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G-Tech Corporation
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Democratic Socialists

Postby G-Tech Corporation » Wed Jan 20, 2021 1:05 pm

Part 5, Chapter 23: Tyrian Purple

September 15th, 30 AG

Varian frowned to himself as he inspected the latest augur’s report from Constanta. The omens were not good for the winter’s sailing season. Such men were not always right - aye, there were some in the community of men who plied the waters of the Wine-Dark Sea who said they were never right - but ignoring the omens was not something Varian was personally comfortable with.

“Finest bowls, pewterwork that will last a dozen winters without fading, a beautiful gift for your beautiful wife! Cloth, as fine as the hair of the gods, only three silver to a cubit, you won’t believe the prices my captain told me to ask for!”

Down below the beached prow of the Almaster, the Herdazian plied his trade with lungs that the navigator envied. His own crew were good enough, but men taken on from foreign ports expected the Moravian man to bellow like some deranged cockerel to get anything done, and the wallowing bulk of the knarr was simply too formidable to make do with the personal command that men utilized on smaller vessels. Varian’s throat was already somewhat raw from nearly two months under sail from the Gates of the Bosphorous, and dealing with the men they had taken on in southern Asia Minor had worked it rawer still.

The thought jarring his memory, the flaxen-haired sailor took a swig from the jug at his side, gargling the vile mixture of fluid before spitting it quickly over the side of the ship. The medicae from Singidun swore by a concoction of one part in ten pure salt for an inflammation of the throat, but it felt like nothing so much as gargling with razors, in the Imperial man’s learned opinion.

Not that he had ever gargled with razors. Obviously. But if one did gargle with razors, his imagination didn’t think it would be far removed from the saltwater remedy.

Still, you could only complain so much. The trade port here, on what the blocky map in his cabin insisted was the “Levant”, named Ushu by the locals, was bustling with men from near and far. Her port, though modest by his standards, also carried a multitude of little merchant ships, each festooned with paint, flags, and banners of many of the various municipalities and little kingdoms that called this coastline home. It was, functionally, exactly where one wanted to unload a panoply of goods. The Herdazian had certainly done a brisk trade with both swarthy Sumerian traders and the locals, their piles of woven flax and clean bleached wool-cloth disappearing at an alacritous rate, and even the more curious items he had been getting a good price for.

That was just chump change though. The captain was looking forward to the evening auction, when several interested parties had been invited to board the Almaster and look over her main cargo. There were even some strange men with burnt skins and hair like obsidian out of the far Desert of Afric who had expressed interest in the weapons-hoard which the ship had carried all the way from the forges of Singidun.

Muammar al-Ghaim was a slightly older gentleman from the fishing jetties of Yanbu. He’d made his life on the sea: first pulling in the catch when his family relied on it to eat. When he was a young man he can remember being an oarsman on the short trips just across the sea, carrying ivory and spice in his hull. Yet the more experience he got, the more the craftsmen and trades began to suggest him to be the captain of a voyage. He’d learned to tell the wind, when to row hard up and over a wave, and when to retract the oars. His first time at the head came when he was in his fifties, a time which saw most men safe at home with his many sons and daughters helping to make a living in their trade. Yet his was not the life for him, and thus he was given the contract stamped with five family’s seals, to transport their goods to market, and return with valuable goods as profit. For years now a great deal of copper and tin flowed south from the cities of the northern ocean, the great blue water which seemed to stretch ever-past the dusty shores, carrying stories of great empires, strange gods, monsters, and the most horrible of weather. Fish-people and their scaly kings, rivers which ran red and not blue- mountains not brown but of pure white from bottom to top, ever covered with this mantle. Naturally, the trip had been made several times, the tribes both local and farther south and east needed blades and tools and trinkets to maintain the ever-growing industry and warfare which energized the region. Thus it was that the winds of heaven and sweat of the oarsmen carried him northward.

They licked the foam for just a few short days and nights before landing in the tight bay of rocks where a village, once impoverished, now rather alive with the land-sea trade needed to exchange transport. They pulled their light-ships ashore and placed a watch with many of their oarsmen crew for the weeks they’d be gone. A small huddle of tents was pitched for those left behind, and local camels brought to carry their wares overland. They’d resell the camels for a small loss once they returned, but it was predictably little enough to justify it to his clients even still. They tossed sacks of charred-black beans, muddled-white salt, horns of ivory, and provisions over the humped-backs of the black and red camels, their shaggy fur encrusted with dirt and sand from many a storm. They buried their gold and silver items inside bags of flour for safekeeping, and thus continued their journey again as it had been, farther northward with the stars as their guide.

They arrived in the large coastal trading village at the same point a small caravan of Sumerians did, carrying cloth and the like. A fortunate occurrence, to be sure, as the back-headed members of Muammar’s crew called out greetings to them, before making their camp just outside. Their dear captain, with a few burly men to protect him, left in a hurry into the town - excited to orchestrate his first new deal. He had spent what felt like hours within the market, looking over the varying men carrying copper and precious tin from across the sea - obviously charging several hands and feet for even a single plate of each. Yet it was mentioned to him by a local that the strange northmen which were docked brought metal much finer and more quality than anything the others were charging, and he thought he investigated farther before making his mind to simply purchase more bronze as planned....

The Sumerians were a sight to see in the coastal village and many gave them a wide berth. This became more of a common sight due to the, Imperial influence being spread throughout the Levant in the past five years. Many of the independent trading cities had seen their influence make a mark when Uruk came to conquer a large swath of the eastern lands. Claiming them in their name of their patron god before their rival took them down and continued to hound them.

The Sumerians, Uruk or Ur, were known as the biggest traders and warmongers in Mesopotamia. It was them who warred with themselves over beliefs, rivalries,and glory for two entire generations before they took most of the southern parts for themselves. The cities who harbored tidings of resistance also saw the rise of the Egyptians and the Nestosians in their lands, seeking land and trade all the same.

Throughout the east and flowing into the center, Sumerians brought with them the glory of their universalism. The continued spread of technology and industry without the need of slaves, despite some still taking part in the practice. It was the same as they brought their idols and proclamations of the Holy Dynasty, of the superiority of Sumerian rule among all things. Yet for a people who have entrench their loyalty among their Queen-Empress, they are still a nation of traders.

Even as they send their many envoys and waves up north and west into the tribal lands of Ankara and the trading cities of the Levant, they still must have trade. For the hubris of the masters of the Twin Rivers, they have nothing else but trade. The Sumerians must exploit this resource for the good of their empire, of their people. Lest they stagnate and die.

Such was the idea of the Merchant Fam’ur and his envoys. His people made their way to Ushu to connect with the various countries beyond the sea. The stories of war between the Nestosian scholars, the Single Market, and the Men of Iron were all that many merchants have been telling during his long-distance travels beyond the new frontiers of what is now called Sumeria. Outside of the Prosperous South where wheat flowed like a golden sea and industry filled the sky with black smoke.

He grabbed his idol, his aspect of the Seven which dealt with diplomacy, in a silent prayer. He did this every time he engaged with one of the heathen traders as a means of protecting his soul from their religious talks. The Nestosian scholars and their many sects had been growing in number in the region over the years, along with ziggurats devoted to the Light but then these people from beyond. These...Imperials as they called themselves and their one god.

It was a strange thing, to unite in only a single vow and that’s all. However some of the stories that came from that strange land, the Imperium, said that there was much more than just churches. They were powered by the things the Nestosians talked about and the Sumerians were building, factories of large power, weapons of thunder. The horde of men in iron.

Such things intrigue merchants like Fam’ur and make his long-distance travels all the more profitable. To know the information of the known world and connect trade throughout was a merchant’s dream. At least on top of getting rich.

While he was trying to procure bronze and new stocks of iron to sell back to the industrious cities of the Prosperous South he saw traders from Arabia. It wasn’t entirely strange to see them but most of the lands had nomadic tribes that would trade between the various trading states and kingdoms between Sumeria and the confederation.

He went up to the leader and waved.

“Ho fine travelers! What brings people of the confederation so far out north?”

Muammar looked over his shoulder at the black-head which called out to him. The Sumerian’s dusty robes, much like his own, gave away this man must have traveled here sometime recently, possibly the same day he did, or perhaps a few before. He raised a hand of greeting to the man, turning away from the stall he was perusing, looking between differing-patterned rugs of blue, yellow, orange, and red. He scratched his salt-and-pepper beard, before giving the man a toothy grin. The Sumerian would immediately notice the strange mix of culture which was unmistakably characteristic of the coastal Arab towns. He wore a long, very loose white woolen robe down to his knees, overwhich a thick leather belt kept it cinched to his waist. The sleeves were sewn with geometric patterns of red and blue. He wore his hair long and braided, with a long red-and-white-striped cloth hanging from his head and secured with a braided cord wrapped around his forehead. Around his neck was something perhaps unmistakable however. A small back tablet hung around his neck, secured with leather cord. Upon with was the carving of a very familiar man - smiling with a long beard and cone-like crown. Though the lettering below it became hard to see, it was in fact in Sumerian script that, as the man approached, he could make out what it said. “Enki- Lord of Earth.”

“Peace be upon you, friend.” He stated with slight friendliness in his words, slight because he still was apprehensive in his expression. “I make the trip with Hubal’s grace in the name of my patrons, Abu Fidah, Umm Amal, and others - to trade their wares in exchange for others, and hopefully earn their happiness in the process. We’ve made the trip in-person and by-proxy a few times now, though I have never commanded it, which is perhaps why I look so odd here. Copper and in are brought through here in sheets and items, and fine metals are always needed to arm the warbands and make the plows of fields. With times as they are, I have no doubt my patrons will be pleased to see the products I am told are here… perhaps they will give their sons spears of this foreign metal to fight bandits, or maybe to defend their homes should the Axumite-God declare war on Yanbu. Yet, what brings you so far from the twin rivers, brother? Surely you had to cross the desert to reach here, unlike the boats with which you travel around the coast and reach my home. “

The man shrugged, his robes moving about his skinny but wiry frame. “The light of trade draws many men to many shores. The roads from mighty Ur are not so perilous as they once were, and the oases between here and there are many. If a man finds a strange thing in a strange land, why, that merely makes it more valuable. For instance, we have heard tell of men from the frozen north, where water falls from the sky like stones and men pile it into idols that walk, who bring weapons to sell. They boast of spears that may cut leather like a calf’s new skin, and bows that sing. These wonders I will see, and perhaps buy, and perhaps men of the Empire will pay yet more for them, ha!”

Muammar raised his eyebrow, curious at such a statement. The Northmen were always an ephemeral concept to him. The Axumites said they got their god from them, but always in abstracts, most of them living and dying never seeing the strange men. The concept of their concrete existence, alongside actually meeting one was an opportunity he would not miss, and if what he said was true… it would be far better a deal than mere sheets of copper and tin. He nods, frowning slightly as he thinks it over. “Yes… If I don’t beat you to them I suppose, heh. Did you say where they would be? I’d certainly care to examine their wares, for curiosity sake if nothing else.”

“Hmm,” Fam’ur combing his beard with his fingers thinking.” They usually come through the docks of the village. They come in ships not too unlike what you see in the Golden Gulf. But that’s what I heard from others in my travels. However I know that the wares of the Northmen are mysterious and always worth looking at friends.”

It was later that night when the men began to arrive, and Varian ordered the braziers lit. Most of his crew was turned out, cluttering the sands alongside the knarr with their recently-washed bodies and aura of salt, more for security than anything else. Not that the lads objected to the opportunity to stretch their legs. It had taken a fair bit of wrangling, but the captain had managed to secure two large tents, which kept out the sea chill of evening once fires had been lit within and pillows piled for conversation.

A variety of men had begun arriving once the smells of roasting goat and thick soups began to fill the air. Some were men out of Egypt, their eyes lined with thick kohl, their gaze eager but scurrilous, unwilling to meet anyone’s gaze, as was their custom. Others were sunburnt savages out of the western deserts, threadbare clothing and worn sandals betraying a long journey, but their gold would spend as well as any, and so they too were welcome.

For several minutes Varian just allowed the Herdazian to work the crowd, schmoozing and laughing merrily with the guests. Most of them got by in thick accented Kasar, the language of the Nile Delta, but Varian wouldn’t have cared to try and speak it. To his ears it sounded like so much wine being poured quickly out of jugs, glug-glug-glug. At a few intervals the merchant glanced over at his employer, but Varian waved him off. He was still expecting other parties, and was unwilling to begin the display before they arrived.

Muammar approached the craft and her landed crew, curious. He pushed through the small crowd, frowning slightly as he cast a quick glance at the multi-national crew and their small camp. “So these are the mighty northmen…” He thought to himself, looking them up and down. “Or atleast - the tall, lighter ones are. Other’s are relatively normal, but it is what they say… they do look strange.” He looked among them for the one which looked perhaps most incharge, seeing Varion’s commanding gestures as evidence of his note. Egyptian was the language of trade here - that or Sumerian. He could only assume they spoke the former, as that tended to be what those who came on boats he’d met spoke, that and the occasional Axumite, but they were easy to spot. “Good evening.” He said shortly in his gruff, differently yet just as thickly accented voice. “You are the men from across the white sea?”

A man stood forward, a trader from the southlands, and spoke quickly in accented Kasar. The northerner merely smiled and nodded, before reciting a carefully practiced phrase.

“I greet you, but do not speak this tongue.” Then he turned, and shouted something in a staccato voice which had a lilt of Anglic in the speech. The Herdazian quickly disengaged himself, and glided lightly over to where the Arab trader stood near to his master. The unctuous man of tan skin bowed a fraction, then politely requested that the man repeat himself, which Muammar deigned to do. After the Herdazian had translated what was said, the captain nodded dramatically, emphasizing his actions. These southerners seemed more given to display than his own people, and suspicious of those who did not emote openly after their fashion.

The Herdazian translated.

“I am Varian, captain of the Almaster, the ship you see before you. I have the honor to be a landed citizen of the Imperium of Man, which lies far north of here, aye.”

The old arab cracked a grin, nodding along to the translation. He envisioned the barbaric and strange land that must produce such a kind of man. One which turned the man’s skin white, just as age turned his beard. “Greetings to you then, Varian. You will have to tell your friend to explain to me what that word… citizen means. I’m afraid I do not know if to treat you like a sheikh or a slave.” He pauses for a moment, looking over the Northman’s shoulder. “Your craft is quite impressive - much longer and wider than the fishing boats we see around our homeland, to be sure!” He chuckled a bit, leaning to the side to look at the foreign ship up and down with his… less than stellar vision.

The Herdazian scratched at his chin, chewing on the words of Muammar from the south. Truth be told the word he had used for ‘citizen’ denoted a freeman of Egypt, a shareholder who did not owe tithes to his lord, but further conversation with the captain showed that the man from Europa was dissatisfied with the translation too. They talked in the quick-firing language of the north for about a minute, then the Herdazian turned back to the Arab, bowing once more, more deeply this time.

“It is a difficult thing to express, truly. The captain says to be a citizen is to bear the full rights of a man of the Imperium, the right to trade, to marry, to walk free under the sun, but also to be charged with the defense of others who have taken the same position, and to be beholden to the good of all those other peoples. He speaks of oaths he has taken which bind him to treat those under him as his children, and those over him as his father, to extend the right of filial piety to the others in a long chain to the Emperor himself. As he serves, so he is served by others, so every man knows his place and both what he is owed as well as what is expected of him.”

Varian watched the display, nodding at the rise and fall in the translator’s voice patterns. He then spoke for several moments more, which the Herdazian faithfully repeated.

“As for my vessel, she is my pride and joy. I am sure the ships of your homeland are fair vessels, designed for their purposes - but my pretty lady must ply stormy seas with no hope of a friendly port or convenient anchorage, and so she must be sturdy and fell-handed, to survive whatever Our Father sends to test us.”

Muammar listens to the man’s words intensely, nodding along as the man announces his oaths. “You must be an honorable man if you can make so many promises with a single word, Varian. I trust then your wares are fine and free of trickery?”

The captain smiled broadly as the words were translated. “There is no trickery to what I bear, Master Muammar. Indeed, even if I were a man to seek such things - ah, you shall see. What I have brought for trade are honest goods, such that even a charlatan could not falsify them.” He nodded again, almost to himself, then gestured broadly.

“Actually, you recall me to my duties. If you would excuse me, good master, I would not have men spend all night only drinking my best wine and eating my best food without at least trying to sell them something.”

There was a joke in his voice, but at the same time it was apparent that it was only half of a jest - a merchant who does not ply his wares, after all, is a poor merchant.

The arab man nodded, his smile fading as he looked over his shoulder for somewhere to sit. He found a group of men citting in a circle off to the side - an eclectic group of three men from the south and two sailors of the north. He nodded, raising his hand to say goodbye to Varian, and left to join them. He smiled, giving his greetings as he sat down in a free stool, and began to listen and kill the time hearing of the happenings of their travels...

As the Arab departed, Varian caught the eyes of some of his men standing at the rear of the tent. They slipped out the back, and with a flourish of cloth the Herdazian stood forward, hopping up on a low dais of cut timber ends which the men had crudely fashioned at one end of the feasting pavilion.

“Friends! Countrymen! Honored guests!” Eyes lined with kohl, eyes dark from Sumer, eyes bright with summer seas - all turned to watch the little peacock of a man strut up and down the makeshift stage.

“We thank you - my master thanks you - for coming. His wares, rare and exotic, are not for just any man to see, let alone buy. He values your time as much as you do, no doubt, and now that you are refreshed with cakes and wine from your long journeys, he would delay no longer. For your perusal - the treasures of the North!”

From behind the Herdazian men came forward now, arms laden with goods too expensive or costly to be simply displayed in the market of Ushu. They bore cloaks, of cunning make with seams so small they appeared to not even exist, cut with clever embroidery in resplendent silver, or rich gold and bronze thread. They had tunics, dyed in brilliant red, and deep sea-blue, hues so vibrant that those unaccustomed to them saw the crimson of blood and the azure sky as if reflected in their own mind’s eye. This display went on for some time - mainly fine clothes, of excellent and propitious weave, but then ended abruptly - with no bids asked for. The Herdazian leapt up again, and waved widely with both hands.

“But that is just a sampling of what the men of the North bring. You are men of taste, men who understand the value of power, not mere luxury. See now, the true wealth of the Wine-Dark Sea.”

Men in gray tunics, nearly invisible in the gathering dark, pulled back one side of the pavilion, pinning it back. Beyond the tent in the sand torches had been placed at close intervals, throwing a part of the beach into stark relief with overlapping pillars of fire. Men stood there now, bearing gleaming spears and curved bows, and they all bowed low in unison once the eyes of the guests were judged accustomed to the dark.

Then the exhibition began. Some men shot at targets with the heavy bows of curious shape, their arrows penetrating deep into the straw dummies with thrumming songs of horsehair and bone. Others sparred in exaggerated motion with the glistening iron spears, while two men demonstrated to some of the guests who had risen from their seats how deeply these spears would penetrate through even thick leather armor, and showed how even blows against sturdy timber or stone barely notched their blades. |

Muammar gazed upon these happenings with intrigued eyes. The white metal they tipped their spears with was certainly a fascinating subject. He had traded in tin for the making of bronze before - he knew it couldn’t be used like this. This metal - whatever combination of ingredients was cooked into it, was unique. He scratched his beard as he watched the demonstration, as one man stabbed his spear into a sheet of leather, piercing it finely. He walked up to the man, asking if he could feel how deep the cut went. Being allowed forward, he carefully prodded the hole, seeing how clean a mark it made. He nodded to the man, and stepped back, considering what he had seen. The metal of the spear certainly aided in its ability to pierce armor - but was the same true for the bows their carried? Perhaps it was the metal-tipped arrows they launched into their targets, or perhaps it was the strength of the wood they made it with… all questions for craftsmen he knew not personally. And yet - he was certain that these were fine goods… quality ones, and ones which would impress his benefactors. And yet - how many could he purchase, should he wish to? Would such a trade really impress those whose goods he carried? Surely they may not hire him again if they would be displeased, to see he had exchanged their produce and crafts for weapons of war. And yet… conflict always seemed on the horizon. Perhaps they would benefit from such an advantage these strange ways offered. Either way, it would be a risk on his credibility for an opportunity to make a name for himself.

After a few minutes, as those who were interested had come forward to inspect the wares and the stream of their fellows began to dwindle, the Herdazian opened the bidding. The first goods on offer were the bundles of expensive cloth and the fine-quality clothing. Several of the Egyptians expressed interest, and some Sumerians as well - men obviously representing clients with luxurious tastes from richer houses. The price started very low for such goods, and there were nearly two dozen lots of clothing to be sold of various makes and color. They moved quickly, and even some of them were purchased by locals from Ushu. Exactly the type of goods that could be resold at a fine profit, Varian used them to whet the appetites of the merchants, to get them in a bidding mood.

Then came the weapons. First up were a lot of the singing bows, which the northerners called in a strange word, ‘composite’. The Herdazian sang out a brief spiel about their range, their power, the many formidable beasts - lions, tigers, bears! - that they could down with a shot. Then the floor quieted for a moment.

“Two tusks of ivory for the twenty.”

A man from Kush, skin as black as midnight, opened the bidding. A rare good, the bones of the great southern beasts. The Herdazian capered and clapped his hands. Such things would fetch a good price for his masters back in Europa.

Muammar raised his hand, barking up at the men: “I’ll give two tusks of Ivory and an ell of wool-yarn!”

One of the Sumerians spoke, brash voice carrying from the rear of the tent. “Six ells of wool, and one ell of silk.”

Varian pursed his lips, then shook his head at the Herdazian. Wool was valuable, but not so valuable that he would turn down ivory. The amount of tusks of great beasts that had come north was very low, and their closest equivalent those of the blubber-beasts of distant Nordlund who were hunted at great effort only. They would command far more than mere wool.

The Herdazian spoke. “Two tusks of ivory and an ell of wool-yarn from the Master Muammar.”

A grumble came from the Sumerian. The man from Kush eyed Muammar, then spoke once more.

“Two tusks of ivory, and a bushel of coffee, unground.”

The arab raised his eyebrows at the man. He did not know the men of Kush cultivated the plant in such high numbers as the mountain villages of his homeland. He frowned, before saying: “Two tusks, an ell of wool-yarn, and a half-bushel of coffee.”

The man with midnight skin threw up his hands in disgruntlement. After nearly a minute with no further bids, the Herdazian nodded, and announced the lot had been sold. This set the tone for the rest of the auction. The Egyptians paid high prices for composite bows, and their enemies, the men from the Western Desert, paid much in gold flakes for the keen spears. That was, Varian concluded, probably a result of their war - he had heard rumors of skirmishes coming down the coast from Asia Minor, and this was proof of that conjecture. A curious thing which, no doubt, the Emperor’s Eyes would be interested in knowing of.

As midnight neared the final lot was sold, a crate heavy with iron spearheads and packed with oilcloth and sand to hold away the damp. The captain’s men carried ivory, karaf, cloth, silk, exotic skins, and even some spices aboard the ship, packing them into wax-sealed barrels and chests for transport back north. The Levant and Ushu, it seemed, were good places to trade for a man out of Varna.
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Democratic Socialists

Postby Suriyanakhon » Wed Jan 20, 2021 3:02 pm

Holly Long

Chapter Three: နတ်

Village Outskirts

“What is that strange ritual that you perform every random day?” Phyu Lat asked, taking me by surprise while we were gathering firewood outside of the village. The entire village had been stockpiling resources in preparation for the monsoon season, the rainy season being both a blessing and a curse for the life bringing force it brought while posing a danger at the same time. “And who is the nat you perform it to?”

I thought for a few moments how to respond, but something about Phyu Lat seemed eagerly impatient to learn and I quickly delivered the best explanation that I knew how. “Vipassana,” I replied. “We visualize on an object, or lack of, and achieve a state of tranquility. There's no nat who we perform it toward.”

She was silent for a few moments like she was chewing through my words, it was a weird trait that she had which reminded me somewhat of a cow (although I would never say that, assuming she knew or learnt what a cow was). I thought back to when I first started practicing meditation. Before I transitioned, I often visualized what I wanted to look like and would concentrate on that mental image in my meditation. It was a small relief from dysphoria, however temporary.

“Do you not worship the nats?” Phyu Lat asked.

I wanted to choose my words carefully, but her sincerity made me doubt that she would become angry at me. For some reason, Phyu Lat seemed like she would tolerate almost anything I said. “I would like to believe in them, as a child I used to hear stories about them. But I don’t know if they exist” I replied, thinking back to the worship of devas such as Ganesh, Brahma, and Indra in Thailand. I certainly didn’t dislike them or view them negatively, there was even something about their worship which attracted me. Part of me was comforted by the idea of their protection, while another part of me was afraid of a personal god infringing on my spiritual solitude.

Again, Phyu Lat seemed like she chewed my words before she replied. “I am not allowed to mention my reservations to the village. I wouldn’t want to disappoint the chieftain – I mean – my father. But I myself also have doubts about the existence of the snake god. He is supposed to be my husband, but I never see him. And I doubt he would want a wife such as me, considering - ” she trailed off as though she was thinking about something.

“If it makes you feel better, I feel like anyone would be lucky to have you as a wife, god or not.” I blurted out before realizing what I said. She blushed crimson red and went back to gathering wood quickly. My face had also grown red and we continued to gather wood for the rest of the day.


I watched from the small thatched window of the hut as the procession of the chief, who I assumed to be his sons, and the rest of the hunting band returned to the village with their gains. The hunters had brought back quite a few boars and deer. Hlaing had raced to watch her father come home, while Phyu Lat seemed apathetic and strung her instrument as though nothing had changed.

I didn't want them to see me, not yet, the fear about being exiled or worse from the village was now weighing down on me. But I couldn't help want to talk to Phyu Lat and I walked over to where she was. She smiled quite cheerfully. “Hello Holly, did you come to see me?”

“How could you tell?”

“You smell different from the rest of the village,” she replied. “It's quite pleasant.” I blushed and said nothing, the two of us just sat and toyed with the harp while everyone else celebrated the joyful bounty of meat.
Liblefter & Theravada Buddhist
dO yOu LiStEn tO gIrL iN rEd
Johann von Goethe wrote:The God-head is effective in the living and not in the dead, in the becoming and the changing, not in the become and the set-fast; and therefore, similarly the intuition is concerned only to strive towards the divine through the becoming and the living, and logic only to make use of the become and the set-fast.
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Authoritarian Democracy

Postby Joohan » Wed Jan 20, 2021 5:51 pm

Sleep Walking and The Naked Gun

Before I opened my eyes, I felt the cold breeze tingle as it passed over my body - at first only a chill, but then I awoke with a shiver. My eye's snapped open, adrenaline rushing to all my extremities at once and eliminating any memory of sleep I might have had otherwise. In less than a second, I had shot up off of my back and was up on my feet. My posture was crouched, hands held ready by my sides, my head swiveling all about as my eye's adjusted to harsh pale light. Danger, my mind whirred furiously, instincts having kicked my body into immediate survival mode. My heart was pumping hard and fast, my chest felt hot, and my ear's were perked up for the slightest sounds of movement.

I was alone, though, a feeling that was comforting, and simultaneously, deeply worrying. Once my eyes had finally come into focus, I could see the ugly little brown pit I had fallen into. Though I was starkly aware of how naked I was, on account of the cold air quite freely coursing through my nether regions, it was hardly my top concern for the moment. As the reptillian brain slowly gave way to reason once more, I turned to looked behind me, to see for any signs of danger, before beginning to slowly make a full circle in assessing my surroundings. On either side of me were two considerably steep hills, covered in dry brown grass. A sudden cold numbness pressing against my foot alerted me to a small patch of snow that resided on the ground next to me. The breeze, funneled in between the hills, caressed gently across the hairs on my neck, sending yet another shiver down my spine. My first thought wasn't, Where, but rather: What's going on?

As I slowly eased out of my fighting stance, my mind replayed the last memories I could recall,

" surely, you can't be serious? "
" I am serious... and don't call me Shirly. "

Naked Gun, I was curled up in a blanket, sitting in front of my computer, trying to stay awake through the movie. I hadn't set my alarm for work the next morning yet, and I knew that if I dozed off I would be late - for some reason, I always found it easier to fall asleep when I knew that I was putting off important work. What the hell had happened? I looked up to the sky, trying to spot the sun, in order to divine what time of day it might be, only to be met with a patchy white overcast. No luck from down here, the hills preventing me from seeing either horizon. I need to see where the hell I am. Turning towards the hill to my left, I began doing mental math in my head, trying to divine how hard I had to run up the side before I could manage my way up to the top. Satisfied with my own numbers, I made a short chopping sprint before sticking my right foot into the side of the hill, and pushing off hard, sending me in short bursts upward. It wasn't as steep as I had imagined it at the bottom, but it was taller than I'd thought. It took me around thirty seconds of hard and continuous bursts before I had finally reached the peak. Immediately, I was taken aback by a torrent of ice cold wind washing over my naked body, nearly sending me tumbling back down the hill. My eyes teared at the cold lash, forcing me to bring my hands up to my face. Even up here, out of the ravine, I couldn't feel the sun's warmth.

As the torrent subsided, and I was finally given a moment of respite, I lowered my hands, allowing me to look upon my surroundings. My mouth hung open, and lacking for any possible explanation, my mind could only find one conclusion for what it saw - the mesquite trees of Texas were nowhere to be seen; flat lands, punctuated by the occasional plateau, now gave way to rolling endless hills, and far off blue mountains. The natural yellow hew to Texas in winter had been doused in a shade of brown, and there wasn't a farmhouse in sight.

I'm dreaming, I thought to myself, letting the panic slip from my mind. It's as simple as that.


You often hear people romanticize the idea of walking bare foot through the grass, how soft the blades feel against their skin, how freeing it is. I don't know if those people have ever actually walked through grass barefoot before, or maybe we're just used to two different kinds of grass - in my experience, grass, especially dry grass, is fucking sharp. During the first hour of walking, I was able to lie to myself, tell myself that I would lose feeling in my souls eventually, and that the pain of walking would go away. I don't know how many hours in total I had walked, but i'd pretty much given up on that fantasy by evening - the pain did not go away ( if anything, it seemed like the only thing that would stay ). I longed, yearned to sit down and relieve my aching feet, but I couldn't stop moving for long. Even down in the ravines, where I was mostly protected from the worst of the winds, It was still something like thirty degrees outside. In the back of my mind, I, knew, that I had to wake up eventually - until that happened, I would try not to needlessly suffer out here, in the wastes and dunes of my dreams. The trick to staying warm in cold climates wasn't to huddle up for warmth, quite the contrary, you had to move around. Many a miserable day in the field, or out on mission had taught me that stagnation in Winter meant death.

I wasn't really hungry, I was too cold for that - a lucky thing in hindsight, as there clearly was nothing round to eat ( save perhaps for the grass ). From the moment I began my aimless trek, till sundown, I only ever saw fleeting glimpses of life beyond the miserable shrubbery that surrounded me: What looked a rabbit darting away in the corner of my eye, or the glimpse of some gray bird pecking away into a snow patch. There were signs of larger life present though, an indication of potential human presence ( I deluded myself ). Bits of long fibrous fur caught on the brambles of some scraggly bush, deep hoof prints inlaid into a patch of snow, and dung heaps accumulated at the bottom of ravines, all acted as my guideons for my made up trail towards humanity ( and a potential way out of this nightmare ). Maybe I was dehydrated? I didn't feel like it at the time.

My worries began to grow as the sun fell below the horizon, and still i'd seen no sign of human life. I could feel the temperature dropping with every second, my shivers growing more violent by the minute. As the sun fell below the hills, and only the feintest orange was left to illuminate the skies, I was left to wander the hills blind. Even as hyperthermia began to creep in, I didn't allow myself to dwell on my dire state - I couldn't afford to.

" Just the two of us... "

My words, whispered in between footsteps up snow covered hills, were carried away by the ever present howl of the breeze. I sang, hummed, talked to myself, anything to get my mind off this misery.

" We can... make it if we try... "

As my feet crest the top of yet another hill, seemingly the thousandth one that day, I stole a mournful glance up from the ground, to try and peer anything from the dark.

" Just the two of us... you and... I? "

I paused there, at the top of the hill, my eye's focusing intently upon what I thought I had just seen off in the distance. For a moment, I had sworn that I'd just saw a yellow glow flicker in the darkness - but as I looked out again, more intently, only blackness and the faint gray outline of hills could be discerned. Even still, I starred desperately into that inky abyss, hoping beyond all reason that what I had saw was not merely some exhausted illusion, that salvation might not be a fantasy after all. I stood atop that hill for a long while, my frozen body swaying with the cold winds, hardly a sound uttering from lips, and not once blinking.

