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Brougal

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well, Shia Caliphate seems to have blocked any northern expansion, might it be that Abyssinia's salvation lies beyond the Red Sea?
 
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Raticon

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Very interesting and original, i will be following this one for sure!

Brougal said it, maybe the salvation for Monophysiticism lies across the sea... amongst the sandy dunes of the Saudi peninsula?
 

Avarri

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Excellent AAR, well written, good mix of game play and humor. Hope Abyssinia survives so your readers may continue to enjoy her exploits!
 

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Thank you Ticket Cookie, Brougal, Ratison, BaronVonharry, and Avarri. I appreciate it!

@Brougal. Escaping over the water is a good idea. Thanks!
 

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Chapter 5

997a59f1f8063ebdabce0a87286c0a1187685ac59ceba23a0937ffcb24bdc7aa6g.jpg


Following my scholarly pursuits I managed to procure a book that shows many amazing animals I had never heard of before, such as a one-horned “unicorn” and a man that turns into a wolf at night called a “lycanthrope.” The one that I shared with my council was the “sciapod,” which was a tribe of one-legged men, purportedly in Ethiopean lands, who had a single large foot that they used to provide shade from the hot African sun. My whole council roared with laughter; the normally serious Bishop Haeran even fell out of his chair. Silly Europeans, everyone knows there is no such creature here—they are further south, across the arid wasteland where it is much more hot.



b874c5f3ae82733358a5a1ad036292b0787035a954276497dedc76324f1ddc876g.jpg

Doom falls on us like a sickle harvesting the Gesho to make tej.

abc3a52544ccf2ae3938874b867e9bc3d3feb5dc6cb3e8a4778dd735d91147a96g.jpg
fd810bf792c373eb9fab9d4290c3d73f94ab24205763b8d349f95c3ca9b9833f6g.jpg

1) This is how villagers smash the cut Gesho to make tej. 2) Is it closing time yet? I could use a cool glass of tej.

We all hoped that God would protect the last of His true believers, but how well did that fare for Axum? No, in our hearts we knew it was only a matter of time before doom fell on us like a farmer’s sickle harvesting the Gesho to make tej. Sure enough, ignoring his mayor’s advice to spare me (my chancellor’s only pal there), the Caliph issues his declaration of war against us. His stated casus belli:

Holy War to wrest the Shiekdom of Gondar,
profaned by the wicked Orthodox Christian infidels,
from the vile clutches
of the unholy Zagwa Dynasty.​

Did he not notice that we are not even Orthodox? We are Monophysite! I send a messenger to my chancellor to have this matter cleared up, but I doubt the Caliph will be one for such distinctions. The reaping sickle is falling upon us.



001a6781b5f545b3454ed7a44f1e23ef16867ee72804f59abbc16128b21d56f36g.jpg


The Shia Caliphate is headed by the banu Fatimiyyun dynasty, which has ruled in Egypt for some 100 years. Originally from further west in Northern Africa, the dynasty arrived in Egypt in the 900s and quickly took control. At age 41, Caliph al-Mustansir has already outlived his father and his father’s father and rivaled the lifespan of most of the rest of his paternal line. Until his great-grandfather Caliph al Aziz, the men had been diligent and generous. They could be wroth and zealous, too, but also just and garrulous. Their generations were conquerors, but they were also builders and diplomats par excellence. His grandfather, Caliph al Aziz, had been both wroth and kind as well, but a different bent of mind crept into the line that would turn the future caliphs inward: al Aziz was also abnormally shy in a world that demanded him to be confident with all.



fda84dca5900a10ce9572c95e9a3f32be002d50d1d82288eaf71f01eaa5657946g.jpg

A shy, lunatic zealot. Have someone else watch your children.

When it came to al-Mustansir’s grandfather, Caliph al-Hakim, he was shy and zealous, but he was also a lunatic. His own father, al Aziz, needed to take bold steps with this future ruler, but excessively shy al Aziz was not up to the task regarding his lunatic son. A generation later, in his turn left to be raised by a stark, raving madman, Caliph al-Hakim, became paranoid, cynical, and envious. The banu Fatimiyyn dynasty turned from being builders and diplomats to exploiters, conquerors who demanded that their imported Turkish warrior-slaves—the Mamluks—shed their blood in war instead of the free subjects.



