimir wants to interpret it, is something that the hospodar believes to be an important principle. 

The holder of this new office of state is Hashmi Agha, who now enters the chamber to a fanfare of trumpeting.
'Dread Lord! Great Hospodar! Your most loyal servant Hashmi is here!' says the new arrival, abasing himself.
Casimir signals for him to rise to his feet.

'Have you lost some weight, Hashmi, my tubby, but loyal, servant?' asks Casimir.
'Indeed Dread Lord - the heaviest of my nipple rings has fallen off'.
'That wasn't quite what I meant, but never mind' replies the hospodar amiably. Casimir has always liked Hashmi because of their shared interest in blunt force trauma.
'I have a job for you, my newly appointed Equality and Diversity Officer', explains Casimir. 'The Bachscuttel ambassador has insulted my dignity and must be, ah, re-educated'.
'Re-educated?' asks Hashmi brightly. 'My lord, what sort of level of education did you have in mind? Should it be, as it were, quite basic literacy; or', he gestures with his spiked mace enthusiastically', can I go for the full university-level experience?'
'Something at the post-graduate level' says Casimir, getting into the swing of the analogy. 'Perhaps with several years of post-doctoral research'.
'I hear and obey, Dread Lord!' cries Hashmi, happily. 'What information would you like me to extract from him?'
Casimir shrugs. 'Oh, I'm not sure that that really matters', he says. 'Like any good education, it's the journey that matters and not the destination'.

Monday, 1 August 2022


'Breakfast?' replies Rall. 'Baaaaaa! It is my favourite activity of the day!'
'Mine too!' says Rupprecht enthusiastically. 'Except for bonking. I'm a great fan of extravagant bonking: after all, in life, you get out what you put in'.
Rupprecht gestures to his guards, and plates and jugs are laid out on a table to the side. Rall is lucky that he is in Bachscuttel and not Fenwick. In Fenwick, of course, no one can handle jugs, unless they fancy a stiff prison sentence.

'So who else will be declaring war on Nabstria?' says the prince, cheerfully. 'I should imagine Fenwick would certainly be at the front of the queue'.
'Also Vulgaria, my lord', replies Rall. 'Mooooo!' he adds.
'Vulgaria?' replies Rupprecht in surprise. 'I thought that Zentans hated Vulgarians and vice versa!'
Rall shrugs. 'You know what they say, my lord: the enema of my enemy is my friend'.
Fecklenburg interjects. 'The enemy of my enemy, I think!'
'What about the enema?' asks Rupprecht.
'I should imagine that comes later, my lord' says Rall.
The prince nods. 'I suppose that would explain why they are enemies'.

'My lord, what is for breakfast?' asks Rall.
'Well', says Rupprecht enthusiastically. 'It's kippers'.
'Moooooo!' expectorates Rall angrily. 'Baaaaaaa!' he thunders.

'But kippers are yum!' says Rupprecht with annoyance.
Rall pulls a face. 'No they aren't: I hate them. They are a stupid food for stupid people!'
'They are not stupid!' cries Rupprecht. 'They are yummy yum. And I resent most strongly your implication that, because I think that they are yummy, I am stupid'.
'They are horrid food for horrid people!' continues Rall. 'We shall see if you are so keen on them if I take this fish and whack you around the chops with it!'
'I am Prince of the Palatinate of Saukopf Bachscuttel, and thus I am above being hit in the face by any form of seafood! You wouldn't dare!'
'I would dare. I double dare. I double smoked breakfast fish dare!'
'Hitting me in the face with a kipper wouldn't just be uncouth - it would most certainly probably result in a declaration of war! I shall not allow you to impugn my extraordinary majesty by allowing you to thwack my visage with breakfast consumables!'
'Gentlemen!' cries Fecklenburg, moving to interpose himself between the two.
'O ho!' cries Rall. 'It's breakfast consumables, is it! It's 'possibly, certainly a war' is it! Well, what do think about this then!' He swings a kipper at the King with all his might.
Though porkier than a gluttonous walrus with infinite access to fish and elasticated trousers, the prince is surprisingly agile, especially in the face of acts of physical violence to his person. Dodging the attempted aquatic assault, he steps back and the kipper instead smacks into the side of the head of the person standing next to him: Fecklenburg.

