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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Cora Giantkiller

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I'm in the middle of another AAR right now, but what the heck: I'm just going to bug my friends about what's happening during my CK3 run through anyway, might as well get that out of my system here. (For those waiting for an update on my Stellaris AAR, btw, I've got one written that I'll be uploading tonight.)

So I'm playing as Nri-Alike, an African count near Benin on the Nigerian coast. My personal goal for the campaign is pretty simple: I want to build the most technologically advanced empire in the world, and make Igbo-Ukwu the wealthiest city in the world, without converting my religion (Orisa) or culture (Igbo). I don't know how far that I'll blob in the process. Probably I'll want to form the Empire of Guinea, not sure if I'll chase the Unite Africa decision.

This is going to be kind of tricky, because the Igbo culture starts behind a lot of other tribal starts on culture tech AND you need to complete all the tribal culture techs before you can feudalize. (By contrast, reforming the Orisa religion should be relatively straightforward.) But I'm looking forward to giving it a shot.
 
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Nikolai

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Good luck!
 
Oba Nri-Alike of Yorubaland, 867 - 911

Cora Giantkiller

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Oba Nri-Alike of Yorubaland

Born: 850 (?)
Reigned: 867 - 911



In a time of perennial warfare, Nri-Alike was an unusual figure. On the Nigerian Coast of the time, both men and women were expected to be warriors and make their name on daring raids or fierce battles. Nri-Alike was a well-regarded man but he himself was no warrior. While his wife and concubines led his warriors into battle, then-Nana Nri-Alike would remain at Igbo-Ukwu rubbing shoulders with the local merchants and laying out market squares. Those who knew him found him warm and indulgent as a matter of course, which stood him in good stead when organizing the construction of a new road or haggling over a herd of cattle. It was said, however, that Nri-Alike had a secret face that very few ever got to see.

It was expected at the time that a young tribal leader would have both a wife and three concubines to display his virility and provide him with many strong children. Nri-Alike was no different, and his relations with these women was never less than dutiful, but his heart was not in it. Instead, his heart was captured by a young Yoruba warrior named Omogbogbo, who had come to the Nri holdings as a guest in the late 860s. Omogbogbo was brash and courageous, and his masculine beauty was widely remarked upon.

Nri-Alike was smitten from the start. He was nineteen, and perhaps in love for the first time, and his efforts were (in this author’s opinion) endearingly juvenile. It is written, for example, that he began to spar with his warriors in order to catch a glimpse of his love, and even seems to have rigged a match in order to cut a good impression. He also tried his hand at love poetry (none of which survives), and even delved into a nearby ruin to claim a single rare flower that Omogbogbo was reportedly fond of. The two men soon became inseparable, caught up in a lifelong romance--sometimes to the irritation of Nri-Alike’s concubines.



In the mid-ninth century, Igbo-Ukwu (lit., “Great Igbo”) was a significant centre of culture on the Nigerian coast. When Nri-Alike was born, the region was already home to a sophisticated metal-working culture. The Igbo craftsmen were capable of bronze casting with a delicacy that surpassed contemporary efforts in Europe, reflecting an indigenuous tradition of metal-working that was even then centuries of years old. Igbo jewelry also incorporated glass and carnelian beads fashioned as far away as Fustat. The Nri leaders of Igbo-Ukwu also claimed descent from a lineage reaching back to an ancient god-king, Eri, ordained by the god Chukwu.

As Nana of Igbo-Ukwu, therefore, Nri-Alike commanded not just wealth but prestige. By the age of 25, he was able to use his position to unite the Igbo peoples under his leadership and claim the title Ajapada of Igboland. Omogbogbo and the concubine Amadi had trained a coterie of fierce champions, and the Igbo raids were feared as far as Kru. The Ajapada began to speak of claiming the wealthy harbor of Benin for Igbo merchants and thus fashioning a wealthy trading kingdom.



However, Benin was at this time under the suzerainty of the Yoruba noble, Ajapada Ila Oduduwa of Ife. If Nri-Alike was prestigious, it was nothing compared to Ila Oduduwa. Ife was and is known as the city of four hundred and one Òrìṣàs, and Ila traced his line back to the first Oduduwa, the four hundred and first. Ila himself was reputed to be unassuming and kind, if a tad peevish when made to wait. Ila commanded a Yoruba warrior band nearly two thousand strong, half again as many as Nri-Alike.

