Prelude - Setting the Stage for Bolad of Kordofan

ChicagoZohan

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Prelude - Setting the Stage for Bolad of Kordofan

Throughout the course of human history we can find, again and again, that the ancient empires possess a certain siren's call that drives men to fight and die in their name long after they are gone. The legitimacy that derives from tracing one's line back to those primordial polities, no matter how tenuous the connection, was to many rulers more precious than gold. Here in the West, we focus on the legacy of Rome and Greece. But these are hardly the only ancient states that have fueled the dreams of men whose ambition hungered for an empire.

This is the story of an empire born from one such dream, which sprang not from memories of Rome or Greece, but from a place far more ancient -- a place that inspired the Romans and Greeks themselves. This is the story of a chieftain whose people descended from Pharaohs, and who dreamed of restoring that legacy once more.

It is commonly known that long ago, the Hellenic Greeks took Egypt and installed their own Ptolemy as Pharaoh, adopting much of Egypt's native culture while injecting their own influence at once. Ptolemy was not the first foreigner to rule over Egypt as Pharoh. Alexander, in fact, took Egypt from Persia, not the Pharaohs, and was greeted as a liberator. And the Persians were only the last in a long line of foreign kings. Indeed, Egypt had thirty one dynasties, and often it was a foreign ruler who would conquer Egypt during a period of decline, install themselves as new Pharaohs, and begin a new great dynasty.

When our story begins, it had been almost nine hundred years since Ptolemy XV -- the last Pharaoh of Egypt -- was killed by Octavian, who would become the first Emperor of Rome. One empire replacing another on the world stage with grim finality. And in the time since then, Rome had decayed, shrinking into a vestige of its former glory confined to the East. The Arabian Conquest had swallowed Egypt whole and devoured it, leaving little of its ancient legacy but silent monuments, eroding slowly beneath shifting sands.

But the fire of Pharaonic Egypt had not burned out quite yet, for the chieftain of a minor tribe still remembered the tales of his fathers. His name was Bolad, and he ruled a modest tribe of Daju peoples who lived in inner East Africa. When he was a child, Bolad would eagerly listen to his father's tales of the time when their forefathers, who had ruled a mighty kingdom in the lands of Nubia, had sent their younger sons forth to conquer the fallen kingdom of Egypt. The princes then rebuilt the temples and restored the priesthoods, studying the ancient hieroglyphs carefully to ensure their rule would be as glorious as that of the Pharaohs of old.

There is little archaeological evidence that this story is true as told, but as we will often see throughout this tale, when studying this story it is important to understand not just what really happened, but also what the people living through these events and making these decisions truly believed. True or not, this foundational myth would drive generations of Bolad's descendants towards a unified goal, and change the history of the African continent and the wider world beyond.

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So, here it is. My own Let's Play! I'm deeply inspired by @Cora Giantkiller and their wonderful A Most Forgiving Land: A Nigerian Coast AAR in that I want to go for a history book style, but I'm thinking it could be fun to do more of a "Pop History" vibe. Think if Dan Carlin's Hardcore History was an AAR, though of course of much lower quality! But probably just as long-winded.... sorry!

:oops:

Also, of course, the subject matter -- an African chief who believes he is destined to be a Pharaoh -- is a bit more... 'fantasy'. I hope people like that!

My inspiration here was pretty simple. I have a personal game as House Karen, creating the Persian Empire. I did it by swearing fealty to my next door neighbor right away, eating his realm and converting it from the inside, then claiming his kingdom and taking it; then I did the same to the Abbasids, revolted when I had 3 kingdoms, and founded Persia. Since then I've gobbled up the rest of the Abbasids and most of India. It's fun... but I'm mostly playing on speed 4-5 and I barely know my characters. And I feel like it would have been a lot harder if I had stayed independent.

So that's this game. Same inspiration as my Persia game -- let's rebuild a fallen empire -- but this time I start further behind the big enemies, if that's possible; my tech is gonna be terrible. But I have actual opportunity for expansion without having to swear fealty, and I get to play around in a newly expanded area (I didn't play much Holy Fury and this is even better anyhow!). The religion "Kushitism" description kinda hints at a link to ancient Egypt so my goal is to get Egypt and reform my religion into something that fits better. We'll see if I actually accomplish this, and if I can really stay independent the whole time. It won't be easy -- wish me luck!

