Extracts from the play Captains Three, or, the Comical History of the Moroccan Merchant, first performed in Venice around 1539. Translated from the Italian by John Hewegger.
Humongous Khan, ruler of a vast nation but not of his bedchamber.
Jolly Shah, a merchant of Morocco, vassal to Humongous Khan, skilled in trade but not war.
Doctor Ba-lyne, his councillor, a scholar learned in the arts of statecraft.
Sundry mercenary Captains, rough men standing ready to do violence on any rich man’s behalf.
A messenger, too unimportant to get a sardonic description; let him be grateful for being a speaking part.
Act I, Scene I
Humongous Khan: Now is the morning of my discontent; what passed in the night we shall pass over in silence, yet let this much be said: My passion is not slaked, and must needs find some outlet. Bring me my maps, my counselors, my list of vassals; someone shall suffer for this!
Act I, Scene II
Jolly Shah: It is intolerable; it shall not stand! A hundred years this city has held wide lands of the Humongite kings; a hundred years of leal service, to be repaid in this false coin? Not while I am Wallah-Emir! And Wallah-Emir I shall remain, while there are soldiers to take the field, and gold to pay them; the title is given me by God, and shall not be taken away by the false Emperor. Summon my hosts!
Doctor Ba-lyne: To resist an evil demand is a good deed; yet even the best deed must be well done. In Morocco are men of bazaar and countinghouse, skilled in trade and artisanry, suited well to piping times of peace; but if we are to fight, as fight we must, then men of war are needed.
Jolly Shah: It shall be even as thou sayest; let the summons go out to the camps, that mercenary captains may find gold at Morocco.
(Enter a dozen Captains.)
First Captain: The rumour of gold has brought me here; ten thousand men have I, all ready to kill and maim, to slay and conquer, at the word of a man who commands the yellow metal.
Second Captain: Heed him not; his ten thousand bear but spear and shield, and for want of corslets and helms perish, when seasoned warriors come near. Five thousand men have I, apparelled for war; heavy with mail and plate, they await but the sight of shining coins to swear your service.
Third Captain: His men are heavy indeed; yet I own they will do good service against an obliging foe, that attacks the place where they are mustered. Pay me, and eight thousand Berber horse shall obey your slightest command, and hunt your enemies as the falcon hunts the hare, which is to say, more swiftly than the tortoise is accustomed to hunt lettuce.
Jolly Shah: It is well; cease your quarrels, you are all hired.
Dr Ba-lyne: Wait, what?
Jolly Shah: Aye, all! Do we not face the armies of Humongous Khan? We shall need every man for the struggle! Muster your bands; Morocco marches to war!
Act II, Scene I
Dr Ba-lyne: My Shah, wouldst hear good tidings, or ill?
Jolly Shah: Let us first hear the bad, that we may be cheered by the good.
Dr Ba-lyne: Good cheer will be needed, for we are broke.
Jolly Shah: Broke?
Dr Ba-lyne: So the vulgar call the condition of being out of money; of having no cash; of one’s treasury echoing desolately to the call of the cricket and the bat; above all, of one’s mercenaries, rashly hired in too great a number, grumbling about late pay and scanty ration, and threatening desertion and rebellion.
Jolly Shah: Let them grumble; it will give them strength in battle. And what is thy other news?
Dr Ba-lyne: We have captured a messenger, bearing the word of the Humongous Khan to those same discontented soldiers. Behold the seal of the Empire, hear the word of the Khan:
Humongous Khan (from offstage): You have seen that there is no money in Morocco; but the coffers of mine Empire do overflow with silver and gold, with jewels and silks. Alas! But little do such gauds console a man whose nights are cold; therefore do I freely promise and bestow them upon you, if you do but rise against the rebels. The fifteenth of this June I appoint as the date; on that day there shall be rebellion against revolt, and good order shall be restored to the Empire; may it spread from Morocco to my chambers.
Jolly Shah: Thy good news fails to cheer.
Dr Ba-lyne: Then let strategy serve where force has failed. Look thou, here are letters to each of our Captains, all bearing the same word, to rise in strength on the Ides of June. Now by secret arts, such as the best universities teach, I alter one, so its rebellion is summoned on the twentieth; to another Captain, let Humongous Khan seem to send word that the twenty-fifth is the date; and so throughout the pile.
Jolly Shah: I take not thy meaning.
Dr Ba-lyne: And now we send the Khan’s word, not by this dog of a captive, but by a trusted man of our own, to the Captains; let each rise on the date appointed him, believing his fellows will rise likewise; and let each find himself alone, to be destroyed by the concert of the mercenaries of Europe!
Act III, Scene V
Humongous Khan (now full of good cheer): Our plans in ruin and our stratagem defeated? The mercenaries of Europe have destroyed each other like the snake that eats its own tail, and our vassal sends insolent word of peace? No matter! The nights of my discontent are turned glorious summer by my new concubine, and I am at peace with all men. Come, give me the treaty; behold I sign, with a flourish, thus! And return the land to the piping days of peace, to be governed by my council, the whiles I while away my time in the harem. I bid you all good day, for such a one I expect to have myself.
(Exit the Khan, whistling)
Nothing of great interest happened to Venice this session, but we were diverted by much drama in Spain. Gollevainen, a veteran of the older megacampaigns, joined us, taking over Mark’s old slot in Morocco – a vassal to Spain. Dragoon was not present, but was subbed by Khan; since Dragoon has apparently decided to become a primarily African power, he had given his sub instructions to destroy the Moroccan slot if a human tried to play it. Khan naturally started by revoking Golle’s primary title, on which Golle declared war. An uneven match; but Golle, with characteristic Finnish flair, ran away with the advice he received to hire mercenaries, and hired every mercenary company in the game. He later explained that he thought they worked like mercenaries in EU, one thousand soldiers to the company. Of course, he could not maintain such an army in the field, not even with subsidies from half of Europe; so they started defecting to Khan. One by one. While standing in a 100k-strong doomstack. So Golle’s shrinking doomstack fought a series of battles against single mercenary companies; in this manner he quickly accumulated 100% warscore, and enforced a white peace.
For all I know this is a well-known exploit, long banned in serious MP games, and nobody else finds it funny; but it was new to me and apparently some other players, and we laughed so hard we decided to let Golle get away with it – also because he convincingly argued that it wasn’t deliberate, he just didn’t realise what would happen. White peace in place of Enforce Demands also worked in his favour here. Nonetheless, there were some accusations of foul meta-play; in particular, Khan accused Blayne of having brought in Golle to play Morocco and mess up Dragoon’s African empire, and Fimconte accused Blayne of having brought in Golle to end Morocco’s AI protection and strengthen Dragoon’s African empire. The mutual annihilation of these charges created an explosion that blew Golle into the Syrian slot, recently vacated by Oddman. The African empire, then, is still a thing.
Central Med, 1363. Venice rules quite a reasonable fraction of mainland Italy. I expect the Kievan inheritance in the south to return to me diplomatically.