5fc67c76fa3e7bd634ef096a447af6547080f0856e0beb9d9927f1ccedc93ddf6g.jpg


So the current ruler, Caliph al-Mustansir, raised by the twisted mind of al-Hakim, itself battled with a twisted mind. To some degree, though, Al-Mustansir rose above his upbringing by becoming kind and trusting. But his victory over his father’s problems was not complete. Al-Mustansir could also be greedy, craven, and lustful in his efforts to satisfy his rampant desires and hide from his many fears. Still, Caliph al-Mustansir, with the support of his temperate, brave, and kind wife, vowed to be a better father for his own children. And in some ways he succeeded in changing the bloodline for the better, and in some ways he did not.



7d1c86a90bad0800a2f40a7e9592ce1767afaba389ad26e41e1ce1fcd7cc22266g.jpg


As the eldest of Caliph al-Mustansir's grown sons, Prince Abu Mansur al-Nizar tries to conform to the image of the responsible son, reflected in his zealousness and moderation in food and drink. His feeling of personal slights, however, have fueled his inappropriate wroth and his secret self, the habitual liar. He has now two emirates and four shiekdoms to his name, a couple of which were granted only a few years ago, and for which the prince is still grateful. His fondness of his father is, however, tempered by his burning desire to be Emir of Alexandria, a position that has gone to his younger brother, al-Majid. His fondness is also tempered by his fear that his father will again slight him in favor of the second born.



7be2145b7246ed1535a3488c4c9aa5dec883d90cafbdf596b5e05d80a97dde346g.jpg

Despite appearances to the contrary, Abu mansur and al-Majid are not married to the same woman.

Prince al-Majid is the second born, the brother who has six shiekdoms and one emirate, the Emirate of Alexandria. He is brave and honest, though envious and proud. He is the Caliph al-Mustansir’s acknowledged favorite, and the object of envious hatred by his two adult brothers. The “Turkish” succession laws are Agnatic Open: a kind of meritocracy in which whoever has the most and best titles inherits the throne. For a long time, al-Mustansir has ensured that al-Majid had the most or best titles, and so he would be his heir. The jewel of his titles is, of course, the Emirate of Alexandria, which has become the concrete thing that his brothers focus their envy and anger on. Both desperately want this title, which they have tied to the throne in their minds, and both would kill for it. Al-Majid is oblivious to this enmity, though, and he is also oblivious to the limits of his martial talents: he persists in asking his father for the post of marshal, though he has precious little native ability. It is a testament to the Shia Caliphate that council offices are placed based on merit, not favor.



346ff2eb035324bc0b112e7da2bbea0b280c52fdc19cc138a91f1271875f139a6g.jpg

Ambitious, envious, and a Pretender... Would you make this guy your vassal?

Prince al-Mustali is the third born, and the neglected son. He has no landed titles. He desires to be spymaster, which he would be competent at, but at this his father laughs in derision, practically in the same breath as he takes al-Majid’s ludicrous request for the post of marshal seriously. Al-Mustali despises his father with all his being. His hatred has twisted his personality in every direction: chaste, envious, ambitious, craven, and arbitrary. He is kept penniless, reliant on his father’s largess for everything, which angers him further. Although al-Mustali is 21 years old, his father has never bothered to secure him a wife, which al-Mustali takes as further evidence that he will be treated this way indefinitely, unless he takes matters into his own hands.

In a family with tensions such as this, a glance can be taken to convey a message, a chance word can be taken to carry important meaning. al-Mustali demanded his chance to earn a landed title in the war against Axum, and he was appointed general in the fight. His ambition and envy so consumed him that he was able to overcome his cravenness; he even managed to lead the army effectively and victoriously. In fact, much as I ensured that Axum would not get any of Harer, al-Mustali ensured that only the Caliph, and none of his vassals, would get any of Axum. Al-Mustali felt that his father had indicated that this had earned him the Shiekdom of Axum, but yet his greedy father held onto the prize. In this new war against my Abyssinia, al-Mustali has again demanded his chance to earn a landed title, and he has again been placed at the head of command. He now whips the troops onward towards my land with a vengeance, desperate to prove once and for all that he deserves land and a rule of his own.

Why is it these infidels' lack of parenting skills means they must exhaust their aggressions against my kingdom? Couldn't they just poison each other like civilized people?
 
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Philo32b

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A bit of a slower post today--no direct action--but I wanted to explore the back story of the infidels. Certainly a lot of action tomorrow, though.
 

Zebediah

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Hey, action isn't everything. Rounding out the story is always a good idea. Nice work!

And I'm hoping that the "certain, painful doom" of the title isn't imminent.
 

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Tried Abyssinia myself multiple times, always failed. I will be following this AAR.
 