Plus, slowing down to take pictures and put a narrative together will be nice, too.

PS: OK, I swear I'm not trying to copy Cora, even though their LP is amazing. But my starting Chieftain is also homosexual. It doesn't show you in the preview screen.

PSS: Not sure quite how long these will take me but I will try to get a good rhythm going.

PSSS: First time going tribal! Eek!
 
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Nikolai

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Nice, very nice. Really looking forward to this. Worthy goal, and I love history book AARs. :) Good luck!
 
Chapter 1.1: In the Lands of Kordofan

ChicagoZohan

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Chapter 1.1: In the Lands of Kordofan

The vast Sahara desert is bordered, along its southern edge, by a transitional region known as the Sahel. Not as dry as the desert to the north, and bordered to the south by grasslands that give way to dense, uninhabitable jungle. The region is home to a number of tribal groups, some belonging to the native Daju people; others to the Zaghawa peoples, who have arrived in the area from the north, likely decedent from the Garamantes of Libya who brought Berber culture deep into the African interior.

002.png


On the eastern end of the Sahel, in a place known as Kordofan, a chieftain named Bolad had come to power. He wasn't the strongest chief in the area, not by a long shot; he didn't even control all of the Kordofan region, as neighboring tribes had taken control of the western part of the land long ago, when Bolad's grandfather still ruled. Still, his people had all they needed -- fertile grazing lands for their cattle in the southern part of their territory, fertile hunting grounds in the small forest in the center, and the twin villages of Ubaid* and Shatt prospered.

*Note: The map above shows Kordofan's capital as El-Obeid. This is a Romanization of the Arabic name for the place, "Al-Ubaid". As we continue with our story, it is important to remember that during Bolad's time, his people did not yet write down their own history. The Chroniclers wouldn't begin to write down the oral traditions of the Daju people for many years yet; until then, we rely on folklore and the writings of their neighbors. Still, in the future I will try to ensure the proper name of these villages is show, when possible; the capital of Kordofan will be labeled as "Ubaid" going forwards.

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Bolad's father was killed during a raid when he was still relatively young, so Bolad -- his only son -- inherited the chiefdom at the young age of 22. Bolad was a man of many appetites -- The Daju people were semi-nomadic cattle herders at this time, and Bolad was always growing his herd larger, even when this came at the cost of hurting his relations with the other powerful figures in his tribe.

Bolad's appetite was not limited to large herds of cattle, however; the Chroniclers are not always reliable when because of how long after these events occurred, but all the sources agree that Bolad was a lustful man. Though he preferred the company of other men, Bolad would marry and take many concubines, ensuring his line would prosper.

If Bolad's greed hurt his relationship with the elders of the tribe, his forgiving nature earned back their respect and then some. Chief Bolad was never one to punish his enemy when he could turn him into an ally instead, and this would be his strength when it came to controlling his tribe. Bolad ruled with a gentle hand, guiding his people along the path to greatness.

It might seem strange to start our study of the neo-Egyptian Empire here, a thousand miles away on the African grasslands with a tribe of cattle herders, but this is where the Chronicles all start -- with a petty chieftain and his unremarkable tribe. Bolad was a learned man, despite the remoteness of his tribe, and within the limits of his time and place, he learned all he could of history. He was fascinated by the Pharaohs of old and his peoples' supposed descent from them, and he shared this passion with the rest of his tribe in a way that none of his forefathers could ever achieve. The fire that Bolad would set would burn across the African continent, changing it forever.

Bolad had a son, a boy known to history as Murtin ibn Bolad, who was born to him just before he took leadership of his tribe. Murtin's mother had died in childbirth, leaving Bolad alone; he would not marry again until after rising to the rank of chieftain. As of Bolad's ascent, Murtin was 2 years old.

004.png


Directly to the west of Kordofan was the land of Darfur. Chief Dahab ruled over another tribe of Daju peoples in the eastern part of Darfur, and his father had taken the western part of Kordofan from Bolad's grandfather. Though they shared a common tongue and similar sets of beliefs, Dahab's tribe was encroaching on Bolad's territory. They would have to be brought to heel.

