Thursday, December 11, 2008

Commission from the Dey

Salomon Baci looked up from his siesta reading, another sampling of Rambam's Guide for the Perplexed, as one of his junior factors burst backwards into his office closely followed by the burly forms of three towering specimens of the Dey's Janissary orta, and, behind them, the slimmer but somehow more menacing figure of the Dey's Aga, the renegadoe Banatiano.

"Baci effendi is not to be disturbed during the siesta--" his clerk protested.

"Silence!" spat the Aga, "I come on the Dey's business: a commission for Baci effendi."

Cowed more by the Aga's intense gaze than by his accompanying janissaries, the clerk sputtered, then fell silent.

"It is well, David," Baci reassured his clerk. "I am of course the Dey's humblest servant. What news from the Casbah?"

The aga regarded the clerk a second longer until the clerk turned physically from the renegadoe's glare, and then turned his electric eyes to Baci. Baci himself was able to meet the gaze, but found himself forced to consider the violent history of the men holding the office of Aga to the Dey, and the rapidity with which this strange renegadoe had risen from common mercenary to the exalted rank he now held.

"With apologies for disturbing your siesta, the Dey sends his compliments on your report of this morning of the results of your enquiries amongst the Franj, and is disposed to pursue the Waldrecker tender for both the artillery and muskets. You are to present yourself to Diwan on the morrow and receive the Dey's sealed commission to negotiate, following which you personally will sail for the Franj port of Monte Cristo under your Livornese documents to finalise the negotiations with your Bertel Stechung of Krantz. The Dey's confidence in you in this matter is absolute."

"I am of course the Dey's most humble servant."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Raid on Twinj

The reconnaisance parties sent out by the Wakil returned a week later with news of the surrounding countryside. Most pertinently, it had been discovered that beyond the coastal ridge the countryside opened enough to permit herding and horse-breeding. Indeed, the town of Twinj, not 20 miles to the north of Spilt, was to celebrate the miraculous deliverance of its citadel from a siege by the Ottomans on the Feast of the Conception of St. Anne fifty years ago with a festival of horsemanship, including the jousting tournament called the Alka, open to all the young men of the countryside.

While the best horses would no doubt all be in Twinj for the festival, the prospect of the horse farms and herds of the countryside around the town being left to the care of the servants and old women whilst the greater part of the countryside thronged the town for the festival presented an opportunity to both rebuke the Franj and to increase the corsairs' options in the face of the mounted relief force which was expected.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reconnaissance Parties

Along the beach, well to the north of Spilt, a single xebec approaches shore, close enough for two bands of men, exotic in their Mahgrebi attire, to splash through the surf onto the Dalmatian shore.

At a notional scale of 1:20, this represents the full complement of manpower the xebec could bring to fight, in addition to the slaves below to work the oars. Since the Dey's xebecs are relatively crowded, especially for a strike across the Mediterranean all the way to Dalmatia, the challenge of keeping food and water in adequate supply on board is constant. Raiding parties will venture up and down the Dalmatian coast, possibly as far as Lagerburg and Slobbovia, to keep the Dey's men fed while the plan against Spilt is brought to fruition.

[Ed Note: Those following Prinz Geoffrey's posts on Cavenderia may note that these figures, from Askari miniatures, are in a different scale than the Bashi-Bazouks seen there. The rules to arbitrate the raids are still being considered. I am tempted to order Legends of the High Seas and, perhaps, Legends of the Old West: Alamo to allow us to use our figures for both skirmish and larger actions, along with the naval rules included in LotHS. Reader recommendations are welcomed.]

Friday, November 7, 2008

عَدَم الجَوَاب جَوَاب

"No answer is an answer."

Sidi Mohammed Ibrahim, Wakil al kharj of his eminence Driss Dey of Bizercca, reflected aloud as the deadline for response from the town fathers of the Cavenderian harbour town of Spilt expired. He ordered his xebec about, out of cannon range from the harbour to the north, and had signals set for a captains' meeting aboard his ship. The time spent off the coast of the Franj was to be minimised, to lessen the likelihood of difficulties with the xebecs' rowers, chained below, and the punitive raid to be launched as soon as final arrangements with the other commanders made.

