On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

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On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Zuk » Mon Jun 17, 2019 8:32 pm

by Apollonaros of Tessos, historian of the Autokrator, recorded annum MMDCCLXXII after the founding of the city

I have been with him since the beginning, but never before have I seen the emperor act with such animus. Not even at the height of the wars that bare his name. He is bitterly angry, shouting late into the night at his advisers and generals, for they do not act as fast as he wishes to see results. It has become abundantly clear to him in recent days that the lay of the political land necessitates this behavior, for if he were without due diligence in the pursuit of our imperial ambitions, another attempt on his life was all but certain. An emperor who does not act is without imperium, and cannot last, even if he is a living god. "A god will have his glory in the afterlife," writes the wise philosopher Ammodios of Amoria, just two centuries ago, "In this life, only the bold can know the glory and sacrifice that is Arete."

It is said that the veins of a Mandromenid run red with the blood of Arete herself, and that this is why they are so beautiful to behold. Even in his waning years, the emperor vibrates with energy when he has set himself to a task. Just as he was animated to act against his father, so too is he now moved by the words of his trusted generals, which they uttered upon the proper administration of justice. After the removal of a conspirator's left eye, each in turn confessed his role in the plot against the emperor's life, and the reasoning behind a decision which would stain his honor. Each gave the same reason, from which the emperor inferred honesty. Had any one of the conspirators given a different answer, he would have had them all totally blinded. Instead, they were given mercy.

I am impressed by the emperor. He has shown actual wisdom in his actions. The Strategoi confessed that it was the emperor's inaction in recent decades which led them to treason. Like true Antarterans, they only wished to see their men be given the opportunity to find glory on the battlefield, righting the wrongs of the past. They have been forgiven, and welcomed back into the fold. "If I am to accelerate the expansion of the empire," the emperor told them, "I will require the most skilled and loyal commanders. Will you renew your vows of loyalty, and command my armies once more?" They have, of course, agreed, and been given bodyguards from the emperor's Mandators as rewards for their continued amiability.

In all things, the emperor continues to learn and grow. He has come far from that young, idealistic man who seized the throne, with a heart filled with ideas for his empire. I see traces of that man still etched in him today, but imbued with an excellence of mind that befits the decades he has spent in contemplation since the end of the Anaksarxid Wars. The ancient scholar Apidomnos once wrote that the ultimate form of Arete was to contemplate one's self and one's actions, and for this reason the emperor spent a great many years gathering knowledge. After an appropriate length of time has passed, the Strategoi now desire to see the fruits of the emperor's labors in the form of action, and he has so divinely seen fit to harvest. Soon, the empire's enemies will feel the quaking of the earth beneath their feet once again.

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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Zuk » Mon Jun 17, 2019 11:09 pm

Gerontes District, Irae

"Kyrios?" asked his Ubaidian servant Shekmet. "Are you alright?"

"Silence, Shek," Xilomandros demanded, raising a shaken hand to remove his spectacles. The scroll rolled itself back up, covering the words "Decree of Autoktonia". He handed it to Shekmet, who could not read, and rubbed the bridge of his nose in shock. His wife, his children, and his various servants looked on at him with concern. Even the imperial courier was pallid. "The emperor has decreed... that I..."

"What is it?" his wife Angelina asked, taking his head in her hands.


For a moment, it was as if the air had been sucked out of the room. Then, the Konstakouzinas family was crying, huddled together on the floor of their villa. Even some of the servants were crying. After a time, the courier unsheathed a blade, and said, "You will do it now... or I will do it for you. Please... do not make me."

"You're a Mandator, aren't you?" Xilomandros asked. The courier nodded. "Figures. Shek... please, fetch my blade."

"Please, no," whimpered Angelina, but it was no use. It had been decided. Xilomandros would die, it was now his duty to die with dignity. He stood up, breaking from his wife and children. He undid his chlamys and let it fall to the floor. He was untying the belt around his tunic when Angelina walked up to him and kissed him. "You're the bravest man I know," she said. Shekmet appeared with his xiphos, the blade he'd used throughout his youth as a Stratiote, and handed it to him. He looked down at it, and met his own eyes reflecting in its edge. I was a Geronte, he told himself, My ancestors will be honored at that, even if I have died a failure.

It had all gone wrong after the Strategoi failed to kill the usurper. Xilomandros and a cadre of other Gerontes and Logothetes had banded together in secret some years ago with the purpose of removing Anaksarxos the Second. He had served in the first Anaksarxos's army, and remembered the feeling of the day. Antarteran unity was on the horizon, and he took it from us. They had plotted his death by poisoning for some time, securing a route for smuggling poison unseen into the imperial kitchens, and even bribing the emperor's tasters. But, as always, Anaksarxos II had won. The gods sided with the evil again and again. The Mandators seemed to be everywhere. They had even been in their meetings. My fault, he thought, I'm the one who recruited that rat Sinistros.

It was fitting, after all, that he must then die by his own hand. "Take the children away from here," he said to his wife. Before she could protest, Shek and some of the other servants rounded them up and pushed them away. The Mandator was still watching him closely, seemingly growing impatient. Xilomandros took his tunic off and threw it to the ground beside his chlamys, saying, "Wouldn't want it to get bloodied for no reason, would we?"

The Mandator didn't smile. "Your time for delaying the inevitable has run out, Kyrios."

"Of course," he said.

Though his every muscle screamed at him not to, he place the pommel of his xiphos upon the marble floor and positioned the point just under his rib-cage, angled upward at his heart. He took a series of rapid, deep breaths steeling himself, and then lunged his weight against his sword. It slid upward into his torso, and he fell to the floor, gasping and quaking. After a moment, the Mandator stepped forward and looked down at him, his eyes wide in shock. "You didn't apply enough pressure," he said. "Here, I'll help." He took the pommel in his hand and pushed it deeper, causing Xilomandros to stiffen, blood spouting from his mouth.