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Subscribed! Your AAR is a nice mix of challenging gameplay and humour...hopefully Abyssinia will last long enough to entertain the fellow readers a bit more ;).
 

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Is there any hope to assassinate the Caliph?

Also, nice AAR, I like the balance of text and graphics :) Will be following.
 

Peter Ebbesen

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Doom. Doom, I say you. :D

Keep up the good fight - it is interesting to read an AAR where things go badly, for once - even if only as a temporary setback.
 

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Thank you, Zebediah, Skullheadhq, Athalcor, Legolas, Peter Ebbesen, and NewbieOne.


@ Zebediah & Athalcor:

Don't worry--part of the "painful" part appears to be that the doom is administered repeatedly with no sign of the victim dying. There's hope yet!

@ Legolas:

That is a very good idea, because with one strong Pretender it might have produced a succession crisis and civil war, giving our budding Monophysite empire some breathing space. Unfortunately I completely forgot to try. I almost never use assassinations so I get out of the habit of thinking of it. I should have here.

@ NewbieOne:

Actually, I am ashamed to admit I knew almost nothing of the area. I picked whomever was the current king of Abyssinia because of Coleridge's lines about the Abyssinian main playing on the dulcimer.
 

Machiavellian

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A great read thus far, looking forward to more even if it ends in doom.
 

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Chapter 6

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According to my intelligence, The Shia Caliphate’s levees are somewhat exhausted and can only call some 14,000 troops at the moment. This is very small given their empire, but unfortunately it is still six times the size of my levees. I think the Caliphate is coming off a major war with Byzantium and they want some mild entertainment to pass the time as their forces rebuild.

My spymaster is stationed in Nubia so I can see the enemy approach from farther away. An added benefit of his presence there is he can observe the effects of the new infidel yoke on the conquered Nubians. Partly this would be interesting information, but mostly it is just to gloat how far the despicable Orthodox heretics have fallen. My chancellor is desperately sowing dissent in the county of the Caliph’s biggest vassal in the hope of producing a rebellion to distract the Caliph’s armies. Not once has a Caliph or Shiek ever entertained one of my chancellors, so I can’t imagine how this will help. I think he suggested it just to get away.



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Apparently my only hope is in the rivers, mountains, and Black-Chested Snake Eagles of the land.

My only advantage is my kingdom is dominated by mountains, some with rivers running through them for a double defensive bonus. The counties that could use river defense from a southbound attacker are Antalo and Matamma. I would have to wait in one of these and hope he attacks from Gondar and not from the sides. If he did attack from Gondar, attrition might carve away a bit more of his forces, too. As improbable a plan as it is, I cannot think of anything more useful.



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My spymaster sends a hasty messenger with news that his spy network has observed 7,800 enemy troops heading towards my kingdom commanded by Prince al-Mustali, whom I knew to be a veteran fighter against Ethiopians, from his war on Axum. Spies on the road watching for troop movements note that 1/8th of this force are the dreaded Turkish horse archers. Of all the types of troops around, there is one that is stronger than the horse archer: heavy cavalry. Unfortunately, the closest thing I have to heavy cavalry is on the rare occasion when Marshal Bishop Hagos gets into the tej and ends up riding an ox instead of a horse during troop drills.

7,800 troops is a small enough number to live off the dry Abyssinian land, so supply will not bother the infidel invaders. 7,800 is a big enough number, however, to utterly destroy me, my army, and our cherished Monophysite way of life. Perhaps if my “masterful scholar” Court Chaplain Bishop Haeran, endlessly conducting fruitless inquisitions in the County of Harer, had been a little more effective and converted any counties I could have used those levees too and made it a fairer fight. What kind of inquisition converts no one? Are they just holding hands and singing songs over there? If we make it through this, I should show Haeran what an inquisition should look like.

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They are not coming for the party.

The Caliphate has become a transcultural realm, which was reflected in the composition of its military, many of whose members though were similar in status to slaves. Berbers formed the ranks of light cavalry and light infantry. Heavy cavalry and horse archers were made up of Turks. And black Africans and Arabs made up the archers and infantry. I wonder what they would have Monophysite Ethiopians do? Probably broom patrol after the Turkish horses.



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This is Gondar Castle, my capital. With a vast superiority in arms over my capital’s garrison, upon reaching Gondar the infidels simply assault the walls with minimal losses. All my court and the cream of Abyssinian nobility have fled before the infidels.



