The Sons of Raghnall: The Indian War

I’ll write a narrative AAR later in the week, but since I for once remembered to take screenshots, let’s have a gameplay look at the war. It is a classic case of a coalition forming to beat up on the leader; India has a vast industrial lead that worries practically everyone – which is why it finds itself friendless (except for AI Sind) when five nations attack it. A vast industrial lead is, however, easy to transform into a vast army. With sufficient divisions, India turns out to be fairly defensible even against enemies with total control of the sea, and consequently total freedom to land anywhere on its coastline. In particular, Malaya is having great difficulty pushing through the Burmese jungles and swamps. Italy is wasting its manpower on an African campaign that cannot settle anything even if won. Norway and Britain, though they have managed to land in several places on the southern tip, have not been able to link up their enclaves, pierce the skillful Indian defense, and roll into the industrial heartland. Only Russia has had decisive success, crushing the large but desperately ill-equipped Sindi army; but India’s Northwest Frontier is eminently defensible, and unlike the Iranian plateau it is not held by lightly-armed conscripts.

The Norwegian landing at the southern tip of India swept aside the local garrison:

Battle of Trivandrum

Oh, wait, there was a naval battle of sorts before that:

Battle of Malabar

Ashore and driving north; note the British landing at Pondicherry:

Indian Landings

Battles of the drive north:


Alas, the breakout/linkup from Pondicherry, though supported by attacks from the south, fails bloodily:


The front stabilised along the belt of good defensive terrain that crosses India:

Southern Front

Leave a comment

Filed under God Will Know His Own

Azure Three Bezants: Mark and Reprisal

Four artifacts of the late eighteenth century:

  • A parchment document authorising Giampiero Contarini, commanding the brig San Marco Grande, to seize ships out of, or bound for, the two ‘Pirate Ports’, Oran and Gabes, and to raid their hinterlands. It is issued in the name of the Senate of Venice, and bears the Great Seal of the Doge. It is one of many such letters of marque and reprisal issued in retaliation for privateering against Venetian trade in the Mediterranean by the Hermit Kingdom. Later, the Senate and the People grew sufficiently annoyed to declare war over the issue. The privateer captain would have stored the letter among his private effects on shipboard, as is attested by the creases and stains on the parchment; the gilt frame with cherubs blowing trumpets is a nineteenth-century addition.
  • An oil painting signed ‘Giovanni’, depicting a sea battle between a brig flying the Lion of St Mark, and a lateen-rigged vessel with raked masts, characteristic of the Oran corsairs. The brig is firing a broadside; the rendering of the dramatic flashes of light through the rolling banks of powder smoke is masterful and immensely realistic, possibly indicating that the scene is painted from memory. Some of the fine details, however, are clearly imaginary, presumably the artist’s idea of a joke; one of the corsairs appears to be wearing an octopus on his shoulder, where a parrot might be expected. Another is shown jumping into the sea, but it is unclear whether he intends to escape from the brig’s broadside or to join the sirens, big-breasted and sharp-toothed, that wave invitingly from the water. The overall effect of the piece, when examined closely, is somewhat disturbing; it is in the private collection of the Contarini family, and may be viewed only by appointment.
  • A silver salt-and-pepper shaker in the shape of a ship. The condiments are stored in two compartments running the length of the ship, loaded through functional cargo hatches in the deck. The salt (or pepper) exits through two decks of broadside guns, presumably giving rise to much merriment and cries of “Run out the guns! Fire as you bear!” when the flavouring is applied to the food; at least if the guests are sufficiently drunk. The ship is heavy enough to be awkward to lift with one hand; it is perhaps more of a conversation piece than a serious appliance for getting salt onto food. The ship’s figurehead is a bare-chested, heavily muscled man with a beard apparently made of octopus tentacles.
  • A bloodstained rope, about the thickness of a man’s thumb, looped thirteen times around itself to form a noose. It is said to be the noose in which Eliezer Aiello, then captain of the San Nicolo (later Grand Admiral), hanged a hundred corsairs in a single day. Legend has it that the thrifty Captain refused to authorise the release of more than three yards of rope from the ship’s store, reasoning that “hemp costs money, and there’s no hurry”. That was a cruel jest, since the shortness of the rope caused the corsairs’ deaths to be drawn-out choking affairs rather than quick snaps of the neck; thus “no hurry” refers both to the length of each execution, and to the whole day consumed in the affair. One can only imagine the state of mind of the last corsair to be hanged from the rope, sometime around sunset. The rope is in the characteristic four-strand braid of the Venetian Arsenal.

Azure Three Bezants

Sometimes people declare war on me and I lose some territory; that’s war. Sometimes they refuse to form a coalition against the obvious near-hegemon who is threatening to win the game; that’s diplomacy. Sometimes they don’t comment on my AARs; that’s art. I sometimes experience mild annoyance at these events, but there’s no question of losing my temper. But when they interfere with my money-making… then I go to war. In particular, the Korean player, Mark, had apparently acquired his Mediterranean ports expressly for the purpose of sending privateers to Venice; at any rate it’s hard to imagine what other earthly use he could have for them, unless of course it was to privateer Genoa, which would be entirely different and praiseworthy. Also foolhardy, since Baron has 300 heavy ships and 600 light. At any rate, as soon as I became aware, I threatened war; Mark at first gave in, but shortly after the privateers were back. So I sank them (I mean, come on, 30 light ships? Venice is not the foremost naval power in the world, but that’s ridiculous) and occupied the privateer ports, and demanded they be handed over as surety that there would be no further incidents.

This put me nominally at war with Byzantium, Japan, and England, which would be moderately beyond my strength; however, these Powers proved to be amenable to the argument “he’s attacking my trade” and entered the war only pro-forma, except that England would not countenance any loss of Asian territories by Korea. That was fine, since all I wanted was the Med ports and peaceful trade in my own damn ocean. However, Mark was able to bribe the North American power, Fox, to enter the war; currently the Foxy Fleet is twice the size of mine, so this was a bit of a blow. The counter-demand was now Madagascar and some African provinces; but England was no more willing to tolerate Venetian losses than Korean ones, and promised to enter the war on my side. Which would have flipped the fleet proportions again; Venice+England would be 400 big ships, twice the Foxy Fleet of 200. However, it would take a while to improve relations enough to ally; meanwhile my colonies all over were being occupied, and there was the distinct possibility that I would be forced into a fleet engagement and lose my whole navy, again. We therefore compromised: Madagascar to Fox, compensated by four Persian provinces to Venice; nothing to Korea; no more privateers in the Adriatic. I actually came out ahead in terms of development, although Madagascar does make an important naval base for Fox that enables them to project power into the Indian Ocean.