However, Omogbogbo had been a young warrior in Ife, and he knew that tensions between Ila and his half-brothers had made the Yoruba kingdom rather more fragile than it appeared. It was common practice for one or another of the Oduduwa claimants to hire a rowdy band of young men to agitate in Ife on behalf of their patron, and when a band sworn to Oyo met another band sworn to Ketu violence was common. It proved simple enough for Nri-Alike to hire an assassin to insert himself into one such fracas; when Ajapada Ila came out to restore order, this assassin cut Ila’s throat.

Ila’s infant daughter Remilekun was named as his successor, but with the Oduduwa brothers now warring against each other openly it was no time for a child to rule in Ife. Such, at least, was the claim of Nri-Alike, who declared with a straight face that it was his obligation to secure the poor child Remilekun from the villains who had murdered her father and desecrated the sacred places of Ife with his blood. His warriors invaded Ife and the child Remilekun was placed in the custody of her father’s murderers. [1] With the victory in Ife, Nri-Alike proclaimed himself Oba of the Yoruba, Edo and Igbo peoples (usually recorded as Oba of Yorubaland). Many Igbo merchants thus made their way to Benin, and from there sold their exquisitely crafted bronzes to tribal leaders all along the Nigerian coast.



As the new ruler of Ife as well as Igbo-Ukwu, Nri-Alike became increasingly interested in sacred matters. At the age of forty, he embarked a pilgrimage inland to a sacred grove in Kumasi. When he returned, he proclaimed a series of visions from the spirits, revealing the secret affinities between sacred beliefs among the three peoples of his realm. For the next twenty years, he would remove himself from Igbo-Ukwu to commune with the spirit, sometimes becoming quite ill in the process. Even the title he chose was significant--Oba, to the Edo people, meant ‘sacred king.’ In this way, he hoped to establish a spiritual basis for unity between all the people of his realm. [2]

After Omogbogbo’s death in 906, the security of the realm became Nri-Alike’s all-consuming passion. It was expected that all leaders invest each of their children (male and female) with portions of land, and since Nri-Alike had three sons and two daughters he could easily foresee his personal holdings becoming divided into insignificance. Complicating matters, he was genuinely unsure who his primary heir should be.


Apia was a well-liked man and respected warrior. Apia had spent most of his young adulthood fighting in his father’s wars. He was kind and plain-spoken, and if Nri-Alike’s religious sincerity could be doubted Apia’s could not. But the two men scarcely understood each other. Nri-Alike seems to have doubted that Apia had the subtleties of mind and the ruthlessness required (in his view) of a true prince. Amamchukwu was much different. She had learned the business of leadership at her father’s side and proved as devious as him. Having remained in Igboland, she was also known to the Igbo clans in a way that Apia was not. As brother and sister, Apia and Amamchukwu were quite close, and yet the question of the inheritance could not help but divide them.

To reduce the division of his lands, Nri-Alike had spoken with some of his intimates about a plan to restrict inheritance to the female descendants of his line. This was tantamount in some eyes to naming Amamchukwu as his successor. And yet Nri-Alike never promulgated this decision to his vassals, fearing that his realm was not yet secure enough for a legal innovation of this kind. He continued to cultivate good relationships with his ajapadas, waiting for a day to introduce this notion to them.

That day would never come. On the 9th of June, 911, Opa Nri-Alike, ruler of the Yoruba, the Edo, and the Igbo, died of a massive stroke with the inheritance of his lands unfinished. According to the traditions of the people, Apia Nri was proclaimed Oba in his stead and planned a lavish funeral for his late father. As Nri-Alike was awaiting burial, however, Apia received word--his sister Amamchukwu had named herself Oba of the Igbo, and most of the nearby clans had followed her. As brother and sister, they had once been close. As king and queen, they would soon be at war.



[1] Notably, Nri-Alike took a very doting attitude with Remilekun Oduduwa, raising her with his own daughters and seeing thereafter to her advancement. Before his death, he even named her Ajapada of Benin, making her a wealthy woman in a stroke. Remilekun was one of the most notorious cynics of the day, and yet she seems never to have suspected him in the death of her father.

