Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Constantinople Campaign

The Constantinople Campaign: The Eagles' New Eyrie

The celebrations had been spectacular and prolonged. Everywhere one looked there seemed to be flags and images of double headed eagles, in various combinations of gold, black, silver,white, red, yellow and blue - a heraldic extravaganza on a single theme. They had been carried as standards by the troops as they marched in procession through the streets. They served as backdrops to the Royal and Illustrious personages who had traveled so far to greet each other, be seen by their troops and attend long and magnificent, if little understood, services in the incense scented cathedral. They were threaded across the streets, around squares, over doorways,in trees, and most thickly and colourfully draped over the front and from the minarets of Hagia Sophia, and the Topkapi Palace. Indeed, the utility of the minarets as flagpoles had helped to preserve them, against the desires of those who had wished to demolish them as Islamic excrescences spoiling the original design. The firework displays had also featured these magnificent birds in many colours. The cannon had roared victory salutes, the eminent personages had driven around in their carriages of state to the cheers of the crowd - not many of whom were locals, the lesser persons had enjoyed the free food and wine.It was certainly a historic occasion, the celebration of the liberation of the great city of Constantinople after well over a millennium under the Mohammedan yoke. No doubt the new day would bring it's headaches, hangovers for the simpler souls and knotty matters of diplomacy, protocol, strategy,logistics, planning and business for the men who made made things happen; whilst the remaining Muslim inhabitants were mustered again in their work groups to continue their new campaign to clean up the accumulated grime and repair the neglect of centuries, under the orders, eyes, boots, fists and canes of their new German masters.

Thane Richard Stephenson had enjoyed the celebrations. He had been astonished by the prevalence of the old emblem of the double headed eagle in the flags and heraldry of all the main allies in this crusade, Germany, Russia, Serbia and lesser Balkan principalities, the Orthodox Church,and even his own kingdom of Mercia. He was impressed by this not quite coincidence, since they had all been derived from the old Byzantine imperial sign. He wondered whether this signified a revival in the fortunes of the conjoined spiritual and physical rulership indicated by the bird, and whether it would be long before the amity between the various claimants dissipated and they turned to tear each other apart. Perhaps the continued and continual threat posed by the Caliphate would induce them to hang together. The unfathomable ways of Wyrd had dissolved the power of another world-girdling empire emblemed by an eagle more than half a millennium since, and now appeared to be
reviving another such empire or imperial ideal which had gone to oblivion a millennium before that. All the busy-ness and self-important bustle of success was soon stilled and laid in earth, but no man knew whether the whimsy of Fate might not revive it and show it again as having undergone 'a sea-change, into something rich and strange'.

He considered that he he had been extremely lucky to have been chosen as one of the two assistants of Sir Henry Wright, the Mercian political representative and military attache to the German High Command, as it had enabled him to get a good view of the campaign. He had seen a good deal of the fighting, and had talked to many of those involved in various capacities, as well as to colleagues in the delegations from other powers also attached to this historic enterprize of the Second Holy Roman Empire of the German People. He thought that he might write a book about it. He was well placed to meet knowledgeable people, his German was good, and he had already collected a lot of material. His tasks included collecting letters to be carried home from the soldiers of the Mercian Regiment along with Sir Henry's despatches to the Royal Council, so he had come to know a great deal of what happened and how it appeared at different levels. Sometimes he had helped to compose and write these letters for soldiers who were less than literate, and whose families would get friends, neighbours or employers to read them when they were received. For that matter, he had sometimes written Sir Henry's despatches, at his dictation; not that Sir Henry was lacking in literacy or in style, but Richard wrote a fairer hand, which would be easier for the Royal clerks to decipher. Sir Henry saw Richard and his other assistant, John Bishop, as his charges to be trained and guided as observers and representatives and budding courtiers, so he often discussed situations with them, drew out the implications of their observations, and even sought their opinions occasionally.

These letters and packages were carried home in those most effective vehicles of German diplomacy, their airships. They maintained a sketchy, (approximately quarterly except in winter,) service between the front lines and the capital towns of Germany's allies. These huge gasbags passing almost silently overhead, until they came down to be tethered overshadowing a large field, impressed both kings and commoners. Everyone wanted a ride in one of them, and Richard was envied because he had carried home the mail in one on several occasions.The commoners enjoyed the sight of them, felt they demonstrated the might of a friendly power, and were happy to receive news of their Toms Dicks and Harrys in the field far more rapidly and reliably than would otherwise have been the case. They talked excitedly of anyone who had seen one close up, or had had the rare treat of being allowed aboard and
even taken for a brief flight when they came on diplomatic missions. The kings and their councillors smiled more coldly upon them, but with a thoughtful appreciation of how unwise it might prove to refuse the courteously presented requests of the masters of these machines. The artificers who saw them were awed by the technical achievements, and many were inspired with determination not just to replicate them, but to think and tinker over other inventions. Without the airships, communications would have been much slower, and the participation of some of the allies far less certain. At what point, Richard wondered, did the agreement of a neighbour become the acquiescence of an ally or the obedience of a province of the mighty German Empire, or the Second Holy Roman Empire of the German People,as he must now get used to calling it without breaking into laughter.

