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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Enewald

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*9 months later*

Uh uh, trying to catch up again. Good thing is you haven't written too fast. :D
 

Mr. Capiatlist

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Just started reading this, your honeymoon will offer me a chance to begin catching up!

All the best for the forthcoming wedding, hope you both have a fantastic time in Ireland.
Glad to see life imitating art. Congratulations!
Congratulations indeed! Make sure you don't stress or rush yourself getting updates done before and after the hiatus. I'm sure we'd all rather you miss a self-imposed deadline if the alternative was giving us something that you're not happy with.
I know it's not original but congratulations! :) Have a good time in Ireland.
First might I say congratulations and enjoy Ireland for me. Florida isn't all it's cracked up to be this time of the year.

But as for this story (I think AAR does not satisfactorily describe it), it is fantastic. The world building is magnificent and you make it different, but not unbelievable. If you talked to a friend about French Cossacks, they would think you are crazy. You make it seem completely believable. Your characters are also very good. When it is hard to figure out who the antagonist is, you have done well. One complaint I have is Vishly. I loved his character in the beginning, but at the end he was just crazy. I guess I was spoiled by the parallels you drew with Vlad Țepeș. I just love Vlad in history and how in Romania he is considered a national hero for reforming the economy, breaking the power of the nobles, and standing up to the Ottomans. Vishly just didn't live up to his real life counterpart. Other than that this is a beautiful story indeed, especially your modern updates.
*9 months later*

Uh uh, trying to catch up again. Good thing is you haven't written too fast. :D
Thank you everyone! It really means a lot to me.

Currently trying to get some writing done, but as I feared it is much harder than one would expect with so many things to do. We shall see what the week brings.
 

Mr. Capiatlist

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Sorry for the long delay. I have started writing again so hopefully I'll resume next weekend!
 

Seelmeister

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Sorry for the long delay. I have started writing again so hopefully I'll resume next weekend!
I hope you and your wife had a fantastic day, and enjoyed a relaxing honeymoon. Looking forward to seeing the next installment.
 

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Thank you for your patience.

Bastions
Chapter Fifty Two: Empire of Sand
Part 3


Prelude
Christian Qurati made up a large part of the population in the Holy Lands, even as the XV Century drew near. They were nominally led by the Edessan Pope, a figure who was part religious leader part military commander and currently in hiding in the Arabian Desert. The old Edessan Empire had fallen, her peoples scattered to the winds of the Near East in what they called "The Diaspora." The only remaining free Qurati state was the crowded island of Bahrain and recently the Christians had taken to fleeing to the other side of the Indian Ocean where they had set up a string of trading cities along the western coast including the great city of Goa. But the once-great Seljuk Empire which had conquered the Qurati was now gone, fallen into the squabbling hands of petty warlords. The Qurati grew restless, knowing that only their own complacency was keeping them from uniting against these weakened conquerors. Organized by their church and its wandering preachers, the Qurati began a long and bloody revolt in the city of Edessa in 1399. Their aim was the recreation of their lost Kingdom and the expulsion of the non-believers from the land.

November 1st, 1399

Bojaan sat in the back of a cart, his hands bound and his mouth gagged. His captors also made sure that his eyes were covered, though he didn't know the reason if he was meant to be dead. Maybe they did not want him cursing his captors in death, surely that was the only explanation. Off to his right, maybe no more than a yard, he could hear his only child, Mateo, sobbing through his own gag. It had been hours since he had heard his wife and he had started to assume the worst. The ride had been a long one, though it was hard to tell without being able to see where they were going. For all he knew they had been going around in circles for days. Hunger bit into him as he thought about it, his captors were cruel and only fed them when they truly had to. From time to time they forced a reed through the gag and let him sip the hot water they carried with them as they journeyed through the scorched desert.

Outside of the wagon he could hear his captors chatting in Persian. The one was expecting a child soon, and he was sad to not be there for when his wife gave birth. The other offered his condolences, saying he had missed the birth of his first daughter and his wife had never let him off the hook for it. In the pauses between their chattering, the rolling of the wheels and the groaning of the camels was the only thing to be heard. Not even the cawing of patient vultures gave a needed break from the monotony. It meant they were far, far from civilization, in the depths of the unchartered deserts. So it came as a surprise when Bojaan felt the cart come to a stop and the drivers fall dead silent. He knew that they were straining to hear something, something just beyond a ridge or maybe the one after that. It was a slow realization that he was listening to two men trying to listen to an untold number of people watching them. The cart slowly began to move again, cautiously as if over a narrow bridge of safety.