As he died, he groaned, "Long live... Anaksarxos... the First..."

Elsewhere, a purge was underway. Those who refused the emperor's decree of suicide were murdered, along with their families and servants. Unlike the Strategoi, Gerontes and Logothetes were no use in war, and could be replaced with ease. No mercy was set aside for them. By the next day, Xilomandros' seat on the Gerousia had been given to the emperor's Jasonid cousin Menarchimos, and his name stricken from the public record.

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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Zuk » Thu Jun 20, 2019 12:15 am

Subatusa, Exarchate of Ubaidia

They weren't parked in a vacant lot, but rather over-top some neglected ruins, which had been reduced to their bases, what stones were left stacked at one end to signify where to park. Across the dust-strewn street was a passenger train station on an imperial rail. Ubaidians with their heads covered against the Sun walked to and fro, dressed down to the sandals in their long, belt-less tunics. Anank was watching them through the window with hate in his eyes. Good, thought Ennuneki, He isn't wavering... not yet. Just to make sure, he said, "Doesn't seeing the Ka'al Worshipers make you sick? Just think of the Elamic babies they've sacrificed in their blood rituals, the Elamic women they have raped and skinned alive..."

"As if you have to remind me, Ennu," he said bitterly, his eyes a mere squint of hatred. "They took everything from me... everything..."

"I know. It's just... what must be done, it can only be done by you," Ennuneki said. In private, and with their close associates in the back seats, Inti and Mekuma, they had discussed how only incitement against one another seemed to drive the Elams and the Ubaidians to war anymore, having given up fully on taking on the Stratos after the Anaksarxid Wars. Perhaps a martyrdom by a brave Elamic soul might bring them to conflict once again, creating a period of chaos in which people more like themselves might seize the reigns of power. "Let Anarchy be a stairway," they'd agreed, "to the independence of Old Elam!"

Anank wanted it to be him, more than any of the others. As a child, he'd been enslaved by the Ubaidian men who'd raped and skinned his mother and father, and his brothers and sisters. He suffered in some dungeon for who knew how long. If anyone deserved the sweet release of death, it was him. Ennuneki almost felt bad for him, but then, there were other matters to consider. Anank was looking pensive. Ennuneki decided it was time to act, "Its time we moved. The Mandators are everywhere. Its now or never."

Anank took a deep breath and said, "Alright. Thank you... brothers. You were the only family I ever had. May the Tower guide us back to one another in the afterlife."

"Praise the Tower," said Inti from behind, prompting a group hug, "Sarkon is with you today, brother."

He wiped a tear from his eye, and stepped out of the vehicle. He was making his way out of the ruins onto the street, so Ennuneki backed out of his spot and drove off. "You think he'll do it?" asked Inti. "I do not doubt our brother's mettle," said Mekuma. By the time he pulled their clunker of a vehicle into the side-alley they'd predetermined as their rallying point, Ennuneki was already getting impatient. He should have done it by now, he thought, glancing around. Perhaps the Evzones caught him. The blazing Sun was finding even this hidden place, and already Mekuma and Inti were getting restless. "I gotta piss," Mekuma said.

"Not yet," Ennuneki said, "Just wait."

"I'm just gonna piss right over there on the wall," he said, grimacing.

"I said, not yet. Stay in the damn car."

"What difference does it make? It'll be dried up by the time they look this far awa-"

There was an explosion in the distance, sending a shockwave through everything around it. For a moment, Ennuneki flinched, but he did not hesitate long. He swung around, pistol in hand, and put a bullet into Inti and Mekuma. He turned away, shaking away the vision of their momentarily-frightened faces. He stepped out of the car and walked around to the trunk, where he'd stored a gas can. Already, people were screaming in the distance, and running in the streets nearby. He would have to work quickly. He poured the gas all over Inti and Mekuma's bodies, and drenched the interior. When it was half empty he threw the whole can in and then lit a match. Shaking, stressed, he took a pack of cigarettes out of the pocket of his tunic and and lit one for himself. He tossed the match and walked away. By the time he was down the alley, the car had suffered a minor explosion. There will be riots, he thought, Just as long as he shouted "For the Tower", like we said. This is just another revenge crime.

Ennuneki disappeared quickly into the onrush of fleeing people, and made his way across the the ruined center of the city to his real rallying point, under a cracked, ancient bridge that stretched the length of the Tetz. There, he found the Mandator, face covered by a cloak. "It is done," he said, "excellent work, Ennuneki. Perhaps we will make a Perioikoi out of you yet." He tossed Ennuneki a sack of coins and said, "300 drachmae, as promised. More than your kind could ever hope to see. Check for yourself, if you'd like."

"I've never seen a drachma, before," Ennuneki said, a smile sliding across his face. He undid the straps and opened the sack, and inside were shining, bright gold coins, each with a hydra on its face. Hydras, he thought, pure bliss as the wire wrapped around his throat, giving way to pure terror as the life was strangled out of him.

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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Dumanum » Thu Jun 20, 2019 2:21 am

Severus waived off the adjutant and made his own way to the coffee machine while Protus said his piece.

He'll be awhile, he thought. How this man had been elected consul five times still eluded him; he considered that a personal failing, as it was his job to understand how people thought. Certainly he had the name: Lucius Tarquinius Protus was a second cousin, twice removed to Ultor himself, as he often reminded anyone who would listen. But then, Ultor had many relatives, the man had sired near a dozen whelps. Still, out of all of them, this was one that the people kept sending to the rostrum: the other big political Tarquinius, the venerable old Maximus, had been consul only four times before being made princeps senatus. He was sharp as a tack and witty to boot, that one; not like the insufferable bore that now held the floor.

He sighed as he poured the into the provided mug. The Cydonian stuff wasn't near as good as the Veridian stuff: sure, the climate was pretty much right, but something about the process was off. Of course, they weren't allowed to have the Veridian stuff in an official government meeting. They'd even passed a law against it. "Strong Dumani coffee makes strong Dumani men!" the line had been. Slogans like that always did well with the people. That dolt Protus had been one of the senators to push that one through.