[2] He also announced the marriage of his children to Yoruba and Edo elders, hoping to connect the disparate peoples together through familial bonds as well as spiritual.
 
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Nikolai

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A long life that ended just too early.
 

Cora Giantkiller

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A long life that ended just too early.
You're telling me! I was one year away from going to High Tribal Authority and changing the inheritance to female preference.

Also, props to the new character portraits for capturing his Robert Baratheon-style devolution over the years. (I added the wild hair after Omogbogbo died to demonstrate that Nri-Alike was letting himself go.)
 
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stnylan

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Sometimes it is all a matter of (unfortunate) timing !
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Well...that is far far away from the main action. No need to worry about Mongols or plague! Just Europeans ruining all your work once ckiii ends and euiv begins!
 
Oba Apia of Yorubaland, 911 - 917

Cora Giantkiller

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Oba Apia Nri of Yorubaland

Born: 867
Reigned: 911 - 917




Apia Nri had always been a serious child. He had spent his childhood being trained by his father’s marshal, Omogbogbo, applying himself to the cut and thrust of spear and shield with a quiet intensity. He did not indulge himself in the fashion of a warrior after battle, and had his kindness been less evident this might have been taken as priggishness. The other young warriors called him ‘grandfather’, a joke on his grave nature--but also they came to him in moments of crisis, knowing that he would always listen and offer wise counsel. For many he was like an older brother--even if they were several years older than him.

As a young man, he was often away, raiding or leading men in his father’s wars of expansion. When he was back in Igbo-Ukwu, he found that relations with his father were often strained. Nri-Alike did think of him as kind-hearted, but as soft; not patient, slow; not devout, narrow. He feared that Apia would lack the ruthlessness to hold the tribes of Edo, Yoruba, and Igbo together, and thus he was determined to grant Apia’s inheritance to his sister instead.

During the troubles later, Apia would recount a favorite story. Their father’s healer Ketu was a superstitious man from Ife, and Amamchukwu would often amuse herself convincing him that one local or another was in fact a warlock or dreaded seeress. Apia returned from a raid on Eweland to discover Ketu anxiously grinding herbs for a local beggar woman and muttering that he dared not attract her evil eye. Apia went to confront his sister, and almost would have--had he not seen the same beggar woman, struggling with a racking cough in desperate need of Ketu’s healing herbs. Amamchukwu’s mischief had in fact been driving Ketu to heal the poor.

Apia did his best to encourage this compassionate streak in his little sister, and rushed to her defense when a humorless adult reacted badly to her childish pranks. Being thirteen years her senior, he served as something of a second father figure, and one far more concerned about her morals than Nri-Alike. It was said of Amamchukwu, her lies came from Nri-Alike, her kindness from Apia, and her undying ambition from Ekwensu [1] himself.

When Amamchukwu was a young woman, she was married to a Yoruba chief allied to her father and bundled off to Benin. She had been prepared to meet such a fate, as young women from good families were, but the experience was truly miserable. Amamchukwu’s husband proved to be a poor leader, but the local Edos whispered that he might have been a better chief had he not been in thrall to ‘the Igbo witch.’ Facing an uprising from the locals, the chief divorced her, and she wound up back at Igbo-Ukwu with her infant son in tow.

For Amamchukwu, this was the turning point. She had long dreamed of holding power in her own right, but her unpleasant first marriage turned this into a personal creed: she would rule herself, and let no man stand in her way. She became her father’s chief personal advisor, and practically ran the kingdom for much of 906 while Nri-Alike mourned the loss of his great love. During this time, she lobbied the Oba quite shamelessly for the inheritance.

Apia was deeply conflicted about this. He held no personal ambition of his own, and accepted his role as heir as another duty to be undertaken. As a young man he even longed to be free of the obligation and would have happily turned it over to another. By 906, however, he was nearly forty and the father of three. He may have forsaken his birthright for his own sake and served happily as champion for his cherished younger sister, but he would not deny that birthright to his own son Ezimilo. He became Amamchukwu’s reluctant rival.



