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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2022 5:57 am
by Reverend Norv
Nation Name: Norv
RP SAMPLE: viewtopic.php?p=39825580#p39825580
Character Name: Badahor Abbas Mirza ibn Zahir Karlani. Usually just goes by Abbas - Abbas Mirza in formal contexts.

House/Clan/Family: Abbas is the heir to a very ancient, very prestigious, very poor branch of the sprawling lineage of Farrukhsiyar. He is descended in the direct line from Khan Rustam the Conqueror, and his ancestors sat on the Peacock Throne for centuries, ruling the early unified empire. When the Ten Tribes revolted against the Karlani, it was Abbas' great-great-grandfather, the Emperor Murad Shah, who lost the war and the imperial demesne in Ghondistan - and, soon thereafter, his throne as well. Over the last century, Murad Shah’s descendants - the "Raghabad Karlanis" - were gradually reduced to a single crumbling tower on the eastern frontier, while their increasingly distant cousins ruled the empire. When Abbas was a boy, his family lost the tower too. What now remains of the clan - Abbas, his mother, and his sister - lives at court as landless nobility, supported mostly by Abbas' military salary. But they have not forgotten that the blood of khans and conquerors flows in their veins.

Religion: Khodaism, albeit that Abbas' personal piety is highly questionable. Mostly, he treats religion as a matter of identity: it is a prized inheritance from his revered forebears, not a source of truth or comfort. For those, he mostly turns to philosophy, mathematics, and music.

Age: Thirty-two.

Gender: Male.

Role/Occupation/Titles: Abbas is the Mazdan-e-Dukhani, the commander of the imperial artillery corps. He still bears the title of Mirza - because although his family has lost all its land, the blood of Farrukhsiyar flows in Abbas' veins just as it flows in those of the Padishah Emperor himself. Abbas also has a nom de guerre. At the Siege of Jamsar, he bombarded the city with incendiary rockets for three days and burned it to the ground without disturbing a single stone of its mighty walls; ever since, his nickname in the imperial army has been "the Firecaller."

Abbas is the direct descendant of steppe nomads, and his family never intermarried much with the people of Bhadristan. It shows. He is of average height, lean and long-shanked: a horseman's build, suited more to endurance than to brute strength. His musculature is wiry, tough, functional; he does not have the bulk of a man who spends all his time at the Houses of Strength. Like many scions of the oldest Karlani families, Abbas is fairer in complexion, with copper skin and grey eyes and dark brown hair - almost a dark red in bright sun. He wears that hair about shoulder-length and tightly bound back at the nape of his neck. His beard is cropped close to his jawline, and is already slightly shot through with grey. Despite his relative youth, the mazdan is weathered, with fine lines at the corners of his eyes from too many years spent squinting under the broiling sun. Old, shiny burn scarring mars Abbas' shoulder and the left side of his neck, visible along his jawline and below his ear.

Abbas simply does not have the money to afford the fine silks and brocades that characterize court attire, and he avoids this problem by wearing his armor almost everywhere: a steel chahar 'aina cuirass, inlaid with elaborate golden calligraphy, over a hauberk of mail so fine-linked that it ripples and flows like silk. Emperor Alamgir presented this armor to Abbas after the Battle of Pulasar, and it is worth a nawab's ransom. Abbas’s sword is even more valuable, because it is the one heirloom that his impoverished family refused to sell: the tulwar of the first emperors, with a damascened blade and a bronze hilt worked with suras from the Vendidad. It is nearly always at Abbas' side. Even at court, therefore, Abbas looks every inch the professional soldier: armed, armored, quiet, watchful. Although many courtiers know that Abbas wears armor because he can't afford proper robes, the effect is still intimidating - particularly because a faint smell of black powder seems to have permeated the artillerist’s very skin.

