War Against the Beast

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Contents

Introduction

Short though memorable war (1743-1746) fought between an alliance of nations and the Kingdom of Georgia whose ruler, Raschid Ibn-Majid, was unmasked and shown to be none other than the Daemon Sultan: an avatar of Nyarlathotep!

Allied Strategy

To be written

Georgian Strategy

To be written

Newsfaxes

AD 1743
Somewhere in near-Earth Space
Ice-shrouded gray rock tumbled through darkness. The surface of the flying mountain swarmed with uncounted numbers of winged, crustacean-like creatures. They labored in the darkness, drilling and shaping with their machines. The vast stone tumbled slowly, end over end, though the mob of creatures burrowing within its mantle was so great even the light of the distant sun failed to reflect from their carapaces and velvet wings.

Near the northern pole of the asteroid, a lean black shape drifted on the solar wind, engaged in the rudimentary communications which prevailed between the denizens of Yuggoth and other creatures.

<Once split,> the messenger radiated, <one striking | falling | incinerating stone will strike | crush | shatter these islands…> The messenger radiated a picture of four great islands lying alongside a vast continent. Great importance was placed upon a certain coastline, and a particular bay.

The Mi-Go flashed agreement in cerulean and azure.

<the other hammer | vessel | tool will impact | rend | absorb this place, at the foot of these mountains | dimples | grains of sand.>

The messenger waited, but the Mi-Go did not reply. Instead its rumpled, chitinous skin flared and coruscated with a dozen nameless colors. Other of the fungi nearby gathered, and they fell to an inscrutable conversation, even to the dark messenger. At length they replied no.

A dispute followed, and the dark messenger was forced to admit defeat. Who could divine the thoughts of the fungi? They were beyond the byakhee’s poor skill in such things.

<rend | slaughter | consume | know> it spat in disgust. The master will not be pleased…


The Kingdom of Georgia: Diplomacy None
Disturbed by certain reports from his western port cities, the sultan issued an edict banning the agents, factors, representatives and emissaries of the Norsktrad company from Georgian lands and cities. Apparently the northerners had attempted to abscond with funds being transferred from the Albanians to Georgia three years previous. Reports were also received in Baghdad of a “Spanish woman” nosing about in the ancient holy places of Jerusalem.

As Saleh had claimed, the sultan had learned from diverse sources of the impending invasion of his realm. This sparked considerable ire in the black-eyed king, but he had made certain preparations for such a day.

“Those who strike against me,” Rashid proclaimed, summoning his generals to him, “test their strength against the dark stars, and the fire hiding in night.” He looked to the sky, while two coal-black leopards licked his hands and crawled at his feet. “Their doom is coming closer by the hour…”

The Danish Empire: The Empress, for her part, was marshalling a powerful army – built around the core of her Royal Guardsmen – in Mansura among the ruins of Krak-de-Chevaliers. Though she expected the enemy to strike back as soon as her forces entered Georgian territory, she had not expected for them to bring the war to her. Not so directly.

A long day had ended – her mind still filled with details of steamship coaling, munitions lading, holds and cargoes and tons of supplies – as she entered her tents at the center of the great Imperial camp beside the murky green waters of the Nile.

“Mara – I need a fresh doublet and…” Oniko leapt aside, her only warning a queer tickling feeling as she passed from the blazing light of day into the dim tent. Her saber was a blur in the darkness, and almost immediately smashed from her hand, spinning away.

Something huge, with wrinkled skin, exuding a thick musty stench, came at her and the Pale Flame grunted as a massive claw gouged at her chest. Thick, horn-like talons sparked from a thick, padded shirt of chainmail. Oniko rolled away, dragging a small, twisted flute from her breast. The thing charged again.

Ignoring the matched brace of pistols at her hip, the Empress sounded the flute in a warbling, tuneless wail. The huge shape shuddered, then flipped sideways, receded to a point and vanished.

“Guards!” Oniko clawed for her pistols as the first of the assassins stormed into the chamber. A fraction of a second later, twin Mannlincher revolvers were hammering away in a cloud of smoke, bursts of flame and the screams of dying men.

Two weeks later, the Danish fleet and the Empress’ army set sail from Krak for Basra and the land between the two rivers.


The War Against the Beast (AD 1743-1744)
Georgia

vs.

Sweden, Persia, Denmark, Kiev, Carthage, Aztec, Sword of Allah and the Nisei Republic


And I heard a great voice ring from the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.

And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men having the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.

And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.

And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.

And I heard another voice from the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.

And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and the sun became blackened and dim, as if scorched.

And men were tormented with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.

And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.

And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.

For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.

And there were voices, thunders, lightnings; a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.

And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.

And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great…


AD 1743
January: After escaping the assassination attempt, Oniko of Denmark sets sail from Krak-de-Chevaliers for Basra.

February: The El’Rif himself leads a Swedish army of 9,200 men into Georgian Cilicia. He intends nothing less than the liberation of Jerusalem from the infidel.

March: In Baghdad, the Sultan learns of the El’Rif’s invasion and responds; a vast host marching swifly up the road to Homs. Part of this army is a mixed force of zeppelins and cavalry commanded by Abuaddin.

April: The Persian general Rashad arrives in Basra and finds himself in command of the entire Persian host assembling there (the other commanders having fallen to misfortune or the assassins’ blade.)

The Sultan’s army reaches Antioch.

Early May: The Danish fleet arrives in Basra and begins to unload 32,000 men, 175 guns and 44 zeppelins.

Late May: The El’Rif’s striking force has reached Tarsus – which they find to be fortified and defended by a Georgian garrison. The Sultan also arrives – having moved with great speed from Baghdad. Maneuvering with great skill, the El’Rif manages to break off to the west, slipping back into Isauria.

Early June: The Danish admiral Gligoric arrives at Krak-de-Chevaliers and unloads a force of 9,000 Danish regulars and 20,000 Hussite mercenaries provided by the Albanians. He joins Tiechman and the Imperial Arab Scouts brigade, already at Krak.

Late June: The Sultan plows into Isauria, his light cavalry leapfrogging ahead of the rest of the army, and his zeppelins trapping El’Rif in the city of Antalya. The Georgian zeppelins prove more than a match for the Swedish Air Corps, and then the city is leveled by the Sultan’s artillery and airships. The el’Rif dies battling among the ruins, falling with the last of his men, ripped apart by the Sultan’s Guard.

Early July: The rest of the Persian armies, under the command of ‘Abd al Latif arrive in Basra from Carmania. There are now 83,000 Persians in the field, supported by 575 cannon and 4 zeppelins. Al’Latif takes command of the Persian fleet.

The Sultan’s army marches east into Cilicia.

Late July: The Swedish admiral Dottski arrives in Basra with a Swedish fleet crowded to the gunnels with 17,000 men, countless guns and almost one hundred combat zeppelins.

Within days of the Swedish arrival, the Shaat-al-Arab is crowded with the Aztec Singing Flame and Sword of Empire legions, as well as a contingent of 4,000 Tlahulli (Order of the Flowering Sun) jaguar and eagle knights.

Hakim al’Rif (prince of the Swedish Exarchate of Inner Africa) arrives at Antalya in Isauria with 4,600 Berber hussars to reinforce his father. He and admiral Stuebing find the city in ruins, and a Georgian flag flying above the broken towers of the citadel. Wondering if his father has been forced to retreat further west, the Swedish squadron sails along the Lycian coast…

The Georgian general Abuaddin, lying in wait with a force of airships, strikes from the clouds as the Swedish fleet enters the Gulf of Finike. Rockets and bombs rain down on Stuebing’s ships. The steam cruisers return fire with a rattle of light guns. Their own rockets flash into the sky. A Georgian zeppelin convulses, then explodes in a blossom of orange flame, raining debris into the sea. At almost the same moment, bombs smash into the decks of two of the steam cruisers and explode. Shrapnel tears into the interior spaces, rupturing a boiler. The Bauhaus blows apart like a cheap cup, followed moments later by the Muscovy, whose magazine catches fire. The rest of the Swedish ships break for the open sea, and the Georgian zeppelins sweep after them, raining fire on the sailing ships. Both Hakim and Steubing are badly injured and only one steam cruiser, the Malmo escapes to limp into Heraklion harbor a month later. Hakim dies of his injuries.

August: Colonel Phillip Drake, Royal Army, placed in command of the Swedish regiments in Basra. Unloading of the various fleets is finishing up. Things are a royal mess in and around Basra, where there’s just barely room to fit so many ships, men and supplies. The Persians are stretched thin to provide enough food, water and entertainment.