It was a very nice mug, though. One of those bulbous ceramic ones that at once seem modern yet have classical sensibility.

The meeting chamber adjoined the consular offices within the Curia Tarquinia. It had a cold feeling to it, even with the fairly generous amount of natural light emanating from the floor-to-ceiling windows at the far end. The white marble finish only lightly augmented by the politically tasteful crimson decor. The ceiling was vaulted and walls buttressed in such a manner as to require that one had to be standing at just the right proximity and bearing to the table in order to hear anything clearly.

As he turned, the acoustics hit him again.

"...and so you see, I do believe that it would be of the greatest benefit to the State to secure for our leading Citizens advantageous terms to the acquisition of yak securities. Now, as my esteemed colleague noted, this is indeed a critical lever toward the Sharfic economy..."

He couldn't restrain yet another subdued sigh; they'd all spoken on this matter the previous day, and Protus had even gotten his way on it. But gods, did he like to speak. He knew an impressive amount about yak securities, Protus; maybe that was why he got along so well with Merjanius and his mountain bumpkins. Macer raised an eyebrow toward Severus; time to make his way back to the table.

It was a peculiarly Dumani thing, this table: it was rounded (for all Citizens are equal, even if the consuls are seated at what would in the most prominent space) and hollow at the center, with enough space for a man to stand and move about. You see, the Dumani do not like to sit as they speak, nor to they stand perfectly still. And so, when it is one's turn to speak, one would thus stand at the center to address his colleagues. This, naturally, leads to a bit of awkwardness as the speaker finds himself twirling about to answer questions, though a more prudent man (such as Severus) might just remain facing the two consuls, and address them in particular as he was addressing the whole body.

"Thank you, my consular colleague, for a most fascinating and enlightening tract," Macer finally said after allowing some further exposition, "But I do believe that, while we are all gathered here in our official capacities, it would be remiss of us to neglect the topic of Sukaria. Amphion?"

"As you are all undoubtedly aware by now," Marcus Flavius Amphion, Magister of the Occulta Custodia, must have been just as exacerbated as Severus to have skipped the obligatory niceties and small talk that commenced each man's segment, and had begun speaking as soon as his foot crossed the threshold into the center. The Dumani, though a serious people, are a chatty bunch, and so the suddenness of the business talk emphasized the gravity of the manner on which he was to speak. Or, he was just sick of Protus' rambling and was impatient to get on with the meeting,

"Rumors abound of a purge in Irae and elsewhere. I can now state, with utter conviction, that these rumors are correct. Our Residentus in Irae, the esteemed Decimus Gellius Vindex, has shown great alacrity in compiling this list of men we believe to have been terminated by order of the False Emperor.”

Severus, having situated himself once more, began to flip through the dossier in front of him until he arrived at the aforementioned list. He studied it intently as Amphion continued to speak,

“As of last evening, each of the names on the list before you has been stricken from the public record. Our own sources have confirmed that each man was visited by the Mandators and ordered to commit suicide, or else was executed on sight along with his entire household,”

There was much bemusement and shaking of heads at the last statement; these were good civilized Antarteran folk, not some Ulannic prole to be abused at the whims of his betters. Still, it was par for course for Anaksarxos II.

“We have been unable to confirm with certainty the reason they drew the ire of the Mandators, but our sources suggest each was in one way or another involved in a plot to assassinate Anaksarxos.”

Severus looked up now. Amphion looked right at him.

“As I am sure you are now all wondering: no, Monopthalmus was not among those executed. Men I trust had eyes on him recent as an hour ago. It may be that this plot occurred without his knowledge, but perhaps not.

Severus looked down to the list again. Then he realized it.

“Yes, Severus?”

“There was a plot to kill the False Emperor that involved…logothons and geronts? There are no military men on this list.”

A murmur abounded the table, and Amphion seemed to pause for a moment to recall the list from memory.

“That is correct. And I admit, that does seem strange. Yet, your sources are far better than mine with regards to matters concerning the Sukarian military.”

Severus considered for a moment.

“I’ll consult with my people. Perhaps there’s something we missed.”

As Magister of the Corpus Exploratorum, Servius Macrinus Severus did indeed have access to sources that may have better knowledge of this specific topic than Amphion’s dogs. Though, for all he knew, some of those sources may have been caught up in the sweep- he certainly hoped not, as it would be quite embarrassing to CORE if it turned out one of their sources was involved in a plot to kill Anaksarxos that they didn’t know about.

“Severus, I want you and Amphion personally involved sorting this business. If our enemy is facing enemies of his own from within, I-“ Macer glanced toward Protus, who was blissfully unaware of the slight, “we need to know.”

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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Zuk » Thu Jun 20, 2019 4:17 pm

Minutes after the bombing, Ubaidians began to gather round the ruined imperial train station, where a fire was still blazing at its heart, and blasted bodies were still strewn across the ground. Confusion ran wild, even as emergency crews arrived to tend to the wounded, and fire crews arrived to put out the fire. Evzones swarmed the area, and drove the crowd back with bayonets. The initial fear that it was an Antarteran punitive expedition was quickly dispelled as the wounded were put on stretchers and taken away. One man, who had been lucky enough not to be seriously injured, was sitting up and railing at the sky. When he saw the crowds he said, "It was the Elams, I tell you! I swear to Ka'al by the blood of my blood, he shouted 'For the Tower!' before he blew himself up."

After that, there was an uncontrollable spread of rumors. The decision was swift, and without debate. Few Elams would be foolish enough to live in Subatusa as was, but there were traders in the markets. The crowds found them there first. Ubaidian men with flails and knives ran them down, beat them and flayed them. Others they set on fire and beat with clubs. Businesses that were known to deal with Elams or, worse, were owned by Elamic families, were looted and then set fire to. Unfortunate employees were dragged out kicking and screaming, and impaled on stakes.