Then, I saw it! It was only for a moment, and then the light was snuffed out suddenly, but only some four hundred meters away, I saw the glorious glow of firelight! My chest began heaving with exhausted delight, and the most pitiful grin started spreading across my face. Saved, I was saved! I started down the hill at the fastest pace I could manage, stumbling from exhaustion, and now pressed hard by my sudden awareness of just how painfully numb my body had become since nightfall. I don't remember the trek over the hills towards where I had seen the light, every step a blur to me, right up until I slammed hard into something warm and soft, that nearly through me to the ground. I heard a grunt, and the shuffling of something very large in front of me - in fact, all around me! I could feel the subtle thumping vibrations, of what I could only assume to be hooves beating upon the ground. For what I lacked in sight, the breeze ensured I could make up for in smell. I could smell the fermented stench of cud, the musk of some great hairy beasts around me, and something like a putrid burning smell being wafted through the air. I followed the burning smell through the dark, reaching out my hands to try and part the unknown shaggy beasts that stood in front of me. I must, I had, to find the fire! My life depended on it. I held my nose aloft, trying to waft in as much of the scent as I possibly could; my mouth vainly tried to taste the air, in aid of my nose. I could smell it all around me, but i just couldn't pin down exactly where, where it could be!

It was just as the panic began to boil over inside of me, the fear I might once again be lost in the frozen dark, that my hands grasped onto something furry - no, someone! I immediately understood this thing to not be an animal, as it was much smaller than whatever it was that I had ran into, and soon it began calling out to me - or perhaps crying for help?

" Please... help me! " I was barely able to get the words out of my mouth, slurring them together in what I could only hope was a comprehensible sentence. In response, I felt a foot firmly plant itself in my gut, sending me to the ground doubled over in pain. What escaped my mouth could be called little more than a gasp, but even still, I called out for help.

" Help... Help... please... "

The lights round my eyes began to fade, I felt the numbness of before begin slowly turning warmer and warmer, as my mind grew foggier. As I felt something thrown over me, finally, I thought - Now, I am waking up from this nightmare.
If you need a witness look to yourself

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Left-Leaning College State

Postby UniversalCommons » Sat Jan 23, 2021 6:23 am

November 20, 30 AG

Napa Harbor, Cyprus (Stronghold of the Great Bull)

Zigan came to the harbor of Napa. He had heard there was safety for slaves who had run away. Many slaves had been welcomed to Napa. They came barefoot and branded to the port. There was food and a sense of safety there.

He had not eaten for three days, except for some dried fish he had taken while he had escaped. He was standing in a line waiting for some bread, fish, olives, a new tunic, and some sandals. There was a price for these things. He would have to talk to one of the sorcerers in their black robes. But, that was better than hunger.

When he came to the front of the line, he was handed a clay bowl with some olives, fish, and bread, and cup with watery wine. He shook slightly when he sat down and ate the olives, fish, and bread. When he was finished he was led into a round building.

There was a man in a black robe with embroidered red and gold tools on the edges. Standing next to him were two warriors in green and brown armor with spears. The man motioned for him to sit down on a stool.

Zigan sat down on the padded stool. He sighed. It was a luxury. He was used to hard stone benches and woven mats to sleep on.

Scholar Nico, “Tell me about yourself. I am Scholar Nico. You must know something of the Kraken.”

Zigan, “I am Zigan, a fisherman from Al Mina. I was bringing in the catch when a Kraken ship captured me six years ago. I was taken as a slave first to work on the boats, then made a fieldhand to grow their crops.”

Scholar Nico, “How do you come to be here.”

Zigan, “Many of us heard about the attack on the harbor, Limnasol, and saw the damage. Quite a few of us fled into the wilderness. We were worried that the followers of the Great Bull would kill all of us as they killed the Kraken in this harbor. I fled my captors when I heard that there was bread and freedom at Napa.” Zigan's hand tense and he looks at the floor. He is shaking.

Scholar Nico, “There must be something more to your story. I hear the anger in your voice.”

Zigan sighs, “I was a slave to the overseer Kusu who was also a slave. May Kusu be stung by wasps for all eternity. May he go blind, have his tongue shrivel up, and lose his private parts.”

Scholar Nico, “What we want to know is about the Kraken warriors, how many of them are there, how to get into the fortress of Limnasol, where do they keep their supplies. Can you tell me these things.”

Zigan, “I can tell you how to get into the harbor of Larnaca, I went to the end of the peer there and dove into the water and swam east past some rocks. There is a small place where you can rest if you swim for a short distance. From there I swam a little further until I reached a beach.”

Scholar Nico, “You can swim. How did you learn to swim.”

Zigan, “ Swimming was a way to make extra wealth. We would dive for shells and red coral. The traders at Al Mina liked the red coral. I fished and dove for shells and coral. I did not let the Kraken know I could swim. They never asked.”

Scholar Nico, “Excellent. Can you tell us of the Kraken warriors.”

Zigan, “Most of my days were spent in the fields. I had to clean the slave barracks and clean the slaves clothes. I rarely saw any of the warriors or priests. It was if I wasn't there to them. I was a nothing, beneath their attention, less than a slave. I can tell you little of the Kraken themselves. They worship raiding and their monster god, a giant sea creature.”

Among the Kraken the priests and the warriors are at the top, then the craftsmen, below them are the worshipers of the elder gods, then there are slaves, then slaves of slaves. It could have been worse, there are men who are chained to the oars of their warships.”

Scholar Nico, “Ah, interesting. There is no place for people to become more in Kraken society.”

Zigan, “If you take the drowned oath and worship their devil gods, you can become a slave of a house, and maybe after many years, you can become a personal servant to a warrior or priest. This is a better lot than many worshipers have. I have a soul, I have not forgotten my own ancestors.”

Scholar Nico, “Can you tell me more of the harbor?”

Zigan, “On the few days that we got to rest because of the Holy Day of the Comet, the Time of Calling Forth Cthulhu by Night, the Great Feast of the Kraken, and the Day of the Sword I got to spend some time with my fellow fisherman, Lebario from my village. He will know more about the harbor than I do. He escaped also.”

Scholar Nico interviewed many escaped slaves, slowly gathering information on the Kraken. How many ships they had, where their food was stored, what weapons they used. Amazingly, a few of the slaves even offered to go back to spy on the Kraken to get the information they wanted. They were willing to risk death or harsh punishment to hurt them.

Preparations for War.

More ships came to the harbor. They held the tools to build siege engines, triple siege crossbows, battering rams, traction trebuchets, and other devices.

With them was a man wearing a black beaked mask, and a round wide brimmed hat. He had on leather gloves and a long leather coat which was discolored in several places. Two assistants followed him around in brown robes.

Clear jars were trundled off the ship. The man in the mask counted them, looking through the glass to see wasps, scorpions, and snakes. There were also jars with sulfur, refined lamp oil, and ground up plants.

The warships of the Nestos League continued to patrol the waters around the island of Cyprus for people trying to escape. They would redirect any boats with escaping slaves to a small island and destroy any Kraken ships they could catch.

Several ships with spear men came to Napa from Al Mina and Mersin came to the harbor. They wished to have revenge against the Kraken for raiding their towns.

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Authoritarian Democracy

Postby Joohan » Sat Jan 23, 2021 3:39 pm

The Imperium

The gentle staccato tinkling of coins brought with it waves of pleasant euphoria crashing upon Stegren's psyche. The once illiterate dirt farmer from west the iron walls, who'd neither property nor any glory to boast of, had become a thrifty merchant of much renown in the commercial circles he frequented. Leading his horse along by her bridle, Stegren shared the cobbled road into Varna with various farmers, berry pickers, flourists, and fellow merchants - smiling with genuine goodwill and glee to all he passed. A smiling merchant whose horse pulled an empty cart meant somewhere nearby, a purse full of imperial coins were joyously clinking together. Some, those who were out of the know, might have found Stegren and his cart a curious sight, seeing as they were coming into town - implying that they'd made sale away from the main city's market? For those in the know however, they knew this to be absolutely true!

Varna was the Imperial jewel upon the Black Sea, and the main port for entry and commerce into and out of the Danube. A new city, growing vast in population and wealth, was blessed on account of it's sublime position at the very end of the Imperium's greatest river. Ships and merchants from all of the Black Sea states would frequent her harbor and grand markets on a daily basis throughout the year - fortunes quite regularly trading hands by the hour. Of course, though, it was not only in the city were money was to be made. Some more tightfisted and unscrupulous members of the commercial caste, during the war years with the Commonwealth, found the taxes, regulations, tithes, and tariffs imposed upon them to be unbearable! To avoid the oppressive stares of both the firstman of Varna and the military commanders who controlled him, many merchants made the hour long journey north, to just beyond the Imperial border. Bound to the rivers that birthed her, The Imperium had done little to expand beyond her Riparian lifelines - leaving much the inland of Europe still the domain of her native inhabitants. A hour's trek north, and a man ( or in this case, something less than a man: a merchant ) would find himself beyond the legal or practical bounds of Imperial law - or most importantly, imperial taxes! Beyond the bounds of Varna, and just past the imperial border, a great black market existed, were men of money could trade for any ( any ) item they wanted under the shadow of Silver Fir's. Grain, fish, cloths, hides, tools, cattle, horses, game, fruit, timber, state of the art weapons, legal and counterfeit documents, maps, mercenaries, men, women, and even children. Anything under the sun, was the common saying - and markets such as that near Varna could be found all around the Imperium - just beyond her narrow borders. When a merchant says, I'm going to the mainland, it means that he is going to one of these shadowy markets. Though their status, being beyond Imperial borders, made them technically not illegal, a few coins put into the purse of the local first men or their patron could usually ensure that no one ever bothered their dealings, and that Mara need never hear about the wealth they were losing out on.

Stegren was a frequent patron of the Varna black market - his operation being perhaps one of the most thrifty in the whole of the black sea. Unlike most merchants, he would seldom leave the city or it's countryside in search goods. Why bother, when all the wealth of the East came to him? Under his payroll were dozens of sailors and travelers, men tagged along to ships and wagon trains, who would journey near and far to bring back for him exotic and desirable goods - in exchange for a finders fee. From there, he would bring his newly acquired wares into the black market, and turn for himself profits ten times over! Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Today, had been an exceptionally good one. One of his sailors, having recently returned from an voyage to some far off land in the south, tucked away several bundles of fur from some exotic creature he called a, caramel. It was soft and the color of sand, but had something of a perturbing odor to it. No matter though, as he sold out of the material within only a few hours. He'd no idea what a Crimean trader or Nestosian scholar might want with the material, but he didn't question their coin - which now ringed so joyously in the pouch that patted at his side.

Puadre, the sailor whose stow away goods Stegren could attribute this windfall, had been hold up in one of the Varna's more luxurious brothels - a treat on Stegren's part for the good haul. He'd seemed off his edge to Stegren, upon first coming home off this ship - something which he attributed to possible food poisoning. A good tumble with girls of the Bronze cat, and a night of good drinking ought to have him back in a good mood. It was to the Bronze Cat that Stegren made his way, after having stabled his horse and hid away his purse, to check up on his employee.

The Bronze Cat, named for the sign that hung out from it's doorway, stood apart from the other buildings that surrounded it - separated by a high walled courtyard, and thick tall bushes, ensuring that no one from any near by building might be able to peer in. The door was guarded by a stoney faced bear of a man, whose belt was a practical display case of daggers and knives, and by whose side leaned a menacing doubled headed ax. Stegren recognized him as one of the many mercenaries who advertised their service at the black market - apparently, the patron of the Bronze Cat was also a frequenter of the mainland?

The guard busied himself with a customer who appeared to be raising some ruckus in front of the door. He may very well have been yelling at a wall, for all the expression that the mercenary returned to him - he might not have even been able to understand Common? A sidelong glance by the guard in Stegren's direction of approach, however, brought a sudden awareness into his eyes, and pushing the fuming and still shouting man aside, meeting the merchant halfway.

" You are Stegren Amaltar? Your client is Puadre Hortiz? " he was surprised to hear his near perfect accent.

" Indeed, on both counts, that is. " Stegren replied.

" Master Teimbatz needs to have a word with you; there has been an accident. "


" And you expect me to believe that?! Tell me, do I strike you as dumb or gullible? "

The mug of Nestosian wine shook with anger as Stegren paced up and down the room, lashing his fury out towards the seated Master Teimbatz. Brothel master, a one Kackron Teimbatz, an elusive man of unknown origins, save for that he came from some land on the Eastern side of the Black Sea, sat behind his desk, anxiously tapping a finger to his bald temple as he took the verbal lashings of the merchent Though a rich and powerful man in his own right, rumored of having no small number of throats slit, he was reluctant to infuriate a man of influence like Stegren.

" I assure you that what I have said is no less than the whole truth- " not allowing him a moment of respite, Stegren cut him off,

" If it was that Paudre was misbehaving or attempting to mishandle the girls - then fine. I'll accept that! He was a sailor after all! You don't need to lie to me! "

It was inexplicable, unthinkable, on Stegren's part, unbelievable, on Teimbatz part, quite unfortunate. Paudre, had died, the circumstances of which were completely unknown.

" Master Stegren - that I have freely dispatched violent and disgusting clients before is something that I have never kept secret. I thus have no reason to now! What I am telling you is the truth, and the whole of it. Your Paudre passed in his bed, asleep. There are three girls who were in the room who can testify as such. He'd had no more than a single mug of wine, and he'd done nothing extraneous while here... beyond, well, the obvious. "

Teimbatz offered a sheepish smile to Stegren, which was returned with only a dark glare.

" Ahem... We don't know why he died. We were curious if, perhaps... you had any ideas? "

Stegren, placing his hands to his hips, shook his head in disbelief, sighing in exaggerated contempt. " You spin me this half hearted story and now expect me to justify it for you... unbelievable. "
Last edited by Joohan on Sat Jan 23, 2021 3:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
If you need a witness look to yourself

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Alaroma » Sat Jan 23, 2021 5:48 pm

Andrew Negasi: Child of the Hills

The Knowledge Seekers

I think a lot about the time I’ve spent in this land, the memories of my homeland growing more distant. Replaced by this new land. Something inside me hates that, bitterly challenges it. Despite having risen to the heights of power in this land, something inside me insisted I was a foreigner. A stubborn kernel of American exceptionalism perhaps. Here I was, 20 years later, still holding onto that Texas boy.

It’s a small thing, but something I’ve decided to have done all the same. For record keeping purposes, my household adopted a household name. The House of Negasi. It was a practice I was trying to spread to help government record keepers. That, and I liked the aesthetic. But this didn’t come out of nowhere. A year ago, my adoptive father died. This prompted me to take a more serious look at my last name, and after agreement with Edna, we adopted it for the family.

The day was nearing evening, and I had just finished up some work in my shop. Down a little cobblestone path that led to my house, I put down a sign. “Property of the Negasi Clan.” It would read, my adoptive mother looking at the sign a little blankly. She couldn’t read, so expecting her to get a reaction would be unreasonable. She knew what it said though. She would be moving in with us after all

“He’d be honored, I’d think. He always was one for flattery.” Abeba said, her arm linked with mine. She patted my arm, as I contemplated that. She looked at my face, her eyes warming. “You don’t look a day older from when we found you. Naked and confused. Wish I could say the same.” She said, chuckling.

“Oh don’t be modest mom, you don’t look a day past 30.” I told her, to which she rolled her eyes. “I don’t feel it, though.” She said, looking down the pathway, to the house. “It’s fine though. I have two sets of grandchildren for all my years of trouble, when I thought I’d only get one for so long.”

Abeba gave me a hug, a long one. I awkwardly hugged her back, not expecting it. “When are you heading off?” She asked as she pulled back, looking at me. I snorted at that, saying “Two weeks, preparations have been going along smoothly.” Taking her hands into mine, I gave her a smile. “I know you moved in with us recently, but you’ll be in good hands with Edna and the kids.”

“And you’re in Aolis’s and Jander’s hands. You’ve gone out so many times,and you three always home back together.” Patting my chest, she shifts gears. “So, you finished with this? I have some little ones to spoil, and I want you to be there when I do.” Looking to my periphery, I noticed Iris practicing horse riding skills on the property. The girl, now a young teen, really seemed to be developing a little trailblazer personality. “I’ve found one.” I noted, looking over at my oldest.

“Impressive. Of course it’s Iris, she’s always out and about experiencing the Earth, ain’t she?” My adoptive mother noted, which was fair enough.

My oldest was certainly all that, and would make a wonderful missionary one day with all the energy she had. Of course I don’t want that for her, as terrible as that sounds. I want to keep her nice and safe in Aksum, along with her siblings. It doesn’t feel the same as if we were living in the US, and she was going off to another state.

“You’re slipping.” Mom noted, ripping me out of my thoughts. “Sorry, just thinking about Iris.” She gave me a knowing smile, before heading off to the Villa.

An Expedition to Aksum

Scholar Diop had been called away from his work in the library at Anbar across the river from Oak. He had been working on translating Egyptian funerary texts. There was a letter in a box requesting him to go to the harbor and take a boat, the mermaid to Aksum, the letter had the seal of The Speaker of the Nestos League, Victor Spear.. There was a group of scholars on the boat, a pair of Mesopotamian scribes and two Egyptian scribes and a man in the plain brown robes of an unaffiliated scholar.

Scholar Diop waited as several wooden chests were put on the boat. He would be spending quite a while traveling. It would be good to study up on what was being asked of them. During the afternoon as the boat was loaded, he had a chance to meet and talk with his traveling companion.

Scholar Diop learned the name of the man in the plain brown robe was Scholar Hunkhabek, a philosopher and printer, a student of christian, Mesopotamian, and Thracian philosophy. He had a printing house in Salt not far from the orphanage at Salt.

During the months they traveled, Scholar Diop would discuss Scholar Hunkhabek’s interactions with the orphanage at Salt. Hunkhabek had sat in on some of the lessons and sermons in Salt. He was a familiar face around Salt, known for his pleasant manner and long walks around the town early in the mornings.

Sometimes they would meet as a group with the other scholars and talk about how they planned to build schools and libraries. The Mesopotamians wondered what kind of schools they might build, schools in private houses which were common in Ur and Uruk, temple schools where people would learn to read and write in the presence of their gods, or public bookhouses which taught tradesmen how to read and write and use cloth tapes and tools or something different.

The trip was a long one. They landed near Egypt, then took a camel train to the Red Sea. The camel drivers did not want to stay long in Egypt, there were lots of nomads in the area, and they felt it would be good to leave for their destination as soon as possible.

There were a few priests from Aksum on the boat heading down the Red Sea who joined them in discussing the three different paths to basic education they were familiar with, the book house, the temple school, and the private house. The conversations became more animated. Scholar Hunkhabek would make wide gestures with his hands when he was talking.

There were many different options which they could use to build schools. It would be a matter of deciding which would best match with Aksumite values. There were three daughters of Penelope who argued for separate education for women with a set of classes focused on the home, farm, and women’s crafts; midwifery, calligraphy, pediatrics, weaving, textiles, gardening, cooking, herbalism, distillation, brewing, pottery, candlemaking, beekeeping, cleaning , reading, writing, history, and mathematics..

The boat moved along the coastline stopping at a few ports to pick up supplies. Scholar Hunkhabek and Scholar Diop would take walks to stretch their legs while in port.

After several months, they arrived near Aksum, and their supplies were unloaded and packed onto camels. The group made their way inland until they reached Aksum.

The group would be met by a pair of men on horseback. Iron tips atop spears reflected the highland sun of their surfaces. As for the men themselves, they appeared in brown tunics, donning leather armor and iron helmets. They had shields with the main symbol being three white stars. Behind those shields, their hands also held Javelins. It went without saying they were part of the Royal Guard.

“Afternoon travelers.” The first rider said, stopping his horse next to the lead person in the lead with the camel packs. Upon closer examination, it would reveal that these people weren’t like most travelers. No, their skin was far more pale than they were accustomed to seeing.

“Long Journey?” One of the riders asked Scholar Diop, looking the man over. The other rider meanwhile looked at the rest of the pack animals, examining the other members of the group. There were men and women in this caravan, but it wasn’t clear yet what they were dealing in. They would find out soon, so that’s fine.

Scholar Diop, “Blessed day upon you. It is a long journey. We come seeking the court of Axum. I am here to deliver a proposal.” Scholar Diop opens a leather shoulder bag and takes out a small wooden box. The box was white with blue waves on it.

Behind him, the scholars were looking around and pointing at different things. A few had taken out notebooks and pencils and were drawing things. As the guards drew closer, they could see embroidery on the edges of the robes that the scholars and scribes wore. As they got closer, they noticed that some had deep black hair and wore kohl around their eyes and others were fair haired. There were a few guards watching the possessions of the men and women, but most were not armed. A few of the scholars had long staves with iron bands at the top or walking sticks.

“You’ve come to petition the Senate, have you?” The rider asked. That wasn’t entirely weird, but most people who came to petition the Senate were Aksumite, from surrounding tribes, or Sumarian. You had your odd Arab, but that was it.

The other Rider rode around the back, rejoining his comrade. “What have you come to propose?” he asked, pointing his spear at the box he just took out. You couldn’t really blame them though, it was kind of their jobs to patrol the area, and check on strange individuals.
Scholar Diop, “No, we have a request to help design and build schools and train teachers for reading, writing, mathematics, animal and plant studies, building, and other skills. We are to meet at the senate, but we are not here to petition the senate. We have come from the House of Wisdom at Oak in the Nestos League. Maybe you can take us there.”

“Ah, I see……” one of the Riders said, nodding to Diop. He looked at his comrade. “So…….., we hand them off to the Guards at the gates?” His friend looked at them one more time, before nodding. “Alright everyone, if that’s the case, we’ll be escorting you the remainder of your trip to Aksum. Feel free to follow me.” He said, taking the lead. The other Guard went to take the rearguard position.

Scholar Diop, “I was here once, I worked on the church records. I think I recognize the building in the distance.”

Scholar Hunkhabek, “This is the first time I have been here, it is all new to me. I hope that they have something to drink when we get there, it is hot.”

The scholars and scribes continue walking, conversing and pointing at things. One has drawn a picture of the guard talking to Scholar Diop.

Once upon a time, there had been a wooden wall protecting the inner workings of Aksum. It was still wooden more or less, but it was more elaborate now. The tops of wooden planks had been sharpened, with various battlements on the walls. The mechanics of the gates were refined as well with Summarian help. The Gate itself was around 15 feet tall.

There were buildings and farms on the outside of the city walls, but the open gates would reveal far more concentrated human activity than the outside walls showed. Two guardsmen in their legionnaire armor strolled almost to greet them.

The two nodding towards the riders, the riders took off elsewhere to continue their own assignments. “Purpose for visit? Also I’m going to have to check your belongings before I let you in? Any weapons of note?” The first man said, straw hanging out his mouth, hand on the handle of his sheathed sword.

Scholar Diop told them, “We are here at the request of Aksum to build schools, design libraries, and train teachers. We have come to work on education. We have brought scribes from Egypt and Ur, as well as scholars from the Nestos League, specifically from Abdera and Oak. Some of the scholars from Abdera are from the Students and Scholars Association. We also have some of the Daughters of Penelope who teach skills to women for the hearth and home and educate girls as well as provide midwifery and medicine for children.”

The guards lay down their weapons, there are four double bows with iron and bronze tipped arrows, two falxes, two heavy war bats, and four hafted axes. They leave their lamellar armor with the weapons. Three of the scholars have heavy bronze bound staves, there are several walking sticks, two daggers and two slings.

The supplies are tents, bedding, clothes, personal jewelry, food, notebooks, pencils, writing supplies, personal hygiene tools, and other traveling supplies. There are a dozen chests with books, maps, and prints in them. There is also a chest with different metals in it, silver, gold, copper, and iron in standard weights as well as shells, spices, carnelian and garnets.

One of the guards took a look over the belongings of the group, looking in the chests to see if there was anything of note. As it turned out, no, there was not anything of any serious note. From what there was to see, it seemed like their story of being scholars more or less checked out.

“Who you looking to see?” One of the Guards asked, finishing his check of their belongings. It seemed like there was probably going to be someone important if they were going to be building schools in the Kingdom. Either way it wasn’t much of their personal concern, but they had to ask for the job.

Scholar Diop, “We are here to see Andrew Marks, I believe he expressed interest to the House of Wisdom for training educators. We would also like to talk to Brother Nathan who works with the church in Aksum.. He was a bible teacher who I met while working on the church records. I think his help would be greatly appreciated. It is important to let them know we are here.”

The guard paused, and raised an eye at the man. “You want to see Commander…….Commander Negasi? Or I guess Brother Negasi how you’re talking about him.” As for Brother Nathan, well he couldn’t say. But he could help with Andrew. “I ugh, I think we can help you out with that. I’m not sure about Brother Nathan.” The Guard didn’t know who Nathan was, but that wasn’t the main point. Andrew could probably help with that.

“Go inside the city, and find the Church.” He said, pointing to a building off in the distance that seemed to have the makings of a place of worship. It wasn’t an elaborate place, but it served its purpose. It was in what could be considered the newer part of the settlement, and made a point to separate itself somewhat. Along the way, various shops, homes, and shrines of other gods stood.
Scholar Hunkhabek looked at the building. He recognized the words of the Church on the top of the building. It looked a bit like the church of the Plain Farmers, a group of farmers from Salt who had taken to the Aksumite christian ideas. He nodded and pursed his lips.

The group gathered their things and walked to the church. They talked among themselves. Sometimes one of them would stop and make a note in their journal. It took them a while to reach the church. They were not in a hurry. When they got there, Scholar Diop stopped trying to remember if he was supposed to knock or ring a bell. It had been a while.

When they reached the Church, the person who greeted them was not one of the pastors. It was in fact a young teenage girl, with a Bible in her hand. She was obviously expecting someone else, her smiling face turned to one of confusion, then curiosity. She wore a white tunic dress, with an embroidered belt. Her cotton like covered in a brown scarf. Her frame was lean, mostly out of genetics.

“Oh, converts? Or Christians from abroad?” She asked, but her eyes lingered on their skin. Something came to mind for her, probably wouldn’t come to mind for other Aksumite. “Iris, who’s there?” Called a man from inside. “Is it Brother Noah and his son?”

Turning back, she said “I’m afraid not, Brother Aolis. It’s someone else.” Two men revealed themselves from the corner, both wearing brown tunics. One looked to be in his early 30s, the other his early 20s. “Have you a question, friends?” He asked Diop.

Diop smiled, “Thank you for greeting us with your holy book. It has been a very long time since I came to help with the church records of Aksum, I am Scholar Diop from Oak. We were asked to come back, to help work with education by Brother Negasi. We have come from afar. We have brought teachers from many places, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Nestos League. May we rest for a little bit, it has been a long journey here.”

Scholar Hunkhabek had pale white skin and light red hair, scholar Diop had tan skin, the Egyptians were brown skinned, one had his hair tightly braided and the other wore a wig, and the Mesopotamians a deep brown with kohl around their eyes, black oiled beards and oiled hair. The scholars were mostly fair haired and skinned. The women had their hair wrapped in green kerchiefs. Both the women and the Mesopotamians smelled of rose oil.

“So, uhhhh, I think they want you dad.” The young teen said, backing up and going next to the younger looking man. “Apparently….” he said, patting her shoulder, before turning back to their new guests. “Well, I guess you can come in for now. Though not the best place to rest. We can help you with that soon though.” Andrew said.

Aolis looked mildly confused, before shrugging. The day’s schedule changed. “So I see you got my request from Brother Nathan. You’ve made quite the journey. I thank you for taking the time to come here.” He said, his hands clamped together. His eyes shone with warm energy, before waving them inside the Church.

The scholars and scribes came into the church. Before he enters Scholar Hunkhabek says “Peace and blessings be upon all who enter this church.” and closes his eyes briefly. The scholars take a few minutes to relax. Scholar Hunkhabek says, “It is good to be inside, there is nothing like the swaying of a ship upon a sea to make you want to be on steady land.”

Scholar Diop, “I am so glad to be able to be here. It is one of the highest callings to bring learning and knowledge to the world. Victor Spear describes how there will one day be a great library, a world brain, containing all the knowledge of human kind to bring prosperity, peace, and order to the world.”

“Of course, the collective knowledge of man is our collective wealth.” Andrew said, patting Diop’s shoulder. “Let’s go find somewhere to talk.” Leading them along, they head into one of the Church’s hallways, and one of its meeting rooms. Andrew enters what was a meeting room, Aolis right behind him. Iris seems to stop at the door, like an invisible barrier was at the door frame. Andrew raised an eyebrow at the girl, saying “You can come in Iris, but this won’t be purely about the Bible. Could be kinda boring. Sure you don’t want to go be with your friends?” She shook her head, before stepping into the room. Andrew shrugged, going to sit at the bench on one side of the long meeting table. Aolis sat at his left, and Iris sat at Andrew’s right.

Scholar Hunkhabek sat at the right of Scholar Diop, on his left one of the ladies in Green sat. She was short and had a broad face.

She spoke, “I am Scholar Thama of the Daughters of Penelope. I am responsible for the teaching of women and girls. The foundation of education starts with the family. It starts with the mother and the father reading to their children or telling stories. Before regular schools, many start learning from their family and church.”

She takes out some simple books illustrated with woodcuts with animal stories. There are also a few woodcut books with simplified bible stories. In addition, there is a simple book with the alphabet and numbers.

Scholar Hunkhabek made the bible stories for the Plain Farmers and the orphanage at Salt. One of the first choices people make is how they choose to educate the young. Do they separate the boys and the girls, or have them learn together. Where is the beginning of education, in the church school, at the public book house which teaches trades, or in the school house of the scholar. Do you focus on numbers, reading and writing, etiquette, sports, what is the focus you start with. The education of an Egyptian in a temple school is different than a Mesopotamian at an Eduba. Are you looking for scribes who record, or scholars who seek new knowledge. Is education for the public, or for the chosen. These are choices that need to be made. Basic Education leads to more complex education.

Scholar Diop, “The foundations of basic education lead to what will be taught later. Trades require knowledge of tools and craftsmanship, an apprenticeship system. Scholarship is often more formal, with more extensive formal schooling. Are you prepared to go beyond the Temple School and the Scribes House for more formal education in specific subjects. What subjects will those be. Will you have a Book House where you train your engineers and technicians, or an Academy to prepare your scholars for their civil examinations in different subjects.

Are you going to form a Students and Scholars Association for higher level schools which requires the presence of adept teachers at high prices often with even higher demand. There is much new knowledge that needs to be taught that has few teachers.

Will you create programs to train your farmers in new agricultural techniques or practical crafts like weaving. Places where people can learn practical skills separate from the trades. Education is a broad thing. It requires careful planning, often for the life of a person.

People do not just learn from schools, they also learn from libraries and places where they can read and learn new subjects. Self education is the force which moves people forward at the end of formal schooling. This is what Towers of Learning and Houses of Wisdom are for, continuous learning, innovation and trying new things.”

“Well that’s quite a lot, so let’s start from the top shall we. Let’s see here, one of your first questions is whether the education of children should be separated by sex. That seems rather obvious to me, of course it should. They come together in some ways, but diverge in many others. Of what use a sword is to a girl, or how to make clothing for a boy is beyond me if we’re talking about averages. Of course as a society, that’s what we should be primarily focused on. Averages. As for where education begins, I’d say it would probably be in the Church. They’re an institution that can be reached by most Children who might need such an education, and I get the feeling it will be available to many more soon enough. As to what to start with, reading, writing,mathematics, along with a base education is where I’d start.” Andrew began.

“That’s important because you need to have fundamentals down before you can expand, and specialize. Besides, those are just practical skills that can be applied to a variety of fields. As children get older, they will specialize and go down trade paths. You ask if we want scribes, or scholars. As a society, we need scribes and scholars. Though we have scribes to an extent already, my wife fills that role for me many times. And you ask if education is for the many, or the few? Well I say the many need a certain education, and the few need another. Some boys need to learn how to throw javelins, form spear walls, and follow orders. Other boys need to learn how to be all that, but a commander as well. As such two types of schools would be necessary, for the elite and for the common man.” Andrew was thinking of a specific style of schooling from the old world, one prominent among the Aztecs.

“As for higher education, I believe it depends on the field. Say a Smith, that sort of education would probably fit best under an apprenticeship system. However architecture is a more complex thing, thus architects probably need an academy to where they go to train. A similar process for those entering the Civil Service would probably be a wise move. As for libraries, they should be established as places of learning, assuming we can fill them. As for these places for innovation, well that would also be something to lay the groundwork for as well. A lot of our local innovations have been through great amounts of trial and error, and on the job innovating. Having more formalized settings would help I believe.”

Scholar Thama, “This dual education you speak of for noblemen and farmers, I have not heard of this before. It is different than the scholars house and the temple school. It intrigues me. We should discuss this further. I think that Scholar Diop knows a bit more about temple schools than I do.”

