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 Live...in 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.