Kapusta ZemlyaThe jewel in Velikye-Byelgorodniya’s crown is the fertile province of Kapusta Zemlya, Land of the Cabbage. The eastern half of the province consists of rolling hills farmed by contented serfs, who are often visited by the inhabitants of the western half, the Cassock bands, whose rambunctious sense of fun is famed far and wide. When the Cassocks come to call, all work ceases, and impromptu parties are hosted by the serfs, where singing, dancing, drinking and knouting are the order of the day. The largest settlement in the province and in the Principality is Novi Byelgorod, a modern showpiece of culture and the centre of the Principality’s social life.
Major population centre(s): Novi Byelgorod (pop. 210,000)
Other population centre(s): Oppressnikgrad (pop. 115,000)
Under the House of Mikhailov, the city has attracted architects, composers, painters and sculptors, all of whom have worked under the patronage of the Princes. Notable public artworks include Bellendi’s famous equestrian bronze statue of Dmitry I trampling the Sable Hat, the Cathedral of St Dmitry, commissioned by Dmitry II ‘The Intense’, and the city’s greatest work-in-progress, a marble frieze showing Dmitry IV taking the surrender of the Herzog Mikhail Johnann von Hollerenschaut IV of Pfefferburg. Although the war has not yet broken out, the result is inevitable, so the Prince has decreed that the reviewing platform and its marble frieze be made ready for the victory parade as early as possible.
|Dmitry II's bell, "Dmitry the Great", St Dmitry 's Cathedral.|
Too large to fit in the bell tower, it is now used as low-income housing.
The Cassock Lands
The Cassock Tribes are descended from fiercely Orthodox and poorly-educated nomads who made their way into Old Byelgorodniya following the Mongol takeover of their homelands in the 13th century.
They enjoy a favoured status within Velikye Byelgorodniya, thanks largely to their hereditary Hetman, Dmitry IV, who employs them as a roving gendarmerie throughout the Principality. In theory, they take their orders from him; in practice, they go largely where they will, and the Grand Prince trusts that they will moderate their natural exuberance when visiting more settled areas.
The Cassocks have a vibrant culture based around their horse herds. Cassock folk songs, poems, and cuisine all celebrate their relationship with the noble horse. A Cassock feast will typically include such delicacies as Horse Soup, Horse Goulash, Horse 'Sausage' (best not to ask), and Beetroot Surprise (actually a horse surprised with a beetroot - again, probably best not to ask), while songs are sung celebrating the unfortunate equine currently being dished up to the ravenous tribesmen.
|The nomadic horsemen of the steppe celebrate one of their seasonal festivals.|
This tribesman is preparing shashlik.
A bustling seaport and naval base, Oppressnikgrad lies on the opposite shore of the Mikhail Bay from the capital, Novi Byelgorod. Grand Prince Dmitry has decreed that the harbour’s guns must fire a salvo at precisely 1pm every day, making the name of Mikhail Bay synonymous with loud, but ultimately pointless, explosions.
As each of the clocks in the harbour bastions invariably shows a different time, 1pm can take up to 10 minutes to finish. The aristocratic officers commanding each harbour bastion all insist that theirs is the correct time, causing many duels over the past five years. Grand Prince Dmitry has recently sent a delegation to London to find more reliable naval timepieces and the technicians to tend them.
|"So; ten past one, I think...?"|
Dam’ OblastDam’ Oblast, a major agricultural region, is famous for its wheat, potatoes, and vodka.
Major population centre(s): Staraya Byelgorod (pop. 195,000 )
Other population centre(s): Fort Kolbasa (pop. 50,000), Glob (pop. 15,000)
The provincial capital, Staraya Byelgorod (Old White City) is the headquarters of the Church in Velikye Byelgorodniya. The city’s crest is the seagull. Chekhov’s Seagulls (Larus chekhovii) nest in vast quantities in the area, giving the city’s walls their distinctive hue, and the seagull graces the city’s coat of arms (a gull, argent, displayed upon a field sable, charged with guttees d’argent). The city was the capital of the Principality until Boris the Mad was deposed by Hetman Dmitry Mikhailov.
Fort Kolbasa has been a Byelgorodniyan fortification for nearly 500 years, with a continual accretion of defensive features ranging from log palisades through stone curtain walls and on to modern polygonal bastions. This has given the entire fort a somewhat chaotic appearance, leading to much confusion every time a new regiment takes over. On the positive side, the fort has never been taken by storm, as any assault is likely to end up in a cul-de-sac or dry moat rather than succeeding in taking a crucial part of the defences.