Scholar Diop, “I have worked with the church before, it should provide a solid place for teaching both boys and girls in basic education. I think a more varied curriculum, moral and religious stories, rhetoric, reading and writing, mathematics, and physical fitness should be included if you want people to be prepared to be soldiers. The place of science might be for more specialized education for boys and girls who show promise.”

Scholar Hunkhabek raises his hand and Scholar Diop stops speaking, “We have brought some samples of educational texts from Ur and the Nestos League if you wish to look at them. Some of the basic texts have been translated for subjects like arithmetic, the alphabet, basic reading and writing, along with a variety of wood cut story books into Aksumite.”

Scholar Diop, “There are also a few books which we have prepared as standard subjects which we use in trade. Books on gardening, farming, cooking, soap and candle making have been prepared by the Scholar Translation Ministry. The Scholar Translation Ministry is responsible for trade and translation of knowledge. We try and have people fluent in each language we encounter. When we helped organize the church records, we were able to learn Aksumite.”

“Let me clarify, I agree. But what I meant when talking about the basics, I meant when children were younger and just starting school. When they’re around 5 to 8 winters old. And I don’t just want our males to be soldiers, I was giving an example of one of the facets of what education would need to be. So yes, obviously physical education is something that needs to be incorporated. This becomes more prominent as they grow older, and go throughout their teens.”

“As for the books, sure, I’d love to take a look at them. As for the texts, I suspect this might be in Tigrayan, which works fine for our needs.” Obviously there wasn’t an Aksumite language, as it was a nationality. But if there was a lingua Franca, it was certainly Tigrayan.”l

Scholar Diop, “I believe the language was Tigrayan, it is the language that was used in creating the church records. Scholar Hunkhabek is not a teacher per se, but a printer who has worked on the church records as well as printed material for the orphanage at Salt. He is the first to arrange for the printing of bibles in the Nestos League in Tigrayan.”

Scholar Hunkhabek, “We should go over what we have brought as well as what you will need for printing, books, and paper. It is what I do. Unlike, Scholar Thama, I am not a teacher per se. Nor am I a leader of large projects like Scholar Diop.”
Scholar Thama, “We would work with local teachers to create a curriculum for girls and Nephi would create an appropriate curriculum for boys.”

Scribe Nephi, “Our project will be worked on by all of us in harmony, we each hope to contribute to your project and improve the education of boys. A well ordered society is important.”

“Of course, printing will be of most importance.” He smiled, laughing a little. “Certainly easier than we’ve been doing. I wonder if a newspaper will come out of this eventually. Uhhhh, though you need lots of people who read for a newspaper to be useful I guess.”

“Shouldn’t we ask Grandpa about that?” Iris piped up l. Andrew turned to his up to this point quiet daughter, cocking his head. “Yeah, I suppose the King should be informed that we’d like a printery for the city. I’m sure his help will also get you guys all the things you might need to help set things up, and help get in contact with people you might want to talk to.”

Scholar Hunkhabek, “That would be helpful for this project. There are a number of different options. Not a newspaper, but a broadsheet would be a start.” Scholar Thama nudges one of the scholars who has been reading a single page broadsheet under the table. The scholar looks at her and says “What?”. Scholar Thama, “Can I have that?” It is a large single page document, The Abdera Times, written on both sides with a few stories. The scholar looks to both sides then hands the broadsheet to Scholar Thama who hands it to Scholar Hunkhabek.

Scholar Hunkhabek, “This is a broadsheet. It is not too different from a poster. In Ur, in Mesopotamia, they have criers who read the news aloud in certain places in the city. Not everyone has to be literate to get the news. A few literate men and women can read to the others while they work or relax.”

“We would definitely like to start with a printery. It would be helpful in making texts for Aksum. We could produce things elsewhere, but then there would be shipping and other costs involved.”

Andrew scratched his chin, saying “Reminds me of what the Romans did……..not that any of you know a lot about the Romans. Sounds like a very Roman idea though.” Andrew said in reference to the alternative to a literate population reading newspapers. Makes sense if you ask him.

“Anywho, lets start the printing industry here, and talk about expanding the industry elsewhere in the nation later.” Andrew said, looking out the window for a moment. A few ideas about where they could place this printery. As long as it’s far from the tanners.

Scholar Hunkhabek, “We will need access to both water and wood. But, not be in the central part of the city. Plus, we would need a place for the scholars and workers to stay not too far from the printery. We would probably be teaching in the church as the first place to start in the city. So it might not be far from the church. A large brick building would be nice.”

Scholar Diop, “We would want to be able to house a few donkeys to carry books to different places. Book donkeys. It would help us to distribute the materials once they were printed. It would help if the senate told people about it, not just us. We are after all visitors to Aksum and would need to train locals to take over the work of literacy..”

“Well water and wood can be provided from local sources. As far places to stay, arrangements can be made to stay inns where merchants usually stay overnight. I’m sure you’ll find the accommodations comfortable. As far as a brick building near the church. that can be arranged as well”.

“Now as far as giving donkeys a place to stay, we have State stables where we keep a good deal of the horses used by the state. I’m sure they have room for some donkeys.” Andrew replied, in essence giving the scholars what they needed to set up.

Scholar Diop, “We thank you for making our work possible. We look forward to speaking to Brother Nathan who led many of the bible studies group. He had an interest in literacy and teaching people to read. We should be ready to start on our project.”

“Good to hear. I look forward to future reports on your progress. I will be leaving to do some ummm, business soon. However while I’m in the city, you may feel free to contact me.” Andrew replied.

The Business of Empire

I looked over what could be called a map, a map by the standards of the times anywho. The rough paper used was dotted with settlements. The settlements were within the internal divisions of established provinces, and would prove to be valuable resupply bases. Some maps might show a more harmonious picture of the Aksumite state of affairs. Not this map however.

Besides the nice round dots that signified settlements who declared their loyalty to the King of Kings who resided in Aksum, red triangles represented other settlements within Aksumite borders. Settlements who had refused to bend the knee to the Kingdom. I had been so confident in my ability to sway various leaders to join the Kingdom, and it worked. That is to say it worked enough of the time.

However it did not work all of the time. This was a thing I had hoped would be mediated with enough time, that these settlements would come to their senses. There were some who were swayed, but more still persisted. As time persisted, the senate grew impatient. Under their influence, the king has given me the orders to bring order to the people who, and I quote, “Benefit from the security of Aksumite arms, but do not pay their shares to maintain said arms.”

Looking at the map, I looked over the red triangles focused in the western provinces. Not entirely surprising, the provinces of Funji, Senmar, and Shilluk tended to be on the “undeveloped” side. Though what counted as “developed” anyway? Whatever that standard was, it feels like a stretch to call Aksum it. Sure, the influx of Sumarian slaves was a godsend for the capital, but how much good would that do the western provinces.

I leaned back, a nasty grin forming on my face. I looked at the provincial capitals of the three new additions to the Kingdom, and then looked at the red triangles. Our settlements would be getting new “workers” for their local projects soon, if my and my army had something to say.

Aolis entered the room, dressed in a brown tunique. He had a short sword at his hip, and carried two cups that were emitting steam. Coffee. Sugarless, we had to do with spices to offset the bitter taste of the drink. Or at least I did. Being the hardass he was, Aolis drank his coffee black. It’s hard to understate how much I love coffee being back in my life. It wasn’t unpopular for others either depending on how you made it.

Aolis gave off a fake shiver, giving me a raised eyebrow. “Why the scary look. You look like you got murder in mind.” he said, setting one cup of coffee next to me. He got a look at the map, then turned to me. “Well you’re not wrong I suppose. Don’t think too much of it.”

“Of your bubbling blood lust? I would never.” He said, teasing my private moment of savagery. I should really learn to control those impulses. I picked up my coffee, taking a whiff. It wasn’t starbucks, but it was better than no coffee.

“I’ve been receiving word from settlements and outposts along the way, they’re making preparations. Preparations to aid us with food, and preparations to receive new slaves. River towns are preparing to send them down to market when we march them their way. And for the ones not taken to market, to accept as additional workers in their own communities.” Aolis informed me, which was good news.

“So we should be ready to move in two weeks. Spring is here, and we need to make good pace. Intimidation should work for some of the tribes, but I have a list of settlements we need to put down regardless. We wouldn’t be able to trust they’d be loyal. For those that feel compelled to be reasonable, we’ll be taking a tenth of their population as tribute. They’ll be resettled at local settlements loyal to the Kingdom within reason. Others will be sent closer to Aksum.” I noted, pulling out a roll from one of the drawers of the table I occupied.

“You really think we can wrap this up in six months?” Aolis asked, for what must have been the dozenth time. I rolled my eyes at the inquiry. “For the record, yes. However it’s not the end of the world if we don’t. We can afford this to go on a few years, between campaigning seasons. Though having horses in surplus from the Summarians definitely helps the speed in which we can move. Transportation of soldiers, carrying supplies, the basics of logistics. Logistics we are of course experimenting with. However the work done today will be taken for granted by future generations. They will look upon their clean and safe highways, and be able to know they have this inheritance because of our work. It could take half a year out of every year for the next decade of our lives and still very much be worth it.”

I looked through the scroll, which detailed supplies we would need. Sure there were the swords, and spears. The obvious things. However there was wheat, preserved meat, oils, and other things that an army needed. From human food, to the necessities of caring for horses. All for the metaphorical tip of Aksum’s spear, the Aksumite Royal Guard.

I looked outside the window of the building we inhabited, our equivalent of the Ministry of War. Outside, senate slaves would hurriedly go about their duties in the improvement of the capital. These ones in particular were from the far east. Dissidents Sumer preferred not to deal with. All they had to do to gain their freedom was a few decades of hard labor. Less if they converted to Christianity. Did I pity them? Sure. But the sad truth was great nations weren’t built off 21st century morals now were they? Well, the idealized version of what the west sold its population anywho.

“There are men who build civilizations, men who inhabit them, and men who maintain them. It is a truth the builders cannot expect the fruits of their labor to be reaped solely by them, or even primarily by themselves. It must be so that the lives of our children are all so slightly better than the lot we were given. And they take on the same mantle, building for their children. Right now we have a collection of tribes, united vaguely by senses of bonds and religion. Our grandchildren will have an Empire. Their grandchildren will be the arbiters of a civilization that guards the devout here and abroad. But the lives of our grandchildren’s grandchildren starts with the sacrifices we make today. So buckle up, our promises to the senate need fulfilling.”

Aolis smirked at that. “For our grandchildren’s grandchildren? I remember a time where the fate of my little ones would be enough. If you say so Andrew, I’m with you all the way.” I gave him a wink, before drinking a large gulp of my coffee. “Your loyalty is appreciated. In martial and spiritual matters. More importantly your friendship. I’ll need that the most on our little ‘trip.’”

Aolis snorted at that. “I value our friendship too, but you really must stop stealing my children.” I gave out a burst of laughter, replying “I’m afraid you’ll need to take that up with Iris and her co-conspirators.” I answered. A smile crept on his face, taking a sip of his coffee. The images of my oldest doubtlessly coming to mind. He wasn’t wrong about his children making a habit of coming over to our house. And the same could be said for Iris and Israel spending nights at his house. Or Jander’s depending.

The rest of our little meeting was mostly reminiscing as we went over the busy work of preparing a cleanup operation. We would be off in two weeks, and it would be quite the journey when we left.

As the two weeks went on, I lobbied to get the scholars who came to Aksum what they needed. I anticipated all their work aside, we’d have a need for educators for an orphan class we may be inheriting soon. Considering the nature of nation building, the sooner the children of conquered peoples assimilated, the better.

Of course this was all the more complicated than I would care to admit, but I had good people to help turn my ideas into realities. I had got better people when teachers from Sumer helped “level up” our people. It was all rather depressing in a sense, though. Playing Sid Meir’s Civilization or Stellaris was far more entertaining. This is the life and well being of thousands of people.

In the second week, I tried to spend all my spare time with my children. I would be gone for a while, and they needed to see my faith all they could. And as for Edna? Well she wasn’t having a fit, so I considered that progress. But she did dote over me, and made me promise to take care of myself and her brother. I made her promise to take care of the children, and now pregnant Ur-Sundor. I had no question she’d watch over the children, but over her brother’s wife. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the dynamics of female relationships, but I could tell there was tension between those two. I could pick up on these kinds of things from Edna at least. Who knew sleeping with someone gave you that kind of insight. The supposed “arrogance” she felt came from the woman, among other things. Not that I was one to speak, this place was a shithole in comparison to the United States. I didn’t say anything like that outloud for obvious reasons, but you get my point. Though perhaps that was the point, I kept those little things to myself.

As the final days before the campaign came to an end, it took a more spiritual turn. It was times like these where I needed spiritual encouragement. I would dive into prayer, and meditate over scripture. When I did, deep down I knew I was a hypocrite. For visiting violence in ways which I didn’t believe was justified deep down. At the heart of this was two contradictory things. I didn’t believe in the building of an Empire, but I believed that the Empire was necessary. Necessary to protect future faithful generations. To put the guilt on my hands. Like the colonizers of the New World. Maybe looking back we might have done things differently in theory. The results though? A continental Empire spanning from Atlantic to Pacific? Who could argue with that? Many would. Certainly not me though.

Though beyond all of that, perhaps there was one more pulsing worry. Fear of the unknown. At the local blacksmith, there was a set of mail armor being attended to and studied. Armor not made in Aksum, or Sumer. It cost a fortune for the merchant who bought it, and a greater fortune for the Kingdom. You could see the envy in the eyes of the royal blacksmiths, who could only dream of such levels of proficiency and grandeur. Aksumite metalworking was known for its pragmatism, and not a lot else. There is a certain beauty in utilitarianism, but it wasn’t like it was our choice. That said, the other items they brought were just as laudable. I spent far more time admiring one of those spear tips than I would care to admit. Though I made sure to assure the royal smiths “A spear tip is a spear tip, and they kill all the same”. As such, the royal guard would go into battle with Aksumite Iron. However the message was clear. Someone, somewhere, was far smarter than I was. Another one from my world, I could only assume.

As I said my goodbyes to my children, and gave kisses to my wife, I felt a sense of contradiction. Urgency and patience. I would be back soon enough, for the fall. Work would have to be done for our agricultural work. Time to recuperate. Time to cope with what we do for this young nation.

We would ride off on horseback, soldiers mounted. We also had the blessings of wagons, to help carry our supplies. It took two weeks to reach the Nile, where we came in contact with a river settlement. Loyal to the Aksum, it would act as our base of operations in the Funji province. There were various loyalist settlements that dotted the way as well, and two others were chosen as bases as well.

Our first settlement on the list was one of the ones we had no intentions of making any final offers to. That said, the only question left to them was how many people had to die before they were taken prisoner. It was a rare sight to see a settlement with any defenses or barricades of note. Unfortunately for this one, they were not one of the few with that luxury.

We made our move on the settlement before dawn, when most people weren’t up. The few that were were probably still groggy. We did catch one pair of brothers, doing early morning chores. Fortunately for them, they wouldn’t have to see if things went wrong up close. Wrong for their family and friends that is. Tied to trees, they could only watch in horror as we descended on the settlement.

There were a few scattered houses for the villagers, to which squads of my soldiers would judiciously go in and take captives. To my delight, no one had been killed. They all came back, 7 in number, in restraints. Their mouths were covered, to prevent them from making any attempts at calling for help. There was one man who had blood coming from the side of his head, so I could only assume he resisted. He was alive though.

We sent a few skirmishers ahead when that was all taken care of with torches. It was still dark out, so this was for two reasons. For their own sight, and for a little trick I was reusing. Before I knew it, what could only be described as a meeting hall (hut is probably more accurate) being set ablaze. While the skirmishers ran, joining their units, people began coming out of their homes. In horror, they began screaming. Screaming that one of their buildings was on fire. Men from throughout the village began using what water they could to tame the fire. It was a village of around 140 people from what I could tell. Most of the men either fought the fire, or watched in bewilderment. Some women were there too, but most strayed from the fire. The two skirmisher units, 20 units a piece, then began. They broke glass, and blew horns. For those who had neither of those, they let out blood curdling screams.

Panic soon set in, as some people ran towards the settlement circle. Others ran away. Those running didn’t make it far however. At the entrances of the village, guardsmen blocked the exits of the village. Through the sideways of the village, guardsmen poured in. Fleeing villagers would find themselves slamming into Aksumite shields. Unfortunately for them, they would lose that encounter without exception. The people on the streets were shepherded and routed through fear and force to the village center. 10 minutes in, dozens of people were cornered and afraid. Another 10 minutes and we had forced anyone still in their houses to join them.

They would shout, and yell at us. Demand what this was all for. It was for a variety of reasons. They had been unreasonably hostile towards missionaries. There were reports of raids coming from this village. Reports basically confirmed after we went through their belongings. They had refused offers to join the Kingdom directly, or even an associate status. To put it concisely, they were a pain in the ass. A pain that we were done asking for favors from. Oh, and the small detail that Fuji province wanted workers. And I needed examples.

Before long, I would be standing before them. My soldiers in them couldn’t understand them, but I could. I could speak to them, and address their concerns. “I know this all must be very scary, so let me first say none of my soldiers are to hurt you. That is, as long as you follow my orders. Your little village has been an utmost annoyance to the prosperity and development of this province. Do not worry, you were among many. However it must be said you were the most meddlesome. You have disturbed the peace, and abused the privileges of living within our borders. However do not despair. You can redeem yourselves. Hard work for the collective redeems the collective. As such, your labor shall benefit our collective.”

Fire pettering out in the background, what I was saying and its consequences came upon the villagers. I was making them slaves. An older man came up to me, and got on his knees. “Please sir, you can’t do this! This is our home! Give us another chance, a chance to serve your kingdom.”

I regretfully shook my head. “I’m afraid there are no second chances for this settlement. Only redemption.” I could see the tears building in his eyes. How long had this man lived here? How long had it been all he knew? I couldn’t answer that. I could say this. “You will be wretched slaves, but your grandchildren will be heroes. The time to live for something greater begins now.”

The people only being able to take a select few personal items, everything was burned that wasn’t of value. We took their food and animals, which would be passed off at the places we dropped them off at. We also got a collection of tools. Tools stolen for more worthy souls.

This process repeated 8 more times, delivering hundreds of slaves to the local province. Some were sent back to Tigray as well for tithe. The bounty of animals, loot, and cleared land was a boon as well. By this point, two and a half months had passed since we left Aksum. After this point, we began taking more “diplomatic” approaches. We would go settlement to settlement, demanding loyalty. To the settlements that gave it, we took our first “tithe.” This was in the form of hostages. 1/10th of a settlement's population being taken to live in settlements that had joined Aksum of their own accord. Some were in Fuji, many went back to Tigray.

This process went splendidly, considering the sight of 200 armed men tended to speak volume. There was only one account of variation from this trend. A settlement of 400 tried mounting a resistance. Their pitiful arms, and even more pitiful training, proved to be nothing more than glorified training for my guardsmen. I was actually very proud of my men that day. Blood was shed, but it wasn’t a massacre of the male population either. Of course the consequences were the wiping of said settlement off the map. In 4 months, the nile adjacent province was what could be considered secure.

In total, it would take two and a half campaign seasons to pacify Funji, Shilluk, and Sennar. Or, two and a half years in total. So maybe it had stretched on longer than I told Aolis. It was done though. The boon to the workforce could be seen in our public projects being completed in the provinces and Aksum.

Obviously that wasn’t the only thing I would be doing over the next two and a half years. When everyone had to go home, I had various projects that called for my attention. They related to the Industrial, Agricultural, and Public spheres naturally.

The concerns I had for industry related first to metal working. Having Sumarian aid, the establishment of mines to fuel our industry accelerated. Though more importantly, the royal smiths learned to perfect their craft to higher levels. We of course had our inspirations from abroad, though it was hoped the increased level of proficiency shown by our smiths lead to a more complex society. Our buildings, farmers, workers, and soldiers would need them. It was also around this point the smiths were training new generations of smiths. Usually their sons, but the children of others who proved persistent might enter the field as well.

The other cause for intrigue was ship building. Now this in all truth was not in my hands. This art was primarily conveyed to us through skilled Sumarians who came to the kingdom seeking profits. As such, they’re making their profits helping set up the Aksumite shipbuilding industry. There was also a Sumarian ‘industrial zone’ that had been set up, which as it turned out is a little Sumarian colony in a way. One I’ve made sure to keep on a leash. From the Aksumites who live there, to having to enter business agreements with Aksumite partners. That all said, it wasn’t the biggest thing to concern myself over for now.

The next thing I’m working on probably takes top priority, and it’s related to new economic developments. Two new cash crops have been introduced to Aksum. Cotton, and Coffee. Now coffee is great, and why I’m excited about that goes without saying. Cotton though is also just obviously great, but there is a little more complexity to that one. The amount we can produce is the question, and I have an idea. You see, being black in the American south, what historical topic do you think was prominent? Slavery, of course. Historically, slavery really kicked off due to the cotton gin. Being the crazy place the south is, it was considered only proper that students make their own knock off cotton gins as part of our learning experience.

The only difference is instead of intellectual curiosity, I was doing this for much the same reasons the cotton gin was brought into the world. It would be farcical to say I could just make this machine in one go, but I had ideas of the fundamentals. Fundamentals I would be experimenting with for a while. The three main functions being: the rotating claw like hooks that grabbed the cotton, the slotted comb that the said fiber would rotate through, and the rotating brushes that removed the seeds.

I made my fair share of conceptualizations, before taking a crack at it. The first attempts were…...well, they were failures. The hook failed to sync up with my combs in my first trials, stumping me. I would get there eventually I would tell myself. I had help from others too, but the time in gathering resources and making new plans for perfecting the design would drag the process out.

Finally in the public sphere, the establishment of schools and the printing press was perhaps the greatest step forward. As it turns out, this was an ideal time to push for the creation of the Aksumite postal service. Seeing as most people couldn’t write, it was mostly trafficked by three types of people. Government officials, merchants, and the clergy. Getting a courier system of young men who were called up for service in this department would take some tinkering, but I hoped it would be like the Pony Express. Or, at least the idealized version I had of it in my head.

This all came along with the hardening of trade routes on maps, which tended to get reflected into the world itself. How might you ask? Simply put, roads. Roads tended to go only so far from settlements, but the major settlements of Tigray would increasingly see their fortunes connected with pavement. The first major connection would be between Tigray and Adulis, our major port. It was considered such an important project that even Sumarians aided in the project. I’m not entirely sure what that says in the long run, but this is just the start.

Simple Merchants

Aden was as simple a place as any decades ago, but now it was in the case of flux. It was for now the favored southern entryway for Aksumite merchants. They were interested in Arab spices, among other things. They were also interested in spreading the faith, as it turns out. The spread of christianity had mixed results in the peninsula at large, but in this place, it was going well. Or at least it felt like it was going well.

As mentioned earlier, Aden was the gateway. But it wasn’t the only thing worth mentioning. Various settlements inland grew to benefit from the trade me and my fellow merchants engaged in. Shared prosperity, good for everyone involved right? Well, you’d be right. Though, it wasn’t that simple as the region’s prosperity increased. It never was.

I was nibbling on a piece of bread, looking over our supplies. There was our hygiene related materials, our food, our weapons. The basics, you can imagine. As I was going through our belongings, one of our local brothers came up to me. He had a troubled expression.

“Brother Adam, how are your preparations for your trip going.” he would ask me. “Just fine, we should be ready to go for tomorrow. Is…...everything alright? You look like you’ve got something on your mind.”

“How correct you are. What’s the word in your tongue…….bandits. Bandits have become increasingly a problem. Criminals who would take goods they did not acquire legally, and pass them off for profit as if they had.” His words…….paled me. Quite the feat considering where I hailed from.

“I- I see. Do we have any idea who these bandits are, Jacob? Where they’re located?” The Arab man looked at me with regret, shaking his head. “We have some speculation, but I’m afraid nothing is certain.”

I paused for a moment, sighing. The stakes for getting this delivery through had just raised. Nodding at him, I said “Give me a night to think over this matter.” He did just so, patting me on the shoulder. “I’ll see you in the morning, brother.” before heading off. As for me, me and my group were left with much anxiety. What were we to do? We didn’t know much about these bandits. And they appear to be taking on groups.

We would discuss the issue during the night’s late hours, and……...I think we had an idea. It would require us to gather most of the merchants in town the next day. This was easy enough, considering they were all Christians as well. Imitating the reality in Aksum, those more ‘industrious’ ones certainly took hold to the benefits of the faith.

“I think I have a solution to our bandit problem. It’s not mine alone, we had inspiration from home. However I think this will lead to the prosperity of all involved, and the safety of this place.” I would announce before them.

“Well Brother Adam…….what is your suggestion?” one of the more senior men asked in a less than patient tenor. “Well, the first step is to form a guild in Aden. The purpose of guilds is for merchants to organize their voice as one. To use collective caravans, for collective defense, with collective investment. If one caravan goes missing, perhaps tragic but not economically ruining. Might pinch the purse strings. But again, won’t ruin them.”

“Not a bad idea.” one of the men offered, but I wasn’t done. “That said, this doesn’t completely solve the problem. That’s why I suggest going further. We get our brothers and business partners in other trading settlements to form their own trading guilds. Once this system is set up, we take the final step. Pressure the settlements into confederation, a confederation that promises to keep regional security. Brought together by shared prosperity, and hopefully faith, it would be a wonderful additional presence to the region.”

The men looked at one another skeptically, and began some private discourse. Finally, the response was a mixed bag. “Let’s formalize this guild process first. If things go well, then we can consider the final steps.” a senior man said, which was just fine by me.

Taking out some paper from my materials, we collectively drafted a merchant charter. We prayed, then signed what would be our uniting charter. After this, we made plans for our first caravan. Settlements as far as Saana and Marib would be our destination. After such, we’d head to coastal areas.

Taking part of this caravan was quite the experience. Dozens of men participated, all armed. The journey to Saana was not good for my heart, it being filled with worry. However nothing happened. A blessing to be sure.I was after all in my late 30s, who’d want to fight off bandits at my age? Mmm, maybe the commander of the Royal Guard. I heard the king’s son in law was near my age. I also hear he had the energy of a young man. Some just had better bodies I guess.

In Saana, we of course did the main thing we were there to do. Trade. Beyond that though, we got together with the local merchants. Fortunately, they were of likemind. However they did have one request. They wanted more arms, arms for this whole operation. Arms undoubtedly from Aksumite smitheries. A taller order. Not an impossible one though.

We would go to our next destinations, and gather Merchants to our cause. It was surprisingly encouraging the feedback we got. Signing new charters throughout the region, guild after guild popped up. The difference was increasingly obvious as time went on, with attacks and disappearances on the decline. However it could be better. Making good on my promises, I would go home to acquire a new kind of cargo. When I came back to Arabia, I came with three things. A veteran, weapons for the guilds, and the Kingdom’s political support. Perhaps by accident, I had become a part of something bigger than my own desires. When my feet came in contact with the shores of Arabia once more, I had a cause.
Last edited by Alaroma on Sat Jan 23, 2021 8:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Yeah, you're right. You got lucky this time. If there were Dutch people there, you would be facing so many rebels!"

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Left-Leaning College State

Postby UniversalCommons » Sat Jan 23, 2021 7:37 pm

The Red Plague, December 30 AG
This time, there were no pigeons to identify. People began to fall ill where Paudre had went. Not all of them. Some merely sweated and felt nauseous for a few days. In the first week, people had started falling ill.

The body of Paudre was stripped of anything valuable and left with a jar of wine next to a travelers house which cost a few weights of copper a night. His body was quietly piled with the indigents who were sometimes found when the streets were cleaned. The workers assumed the man had died of alcohol poisoning. Several men carried the body to an unmarked grave where it was unceremoniously put in a deep hole. Most of these men would catch the red plague.

At the end of the first week, people began to die. They had a light fever and some shortness of breath. A few had flushed reddish skin. Some 200 people died in a single day in the city. The first hint that something was wrong was when a pair of people who ran travelers houses came to the Varna Council to report that they had a dozen dead bodies in their rooms. Then more reports came in of dead bodies.

The dead people were examined by Priests from the Temple of the Body Parts. There was no obvious reason they had died when they first examined them. When they visited the travelers houses, they found three more dead bodies on mats with thin blankets. A few people were laying down breathing shallowly, they had a light sweat on their brows. The traveling houses were immediately shut down.

The city gates were shut and the guard was called to check the houses. Anyone who was sick was to be reported. The town criers announced that Varna was to be purified. The Priests of the Temple of the Body Parts had to visit the houses. They needed to drive away bad spirits and cure the sick. Varna was afflicted by bad humors.

People who were obviously sick were led to the healing temple until it overflowed, then they took over the travelers rests and some of the warrior long houses to be quarantined. They were told that they were forbidden to leave the city. There was little the priests and doctors could do other than quarantine the sick initially. It would take time to examine those who were ill. They quickly used up the medicines that were described by Den in the Pigeon Plague text.

Not everyone reported sick people. They did not wish to. The guard had to rely on informants to find many of the people. The City Council handed out the portions of The Book of Den which contained the description of the Pigeon Plague. People began wearing masks and gloves in public. There was feverish demand for soap which soon ran out as well.

A few people began to dress up like the priests from the Temple of the Body Parts. They formed into groups looking for the sick who had not been isolated. They started breaking into peoples houses and brought out the sick who needed to be quarantined. They were then quarantined.

The dead began to pile up. Only the Priests of the Temple of the Body Parts and people who had been specially trained by them to handle dead bodies were allowed to touch the dead bodies. The Priests of the Temple of the Body Parts began to perform public exorcisms of bad humors. The bodies were buried in deep pits in coffins. Many of the priests died, even with protective clothing.

Some people tried to flee the city. The story of Den and the Pigeon Plague was part of the popular text, the Book of Den. The rich went first, trying to bribe the guards to escape. They were brought before the Varna Council and stripped of their property and isolated. Bubastis one of the council gave a speech about how bad humors and plague could strike anyone.

Varna had been fitted with signal flags to send messages to towers down the roads. A signal was sent out, plague, Varna's gates were sealed. All surrounding cities should check for plague. The signal went from Tower to Tower. The towers were new, so they had only had time to put up twenty towers in each direction. Still it was enough to partially warn many of the outlying towns. The other towns sent bicycle riders with the message ahead along the river.

A Temple of the Body Parts, Near Varna

Priest Darian watched as another man on a wagon came in. He was laying down in the wagon. Already all of the cells in the temple were full. Men lay perspiring on pads in long tunics that had been thoroughly cleaned.

He spoke to Priestess Venus, she would make another pair of lungs out of clay and paint them red. The name of the man was Dion. Next to the red lungs would be a placard, Dion sick with red plague, pray for him. After the people in the wagon paid the customary fee to Dion, Priest Darian and Priestess Venus would make a prayer to the god of healing in Dion's name. Many people who came to the temple could only be cured by the intercession of the gods. If you lost a limb, it would not grow back, but the priests could help you accept the loss.

This Temple of the Body Parts was in the countryside because it protected the patients from the bad humors of the City of Varna. All kinds of negative spirits could be in Varna. Here the air was pure and free from negative influences. There were few demons in the countryside or immoral forces.

Priest Darian had spent the last night reading passages from the account of the Pigeon Plague by Den. He had tried everything described. Feeding the patients hot liquid broths with herbs in them; garlic, honey, and herbs. Keeping people far apart. Insisting that they rest. The best hope lay in letting people die in isolation. This way others would not get infected.

The men would breath heavily and sweat. Some of them had red flushed faces. It did not sound like the pigeon plague. Priest Darian was careful to keep the rituals of cleanliness, wearing a special mask blessed by Priestess Venus with the hand of benevolence on it, donning a clean long tunic, washing his hands and feet before seeing each patient. It was both necessary for spiritual and physical cleanliness.

He looked at Dion who was lying on the cot that night. He washed the man with a sponge and fed him some hot broth with herbs. Then he said a prayer that he might not die in his sleep. That his soul might not depart. He checked the mans pulse with a paper tube, then looked over his eyes, hands, and feet.

That night Dion died. He was buried in a plot not far from the temple. He went into the ground into a simple wooden coffin. No man was to come near the body of a red plague victim or say prayers next to the body. If a man went into the Temple of the Body Parts, it was the duty of the temple to prevent the spirits of plague escaping into the general population. Some saw sickness as coming from bad spirits.

Priest Darian looked through the herbals and medical books in the Temple of the Body Parts. He had books from Egypt and Sumeria as well as texts from the House of Wisdom at Oak. Somewhere in here there must be a cure. In addition, there were a variety of prayers and songs for the sick. There were many written accounts of disease in the temple records. Cases of illness. He would have to write a short case on what happened to Dion and file it with a description and time.