Suddenly it froze with not so much as a squeak. It took five or ten minutes but eventually footsteps surrounded the cart and Bojaan heard the first signs of salvation since he had been kidnapped: the slow methodical speech of Qurati.

"A lone cart in the middle of the sandy sea... that wouldn't raise suspicions at all," a voice said.

"I wonder what they were doing so far from the cities," another asked.

"Obviously," a third chimed in, "they were lost. Why else would they be this far out?"

"Perhaps they didn't want to be seen," the first replied unsatisfied with his companion's answer. Suddenly it dawned on Bojaan to scream and try to get their attention. He called out in Qurati, but the gag just made it into the sounds of struggle. Outside the Qurati were silent and out of nowhere a sword pierced the fabric above Bojaan's head. The cloth tore with a sickening rip and suddenly the cart was filled with the fresh dry air of the desert. A rough hand grabbed the binds on his head and repositioned it so that had there been no blind they would have been eye to eye.

"Slavers?" one asked.

"Why would slavers have only a handful of slaves?"

"Bad week at market?" another jested, provoking a few chuckles.

The first immediately turned around and raised an irritated eyebrow, "And what would you say if it had been your brother who was only one of a handful of slaves? No, these are not slaves... or at least were not bought or captured as slaves." He turned and pulled the gag from Bojaan's mouth but left the blinders. The captive gagged and coughed as fresh air flooded his lungs and he spat the loose ends of the gag from his tongue.

"God be kind to you all!" Bojaan called as he struggled forward, trying to even feel the clothing of his saviors.

"See?" the first said, "A brother of the sand. What tribe do you hail from?"

"Tribe? No. I am from Ancient Edessa, city of Christians. My name is Bojaan, son of Kristjan: Prince of Edessa."

"You are a long way from home then." The leader of the Qurati nomads pulled the blinders off his guest and then dramatical swung his arm out to welcome Bojaan to the northern wastes of Arabia proper. "Welcome to the land of the Arar, Master Bojaan." The others in the tribe kneeled before their guest, their cross-shaped swords drawn and point down.

"The Arar?"

"In our tongue we are the 'Christians of the Sands,' and this is our home, far from where Seljuks and Romans can harass us. You will be safe so long as we can make it to camp by night fall."

"And what of my son and wife?" Bojaan pleaded, looking over his shoulder where he saw only his son. The woman next to him was his niece, obviously mistaken for his wife and taken along with them. "God's mercy, please... where is my wife?" Bojaan turned around and had his host cut his bindings and he quickly crawled across the wooden cart to his son, tearing off the gag and blinders he saw that he was still alive, though weak.

The host grabbed the boy under the arms and lifted him off the cart and onto a near-by camel. While Bojaan checked over his niece the Arar began pilfering what goods they could find including some food and water. "Do you believe him, Jakob?" one of the lower Arar asked his leader.

"Believe what?"

"That he is the son of Prince Kristjan?"

"I am not sure, it would be something only an idiot would blurt out if it wasn't true... he is a valuable prize not just to the Armenians, but also the Persians and the Arabs. How is the woman doing, Master Bojaan?!" Jakob called loudly. When a response didn't come immediately, he poked his head into the back of the cart and saw Bojaan covering the woman with a thin blanket. "I am sorry," Jakob said quietly, "Who was she?"

"My brother's eldest daughter."

"She looked old enough to be your wife."

"My brother is quite a bit older than I am, that is why I don't understand why I was kidnapped."

"Likely for ransom," Jakob said coldly.

"Maybe, but it doesn't seem right... why would they have taken me all the way to the Arar?"

"The world is full of fools and if we don't want to be counted among their ranks, we must be moving now."

"Do we not have time to bury her?" Bojaan asked.

"No, the Arar do not bury their dead for sand makes for poor burials."

"How do the Arar deal with their dead, then?"