006.png


Past the lands of Dahab, deeper in Darfur, another Daju tribe ruled by one El-Fasher held sway. The young El-Fasher was a talented fighter, and the Chroniclers always highlighted his skill at asymmetric warfare. Chief El-Fasher was known to be a cunning leader who could lead his men through rough terrain, turning the land itself against his enemies.

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Meanwhile, the northern and western lands of Darfur were controlled not by Daju tribes but by the Berber, Zaghawa peoples. Two of their tribes, led by Sheikh Kpodo in the west and Sheikh Mawulawde in the north, had control of the remaining habitable lands here in the eastern Sahel.

Unlike the Daju peoples, the Zaghawa were Animists, believing that the spirit world interacts with our own. Their priestesses, all of whom are women, interpret the will of the spirits and communicate them to the tribe.

009.png


To the west, meanwhile, the Sahel gave way to a fertile river valley, flanked by the White and Blue Niles. In this land of plenty, controlling eight prosperous villages, High Chieftain Dauid II rules over the Chiefdom of Alodia.

The Nubian peoples were close cousins of the Daju, but by this time most of them had fallen under the sway of Coptic Christianity. While the tribesmen under Bolad were certainly no religious zealots, it was clear to them that the Coptics viewed them as barbaric and primitive and according to the Chroniclers they reacted with appropriate hostility.

012.png


We have more contemporary records describing Kordofan at the time of Bolad from the Coptics than we do from anyone else, and though their bias against their pagan cousins is clear, it is often by comparing the Alodian records to the Chronicles that we get our best idea of what really happened during this era.

It is from these records that we learn much of what we know about the early Kushite faith that the Daju people followed at this time. Bolad's people considered themselves descendants of the Pharaohs of Egypt, and there is certainly some evidence that this is true in at least some sense. The unreformed Kushites still venerated the old gods, many of which were common to both the kingdoms of Kush and ancient Egypt.

015.png


First, we know that the Kushites venerated their ancestors. They believed that when their chiefs died, they should be buried with as much of their wealth as possible -- in ancient Egypt, this meant that the Pharaohs were buried in massive tombs with mountains of treasure. In the grasslands of Kordofan, it usually meant being buried with their weaponry, as many slaves or servants as the tribe could spare, and what gold and trinkets the tribe had gathered during the chief's reign. In Egypt, kings were mummified through complex processes and rare reagents. In Kordofan, the Kushites desiccated the dead with smoke instead.

The Kushites placed great value on their chieftain's family; the chief's wife and concubines were treated with great respect, and any children born into the chief's family were celebrated and respected by the whole tribe.

013.png


Not every Kushite belief as practiced on the Sahel came directly from their Pharaohnic heritage; some traditions Often, rulers who reached old age and felt their usefulness to the tribe was at an end would undergo this desiccation process themselves. In the Kushite tradition, this cleansed the elder ruler of sin, and smoothed the transition of power, allowing the new chief to begin their rule with the tacit approval of their predecessor.


014.png


Finally, Bolad's tribe placed great emphasis on mysticism and prophecy. Wise men, mystics, or witches were embraced, not reviled; they were believed to possess powers coming directly from the gods, and to be able to communicate with the long-dead Pharaohs and other ancestors of the Daju peoples, allowing the most respected of ancestors to guide the realm from beyond the grave -- or, to more cynical interpreters, allowing the Daju's spiritual caste to exercise some control over the direction of their tribe.

016.png


When the reign of Bolad began, the lands of Egypt and Nubia had been already been thoroughly converted to Coptic Christianity; in Egypt proper, Islamic control had just been established, and conversion had already begun. The Kushite holy places were mostly under foreign control. If the Baju people were to restore themselves as Pharaohs and hoped to be treated as legitimate rulers, capturing these holy sites and restoring the old faith of Kemetism would go a long way towards proving to the scattered Baju and Nubian peoples that they were still masters of their own destiny.

017.png


By all accounts -- even the Coptic sources agree -- Bolad, tribal chieftain or not, was a deep thinker on theological matters. The Chronicles treat him almost as a prophet, while the Coptics treat him as a great evil, for his persuasiveness on religious matters is viewed as a gift from the devil himself. Certainly, he was convincing enough to his own peoples.

