Recent Statuses

4 yrs ago
Current I RP for the ladies
4 yrs ago
#Diapergate #Hugs2018
4 yrs ago
I fucking love catfishing
4 yrs ago
Every time I insult a certain coworker, i'll take money from their jar. Saving for beer would never be easier!
4 yrs ago
The Jungle Book is good.


Most Recent Posts

The first victory was at hallowed Adwa where the Roman dead fell
The second victory was at traitor’s Segale where Solomon did quell
The third victory was at British Eldama where blood spilled under shell
The fourth victory was at distant Fashoda under where the Nile dwell
The fifth victory was the honorable peace worthy of the stele.

-Nebiyu Eleyas, Court Poet of Iyasu V, 1922

Cairo, The Kingdom of Egypt

A plain black sedan rolled down Soliman Pasha Street in the heart of Cairo. Two motorcycles flanked it, fending off the mixed traffic like motorized Hussars. Inside the car, Taytu watched the city go by. She looked composed, a young woman in meditation. On the inside, she agonized. She agonized over her training. Over her mission. Over the first time she would write her name into the history books.

Learn the differences between peoples. She remembered the lessons of her old teacher: Man Chelot Wesene. She could see his eyes; eminent eyes, emanating his overpowering confidence, the confidence that had won him the Fifth Victory all those years ago at Rotterdam. To be in a room with him was like being in a room with Zera Yaqob. A man that radiated the energy of living history. Learn the differences between peoples. An African man, or an Arab man, or any of our likely neighbors, our values are the masculine values. Honor, respect, whatever whatever. You might find that in Europe too, but theirs will be awkward. Nuanced. They have a hard time accepting that an African man is also a man. This is a double-edged sword. They might take greater offense at what you do. Or they might take no offense at all. Sometimes it is easier for them to give a victory by pretending they are patronizing a lesser people. They do this for their ego. Know how to play it.

Soliman Pasha Street went by, a wide vein of modernity in a city layered with so much history. The paved road crowded with cars, and trucks, and bikes. There were still some camels and mules here, but they were not common. They weaved and avoided each other according to their own design. The buildings here were tall, the concrete and plaster of the twentieth century. These were smart hotels and modern hospitals. An oftentimes scattered web of electrical wires connected them and lit up the street. Buildings that could afford them used electric signs. Light bulbs advertised apothecaries, hotels, cafes, and even a gaudy nightclub whose oversized sign advertised it as the “Pharaoh Club” in English; the only sign lit during the day, flanked by plaster renditions of ancient Egyptian kings.

Beyond this were the layers of old Cairo. Stone streets winding into shadowy alleys. Adobe walls and crumbling arcades. And in the distance, the oldest reminder of where they were, the Great Pyramids rising like mountains in the haze. She caught sight of them around corners and between buildings.

The old empires have a certain pride. But their pride is desperate. They have the most to lose, and have already lost much. This can make them dangerous. But it can make them surprisingly easy to deal with too, if you know how to salve a bruised ego. Learn this skill.

She looked down at her muted khemis and wondered at her clothing. She was conscious the part her sex played in this. She was a woman. But a woman of royal stock. The daughter of the previous Emperor, and the sister of the current one. That came with its own air. Breeding still carried the mystique of the old world. But it presented her with a burden Man Chelot never faced. He could fire invective at the battered European diplomatic core at Rotterdam and they saw him as a man, a knight, imposing his rightful will. A King or a Prince could do this too. An Emperor. But a woman hardly could. What about a princess? That was murky.

The strangest beast you will find is the Anglo. For most men, there is honor and there is money. But the Anglo is worse than the Falasha in that the Anglo doesn’t know the difference between honor and money. He will let you impregnate his wife if he thinks there is a profit in it, and he will consider himself the winner in that affair. Know this. This can make them the most two-faced opponent, but it can also make them the easiest. They were the people to build an Empire from dirty deals rather than victories.

Who were the opponents she would be facing off against? The British. Anglos. European strengths and weaknesses. The Yemenis holding on to Aden. Arabic. Muslim. Desperate. Their brothers from the north, looking to gain Aden for themselves. Arabic. Muslim. Dangerous. The real threat. Britain was in a bad position. Their ability to project power here was almost entirely severed. The Adenites... a variable. In essence, rebels. They only had one chip, and that was the city itself, which was a chip they couldn’t hold forever. But the Kingdom of Yemen, that was a potential regional power. A potential enemy. And one that would be hard for a woman to conquer.


Leyla loved the feeling of power that came with mounting a motorcycle. It felt like a horse, but with an added danger. Speed. The heat of the motor, knowing at the back of her mind that what was happening there was controlled explosions. Fire. Horses were a kind of people almost, fellow living beings. But this was a bomb. Controlled violence.

They came up on the Abdeen Palace: a long building of solid stone, columns, and the fanciful embellishments of 19th century architecture. Security instructed them to unload at a side door nearest to where the meeting would be held. Her partner on the other motorcycle, Elias Zelalem, took lead. She followed the Princess’s car and kept watch for threats. There was a contrast between the Egyptian Palace Guard and the two Shotel agents. The Egyptians wore fezzes and pearly white dress uniforms with gold trim. The Shotel both wore loose black Habesha Suits, dusty boots, and sunglasses. The Egyptian Palace Guard wielded a decorative gold halberd whose head resembled a lotus of ancient Egyptian art, though both Shotel agents saw the bulge beneath their uniforms where they hid more practical side-arms. The Shotel had Lugers in black holsters. They typically had knifes, though they left this luxury behind due to a limit of one weapon per agent required by the Egyptian authorities.

The car stopped. Elias opened the door for Le'elt Taytu Yohannes. The Le'elt came out, an awkward and gangling figure, her hair in braids that clung to the back of her neck. She presented her femininity to the world through clothing and subtle make-up rather than through any physical attributes of her own.

Elias looked down at Leyla, subconsciously comparing his partner to the princess in their protection. Leyla was lithe except for her hips, and her hair was done in braids brought up into a bun. A youthful grin lit up her face.

“You look like a child that just snuck a fart out at breakfast,” he said, soft so it wouldn’t stand out among the politicians greeting one another.

“It was a pleasant ride,” she replied. She stood a head shorter than him so that her eyes met his chin. His broad shoulders made his smooth face look boyish.

“Be vigilant.” he said, “You never know with these people.”

“I am one of these people.” she reminded him. Her father was Egyptian. They’d moved to Ethiopia in her childhood when her father was recruited by a Somalian agent into the Ethiopian Shotel in its early days. In those days, little more than fifteen years ago, the Shotel was simply a network of spies and cryptographers. Since then it had grown into government bodyguards, saboteurs, specialists, and occasionally secret police. Leyla had started her career early. Her father’s connections had given her access to the special Furusiyya training of the Somali military elite. She was a natural, adapting to its martial arts practices as she grew into adulthood. At nineteen, she was young for an agent.

“Well if you still are one of these Arabic ferengi, you know what to look for.” he said.