The growing emphasis on the association with the Roman Empire seemed a bit strange, but Richard thought it was understandable. The old Fourth Reich had emerged from the ruins of the European Community. Those ruins were quite literal after the Israeli nuclear attack had destroyed the main cities of Europe, except those of Germany and Russia. This left Germany as even more obviously a giant surrounded by pygmies and their obvious, irresistible, leader.The immediate and prolonged struggle against Islamic invasion had summoned associations with the medieval Holy Roman Empire, and the leadership expected from the Emperor. This had passed over to the Hapsburgs, and their double headed eagle, in leading resistance to earlier Islamic aggression. The Russians had fitted neatly into the symbolism of the situation, and it's parallels to the eastern Roman Empire and the medieval and renaissance struggles of Europe against Islamic attack. The old Romanov double eagle was dusted off for Russia, whose Orthodox clerics were still quick to claim that Russia was the successor state to the eastern Roman Empire. Russia also had it's problems with Islam, and these echoed those of earlier times, and spurred a strong Russian determination to avoid a repetition of the humiliations of the centuries under Muslim Mongol rule, and the long centuries spent driving the Tartars and Ottomans out of southern Russia, the Caucasus and the Balkans. An alliance was natural in these circumstances. The querulous Poles, though lacking a Roman connection, could also be included and soothed with reminders of their gallant ancestors heroic relief of the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, which had saved central Europe from being overrun.Thus, Constantinople, it's strategic, political, religious and symbolic importance revived, became the obvious target for a great campaign to liberate Europe from the renewed threat of Islam. The success of the campaign was more than military, and this had been reflected in the prolonged celebrations. Both the German and Russian Emperors had traveled there to participate in joint ceremonies of revival of the eastern and western Roman empires, coronation and installation as Emperors of East and West. They would continue to rule from Berlin and Moscow, but Constantinople now stood as a symbol of joint interests and intentions. It might be political theatre, or even political thaumaturgy, but popular emotion and loyalty would be stimulated by these actions, and the sense of identity of the peoples of Europe would be altered.

The city itself and a strip of land bordering the Straits linking the Aegean and Black Seas was under the nominally independent control of the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, guaranteeing free access to the troops and fleets of both the German and Russian Emperors. In practice this meant it was under German control; but it was important to acknowledge Russian rights there also, in view of its symbolic importance to them, and in recognition of the centuries their predecessors had spent vainly seeking to obtain control of the city (thwarted by the 19th century British). By religion the Patriarch would be expected to sympathise with the Russians, but as a practical matter he depended on German troops, and was in their power.

In any case, Richard was sure that without the airships to motivate the diplomacy and carry the troops and supplies, a British Division consisting of brigades from Yorkshire, Mercia and Wessex, would not have fought their way across the Balkans as part of the German army,and participated in the liberation of Constantinople. Sir Henry had commented on the fact that the Germans had such a good understanding of the state of affairs in Britain and were such accomplished diplomats that they had been able to obtain a contribution about as large as was possible, and had it provided voluntarily. It was strange, he thought, that the unity of Britain, the United Kingdom, which had been lost in the Time of Chaos, was being somewhat restored as it's main successor states, the Kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia and Yorkshire came together emotionally in fighting a common foe, and in the closer economic and social contacts and wider knowledge of the world encouraged by the airships. Letters from his father told him that business was booming, with strong demand for cloth and metal ware, weapons and transport. There was a fever of new inventions and speculative projects, fortunes to be made and lost at home as lives and reputations were made and lost at the front. His father and his friends among the local gentry and merchants were looking for worthwhile, but not too speculative, investments. The smiths, mechanics and engineers were seeking to improve their skills and machines, keen to learn from and copy the Germans when they could get training and machines to copy. That reminded Richard that he needed to complete his letters home.

This time he would in addition be carrying some packages of tulip bulbs. He had found that the Turks and Russians were both fond of tulips, the archetypal flower of the steppes, and through his contacts he had managed to obtain packages of several varieties with which he was unfamiliar. He hoped they would flourish at the family estate, near Tamworth, the capital of Mercia.

Next morning Richard and his manservant Dixon, who had accompanied him throughout the campaign, and given a good account of himself in battle at Richard's side on several occasions, were driven in a two horse carriage to the airfield outside the city where the great airship Bismarck was tethered. They went aboard, and as Dixon settled Richard's baggage into his cabin, Richard checked that the trunks and chests of soldiers mail and diplomatic baggage for which he was responsible had been properly stowed. He exchanged greetings with his colleagues from Yorkshire and Wessex, who were about similar business, and whom he knew well.They nodded to their equivalents from Serbia, Montenegro, some of the north Italian city states, Spain, Portugal and France who would be landed before they reached Britain,stopping at Winchester, Tamworth and York.The Scandinavians who would be the last to leave before the airship finally reached Berlin. Richard was looking forward to the trip. He wanted to get home to visit his family, but he knew from experience that the food, drink, service and conversation were likely to be congenial. He intended to talk to his foreign colleagues and obtain what news and gossip was available, particularly anything that might be useful for his intended book about the war.It would be pleasant to sit with good companions, enjoying a meal, or a fine vintage as they chatted and looked out over the landscape moving slowly beneath them.

Before strolling along to meet his colleagues for a pre-luncheon drink in the lounge for first class passengers, Richard sat in his cabin and reviewed some of his notes about the war. He knew that after the liberation of France and Spain, the Germans had driven the Muslims out of Italy.

A couple of spectacular incidents in the capture of Sicily had greatly increased the fame and popularity of the airships. The Germans had risked one of their half a dozen airships to land a battalion behind the defenders of Messina, and the demoralised Muslims had surrendered to the forces landing from small boats, which otherwise they could have resisted. The next day the Governor of Palermo had surrendered the island of Sicily to a single officer bearing a peremptory demand from the airship Friedrich hanging over the city like a big bird of prey or angel of doom. Over and over the military airships had demonstrated their great value, for observation, reconnaissance, transport and for morale-sapping assaults on the enemy.Now they were famous across Europe, regarded with pride and affection by the Germans and their allies. They were becoming as famous across the Caliphate, regarded with the opposite emotions. Only the steadiest troops could withstand
their psychological pressure. It wasn't that they caused so much physical destruction themselves, but they had a mighty effect on morale. They gave the impression of being all-seeing, and indeed they were equipped with the best optical equipment, and could signal their observations to the German troops, whose tactical mobility and agility made up for their relatively small numbers.Their appearance usually was followed by bad news for the Moslem forces which saw them. The Mediterranean belief in the Evil Eye was played upon by their shape, and sometimes they were painted to resemble an eye. Moslem morale was also battered by the fact that they had no effective countermeasures, either material or magical. The injunctions and conjurations of the superstitious against the Evil Eye had no more effect on them than the scattered arrows and musket or rifle shots fired at them. Whispers were spreading, assisted by German Intelligence operatives, that the favour of Allah was passing from the Moslems to the Germans, and that his eyes in the sky were turning in anger on his previously favoured people.