By evening's end, terror had spread through Subatusa, and the Evzones were mysteriously nowhere to be found. Opposing crowds of men armed themselves with clubs, swords, and guns, and met the looters in the streets, and there were clashes.

In the following days, the anger went unabated. Nearby towns with known Elamic minorities were invaded, the Elamic women raped and enslaved, their children raped and killed, their husbands flayed and set afire on stakes. Ubaidian men wearing Elamic skins invaded Laram three days later, but by then word had spread, and Elamic men had armed themselves to meet them. When they lost in the ensuing battle, they were raped and flayed to a man. Their bodies were left littering the desert expanses, and their farms were set ablaze.

Elamic women and children fled en masse, eastward into Elam, and southward toward Vekhistan. By the tens of thousands they fled, pursued by ravenous bands of Ubaidians who ran them down in pickup trucks, raped, and murdered them. Others were taken as slaves. Still a great many others slipped away toward the border, or into Elam, where the local river villages were warned. At each village, a new clash would break out, more Elamic men would be murdered, and more families would flee. By the third day, word had reached King Sarkon XXIV in the Tower, and he had called up his reserves.

But the Mandators had come first to the ancient, towering superstructure, or more precisely, they had always been there. "The Evzones will act," they assured him, "Long before any Ubaidians threaten the Elamic heartland." Still, that left hundreds of villages between Laram and Iruktar, and millions of Elamic people. So rather than merely abide by the pressures of the Mandators, he opted to covertly spread arms and munition to Elamic villages, so that they might better defend themselves.

It wasn't until the end of the week that the Evzones made their move and established marshal law in Subatusa. By then, the damage had already been done, and clashes continued unchecked in the east.

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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Zuk » Thu Jun 20, 2019 5:29 pm

by Apollonaros of Tessos, historian of the Autokrator, recorded annum MMDCCLXXII after the founding of the city

Arete has blessed the emperor with imperium once again. The Strategoi are pleased with the progress of his plans, and he does well to chastise them for their doubt. Just yesterday, he informed the Domestic Council that he had commissioned the laying of a hull for a fourth aircraft carrier for the Nautika, to compliment a number of new destroyers and frigates. The Grand Domestic, the emperor's dearest friend Pymos, stood during their meeting and clapped, praising the emperor for his foresight. "The Regeners could not have dreamed of your magnificence, Autokrator," he said with beaming eyes, "Soon we will reunify with our lost Continesian brothers, bringing us one step closer to Antarteran unity, and the Regeners will pay for the viciousness with which they attacked our ancestors, at their lowest point."

To that, the Domestic Council stood in applause. The emperor only smiled at their admiration, accepting it gregariously before moving on to other matters. Next, he detailed to them his decision to establish marshal law in the Ubaidian Exarchate, in response to a new wave of violence between the savages that lived therein. It is important for our reader to note that Ubaidia has long been a thorn in the eye of the Themata. What was once a prosperous agrarian province on the frontier of the Imperium was turned to a dried up wasteland of misery by the Ulans in the 16th century and no one else, the Ubaidians themselves included, has done anything to truly repair it since. The lawless interior of Crataea is of no interest to the moneyed women in Sukaria, or the Kolossoi, or the Gigantes, and the disunity among Antarterans has split Old Ubaidia in half. What little commerce once passed through there disappeared with the splitting of the empire, and utterly evaporated with the swamps after the Ulans diverted the river away from Subatusa.

By some miracle, our cunning emperor has long maintained an iron thumb on the Ubaidians. Not since the Anaksarxid Wars have they attempted rebellion against the empire. By the efforts of the emperor's Archmandator, Malifax Petrifikios, a loose alliance has been made with the Salamudi, criminal organizations that subsists off of protection racketeering, human trafficking, and worst of all, black markets that avoid imperial taxes. The Salamudi are reviled by the Strategoi, as is the continued alignment with them, but their effectiveness cannot be denied. The bloodthirsty Ubaidian cannot construct a civilization from scratch, but by the direction of a strong enough man, can be made predictable. The Salamudi have maintained a semblance of order in Ubaidia for some three decades. But this is not the Antarteran way - it is believed strongly by many that Ubaidia cannot be fixed. Others argue fervently that it be cut from the empire, that it does not matter, but this would surely create a domino effect in other Exarchates, as confidence in the imperium of the emperor wanes.

The emperor's solution is not to civilize the Ubaidian man, but to cleanse him from the earth.

"Look to your intelligence briefs," orated the emperor, "and you will see the ethnic conflict underway in our southern reaches. Will we allow anarchy in our empire to go on unabated, or will we carve it out with Antarteran steel? To not act is unacceptable. It would shame my divine ancestors to let their accomplishments rot before my very eyes. No, we will crush these rebels once and for all. As the Evzones begin their sweeps, alongside our Salamu allies, detention centers will be established in Maran at Naros and Kissura, for the purpose of taking in an influx of prisoners too great for local prisons to handle. We expect to process several tens of thousands in short order."

"But Lord," asked Polydeuces of Thenos, the emperor's Domestic of Coin, naive to the emperor's plans, "What of the cost of feeding, housing, and administering health care to these tens of thousands? Your figures suggest a continuous rate of imprisonment for months into the foreseeable future. I am afraid this may alter our balance sheets..."