“Do you think I’m one of them still?”

“No. You are a proper Habesha woman. Though you still have an accent.”


Taytu took care to hold herself as collected as possible as they entered the Palace. It was an ostentatious affair. Gold leaf and burnished copper-tile floors. Light shone out from massive crystal chandeliers and shimmered throughout the room. This first cavernous entrance led them to rooms of decreasing decoration, until they were in a hall of golden granite with statues of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs standing guard. Here, the hall entirely went around and surrounded the room they entered.

There were four men sitting at a marble table. The first one she recognized as he stood up to greet her.

“A pleasure as always, your highness.” Sad al-Mir said, bowing. He was the Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia and had returned to Cairo to personally handle negotiations. He wore a suit, and his head was hairless except for a small patch of jet black on his chin.

The other three men stood up and bowed. “This is Angus Stevens, from the British Foreign Office, here to attend to British interests in this affair.” Sad motioned to a sickly looking man with thin grey hair and a bushy red and grey mustache. Angus stood up and bowed awkwardly before sitting down again.

“This is Saleet el-Baluch. He is a maternal nephew of Ahmad bin Yahya and represents the Kingdom of Yemen.” The man Sad motioned to was standard for an Arabic elite. Self assured, bearded, running a little on the fat side, with a white robe and black and white keffiyeh. He gave her a curt head nod.

“And this man” Sad motioned, “Is a representative of the Aden General Union of Workers, who has taken up the government of Aden in the absence of the British garrison there. Mahboob el-Sader.” Sad motioned to a thin, hollow eyed man wearing a three piece suit. He looked ill-placed in his clothes. He bowed, an obvious repetition of Sad’s.

They sat. Water was served. Sad spoke again.

“So the situation is thus at present, and we will see if we all agree on these basic realities. The British authorities claim that pirates are active in the Gulf of Aden, and that captured pirates have admitted to serving the Mahra and Qu’aiti sultanates” Sad looked at Stevens. Stevens looked satisfied.

Sad looked at the rest. “We understand that the British, Yemeni, and Ethiopian governments condemn these pirates. What is the position of Aden’s provisional government?”

Mahboob adjusted his tie and spoke. “These pirates have murdered sailors and fishermen from Aden, so of course we do not like them, though we see them as caused by British failures.” Mahboob did not look at Angus. Angus shifted in his seat but remained quiet.

Sad nodded and continued. “We understand that Arabia, the Sunni population of Yemen, and the British will not support the Kingdom of Yemen annexing Aden for its own protection, even though his majesty Ahmad bin Yahya has made several appeals for this very move?”

“The city of Aden is a city of the world” Mahboob said, “But we sit between the eastern desert and the Mutawakkilites.”

“The Mutawakkilites being the Kingdom of Yemen. For the purpose of the record.”

“Right. This placement means we would become the... the axis which a war in Yemen would revolve around. We do not want this! The city of Aden wants protection assured by the other nations of the region. In return we will continue to serve as a... a world city. A fortress of trade.”

“This is an unnatural state” Saleet spoke up. “How would the world deny Ahmad bin Yahya his own city? In practice Aden has served as a port for our Kingdom despite English rule. Its only natural places is either with us, or as a city of pirates.”

“We know the solution that Ethiopia has presented.” Sad said.

It was her cue. Taytu squared up and smiled. “I understand Britain is looking to other affairs and can no longer protect Aden. His Majesty Sahle is naturally interested in the safety of his own coasts and is confident our government can provide the same role for the city of Aden that Britain has filled in the past.”

“That would be unacceptable, trading another foreign, Christian power for another,” Saleet said coldly. “Understand this would be a provocation.”

“The Foreign Office is willing to support this exchange.” Mr. Stevens said, ignoring Saleet. “On the condition that the Commonwealth retain the privileges its members had under our own rule.”

It fit the pattern. Retreat for profit. Taytu smiled. “This would be best for all markets involved. His majesty agrees it would endanger the economy of the entire region to withdraw these concessions.”

Mr. Stevens sunk back into his chair. “To be frank, this is the only concern the Foreign Office has. We will agree to a transition of power...”

Sad spoke up. “I understand this is a problem for your patron, Saleet, but we can…”

“We will not be traded like this!” Mahboob interrupted. “I know you look over us because we are one city. But we know that if we bend to Ethiopia for safety, Ethiopia will make up what they lose from concessions to the other ‘powers’ by taking from us! We are Aden! I don’t represent a city, or a religion, I represent people! The men who work on the docks and at the oil refinery. Our own fishermen! Can you tell me that Ethiopia won’t bleed us to pay back their losses?”

It was quiet for a moment. Sad spoke up. “We have more to talk about...”


“Is it true you received furusiyya training?” Elias asked his partner, cutting the silence. They stood still in the gilded hall.

“I did,” Leyla replied.

“I knew you dabbled. Who hasn’t? I know they want all of us to know it eventually. But I always wondered how much of your knowledge was rumors. You know, my last partner told me about it. But I thought... well, they seem to think that all Muslims know furusiyya. Which is ridiculous. They tell ridiculous stories like that about anyone close to Hassan. They say he learned it from an old man from Japan...”

“China,” she corrected.

He looked down at her. Her expression didn’t crack.


“Táofàn,” she said, struggling with the name, pronouncing it something like ‘Dow-fun’. “He’s an old man. But he is from China. An interesting man. He knows just about every language you can think of before he joined Hassan’s court. I saw him once. But he doesn’t teach much anymore.”

“So furusiyya is Chinese?”

“Well, I think its a mix of things. I mean, old Arabic warrior ideas. The swordsmanship of the Dervish. And Táofàn’s body training… but really, its just…”

The door in front of them swung open. Two men entered, not noticing Elias or Leyla as they carefully worked to shut the door behind them. When they whirled around, they met their eyes, surprised. These men looked out of place. Arab robes and keffiyehs, sure, but their expressions were... wrong.

One drew a knife, the other drew a gun. As fights so often do, it started all at once. They lunged.

Leyla roundhouse kicked the knife out of her attacker’s hand and whirled into him like a storm.

(Optional musical paring for scene)

Seeing his friend so suddenly disarmed, the man attacking Elias paused, giving Elias time to go for the man’s weapon. The two of them began to wrestle. Elias’s mind was now focused on the gun in his opponents hand. Where was it’s barrel? That barrel was a straight line promising death. Where was it? He was so focused on the gun that he didn’t have any warning before being struck on the back by an unseen attacker, sending him tumbling to the ground. He heard a gunshot go off.


“My word, was that gunnery?” Mr. Stevens asked. All of the Excellencies looked nervously at the door.

“You cannot treat us like cattle.” Mahboob said. Taytu met his eyes. They were watery. Inflamed. “We cannot be traded. We demand our independence and protection of that independence. It is our rights. Inevitable rights!”

The Fifth Victory. His speech brought it to mind. And that thought brought with it a tinge of respect. And jealousy. It was her job to carry the power of mind and speech that this khat chewing dock worker was commanding.