Though the Coptic records bear no record of this, the Chroniclers are all adamant in their agreement that when he came to power, Bolad gave a rousing speech which inspired his people to greatness, making it clear that their destiny was not to remain nomadic cattle herders on the periphery of civilization. In the Chronicles, the young Chief inspired his people to such heights that they gave him a new name; though outsiders would continue referring to him as Bolad of Kordofan, and the Coptic sources will continue referencing House Kordofan for centuries hence, the Chroniclers point to this moment as the creation of House Tantamani, named for one of the last Kushite Pharaohs of old.

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What's this? A whole second post before I actually unpause? Holy crap! Well, hopefully the action picks up soon. Well, I can promise you it will! But I hope this is still enjoyable :) See ya'll soon!
 
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Cora Giantkiller

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I have to say, I'm down for this AAR from the jump. Really interesting start. Also the Kushite faith offers some powerful bonuses; I'll have to play there at some point.

So, here it is. My own Let's Play! I'm deeply inspired by @Cora Giantkiller and their wonderful A Most Forgiving Land: A Nigerian Coast AAR in that I want to go for a history book style, but I'm thinking it could be fun to do more of a "Pop History" vibe. Think if Dan Carlin's Hardcore History was an AAR, though of course of much lower quality! But probably just as long-winded.... sorry!

I'm so glad that you found my AAR so inspiring! I've been inspired too by Tommy4ever's Poland and Egypto-Norse AARs, RedTemplar's Estonian AAR, and the many great RossN AARs. Worth checking out if you haven't already.

Also, you can use 'her' rather than 'their.' Thanks. :)
 

Brisingr

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Ooh, looks nice. So what's the plan? Subjugate the Kushite tribes around you, and then take on the Nubians?
 

ChicagoZohan

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I have to say, I'm down for this AAR from the jump. Really interesting start. Also the Kushite faith offers some powerful bonuses; I'll have to play there at some point.



I'm so glad that you found my AAR so inspiring! I've been inspired too by Tommy4ever's Poland and Egypto-Norse AARs, RedTemplar's Estonian AAR, and the many great RossN AARs. Worth checking out if you haven't already.

Also, you can use 'her' rather than 'their.' Thanks. :)
I thought you were a "her" but didn't want to assume -- sounds good!

I'm glad you are enjoying the AAR! Yeah I'm really glad they expanded this region, and I loved the flavor text for Kushites about still venerating the old gods.

The bonuses feel pretty good, feels like they all contribute towards the same goal, of a pretty stable realm. Let's hope it's enough to keep the realm stable!

I will definitely have to check out some more AARs in the near future. Thanks for the recommendations!
 

Nikolai

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I will definitely have to check out some more AARs in the near future. Thanks for the recommendations!
Aside from the recommedations of Cora, which I wholeheartedly agree, I will unshamingly point to my inkwell in my sig and say I've written a few AARs myself over the years, some of which has been awAARded. :) Also, do make sure to check out GeneralBT's excellent Rome AARisen, which is simply put one of the biggest masterpieces written on these forums. :)
 

ChicagoZohan

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Ooh, looks nice. So what's the plan? Subjugate the Kushite tribes around you, and then take on the Nubians?
Essentially, yeah. We need to reunite those who still follow the old ways, then take back the lands of our fathers. My thinking is that we may need to build up a power base in the Horn of Africa in order to handle the Arabs who won't let Egypt go without a fight.

But that's all high level planning. No plan survives contact with the enemy -- or with your own dynasty! Each ruler will have their own agenda.
 

ChicagoZohan

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Aside from the recommedations of Cora, which I wholeheartedly agree, I will unshamingly point to my inkwell in my sig and say I've written a few AARs myself over the years, some of which has been awAARded. :) Also, do make sure to check out GeneralBT's excellent Rome AARisen, which is simply put one of the biggest masterpieces written on these forums. :)
Thanks! I will have to check your AARs too
 

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Interesting concept. I mostly play boring Eurocentric starts even though I did one start as House of Solomon in Ethiopia. That was fun until the Caliph came to ruin my party...
 

HistoryDude

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Interesting goal!

Will you reform Kemetism? If so, what traits will you use?

Also, I have my active AARs listed in my signature (with my completed/abandoned AARs in my Inkwell - link also in my sig), if you want AARs to read.
 