Italy had again become a geographical rather than a political expression. After the nuclear destruction of Rome, Naples, Turin and Milan, the old united Italy had been shattered, and the land had quickly been overrun by Moslem hordes from north Africa. Centuries of occupation had changed the nature of the people, especially in the south. Even before the attack it had commonly been said that "Africa begins immediately to the south of Rome". Many of the people had converted to Mohammedanism, and intermarried with the Moslem invaders. The destruction of the Vatican together with the Pope and much of the Catholic hierarchy had weakened Catholicism and the focus of identity and resistance which would otherwise have delayed this conversion.Popular Catholicism survived in a weakened state, without much leadership, maintained mainly by the emotional needs of women, ignoring the new Papacy established by the German Empire in Cologne.

It had to be said that Italy had been a disappointment to the Germans. Many of its inhabitants had not been grateful to their liberators. They no longer thought of themselves as Italians, but as Moslems, and not a few had died resisting the liberators. Even in the north, the liberated locals, after the most obvious Moslem traces and elements had been eliminated or expelled, showed little enthusiasm for anything but squabbling amongst themselves.They did not like the Germans. They did not want to join in a war against the Moslems. They did not want to restore an Italian state. Their identities and interests focused on intense local patriotism. They were mistrustful of their neighbouring towns, and as far as they were concerned, the wider world might as well not exist. They did want subsidies and assistance in their intrigues against each other. They were an embarrassment to anything which professed admiration for the ancient Romans. There was little trace of the relics of antiquity, or interest in the art and architecture of the Renaissance. Most of the cultural heritage which had survived the Israeli attack had been destroyed by the Moslems as idolatrous.There was far more knowledge of it and respect for it amongst Germans than amongst the - no longer - 'Italians'. It had taken much effort and patience, threats and bribery, on the part of the Germans to construct the appearance of unity,in the form of a league of north Italian city states, which would commit token forces to the German campaign against Islam, when they weren't fighting each other.

The situation of the south of Italy was even worse. The locals were poor, and to outsiders,indistinguishable from Moslems, if indeed they were not secretly Moslem. Crime appeared to be the main industry,and the real religion of the area.The invisible heads of ferociously feuding clans of bandits appeared to be the real rulers there.These people demonstrated no capacity for or interest in any other form of government or way of life. The Germans had set up a government which they called a revival of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies,in memory of their previous German and Austrian rulers.It had no local support and had difficulty extracting enough taxes to cover the cost of their collection, let alone any other costs. Hence it was used, at the expense of German money and manpower, as a means of attempting to restrict the exit of locals to ply their criminal talents in more civilised areas, and to prevent the infiltration of Moslem smugglers, raiders and spies. Otherwise the locals and the Germans pretty much ignored each other. The locals were free to murder and extort each other in their immemorial fashion provided they ignored the Germans, who were mainly confined to a few bases, from which they carried out small patrols of land and sea in search of their enemies.

Richard paused briefly, and considered the naval aspects of the campaign. He was no seaman, but his travels traversing much of the northern coast of the Mediterranean, and his converstions with people from these countries and those who dealt with them, had given him an interest in those vessels which were sometimes to be seen on the sparkling ocean far below the airship. The Germans and their allies were not strong naval powers. Really, no one was any more. For centuries the Mediterranean and the Black Sea had been Moslem lakes, but trade had been minimal compared to earlier eras, especially in the west. The Turks and Egyptians had maintained mercantile fleets and small naval fleets of sailing vessels to counter piracy. The progressive liberation of the coasts of Europe had created some opportunities for Moslem raids and piracy from North Africa, a mild revival of the Barbary pirates. The Germans had delegated countermeasures mainly to the Spanish, who were able to build some sailing ships to patrol between Gibraltar and Palermo, and to counter-raid North Africa. Richard had been deeply interested to see an example of the latest naval solution.

It shouldn't really be a surprize that similar causes produced similar results. When there was no oil or coal to power vessels, and there was a need to be somewhat independent of the wind, the Spaniards had re-invented that classic Mediterranean ship - the galley. He had seen one moving like a multi-legged beetle over the sea, off the coast of Barcelona, on a previous flight, and had been fascinated by it.The galleys also provided a useful way of dealing with the increasing numbers of Moslem prisoners or slaves available from the Balkans.It was satisfying that they should provide the propulsion needed to fight Moslems at sea.

After a fine meal, Richard talked to a Serbian colleague whom he knew slightly, about the progress of the war. The British Division had served alongside the Serbs, helping them to recover their homeland of Kossovo, and to slaughter Moslems in Albania. Grievances in the Balkans are endlessly treasured, polished, kept bright in memory and recounted, so the Serbs had been eager to inform Richard that many centuries ago, in the Old Times, the British had helped to deprive them of this dearly beloved homeland, handed over to the Moslem Albanians, probably on the instructions of the fabulous, and fabulously evil, Americans. Naturally, Richard had no knowledge of this, as it had not been preserved in British historical lore. Richard did not know or care whether he was reversing an old historical evil, or perpetrating a new one, but he meant to do his modest best to see that this campaign of the co-operating, if not exactly united, kingdoms of Britain, would be remembered. It was difficult to keep track of who was who in the fissiparous Balkans, let alone know who, if anyone, was in the right in ancient quarrels. It was confusing that both Serbs and Albanians claimed the symbol of the double-headed eagle. Fortunately, there was a clear test. He was fighting to cleanse Europe of Islamic influence and to permanently remove the threat of this ancient and recurrent evil.The Albanians, as far as he was concerned, had made the wrong choice when they had converted to Islam many centuries ago. No Moslems could have a place in Europe; those who did not leave would die.