“We will work it out to your advantage as well as ours.” she said.


The gunshot hung in the air. He heard it like his eardrums were an inch from the barrel. It was like the bones in his ears were exploding TNT. For a moment, he saw white. A man had struck him in the back. He saw Leyla and her target disappear around a corner. Another body went around the opposite corner. Elias realized instantly it was his opponent. There were still only two men. Leyla’s opponent must have been thrown into him. He quickly searched the ground around him. There was no gun on the polished marble, only the dull reflection of movement on the stone. He jumped back onto his feet and pursued.

When he turned the corner, another shot rang out. He instinctively dodged. A light cloud of dust now wafted through the room, coming from a Pharaonic statue. Its nose had been shot off.

His gun was in his hand. He had pulled it without thinking at some point in the action. He saw movement somewhere around the next corner. He fired twice, running into the direction he was firing. He heard something. Movement? Fighting? Grunting?

He came around the corner and surprised the man he’d been wrestling with earlier. He tried to pistol whip the man at the same time he tried to fire at Elias. Both missed. Another shot rang. He grabbed for the intruder’s wrist to try and disarm him. They began to struggle.

He saw Leyla slide into view, seemingly thrown, gliding on her back along the polished floor. She sprung up just as her opponent attacked her.

Elias grabbed his man by his Keffiyeh and managed to grasp hair underneath. He slammed his head into the wall. He heard a crack, solid and deep. He repeated the move and the man’s eyes rolled back into his head. He slid down the wall as his keffiyeh soaked dark red blood.

One down. Elias looked over just in time to see Leyla’s intruder tossed into the door. The door held solid. Elias went to help, but in what felt like an instant, he saw the door swing fast open and both Leyla and her opponent seemed to get sucked in.


More gunshots made the room quiet. Something slammed into the door. Their Excellencies eyes were all on that one door.

It slammed open. Taytu’s eyes went wide, and she heard the shouts and cries of indignation from the other parties as a man in Bedouin dress threw one of her bodyguards onto the table. It was the small girl, who went sliding across the smooth stone service of the table, sending papers and folders and glasses of water flying in every direction.

“My word!” she heard Mr. Stevens exclaimed.

“This is a violation of Egyptian sovereignty!” Sad yelled.

They went quiet when they saw the Bedouin looking man aim a gun at the prostrate guard on the table.

The sound of a gunshot exploded through the room. The Bedouin man fell to the ground, a hole erupting from his eye and splattering gore across the table.

Sad reached out to check the woman on the table and see if she was okay. Mr. Stevens looked at Taytu.

“You have the Foreign Office’s support. Deal with this vexatious region! But make sure the interests of my government and of Europe are attended to!”

Egyptian guards filled the room. They looked awestruck at the bloody scene. Sad looked at them. “You should thank these Ethiopians, they did your jobs! Now find out how this happened!”

Taytu looked at Mr. Stevens. “It will be managed,” she said simply.

The first victory was at hallowed Adwa where the Roman dead fell
The second victory was at traitor’s Segale where Solomon did quell
The third victory was at British Eldama where blood spilled under shell
The fourth victory was at distant Fashoda under where the Nile dwell
The fifth victory was the honorable peace worthy of the stele.
-Nebiyu Eleyas, Court Poet of Iyasu V, 1922

2017 Reboot Char Sheet
2017 Reboot App
2014 RPG PoW Sheet
2012 MCF PoW Sheet
2011 Sporum Sheet



"Ethiopians do not use surnames. The same system is used by both Christians and Muslims. An individual's name consists of his proper name followed by his father's name. Individuals are, there-fore, normally referred to by their proper (i.e. first) name. Both the proper name and the father's name may have two components; thus a name may consist of three or four words. In addition secular or religious titles may be added to one or both names. (See appendix for titles). Many Ethiopian names are, in effect, phrases. Wives do not take their husbands' names. Three courtesy titles are used in Ethiopia: Ato (Mr), Woizero (Mrs), and Woizerit (Miss)." (citation: "Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia" by Paul B. Henze)

Ethiopian names (see naming conventions below)
Quick Ethiopian Names
Quick Oromo Names
Quick Somali Names
Quick Arab NAmes
Quick Swahili Names
Quick Luo (Uganda/Kenya) Names
Quick Kikuyu (Central Kenya) Names

Ethiopian Folktales





Imperial Family
-Negus Negast Sahle the First, Emperor of Ethiopia (Born 07/04/1930: 24).
-Le'elt Taytu Yohannes (Born 09/11/1932: 22): Ambitious princess. Description/Introduction
-Leul Yaqob Yohannes (Born 02/02/1939: 16): Sahle's idealistic young brother.
-Emebet Hoy Eleni: (Born 1910: 45) Mother of Sahle, Taytu, and Yaqob, widow of Yohannes.

Imperial Family (Deceased)
-(Negus Mikael of Wollo, born Mohammed Ali): Father of Iyasu V. Lived 1850-1919.
-(Iyasu V): Grandfather of Sahle, Yaqob, and Taytu. Lived 1895-1935.
-(Yohannes Iyasu): Son of Iyasu V and father of Sahle, Yaqob, and Taytu. Lived 1915-1951 (died of influenza)

Imperial Court
-Tsehafi Taezaz (Minister of the Pen):
-Afe Negus (Mouth of the King/Minister of Justice):
-Meridazmach (Minister of Defense):
-Bahr Negus (Sea King/Minister of the Navy:
-Bejirond (Minister of Finance):
-Minister of Foreign Affairs: Man Chelot Wesene (The Fifth Victory).
-Minister of Transportation and Public Works:
-Minister of Posts, Telegraphs, and Telephones:
-Blattengeta (Lord of the Pages/Youths):

Ambassadors from Ethiopia

Ambassadors to Ethiopia
-EGYPT: Sad al-Mir. Description/Introduction

The Bureaucracy

The Mesafint (The Five Rases)

The Mekwanint (lesser nobility)

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Mehal Sefari (Royal Guard)
Gear: White dress uniform w/ gold trim. White-tan pith helmet w/ lion's mane plume. Epaulettes with lions mane fringe. Luger sidearm. Shotel sidearm. MP-28 Submachine guns.

The Army

The Airforce
Gear: Warm clothes. Pistol.

The Navy
Gear: Grey uniforms.

The Shotel
Gear: Unmarked khaki or black uniforms. German Luger.
-Leyla Masri: Nineteen year old agent. Knows martial arts. Daughter of Masri Farid. Description/Introduction
-Elias Zelalem: Leyla's partner. Boyish looking. Description/Introduction

The Meqabyan (AKA Shiftas, Rebels, and Extremists)

People of Ethiopia (By Location)


Emir: Hassan al-Himyari: (Born 1902: 53).
-Azima al-Himyari: (Born 10/06/1936: 18 )Hassan's daughter and heir.
-Táofàn: Chinese man in his seventies who taught furusiyya. Speaks many languages. Veteran of Boxer Rebellion.