Chapter 1.2: Establishing Legitimacy

ChicagoZohan

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Chapter 1.2: Establishing Legitimacy
Anywhere you look in the medieval world, marriage was extremely important, and the African Sahel was no exception. A man's worth was measured, in large part, by the number of women he could support. So even though the Chroniclers hint to us pretty heavily that Chieftain Bolad had little attraction for women, he still took a wife to replace the one he had lost almost as soon as he rose to power.

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Historians have long debated the question, why did Bolad take a wife of common blood, instead of a neighboring chieftess? If he had been able to secure an alliance, the years to come would have proved much easier for the young ruler. But the first wife the Chroniclers mention[1] is a lowborn member of Bolad's own tribe named Pid.

The oral traditions spin a whole slew of wonderful, elaborate tales about how Bolad sent out dignitaries to the local tribes, each of whom had an eligible bachelorette of courting age. Yet misfortune befalls each messenger in turn, and when Bolad learns of this he is forced to conclude that the gods do not desire his lineage to be spoiled by foreign blood if they are to return to their thrones as Pharaohs. The story makes little sense, of course -- Bolad and his descendants would take many wives of varied heritage in the years to come -- and most of these tales date from centuries after the fact, anyways. In truth, it seems more likely that it was the other way around -- Bolad, chieftain of a minor tribe in a land dismissed by most as primitive and unproductive -- was simply not a particularly desirable commodity in the market of matrimony.

002-Humb-Cyn-Calm-HALE.png


By all accounts, Pid was the rationalist to Bolad's faith. The adage, "The gods help those who help themselves" would be attributed in Daju and Nubian culture to Pid of Kordofan in the years to come. The tales don't ever say that this was a problem for the couple, however. But when Pid felt like her husband was placing too much faith in the gods, she would quietly make more mundane arrangements behind Bolad's back, just in case. Despite their differences, the couple prospered.

Perhaps another factor in Bolad's choice was his wife's lineage. Though lowborn, she was a woman born to a long line of fierce warrior men. While Pid's charms were lost on Bolad, her potential for passing her forefathers' strength into the Tantamani line certainly would not have been.

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Not all charms were lost on the young chief, however. The Chronicles tell us of Bolad's pursuit of an older man named Youssouf. He was either a traveler, or a visitor from nearby Nubia -- accounts vary -- but Bolad overheard him one night, telling of his participation in a siege far to the north. Bolad was fascinated by the idea of these fortifications -- structures far more massive than anything he'd seen in his life, yet a challenge he or his heirs would have to master if they wished to take back their birthright.

Youssouf's own personal charms didn't hurt matters, either; nor did his reciprocation of the sort of interest that Bolad might show.

004.png


Most of this kind of personal information about Bolad's life comes from the oral traditions. A lot of the accounts are contradictory, or anachronistic; but some things are generally agreed on. Generally, that's what we try to stick to here. But sometimes an odd detail -- something so minor, you'd never think anyone would remember it -- a detail like that just seems to show up in so many different places that you just have to believe it's true.

What the stories agree on is, Bolad approached Youssouf to see if he would join the court by his side. But Youssouf was disgusted by Bolad's hunger, for cattle or wealth or men. So he made it quite clear that he was not interested.

005.png


But Bolad couldn't bear to see Youssouf leave, so he granted him a position in his court, with all the wealth and honor that this entailed.

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Outside the regal tents of the Chief of Kordofan, the people who lived at the very seat of Bolad's power were already starting to turn against him. Answering the call from the east, the majority of the commoners in the north half of Kordofan had already turned Coptic.

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Bolad had tasked Angrun, most respected of the Kushite shamans, to try and stem the tide of Christianity. Angrun had been doing his best to keep the old ways alive, but to many the message of salvation offered by Christianity was simply too appealing to resist. Bolad and Angrun agreed that the problem was with their faith. Their people had been cut off from their holy land for so long, the elaborate hieroglyphs so painstakingly written by their ancestors left neglected and forgotten in ruined temples. Was it any wonder that their faith, a faded echo of its regal ancestor, would struggle here? And was not a mighty, righteous Pharaoh on the twin thrones of Nubia and Egypt a foundational piece of the faith? How could they stand without it?

Their ancient glory must be restored, before their ways are forgotten and their wisdom naught but ash.

