• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

loki100

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Table of Contents:

Introduction: Part One - The Voice of Hassan
Introduction: Part Two - The Voice of Omar
Introduction: Part Three - The Voice of Ismael
Introduction: Part Four - Three Voices
Introduction: Part Five – The Voice of the Narrator
Part 1: The Rising Storm
Two voices discuss the value of prophecy
Hassan prepares a lesson for the Franks
Omar finds no consolation either in the stars or in poetry
Murder in Antioch
A pact is sealed with grief and blood
The Storm breaks
Omar forgets to deny his past
The Narrator speaks
Part 2: War
A negotiation conducted with blood
In which the terms are settled
In which a friendship is strained
In which a Prince is ambitious
In which Hassan feeds the ambition of men
In which a great battle is won
In which fate is revealed in the dice
In which a friendship is repaired
In which there is dissent in Alamut
In which Hassan reveals some of his plans
In which Hassan's will is defied
In which Ibrahim has a moment of painful reflection
Part 3: The Year of Victories
In which Ismail tries to save Omar from himself
In which Omar achieves a moment of peace
In which the Sultan savours his moment of glory
In which Hassan reflects on events in Esfahan
In which Hassan plots revolution
In which Omar finds himself alone
In which a plot is set in motion
A frozen grave
An ill-advised act of revenge
Hassan seeks to undo an old mistake
Part 4 - Hubris
An unforeseen child
A long preparead plot
A domestic dispute

Introduction: Part One - the voice of Hassan

Slowly they filed into the throne room of Alamut.



Novices, scared, but excited at this, their first public reception with the leader, Hassan Sabbah. Those with established roles, worried at the novelty of such an event. The few, the trained assassins, those who held senior positions were simply too scared to even think.

This was unheard of. And the original at Alamut was rarely to be welcomed.

Each, as they entered, stumbled as their eyes adjusted to the gloom. Each then gasped in shock, openly or privately according to temperament or training.

Hassan sat on his usual simple chair with a plain table to the side. As usual none of the trappings of a court at the time were on display. All knew there were scribes, and guards, but these sat to the side hidden in the shadows of the hall.



This then was not the cause of the shock.

In front of Hassan appeared to sit his old confident, Ibrahim. This might have been a small shock. He had left Alamut two years past on a mission, rumoured to be to secure Egyptian gold.

No, the shock lay in a sudden realisation. As eyes adjusted to the gloom, it was clear that it was not Ibrahim sat before Hassan. Well at least not all of him.

A head with no body was no shock at Alamut. Even the head of one who was high in the ranks of the Assassiyun[1]. The shock was seeing Ibrahim's eyes. A head with, and without eyes, both dead and still alive, this was not unusual. Even the sight of the dead with open eyes was not unusual. Eyes in a head with no body that were still filled with intelligence, wracked with pain, this was unusual. Even in Alamut, the sight of a still living head, divorced from its body was a shock.

Worse was to come.

Once all had entered, once all had, at least publicly, mastered their fear. Hassan spoke.

"Today is to be a lesson for you. You know what waits for those who betray?"

The assembled responded with a resounding 'yes'.

"I am not sure you do. Not really. Well our trusted emissary Ibrahim will complete your education.

Speak dog"

As if a spell was lifted, Ibrahim's mouth opened, at first it seemed he was gasping for air for no sound emerged (for who would expect a sound from a bodyless head). Then came the scream. Far beyond simple pain and terror, it spoke of uncontained suffering that had no prospect of end.

Hassan, alone, was unmoved.

"Silence, if all you do is to whine I will remove the power of speech. Tell them what happens to traitors"

Ibrahim's mouth closed, his face showed the tension of restraint. And then, and this was perhaps the real shock, he spoke

"pain, endless pain, no light .... heat without light .... cold without respite"

Hassan dropped his hand as if conducting an orchestra.

"silence ... enough .... I have heard enough".

The eyes closed, but the face remained contorted in pain.

"so now ... yes now, just maybe .... you may start to understand the fate of traitors. Vengence in this life is easy for us to arrange. Torment for eternity is the gift of god. And, I ... bestow that gift.

Go now, back to your duties, to your training, to your preparation. A great time is upon as. An Empire is to fall and we will ensure that what replaces it reflects the will of God".



In silence, the hall emptied. Once they were all gone, even the scribes and the guards. Hassan made as if to kick the head.