Nri-Alike’s death and Amamchukwu’s rebellion hit Apia like a series of blows. He did not summon the war-bands right away, however. He was grieving the loss of a father (“and a sister”, he would add). Politically speaking, he was also not in a position to respond. The traditions of monarchy were not entrenched in the tenth century Nigerian coast. Apia was well-respected, but many Yoruba elders were not convinced that they should shed Yoruba blood to settle Igbo problems. Some even questioned whether Nri-Alike required a successor at all.

Apia was a patient man, however, and he set himself on the task of establishing his authority. He began with a pilgrimage to the sacred trees of Kumasi as his father had done, establishing that as a rite of kingship. He proclaimed visions from the spirits, continuing his father’s work of marrying the spiritual traditions of all peoples in his kingdom. He also cultivated good will from his ajapadas with feasts and games. He trained with warriors half his age and led several Yoruba warbands on raids in Eweland and Kru. In this fashion he established himself as a prestigious oba with the martial and spiritual abilities to command.

During this time, he had sent envoys to Amamchukwu, now styling herself Oba Amamchukwu of the kingdom of Igbo-Benue. He was willing to retain her as Ajapada in her northern territories, and to respect the rights of the chieftains she had installed in Igboland. She needed only to offer him homage. This was, however, the one thing that she refused to do. For his part, Apia would not allow his sister to steal the Igbo lands that were properly his--and more importantly, Ezimilo. On June 3, 917, Apia declared with a heavy heart that he would gather his warriors and make war on Igbo-Benue.

He gathered a war-band nearly two thousand strong and marched for Amamchukwu’s capital in Kyadya. Once there, Apia came upon his sister, commanding a war-band of Igbo and Nupe warriors numbered about fifteen hundred. Amamchukwu noted her brother’s superior forces and retreated across the Niger river. After a moment’s thought, Apia ordered a pursuit--thinking perhaps to resolve the war with one climactic battle. At nightfall, he came upon Amamchukwu’s warriors, encamped near the village of Bida, and Apia ordered a moonlit attack.

The battle was a strategic triumph, more a slaughter than a victory. Apia’s warriors claimed nearly a thousand lives as the Igbo-Benue warriors scrambled to retrieve spear and shield. The Oba’s champions looked to find their king among the exultant throng of warriors. But they would not find him. Oba Apia Nri, the sacred king of the Yoruba, the Igbo and the Edo, lay face up on the fields of Bida, Amamchukwu’s spear lodged between his ribs.



[1] That is, the Igbo trickster god. Ekwensu is “a spirit of violence that incites people to perform violent acts.” Molefi Kete Asante; Emeka Nwadiora (2007). Spear Masters: An Introduction to African Religion. The crafty spirit was no doubt quite active during this time.
 
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Cora Giantkiller

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Sometimes it is all a matter of (unfortunate) timing !
Nri-Alike could've saved his country and family from a lot of strife if he'd just gone on a diet.
Yes, that one death has led to many, many more--and the war's not over yet.

Well...that is far far away from the main action. No need to worry about Mongols or plague! Just Europeans ruining all your work once ckiii ends and euiv begins!
Listen, those Europeans need to be afraid of us. Maybe not right now, maybe not next century, but, like, eventually.
 

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How tragic that the sins of the Father doomed these two siblings into spilling each others blood. Interested to see how Ezimilo plans on avenging his father.
 

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A most unfortunate death
 

Cora Giantkiller

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How tragic that the sins of the Father doomed these two siblings into spilling each others blood. Interested to see how Ezimilo plans on avenging his father.
I will say this about Ezimilo: I now understand much more about the dread mechanics.
 
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Jestor

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Intriguing read and great way of recapping reigns. Been a bit of hard luck as others have noted - premature death and then the sibling conflict.

Quite curious to see if Ezimilo can reverse these misfortunes.
 

Nikolai

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That's a sad end to a tragic character.
 
