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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

DensleyBlair

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Gorgeous watercolours(?). Interesting to see work from a more figurative Islamic tradition. That said, though speaking only as a more or less lapsed christian, I’d say it is absolutely the right call not to graft james deans head into the prophet Muhammad.

Have you ever seen the Agnes Varda short about her Uncle Yanco? He was an artist who lived on a boat off the coast of San Francisco. His life and work as shown feels outsidery enough to maybe fit with the vibe of the mod.
 
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HistoryDude

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Nice pictures...

Yeah, probably a good idea not to edit depictions of the Prophet. I’m not Muslim, but I’m 90% that Muslims might not be happy with you if you did so. Although some would probably be fine as long as it’s clear it’s fictional.

These are incredibly weird teasers, yes.
 
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GangsterSynod

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Gorgeous watercolours(?). Interesting to see work from a more figurative Islamic tradition. That said, though speaking only as a more or less lapsed christian, I’d say it is absolutely the right call not to graft james deans head into the prophet Muhammad.

Have you ever seen the Agnes Varda short about her Uncle Yanco? He was an artist who lived on a boat off the coast of San Francisco. His life and work as shown feels outsidery enough to maybe fit with the vibe of the mod.
I'll definitely have to check that out. As I recall, the pictures are not watercolors. I don't remember what they actually are, though.
Nice pictures...

Yeah, probably a good idea not to edit depictions of the Prophet. I’m not Muslim, but I’m 90% that Muslims might not be happy with you if you did so. Although some would probably be fine as long as it’s clear it’s fictional.

These are incredibly weird teasers, yes.
Now I'm feeling compelled to up my weird teaser game in future.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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Enjoying so far
 
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Cartography is Hard, Alright?

GangsterSynod

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Ok, so- I have 1000 words of an update, finally. It features war, skullduggery, dubious omens, and even more dubious scholarly theories. Unfortunately, this update will require more than 1000 words, perhaps much more. I've had you guys waiting too long already, so I think it's time for, yes, another teaser while I work on the update (which will hopefully be out Monday). In the meantime, I'd like to present one of several terrible MS Paint maps that will feature in the update:
1599800248285.png

I will leave you all to speculate as to what is going on here. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves in the meantime.
 
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DensleyBlair

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Terrible?! Why, these are magnificent examples of work in the ancient painterly tradition of outsider hippie art, as was practised by the venerable communards of the squat settlements under the Golden Gate Bridge! The juxtaposition between Newton and Hernandez in particular stands out as a colourful reference to the old deity of youth, Barney the Dinosaur.
 
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HistoryDude

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I imagine that that map is the state of California before the Empire was created...

Nice to see this updated...
 
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GangsterSynod

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Ok, so:
I have 2000 words of the update done and I've reached a nice stopping point. Would you guys rather have a 2000-word part 1 of the update today and a likely similarly-sized part 2 on Monday or would you like to wait until Monday to get a 4000-word update?
 
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Chapter V, Part I: War: What is it Good For? Quite a Lot, Apparently

GangsterSynod

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1599938952009.png



In retrospect, there were omens, at least according to later Imperial court chroniclers.* The winter of 2353 was much colder than usual, but despite that, multiple bears, the holy symbol of California since time immemorial, were seen walking down from the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada down into the Valley. At their head, it was said, was a golden bear**, a creature mentioned often in folktales and identified completely with the land, but virtually never seen before. The animals lumbered down through the warring states of Newton, Sinclair, and Rubinstein, and where they went, battles ceased. The chroniclers report that no soldier dared fight while the bears marched, for fear of getting struck down by the divine powers incarnate in ursine garb.

The bears then proceeded down to Sacramento, in the state of Waters, eventually lumbering towards the entrance of King Gustavo Waters’ palace. The bears walked surprisingly delicately into the King’s great hall, where they supposedly bowed (as much as a bear can bow, one assumes)—but not to the King, to his loyal squire and retainer Elton Yudkow. The bears, the chroniclers report, withdrew as suddenly and silently as they came, leaving a baffled king and an even more baffled squire behind.