As a young man of the military class, Richard expected and was expected to serve in a military capacity, and not only as a diplomat. He had spent alternate quarters each year as a relief junior officer leading platoons in the hills and mountains defending or attacking villages, bringing up supplies, searching out Moslem guerrillas and settlements, and killing all those found. That was why the war dragged on for so long. The Germans had smashed the formal armies resisting them fairly rapidly and had then ruthlessly cleared the main cities and towns; but it was a long, slow, tedious, unpleasant and dangerous task left to their allies to clear the countryside, winkling out and killing all remnants of Moslem resistance and population. The Germans did not want to have to fight the same people twice, but otherwise they fought a 'sustainable' war. They did not strain their manpower or economy by calling up too many men at once or for too long, but they were able to sustain this pace indefinitely and defeat much larger numbers through their technical superiority and matchless military skill. They made war pay. Areas of natural resources and fertile farmland were carefully targeted and brought into production as soon as possible to benefit the Empire. Many officers, and some soldiers, had prospered, gaining all sorts of wealth, but being expected to make sober and productive use of it, establishing estates and businesses and settling down with families. Looting, gambling, drunkenness, waste and destruction and
other such pastimes often associated with soldiers were frowned upon.

By now the Serbs and British had slowly ground their way into Greece, and Richard discussed the situation with Mihail, his Serb fellow passenger. Greece seemed to be as much of a mess as Italy. It was rough country, a poor land without resources, with nothing to attract attention since the end of the tourist industry of Old Times, deep in poverty since the ending of subsidies from the EU, consequent upon the ending of the EU. It had been quickly overrun by Islam, but not wholly islamised because the Orthodox church remained strong and had resumed it's ancient task of being a bastion of cultural and national as well as religious resistance. The inhabitants were no longer numerous and were as likely as the Italians to be brigands, with only hostility towards the outside world and it's attempts to control them. Absent resources and the vanished remains of classical antiquity, of which the modern 'Greeks' were as indifferent or contemptuous as Moslems, it had no attraction for the Germans. It's geographical situation, particularly the islands of the Aegean, which had not yet been cleared of Moslem influence and inhabitants, made it a strategic weakness, an easy route for Moslem infiltration, and for piracy from bases in the innumerable bays and islands. It looked as if a programme of galley building would be required to clear and hold these seas.

The galleys might also find themselves serving further afield before long. It was well known that the Egyptians had recently massacred all their Copts. These were the Christian descendents of the ancient Egyptians, a small minority amongst the Arab Moslem 'Egyptians'. Sir Henry had picked up a rumour that German Imperial and High Command circles were incensed by this. It could be that the Egyptians had inadvertantly made the fatal error of advancing themselves up the Germans' 'to do' list.

It was likely that thoughtful Germans were considering the famed fertility of the Egyptian soil, inundated and refreshed each year by the Nile flood. There had been a few centuries when the Old People had dammed the Nile and restricted it's flow, but their artificial lake had silted up and their dam had become just another cataract. Egypt could grow a lot of exotic crops like cotton or sugar; as well as producing much food for the Empire, as it had done in Roman times. The fact that it was currently over-populated and scarcely able to feed it's people would not be much of a problem. It would be necessary to keep the fellahin who cultivated the land. Under German management they might become even more productive. Over time they might be weaned from the Mahommedan superstition, but that scarcely mattered. The urban and ruling classes would not be needed. Any useful functions they performed could be
carried out by settlers from the Empire.It could be argued that the Moslems' massacre of the last remnants of the indigenous Egyptians meant that none of the current population had any rights there. They were all invaders and illegal immigrants, to be killed or expelled. The Emperor of the Second Holy Roman Empire of the German People and Western Roman Emperor could claim legitimacy in occupying and re-settling this long lost province of the Roman Empire.

Sir Henry had pointed out to Richard that behind the Germans' archaising their rule as 'Roman' there were always practical benefits to be claimed. It was not mere folly and flummery. It lent a splendid cloak of justification to their actions. It enhanced their prestige in the eyes of the simple, and encouraged assent and obedience. People enjoyed the pomp and pageantry. It made them feel part of something impressive and important and successful. It justified the 'recovery' of all territory which had been Roman - potentially including Britain as well as Egypt. They only made a big fuss about it when the area to be conquered was worthwhile. A discreet veil was drawn over relations with the heart of the historical Roman Empire - Italy and Greece - which were of little material or cultural value nowadays, or had degenerated into a savagery which shamed the Roman name. The double-headed imperial eagle business also eased relations with potential rivals, especially the Russians.

It wasn't altogether hypocritical, and it provided a template or narrative guiding action and taught rulers to emulate their admired predecessors. It was also a fact, as he had said, that people like to think well of themselves and their actions and be well thought of by others. It was important to rulers that the world should admire and think well of them. The tale that "the Germans conquered and occupied Egypt, massacring or expelling the Egyptians" would be much less desirable and useful than the tale that "the Emperor recovered the long lost province of Egypt and made it fruitful again, expelling the invaders and illegal immigrants who had despoiled it for so long."

The airship passed over the Adriatic and on to Italy, after dropping Mihail and other passengers in Belgrade.Richard and the remaining passengers marveled and exclaimed as the Bismarck passed by the strange sight of the sunken city of Venice. This had long passed beyond hope of salvage, and only it's roofs and upper walls protruded from the water. It had long since been abandoned, but still projected two strong impressions. One was of the glory and romance of it's distant past when this city had been the mistress of the Adriatic,dominating the Balkan coast, and extending it's commercial, political and military power as far as Crete and Constantinople. The other impression was of the extreme corruption and folly of the Italians of the Old Times, who had allowed it to sink away whilst their politicians and bureaucrats stole or wasted the funds meant for protection and restoration.