Until the recent insurrection by Saxe-Coburnski elements in the province of Nizhzy Bublik, this unassuming village was a customs and excise post twinned with its cross-border counterpart, Bystro. Glob has now become a staging point for Byelgorodniyan forces massing to avenge the insulting conduct of the vile Herzog Mikhail and his buffoonish puppet Markgraf Boris Ivanovich.
They have even insisted on renaming the province, spoiling the purity of the honest Byelgorodniyan bublik on its coat-of-arms by covering it with sugar, as though it were one of their hideously sweet cream pastries rather than the simple poppy-seed ring beloved of all true sons of Byelgorodniya. Their crude translation of bublik as ‘doughnut’ is further evidence (if, indeed, any were needed) of their degeneracy.
Bystro, in the meantime, languishes beneath the Saxe-Coburnski jackboot, its teahouses forced to serve the vile concoction known as ‘coffee’, and its nourishing sour cream, fatty bacon, and potato savouries cast out in favour of the abominably flaky foreign strudels and croissants.
PlodskMajor (and only) population centre: Plod (pop. 1,300)
Plodsk, a cold and miasmal swamp in the north-west of the Principality, is a convenient dumping ground for any dissidents. The only major settlement is Plod, the seat of government for the region. The province suffers a chronic labour shortage and an oversupply of wolves.
The local population is descended from generations of revolutionary political prisoners and Christian religious dissenters who have intermarried with the indigenous shamanic Plodskniks. This has created a populace convinced that liberation of the peasant classes can only be achieved through personal salvation, continual doorknocking, and consumption of copious quantities of hallucinogenic fungi. Plodsk has consequently developed a rich folk mythology based on household divinities and terrifying monsters lurking in the woods. Almost every Plodsknik will tell you he has seen these with his own eyes, but the traveller should treat such claims with scepticism, at least until finishing his cream of mushroom soup.
Among Velikye Byelgorodniya’s urban intelligentsia, it is believed that deportation to Plodsk is tantamount to a life sentence; after a few days you’ll be so busy talking to trees and taking advice from 20-foot tall squirrels that you won’t be able to find time to plan an escape.
Vonyuchniy-SelyodkaOne of the more prosperous of the northern provinces is Vonyuchniy-Seloyodka, the land of the herring, situated on the shores of Lake Vonyuchniya, one of the largest inland bodies of salt water in the region. The region’s capital is the bustling fishing port of Krasniy-Selyodka.
Major population centre(s): Krasniy-Selyodka (pop.110,000)
Other population centre(s): Sneg (pop. 9,500)
Krasniy-Selyodka is most famous for its splendid Cathedral of St Voskovec, Patron Saint of Herring Picklers.
500 years ago, St Voskovec was a simple herring pickler who preached the gospel in the howling wilderness of Plodsk. Sadly, his words fell on deaf ears, and he was stoned to death, sealed in a barrel of vinegar, and sent back to Krasniy-Selyodka.
When the barrel was tapped, the vinegar inside was found to be of superlative quality, and it was only when the last of it was consumed by the townsfolk that the body of Voskovec was found, miraculously preserved and free of any corruption. The preservation of the body was taken as clear evidence of Voskovec’s saintliness, and the Church canonised the humble preacher without delay.
A marble sarcophagus in the shape of a barrel was constructed in the hastily-rededicated cathedral to house the Saint’s mortal remains, and the herring picklers of the town undertook to decorate the sanctuary with the bones of over 150,000 herrings, arranged into fantastic devotional forms. Herring bones are sold as pilgrimage badges to the thousands of visitors who flock to this picturesque and aromatic town each year for the saint’s feast day.
A provincial customs and excise post, known for its distinctive regional cuisine based on birch bark served in a variety of sauces.
Tvistan’ KnoutMajor population centre(s): Knoutaserfsk (pop. 18,000)
Tvistan’ Knout is one of the smaller northern provinces, but what it lacks in size, it makes up in the sheer bloody-mindedness of its local aristocracy. This province prides itself upon its status as ‘The Cradle of Serfdom’, and its lower orders are amongst the best-behaved in all Velikye-Byelgorodniya. There is only one major settlement, the town of Knoutaserfsk, which derives its wealth from the serf trade.
Old traditions die hard in Tvistan’ Knout, as do its less-tractable inhabitants.
The province is famous for its marksmen, any of whom can take the kneecap off a fleeing serf at 400 paces.
Major population centre(s): Blensk (pop. 10,000), Glinsk (pop. 11,000)
Gruzinya is a ruggedly independent province, home to ruggedly independent mountaineers. There are two ethnic groups in Gruzinya; the Glish, from the region around Blensk, and the Blenks, who live around Glinsk. These two peoples have been in a constant state of war with one another since the 8th century.