But despite looking like he just stepped out of Khan Rustam's conquering army, Abbas is a thoughtful and reflective man. By reputation, he is a genius (the previous Grand Vizier famously remarked that Abbas ibn Zahir was the only man in Khusraubad worth playing shataranj with), and Abbas mostly lives up to the legend: but his brilliance lies less in sudden flashes of genius, and more in keen analytical ability and broad curiosity and a capacity for intense, sustained focus. This can make him seem driven, impatient, and taciturn - and Abbas has found it useful to cultivate the persona of the intense, silent professional. But when he feels more relaxed - either with his family or with his soldiers - he shows another side. He is still driven, still intense; but he also has a slyly subversive sense of humor, and he reads philosophy voraciously, and he posits theories about why alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, and he plays the rubab with great skill and feeling. He gets along at least as well with sepoys as with courtiers, and he is more comfortable in a tent than in a palace.

Abbas is a broad-minded, practical man by nature. He is temperamentally averse to ideologues of all sorts, whether religious or political or cultural; he dislikes corruption and fanaticism wherever he finds them, including in Khusraubad; he has no particular loyalty to the Empire, beyond wanting it to be competently run; he has an easy and unfeigned respect for other faiths and peoples. His ruthlessness is pragmatic, not principled; he sees himself as a professional killer, a technician of death, and he does his job with neither personal ill-will toward the enemy nor personal devotion to the Karlani cause. Incompetence vexes him more than brutality, and he has little concern for honor - with the exception of his family's good name, to which he remains deeply attached. His values are reason, friendship, creativity, and integrity; his loyalty is to his soldiers and to his friends and to his family. He sees the world very clearly, and has little time for dreams or delusions. That clarity makes him dangerous.

Badahor Abbas Karlani was born the eldest son of Zahir Azar Karlani, who was the eldest son of Behruz Esmaeil Karlani, who was the eldest son of Heydar Kurosh Karlani, who was the eldest son of the Emperor Murad Shah, last of the direct line of Khan Rustam the Conqueror, of the blood and lineage of Farrukhsiyar the Anointed. True: it had been four generations since Murad Shah was deposed, and a different branch of the line of Farrukhsiyar had long since consolidated its control of the Peacock Throne, and Abbas's father was lord of little more than the crumbling tower of Raghabad. But the first thing Abbas learned about himself was that the blood of khans and conquerors and prophets flowed in his veins. Abbas' mother Katayoun would sit by the fire in their drafty, decrepit tower, and remind her son: "By blood alone, you have as much right to the Peacock Throne as any man alive."

And then Abbas would nod indulgently, and go chase down a chicken for the pot: because the last of the family's fortune had been spent two generations ago, and they retained only two servants (whom they were rarely able to pay), and a great deal therefore had to be done by the children. Abbas learned to cook and to clean, to repair windows and build fences, to sharpen knives and train dogs. He was not entirely bereft of a noble education; he learned to read and write, and his father taught him history and a little philosophy, and his consuming interest in mathematics was born from watching his mother try to balance the household's accounts down to the last copper dam. Abbas’ father even taught the boy to fence, using the beautiful damascene tulwar that hung next to the bookshelves: the one relic of the family's imperial past that had not been pawned. But there were no tutors, no lessons in dance or hunting, no telescopes with which to study astronomy. Instead, there were vegetables to peel and chickens to pluck - and in Abbas' case, there was soon a younger sister to look after, a responsibility that he has borne dutifully ever since.

Still, it was not such a bad way to grow up, and Abbas has many fond memories of that time. It ended when he was ten years old: his father, having finally despaired of paying off the family's debts, fell upon his sword. Thereafter, the family's creditors seized the tower. Abbas and his family - last of the direct line of Rustam the Conqueror - found themselves without even a roof over their heads.

In despair, Katayoun took her children and risked the long road to Khusraubad, where she threw herself on the mercy of their distant kin - the reigning imperial Karlani family. Emperor Jahanagir Shah was not best pleased by the arrival of these vagrants: there were plenty of claimants to the throne already, and the reappearance of the dynasty's long-banished relations complicated that situation even further. But it was unthinkable to allow a descendant of Farrukhsiyar to be reduced to begging, however convenient doing so might have been. The Emperor granted Katayoun a place at court as a minor lady-in-waiting, and sent Abbas to be educated.