Gligoric and his Danish army march across the blisteringly hot Sinai, intending to invade western Georgia. Their men suffer terribly in the wasteland.

The Sultan’s army marches east into Aleppo.

Abuaddin and his cavalry/zeppelin force swing back into Cilicia.

September: The entire Alliance army – 158,000 men – marches north through Hahmar and into Georgian Mesopotamia. Their advance is immediately opposed by the Tuareg chieftain Aden Amin ibn Saleh and a mobile army of Arab lancers in support of an extensive string of fortified villages and other citadels. The Alliance army immediately sets about smashing every single one of the forts into rubble. They’ve come well prepared with sappers, artillery and airships, but it still takes time.

The Sultan’s army marches east into Palmyra.

Abuaddin’s reaction force reaches Antioch.

October: Gligoric’s army of the Sinai (supported by Tiechman’s Arab scouts) attacks the province of Petra. To their surprise, they find the emir of Aqaba and his army ready to resist them. Luckily, Gligoric had brought a big army – 32,000 men – and though everyone was about perishing of the heat and thirst, they managed to smack the Petrans around and capture Aqaba.

Abuaddin reaches Homs.

The Sultan’s army arrives in Baghdad, even as the Alliance hosts clear away the last of the fortifications. The Tuaregs join up with the Sultan, who measures the odds… he has roughly 100,000 men in the field and 140 zeppelins. The Alliance outnumbers him, but not by an overwhelming margin – and this is his land, his people… his long held preparations. He decides to fight.

Forty miles south of Baghdad, on the road to ancient Babylon, is the fortress-town of Girumu. In late October, with the rains threatening, under a leaden sky, the armies of the Sultan and the Alliance clashed in (frankly) epic combat. Against the Daemon Sultan Rashad the Sunlanders arrayed Oniko of Demark, the Pale Flame; Drake, the Persian Rashad, and the Aztec Sword of Empire legion.

The armies collided in a dispersed fashion, each side trying to bring their full weight to bear on only a portion of the enemies number. The skies above were already aflame with battle when the first artillery barrages thundered out. Though the Alliance had more airships, the Georgian ones proved their master in speed, turning ability and firepower. Only a paltry ten Aztec zeppelins (of peculiar design) proved capable of matching them one for one…

On the ground, the Pale Flame rode into battle, surrounded by a great hedge of her Imperial Guard, and held overall command. Often, as she received reports and issued commands, she showed a pale, strained face and kept her eye upon a strangely-worked mirror always close at hand.

Across the farmlands and plains (the frontage of combat was almost five miles long), the Sultan also bent his will against the Empress, and loathsome servants lurked at every hand. The sun dimmed with smoke and dust, the air reverberated with the constant thunder of guns and the rattle of rifle and musket. The front met in a blaze of gunfire, the screams and shouts of men and the boom of drums and the wailing of pipes. Almost immediately, the lines of battle began to skew as each host sought to flank the other.

Amid all this, the Sultan waited and watched, a legion of his Pushtigbhan close around him. “I want her,” he snarled, seeing – far across the field – the banners of Denmark. A mailed fist curled around the hilt of a saber of ebon hue. “She is their heart, and I will tear it out.”

A long vicious day followed, with great slaughter on both sides. But the Georgians did not break, nor were flanked. And though the Sultan tried to rush to grips with Oniko, she kept away, and vast black columns of smoke mounted to the heavens, and under the unblinking, uncaring sun fifty-thousand Sunlander troops perished or were sorely wounded. Nearly forty-five thousand Georgians also fell, mostly among the Tuaregs, whom the Sultan ever used in the thick of the fight.

Yet the Georgian airfleet smashed the Alliance from the sky, and Oniko was forced to retreat – though in good order – back into Hahmar, lest her army be savaged from the air. Sister Chaltique (one of the Knights of the Flowering Sun), commanding the rear-guard, was killed by the blast of an airship bomb. Though Oniko tried to break away, the Sultan pressed her retreating elements, slaughtering any man who fell behind.

November: Near Nasiryah, Oniko turned again, and struck hard at the Sultan’s vanguard. Another enormous battle brewed up, shaking the heavens with such a tumult of cannon and screams and the rippling blast of riflemen firing in volley. This time, the Danish Imperial Guard jammed into the heart of the fray, smashing into the Georgian center. The Sultan was taken unawares, and his army staggered back. An enormous number of Persian infantry were chewed up as Oniko attempted to grind down the Georgian center.

Again, the Sultan attempted to come to grips with her, one to one, and again she danced away, spending the Aztecs and Persian troopers like water, but bleeding Georgia… bleeding the Sultan badly. The captain of the Sword of Empire legion fell at Nasiryah, and the battered remnant of his army decamped – though Oniko pleaded with them to stay. In the night, the Sultan limped away to the north.

Abuaddin reaches Baghdad with his army.

December: Exhausted, both armies fell back – the Georgians to Baghdad, the Alliance to Basra – to lick their wounds and tend the wounded. The wet season was upon them, turning the land between the two rivers to mud… Now Oniko and the Sultan wait for spring and the dry season to come.


AD 1744
January

February: The Kievian count Vasilyko arrives in Vasi and takes command of the Swedish army stranded there by the death of general Tarasuik.

March: Muayaia Sayyaf Adin and his Sword of Allah mujhadeen attack the Fire Temple at Ganzak in Kurdistan. As the temple is undefended save for unarmed priests and scholars, they slaughter everyone in the place and set it afire. The buildings are pulled down and the land strewn with salt. A great storehouse of Avestan religious writings (carefully gathered by the Zoroastrian priests over the last six years) are destroyed.

The Nisei general Hideyoshi Anosuri lands in Basra with an expeditionary regiment of 1,200 men. They’ve traveled half way around the world… but they have arrived!

Gligoric and his Danish army defeat the emir of Petra’s army and move to besiege Aqaba.

The armies of the Sultan and the Alliance both march into Hahmar province, eager to come to grips with one another and end this struggle. The dance of maneuver and feint and skirmishing begins again.

April: Gligoric’s army in Petra captures Aqaba.

After weeks of probing one another’s cavalry screen, and the intermittent battles of the remaining Alliance airships against the Georgian zeppelins, a meeting engagement northeast of ancient Uruk exploded into a full-fledged fracas between both armies. Despite the unexpected nature of the clash, both the Sultan and Oniko showed the full range of their skill in a fluid battle of maneuver. Only by an hour’s difference – the erratic movement of one Swedish regiment – did the Sultan take the field, driving the Alliance army back into Abadan province. The retreating Sunlanders suffered constant attacks from the air, and from Abuaddin’s light horse, which now outnumbered their own by a heavy margin. The battered Sunlanders reached Basra to find two fresh regiments of Nisei troops waiting.

Oniko immediately put the Japanese on the front line, rotating back her Persians, who were worn to the breaking point. Georgian airships were seen above the port, surveying the lay of the land.

Early May: The Kievian/Swedish Cossacks under Count Vasilyko invade Georgia.

Gligoric’s army garrisons and secures both Petra and Aqaba.

The Sultan invades Abadan, intending to smash the Alliance back into the sea. The Alliance fleet puts to sea, hoping to escape a devastating air-raid.

Far to the east and west alike, the sky is torn asunder and vast devastation visited upon the earth. Millions perish and great cities are consumed by the waves.


Yangtse Impact.JPG
Seventy Miles from the mouth of the Yangtze River
Late in ’44, the skies above the balmy and pacific coast of China split wide with a monstrous, unimaginable howl. The air convulsed, slammed aside by a quarter-mile wide rock, and rushed out from the oncoming beast at typhoon speeds. Vast dark banks of stormcloud raged with lightning, spilling away across the China Seas. A huge flaming mass punched into the ocean, catapulting out waves a mile high. Most of the water in the area of impact vaporized into a boiling cauldron of superheated steam. The asteroid sledgehammered into the ocean floor, sending a shockwave through the muddy bottom of the shallow sea.

Within hours, the atmospheric shockwave crashed across the Chinese coast, shattering buildings, flattening temples, tearing trees up by the roots, whirling thousands of people away into the sky. A wall of superheated steam followed, parboiling or incinerating everything exposed to the air. Cities and towns burst into flame. Two hours later, the burning cities of Lin’an, Shanghai and Fuzhou vanished under a vast tidal wave which came roaring up out of the deeps like the doom of god.