010.png


According to the more 'sympathetic' chronicles[2], it was during one such discussion about the future of their faith that Angrun revealed to Bolad an ancient secret. Some stories say it was a scroll, others an oral tradition passed from shaman to shaman. One fifteenth century manuscript claims it was a "book", which is patently ridiculous.

011.png


Whatever the source, the secret is the same. Out in the open drylands, a mud hut would be built, with a small opening at the top. In the center of the mud hut would be dug a pit, and in it a very specific and very secret pile is built. Supposedly, there was an exact number of branches needed, and these branches needed to come from a specific mixture of types of trees, some of which were very rare, didn't grow in Kordofan, and were believed to have all kinds of special effects. And atop the pile would be arranged all sorts of herbs and reagents and plants. Then, as the sun began to set, the fire would be lit. The room would get overwhelmingly hot, and filled with smoke and vapors of all sorts. While in this room, the spirit of a shaman was believed to commune -- to follow the journey of Ra, the Sun God, and in his light travel safely through Duat and back the next morning, learning all manners of divine secrets.

012.png


The first night Bolad was said to have witnessed only confused glimpses of visions. But on the second night, he had some sort of revelation, the exact nature of which would be debated by theologians for centuries. Regardless, he seemed to believe -- and to have convinced Angrun, and by extension his tribe -- that he had witnessed something divine, and that he knew that their glory was ordained. He had already earned his place in the hearts of the Daju people.

[1] None of the chronicles or oral traditions give name to Bolad's first wife, the one who died giving birth to Murtin, his eldest son. One Coptic chronicle even claims that Bolad found the baby Murtin in the desert and declared him his son -- though this account is generally discredited.

[2] This isn't a story the Coptics would tell you...
 
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ChicagoZohan

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Interesting goal!

Will you reform Kemetism? If so, what traits will you use?

Also, I have my active AARs listed in my signature (with my completed/abandoned AARs in my Inkwell - link also in my sig), if you want AARs to read.

I'll definitely reform it, but as far as beliefs, I'm not sure yet! I'm open to suggestions. I think we need a Temporal Head of Faith because the Pharaoh was a god. Not sure what else though....
 
Chapter 1.3: The First War

ChicagoZohan

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Chapter 1.3: The First War

Soon after receiving his visions, Bolad took Wadanh, a Coptic woman who had been serving as his informant in the Coptic community, as a concubine. The Coptic Chroniclers saw this as a grave insult, a Pagan ravaging of Christian purity. Bolad probably intended a different message -- one of unity, of elevating a Coptic Daju woman to a high position on his court. But if so, it was a dreadful miscalculation.
014.png
015.png


As a lowly Chief, having just a single wife was considered appropriate. But a High Chieftain with just a single woman was not respected in the tribal culture in this place and time. While Bolad was no High Chief quite yet, by acting like one he could earn the trust and backing of his people.

This is a key point, and something that many casual readings of history often miss. No matter how cruel the tyrant or absolute the dictator, no man has total control over an empire. No matter how small the class of privileged few whose opinion counts, they still had to be taken into consideration if you don't want your head to end up on a pike.

That's why Bolad spent the first few months of his reign establishing his credibility. Now he was no longer a young prince whose father just died. Now he was a true Chief, with a pair of wives who would hopefully soon bring a bundle of heirs and a direct connection to the gods of old. He was the sort of man you could respect. The sort of men you'd be willing to follow. Even... follow into war.

016.png


For years, Chief Dahab of East Darfur had treated the western edge of Kordofani land as if it was his own. The Darfur tribes had been pushed west over the generations, so that they only held the corner of their ancestral homeland. Most of the rest was now taken up by spirit-worshiping Zaghawa Bedouin. In desperation, Dahab's Muglad-clan Daju invaded their own cousins. and seized western Kordofan from Bolad's father.

Once again we get two very different perspectives when we compare the Daju oral traditions and the Chronicles that would later be based on them to the Coptic chroniclers. The oral traditions praise Bolad for restoring his father's honor, and paint Dahab as an evil, decadent man. But the Coptic chronicles describe him as a devout Kushite, nearly as learned as Bolad himself, who simply found himself the victim of Bolad's ambition.

017.png


One way or the other, Bolad and his men had soon surrounded the enemy village in west Kordofan. To their surprise, the Darfuri force did not engage, instead heading to a desert pass to the north.