California at this point was a mess of warring states and pathetic warlords, though extensive consolidation had occurred when compared to the first post-Event century. The map above is in many ways a simplification and shows more than anything the states’ spheres of influence more than directly administered territory (with the exception of Chu, with its poor, mountainous land that was nonetheless completely centrally-administered). Nevertheless, even from the map and the geography that we have already discussed, the status of the states can be gleaned. The Imamite state of Abbas controlled the entirety of Socal and was interested in maintaining the chaotic state of affairs to the north and subjugating the independent warlords in the lower Valley. Hernandez and Rubinstein had joined forces to partition wealthy, dying Newton, though they would almost certainly eye each other uneasily when the job was done. Sinclair aimed to control the strategic-though harsh- terrain of the Sierra Nevada and break the power of the non-aligned warlords while all other powers were distracted, with an eye to seizing their own piece of Newton. Flores and Chu were united and preparing to go on the warpath.
1599938905074.png


The kings of Waters, while powerful in their own domains, had faced competent, organized noble revolts throughout the last century, giving up more and more power in the process. A series of Kings unable to meaningfully exert their authority outside their crownlands led to an isolated court with no friendships and many de facto independent vassals. King Tyrus Chu and Queen Drusilla Flores, both rulers in their own right, saw an opportunity to partition the crownlands and in April 2354 (and according to the chroniclers a year to the day exactly since the bears’ visit) sealed their alliance with a lavish wedding in Tyrus’ palace at Humboldt. They also hired an assassin to do away with the heirless King Gustavo. The chaos of the interregnum, they hoped, would cause Waters’ autonomous vassals to defect to them as the strongest nearby powers of their own accord, leaving room for an easy seizure and partition of the crownlands among themselves. Unfortunately for them, when Waters was killed while out riding in Napa, his body peppered with so many arrows he reportedly looked like a chicken, there was no interregnum, and as it turned out, Elton Yudkow would be far more of a challenge than they bargained for.

We do not know much about Elton’s origins. Even his name is suspicious. “Yudkow” is not a classically Californian name, nor is it particularly traceable to any other place or people. There are two schools of thought about it, one perhaps more credible than the other. Elton was, as even his Imperial chroniclers and followers acknowledged, a willful, proud man with a capricious sense of humor. It is very possible that it simply popped into his head one day and caught his fancy. Some more fringe scholars think that he came from a family who converted to Judaism who originally bore the surname Jock. In Hebrew, “Jock” would be rendered “ יך” or “ ק‎י‎”, with the letters “Yud-Kuf” or “Yud-Kaf/Chaf”. This is an intriguing theory, and it makes a rough kind of sense on first glance. Unfortunately, there is no real evidence to support this. There were Jews, mostly of the Reform and Conservative schools, in the Valley, the warlord Rubinstein state being a particularly prominent example, but there is no evidence that there was any real conversion among the thin contemporary sources we have. Additionally, Elton’s philosophical writings feature no particularly exceptional knowledge about the tenets and observance of Judaism. ** It is a mystery, like almost all he touched. We know Elton lived, died, ruled, and wrote. What we do not truly have is Elton the man or Elton the child. There is a great ghost at the center of our portrait, and while we can shine light around the edges, we are ultimately left with a shadow.

Elton was almost certainly not sent to the Court of Waters by virtue of his family’s political connections, as many children were in those days. His actions as wartime ruler of Waters and Celestial Emperor suggest the picture of a striver, someone born with great intelligence and a chip on his shoulder (rather curious for the founder of a religion that highly values stillness, peace, and harmony with one’s self). This, and the fact that no records of any “Yudkows” owning land anywhere in the area, seems to indicate that he was either lowborn or of exceedingly minor nobility fallen on hard times and considered effectively no better than a peasant. More than likely, some minor functionary near his birthplace noted his intelligence as a child and thought to ask the royal court if they needed a position filled. The records of the old Castle Waters in Solano indicate that he was brought on board as a cook’s assistant, a terrible job involving immense time pressure, intense heat (so much so that there were admittedly infrequent reports of kitchen boys dying from heatstroke), and frequent hauling of heavy loads. The chief cooks also tended to the martinet at this time, at least if Martin Woolpacker’s contemporary satire Thomas, or a Kitchen Tale provides an accurate picture. Its description of a “cook’s temper on blazing boil, for rewards so paltry, for endless toil” and a cycle of violence over the most trivial matters such as “heeding not the warning for salad dress’, nine strong punches ‘bout the chest” hint at the grim existence of a kitchen boy. We can well imagine that Elton would have sought any way out he could. Fortunately for him, at some point in 2251, he caught the attention of King Waters, for he was listed in that year’s records not as “Elton, kitchen boy”, but as “Elton, squire”.