I was able to swap some provinces with Egypt and connect Venezia-oltre-il-Mare to my new Persian Gulf possessions; I also started the Suez Canal, partly (very stingily, actually) financed by English and American money. Venice retains a controlling interest in the Canal company, but the minority shareholders have the right to traverse the Canal at all times except when actively at war with Venice.

Nothing to see here.

Nothing to see here; move right along. I triple-guarantee you, there are zero strange cults in Venice; none!

Eurasia, 1779

Eurasia, 1779. Note Japan in Ceylon, Byzantium spreading into Mesopotamia, Venezia-oltre-il-Mare connected to the Persian Gulf.

Leave a comment

Filed under Azure Three Bezants, Dominion over Palm and Pine, Recessional

Azure Three Bezants: Secret Faiths

How does one keep a secret for generations?

The Aiello have changed their rituals in the service of secrecy; they no longer circumsize their boys, no longer refuse pork and shellfish, and no Aiello would dream, now, of saying the Shema in public even for a brother. But they still meet, on the night different from other nights, to eat unleavened bread and ask four questions; their boys still study – in addition to the broad curriculum expected of a Venetian gentilhuomo – texts in a language they never speak outside the Aiello mansion. Over half a millennium, perhaps three thousand Aiello have passed through the Hidden Gate behind Salomone’s study, and held the clandestine rites in the Inmost Chamber. They clean it with their own hands; the mosaics and tapestries that show scenes of Exodus, of exotic Eastern cities, of two boys fishing, are the work of the Aiello women, not of hired artists. Three thousand men and women, over five hundred years; not all of great intelligence, some embittered drunkards. Yet not one has broken faith.

Surely it is an accomplishment, a long silence worthy of a great family; it was not, after all, by luck alone that Salomone parleyed his stroke of fortune into a position among the rulers of Venice. Fortuna e virtu are the two great requisites for power; if the Aiello have had their share of luck, still, luck alone will not maintain a family among the mighty for centuries. And if another demonstration of that virtu were required, the discipline and self-control required to guard against drunken slips of the tongue, against confessions to a beloved mistress, and against deliberate betrayal for gain, for hundreds of years – the Long Silence, if it were broken, would in itself justify the Aiello claim to be the pre-eminent family of the Serene Republic.

Twelve generations have kept the faith; and if the Long Silence is breached, it will not be the fault of the young men and women who have recently asked the four questions in this year of Grace 1745. But if it takes one to know one, it follows that one can know another. Sometimes, now, there are hints that the Inmost Chamber is not the only well-kept secret in Venice. It is not apparent to the casual eye; but to one born in a mansion with a Hidden Gate leading to rooms whose dread secret must be kept, the signs are there: In mismatches between the areas of a house that have a known use, and its outside dimensions; in weaving calluses and mortar traces on the fingers of women not known as artists; in the tiny flickering of eyes as a slightly drunk guest suddenly sobers, and checks whether you have been paying attention and perhaps heard too much in his careless words.

Every sword cuts two ways; if the Aiello can see the signs in others, and if those signs indeed indicate that there are other Inmost Chambers in which secret rites are held… then will not the celebrants of those rites be able to see the signs in the Aiello? It takes one to know one; and one can know another. Sometimes it seems that there is a conspiracy of silence in Venice; that all the patrician families have a secret, and all know that the others have the same secret, and all know that the others know… but they are not quite sure whether everyone knows that they know that they know, and so they keep their silences, and communicate in little flickering hints and subtle signs, and say without words “I am one of you, you are one of us”.

But if they say so, there is this question to be asked: What is the ‘us’ in which they, by accident, include the Aiello? If all the great families of Venice have secret chambers in which they hold hidden rites, still it does not seem likely that they all eat unleavened bread and ask four questions. But it may well be that their nights are different from other nights.

What secret faiths are hidden, in the Inmost Chambers of Venice?

Azure Three Bezants

The Byzantine war ended in a compromise peace imposed by England: Ragusa is back in Venetian hands, and that was roughly the only result except for three countries exhausting their manpower reserves. I do not think this outcome pleased anyone except the English player; the people attacking Byzantium wanted much more loot, and Byzantium wanted to actually fight to the last Englishman (to be fair, he had already fought to the last Greek and Uzbek) and get some loot himself. However, England had the ships, the money, and the men, and wanted to fight in India; so he called off the shots.

We then descended like locusts on Persia, which has lost its player and is out of the protected period; unfortunately I did not come well out of this ghoulish feasting, which instead strengthened Byzantium very considerably. Due to a series of mistakes, and a divinely-inspired Persian general beating up my stacks instead of other peoples’ stacks, I got only some coastal provinces in the Persian Gulf.

Mir Korai

Seriously, check this guy out.

Eurasia, 1745

Eurasia, 1745.

Leave a comment

Filed under Azure Three Bezants, Dominion over Palm and Pine, Recessional

The Sons of Raghnall: The Means of Production

April 6th, 1859
A factory office in Stockholm, Norway

“Good morning, gentlemen; can I be of help to you?”

The manufacturer was a small, round man, dressed in the black wool suit and round hat that were the uniform of his class in Europe. In India, no doubt, he would wear a sari, probably of Chinese silk. Geir wished him joy of it.

“Indeed you can, Herr Gupta,” he said. “Specifically, you can sign this.” He held out the deed of sale. Blinking behind his glasses, Gupta took the contract, frowning.

“It is not the custom to sign what I have not agreed to beforehand,” he said.

“No, no, by all means read it first,” Geir agreed, falsely cordial. He’d seen this scenario play out a dozen times; the Indian businessman would be incredulous at first, then dismissive, then angry, and finally dismayed and silent.

It did not take Gupta long to read the document; when he looked up he seemed earnestly confused. “I think perhaps there has been a mistake, yes? You have corresponded with some other Gupta – an easy mistake, it is a common name – and he has agreed to sell you his factory for this sum; but you have come to the wrong place.” He held out the contract for Geir to take back; Geir made no move to do so.

“No, I’m quite convinced we have the right place,” he said instead. “Right, boys?” The three burly Strike Guards behind him variously nodded, grunted, and glared. Gupta’s eyes shifted as he really noticed them for the first time; the boys didn’t say much, and tended to disappear from the attention of men who dealt much in words. Now he saw the thick bare arms, bull necks, and barrel chests, and understood what they were there for; to his credit, if he was intimidated, it didn’t show.

“I see,” he said, his politeness icy now. “Gentlemen, I do not think we can do business together. You will please find the door just behind you.” He slammed his hand down on a bell on his desk; a few seconds later, the door to Geir’s left opened onto the factory floor, letting in the noise of machinery and several Swedes in overalls.

“Trouble, boss?” one of them inquired.

“I hope not,” Gupta said. “But these gentlemen seem to be having some difficulty finding the door. I suggest you guide them to it, yes?”

