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Aug 13, 2002
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”There is a special Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America.” Otto von Bismarck

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Every society has a metaphor for its conception of the universe and the physical properties that underlie the workings of that universe. Across the vast reach of human experience this can be widely – even amusingly – varied, depicting the world as a ball of string, a cave, an ocean or a random quantum fluctuation. Australians, for example, seem to believe the world revolves around toilets and beer, and for Australians this is no doubt useful. Whether the metaphor is correct in any literal sense is almost beside the point as its function is to provide a perspective for perception and a filter for facts. Such a metaphor is a useful tool but like all tools it has its limits: bolts are not easily secured with screwdrivers and screws yield only grudgingly to pry-bars.

The civilization that spawned the Knights Temporal has such a metaphor for their expansive realm: Yggdrasil, the giant world-supporting tree with roots in Hel and branches reaching up to the Heavens. The Past forms the great central trunk, rising from the unreachable roots of the 14th century. Each major decision of history becomes a division, from trunk into mighty limbs, limbs to branches and branches out to the twigs of the unreachable 25th century. Far out on one delicate spur is a tiny nest, symbolizing the civilization that invented and developed the technology that allows the Knights to span the timelines and exploit the myriad worlds of might-have-been.

Only Earth-shaking decisions could have created the splits in the great limbs that represent alternative time-lines: of a millennium of human history approximately one hundred time-lines are reachable by the Knights Temporal. Is it because their technology is insufficiently sensitive to discern other possible timelines? Academic discussion of parachronic theory is heated but answers remain unknown. From their vantage point in the 24th century the Knights look back on a past that seems to narrow down from manifold possibilities to a single mighty trunk. It is immutable and unchangeable: if new timelines had ever been created, this future civilization would already see them as a part of the Past. Despite the manifold parallel timelines, for the Future the Past presents the aspect of a still-life portrait.

These timelines are rich in strange spices, odd minerals, lost works of literature, unknown artworks and peculiar inventions. The very laws of physics differ – ever so slightly, and in subtle ways – from one line to another. Ideas, rarities and luxuries form the currency and power of the Knights Temporal, and control of cross-line trade is the ostensible reason for the founding of their order. The profits from this commerce are immense and the benefits are not confined to the Knights’ civilization alone.

But there is another, less public, reason. Permutations of parachronic physics hint at ways to artificially create new timelines, sundering the old order with catastrophic effect for the existing structure. Such explosive violence could split the world-tree, or set it ablaze in a crown-fire of annihilation. For this reason the Knights Temporal also patrol the alternate Earths. Perhaps the Past can be changed - perhaps not – but under no circumstances may anyone be permitted to make the experiment. Under the tender, chivalric care of the Knights the commerce of dozens of worlds is managed for the betterment of all. Under their watchful gaze the myriad millions of fantastical nations remain secure from a catastrophe they cannot sense and would not credit if they could comprehend it.

But sooner or later every guardian must answer the ancient question that underlies our all-too-human nature.

Who guards the guardians?
Well friends and readers, here we go. The game is Victoria: Revolutions, Medium/Medium, and the subject is a Grand Campaign as the United States in a world similar to but unlike our own. Our first chapter will begin in a few days.

The subject of parallel worlds, alternative histories and time travel is a rich - and well mined - vein of science fiction and fantasy literature. My conception has partly been formed around the needs of the story I'm going to tell, but the main elements are as follows:

Only one civilization (so far as they know) has ever discovered a means of travelling to alternative worlds, and up and down these alternative timelines. Approximately one hundred timelines are accessible, ranging from the single line of the 14th century and branching with each major 'what if' forward to the 24th century. From the Future, the chronoscape is similar to the view looking down from the top of a large tree: branches join together until they form one large trunk. From the viewpoint of the Future the Past is unchangeable: if more timelines could form they would already have done so.

This trading empire is supervised and monitored by the Knights Temporal, more a corporation than a religious order but inspiring some of the same missionary zeal from its members. One function of the Knights is to ensure that the various Past lines are not tampered with to a degree that would cause a new timeline to appear.

The Law of Three Generations is one of the great constants of human psycho-dynamics, and it states: The first generation shall build, the second generation shall improve and consolidate, and the third generation shall risk the work of the first two by apathy, sloth and failure to value their work. Thus a man builds up a business, his son extends and expands it, and his grandsons sell it or run it into the ground.

The Knights Temporal are about to enter into the third generation. I hope you enjoy the story.
And he begins...looks great so far. Looking forward to this, Director.
MOST excellent, Director!

It's difficult to do a good American piece in an AAR (at least I think it is) that will seem accurate and believable by Americans, but I have the utmost confidence that you can do it!