[1] derived from the Arabic root – Assass, ie foundation. In this case those who had accepted the foundations of the faith as taught by Hassan, at that time a minor branch within Shia Islam.
 
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.Raistlin.

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This looks exciting. I guess demi mods get secret Theocracy-using abilities? :laugh:
 

loki100

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So, do you get to assassinate everybody you want for free (you are the Assassins after all)?:)
Also, congrats for winning Fan of the Week!
Thank you. No this isn't played as the Assasins ... they are locked (unfortunately as it would be a hoot to try). It will become clear relatively soon who I am actually playing and it won't be any of the 3 narrators.

This looks exciting. I guess demi mods get secret Theocracy-using abilities? :laugh:
Its proving to be an explosive game. Take a Muslim dynasty with a young weak Sultan, add in a host of external enemies and internal problems ... light the blue touch paper and watch your Empire explode. But as above, unfortunately not played as the Assasins.

Any story that begins with a talking disembodied head is bound to be good. :happy:
well it is a talking head ...
 

loki100

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Introduction: Part Two - the voice of Omar



No one was entering, no one was leaving.

A freezing cold night in the province of Esfahan, Ramadan starting tomorrow.



A warm tavern in the city of Zharrinshahr.



For those who appreciated such things, a night to drink the strong rich wines of Shiraz. Tomorrow such pleasures would be harder ... to indulge. Drinking at home, rather than with the comforts of strangers.

Omar sat back. Letting the sound of conversation collapse into a buzz. No one here he knew, no one he particularly wished to listen to. In the burr though some syllables, some words, shaped themselves in his mind.

An echo of something.

An echo that took him back to his youth in Nishapur. Suddenly he realised it was not just his imagination forming sounds from chaos. Someone near to him was speaking words.

Dangerous words.

Words that Omar himself had written.

"Pray tell, who has not trangressed your Law?
Pray tell the purpose of a sinless life?
If with evil You punish the evil I have done
Pray tell, what is the difference between you and me?
"[1]​

He looked up.

"Do I know you"

"I know of you"

"That is not the same thing"

"I know your words ... seemingly you remember them too"

"Words from a foolish youth"

"Words of wisdom"

"Words of a fool"

"Maybe, but those words have the means to destroy an Empire"

Omar turned to face his companion

"Now why should I wish to do that ... it has looked after me. I have a fine house, an observatory, it even allows me to take wine in ... a place ... well a place such as this. Equally it has spies ... everwhere"



"Others have spies ... not all work for the Sultan. So maybe you are wise to deny the words you once spoke.
...
But then, maybe I do not speak of the Seljuks ... though it seems they are determined to destroy themselves. There are, after all, other empires that claim the loyalty of men
...
Maybe it is one of those you really threaten?"

Suddenly someone did leave. Not in silence for he fell over a group of drinkers (too drunk to notice), not in silence for the door slammed loudly behind him, not in silence for his mind was in turmoil (and this had little to do with the strong wine he had drunk).

Omar left, suddenly afraid that this peaceful interlude in a life of wandering was to end. Perhaps he needed to speak to his friend.

But which?

His new friend, Ismail, a power behind the Sultan's throne. His old companion (no longer, not even in his mind, could he call him friend) Hassan, now perched on his cold snowy mountain.

Where he offered a form of safety - but at a terrible cost.

[1] One of the many Rubaiyaat (4 lines of poetry) attributed to Omar Khayyam. Originally a form of bawdy humour, he also used it as a basis for philosophical discussions.
 

Avindian

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All right, a new AAR! I don't own Sword of Islam -- not that interested in playing as a Muslim -- but I'm interested to see what you do with this. Do you get any kind of bonuses for your... ah... profession? ;)
 

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Ooh! A new AAR! Awesome! :)
 

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Very Interesting. Your playing As The Seljuks aren't you. Well that what it looks like. a 21K supply limited must be supported by Friendly Holding Boni
 

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Drat almighty! Yet another loki100 AAR to keep up with, and one with Sword of Islam to boot - not to mention that you made a reference to Alea Jacta Est (the pendant in me cringes every time that it should be 'Iacta', but that's neither here nor there) right after I had just steeled myself against scrounging up the money to buy that. Not only do I need to follow the AARs, I also have to bankrupt myself to keep my ever growing Paradox library up to date. No wonder they made you a Demi-mod (or should that be outside sales agent?). :p

In all seriousness, looks intriguing. I can't tell yet who you're playing as, or what will go on with all these narrators, but I look forward to finding out more. Oh, and the disembodied head screaming of never-ending suffering - that's quite the opener you penned there. :)
 

loki100

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All right, a new AAR! I don't own Sword of Islam -- not that interested in playing as a Muslim -- but I'm interested to see what you do with this. Do you get any kind of bonuses for your... ah... profession? ;)
No, unfortunately you can't play as Hassan, so while I suspect he will have a very direct influence he is out of my direct control.