The Kushite Chronicles which would later encode much of the oral traditions about this era describe what happened next like this.

And so Chief Bolad Tantamani, with great anger, ordered his men to abandon the positions where they had encamped around the enemy village, and to carry their weapons and head back to the village of Ubaid at once so as to cut off the Darfuri. But Youssouf came to Bolad, and he said to him, "Yes, the enemy is headed for our lands; and yes, their village walls are high and packed with hardened mud and solid beams of wood. But I have been to the North, to the Lands of the Arabs and the Romans, and I have seen how they lay siege to fortifications mightier than this. Let him go and march through the desert; I will lead the men, and I will take the villages of En Nahud and Umm Gafala before they take Ubaid.

Bolad placed his faith the subject of his adoration, and true to his word the Kordofani seized both villages while Dahab's men still fumbled outside the village palisade at Ubaid.

019sep867.png


020a-Land-At-War.png


021-Mid-Dec.png


023.png


After extorting Chief Dahab for ransom and claiming victory in the war, Chief Bolad looked over his unified land and thought about the future of the realm.

024.png
025.png


026-Jan868.png


The sources agree that the war ended just over a year after Chief Bolad took power. He had reclaimed the land of his immediate forefathers, but for the voracious Chieftain this was not enough. Indeed, it couldn't be. The lands of the Kushites and the Nubians were no longer dominated by the believers in the old ways, for the Coptic way had spread among them like fire. Nubia was split into two -- the land of Alodia, just to the east in the river valleys of the Blue and White Niles; and the land of Makuria, stretching along the river valleys to the north, beyond the desert.

027.png


High Chief Dauid II ruled over a confederation of eight powerful villages. Once he had held all the land himself, but he had recently granted some of these villages autonomy under their own vassal chiefs. Makuria to the north was a feudal realm, on the other hand, wealthier and more powerful than Alodia under the iron first of Petty King Zakharias III. Of course, Makuria also bordered the a far nastier neighbor to their own north, the Tulunid Caliphate, so Bolad judged it unlikely that they would turn their wrath south.

Alodia was a more immediate threat, and far too strong to take on directly. So taking more land to try and oppose them made sense, on a strategic level.

The way that the Daju tradition describes what would happen next comes down to what Bolad's scouts reported when they were fighting in Eastern Darfur. The Darfur region was fragmented, with the northern Bori tribes raiding the lands of Chief Bahar of Darfur as well as Chief Eri of El-Fasher. Darfur was a broken, fragmented land, they explain. A strong ruler was necessary to bring their peoples together to oppose Coptic incursions from Nubia.

It is entirely possible that they are correct about this, but in the interest of fairness, the Coptic Chroniclers offer what may be a simpler explanation. They claim that once he'd gotten a taste in Western Kordofan, Chief Bolad's voracious appetites extended to his conquests.
 
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Cora Giantkiller

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I am feeling sad for Bolad and his unrequited love.
 

ChicagoZohan

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I am feeling sad for Bolad and his unrequited love.
Bolad's story gets pretty interesting, believe me!

Also, I wrote that last line --
They claim that once he'd gotten a taste in Western Kordofan, Chief Bolad's voracious appetites extended to his conquests
-- as I was catching up to my playthrough. I've now done one more session and oh my, that foreshadowing ominously prescient...
 

Cora Giantkiller

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Okay, I'm on board--but Bolad better get a boyfriend.
 
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Chapter 1.4: Expansionist Tendencies

ChicagoZohan

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Chapter 1.4: Expansionist Tendencies

As the second year of the reign of Chieftain Bolad began, the Kushite faith was in decline.

Once, the followers of these deities were Pharaohs and kings. Now they were squabbling chieftains fighting petty wars, and under siege from all sides.

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The Daju tribes at this time were plagued on the east by the encroachment of the Coptic faith. Their persistent missionaries were a constant irritation in the villages on that end of the Sahel, and in the north the powerful kingdom of Makuria had even encroached on their holy lands, seizing their lands and putting their villages under Coptic rule.

Meanwhile, in the west, Zaghawa shiekhs had subjugated the tribes of western Darfur. Their conquests threatened the last of the free Kushite tribes, including the one whose territory contained Jebbel Marra, a mountain holy to the Daju.