It was a strange upbringing. Even as landless guests of the Emperor, Abbas and his mother enjoyed more comfort than they ever had known in their crumbling tower, and the Karlani name garnered them a measure of respect. Abbas learned quickly how to conduct himself at court: how to sense and exploit the minute gradations of status on which so much depended. He applied himself to his studies and became a competent poet, a thoughtful philosopher and astronomer, and a prodigy of mathematics. But the Emperor also kept Abbas’ family at a safe distance from any real wealth, power, or opportunity for advancement. Abbas was brought up for a career in the Financial Ministry, a lifetime of calculating tax levies and municipal budgets, where his lineage would be comfortably forgotten. This prospect was far from unappealing to Abbas himself; his turbulent youth had taught him the value of stability. And if the limits of his horizons sometimes left a sour taste in Abbas’ mouth, he soon learned to channel his frustrations into his training with the sword. Here, too, he excelled, and by the time he was sixteen he had acquired a puzzling reputation: one of the most promising young swordsmen of his generation, and the most promising young mathematician too.

None of this prevented Jahanagir Shah from packing Abbas off, at the age of eighteen, to serve as a junior finance clerk in the little southern town of Hingoli - there to begin a lifetime of obscurity. And obscure Abbas would have remained, had fate not intervened: in the form of Noureddin Tarani, the exceptionally cruel and stupid local zamindar, whose brutal tax collection practices inflamed the mostly pagan peasants to revolt just six months after Abbas’ arrival. Most of Noureddin Mirza’s soldiers were slaughtered in the streets, the prince himself suffered a nervous breakdown, and the surviving handful of soldiers, clerks, and Khodaist priests found themselves holed up in the city gatehouse surrounded by furious peasants. There, the survivors turned for leadership to the only nobleman among them: Badahor Abbas Mirza, the penniless junior finance clerk.

Much to everyone’s surprise – most especially his own – Abbas rose to the challenge. He rationed the scant food and water to be found in the gatehouse, organized the survivors to barricade the doors and windows, and burned the remaining furniture on the roof: as a smoke signal to summon help from the nearby garrison at Khudaj, and to boil cauldrons of water that the defenders dumped on attacking peasants. After four days, imperial troops reached the town, crushed the revolt, and lifted the peasants’ siege of the gatehouse. The soldiers found Abbas, nearly dead on his feet with fatigue, sitting in the wreckage of the gatehouse door and wiping blood from his ancient royal tulwar. He had gone to Hingoli a boy, happy to calculate tax levies for the rest of his life. He left it a man, certain that his path led to a greater and more terrible fate.

The Emperor was vexed by Abbas’ return from obscurity, but his need for gifted soldiers outweighed his concern about the young man’s lineage. Jahanagir Shah decided that as long as Abbas remained landless, he would ultimately lack a power base; in the meantime, the Emperor could put Abbas’ talents to use in the imperial artillery corps. So when an imperial army marched north to suppress the Chelas, Abbas went with it: as an officer of the army’s small artillery corps, some fifteen rockets and twenty heavy guns. He spent his time on the road inventing an improved incendiary rocket design.

The following months were difficult. Abbas did not see much point in suppressing the Chela faith, and he was young enough to be appalled by the brutality of the campaign: the Karlani war machine systematically burned, slaughtered, and enslaved its way across the north. Any faith Abbas might have had in the Empire died during that long summer of massacre – and much of his faith in Khoda died with it. And yet Abbas did not desert, or fall on his father’s sword, or take to strong drink. Instead, he hardened: in the place of ideals, he committed himself to grim professionalism. Badahor Abbas Karlani had always excelled at any task placed before him. Now the task before him was murder, and he was not surprised to find that he was good at it. By the end of the campaign, Abbas was in command of all the army’s artillery.