I was looking for a state on the point of chaos, as that suits the narrative I have in mind and had read Amin Maalouf's Samarkand which covers some of this period from the perspective of Omar Khayyam (so that gave me a second character who is not even in the game, so very handy at popping up at the right time). The other idea I had was England in 1204 in the lunacy of the civil strife between Simon and Matilda.

Ooh! A new AAR! Awesome! :)
I hope so ..

Very Interesting. Your playing As The Seljuks aren't you. Well that what it looks like. a 21K supply limited must be supported by Friendly Holding Boni
Yes, the Empire is on the point of collapse but not quite doomed. So that sets off a nice narrative in itself, and on the eve of the Crusades too.

Drat almighty! Yet another loki100 AAR to keep up with, and one with Sword of Islam to boot - not to mention that you made a reference to Alea Jacta Est (the pendant in me cringes every time that it should be 'Iacta', but that's neither here nor there) right after I had just steeled myself against scrounging up the money to buy that. Not only do I need to follow the AARs, I also have to bankrupt myself to keep my ever growing Paradox library up to date. No wonder they made you a Demi-mod (or should that be outside sales agent?). :p

In all seriousness, looks intriguing. I can't tell yet who you're playing as, or what will go on with all these narrators, but I look forward to finding out more. Oh, and the disembodied head screaming of never-ending suffering - that's quite the opener you penned there. :)
The next narrator is the last, and the only one over whom I have any control.

Glad you like the head ... it is most definitely going to play a part in the developments.

AJE (or as you rightly say AIE) has the making of a gem. I know 2 of the betas and the reports are good, and it seems a hybrid between Wars in America and Pride of Nations.
 

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Introduction: Part Three - the voice of Ismail



Slowly they left the council chamber in Esfahan.



Centre of an Empire, 11 years since the glorious victory that had driven the Rum from the lands of the faith. 4 years since the lands of Trans-Oxiana had been added. 2 years since this Barkiarok, this boy, had become Sultan.



Two years in which much was lost and what was left was at risk.



To Ismail the question was simple, were the lands of the faith more secure with Barkiarot or without? Well he knew part of the answer, Barkariot was his cousin. He felt little familial loyalty but had complete faith in the need for Empire and for strong central control if it was to be protected against its enemies.

To the West, the Rum were not finished, equally rumours abounded that the barbarians of the far west planned to march to save their Orthodox brethen. That they know held a castle near Antioch was true, but this would fall soon enough, already the Emir of Damascus was making plans. So that was a tale for a cold night in a warm tavern (if anything they might be planning to fall like wolves on the wounded carcass of Rum). To the East, the ill-informed seemed convinced that prophesy indicated an even greater threat. Well that was a tale with which to scare young children.

More real, to the South the Fatimid heretics held on, a threat to the true faith and, if the rumours were correct, the main funders of the new scourge.

Hassan.

Once his ally in governance. Now traitor. Now perhaps the biggest threat to the Empire in his mountain fastness. Already men had died at his word: some horribly in public, some privately and without pain. It was said that as many Emirs took account of the words from Alamut as took account of Imperial decrees.



At least the Sultan had agreed to marry. And to an Fatimid princess. Just perhaps they could be brought into alliance, if so the unfinished business with the Rum could be completed. Usefully his half brother had agreed to a marriage to a princess from the East. Another threat hopefully brought under control.

So the Sultan's advisors filed out. Chatting amoung themselves and then, in the splendour of the public throne room, meeting friends, petitioners and rivals.

Ismail found himself, as if by accident, walking with Saim.

As if by accident both turned and passed through a tapestery. Quickly they walked down a narrow corridor and into a small room. Shutting the door, Ismail turned to his companion.

"What a farce. He is presented with clear evidence of Badr's treachery. And what does he do. He agrees to replace him, after all what threat is a disloyal spymaster?