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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Saxony-Brandenburg » Sat Jan 23, 2021 8:58 pm

Olivia Ingels

I slipped in and out from the eternal void of a hard sleep as I felt a leathery hand on my shoulder. “Olifia. Get up- I’m not going to ask you again.” She muttered, her own voice raspy and tired. “Oh god.” I groaned, rolling over on my side to face her. My head felt light, and yet it hurt so bad. My entire body was the most uncomfortable hot- I probably sweated the whole night. “Fuck!” I exclaimed in my tired, groggy voice. I tried as hard as I could to pull myself up- the wooden frame of the bed creaking under my movement. “I shouldn’t have drank so much.” Alya was already standing- stripping her dress to wash herself in a bucket of water left out since last night. “No you shouldn’t have.” She said, ringing an old and dirty cloth out and rubbing her face. “Though I’ll admit - it’s impressive what you can do. And very few people would dare to let down their Queen.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m not their queen. I hardly hold power here… I’m just a figurehead.” The very concept of being a leader like that made me incredibly uncomfortable and even, to some degree embarrassed. “It’s too early to talk about this. I’m going to make some tea.” I grunted as I pushed myself up off the bed, and stumbled out of the room and towards the stairs. The short flight was still unfamiliar to me, and on the first step I felt my foot slip- sending me into a panic as I nearly fell down to certain pain. Allat bless me, I didn’t.

I still missed our old home. Despite all the new space and amenities the new one gave. Down the steps went straight into the main room- with a fireplace on one side, and a number of low couches sitting in the middle of the room. I could tell the rug was visibly stained from the previous night. “Probably spilled beer.” I muttered to myself, but it could conceivably had been anything we’d had the previous night.

I walked past the mess into the kitchen, where all the amenities of the era I could want to host a small feast could be exercised. The room felt stuffy- the air itself felt thick with dust. I walked to the window and threw open the curtains, letting the morning sublight cast itself into the room- making my eyes water from the sudden change. Yet, the sight of my new garden just outside was always welcome. A young jasmine tree sat just outside, and the gentle breeze wafted its floral smells inside. Despite this, it was nonetheless without peace - I could hear and see the labored sounds of the morning work just over the mud brick wall. I yawned and stretched my arms, before remembering the task at hand. “Right. Tea- the best cure for hangovers.” I muttered, somewhat cynical of the help it would do. But even still- it was worth a shot.

A few minutes later I had washed up and gotten dressed- my long locks of hair which reached my lower back was brushed and braided. Today I wore a loose off-white dress, with a simple light-blue headscarf. What mattered more for special occasions like this was the jewelry- the dozens of gifts I had received in the years from friends and guests, looking to make a good impression. The copper bangles which weighed heavily down both my ankles and wrists jingled with every step I took. Around my neck a foreign pendant made from a large Onyx stone hung. My fingers bore three golden rings, and my ears dangled earrings of lapis lazuli. The amount of wealth on display was certainly flashy, some might even say gawdy. However, it was expected for me to wear these fineries, as many among the men I was to meet were the ones to gift them to me.

Thankfully, the walk from the doors of my home to the new building was less than a minute. It was specifically designed to be so close - Alya worried I would eventually be late to an open-court meeting of the town council. The building was round- with an impressive entrance bearing a stone column on either side and a solid double-door which served as an entrance. Already a number of individuals stood outside the doors waiting, the two guards keeping them out until given the go-ahead to hold court. The small crowd waiting in-line looked over in elation as they saw me, all I could do was blush as the guards opened the doors to let me through. The chamber wasn’t very large- yet it was bright and well-lit. The tile roof of the building came to a stop in the center- where a large hole bathed the flagstone floors in warm light. The white plastered walls all around were dotted with dozens of small square windows which let the whole room breathe. The group of four men waved to me as I approached, all of them talking in a hushed tone as they sat on creaking folding chairs..

“Ah! Olifia!” a loose-friend, a man named Farooq called to me. “It is good to see you finally show up. Thank you for the wonderful time last night by the way. It was very fun to hear you play the harp so well.” I shrugged, smiling with slight embarrassment. “I can’t say it came easily, I’m not very delicate with my fingers- but thank the Egyptian who made it before me. That can wait for another time however - was there anything interesting for us?” The man nodded, excitement on his face. “Yes, actually. A merchant by the name of Muammar just arrived from the north. Interestingly, he brought in his hull a number of foreign weapons from the far north he wanted to show us. Apparently those whose goods he brought to market were very unimpressed until he showed them what they could do.” I raised an eyebrow. “What could they do? What /are/ they, first off?” He nodded. “Two things- bows and spearheads. I’m told actually he wished to come here and show them to us- perhaps to let us buy them off him, and distribute them to our best warriors. Maybe his benefactors would be more pleased in the end to receive cattle and wool from our coffers.” I wondered what made these things so special- what would make a man travel so far from the cold, cold north just to sell spears and bows. “Huh. Alright then. I look forward to seeing it.”

As the short hours passed more and more people arrived from across the town - tradesmen and farmers, brewers and family-heads, to give their grievances for redress. In total, eleven men and women sat alongside me in a semi-circle in the middle of the chamber, while dozens and dozens more lined the walls and stood in the entryway. It would be a long day for sure. As the hours passed, the majority of the cases heard were matters of arbitration… families disputing over unfair prices, flocks of animals interbreeding, water from wells not being proportioned correctly…. All things which could not be tried until a proper case was heard. The two scribes who sat behind us were referred to - tasked to create proper times and serve the proper notices to present their cases in the coming days. It was all of importance, but not very pressing as the time went by. The weekly public hearings usually went by this. If there were no new laws or problems to be solved, it would mostly be pieced out for smaller events during the week where justice and governing individual events was more practicable.

Soon enough though, when the more boring matters could be parsed, that the merchant Muammar appeared before us, an older, scruffier man with a simple tunic - yet with his assistants carrying with him a number of spears and bows.

“Learned men and women of the council - I am very pleased to have your attention today. What I have brought with me comes from the great, far north. A land of unimaginable people, with strange ways and practices beyond our understanding. Yet! The goods they brought with them were not tricks, they were not queer items with unknown uses. Rather! What I have received from them are goods of the finest quality. The smiths and bowyers of these people are without question the greatest in their professions. They have mastered metalworking and bowmaking in such a way, as to bend materials we do not yet understand. Today I present to you an offer, on behalf of my benefactors whose goods I have honestly traded, to sell them to the general use of Yanbu - to arm our protectors with what is necessary to preserve our freedom and way of life.”

He takes from the men behind him two spear-heads. One of bronze, and another of iron. He holds them out for us to see. “Clearly - these metals are of two differing varieties. One of these is bronze - and the other is of white-metal. Obviously, by fact of it’s rarity, it is a difficult metal to work. Yet! Here we have it, shaped into the same sized point.” The merchant’s assistant brings out a wooden post wrapped in leather, with a large weighted down base. He trades the spearheads for a whole spear now, holding it infront of the post. “This is a spear of bronze, made locally by our craftsmen.” With a grunt, he thrusts it into the post, where it sticks in for a moment, before wrenching it out. “See how the cut passed through the leather, but made a minor cut into the wood. What’s more! Look at the head-” He motions for those around to look at the spear. “The tip has been broken off! While bronze is strong, it cannot survive such trauma. But let us see the other…” He trades the bronze spear for one of iron, waiting for a moment of suspense, and stabbing it into the post, before ripping it out. “Look now upon the cut! Not only is it deeper, but look to the condition of the spear! It remains sharp! It remains clean, and intact. That is the power of this white-metal. That is what will protect our homes from enemies foreign and local… and that is what we will need.”
As the merchant finishes his speech however, he is interrupted by the murmuring of the crowd, and a man pushes between them and into the floor. He looks battered and bruised, his clothes are torn… and he has what looks to be a large, recent wound on his chest. Sweat covers his face, as he nearly trips and falls upon his face, scrambling to the middle of the hall.

“People of Yanbu!” He pleads, pushing up to his knees. “You must believe me! I am the only survivor of a caravan that traveled southwards, to our allies. The bani Yathrib have attacked their neighbors, and the free peoples of our allies! They have burned and subjugated them - and made themselves parties ready for war!”

The crowd reacted with shock. Inter-tribal warfare had came to a minimum in the recent years - all of a sudden for it to flair up again was not only sudden, but to such a scale and intensity so soon as for them to /subjugate/ their neighbors wasn’t yet heard of. Raids, sure - but what was going on?

I stood up, accidentally knocking the stool over with the flick of my foot. “Quiet everyone! Quiet!” I snarled, waving my hands wildly. “We will resume our public hearing later! Guards, please escort the people out of the chamber! The council will hear this man out, and we will deliver an address of what will be done soon.”

Khalid ibn Hasan

“We are at war with Iblees, my brothers. And a war with he is a war with sin! Everywhere we look, our brothers and sisters in these lands worship the manifestations of satan. How can it be written, that there shall be no god before me, and yet at the same time, we tolerate idolatry and witchcraft among us? We can’t. We fight a war which Allah has deemed it necessary to fight. Jesus, the first martyr, gave his life to spread the word - and thus it is that our brothers in faith have given theirs, following in his footsteps on the path of righteousness. Fear not brothers, for though these brave men leave us… they go home to their father in heaven. And so it is said! That Jesus will attest to their belief, and let them into the gates of heaven. Eternal life awaits them, brothers and sisters of faith. Be jealous! For they have endured temporary pain, for eternal bliss. For it was revealed to me, that every man who fights in the struggle for God’s kingdom has retired beneath his own palm-tree. A tree of his own, which bears fruit from it’s branches every hour of every day - and he may know true peace in the land without need or sin. God is glorious my friends, and your brothers have given their lives towards that cause. So do not cry! Do not weep! But pray for strength! And for the opportunity that you might follow them.” Khalid proclaimed, lowering his hands from the sky. The collected soldiers around him nodded along, many with tears in their eyes. The bodies of a dozen funeral pyres slowly simmered in the evening light, the smoke of their bodies, and their souls, ascending into the painted sky above.

He let out a deep breath, and began to walk away from the crowd. Though he had an obligation to console his followers about the war-dead, there were other matters of similar importance that awaited him. The camp of the bani yathrib was set up on a ridge overlooking the town of Al-Gahreeb. The day had been one of fierce fighting with the locals, their militia had been far better armed and trained than he hoped. Twelve of his best men had died in the skirmish that morning, and dozens more were injured in the fray. But this was little more than a setback for his men. For, when they emerged victorious, and set the enemies to route - they captured the town of Al-Gahreeb, the largest yet to fall to his warband. He placed upon the people of the town until this evening to deliver their tribute, and the next day be baptised into God’s fold. In addition, the single young men of the town who were fit for fighting were to be conscripted, joining the warband on pain of death should they refuse. The unwed girls of the town were similarly demanded of him, to be married to his many young and single soldiers, as it was said, the family was the foundation of a moral society. He entered the town with a detachment of twenty-two men on camelback - arriving in the center of the town as the many fearful eyes of the people looked on upon him. He found the many headmen of the town gathered, sacks of grain and bolts of cloth at their feet. Yet the greatest and most valuable goods of all they sat in the very front - the tribute which was essential to the town’s survival and incorporation into his new kingdom. Dozens upon dozens of wood and stone idols. He nodded with pleasure, eyeing the heathen objects with a joyous hunger.

“You have done well, people of Al-Gahreeb. Do not fret, for this is the minor price you pay to join the elect - the people of god. You sacrifice little, for eternal life. And your sons and daughters will live the greatest lives among men and women fighting for his glory. And when they return from their conquests, they will bring unto their mothers and fathers an abundance of wealth which was given to them by God.”

He waved to his men to get off their camels with him, and approached the collection of tribute. A stone Stele stood in the center of town, marked with icons of the many pagan gods they worshipped. The townspeople backed away in fear. He picked up one such idol - a stone figure, holding a spear in one hand and a bow in the other. He gazed it over rather intensely, nodding with its fine craftsmanship.

“We will see your hands busy with crafts of such quality which praise the lord, not defile him.” He uttered, before suddenly taking the statue, and smacking it against the stele - instantly breaking the fragile stone in half, and sending it’s head shooting across the village center. With joyous celebration, his men took out their axes and knives, and began to do the same - breaking every last idol as their former owners watched on in horror. Next, one man took a rope and tied it around the steele. At a similar time - two men began to hack away at its base, weakening it, until with a number of cracks and fissures the whole thing finally broke, and tumbled to its side. Their work done, the men loaded upon their camels the sacks of grain and wool, and left the broken gods of the pagans underfoot. Khalid got back upon his horse, no longer smiling - as this was a solemn, religious experience for him. “I will build for you a new centerpiece for your homes. An alter and a cross, where you may make sacrifices to the Lord. And God has given me a new name, people of faith, which you shall know me by. For the struggle I have created will be the struggle of light against darkness, and thus it was that in the tides of blood I was baptised anew as Abu al-Rumh, the father of battle. I will see you here again at dawn - to baptise you anew, and build a new people through the bonds of marriage. Sleep well, it will be a big day tomorrow.” He said, before beginning to ride away, leaving only the quiet sounds of old-women’s tears behind him.
Last edited by Saxony-Brandenburg on Sat Jan 23, 2021 8:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Shall we only hope for heaven when we're dead?"

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Democratic Socialists

Postby Suriyanakhon » Sun Jan 24, 2021 7:48 am

Holly Long

Chapter Four

Daungg Kyaayyrwar

The sun was bright outside, which meant I had zero interest in going out. Luckily I had little reason to be required to. Since the chief of the village had accepted me as a member of Daungg Kyaayyrwar, I had been conscripted into weaving with the rest of the womenfolk, something that I did glumly. At least it was fair that misogynistic as opposed to transmisogynistic thinking was what I faced in this new old world.

Whenever I had free time, I would snatch some palm leaves or have Hlaing climb a tree and take some for me (something that she was surprisingly eager to do) and prepare them by cooking and drying. It seemed hard to find the time since we were constantly expected to work, whether it was weaving, washing clothes, or some other task.

My fingers almost trembled with anticipation after I had finished doing the measurements and cutting the cured sheets into the correct proportions to render them symmetrical. With the small knife pen that I had managed to obtain, I carefully cut my first letters into them. I had to be careful for the sheets were easy to rip. Angular letters such as the Latin alphabet posed the risk of tearing the page. Perhaps I could use cursive, but Burmese felt more appropriate, since that was where this location felt closest to.

Once I had practiced writing some on the first sheet (mostly my name, origins, and some trivial facts such as how I liked my eggs) I felt more confident and started writing on the next sheet but with a degree of caution. I could write down the Ramayana, since that was a popular story you couldn't help hear in Thailand or Cambodia. But I never liked Rama, he was too much of a man, and Sita would have been better off leaving him.

Instead I started to write a story of my own, about the sun goddess Pwint Lin and moon goddess Kra San who lived a long time ago, a different age, thousands of googolplexes perhaps. The white-haired moon goddess was blind and was distant from the other planets, while the golden-haired sun goddess was in love with her but too terrified to confess her feelings. During the end of the day when the moon starts to become visible, the sun tries to confess her feelings to her, but becomes afraid and runs away, which brings around night time. This cycle continues again and again. Something about this felt too familiar, but I dismissed it from mind and heart, and once I had finished, looked it over with pride.

Later evening

After we had finished our work for the day, I brought the manuscript out of the box that I had been keeping it in and offered to read it to some of the women and children. When they seemed curious and pliant, I started the recitation. Despite my shyness, I wasn't unused to recitations. When I was a novice, we had to memorize Pali texts and learn how to chant them, and I had gotten to watch entertainers deliver the Ramayana orally, the way it had been formed. They brought the tale to life with their voices, knowing how to be comedic or serious depending on the part of the text. I imitated them somewhat.

As I recited what I had written, my embarrassment was overcome when I realized that the basketweavers were entertained. The children clapped their hands in glee at one part where the solar goddess sticks her foot in the sea goddess' bucket, and even the eldest woman in the tribe broke out in laughter at another part. It made me smile that I had managed to make other people happy, and once I had finished, the children clapped their hands cheerfully.

“Is that a song from your people, Holly?” one of the girls, Lei, asked me.

For some reason, I nodded my head and said yes. At least, it sounded better than admitting I had made the story up out of the blue. Why own up to your aesthetics if your aesthetics were embarrassing?

Hlaing and Phyu Lat didn't say anything, instead Hlaing bit her lip over something.

As we talked more, a deep voice emanated behind me. “What is the meaning of this?” the chieftain said, angry for some reason.

I blushed and was unable to say anything, unsure what to say.

“Holly was just telling us a story from her people, father.” Hlaing spoke up for me. I looked at her gratefully.

“You ought to be using your time for something other than ridiculous stories.” the chieftain stated. “In the time that you spent listening to that foreign drivel, you could have been washing clothes.” he took the sheets out of my hand, and to my shock and horror, threw them into the fireplace where we had been sitting. I let out a shriek at seeing all of my hard work wasted and almost dove into the fireplace to get the leaves, but before I could, they turned to ash.

“What a child, how could anyone think that was a witch.” the chieftain scoffed and walked away.

As he did, I broke into tears. It was embarrassing for other people to see me cry, but I couldn't help it. Everything he said, combined with me seeing hours upon hours of work destroyed, made me unable to hold back the torrent of water from my eyes. A child came up and put her hand on my shoulder. “It's alright, Holly.” she said gently. I sniffled and tried to calm down.

The eldest woman, who had laughed at the tale, came up and offered me some rags to dry my eyes with. I took them and muttered a thank you as I pressed them against my eyes. “I'm sorry your work was destroyed, child. My son is a ridiculous man who takes himself much too seriously.” she told me encouragingly. “Rest assured he won't treat you in that manner again if he doesn't wish to make me angry.”

I said another thank you and bowed.

As we started washing clothes, Hlaing came up to me, almost apologetically as though she was afraid. “I'm sorry for not defending you,” she suddenly blurted, surprising me at the protectiveness in her voice. “I didn't expect him to become that angry and it happened so fast.”

“It's fine, you couldn't have done anything about it.” I replied.

“No one will ever treat you like that again, I swear on all of my ancestral spirits.” she said, and I sat stunned for a few moments. “No one, not even my father.”
Liblefter & Theravada Buddhist
dO yOu LiStEn tO gIrL iN rEd
Johann von Goethe wrote:The God-head is effective in the living and not in the dead, in the becoming and the changing, not in the become and the set-fast; and therefore, similarly the intuition is concerned only to strive towards the divine through the becoming and the living, and logic only to make use of the become and the set-fast.
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Left-Leaning College State

Postby UniversalCommons » Sun Jan 24, 2021 1:27 pm

Interlude 30 AG December

Victor Spear looked at the pieces of burnt scroll. The Followers of the Great Bull had burnt the formula for gunpowder. They had made the claim that the Kraken were making weapons straight from hell which no civilized nation should be using. The Kraken harbor at Napa had housed a small library, but only a few scrolls had made it out. It had been doused with fine lamp oil and lit on fire by the Priestesses of the Celestial Goddess.

He rubbed his head. The scrolls were going into a restricted section of the library at Oak. He had read some of the content. He found the content deeply twisted. The scroll, The Far Stars Where the Elder Gods Dwell A Path of Spiritual and Astronomical Transformation had given him a pounding headache after reading the first two sections.

He had bad dreams that night where a strange creature that looked like a bat winged cucumber tried to carry him off and eat him. He imagined himself in his dreams as an armored knight with a massive warbat and beat it to pieces. He woke up rubbing his eyes and paced until morning.

The scrolls were bound in black eel skin with strange symbols on them. Most were simply strange patterns, but others were symbols of dark primal elder things, things which reached the primal emotions, fear, terror, lust, love, curiosity. The Adamite language had multiple meanings for each symbol.

The following titles had been recovered:

Awakening the Kraken Within by Philip Andrade-- A self help book aimed at breaking past all human limits.

The Bounty of the Sea, Fishing the Deep for Sharks, Squid, and other Creatures by Fisherman Hook-- A guide to fishing for deep sea creatures with illustrations of giant squid, lamp fish, hammerhead sharks, and huge clams.

Building the Lanong Ship by Phillip Andrade-- A guide to building the Lanong warship with commentary describing conquest and raiding.

The Drowned Oath by Phillip Andrade – The oath which one took as a follower of the Kraken. The process of being drowned then brought back as a stronger person.

The Far Stars Where the Elder Gods Dwell A Spiritual and Astronomical Transformation by Priestess Saturn. A guide to seeing the elder gods in the sky, understanding deep time, and being able to read the stars for prophecy with a strange astrology based on monstrous deities.

Lucid Awakening in the Dream Kingdom of Kadith and R'Lyeh A Guide to Dreaming by Priestess Eel-- A guide to dreaming about the Lovecraftian kingdom of Kadith and the sunken city of R'Lyeh.

Making Amulets and Elder Symbols by Prayer Singer Shark-- A guide to different prominent Adamite symbols and protective symbols.

The Names and Meanings of the Elder Gods by Phillip Andrade-- A guide book to the names of the elder beings and gods arranged alphabetically with short entries for each primal being.

Navigating by the Stars by Priest Moon-- A navigational guide for ships with commentary about elder constellations and far off stars where different kinds of creatures dwell.

Odes and Prayers to the First Ones and the Dwellers In the Deep by Priestess Glowfish-- Odes and prayers to creatures like sharks, fish men, giant octopi, peoples shadows, strange colors and other beings.

On Fruiting Bodies, Fungi and Death by Oathbearer Octopuss-- Musings on death and decay from a Kraken viewpoint. Incomprehensible to most except for indoctrinated followers of the Kraken.

Sightings of the Giant Squid, Kraken, Giant Octopuss, Dagon, and Great Shark by Priest Niobe-- Sightings of a variety of giant sea monsters, meant to evoke curiosity and fear.

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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Saxony-Brandenburg » Sun Jan 24, 2021 4:16 pm

Eternal glory among martyrs


Olivia Ingels

I woke up at dawn for a day I had long dreaded. I couldn’t eat that morning, though I tried hard. Alya met me with similar silence, for she too had heard the reports from refugees and victims of the south… telling us of the rapid advance of the enemy northward since the days had passed. He had gathered his strength where our presence was little - and swiftly advanced northwards, hitting the town of Al-Gahreeb with predictable victory. He seemed near unstoppable against the disorganized militia of the more sparsely populated villages, and while an unstoppable army was always a myth… it struck fear into our hearts. Yet even still, though my anxiety stabbed at my chest, I could do nothing but put on a solid face. Whether I liked it or not, the people looked to me for courage. If I was going to send many of them to die - I would need to go with them myself. Alya had given me a set of armor to wear over my clothes. A harness with two simple bronze plates covered my chest and back, worn over a long red wool robe which reached down to my ankles. I left my home sick with dread, yet I tried to keep my face stiff, expressionless. Throughout the streets I heard and saw them - men and women readying themselves, kissing their families goodbye, walking towards the gates. Just outside of town, a clearing for grazing cattle was already beginning to fill with warriors. You could hear the echoing rhythms of drums from well inside the town. Camels, laden with sacks of grain and rolled-up tents, absently grazed in the shrubbery. Though some were visibly nervous, others were less so - caught up in the motions of it all.

A similar feeling encompassed the warband as we departed, most of us on foot leaving those with camels to follow at their pace, along the marked, but very vague path southwards through the rocks, hills, and sand. We arrived outside of the town of Kinanah just three days later, with the wind at our backs and earlier than we’d imagined. Alya’s brother Fazal, who had been elected by the men as their leader, approached me, pointing to the east of town towards the hills. “What do you think, prophet? Do we stand a chance?” I frowned, looking across the rolling, dry, and dusty land with sadness - knowing it would soon be painted red. “I think so. But we would do well to take advantage of our timely arrival. Did your scouts find the local water source like I asked?” He nodded, pointing to the east. “There is a wadi just a short run that way. It’s muddy, and the water is thin until the rain comes in weeks, maybe a month. But its the only water around beyond the wells the locals dig.” “Good.” I said shortly, getting off my camel with a huff. “We should set up our camp near it, in between it and where we anticipate they will be coming from - the south-east. If we can deny them water to collect, we can force them to fight us. And then… well, then we have to rely on our strengths and our gods, right?” I smiled nervously at him, who seemed to not take it quite seriously. “I’ll have the band pitch tents there then. I’ll let you know if we see their activity.” I nodded, and waved him off - running down the hillside towards the long train of men and women eagerly waiting to throw down their burdens and rest.

The very next day we’d spotted their scouts upon the ridge of a hill across the long coastal-plain which separated the northern hills and the southern hills. The town itself was settled to the northern edge of this plain, but several farms, pastures, and groves extended well into the plain itself. At noon that day I’d receive a messenger while we discussed strategy in my tent- a young girl who fell to her knees. “We’ve spotted them, oh noble ones! They’ve sent a group of men to collect from the farms! They take it, we will sit in our camp until they attack, and have taken it to collect supplies to last themselves.” I looked at Fasal, who nodded calmly, and explained: “Send forth a group of archers on camelback- drive them back to their camp and deny them their food! If they commit to a fight then and there, we will be swiftly behind them. If not, then we will wait them out and keep doing so.” The messenger nodded, and ran out of the tent. Fasal himself stood, walking towards the entrance. “I will make it clear to the archers their mission. I will let you know how it goes or… if things escalate.” I sat there, uneasy for a few, long minutes - before no longer being able to keep myself calm inside, and burst from my tent, and running to the edge of camp. I caught them as they left- their mounts kicking up dust as they moved through the rocky pastures. I felt my stomach drop as they went further and further out to the field. How many of those twenty men would die? How many would be injured? They were a fraction of the violence shown but… it was partially my call, even if just by not objecting. All I could do was wait… and thus I sat down on a rock, and leaned my head to pray. “My gods above, my heart burns for the blood that will be spilt in my name. I know not how many men will die with my names upon their lips - spare them, oh gods, the pains and burdens of death. Let the evil of greedy and power-hungry men be lifted - and send them home to their children and wives. I don’t know the strength that will be needed today, but give it to us. Or the peace we have built may be lost.”

What seemed like hours passed - but it couldn’t have been longer than one, before I saw the mass of men return. I worried their number seemed smaller, the dust-cloud shrunk in size. I kept counting, over and over again - sure there were less than before. When they did, however, they were numbered the same. They came straight to me then, and I could see clearly that one man had blood dripping down his shoulder, and another looked pretty bruised up… but none seemed mortally wounded. “What happened out there?!” I asked in a frenzy, startling one or two of those among the troupe. “They ran - taking with them what they had. We sent a few arrows out after them but - none hit their mark. One of us was hit with a rock but - he’ll heal.” I sighed with relief, nodding along. “Trade out your camels with the rest of the herd - and relax for a minute. Talk to Fasal about this. He’ll want to know what occurred.”

Fazal bin Jabari

Over the course of the next two days the same process repeated itself, over and over again. Their foragers would go forth, and our men would chase them back. Over the course of the twelve times this occurred, we lost three men to a trap where they finally were waiting for us… and it’s unsure how many they might have lost - though it seemed negligible. All this prodding and prodding at them without serious countermeasure made me wonder how much supply they brought with them… that was, until I was shaken from my sleep before the dawn had even struck.

“PEOPLE OF ALLAT! WAKE UP! THEY ARE NEARLY UPON US!” Was the cry heard, and as I pushed myself up and out of bed in a panic, I could see a massive dust-cloud in the dim light of the morning. “Oh Allat protect me!” I muttered, “curse the cowards for hiding their advance.” I shook my head, but thanked the gods we’d caught them in the midst of their attack. I grabbed my bronze plate and helmet from beside my bedroll, throwing it on haphazardly, and grabbed my spear and shield. Running towards the assembled men, I could see many of them still dazed desperately attempting to form into organized groups as practiced.

“Get ready! Footmen form up in your lines! Camels to me!” I screamed, my voice already breaking. I threw myself then up upon my camel, striking it repeatedly until it began to move through the panicked encampment. Soon enough a messy form of infantry had assembled to meet the rapid advance of the bani Yathrib, while the camels and I spread out to their side.

The whizzing of stones flying through the air happened almost immediately.Warriors, many without their armor strapped - desperately using their slings against the foe, as a shower of rocks went forwards and backwards, a constant hiss as the screams of the foe grew ever louder. The enemy were clad in uncolored tunics, skirts, and robes - marching forward without hesitation, even as their comrades fell to the sound of cracking bone against stone. “In the name of Allah!” They cried, banging their spears against their shields - and beginning to charge. Those on our side dropped their slings, and drew their swords. Above their ranks, the banners of the many tribes of Yanbu and her neighbors were held high. Along the ranks, the low, loud chanting of the alliance forces was clear, rivaling them. “Oh people of Uzza! Oh people of Hubal!” They sang three times, before throwing themselves into the fray. “Allat Allat! Al Uzza Al Uzza!” I screamed, before hitting my camel with all my might - sending the baying animal forwards towards the enemy’s own.

Certain moments last for eternity. Time stretches when you feel your life put to the knife’s edge. Full of fear and passion, we throw ourselves into the breach - hoping to somehow make it out alive on the other side. The two sides collided like thunder - as the camels and I ran amock almost immediately into the fray. In Front of me, a young man with a wooden spear and round shield raised himself to fight - the two animals sending themselves on a collision course for one-another, I thrust with all my might towards him - feeling the iron tip of my spear connect with /something/, and the scream of a camel sharply punctuate my ears. Stab, pull, move- it all happened so quickly - and yet a quick glance over my shoulder confirmed my suspicion as the camel fell forward, sending its master into the dirt. Violence raged all around me, I was unsure where each line started or ended, only the desperate shrieks of lives ended. Yet as quickly as the charge started, I could see both the enemy’s camels, and our own, pull back - not wanting to get stuck in still, and face the wrath of an ambitious footman. “Come back! Come back!” I cried, turning myself to retreat back to our own lines, my fellow mounted soldiers pushing well forwards past the main battle line. As we fell back, those on camelback who carried bows began to fire at the running enemy, their arrows flying over the heads of men and into the dust. I reared my camel, and rode behind the main line of infantry - seeing the carnage unfold to my cries “Keep going! Keep going!” Much to my anger however, this was not to be. From a sharp flare-up of fighting, however, slowly deteriorated as the lines of men fell backwards from each other, slowly parting, before individual headmen among the men ordered a withdrawal. Without much will to press on - both sides stood back from one another - the enemy falling back towards the farmland, while we retreated back to camp. Back in the middle - I could already see dozens of bodies, the sand stained red with blood. It was only when I stepped off my camel - to inspect a man, writhing on the ground, that I felt it in my side. I looked down to see it- a large ripping wound which scraped the side of my ribcage, oozing with blood. “Allat protect me - I could not feel it over…” I shook my head, knowing this was no time for panic. I dropped to my knees and saw the man, a cut on his cheek, and the broken head of a spear lodged in his stomach. There was absolutely no way he could survive. “Oh brother of my homeland - I see you now! Forgive me, for this should not be your end.” I grunted, kneeling to grab him, and slowly drag him back towards camp. He cried out with pain with every inch we moved, until we were back on the edge of camp, and two women, seemingly uninjured, came to take him from me.

Hours past, and nothing. Amidst the terror that had unfolded and the shocking quiet, I could see the enemy move their camp closer to us… and send parties to fetch the dead. It was repulsive to let the bodies sit out - even enemy ones… and thus I threatened to beat a man to death who raised his sling intending to hit a young man attempting to trudge a corpse back to his side. “Have you no honor boy?! Don’t you know the Jinn feed on corpses?!” I barked, before slapping him.

Throughout the restless night in which we sat, awaiting the other side to make a move. All I could do was close my eyes around the fire, opening wide with terror at the slightest noise, and throwing me from the lulls of half-sleep. Over and over again, I would settle, the grip of exhaustion overwhelming me… before being violently ripped back to the world around me. All until dawn, when another cry came from within the camp. “PEOPLE OF ALLAT! AWAKEN! YOUR ENEMY RALLIES!” In a similar panic to the day before, men and women, young and old scramble to get in-line. Many among them are injured, and a handful more cannot pull themselves from their rest, for the clutches of death took them under the cover of night. Our lines reformed with far more time this time, and the enemy approached bearing drums and the sounds of flutes. This morbid display of force at first shocked the warriors, before someone had the bright idea to copy, and clambored for their instruments of war. As the rhythmic drumming swelled from both sides, and the banging of fists on shields grew louder and louder - the enemy stopped.

Their music stopped - and as if contagious, ours did aswell. A lone man, tall and dark - with fine-garb, decorated with bronze and flowing orange robes walked across the field between us. When he was halfway across, he raised his hands to the sky, and called out: “People of Allat! Followers of false-prophets! I come to challenge your greatest warriors! Allah will favor the bold! Who among you would refuse my demand for single combat?” Murmuring spread from among the ranks, as I pushed myself to the front, slowly, one foot infront of the other… before emerging to face him. “I, Fazal, son of Omar, accept your challenge to fight for honor.” My whole body began to pump with adrenaline, my hands sweating, my head swimming. I stepped forward, moving slowly forward more and more.