Multiple aftershocks rippled out across the sea floor, causing waterspouts and whirlpools to consume shipping. The huge wave thrown out – which had annihilated the provinces of Kiangsu, Taiping, Chekiang and Fukien – was still a hundred feet high when it slammed into Cheju’do, northern Taiwan and Okinawa. Tens of thousands more perished, and there was heavy damage to all the cities facing the Huang Hai and the Tsushima Strait.

The plume of steam (and vaporized fish and dust and rock) thrown up from the impact mounted into the heavens, eventually spreading out into a vast black pall across northern Asia. A dense cloud, impenetrable to the sun…

Imperial Venice, the Skywatch Tower near the Arsenal, late spring 1744
Empress-Regent Claudia took the last of the narrow steps three at a time, her skirts gathered up around her thighs. She burst onto the rooftop observatory, two of her guardsmen panting at her back. A crowd of astronomers and scientists turned towards her and Claudia felt a chill drape across her shoulders. The faces were pale and taut, as if they had looked into an abyss of fire.

“Tell me,” she snapped. Time was ever short for the ruler of a vast empire, and no less for her, as she labored to keep her sister’s military expedition in the Middle East supplied.

There was no answer, but old Cassini raised his hand, pointing to the northeastern sky. Claudia produced a pair of spectacles and turned – then grew still. There was no need for spectacles. A pair of enormous lights hung in the sky, drowning the moon, washing out the stars.

“How long?” Claudia felt her heart seize up, her breath grow short.

“A day, perhaps.” Cassini turned to his assistant, Calvaire. The Frenchman shook his head sadly. “One is already shining red – we think friction heats such objects as they enter the ocean of air around our world.”

Claudia turned to her guardsmen. “What of Spielmann? Is there any word?”

“Yes,” gulped the lieutenant colonel. “A letter came just today – there is no gate he wrote, and the Yithians took him.”

“Damn!” Claudia looked back to the sky. “You old fools should have informed me days ago!” She bolted back down the stairs. “Get my son aboard an airship, right now!”

Sixteen hours later the sky over Venice convulsed, a pressure wave thrown aside by the plunging asteroid shrieking down upon the city and the Veronan countryside. Zeppelins in flight – and there were many fleeing the doomed city – were slammed to earth, shredded beyond recognition. An enormous scream of distorted air roared out. The Adriatic flattened, then heaved, smashing ships like kindling. Nearly every building, church, warehouse and factory in Verona province was smashed to the ground by the supersonic blast.

Destruction of Venice - 1744

Then the rock slammed into the Lagoon, and Venice and hundred mile radius vanished in a titanic explosion. The shallow waters vaporized, joining a mammoth blast of pulverized stone, rock, buildings, sea, docks and farmland. A secondary blast – this one heated to incinerating temperatures – roared out, annihilating everything in Verona, Lombardy, Savoy, Romagna, Illyria, Slovenia, and Carinthia. The bulkwark of the Italian alps blocked some of the raging inferno from Tyrol, but the surge of superheated air lapping over the mountains melted every glacier, snowpack and peak in the Alps.

Enormous floods roared down the valleys, inundating towns and drowning cities, carrying away hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. The lower mountains of the Italian alps also blocked some of the ravening blast from Liguria and Tuscany, but vast and widespread devastation afflicted those provinces as well. To the east, most of Croatia, Bakony and Slovakia were destroyed. Even the railroad – so newly finished! – into Slovakia was not spared, the bridges, trestles and way-bed smashed, buried or incinerated.

Worst, the impact threw up a vast cloud of dust and ash into the upper air. While a rain of burning stones would fall across Europe for the next three months, the spreading stain in the sky soon blocked out the sun. A dreadful cloud joined the faint brown smudge already clogging the higher reaches of the sky – the detritus of the Olathöe explosion.

Claudia, her scientists and her family – attempting to flee across the barrier of the Alps by zeppelin – were killed when the stormfront rolled across their aerial convoy and tore them all to bits. Not one airship survived, even the Grand Baklovakian which had been carrying the Imperial family to safety.



Late May: Oniko draws a line at Ash-Shuai’ba – the last defensible position before the Sultan’s artillery is raining shells into the port of Basra itself. Now the Alliance digs in – hastily – and the Sultan is on the attack. Unfortunately, the long series of battles has taught Raschid respect for the Pale Flame and her skill, and he’s learned quickly in this crucible of battle…

Hideyoshi Anosuri and his Emperor’s Own guards are the first to go down, their line crumpling under a sudden attack by the Sultan’s Guards. Encircled on the left wing, the Nisei fight hard, but go down gallantly under waves of Tuaregs. The entire Alliance left collapses and the Georgian air fleet swoops in, taking heavy losses to smash the batteries covering the broken wing.

The Sultan commits his reserves and Oniko is forced to throw her own Imperial Guard into the gap. A ferocious melee erupts, but the Danes stand firm in the midst of a dissolving Alliance army. Abuaddin’s lancers burst through the faltering line and swing right. Drake is forced to pull back his Swedes and Persians. Oniko is left alone, surrounded by her Guards in a sea of Georgian troops.

Now the Sultan turns his attention to her, and rides forth, challenging her to battle. In reply, she takes a rifle from one of her Empress’ Own Foot troopers. Sighting calmly, she puts two bullets into Raschid’s breastplate at extreme range. Luckily for him, the heavy cotton padding behind the shattered metal absorbed the shock. “There’s my answer,” Oniko screamed, her voice long raw from the effort of command.

The Georgians surged against the Danish square and the melee resumed, even fiercer than before. Despite the ferocity of the attack, the Danish veterans stand firm, then hack their way out to the southwest, into the desert.

By nightfall, the Alliance army is split in twain and in full retreat. Georgian airships and light horse dog them, bleeding the fleeing regiments. The Persian commander Rashad is killed, commanding the rear-guard, and then Drake is wounded.

Early June: Relentless, the sultan presses Drake, driving him away from Basra and into the marshes along the lower Tigris. By the end of the month, the remainder of the Swedish / Persian / Danish army is destroyed. The marsh-people, bowing before the sultan, hunt down the survivors – gaining a rich prize (a gold scimitar for each head).

Oniko and her Imperial Guard manage to escape down the highway to Kuwait City, where Abd al’Latif’s fleet is able to evacuate them. The remainder of the Aztec Sword of Empire legion has already fled east into Fars province.

In the east, Gligoric and his army invade Levant find the province defended by local milita and an annoying number of fortified strong-points, villages and encampments. The Georgian general Sadir ibn Sadir is commanding the defense, which slows down the Danish advance considerably.

Late June: Oniko and her surviving guardsmen – less than five thousand men – arrive by ship at Abas in Fars. She dispatches messengers to Shah Jehan, informing him of the disaster which has overtaken the Alliance campaign, urging him to move any armies at his command to Zagros and Fars to reinforce her.

Sultan Raschid continues to mop up in Abadan.

The Kievan/Swedish army of the Caucasus conquers the province of Georgia.

Early July: The Persian shah Jehan and his general Al’Qadir, encamped at Semnan in Khurasan, receive Oniko’s letters. They immediately set out with 90,000 men to reinforce her.

Gligoric besieges Sadir ibn Sadir in Akko, which is strongly fortified. The Danes are confident, however, in their ability to reduce the archaic fortress.

The remnants of the Aztec Sword of Empire legion march southeast into Mand province.

Late July: The Sultan dispatches Abuaddin to secure Kuwait, while he turns east and marches into Ahvaz province. There is no Persian resistance.

The Danish Empress is finally reached by courier and learns of her sister’s death and the destruction of northern Italy and Venice. She is stunned, but her spirit does not break. Instead, she closets herself in her tent, from which queer lights were seen to flicker, late at night.

When she emerges, she addresses the troops and tells them of Venice’s destruction by a falling star – and the ruin of Verona and all those lands – and of the great storms and furies even now raging over the broken earth. Her eyes are keen as she looks into each heart.

“This is the time of revelation,” Oniko said, speaking very clearly, that all might hear. Her face was lit, as from within, by a shining light. “Our enemy no less than the Beast himself, the Daemon Sultan, Satan and Shaitan. And we are all which stand between him and the rest of the world. We band of brothers, these few thousands who have stood in the furnace and felt the Lord at our side. This is Armageddon, and we are the soldiers of the Lord of Heaven and we will not fail!”

August: Jehan, Al’Qadir and the Persian army of armies reach Khvor.

The Georgians secure the provinces of Kuwait (though Abuaddin is unable to capture Kuwait City) and Ahvaz. The city of Shankar surrenders as soon as the Sultan’s army arrives.

The Aztecs march into Bandar, where they encamp at the city of Ormuz. The Singing Flame fleet is waiting for them. Everyone hopes they’ve escaped the Sultan’s pursuit.