"There will be no need for feeding, housing, or administering health care, Polydeuces, and we have the assurances of the Pharaoh that every care will be taken to seclude our efforts from prying eyes," the emperor said, closing his portfolio, "Will there be any other questions?"
Last edited by Zuk on Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Zuk » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:26 pm

by Apollonaros of Tessos, historian of the Autokrator, recorded annum MMDCCLXXII after the founding of the city

Anaksarxos, the Second of his Name, Blood of the Goddess of Excellence Arete, Descended of the God-King Sukaros by way of the Avalocian Hero Iraeus, Emperor of the Antarterans, and of Riss, and of Elam, High Pharaoh of the Ohn, Shahanshah of the Istakh, and Khagan of the Ulans; these are the titles of the illustrious Autokrator, our living Sukarian god. Anaksarxos is intent to press his claim as Shahanshah of the Istakh peoples, as has been asserted in various decrees signed in recent months pertaining to the client Shahdom of Huran, previously referred to as the Province of Ouraeia. Shah Yazgerzd III has sworn fealty to the Autokrator, and formally surrendered the title of Shahanshah of the Istakh to the Antarteran Emperor, a claim which was dubiously separated from the emperorship by traitors some centuries past. Anaksarxos has poised himself to press his claim as Shahanshah of Sadari. Few in Sadari recognize this ancient claim, but they will be made to recognize it through a show of force by the Stratos.

Word was sent out, shifting several divisions northward from ravaged Ubaidia, bound for our glorious homeland. The Kompanionoi, the First Thorax, and the Disasteroi have been ordered from their bases at the ancient fortresses at Kastrou Ubaidia, Kastrou Vekhia and Kastrou Elamia, headed north to join the Kataklysmoi, already headquartered here at the Kastroudeos. The Second Thorax and the Tridents will be close behind, logistical limitations permitting. We expect the imperial rails to be commandeered for use by the Stratos from Kastrou Vekhia heading north for the better part of two weeks. Due to damage to the rails at Subatusa and violence in the Ubaidian interior, other units will take the River Tetz northward.

The emperor fully expects that Republican infiltrators will easily discover his movements, but has seen fit to spread a plethora of false reports to suspected spies as to the nature of these movements. These include woven tales and falsified evidence of simple war game exercises for the Themata's most elite formations, or invasions bound for Wolohannia, or even punitive expeditions into Danteri. Individuals seen to act on this false information will be apprehended and deported to Urbs Dumanus in the coming weeks, having been administered the Emperor's fair and just judgment and mercy; the Senate will receive these banished spies as tokens of the emperor's continued vigilance in the face of enemies both at home and abroad. These spies will find themselves thankful they were born of the blood of Antarterus, and that Zoe gave man two eyes.

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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Dumanum » Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:53 am

Much has been written of the Antarterans over the past millenia, and, naturally, as with any topic on which much is written, there is a good deal of scholarly disagreement concerning the matter. Much of it concerns abstractions about which only scholars really care; choices of words really: are the Antarterans two nations united by a single civilization but separated by political disagreement, or one nation tragically fractured by a centuries-long schism?

What is a nation- or civilization -in this context? Dumanum might be accurately called a nation, but could Sukaria?

Where do the Sukarian, or Ostic, or Doric, or any of the other sub-cultures end, and collective Antarteran culture truly begin?

Are Antarterans simply well-dressed and well-spoken Crataeans who happen to be far more efficient at killing than other Crataeans?

A scholar might eagerly engage in a lengthy discussion on the matter, but were you to ask the average Dumani Citizen, or Sukarian Poletoi, or Doric Municipato, you would likely receive a dismissive wave, and a simple explanation:

“This is irrelevant,” they would tell you, in one way or another.

If you had to ask in the first place, it is not worth explaining to the likes of you- they will not say this, because that also is not worth explaining.

Regardless of one’s scholarly opinion on Antarteran civilization versus nationhood versus tribalism, it is quite clear that the Antarterans themselves feel a strong sort of kinship toward one another- in a way it is not unlike the Slavs of Wallasea, but this runs far deeper.

They may speak different languages -they are mutually intelligible -and even write in different alphabets, but if you were to take two random Antarterans from different countries and put them in a room together, it would not take long for the conversation to turn to the likes of “What are we going to do about those disgusting Ulans,” or “It is good that the Varni have learned their lesson about messing with our islands.”

This is not just a superficial cultural trait, but one that penetrates so deeply as to define policy: Anaksarxos II, that great Enemy of the Dumani Senate and People, eagerly proclaimed the later’s invasion and conquest of Doria and subsequent ravaging of Sadari “Well-deserved freedom for our kin- and well-deserved justice for our enemies.”

The Dumani speak of Unitas as though it were inevitable, and the same is true in Sukaria. Children in Urbs Dumanus are taught of Ultor’s Dream even as they learn to read, and those in Irae of Enosis. It is the natural state of the world for the lesser peoples to be ruled by Antarterans. And it is the greatest tragedy of all that the Antarterans, must from time to time, spill the blood of their kin.

That is what the poets write, anyway. Ultor once wrote of his war with Sukaria as “Hygiene for Civilized Man.”

And so, the template of the meeting in the penthouse of the Domus Furia, rising one hundred-two stories above the City, would have hardly seemed foreign to their counterparts in Irae: it was, for all intents and purposes, a traditional Antarteran feast. All Antarterans, be he a Ficanian chieftain from Cissegine Yehud or a young Sukarian fresh out of the Agoge, would have at one point or another found themselves reclining on one of a dozen couches arranged in a U-shape as food was brought out, by servants if he be a man of some means, or by the womenfolk if he were not. Several courses would be brought out, and there would be a good deal of drinking- though not to excess (Yehudis excepted). For all the similarity, one thing that would vary was the food served: Ostian cuisine is known for its hearty simplicity: a good deal of carbs, often in the form of noodles or rice in a sauce, and a greater deal of meat, and so it was here. For dessert, pastries: cannulae from the consul’s favorite bakery in Rema.

Antarterans, like other Crataeans, are far more inclined to discuss business after a full stomach, or whilst in the process of filling their stomachs. Here only small talk occurs, for the Dumani are a talkative people- there will be time for business talk after they’ve finished eating.