Although Richard's experience and most of his contacts had been in the German theatre of operations, he felt that the Russians should not be ignored. The original strategic concept had been for a pincers attack, to meet at Constantinople. The German pincer had got there, but not the Russian. This was not the result of any lack of effort on the part of the Russians. They had been optimistic to think it was possible. They had made great efforts in clearing southern Russia and Georgia of Moslems, but their lines of communication were stretched, and the rugged terrain of the Caucasus and eastern Turkey were all too suitable for defence. They lacked the organisational sophistication and some of the technical advantages of the Germans. Also, Russians and Turks were hereditary enemies, so the Turks fought them with special determination. It was a far more equal struggle than against the Germans.The Turks had maintained their reputation as very dogged defensive fighters, and the Russians had maintained their reputation for endurance and the ability to sustain terrible casualties.Stalemate was achieved somewhere in the mountains of eastern Turkey.This was not a failure; it distracted and exhausted the Turks, who were the strongest part of the Islamic armies.

It was on this front that the Moslems had made a technical innovation, or re-invention. They still had some oil patches, or places where petroleum or naptha oozed to the surface. They collected it and made fire-pots to throw at the Russians. The Germans had learned of this, and thought of the famous Greek Fire which Byzantine ships had used to terrify Islamic fleets. Research was in progress to make some modern equivalent, with the assistance of the German chemical industry, and their capacity to make oil from coal. No doubt when those Spanish or German galleys took to the sea against the ships of Egypt, they would be equipped with a version of the legendary fire-breathing apparatus.

Richard recalled that just before he had left Constantinople, there had been yet another victory celebration. This had indeed proved to be a miraculous year of victories and celebrations of historic achievements. The German forces had advanced across the Bosporus, ferried and supported by their airships, and had destroyed the last Turkish army in the west, defending their capital of Ankara. Rather than face annihilation the Turks had agreed to make peace. The Treaty of Ankara ceded all territory occupied by the Germans and Russians, and acknowledged a German protectorate over all Turkish islands and coastal areas.This opened the route to Syria, Jerusalem and Egypt. The dream of the Emperor Barbarossa might soon be achieved. It was rumoured that unofficial sources had hinted to the Turkish negotiators that the Germans were considering reversing the effects of the Battle of Manzikert in August 1071 which had overthrown the Byzantine army and Emperor, allowing the Seljuk Turks to infiltrate and take over Anatolia. The Germans might now declare the Turks to be illegal immigrants and usurpers in East Roman provinces, and expel them back to Turkmenistan.The Turks were stubborn, but they were not stupid. They knew the Germans could exterminate them, if they were willing to take the time to do so, and betting against German determination and patience would be very risky. It would be better to survive in a truncated state. They could imagine the Russians licking their lips as they sharpened their swords and bayonets, laughing at the thought of columns of Turkish refugees being driven towards them. The Turks were prohibited from having a navy, or from developing airships or other advanced weapons, and German inspectors would monitor this. Naturally, there were reparations and subventions to be paid, but those might give the Germans an interest in seeing that the Turks remained able to keep up their payments.

Richard enjoyed the rest of the flight home. It usually took up to two weeks, as they stopped overnight, and the winds and weather had an affect on their route and timing. The captain, Graf von Humboldt, was a celebrity along the route, as he entertained local notables and kept a notably fine table. This enabled budding diplomats like Richard to make influential acquaintances, and gain the benefit of their wide-ranging knowledge. This was not altogether a holiday, but a diplomatic task requiring a noble rather than a lackey escorting parcels, which indeed would have been quite safe and efficiently delivered without any escort. Actually it contributed to the education and social development of young men like Richard who were likely to become influential themselves, constituting a minimal version of the Grand Tour of old. Richard had particularly enjoyed the morning they had spent passing up the Loire valley in lovely sunlight, admiring from above the still justly famous and well maintained chateaux and their gardens on their way to moor at the French capital of Orleans. He had much to tell his parents and siblings, whom he saw waiting for him as the great airship came to land at Tamworth.

It would be only an overnight stop, as he was required to make the round trip via Berlin and back to Constantinople. He hoped to make use of the time to write up some of his notes and to meet German officers who could tell him more that would go into what he already thought of as a book successful throughout Britain and the Empire, to be called 'The Constantinople Campaign'.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

New World Orders in Future History

Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff

"Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me
Mary Malone was happy as she sang the old song to herself. She was pleased that the new reincarnation centre, was operating well, after all the effort which she and many others had put into it. She was amused at the aptness of the song, since the centre was indeed located on a hill near the town of Ballyjamesduff, and the souls of many 'Paddy Reillys' were being called and guided back into life there.

The programme had grown out of long research into the purposes of the old megalithic monuments for which the country was famous, and speculation as to how such structures and the concepts associated with them, might be applied in current circumstances. There had been long discussions between the Men and Women of Wisdom and with their spiritual contacts. It was recognised that they could function as portals of existence, gateways between the realms of life and death, tombs/wombs of the Great Goddess.It was also clear that in very ancient times, when the separation between the living and the dead was felt more lightly, those who had been loved and respected by their family and community, were welcomed and expected to be reborn within the same bloodline, or close by, and that souls seeking rebirth were drawn back to the area where their kin lived. The legends associated with Newgrange gave a broad hint that at the right time in such places, the impregnation of a highborn woman could attract the soul of a hero or demi-god into her foetus. Naturally, the prospect of producing more of such leaders, as gifts of the gods, was always attractive. Conversely, no-one wanted unpleasant, disruptive people, back, so they may have been buried with special rituals discouraging their return, telling them to move along, there's nothing for them here.