Gligoric’s army besieges Akko with all vigor. Sadir ibn Sadir fights gamely, but he is outnumbered, outgunned and the Danish siege engineers are the very devil themselves. Akko falls and Sadir is killed.

September: Terrible flooding due to torrential rains afflict Hahmar and Abadan provinces.

The Sultan secures Ahvaz and rests his men. Work begins on prepared positions along the highway from Zagros. Abuaddin rejoins the Sultan and brings reports of the fighting in Levant and the resistance of Kuwait City.

Oniko, meanwhile, has rested her men as well, and begun work on fortifications on the approaches to Abas in Fars.

Jehan and Al’Qadir reach Kerman in Shir-Kuh, but their advance is also slowed by poor weather and a long logistical train.

Gligoric advances into Jordan. He curses, seeing yet another province filled with forts and walled towns and surly, hateful natives. The Danes begin subduing the province.

October: Hanno, a general of Carthage, arrives in Krak de Chevaliers with a corps of 4,400 men to reinforce the Danish garrison.

The Sultan, having learned of the slow advance of the Persian reinforcements, launches a raid into Fars, but is unwilling to test Oniko’s defense of Abas without his main army, which remains in Ahvaz.

The Persians managed to reach Al Wan in Zagros before being forced to halt for the winter. The province is crowded with refugees from further west. Worse, the Prester John and the Gurvan have also arrived with their vast flocks, thousands of yurts and endless contingents of rowdy nomadic warriors. The province feels very small and the harvests are already paltry.

The Aztec crown-prince Nimulana arrives in Ormuz on a swift frigate, having spent nearly two years at sea, retching over the side of the Ehecatl. Rather sodden and green, he is ready to become a man and lead warriors into battle! Urp. The ragged remnants of the Sword of Empire legion are in not much better shape.

Gligoric captures Amman.

Vasilyko’s Kievan/Swedish army of the Caucasus conquers Azerbaijan and lays siege to the city of Tabriz. Further south, in Kurdistan, the Sword of Allah is also trying (rather badly) to take Nineveh. The Georgian garrisons in both cities laugh at them and call them names.

November: The rains continue, and everything turns to mud. Falls of ash and thick dust begin to afflict the land between the two rivers. The Sultan is pleased.

December: Winter comes, and the rains, and everything stops, waiting for the spring.


AD 1745
The Kingdom of Georgia: Rashid devoted his entire attention to mustering more men, more guns and more ammunition. He would make these fools pay for attacking him!

The tense mood in Baghdad was not improved by the frenzied work of laborers expanding the fortifications ringing the vast, ancient city, or by the intermittent explosions and attacks in the quarter devoted to the clerks and scribes who toiled in the Sultan’s government. The perpetrators were invariably caught – Rashid had eyes everywhere, it seemed – and they were an unlikely lot of Japanese and Chinese merchants. All tasted paradise at the end of a noose before being thrown into the common charnel pits on the western side of the city.


The War Against the Daemon Sultan (AD 1743-1746)

Georgia

vs.
Sweden, Persia, Denmark, Frankish Commonwealth, Duchy of the Three Isles, Arnor, Kiev, ARF, Mixtec, RSA, Vastmark, Ethiopia, Masai, Prester John, the Rangers, Sword of Allah and the Nisei Republic

When you're wounded an' left on Georgia's plains.
An' the women come out to cut up your remains,
Just roll to your rifle an' blow out your brains,
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier. ~ Kipling.

AD 1745
January: Lord Piket, commander of the Danish fleet at Heraklion on Crete, loses a bitter struggle with pneumonia and dies, leaving his ships leaderless in harbor. Luckily, a Taborite father – Karl Mohaim – was traveling to join the admiral and would be forced to assume the command as his own.

At Ormuz in Bandar, the Aztec legion of the Singing Flame (having only recently arrived in the theatre) receives word from a courier they must immediately return Prince Nimulana home. Cursing the wayward desires of the be-cursed Emperor, the Aztecs set sail for the other side of the world.

February: Trouble visited the camps of the Sultan in Ahvaz, where a group of wiry brown men attempted thump Rashid on the head as he was writing dispatches in his tents. How the little be-turbaned fellows managed to slip past the rings of guards and watchers around the headquarters, no one was ever able to explain – yet they did. Unfortunately, even for the fabled thuggee, the Sultan proved more than a match for a few stranglers. By the time his guards burst into the tent, four of the attackers were dead and the last was dying transfixed on a saber.

“Bah,” Raschid spat blood on the floor. “I thought I’d taken care of all their kind a century ago!”

March: Lewis Corrigan, the khan of the Prester John and war-leader of the nomadic host in Zagros, is badly wounded by two tribesmen while inspecting the Gurvan umens. The Gurvan claim their innocence – blaming some Pashtun mercenaries no one had ever seen before -- but bad blood is drawn between the Prester and the easterners.

If the attack by the thuggee had not been enough, Rashid was attacked again – as his army massed to move out of Ahvaz province – this time by a daring Swedish commando in snappy black uniforms with red trim and gold piping. This time the Sultan was knocked from his horse by a rifle-bullet, but his guardsmen hurled themselves between him and harm’s way, so the second wave of attacks were beaten off. Sixty-two men perished in this attempt.

Later, upon examining the bodies, the Sultan was grimly amused to find the marks of a Hasturite cult apparent upon the dead. “Sweden should choose a better lord of darkness to serve,” he mused, thin fingers tracing the ridged welts on the blonde-haired man’s back. “The Watcher in Hali is no easy master…” Despite these distractions, the Georgian army punched east into the mountains between Ahvaz and Zagros.

Count Vasilyko of Kiev and his army in Azerbaijan abandon their positions and stream north across the mountains into Georgia. There is considerable disagreement between the Count and his Swedish officers.

April: Muyaia Sayyaf Adin and his horsemen sneak across the mountains from Kurdistan into Diyala province, where they go to ground, waiting for the Persians to come swarming over the mountains. Muyaia has his eye on taking revenge upon the traitor Saleh!

In Zagros, fighting breaks out between the Gurvanites and the Prester regiments. Tegi of the Gurvan has learned of a counter-plot by Lewis’ clansmen to murder him. The Sinkiang and the Suzhou khans follow his lead.

Before the Persian forces also encamped at Al’Wan can intervene, Shah Jehan and his staff are nearly slaughtered by a gunpowder bomb in their tents. The shah, carried from the burning wreckage by his Immortals, is near death and – though he survives the immediate danger – bedridden. Everything is in confusion, but a rider gallops in from the west. The Georgians have crossed the mountains!

Showing admirable skill, a force of 6,000 Nisei samurai commanded by General Tasho (III Corps) arrive at the Danish/Hussite camps near Amman, having taken ship from Heraklion on Crete to Akko, unloaded and marched inland to meet their allies in four months.

Empress Oniko, meantime, has received word of the movement of Rashid’s army into Zagros and she immediately sets out from Abas (in the Fars, on the coast) to join with Shah Jehan’s army. Unfortunately, she must cross a rugged mountain-range without the benefit of a highway to reach him.

Early May: The Arnor captain Valerus prepares his heavy cavalry (the Jalalabad Lancers) to leave Schwarzcastel, just as soon as the Danish fleet comes to pick him and his men up. Admiral Schlechter’s fleet arrives within days.

Muayaia’s hidden camp in Diyala is attacked by Georgian troops and the Sword barely escapes with his life. His men scatter into the mountains and later regroup.

Jan Stahlansk’s Hussite Legion rouses itself from winter quarters in Amman and prepares to attack north into Syria in the company of Gligoric’s Danish expeditionary corps. Gligoric, meanwhile, is waiting for Carthaginian and Nisei reinforcements to reach him.

In Zagros, the feud between the Gurvanites and the Prester John splits the nomadic host and the Daemon Sultan and his army plow into the Persians. A furious battle erupts and though the Gurvanites were not pawns of the Georgians, they find themselves fighting side by side.

At Shalamzar, the Imperial Persian host numbered 89,000 men and 50 airships. Fighting at their side were 12,000 Prester John troopers and 6 airships. Against them, Rashid mustered 42,000 Georgians (and nearly 100 airships) and now 52,000 Gurvanites. Things do not go well for the Persians – Jehan and Lewis are trying to command from a litter and young Al’Qadir has never tried to maneuver so many men at once. Luckily, the Persians are superbly trained, they’ve spent the last three months preparing for an attack and they’ve even had time to drill beside the Prester John troops.