According to Lucinda Bihari, the Early Imperial chronicler generally considered to be the most reliable, in the hour after the news of the King’s death reached the castle, Elton did five things. First, he went to speak to Waters’ wife, Queen Heather Tehama. Bihari does not report what he said or did in that meeting, but he emerged with the Queen half an hour later. In the hall, he gave an speech where he declared, in a voice that sounded “almost inhuman, impassioned, frenzied, unfamiliar as Elton to all who heard it”, that “Waters would be revivified, but under another’s name, and would rule all California”. Immediately after the speech, he and the Queen were married in front of the stunned courtiers, who were prevented from leaving the castle. He then went to the barracks to raise the castle guard and with their help rounded up a few of the King’s personal attendants who for a variety of reasons had not, as they normally did, go with the King on that fateful trip, executing them immediately. On the sixty-first minute after the news came to court, Elton formally declared war on the states of Chu and Flores.

The Northern War took six months. Two of those months were purely devoted to marshalling forces. There was a month of maneuvering and skirmish culminating in one battle, and then three months of siege warfare. Elton’s tactics were with a few exceptions fairly unremarkable (but competent), but his strategy was unparalleled.**** Mountainous terrain is not generally used for rapid aggressive warfare, but Elton’s strategy of pushing through the fortified mountain passes of Bragg and Mendocino no matter the cost gave him a crucial if costlu edge against Chu and Flores. Neither expected little Waters to go on the offensive and they could have never conceived it would happen so quickly. Additionally, because of Chu’s extreme centralization and its poor terrain, every one of the farms Elton’s soldiers burned hurt King Tyrus far more than it had any right to. By late June, Tyrus had to move or watch his kingdom be disintegrated in front of his eyes. They had been waiting for Queen Drusilla’s forces to make their way to Humboldt, but only a few had arrived. Tyrus decided to try and use Elton’s aggressive moves against him, chasing down small groups of soldiers and forage parties and striking larger forces at nightfall. But Elton had a trick up his sleeve. He had as many as 75% of his 3000 soldiers withdraw half a day’s ride away from the main force before the forces of Chu arrived and ordered the remaining soldiers to dirty their armor and act dispirited. The goal was to make King Tyrus reassess how badly their losses must have been when sacking those mountain castles. All the soldiers at the front needed to do was to last the assaults until they could be reinforced. It worked, and near the aptly-named castle of Fortuna, King Tyrus’ 5000-strong army was utterly wiped out at the cost of only 450 on Elton’s side and the King himself was killed leading from the front. In three months, the state of Chu had collapsed completely. Flores was now faced with a dilemma. There was a much stronger than anticipated enemy that had completely destroyed their ally and now faced their widely dispersed forces along a border they had not bothered to defend. Peaces were offered, even extravagant ones, including giving up half the state to Elton. None were accepted. Elton would accept nothing less than total surrender and absorption into his state. It only took three months, repeating many of the same aggressive raiding tactics as before, but this time, there was essentially no resistance. They swept through town after town, castle after castle, arriving after only a month at the Queen’s capital of Redding. It was the only significant pocket of resistance Elton would encounter, but after two months it too fell. Elton had consolidated the North at the cost of relatively few lives in just six months. His temporal power in the North was completely unquestioned now.

_______________________________________________________


*I’m diverging from the mod’s canon in this chapter to some extent, mostly because I thought a loose retread of the Warring States Period (incidentally, a period of which I know almost nothing, so I’m sure there are mistakes galore) was more interesting than what the title history says.

**In reality, the California Grizzly, the “golden bear”, has apparently been extinct since the 1920s, and is memorialized by California’s flag, sports teams, and military installations. Californian black bears are still around, though.

***The last name didn’t really make sense to me, so this was one of the actual possible explanations I came up with.

****When he died, he had 21 Martial, according to the history files, with no illness or anything that could have hurt those numbers. That pretty darn good but not-amazing stat, combined with the things he’s done, makes me think he wasn’t really a combat god but that he was very, very, good at one or two things. Also, probably because of CKII’s combat system, most AARs tend to feature tactical geniuses rather than strategic, so I thought it could be cool to change it up.
__________________________________________________________
Well, here it is. Hope you guys enjoy. I think it was kind of a problem that I have next to no familiarity with military history, so I hope I'm not totally off-base with how a war could have worked.
 
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HistoryDude

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Well, it looks like that attempted assassination was a mistake...
 