I will try to follow this from the beginning. My plan to do that with your last great work failed because the Frontier kept moving away from me too fast! :D

But I'll definitely try with this one.

It is rare for me to post in any AAR threads, but this one has sparked my curiosity. I must say that you have started off on the best foot! Brilliant start.
coz1 - fearfully and with great trepidation, I begin... I've played a good way into the game (not going to say how far just yet) and what I've discovered is I am a somewhat less-than-masterful Victoria player. Here's hoping you will all hang with me as I navigate the rapids.

GregoryTheBruce - Thank you! I've been kicking these ideas around for a year or more, so we'll see how well it all hangs together.

Rensslaer - Hi Rens! Thank you for the kind words. I concur that getting the right 'feel' for a place and time is always the great challenge of historical fiction. It isn't really any easier for periods that we 'think' we know a lot about (1836-1860 for example) because the written record contains so darn few FACTS!

The first episode or two will deal with our friends the Knights Temporal and their looming internal crisis. After that I will get into more detail of our para-time America (thanks to H Beam Piper for the term).

As to speed... I'm planning on an upddate every three days or so; about two per week. That may slip a bit, but I will try to get into a rhythm and keep it up.

Supreme Emporer - many thanks for the kind words, especially since you say you are not often moved to post. Now that you have, feel free to post again as you find things you like - or don't. I like questions and I take constructive criticism well (stop snickering, coz1, I can hear you).

EmprorCoopinius - this is nothing but a teaser. You have your ticket, the seat bar is down and the ride will begin shortly.

Thank you all for your encouragement. I confess to feeling a bit nervous... but that just makes me more determined to deliver the goods. HINT: The more POSTS I get, the more MOTIVATED I am to crank up the power. ( :D Shameless, aren't I).
The year is 1837, Christian era, as befits this timeline which is a mostly unexceptional branch from the successful establishment of a republican democracy in North America. The place is the still-raw capital of Washington City, District of Columbia, a metropolis in name if not in fact. Isolated clumps of buildings sprout like weeds beside wide, muddy thoroughfares that trace ruler-straight lines from nowhere to no-place in particular. Unfinished public buildings form inelegant mounds of marble, drafty and chill in the blustery spring air of March. But all of Washington and many people from the surrounding countryside are on hand today despite the cold wet wind and the ever-present mud. Today, despite perennial predictions of anarchy and ruin, the American republic celebrates another peaceful change of government.

At least one man would not have it so. In a carriage near the front of the procession rides Andrew Jackson, coat tightly buttoned to his chin and hat clamped over his unruly white hair. Tall and erect of posture despite his age, Jackson seems indifferent to the cheers and muted jeers of the assembled crowds. He wears an expression not unlike a man riding to his own execution, and for good reason. Jackson’s second term has been a litany of disasters, each seized upon by the unholy cabal of Whiggish Opposition: Webster, Calhoun and Satan Incarnate, also known as Henry Clay. The destruction of the Bank of the United States and the collapse of the protective tariff have unleashed the dogs of economic depression, business collapse, tight money and low prices for agricultural and industrial products. Jackson had to be forcibly dissuaded by his friends from seeking an unprecedented third term, publicly throwing his support instead to his protégé and Vice-President, Martin Van Buren.

But Van Buren lost the election; the old alliance of New York and Virginia was not enough this time. The West and South were split between Jacksonian Democrats and Clayite Whigs, but Pennsylvania’s defection to the Whig camp decided the contest. Webster delivered Massachusetts and other New England votes; Calhoun brought South Carolina as payment for slights suffered at Jackson’s hand. The new President is Henry Clay, the man Jackson loathes above all others, the architect and driving force behind every obstacle Jackson has faced in the last eight years. So incensed is the outgoing President that he has refused to meet with Clay or even ride in the same carriage to the ceremony. Intimates of Jackson’s ‘kitchen cabinet’ have taken precautions against the possibility of Jackson’s using federal troops to arrest Clay. Not that they think it likely… but Jackson has been more irritable than a wounded lion, and in his fury he has taken heavily to drink. Better, they say, to be safe than sorry.


Henry Clay, Eighth President of the United States of America

Martin Van Buren has left the city altogether, pleading illness that everyone knows is no more than a dejected suitor’s crushed hopes and broken heart. From his estate in upstate New York he will observe the new administration and prepare himself for a second trial.