Rashid does not have this luxury – his men and the Gurvanites have never even seen one another before – and confusion quickly marks their efforts on the battlefield. Yet Rashid is not troubled, he has learned much from his struggles against Oniko. He orders the Gurvanites to swing wide to the right while his zeppelins hammer the Persian center. Within the day, a huge brawl erupts, centered on the Persian left. The Prester John troops splinter under the aerial attack and the wing collapses. The Gurvanites storm into the flank and the entire Sunlander front reels back.

Al’Qadir retreats tenaciously into Shir-Kuh, harried by the Gurvanite lancers, but more than three-quarters of his army is gone. Miraculously, he manages to extricate part of the army, though Shah Jehan and the entire Prester John army are among the dead.

Late May: Oniko and her Imperial Guard arrive in Zagros and observe the Georgians and Gurvanites in conclave. Disgusted, Oniko learns of Al’Qadir’s retreat to the east and turns to join him in Shir-Kuh. Meanwhile, Rashid has struck a deal with Tegi of the Gurvan. The province and city of Abadan and Basra will be his – a new home for his people, with the Persians as their slaves, and a bag of gold for every man. Tegi is pleased, finding the Sultan a far better master than old Lewis Corrigan (who lies dead somewhere on the field of Shalamzar, while Tegi lives and is victorious!)

Persian admiral ‘Abd al Latif and his fleet take up station at Bandar in Ormuz, from which they enforce a blockade of the Persian Gulf shipping lanes. However, they do not encounter any ships which are not bound for Persian ports on proper business.

Schlechter’s Danish fleet shoehorns Valerus’ and his lancers aboard and prepares to set out for the Gulf.

The Duchy of the Isles fleet lands at Isauria and disgorges Duchess Neya and 16,000 fighting-mad Islander troops (“on to Jerusalem!”). They are quickly joined by Demetrios of Isauria and his ragged band of followers (who have been hiding out in the mountains for the last two years.) Shockingly, the Georgian garrison had already decamped.

Early June: Rashid learns from his spies that Oniko of Denmark has joined Al’Qadir in Shir-Kuh. Flashing a brilliant smile, the Sultan orders his army to advance with all speed, the Gurvanites rushing ahead in a massive cavalry screen. The Gurvanite tribes, meantime, have ridden west towards Abadan and their new home.

In holy Mecca, a group of Syrians break into a house once owned by the Sayyaf Adin family, but they do not find the lady Fatima or her son, who have been hidden elsewhere by their relatives. Tewfiki militia engage the raiders in a gun battle in the streets, killing two and driving off the rest. The bandits do not return.

A mixed force of ARF airships, security police, Turkish light horse and Catholic artillerists (helpfully provided by the Norsktrad Mercantile Exchange) gather in Abasigia to join a Swedish corps operating in the Caucasus.

Two Albanian airship squadrons (four airships under the command of Nikolas Argir, and four under Korsas Kuklone) rendezvous over the port city of Beirut in Lebanon. They land and are welcomed by a delegation from the city (where the Company maintains substantial interests). Nikolas broaches the prospect of abandoning Georgia with the local emir – and winds up in a shootout with the local ‘security police.’ He flees to his ships, which lift with reckless speed. The Albanian air squadron bombs the city in response, setting fire to several districts, and then flies off to the north.

Late June: Muayaia and his mujhadeen regroup in Persia, where they have heard the ‘enemy’ is hiding in the old, abandoned city of Rayy. After questioning the local imams, they learn Rayy is not abandoned and not in Persia. Instead, it lies to the east a hundred leagues or so. Muyaia sets off for Dasht’e’Kavir.

An English fleet of some hundred and fifty warships arrives at Alexandria and begins a blockade of the Georgian Mediterranean coast. Admiral Exeter (newly promoted to command the Mediterranean Squadron) moves himself and his staff into the Metropol Hotel in Alexandria, from which he directs the operation.

While the English are quartering the sea-lanes off the coast of Palestine, a Frankish fleet arrives at Akko to unload Alber de Claye and 13,000 Commonwealth soldiers. They expected to meet Princess Margaret in the dusty port as well, but she did not arrive. Despite his concern, Alber prepared to march his men inland to join the other Sunlander forces fighting in Jordan.

The Danish admiral Schlechter and the Arnori cavalry corps arrive at Abas in Fars, bringing Empress Oniko desperately needed reinforcements. But she, in turn, is far inland, marching to meet Al’Qadir at Kerman in Shir-Kuh. Schlechter and the Arnori troops dig in around the port.

In Isauria, the Islander army debates whether they should advance into Cilicia. Neya, however, has already agreed to wait for the Afriqans to arrive before launching a new offensive. The Islanders, therefore, dig in and prepare to repel expected hordes of Georgian fanatics.

Early July: In Shir-Kuh, Al’Qadir has no idea Oniko is supposed to be marching to join him but he does know the Empire cannot afford to lose Kerman and the sole remaining link between the southern coast and the north. Some reinforcements have reached him, so he digs in, preparing for another Georgian assault.

Rashid does not disappoint him. 70,000 Georgians and Gurvanites plow into Al’Qadir’s 23,000 Persians at Ashkhabaz on the road to Kerman. Al’Qadir’s position is heavily fortified and well-defended by rocket artillery. His engineers have been digging like madmen for the past month. The Gurvanites lead the charge, shrieking like madmen, and break on the battle-line. The Persians pour fire into the attacking army, throwing back the first day’s assault, inflicting hideous casualties upon the Mongols.

Rashid tries twice more, but fails to break the Persian position. Al’Qadir is exultant – the Georgians abandon the campaign, withdrawing to Zagros – and the Gurvanite dead litter the canyons and ravines of Shir-Kuh.

Nikolas Argir’s air squadron passes over the province of Syria.

Alber de Claye and his Franks arrive in Jordan, where Gligoric, Stahlansk and the Nisei III Corps (Expeditionary) have waited quite long enough. All four armies march north against Syria.

Unexpectedly – at least for the locals – a sizable Mixtec fleet appears off the coast of Bithnia in Asia and proceeds to land 27,000 Mixtec (black African/Aztec) Jaguar and Eagle knights.

Late July: Persian General Faridun arrives in Shir-Kuh. Al’Qadir is very happy to turn command of the battered Imperial host over to him. Faridun surveys the lay of the land and realizes he needs to hold Shir-Kuh above all else. In the now fortified position he can hold off the Georgians if they try and cut the road to Ormuz, but if he tries to invade Zagros he could be destroyed.

Admiral Hans Dottski’s Swedish fleet, which had been operating in the Persian Gulf, returns to Stevastopol to rest, refit and spend their battle-pay in the massage parlors, gambling dens and whist salons of the city.

The combined Hussite armies (in the West) invade Syria.

Oniko, meanwhile, had reversed her course and marched her men back south through the wilderness of Neyriz and she is tremendously pleased to find Schlechter and Valerus of Arnor waiting in Fars for her. With this new army, she now prepares to launch an invasion of Mesopotamia. “The bastard will have to come back, then,” she declares, poring over the maps.

August: Rashid marches his army back through Zagros and into Ahvaz.

Oniko leads her Danes and Arnori troops into Abadan. There they find a whole lot o’ Gurvanites settling down. Disinterested in a battle against a whole people, the Empress marches north as quickly as she can.

Muyaia and his swords of Allah reach the city of Rayy and begin rooting about, searching for cultists and other traitors. This causes great outrage on the part of the local governor, who orders them out of the city.

Nikolas Argir’s air squadron is forced to land in the province of Bostra to re-water and refresh their hydrogen supplies.

The Taborite father Mohaim (now commanding a sizable Danish fleet) completes the evacuation of the Danish garrisons in Faiyum, Meroe, Ghebel-Garib, St. Gustavus, Aswan and Dungunab. All of these provinces are now turned over to the Emirate of Carthage.

The Vastmark general Nkwame arrives at Antalya in Isauria with a corps of engineers and supporting Senegalese mercenary infantry.

A strange airship – like none anyone in Abas had even seen, more like a ship than a sausage – arrives with men seeking Empress Oniko. Everyone points north.

The Persian generals Faridun and Al’Qadir receive reports of the Georgians abandoning the province of Zagros (the city of Al-Wan was never captured by the Georgians). They decide to advance into the province.

The Islander army in Isauria is tired of digging trenches and begins to wonder if the Georgians will ever show up and attack their beachhead.