Dervish Military







FERENGI (Foreigners)
-Mahboob el-Sader: Representative of Aden and the Aden General Union of Workers (AGUW). Description/Introduction
-Farouk I: King of Egypt.
-Ahmad bin Yahya (Amhad the Devil, Big Turban, al-Djinn): King of North Yemen (Mutawakkilite Kingdom).
-Saleet el-Baluch: Maternal nephew of Ahmad. Member of Ahmad's inner circle. Description/Introduction

-Nebiyu Eleyas, Court Poet of Iyasu V (Wrote the five victories poem).



-Doofarka: Dervish military produced dune-buggie. Typically basic skeletal build. Rounded at top to allow to roll.


Ethiopian Calendar (major holidays in bold).
-January 7th: Genna (Christmas)
-January 19th: Timkat (Epiphany)
-February 2nd: Yaqob's Birthday
-March 2nd: Adwa Day
-Spring: Siklet (Good Friday) and Fasika (Easter).
-July 4th: Sahle's birthday.
-September 11th : Enkutatash: New Year's Day (12th on leap years, including 1956). Also Taytu's Birthday.
-September 27th: Meskel: Finding of the True Cross (biggest holiday)

Precipice Specific Terms or Phrases (AKA shit I made up).
-Shotel: Name for national intelligence of Imperial Ethiopia. Words means Sword.
-Doofarka: Means "Pig" in Somali. Dune buggies used by Somalians.
-Furusiyya: Technically a real thing, the Arabic equivalent of Chivalry, but in PoW being used in the context of Somalian martial arts and military philosophy.

Ethiopian Royal Titles (ordered by importance)
-Negusa Negast: "King of Kings." Title conferred to an Ethiopian Emperor. Sahle is Negusa Negast.
-Nigiste Negestatt : "Queen of Kings." Female reigning Empress. Zewditu crowned as this during her failed rebellion.
-Negus: King.
-Itege: Queen-Consort or Empress-Consort. Wife of the Negusa Negast or Negus.
-Leul: Prince.
-Le'elt: Princess.
-Emebet Hoy: "Great Royal Lady". Wife of royal princes.
-Lij: "Child". Used as a term for noble boys.
-Emebet: "Royal Lady". Female member of the royal line.

Ethiopian Feudal/Military Titles (ordered by importance)
-Makwanent: Not a title. The Ethiopian word for the aristocracy as a whole.
-Mesafint: Not a title. The upper echelon of the nobility, typically with royal ancestory.
-Bitwoded: Court title meaning "Favorite". Used as qualifier for official title like Ras, implying Royal favor.
-Ras: "Head." A position similar to duke. Many Rases throughout history held power almost equal to that of a Negus.
-Meridazmach: "Chief of Staff". A rare title similar to Ras. Originally used to denote the ruler of Shewa.
-Dejazmach: "Commander of the Gate". Comparable to count or earl.
-Fitawrari: "Commander of the Vanguard". Comparable to Baron.
-Kegnazmach: "Leader of the Right." Minor nobility
-Grazmach: "Leader of the Left". Minor Nobility
-Azmach: "Leader of the Rearguard". Minor nobility usually given to trusted advisors or ministers.
-Balambaras: "Commander of the Fortress." Semi-noble title given to people entrusted with important supporting commands.
-Shaleqa: Military rank comparable to >ajor. Commander of 1000 men.
-Meteolaqah: Military rank comparable Lieutenant. Commander of 100 men.
-Asiralaqah: Military rank comparable Corporal. Commander of 10 men.

Ethiopian Religious Titles (ordered by importance)
-Abun/Abune: Metropolitan of the Ethiopian Church. A title also given to bishops.
-Etchege: Administrative head of the church. Second under the Abun, sort of like Minister of Pen to the Abun.
-Nebura ed: Civil governor of Axum, appointed from the clergy.
-Aleqa: Chief or head. The title given to the dean of a church.
-Gabez: Custodian of a church, charged with caring for the treasures of the church.
-Kahen: Priest
-Abba Mahbar: Head of a monastic community.
-Arde'et: Disciple. Monk.
-Debtera: A non-ordained traveling religious person within the Ethiopian church. Responsible for impromptu acts of worship, the making of herbal remedies, the exorcising of evil spirits, and spell-binding.
-Kiddus: Saint or holy man.
-Abba: Father. Used the same as in the west.

Ethiopian Court Titles and Civil Offices (ordered by importance of place)
-Enderase: Regent or co-ruler.
-Tsehafi Taezaz: "Minister of the Pen". Most powerful post in the court, signs official documents. Similar to Privy Seal.
-Afe Negus: "Mouth of the King". Announces royal decrees. Sort of a Press Secretary.
-Meridazmach: "Chief of Staff". Secretary of War.
-Bejirond: "Treasurer". Secretary of Finance.
-Liquamaquas: Body double for the Negus, used in battle to confuse enemies.
-Aqabe Se'at: "Keeper of time". Official, often a clergyman, responsible for the Emperor's schedule.
-Blattengeta: "Lord of the pages". Administrator of the palace itself. Also given to head advisors.
-Blatta: "Page". Palace servant.
-Mesfin: Governor of a province.
--Tigray Mekonnen: Governor of Tigray.
-Shum: Governor of a sub-province.
--Wagshum: Governor of Wag
--Jantirar: Ancient hereditary rulers of the fortress at Ambassel in the Wollo Province.
-Mislene: Sub-Governor.
-Kentiba: Mayor.
-Nagadras: Senior bureaucrat in charge of markets, customs duties, and tax collection.
-Ballabat: Official in charge of local government offices. Essentially a bureaucratic manager.
-Korro: Bureaucrat.

Legal Terms
Land Tenure
-Gult: An ownership right acquired from the monarch or from provincial rulers who are empowered to make land grants. Gult owners collect tribute from the peasantry and exact labor service as payment in kind from the peasants. Until the government instituted salaries, gult rights were the typical form of compensation for an official.
-Maderia: Land granted mainly to government officials, war veterans, and other patriots in lieu of a pension or salary. Although it is land granted for life, the state possesses a reversionary right over all land grants; this form of tenure comprised about 12% of the country's agricultural land.
-Mengist: Land registered as government property.
-Rist: Hereditary, inalienable, and inviolable form of land tenure. No user of any piece of land can sell his or her share outside the family or mortgage or bequeath his or her share as a gift, as the land belongs not to the individual but to the descent group. Most peasants in the northern highlands hold at least some rist land.
-Samon: Land the government granted to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in perpetuity. Traditionally, the church had claimed about one-third of Ethiopia's land; however, actual ownership probably never reached this figure. Estimates of church holdings range from 10 - 20% of the country's cultivated land. Peasants who work on church land pay tribute to the church (or monastery) rather than to the Emperor.
Division of land (by Importance)
-Taklai Ghizat: Province. Governed by a Mesfin.
-Awraja: Subprovince. (The smallest part of the Provinces and Districts map in the resources at the top of this post). Governed by a Shum.
-Woreda: Administrative level below the sub-province. Typically a town and its surrounding area. Governed by Kentiba.
-Gasha: Feudal division of land, approx 40 to 80 acres.