The Wise recognised the value of such a procedure if it could be made practical. There had been discussion as to the form these centres should take, and it had been decided that they should be quite like the originals, with low walls and roofs of heavy stones, covered by earth so they fitted well into the landscape, but with more windows, and panelled with wood.It was attempted to make them cheerful and attractive to couples, with flowers and furnishings. Much effort had gone into determining the best locations and orientation for the sites, to link them into systems of alignments of old and new sacred sites and earth energy networks and important points of sun and moon risings and settings on the horizon. The main effort of course had not been on the physical but on the spiritual level. It had taken a long time to establish a strong working relationship with the spiritual forces responsible for the guidance of discarnate souls, whom she knew as The Mothers. Now they were growing stronger, acting as lighthouses for the dead, summoning those for whom a new life here, at this time, would be appropriate.

Of course there was no nonsense about 'equality', 'human rights', 'everyone being welcome', or 'first come, first served'. That was the sort of rubbish which had corrupted and undermined the Old People. The system was becoming increasingly refined as The Mothers sorted applicants and communicated their qualities to the Wise who ran the physical side, who in turn collected details of couples in the area who were trying to have a child. Already the births of most ruling class families and of the bardic/druidic/wise classes were guided, and the custom was becoming common amongst the mercantile, peasant and labouring classes who could afford the fees.It was an attractive proposition. Every worthwhile person wanted to be proud of their ancestors and descendants, to feel that they were making the best of themselves and their opportunities, proving worthy of their bloodlines.Some of the peasants and even labouring families, were as knowledgeable and proud of their family trees as any of the nobility, and it was recognised that over the centuries they were not unrelated.It was expected that those in high positions should display high abilities. Those who were found lacking were soon displaced by eager relatives, sometimes too precipitately. Duds cards were marked when they died, and they would only attain rebirth in humbler circumstances, so there was strong selective pressure leading to increasing competence and intelligence at all levels of society over the generations. It was possible for families to rise or fall over time, but people mainly devoted themselves to the duties of their station, without envy of the higher castes, whose position required them to demonstrate higher abilities that actually served the whole society.

Always there were unsuitable souls trying to gatecrash. The Wild Hunt and the Hounds of Hell saw them off.Very occasionally an induced miscarriage or infant exposure had been necessary when psychic scans revealed that an interloper had been successful.No cuckoos would be accepted in these nests.

The growing evidence of success of this system, gave the Wise considerable influence over those who held power, as well as among the common people. The Popes of old had claimed to have the keys to heaven and hell, but the medieval fear of excommunication was weak compared to the fear amongst this People of being excluded from rebirth amongst one's kin and community.Hence the rivalries and antagonisms between the numerous kings and lordlings were usually checked before they led to serious fighting and social disruption.Those who could prevent 'Paddy Reilly' from coming back to 'Ballyjamesduff' had to be taken seriously.

Times change, like the seasons, on a slower scale. Enough centuries had passed since The Collapse for new attitudes and interests and ways of life to become established; and those of the previous age to have fallen out of sympathy, out of understanding and into some disdain. The age of quantity had been replaced by a fierce desire for quality; the age of the common man, of the mass market, of the lowest common denominator, had been replaced by striving for the best, for achievement and honour. A great hunger for wealth at the expense of decency and honour was seen to be disgusting and dishonourable, a stain on the soul left over from the Old Times. What was known of the Old Times was regarded with revulsion. Most souls left over from those times who sought admission here were firmly refused. Some of the more insolently persistent had had to be chased back to their source in the Coastland of Death on the other side of the ocean, by the Wild Hunt.

In fact, this programme of rebirth control fitted with other programmes of investigation by the Wise. They were interested in the differing qualities of different areas, and how these related to the influences of terrestial and celestial energies, as well as to the qualities of the peoples and nature spirits native to those areas.They had taken the principle that 'The King and the Land are One' and considered how local humanity and the local landscapes and spirits affected each other.They had searched far, and noted things like the areas where extremely corrupt and greedy people had, in the previous era, dumped lots of poisonous chemicals, which had blighted whole districts like southern Italy and parts of China. They noted the ill-effects on the landscape and the local nature spirits, and how the moral and spiritual quality of the people living there had in turn deteriorated. These areas had been associated with notorious gangs of criminals in league with politicians. They were also investigating how greed and arrogance and overpopulation had, much earlier, helped to turn fertile land into desert.

Mary's husband, Patrick,was involved in a project which awakened spiritual influences at a variety of sacred sites, and followed their connections to other such sites. They were strengthening contacts in all the lands of the Megalithic Atlantic Coast. It was even faintly whispered that ancient voyagers had crossed the Atlantic and established megalithic monuments tombs and Ogham writing in and beyond the Coastlands of Death, and that even beyond that was a new America where people from that place might be able to reincarnate. Some of the Wise took ship and travelled to Britain and to Brittany and Iberia and Scandinavia, where they assisted local groups who had similar interests, and extended the effective network. Some of these people who showed talent, came to Eire to study at the House of Wisdom.It was no co-incidence that Eire was regarded (particularly by the Irish) as a magical kingdom, the leader in a new civilisation,or New World Order. Patrick had met someone who knew someone who had talked to a Saracen captive. This man had told strange tales of djinn in the deserts of Arabia.Deep in the desert,it was rumoured that there were still a few djinn who breathed fire from the ground, fire in a fiery land. In the Old Times, it seemed, these fire-breathing djinn had carried people across the world in metal containers, and through the air on magic carpets far finer than the Germans' new air machines.Now that must have been something wonderful to see, Mary thought as she walked home to prepare their supper, singing,
"A whisper comes over the sea
Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me

The Senator

Senator Romulus Simms was rich. He was in fact, very,very, rich. Indeed, was this not the case, the Censor would not allow him to be counted as a Senator. He had investments in all sorts of things, land of course, town buildings, farms, crops, banking and commerce, mines and engineering works. Much of this he had inherited, and he expected to be able to leave to his sons more than me had himself inherited. His daughters were endowed with lavish settlements, and married into families approximately as rich. He regarded himself, and was seen by some others, as virtually a microcosm of The Republic.