“Ah… Fazal! The history-books of the believers will remember your name, as the man Allah has given me the power to strike down!” He drew his gleaming bronze sword, and held it firmly aloft. “But I am a man of honor, and will let you have the first go.”

I stood there for a moment, closing my eyes, taking a breath. It felt like a lifetime had passed - a lifetime of love and family, home and love - all to be demanded to be put on the line for /this/. What was this? My honor? No, it was more than that. It was everything that made that life possible, stolen from my children and their children. That was unacceptable.

I opened my eyes, feeling the wind coming from the sea blow my long hair gently - rippling the grass among the coastal plain. Now was the time. I took a single step forward, and pushed myself forward, running towards him with my spear held firm, throwing myself upon him! Up and down I tried to strike him in a flurry of strikes - him raising and lowering his shield to block me. He knocked my weapon to the side, and in the same motion swung his blade towards my leg! I stepped back, narrowly missing it as his sword swung through air. I grit my teeth, my lungs burning from how hard I was breathing, before throwing myself once more at him, over and under and over - each time he blocked - before he lunged forwards once more, but now committing to press the attack even between his misses. He swung up and down aiming for my shoulders, my side, my arm! I felt a burning slash and looked to see his blade connect with my left shoulder, sending searing pain throughout my very body. “Gaaah!” I screamed, slapping his arm away with my shield, stumbling backwards, feeling the blood pump from the wound. I staggered, having to see through the pain as he went at me again! My shield-arm was weak, but I had no chance if I kept playing so defensive. I saw the anger in his eyes, and met his sword with my shield, feeling it bite into my shield. Just a moment - a moment is what I needed while he struggled to wrench it forth from my shield. I pushed past him, my spear thrusting straight towards his chest! My mind was swirling, my head thumping, my limbs numb… but I felt it. The pressure of the head against his chest, and the sound of metal scraping metal as he looked on in terror. He fell back, dropping his shield to grasp my spear! He held it there, tight, and with his sword hand swung down towards my hand! Reflexively, I could do little but drop the spear, and wince as he barely misses my hand, saving it from being detached from my arm. He looked at me, pure rage in his eyes now, as he ripped the spearhead from his chest. The strength of the iron did puncture his piece - and visibly drew blood… yet, the force was not enough to crack his bone, the plate had protected him so… He dropped the spear, and took a few steps back, circling me with his sword held ready. I quickly drew my own, holding it close to my shield as I followed him, followed him, until with a roar he threw himself at me! Swinging and swinging and swinging in a series of messy blows, I could do nothing but in a panic try and stop him. Sweat nearly clouded my vision, my eyes stung from it all. It hurt so bad - and in a momentary blink - I felt it again. That searing pain which trembles the body, shakes you to the bones. I felt it once more in my side - i looked to see his sword, pressed against the side of my rib-cage, reopening the wound from the previous day. He pressed hard against my flesh, and I could feel my very bones start to wean under the force. The pain, the fear, the terror- it made me reflexively give with all my might one big push - my sword going straight for him - and with an instant I knew what I had done. As his blade pushed deeper, twisted, and managed to slip between my bones… I felt the blade lodge deep into his neck. The anger in his eyes melted into fear, a loud cough escaped him as blood oozed out of the wound.. He dropped his blade, his hands rising to his neck… He fell to his knees - and before I could do anything else… my vision became blurry. My knees buckled, all the energy keeping me up siphoned out into the air. The pain was too much for me. There wasn’t any more courage to keep me aloft - and I fell into blackness.

Olivia Ingels

I saw in terror as he fell. He did not fall graciously - there was no defiance in his pose. He simply collapsed, clutching himself - as his whole body shook and writhed with anguish. “Fazal!” I screamed - but before I could, the air was overwhelmed with the sounds of screaming men, as the two lines collided with one another. All I could do was watch, as the armies oncemore threw themselves into carnage, trampling on the two man’s field of battle, over their bodies, and into the fray. Blood once more watered the earth, and for a moment I would forget about the plans we had made… until clarity struck, a moment wasted was a moment too much. I had to act - and quickly, or suffer the failure of what he’d died for. I climbed onto my black camel- and rode from my position into camp down to the battle. I only wore a dagger on my hip for protection, I was a priestess, a Sheikha, not a fighter.. But even still - I had to go. Three men with horns stood behind the middle, the center, and the right flank. When a retreat was called, they would blow one long one. When a charge was called, they would blow three times quickly… and when an ordered fallback was called - they would blow two long sounds. We’d told the officers about this very thing for an important moment like this. We had more men than they did - but oftentimes they would clump up along the edges.

“In a hundred-counts time” I told him, “blow the ordered retreat for the center. And don’t delay!" I yelled, before releasing my grip and riding out towards the edges, where our camels attacked their infantry with loose skirmishing, their bows singing and spears jabbing in, before running out. I pressed the beast hard, screaming as loud as I could the their headman on the far left. “Ride around them! Go around to their rear!” He looked at me, baffled, as I pushed towards him, pointing further forwards. “Ride around them and strike their rear!” He was confused by this, but blew his own horn, retreating his men before leading them around the mob. As soon as he did, however, I heard the sound of the center-mass, and you could see the men begin to step back, the center swelling as the enemy, now invigorated, kept up the push. I rode back to the horn-man, my clothes dripping with fear and sweat, being so close to the action. “When I say go, I want you to order a new charge, you hear me?” The center swelled more and more, as the mob of fighting pressed inwards more and more into a “v” shape. That was… until the camel-riders swung around, and you could see the dust kicked up behind them finally collide with their rear. “Now!” I demanded, and he blew the charge. They stopped falling back - screams of “FORWARDS!” coming from inside the mob, and with the shock of two sudden thrusts forcing their line in two opposite directions, their formationbuckled. It buckled hard - so hard in fact I was sure it would break… until it didn't. Something held out - i did not know what yet, but it did. I could see with tears in my eyes the camels retreat - bloodied, battered, many many falling as they tried to turn around, stuck in as the enemy infantry swallowed them. Several more arduous minutes passed by - and the lines once more stood flat against one another, with swells on either side being replaced momentarily. Like a grinder, it kept going and going… Until the unthinkable. I could see the screams of terror as the enemy gave one final push! One final push and our entire line began to buckle! The men screamed in terror, as the Christians threw themselves upon their shields and blades in a tide of fervor.

There- there had to be something I could do! I could see many men begin to run- begin to fall back to the camp, and the enemy surge forward. I couldn’t allow all this to be for nothing! I - I couldn’t! I had to choke back the tears, and found next to me on the ground a banner - a long cowhide which had been smeared red with blood. “Fuck it, if this is the end, then I would be a coward not to.” I picked it up, and stood there for a moment… before rushing into the fray. “PEOPLE OF UZZA! PEOPLE OF HUBAL!” I cried “Protect your homes! Protect your gods!” Many looked on me with terror, as I wildly ran into the crowd, into the backs of our men, many of whom cast glances at me of terror. “The Prophet!?” Someone asked, and as I kept screaming, waving the bloodied skin in the air, I saw some men turn back. “Protect the prophet!” Someone called, and immediately more joined in. I felt the line of men before me begin to thin - and ice covered my veins if I wondered if I would be swallowed into their arms. “Give everything! For your children! For freedom!” I felt a searing pain piece my thigh - I looked to see a stray spear striking past the man in front of me, missing him, but connecting into my close limb. I howled in anguish, my body writhing from the pain. I staggered backwards, nearly tripping on a stone. Somehow, my footing was restored - and through the chaos, I could feel things changing… “Protect the prophet!” I heard being chanted, as men rushed around me. They threw themselves on the shields of the christians once more, in a zealous fury matching their enemies. Though the enemy were disciplined and many… we still held a slight numerical advantage - and as we pressed harder and harder - I could see their line buckle again. The camels from before, once routed, returned to another action - smashing into their rear. It all seemed unreal - but their lines buckled, their feverous charge failed… and they began to fell back. At first a trickle I could see sprinting away… then dozens, as the army of Abu al-Rumh fell back - their commanders signaling them with drums and barking orders to retreat. Though in a glorious move, I thought we had won, I stumbled back and saw a different picture. Exhaustion plagued those around me, and when the enemy retreated… we let them. Some men just stood there, stunned and dazed. Others in a panic attempted to save their brothers in combat. More simply collapsed onto the rocks. Before I knew it, all the killing, all the dying, ceased.

I limped from camp to the field where the pyres were laid-out. It had taken hours to clean the field of the bodies, bodies of man and beast alike. But for the many fallen warriors, the least we could do was give them a proper funeral. The scouts had reported the army of Abu al-Rumh retreated south towards the town of Al-Gahreeb. The war was long from over, but for now, we lick our wounds.

I stood to look over the sixty-one bodies which lay motionless across the field. There was not enough wood to cremate all of them at once, no matter how much the locals tried to help, bringing pieces of furniture and beams to be hacked and used. For a body to be properly burned, it had to be heated very high, and very long. All we could do is wait. For the fourteen bodies up first, however, we laid them out on top of wooden beds, dry, dry kindling stuffed below them like mattresses. A solemn crowd of injured and wearied men and women stood gazing at them, and the many more wrapped in blankets, waiting to follow. I raised my hands out into the air, closing my eyes.

“Brothers, sisters, friends - neighbors. Today we fought a battle against the darkness. A war with darkness that would cost us not just the shackles of subjugation and slavery, but a war for our very souls. We were born into a horrid, painful world. We were born into this world of pain and injustice, of passion, and hate. But beneath the sweating sun, and thrown against the rock of mountains our people are made brave. If you were born upon this soil, or have come here from abroad - you have made this land your home. You have defended it with the cost to your very lives, not because you want to, but because you must. Every one of you proclaimed this day that you would rather die than see it taken from you. And for some of us… we did. But for all the enemy calls upon their god for aid, for all they proclaim his power, his glory - on this day? Their god has lost! They have lost. Through sweat, and tears, and blood, and our devotion to justice! Our gods have given us to triumph over the day. We make an unrivaled sacrifice when we die for this cause. For unlike them, we know that death is the end of the journey - we slip into the primordial essence from whence we came, never to return. But we do not die. We do not die, because our sacrifice, our years of toil against a world that seeks to consume us, lives within those who outlive us. And when we are called to go, our time upon this earth is up - we won’t cry - we won’t be sad. Because we struggled, and we fought. And that is enough. Allat favors the bold, and the boldest of men are those who embrace death before dishonor. Your courage will not be forgotten brothers and sisters, not tomorrow, not years from now, NEVER! Those who died this day died with valor! And we will remember their names, and of all the fallen, as they live in ETERNAL GLORY among heroes!” I could no longer hold it - my eyes, brimming with tears, finally broke - and I began to choke, barely able to speak. "And that's enough for us. No heaven could be worth that final moment of power. Because in that moment - we've conquered death."

Alya, bruised and beaten but alive, left my side to approach the pyre. Her brother lay there, immobile - still in his bloodied clothes he wore to battle. She didn’t cry - her eyes didn’t even reflect sadness. She reached down - and touched his shoulder one last time. “Goodbye brother. You got your wish. You died fighting for what you believed in. You’re a hero.” Wiping a tear from her eye, she nodded, and walked over to the fire, where she took a flaming stick poking out the edge. She held it there for a moment, gazing one last time upon his lifeless form, before dropping it onto the pyre, and watched the flames lick and grow, slowly but surely bathing him in a wall of fire.
Last edited by Saxony-Brandenburg on Sun Jan 24, 2021 7:34 pm, edited 5 times in total.
"Shall we only hope for heaven when we're dead?"

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Democratic Socialists

Postby G-Tech Corporation » Sun Jan 24, 2021 5:08 pm

Part 5, Chapter 24: A Cloud at Dusk

November 21st, 30 AG

Along the road came the dust cloud that denoted approaching men in decent numbers, not but a half hour late. They were punctual, or at least what passed for punctual around here. Good enough. I squinted into the north, pushing back my hood as I did so. The road from the coast was not yet mired in winter melt, but neither was it particularly clear. If it wasn't for the last two weeks of unseasonably little precipitation, we probably wouldn't have even noticed their approach.

A throat was cleared behind me.

"Yes, the Hibernians are here. Thank you Helmut."

I grinned over my shoulder. My adjutant looked somewhat put out at my ability to observe the world around me, but after a brief expression of annoyance he raised his shoulders in a quintessential Gallic shrug.

"Very good sir. Lord-Commander Grimsbold would like that you-"

"Sit with him in the pavillion. Yes. Thank you, Helmut."

There was more dismissal in my voice, and now the good man did flounce off in a state of some chagrin. I sighed internally, before turning away from the view along the northern road. I clearly needed to do some more alchemy or impressive inventing or somesuch nonsense. You'd think since I stepped away from the position of Emperor that I had become some woodland fairy, to be summoned to watch important events or pronounce judgement, but not to be feared. A consequence of not executing men on a whim, or so I had heard Beorn impute at times. People had such short memories.

Down from the hillock I trudged, woolgathering as I ambled. There were times I wished things were still simple, that I didn't have to contemplate macroeconomic factors and political niceties from day to day. When first I came here my foremost concern was to have a roof over my head and a warm bed, and so I had honed my skills at the hunt, fought my own foes, not sat at the rear of armies to take note of the performance of their arms.

The Lord-Commander raised a hand as I approached.

"I take it the outriders have noted nothing untoward."

Beneath his great black beard the veteran nodded, and a crinkle in the foliage of his face denoted a frown.

"It doesn't feel right, letting outlanders this far into the Imperium. The men from Eire are, it seems, trusty as they come. But again your Majesty, I do beg that you allow my men to seat you in the pavilion. Even if their minds turn to treachery, they have no hope of cutting through your guard and mine together to seek a hostage."

Now it was my turn to shrug impassively, and look around the bare hilltop where we stood.

"I doubt they have even the numbers to take me if I stand beside them. We aren't talking about Guardsmen, Fidelis. The Hibernians have little in the way of standing armies, save the King's Men, and these aren't those. Militia are hardly a match for professional warriors, and these aren't even their militia - just a motley assortment of artisans and support staff from that company they pulled out of Icedonia."

"Does the weapon change that calculation?"

It did. Almost certainly, and irrevocably, from the few reports that had been able to be smuggled out of the veterans and Israel. But if I told Grimsbold that he would have me wait on the far side of the hill, or indeed the town, until he had finished assessing this contraption. And I had no intention of only hearing about his test. Perhaps part of that showed on my face, for the Lord-Commander's expression hardened, before he shook his head slowly.

"I take your silence to mean yes, but also that you are going to be stubborn about this.


I cut him off. It was true. Perhaps a good sniper, a true master of weapons, might be able to take the tube of metal the Black Company had called friend and use it to kill me at a hundred paces. I very much doubted such, but there was always the chance. However, we faced no such men - indeed I doubted such men existed in the world as we stood. It was a cynical calculation, one built off of rumors and guesses about how long soldiers could practice with expensive - desperately expensive - ammunition. If I was wrong, well, that would be awkward. But I was rarely wrong? Providence, it seemed, favored fools.

Explaining all this to the master of men took longer than I planned, walking back through concepts, and even fun words like 'ammunition'. But by the time the Hibernians crested the hill, Grimsbold merely shook his head harder at my assertions, but made no move to shove me back into the assembled ranks of soldiers. That would have been irritating, and unwise, but men with rank like him might get away with it. Warriors did not rise to such a position without my personal trust, after all.

The greetings did not take overlong to exchange. Assessing the mood of the men of Eire told me that they were probably more afraid of us than we were afraid of them, but that fear was tempered with a measure of trust, which I had not expected. A surprise, perhaps not. But the Hibernians had never had particular quarrel with the sons of men, and perhaps this was a thawing of the dissention that Isaac had intended to sow between us. There but for the folly of his queen could have been perhaps a war to engulf all northern Europe, turned aside. Perhaps, perhaps.

"I am Conner, son of Taigh."

His hair was fire-red, a curious allotropic exigency when you considered his origins. By rights, Ireland should be lacking most of the bloodlines to give men there exotic characteristics, lacking both isolation and inbreeding. But here, in defiance of my dubious knowledge of inheritance in Neolithic genetics, stood a man who looked as stereotypically Irish as any from the distant past - or perhaps distant future.

Behind him a woman stood with the weapon, two Guards alongside her, keeping an eye on her from a respectful arm's length. I smiled at him, and greeted him, as did the half dozen artisans and men from the White Palace and her hidden recesses who had come in my party. In other times I would have turned to a lengthy discourse to thank him for his master's gift, and extolled the virtues of the understanding we had come to - indeed I stammered out a few lines of very nearly that consistency - but they petered out fairly rapidly. My excitement at what they had brought was too great to orate as I ought.

Then it was in my hands. I carefully checked the chamber with the ramrod, clarifying that it was unloaded, and then began my inspection.

Two, three, perhaps three and a half cubits. That made it, what, forty two inches in length? Maybe a bit less. Shorter than I had expected, but that could be explained by the rifled barrel. That was a surprise. Boring such a laborious contraption, even with the finest machine tools I had seen out of the Isles, must be an inexact science. They had traded accuracy for portability, and perhaps a measure of weight of fire. She was iron, banded in what I took to be Irish forged near-steel, and couched in a thick wood stock, hickory or perhaps cherry. My mind rustled over the details at speed, voracious.

Flintlock. Muzzle loading? Yes, indeed, only muzzle loading. Now hidden breech, or tackle block. That made the matter more curious than I had assumed. Ramming a rifled blackpowder weapon; and a quick check in the cartridge with the edge of a knife did confirm it was a blackpowder weapon. That was a task and a half. I inspected the bullet, turning it over several times. No signs of anti-fouling measures, or any lubricant in the waddage, which I would have expected in such a mechanism. Maintenance must be a bastard. I passed the weapon to one of the artisans, and inspected the ramrod. There was a small pick attached to one part of the device, which made me nod. Sensible, to combine the two for simplicity, though it did signal a slight battlefield liability in the form of wear from use.

"You get what, four or five shots out of this before it requires cleaning?"

My question made the artisans glance at one another in confusion, but a man farther back in the Hibernian delegation nodded.

"Good guess. Three, on a good day, sometimes only two. You must know this weapon well, to perceive such so quickly."

I smiled brightly at the scarred man, shaking my head.

"I've actually never seen them before - at least, the ones of your Black Company." That was only part of the truth, of course. The design was straightforward enough, and I had seen weapons like this before. But that would be telling. And even if the Hibernians were willing to be trusting enough on this matter, that didn't mean I had to give up too many secrets in return. There were still families in Eire who had been wedded to the Dusk Union, and their antipathy towards the Imperium was only slowly dimming. Anything I said here would, no doubt, wend its way back to Israel before spring.

And I was a firm advocate of not telling more than was necessary.

After a few dozen more minutes of inspection, a guardsman from the Lord-Commander's retinue was chosen to demonstrate the weapon. It didn't take desperately long to instruct him in the usage of the rifle, which spoke well to the familiarity of the Hibernians with her operation. A gun is, after all, a simple device. The great equalizer, the slayer of kings and chivalry and indeed nobility herself. Not quite as much of a despoiler of honor as industrialized warfare, but this was her start.


It was remarkable, really, how the human ear could pick out the quick hiss as the blackpowder ignited before the full charge dissipated. Men cried out in alarm, and even some the Hibernians seemed perturbed. No doubt they had not actually fired the thing themselves, only been involved in her creation, or the like. It was part of the weapon's utility, the shock factor. Certainly the small fogbank that had manifested near the shooter said nothing good about the formulation the Icedonians had settled upon for their propellant.

But warfare did have a psychological component. And here, at least, was a cure for my boredom of the last month.

"Thank Patrick the Second for his fine gift." were my last words before the detachment departed back north again. The crate of rifles would all have to be disassembled, dissected, and poured over in minute detail for an age before we had a hope of reproducing them - if we even reproduced them. But it was certainly an interesting gift, and one I appreciated as a gesture of goodwill, if nothing else. The former master of the King's Own had displayed, in a fairly underhanded way, how exactly he viewed myself, Vladimir, and indeed the Imperium.

And that was not a bad thing.
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Postby Endem » Sun Jan 24, 2021 5:57 pm

Aleksander Śliwecki
2970 B.C.E

Aleksander stood up, attaching the scabbard with the dagger in it to his belt, the curved blade might one day come useful, assuming he survives to see it happen. The water and food he found on the dead man seemingly reinvigorated him, he was ready to journey once again, even if it would be to nothing but his doom.

He looked around him, hoping to maybe see some oasis or settlement, or at least a caravan but nothing was on the horizon, nothing but an endless expanse of dunes and sand, he began to walk forwards yet again. Nothing happened for kilometers on end, nothing but the sound of sand making its way through the desert, grinding against other granules of sand.

Hours turned into days, and Alexander was once again nearly exhausted, having endured the hardships of the desert with no food or water to eat or drink, he had become desperate for those things again. Cruel was fate, he thought to himself, to give him hope and nourishment for a bit only to make him die on this desert anyway.

He clawed his way yet another dune, feeling week and exhausted, when he spotted a truly bizarre image below, a shepherd herding a flock of sheep, impossible, what fool would venture this far out into this wasteland on his own volition and with a herd of sheep. Alexander thought to himself that this must have been some trick conjured by his brain, a Fata Morgana, or the images made by the delirium of a dying man.

But an idea wormed its way into Alexander's head, what if what he was seeing was indeed true, maybe there was some settlement nearby, Alexander looked in all directions, nothing, no buildings nor an oasis, not even the impermanent tents of nomads. But yet the idea persisted, and another, a much more malicious one made its way into Alexander's head, what if he slew one of Shepherd's sheep and ate its meat.

The Shepherd appeared turned around, the perfect opportunity, Alexander thought, he quietly descended from the dune and made his way to one of the sheep, not even noticing it not leaving any hoofprints on the sand, and then he stabbed at it. The ornamented dagger passed through the air as the sheep stopped existing, Alexander fell face-first into the sand.

He got up, looking around him, the sheep had all disappeared but the shepherd, the shepherd stayed, Alexander saw as that man looked at him, disapprovingly and dismissively, like he was just a fly that came to annoy him. Alexander became enraged, he knew that the shepherd was not real and that the sheep weren't either, but at the same time, foolishly still believing in their reality, he was enraged he was denied any of the meat that would have saved him.

He charged at the shepherd, only to stab at air yet again, in a show of blind rage, he begun stabbing at the sand underneath his feet, eventually though he felt he struck something. He immediately began to dig, and soon enough, with the dagger still impaled in it, he found a buried, hollowed-out sealed with clay animal horn, he tried to take the clay off, it did not come off, so he took out the dagger from the horn and with the blunt end cracked the clay, he heard as if something was dropped into water, so he took the horn to his mouth, water flowed.

As he emptied the horn he once again looked at the dagger, rereading the description on it "Trust the Heavens; For they Guide," was this horn full of water dumb luck, or a form of divine intervention, impossible, he did not believe in such notions as gods, but, he could hardly explain it as anything else, maybe there was something to it. He stood up, having quenched his thirst, he began to walk once again, never noticing a crusty, mummified finger sticking out from the sand just next to the place where he uncovered the horn.
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Postby UniversalCommons » Mon Jan 25, 2021 12:07 pm

Hand Enyo watched the finished construction of the heavy ballistae, and the massive traction trebuchet.
The followers of Etana had had plenty of practice with siege engines with their wars in Sumeria. Massive balls of ironstone a mix of cement and iron slag had been prepared as well as incendiaries. They would move on the second harbor soon, not by sea, but by land. More of the followers of the Great Bull had come to the harbor as well as a group of men from Barrabas's Men, the Silver Scorpions. The Silver Scorpions had recently finished training with the Night Watch from Ur.

They hoped to smash the second harbor to pieces from a distance. They had a map which they could use to approach the harbor and had picked out their targets. The Kraken had catapults and cannon, but these were not massive war machines.

When the gates were opened to let the wagons and equipment out of the walls of Napa harbor, the Kraken attacked. The scouts spotted them as they moved out of the woods in large numbers to meet the army on its march.

The Kraken fired their hand cannons at the troops barricaded behind the tall panels of wicker reinforced with iron and panels of hemp plastic. The hand cannons were cannon barrels at the end of long poles which fired a single large ball. They followed this with launching barrel bombs from catapults.

Many of the panels shattered, but few men died. A dozen of the wagons armor shattered from explosive barrels thrown by Kraken catapults ripping apart the troops inside with shrapnel. The armor was not strong enough to resist barrel bombs. The war carts with ballistae and flamethrowers had failed to act immediately assuming they would not be attacked. Only Hand Snake was able to release two ballistae with wasp and scorpion jars at the catapults.

The scouts in the woods sited the catapult crews with scoped heavy crossbows and fired. Half of the men behind the panels fired double bows with a single marked lens. The other half moved ahead with rows of long bladed spears, falxes, and heavy warbats.

The Kraken met the men of the Nestos League in hand to hand battle, a few of them had fine heavy chopping iron swords with a blood grooves on them, others had long finely crafted spears and heavy wave bladed daggers. They carried large oval shields with a central spike and wore light armor, relying on speed and nimbleness to fight. Some seemed to slither across the battlefield, others made long leaps with their swords and spears, or used their shields to bash their enemies. Some screamed and cursed and raved showing filed teeth.

They matched the skill of the Nestos League soldiers in individual combat, but had not had as much experience fighting as a group. The Nestos League soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder against the Kraken.

While, the Kraken attacked from the front, they sent another group to climb over the walls to attack from the side using tiki torches, gunpowder arrows, and pitch to set some of the siege machines on fire. Several of the trebuchets were blazing by the time the men from Al Mina were able to drive them away and the hound masters had released the war dogs. Hand Enyo had joined with her heavy infantry and the Silver Scorptions chasing the Kraken from the walled harbor.

With many of the Nestos League siege engines burning, the Kraken sounded a horn for retreat. The scouts had silenced the majority of the catapult crews.

Neither Hand Enyo, nor the Kraken had gotten the upper hand. Half of the siege engines had burned or been destroyed. Many of the wagons had been blown to bits. They had repulsed the Kraken, but at a high cost. More soldiers and ships were coming to the island.

From intelligence from the slaves, there was a skeleton crew at the second fortress. The Kraken commander had taken his men to attack Napa harbor rather than be slowly demolished from a distance. There were stories that the Kraken had started using straw dummies so it would appear there were more soldiers at the fortress.

Hand Enyo thought about what she had experienced. This could be a trap. She would not make the same mistake twice. She sent scouts to watch the fortress even going so far as to have two men sneek in using the slave, Zigan's passage on the side of the harbor. She sent two people in, both experienced specialists from the Silver Scorpions.

They donned black tunics and pants, tying up their hair into a tight knot, then putting a kerchief over their mouth., slipping curved daggers into their belts. To get to the fortress, they used inflated animal skins, paddling quietly until they were underneath the peer of the second fortress. They then climbed quietly on the peer. They moved quietly stepping with the ball of their feet first then their heels and signaling to each other with their hands. Their breath was relaxed and carefully timed.

They climbed up on top of some storage boxes laying flat so no one would see them and they listened to the chatter of the soldiers unmoving and relaxed.

They tried to stay up high above people and spend a minimum amount of time in one place. It took them a while, but eventually, they climbed their way into the central compound, focusing on staying on the roof where possible.

They listened and tried to stay out of line of sight. They had seen dummies dressed like men on the walls. The fortress was less populated than they expected. They could see lots of dirt being moved out of the central complex. Also spikey clay balls and barbed caltrops were being carried around which the Kraken warriors and priests were very careful handling. The priests and warriors were speaking in a strange guttural language which they could not understand.

It took them a while toget back out of the fortress. Several days passed before they could get back to Napa Harbor.

With the new information, Hand Enyo requested the scouts to look for digging. They found it not far from the fortress. Kraken slaves were digging a large hole in the ground with several Kraken priests and Warriors in attendance. One of the slaves who had agreed to spy on the Kraken was sent to the site to dig. She passed herself off as a slave that was recently captured. She helped serve food to the slaves at the site, a fish gruel with onions in it.

Hand Enyo planned an attack on the dig site. It was supposed to lead into the central complex of the second fortress. Scholar Nico was assigned to assist her. He had once been a hand who had fought the Kraken. They would have to rely on surprise and a hand picked force to take the site initially.

During the night, the Silver Scorpions and a picked group of men from the Nestos League surrounded the camp, attacking it with numbers and speed overwhelming the small group of defenders. A few of the Scorpions were sent ahead to check the tunnel. It appeared to be a single tunnel leading into the fortress. They backed out and had the men collapse the timber frames holding up the roof of the tunnel sealing it off.

They once again set off down the road to the fortress. This time they had armed scouts checking ahead and packs of war dogs checking the woods. They were able to repulse several small groups of skirmishers trying to reach the Nestos League troops before they could reach the second harbor. In the week before they moved, they had picked out some of the slaves who had been captured in battle arming them with weapons from the fallen Kraken.

The second harbor had a limited amount of catapults and cannons. It was not long before they ran out of ammunition. Then it became a long slow process of destruction by siege engines using incendiaries and iron stone balls. They did not enter the fortress, but instead pounded it into rubble. There was no discussion of terms and no chance of escape by the defenders. It took two weeks of continuous pounding day and night.

Towards the end of the siege a few defenders came out with the bodies of their leaders with white flags. There was a series of explosions as the main fortress collapsed in on itself from a mix of explosives, fire and tunneling.

The two warriors and single priest who had surrendered were taken for questioning by the scholars. The followers as a sign of mercy from the Celestial Goddess who is most merciful, were assigned to work crews helping build settlements on small islands for a decade.

Criers were sent to the fortresses of the Kraken. They proclaimed that any man who chose to leave would have safe passage off the island. Any slave would be given their freedom. Any man who publicly proclaimed to no longer serve the Kraken would be given a second chance as public servants building for the Nestos League. It was that or certain death.

Slaves were sent out with the same message. Many of the slaves and some of the followers of the Kraken attempted to escape. During the following week many drowned bodies hung from the walls of the Kraken fortresses. The criers heads adorned the gates of the remaining fortresses.

The army of the Nestos League swelled. Men who had once lived on the island came to join the Nestos League, armed with bronze spears, leather amor and heavy wooden shields, slings, javelins and staff slings. Theycalled on their friends to join them. Some swore oaths to the Great Bull of the Celestial Goddess. A noble family petitioned to have their land back and were told that would only happen if they served in battle.

The Great Storm in the Night (Splinter Faction of the Kraken-- The Black Tentacle)

In the night, some of the Kraken priests met in secret. They looked at the heavens and saw there would be a great storm. In a hidden cove on the north side of the island, they chanted and prayed. Two of the priests chose to sacrifice themselves to the elder god Dagon. In the cove, the priests stood in a circle chanting. The curved knives rose and fell and the sky darkened as the blood flowed on the ground. Then they brought forth six slaves tying them up and cutting them with gashes. The sharks would feed well that night.

The ships of the Nestos League were brought into the harbors. It began to rain. Great swelling waves flowed onto the shores. The wind howled. Lightning flashed. The trees swayed and some of them cracked. In the harbors some of the ship masts cracked.

The people of the Nestos League and the Kraken huddled inside as the wind howled staying close to their lamps.

In the storm, several of the priests climbed to near top of a large rock in the wind. Struggling to reach near the top. One of the priests opened a book filled with Adamite writings and they began to chant in unison, a low guttural humming chant. One of the priests slowly and forcefully reached the top of the rock. He leaped and screamed the wind picked him up carrying him into the darkness.

It was done. In the harbors, several of the ships of the Nestos League hulls cracked. Large unexplainable circular marks and holes would appear in many of the hulls. The remains of a pair of giant squids had floated to the beach in Napa harbor as well as a pair of blubbery masses of flesh.

Over a dozen men and women disappeared that night from both the Nestos League and the Kraken. No one could explain why or how they were gone. The only consistent thing they could say was that the shadows were very long that night, it was especially cold, and in the darkness there were odd slurping and burbling noises in addition to the great storm.

The secret group of priests were waiting in the morning. The water was calm and clear like glass. They had gathered their small group of followers, an inner circle of Kraken. They grabbed dugout canoes they had prepared and headed east into the sunset. There were few ships seeking the Kraken at that time.
Last edited by UniversalCommons on Mon Jan 25, 2021 4:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Alaroma » Mon Jan 25, 2021 5:56 pm

Andrew Negasi: Child of the Hills

Solidarity through Trade

It was a fine Arabian night, one to the natives probably felt all too familiar to. However it was more than your normal run of the mill night for the Merchants of Saana. Some obscured the vision of what was happening for anyone who might have been curious enough to try looking, while others examined the gifts I had brought. I lifted up an Aksumite spear, winking at a merchant who looked at be, before going back to examine his own spear. “The king of Aksum sends his regards.” I noted, smiles popping up on a few faces.