"We burn them in pyres," Jakob explained. The idea almost made Bojaan retch, but his stomach was not only empty, but dry too so it only made a gurgling noise. Jakob nodded knowingly, "Burials would be our preference too, but the nights are cold and the sands weak and driven by the winds. We can leave her here if you would rather."

"No, burn her; just don't let me see it happen." Bojaan walked toward where his son sat quietly on top of a camel and took the reins from the Arar who had held it. The troupe began to move out and the smell of burning wood began to permeate the air around them. The Prince had no idea where the Arar were leading him or what would happen when they arrived at that place, but it was the best chance he had to see tomorrow so he was grateful to have it.
 

Mr. Capiatlist

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Glad to have you back, and glad to see the story take the arc of your most interesting group of people!
I'm glad to hear it.


Also, here is a picture from the wedding to tide people over for my lack of graphics in the last several chapters.
 

Keanon

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That's pretty cool, you look really handsome. I find it funny that you got married on my birthday, hoping you're enjoying life :) I'm not forgiving you for the lack of maps for that reason, though :b
 

SirkTheMonkey

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The story is back and it has brought an enigma with it. Hopefully someone will eventually explain why a prisoner was being carted through the middle of nowhere.
 

Mr. Capiatlist

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Beautiful. Magnificent. You, sir, have quite a pair to wear a kilt! Bravo!
Thank you, my mother wasn't terribly pleased though. :p

That's pretty cool, you look really handsome. I find it funny that you got married on my birthday, hoping you're enjoying life :) I'm not forgiving you for the lack of maps for that reason, though :b
Sorry, sorry! I am doing my best but I always get caught up in writing or Skyrim or Pathfinder... so it is hard to balance. If you haven't checked it out yet there is the facebook group which usually gets updates with maps and flags and those will resume shortly.

You should grow a longer beard. :p
Well... I didn't have a picture of it but it was about a month before I shaved after the wedding... so it got long.

The story is back and it has brought an enigma with it. Hopefully someone will eventually explain why a prisoner was being carted through the middle of nowhere.
Good thing I am in the mood for writing then.
 

Mr. Capiatlist

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Bastions
Chapter Fifty Two: Empire of Sand
Part 4


Prelude
"Sometimes it was hard to believe that they [the Qurati] only made up like ten percent of the population: with the amount of control they had in both [in the Syro-Iraqi] Parliament and in the talks about dividing the nation up you would have thought they were fifty. But they were united and that is what made them strong."
- Francis Eams, British over-seer of the Syro-Iraqi split​

"The Persians were administrators, the Syrians were merchants, the Kurds were farmers, and the Muslims were historians... it worked well"

"What about the Qurati?"

"... Th-... the Qurati are soldiers."
- A conversation between a diplomat from Syria-Iraq and a French reporter​

The fact that the Federation survived for as long as it did was a damned miracle, and I doubt we'd ever see such a miracle again. The Qurati were integral to the whole unit, despite there being so few of them. They would fight and the others knew it. They knew to be on their best behavior. You read about the family vendettas in places like Pashtunistan where three brothers will murder their sister's rapist... but that cannot hold a candle to the Qurati. Their very culture is steeped in this pseudo-fascist militaristic organization that puts them at the top of their own lives. The Federation survived because the Papists were told by their King to obey... and he had reason to say that: he benefited greatly from being free of Bahrain. When the Federation stopped being a benefit to the Qurati it just stopped being.
- An excerpt from Powder Keg: The Federation of Syria-Iraq by Dr. Günter Hess​

"The Qurati had two holy cities: Aleppo, which they were not given in the trades; and Edessa, which was part of Armenia... I'm honestly surprised they didn't just invade both."
- George Potter, diplomat from the United Kingdom to Quratia​

November 3rd, 1399

Life with the Arar was, as expected, enigmatic. They spoke little and when they often did so in little riddles or folksy clichés. They referred to the Persians as "Seljuks" or "Turks" and wore the distinctive garb of the Bedouin. They wore long beards and often had long, braided hair, though the younger men kept their hair short and cropped. The women were shy and generally kept their distance by remaining in women-only areas that had been blocked off with fabric walls. Their chatter, though, was easy enough to pick up as they went about washing and cooking. Unlike the Edessans who wore yellows, or the Bahraini who wore reds... the Arar stuck to more traditional whites though some had the greens and blues of the local Muslims.