This is another province that punches above its weight, especially in military terms. Two contingents of elite Gruzinyan infantry guard the Grand Prince, one regiment of Glish, and the other of Blenks. Needless to say, they are stationed at opposite ends of the palace.
Curiously, most commercial and agricultural work in the province is undertaken by the womenfolk. Such is the hatred between Gruzinya’s two ethnic groups that the men spend almost all their waking hours practicing for raids and warfare, and the Glish and the Blenks might well have fought one another to extinction had it not been for the staggering number of blood feuds which occupy the internal politics of both communities.
That said, the people of Gruzinya are among the most hospitable in Velikye Byelgorodniya; even in the remotest village, households will compete for the honour of hosting a stranger. The prestige accruing to the household from having an outsider come all the way to Gruzinya just to visit them will enable its members to sneer at their less-popular neighbours for the next 30 years. The ensuing fights over posetilac pravni (‘guest-right’) may last for days, and frequently entail much loss of life.
Attempts to establish a postal service in the province have proven largely unsuccessful, as any postman may find himself the object of posetilac pravni, after which he is never seen outside the village again. In one recent case, unsuspecting postman Gyorgi Shevchenko was bustled into one Glish household on his first day on the job, while another household on the other side of the street seized his horse.
Both Shevchenko and his horse have been ‘guests’ of the Glish for 19 years. The two extended families bring their charges out into the street daily, ostentatiously feeding them, dressing them, and indulging their every whim but one; their desire to leave. Shevchenko now weighs 25 stone and, despite the solicitude of his hosts, seems to spend all his time crying. Mercifully, his horse appears to be more philosophical about its fate.
Major population centre(s): Bolshoi Strakh (pop. 190,000),
Other population centre(s) Serfsk (pop. 20,000), Slob (pop. 9,000)
The easternmost of the provinces is Strakhski Oblast, “The Scary Place”. The province is under the direct control of the Prince’s family, the House of Mikhailov, and no member of the family or its cadet branches can be held accountable for anything they do within its borders; although given the fact that the entire principality of Velikye-Byelgorodniya is an autocracy, this is probably a moot point. The heir to the throne is typically styled Grand Duke of Strakhski Oblast and Count of Bolshoi Strakh. Much of the province is held as a hunting preserve for the Prince and his guests.
This city is the regional centre for administration and commerce, and is the headquarters of the Byelgorodskye Okhrana, the Grand Prince’s feared secret police. This clandestine organisation’s sinister reputation causes much nervousness among the nobility, citizenry and peasantry.
Thankfully, most of the organisation’s aggression is channelled inwards, as the various bureaucrats and spymasters spend most of their time plotting against one another. On many occasions, Grand Prince Dmitry has been able to thwart the machinations of overly-ambitious courtiers by appointing them to high-ranking positions in the Okhrana, usually as heads of entirely new and non-existent security directorates. There they spend the rest of their careers trying to unseat their superiors, intimidate their underlings, and locate their entirely fictitious offices within the labyrinthine corridors of the Gremlin, Bolshoi Strakh's imposing central citadel.
The Okhrana consumes tons of paper, vats of sealing wax, and invisible ink by the hogshead, and is admittedly a drain on the Principality’s finances, but it performs a useful function in diverting the energies of individuals who might otherwise prove destructive to the continued peace and serenity of the realm.
Not so much a township as a vast hunting lodge, Serfsk’s population is almost exclusively devoted to supporting the hunting parties of the nobility. Established by Dmitry II ‘The Intense’, Serfsk once boasted numerous inns and lodges of various sizes and degrees of comfort, all decorated with elaborate woodcarving and the pelts and heads of the local fauna.
The local wildlife has only now recovered from the huge and bloody hunts held by Dmitry II, whose successor closed the town for over 20 years owing to the shortage of bison, wolves, boars and bears. Legend has it that in the final years of his reign, Dmitry II took to hunting courtiers or servants who had displeased him, though this may be a story designed to frighten the local peasantry.
Dmitry IV has declared that Serfsk is to be opened once more, and the town now rings to the sound of hammers, saws and sneezes as the old lodges are scrubbed, dusted, refurbished and repainted for the next shooting season. Competition for an invitation to the first Grand Hunt in decades is fierce, and courtiers are falling over one another to ingratiate themselves with the Grand Prince.
|The Principality's hunters hone their skills in preparation. This hunter has employed|
a serf in a bearskin to give his hounds a chance to work out on live prey.
A remote border outpost in the extreme north-east of Strakhski Oblast, it is a punishment post for any regiment unfortunate enough to be sent to garrison the town.