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Specialist290

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***The last name didn’t really make sense to me, so this was one of the actual possible explanations I came up with.
As with many things in this mod, Elton Yudkow's name is an obfuscated reference to a real person -- in this case, Eliezer Yudkowsky, a somewhat controversial autodidact who is known in certain circles for his advocacy for artificial intelligence research, Bayesian utilitarianism, and transhumanism. His particular link to the mod is thematic rather than for anything specific -- he sells his position by saying that if we don't take AI research seriously, we'll likely create some kind of intelligent "paperclip maximizer" that will wipe out all life on Earth entirely by accident. (Also, he has a bit of a cult-like following, which why in the lore his fictional equivalent gets to found his own religion.)

In other words, your Hebrew etymology proposal happens to be serendipitously correct, both in-universe and in the real world :)

As for your take on Elton's strategy and tactics: I didn't see anything glaringly wrong with the chain of reasoning there. Deception has a long and storied history in military affairs, and Elton's particular ruse would fit quite well in a quasi-medieval setting.
 
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DensleyBlair

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Man, Elton sure didn't take the king's death well. Or maybe he did and he's making the most out of it – hard to say. Either way, Chu and Flores made a terrible blunder. And Elton made short work of exploiting it.
 
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GangsterSynod

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Well, it looks like that attempted assassination was a mistake...
Man, Elton sure didn't take the king's death well. Or maybe he did and he's making the most out of it – hard to say. Either way, Chu and Flores made a terrible blunder. And Elton made short work of exploiting it.
I did want to give the impression that Elton had accumulated quite a lot of power in the court in quite a short time (and may-or may not-have been sleeping with the Queen prior to the King's death). I imagine there's another timeline where he commissions an assassin a few years later.
As with many things in this mod, Elton Yudkow's name is an obfuscated reference to a real person -- in this case, Eliezer Yudkowsky, a somewhat controversial autodidact who is known in certain circles for his advocacy for artificial intelligence research, Bayesian utilitarianism, and transhumanism. His particular link to the mod is thematic rather than for anything specific -- he sells his position by saying that if we don't take AI research seriously, we'll likely create some kind of intelligent "paperclip maximizer" that will wipe out all life on Earth entirely by accident. (Also, he has a bit of a cult-like following, which why in the lore his fictional equivalent gets to found his own religion.)

In other words, your Hebrew etymology proposal happens to be serendipitously correct, both in-universe and in the real world :)

As for your take on Elton's strategy and tactics: I didn't see anything glaringly wrong with the chain of reasoning there. Deception has a long and storied history in military affairs, and Elton's particular ruse would fit quite well in a quasi-medieval setting.
Huh, that makes sense. It did seem so out-of-keeping with the region. I've really only spotted a few names. The Rodhams and Clintons in New York (and the Wayne and Falcone families in New York, but of course they're entirely fictional), the Laurier family in Ontario, the Iturbides in Mexico...
_______________________________________
Like I said before, I hope to have an update out by Monday, but I'm starting my senior thesis and I really need to stop being lazy on my research, so there is a possibility it will be delayed to around Friday. Hopefully we can get this on a decent-ish schedule after that, though.
 
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Doctor Baby

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Huh, and all this time I would have sworn his name was 'Yudknow'. As in, "You'd know it if you saw it", or something. I like your idea of where the actual name comes, and all the more interesting with @Specialist290 's illumination...

Anyways, I've greatly enjoyed the writing so far, and AtE is so rich with strange possibilities that I hope you're able to keep this going, at whatever pace suits you. And good luck on that thesis!
 
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GangsterSynod

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Yes, sorry. Got much busier than expected. Turns out reconciling amorphous theology with other both realworld and AtE canon belief systems is a wee bit harder than expected...
But there will be an update, I can guarantee that. It's a better use of my procrastination time than Football Manager and I've done far too much of that recently. Anyway, I have a few sentences written, so hopefully I can get one out this Friday or Saturday. Thank you for your very kind words, @Doctor Baby! Every AAR writer seems to say some variation on "comments keep me writing" and when I started doing this I was a bit skeptical of that, but it really is true.
But I can offer another terrible MS Paint map to tide you guys over!
1600921299952.png
 
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DensleyBlair

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It's a better use of my procrastination time than Football Manager and I've done far too much of that recently.
Post-cataclysmic re-reading of LA Galaxy on the way I hope. :p
 
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Hootieleece

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Maybe the LA Galaxy can be a Mercenary Band....

In my ended East Coast game...at one point I hired the "Philadelphia Eagles" Mercenary Band.
 
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