Racial and Ethnic groups (ordered by prominence)
Racial Map
-Habesha: The collective name for the peoples of the Ethiopian highlands. This is the origin of the old term 'Abyssinia'.
--Amhara: An Habesha people, and the dominate racial group politically. The language, Amharic, is named after them. Primarily Christian.
--Tigrayans/Tigrinyas: A Habesha people from the north of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Speak Tigrinya.
--Agaw: Highland people, primarily Christian. Small in numbers now but was significant in the Aksumite period. Were the people that founded the Medieval Zagwe dynasty.
-Oromo/Galla: One of the most numerous races in Ethiopia, roughly one third of Ethiopians. Mostly Muslim, but large contingent of Christians too. Descended from warrior tribes that came from the south in the late middle ages. Prominent in the 19th century, particularly during the Zemene Mesafint, when their cavalry was especially renowned.
-Somali: Dominant in Somalia/Adal, and common in the east of Ethiopia, especially the Ogaden. Mostly Sunni Muslim, some Sufi Muslim. Speak Somali.
-Tigre: Muslim pastoralists living in the northwest of Eritrea. Related to the Sudanese Beja people.
-Falasha: Jewish people, also sometimes called Beta Israel. Primarily live in their own communities in the northern highlands.
-Gurage: Primarily Christian Afro-Asiatic people south of the Awash river. Speak Gurage.
-Silt'e: Muslim Afro-Asiatic population south of Addis Ababa.
-Sidama: The people of the Sidamo region. Largely protestant for some reason.
-Welayta: The culturally and racially distinct people of the Weylata region. Have a thing for red, black, and orange stripes for some reason.
-Afar: Primarily Muslim pastoralists living in the Danakil region. Have a thing for putting butter in their hair and cutting off the dicks of their enemy with a special dick slicing knife called a gile.
-Shanqella: Catch-all term for the dark-skinned tribes living in the west along the frontier with Sudan.
-Saho: A primarily Muslim people living in Eritrea. Related to the Afar.

Ethiopian Phrases
-Abet: A greeting call, used to attract attention, or to acknowledge such a call.
-Ato: Mister.
-Ayzore!: Be strong! Call of encouragement that can be used in battle, travel, or work.
-Isshi: Okay.
-Jan Hoi: Your Majesty.

Afar Terms and Phrases
-Gile: Knife worn by Afar men. Used primarily to slaughter livestock.





On December the 12th, the old warhorse and Emperor of Ethiopia, Menelik II, passed away. He was born during the Zemene Mesafint: The Age of Princes, or warring states period of Ethiopia, where warlords roamed the highlands vying for power through blade and black powder. He saw the return of the Empire, and in middle age he was selected to lead it. By the end of his reign he'd more than doubled the size of the Empire and decisively defeated the Italians at the Battle of Adwa, cementing Ethiopian hegemony in the region. Then he died. His heir was an eighteen year old boy with a baby face and an impulsive streak that broke away from tradition. He was crowned Iyasu V.

The events surrounding Iyasu V's ascendancy to the throne of Ethiopia were fraught. Seen as a ne'er do well and a possible heretic, he was not embraced by the Mesafint: the nobility of Ethiopia. He befriended and actively appointed Muslims within government, an act that scandalized the Mesafint further.

Global politics complicated matters. Iyasu V came to power in 1913. A year later, Europe was at war. The European war mattered because all of Ethiopia's borders were with colonial holdings of the European warring powers: specifically, Britain, Italy, and France. They feared his reported friendship with the Dervish rebels in Somalia who were haunting the European powers there, and his alleged interest in the Central powers further worried them.

So the Europeans sowed mistrust and armed members of the Mesafint who opposed Iyasu. A coup was launched. Iyasu's father, Mikael of Wollo, came to his aid.

History shifted here. In our timeline, Mikael was defeated and the Mesafint coup succeeded.

But in the Precipice timeline, Iyasu's friends in the Muslim world made a move. The Dervish of Somalia entered the war. Khalid al-Himyari, an ally of the Mad Mullah of Somalia, supported Mikael of Wollo at the Battle of Segale and turned the tide. Iyasu V defeated the coup and joined The Great War on the side of the Central Powers.

The Ethiopian and Dervish alliance quickly caused the Allies to abandon Somalia, and shortly thereafter Eritrea, utilizing arms given to them by Germany. In return, Ethiopia agreed to support a campaign to drive the British out of East Africa, entering British East Africa from the north while the Germans under General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck came from the south. The British put up a stiff fight but nearly lost all their East African forces in the region at the Battle of Eldama Ravine in 1919. This caused the British to pull back to Mombasa.

The Ethiopians took Fashoda in 1921 after a short siege. The ceasefires put an end to active fighting and the beleaguered government of Iyasu paused to take stock.

In the twenties, the Mad Mullah died. Khalid al-Himyari went back to Somalia and, through a campaign of intrigue and violence, kept the Dervish state from falling into Civil War.

The Peace saw Ethiopia given protectorship of the land it had already taken, due to the fierceness in which they contested it was their right, that their control would ensure stability in the region, and the simple fact that contesting their right would mean war.

For the Ethiopians, this meant a new identity. Propaganda became art and history, proclaiming the importance of the "Five Victories": Adwa, Segale, Eldama Ravine, Fashoda, and The Peace.

Iyasu died in 1935 of cancer. His twenty year old son, Yohannes V, took over his father's project of reforming the government. Fear of European supremacy allowed a loose feudal confederation to form, but Yohannes wanted to bring it more together.

The Empire Yohannes inherited looked like this:

Ethiopia: Still ruled by its traditional feudal forms, which would take time to iron out. He worked by strengthening the central government and giving it direct control any time the opportunity arose.

Medri Bahri: Eritrea, who's native Tigrinya were given a lot of autonomy under their Bahr Negus, or Sea King. The Bahr Negus commands Ethiopia's navy, giving it a lot of pull and respect within the Ethiopian government, while staying in the Imperial fold to avoid the threat of an Italian return.

Daraawiishta Sultanate: The Dervish state is still controlled by the al-Himyari dynasty. Primarily Muslim, it is a de-jure subject of the Emperor of Ethiopia, though almost independent to the point many maps show it as a separate nation. The Iyasuan dynasty is interested in folding it more into the government.

The East African Protectorates: Mombasa, Nairobi, Acholiland, and Buganda. These small governances are hardly ruled so much as colonized. Ethiopia simply retains economic dominance and as much peace as they can afford.

Sudd: The Ethiopians took Fashoda for strategic regions, blocking the British from launching assaults from the north. They retained this land for military reasons, but have hardly thought about governing it, to the point the border is hardly defined. A series of jungles and infamous marshes, it is a hard land.

Imperial Djibouti: Held on to more directly by the Emperor than most of Ethiopia itself is.