Geir’s eyebrows rose; so, word had gotten around and the foreigners were taking measures. Mobilising the workers seemed rather naive, though. He spoke quickly.

“So, you boys know that after we kick him out” – he jerked his thumb dismissively at Gupta – “you will be the new owners of this place, right? And share the profits? So, I suggest you don’t really want to show us the door; you want to show him the door.”

The blond in front, who seemed to be the leader, shrugged. “I don’t work here, so that don’t do me much good, does it?”

Geir nodded understanding; Gupta had hired outsiders for his protection squad – smart of him. But he had a way around that:

“Well then, would you like a job in the Strike Guards? Good pay, easy work, and you don’t take orders from foreigners and capitalists.”

The Swede rubbed his chin, making a scratching noise. There were four men behind him, outnumbering Geir’s three; but if it came to a real struggle, there would be knives and clubs flying, and even men on the winning side could easily get hurt – so he was willing to try to talk Geir out of the factory, while reserving the option of force.

“Well now, I took Mr Gupta’s money,” he said. “And it’s good money, too; and anyway we shook hands on it. So, perhaps some other time I’ll consider your offer; but today, no, out you go.”

Geir sighed mentally; false consciousness, the bane of the working classes. If only they could be made to see that their true interests lay with their comrades, and not in bourgeois ideals of honour, the Revolution would come far more quickly. But this was no study circle; fortunately, he had a better argument than the class-theoretical one.

“Today I brought three sturdy lads with me,” he said. “You’re six, so if you really insist I’ll go away peacefully. But that puts me in a really bad mood. I’ll go out, drink, brood over my misfortunes; and tomorrow I’ll be back and I’ll have the whole Stockholm Strike Guard with me. Three hundred working men angry at the exploitation of their fellows.” That rather overstated the strength of the Strike Guards he could summon on a day’s notice, but the Swedes exchanged worried looks; in any case he certainly had many more than their six. “Now Mr Gupta is just following his class interests, so we won’t do anything to him except throw him out; but you lot are class traitors. I wouldn’t expect gentle treatment, were I you.”

“Exploitation!” Gupta exploded. “What exploitation?! I give your fellows work! Without work in my factories, what would they do? Wander the streets until they starved?”

“Very likely,” Geir conceded. “It’s what you do with the product of their labour I’m referring to. You send it back to India, when it should stay right here and feed our hungry. But in any case, that has nothing to do with the matter at hand, which is that if you don’t sign this contract, I’ll be back tomorrow with a different one, with a worse price.”

“This is ten shillings on the daler, at most!” Gupta said, flinging the ‘contract’ to the floor. “And tomorrow the police will be here in force; I’ve six witnesses to your threats.”

“And they’ll stay all week, will they?” Geir returned. “The thing about being out of work is, you can afford to hang about all day waiting for an opportunity.”

Gupta smiled unpleasantly. “The thing about being an exploiter of the working man is, it’s very profitable. You made a mistake, Mr Randall; you gave us fair warning, going around to the factories one by one. The Indian men of business in this city are not stupid, you know. We’ve agreed to pool our resources, as when buying insurance. Bring your three hundred Strike Guards, by all means; and I will bring all the men that my friends and I can hire, and we will see who has the best of it.”

Geir frowned; that was a new one, and he had no immediate answer. Stockholm was full of desperate men, looking for work – any work; and the Movement didn’t have the sort of money that a wunch of bankers and industrialists could get together. The Strike Guards were paid largely in revolutionary fervour; they would be a match for hired headbreakers one on one, no doubt, but the odds would be worse than that. Besides, the police couldn’t well overlook a fight that would be well on its way to a full battle. Winking at a few coerced “sales”, when the victims were brown and foreign, was one thing; hundreds of armed men clashing in the streets would lead to Questions Asked in the Storting and heads rolling, if not stopped.

Geir pressed his lips together; time to cut his losses. “I’ll be back,” he said; an empty threat, but perhaps it would worry the exploiting capitalist swine.

“Whenever you are ready to offer forty-eight shillings in the daler, I shall be happy to discuss a sale with you,” Mr Gupta returned pleasantly.

Geir fumed as he walked away; but behind his stony face the gears were whirring, turning, planning new avenues of attack. If the factory owners could buy more knives than he could, then the thing to do was – what? And put that way, the answer was obvious.

Recruit someone with a gun.


May 1st, 1868
The same office

The factory was the same; a little shabbier perhaps, but still an ugly rectangle of brick, skylights letting in the minimum of sunlight, huge smokestacks pumping coal and sparks into the air. Everything else was different. This time Geir came, not with the workers’ own Strike Guards, but with a man in the blue uniform of the police; not with threats and illegal force, but with a copy of an Act of the Storting, signed and made law that morning by Christian MacRaghnall, Third of that Name, Emperor of the North Sea. All legal and above-board. As Gjest had said, to steal farms – and factories – you needed armies or lawyers. It had taken years, but Geir had found his lawyers, his politicians, his well-spoken workers and peasants who could get elected to the Storting with union money and speak their comrades’ cause; and now, at last, he returned to the place of his defeat, and all the armed force of the North Sea Empire was at his back.

Gupta was different too; not just the lines in his face and the greying of his black hair, but the way he held himself. There was defeat in the slump of his spine; no icy, polite defiance now. He stared sullenly at Geir.

“Mr Gupta,” Geir smiled. “We meet again.”

“You’ve come up in the world,” Gupta observed. “At least to the extent of recruiting a better class of thug.”

“Quite so,” Geir agreed; it was nice to have the police on his side for a change, but fundamentally the man was a lackey of the ruling classes – an ally of convenience, no more. It merely happened that, for a change, the short-run interests of the wealthy men who controlled the Storting, to reduce foreign competition, agreed with the long-run interests of the workers, to get the means of production out of the hands of a tiny elite. Foreign investors made a convenient place to start chipping away at the sanctity of property; with the precedent of expropriation once set, who knew where it might end? But the police were merely tools in that long-term power struggle, with no interest of their own; Gupta’s “thug” was entirely accurate, and entirely failed to ruffle Geir’s good mood.

“And I suppose you’ve moved on to recruiting a better sort of native muscle?” he asked in return. “Seems it’s not as easy to bribe men who aren’t desperate for bread, though.” He didn’t have a paper trail, but then, he didn’t need one; obviously the Indian factory owners – and the Russians, and the Chinese – had been funding the Kristelig Folkeunion‘s effort to scuttle the Nationalisation Act.

“Apparently not,” Gupta shrugged. The vote had not been particularly close. “Your poor men work hard for their wages; that’s why we come here. Your politicians, eh.”

“In any case,” Geir said, bored with the exchange, “this factory is now owned by the Norse people; and we no longer have need of your services. So, if you’d gather up your personal belongings, you know very well where the door is.”