September: Oniko and her “raiders” march across Hahmar, scattering the Georgian garrison. Rashid is hot on her trail however, and his army sweeps up the highway into Hahmar as well. The Pale Flame has prepared for another duel of maneuver, but this time Rashid blankets the province with airships and quickly locates her army (trying to slip past Nasiryah at the edge of the desert). Rushing forward along the highway, he pins her force against the wasteland. Oniko turns, at bay near the town of An Najaf, and prepares to sell her life dearly.

Having left the khan Tegi of the Gurvan with the remainder of his army in Abadan to watch the south, Rashid envelops Onikos’ 14,000 Danes and Arnor hussars with 43,000 men. This time the Pale Flame’s legendary prowess at maneuver failed and the Georgians slammed tight a ring of steel and fire… the Danish Imperial Guard was annihilated in a ferocious, three-day battle. Rashid himself led the last charge, sweeping all before him, slaying his hundreds and his thousands.

Yet his victory was hollow, for nowhere among the dead could he find the Empress. Somehow, in the company of Valerus of Arnor, she had escaped the trap.

The Hussite army of the West reduces the defenses of Syria, capturing Damascus.

Muyaia and his horsemen leave Rayy empty-handed and ride back to the west, realizing they’ve followed a cold trail.

Faridun and Al’Qadir march into Zagros and find a warm welcome in Al-Wan. Cautiously, they press across the mountains into Ahvaz province.

Mohaim and his Danish fleet sail back north for Thessalonika. Egypt is now in the hands of Carthage, though there are some factions who are frankly displeased by this turn of events. And other who are very happy.

The Ethiopian army under the command of Ralphus the Unready finally arrives at Akko in Levant (luckily, a highway happened to lead from Soba in the far south to Akko, or he never would have gotten so far.) Sweating, the general opened his sealed orders packet. “Attack Lebanon” it read. “Oh no…” Ralphus turned a particularly green shade. “I… I can’t do that.” He sat down abruptly.

In Isauria, Neya of the Isles has come to the conclusion – after exchanging letters with Mixcoatl of Mixtec – that all the action is away south of her. In fact, she guesses there are no Georgian armies anywhere near her. Unfortunately, it’s too late in the year to start a campaign, so she attends the regimental dress ball instead.

October: Rashid has heard of the Hussite invasion of Syria, so he marches his army (which is well used to long days on the road by now) up the highway to Ar’Raqqah in Mosul.

The Western Sunlander army at Damascus advances into Palmyra province, obliterating a few scattered garrisons, to find Homs in ruins.

Shah Safi Jehan of Persia’s son Nusayr is proclaimed Shah of Persia. The prince establishes a “tent capital” at Bandar in Ormuz, where he has been preparing for the arrival of fresh Sunlander forces from the East.

The Mixtec army in Bithnia (under the command of the famed general Mixcoatl) finishes subduing the province and installs a garrison. The fleet and army enter winter quarters. “It’s cold here!” The Afriqans discover to their horror. “What’s that white stuff falling out of the sky?”

There is an argument among the Ethiopian commanders at Akko and Paul of Soba (who can at least shoot a rifle without hitting his foot, or someone else) attempts to take command of the army. Ralphus – how, who can say? – has him arrested for treason and thrown in irons. The Ethiopians do not invade Lebanon, though they do spend a lot of money in Akko and think about settling down with the local girls (who are darned cute.)

In the south, Faridun and his Persians liberate Ahvaz province from the Gruvanites, who fall back into Abadan.

Oniko, Colonel Mason and Valerus cross the Selucian desert, hiding by day from Georgian airship and camel patrols, making their way slowly north and west by night. Luckily, Mason is familiar with the desert tribes and they have managed to acquire some camels. The march is terribly draining for the Empress, though, and Valerus wonders if she can make it to Suria and the Sunlander armies she knows (somehow) are there.

November: In the desert of Circis, Oniko suddenly strides from a cave where she, Mason and Valerus are hiding. Showing a shocking disregard for her personal safety, the Empress turns a mirror to the sky, flashing a sun-sign to attract the attention of a strange looking airship passing overhead. Within the hour, all three of the fugitives are aboard the Uraeus. While Mason and Valerus goggle at the fantastic craft, Oniko renews her acquaintance with the Rangers and Captain Windrider. “North,” she commands, “with all speed!”

The Western Sunlander army finishes conquering Palmyra province.

Determined to crush the Sunlander invasion before it can gather more strength, Rashid force-marches his army into Palmyra at a reckless speed. He finds the Western army rushing to deploy against his advance and sees – a sight which made his heart leap with chill joy and fury alike – the banner of Oniko of Denmark flying in the enemy’s center. “To arms!” He commands his legions.

Both armies shake out their lines in the dusty, sere landscape. Off to the south are the ruins of ancient Tadmor, the city of palms. Even now the land remembers the fury of the cities’ destruction fifteen-hundred years before. Now equal violence is imminent.

Rashid’s army is wearing down, having fought three major battles in less than a year, but he still has 37,000 battle-hardened veterans to pit against the massed host of 52,000 Sunlanders. Yet his desire to destroy Oniko flares bright and the Georgians give battle gladly. The armies collide in a rising plume of cordite smoke and dust, the flanks a whirl of cavalry charge and counter-charge, the center blazing with cannon and the rippling crash of musket volleys. Above all, the sun gleams down through a dim haze.

Again the Sunlanders grind in, suffering under a hail of fire from the Georgian airships – and this time the Uraeus sweeps among the clouds, killing airship after airship. On the ground, the Sunlander line staggers under the assault of Rashid’s pushtigbhan and then splits wide. Georgian hussars charge into the gap, the Daemon Sultan at their head. Again, he strikes for Oniko’s banner, but the Empress avoids the final, hand-to-hand struggle Rashid seeks. The Rangers make a stand, furious in defense, and the bodies of the dead heap before them.

Their valor is not enough. The Sunlander line crumples and the Georgians drive them from the field. Stahlansk is slain, Tasho of Nisei III Corps is wounded, as is De Claye of the Franks. Oniko withdraws, her army crippled (reduced now to . But this time Rashid has made a seemingly minor mistake. All of his light horse is in the south, keeping an eye on the Persians. The Sunlander army retreats unharried, even the sky dangerous for the Georgians now the Uraeus stalks the upper air.

Prince Bakun of Kuwait, who has been cowering in Kuwait City for the past two years, dies of pleurisy. His ministers then attempt to surrender the city to the Georgians, but the Persian garrison (under the command of Mahmud) puts the lot up against the wall and treats them as traitors aught. A sortie into the province then discovers the Georgians have decamped.

Persian general Abbas and his special mixed brigade arrive in Tehran to root out evil in the ruins of Rayy! They find nothing, but do exchange gunfire with local bandits. After wandering around, they too learn Rayy is a hundred leagues to the east and set off to find the ruins.

Persian general Mahmud arrives in Kuwait City, ferried across the Gulf by Abd Al’ Latif’s fleet.

Though the Kievian army had recently abandoned the highlands of Azerbaijan, a Swedish army (mostly composed of mountain units, ski troops and several aero squadrons) slogged into view of Tabriz as the snows blanketed the mountains and closed the passes. The Georgian garrison of Tabriz looked out at the northern invaders with amusement, though (truth be told) the winter in these lands was not half as harsh as what the Swedish-Russian mountaineers were used to. “Positively balmy,” reported Sergeant Kutuzov as he stood ankle deep in snow. “Delightful day for marching.”

December: Even in the deserts of Syria, winter draws a chill curtain across operations. Oniko and the battered remnants of the Western army winter in Damascus, while Rashid makes do with the cold, demon-haunted ruins of Homs.


AD 1746
January: Rain and cold gusty wind.

February: A vast Afriqan Republic fleet (176 ships, including many hired from the Honorable Afriqa Company) arrives at Antalya in Isauria. They find the city garrisoned by the Duchy of the Three Isles and go ashore. Neya rejoices – at last her armies can take the field against the Georgians.

On the central front, the opposing armies are still licking their wounds.

March: Abbas and his special forces brigade arrive in Rayy and begin investigations therein. They are puzzled to find the city a thriving enterprise and filled with citizens, as their informants had made very clear they were looking for a “ruin.” By blind luck, however, they do stumble across a veritable hive of fungus-eating Hasturites and – after a fierce battle – exterminate the lot of them.

Faridun and the Persian army in Ahvaz advance into Abadan and are engaged by khan Tegi of the Gurvan and the remainder of his Mongols. Unused to the swamps and marshes of the low-lying country, Tegi allows himself to be trapped and Faridun takes great pleasure in smashing the nomad army to itty-bitty bits. The Persians show no mercy to traitors and kin-slayers.