Yohannes died of influenza in 1951. His son Sahle, the same age as Yohannes when he ascended, became Emperor at 20. There is much doubt over the character of Sahle, who seems as impulsive and immature as his grandfather, but without the guiding hand of Menelik in his youth or the crisis of his young adulthood to shape him. Ethiopia is running on inertia, its frontiers brimming with shiftas (outlaws) so effective they are oftentimes likened to the biblical Maccabees. If the Empire can reform, it could become the most powerful state in Africa, if not the Indian Ocean. If it fails, it could return to its Zemene Mesafint in bloodier style and devolve into a failed state rivaling Russia for horror.
The premise here is flawed. Its based on the idea that everything we do for fun has to be a game.
Narrative RPs aren't really games. They are strictly social.
You could retitle that article "Why quilting circles are doomed to fail" and it'd show perfectly why it doesn't work
You aren't going to say "Quilting circles fail because granny doesn't want to give up her edge in patches per hour for the good of the quilt"

The flaw in the premise is seeing "mob rule" as the problem. If it is strictly social, then yeh, it's gonna be driven by whatever the group writing it wants it to be driven by. If you and a group of friends don't manage to entertain everybody who ever hangs out or wants to hang out with you, you wouldn't consider that social circle a failure. Some people will drop out of RPs.

If there is any argument for why they fail, its probably because their scope is too big for their members to realize. Five or ten people ain't gonna manage to constantly update a story on time indefinitely. If they manage a year, and some do, then that alone is a major damned success.
damn, you all postin' slow and shit.

Okay, The Dude and Bugs Bunny.
Umm, I'll just submit my deepest fantasy split into parts


Big Tiddy Goth Girl

September 13th: Gondar, Begmeder Province, Ethiopia

Ergete was no prisoner. He realized this immediately, and it derailed his entire concept of his place in the world. They put him in a room on the second floor of the Mesfin's Residence: a building more like a city hall, half of it dedicated to public functions and half dedicated to private. It was in the colonial style, built out of juniper wood and plaster and surrounded by a spacious two-story wooden veranda.

He could walk onto the second floor deck and look out across the market. If he wanted to, he could jump. It wasn't that far down. But they'd told him not to and so he didn't. Not because he was a prisoner; he would have made the jump anyway in that case. Rather, they told him they had something for him. A gift. And he believed them. Or at least he was curious. Fate was always hiding out there somewhere for him, reaching out a hand. His gut told him this was such a hand. So he stayed, and stewed, waiting for his time.

Gondar had the appearance of a town out of the middle ages. It was nestled in the tropical green ambas and mountains of Ethiopia's ancient heartland, dominated by its open air market smelling of spices, and by the stone castle complex that once was the home of the Emperors, so that it looked like a town in an equatorial fairy tale. He could see the castles from here, peeking from behind the trees, silent and timeless. They were in the Portuguese mode, designed for the Emperor by those people when they roved the coasts of Africa, in the days when they were trying to plant the Papal religion in these parts. It was brown stone, rounded crenelations, and the uniquely Iberian mix of Arabic and European tastes. Though the castles stood quiet, the roads bustled all around their grounds.

How strange it was to be here now, like this. This town was his goal. The ancient homeland of the Amharics seemed the most fitting place to rebuild the country in the image of democracy. Addis Ababa was too new, a product of the Emperors alone, no national character. Gondar would be his capital.

But he'd meant to enter it on horseback, an army at his back. Instead... well, what was going on here? They fed him well. He ate meaty wat and drank fresh juice every day, like he were living the life of a Neftanya. He expected the Mesfin to visit him, but the days went by, and nothing was heard. They gave him fresh water to wash with and a bible to read.

Was it a trick? What kind of trick? He didn't understand it. If they wanted to, they could have killed him at the plantation house. They could have thrown him in prison. They could have hung him in the market. But none of that. It was juice and wat. Destiny was here. His gut told him so. But how would destiny appear?

On the tenth of September, somebody important arrived in town, followed by a column of armed retainers on horseback, looking like modern day knights returning to Camelot, but their lances traded for rifles and their armor for shammas. They came to the Mesfin's residence, and he heard the bustle of their arrival, but that was all. He heard nothing of who they were, so his mind wandered. Could it be the Mesfin returning from a patrol? The men he'd seen looked noble and war-like. Everything he'd heard about the Mesfin of Begmeder suggested the man to be built like a priest; a bureaucrat, not a horseman. These men had experienced battle. He could see it in the way they carried themselves. A warrior was vigilant and knew it. That gave them a subtle pride, not like swaggering village boys come back from fucking the town witch, but like lions, aware that they may be attacked at any moment, confident they can handle whatever comes, and completely comfortable with their place in the world.

That night he worried about it in his sleep. Worry wasn't in his nature. He blamed the rich food, and promised himself to eat more sparingly, before crickets lullabied him to sleep.

On the eleventh of September, the attitude in the city changed. It happened in the afternoon as people left the market. There were whispers, and it made Gondar somber. Listening out at the people from the balcony, he could hear them talking about some disaster. That evening, a note was delivered along with his meal. There had been a battle near Harar. The Emperor's army was defeated. Ras Hassan was overwhelming the east.

This set Ergete's mind to spinning. Who couldn't have predicted this? In the settlement after the Great War, the Somalis were given undue power. Half of the Ethiopian nation was ruled by them. It had been assumed by those in power, talked about like it were in the gospel, that the Somalis were given so much freedom they wouldn't want to be independent. Why face the modern world alone? The white race ruled the southern part of the African continent. Might they not look at an independent Somalia and become greedy?

But that assumed all Somalia would ever want is independence. Why have independence when you could rule it all?

Of course, it would never work. Ethiopia had held off the Muslim invaders for one thousand years. This land was God's land, it could not be taken by force. But for Ergete, his faith in God still flickering in his heart like an unquenchable flame, there was an opportunity here. The Emperor was in the way of democracy. Now he was weakened.

Ergete's mind raced but he was still in a cage. He couldn't do anything from here. He needed to get out. But where did he go after this? Destiny hadn't pointed the way.

So that day passed him by. He felt stuck.

The morning of the twelfth of September, he went out to look over the market, and the answer came to him. A girl no older than thirteen, wrapped in white, stopped in the street and looked up at him.

"Are you the Fitawrari" she yelled. She had a pretty face and nervous eyes.

"Yes" he said, giving her a winning smile. Should he be announcing himself like this? Of course. This was destiny.

All thoughts of fate and destiny fled his mind when she threw an egg at him. It struck him in the forehead. She must have ran away, but he didn't see, because of the yoke running down his eyes. Something else came out too, something solid. He felt it bounce off his nose. He didn't see it, but he knew it must be an unborn chick. Why the insult? Was she just a dumb kid? A child of a Neftanya? Or did she know something...

He wiped the egg off with his shamma, and when he did this, he saw that what bounced off his nose hadn't been a bird fetus, but a piece of paper. He quickly picked it up and brought it inside.

"Ras Wolde Petros Mikael is in Gondar. You will be sold to him if you do not escape. You have friends. Come to the coffee shop across from Giyorgis Church after dusk."