The final siege of the campaign – months after the sack of Zira, months after the princes Alamgir and Karna had already gone home – was at Jamsar, where the survivng Chela rebels had prepared a last stand. They were well-fortified and desperate, and the imperial army had been worn thin by attrition and disease. In lieu of a lengthy and costly siege, Abbas devised a simpler solution. He identified the location of the city’s grain siloes, carefully plotted firing solutions, and waited for a dry day with strong wind. Then, for three days and two nights, he continuously bombarded Jamsar with his improved incendiary rockets: firing the rockets over the walls and down into the city itself. The dry wood caught; the wind spread the blaze; the grain siloes erupted into firestorms. By dusk on the third day, Jamsar’s walls encircled a plain of ashes. Only a few hundred survivors remained to be enslaved. The rest of the city’s defenders had burned alive – all without the loss of a single Karlani soldier.

Jamsar made Abbas’ career, and destroyed his reputation: forever after, most soldiers revered him as the Firecaller who had spared them the horrors of a frontal assault, and most courtiers reviled him as a butcher of women and children. Moreover, the burning of Jamsar worked a deeper change in Abbas himself. It did not turn him entirely bitter. He remained fascinated by the world, deeply curious, in love with poetry and philosophy. But forever after, there would be a deep, grim coldness in his nature. Human life was not sacred or precious, Abbas knew now. It was cheap. With only three days and some clever equations, he had burned twelve thousand people alive.

Peacetime found Abbas, at the age of twenty-seven, one of the most decorated officers of the royal artillery corps. He spent the next several years trying to reform the Empire’s artillery system, which had changed little since the days of Asaf the Restorer. Abbas wrote two mathematical treatises that simplified and systematized the equations used to calculate firing solutions for rockets, cannon, and zamburaks. He developed a new doctrinal framework based on concentrating firepower to smash a hole in the enemy’s walls or formation, rather than dispersing fire as had previously been the norm. He even designed a new training course for artillery officers, and wrote a mathematical exam that every master gunner would have to pass. By the time tensions with Ghondistan flared up into a brief border conflict, the imperial artillery corps had become a far more modern and precise instrument of war.

There was now a new emperor on the Peacock Throne, and Alamgir was less anxious about Abbas’ lineage than his father had been: after all, Abbas had loyally served Jahanagir Shah for a decade without ever showing any interest in the throne. So when a small Karlani army marched east to punish incursions by aggressive Ghondistani border raiders, Abbas was named its commander. What followed was an entirely unconventional but exceedingly effective campaign. Alamgir did not even bother trying to bring the Ghondistani raiders to battle; instead, he ignored their army and marched directly to Pulasar, the border city where the raiders were headquartered. Then, while Pulasar’s defenders were preparing for a siege, Abbas suddenly stormed the city: shattering a hundred-yard section of wall after two hours’ concentrated fire from seventy guns, and sending the whole Karlani army through the breach.

The Ghondistanis arrived three days later, desperate to retake the city and save their families. Abbas waited until the middle of the night, then set their camp on fire with a hail of incendiary rockets, and ordered in the cavalry to mop up survivors. The entire campaign took less than six weeks, and involved not a single pitched battle – but the hitherto incessant Ghondistani raiding ceased entirely for two years afterward. Upon Abbas’ return to Khusraubad, Alamgir named him the new Marzban-e-Dukhani, and presented him with a magnificent suit of traditional Karlani armor worth a nawab’s ransom. It was, many courtiers thought, a clever way of keeping Abbas in line: the general had been rewarded for his brilliance, but denied the land or wealth that might give him an independent power base of his own.

In the several years since, Abbas has occupied himself by continuing his reforms of the artillery corps: he fired dozens of senior officers and replaced them with minor nobility and merchants’ sons, men who understood mathematics and cared little for honor. Abbas knows most of them by name. In his spare time, Abbas has invented a new type of telescope, with tinted lenses that make it possible to look directly at the sun for slightly longer. He has also designed a revolutionary new series of forts in the south, between Brahmaji Rao’s rebellion and Khusraubad; these are the first fortresses in the Empire to be designed as artillery platforms rather than castles, and their raised bastions are laid out to create overlapping fields of fire for dozens of cannon.