“Right behind you, yes,” Gupta nodded. “But as for which of us will be walking out it, why, I suggest you take it up with the owner.”

“I have,” Geir said, annoyed. He held up his copy of the Act. “To wit, the hundred-and-seventy-third Storting, duly gathered in full session of Odelsting and Lagting, its Acts signed into law by Christian, King of Norway and Sweden, the Wends’ and the Goths’ King.”

“Ah,” Gupta said. He sneered in a way Geir couldn’t quite place; you couldn’t call it triumphant, exactly, but it wasn’t the expression of a man who was about to slink off in utter defeat, either. “But that Act applies to factories owned by foreign citizens.” He rang the bell on his desk again, and just as had happened nine years earlier, the door to the factory floor opened. This time, though, the man who entered was dressed in a top hat and well-tailored suit, and had the neatly groomed beard that was the style among the merchant families of Stockholm. Geir recognised him; Norvald Rendell had been one of the principal backers of the Act outside the Landsorganisasjon.

“Geir,” the capitalist greeted him; they had become familiar in the course of campaigning for the Act. “Come to visit my factory?”

Your factory?” Geir said. “But -” he gestured helplessly at Gupta.

“Mr Gupta, seeing which way the wind blew, very sensibly agreed to sell me his factory last night, rather than have it expropriated today. And I am, of course, a citizen of the North Sea Empire; and so my factory is not subject to the Act. I believe a fair number of similar deals may have been signed in the hours before the Storting voted.”

“You, you -” Geir sputtered in helpless rage. Norvald gave him an edged smile.

“Capitalist?” he suggested. “Or perhaps, exploiter? Well, quite so. Come now, Geir! You’ve got exactly what you wanted: Every factory on Norwegian soil is now owned by Norse citizens, and their profits will stay right here and, as you say, feed our hungry. At least, that was the argument you made in public. Were you, perchance, hiding some ulterior motive?” He cocked his head, mock-inquiring.

“Where the devil is the capital for all this coming from?” Geir asked, ignoring Norvald’s rhetorical question. Of course the whole point had been to have factories owned by the public, from which position he could have campaigned to have them given to their unions; not to mention that, if they were sold and not expropriated, the effect of the precedent was lost.

“Well, in the circumstances, we’re not paying full price, of course. I believe most of Mr Gupta’s countrymen may be taking back thirty or so shillings in the daler.”

“Twenty-five. If that.” Gupta interjected sourly; Norvald nodded, accepting the correction.

“But still, you are of course correct that it would be difficult for us to come up with such sums in metal on short notice. Fortunately, Mr Gupta and his friends have contacts in India with, apparently, quite a lot of capital that they haven’t been able to find good investments for.”

Geir swallowed. “And at what rate have these, these speculators” – he almost spat the word – “so generously lent you their money?”

“Ah, you are worried that we will be passing the produce of the workers to India as before, just under the name of ‘interest’ in place of ‘profit’? Fear not.” Norvald smiled angelically. “Thanks to your selfless struggle in the public interest, we were in quite a strong bargaining position – after all, if no deal was made, the worthy oriental gentleman would be going home with nothing. So, we are paying a mere six percent. I believe, taking one with another, and accounting for the present value of a future income, that may bring the return on Norwegian investments up to, say, forty shillings in the daler.”

“Thirty,” Gupta contradicted. “After accounting for the risk that you’ll renege on the loans.”

Norvald shrugged. “The Amsterdam market agrees with you; I don’t. If I had any free capital I would buy some of those loans myself. The men who took the loans, after all, depend as much on the sanctity of credit as you do.” He looked at Geir. “And property, to be sure. We don’t want any sort of precedent to be set.”

Geir and Gupta united in giving the Norwegian capitalist loathing glares, which he bore with the equanimity of a man who has just increased his fortune three or four times at the expense of class enemies and foreign competitors. “And now, gentlemen, if there’s nothing further, I believe you both know where the door is.” He gave the policeman a prompting glance, and the constable grinned; he might or might not have followed the discussion, but he understood that his ultimate employer, the Norse capitalist, had scored over the foreigner and the rabble-rouser. He tapped his baton meaningfully in his left palm. “Move along, then, sirs.”

Geir longed for a dozen Strike Guards to explain class solidarity to the grinning idiot; but it was no use. The baton wasn’t very impressive as a weapon, but it was ultimately backed by bayonets, and rifles, and grapeshot. The May Massacre had shown very well what happened when the working class tried to oppose the army directly. He swallowed bitterness. “This is not the end,” he told Norvald. “We tried working within the system, and this is what it gets us?”

“That’s the nature of the system,” Norvald shrugged. “And that’s also why the system has an army to protect itself from the losers.”

“You may find,” Gupta said, “that there are other armies in the world.”

Norvald smiled tolerantly. “Oh, come now. They certainly talk a good game in Delhi; but who is going to send armies halfway around the world for a few tens of millions of riksdaler? Besides which, you and what navy? No, no, there’ll be no war. You might as well expect these lads” – he gestured to Geir – “to finally organise their Revolution.” He smiled at Geir’s expression. “And I’ll be the first against the wall, eh? That’ll be the day!”

“Yes,” Geir said. “That will be the The Day.”

Leave a comment

Filed under God Will Know His Own

Azure Three Bezants: War to the Knife and Fork

Wars have been decided by logistics, by murthering great battles, and by attrition; wars are sometimes won by the deepest pockets, sometimes by the biggest battalions, sometimes by sheer stubborn refusal to surrender. Revolutionary or religious fervour, better ships and sailors, or a tradition of educating the ruling class for war, have all been known to produce victory. These are the considerations that statesmen weigh, when deciding on peace or war; these are familiar factors in geostrategic analysis, strengths and weaknesses whose effect on war is understood. On the other hand, it is somewhat unusual for wars to be settled in peaceful drawing rooms, by intrigues turning on charm and popularity, within the capital of a single belligerent power. This, nonetheless, is what happened in 1730.

The war began in a fairly ordinary fashion: Byzantium, the Uzbek Khanate, and Denmark, encouraged by their success in retaking Ragusa and Holstein, and longing to reverse the centuries-long Drang nach Osten that had carried the two-headed eagle as far as the Caspian, jointly declared war on Germany. Germany’s allies, partly annoyed by the perceived lack of German help in the previous war, and partly feeling that such a large nation could surely take care of itself, stayed out. The entry of England on the anti-German side was the capstone to the arch of Byzantine diplomacy that had preceded the war; there were victory celebrations in the streets of Constantinople, and “Berlin delenda est” was on everyone’s lips.