He was not an absentee landlord. He took himself and his responsibilities very seriously. Many of his hours were spent with stewards and accountants and auditors examining their reports on the condition and prospects of his investments. He was not an easy man to please or deceive. He traveled extensively to see things for himself, and only partly for financial reasons. He liked to form his own impressions, and to talk and listen to people who would not ordinarily have had access to him. He saw as well as owned much more of The Republic than most, and he liked to feel that he had a good sense of what was going on.

It has often been said that 'money talks'. Through Simms it did not shout, or do anything vulgar or ostentatious to draw attention to itself. It did not babble foolishly or wastefully. It spoke quietly, listened attentively, and asked searching questions. It murmured discreetly, confidentially and persuasively to other rich and powerful men. In effect these men were The Republic, and in large measure their conversations were it's governance.

It wasn't just money.Vulgar rich men who flaunted their wealth were not included among them, although sometimes they were the subject of their conversations. On rare occasions, the vulgar and foolish rich who had featured in such conversations, afterwards received quiet visits from members of the Obsidian Cohort who dealt with public enemies of The Republic. Wealth was a necessary, but not a sufficient condition to be a Senator.The Censor ensured that only rich men who had other important attributes such as public spiritedness, wisdom, shrewdness, and some sort of expert knowledge were even put forward for election by existing Senators. Lightweight blowhards, using other people's money to appeal to the foolish masses, such as had flourished in the previous era, were very definitely excluded. The incredible notion that a public man would be so bereft of personal knowledge, native wit and rhetorical training that he relied on someone else to write speeches for him, or that he would be tongue-tied in the absence of notes, aroused disgust and hilarity, and accounted for some of the scorn and contempt directed at the Old People, who appeared evil and foolish beyond sympathy or understanding.

Simms and his colleagues had a strong sense of responsibility to their people.They knew that it was all too easy for the rich to become selfish and cut off from their people. They knew that a class of financial bloodsuckers could interpose themselves between rulers and ruled, and usurp the privileges without the responsibilities of rule. They knew how the Republican Romans and the Byzantines had allowed their 'yeoman' class of independent farmers on which their military power had been based,to be destroyed and replaced by rich mens' slave estates, which had fundamentally altered their society. They knew they needed to restrain their own and each others' greed, and had been reasonably successful because they recognised kinship not only between the rich, but between rich and poor. Simms knew that his ancestors had arrived from England poor, and realistically he supposed that his descendants would not always be able, rich and powerful, but he hoped that whilst some generations had these attributes they would use them well, for the benefit of the public no less than for themselves.

The Republic prided itself on keeping taxes low.This was largely a matter of luck,as they faced no serious military threat.They knew and disapproved of both the Roman Imperial bread doles and of the far more extensive welfare states of the Old People. They were determined neither to breed a useless and destructive proletariat, nor a wasteful class of bureaucrats.They knew both of these dangers could be fatal to The Republic. Simms and his colleagues took pride in paying for much that they might have avoided, in order to benefit the public,in ways which they rather than a gaggle of bloodsucking troublemakers and bureaucrats decided. In other times and places such an attitude would have been called 'noblesse oblige'.

In traveling the country he observed conditions and spoke to as many people as he could.He had often contributed largely to some local project such as bridge and road maintenance, public buildings, books, scholarships, relief from natural disasters, time off work and extra ammunition for militia training, local celebrations and wedding gifts to those towards whom he felt some connection of family service or employment in one of his enterprizes.He did not want to be seen as a soft touch, or substitute for self help, nor as one who created resentment by excessive generosity overwhelming the recipients' self respect. His stewards and senior staff were expected to be prominent in local organisations, such as the Militia, local government and Poor Law Boards.

Simms felt some responsibility for local conditions and the attitudes of local people. If they were unhappy, he worried and investigated. He did not want people to become passive and subservient to him. Through his companies and banks he made small loans, on a non-usurious basis. Many a poor-ish man could boast that he had the Senator as a junior partner in his business. He did not want to take them over, or tell them what to do, or prop them up indefinitely when they were clearly failing. He could not handle all these details personally, so he expected to be able to rely on good advice from his managers. The old Romans would immediately have recognised that a version of their system of patron and client was strongly at work in the new American Republic.

Another reason why taxes were low was that there was no great bureaucracy extorting money from the deserving in order to waste it on themselves and on the undeserving, whose political support kept this robbing of Peter to pay Paul going. Nor was it possible to borrow large sums for such government waste, since people like Simms controlled both the politics and the banks.

People were expected to look after their own, and to have the prudence not to start families until they were able to support them.They were not permitted to breed like savages, expecting others to pay for their offspring. Floggings, castration, spaying and execution had quickly repressed any such tendencies as had survived from the old order. Adequate help was made available to the genuinely unfortunate who lacked families able to support them.This was administered by charitable institutions and parish poor law boards. Those who gave and those who received knew each other. The Senator would have been shocked and incensed to think that any poor persons who had some claim on him or on a local authority of The Republic had not received their due. Had he suspected any negligence or malfeasance by an official, or one of his managers, he was well able to institute the most searching and painful enquiries. People raised taxes locally on themselves and took an interest in how their money was spent.

There was a Poor Law based on Elizabethan and Georgian precedents, which made indigents the responsibility of their family and parish of origin. The poor were discouraged from wandering about, and could be arrested and passed back from parish to parish. Those whose origins were indeterminable, and those whose feet were incurably itchy, were sent west. Here they were given training in a relevant skill, and put up for indentured service with whichever Plains band would accept them and give them an opportunity to join them after five years service. The sight of a gallows prominently erected on the east bank of the Mississippi provided a warning not to return.