They chat, and lazily gaze out the immense floor-to-ceiling windows at the City below. It is night time in the heart of the civilized world, and the sky is clear. A few clusters of towers (five exactly) in addition to the one they now occupy spear out from the ground, pillars of light in the darkness. Below, a luminous ocean stretching off as far as the bay and the mountains, with only the river in the middle daring to interrupt its flow. If one knew what to look for, one need only look toward the center of the six tower complexes to find the beating heart of the Dumani Republic: the Curia Tarquinia, where both the Senate and Popular Assembly meet when so summoned, and in its surrounding environs the Old City where the men of those august institutions made their homes, and where the greatest temples to the Gods stood.

Perhaps not the greatest anymore, Severus thought. This tower, the tallest of the six great residential towers, had been dedicated to Iove Optimus Maximus. The mixed-use tower to their immediate east, the Furia Magna was even taller. That one was dedicated to Sol Invictus.

“So. Sukaria,” Macer abruptly shifted the trajectory of the conversation. This was an informal (yet undoubtedly ritualistic, in its own way) post-banquet conversation, and they’d each eaten a generous portion- he did not deign to speak standing as the Dumani do in more official settings.

Severus didn’t mind. He’d had his fill, and the events of the past weeks had gotten his blood up.

“We all know Anaksarxos as a mad man,” Gaius Quirinius Capo got the first word in.

“Yet it would be a mistake to presume his actions are driven by madness,” Decimus Furius Corbulo, their host, quickly interjected.

“Surely he intends to attack- one does not strip that many troops from the border casually,” Numerius Rascius Rufus got a word in as soon as he was able.

“I’m afraid I must agree with Rufus. Even a man half-blind can see the message being sent to us,” Lucius Curtius Nero, Severus’ own kinsman, said near-mockingly, nodding toward him.

Severus sighed.

Yesterday had been slightly…embarrassing. The Mandators had rolled up the Arruntios network and sent the ones they’d caught back each missing an eye. They’d pounced so quickly that it was clear Arruntios, or one of his people, had been compromised for some time. Severus himself thought it presumptuous of Anaksarxos, for the final order could only have come from him: he’d wanted the Dumani to know that they’d been found out, and he’d done this rather than keep them under surveillance for a potentially more valuable counter-intelligence operation.

“These disturbances on the frontier are no coincidence,” Servius Hostilius Probus sipped his mica, “A trifling matter, certainly, but see how he does all he can to hinder us.”

A murmur rose as these men, the most powerful men in the Dumani Republic, all tried to get a word in.

“What, then, shall we do?” Decimus Tarquinius Maximus Mandromenus finally broke his silence. He, notably, was the first to pose a question rather than make a statement. The men of the great gentes were too proud to pose a question so quickly, yet too arrogant and fond of hearing their own voices to hold their tongues. But Maximus was old, and had long lost his patience for that sort of posturing.

For a moment they were quiet. He rolled his eyes and continued, “It is a simple question, Conscript Fathers,” he used that formal title in so informal a setting to express his displeasure, “The False Emperor is stripping the western frontier of his finest troops and sending them north- their final destination remains in question, but I’m sure you all agree the notion that this is merely an exercise, or an invasion of Volohannia is patently ridiculous,” he shook his head, and reclined back on the couch, gesturing towards them all. “So then. What course of action would be of the greatest advantage to the State?”

“We wait for him to make a mistake.”

“A coward’s gambit. We should attack immediately, while his forces are disorganized.”

“His armies are moving north, and so his south is undefended- I agree, we must attack, but with the goal of splitting his southern provinces.”

“And rule over a bunch of stinking Ubaidians? I think not.”

“We need not rule over them. Not directly, anyway. Besides,” Barbatio said with a wry grin, “The Praecovarii are distracted. What further mistakes must our enemies make before we bring the last of the Ulanni to heel?”

He looked toward Macer, “Would it not be the greatest of glories to be the consul that avenged the City once and for all?”

“Nonsense, Regulus is on the verge of an agreement there,” replied Badalius.

“He’s been saying that for over a month now. They’re stalling, undoubtedly…”

Macer’s expression remained noncommittal as the men continued their debate. More mica was poured, and more words were exchanged.

“Marbo, what do you think?”

Titus Junius Marbo had been staring out into the darkness seemingly absentmindedly.

“We are all in agreement that we must act, eventually. I’ve not heard a single man here speak to the contrary,” he continued to look out to the City as he spoke, “So, in any event, let us prepare to act. Severus, they’re redeploying all five turmae on the frontier, correct?”

“To the best we are able to confirm, yes,” he agreed.

“Those are his best units. We do not need our best to defeat his worst, in any case, and so even if we chose to act in the west we would be far better served with our finest legions in a position to check the Stratos.”

He finally turned from the window.

“It would be of greatest advantage to the State, Good Maximus, if the consuls recalled our veterans and prepared the legions for war.”

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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Zuk » Wed Jun 26, 2019 5:32 am

When Anaksarxos waved, the crowd cheered, purple and gold confetti raining from the sky. He was dressed in his imperial garb - a traditional Iraean crimson himation, a royal Antarteran purple chlamys, and a laurel wreath crown - standing at the top step of the Progonosion, the Temple of the Ancestors. It was national day of worship for the ancestors, the day of the Mandromenid Mysteries, a public celebration of the achievements of Pelagius the Consolidator, founder of the dynasty. It was his ancestor's birthday, but Anaksarxos thought only of himself. He was eager to be done with the day's trivialities.

"If you'll follow us, Godsblood-Emperor," said one of the Ephors accompanying him, "We will open a spiritual doorway to your ancestors. Let the people hear your words for Grand Pelagius."

He said nothing, only showed his hand as if to say, "Show me, then." This Ephor, one of the four citizens selected at random to serve as an Ephor for the year, was an elder man named Askilios, a veteran whose family held land in Thallasia. Typically, he would not so much as look the emperor directly in the eye, but in his role as Ephor, he held a certain kind of power, an intangible one they said came from the God-King. Not even an emperor was above it, not entirely. "Impatience will not do," he said, as if scolding, "You will insult the Consolidator."