And carries on bleating about his intolerance of disloyalty, how it has no place in the Empire ..

and then choosing the most cowardly, least effective of the options. I mean ... what a statement on our power, WE, cannot find an assassin. The country is riddled with them, but none work for us.



Saim turned

"Yes, brother, I was there, I heard his words, I saw your face. So you will help Timiarot carry out this apology for a plan".



"Yes, even if it means leaving Esfahan for some time. The Sultan needs guidance and subtle education, but somehow we must eliminate Badr, still at least ..."

Ismail paused

"He finally agreed to the land grants [1]. As new men, eager to please, these new Beys may deal with the Assassin scourge more effectively than their predecessors"



At this Ismail paused again, opened the door and checked the corridor was empty

"What is the view of the Ulema in these matters?"

"That your obsession with Hassan may be blinding you to much that is important"

"You know of what I ask"

"Well as Sultan he rules with the will of the Most High"

"and if he was to fall?"

"then that would be clear evidence that the will of the Most High has changed"

"Ah"

As Ismail turned to go, Saim spoke urgently

"but brother, there is something ... nay, someone ... who does worry the Uleama"

[1] – this was to reduce a demense well over the limit
 
Last edited:

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Intriguing... Much is hinted at, little is made explicit. So Hassan, Omar and Ismail know each other, from former times. And Hassan and Ismail at least are at cross purposes. I doubt this does much for Omar's situation: either Hassan or Ismail might see him as a threat, someone who could team up with the other. That said, as a poet, and one who takes certain liberties with Islam (the wine being the starkest example), I would think that Omar has more to fear from Hassan than Ismail. Unless... unless Omar is the one who worries the ulema, in which case reasons of state might compel Ismail to act against him.

Much to ponder, there is.

By the way, upon re-reading the first post, I just now noticed that it says Hassan made to kick the head - so he didn't actually do it. Hmm. Perhaps this is not so supernatural after all, perhaps the head is (through cleverly hidden means) still attached to the body and is part of some plot, a sleigh of hand to make Hassan seem stronger, more supernaturally capable than he really is? Yet more questions...
 

loki100

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Intriguing... Much is hinted at, little is made explicit. So Hassan, Omar and Ismail know each other, from former times. And Hassan and Ismail at least are at cross purposes. I doubt this does much for Omar's situation: either Hassan or Ismail might see him as a threat, someone who could team up with the other. That said, as a poet, and one who takes certain liberties with Islam (the wine being the starkest example), I would think that Omar has more to fear from Hassan than Ismail. Unless... unless Omar is the one who worries the ulema, in which case reasons of state might compel Ismail to act against him.

Much to ponder, there is.

By the way, upon re-reading the first post, I just now noticed that it says Hassan made to kick the head - so he didn't actually do it. Hmm. Perhaps this is not so supernatural after all, perhaps the head is (through cleverly hidden means) still attached to the body and is part of some plot, a sleigh of hand to make Hassan seem stronger, more supernaturally capable than he really is? Yet more questions...
the next post will help and then I'll put in a 'narrator's voice' post that will go some way to clearning up these introductory elements. But as to the nature of the head ... well m'learned friends would draw your attention to my answer to Vazitron above.
 

loki100

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Introduction: Part Four – three voices

Scene 1



... and his foot stopped short. Slowly he depressed a lever and slowly the metal plates moved apart.

"how are you?"

"hot, uncomfortable, this pit is a good introduction to Hell ..."

"you played your part well ... now depart. Go to Esfahan, make yourself useful to the Turk. The fools believe a marriage with the Fatimids will save their rotten Empire. ... I will contact you when we have need."

"should I do anything in particular?"

"yes, see if you can join the household of Omar. He will need our protection, I would rather he lived for now".

Scene 2



... as his foot slipped on a patch of ice. This brought him to his senses. He had been walking the frozen streets for ... who knows how many hours. Well he had a job before the morning.

Ismail had asked him to cast a horoscope for the Sultan. He had hinted, as if the stars could be so ordered, that the Sultan would appreciate reading of a rich future of leisure and peace. Well the meanest street urchin knew that was unlikely.

But Ismail had protected him from those who spoke of heresy and sorcery. He had provided a mansion and furnished it, discretely, with an observatory. For this, for being in many ways a true friend, Omar was prepared to oblige him when he asked, indirectly, for a particular favour.