It was very difficult to survive on the Plains as a lone wolf, especially for those unfamiliar with the area and the way of life. Successful Wolfsheads were even rarer. Justice was local, swift and severe. Those convicted by a jury of local men, presided over by a clan chief or Republican official, were executed promptly, without any legal flummery of lawyer-enriching and justice-delaying appeals. Few would-be bandits lived to tell many tales because they were the objects of regular training hunts by the Plains militia and regular Republican cavalry units.

The Senator approved of the maxim that justice delayed is justice denied. Crime was a very minor problem in a society where almost everyone was known and related to the people around them, strangers would be questioned and justice was administered locally.

The Republic maintained the equivalent of the Roman 'Cursus Honorum', a course of political advancement through lesser and local offices before gaining the prestige, experience and recognised competence to be acceptable to their equals as candidates for the high offices of state. Simms had been Consul for a year, although not 'in his year' - the acme of old Roman political ambition. He was pleased to have been Consul, and to be enrolled as such amongst his ancestors. He was too shrewd to thrust himself forward again for the office, well aware of the jealousies that could cause. As an ex-Consul, or Proconsul, he was one of the elite regularly consulted by current and aspiring Consuls, and who could legally take charge locally in an emergency. He had served for a time in the military, although his talents were not those of a general. It was his broad background, his administrative competence, his ability to understand issues, to remain well informed and to seek consensus which drew to him the respect of other competent men, and gave him the 'auctoritas' and 'gravitas' to be taken seriously at the top.

He was now at his mansion in the hills just outside the capital, where he loved to spend autumn admiring the falling leaves as he walked amidst the trees on his estate. He did what he could to encourage the planting of trees for beauty and utility. Amongst his gifts to The Republic were several arboretums to beautify various towns, as well as paying for trees to line their streets, and the financing of an institute to study trees.

As he moved around the country his network of carrier pigeons supplemented the despatch riders and railroads to keep him informed of any important developments in Pittsburg and other towns.

It was his love of trees which gave him a particular interest in the far North West. He had not been there and seen the forest giants, but he harboured an ambition to obtain some seedlings to see if they would thrive in the east. The development of the Plains had led to increasing interest in the Pacific coast. Early explorers from The Republic had found small communities surviving along the Pacific coast and Vancouver, not that the The Republic was in a position to do anything but note their presence and keep an occasional eye on them.

Now that the Plains were being, in a way, developed, and a railroad had been pushed into them from across the Mississippi, there were enthusiasts who wished to push it all the way to the Pacific. He had often been asked to support and invest in such schemes. As yet he did not find them feasible. He liked the idea, and was intrigued by the possibility of encouraging a flourishing region of logging, fishing and sailing. There was even rumoured to be great reserves of coal in Alaska, although they might be difficult to extract, and there was no imminent need for them. However, it was still a dream, and was not likely to be profitable for a long time.The steel needed for the railroad, even if they could follow the old route through the mountains, would be well beyond The Republic's limited capacity. Unfortunately, the iron mines were nearing exhaustion, the easily accessible ore having been taken long ago. The available iron was required for weapons, tools and machinery. A limited strategic rail system was maintained to supplement the waterways, but he doubted that it could be pushed much further.

He knew that the Eskimos had prospered, re-invented their old way of life when the oil and machines were no longer available, and were fighting with the new tribes in the Canadian woodland, and threatening the Pacific coast survivors.He wondered whether the Pacific dwellers still made totem poles and big canoes. He considered whether it would be worthwhile trying to bring the Northern tribes under more direct influence as a buffer. Perhaps a couple of adventurous officers with a platoon of men could be sent to the Pacific to help their defence, and to develop crafts. Over time, even if the locals formed an independent state, the preponderant cultural, economic and military influence of The Republic would make them want to join. After all, had not that been what had happened before with Texas and California? (Best skip the history of Utah.) A small unit could stiffen the defence if the Mexicans started to move north along the coast.

Thought of the Mexicans reminded him of the other railroad and line of strategic advance that some people wanted. They wanted a railroad to cross the lower Mississippi and advance against the Mexicans. The images of horrible savagery associated with the Mexicans, or neo-Aztecs as they were becoming, made him feel a fit of the 'Catos' come over him. In fact, there was a group of Senators nicknamed 'Catos' because, just as that ancient statesman had ended all his speeches with the assertion that Carthage must be destroyed, "Carthago delenda est", so he and they often felt that 'Mexico delenda est'.

Simms was however a cautious man, reluctant to attack Mexico. He had no doubt that the Republican forces would easily prevail, but it would be an unnecessary expense in his view. Mexico was useful as a distant bogeyman which served to keep The Republic united and it's forces keen.He had no fear that the Mexicans could mount more than nuisance raids on The Republic; what worried him was not knowing what to do after the conquest of Mexico. It would be difficult and distasteful to exterminate them, but if allowed to live they would eventually corrupt the sympathies of the Americans administering them and come to be accepted as 'Americans', be loaded again with benefits, and cause another collapse eventually. Also, there were rumours that beyond them lived a stronger and more civilised people, the Brasilians, who might be encouraged to move forward. The Senator had no desire to find The Republic sharing a border with a stronger state, possibly one stronger than The Republic. Hence he was happy to keep Mexico as a buffer state, slowly peeling back it's population and influence from areas of American interest and settlement.

He looked at the sun to gauge the time, turning from his political and strategic speculations.Wrist watches no longer existed, and were not missed as the pace of life was less frantic.Waterclocks to mark the hours were commonplace. Towns, estates and even villages had public clocks. A man of Simms' status and resources could have had a fob watch made for him, but he saw no point in it beyond wasteful ostentation.

He remembered that he was due to meet his colleague, Senator Wells, to whose son Publius his own daughter Cornelia was married. He went to change, and then to meet his guests. He found his wife and Cornelia sitting talking to Senator Wells and his wife and they toasted each others' health with wine made on his own estates.

The Republic was in good shape, and would be happy and prosperous as long as it was ruled and found itself reflected by such men as The Senator. A New World Order of sorts was now established in the New World.