Azure Three Bezants: Recap

In which I summarise 800 years of narrative and 3 months of gameplay.

Our session on the 12th was plagued by technical issues, and the 19th we skipped entirely due to the absence of both Jacob and Baron, playing Germany and England; consequently there is little gameplay or narrative to report. Instead I’m doing a recap, both of the game situation and of the story, for the benefit of those slackers who have not been reading this novel-length AAR since God of our Fathers started in the halcyon year of 2015.

First the narrative. Egypt, played by Kuipy, has (as described in his AARs) been ruled since 1204 by “Pharaoh”, an alien entity from somewhere near the galactic core. In my AARs, this entity is referred to as “the Jackal”, for reasons I now forget – probably because his CK dynasty was “Anubid”, and Anubis is the jackal-headed god of the old Egyptian pantheon. The entity, whatever you call it, is the last survivor of a colonising expedition; it refers to us as “subhumans” and, by implication, to its own kind as true humans. The subhumans, including the animal-headed men that appear in so many Egyptian inscriptions, are (probably – Kuipy has not said so explicitly) of true-human stock, genetically altered to do simple manual labour. Several thousand years ago, before the rise of the first Egyptian civilisation, there was a revolt among the subhumans, which killed the true-human colonists, except that the Jackal’s mind was uploaded to a backup device shaped like an ankh. Once the ankh was discovered, a few years prior to out game start in 1204, the Jackal moved to possess successive subhumans, and used its immense abilities – including limited mind-control – to become ruler of Egypt. Its purpose in doing so was not to rule subhumans, any more than you would buy a toolbox because you wanted to rule a bunch of screwdrivers; rather it wanted to advance subhumanity to a technological level where they could build a crude, just-gets-you-into-orbit spacecraft, which it spent the Victoria period building. It also recovered the buried artifacts of the ancient colony, and used them to cobble together a space drive; these two plans together made a lifeboat, a minimal craft that would barely get it back to civilisation where it could be healed and restored to a true-human body.

This goal is not in itself a problem; what makes the Jackal an enemy of all humanity is its methods for achieving its aims, and its utter contempt for “subhumans”. The technology of the ancient colonists includes an understanding of the true fundamental force of physics, the grand unification of the electroweak, strong, and gravitational forces; with this they manipulate matter on a sub-nuclear level, including the constituents of consciousness. To this end, “subhuman” DNA is infused with control structures, the atoms lined up in geometries that guide the flow of the fundamental force; when the Jackal speaks, or even projects its thoughts into the ether, humans obey whether they want to or not. If, that is, they still have the full control structures in their DNA; over the millennia, mutations have changed the shapes and altered the flow of the fundamental force through our brains. Thus some humans are more susceptible than others. In particular, the Jackal has, as a backup plan, bred the Shrewsburys of England to have a very complete set of control DNA; this is why the current king of England, Robert XIII, has only 20 great-great-great-grandparents instead of the more conventional 32. (Well, in reality 30 or 28; most people marry fifth or seventh cousins, because most people are fifth or seventh cousins. But the point remains that King Robert has rather fewer ancestors than the average bear.) The Jackal has roughly as many scruples about using these control structures to force subhumans (and other local animals) to serve it, as a human does in wielding a screwdriver. That is why Egypt has almost never been invaded, and why, when it was, the very rats ate the grain of the invading army, but not of the defenders. That is why Egyptian sandstorms notoriously strike only one side of a fighting front: The Jackal uses its immense intelligence to calculate which butterfly wings should flap to move the winds just so, and then moves human and animal puppets into position to cause exactly the right storm. That is why its garrisons in Aden and Cairo fought with literally inhuman determination: To the last man and, in Cairo, to the last woman and fourteen-year-old boy.

With all these advantages, why does not the Jackal rule the world? The Aiello believe they have found a number of things which reduce its mind-control powers, and they are roughly 80% mistaken. In particular, neither silver, cold iron, Faraday cages, or salt water have any particular effect on the fundamental force. But DNA, held by van der Waals forces in geometric shapes that channel the flow, can affect it; and by a lucky coincidence, the DNA of the herb moly, Galanthus nivalis, has such an effect. In particular, it absorbs and fuzzes out the Jackal’s mental commands. It may be only coincidence that moly, in alchemical lore, is said to grant true sight, the power of seeing through illusions; when Odysseus rescued his comrades from the magic of Circe, he was protected by moly, the gift of Hermes. But perhaps not; for it is known that the Jackal has been awake and active in pre-classical times, that it caused the Collapse of the Eleventh Century, when civilisations fell all across the eastern Mediterranean – and that the men of that time, somehow, drove it back to slumber. That is the period Homer sang of, the age of axe and raven that preceded the Dark Age he himself lived in; it is not impossible that the story of Odysseus and Circe records a real event, perhaps an important battle in that old campaign of the Long War.