According to the Kushite Chroniclers, who always tried to paint the best picture of Bolad they could, the war against Sheikh Mawulawde was a protective one; the Shiek was a Zealous man, and entirely controlled by the evil Bori priestesses of his tribe. The Coptics pain a less rosy picture, claiming Mawulawde was chosen simply because his forces had been weakened during a failed raid a few weeks before the attack.

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Whatever the case, war was soon declared, and the Kordofani forces made their way through western Darfur once more, the defeated Chief Dahab powerless to stop them. It was in lands controlled by Chief Dahab that Bolad's men caught up with the shiekh's. With their superior numbers, it was a slaughter, and soon enough Bolad's men had encircled the enemy village.

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There is a clear shift in the way outside sources write about Bolad, starting right around this time. There were still other Daju tribes, independent from his own, but when the sources speak of the Daju people after this point, they almost always speak of Bolad's tribe specifically.

A common theme throughout the chronicles, especially the ones based on Kushite and Daju traditions, is Bolad's fascination with fortifications and siegecraft. We saw the important role that a skilled besieger from the Mediterranean world played in Bolad's first war, and these tactics would continue to fascinate and aid him throughout his rule.

According to the Daju oral tradition, it was during the encirclement of Dar al-Rih that this fascination -- perhaps obsession -- truly blossomed. Each night, Bolad would interrogate Youssouf about weapons of siegecraft, then excitedly share all that he had heard described to his men. "Imagine how their village walls would crumble before these mighty engines; bringers of destruction, weapons of Apep himself!"

Yet behind these wondrous boasts, Bolad had a keen understanding of the principles involved, and began experimenting with siegecraft, though he had a hard time finding the skilled hands and raw materials he needed.

006.png


And of course, this practice gave Bolad an excuse to spend more time with Youssouf himself. He would listen to Youssouf tell of the lands he considered his, and regaled Youssouf with the tales of his divine visions.

One of the oral traditions, apocryphal as it may be, tells of one such late night conversation and also hints at what divine justification Bolad may have given for his wars.

"And in this dream-like state, as I came to the river, I saw a wolf, and his fur was bluish-grey; and as I came before him he arose, and I recognized that he was no wolf, but Wepwawet, the Opener of the Way. And he spake to me, and he said, come with me and I will show you your path. And he took me by the hand and he guided me onto a boat that was in the river, and handed me an oar, and told me to row; and so I rowed, and after some time we came to a wide bend in the river, and I saw the whole land laid out before me. And he said, look, and I looked; and he asked, What do you see? and I answered, I see the land of Darfur, the land to the west. And he said, you see the land of your sons. And I took the oar and I broke it over my knee in my wrath, and I shouted, No; the land of my sons is the land of my fathers, the land of Kush, the land of Nubia, the land of Egypt; and he said, No, that is the land of the sons of your sons. For Egypt is a great land, ruled by a great people; and the Daju must become a great people if they are to inherit the lands of Egypt, Nubia, and Kush."


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The tales say Youssouf was greatly moved by this story, and that he told the people of what he had heard and that they rejoiced at the wisdom of their chief.

Whatever the case, Dar al-Rih fell soon enough, and by the rainy season of 868 the Sheikhdom had surrendered its lands.

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014-Aug868.png


The tribes of Kordofan were at peace once more, and in the conquered village of Dar al-Rih, Bolad turned his mind to more personal matters. But fate was about to intervene twice more, and great change would soon come to the Sahel.

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HistoryDude

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Well, Kordofan is doing well...

I see that Youssouf has a admirer...

Also, I like the juxtaposition of the Coptic and Kemitic sources. I wonder what the Muslims thought about this?
 

ChicagoZohan

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Well, Kordofan is doing well...

I see that Youssouf has a admirer...

Also, I like the juxtaposition of the Coptic and Kemitic sources. I wonder what the Muslims thought about this?
Glad you appreciate it! It's a blast to write :)

As far as Arabic sources, remember - I'm trying to work with contemporary sources here! :p the Coptic sources are fairly contemporary and the Daju sources will be compiled later, but they were based on oral traditions that anthropologists believe date pretty far back as well. We always have to weigh the bias in our sources, of course.

There will be a wealth of Arabic writings about the Daju people once they enter the Arabic consciousness, I assure you :)