"I've communed with the Consolidator many times," said Anaksarxos, as he, Askilios, and the other Ephor walked into the temple. "He is not the kind to be easily insulted."

The Progonosion was not enclosed by walls, allowing the gathered crowds to watch through the colonnade as he stepped toward a golden statue of Pelagius, seated on a marble throne, surrounded by golden nymphs. When they neared, Askilios greeted the high priest of the temple, and together they lit candles and burned incense. The other Ephor stirred coals in a brazier, setting the gilded sculptures aglow. "What have you brought in offering, Anaksarxos?"

"As you know, we arranged a bull be brought."

"Indeed. Bring the bull," Askilios said, waving at a group of handlers nearby. They brought the bull forward, mostly white in color and huge in size. It was muscular and strong - it would please any ancestor. They slit its throat, and hauled its corpse away to the public feast on the Acropolis. While Helotes washed away the blood, Askilios said, "It is time you spoke to him."

Anaksarxos nodded. Finally, he thought. Communing with one's ancestors was confusing to some. Outsiders viewed it as if someone was speaking to themselves, and others found it frustrating that they did not receive a response as expected. Anaksarxos did not see it that way - it wasn't about being spoken to. It was about the mindset invoked while thinking of the ancestor. If he asked Pelagius for advice, and got a gut feeling about what the answer would be, to the philosophers that was as good as words. When he knelt, he said aloud, "Illustrious ancestor, I trust my offering has pleased you. My servants worked long and hard to raise the strongest bull in your honor. With it I feed the people, your people, as a father must feed his children. In your name, Mandromenid, does the hydra-eagle yet guide the Antarteran people, even as the world besets them. It is a testament to the Arete of your rule, the continued perseverance of our bloodline. I have no questions to bother you with this year, o ancestor, I will let you rest another knowing the greatness of your dynasty has only just begun. In a year, perhaps, you and all the others will swell with pride at the sight of my accomplishments."

At that, he stood. It was most unusual to ask no advice of one's ancestors. The Ephors gave him looks of confusion, but the crowd was cheering - he had promised something. Askilios was sure to chide him about hubris, if he stayed. Instead, he walked away, waving to the people as he descended again. Outside, on the acropolis street, a motorcade awaited him. It took him across town to the Kastroudeos, the ancient fortress where he had been born, and the center of power in his empire. He was due to meet with his Strategoi, and the Megas Disasteros, and his Domestic Council, and probably even the Logothete Council if there was time. That was one thing Anaksarxos never lacked for - energy. He was tireless. He barely slept, but he rarely felt it. That was not why he had made himself emperor. To be emperor was a ruthless job - one could never be too careful, or stay in place too long, or allow one's enemies to get the better of them. Any slip up would be punished harshly, as had been proven time and time again throughout history. For Anaksarxos, being bold and aggressive was a matter of life and death.

He met his Megas Disasteros and the Strategoi in the Strategikon. When he arrived, he found them arguing over a map of Crataea, discussing the positioning of reserve troops. "Ah, Autokrator," said the Megas Disasteros, a stalwart neo-traditionalist named Tagtheridox Arteros, "We awaited you eagerly. We've news for you."

"There's always news," he answered wryly.

"Yes," he agreed. He was a descendant of the same Arteros who rescued the empire during the Wars of Sukarian Conquest during the Crisis of the 11th Century, his family was deeply connected and wealthy, yet still they lived a simply life as citizen-soldiers. At the end of the Crisis, some sought to proclaim Arteros emperor in the place of the Kalathetid emperor who reigned at the time. Instead, he laid down his arms, disbanded his army, and retired to his farm. Such a life was now expected of the main line of Arterids, whether they liked it or not. "The Republic is activating its veterans and reserves. We believe they're preparing for something big."

Anaksarxos felt a tenseness in his muscles. His upper lip started to quiver as he suppressed a wave of anger deep in his soul. Fear was lashing out within him, he thought, and it was his duty to crush it. "Their veterans, you say..."

"Yes, lord. They are preparing for war. I and your Strategic Council believe its best we do the same."

"It can't just be posturing," the emperor said, stepping round to meet his Strategoi at the map table. There was rotund old Christophoros Galipolopolos IV among them, whose great grandfather was Megas Disasteros in the Great War, and the Civil War, "you understand? If we are activating our reserves in kind, it cannot just be the Evzones. Activate the rest of the Stratos as well."

The Strategoi exchanged looks of approval. "I know that every true Antarteran is awaiting this day with baited breath, Lord," said Galipolopolos, "Who among us can say we do not want the honor of meeting the Republicans in battle?"

They each agreed in kind. Anaksarxos felt a grim sense of apprehension, but pressed forward nonetheless with other business, "You have requested of me a report on the activities of my Tagmata, to which I happily oblige. The Salamu have begun operations in Ubaidia. They've been granted permission to seize anyone who does not agree to pay them tribute, and already some four thousand have been taken into custody and transferred to the growing Mandator operation outside Naros. Amenohopshut XXIX has been kind enough to provide us with a unit from his royal guard to protect the secrecy of our site there, in the mountains. The Pharaoh wishes us haste and good fortune in our operations, and says that he supports our efforts to pacify the Ubaidian Exarchate."

"Excellent," said Arteros, "Most excellent. Truly, on all fronts, things are going as planned. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are pleased with your progress, Autokrator. I do not need two eyes to see. Each day we take another step toward eternal victory. Imagine the glory, to be the generation that reunites the empire."

"The hydra weeps to imagine the sight of it," Anaksarxos said, "As do I."