The skies over Basra were interrupted by the thud-thud-thud of airship engines, and the advancing Persians looked up in mingled fear and horror to see a squadron of ARF zeppelins cruise up from the south, searching for the Swedish expeditionary force. After an exchange of messages, the airship squadron heads north into Ahvaz

Dame Maksutov’s Swedish corps in Azerbaijan besieges the city of Tabriz, which will otherwise threaten her supply lines if she moves further south into Kurdistan. The feckless Kievian Cossacks are observed to be, once more, operating in the region – thoroughly looting everything in sight. Maksutov was outraged – now her army could not forage, since the Russians had stolen everything in sight – and her supply trains from Baku were exposed to Georgian raids.

Major-Gen. Gregor Thorvalds, commanding a force of Swedish light horse detached from Maksutov’s army, sweeps south into Kurdistan and isolates the city of Nineveh. He searches fruitlessly for the Sword of Allah mujhadeen who were supposed to be in the province, but does not find them.

The Mixtec army operating on the western Asian shore advances south into Lydia. They are unopposed by serious resistance of any kind.

Now gathered, the Republic of Afriqa and Islander armies advance east into Cilicia. They intend nothing less than the liberation of the north Mesopotamian littoral as far as Carhae. They find Tarsus garrisoned by the Georgians and invest the city, intending to flatten the ‘den of evil.’

On the central front, Rashid advances aggressively into Syria, forcing Oniko and her handful of regiments (a few more than 9,000 men) to fall back into Jordan. Though he attempts to catch her, the Sunlander army is able to retreat behind a screen of Nisei light horse. The Empress dispatches a swarm of Nisei dispatch riders to summon the Masai and Ethiopian armies to join her.

April: Finally reprovisioned, Nikolas Argir’s air squadron flies across Circis province. They are sadly unaware of the enormous struggle a hundred miles to their north.

The Swedish/Russian/ARF corps in the mountains of Azerbaijan and Kurdistan reduces the city of Tabriz. Nineveh still resists. The second ARF aerosquadron flies north into Ahvaz.

In Cilicia, the combined Afriqan/Vastmark/Islander army besieges Tarsus, supported by the Islander fleet. The city, though the defenders fight bravely, is flattened within the month.

The Nisei IV Corps (commanded by General Shun) arrives at Akko in the Levant, though his ground-side forces are in truth no more than a brigade. He is met by one of Tasho’s dispatch riders and immediately orders his marines on the road. “III Corps has their nuts in a vise, lads,” he bellows, “they need some help!”

“Banzai!” Scream the fleet marines as they jog up the road from Akko-port. They march for Amman and soon meet Oniko’s army falling back towards the sea with Rashid in hot pursuit. Shun also attempts to get the Ethiopians to march out as well, but Ralphus refused (again). This time he barricaded himself in Akko fortress. Shaking his head in disgust, Shun rode off to join his men on the road to Amman.

To the east, the Masai army at Aqaba also rushes north into Jordan, but they have no helpful highway to follow and only a vague idea of where Oniko’s army might be.

Oniko, meantime, continues to delay, fighting a constant rear-guard action against the Georgians. Rashid presses, but is unable to bring her to battle. The front drifts into Levant and onto the heights of Golan.

At Akko, Paul of Soba is broken out of gaol by his officers and there is a brief, bloody mutiny. The despicable Ralphus is blown from a cannon and the Ethiopian army scrambles to muster from their camps and join the Empress.

Early May: The Masai advance into Jordan, but beside some puzzled locals, there’s no one there – no Oniko, no Daemon Sultan. A passing merchant points off to the southwest. “They went thattaway,” he said. “Hey, you want to buy some camels?” General Decks urged his troopers to hurry. “Battle’s waiting,” he chanted, jogging beside a column of Masai riflemen, “let’s go!” The highlanders ran southwest at a constant, ground-eating pace.

Oniko and her battered army encounter the Ethiopians almost by chance as the Afriqans march up the Damascus road looking for them in turn. The Empress is not impressed by their fine uniforms, shining weapons and generally fat and rested air. Paul, for his part, is stunned and ashamed by the haggard, bone-weary appearance of the Sunlander army. His regiments turn out from column to line, deploying with well-practiced precision.

“Tell those idiots to take cover,” Oniko growls – her voice has been reduced to a faint whisper. Seconds later, the Georgian airfleet fills the sky and the first rockets and napathene bombs are raining down into the massed ranks of the Ethiopians.

This is the battle of Ayn’Jalut – 46,000 Sunlanders and 30,000 Georgians. Neither army has the energy for fancy maneuvers and Oniko has no compunction with using the Ethiopians to bleed Rashid’s ever-shrinking army in another stand-up brawl. She draws a line – and the Sultan smashes in, again determined to bring her to battle. The Ethiopians crumple like cheap tin under a withering fire from the sky and the Georgian heavy batteries. Paul of Soba, trying to rally his heavy horse, is killed and the Afriqans rout from the field.

Oniko throws her reserves into the disaster spiraling out of the crumpling center and Rashid pounces. A wedge of his pushtigbahn crash into her guardsmen and the last of the Rangers go down, trying to stop the Sultan. Oniko and Mason are suddenly at swordstrokes with a veritable giant of a man. The Pale Flame has only seconds, seeing Rashid bearing down on her, and she tosses a battered silver mirror to the Colonel.

“Go!” She screams as Valerus leaps to her side. Mason catches the ancient trinket from the air, then spurs his horse away, weeping all the while. Rashid empties a multi-shot pistol into the Arnori knight, flinging him from the horse a tattered corpse.

“Now, we’ll match strength for true,” the Sultan crows, his saber ringing away from Oniko’s parry.

“Yes,” the Empress whispers, her mount dancing away from the massive stallion. “We will.”

A blur of cuts and slashes follows, then the Sultan laughs and Oniko stiffens. A queer blue-black light fills the air and Rashid bends all his will upon the frail woman opposing him amid such devastation. A crowd of Nisei samurai are hacking their way through the press, desperate to reach her side. But for just an instant there is a peculiar, pellucid calm at the center of the battle.

“No….” Oniko swayed in the saddle, her fingers groping for a leather thong around her neck. “Get… out!” She presses a carved, twisted flute to her lips. The light grows brighter, making even the sun seem dim. One of Shun’s marines, fighting in the melee around them, hurls a gunpowder bomb at the Sultan. There’s a blast of flame and the whistle of shrapnel. Rashid staggers, his armor suddenly smoking. Oniko blows upon the flute and the tenor of the air changes – twists – and then Jason Windrider and the Uraeus are directly overhead, the hull of the airship blotting out the sky.

Rashid suddenly howls in pain and spins, striking down two of the Nisei marines. Heads fly and Oniko is suddenly surrounded by a solid wedge of samurai. She tries to shout, but they drag her back, passing her from hand to hand. The Sultan shouts with rage and leaps into their midst. Horrible carnage follows, the fearless Nisei hurling themselves upon the Sultan while his blade drinks deep of many brave men.

A warning shout comes from the Uraeus. The pushtighbhan race to save their master, hewing down the last of the Frankish knights blocking the center. On the airship, Jason Windrider swings over the side with reckless speed. He’s an old man – 77 the week before the battle – but he knows his moment has come.

Rashid feels a trembling in the unseen world and looks up from the dead heaped around him. Oniko has fought free of the samurai and advances from one side. Jason reaches the ground, an odd green stone held above his head.

“Begone, spirit!” Windrider shouts, making a complex motion in the air with his free hand.

“That’s just a toy,” Rashid scoffs, drawing a pistol. “No true stone survived the wreck of Mnar!”

Oniko closes her eyes, lips upon the flute, reaching back into ancient memory. Her father’s voice rises from abyssal depths, each word, each syllable of the ancient rite clear in her mind. She blocks out all else – even the shout of a booming shot, the battle-cries of the Rangers and the samurai trying to mob the Sultan – and begins to recite even as her breath hisses into the ancient metal.

Ya na kadishtu nilgh’ri stell’bsna Nygotha

There is a strangled, despairing scream as Windrider collapses in death – the starstone is no protection against a bullet – and Colonel Mason snatches up the gray-green device even as Rashid leaps across blood-soaked field. Mason twists, desperately flinging the stone at the Sultan’s head. Stone strikes the black armor and there is an audible hum as two objects which cannot coexist try to share the same space.

K’yarnak phlegethos l’ebumma syha’h n’ghft

Blood draining from her face, Oniko completes the incantation and falls weakly to the ground. Her father had been well versed in the arts arcane, but even he had never dared attempt such a thing.