Each xebec had been manned to capacity with men for the purpose of these raids, over 400 men on each, including the slaves, with each ship capable of putting 300 men onto the deck of enemy ships, or, in this case, ashore to participate in the rebuke of the Franj. While his orders called for the looting of the customs house and any merchants in Spilt, almost as important would be the capture of sufficient foodstuffs for the return voyage, since this raid had not been authorised by the Sublime Porte, and a safe harbourage in any Greek port to take on supplies could not be guaranteed.

Satisfied by the arrangements aboard his own vessel, Ibrahim called for water while waiting, and began his ablutions preparatory to noontime prayers.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Alea Iacta Est

The Imperium has decided for war, so the Dey musters his forces both naval and terrestrial.

First on order: a half dozen GHQ 1:1200 xebecs to land his eminence's bashi-bazouks on their harrying raids on the Dalmatian coast of Cavenderia, which the Divan has determined to be the first of her Imperial majesty's subjects to pay for her insults to the Dey.

Hopefully the finished work will at least recall the image here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Into the Highlands

Riding south after morning prayers, away from the still-smoking walls of Bizercca, Driss Dey seethed inwardly over the insult to his dignity delivered by the warships of the Franj. A late-night convocation of the leaders of the city's millets had resulted only in unanimous protestation of ignorance and surprise, none of them offering any insight or intelligence from their contacts overseas.

While his capable and energetic young agha oversaw repairs to the Bizercca presidio and harbour defences, orders had been dispatched to the Dey's envoys in Limburg and Britannia to acquire heavier artillery as well, to prevent any possibility of a repeat of the sneak attack.

The harbour defences, though, were only designed to cover an approach by sea. The possibility of another attack supported by a descent of the Franj on the coast had to be countered. In the glory days of Babbarosa, the Deylicate could rely on a Turkish ocak of over 25,000 men, but the decades of peace since the Treaty of Belgrade had seen it dwindle to less than a quarter of that number. Knowing better than to show weakness to the Porte by requesting a new levy, the Dey instead now rode into the highlands of the interior, to the Kaybeebee tribal lands of his mother's people to recruit an army capable of revenging the insults of the Franj...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Dey Which Will Infamy!

During the shimmering heat of the afternoon siesta, three square-rigged masts appeared on the horizon to the northwest of the harbour of Bizercca. Flying the ensign of the Imperium, at peace both with the Porte and the Dey, the ships were regarded with but passing interest along the quays of the harbour. When the ships came within range of the batteries of the old Presidio at the end of the western jetty, still without rendering the customary salute to the Dey's standard, the commander of the Presidio was summoned to the western lookout.

Peering through his spyglass at the approaching squadron, the binbasi noted the ships were under battle sail, and ordered the guncrews of the Presidio to stand to arms. The guncrews, many of whom were themselves at siesta, moved with some lethargy to their posts, blinking with discomfort as they walked out onto the casemates struck by the afternoon sun like anvils.

Their languour was punctured, as by a knife, when the Imperial ships dropped anchor near the mouth of the harbour, presenting broadsides just over half a mile from the Presidio, and opened fire. Over one hundred eighteen and thirty-six pounders hurled fire and destruction towards the guns of the Presidio. The deliberate aim of the Imperial gunners was rewarded as the initial salvo crashed into the gun emplacements still only half-crewed. Two of the three 42-pounder emplacements in the Presidio were knocked out by the initial volley, and the lighter emplacements were thrown into confusion by the unexected attack. The Presidio guns returned fire, but the silencing of the heavy batteries swiftly made the fight untenable. After 20 minutes, four of the six 32-pounder batteries were out of service, and the binbasi dead attempting to direct fire from the surviving 42-pounders. Half an hour into the bombardment, a mishap or lucky hit from the bombardment resulted in a fire outside the main magazine, and a secondary explosion which sealed the magazine and finally silenced the other guns of the Presidio.

The Imperial squadron now weighed anchor, and sailed close up to the chain blocking entry into the harbour proper. The nearly two dozen shallow-drafting xebecs in harbour, covered by fire from the harbour gunboats, passed over the chain and attempted to close and board the attackers, but were driven off, with over half of the small vessels smashed into match-splinters by the guns of the Imperial ships of the line.