With the aid of the herb moly – adapted, among other things, to be fired in artillery shells as a chemical weapon, inducing unnaturally-stubborn garrisons to come to their senses and surrender – Venice and England have conquered Africa. They were, in a sense, too late; the Jackal’s spaceship, though not entirely complete, was sufficiently ready to be launched as a desperation measure. A lifeboat stocked with nine-tenths of the food you think you’ll need is, perforce, good enough when the cannibals are about to storm your treehouse. However, members of the Egyptian Resistance blew it up; they also ambushed the Jackal’s current body as it fled, days or hours ahead of the tanks of the Milice di Venezia. Unfortunately they mis-identified their target; it was not President Khilari himself who was possessed, but his wife, the actress Graziella Jorgensen. Who disappeared in the chaos following the fall of Egypt and the creation of the Provisional Interim Government, but has since re-appeared in England. There she is one of King Robert’s closest advisors, as well as being President of the African Federation, the recently-established protectorate country consisting of all of England’s African possessions. It is Mrs Jorgenson who has diverted immense amounts of steel, fuel oils, and engineers to Equatorial Africa, where they are to work on – so it is said – war rockets to reach across the Atlantic and reduce the eastern seaboard of the American powers to rubble. It remains to be seen how the Jackal intends to recover the ancient colonial artifacts, presumably still at the site of its first spaceship – in the Venetian occupation zone. However, perhaps we need not seek very far for the answer; shortly after the fall of Egypt, England was at war with Venice. The easiest way to extract important artifacts from another country’s occupation zone is to invade them and make it your occupation zone.

So much for narrative. As for gameplay: Early in 1936, the Entente powers, Germany-Japan-Venice, attacked the New World Order, Fox-United Colonies-India-Egypt. A little later, the Commonwealth, England and Denmark, joined on the Entente side. Egyptian resistance (somewhat hampered by the diversion of immense amounts of industry and expertise into that spaceship) swiftly collapsed in the face of brilliant Venetian tactics. India, ably played by Oddman, managed to encircle and destroy large amounts of Japanese conscript infantry; however, with German troops closing in across the Himalayas, a Venetian invasion of southern India, and English troops appearing to shore up the Japanese lines, it was clear to all that India could not fight forever. Oddman therefore sued for peace, offering to join the Entente in exchange for keeping his territory intact. At this point, unity within the Entente broke down. Venice and Japan were willing to accept a peace in which Japan gained some territory and India switched factions, at which point the Entente and the New World Order would unite against England. Germany, played by Jacob, was not willing to accept this peace. Jacob first demanded some territory for Germany as well; when this was agreed to, he simply stopped negotiating. There is now a general consensus within the New World Order that Jacob and Baron have been secret allies since Crusader Kings, their occasional wars fought for show. If so, it’s out in the open now. At the point when Jacob went silent in the negotiations, Venice and Japan were both observing ceasefires on their respective Indian fronts. Jacob continued to fight, and soon lost a large amount of divisions to an encirclement; which was the point at which Japan switched factions, joining the New World Order in exchange for the aforementioned Indian territory.

This is the point at which we start to have technical troubles; up to now we’ve been pausing a lot to negotiate, but now we’re doing save edits and it’s slow work. When we did get started again, England started justifying a war on Venice, which now takes all of ten days. I, obviously, started moving my troops away from the front in India. When the war began, in early April of 1937, Germany did not join on my side. Thus the active wars were:

Germany and Venice against both Americas, India, and Japan.
England and Denmark against both Americas, India, and Japan.
England and Denmark against Venice.

I immediately asked to join the New World order, and this was granted; we stopped for more edits, to include Germany joining the Commonwealth. This was complicated, because Venice was occupying large tracts of Egypt, now ostensibly an ally; there were also some minors that had been in the Entente, which were left without a major-power protector and instantly surrendered. This was undesirable, as we wanted them to remain occupied, not fully surrendered (that shouldn’t be caused by diplomatic shifts), and additionally the peace conference caused the un-occupation of Egypt, which was supposed to remain under Venice even after I’d joined the New World Order – this was my concession for doing so. We weren’t able to get this to work with in-session edits, and adjourned to think of how to do it.

After some experimenting I arrived at this solution: Germany and those minors remain in the Entente, Venice joins the NWO, and the wars are:

Germany against both Americas, India, and Japan (but not Venice).
England and Denmark against both Americas, India, Japan, and Venice.
Venice not technically at war with Egypt, but occupying a large portion of it.

It is not clear how long the peace between Venice and Germany will last. Here is Eurasia:

Eurasia, April 1937

Note the border changes in China, where the Japanese coastal enclaves are now all connected, and Japanese China is one tier of states thicker. There are four fighting fronts here: Italy, where I have a short, mountainous, and fortified border with England; Africa; Siberia; and the Pacific. It is not clear that any of these can be immediately decisive – even the loss of Italy, although no doubt a heavy blow, won’t knock Venice out of the war, much less the whole NWO. We may be in for a drawn-out attritional struggle; or, who knows, perhaps there will be another diplomatic revolution – EastAsia switching sides again, perhaps – and a quick toppling of whoever gets the dagger in the kidney.

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Filed under Azure Three Bezants, One With Nineveh and Tyre, Recessional

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