From Sunrise to Sunset
Well, I've finally got round to starting another AAR up. It was writer's block that kept me off for so long, as I couldn't think of a good place to start, until a few days ago, I started reading 'The Siege of Krishnapur' by J G Farrell. I was quite taken in by the book, which if you haven't already, I suggest you pick up a copy, and I decided to attempt something of that ilk myself. I'm still using the British campaign from my last AAR, to add a little continuity to those kind enough to dip into my last attempt.
The AAR I present here to you is one I entitle From Sunrise to Sunset. What I'm humbly attempting is to bring you a collection of stories of individuals from across the British Empire, from peasants to noblemen, from privates to generals and from wealthy businessmen to the lowliest slave. My plans for this AAR are unclear; I'll just make it up as I go along. In essence each update will be a very short story about someone in the empire (or perhaps a part of a short story, depending on size). As a result, I'm focusing more on narrative than anything else, but I will throw in a smattering of screenshots and pictures to break up the text, as I feel it's a useful technique to give the eyes some respite when reading lengthy sections of text. Especially on a computer screen (I don't have a problem with books, oddly). The bottom line is that I want to try and detach the reader from the game as much as possible, and somewhat paradoxically, focus more on the story, which is rather odd for an After Action Report, but when I consider the name of Vicky's developer, it's nicely appropriate... In a mad hatterish sort of way.
Anyway, I sit here now at 5 o' clock in the afternoon with a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit to get in as British a mood as possible, and to my utter surprise (no joke here, btw) Pomp and Circumstance is selected randomly from iTunes which is playing in the background. As my good friend Sean would say, "Now we're cooking on Lighter Fluid!" So without further ado, the first instalment. (I'll post the first part now, just to get it up here, and then I'll follow with the rest later. I quickly realised I couldn't do one story per update, it'd take weeks!)
Colonel Rawnsley and the Camels – Part 1
Colonel Rawnsley was a portly man. In fact, reporter James Butterworth would even go as far as to call him Globular. Unfortunately, he was also a very bitter man, not because of his stature, although he was certainly no better for it. Colonel Rawnsley hated Camels. He did not, however, hate Camels in a way a man might foul weather, he hated them in a consummate way. He hated everything about them, he hated their curving necks, their ridiculous hump, upon which he had to sit all day. He hated their drooping eyes, that looked constantly upon him as some manner of parasite, he hated their swaying walk, their spit, the way they moved their jaws when they chewed, and he hated their droppings.
If one was to ask, upon a dark night, in the tavern, after sharing perhaps more drink than one ought with the Colonel, you might ask him why he hated the beasts so, as James Butterworth had, a few nights before. The Inebriated Colonel would reply with a tale, concise and undetailed, but also most miserable. When Rawnsley was a young, handsome man, he met a woman at a ball in London, sometime in the month of January, for it was very cold, and Christmas, if he remembered correctly, was not long past. He and this lady - he did not name her - fell very much in love after a number of meetings, and the young Captain Rawnsley planned to marry her. The poor, naive Captain had been led astray however - the serpent that he had fallen for so earnestly, was married, and finding herself with a 'man under the table' that was so doggedly attached to her, she cast him off, evidently in pursuit of some other gullible gentleman that took her fancy, making trumped up claims of his ungentlemanly advances upon her, a respectable married woman. And were this sting not enough, her husband was a high ranking member of the Lords Commissioners, and a most gullible one at that. The unfortunate Rawnsley found himself in a troublesome predicament, and was left not only in disgrace, but with an enemy amongst his superiors. For this very reason, Rawnsley had spent the last fifteen years in the most undesirable locales across the Empire that could be possibly imagined, most likely his superior's doing. To cut a long and uncomfortable story short, old Rawnsley was now here, in British Arabia, in command of the local native contingent, with only a small handful of officers, and just recently James Butterworth, the Times reporter to keep him company. Excluding the camels of course. Those camels, with their vile breath, disgusting spit and intolerable groaning reminded him always of why he was here. And why there was not a damned thing he could do about it.
Rawnsley's command was a few hundred miles from the southern Arabian coast, not far from the gulf of Aden. It was a desolate place, annexed by the British some years ago, under the pretence of saving the people from their failing government. It was of course true, that the government was bankrupt and destitute, but it was also true that 90% of the population, considered owning three cows to be the ultimate status-symbol. The same was true of their ancestors, and their ancestors' ancestors, and now under the British nothing had changed. Indeed, the British government must have realised this too at some point, for they had recently announced their plans to rebrand the area as an official Dominion of the empire, with an autonomous vassal government. There was no profit in a population of cowless Bedouins and Arabs, so the politicians had decided that they might extricate themselves from feeding this population by making it a backwater dominion. After all, the real money lay further north. The newly created British Middle Eastern Company, or BMEC for short, was greedily eyeing up the other side of the Gulf of Aden, as well as the Gulf of Persia and Iraq, the weak backside of the Ottoman Empire.