For some time it appeared that such high spirits were well warranted; the initial campaigns in the Ukraine went badly for Germany, and Danish troops advanced as far south as Berlin. But now the internal politics of London became important. A substantial fraction of the ruling class, including several Shrewsburys, felt considerable sympathy for the German “underdog”, and agitated for exiting the war and rejoining on the other side, to “punish the perfidious Greeks”. They were not able to make this into official policy; but they could and did throw such sand into the warmaking machinery of the British Empire that no redcoat fired a shot at a man in field-grey. Officers refused to command armies that would be sent across the Rhine, or threatened to resign if their regiments were sent to France; orders were “lost”, requisitions proved “impossible to fulfil”, units were reported “not ready for combat” that a month before had been “prepared down to the last garter button”. At one point 3100 pounds were sent to the Senate of Venice, “to do with as they see fit”, that had been collected from the better families of London; this was not technically treason, since Venice was at that point neutral, but everyone knew perfectly well that the Senate would send the money straight to their beleaguered ally – which had indeed been the purpose of the collection. A stabler government would have hanged and exiled, but there were too many guilty; any official notice taken of the gift might have led to open rebellion – and if it came to it, the Strafford administration was not by any means gung-ho for the war, which it had entered mainly to maintain the Byzantine alliance, rather than because any real advantage was expected to come of it.

Thwarted in the project of making their own government punish the Greeks, the pro-German Whigs (led by no less a personality than the Prince of Wales) turned to making others do the work; unofficial assurances were sent to Venice and to Egypt that if those governments reconsidered their neutrality and entered the war on the German side – that is, ostensibly against England – there would be no repercussions even if the Greeks won. It is not entirely clear that this was actually within the power of the Whigs, but the Senate appears to have believed it. At any rate they did declare war on Byzantium, and a joint Veneto-Egyptian force took Ragusa and occupied Serbia before bogging down in the Balkan mountains. Ironically enough, this was in large part due to an English expeditionary force; the Tory government, stung by having the opposition effectively routing around its foreign policy, had finally managed to find an officer who would command a fighting army – albeit still on the understanding that it wouldn’t enter Germany – and had dispatched just enough troops to the Balkans to keep its ally in the war. The large English forces in Genoa, France, and Morocco remained in their peacetime garrisons.

To such a pass, in the year of Grace 1730, had the nations of Europe come, that wars were decided, not on the Balkan or Baltic battlefields, but in the struggles of London hostesses to make people come to their parties – both kinds of parties. Geoffrey Essex’s decision to command the Balkan Expeditionary Force seems to have been made during his attendance at a ball held by Lord Strafford. At this distance in time we will never reconstruct what pressures or incentives were brought to bear, but it does appear that if Essex had instead attended the rival gathering of the Prince of Wales, there would have been (for lack of a noble commander) no English troops holding the Balkan line, the Venetian army would have marched to Constantinople, and the resulting peace would have been a victor’s diktat. Instead there was a lengthy stalemate, every peace term proposed by either party was sent to London for approval (since all understood that London had the power to decide the war any way it liked, if its elite could make their collective minds up), and the peace was a compromise. For this reason the war is called the “War to the Knife and Fork”, referring to the dinner parties that decided it.

From Albion’s Greed: Four British Perfidies,
Davide Pescatore,
(C) Universita Ca’ Foscari Venezia, 1989

Azure Three Bezants

Having seen English troops occupying all of Italy in a few brisk months the last time I fought Byzantium – and having also seen Germany’s troops forming a line of battle somewhat north of the Alps, but making no attempt to move south – I was inclined to stay out when Blayne warned me that he was going for Germany again. I had just rebuilt my army and navy and wasn’t really in a mood to have them destroyed yet again. But then I saw no serious fighting in France, and Baron sent me money and assurances that even if I lost I wouldn’t lose any territory. So I took another stab at it, and while it’s not over yet it’s looking reasonable:

Balkan Line, 1730

The Balkan line. Numbers of my reserve troops censored. The visible Byzantine troops appear to account for all the men the ledger reports he has, but there could be some English stacks behind the line.

Battles of Serbia

Two successive Serbian battles. Although we won, and killed as many as we lost, we were unfortunately too battered to take advantage and advance. Still, the English stack arriving just after our victory over the rest of the enemy forces in the Balkans was nice; when Baron said his troops wouldn’t fight mine if I joined the war, I don’t think this is what he had in mind.

As long as Baron doesn’t fight seriously, of course. Byzantium is out of manpower, so is Uzbek, but if Baron decides to invade Italy there’s little I can do about it. Of course, I’m not by any means claiming that Kuipy has that under control, since Kuipy is not, in fact, an otherworldly entity hiding behind a human – well, Internet-human – facade and silently infiltrating his mind-control tentacles into the other players. That would be a paranoid delusion. I’m just saying, paranoia is not the only failure mode of human minds; schizophrenia is a thing, too.

World situation, 1730.

World situation, 1730. Note the occupation of Anatolia.

Leave a comment

Filed under Azure Three Bezants, Dominion over Palm and Pine, Recessional

The Sons of Raghnall: Capital

May 8th, 1856
A garret in Copenhagen, Norway

“Are you coming to the speech?”

Geir looked up from the passage he’d been laboriously translating with some relief. The Greek was straightforward, but the convoluted Aramaic stubbornly refused to match it – either he, or the man who’d written the Greek passage, was making a fundamental mistake somewhere. He was glad, therefore, to see his room-mate Johann; he was an indifferent student, but could be relied upon for interesting distractions.

“Eh, why not?” he said, flinging the text down and stretching out the knots in his back. “I decline to decline any further Aramaic verbs until I’ve had the chance to decline some beers, which chance I shall decline. Who is speeching?”

“What do you care? All you want is to get away from the Aramaic.”

“True,” Geir conceded, “but if it’s some idiot from the Kristelig Folkeunion I might stretch the week’s budget as far as a couple of rotten eggs.” Opposition to the party of the aristocrats had been, to a good first approximation, Geir’s only strong political opinion, ever since their leader had suggested raising the tuition at the University “to keep the riff-raff out”. As one of the riff-raff, and one who had to live (and pay tuition, and books, and beer…) off a fixed sum until he graduated – no wealthy parents to bail him out, if he overspent – Geir had not been pleased.

“No, no, quite the opposite,” Johann assured him. “It’s Baardsen – you know, the famous writer.”

Gjest Baardsen?” Geir stopped looking for his left shoe to stare at Johann. “I thought he was in jail!” An old uncertainty twinged. His actions that night had probably been right; but they had also led to a hanging and two imprisonments, of people Geir had, actually, come to admire a little on less than an hour’s acquaintance. The hypothetical bankruptcies that had been avoided seemed, somehow, not as weighty, even though they would have been far more numerous; things that hadn’t happened couldn’t quite match definite events. In any case it wasn’t as though his ten-year-old self had had any real understanding of the ethics; he’d acted from a desire to protect his father and himself, and from a surfeit of trashy novels. Reasonable enough, in a child; but that was why he was here, studying religion and law and philosophy, so he could avoid making a choice on such a basis again, and perhaps put his mind at rest over what he’d done.