Situated in the foothills of the imposing Carpetathian Mountains, Slob has an evil reputation in the Principality’s folklore. Centuries ago, it was ruled by a vicious tyrant who was rumoured to take on the form of a beast every full moon. The legend of the unholy wereantelope, Vlad the Impala, persists to this day.
|Some say he still wanders the gloomy forests...|
Tupoy OblastMajor Population Centre: Blinygrad (pop: 65,000)
Other Population Centres: Tvit (pop: 11,000)
The province of Tupoy is famous for the quality of its smoked hams and smallgoods and the obtuseness of its inhabitants. The people of Tupoy are the butt of jokes across the Principality and beyond.
Part of Velikye Byelgorodniya for nearly 600 years, the conquest of Tupoy set the stage for the incorporation of the fertile lands of the entire south-west.
Despite the overwhelming preponderance of dullards in the region, it enjoys the benefits of good soil, a temperate climate, and a docile and industrious population.
The market town of Blinygrad is the capital of the province, and produces more village idiots per head of population than any other settled area within the Principality. Its alumni are very much in demand from villages with a vacancy. The annual Fools’ Festival brings the best and dullest of the province’s idiots together, where their services are auctioned off to landlords and town mayors from across Byelgorodniya.
An unexceptional village, notable only for the fact that the locals have elected a potato as mayor for the last 8 years. The potato is admired as the most capable mayor yet.
KrashdipezantskMajor Population Centres: Kholodnyy-Borscht (pop: 85,000), Bifstroganov (pop: 60,000)
Other population Centres: Tverp (pop: 11,000), Pleb (pop: 8,000), Gritz (pop: 10,000)
The province of Krashdipezantsk is the home of the beet. The people of this prosperous and somewhat less-insular province take their farming extremely seriously, with villages competing every year to grow the champion beet. Local bards, or Beet Poets, compose verses to talk up their village’s prowess and denigrate their neighbours’ achievements, and at harvest time, the last of the previous year’s sparkling beet wine is consumed in a festival of song and regurgitation.
The capital and largest market town in the province, Kholodnyy-Borscht is justifiably famed as the City of 10,000 Beets. The huge number of hybrids and cultivars of the noble beet which have been developed in the province have assured the town of a place in the Beet Growers' Hall of Fame, which is conveniently situated on the market square opposite the imposing Church of Our Lady of the Beets, just alongside the Winterbeet Palace, the seat of the local governor.
The most popular folk song in the province is "The Beet My Heart Missed", the tragic story of a young beet farmer whose prize beet is lost when his sweetheart is fatally injured by a runaway cart; she was carrying the beet at the time.
It is not true that the inhabitants of the town are incapable of talking about anything except beetroot and beet-related matters. That said, they do tend to struggle conversationally with non-beetroot subjects.
The northernmost town in the province, Bifstroganov is situated on the shores of Lake Vonyuchniya. It would be remiss of your commentator to fail to mention the dish which has made the town famous and carried its name to the four corners of the world; Herring Bifstroganov, a savoury casserole of herring, sour cream, and beets. A great many beets.
The nearest town to Fort Vulgargrad, it acts as a supply depot for those items which are not issued by the Quatermaster-General. Like Beets, for example.
A modern polygonal fort built upon an eminence at on the northern shore of the Vulgargrad Channel. It has the advantage of being situated at a higher altitude than its opposite number, the Saxe-Coburnski fort of Vulgarburg. As Countess of Vulgargrad, the Dowager Grand Princess Anna is the Honorary Commandant of the fort and Colonel-in-Chief of its garrison.
The fortress boasts the largest artillery piece in the Principality; the bombard Princess Anna. With a potential rate of fire of well over two shots a day, she is the terror of the Vulgargrad Channel. And just as soon as the bombard is cleaned out and moved to the southern side of the fort, the adversaries of Byelgorodniya will tremble!
This picturesque district produces a number of interesting beet wines, ranging from a delightful golden beetroot aperitif to a robust beetroot burgundy. The region's dessert wines are also much admired, and their purgative properties are exciting much interest among the Principality's finest chirurgeons.
A provincial excise post on the shores of Lake Bublik, in the Gritz Lowlands, it has recently experienced an influx of migrants from Scotland. Clans of Jacobite refugees first arrived in the region in 1746. In gratitude to our generous Grand Prince, the chieftain of the Highlanders, Donald McMuckle, has changed the name of his clan to MacHailovich.
The Gritz Lowlanders are feared for the ferocity of their charge into battle and for the sheer mind-numbing horror of their cuisine. On the positive side, the region does produce an excellent single-beet whisky.