Fecklenburg gasps. He has had to suffer many indignities in his time as Rupprecht's chamberlain, but being assaulted by a fish is the last straw. He turns to Rupprecht.
'You wouldn't let him get away with that!' he rages to the prince.
'Well, truthfully I might', replies Rupprecht.
'But by hitting me with a fish; me, your closest councillor, hasn't he in a sense hit every person in your palatinate in the face with a fish too?'
'It's nothing that I haven't thought about doing myself'.
'But in doing so he has made you look foolish, my lord'.
'Has he?'
'Yes - very, very foolish. And also, not the sort of person that should ever be allowed to be Bishop of Schrote again'.
'I really did love that hat', says Rupprecht wistfully.
'Exceeded only by the quality of the robes' adds Fecklenburg.
Rupprecht nods. 'Well, then, you're right: war it is. I declare war on Zenta, and all its allies! Let that be a lesson to you, you Zentan upstart!' 
Rall waves the fish. 'I welcome it, sir! You shall be defeated in short order, you piscine loving pimplehead!'
'Haddock hating half- wit!' retorts Rupprecht.
'Turbot-topped twerp!' cries Rall.
'Bream- brained buffoon!' replies Rupprecht.
'Cod-chopped chump!' adds Fecklenburg, for good measure.
'Fine!', says Rupprecht, finally. 'War it is, Zentan! Now give me back my fish!'

And so begins what will become known as The Yum Kipper War. An armed conflict both ludicrous and terrible - like a muppet version of the Thirty Years War.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022


Prince Rupprecht's meeting with the Zentan envoy is proceeding in a manner that more diplomatic observers might label as 'sub-optimal'.
'No! No! No! No! No!' cries the prince. 'You call this a present! These animals are completely flat!'
'They are animal skins my lord', says Chamberlain Fecklenburg. 'His Excellency Delli Rall has brought you a rare selection of skins'.
'Bah!' says Rupprecht, refusing to be mollified. 'I prefer my animal friends to be plumper than this. Much plumper! Take them away and feed them'.
'My lord', says the chamberlain. 'These animals are not alive ...'
'Well of course they aren't', retorts the prince. 'See how little he's feeding them!'
Fecklenburg orders the skins to be removed. His life is too short for this sort of nonsense. Far, far too short.
Rupprecht looks at the Zentan and pouts. 'Quickly then, my man - why are you here, tasking me with your animal cruelty?'

'Baaaah!' declares the Zentan. 'I am here to declare war on you, my lord, on behalf of my liege, Hospodar Casimir, the Shadow of God; God's Umbrella; and Also Possibly His Hat'.
Rupprecht frowns. 'Is it urgent?'
Rall considers this. 'It's a declaration of war'.
'I'm in a bad mood - come back when I've recovered'.
'When, my lord - this afternoon?'
'Next June.'
'My lord Rupprecht - it's a declaration of war. I think I probably have to deliver it today. I could, perhaps, stretch to tomorrow morning?'
'Deliver it now, and you will indeed be stretched until tomorrow morning', says the prince angrily.
'Mooooo!' declares the Zentan. 'Honour demands that I deliver my message! I declare war on you, lord of Nabstria!'
There is a moment of puzzled silence.
'But this is Bachscuttel', says Fecklenburg. 'The Palatinate of Saukopf-Bachscuttel!'
'Is it?' says Rall, amazed. 'Is it? Ah well. Hmmm. Well, then. Well, then I have come here to not declare war on you, and also to get some better directions to Nabstria!'

'Well, splendid!' says Rupprecht. 'Hurrah! It would seem that we have avoided war. Excellent! Because at the moment, I have much too much else to do than to, you know, command, and strategise, and inspire, and, and ... what is it that I habitually do in wartime to lead my country Fecklenburg?'
'As I recall, sir, you sit on your commode'.
Rupprecht beams. 'So, all's well that ends well, then! And in a spirit of fraternity and peace, why don't you sit with me and have breakfast!'

Saturday, 23 July 2022

A Visitor!

Meanwhile, in Schloss Tanvaund, Prince Rupprecht of Saukopf-Bachscuttel is ruminating on matters of state with his chamberlain, Leopold von Fecklenburg, and his chief medical officer, Herr Hans Klenser.
'My lord!' declares Klenser. 'I have come at once as you have ordered!'
'Excellent!' says Rupprecht. 'For I am in a terrible way'.
'My lord, what troubles you so?' says the physician.

Rupprecht groans. ''The awful impact of inflation, Klenser. I should have thought that that was obvious'.
'Indeed sir'.
'I mean look at this',continues the Prince. 'My girth is inflating at such a rate that I don't have any belts to keep my britches up'.
Fecklenburg interjects. 'Is that such a problem, my lord? I was under the impression that you viewed the wearing of your britches rather as an optional activity'.
'Indeed, chamberlain - but there are still many occasions in which I must, of necessity, cover my princely baubles'. Rupprecht's brows furrows as he considers some solutions. 'I could have Faltaire invent some kind of mechanical trousers, perhaps?'
'It's a rather complicated solution', says Fecklenburg carefully. 'I could of course simply purchase you some bigger belts'.
Rupprecht thinks about this for a while and then shrugs. 'I suppose so, Fecklenburg - it might be a simpler solution'.
Klenser nods in agreement. 'Yes, we don't want to reinvent the wheel, do we sir'.
'No, absolutely not, says Rupprecht. Feckleburg and Klenser bow and make to withdraw.

