The Czar of Borscht, en route to take command of His Grace Duke Zigor’s forces in Granprix, has been taken seriously ill on board the Borschtian flagship репа (pronounced rehba) with a very bad case of beetroot poisoning, which has also affected many of the troops on board the transports. Reports tell of the fleet reversing course and heading for home, with few men left standing to hose down the decks.
As a precaution, a five-mile exclusion zone has been placed around the Borschtian fleet and coastal towns have been warned of the approaching slick. There is particular concern for the small island off the ‘toe’ of Granprix, Illa de Dos Arbres and their annual endurance swimming contest, held jointly with Faltenian neighbours on Buchtinsel, which started today.
Environmental groups have complained about “…the reckless use of unripe beets” in Borschtian cooking which has led to the endangering of rare marine species. A spokesman for Borschtian Pickles issued a denial that they had anything to do with this incident. “Clearly,” he said, “Borschtian Pickles have made huge investments in training and equipment to prevent just such a tragedy. All our beets are boiled thoroughly and plunged into spiced vinegar at a temperature in excess of 95 degrees before bottling, so we don’t see how we could be held responsible for something which obviously has more to do with the wanton gluttony of the Czar and his troops.”
Quite apart from the risks to marine health, this crisis leaves Duke Zigor of Granprix casting around for new allies as the threat from neighbouring Grenouisse grows. The broadsheets and coffee houses are awash with reports that none other than the Duke of Braunschweig has arrived in Couervige to be briefed by King Raoul himself, so clearly, events are moving apace.
The latest rumour, though it can scarce be believed, is that in desparation, Duke Zigor has dispatched a fast ship to Aytonia, aiming to court none other than The Good Lord Peeler. For those that may not read the more scurrilous pamphlets, this gentleman has made his fortune hiring out substantial numbers of mercenaries, though it must be said that their performance has been, shall we say, ‘variable’ in the extreme. He is often surrounded by gangs of thugs, hoodlums and ‘downreet strange folk’. Those who speak out against him have been known to disappear for good.
If the fate of fair Granprix is given into the hands of this man, then this reporter fears for the future of the world’s playground for playboys.