And despite all this, as he marches north to face yet another Chela rebellion, Abbas has begun to suffer an undeniable ennui. At thirty-two, he is approaching his life’s halfway point. He has no wife or children, little money, no land, and no real prospect of future advancement: Abbas has risen as high as a professional soldier can go in the Padishah Emperor’s service. He cannot afford a dowry for his sister, and his mother is quietly disappointed that he has failed to live up to the glory of his forebears, and it seems unlikely that anyone will long remember him when he dies - except as the evil butcher who razed Jamsar.

So it is time, perhaps, to make a change – to take a risk – to hope for greatness. The battlefield has always offered Abbas the chance to reinvent himself. Now, perhaps, Khusraubad will offer it too.

Strengths & Flaws:

  • Gunpowder General: Abbas Karlani is not simply the commander of the Empire’s artillery corps; he a military genius, and the Empire’s foremost theorist of modern gunpowder warfare. Where most generals – Karlani, pagan, Chela, or Ghondistani – still see courage and discipline and fighting skill as the ingredients of victory, Abbas knows better: no amount of courage, discipline, or skill will keep a man alive in the face of a cannonball’s properly calculated firing trajectory. Like few others in the Empire, Abbas understands that gunpowder warfare is an inglorious numbers game: logistics, geometry, and parabolic equations are the real ingredients of victory. This attitude makes Abbas enormously effective as a siege commander, but it also makes him frighteningly innovative and unpredictable on the open battlefield. For the same reason, Abbas is very popular with his troops: he does not throw their lives away in the name of honor or glory, and he is much more careful than most Karlani generals to ensure that his men are always properly armed, fed, and supplied. Fundamentally, Abbas does not treat war as a wrestling match, with rules to play by and honor at stake. He treats it as an equation, and unerringly calculates the most cost-effective means of achieving complete victory.

  • The First Modern Man: Abbas’ military genius is part and parcel of a broader personal strength: he is a voraciously curious free thinker. While he is deeply learned in a very wide range of areas – ranging from chemistry and mathematics to poetry and music – he regards all of the Empire’s ancient wisdom as a foundation to be built upon, not as an infallible inheritance. When he comes upon a field of knowledge with which he is not already acquainted – a new language or religion or type of machine, for example – his first response is to learn as much as he can, not to assume that he already knows enough. Abbas possesses the rudiments of a scientific mind: a willingness to proceed by trial and error, a suspicion of easy assumptions, an eagerness to empirically test his ideas. He is constantly inventing: many of the new rockets, cannons, and parabolic equations in use by the imperial artillery corps originated in Abbas’ copious notebooks. It is this capacity for creativity and this clarity of thought – this unwillingness to be bound by old assumptions and superstitions – that makes Abbas both brilliant and dangerous.

  • To the Manner Born: While he spent his early years in a crumbling tower with his impoverished family, Abbas’ youth was spent at court in Khusraubad. Though he was never completely comfortable there, he acquired many of the skills of the courtier. His formal etiquette is flawless; he can quote extensively from the classical Karlani poets; he plays the rubab superbly, and several other instruments passably; he can debate philosophy with the best of the court’s scholars. Perhaps more importantly, Abbas projects a kind of ineffable authority; he has the grave and noble bearing of a man who knows that royal – indeed, sacred – blood flows in his veins. Abbas does not seem like a normal man, and in a society where the idea of divine kingship is deeply rooted, that gives him tremendous charisma.

  • Duelist: Abbas’ least well-known talent is his ability with the sword. He has trained since childhood, and though in many ways he is an unimpressive physical specimen – he is an indifferent wrestler and a merely passable horseman, and his health is fragile – Abbas possesses truly remarkable skill with a blade. He has developed his own unique style, which departs markedly from the traditional sweeping motions of Karlani fencing. Instead, Abbas fights with exceptional precision and economy of motion: hardly moving at all, he simply stands in one place and angles his blade a few degrees to the left or right to parry his opponent’s blows, and then exploits the resulting opening with a lightning-fast counterattack. It is not a style based on strength or speed; it is based, fittingly enough, on careful exploitation of momentum and geometry. Especially against a foe accustomed to more conventional fighting styles, Abbas can be very difficult to stop once he has a blade in his hand.

