Persia was the first to fall.
The Shahanshah ruled, in the year 793 of the Hegira, an empire that stretched from the Caucasus to the Ethiopian highlands, from the Indus to the Nile. His word could set a hundred thousand soldiers on their way to paradise or conquest; the least of the Kings of which he was King would be, in Europe, a Power in his own right, respected in the councils of nations. Only the insular English, among the nations of the world, might be considered a match for the secular powers of the Persians – and the English, for all their wealth, rule green and pleasant lands easily accessible by sea. Persia is defended by desert and mountain, by howling wilderness and trackless distance, a geography to make armies wither and wars fade into stalemate. In material terms, surely no ruler could be more secure in his possessions than he who sat the Sun Throne.
The last Davion Padishah. Note the religion and the open-mouthed, empty-eyed look; the lights are on, but whoever is home is not the man he once was.
And what was the good of that? The Hound was not limited to material attacks; and on the spiritual plane the Shahanshah, ruler of forty million, commander of a hundred thousand, was as defenseless as any child. The metaphorical phrase, “ruler of so-and-so-many souls” is meant to sound impressive, and sometimes it does; but the truth is that no man can truly rule more than one. And, truth be told, many states are better governed than the average soul. The Shahanshah’s vast empire was among the better-governed states of its day; it had to be, to maintain its grip on so large a dominion full of fractious and warlike peoples. The Shahanshah’s grip on his soul, however, was at best average; and perhaps this too was inevitable – for how much self-discipline need a man learn, whose every personal desire can be satisfied with a word and a nod?
The Shahanshah resided in the middle of his empire, defended by loyal soldiers, great fortresses, barren mountains; and the Hound, in effect, strolled through all that and attacked the one weak point: The Shahanshah’s mind. A modern government, wise from long experience, would have been on its guard; today, if a head of state shows any signs of uncharacteristic behaviour, his advisors will call for salt and moly, iron and lead, priests and Sensitives. But the Hound chose its first target wisely. The most powerful government in the world was unwarned, unwary, utterly unready for the first major battle of the Long War. Persia toppled like a house of cards.
The Shahanshah’s conversion to Christianity – apostasy, punishable by death, in the view of the Moslem faith – might, conceivably, have been managed. If it had been presented as a tactical maneuver to prevent further religious strife on the borders of the empire, it might have been possible to neutralise a sufficient number of powerful lords that the inevitable civil war could have been won. Announced as a genuine conversion, a true conviction based on a vision (which was very likely true – the Hound is quite capable of citing Scripture to its purpose), it was never going to fly. From the day the Shahanshah publicly took Mass and made confession, the only question was how long it would take his lords to hear the news and gather their armies. Then he renounced the Sun Throne and declared Persia a republic, with himself as President Pro Tem until elections could be held; and, on the grounds that a republic needed no standing army, dismissed the twenty-five thousand Immortals of the Shahanshah’s personal guard – after first having them execute those members of his court who had the personal strength of will and following to have halted the disaster.
Ali Anubid, called ‘Usurper’, the latest puppet of the Hound. Do not be fooled by the crowns and diadems; this man does not rule even his own body. The Other entity behind the windows into eternal darkness – I refer to the little pools of endless night located where humans have eyes – is a different matter.
At that point, Persia was ruled in name only. The Hound simply marched its army into the capital, unresisted by the dispersed Immortals; decapitated what was left of the Shahanshah – a mind twisted so far out of its natural path is not, generally, worth much afterwards – and had its puppet declare himself Padishah, Shahanshah, and Emperor of all the Egypts – Upper, Lower, Outer, and Trans-Euphratian. The Egyptian armies had, of course, been ready to march, since the Hound had known exactly when the Shahanshah would go mad. The Persian and Mesopotamian lords who might have liked to dispute the succession had to hear the news, decide to revolt, and gather their armies – and they found that the Egyptians had stolen a march, and they were no longer rebelling against a mad apostate, but against a pious Moslem emperor holding the capital with twenty thousand men, who had the apparent obedience of the imperial bureaucracy, and who could draw on the fertile Nile Valley for supplies and reinforcements. That would not have sufficed against the united strength of the Persian heartlands; but many of the kings who had risen against a Christian madman hesitated to wage war on a fellow Moslem with a reasonable claim to legitimacy. Those who remained were driven mainly by ambition – after all, it was apparently open season on declaring oneself Padishah; why not them, as well as this upstart Egyptian? – and could not unite. In three years of war the Hound made itself master of Persia.
— From The Curious Incidence of the Hound in the Hearts of Men, an overview of spiritual and supernatural methods of warfare, published by the Milice di Venezia as a textbook for its officers.
Last time I wrote of the Hound, someone commented that they would love to see an Egyptian resurgence through black magic; and like a fool I said that I’d be happy to see that. And this week… I’m beginning to wonder if Kuipy is, actually, entirely human. As I’ve noted previously, the CK interface – including the player chat – is not very useful for distinguishing between free-willed beings and shambling shells possessed by Other entities. In fact, nobody has ever seen Kuipy; we interact, of course, by text and voice – so a demonic possessor wouldn’t even need the minimal disguise of looking human to cursory inspection. On the Internet nobody knows you are an alien infiltrator…
Whether through uncanny influence or through merely human mistakes, Fimconte’s Persia collapsed in much the way I described above: He converted to Christianity to avoid Holy Wars, then attempted to become a Merchant Republic. This failed for reasons I haven’t learned, and Persia became a regular republic and thus unplayable. It was restored by edit to feudalism, but the edit was the minimum needed to make it playable again; the retinue of 25k pike and the high Crown Authority were not restored, nor the tyranny reduced. Kuipy had only to create a faction to put his son on the throne – deep-laid plans, here, further evidence for the [i]something uncanny[/i] theory; why did he happen to have a son with a claim on Persia lying around? – and about two-thirds of the Persian super-Dukes signed up. What was once Persia is now the Empire of all the Egypts, and the Long War is out in the open.
Central Med, 1404. No territorial changes for Venice, though I’ve built a dozen universities. Major change over in the Middle East, where the Great Blob of the Desert With a Thousand Vassals is now ‘Anubid’ instead of ‘Davion’. There’s a revolt to put a Davion back on the throne, but I don’t think it’ll go anywhere.