Oba Ezimilo of Igbo-Benue, part 1

Cora Giantkiller

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Oba Ezimilo of Igbo-Benue

Born: 894
Reigned: 917 - 942




Ezimilo Nri always had a facility for language. He learned to speak Igbo early, and by the age of six he could easily speak Yoruba, Edo, Nupe, or Guan. Merchants from Marrakesh--a more common sight in the early tenth century--brought with them an interesting new challenge: Arabic. Arabic meant entree into a wider world of commerce and culture, and beyond that it meant books. Ezimilo had studied the sacred nsibidi, a complex pictographic language with over five thousand symbols. Arabic script proved much easier by comparison. Soon he was translating, and later composing his own ghazals in Igbo and Arabic.

Because Ezimilo had a mild nature, because he was so fond of books and so naturally curious, because he spent so much time investigating spiritual matters, many believed him to be soft. Nri-Alike referred to him as a little shaman, and not out of praise. Biographers often find themselves pondering the question: what turned this gentle child into the tyrant he would become? Was he perhaps traumatized by the chaos of rebellion? Did he suffer from one of a number of trendy psychological disorders? In this author’s opinion, such explanations are pat and sentimental. She would argue that the Oba’s great crimes are not so hard to explain, that they follow a consistent if horrifying belief in the strategic uses of terror. One needs not invent reasons why men are cruel when the cruelty of men is one of the great constants in human affairs.



Oba Apia went to dwell with the ancestors on August 5, 917, and a band of six swift warriors were dispatched back to Igbo-Ukwu to notify the new Oba. By the time they arrived, however, Amamchukwu’s remaining warriors (now numbering around six hundred and fifty casualties) had besieged the Igbo capital. With Apia dead, the rebel queen thought to dispatch his shy young successor. Ezimilo was forced to adopt the guise of a beggar and flee across the Niger, where he would wait until the champion Ehiosu marched his warriors to relieve the capital.

Ehiosu had taken up arms against Oba Nri-Alike, for which crime he was disfigured and reduced to an indentured servant in the Nri family holdings. Oba Apia had, with characteristic kindness, relaxed the man’s punishment, permitting him to train with the warriors and eventually rise to become a great champion. In return, Ehiosu became Apia’s most stalwart defender, and in this time of crisis his loyalty proved crucial. Some other champions questioned whether Apia’s bookish, ascetic son was worthy of the throne, but Ehiosu would not abandon the son of the man who gave him back his freedom. He ordered the march to Igbo-Ukwu.The ensuing battle of South Igbo was another overwhelming victory for the Yoruba warriors, reducing Amamchukwu to only a handful of supporters. She could see the writing on the wall, and offered her surrender to the new oba. Ezimilo felt obliged to offer the same terms that his father had, permitting her to retain her position as Abajada of Nupe provided that she offer homage to him as her liege. It was a generous offer and much approved of at the time, but neither party truly meant what they were saying. Amamchukwu was haughty and defiant even in surrender, and Ezimilo--per the chronicles--regarded his father’s killer “as a crocodile regards his prey.”



With some space to breathe, Ezimilo and Ehiosu began to plan their next move. Ezimilo had, characteristically, given a lot of thought to what he intended to do as king. The rebellion convinced him that he could not take Igboland for granted. He cultivated relations with the local Igbo elders, and in a gesture of solidarity began to style himself Oba of Igbo-Benue, not Yorubaland as his father and grandfather had. He began a program of internal colonization, granting Igbo families land in Benin and later in the northern frontier land of Keffi. These were fertile and prosperous lands and increased the wealth of the Igbo tribes considerably. [1]

Ezimilo also hoped to enhance the spiritual power of the obas. In 921, he embarked on the now-traditional pilgrimage to Kumasi, dressed in the humble robes of an ascetic. The sacred grove of Kumasi was in the land of the Ajapada of Eweland, who recognized the Akom pantheon. These Akom worshippers regarded Orisans as weak-willed men and domineering women, and those who came to visit the holy grove were met with intimidation and extortion. Ezimilo was incensed. He would return to Kumasi the following year with three thousand warriors at his back. The ensuing war placed four holy places under Ezimilo’s command, making him the most significant Orisan king to date.



He influenced the development of Orisan religion in another way. In the fall of 921, Oba Ezimilo declared that he would embark on a personal translation of the Qu’ran into Igbo. The process of translation was arduous, and the oba held himself to exacting standards. His meals would go untouched while he sat in long conferences with shamans or Arab-speaking travelers, hoping to clarify some minor point. The oba had never been one to indulge himself, but now he was losing weight in an alarming fashion. After a full year spent on his translation, Ezimilo declared the text complete in exhausted triumph.