  • Landless: Abbas’ greatest weakness is his lack of feudal title. For most aristocrats, wealth comes from land: the right to collect taxes is the foundation of every zamindar’s personal fortune. But Abbas has no land, no peasants to tax; in essence, he is a salaried professional who happens to possess a noble lineage, and he is obliged to live wholly off his military pay. As a result, Abbas has no power base outside the Imperial Artillery corps: no castle to which he can flee, no treasury that he can use to fund personal projects. He is so perpetually cash-strapped that he cannot even afford proper court attire. And though he has most of the skills of a proper courtier, Abbas has never been able to afford to learn certain things: hunting takes money, for example, and so Abbas is a poor huntsman. Horses are expensive, and so he is a mediocre horseman. In ways large and small, Abbas lacks the advantages of wealth and title – advantages that most of his fellow nobles take for granted.

  • Butcher of Jamsar: While he is revered by his artillerymen, Abbas’ reputation in the larger Karlani Empire – and especially at court – is abysmal. Nobody denies that the Mazdan-e-Dukhani is effective. But he is effective because he lacks honor: he represents a new kind of war, a war in which a sepoy cannoneer is more valuable than a noble-born master of swordsmanship. Abbas is seen as brutally efficient and totally ruthless, unconstrained by traditional notions of fair play or piety. His conduct at Jamsar, while only slightly more savage than the normal Karlani treatment of an enemy city, is considered beyond the pale of civilized men: to plunder and enslave is one thing, but to burn an entire city alive is quite another. For most of the imperial court, Abbas Karlani is a man without honor, conscience, or remorse: brilliant, yes, but a monster nonetheless.

Code for tracking purposes: Alamgir16

PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2022 7:00 am
by New Aeyariss

PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2022 9:49 am
by New Aeyariss
Tawhid-i-Khodani ("Onessness of God") is a heretical school of Khodani theology and a syncretistic religious movement, mostly popular in Ghondistan, but also having presence in the Empire. The movement is officially supported by Ghondistani shahs, who see it as a way to centralise their authority, with Sher himself being a leading proponent.

The movement was created by one of past Emperors, famed to be a great scholar, who became blinded by his own wisdom and allowed himself to be corrupted by fallen devas into creating a perversion of Khodaism. The resulting movement was one of major reasons for Khoda's decision to split the Empire, and has been a taint on Ghondistan ever since, where majority of the Emperors followed it.

The basic assumptions of Tawhid - i - Khodani is that no religion has monopoly on truth, and that all religions posses only a portion of it. To gain truth, one should step outside his own beliefs and study believes of others.

Followers of Tawhid see Khoda as unknown, mostly impersonal being. They doubt authority of Vendidad, usually cherry - picking parts of it they wish to use to support their believes. They believe that devas are "emanations" of Khoda, and that by worshipping the devas, they worship Khoda himself. Hence, they have no remorse about participating in pagan rituals and worship. Another important belief is the belief in reincarnation.

Followers of "orthodox" Khodaism use term "ghulat" (sectarian) to refer to followers of Tawhid and persecute them with uttermost zeal.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2022 10:39 am
by Ovstylap
I very much like that as a reason for reinforcing the split between the two Empires, I shall check out this IC post now

PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2022 10:44 am
by New Aeyariss
Ovstylap wrote:I very much like that as a reason for reinforcing the split between the two Empires, I shall check out this IC post now

Join the discord please.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2022 12:23 pm
by Ovstylap
I shall join the discord- I have been in a bit of a situation living between a couple of places and not always having my laptop, and hence not being an active discord user.
Posted Erbir's side of the wrestling match, and his deliberate avoidance of the court.

Edit: It would appear that the invite is no longer valid.

PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2022 9:56 am
by Of the Quendi
Ovstylap wrote:Edit: It would appear that the invite is no longer valid.

I have noticed this too.

PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2022 10:06 am
by New Aeyariss
My apologies, I have edited it. The new link is here.

And the Durbar has started.