Yet for all that, here was Rawnsley, in the middle of nowhere-in-particular, his blob like form sweating enough moisture to water the still elusive three cows the people of this land so coveted in their wildest dreams. James Butterworth, the reporter who was noted by his colleagues for being so enthusiastic for just about anything you put in front of him, was beginning to wonder what he was doing here too. James was a foreign correspondent, whose main passion was reporting on conflicts and hotspots throughout the Empire and beyond. He had a growing reputation for getting dangerously close to the action, against the warnings of his superiors, escorts, and often his own better judgement. However, his reports were legendary, and his coverage of the Anglo-American War some years earlier had been seen by many as one of the key factors in the swing of public opinion against the war back in Britain - his reports from the front line reminded the people and politicians alike that, despite all the propaganda being thrown around, Americans were people too. Or more precisely, people just like you.
He had come to this part of Arabia hearing reports of the desperate losing battle being fought by the British garrison troops in the area, something which both he, and the editor of The Times were strongly in favour of bringing more strongly into the public light. The invasion was under the pretence of preserving the rights of the Arabian people, and to bring more civilised western ways of life to the rustic people there, but anyone so much as mildly politically active could see that the whole BMEC endeavour was a blatant attempt at grabbing land belonging to the Ottomans. Already the British had managed to annex a significant length of the Euphrates river valley as a result of a power vacuum caused by unrest towards the Ottoman government in these lands. The British stepped in, playing the role of the loyal ally, but it soon became clear that the British government was unwilling to give up its 'liberated' provinces. The weak Ottomans could do nothing, and sat idly by as the British stole their land. In the meantime the British forces in the harsh deserts of Arabia found nothing but angry tribesmen, sand, and the ever present threat of heatstroke or dehydration. Currently, as figures Butterworth had procured showed, The British army was currently losing over five times more men to climate related attrition than to enemy action.
James sat atop his camel, and as his experience in India had taught him, one must sit atop the hump. Many Europeans found this concept somewhat bizarre, but just shrugged when someone like James indicated that there was nowhere else to sit. The young journalist reached into his battered knapsack and clutched a large water skin. He raised the vessel above his head, tipped his neck back, and squeezed a stream of clear, sweet water into his open mouth. He wiped his lips, and to his despair he found his mouth already drying out as if he had not drunk at all. He sighed, and replaced the water skin, before adjusting his improvised kepi to better cover his neck. The camel riders were strung out in a staggered column, making their way across the crest of a sandy dune. Ahead of James rode Sergeant Pembroke, a fiery haired, but mild mannered Welshman, who it was reckoned had spent too much time under the sun. He was a nice enough chap, but there was something unsettling about his eyes, it was said. James had yet to make this judgement for himself, for at his first and only previous meeting with the sergeant; he was at the time wearing his goggles down, in the midst of a dust storm. The sergeant sat comfortably atop his loyal beast, Mustafa, with his red tunic rolled up at the sleeves, and his pith helmet tipped back to cover his neck. He wore a neckerchief of a white and red pattern, common amongst the Arabs of the land, and his goggles sat strapped tightly around his helmet. Colonel Rawnsley led the way, in his unusual knowing manner. There was something very contradictory in the Colonel as a person, thought James. Here was a man that had let his vices get the better of him, as his stout figure showed, but experience had taught the Colonel well, and not for a moment did the tubby, weather-beaten man look unsure of what he was doing. This could be said of all his men too, it must be admitted. All of them, including Pembroke seemed so experienced; they were comfortable in their surroundings. Indeed, James found it hard to believe, with their dark skin, and adoption of many local customs that these men were Englishmen at all, the honourable Sergeant excepted of course.
They reached the summit, and James looked out across the desolate landscape. All that lay before him were more dunes, rising and falling like a great sea, frozen in time and space by some cataclysmic event. Out beyond the dunes the hills began, great heaps of gnarled rock and dirt, a pale brown colour, pitted with dark crags and drops, and speckled with a sparse helping of hardy desert vegetation. The sky was clear, the white orb of the sun hung overhead against the flawless backdrop of the earth’s lower atmosphere, it’s smooth change in tone from white to deep blue reaching from the horizon to the heavens. It would look charming upon a postcard, thought the reporter, but right now he’d rather be anywhere but here; the harsh climate of the desert had soon strangled any romantic thoughts of the wilderness’s natural beauty that James might have had.