“He was, but they let him out in the general amnesty when the Crumpet was born.” That was student slang for His Royal Highness, Olav MacRaghnall, more formally titled the Crown Prince.

“Oh? Good.” The man had still been in jail for – Geir calculated quickly – a bit over eight years; but at least he wouldn’t die imprisoned. It eased his doubt slightly. He found the left shoe behind the water bucket, and they went down the rickety stairs.

“You agree with him, then?” Johann asked. Geir thought carefully before answering. His reaction hadn’t had anything to do with politics, but confessing to a personal sympathy for the notorious agitator and rabble-rouser wasn’t likely to do his academic standing any good either – in fact, that was the kind of thing that got students from non-wealthy backgrounds expelled on any grounds that were convenient. Not that Johann was likely to rat him out, but… he chuckled awkwardly.

“Honestly, I have no idea! Never read the man.” An outright lie; in fact he had memorised every pamphlet and devoured both the books, searching for clues on what he should have done that night. “But I hate to see people in jail. Chop their heads off and be done, I say.”

“A great saving in food,” Johann agreed.

They had reached the main quadrangle of the university; the garret they shared was cheap because it had been shakily added to an existing building and the wind whistled through the gaps where the landlord had saved on timber, not because of its location. The quad was already full of people; students in dark suits, but also a crowd of men in cheap Russian wool, wearing knitted hats instead of the academics’ flat bonnets. There were, Geir noted with some concern, bottles going around and a marked lack of women and children; he took prudent note of the exits, in case things turned violent. They were, unfortunately, rather narrow; space was at a premium in Copenhagen. In many places the upper-floor apartments hung out over the streets, making tunnels rather than canyons.

A barking cheer announced that things were about to get started; men were climbing the central stage that overlooked the quadrangle, originally intended for the lecturer, back when the University had met in the open and consisted of a man reading slowly from a book so that the scholars could make their own copies, and become learned men by possessing written knowledge. Now it was used by senior faculty to address the students on holidays, and for political speeches.

Prison had not been kind to the famous thief. When Geir had last seen him he’d been a man in late-but-vigorous middle age, with dark hair and still quite capable of doing his own strong-arm work. The orator taking the stage now was unambiguously old, with white hair and the careful movements of a man with little strength left over for anything but the minimum required motions. Mr Randale had brought a dozen brawny warehouse workers to subdue him; as he was now, ten-year-old Geir might have sufficed. But his voice was still surprisingly powerful, the same deep gravelly bass that Geir remembered, booming out now incongruously from the sunken chest and easily making itself heard all over the quadrangle.

“When I was young,” he began, “I thought that helping the poor could be done by taking from the rich; and so I defied the law and the church, and gave away what I had stolen, and it’s true, there are men alive now who would have starved if not for bread that they bought with money Gjest Baardsen stole. But when the bread was eaten, what then? The silver I took with risk to life and limb trickled, by devious paths, back to the men I’d robbed: For who else owned the farm that grew the grain that made the bread that fed the child for whom I stole? And although I was the best thief in Christendie, still I could not steal a farm; to do so you need armies, or lawyers.”

There was an angry growl of agreement; some of these men had perhaps been turned out of their yearly tenantcies when sheep became more profitable, or seen it happen to their fathers. The Americas remained hungry for labour, but not everyone could muster the price of passage or the desire to spend years hacking farms out of raw forest; the poor districts of Copenhagen, and every other city in Norway, teemed with such men, working perhaps one day in three and drinking the other two.

“In prison I had time to think, and here is what I thought: There is enough bread in Norway today to feed every child; there is no need that anyone should go hungry. Why, then, does it take a thief to get the bread out of the warehouses and into empty bellies, where it rightly belongs? Only because some men have more than they need, more even than they can stuff into gaping, open gullets and bellies swollen with years of overeating. They gave me the name of thief, and I bear it proudly; but the real thieves are the ones who keep bread they cannot eat, and won’t let others near it, for love of silver. Let me be a thief, then! But let me do it properly, this time: Not with lawyers, but with an army: Workers and peasants, the largest armies on this Earth! I’ll steal no more silver, no more bread, no more goods at retail. Only wholesale theft for me: Farms and factories, ships and white sails, gold mines and green forests! Take from the rich, yes, and give to the poor; but not bread. Take the means of production from the few rich thieves that own them, and give those to the poor; and then who will be poor after that, when every man owns what he needs to make his living?”

Some of the students, who were there mainly for entertainment, took Gjest’s pause for breath as their cue to jeer and throw things; the working men, on the other hand, filled the space with cheers of agreement, and some of them turned around to glare menacingly at the jeerers. Geir could see a brawl developing, and began to think about a strategic retreat; genteel fisticuffs with the scions of the aristocracy after the bars had closed was one thing, but dock workers tended to fight rough and to take pleasure in kicking men who were down.

His thoughts were interrupted, however, by a tramp of boots; turning, he saw with a sinking sensation that the street he’d come out of had been closed by a company of soldiers, fixed bayonets glittering against the backdrop of black uniforms. An officer came out to stand in front of his men, and read from a sheet of paper in a loud command voice:

“Our Sovereign Lord the King charges and commands all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King Eirik, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God Save the King!”

He was, Geir realised with a chill, literally reading the crowd the Riot Act; and although the Act technically provided that the people thus addressed had an hour to disperse before deadly force was authorised, the bayonets and the tense eagerness of the soldiers suggested that they were expecting to fight – often a self-fulfilling prophecy. Worse, more soldiers were blocking other exits, making it impossible for thousands of men to disperse; and one group was making their way towards the stage, presumably to arrest the speaker.

“We’d best get out of here,” Johann hissed, tugging on Geir’s sleeve.

“You don’t say?” Geir returned, looking around frantically for a way out. Then it occurred to him that there was a man nearby with vast experience of this sort of thing, and he returned his attention to the podium. Indeed, Gjest was being supported down the stairs by two of his brawny followers, moving much more rapidly now.

“We’ll follow them,” Geir said, pointing; “they’ll have a plan.” He started forward, Johann on his heels.

It was hard to move quickly through the crowd, which was milling around uncertainly, unsure of where to go and of what was going on. Not many workers had the education to recognise the Riot Act or to catch the meaning of a phrase like “peaceably to depart to their habitations”, said in the open air over the mutter of a crowd; and many of them were drunk. The mood of the crowd was uglier by the minute; Geir was beginning to understand why students who’d lived in Copenhagen all their lives spoke with such respect of its mob. He’d always thought that a mob was just a bunch of people, a synonym for ‘crowd’ or ‘band’; now he was in the middle of a crowd that was becoming a mob, and understood the difference.