“I was wrong to doubt your commitment to our agreement, but here you are.” One of the local brothers noted, patting me on the back. He lifted a sword up in a grand gesture, admiring it in the moonlight. “Bandits would be fools to come against our wagons now.” The man then looked to the Royal Guard veteran who stood next to me. “You intend to drill us, brother Mathew?” He asked, to which my compatriot nodded.

“Of course brother Paul.” Mathew said, picking up a Javelin. “We have much to learn, and frankly our environment will require some adjustments. However I think if done correctly, you could be turned into fine horsemen. That said we will start on the ground. The sword shall be you personal defense, the spear your outreach. And these?” He said in reference to the Javelin he spun in his hand. “To show your love from a distance.”

Mathew had told me it was theoretically possible to even fire a bow on horseback. Something that had best stay theoretical for now, considering what we were dealing with. Even still, these caravan guards in training would be quite the sight. If things go as well as we hope, they’ll be some of a new kingdom’s first men under arms. Fascinating when you think about it.

“I see…….” Paul said, continuing to examine his spear. “When do we begin?” He asked. “Tomorrow if we are being frank. You have so much time before your next caravan trip, so we should squeeze as much training in as we can.” Mathew replied, putting his Javelin away. I would personally have to be getting to the next stop at Marib, to arm the Merchants there as well.

As for protection, the merchants would get shields. Partially because of practicality in the environment, partially because there was no way in hell the kingdom was sparing sets of armor. They did give us some older helmets though, which I consider a kindness. Getting our heads bashed in would be poor form.

The trip to Marib was a much shorter trip than the one from the coast, which was always nice. Here, we would get together with the local merchants and arm them as well. As with those in other settlements, another veteran would begin helping them train. It was hardly something fun to watch, as they struggled to come to bears with the sword. Unfortunately for me, I was rounded into this training regime.

We would continue our trading ventures, but on these ventures we would continue our training as well. We would spar, doing various kinds of encounters. With spears, swords, javelins. Shields and no shields. We would experiment on horseback in private while in settlements as well. When we returned to Saana, we got some rather good news. Apparently setting up a trap, the merchants were able to ambush a deceptively unguarded caravan. It was a group of 6 bandits. Four were killed, and the other 2 led them to helping rescue some kidnapped Merchants. My plan was working in more ways than one.

As the months dragged on, the bandit body count slowly ticked up. I couldn’t quantify how many people were still stupid enough to try getting one up on our operations, but I could say this. They were getting less and less profit for their efforts. What had been once a group of disgruntled merchants afraid for their business had over a few years become a cartel of force. A cartel of force whose roles seemed to be expanding.

Soon people were asking them to act in judicial roles, and to help settle disputes. Fees were charged for these kinds of things, but they tended to be small. At this rate, the status of the merchant guilds rose to that of protectors. Perhaps the darker truth being the guilds, being the cartel of transportation they were, could have easily drove the economy to a halt as well. To hold that much power wasn’t lost on local city councils and chiefs, who did their best to not step on their toes or get in their way. At my direction, I pushed us to be graceful in that new position of authority.

Two years and a half had transpired since this all began, and the power of the merchants had risen drastically. Fortunately for us, we had our approval rise drastically as well. As far as this environment was concerned, things were safer. Using some benefits, and exclusivity, conversions to christianity had seen an uptick in the region as well. Not necessarily our main goal in a business sense, but it was nice to see.

As time went on, I eventually called for a series of meetings to initiate the final phase of my plan. Forming a nation. Any good nation of course needed a king. Selecting one…….well, that was not so easy. It was eventually decided the guild would elect one. The general guidelines were they needed to be of solid moral character, well respected in their local communities, and of course could generate appropriate backing. Oh, and you couldn’t nominate yourself.

In the end, we had 3 contenders after some preliminaries. Men from Aden, Marib, and Saana. After some healthy discourse between the three, in all three of the cities, votes were cast among the guild. The results of each vote rallied in all three cities. In the end, the man from Saana won the contest. A man named Shammar As’sad took the mantle. A widower a few years my junior, he was now the embodiment of our hopes. A devout son of the church, charismatic, honest. Christians and pagans alike had much to project onto him. If we’re successful, he will be the world’s first Christian king. To know I would have a hand in such a thing is beyond what I could have expected in my journeys here.

This all said, we had two parallel tasks to complete. To develop the structure of the government we wanted, and to actually gather the loyalty of the settlements we wished to unite. Not a simple task, but doable. Frankly I’m just fortunate enough to watch it all unfold.

The (not so) Great Aqueduct

I want a shower. I want my shit to be disposed of by a sewage system. I want clean drinking water. “Is that too much to ask?” I grumbled to myself as I looked down at my map, and towards the Tekezē River. What we were attempting was…….a first, to say the least. It would also be fundamental to the growth of Aksum itself. Plumbing, water supplies, bathing. It was a matter of sanitization. It was also a matter of convenience. Better to take things into our own hands than let nature have her way with my people.

“This…..has to be the biggest thing you’ve ever committed us to.” Thomas Kofi said, coming up from behind me. The shorter man had a look of being overwhelmed about him. He was the appointed minister of the department of Architecture and Public Projects. It should not be a surprise to hear we see each other quite frequently.

“God almighty, this has to top the highway to Adulis.” I shook my head at him. “This will be great, but this is only the beginning. A framework for future progress. If only we could live to see it, there will be aqueducts far more impressive than this after we’re gone.” That said, this Aqueduct should hold Aksum over for a nice bit of time. Back in the city, the corresponding projects to be able to handle the water were taking place. Slaves and freemen alike would be helping this effort.

I chewed on some straw I had picked up, before turning my full attention to Thomas. “In 5 years, we’ll have running water in Aksum. Great, huh?” I said, which led to Thomas raising an eyebrow. “The Sumarians think it can be done in three with the manpower you’ve accumulated for the project. Frankly, I concur.”

“Here’s a secret Thomas for politics. Undersell, overdeliver. Everyone will be impressed if we get it done a whole 2 years ahead of schedule. But no one will be disappointed if things take a little longer. Like I’m doing with the campaign.” I told him, as if letting him on some big secret.
“Wait, what- that’s beyond the point, I guess. Either way, we’re on the same page for 3 years?” he asked me, to which I gave him an affirmative nod. “Good. We’ve begun directing the appropriate resources. From the aqueduct, to the systems near the city which should make it suitable for use. As you say, in getting this right, we’ll enhance Aksum’s value. Then comes the matter of replicating it elsewhere. Fortunately many settlements are near rivers as is. Others don't really need one. However we can predict what cities are going to be relevant as time goes on. That all said, the sooner we finish this one up the better. You’ve done a lot to help set this up-” he said, momentarily looking towards the plans me and a Sumarian architect developed, “but I think your role here is done. Unless you have extra workers you’re hiding?”

I shook my head, replying “Afraid not. Thanks for all your hard work, though. I’m excited how this unfolds. I’ll see you back in Aksum I can only assume.” Nodding to him a final time, we parted ways.

All this talk of labor has indeed brought some adjustments to the labor scheme. Some I approve of. Others that are uhhh, not what I would consider the most moral things to happen under the Kingdom. For one, we’ve successfully lobbied that all children of slaves must attend “Religious Education”. For everyone paying attention, this was the mandating the children of slaves become Christians. They were after all free, and free men and women couldn’t be burdened with the faiths of lesser gods. Gods that obviously couldn’t protect their parents.

On a purely cynical note, this next piece is probably for the best. It mandated that non married slave women could be married to Aksumite men. Usually younger ones who were single, or those who lacked the moral qualms of having multiple wives. Legally this meant the woman’s servitude would be terminated far more quickly. Something that could not be said about her marriage however. I did make a point of single male slaves who converted to Christianity would be aided in finding wives.

This process would ideally increase the pace of intermingling, and the foundation of a singular people. Or as close to one as I could get. The senate unionists seemed to be willing to extend the limits of what it means to be “assimilated.” That said overall, I think we did well to maintain some level of decency when dealing with our slaves.

I would hope so, it would be important for the development of the provinces. I suspect we’ll reach a point where there is only so much our population needs build, which is fine. However we’re not there yet. When we are there, maybe a Colosseum is called for? Enjoy life a little.

The Birth of Sports

Recently, the government has taken an interest in fostering competition. As such, tournaments began being held in Aksum. Naturally, we had various categories based on gender and age. I really enjoyed practicing for these events with Israel, personally. It reminded me of the kind of stuff I would do with Aklilu when he was younger.

There were races, which was something both genders participated in, in their own separated races. There was obviously running, which went without saying. There were also horse races as well, which went through obstacle courses. There was wrestling, and boxing. A symptom of the military trying its best to develop martial arts traditions.

There were sparring competitions, which was encouraged to keep knowledge from the civil militias in mind. There were archer competitions, which sought to see whose aim was the most true. Coming out of a society of former hunters and herders, this event proved to be popular in particular. Most telling in my opinion, we had javelin throwing as well. This event was on the ground, but also on horseback. There were of course prizes, offered up either by the government or private individuals. Things like cattle, sheep, tools, money.

There were other events as well, but they weren’t what mattered. What brought this all on was a multitude of things. For one, the promotion of the physical fitness of the nation was in mind. Now sure, this is being said about a nation where everyone is doing labor all the time. That’s not what I meant, however. What I meant was skilled physical prowess. That is to say, a nation of warriors.

There was also the reason for entertainment. People enjoyed watching the competition between athletes, even here. The feeling of happiness it helped produce was valuable in and of itself. However, there was all the good it did for a nation prepared to go to arms.

With the horse population increasing in Aksum, the desire to create a horseback culture was there. Mounted skirmishers would be invaluable, along with various types of cavalry. Making a game out of it couldn’t hurt. Maybe one day, those would be mounted archers. Not a day I’m liable to see mind you, but it’s something to fantasize about I suppose.

The martial aspect of all of this aside, I’m proud to say I’m in the process of helping develop proto soccer and football. It’s just a question of developing a ball for it. I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Can you imagine it? Instead of cutting each other open like the Romans, it’ll be like a cotton ball game.

This all said, there was one last thing I needed to make sure I taught to others. The various types of tactics I knew from history, and while I was far from some master tactician, I’m sure someone better than me would come along and make use of this information.

Bonding Time

On our property, an ever adventurous Iris rode around on her favored horse, Maple. Little Alexander held onto her from behind, as if the older girl was his life itself. Her hair, normally constrained by a red scarf, flee freely behind her- and into Alexander’s face. That didn’t seem to bother him though, he seemed concerned about more pressing matters

It was the late afternoon, and I intended to spend it with my children. Not too far off from me, Columbia held a tired Bartholomew, watching her two younger sisters, Rachel and Sarah. Rachel and Sarah seemed content to debate which of the horses was better, based on arbitrary standards if we’re being frank. My mother would have loved to see them, especially the girls. Especially Iris, who looked so much like her. The grandmother she would never be allowed to know.

As for me, I had taken Israel aside for a moment. The 12 year old, who was basically my copy, was certainly eager to ride a horse as well. That he would, but it felt like the time to introduce him a little lesson on the horse’s uses. I picked up a random stick, and began explaining. “What’s so special about horses, Israel?” I would ask him, to which he replied “They’re fast. They carry people to places fast.” I winked at him, patting him on the head.

“So true, my son. Now, why do you think soldiers might want horses?” I asked. He paused for a moment, before saying “To carry soldiers to places faster?” He answered, with a question. “Well, yes, that is true, but soldiers can fight on them too. Let me give you a few examples.” I began writing some symbols in the dirt, to which Israel watched with intrigue.

“Well one way of using horses is how a nomadic tribe known as the Mongols did. So the horses will go in range of these infantry-“ I said, as I made an arrow from dirt go one group of triangles to another group of circles “before they turned back, unleashing waves of arrows upon the infantry. They do this again, and again, and again. Being horse archers, they’re able to just retreat if the infantry tries to engage them. When they’re sufficiently weakened, the big wave of heavy horsemen finally comes in.” I say, showing the second group of triangles come crashing into the group of circles.

Israel nodded, trying to keep track. “Is that why our horses are so important? We want to be like these…..mongols?” He said, remembering what group I said used these tactics. He would have no idea who they are, and has no use for further information on them, so I didn’t plan to elaborate further.

“Well, not exactly. We’re not exactly doing that, partially because it would be a tad difficult to organize. What we can do however is have certain parts of our army serve as Horse Archers. Well, more specifically, horse skirmishers. Armed with javelins, their maneuverability would be quite useful for flanking.” I would explain through the dirt what flanking entailed, and he seemed to get the point.

“Do you know why infantry is so important where we live? In these hills we call home?” He stared at me for a while, before shrugging. “Horses have a harder time moving around in large formations in these kinds of environments, Israel. The more mountainous it gets, the harder it is to pull off. Those kinds of areas are ideal for these long sticks called pikes. Why do you think horses don’t want to run into walls of pikes?”

That one was easier. “It would kill them, wouldn’t it?” I nodded. “It would, but truth be told it’s more psychological. But horses have senses of self preservation, so they don’t want to run into pikes. That’s also partially why our homeland is a blessing. Anyone who intrudes must come to blows on our terms. However when Aksum expands, having horsemen for various situations is a help. The further away the forces of barbarism are from this place, the better.” That begs the question though, who here is bringing barbarism to bear?

Crazy how I was training my oldest son to take on that mantle of conquest, but I had to give him as much as I could. That included this burden. That all said, it was time to get to the fun part.

“That all said, are you ready to get on Beast?” I asked him. Not the most eloquent name for a horse, but Israel seemed to like it. Beast, well, Beast didn’t get an opinion. Nodding, we got the 12 year old boy set up. Before long, he and Beast were racing off to join his sister. I was amused, before finding two hands tugging on my shirt from behind. Looking to my behind, Sarah and Rachel looked up at me with those big eyes of theirs. “Daddy, when can we ride with you?”
"Yeah, you're right. You got lucky this time. If there were Dutch people there, you would be facing so many rebels!"

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Left-Leaning College State

Postby UniversalCommons » Mon Jan 25, 2021 9:40 pm

The Red Plague, Varna

Varna few flags indicating plague in the city. No ship could leave port until 40 days after the plague was over. Nor could any ship come into the city. The guards patrolled the outside of the city to make sure people did not go over the walls. Even with this, there were less guards because many were falling ill. The Priests of the Temple of the Body Parts noticed that people would often be flushed red or have red spots around their forehead, sweat, and have light coughs.

Father Darian had discovered that the hot broth of herbs, garlic and honey he gave helped some of the people a little bit, not much. He thanked the gods that he had not fallen ill. He began to gargle and rinse with a strong minty mouthwash which was supposed to keep the spirits of the flu out. He would also add a dash of it to his hands and face. He smelled strongly of mint and herbs.

With Priestess Venus, he searched the knowledge he had from Egypt and Sumeria. They tried burning sage, using chamomile and lavender to very small effect. They boiled different concoctions of herbs like aloe, rosemary, camphor, cloves, cabbage, and liquorice mixing them with vinegar. They continued to search for different combinations of herbs in the books which they had. Priest Darian sent a request to the council to requisition as many books on medicine he could get, but only received a few. People were desperate to get any kind of books on the subject as possible.

The Eyes of the Temple of the Body Part as they were called would sign up to learn how to bury and handle the dead as well as the rituals of cleanliness. They searched the city, finding dead people under bridges. They flushed out the indigent and made them to go to makeshift kitchens. They would also be brought in to search peoples houses for rats with small vicious dogs or watch for large gatherings of people.

A reward was posted for locating the sick and the dead. Bodies were to be taken to a special graveyard where the dead were to be buried.

This saved many peoples lives. Many people died, but not as many people were infected. Those who caught the plague died in huge numbers, the small efforts, meant 65% died instead of 80%. A third of the city had died, but they had managed to separate the sick from the healthy.

The timing was not good enough to help many people. In the first week, people traveled up and down the roads. In the small settlements people began to die. A few were aware of the dictates of the Pigeon Plague, but not all. There were makeshift camps, or farms being taken over to house the ill and isolate them outside of the towns proper.

Not every town had a healing temple. The Temple of the Body Parts had to send their priests out to some locations to create makeshift hospitals which were not completely effective. They also had to post guards so people could not leave. Where the guards were not effective people tried to escape even though they were sick.

The messengers reached Oak and Salt before the plague fully hit the city. Victor Speer immediately closed the city gates and ordered facilities to be set up outside the city for plague victims, camps, farms, and empty towers. He also immediately created a corridor along the roads to enforce quarantine with armed troops. People were forbidden to travel between cities until they were checked to see if they were healthy.

Large gatherings were forbidden, no more than twenty people at a time. People were to stay ten people apart even if they followed the rituals of cleanliness. They also immediately began printing books with the description of the rituals of cleanliness from the Temples of the Body Parts and the tale of the Pigeon Plague. Ships had to wait 40 days in the harbors.

In the poison garden, a new type of mask was suggested to Victor Spear, a beaked mask with herbs and sewn in pockets of charcoal dust. This was used to keep out the vapors from the incendiaries and poisons which the people in the poison garden worked on. Victor Spear began to wear the mask, a curved beaky big nosed thing along with a hat and long coat. It became stylish and spread quickly through the city, then out of the city. People thought if the people in the House Wisdom wore it, it must be a wise thing to wear.

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Alaroma » Mon Jan 25, 2021 11:11 pm

A Nation of Merchants

The doors of a new era were beginning to open, as could be attested to by feeling of purpose so many were beginning to feel. The idea of a united realm had been gradually inserted into the discourse in the meeting discussions of the meeting halls. It had become increasingly normalized, before one day, it was decided we’d make it more than just discussion.

A normal council meeting was taking place in Aden one night, some of the merchants having joined as was their custom. However this was the last normal meeting in Aden. I was outside for when it all went down. “I propose the foundation of a Kingdom in confederation with this pact here.” One of the merchants said, raising a constitution. There was a moment of silence, and you could tell there was about to be pushback. “I second this.” another merchant in the room said. “I third it.” the final merchant in the room said. However they wouldn’t be the end.

Unbeknownst to the council members, we had gathered sympathetic people from Aden along with the local merchant guild outside. From good deeds, to favors, to personal loyalties, a sizable crowd had gathered. Pushing open the door, a local unaffiliated with the guild proclaimed “I support this motion!” A chorus of agreeing ayes would sound, as the crowd made its way into the room. Notably, some of the crowd was armed. However no weapons were drawn. Being in the crowd myself, I stayed near the back.

The crowd would “softly” heckle their older men to agree to join this contract, before eventually one counciler in a booming voice said “ENOUGH! We hear the will of the people we serve! We will join this new realm! But please, leave us to do our own business!” This seemed to calm the crowd, who slowly exited the building. A few took the opportunity to kiss the old man in a brotherly affection, which he accepted.

For 30 minutes, nothing really happened. The crowd stuck around. However eventually, the first merchant burst out the room with a smile holding the constitution. “Hail King Shammar As’sad! Hail our new union!” As’sad, who was known to the people of Aden, received the cheers of his supporters. The commotion drew the eyes of some people who weren’t as involved, or interested. The fact their town had just helped found a sovereign nation was lost on many, but that would not remain so.

Similar scenes would be played out in Saana, Marib, and various other towns. When other towns, usually on the smaller side, found out about the new entity, they generally decided it was good for business to join. When King As’sad was crowned in Saana, his mandate was fairly simple. Protect and promote trade, keep the people safe, and give a sense of order. The Kingdom of Mubarak was born.

The merchant guilds saw their status enhanced, with universal support behind him. The creation of a united military was formalized. You could hardly call it a “standing” army, but the Merchants Guilds were given the responsibility to defend the realm. This was mostly due to the fact they were by far the most heavily armed faction in the new nation, and this suited the King just fine.

The final piece to this whole story was when Aksumite diplomats arrived. My homeland not only recognized the king’s authority as legitimate (impressive from a status perspective), but went farther. A daughter from the Aksumite royal family was offered as a bride to the king, or in other words an alliance. This offer was more than readily accepted.

In the end, there was one thing that struck me above all the other pomp. It was a letter, from the Church Governing Body. Not sure exactly what it said, but I’m told it was a mixture of congratulations and advice. It also made sure to remind him of this one truth. He was the first Christian King. What that meant…...was far from clear to me.

However new things were happening. A joint venture for a port closer to Saana was in the works, and deals with the Sumerians using the Aksumite methods pondered. Being at a major trade junction at the end of the Red Sea, my homeland and Mubarak would be foolish to not take advantage somehow. Having connections to the king, I was in a fairly good position for a foreigner. It was my idea, not to be prideful. Thinking about it, many Aksumites did. A testament to how close the nations were from the beginning. Well, time to get on with my business.
"Yeah, you're right. You got lucky this time. If there were Dutch people there, you would be facing so many rebels!"

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Authoritarian Democracy

Postby Joohan » Mon Jan 25, 2021 11:20 pm

The Great Poop Fight

I'd found, throughout the course of my adult life, that I was able to quickly get used to pretty awful conditions fairly quickly. I think that was true for most people, actually. Not being able to adapt to one's environment meant at best, misery, or worse, death. Given only a few short days and you can get pretty used filth, boredom, stress, and fear. This was knowledge that had come in very handy for me, because over the last six weeks, i'd been subject to ample amounts of all those things.

From the moment I'd collapsed at their doorstep, I'd become a hostage of the Ketser-Ana - the shepherd clan whose camp i'd stumbled into that night. After waking up a few days, post my sudden arrival there, I found myself starring face up toward the ceiling of a dimly lit hut, wrapped up in some thick animals fur blanket, my naked body having been clothed in some soft suede leathers, and my ankle tied to a post in the ground. I'd never been a hostage before, but I suppose that my captors were most gracious than most. During those first few days, for which I was not allowed to go outside, I would be periodically visited by a number of recurring characters. One, was the boy who delivered my daily rations of meat and ( what I would later find out was ) Yak's milk; then there was the man who came in every day to clear my bucket of it's waste; and finally, the elders, and the first two Kester-Ana whom I had come to know by their names: The grandmother, Amala, a tiny woman with a surprisingly scarred and calloused pair of hands, who I thought, appeared only to speak in whispers to her husband: the grandfather, Dorjee. Dorjee also seemed to me to be quite tiny, only just scrapping a few inches above five foot. His face, a sun ravaged and golden plate, had become so wrinkled with age that I could hardly see his eyes.

Both grandparents, as well as the two others who attended me while in the tent, I though at first as being ethnically East Asian in appearance. Their skin tone was slightly golden and bronze, and their eyes had the characteristic horizontal slant. However, there were certain outliers about their general appearances which threw me off in trying to identify specific nationality. For one, of the four people I'd met, two of them were nearly blond ( the boy and the grandmother, at least before her hair had turned gray )! Dorjee, and the man who attended my waste, had brown to Burnette hair. As for all the men I had seen, they appeared to have brown to black iris's - but Amala had eyes that were even bluer than mine! Racking my brain for which groups such traits were common enough, I ran into very few plausible options. Outside I knew ( in excruciating detail ) was naught but mountains and grassland - as well as being bitterly cold. I had a vague idea of where I might be: perhaps west of the Chagatai mountains, and these were native Kazakhs? But that didn't make any sense! None of it made any sense!

Speaking of not making any sense, I was fluent in their language ( whatever that was ). On the night that I had stumbled into their camp and nearly thrashed the girl who I'd grabbed onto in the dark ( Dorjee had informed me that it was a girl whom I had stumbled upon in the dark - and my naked attack was the reason for why I was tied up in this tent, only allowed to see other men ) I'd thought that i'd been slurring my cries for help, on account of the hyperthermia. It seems, however, that in truth, i'd been crying out in their language. Why, or how, again, there was so much I didn't know or understand - much to the dismay of Amala and Dorjee.

" From which wind had you been blown into our camp? "

"... Ah, well, that depends. Where is here, exactly? "

" What do you mean? We are the Ana, descended from Kester. From which clan do you come from? "

" I'm a Duerer... of... of the Duerer's. I am an American soldier, and I was stationed in Texas. Where is here? "

" We have taken our flocks into the Kodang hills for this season. You say that your clan, the Duerers, descended from... Duerers... camp at... Texas? " All he could do was shake his head helplessly, and raise his silver eyebrows in questioning of me.

" I'm afraid I don't know of such a place, and for how you had come upon us in the wilderness, I do not understand. "

" heh... neither do I. "

That was how our conversations went, for hours on end, everyday, for nearly a week ( assumed by the number of meals given to me - hard telling the passage of time from inside a tent ): He would ask a question of me, I wouldn't understand, he would explain, I would answer with something he wouldn't understand, I would explain, repeat ad nauseam. The entire affair was quite demoralizing - though if anything, with each passing day, I began to at least discern what these people weren't.

My chief and greatest concern, they weren't terrorists, that i'd figured out pretty quickly. They'd asked me nothing about my unit, the equipment I dealt with, or our training, even though I freely admitted that I was an American soldier. Secondly, I was fairly sure that they hadn't been the ones to kidnap me. Though my being tied up in a tent and interrogated daily certainly may have seemed damning of them, I had to keep in mind that it was I who stumbled upon them, and not the other way around. Third, finally, and most importantly, they weren't going to kill me. Quite frankly, of that last part, I was the least sure. Beyond their names and occupation as nomadic shepherds, I knew next to nothing about the motivations of my captors. Were they playing some sick game with me? Was I the offering for a ritual sacrifice? Were they going to turn me into a slave? My last guess, as it turned out, appeared to be right on the money.

After a week of failed and frustrated interrogations, Dorjee ( no Amala that day ) and several new men came into my tent, and freed me from my bonds. I'd been informed that the clan elders ( presumable Dorjee and Amala ) had decided that I was not a danger to the womenfolk, or anyone else in the village for that matter, and that they would allow me to go free - should I chose to. It was that last part that was the sticking point. You see, they knew, as well as I, that I really had no place to go. Having traveled those frozen wastes before, I knew that, where ever we were, it was far, far away from civilization. The simple hides I wore wouldn't be enough to keep me from freezing at night, and even if Dorjee and Amala sent me off with some tools, there's no way I could survive on my own out there. I knew it, and they knew it, so they also made sure to offer me a place in their camp.

Sound's generous right?


It hadn't occurred to me until much later, but, what was it that the Kester-Ana were burning when I saw their firelight? During my naked trek across the the hills and ravines of this frozen hellscape, I hadn't seen a single tree anywhere. I could only guess at how fine a fuel the bushes and shrubs would make, but my captors never seemed to bother with them. As for that unasked question, I would receive an answer upon the very first day that the clan put me to work. It would also happen to answer a second unasked question of mine, what was that great shaggy thing that I had bumped into the night I stumbled into camp? The answer to the latter question, was a camel; giant, red, two humped, camels. The answer to the former, camel dung; giant, brown, fibrous, camel turds.

Oh yes, these graceful, magnificent, brick-ugly, and god awful smelling creatures, were the second most important animal that the Kester-Ana cared for ( behind only the Yak ). From the camels, the Kester-Ana would harvest both their incredibly dry dung, as well as their incredibly soft and voluminous fur. I'd yet to see it, but supposedly, when they up and moved camp, they would tack on supplies to the camels back, and have them share the load to their next campsite. There were exactly forty camels which the clan reared, or about one camel for every ten people ( there being perhaps four hundred others in the camp ). I was among those children ( yes children, I being only one of two adults who worked with the camels ) who'd been tasked with helping in their care. My main job? ' Harvest ', the, ' fuel '.

Every day, for five weeks, I would be out were the camels grazed, bag in hand ( no gloves ), just waiting for them poop. I would begin my work at dawn with an empty bag, and by dusk, I would leave with a full bag and very dirty hands. It wasn't even so much the dirtiness of my work that made it awful, it was the sheer boredom induced by it! Camels, are not like horses. I'd grown up around horses, taken care of more than few in my day, i'd come to see them as fascinating and intelligent animals. Camels, however, seemed to me to be the more sadistic and sour tempered of the two. For one, horses, even unbroken and resistant ones, could be led most anywhere from their lead. If a camel, however, did not like you or was unfamiliar with you, Satan himself could not make those smelly bastards move. Likewise, camels seemed to have a remarkable, and surprisingly spiteful, personality. They remember people very well, and as I'd noticed, the camels had enemies. Specific camels would target specific children, I found, and would terrorize them to absolutely no end. Biting, kicking, spitting, one unlucky girl nearly got trampled.

The only thing more cruel than the camels, it seemed, were the children. Unlike with horses, who would jump and run away if you moved wrong around them, camels would not be made to move for anyone or anything. While sat on the ground, groups of the children would take turns jumping up into the divot between their humps, and proceed to bounce up and down furiously. Presumably, these creatures were all wild and unbroken, as as far as I could tell, no one rode these things - or even had any idea of the fact. I was quite surprised to see that the children's game had practically no effect at all on the seemingly perpetual disgusted yet peaceful demeanor of the camels. They would only really react given two actions: standing behind them for too long was a good way of having a two toed foot slam into your chest ( for which I and many children could attest to ), or, and this blew my mind the first time I saw, grabbing their tail.

When I had horses, they were always sensitive of their rear, especially their tails. It would take a lot of time, training, and getting to know the horse, before they became comfortable with me, and I was able to do things like go behind them, or get near their tails. I would never, in a million years, try that with a wild horse; these kids and their camels though, they would grab on with both hands, and for the life of them, not let go! The camels, instead of kung fu kicking them in the head as they would usually, would proceed to panic and try running away the child latched onto their tails. It was quite a site to see such a massive beast trying to run away from an eight year old being dragged in the dirt behind them. Eventually though, and I thought this was miraculous, it would just give up, and sit down! At that point, all the other children would rush over and dog pile the camel to it's side - usually, this was the part where I and Dote ( the other adult ) would pull the kids off the poor creature.

There was something to be said for Dote, my partner here among the herd. That something was vile, crude, and hopefully hurtful. The shepherd's life appeared to be quite bereft of much in the way of entertainment, I'd found, and so it became necessary for people to find means by which to pass the time. For the children of the Kester-Ana, that meant tormenting the livestock - upon reaching adulthood though, they would adopt a more sophisticated, and only slightly less cruel pass time: smack talk. There was nothing quite like wiling away the hours by berating everyone and everything within your immediate field of vision. Never, in my life, not even during Basic Training, had I been so insulted and talked down as I had been there. The fact that I'd needed two of their tiny fur coats to properly ( if not loosely ) cover my body was the subject of much ridicule, as was my snowy complexion ( a word, I'd found that in their language, was synonymous with fragile ). The story of me wandering naked and half crazy into camp quickly took on some new and interesting dimensions, when i'd found out that instead of it being a girl that i'd latched onto, apparently I was caught by one of the men folk trying to have my way with a Yak. Imagine my surprise. My utter helplessness in any of the practical skills needed for shepherding too was subject to as much joke as it was disappointment. As Dote put it, it was difficult being the only adult around to care for all the camels.

Dote, the little moon faced bastard. At about eighteen or seventeen, he was a full head and shoulders shorter than me - which still made him one of the taller clansmen i'd met. His resting facial expression appeared to be a cynical and disinterested sneer ( i'd never seen him smile for that matter ), and his green brown eyes portrayed absolutely nothing, save occasionally for disgust. His long and shaggy black hair was usually put up and covered underneath a camel fur cap, that rode just above his wildly animated bushy black eyebrows. Like Amala, as well as a great many other people in the camp I had noticed, his golden brown hands appeared to be unusually scarred and calloused - not merely in the way indicative of work. I didn't ask him about it though, because, quite frankly, speaking to him was like trying to pet a cat: it doesn't matter what you say, or what you do, he's going to scratch you eventually. In many ways, he was like a camel, I'd found. Piss poor attitude when I first met him, but after a while, the piss poor attitude remained... but it had changed a bit. In specific, one incident I could think triggered the thaw.

In between poop scoping and wrestling children away camels ( or camels away from children for that matter ), I too had to keep myself entertained. I would chip the hours away, thinking and theorizing about where I was, how I'd gotten here, how I could miraculously speak and understand these people's language, and why this entire clan appeared to still be in the stone age. The last part only somewhat slowly dawned on me, as after several weeks of living here, I hadn't seen a single scrap of metal or any other synthetic material anywhere. The Ketser-Ana gathered everything they needed from the wild - nothing seemed to be manufactured. Save for children and their games, they didn't have any concept of seriously riding animals; appeared to have no concept of the written language; knew next to nothing about the outside world, beyond these plains or the mountains that clung to the southern horizon; and I was pretty sure that they didn't know what farming was either. They were an astonishingly primitive people!