Although', says Rupprecht. The two officials halt. It is not impossible that a low sigh escapes Fecklenburg's lips.
'Although', continues Rupprecht, 'I have often thought that wheels could well do with a bit of reinventing'.
'How so, sir?' asks Klenser.
'Well, I've often found them to be rather too round'.
'Wheels that are round - isn't that rather the point of them, sir', replies the chamberlain.
'Yes, but it can often make it quite difficult to get into and out of my carriage, what with the roundness of the wheels letting the coach move'.
'The round wheels allow the coach to move'. Fecklenburg cocks his head to one side. 'Again sir, forgive me for being dense, but isn't that also sort of the point?'
'Well, I just think that a few straight edges on the wheels would make everything a bit more stable'.
'Wouldn't straight edges on a round wheel actually make them square, my lord?'.
'Oh no, I'm not an idiot - square wheels wouldn't work. But what about a hexagon or an ... octopus'.
'An octagon, you mean sir?'
'No, no, no - don't be ridiculous: The tentacles would get in the way'.

'Riveting intellectual challenge though this conversation is, my lord', says Fecklenburg rather icily. 'I do think that other matters require your attention. There is, outside, the emissary from Zenta that I informed you about earlier, my lord'.
'What?' enquires Rupprecht. 'Oh, Hell's bunions man! Well, send him in then - but he'd better be entertaining'. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2022


'Is he really the most suitable man for the position of emissary to Nabstria?' asks Hospodar Casimir the following day.
Radu Pasha bows. 'My lord, this fellow is, to put no finer point on it, a slack-jawed, dim-wittedly dangerous  dunderhead'.
'Hmmm', replies the hospodar. 'He still sounds too reasonable for the job in hand. I need a leper-licking loon: the kind of wild-brained wazzock incapable of reasoned discourse. There needs to be no chance whatsoever that the declaration of war that he delivers to Nabstria might lead to any kind of diplomatic solution before the actual fighting starts'.
'I think he's your man, Dread Lord', says Radu Pasha. 'Although I use the term 'man' very loosely, given that, in relation to his personality and outlook, he has more in common with an angry orangutan'.
'What is an orangutan?' asks Casimir.
'I don't know my lord', admits Radu Pasha, 'but everyone I've talked to that has met one has been been very clear on their dangerous combination of irritability and inhuman strength'.
'It is a combination best avoided', admits Casimir. 'And so I command you never to introduce me to one'.
Radu bows.
Casimir sighs. 'Well, slave; send him in then'.
Radu gestures to the guards.
'Dread Lord!' announces one of the harem eunuchs. 'Osman Delli Rall!'
A wild looking figure enters the chamber.

'Delli Rall?' asks Radu.
'Baaaaah!' says Rall, bowing low. 'I am come before you great hospodar. Command me! Mooooo!'
Casimir's left eyebrow creeps upwards quizzically.
'Welcome, Delli Rall!' cries Radu Pasha. 'Your hospodar wishes to converse with you! Now, then, would you like some coffee?'
Rall rolls his eyes. 'Baaaaah! I am a Bashi-bazouk, my lord: a crazed, blood thirsty madman, keen to rip the ears from every infidel I can get my steely hands on. Blood is all that I consume!'
'A hot chocolate?' suggests Casimir.
'Ooooh lovely!' replies Rall enthusiastically. 'Anything but kippers. I hate kippers!'
'That's oddly specific given that I was in fact offering you something to drink', says the hospodar.
'Indeed my lord. But I was just warning you. Kippers send me into paroxysms of uncontrollable rage!'
'I shall bear that in mind when I next consider serving fish and sea food as beverages. Still, I'm sure that kippers are an irrelevant piece of the detail that will never crop up again'.

As Rall slurps his drink, Casimir looks more closely at the wild-looking delli. 'Impressive! Have you actually pushed those knives through your body? asks the hospodar with professional interest. 'I mean actually right through your skin?'
'There's no pockets in my trousers', says Rall sadly.
'You could buy yourself some that do have pockets?' suggests Casimir.
Rall considers this. 'I was in a hurry. my lord'.

Pleasantries are exchanged, to much bowing and 'Baaaas!' from the delli. Eventually, Casimir turns to the matter in hand.
'I have called you here, Delli Rall, because I wish you to go to Nabstria and declare war upon them!'
'My lord!' cries Rall, falling to his knees. 'You have only to command me!'
'I think I just have', says Casimir. 'So, off you go: and don't, whatever you do, in any way facilitate peace'.
'At once, my lord!' cries Rall, heading for the door. He then pauses. 'Ah, my lord - where exactly is Nabstria?'
'I like this man already', says Casimir with satisfaction.