Following along at a respectable distance, Clay sits tall in his open carriage, doffing his hat and waving happily to the people who line the streets. His wide, loose-lipped mouth stretches in an amiable smile verging on a grin, and if his gaze lingers long on an attractive woman in the throng, well… none of the women seem to mind. Prince Hal has come to the Presidency; Harry of the West – the Star of the West – has left the House and Senate for good and all to take up the laurels of victory. Maker of the Missouri Compromise, Father of the American System, Architect of the Tariff Compromise, BonVivant, Great Man: nothing is left for Clay but the final prize of the executive office. Whether he can work his magic on a resolutely Democratic Senate and House, and in the process maintain the loose alliance with Calhoun and Webster, remains to be seen.

But for the moment the weak sun shines upon his thinning pate, the wind brings spots of color to his face, and Henry Clay is content to jounce along in the wake of his old adversary for a few minutes more. Jackson, after all, is already inconsequential, a spent force in national politics. Ahead, the avenue rises to the Capitol Hill and to the pinnacle of Clay’s every aspiration. He smiles even more broadly – an unaffected grin – and waves with genuine happiness at supporters and enemies alike.
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Hundreds of miles away and hours later, in the elegant and self-absorbed city of Charleston, South Carolina, two men sit talking in a tavern. One is young – mid-twenties, apparently – with clear blue eyes and fine blond hair. The other man is dark and heavy with a thick, broad face rising from shoulders that have known hard work. His face is calm but his eyes are watchful, the eyes of a man who has had reasons to be careful. Both are well dressed and groomed, too fine perhaps for a tavern one might think, but this tavern sees a bit of business from planters come to town, and from those planters’ sons who spend more willingly than their sires. Their presence at this early hour of twilight excites no interest, and they are careful to keep their conversation unheard.


Shepheard’s Tavern, Charleston, SC as painted in 1801

“I don’t understand why you don’t want to attend the party,” the younger man says. His name is Henry Allison. It is not the name he was given at birth but it is his name on this timeline and it is good tradecraft to use it and no other. He has recently taken his pledge from the Academy and has entered on an internship with a senior brother of the Knights Temporal.

“The lady and I have a history,” the older man says, and sighs. “I thought… I should never have brought us here. I want to see her, but the last time we met she swore she’d kill me. No, I’ve lost that first rush of courage and this expedition looks less appealing with each passing moment. You could go. They’d hound you all night wanting to know where I am, but you could go.” The young man gives this the scant consideration it deserves. He has the brash overconfidence of the young and strong but he knows better than to even think of attending such an affair without his superior.

“She threatened to kill you?” The young man asks, then shakes his head. “She wouldn’t really. We’re all brothers and sisters of the Order…” His voice trails off as the older man looks at him steadily, deadpan.

“Her name is Charlotte Ravenal.” The older man checks the position of the other patrons without moving more than his eyes, a quick, experienced flick that misses nothing. “But… at home… she was Kierianne Frost, the one they called the ‘Killing Frost’. You’ve never met her, Henry, or you would not doubt her. I thought perhaps she’d cool, in time. I never expected to get an invitation to her house for a gala.”

“If she invited you –“ “Us.” “Us, then, if she invited us she must have cooled down. Perhaps she wants to apologize.”

“Hmph. The only time K… Charlotte ever apologized was when she missed, and that wasn’t often.”

“Missed… missed people? You mean she shot at people?”

“Keep your voice down. I’ve told you, most agents blow their cover by carelessness. It isn’t enough to speak the language and study some of the customs. You aren’t the first intern I’ve had – and you wouldn’t be the first to get himself killed, either. Yes, people. Hasn’t it gotten through to you yet that we’re not playing a Disney here? This is no stage set. It’s real. And these very real people around us will absolutely kill you if you screw up. If it needs doing you may have to kill one or more of them. Frozen Hel, son, I’d ship you home or kill you myself if I had to do it. You know the mantra – the Brotherhood, the Mission, the Secret. Revealing any part of any one of those would get you a visit from one of the Swords, maybe from Mrs Ravenal herself.”

The young man dropped his eyes and clutched his tankard. “I…”

“You’re bright. And you try hard. I would have shipped you home before now if I didn’t think you could do well. Just keep on as you’ve begun and you’ll do fine. But never – never – forget this is real. Sloppiness has consequences, Henry. That’s why we’re always short-handed. The last intern they sent me took an obsidian knife in a fatal way after he insulted an Inca priest over on… well, I won’t say the name and you know it anyway.” He made a pushing motion. “As I said, you’re doing well enough. And… perhaps you’re right. We could take a carriage to Preston Hall and pay our respects. At worst the doorman will turn us away. She won’t dare shoot me in front of witnesses.”

“What is the reason for the celebration? Do they say celebration here?”