I felt like David Innes from Pellucidar, having mined my way to the center of the hollow Earth, and emerging in a world lost to time. Except, in the place of cave bears and dinosaurs, I had camels. At the thought of Pellucidar, however, that had begun an interesting train of thought in me. As I sat, leaned upon some sun baked rock, starring at the camels as they grazed - going over in my head what is was I had been witness to in my weeks of being here - I began wondering if I might not be able to improve upon my current position.

" Itzhag! " My train of thought being suddenly broken, by the calling of my name by Dote ( my name in the tongue of the Kester-Ana sounded much more guttural than it's native English pronunciation ). Turning my head, I saw Dote slowly weening imbetween the camels to be next to me by the rock. He lifted up one of his scarred fingers, pointing over to the camel I'd been eyeing.

" Do not let your yak wife see your wandering eye - lest she grow jealous! " I'd learned fairly quickly that among the Kester-Ana there was no such thing as a good natured jest. Their pokes were meant to sting, which was why they said them with completely straight faces. I'd have loved to say something witty back, but, smack talking wasn't merely a matter of speech - it was an art. The language of the Kester-Ana had a kind of unfamiliar flow to it, quite different from English. Though I could, seemingly, speak their language without flaw, I wasn't very artistic with it. I did as I usually did, and tried playing it off, the cool and silent type. I slightly adjusted myself upon the rock, shifting my hands a bit in my pockets, and nudging my bag of manure slightly further away from me.

" Dote, for someone with... um, so little to say... you do a lot of talking. You have a... big mouth. " God it hurt, I wasn't even a native speaker and I knew how awkward and choppy it sounded. Dote didn't miss a beat, taking a pinch of my cloths and pulling at the hides.

" You've a big everything! Need we to make you a new belt and we'll have to skin an entire yak! Perhaps your wife? " By this point, I was silently boiling. Had he nothing better to do than torment me all day, every day? Was this to be the rest of my life: I being helpless to the torments and insults thrown at me by illiterate cavemen half my size? Dote let go of my Jacket, appearing to look me up and down in search of something.

" Itzhag... where is your dickfor? "

The question caught me off guard, causing me to look down at my outfit. I wore a simple tunic ( or rather, patchwork of tunics ) spun from sheep's wool, over which I wore a thick padded camel's wool jacket. My boots were made from Yak suede leather, my socks another layer of sheeps whole, and my hat some kind of marmot. My only other possession was the considerable bag of camel manure that stood by my side. I had no idea I was missing something.

" What's a dick for? "

The moment the words left my mouth, I could feel the heat rising in my ears, and my blood starting to boil. Something like a smile crept across Dote's face, more a grimace and squint really, a pleased grunt eschewing from behind closed lips.

" I don't suppose you use it very often... least, not on things that walk upon two legs. "

Son of a bitch, i'd had it. I could feel the bag of manure pressing against the back of my leg, and in my head I was already playing out my next course of action, slowly lowering my hand down into the bag.

" You know, Dote, where I come from we have a saying for people who talk too much. " His eyes were hardly open, starring at me from a side long glance, feigning little interest. His tone matched with his expression perfectly, using his nails to pick out some food from his teeth as he spoke.

" Oh, and what is that? "

I grabbed a handful of the, ' fuel ', and without breaking eye contact, I tried my best at smack talk,

" Talk... d-dung? " I very suddenly, and in a panic realized something which I hadn't before: In this language, which I could miraculously speak and understand, there appeared only to be one word for fecal matter. Nothing ending with an, " -it ", and thus, nothing for me to rhyme with, " hit ". I had to think fast.

" Talk dung... get... " I heaved a sigh, already knowing how lame this was about to sound.

"... stung. "

A few moments of silence paced, the only sound being the gentle munching of camels upon the grass, the passing cool breeze, and the mumbles of children. Dote inspected his nails for a moment, before flicking something distasteful away, and now fully leveling a stare of confusion toward me.

" What-"

In less than a moment, my left hand had made a great sweeping arc from out of the manure bag, and with a thunderous smack, I rammed a considerably large and still very warm turd directly into Dote's face. His head was thrown back, throwing his entire body off balance and tumbling toward the ground, which he hit with a satisfying thud. What followed, for a few moments, was complete, and utter, silence. I looked around, making sure that none of the children had seen my tactical use of the camel turd pimp smack. They were all off in a group, a little ways, having given up on harrassing the camels for a short bit, now occupying their time with some game involving the stacking of stones.

Hmm, looks like I got away with it. Turning my head back to look at were I'd laid Dote out on his back moments earlier, I was able to catch at just the very last second the sight of Dote, back up on his feet, head and shoulders lowered, and ramming his shoulder firmly into my groin. The impact sent the air out of my lungs, and managed to drive me a few feet back in the opposite direction. I'd caught him by the head and shoulders the moment he'd rammed into my lower section, his small frame having no chance of escaping my grasp. As I attempted to adjust him to a better position, I could feel the damage he'd done to me. I curled my toes in pain, and bit my lip - now was not the time to curl up in a ball and try to pull my gonads from out my body. Placing both my hands upon his shoulder blades, I quickly flung my legs out from under me, sending my full body weight crashing down onto the back of Dote's head into the ground. I'd figured that would knock him, but when an elbow came crashing across my jaw from the left side, I knew that the little rat was still conscious.

Slinking down further and placing my chest up against his back, I wrapped my left arm through his right armpit, up into his back, before taking my right hand and placing it upon his chin. With very little effort at all, i pushed him off his stomach, with his face pointed up toward me. There was a great dust mark on his forehead from where I'd pushed him down into the dirt, and a great big brown stain on the side of his face from where I'd rammed the camel dung. He attempted to throw a punch from his right up toward my face, but my left hand quickly pinned his bicep down to the ground. With my right knee resting firmly upon his left shoulder, Dote was completely defenseless against me - while I still had a free hand, which I was presently using to root around in the manure bag for more, ' ammunition '.

Just as I was about to ram another gob of sweet Justice directly into the little bastard's mouth, we were both struck by the sound of a distant cry. Someone, a woman, seemed to be yelling. Stopping our struggle for a moment to listen, we heard what it was being said, " Where are the adults?! "

Oh crap, immediately I dropped the manure and let Dote up off the ground. Dote, quickly dusted himself off and began brushing away the filth from his face. It didn't take more than a moment for us to spot the origin of the caller. A woman, another adult, appeared to be standing over where the children had been playing their rock moments ago. Two of the kids were clinging to her legs, and even from so far away, we could hear their cries carried on by the wind. Damn it, we hadn't been watching the kids. We began to make our way over to the woman and the crying children, when suddenly I called out to Dote ahead of me.

" Wait, Dote. "

He stopped suddenly, and turning a furious look over his shoulder over at me, he spat out his words. " What?! "

I tapped a finger to the side of my mouth, indicating him to do likewise. " You got a little something there. "
If you need a witness look to yourself

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism!

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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Saxony-Brandenburg » Tue Jan 26, 2021 2:56 am

Come, sweet death.

Olivia Ingels

The sweltering heat blurred the land all around - the endless sand of the coastal plain rippling like waves. The town of Al-Gahreeb looked so odd from this view - I’d only known them as friends - and now we called them “enemy”. Everyone around the camp had expected an attack soon - the enemy had probed us with skirmishers with minimal success over and over again throughout the day - probing us to go on the offensive. We knew they were looking for an opportunity to defeat us in battle, and make up for the loss of the previous battle. I sat beside Alya as she stood upon a rock, overlooking the surroundings. “Should they try and sally forth - we would do better than to wait for them at our camp…” I looked up to her, curious. “And why is that?” She grunted, sitting back down on the stone below. “Because, we are currently at a disadvantage. Look at the ground - it’s rocky, and while we have larger numbers than them - the rough terrain would make it harder for us to use them effectively. We will move out onto the plain - and spread ourselves out wider than them. They will have no choice but to spread themselves thinner and thinner, until we can wear them down and breach them. We’ll then be able to surround their small groups much easier, split their line, and cause them to flee.” I nodded along. I had played a fair few video games in my day - but I was no strategist. “But now then - come with me. I need to remind you of the fighting techniques I’ve been teaching you. If something bad happens - or you’re feeling suicidal again - you ought to be able to protect yourself a minimal amount…

Hours past, and by the time the sun had begun to decline and the horrid heat of mid-day had evened out, my relaxation had been startled by the sound of a horn. Alya, who sat next to me beneath the palm-tree, sharpening her sword - dropped the stone she was using, and sprinted towards the camp. “Olivia! Get somewhere safe! They’re coming!”

Running forth to take a look - I saw the masses of men begin to take shape. It was odd - the trend that had emerged. Each individual village among the army had their own standard of sorts - an animal hide, often with a head, mounted upon a stick - that somehow invoked a particular spirit from among the tribes. I looked upon the standards - and something in my heart struck. I looked around the camp - seeing a goat which we were to eat later - and I felt the need to do this. Taking the goat by the lead, I trekked down to the forming mass of men and beast- and pushed myself before them to the visible horror of Alya. “Comrades-in-arms! I must not wait any longer to give you my blessing - else I would defy the will of the Goddess. The enemy before you, marching towards you and your homes, are savages more than men! All that is righteous and mighty recoils at their sight. Brothers and sisters they have defiled all that is sacred to man and divine. The Gods have demanded justice for their insolence and barbarity! The goddess has appeared to me, last night as I gazed to the sky - and given me this commandment from which I now give - Al-Uzza, the mightiest of divine beings, and commander of armies of spirits - has asked us to sacrifice in her name for this battle. You will paint for her your standards with the blood of her sacrifice - and then she will grant you victory like no other! You will chant her name three times upon the charge - and she will guide your spears and arrows to hit home! This she has told me - and this I swear to you as her prophet.”

They looked to me, in slight shock for being this overt in a prediction. What other choice did I have?... I looked down to the goat, and felt a pang of sorrow for what I must do.

“To the mightiest one! I will sacrifice this goat in your name - and burn its meat and bones tonight for you! With its smoke, I will give thanks, for on this day we will have victory!” I proclaimed, before holding the goat tight, and drawing my blade. The creature flinched, trying to pull away as it saw what was coming. As quick as I could - I stabbed the goat in the back of the neck - cutting its spine in a fury of spasms, before I reached around and cut its throat. Instantly the pool of blood coated my hands with its thick liquid - and I looked to see the headmen with their banners. With my hands then, I smeared the blood in a circle on each, until each of them was anointed. I looked out - to see the enemy growing ever closer, and thus I sighed and looked to them one last time.

“Now they are almost upon us! Remember the oath you took before you left your homes! It would be better to never return home than to do so in chains! Better to die than loose honor! Now go! Make your ancestors proud this day!”

The entire line burst into cheers and uluations, banging their fists against their spears as I walked back behind them, dragging the carcass with me. I got about a hundred yards behind the line, and thus waited and saw as the men advanced, slowly marching, banging their shields with each other step. The force of the enemy slowly grew closer and closer - until I could see the small crosses each group of them carried, and before long could hear them pray:

“We go as Jesus did! We meet our brothers in heaven! Glory to the mighty one!”

Closer and closer both sides grew, before at last the horns sounded - and the air erupted into opposing chants.

“Uzza! Uzza! Uzza!” The warriors cried, answered immediately with the enemy:

“Allah! Allah! Allah!”

Both sides crashed almost immediately - our camelry swinging around to attack their flanks. It was strange - they had suffered great numbers of their camels in the previous battle… but not that much. Their flanks were weakened - and began to bow as the minutes flew by- forming a U shape as the flanks retreated farther and farther past their center. The ease of the situation confused me… until I heard a noise behind me. In a panic - I looked behind to see a whole guard of men on camelback - attacking the unguarded camp. They spread fire among the tents, stealing from the low campfires of the morning to spread chaos! With their spears they prodded the animals - the cows and the goats, and took bags of grain with them! Camp-followers who had joined in droves scattered in fear, many cut down mercilessly. I screamed, running towards the field: “They are at the camp! Stop them! They are at the camp!” Many turned their heads, and the man with a horn for our left flank sounded it - three long blasts: an ambush had occurred. Immediately I saw the headmen of the left camelry emerge in a startled panic - and screamed for his followers to retreat from the left, and return to the camp to throw off the enemy!

Almost immediately, the lines began to shift - as the right flank pushed the enemy back more and more and the center held - the left, with all their camels running, collapsed and swing backwards - the lines now resembling two diagonals, with the left even more folding, the few thinly-scattered infantry being beaten back more and more. The warriors all around began to scream: “They are at the camp! Fall back!” And though they were not ordered to - many began to flee. Within minutes, all seemed lost. The line was thin, and though the enemy had been chased from the camp - slaughtered in their small numbers by our faster and better-equipped men, it wasn’t enough to turn the tide of the battle. Minutes kept going on and on, and it felt like a full-scale route was soon upon us. I saw there, abandoning her spot commanding the men, Alya limp towards me. She had brought with her a camel - perhaps. She grabbed me by the shoulder, and glared into my eyes. “Olifia. My love. We have tried our hardest, but should something drastic not happen, all will be lost…” She dropped the spear she carried to the ground, and took off her mantle, placing it on top. “I am going to give my all to see this battle through - but I fear it comes to the Gods to decide these things.” I stared at her blankly, unsure what she meant. “Pray for me now, my beautiful, forever love. Pray for what I must do…” She grabbed both my shoulders with her hands, and put her forehead against my chest.

“I devote the lives of these brothers and sisters, and myself - to the Gods and Spirits of this land. Bring into me their misfortune - and let it excise them this final act of self-sacrifice. Let the gods look upon me with pride, as I do what I must.” She looked back up at me one more time - and kissed gently my cheek. “I will await you in death, my love.”

Before I could say a thing - she picked up her spear and mantle, and draped it once more around her shoulders. She stood upon her camel, and gave it a hard kick - such that I thought it would hurt the poor beast as she rode away. In shock, it was only in the moments following that I saw what she did. A wild, insane, desperate act - which gripped my heart with dread and then despair the farther and farther she went. I could only hear a scream of defiance as she plunged herself into the fray - a suicidal charge straight into their lines which shocked friend and foe alike - seeing she wore the fineries of the leader of men. She disappeared into the crowd, and all at once the weight of the world fell upon me - and my vision became blurred with salty tears once more. I fell to my knees, and could feel my heart break, my soul shatter, for what occurred next. Yet I looked up - and in my blurred vision I thought I saw her there, safe, alive. It was not her. But the sudden, stupid act stopped the breaking, and those who had stepped back to flee suddenly followed her - and fear began to spread among the lines of the enemy. I staggered forward, crying her name as I fell, over and over again, unable to stand upon my feet. “Alya! Alya! Don’t - don’t rob me of my love! You were supposed to be mine! Forever! Don’t you remember our dance- why would you… Why would you hurt me like this!” I broke down into uncontrolled sobs, unable to comprehend the world around me. It was all too much. For what felt like hours there I wept, my face burning with strain from it all - even as I heard the horns of the charge, and cried again: “Uzza! Uzza! Uzza!” I could not bring myself to lift my head. I banged my head against my firsts, and finally forced myself to look up - and see the enemy in total route, their cross-standards dropped to the ground. In disbelief - I saw then they fell to the ground in a horrible act of desperation, begging for their lives. I saw - what had been two lines - now become a whirling mass as we overcame them - and the enemy scattered all across the plain.

We found her mangled corpse with a spear stuck straight through her stomach, her face permanently etched in an eternal gasp of pain.

The following day.

The victory had been overwhelming. Although we had lost everything - our supplies, our animals, and our second leader - we had won. And I could not even try to feel happy. In the new, make-shift camp inside the town, a man emerged into the abandoned home I now rested in, breaching the slice it had been for hours. “Prophet - in the chaos and confusion we’d found Khalid, the loathsome bastard, having fallen off his camel and broken his leg. We took him captive then, and bound his hands and feet together to not escape. We’d like to know what we should do with him.” I looked up to him then, the only thing I could muster in approval was a nod, no smile, no thanks. “Take me to him.” I spoke, my voice hoarse, my throat destroyed from screaming and crying until I could no more. He nodded, and bade me follow him. He was not far- having been brought to the town grainary. I looked down on him in anger - a fire burning inside of me which begged me to strangle him where he sat. He didn’t seem to show an expression - looking at the ground, not making eye contact with him. I walked up to him, and stared. Several moments came and went - and I was transfixed by the man. Not very tall - not very handsome young man, with a long black beard and short-cut hair. His long, flowing robes were covered in dust and dirt. He looked… human.

I came back to the moment, and knelt beside him. He refused to look at me, his eyes still transfixed. Suddenly, all the rage once again returned to me, and I could not control myself as I once did. In a fury - I grabbed his face, slapping it over and over again as he writhed up and down in pain - pulling on his restraints. I moved from his face to his neck - and he finally looked up at me with the fear of a dying man. I gently pressed on his windpipe, holding him there - not enough to kill him, but enough for discomfort. “Where is your god now you dog? Where is he? Isn’t this what you wanted? To be a martyr?!” I stood back up, and kicked him, and my eyes began to sting with tears I did not have left to give. “Give him what he wants then. I don’t have the strength to be a good person right now. Strangle him.” I said, before beginning to walk back to the door I came in.

A moment of silence passed. Gasps, shrieks- the sounds of a struggle. The sound of the grunting of the guards, barking “give up!” Until… they stopped. So that’s how a tyrant dies. Not with martyrdom, nor public execution.

“Oh.” I turned around to see the lifeless body there, staring forever at the ceiling. “Burn his body, and don’t tell anyone where. They won’t get a martyr, nor a shrine. Not if I can help it."

I left then the granary and the corpse, to deal with the other side of death's grip upon us. Walking out of camp and towards where the battlefield once raged, bodies were spread-out on blankets, while pyres were already made and ready to be used. Alya's body had been brought here hours ago - I didn't have the chance to look at it again. I could not help myself though - I would kill myself if I couldn't at least say goodbye. They had laid her out on a blanket atop the biggest pyre, bandaged her stomach, and placed her sword and spear at her sides. She looked so... alive. Every morning for years - I woke up at her side. Hung over, tired, or scared - she'd always been there in the morning. And now... I'd be alone. The house would be empty - I'd never feel her warmth again. I reached down, and grabbed her hand. It was already cold... it wasn't like I remembered. It couldn't be. Now was the time to embrace that. I couldn't cry any more - not from lack of emotions... but I was too tired. It was too painful to. "I remember when I saw you then- years ago. You danced and twirled with the most vibrant energy then... and you had it until your end. I'll never forget you, my dearest. I'll never wake up and not expect to see you there. I'll never go to bed and not feel alone. You were that for me. When I die - ten, twenty years down the line... I'll be with you, together in death, together no more." I stepped back - and with a shaking hand went to grab a burning stick from the small fire. I stood there, for far longer than I should - letting the heat begin to burn my hand. I couldn't let go - I couldn't let her go. And yet... I had to. And as the pain begun to be far too much - I threw it beneath her, and watched as the fire began to rise and take the most important person I'd ever have away from me.
"Shall we only hope for heaven when we're dead?"

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Democratic Socialists

Postby G-Tech Corporation » Tue Jan 26, 2021 2:58 pm

Part 5, Chapter 25: The Labor of Giants

December 14th, 30 AG

It was, upon reflection, way too damn cold in western Europe. Or, rather, I needed a thicker jacket. The heavy linen and felt which enfolded my body were nominally proof for even winters in Nordlund, but my bollocks didn't quite believe that lie. Out of my mouth my breath came, smoking through the light wrap over my face like the vapor of some sleeping dragon, and my main concern was the moisture cease freezing to the underside of my nose.

The cold, you see, was particularly surprising in light of the lack of clothing of the workers that emerged from the hills in front of us. Most walked to and fro stripped to the waist in their long lines, bodies ruddy with soot and dust, eyes shining white marbles in the middle of ashen hides. Upon their shoulders were sprawled a bewildering array of pickaxes, shovels, hammers, adzes, hoes, and even what looked like nothing so much as prybars a burglar might call his tool. The man at my side greeted several of the men by name, calling out to them from our little party, and shaking hands with several, unheeding of the splotches of gray dust which settled on his pale green cloak as he smiled and talked with the laborers.

As the last of the line emerging from the pit in front of us marched off to our rear, back down towards the heavy barracks and rough-hewn housing which denoted the camp near Sur Tenebrae, Rodrick was recalled to himself, and grinned apologetically.

"Know most of 'em, sir. Fine lads. We don't have no shirkers here, no sir, unlike the wildcat operations out east and along the Wide."

I merely nodded, and stepped back into the sunken lane. The men at my back followed, along with the foreman, who took three quick steps to fall back in next to me.

"You get most of your workers from where?"

"Real mix, sir. Some out of Moravia, of course. Folks from the mines there like the pay here, and we work to support really top-end amenities, where we can. Armoricans too, and the odd Norse. Even men from across the Channel, yknow. Kindred men, and Icedonians looking for a way out that doesn't involve ten years of Service."

The mention of Icedonians marched with what I had heard from the Eyes. On the one hand, preventing enterprises from using cheap labor was like taking a sieve to the sea. Best of luck to the man fool enough to try that. On the other, the folk out of Israel had shown a certain knack for industrial espionage. They'd started up their own brick foundries recently, and their iron wasn't nearly as dreadful as it used to be. I would eat my hat if the Service hadn't put a man or two into these mines, to try and ferret out what we knew and they didn't. But there was only so much you could do about these things, and the most obvious precautions had already been taken.

As we descended into the pit the air took on a scent of soot - or rather the smell which had already been there intensified. You couldn't work the black mines here like we did back east. Too much coal, too little rock. A boon to mining, sure. No room for the standard fracture and sluice methods though. The rock pulled from the earth here had to be hammered and chiseled and blasted out the old-fashioned way, or you'd end up causing a disaster like the endless fires out in West Virginia. Send the fire into the veins, let the veins descend into the earth, and Sur Tenebrae would labor under an eternal pall, a veritable slice of hell.

So the labor. All around us on the small track men with sooty backs and rippling muscles plied their tools. In the depths of the pit a great steam-shovel moved load after load of the broken castoffs into heavy carts, which both men and draft horses were dragging up the slopes of a different ramp, one shallower which led both back towards the base camp itself. Some of the carts, I knew, went to older mines, or to tailing pits, where the pure rubble could be discarded. Others with good coal content chosen by the inspectors would be broken or beaten down further by the heavy hammers which waited at the processing site, for transfer to barges heading back down the Wide.

Most of it was for indigenous consumption, of course. Moravia didn't lack for her own coal veins, and the transportation over such a distance would be both unprofitable and tedious. Some, however, would make its way across the whole distance to the anchorage at Basr Nahel. The Warrior put in here occasionally, and there was a brisk trade to be done selling the fuel both up the coast to Rotterdam, and west to the tin-forges in Armorica. The rest wouldn't make it that far, and would wind up in the bloomeries along the Wide at Gauger-on-Sette, or winding the looms at the few factories which had been set up in the middle of the river.

Only one of the steam shovels was working today, out of the three great monoliths that occupied the ever-widening pit. That was part of why I was here - because Rodrick had appealed for an Imperial officer to inspect their supply problems. I empathized with his plight, knowing the irritation of subpar efficiency when one was responsible for categorical operations. As a House Nemtsov subsidiary, his superiors couldn't have been chosen for their patience with delays.

"The one has a blown secondary winch. We don't really want to run her without the backup. And the other, well, you can see from here."

That I could. Somewhere in the treacherous floor of the mine the shovel had slipped one of her tracks, a known problem with the model. There was only so much you could do with improvised adhesives and bonding agents to resist shear pressures, unfortunately. Put too much of a differential on the machine, or push her along an unsteady slope, and the drive train was prone to pulling the treads away from the rollers, oftentimes in a rather brittle displacement. I shook my head, and gestured at the entire pit as I spoke to Rodrick.

"Nothing you can do. Not unless you have spares "- he shook his head -"and you don't. I'll see what I can arrange, but you're probably out of luck for a bit."

It was a promise, but it was mostly hollow, and no doubt my eyes told most of the story. Shipping still went along the northern seaboard, after the Windpride cut her way through the attempted blockade at Westpoint, but with both Norse wolfships and whatever the Irren pushed out of the Thames prowling for commercial shipping, wise men were leery of moving goods by sea, especially goods that were difficult to replace. The risk wasn't excessive, but logistics officers weren't exactly known for their cavalier nature. And if you wanted parts here in, as near as I could tell, Belgium, by sea was how they came.

I slapped the man on his back, trying to dispel his downcast face.

"On the plus side, you were already overproducing. Think of this as a way to support the market for coal downriver. Demand isn't going to shrink, after all."

Another lie, really. Demand was already shrinking, at least in some quarters. The woven cloth out of Gauger was a luxury in time of war, and with the Irish and Icedonia and us all dancing about the Channel, there weren't exactly many shipments going into Israel, or even Dublin. It would only be a matter of time until the spinning mills had to begin laying off workers. Thankfully, well, the ironmongers were never lacking for ore-sorters or furnace operators.

I turned, and headed back towards the entrance to the pit. I didn't need to see another mine to know how mine worked, again. I knew what I needed to know, and had at least placated some of the poor foreman's concerns. If the head of the House saw your issues and didn't see what you could do about it, at least he could use that as a bone to placate the chewing he would otherwise get from people up the pike. As the others followed after me, my mind turned to a hot dinner, and something warm to drink to drive away the chill of the winter.
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Alaroma » Thu Jan 28, 2021 11:09 am

Andrew Negasi: Child of the Hills

Long Nights

Iris napped peacefully not too far away from a fireplace that emitted light and warmth in my study. She had a fur blanket to cover her, as well. Her hair would shield her face, not restrained from her usual scarf. As was her custom, she gravitated around me in the late afternoons and evenings.

The sight would bring up the memories of one of my former dogs. Her name? Iris. Iris the dog was a Sheltie with golden brown and white hair, and I had taken care for 2 years. Our relationship ended when I had been ripped from my old world. She followed me around like, well, a puppy. I would find her waiting outside my doors all too often, waiting for me to give her attention. I would of course oblige.

I didn’t name my daughter after my dog, I named my dog a name I always wanted to give my daughter. Now that I have my daughter, she’s obviously a girl. However I just find it a little amusing the similar level of attachment the two had. It’s actually a relief my daughter wants to be around me, and is not repulsed.

Ironically enough, living in this world probably makes raising my kids easier. The people of this world are not saints, but frankly the debauchery of a 21st life was apparent. Over the years, I had convinced myself that this was the cost of freedom. That as my race and nation strangled themselves in the excesses of liberalism, I could carve out for myself something resembling happiness. Iris wouldn’t have been born, but what about the little girl that took her place? Would she have been so interested in the divine? So virtuous? I could have tried my best, but I can’t say that for sure.

Iris was 15, and I can’t keep my hands on her forever. A red tinge hit my cheeks, reminded that Edna was around the same age when we got married. I ran my hands through my hair, a tinge of

“Why can’t I figure out this fucking box!” I hissed to myself sourly in English, leaning back into my chair. The box in question was of course the cotton gin. On the outside it looks workable, but right now it’s not quite there yet. I think for the claws, individual pieces of iron would be the next move. It was so close I could feel the cotton briefs.

I could hear Iris rousing from behind me, causing me to sit up straight. Looking behind me, I saw her eyes twitching. Eventually they’d slowly open, and you could see the sleep in her eyes. “Hey Rabbit, how are you handling?”

She would slowly rise from the floor, rustling her now messy hair. “Hey, daddy…..” she said, before yawning. “How’s your project coming?” How many times had I heard that question? How many times through how many projects? “It’s going fine.” I replied instinctively. As I so often did, I made a point to put the issue down quickly. Besides, the projects always got finished didn’t they?

“Okay, fair enough.” she said, sitting up herself. Code for, “Nothing new I see?” undoubtedly. She sat with her back up against the study’s couch, yawning. Her eyes teared up a little from yawning, before she wiped those away. I saw her examining her hair for a moment, before she asked “Hey dad, what do you think if I cut my hair to be like mom’s?”

I paused my tinkering, thinking about it. Memories of my mother’s old photos came to mind when she was young. She would certainly fit the look. Did I want a walking reminder of my mother though. Well, she already was. Her changing her hair wouldn’t change that.

“I think it would be fine. Mom inspired you?” I asked, to which she shrugged. Not that I saw her shrug, considering I wasn’t looking at her. “Something like that.”

I looked back at her, and she was staring at me. Those eyes obviously look for something out of me. “What? I look funny to you, or something?” I asked her, to which she smirked. “Can you go over your past some more?”

‘My past.’ What she meant was my first years in America. Some things were hard to explain, because you simply had to be there to truly get it. Airplanes? Iris would never live to ride one, or see one. I’d never live long enough to see one again. But I could try.

I thought about it for a moment, thinking about the wonder of the world left behind. Or it’s horrors depending on how I was feeling. I wouldn’t bother telling her that the device I was working on kick started so much anguish for my people. I would tell her something a little more hopeful though.

“Let’s go outside for a bit.” I told her, taking a break from my ever present project. I knew perfectly well this would probably be the end of this night's work on it. I was tired, and wanted distraction.

We would go out to the porch, and sit on the wooden floorboards. I directed her gaze towards the sky. Stars danced across the sky, millions upon millions of them. I wasn’t focused on them though, I was focused on the moon. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” I asked her.

“Yeah, Jehovah is a master craftsman after all.” She said. I nodded at that. “You know, I couldn’t get sites like this growing up. I lived close to people. With a lot of people came something called light pollution. It could block out the stars. You’d be lucky to see a few stars at night.”

Iris looked horrified. “Too much light can really do that?” She’d ask me. “Too much man made light? Most certainly. I wouldn’t worry about it though. You’ll never know a night that isn’t beautiful because of the actions of man. My hometown had around 75,000 people in it after all.”

That, and it was a suburb to two cities in excess of a million people. “Wow…….so many people. How did you get along with so many people?” She’d ask, to which I could only raise my eyebrow. “I didn’t. Couldn’t have if I wanted to.”

“I see….” she said thinking about it. I then pointed directly at the moon. “Humanity went to the moon. Men from my nation. Walked on its surface. Planted a flag to let the universe know we were there.” I said. She looked at me as if I was crazy. As if I had said something absolutely ludicrous. Probably was to her.

“My father was a young boy when they did it. Watched it on a TV.” I had explained TVs to her earlier, but no telling if she really got it. “‘That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ Neil Armstrong said. First man on the moon. Not the last though.” I looked back at her, and she was examining me. Trying to see if I was yanking her chain. I winked at her, and she grew unsettled. I could be pranking her, but I think she’s settled on I was giving her the truth. She turned back to the moon, gazing up at it. “The moon, huh? I think I’m fine watching it from here.” Not that she had a choice in the matter. Not that most people in my world did either.

I could hear the door that lead into the house open behind us, and footsteps came over to us. A hand of a smaller woman landed on Iris’s shoulder. “Go find Israel. We’ll be eating soon.” Standing up, Iris dwarfed her mother. She was 5’7, rivaling the height of many men in Aksum. She would have been comfortably around my mother’s size though.

“He’s near the livestock stables.” She would call out as Iris made her way to find her brother. Edna readily took her place, sitting next to me. “Did I ruin father, daughter time?” She asked me in a playful tone, to which I smiled. “Only a little.”

The short haired woman let her head lean onto my shoulder. “I love this place, you know? All those years ago, when you were first building it with Aolis and Jander. You could have stopped there, but it was like a never ending project. Repairs, renovations, expansion of the farms. Never a dull moment. That’s all superficial though. What’s really important is that we had our family here. And that one-” being Iris undoubtedly “is basically grown up.” She looked up at me, and I saw where this was going. Fuck.

“I just-” I began, before she interrupted. “Levi is a nice boy, Andrew. You love him like he’s another son. He’s literally Aolis’s son. If there was anyone who was going to take care of Iris, it would be him.”

I was silent for a moment, before saying “One more year, okay? One year of them both being adults. I want to see how his training with the carpenters went.” Training I’m sure he would exceed in. Levi was a spiritual minded young man, and his work ethic spoke for itself. His father also taught him all the intricacies of being a technocrat. No, I needed a year for me to adjust.

She sighed, one of our many conversations on the subject being halted. “You can’t put it off forever.” She whispered. I kissed her forehead, whispering back “I know.” Running out of the night, my oldest son jumped onto the porch, kissing his mother. He had a bow in his right hand, and some arrows with him. He was about to run inside, before I called out “Israel, where’s Iris.” He paused, saying “She’s just being slow. She’ll be here soon.”\

“I’ll wait for her.” I said to Edna, who nodded, and separated from me. Getting up, she said “Alright. Back to the children and your mother.” With that, she went back inside.I waited five minutes, before I saw Iris walking back towards the house. She seemed to be dragging something.

When she got into view, she had a wolf that had a rope around its tail. It was a horrid sight when I saw it. The poor thing had an arrow through the stomach. It wouldn’t have been much to think about had it stopped there, but it didn’t. It was missing limbs, and ears. An eye had been torn out. It’s fur covered in its own blood. “Where did you find this?” I asked.