The harbour gunboats and bomb ketches attempted to return fire, but were unable to focus their fire effectively onto a single assailant, and were knocked out of action or silenced over the next hour. Now effectively unopposed, the Imperial squadron commenced bombarding the city proper for another two hours, setting fires along the waterfront and shrouding the entire city in a haze of gunsmoke. The two larger ships seemed to have focused their fire on the minarets of the Casbah, since most of the shots fell within a furlong of the towering minarets of the Ketchooup mosque, built by the legendary Babbarosa during the city's boom days of the 16th century. As night fell, the glow of the fires set about the Casbah cast an orange glow which guided continued Imperial fire until a series of salvoes from all three ships found their marks on the minarets and brought them down with a crash and plume of dust.

Evidently satisfied with this punctuation mark to their evening of destruction, the Imperial vessels ceased fire shortly thereafter and weighed anchor. Putting the harbour to their sterns, the ships made full sail and headed silently out to the night sea, leaving the glow of the city's fires in their wakes.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Journal Notes of Lady Codswallop

Emir Driss Khal-al-Waw is the twelfth Pashaw of Bizercca to hold the stile of "Dey," granted with a magnanimity on the part of the Turk exceed only by the incapacity of the Sublime Porte to do otherwise.

Nevertheless, real power was frequently in large part in the hands of the ocak, militias recruited in Anatolia, or in those of the Taifat-al-rais, a body of corsair captains who provided the state with its principal sources of income.
The dey holds absolute power, assisted by a divan composed of the Treasurer-General (khazinedar), the Chief of the Army (agha), the Minister of Marine (Wakil al kharj), the Procuror of the Chamber of Shipping (Bayt al malji) and the Collector of Tributes (Atkhodjan).

The Deylicate is divided into eight departementes, that of Dir al Sultan--, administered directly and composed of seven regions (watans) governed by Turkish kaids. The rest of the country consisted of three provinces (beyliks) each with a bey (named by the dey) in charge.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Notes upon the Divan of Driss Dey

[Ed. Note: The followng extracts are taken from the notes of Lady Belladonna Codswallop, touring the Mediterranean with her husband, lately ambassador from the Court of St. James to the Sublime Porte.]

"Soon after day-break I arrived at Bizercca, a town fairly built of very white stone, but quite without gardens, which, they say, were all destroyed when the Turks first took it, none having been planted since. The dry land gives a very disagreeable prospect to the eye; and the want of shade contributing to the natural heat of the climate, renders it so excessive, that I have much ado to support it. 'Tis true, here is, every noon, the refreshment of the sea-breeze, without which it would be impossible to live; but no fresh water but what is preserved in the cisterns of the rains that fall in the month of September. The women of the town go veiled from head to foot under a black crape, and being mixed with a breed of renegadoes, are said to be many of them fair and handsome.

"This city was besieged in 1270, by Lewis king of Gallia, who died under the walls of it, of a pestilential fever. After his death, Philip, his son, and our prince Edward, son of Henry III. raised the siege on honourable terms. It remained under its natural African kings, till betrayed into the hands of Barbarossa, admiral of Solyman the Magnificent. The emperor Charles V. expelled Barbarossa, but it was recovered by the Turk, under the conduct of Sinan Bassa, in the reign of Selim II.

"From that time till now, it has remained tributary to the grand signior, governed by the Dey, who suffers the name of subject to the Turk, but has renounced the subjection, being absolute, and very seldom paying any tribute. Subsidiary to the Dey are the courts of the various Barbary Princes: Monopoli, lord of the Gulf of Scidra and Monopolimania; Punis, near to the ruins of classical Cartage; and Orangiers, site of the famed kohl and gum bazaars of Mascara. In addition, one must consider in this constellation the self-styled Khalifa of Mooerisco, of the Iblisid dynasty, which, while no longer tributary of the Dey, vies often to extend its claims past Orangiers and to ply the same piratical trade in the surrounding seas..."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Dey of Bizercca

The Barbary Coast harbours all manner of pirate lords and scheming potentates, but among the most notorious of the commanders of raider fleets must stand Emir Driss Khal-al-Waw Dey, pretender to the fallen caliphate of Scandalusia and terror of the Sicilies, Sardinea, Corseta and the other isles of the western Mediterranean. From his impregnable home port of Bizercca, his corsairs sail throughout the Mediterranean and past the Straits of Gibraltar into the north Atlantic beyond.

Playing Gallia, Hispania, Britannia and the Sublime Porte itself against each other for his own ends, the Dey plots tirelessly to thwart the pretensions of his Barbary and Corsetan rivals, regain the lost throne of his family in Iberia and even, in his private moments in his seraglio, dreams of restoring the western Caliphate to the promise of its mediaeval glories.