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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Zuk » Wed Jun 26, 2019 10:12 pm

Akka'Numa flicked a cigarette over the side of the ziggurat and sighed, watching the sun rise up over the horizon. People were already walking around below, driving their pickup-trucks and horse-drawn wagons filled with goods to the base of the ziggurat to set up shop for the day. He'd been among them, once, and for what he'd given to be here, now, he found no joy in looking back. He was a Shesh now. There was no point in remembering days when he was just a filthy street urchin. The Abu of the Salamu in this district was Abu Jambla, and he commanded great respect far and wide. Citizens for several blocks came to pay him tribute in this, the Ziggurat of King Memek-Ur II.

When he was just a boy, he was found by the Shesh, without family or home. He'd been scrounging for years, from what he could tell looking back, stealing from people and even murdering travelers on the odd occasion. The Shesh had offered him a simple choice: join us, or die. He chose to join them. Some of the other boys that day did not, and were labeled Ezeri - the Shesh burned them, and impaled their heads outside the neighborhoods they were known to beg at.

His "older brother", a Shesh named Abaka, showed him the ropes. They would go from home to home at the start of each week and demand tribute. When someone could not pay a minimum of five gold pieces, material goods were taken from them. If they had women, they might be raped, or enslaved. Last of all, they would kill them. That usually only happened if someone fought them, or refused to pay for more than two weeks. Most would flee before it came to that, and Akka'Numa was happy for it. Not Abaka, and not some of the other Shesh. "The Abu will be remiss if his enforcers look weak," Abaka would always say before hurting someone. That was how he justified it to himself. Most didn't even bother with that.

Akka'Numa lost much less than he gained becoming a Shesh. What the Salamu had taken from him, the skin on his right-hand little finger, healed with time, though to this day he felt nothing there. Up here on the ziggurat, he was safe, he was armed, he had a duty to uphold, and he had the respect of his fellow Shesh. Let the Antarterans think less of us, he thought, but we built these tombs ourselves, long before they were here...

His friend, Mirhan, joined him with coffee, and they watched the morning happenings below together. "That same old man is back selling crocodile-skin bags, see him? How do you think he gets them?"

"Shoots them, probably."

"But he'd have to wade out and haul the body back. Have you ever seen anyone with him?"


"One tough old bastard, you ask me. Ka'al's blessed," he said. "Say, whose that?"

There was a black 2019 Autokínitor Optimos rolling down the ancient cobbled highway, forcing Ubaidians in their ragged tunics and dirty loinclothes out of the way. It rolled to a stop at the base of the ziggurat, beside some stands, and it was clear there was no driver. Several men in black tunics and hooded cloaks stepped out. "Antarterans," said Mirhan, "Sukarians, I think."

"Of course they're Sukarians," said Akka'Numa, "Those are Mandators. See the insignia on his tunic, the Tendriled Eye?"

Mirhan peered down, but said, "Not clearly."

"It's there. They're Mandators, I've seen them before."

"Why do you think they're here?"

They were walking up the hundred first steps now, and already the other Shesh were gathered to gawk at them. "They must want to see the Abu. Hasn't the Salamu paid its tribute to the Antarteran Emperor already?"

"I distinctly remember the Salamu Council discussing as much..."

"You think they're prepared to die coming to collect twice? Ka'al, I hope so..."

They reached the final step to the first tier of the ziggurat, and entered the ancient tomb, where the Ubaidians who paid tribute to the Salamu were huddled, and sleeping soundly. Others were eating their breakfast at public tables, and looked up at the group of visitors with dismay. Antarterans rarely walked these halls unless trouble was afoot. Akka'Numa and Mirhan trailed the Mandators, as did many of the other Shesh, as they scaled the next tier of steps, and the next, until they reached the final tier of the ziggurat. There, Abu Jamble, dressed in silks and opulent jewels, greeted them with his trusted council. Akka'Numa thought the Abu seemed surprised, even dismayed, by the arrival of these Antarterans. It was unannounced, he thought, how arrogant these foreigners are...

After speaking a few moments, the Mandators and the Abu entered the ziggurat. Akka'Numa's mind was racing. He had no good memories of Antarterans. They were always rolling through in force - that was all they understood. Not like the Salamu, who were kind and fair to those who paid them tribute. The Antarterans had no respect for their tributaries, or so it seemed. "I saw it," said Mirhan.

"Saw what?"

"The eye thing. You were right. What does it stand for?"

"Its the Tendriled Eye," Akka'Numa replied, still lost in his thoughts, "It means they see everything."

* * *

When word came, the Salamu had no choice but to act in accordance. Orders came direct from the Sibu, the Elder of the whole Salamudi, and each of the Abu told their numerous Shesh enforcers to fan out into their local area and extract tribute from anyone who wasn't already on their rolls. Anyone who refused was beaten or raped, and rounded up, and sent to the Mandators for processing. In some places, gangs of the so-called "Ezeri" who refused to pay tribute to any Abu met the Shesh in the streets, and blood was spilled. Some neighborhoods were massacred, leading to widespread fear. Many accepted the demands of their local Abu, and paid the Salamu tribute. Others fled en masse, headed for the border with Vekhistan, or Gzhelkastan.

Those who found themselves in Gzhelkastan, either because the Salamu drove them that way systematically by chasing them with machine guns and pickup trucks, or by accident, were the lucky ones. The Gzhelk army let many pass through a short corridor on their side of the border before pushing them toward the river. Hundreds drowned, but others forced their way into Vekhistan. The unlucky ones went directly for the border, where they were faced with two equally-unappealing options: force a crossing near civilization, or cross the porous steppe border. Neither was a healthy option.

Men with bolt cutters attacked the border fences outside Kastrou Vekhia, breaking open gates and climbing through. Others mobbed border patrols and were gunned down in large numbers, and fled back toward the Salamu to be burned and flayed. On the steppe, hundreds died of exposure after just days, resorting to cannibalism and the eating of the young, old, and defenseless. Across Ubaidia, storming from street to street and door to door, violence ran rampant, and the blood of innocents ran like creeks in the streets.

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