This didn't scare him. It excited him. This was the world he knew, the one he was supposed to inhabit. This was the hand of destiny he had waited for all this time

When his captors brought him food, he picked at the wat with his fingers and saved the bread, but he drank the juice in one gulp. Was there anything in his room that could be useful? It was spare, but he had to take something. He decided to take the blanket from his bed, and an icon of Saint Frumentius. The portrait was small enough to hide, and he felt there was a story there, one that could be appreciated by future generations.

The sun began to go down, red light showing shadows on the roughly painted walls. When should he go? He was preparing himself mentally. It would be a dash in the dark, and a desperate one. He still hadn't completely recovered from his time under the church. But he knew he could make it because it was necessary for him to make it.

It was time. He stood up and took a deep breath. Outside, he heard birds. The door was open for him to dash through.

But he didn't get the chance. The door to his room opened and two burly men with knives on their belts came in and took him. It was too late! He should have started earlier! He swallowed the note before they got to him. They didn't seem to notice. The paper tasted like raw egg.

They brought him through the thin halls. Wood floors creaked beneath his feet, and the plaster walls seemed to drink the light from the atmosphere so it felt like they were in a moderately lit cave.

Okay, so he hadn't been able to liberate Frumentius. But something was happening here he could escape from. Being sold to the Mesfin of Wollo meant he was going to travel through regions loyal to him. A break out! Unless they tried to kill him here.

He was brought into a dining room, a hefty wooden table in the middle. All the men were standing, and there were a lot of men, facing each other like brigades on the battlefield. The diminutive Mesfin Issayas Seme was the only man sitting, looking like an over-blown bureaucrat, just like Ergete had heard. The Mesfin looked about forty. He was mostly bald, with thin framed glasses resting on his nose and a noticeable paunch, like he'd never done a real day's effort in his entire life. On the other side of the table was a number of men in white robes and shammas, shoulders stiff, knifes at their belts. The bearded man in the middle stood out in his embroidered cape with lions mane on the shoulders. That, Ergete knew, was Ras Wolde Petros Mikael.

"This is him?" Wolde Petros said, looking at Ergete like a lion looks at a dog.

"This is him." Issayas replied. The contrast between Wolde Petros powerful voice and Issayas thin one made the latter sound frightened, though his expression didn't show it.

"He looks like a beggar. This man wants to be a Prime Minister?"

There was a silence. Ergete was considering his options. Wolde Petros seemed over-proud. That could be a weakness. He might make mistakes

"I'm ready to take you." Wolde Petros added, staring Ergete down. Ergete did not faulter, and so they stared. There was a strange pause in the action hanging over both parties. It was like the cogs of a machine that'd froze up.

"Not yet." Issayas replied quietly.

That was interesting. Ergete's mind shifted fully from the future to the moment. All eyes went to the bureaucrat.

"What are you playing at?" Wolde Petros looked down at the sitting Mesfin.

"Sit down." Issayas invited. Wolde Petros did. Issayas looked up at Ergete. "You too." he said. Ergete sat.

So they were there, looking like conspirators. Ergete saw a slight smile on Issayas' face. It looked like a release, a sign of relief.

"The Emperor is doomed." Issayas said simply.

That was very interesting. Ergete looked at Wolde Petros. The Ras... what was that expression? Fear at first? It became rage.

"What?" was all he managed to say. His men tensed up. Issayas' men tensed up. All the men in the room save Ergete and Issayas were armed, most with knives, some with pistols on Issayas' side.

"I have a proposal." Issayas unfolded his hands and put one on the table. "One" a finger shot out, "You become the Emperor."

Ergete felt a feeling like pleasure, almost a minor orgasm in his mind. He was so close to this. A part of it. He loved it.

"Two." a second finger, "Ergete is allowed to form a constitution. He cannot do it alone but will bring together all officials who want to be part of this. Three." a third finger, "We negotiate with Hassan. Four" a fourth finger, "We do not commit violence against his Imperial Majesty unless he forces us to."

Nothing was said. The room was very tense. Ergete knew he was grinning ear to ear but he didn't try to control it. Wolde Petros looked stunned

Issayas continued talking. "It's inevitable. I do not believe this war ends with Sahle as Emperor. His government is corrupted, they don't have the ability to win this thing. You know this."

"I will not hear this." Wolde Petros stood up. He turned around. "He is my blood you know." he said, then he turned back to them. "You are under arrest. You and the shifta both. I will have you packaged to Sahle like sheep!" His rage had seemed to happen as he spoke, like he had left the moment for a time, and was talking his way back into it. His hand was on the hilt of his knife when he was done. His men followed his lead, but they moved slowly, blocked by Issayas' men.

"I ask again. I invite you because an Emperor will give us legitimacy. I invite Ergete because, though he is a shifta and a cattle thief, he has support with the people in the villages. The true power would be in the government..." Issayas said.

"You are under arrest..." Wolde Petros barked. His voice carried and ruled the room.

But Issayas was not cowed. He whistled shrill like a bird. Men came from every doorway, armed with swords and clubs and guns. Wolde Petros' party was surrounded.

Wolde Petros tried to rush at Issayas, but he was clubbed on the shoulder by one man, and then on the head by another. He punched a man in the face and tumbled over him before he was subdued. His men, overwhelmed three to one, flinched for their knives, but they saw it was hopeless and moved no further. They'd been defeated.

"I will not truss you up like a sheep." Issayas said. "You will be my guest. Your Emperor has done wrong to me, and to Ergete, and to every one of us. Take them away from us." The armed men did as told, and the room emptied with the stamp of feet on wood. Soon it was two guards, Issayas, and Ergete. The Mesfin turned to him.

"I am on your side if you are on my side." he said.

"I am on the side of democracy. If you are with me on that, then we are allies."

The Mesfin smiled. "The Neftanya are still a problem. They will fight you."

"I am surprised you fight them." Ergete replied, "I thought they were your allies."

"They do not like the government because they want to be the government instead. That is your first lesson in real democracy I think. The wealthy landowners are always the enemy of the government, no matter if the government is the King or the people. The only government they will accept is the one where we are all their servants."

"You sound like Chairman Hou."

"No." Issayas took a deep breath, "I'm just a tired man. And I have decided to make myself more tired than before." He took his glasses off, and massaged the bridge of his nose. "I can trust you?" he asked. He picked up his pen and began to write.

"Trust me? What are you doing?"

"Writing a plea to the Tigray Mekonnen. Then I'll write one to the family of the stubborn Ras is my guest bedroom. This is not a play. I don't want a war."

"You can trust me if you fight for what is right." Ergete said, his voice like a drum.

"I don't mean can I trust you like that. I apologize." he looked up for a moment, studying Ergete's eyes. "I mean can I trust that you are capable of conducting a war should it come to this? I know you were defeated in the field, but I also know you have the trust and support of a lot of my people. Mary in heaven do I know this."

"With the support of a province?" Ergete did not struggle to contain his excitement, "I can win the world."