Ya hai kadishtu ep r’lu-eeh Nygotha eeh
S’uhn-ngh athg li’hee orr’e syh’h!

The Sultan screams, enraged and the starstone burning on his breastplate flares with a blue-white light. Rashid pits his will against the device of Mnar, trembling at the balance of annihilation, and… he wins. The stone shatters to dust and drifts to the ground.

Laughing in triumph, Rashid turns upon Oniko, finger tightening on the trigger of his Manchen .48. In the split instant his attention is drawn by an enormous hush which was fallen upon the field of battle. He looks up.

The sky has turned the color of bad glass, flat and distorted. Something moves in the heavens, an enormous, abyssal shape and Rashid begins to howl in agony, knowing his end has come. A shrill wailing issues from the broken heavens and then darkness rushes out – palpable and cold as death – to overwhelm the land. Strange pipings and hootings fill the sudden night, mingled with the chirping of impossibly large crickets. In the ebon void, Rashid screams in defiance, then something moves – as the sun moves in the sky – and he is gone.

Late May: After ascending to a very great altitude, the Albanian air squadron enters Mesopotamia and overflies Baghdad, hoping to avoid any Georgian aerial defense. Below them, they see a great city shrouded in the smoke of countless fires. A hundred thousand people are looking up, dazed, their masters suddenly departed. The Albanians circle, looking for the airship yards, but they find only burning ruins.

The ‘southern’ ARF aerosquadron flies across Media. Dame Maksutov’s Swedish/Kievian/ARF corps advances into Kurdistan.

The Islander/Afriqan/Vastmark army advances into Aleppo, driving off a demoralized Georgian garrison. They find the city of Antioch is nothing but grass-covered ruins. Even the province is barely populated, the locals living in wandering groups as herdsmen. “What happened here?” Neya is dumbfounded.

In Levant, on the field of Ayn’Jalut, the darkness dissipates and a weak gray sun shines down upon devastation. The earth is torn with great fissures and cracks, every tree blown down, the grass charred with fire. Countless bodies carpet the ground, both those of the Sunlander host and the army of Georgia. The distorted, horrific shapes of the pushtigbahn lie in windrows, mixed with the Nisei samurai and Frankish knights. Of the brave Ethiopians, there is even less evidence, only burned, twisted bodies.

Even the crows and ravens do not go upon the battlefield. It is completely silent.

To the west, a lone airship drifts in the upper air, hull scored by flame, decking charred, cannon twisted and bent, it’s crew reduced to a bare handful of men. On the deck, wrapped in a white shroud, lies the body of Oniko of Denmark. The Pale Flame has guttered out at last. Of all her captains, only Mason has survived, dragged back from the lip of ultimate darkness by the Rangers. The flute, the stone, the lenses, even the so-useful piccolo are all gone, swallowed up in Rashid’s annihilation.

The Colonel finds he cannot weep, for the grief within him is so vast it fills the world. Limping, the Uraeus flies west, following the sun.

Early June: Faridun and his Persians enter the province of Hahmar. They find the land in turmoil, rife with bandits and lawless men. The general sets about restoring order and running off the last of the Georgian troops wandering about.

Still wary and frankly confused, the Islander/Afriqan/Vastmark army marches south into Lebanon (after Neya bent some arms and came close to throwing a fit). They find the province in the midst of coming to grips with the reported death of the Sultan as well as (apparently) most of the royalty of western Europe. Neya thinks that is all very fine, but makes sure her troops garrison the province and the port of Beirut.

Decks and his Masai reach the battlefield of Ayn’Jalut and find there such a scene of devastation none can grasp the enormity of what has happened. Still, order must be maintained. The Masai set about garrisoning Levant.

Late June: The Mixtec army in Lydia finishes smacking the local garrison around, secures the last of the towns and begins building winter quarters by the beach, near the town of Ephesus. Many of the soldiers make their way in pilgrimage to the House of Mary on Mount Pindos. There they lay wreathes and offerings for the Mother of God. The nuns who watch over the ancient shrine are a little surprised to see so many bronze and black faces, but they know faith when they see it, and welcome the strangers.

Throughout the lands once controlled by Georgia, the news circulates of the Sultan’s death. There is grief and joy in equal measure. No heirs stand forth – not even Ibn Saleh, who had once been proclaimed Rashid’s successor – and the kingdom splinters into a dozen emirates, principalities and beydoms.

Dame Maksutov’s Swedish/Kievian/ARF corps reaches Nineveh, where the Cossacks have been cooling their heels for months, trading sniper rounds with the Georgians in the city. The ‘southern’ ARF squadron finally finds them as well. With the appearance of so many airships overhead, the Nineveh garrison runs up the white flag.

Early July: Princess Margaret of the Frankish Commonwealth and her airship squadron finally reach Akko on the coast of Levant (almost a year after they were expected.) She is furious, but these airships are slow, poky beasts, needing constant refueling and maintenance.

Decks and the Masai troops in the Holy Land extend their ‘protectorate’ to include Jordan and the city of Amman. The Masai fleet remains at Petra, watching over merchant ships bringing in food and medical supplies.

Late July: As yet unaware of the fall of Georgia, the Swedish ‘mountain’ expedition begins picking their way southeast through the mountains from Kurdistan into Diyala.

August: The Persian lord Toktamish Bakhtiar (previously the Chamberlain of the Hareem) is found dead in a Tehran back street, his body torn to bits by iron hooks (or so the investigating militia officers guessed). His daughter Rudi was reportedly devastated by the news, though she did muster the strength to tell everyone she knew all the details.

Leaving the Islanders in Lebanon to reduce the local tribes to something like order, the Afriqans and Vastmark corps march down into Levant and find the Masai in possession of Akko, where there are also a large number of Albanian air-men (Nikolas having returned from his raid over Baghdad), princess Margaret of the Franks and her airship squadron, a whole gang of Nisei sailors and other hanger’s-on. Everyone immediately begins to tell everyone else everything that happened and the combined Sunlander armies wind up throwing a six-week-long barbecue.

Dame Matsukov’s ‘mountain’ expedition enters the plains of Diyala and they too learn of the defeat of Rashid and the collapse of Georgia. The Swedes immediately abandon any attempt to conquer the province and make a beeline for Baghdad.

September: Persian admiral ‘Abd al Latif takes sick in Ormuz, where he is commanding the Persian fleet, and dies soon afterwards.

Dame Matsukov and her Swedes, Kievians, and ARF troops reach glorious Baghdad to find Faridun and his Persians in possession of the city. A tight cordon has been thrown around the entire locale, including the rubble piles where the airship factories and industrial works had been.

Here too the various contingents exchange greets, a wholesome joy to be alive and drink a little and eat a little and even the sallow, cancerous sun seems brighter.

October: But what of the Sword of Allah? When last seen, Muyaia was hiding out in the mountains of Diyala with a few score of his men left, being hounded by the Georgian security ministry police. Well, in October, just as the fall harvest was coming in, Muyaia rode into Ar-Raqqah in Mosul at the head of his stalwart band.

The streets slowly filled with people – his people, the resettled Tuaregs – and they stared at him with a sick kind of hope. The prince made his way through a thickening crowd to the central plaza and there, standing on the steps of a disused and dusty mosque, were a woman he knew and a seven-year-old boy.

“Daddy!” The boy shrieked with delight, then ran pell-mell across the plaza. Muyaia swung down from his horse and oofed! As little Ali catapulted into his arms. Fatima was hugging him a moment later and the Swords raised their voices in a single, glorious, ringing shout.

“Allah! Allah-akbar!”

And the Tuaregs in the streets crowded around them, faces bright with joy for their king had returned. Only one man among all that throng did not push forward, cheering, throwing flowers, raising the Swords on their shoulders, spilling milk and honey into the streets.

Bayshar Lame-leg climbed a twisting flight of steps to the highest minaret of the old mosque and stepped onto a tiny balcony. There he drew a breath and facing the south, in the direction of Holy Mecca, he let out the long, wailing, unmistakable call to prayer.

The sun was setting in a blaze of orange and red and purple and it was time for the people to give thanks to God, the merciful, the creator, he who moves the earth and the air, who drives the tides.

November: Everyone slept off their hangovers.

December: The Tokugawa Japanese fleet (carrying 30,000 men) arrives in Bandar in Ormuz. They are accompanied by a Pacific Mercenary and Trust squadron with 9,000 Moro mercenaries and the Ming Arabian Expedition.

“We’re here! Where’s the battle? Hello – anyone? Anyone home?”

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