“We,” - the emphasis on the word was slight – “may attend a ball, or a gala. Possibly in honor of the inauguration of President Clay. Some special occasions are marked with celebration. Independence Day, or Washington’s Birthday, for example.”

“Indep… oh, right.”

The older man rolled his eyes up in supplication then flicked them around the room again. “It’s getting more crowded. We should move. There’s a livery stable – where?”

“Four blocks north, two blocks west.”

“Nicely done; I didn’t see you access your sec at all. Here, I’ll settle with the keep while you get our hats and coats.”

They were halfway through the open doorway when the older man paused. Under his breath he whispered, “Priority call. Turn here… we can loiter on this corner a few moments. Patching you in…” Then he stiffened and the younger man touched his arm in concern. A voce seemed to speak inside their heads, hoarse and rasping in urgency.

“Donneval! She’s trying to kill us!”
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Dum, dum, dum....dum!!! The intrigue is already thick in the air. This Frost woman...I can already feel how deadly she is. And the picture of Jackson and Clay prior to that...excellent. I do wonder if Clay will be able to keep counting on Webster and Calhoun. Any one of those three would certainly want and desire the post Clay currently holds. All the way around, you've already built a wild ride. The rollercoaster is just about to the top of that first hill... :D
An event in Charleston will have some effect in Washington...maybe so? I can see a loss of national stability, a loss of the presidential "immunity."

The last quote was quite suspenseful in its own way. A guess to what the next installment will be about?

I admire the writing style.
Fantastic! Another Director AAR, looking forward to this!
Splendid to see you've started this! Can't wait to see the twist you put on American history.

Hot Damn! Not only does Director bring us an intellectually intriguing story it is also an exciting action story to boot!

I'm not sure what is going to end up being the more exciting, watching to see if Clay can keep things going with Calhoun, Webster & company amid the fierce Democratic controlled Congress, or finding about this Kierianne Frost and her reasons for wanting to kill... Donneval is it?

Nicely done, Director, once again you've got me hooked! Can't wait for more!
<Raises Arms>


The roller coaster has begun.

<grunts with glee at the gee forces>

Glad to get in on the ground floor good sir!

I'm intrigued at where the story is going...but must say that I lack enough information to make any 'cute' comments as to the plot. That aside, I think our time traveling heroes have quite a healthy respect for us revolutionary barbarians here in 'the States...'

coz1 - our Knights are of course the good guys but good is relative... they have the human trait of seeing their own people as the destined winners and other timelines as not really 'people'.

No one picked up on the tavern? Strange.

Supreme Emporer - we have a bit more to do in setting the stage before the story properly begins. Oh, my, yes - that last quote is a direct lead-in to the next update.

kbromer - Hi! No warp drive in this one ( :D ). I will try to keep the 'pseudo-science' to a minimum. Where 'Frontier' was a space opera, this one is more an action flick. :p

Vann the Red - me? Twist history? Sir, you wound me! ( :D ) 'Come on baby, let's do the Twist!'

Draco Rexus - Hi Draco! 'Frontier' dealt with large issues on a large scale; this one will be more, um, up front and personal. We will quickly meet the rest of the main characters.

Clay - as a Whig reacting to two terms of Jackson - has already pledged himself to one term. Calhoun of course was Vice-President unter JQ Adams and Jackson's first term, betraying them both for his own ends. Webster is still a relative lightweight outside New England. What I've done is exaggerate the trends a bit and assume Clay's friends didn't play him false (as they did in 1836). When the Whigs united and decided they had to elect a President regardless of personal ambitions, they did (William Henry Harrison). So I assume a Clay Presidency would be possible in 1836. Jackson certainly hates the idea...

For purposes of the story - making the background familiar and yet a bit strange - I use a Clay Presidency to establish that we are not observing 'our' timeline.

Any guesses as to who Donneval could be? ;)

Herbert West - Hello and welcome to the party! Please feel free to ask questions or give compliments and critiques.

TheExecuter - we are still clanking up to the top of the rise. I haven't really given out much information so far. Mostly I intend to tell the story and answer questions as they are asked. So if something puzzles you, please ask!

Seriously... nobody looked up the tavern? :eek:o

LordAumerle - Hello, and welcome! Personally I think 'Who Wants to Be Napoleon' is a better gauge of my writing. I like 'Spirit' myself, but it was my first effort. If you like historybook style then 'Building a Better Bremen' might be more to your taste. The 'offsite' link is to an American Civil War AAR based on a game of Railroad Tycoon III.

Thank you all for your responses! This certainly motivates me to get cracking! Look for an update (counts on fingers) probably Sunday.