Bojaan sat in a small tent, its sides rolled up so that a gentle breeze blew through, bringing refreshing air and a small amount of sand. In his hand he had a glass of wine that he thought was from Edessa. No other place could they find alcohol in the desert, the Muslims wouldn't tolerate it.

"We ferment it ourselves," Jakob said quietly, "from dates." Generally he spoke quietly, especially since they had arrived in the camp. He laughed as heartily as a drunken Swede, but his words were always hushed and made you lean in to pay attention. His face was calm and wrinkled, giving off an aura of wisdom and gentleness. Bojaan noticed that his eyes would sort of sparkle after a glass or two of wine.

"So who are you?" Bojaan asked.

"Who am I?" Jakob repeated, "I am Jakob of the Miro'ic."

"But who are you to these people? They seem to have a great deal of respect for you."

"I am the son-in-law of the former chief, but know I act sort of as a chief after my brother-in-law was killed by a Bedouin tribe just a few months ago. And you, you said you were the child of Prince Kristjan; do you mean Prince Kristjan of the House Borna'ic?"

"Bornavic?"

"I believe so. What sound was that? Wah... wah..."

"Huh? Vah?"

"Yes, Wvah! All the city folks say Wvah. Maybe we've been in the sand too long, friend."

"Huh... but yeah, I am of the House of Borna. My father was a vassal of the Persians until he died a few years ago."

"I am sorry to hear he is gone, he had many friends here in the sand... but not in the sea if I recall."

"In the sea? Do you mean the Bahraini?"

"And their rich Goan merchants. Money means a lot... but so does a crown." Bojaan sat there visibly disturbed so Jakob leaned forward to continue, "Especially an old one that many thought was long burried."

"So he would kill me? Why not my brother?"

"What?"

"My brother. Remember, that girl was my niece: my brother's daughter."

"Yes... I understand..."

"Understand?"

"You said you were afraid she had been confused for your wife... I don't think so... I think you were confused for her father."

Bojaan feel back in his seat and let it all soak in for a bit. Jakob got up and removed their dirtied dishes from the table in between them. He walked off to where the women worked quietly behind the silken walls. All the while the poor Edessan prince sat dumbfounded. Were the Bahraini really after his brother's crown? What did they expect to do with it? As he thought the soft pounding of camel hooves announced the arrival of a messenger from the north. He slowed his beast to a stop, handing over a large sealed message to one of Jakob's underlings. The boy hurried off with the message to his master, handing it over and then making himself scarce.

"BOY!" Jakob called, getting the attention of his now-hidden underling. "Boy, get the rest, you know where they are. And be quick, we'll meet here, okay?" The boy nodded and then hurried off to grab a camel and begin riding to a destination known only to him and Jakob.

"What was that?" Bojaan asked.

"Edessa calls, the Arar are still Qurati and we still fight for Pope and people."

"Fight who?"

"Seljuks, of course."

"The Seljuks are long gone, you mean the Persians?"

"Seljuks, Persians, Arabs, Romans... is there really a difference? The enemies of Christ are enemies, why given them faces and cultures. Just makes it harder to stab them."

"What about the Bahraini?"

"If they get involved... well... we'll see if we get there. I wouldn't concern myself too much about it. A long time ago the Qurati were united, maybe they will remember who the rightful kings are... of course who is a rightful king is always up to discussion."

"What is that supposed to be?"

"A rightful king is the son of an unlawful king. Remember, there was a time before the House of Borna... when Jerusalem was ruled by Arabs. The right of conquest, the right of blood spilled, is a powerful right. The Bahraini know this, but they also have only the weakest grasp on Arabia. Their kingdom is small and weak and shrinking: they want to rule a reborn Edessa for the wealth and prestige. It is not enough to simply be an ally of such a kingdom."
 

Mr. Capiatlist

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Qurati, (IRL)Prussian Junkers of Mesopotamia? :p
Not really Junkers. They weren't a ruling class, but in politics when The Persians or Arabs would have several parties (Socialists, Conservatives, &c) the Qurati were united and generally voted behind one power, it gave them a disproportionate say.
 

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I find the modern quotes very intriguing. Assuming the alt-history nations are roughly analagous to our own, that's a lot of land covered by one government.