Omar picked himself up, shrugged his coat closer against the cold and turned to go back to his house. There was work yet to be done before dawn.

Scene 3



... and his foot hit the small stool as Ismail stubbed his toe. Thrown off balance when Saim grabbed his arm, equally thrown by the intensity of his voice. His friend represented the religious establishment but very rarely seemed to identify with it.

Gathering his composure, he responded pleasantly.

"and who ... who can be the cause of such disquiet?"

"Omar ... your friend Omar Khayyam ... his sorcery and heresy is too public. In these days, if the Empire founders, many will identify the reason as God's punishment for protecting one such as him"

"No, you can't have him ... pick another of the rabble of astronomers and poets. I'll gladly have him before the public executioner tomorrow"

"Ismail I warn you. If you aim to replace Barkiarok, you will need the backing of the Ulema"

"then brother, it is as well I have no such ambitions. Now I must prepare first for the weddings and then my journey. I bid you well".
 

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Introduction: Part Five – Our Narrator's voice and a Table of Contents

I'll add these interludes at certain stages. One problem with an essentially narrative structure is how to move the action along and how to fill in useful context (well it is a problem for me).

So hopefully the fourth introduction helps tie the first three together.

In game play terms this is played as the Seljuk Empire starting on 30 December 1098. This is deliberate as the empire is primed to explode. Barkiarok was the only son so the Empire was spared the usual succession wars but he was (historically) and is (in-game) treated with contempt by both the Court and his vassals. I've played to about June 1099 and as you'll see, civil war is upon us. Of course to add to the mix, the first entry of the Crusaders has happened at Antioch.

Now I choose this date/outcome deliberately. This won't be a long AAR (in game played terms) as the goal is either to play through the dissolution of the Empire or its recovery. Once either has happened, then I've completed my goals. I do find one of the great things with CK2 is this ability to dip and dip out of the timeline.

What I wanted was civil war and strife as that gave me the backdrop for my 3 characters to interact. Variously, they are a hard hearted fanatic who wants chaos, a humanist who wants little but to be left to himself and a hard hearted fanatic who believes that only the iron of Empire can hold chaos at bay. It maybe that none will achieve what they want.

Two of my characters are relatively well known. Hassan, as founder of the Assassin sect and Omar Khayyam as one of this periods greatest scientists and poets. Ismail I took from the game. Equally Hassan and Ismail are in-game characters. Of course of the three, the only one I can directly manipulate with the game engine is Ismail.
 
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Ah yes, I had taken your evasive answer to Vazitron into consideration. I see I was not wrong (a rarity and a welcome change of pace ;)).

So, a battle of two hard men looms, with Omar caught in the middle. Clearly, there is no way to satisfy all of their desires, and at first glance Hassan's seems to be the easiest to fullfill. Regardless of who comes out on top, I fear that Omar will not get away unscathed.

I can see why Hassan would like to keep Omar around: he's an obviously destabilizing influence on the Seljuks. But where does Ismail's loyalty to Omar spring from? That is a far more intriguing question, as Omar's mere presence seems to go directly against Ismail's goal of staving off chaos.
 

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Ah yes, I had taken your evasive answer to Vazitron into consideration. I see I was not wrong (a rarity and a welcome change of pace ;)).

So, a battle of two hard men looms, with Omar caught in the middle. Clearly, there is no way to satisfy all of their desires, and at first glance Hassan's seems to be the easiest to fullfill. Regardless of who comes out on top, I fear that Omar will not get away unscathed.

I can see why Hassan would like to keep Omar around: he's an obviously destabilizing influence on the Seljuks. But where does Ismail's loyalty to Omar spring from? That is a far more intriguing question, as Omar's mere presence seems to go directly against Ismail's goal of staving off chaos.
Ismail has ambitions to be a cultured educated man. He is drawn into the murky affairs of state by temperament and his own perception of what is needed, but sees in Omar a life he could have had for himself. He is also rather cynical in matters of religion so Omar's free-thinking is a usual (if small) counterbalance to the pressures placed on the Empire by the Ulema. Hassan only wants chaos as a means to an end, so his challenge is not in bringing down chaos (there are plenty who share that goal) but in doing so in a manner that will serve his own goals.

This is most interesting. I will be sure to follow it.
Another AAR from Loki. I have to follow :)
thank you both ... hope to keep your interest as it develops