Not all the progress made in Boromo's reign was his doing, or even occurred with his knowledge. Sometime in the 1470s one Chundak Pragoo, a metalsmith in Vientiane (1), developed a new method of forging blades, based, or so it is said, on the techniques of distant Nippon. The local merchants, confident in their new-found wealth and influence, quickly capitalised on his invention (2), and soon 'Sarakham steel' was renowned throughout the kingdom. A set of swords was presented to Boromo himself in 1478, and perhaps inspired him to order a general re-equipment of the army in the following year (3).
Shortly thereafter, Boromo, still vigourous despite his years, firmly put down the unofficial practice of appointing provincial officals on the basis of wealth rather than talent (4). Taking advantage of the new-found prosperity and stability of the northern provinces, he continued to expand the royal administration in those regions (5).
Even under Boromo's experienced eye, domestic harmony remained fleeting. No prime cause has ever been convincingly attributed to the revolt that broke out in Kwai province late in 1481, but it disrupted the region for several months (6).
Colonial expansion continued apace during Boromo's last years. A permanent settlement was made in Sumbawa in 1483 and within a year imports of a previously unknown luxury - coffee - had grow to the point where the merchants could petition the crown to be recognised as a separate guild, rather than a branch of the tea-traders (7).
An Old Man in a Hurry
For once, the region around Ayutthaya was almost calm. Orissa had a brief quarrel with Bengal in 1478 and Mataram pursued an inconclusive naval conflict with Brunei in the early 1480s, but these were mere ripples on the ocean. Curiously, it was at just this time that the aging King of Ayutthaya became increasingly - an uncharacteristically violently - active in foreign affairs.
Why this was so is uncertain. Some say he was consumed with a desire to set all in order before he passed on, others that he was struggling to maintain control of a court increasingly riven by factions. Boromo himself was characteristically reserved 'If it will be done, then it will be done by my hand, for it is I who reign in this place,' he wrote in the margin of a letter from one of his ministers.
Whatever the reason, the change in direction was immediate and obvious. In 1481 he again expanded the ranks of his allies, bringing in Dai Viet to join Taungu and Cambodia. Shortly thereafter, a stream of honours, awards and costly gifts began to flow to the king and court of Taungu, a vassal-state previously considered too unimportant to merit a permanent ambassador (8).
The new alliance effectively isolated Vientiane, however the last ruler of the mountain kingdom did not consider his situation perilous. Trusting in Boromo's pacific nature, he did not even dispatch a diplomat to settle the a minor boundary dispute that flared late in 1482. The King of Ayutthaya did not send a diplomat either. He sent an army.
The war that followed was brief and one-sided. Despite early successes, the forces of Vientiane could not resist the Ayutthayan army. Luangphrabang was besieged in mid 1483 and fell early the following year. That summer, in his last public appearance, Boromo proclaimed the end of Vientiane's independence and the absorption of its lands into Ayutthaya (9). Possibly as a response to this act of aggression, the king of Assam sought protection in submission to Tibet (10).
The diplomatic gifts were repayed manyfold the next year, when the last king of Taungu died and left his kingdom to Ayutthaya. Boromo, now ailing, was forced to receive the submission of the Taungese in his bedchamber. 'I have lived long enough,' he murmured. The last act to which he put his name, ironically, recalled the circumstances of his accession - the provision of official support for Buddhist temples and Buddhist teachings in Perak province (11).
The Sun Goes Down
It would have been fitting, perhaps, if the great King had died with his triumphs fresh. In fact, he lingered another two and a half years, too sick to rule, while rival cliques squabbled to govern in his name. A dispute between noble factions wracked Kwai province in 1485, and the increasingly heavy taxes and arbitrary 'justice' cause great distress among the merchant guilds and severely harmed Ayutthaya's trade (12).
Boromo Trailokanat 'The Enlightening Sun' died at the end of 1487. None but the greybeards could remember another ruler, and it was accepted like a law of nature that his funeral should be the most magnificent in memory, history or legend (13).
His sucessor took the name of Boromorajat III. He was the leader of the main 'Court' faction, and had skillfully bargained his influence to squeeze out his rivals from the military and the provincial nobility. His enemies whispered that the new King did not have the stature of a true monarch, that he was skilled only in intrigue (14).
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(1) The city of Vientiane, the capital of Sarakham province, as opposed to the nation of Vientiane, which is situated in Mekong province and whose capital is Luangphrabang. Is that clear? (If not, don't worry. it won't matter long...)
(2) Unexpected invention - weapons manufactory in Sarakham.
(3) +1 Quality (now Quality 4). Probably not smart, but I was sick of losing to rebels.
(4) Decline Sale of Offices.
(5) i.e. Tax Collectors
(6) Yup, good ol' Unprovoked Revolt
(7) Monopoly Company
(8) Taungu had a permanent CB on me, so relations had been sliding gently downhill for years. I'd given up on them declaring any more wars (I'd been hoping for an excuse to vassalise Pegu or Myanmar), and they'd been vassals for 40+ years, so when I could finally put together the cash to bribe them....
(9) Reputation, which had improved to 'tarnished', went straight back down again. I'd rather have vassalised them, but they were already vassals of China and I was scared they'd be diplo-annexed if I waited any longer.
(10) Keep an eye on Tibet. This get significant later.
(11) I finally had the money (thanks to war taxes) to try a conversion again.
(12) Two 'Unhappiness among the Merchants' events in two years, costing me 600d in trade research. When you're trying to research Trade 3 on 30d/month, that hurts.
(13) Now 12 provinces, 4 colonies, 5 trading posts; monthly income 30d; no inflation or loans; tech 2/2/2/3
(14) Adm Poor, Mil Very Poor, Dip Average. Ho Hum.
Anibal - watch this space
Judge - with hindsight, I made some serious gameplay mistakes around this time. Staying narrowminded was one of them - it seemed a good idea (colonists, low stab costs) at the time, but it ended up biting me.
Director - welcome to my humble AAR! China is scary because they have (effectively) infinite resources. The AI may not choose to use them, but if it does... In my first game as Ayutthaya, I killed twice as many Chinese troops as I had in my army, twice as many again starved besieging the border forts, and I still got run over.
jwolf - My colonisation plan was to grab every unclaimed province I could find, on the grounds that they'd end up Chinese, Portuguese or Dutch if I didn't. I'd have gone after Brunei, Atjeh or (especially) Makassar if I'd got an excuse, but no luck. I was slightly hoping that the island nations would start conquering each other, sparing me the BB cost of annexations, but they never really did anything. Mataram (like Champa) is Hindu, and I can't handle Hindu provinces as well as Buddhist and Muslim ones.