Episode XXXVI: Alea IacTver Est
An Extract From The Seventh Mighty Epistle of His Excellency Charles Percival Huiver-Bagge, MA (Oxford)
It is I.
Thunderous, dazzling and groundbreakingly original – and that is just my wardrobe – I return to further enlighten you of the goings on in the Empire of Tver. The delay in my latest epistle is not due to tardiness – for shame! – but to the inefficiencies of the postal service in this backward nation of babbling merchants and incompetent artists. My official portrait is still undone – the court painter should be boiled upside down in fruit preserve.
In any case, I return, and you are joyous.
Further divisions have been drawn between the Czarina and her cousin, Lady Elena. In spite of this, Lady Elena maintains her professionalism, and remains a dedicated servant of Czarina Aleksandra. Recently, though, she acted as the bearer of ill news. Her smile was, I am sure, a grimace of regret.
‘The king of Georgia has a son, Aleksandra.’
The Czarina sighed, wrinkling her nose (a rather pretty nose – though as a wrinkled stump to that of our most Britannic Majesty of course!).
‘Ah well. Send him our congratulations.’
‘You could declare warrr, my Czarrrina?’ suggested Don Pedro (I never see the man enter a room! It is unusual!)
‘War, Don Pedro? On another Orthodox prince? I want his throne, but not by force!’
‘I merely thought, my Czarrrina...’
‘Don’t, Don Pedro. You’ll only hurt yourself. No. Russia and Georgia will always be friends. Why would we ever encroach on their territories?’
‘As you say, my Czarrrina...’
‘I do. Now. Mijado, is the colonisation of Tambow progressing?’
The robed clergyman nodded.
‘Excellent. Elena, what is happening on the eastern front?’
‘The Nogai are causing trouble, Aleksandra. They are wary of our focusing of resources in the eastern provinces.’
The Czarina sniffed. ‘It matters naught. They will come raiding and pillaging at some point – and we will send them scurrying back to their holes in the ground once again. We could be their firmest ally and they would still try to attack us. Any real developments?’
Brother Mijado glided forwards, and presented the Czarina with a document, which she studied.
‘An interesting idea. A country run by priests? You don’t support this idea, Mijado?’
The hooded figure shook his head. (I assume – otherwise the hood moved side to side of its own accord).
‘At least you’re working on something useful. How are the palace sheep?’
An encouraging nod.
‘Splendid. Every woollen rug enriches our coffers.’
A true statement. There was further trouble to come later that week, however: a book about the habits of beavers had been circulating in the northern territories for some time (amongst the few of these simpletons who can read!), which painted them in an overly romantic manner. Trappers began to take pity on the beasts for their ‘cuteness’, leading to a shortage of quality beaver fur.
This shortage did not, of course, affect me: as an esteemed gentleman, my tailor was able to put aside some top quality fur for my new cloak.
‘For such fine clients, we use only best fur. Simples!’, as he said. Fortunate to have his reassurance, having heard that some unscrupulous tailors continued to sell cloaks made from the fur of a mere cat.
Back at court, Brother Mijado had further good news for the Czarina.
The colonisation of Tambow was complete, the province now fully part of the Empire of Tver.
The time had come, declared the Czarina, for decisive action.
‘Don Pedro, arrange for military access from Provence.’
The Spaniard looked at her blankly. ‘Which province, my Czarrrina?’
‘Provence, not province. The country. South of France.’
‘Ahh…si. You are planning your next holiday?’
‘Not at all. I have ordered the admiral of the fleet to have one of our carracks sent to our Black Sea port. Hopefully they will be able to stop off in Provence to resupply.’
‘Meanwhile, our artillery units will mobilise towards the border with Hungary.’
Lady Elena eyed her cousin.
‘You’re still set on this course, Aleksandra?’ Her evil-eyed cat, Montague, echoed her appearance of scepticism.
‘Absolutely. Zaporozhie is rightfully ours – as is the rest of the Crimean. They claim our Ukrainian provinces - they require to be reeducated. Now. Where is my son?’
‘Aleksandr has gone with the artillery train, Aleksandra. He wanted to test out a new compound he had been working on.’
Prince Aleksandr is a dedicated man of science, spending most of his time locked in a laboratory with Tver’s finest (by which I mean most dangerous) scientific minds. He speculated to me recently that the technologies used in artillery could one day be used to propel man to the Moon! Such nonsense. He said that it would merely require one who was determined not to kneel, and whose arm was strong. The boy talks nonsense – if ever such an advance were to be made, it would not be these primitive, brutish Russians. Only the demi-men of the Americas surpass them in barbarism (as detailed in my mighty work, Huiver-Bagge’s Glorious Voyages In The New World). Woe betide us should these nations be the ones leading us into the heavens!
In any case, the young Prince wished to test out anew explosive powder he had created which, he said, would greatly improve the Tverian artillery. General Sugorsky took a great personal interest in His Highness’ work, and personally fired the first experimental salvo.
The deployment of the Tverian fleet necessitated its expansion: should their two carracks be deployed against either the Turk or the Magyar, their northern port cities would be open to pirate attack. A new galley was laid down to patrol the White Sea coastline.
Further worrying developments came later, however, as Hungary’s ally Brandenburg once more flexed her muscles, annexing the rich port city of Danzig.
This bold stroke was followed up by another declaration of war from the rampant Germans: the king of Brandenburg laid claim to the city of Meissen, and deployed his armies. The Hungarians, eager to confirm their alliance with this emerging nation, joined them in the war.
Better news was to come, though, as Brother Mijado reported (in writing, naturally) that the missionaries he had sent to Uralsk had met with great success: the light of Christ shone once more upon that barren province. The presence of a large number of rough men with pikes, I am sure, had no influence on their new-found zeal.
Emboldened, the Czarina’s preparations for war continued apace. A new general was recruited to replace the smoking boots of Sugorsky. General Kholmsky was perhaps not all that the Czarina had hoped for – his wardrobe lacked the shock factor of his predecessor. She could only hope that his habit of setting his beard on fire with his potato pipe – this strange new root has fine medicinal qualities when smoked – would aid him in battle.
Nothing, it seemed, would stand in the way of Brandenburg, as more of their opponents surrendered before the march of her well-disciplined troops. Worrying indeed for the Czarina, though I say that this is to the good of Her Britannic Majesty: never will we have a firmer ally than the men of Berlin, and the march of the Brandenburger boot shall always, I am sure, be a welcome sound to the sons of Britannia.
And so, it seems, the Czarina prepared for battle with the Hungarians. Advisable or not, only time shall tell.
In the meantime, upon this thunderous note, I shall leave you, suspended in wonder. The storm clouds of war gather above my head, but it is time for me to break my spell of prose, and free you to your normal, dreary lives until my next instalment.
I am Huiver-Bagge. You are not.