The Ezimilo Qu’ran is a curious document. The translation is precise but laced with commentary, containing the young king’s own speculations on the principles of true religion and the nature of a well-ordered society. In one passage he even calls the Prophet a fool. It is, needless to say, nothing that a pious Muslim would approve of. But it proved significant for the development of the rising African religion, inspiring local shamans to write their own commentaries and disputations on theological points. It also popularized the practice of writing Igbo in Arabic script, which would make literacy much less daunting for later generations.



The peace with Amamchukwu soon proved to be nothing more than a temporary reprieve. Only a few months later, Amamchukwu appeared at a royal feast, demanding that Ezimilo defend his right to rule through force of arms. The resulting contest was no great exhibition of prowess, but the Oba did not disgrace himself and his aunt was obliged to back down. Soon after, he received word that she was conspiring to install her brother Omogbogbo (Nri-Alike’s youngest) for the throne, with herself as chief advisor. It was plain that she would not give up.

Ezimilo’s conclusion was clear: Amamchukwu had to die. He lacked his grandfather’s instinct for cloak and dagger, however. [2] His solution was to offer coin to any rogue who could promise his aunt’s head, which attracted any number of rogues. Some accepted coin from Ezimilo and Amamchukwu alike, happily informing each of the other’s schemes.

In the end, it was perhaps the oba’s ineptitude that proved his greatest asset. Amamchukwu became careless, assuming that she knew the full extent of his schemes. On one night in May, 924, she retired to her hall to sleep, unaware that an assassin had slipped a black mamba snake under the covers. The snake’s poison acted swiftly. Nri-Alike’s favorite, the woman who would be queen, died writhing on the floor unable to breathe. She was forty-four years old.



Ezimilo’s responsibility was soon known, but the oba was, at least initially, sanguine. Surely people could see his need to avenge his father’s death and eliminate a threat to his rule? For all his great learning, he knew little of human nature. To the common people, Ezimilo had committed a great crime. When Amamchukwu had slain Apia, it was in battle, under the terms of honorable combat between warriors. Her later challenge for the throne was similarly understood as a contest of honor. She was not well loved by then, particularly by those who fought for Apia, but she was the daughter and sister and aunt to kings. Hiring an assassin to kill her was rank cowardice. For a man to do this cowardly deed against his own father’s sister was a crime beyond description.

With his reputation in tatters, and contempt for him manifest among the ajapadas, the kingdom of Igbo-Benue was inflamed with conspiracy and faction. The living siblings of Nri-Alike began to plot for his throne, while distant ajapadas agitated to throw off the Igbo yoke. In order to keep his birthright together, Ezimilo would need to escalate. For the next two decades, the Oba would rule through fear.



[1] It also raised the average development of Igbo counties, meaning that cultural innovations began to speed up.
[2] He did a LOT of murders for a guy who has a 5 in Intrigue.
 
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Cora Giantkiller

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Intriguing read and great way of recapping reigns. Been a bit of hard luck as others have noted - premature death and then the sibling conflict.

Quite curious to see if Ezimilo can reverse these misfortunes.
Ezimilo will do quite a bit to build a stronger nation, to be sure. But he'll leave his own, very troubling legacy in return.

That's a sad end to a tragic character.
It absolutely is. I'm really pleased how CK3 was able to spin out this tale of civil war and fratricide, echoing through the generations; the effects of that first rebellion will be felt long after the original participants are dead.

A most unfortunate death
In story terms, it is absolutely tragic. As a player, however, I was waiting for Ezimilo to take power with his good Learning score so that I could get to the business of reforming the Orisan faith. Of course, that didn't go quite how I expected.
 

Nikolai

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Ah, the kinslayer trait I take it. Fun times.
 

stnylan

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Ahh kinslayer - I don't know if CK3 has any mechanics to remove the stain upon your honour like CK2 does.
 

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So did Amamchukwu not get the Kinslayer trait for killing the former Oba? Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to reading about how not character but circumstance forced a ruler to tyranny.
 
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