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While the Prince al-Mustali and his infidels sack my castle, plundering anything of value and most likely making off with my award-winning collection of tej glasses, my army is marching back and forth between Matamma and Antalo. Either of these would receive the river defense bonus in addition to the mountain bonus, and so I want to be somewhere in between them when he chooses which he will attack so I can get there first. The fact that our final hours are made up of hurried marches in circles seems somehow fitting.

I’ve consolidated my army into two columns in a bit of a gamble that my middle bolstered column can more quickly destroy his. Commanding my central column is the chronically under-appreciated Gebre Sawakin, the refugee noble from the sack of Azum by the infidels. Slightly better at war than my marshal, he had petitioned to be made marshal himself, which I had refused out of loyalty to my longtime marshal, Bishop Hagos. Gebre’s learning was meager, yet he held to his faith zealously, and this had led him to also desire the position of court chaplain, which I had again refused. Neither of these had made him any less loyal to me—he thought the world of me, despite my almost complete lack of reciprocal feeling. He was gregarious with friends and wroth with his enemies, he indulged too much in food, drink, and lust, but was the best warrior in my kingdom when called on to fight. He had seen first-hand in Axum what the infidels would do to our Monophysite kingdom.



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Is it just me? He doesn't look quick.

The left flank was commanded by Bishop Hagos of Gish Abay, my longtime marshal who had proven instrumental in finishing off the Herar before the Azum, possibly commanded by Gebre himself, could get any of the spoils. This warrior theologian was quicker than most and equal to Gebre in zealousness to our Monophysite faith. Although his martial abilities were partially limited by his paranoid inability to delegate responsibility, he had always been an extremely loyal vassal to me. He contrasted with Gebre’s rash, indulgent personality with a patient, temperate one. I knew he dreamed of being rich one day, and had only reached a small amount of what he needed to achieve that dream. By position he should have commanded the central column, but I tapped Gebre for his slightly better commanding abilities in this hour of extreme need.



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It is the eve of battle. Prince al-Mustali got the jump on me to Matamma, so I snuck in behind him to Gondar to either draw him to battle there (across the river again), or to take back my holdings there. He chose to pursue me there. Tomorrow will be the battle that determines our fate if we lose. If we win, the Caliph will merely send another army. If we had more time, though, we could get lucky with a civil war breaking out in The Shia Caliphate or the Catholics beginning a crusade. Or my chancellor might produce something more productive for his efforts than expense bills for various “entertaining” events. He tells me that Caliphate officials always require exotic dancing girls for state dinners, but I have my doubts.



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My men were completely slaughtered. All my defensive maneuvering came to absolutely nothing. As the hot wind off the desert ignores rivers and mountains before it vaporizes the scant dew clinging to tender seedlings, Prince al-Mustali’s men surged over our positions. The entire “battle” scarcely lasted a day. The infidel’s Turkish horse archers poured wave upon wave of arrows into our midst, blackening out the sun. No direct blows were exchanged, the archers were so deadly. Very few Abyssianians escaped this killing field. My archers killed 136 of Prince al-Mustali’s men compared to my loss of over 2,000. Given that each of the 1,000 mounted archers is worth at least 20 light infantry, I never had a chance. After the carnage, Bishop Hagos flees to my son’s court in Harer. Gebre is not so lucky and is captured and taken to prison in Cairo.



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My mayor in Sennar reminds me that I never bothered to visit before. I think I will have him killed.

After this decisive battle, the Caliph immediately offers peace if I surrender the de jure Duchy of Gondar. With no army remaining, I acquiesce and lose 7/8 of my economic and levee base. It would be 22 years until any counties in the Duchy of Herar will be productive anything, which is enough time for two truces to expire. My capital moves to Sennar in the sandy west where I can pull a maximum levee of 300 men. The only surviving members of my council were the ones stationed abroad. A small band of refugee nobles trickles into my court. I do the only thing I can do under these circumstances. I announce a tournament. I am a wastrel, after all. Besides, it would be nice to focus on something other than our utter defeat, something that would put us in the proper frame of mind to plan an epic return to power. I begin to plan the event and send messengers to all the corners of my kingdom… which takes a lot less messengers now.

But this is a tournament that will not be held.
 
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Athalcor

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Oh well, at least you still have Sennar, your son and Harer, and the hope that a civil war may still bring the Caliphate down before the next declaration of war. Any diplomatic chance of securing an alliance with other Christians?

And God. He has God on his side.
 
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Franconian

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Philo32b

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Thanks for your comments, Machiavellian, aldriq, athalcor, and Franconian. I appreciate it!

@ aldriq: Yes, something along the lines of a Christian alliance is indeed on the horizon for the last, shrinking Ethiopian realm...
 
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