“Near the barn. I… was hanging from it’s tail.” Iris answered, and she appeared as shocked as I felt. “I think Israel did this……” she noted, to which I called the person in question. “Israel! Please come out here!”

Israel with all due haste, made his way out. When he came out, the 13 year old’s eyes immediately went to the fox. “What happened Israel?”

“They were threatening our livestock. A pack. So I scared them off. Killed one. I’m sure I injured a couple others.” I nodded at that, before adding “Okay, but why the mutilation?” He looked me dead in the eyes, and said “I was curious.”

“Curious about what?” I asked. “Curious on if they felt pain. Curious if they could feel retaliation.” My God, what had gotten into this boy? “Israel, you are allowed to defend our livestock. But delivering cruelty on Jehovah’s creation is not okay. All creation has been given into our hands, and the worth of man is more than that of an animal. However scripture after scripture commands us to treat animals well.”

“I see, dad. Though I don’t mistreat our cattle, or horses, or sheep. I defend them. Why animals that try to hurt-” he tried, but I cut him off. “To kill those animals, and drag it out are different things. Now I expect you to use every part of this wolf. You understand what I expect from you, right?”

Israel stayed silent for a moment, his eyes trying to understand what I was getting through to him. “Yeah dad, I get it.” He went over to Iris, taking the fox by the tail. He was only a few inches shorter than his sister. Taking it, he went inside. Whatever had just happened, I really hoped that was the end of it.
"Yeah, you're right. You got lucky this time. If there were Dutch people there, you would be facing so many rebels!"

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Democratic Socialists

Postby G-Tech Corporation » Thu Jan 28, 2021 3:10 pm

Part 5, Chapter 26: Fire and Ice

January 20th, 30 AG

The Dauntless was finally free of the floating sea ice that had dogged her voyage from Nahel. It felt good not to eye those errant bits of frigid death with an askance glance, trusting only in the skill of the crew and the acumen of the captain to keep her from a staved in hull and a swim in none-too-warm waters. Though I had an implicit faith in any man acclaimed enough to be assigned command of one of the greatships which plied the shores of the Imperium, my faith flourished most fulsomely in conditions which did not try the soul.

A buffet of wind sent a slick of salt spray up from the prow of the vessel, soaking my left hand even through the rough wool mitten. Stepping back with a growled oath, I unconsciously shook myself like a wet cat, before doffing the gloves and doing my best to wring out the sodden one with mere bare hands. A sailor nearby smiled. The men who worked the rigging of the carrack largely went about in what I considered unseasonably light garb, but they were far more used to the raw chill and cold of the northern seas than I. I didn't really want to consider what the plucky Norsemen who traveled the distant northern Norwegian shores underwent in their flimsy constructions. At least here, aboard the Dauntless, we were high enough for most of the waves that slapped against the heavy wood hull to fail at reach the height of the gunwales.

It was, in the defense of the waves, unseasonable weather to have put to sea. Risking the winter storms would have been foolhardy in smaller craft, and wasn't exactly the height of wisdom even in a larger vessel like the one upon which myself and my retinue were making our way to Westpoint and thence on to Odenshaven and beyond - to what I thought of, but would not say out loud, as civilized lands. It had been enlightening, traveling in the west. Seeing the wide reaches of unpeopled countries, and the wild fires of the bands that ventured near the shores. But I longed for home and hearth, and most of all family. I had been away too long. For that I was willing to risk a bit of cold weather and rain, and the barometers had been placid enough for us to be able to steal a few days from the winter squalls.

Or, so it was hoped.

The day had certainly been cloudy enough to threaten a storm, and the winds heady out of the north and west, forcing us to tack frequently to stay off of the shores of the Frisian coast. But all had been uneventful, or uneventful enough, if you counted ice dodging and a sighting of dolphins which the men took as a good omen.

Hence my surprise when the ship's purser stomped across the deck toward me, his expression grave. His salute was cursory, as were those of many navy men, but it wasn't that which drew my attention - rather, his gloved hand pointing out to the north which drew my gaze. His words barely registered as my eyes drank in what no doubt a keen lad high up in the rigging had spotted.

"A sail, to the north. And I'll eat my hat if it isn't Icedonian."

He had good eyes, but moreover a spyglass. At this range I couldn't make out much in the way of details, thus my questioning fingers. Upon receiving the instrument I set it to my face, taking care not to let the swell of the vessel plunge it into my eye socket. I had had bruises twice on account of such incaution in my life, and had no desire to acquire more. They were hardly the most reputable of injuries to bear, and more a means for amusement amongst the men than anything of note. Not to mention there's nothing quite like the tender pain of blinking bearing sensation.

The image swelled into sharp relief after a quick scan of the horizon - and there was no mistaking it. The fiery heart was emblazoned, volubly if crudely, upon the pennant above the reefed main sail. She was tacking south towards us, no doubt running to the west towards the Channel and the more friendly waters beyond. A raider, perhaps, or simply a scouting mission returning with an eye towards general mischief.

When I lowered the glass the captain had joined the purser, obviously with a question on his lips based on his pensive expression. It wasn't the one I expected though.

"Shall we give chase?"

It was, upon reflection, a good question, and one I should have prepared for. In the moment though, I merely spent a few undignified seconds goggling at the man, brain not processing the words in an appreciably rapid manner. Only once the purser cleared his throat, and spoke himself, did I begin thinking in full.

"Could be a raider sir. There might be Imperial citizens on her. And Icedonia only has a few such ships. Putting paid to one would be a prize worth having, captives or no."

They were obviously in accord, and after some thought, so was I. I nodded, and saw the tension drain from some of the men around me. No doubt there were concerns that transporting a person of some importance might come first, or I might place my own safety ahead of that of whatever men and women languished in the hold of the warship. But they were cogent points. And if I had been willing to go to war with the madmen of the north to save a few dozen who had decided to walk this road with me from death and torture, how I could place my own hide and the wellbeing of these men higher than the hundreds dead and wounded from that conflict.

"Aye. Yes, that we should. Signal the Bellweather."

It didn't take more than a minute for the signalman to make his way to the prow and begin his delicate dance of flags. Our sister craft, a lighter gunship, did not boast the height of mast of the Dauntless, and did not appear to have spotted the Icedonian vessel. Her captain, though, seemed of equal levels of bloodthirst as my own. Her confirmation of the desire for a pursuit came swiftly, and we began the process of tacking back against the wind to seek her.

For several hours we pursued the Icedonian ship, gray morning turning into gray noon. Her oars were out and she had obviously cottoned onto the fact that she was followed, but her crew didn't seem to be as experienced as the men who manned the rigging of the greatship, and so our careful usage of the lanteen sails, dexterously rigged to catch every shred of wind, gradually brought her closer and closer. By noon, or noon as the ship's clock made it, she was nearly close enough to make out the sigil on her pennant with the naked eye.

Only then did she decide to come about.

Tactically, it made good sense. Running down the wind she abandoned all hope of escaping pursuit, which she might have been able to manage at nightfall or if inclement weather rolled in. That, however, did not seem to be the captain's aim. The Sevrant's ships were few, and their patron saint a man known for his aggression - the captain of the light skiff apparently took in his footsteps. With the wind at her back, her sails full, and her oars in, she was far more maneuverable than we.

Such movements prescribed a simple outcome; for the Dauntless and her escort to turn downwind as well, regaining the edge in maneuverability lost and trusting in our larger sails to keep us out of range for ramming or boarding. The Icedonians had not given over their fondness for close combat, but they had learned how to build heavy bronze spikes at the front of their galleys, and even a carrack might have trouble limping home in these waters if holed with such a device, even if the attacker was unlikely to survive. It was a brutal, if efficient calculus. Far more training and metal and craftsmanship went into a complex vessel like the Dauntless than did any one galley or outrigger. A good trade, if they could pull it off.

Or at least those were the assumptions I thought we were operating under. As the vessel under the flaming heart came down the wind, the captain gave the order to turn as well - when we were within range, we could run before the wind as well, allowing time for the heavy ballistae in the bow and stern to work over the lighter craft, while preventing them from closing in a dangerous manner. It was much the same method that had one the first battle of Nevis over a decade ago.

But then a booming retort carried across the water, and a great fountain of spray blossomed between us and the Bellweather. I glanced up from my contemplation of the Icedonian vessel in surprise, gazing across the distance to where the salt water was still raining back down over the waves. Up above where the ship's wheel stood the captain had the glass to his eyes, and as he lowered it he began cursing a blue steak foul enough to make even my ears heat slightly in embarrassment by proxy.

"A cannon." Anders muttered under his breath, and I found myself nodding. A logical attachment to their fleet, upon consideration, but not one I would have predicted this swiftly. Our best reports out of the Isles said that the gunpowder pieces the Andonians deployed were made in diffidently cast iron, and with volatile powder mixes, and so were prone to both unfortunately high failure rates and undesirably erratic ranges. Logic, or at least the logic of the Rose Council, dictated that putting such weapons on ships would be delayed several years - foremost because a misfire at sea could easily sink one of Icedonia's few and valuable ships, but also because their efficacy in hitting anything short of a vast and stationary target like a fortress would be abysmal. It was a similar calculus to the equation we faced, and thus the reason such weapons were limited to the long nine-pounders which had been used reducing fortresses in Hibernia. After all, Icedonia was mainly concerned with naval supremacy, and her best bet in that latitude was relying on force of arms of her marines. The weight of a cast iron cannon would mean any attempts at catching or boarding other vessels would suffer highly. A losing proposition, in sum.

Except, it seemed, Isaac's men had come to a different conclusion from their equation.

"I guess that explains why they couldn't outrun us." Anders nodded, eyes widening slightly before he accepted my conclusion.

The captain was growling and stomping about the upper deck, but ultimately the piece didn't change his stratagem. Only a few seconds after the first burning bolts were flung in their heavy arcs toward the Icedonian vessel, the order to loose the sails was given, and the Dauntless lurched back eastward before the wind, ironically enough, blowing from Britain.

It wasn't more than a few minutes before one, then another of the incendiaries caught on the enemy ship. In that time they hadn't fired their gun again - perhaps they had put men to the oars to try and close the gap, instead of spending sweat on the weapon which had already missed. But whatever the reason, firing the cannon dwindled in importance rapidly as first rigging and then much of the deck caught flame. In the distance you could barely make out tiny figures black against the red and orange, warring with the greedy petroleum-fed conflagration in a losing battle.

The order to come about didn't come long after. With her sail gone or maimed and her crew busy, the galley couldn't have outrun us even if she tried. And here was the compromise between humanitarian concerns and military necessity that the rules of engagement dictated to Fleet elements - on the one hand, risking highly trained crewmen in hand to hand combat was a step none of the Admiralty thought wise. On the other, merely letting other sailors drown or burn sat poorly with many of the salts that set to sea, and dismissed the lives of any oar-slaves or captives as meaningless in a callous way we could not, in good conscience, reconcile with our morals.

I had been at that debate. I had agreed with the consensus. Still, a knot of anxiety formed in my belly as the Bellweather and our ship approached the stricken pyre. It was soon clear, as we closed the distance, that the crew had lost the battle with the flames. Shapes were leaping into the water on all sides of the galley, and you could see, sickeningly, other figures straining at what were no doubt chains that bound them to the oars. Landsmen from Francia or upper Germany, or perhaps captured Norse raiders. Freeing them in the drive to abandon ship would have been humane, but Icedonia had never found herself overly concerned with such niceties. Their cries drifting across the water were... yes, horrible is the right word for it. Provoking of horror. Execution was one thing. Hearing a man scream his life out while aflame is another. Both have the same result, but one is, at least as best can be contrived, clinical. The other is anything but.

We were less than a minute from the vessel when of a sudden a blast shook the ship, and a fireball blossomed from the rear of the galley. Men at the railing staggered back, swearing in surprise, and one rating slumped to the deck, clutching his face with moans of pain. As I passed him to look over the side between the battlements at the wreck of the ship, I noted the length of wood protruding from the space between his fingers, soaked with crimson spray. A shiver passed down my spine. There, but for the base of God, go I. He would be lucky to keep the eye, even with prompt attentions from the corpsman, and there were no guarantees on his survival. You might live a day or two, only to succumb to bloodloss before we could put in somewhere hospitable.

I had never seen a blackpowder explosion before. Sure, intellectually you could guess what one looked like. I'd seen high explosives and dynamite, after all, detonated in significant quantities. But that was a long time ago. And there was, a, perhaps jaggedness would be the best word for it. Yes, a jaggedness about what was left of the galley. It hadn't been vaporized, or pulverized, or removed from existence, or any other cliche. It was more like someone dropped a large stone in the middle of the ship, or a giant manually eviscerated the men and materials that had once made up a whole.

There were brave men from the Bellweather and Dauntless who dove into that freezing water, stripped to the waist, some of them with only chisels in their hands. No man who plied the deeps wanted to leave their bodies for the crabs and the fish - indeed I had found that most had a phobia that was simultaneously irrational and very logical about such a prospect. Those Icedonians who could swim, which turned out to be most of them, we fished out of the drink. Some were merely happy we took the time to do so. Others cursed bitterly as they were hauled dripping aboard, cold and defeat having sapped most of the fire out of their bones alongside, no doubt, shock and hypothermia.

Only a few of the slaves which had worked the oars did we manage to rescue. Some would have been happier if we hadn't, probably. Two men had been chained close to the powder for the cannon, and had suffered gravely. One was missing most of his face, and bore long splinters of iron in his side. To him we could only give the mercy of a quick death, and the other man was missing a manacled hand where the blast had thrown him free of the ship with his arm still chained to her deck. He might live. We cauterized the wound, but a weak, underfed, emaciated man who had spent the better part of an hour bleeding into water only slightly above freezing... I didn't like his odds.

But there was something I had not expected in the wreckage too. A man who spoke good Imperial, claiming to be from out of southern Frisia, who was smiling from ear to ear after the chill had been banished from his bones with a hot drink and thick blankets. Several of the men were clustered close about him, talking loudly, and I couldn't make out what was being said - not until Anders came over and almost bodily dragged me to where the former slave was sitting.

"Tell him what you told me!" My bodyguard demanded, in tones equal part command and plea. I was about to glare at him for his impertinence when the slave shouted in my ear.

"He is dead! He is dead!"

The pronoun game. My favorite. But the wheels of my mind turned over, contemplating exactly who he could be to put the men in such good spirits, and why a galley slave would be so ecstatic. He. I grabbed the man by the shoulders through the blanket, my grip probably uncomfortable but unnoticed in my haste.

"He. He?"

The German man smiled, his thick brogue obscuring what he meant no longer as he veritably capered on the deck, blankets and nearly naked body and all.

"He, sir. The Sevrant. Issac Irren is dead!"

Slowly but surely, as I grappled with the words, the ice in my heart that had been thick throughout this chase began to thaw, and then cracked entirely before the heat of a fierce and wild - an almost primal - joy.
TG if you have questions about RP. If I don't know the answer, I know someone who does.

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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Orostan » Sat Jan 30, 2021 1:01 am

Year 12, Month 11, Day 15

The Paperwork War - Year 8 Chinese Imperial Calendar

Aaron often considered politics when he sat on the balcony of his house in central Luoyang. From there he could see the city and look down several of its roads. Sometimes a man or woman pulling a cart would wave to him, a gesture that he himself had popularized. He'd wave back if he saw them. There was a particular old man who was the father of one of the militiamen from Luoyang stationed at the barracks outside Aaron's home, who came by every week at exactly the same time. Aaron had talked to him a few times, even referenced some of the comments he made on Aaron's policies in the People's Assembly. Tonight though there was nobody, and Aaron was grateful for it. He had less and less time to simply sit on the balcony and think with two two month old children to care for. His wife Shun had her hands full too and had to delegate almost all of her Education Ministry work to subordinates, but for now the kids were sleeping, Shun was resting, and Aaron had a rare opportunity to consider recent events and his own part in them.

The siege of Kuaiji had lasted seven days and destroyed much of the city. Chinese ballista bolts with hollow compartments loaded with flaming oil soaked wood scraps or other incendiary materials had set much of the city's wood buildings on fire. Despite the devastation of the city and annihilation of its army at the earlier "Battle of the Lake" as it was called, the king of Kuaiji had defended his little empire with a stubbornness that Pan could not help but admire. He had been disarmed and captured at the end, and executed with the rest of the important rulers of the city on Pan's order, but he was buried with his spear and some jade from his kingdom as a gesture of respect that few could earn from Pan.

The literal burying of the enemy's spear had put the question of organization on the table. Pan's campaign would continue from here and go farther south after the next harvest using the city of Kuaiji as a base, but before that the area she and the other two generals sent to the south conquered would have to be organized into something governable. The authorities at Luoyang had begun to bring natives into the government and were being very careful about administrative oversight in the south. The abuses that once characterized the northern Guzhu military governorate, and to some extent still did, had to be avoided in the South. The population of the Yangtze river area including the people of Kuaiji and the area around it were viewed as especially bad risks for revolt. The urban population was having their cities rebuilt by northern engineers and the rural population was using northern tools that made their farm work easier, but this was essentially a bribe for loyalty for now and couldn't integrate the regions alone. Aaron and the other leadership figures in the government were well aware that their state was at times a dictatorship of the urban population over the rural majority. It was very difficult, after all, to give the villages that were almost always majority illiterate and badly connected to infrastructure a say in government. It also wasn't desirable - villagers who had their needs met tended to be conservative and unwilling to contribute to anything that did not directly benefit themselves. Especially in iron rich regions where the government sought to put more villagers to work in mines rather than on relatively poor fields village representation was almost a death sentence to anything productive.

The villages were not a monolith though. When making policy Aaron had to remind himself that village populations could be won over. Their opposition to progress was less so done out of maliciousness and more so out of a lack of understanding as to what was at stake. Iron tools and famine relief could and did win cooperation and some degree of loyalty at times, but literacy, medicine, and development could win actual support. The villages around Luoyang and along the Yellow River that had been under his government the longest had stone main roads and had perhaps a third of their population was literate on average. They often did the most productive agricultural work in China and could actually participate in democracy in a way that wasn't simply sending a chief to the nearest provincial assembly to try and block anything that didn't directly benefit them. Those chiefs were a problem all on their own too. They led the sort of idiotic revolts that claimed many lives and generally resisted any policy that would not directly benefit themselves or their villages. The social changes brought on by education and different farming methods frequently endangered their social position and control of a village's agricultural output. They'd say that literacy was a plot by foreigners to undermine their community and gods, that roads were there to let foreigners in to devastate their communities, and every other type of fear mongering that would allow them to retain a village that they could control. The chiefs and small tyrants of particularly large settlements were often the most vocal conservatives and fear mongers, as they had the most to lose.

The smarter chiefs though quickly gave up attempts to keep their power over the villages became bureaucrats for the new government. If they offered to work for the government, and even to leave their villages for that work, they could quickly find themselves promoted and given authority over towns or even small cities. They had to give up the absolute power over their villages and hand over power to one of their adult children or trusted subordinates who would gain an administrative position bound by Chinese laws rather than a chief's authority bound by village tradition. Then they'd be moved out and sent to run an unrelated community most of the time such as a new town that was formed out of many once feuding villages. If they did well, they could be paid in benefits to their home village such as priority for irrigation improvements, medicine distribution, housing improvement, or priority for and access to innumerable other programs. They themselves would gain a basically assured spot in China's administrative ladder and a clear way up its many rungs. As democratic councils were installed in the towns and they lost their government mandate over them their service would ensure their promotion to a position at the provincial level. As long as they did their jobs well and held up their end of this complex and changing contract, the Chinese would hold up theirs. If you were a village chief looking to sell your soul, Aaron would make sure a good price was paid for it.

The night wore on, and Aaron could hear his children suddenly crying for attention. He took a look in the direction of the Luoyang government center where he knew his friend Tan was working late, briefly wondering if one day he'd be working late and Tan would be attending to new kids as he got up out of his chair. Shun had decided on names for the children with him not long after they were born, and both had agreed they should be Chinese names. The son was named 'Fai', a name Shun chose that meant 'beginning'. A good name considering the child was born at the the beginning of what Aaron hoped was a new era in history. The daughter meanwhile was named 'Lei' after the thunder of a storm that had come over Luoyang when they were trying to decide on a name for her. Their names didn't stop Aaron from talking to them in English as he entered the living room and picked Fai up while Shun began feeding the other. Fai, who had been generating most the noise, stopped a moment after Aaron picked him up.
“It is difficult for me to imagine what “personal liberty” is enjoyed by an unemployed hungry person. True freedom can only be where there is no exploitation and oppression of one person by another; where there is not unemployment, and where a person is not living in fear of losing his job, his home and his bread. Only in such a society personal and any other freedom can exist for real and not on paper.” -J. V. STALIN

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Left-Leaning College State

Postby UniversalCommons » Sat Jan 30, 2021 12:49 pm

Varna. The Blacksmith's House

The Red Plague continued to grow. It did not discriminate,

They came for Anubis, a respected man, an upright family man, his wife lay dying in her bed consumed by fever. His children had all gone to the Temple of the Body Parts. Anubis now called the Temple of the Body Parts a firepit. His family had come from Egypt and were followers of Ra. There was more than one temple in Varna.

He had read the tracts of Den and respected them. He understood that the fever was caused by demons, but did not believe that the foreign god of the Temple of the Body Parts could cure him. His uncle, Seth, had also died leaving him wealthy. But, what good was all the wealth in the world with most of your family dead.

A crowd gathered around the door of his house surrounding the young men who had come to check his house. As they prepared to knock down the door, the crowd began yelling and shaking their fists. Some of them had weapons, long staffs, clubs, daggers, slings, and hunting spears. Anubis had been good to his neighbors, they did not want to see him carried away. He had followed the customs of the harvest season leaving bread and flowers for the poor and even marched in the Founders Day Parade.

A fat man in a multicolored robe with bluster stepped forward. He screamed, “Get away from that door. You have no business here. Go back to your temple. I am a citizen and know the council. We have rights. This is not your place.”

More people came out to watch the group of young men. The men in the robes tried to back away, but they were encircled. The man in the colored robe along with a lady walked forward in a green headwrap.

She looked at the man and pointed saying, “Would you dare raise a hand against the Daughters of Penelope, this man is under my protection. His house is under our protection. No man shall go past that door.”

The man shook with anger. He raised his staff to strike, but his fellows grabbed him pinning him to the ground. He yelled and screamed, calling the Daughter of Penelope a witch and heathen. For the others, it was unthinkable to strike down the protector of home and hearth.

That day a Daughter of Penelope marked Anubis's house as a plague house, none could enter. The ankh symbol was drawn on the door and Anubis was forbidden to not leave his house. The Daughters of Penelope took Anubis's wife's dead body in a blanket, then wrapped it in a winding sheet careful to cover everything before putting it in a cart, then burying it in the graveyard of the followers of the Egyptian gods.

Anubis neighbors still feared him, but he would still be separated. The different religious houses approached the council claiming to have their own healers in a cacaphony of voices. They questioned whether the Temple of the Body Parts was the sole authority.

Under the law, the Scholar's House held sway over the religious bodies. The Daughters of Penelope held sway over house and home and the Sons of Scorylo built the nation. In the cacophony, the council acknowledged that the Daughters of Penelope had first say over hearth and home.

The plague struck down the rich, the poor, the wealthy, the learned, the young, the old, it struck without mercy. Many of the people who followed the guidelines of the Temple of the Body Parts survived, or read and understood the story of the Pigeon Plague survived. The social order was changing. Poor people inherited where rich men died. There was a loss of fear from many of the poor or indigent, anyone could die from the plague.

The Council of Varna new fear. The political situation was unstable. They met in secret ruminating over the charter of the Nestos League. They had mostly always followed whatever was said from Oak. They realized they did not have to, they were equal members in the charter of the Nestos League, it was not their duty to follow all the directives from Oak.

One of the council members, Scholar Tuvaromir, created their own group, Varna First! publicly calling for Varna First! Make Varna Great!. They would match Oak in their greatness. There were many different forms of governance in the cities of the league. They gathered together the men who supported the council under a single banner and made an agreeement with the guard.

The message spread, Varna was for Varnans, they were members of the Nestos League with equal standing to Oak or Abdera. They had their rights and would decide what they would do irregardless of Victor Spear who was speaker, not tyrant. It was their right to challenge directives so long as they paid taxes and arms to the Nestos League. They still needed to do their business.

There were confrontations with the Temple of the Body Parts and a few died, but the armed men were suppressed by the Council with their heavily armed soldiers and their Varna First thugs. Order was necessary. A different order than before began to emerge.

The guard, the Daughters of Penelope who spoke of order and cleanliness, and the Varna First people supported by the Varna Council demanded order. However, this order was harder to enforce at night. Small groups of men formed with their own ideas. They fought each other in alleys or in the early morning fog leaving behind dead or maimed bodies. They took risks with the plague, so many died.

The merchants complained about why they could not go between cities. Many were not sick, they should be free to travel. The Merchants Association issued a “writ of clean health” and demanded those who passed inspection should be able to travel between cities and work with permission. Healthy people should not be held liable for the plague. Those who took care of themselves would be fine.

When the Daughters of Penelope checked those who were healthy, many were not. A few were even isolated and died. A “writ of clean health now came from council approved doctors and the Daughters of Penelope.”

There was enough fear of demons for people to wear masks. Not wearing a mask and keeping clean was enough of a reason to get beaten by a superstitious commoner or an agitated merchant.

There were even some who claimed that the Kraken had created the plague to punish the Nestos League. It was the end time and they needed to do everything possible to stop the Red Plague. There were secret Kraken agents among the populace who needed to be hunted down. If you were not wearing a mask you were a Kraken agent or even a demon in human flesh plotting against the Nestos League.

In the countryside, away from Varna, Father Darian saw less people coming to The Temple of the Body Parts. More bodies were buried. Priestess Venus had succumbed to the plague. There were a few novices at the temple now. Father Darian had given another priestess, Priestess Rose his formula for mouth and hand wash and she had not died. The other priestess added a few more ingredients and said a special prayer over the herbal mix. Father Darian thought of his formula as merely an every day preventative against colds, flu, and minor ailments.

Despite having read all the manuals from Egypt and Sumeria, there was little more that he could find on how to cure the plague other than give herbs which help people hold more water in their channels as the Egyptians described it, or purify their liver as the Mesopotamians described it. The thing which he could do was try to address the symptoms of the plague, the pain, the coughing, the lack of sleep and hope this would help people survive.

Father Darian would give the people who came strong wine with willow bark and herbs to help ease the pain, herbs to help with rest, and herbs to soothe the lungs. The gods would decide who would live or not. They were careful when cleaning the sick, and administering herbs. The smell of broths, herbs, burning sage, vinegar, and cleaning agents, death and sickness emanated from the temple.

Oak, the Council Chambers, Nestos League

Victor Spear was challenged by Penelope and Alcibiades at the council. They called for a new speaker. He should be on the coucil, but it was time for a new speaker. They argued the speaker position was not a permanent position. Victor Spear had acted in haste with a heavy hand and needed to be censured. There were other less onerous methods of handling the plague.

One of the members of the Counsel, Scholar Ishtar spoke up. She called Victor Spear a god who brought godly things down upon the Nestos League, first the cursed, heretical Kraken, now a plague described as demonic by the doctors of Ur. She was joined by Scholar Hypatia from Abdera in criticizing Victor Spear as the speaker of the Nestos League.

Watching this was the Grey Fox from the Cucuteni lands. She pointed at Victor Spear and spoke, it is time for the mother of your League, Penelope to speak for the people. She may be old, but she is wise. She is also not touched by the gods an immortal opposed by demonic and elder forces. As an ally she would support the rise of Penelope.

More than two thirds of the council rose to make Penelope the Speaker of the Nestos League. Victor Spear would now be one among many.

Penelope said she did not want the position, it should go to another. Then Alcibiades spoke, “It is the wish that you serve the Nestos League, this is not a choice. You have been called and chosen. You are the mother of the league. Several of the guard assigned to Victor Spear went to stand around Penelope.

Victor Spear was on the Counsel of the Nestos League, but no longer the speaker.

Cyprus, Napa Harbor, Hand Enyo

Hand Enyo sat with Scholar Nico, she learned many things from him. He told her tales of his leadership of the resistance to the Kraken during the first Kraken war. They planned on how to take the last sea fortress.

Slaves poisoned the water with a tincture of hellebore under the direction of Hand Snake. Many of the Kraken warriors were weakened with diarrhea or nauseous from poison. The Kraken did not realize until the poisoning was done. They cursed the leadership of the Hand Enyo calling her a villain and cursed beast.

Hand Snake prepared the trebuchets, ballistae, and captured ballistae. He made a special incendiary mixed with sulphur that left a choking cloud in addition to flame. He prepared jars with scorpions and wasps.

Hand Enyo went to speak with Hand Snake.

Hand Enyo, “What exactly is it that you are doing Hand Snake. Why should we do these terrible things? Poison is not fair play.”

Hand Snake, “Men who are incapacitated will not fight, they also will not die. I am making it so they cannot fight. This requires finesse, it is easy to kill a man, but much harder to stun or disable them. I am here to test ways to do exactly this.”

Hand Enyo, “Is this honorable. Is not hand to hand combat, person to person an honest and a true test of character.”

Hand Snake, “If I use sulfur fumes to drive the enemy from the walls, more of our men will survive. Sometimes life can have more value than honor. Some call me foul, but I think I am saving lives. Fear of battle from scorpions and wasps teaches a lesson about the value of life. Nature provided insects with stingers, should we not use what is natural. Is it better to watch a man starve in a siege.”

Hand Enyo, “I do not like this. What if others use these tactics against us. I fear it will happen to us. To be poisoned is a terrible thing.”

Hand Snake, “Nature is not fair. It gives humans hands and brains. We do not have the bite of the vipers or the claws of the panther. We must do what is necessary.”

With many of the Kraken warriors incapacitated, they could not hold the fortress when Hand Enyo led an evening attack with covered siege ramps, a covered metal headed battering ram, hooked ladders, and men who entered the harbor with coracles and small boats.

The siege engines threw incendiaries which burned with sulfur, huge ironstone balls, and jars filled with wasps and scorpions.

There was some response with bronze cannon and catapults with barrels of gunpowder. However, there were not enough men to man them effectively.

Entering the fortress was still a challenge, the Kraken used hand cannons in close combat as well as caltrops, hot sand and heated metal grates, to keep the attacking force out. The Nestos League used numbers, cheirosiphon flamethrowers, and heavily armed men to overwhelm them. When they finally entered the inner keep, they found it to be sparsely furnished with minimal scrolls and tools.

The harbor was protected by barricades and caltrop mines, big spiky balls of clay filled with gunpowder. The Silver Scorpions and a group of hand picked hunter warriors came at night having mapped a route beforehand through the barricades.

The Kraken warriors were surprised to see black clad armed men in padded oiled buffalo hide armor emerge at the entrance of the fortress. The outlying Kraken warriors were quickly cut down. The Silver Scorpions fought in silence with sickle swords, war bats, and poisoned stained daggers using the darkness and shadows to their advantage.

Many of the incapacitated warriors and priests of the Kraken were captured. The others refused to surrender fighting to the end, thinking they would be sacrificed under the hooves of the Great Bull.

With the fall of the last sea fortress, some of the Kraken attempted to flee or surrender. They saw themselves as a lost cause. They watched the treachery and poison and realized that their end was coming soon.

A few escaped slaves and servants began coming down the mountain telling a story of how slaves had gathered together. There had been a great sacrifice to the elder gods when the Kraken had found out the slaves had poisoned them. Phillip Andrade had appealed to their religion, stoking the fires of fanaticism in the remaining Kraken. They must hold the island so their fellows could start anew or go into hiding.

With more soldiers coming in, the scouts ranged across the island seeking livestock to feed them and food that had not been put into stores in the enemy castles. The castles had sent a message, “We will not surrender. Prepare to fight to the end. We are ready for you.”

Oak, The House of Wisdom

Victor Spear looked at the scrolls. The scholars could read the content, but they could not understand it. One of the scholars trying to translate the Kraken star maps had walked into the sea during a full moon in his embroidered robes, then started swimming. They could not catch up to him before he was pulled out to sea.

Every word seem to have multiple esoteric meanings. There were clear star charts meant for navigation, but they were incomprehensible without the proper rituals and indoctrination.

After Scholar Bikili walked into the sea, Victor Spear decided he needed the help of priests and scholars to protect the spirit before any more attempts to read the Kraken writings were made.
Last edited by UniversalCommons on Sat Jan 30, 2021 3:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Founded: Jan 24, 2016
Left-Leaning College State

Postby UniversalCommons » Sat Jan 30, 2021 12:49 pm

*Double Post*
Last edited by UniversalCommons on Sat Jan 30, 2021 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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