Map of the world, 1689.
Crown Princess of Men: Tell that colour!
King of Men: That is the sanguine red of the Wicked Wardenate of the West, sometimes called England; it is the colour of the blood of millions, shed that such a state might live. It is the colour of the hundreds of hearts that are daily torn out of living breasts to ensure that the Sun shall not set on the empire.
CPOM (hides her face): It’s too scary!
KOM: Well, yes. That is the nature of globe-spanning empires run by ruthless optimisers, even if they do have an affable manner until the hammer falls.
CPOM: This colour!
KOM: That is the corrupt rotting purple of Byzantium; it is the colour you get when a fragment of the ancient world lives beyond its time, becoming a shambling mockery of what was once right and glorious. When a world-conquering impulse is hemmed in by stronger peoples surrounding it, and turns on itself in intrigue and backbiting, entirely unlike the healthy democratic debate of the mercantile successor states who have the better claim to the true mantle of Rome.
Queen of Men: It looks more lavender to me.
KOM: It’s only slightly lavender; and anyway, that’s no insult these days.
CPOM: Tell that one.
KOM: It is the weak unmanly pink of Denmark, England’s lapdog. That is the colour you get when the vigorous red of blood fades, in vassalage and servitude, and the warlike heritage of Yngling and Skjoldung thins out to something better suited to adorn a four-year-old’s hair.
CPOM: Can I have a pink butterfly?
KOM: Not right now. You tell this one.
KOM: And such a green! The healthy vibrant green of jungle and rainforest, of fresh-planted fields watered by the annual flood, of growing things and new life! The deep verdant green that covers Africa, the cradle of the race; the fecund green that our earliest ancestors saw beyond the circle of light, when they danced around their fires in worship of the first gods. It is sometimes called the Dark Continent; but they do not say so, who have stood in a rainforest at noon, and seen the sunlight filtered through meters of leaves to make a cathedral of green-lit rays.
CPOM: This tiny one!
KOM: It is not great in extent, that is true; but the brave defiant azure of Venice makes up in gold what it lacks in size. Here is the true successor of Rome; and even in libertarian utopia, Rome cannot be rebuilt in a day. The blue represents the sea; it is the azure of the Mediterranean on a day in early spring, when you see it from the porch of your white summer house in the foothills of the Apennines. Perhaps, as you idly muse on the ships which bring the lifeblood of the Republic to the peninsula, your fingers play with golden coins, as one does; lifting them out of the bowl set on your table, beside the good white wine and the simple meal of bread and meat, and letting them trickle through your fingers, glinting in the sunlight and chiming sweetly against one another. But not, of course, throwing them up in the air and letting them rain down over your head; only the nouveau riche do that sort of thing.
CPOM: Can I play with my piggabank?
KOM: After the colours.
CPOM: Ok, fine! Tell this one.
KOM: That is the menacing steel grey of the Uzbek Khanate; of which little can be said other than that it is not as threatening as it looks. Indeed its armies are positively cuddly once you get to know them. But if we were playing EU2 it would be a threat greater than England.
KOM: The pure Aryan white of Peshawar; where the master race is carefully bred and raised in the communal creches, under the guidance of the autistic artificial intelligence from the far future, to have Discipline of 125.
CPOM: This one?
KOM: That is the noble intellectual field-grey of Germany; it denotes a state that needs no flamboyant ornament to show to advantage. The plain grey uniforms that keep watch on the Rhine have conquered to the Volga. It is a simple and Spartan design, contrasting favourably with the baroque – not to say Byzantine – curlicues of other countries; and above all it is cheap. Over an army of a quarter million, that cheapness saves enough money to outfit two additional regiments. This consideration tells you all you need to know about German philosophy. Can you say ‘philosophy’?
KOM: Close enough. You tell this one.
CPOM: Blue! Blue!
KOM: The deep blue called ‘royal’. The blue of the sea at dusk, when one’s thoughts turn – as they do – to dominating all the Pacific, and latching on to its trade in the chokepoint at Malacca and draining it dry, preventing the Indian and European nations from taking their just profit. The colour of a vein very close to the skin, temptingly throbbing with the lifeblood of nations; but if the skin were breached the rich liquid within would run red… the red of England. Best not to think of it; best to be content with one’s station in life, and perhaps write the occasional dekaeptaic poem in which one subtly, allusively, metaphorically, hints that the actual world history in which one finds oneself is not, all things considered, the finest possible world history.
CPOM: Another green?
KOM: The grim dark green of Fandango; the shade that gives India, not Africa, the true claim to be the Dark Continent. The green of silent pine forests, shivering with chemical warfare; the green of mold on bread. The creeping omnipresent colour that underlies the clean purity of Peshawar’s ideology, and bursts out in stench and slime if you dig below its surface.
CPOM: Tell that one.
KOM: The cheerful bright orange of Korea; the colour of comic relief.
CPOM: That one is orange too.
KOM: That’s right; but it is the angry orange of Persia; the orange of rage and madness. It is the colour of loss; of an empire which once reached clear to the Indus, and now is fallen back on the Iranian highlands; the colour of not escalating minor incidents into globe-spanning wars, and losing province upon province as a reward. Moloch laughs when men cooperate in the Prisoner’s Dilemma, for it takes only one defector to make a mockery of reason; and the one who refuses to break silence, the honest thief who suffers his colleague’s betrayal, is made to wear a prison jumpsuit in this shade of orange. For all the twenty years of his sentence.
CPOM: Last one.
KOM: That is Fox, and it is a colour which must not be named; whereof one cannot speak, thereof must one be silent. No one knows what the fox says.
The Crown Princess of Men does, on occasion, exclaim “Tell that colour!” (although more often “Tell those letters”); all her dialogue is authentic. My replies may have been slightly embellished. Incidentally, being a well-brought-up upper-middle-class child, she does not in fact throw coins up in the air and let them rain down on her head, even when permitted to play with her piggy bank. But I have seen her attempt to swim through them like a dolphin.
In this session I took Ragusa from Byzantium, with some incidental help from the field-gray armies based to my north; the Byzantine navy was, for inscrutable AI reasons (Blayne had been absent last session) composed mainly of galleys, and sank very picturesquely. Obviously, once I had established naval superiority in the Adriatic it was all over for Byzantium, entirely notwithstanding that he caught my armies out of supporting distance of my German auxiliaries and forced me into a strategic retreat behind my fortifications. Only a temporary setback! I now control Ragusa, and thus most of the trade power in one of the nodes that feeds Venice. I also picked up what was left of the Maghreb from the Templar Republic.
The decisive naval battle that broke the power of Byzantium and established Venetian naval superiority in the Adriatic. NB: “Venetian naval superiority” shall not be construed to include any ability to prevent English fleets from going where they like. Side effects may include delusions of grandeur and careless running into immense amounts of heavy ships bearing the White Ensign. Use responsibly; consult your doctor before taking for prolonged periods.
So… it’s just my imagination, right, that in player mapmode there seems to be a tortured human face – modulo something nasty growing out of his forehead – outlined by the verdant green of Egypt? Nobody else sees that, right?