Geir had just reached the stage when the first paving stone flew; it struck a soldier on the head with an authoritative thump, and the incipient mob crystallised. “Land and Bread!” someone shouted, and immediately it was on hundreds of lips; knives came out of boots and belts, and more stones were ripped out of the pavement. The soldiers who’d been trying to reach the stage disappeared in a shower of missiles and then bodies, arms rising and falling rhythmically; the screams of pain and iron scent of blood threw the mob into a frenzy, and they began to surge towards the exits.

Words of command sounded, and then rifle volleys, like knitting needles in Geir’s ears. His mouth was dry with terror; once it had come to shots fired, the army would not make fine distinctions – they would keep firing until nothing moved in the quadrangle, or until the mob overran them. Where had Gjest got to? There – they’d gone through that door, still swinging on its hinges. He ran for it, aware that he was being followed; other students, presumably, as eager to get out of this killing field as he was.

He got through the door with a gasp of relief, then stopped short: The knife wasn’t quite literally at his throat, but it was pointed that way, and the man holding it looked like he’d used it before. “Not so fast, there,” he said. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“Anywhere that doesn’t have soldiers shooting at me,” Geir said honestly.

“Good for you; but this is our bolt-hole. You lot can find your own. Shoo!” The man, a huge red-bearded fellow who spoke in a singsong northern dialect, gestured meaningfully with the knife. In ordinary circumstances it would have intimidated Geir into submission; but compared to rifles – grapeshot too, to judge by the deep booming sounds that could only be cannon – and thousands of angry men, even a knife that verged on sword size wasn’t so much of a much. Besides, Geir had comrades behind him, and the northerner was alone.

“If it has only this exit it’s not much use for escape, is it? How about you go through, then we go through, and nobody bothers anyone else? You shoo.” Geir wished for a knife, even a tiny one, to make threatening gestures with, but had to settle for balling his hands into fists. Johann came up beside him, and he had – of course – a bottle of beer, which he was holding by the neck, ready to smash it to make a nasty weapon.

“We’re trying, dammit,” the man said.

“Well, what’s the problem? Move along!”

“We can’t! It’s Gjest – he’s sick, he can’t breathe!” Geir felt a sudden abrupt change in his sympathies at the anguish in the man’s voice. A moment ago he’d been ready to trample an obstacle in his rush to escape; now he saw a man worried about his leader and doing the only thing he could for him.

“All right, look – I’ve studied anatomy.” Well, he’d certainly bought the textbook, anyway, and he’d looked quite intently at some of the drawings too, although presumably Gjest didn’t have those particular parts. “Let me have a look at Gjest, I’ll see what I can do for him, meanwhile these friends of mine will go through quietly, all right?”

“You’re a doctor?” The look of sudden hope on the man’s face made guilt well up in Geir; but it was life and death, and no time for scruples.

“Studying to be one,” he said, not quite honestly. He had not yet decided to quit after his lower degree, so it was quite possible that he’d get his doctorate in a few years; and if the man chose to interpret that as doctor of medicine rather than philosophy, well, Geir hadn’t told him any outright lies.

“All right, come in – the exit’s through there – go quiet, now,” the man said, putting the knife back in its sheath. The other students began filing through the hallway; Geir followed the northerner to where Gjest lay on a table, his shirt open, gasping for breath and holding his chest as if trying to keep his heart from escaping. It was an anatomical theatre, Geir realised with a chill, and the table was for dissections. He hoped it wasn’t an omen.

“All right, give me some room,” he said, affecting confidence; sweet sod-all he knew about medicine, but if the keyed-up men surrounding Gjest realised he was bluffing them, there was no telling what they’d do. He’d have to put on his best game face and maintain the bluff until he could get out.

“So, difficulty breathing, chest pain,” he said, listing what was obvious to anyone; but Gjest nodded as if he’d said something sensible, and there was a slight relaxation in the room. Clearly he didn’t have to be very convincing; these people were desperate for a doctor, any kind of doctor. He could probably count Gjest’s teeth and bleed him to let the excess humours out without anyone raising an eyebrow. He rubbed his chin. “Ordinarily I would prescribe rest, darkness, and quiet. That is perhaps not very practical.”

“Don’t think so,” Gjest gasped out. “Guess I’ve given my last speech, eh?”

“I – well, that’s possible, yes,” Geir had to agree. “But let’s not give up quite yet. A dram of whiskey sometimes has a calming effect on the heart. Does anyone have any?” For all he knew a dram was deadly poison to Gjest, but it sounded good, and that was all he needed. A bottle of whiskey came out of someone’s pocket, and Gjest took a long draught; it might have helped a bit, for the set of his shoulders relaxed slightly.

“Feels a little better,” he said, and his followers – there were five of them, four men and a woman – all looked at Geir as though he’d worked a miracle.

With his authority thus established, Geir could afford to admit some ignorance; he didn’t want their hopes so high that they’d kill him if Gjest died.

“I’m afraid that’s all that can be done right now. Don’t get up!” he added hastily. “Rest and quiet, that’s what you need. Which the army is quite unlikely to give you. But if you lie back, and you and you” – he pointed to the two brawniest followers – “break the legs off the table and pass them under it, like so, we’ll have a passable stretcher and we can get out of here without straining your heart.”

“Clever, lad.” Gjest managed a chuckle while his followers scrambled to do as Geir said; they had perhaps been rather panicked, or they’d surely have thought of it themselves. “Why are you helping us, though? You’re – ah, shit that hurts – on the other side, aren’t you?”

Geir looked aside. “I wasn’t born to money,” he said quietly. “And, well, I did you a bad turn once. Maybe I can make up for it a little.”

“Really? You look a bit young to have done anything, good or bad, before I was in jail.”

Geir flushed. They said confession was good for the soul; and who knew, perhaps Gjest would forgive him – he hadn’t known what he did.

“The night you were arrested – I was there,” he said, and Gjest interrupted.

“You’re the boy who wouldn’t bear false witness!”

“I suppose I am,” Geir said, surprised.

“Well then, you saved my life; and you might have got seventy-five riksdaler for it, too.”

“I – yes, I suppose you could say that.” Geir hadn’t really thought of it like that; it was the warning he’d given Mr Randale, about the thieves meeting in his warehouse, that had occupied his obsessing over the crucial event of his young life. “But I’m the one who ratted on you!” Oops, he could have put that better.

“Oh – that’s how he knew,” Gjest said. “I thought Tormod – well, never mind, what he got he had coming to him anyway. I can’t say I’m happy about it, but fair’s fair, I was there to steal. And anyway you were what, twelve?”

“Ten,” Geir admitted.

“Well. The great Gjest Baardsen, brought down by a boy of ten playing in a warehouse – I suppose that’s how you found out? I don’t know what I was thinking, meeting actually on my victim’s property. Getting sloppy, getting slow, getting old. Someone else would have gotten me, if you hadn’t.” He gasped, clutching his chest tighter. “Oh, God. No disrespect to your doctoring, lad, but I think it’s a priest I need most now.”

“I – I know where to find one,” Geir said. They weren’t far from the university chapel. There was a tightness in his throat.

“Then lead us there, if you would.” He looked at his followers. “And you’ll drop me off and run, and not argue; I don’t think I need to worry about jail now, but I’d as soon not see anyone else lose years of their lives. And besides, you’re needed to carry on the work.” He held their gazes, one by one, until they’d all nodded assent.

“As for you, lad – what’s your name, anyway?”

“Geir. Geir Randall.”

“Spear, in the old speech; and the surname means you’re related to the kings.” Gjest was wandering, now; but he brought himself back with a start. “I’m dying, I think. So listen carefully. I’ve got two things to say. First thing. Don’t forget where you’re from. The money you got for me and Bertha was luck, and I see you’re using it wisely. But don’t forget what your life would have been without it.” Geir nodded; his throat had closed, leaving him unable to speak. “Second thing. We’re even. Every man’s hand is raised against a thief, and I don’t hold a grudge for that. But you could have got rich by killing me, and you didn’t. You don’t owe me anything, hear?”

“Thank you,” Geir whispered; something in his head, that had been tightly wound for ten years, relaxed at last.

They’d reached the chapel, and the duty priest came running out, carrying the oil and the Eucharist. He asked no questions, but knelt by Gjest’s side where his followers had put him down, and daubed his forehead with the oil, rapidly reciting the blessing for the sick, to Gjest’s groaned amens.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Gjest ground out, each word seeming to cost him a great effort. His voice fell to a whisper, and Geir heard no more of what passed, until at last the priest stood up.

“May the Lord Jesus Christ protect you and lead you to eternal life,” he said. The tears finally flowed from Geir’s eyes.

Leave a comment

Filed under God Will Know His Own

Azure Three Bezants: The Honour of the Fleet

Yes, I was. What’s it to you?

Ah, your father, fair enough. Some journeymen nowadays seem to think we could have won if they’d been aboard. What ship was he on?

I wouldn’t have known him, then. I was on the Leone d’Oro. It was a big fleet, you know; eighty of the line. A forest of masts in the dawn. I didn’t know everyone’s face even on board the Leone; though I would have, in time. I’d only been aboard a few months, then.

Well, yes, from the start of the siege.

Sure, I got in on my father’s name. Which is now my name. You want to make something of that?

None taken if you’re buying.

Yeah, no, he was just out of good options. It was a siege, right? And everyone knew we were going to lose it. When the crazy English came over the walls there was going to be a massacre, and a fat lot of good the family name would do me then. Everyone knew their colonial troops would be first into the breach, because why would you send anybody whose life you valued into a forlorn hope? And yeah, a lot of those martial tribes still literally eat people. The English like it that way because it gives them shock troops everyone is afraid of, and if they accidentally get massacred instead of winning the English can still feel good about it. And they don’t speak any civilised language.

What? Well, yes, I suppose many of them do speak English. I don’t see what that has to do with anything. The point is, I wasn’t going to be able to negotiate a ransom. On a ship of the line, sure, I might have to fight the blockading fleet, but that would be civilised warfare, feed the guns until one side strikes the colours; you have a nine in ten chance of surviving that sort of thing even if your whole fleet is wiped out. There were lots of rich men making that calculation, then. Poor men too, for that matter. Better a landsman on a frigate, than trying to defend the streets when the black savages came howling through the breaches. If they tried to board the ships, well, that’s what grapeshot is for. You can pound a lot of grapeshot out through the sixty guns of a ship of the line. They’re big bitches, those shipkillers; much bigger than the guns that armies use teams of twenty horses to move around.

Well, no, didn’t work out that way. The savages went right for Sant’ Andrea. Soon as the catapults were gone and they didn’t have to be afraid of the siege hail (*) anymore, the English fleet was coming in. There wasn’t any sense in trying to fight them while the savages were boarding us from the docks. We sailed out for sea room.

Yes, of course we knew it was hopeless.

I suppose they thought a few ships might fight their way through, and take refuge in Tunis, or in Egypt. To save at least a remnant of the power and the pride; that was all they hoped for. The siege was lost and the war was lost, and we all knew it; but if we had a few ships left to jump an English merchantman, or threaten to sell to the Indians, perhaps that would be worth some crumbs at the peace table.

No. That’s true. There were too many of them. Two ships for every one of ours. We might as well have tried to fight our way across the Alps.

Yes, we knew it. We’d said our goodbyes, prayed our prayers, drunk our wine. We weren’t stupid, you know. We knew the odds.

Oh, I see. You’re asking why he went. Why we all went, knowing what would happen. Knowing there would be widows and orphans left behind. Well then. Buy me another, and I’ll tell you. It’s thirsty work, talking.

Thank you.

We went because rats abandon a sinking ship, but men don’t. Because the Lion of St Mark flew from our masts. We went because we’d sworn an oath to the Senate and the People, and not to our families and our own skins. Because we were Venetians and free citizens, and when we said “the power and the pride” we meant it, and were proud.

We sailed for the honour of the Fleet.

Azure Three Bezants

(*) Siege hail: The mixture of incendiaries and big rocks hoisted into the air by the enormous catapults of the Forte di Sant’ Andrea – deadly to wooden ships within their effective range of a kilometer.

Encouraged by my success in getting Ragusa – and egged on by certain field-gray allies who shall remain nameless – I went back to the same well again: I invaded Byzantium at the head of a coalition of me, Germany, Fox, and Egypt. It worked out pretty well until the moment that 100k English troops poured across the French-Italian border and I realised that Baron intended to actually defend his ally this time, as opposed to messing about with subsidies and a few ships. All my troops were down in the Levant, trying to advance through the Lebanese mountains; Germany was invading the Baltics; Egypt was occupying Africa and helping me out in the Levant – so Italy fell in short order. At the end of the war I was out of manpower, out of ships (I literally have exactly zero ships, not even transports, in the save), and my government in exile, if that mechanic had existed in EU4, would have had to set up shop in Madagascar. However, by skilled diplomatic maneuvering (that is, I blamed Germany for starting it), I ended up only losing Ragusa and Oran, not that this is exactly a great comfort. I’ll be a generation recovering, again. The heavy ships, at least, were due for upgrading anyway since I’m about to hit Threedeckers, so I’m not out any money that I wouldn’t have been spending anyway. I take great consolation from this fact.

World in 1702

The world in 1702.

Leave a comment

Filed under Azure Three Bezants, Dominion over Palm and Pine, Recessional