"Well I don't need that." Issayas went back to writing, "I merely need a shield to negotiate behind. I will need to educate you, since you are now my partner..."

"Or do I need to educate you!" Ergete stood up, "I will win democracy for..."

"Sit down." Issayas didn't look up from his paper this time. Instead he merely waved a hand. "Your experiment in democracy is an idea that has met its time, I wager. I have no attachment to the feudal system. So you don't need to tell me every five minutes how much you like democracy."

Ergete sat down, feeling out of his element now. He might have been embarrassed if he knew how to be. Instead those emotions came to him as confusion. "Well, your wanting to make Ras Wolde Petros Emperor... you see why..."

"I will educate you." Issayas interrupted, "We should have an Emperor even if we have a constitution. It is the way of our country to have an Emperor, and we have too many self-indulged lords who would make themselves Emperor if the throne was empty. For democracy you need stability."


"They are ferengi and we are not. We do not do as the ferengi do. We are a different people."

Issayas letter was getting long. A part of Ergete was jealous of that letter. Such an important moment in history and he was just a body guard for these pieces of paper? "I am your shield then? This is not a revolution?"

"Call it what you want." Issayas said, "Words are the most important thing. The words I write, if they carry well, will save lives. You say revolution like the word is magical and changes what we do. People call this a civil war, and it creates a sense of fatality, and everybody thinks we are all natural enemies and we must chose a side because, well, we said civil war, that's how civil wars must work. What we have is a failure of words. This doesn't have to be a bloody revolution, does it? This doesn't really have to be a civil war." Issayas looked up, as if searching for his beloved words above the door frame. "What we have is a failure of the Imperial Government to function. That's all. No need for war. The Emperor's job is to keep his court in order so they can carry out their functions, but our Emperor is not capable of this job, so the thing has spun out. But there is no law of nature brought on by these words we use that means, just because Hassan wants to be a great man, he must fight our people to the death. There is no rule that says that, because Hamere noh Dagna wants respect, or Desta Getachew wants money, that they must take their corners and fight. And there is no rule saying that, because Ergete wants to be a beloved statesman, there must be a war in the north or bloody revolution. I want to sooth all the powers, and bring an end to the war."

"There is no rule that says, because Issayas Seme wants peace, it will be done so easily." Ergete replied.

"Fair." Issayas said. He was looking at Ergete now, and that made the shaken revolutionary feel more at ease somehow. Ergete was gaining his feet. "You name these names but I don't know why they matter. There are two simple conflicts. The people against the wrongs in their government, and the Muslim conqueror against the people of God."

"You didn't understand anything I said." Issayas said flatly. "I will expand it. Imagine the Emperor is the Sun. He is at the center of our government, and by the gravity of his office he keeps the orbits of the other great bodies in check. But our Emperor is no great sun, but a minor star, a dead star that hardly heats itself. So the greatest bodies of our Imperial solar system draw the lesser bodies nearer to them, so that the orbits of the entire system are in chaos. The greatest bodies in our solar system are Desta, Hamere, and of course, Hassan. They all have different places, different pulls. And since our Emperor won't regulate them, we must."

"I definitely didn't understand that." Ergete replied.

Issayas moved on. The tired bureaucrat took on a look like determination. "With the Emperor withdrawn from the throne, the important men are chasing their desires without governance. This has been true for a while. Hassan is the biggest threat. That man grew up during the greatest wars in Somali history. He lived in the shadow of the Mad Mullah, and he fought in the latter of those wars. There is nothing else in Somalia, and the Emperor has given him no meaningful task. So his ambition went back to the past, and attached itself to the wars of his grandfather and of the Mullah. Imagine if that ambition were turned to Empire-building? Now, Desta has filled the place Sahle left empty, being closer to the throne. And if Desta was a wise man who ruled for the sake of the Empire, he would have given Hassan more to do than manage a stationary army in the desert. But Desta wants to be rich. Not just rich, but American rich, in a land that does not have that kind of wealth wealth. And so he squeezes, and he ignores the needs of Ethiopia in favor of his specific goals. We know this here. Why do you think the Neftanya are a problem in the north? Because they are the only source of wealth here. The government neglects its duties in the north and let the lords run rampant, so that the wealth of the state can be spent expanding transportation grids in places Desta needs them to be for his coffee. So he ignores Hamere..."

"Who I don't know." Ergete interrupted.

"I am not surprised. We are far from the sea." Issayas said, "Well, and he's lower profile. Do you know what the Medri Bahri is?"

"The coast?"

"Not quite, but close. In olden times, before the Zemene Mesafint, the Emperors of Ethiopia typically ruled to the sea. But to get to the sea you must cross difficult land, and the Emperors always had their eyes to the south and the east, where the Muslims and Pagans ruled. So they appointed a man to rule the coastal march, and called him Bahr Negus (King of the Sea). Now the world of the Emperors were fights against Adal, raids by the Oromo, the conquest of the Shankela. But the world of the Sea Kings were the Turks, and the Arabs, and trade along the Red Sea. So they became, in affect, two seperate realms. The realm of the ancient Sea Kings is what we call Eritrea today. The office was abolished when the Italians started their brief tenure, so the old Eritrean Sea Kings are long dead. But when Iyasu instituted his system of power-balance... which you understand?"

Ergete was interested. "Try me." he said, affecting nonchalance the best he could.

"Iyasu saw the government as overextended after the Great War, so even as he modernized the government of old Ethiopia, he dealt with new territories through balancing two powers. Somalia was an unnatural bedfellow, so when it was brought in as Adal, and gifted with the Ogaden desert as part of that deal, Iyasu rebalanced the system by giving Mogadishu, Djibouti, Assab, and Massawa over to another high officer, and fittingly he revived the title Sea King. In theory, having another powerful vassal the likes of Adal was supposed to give the mesfins of Adal pause. After all, they would naturally be in competition. Khalid al-Himyari did not value commercial Mogadishu over the hardened people of the Ogaden, but that was an oversight that would eventually be noticed, and Adal wouldn't be a friend to the Sea King. Plus, Iyasu had no interest in naval building and developing ports, so he he hefted that to a man powerful enough to manage those tasks properly."

"This is a foolish system." Ergete said.

"It was supposed to be temporary. Until the Ethiopian government was modernized and capable of properly digesting its new gains. It might have worked too, if Iyasu's heir had been competent."

"So this Hamere... is willing to sell out Christian civilization for? What?"

"He's negotiating. He believes he can find a place in Hassan's order if he has to, but what he really wants is..." Issayas smiled and looked down, "For me to write these letters, actually."

"What? Your letters?"

"He wants Sahle ousted. Well, fair enough. I don't respect Hamere's methods, but I agree with him about the Emperor. If Wolde Petros is out, we'll need a new one of course. The younger brother is the next best course, but I'm not sure he is any better..."

"I think I understand it." Ergete said. He was from the peasant class, and all his life the workings of the nobility had always been a contemptible mystery to him. But now he was seeing somewhat beyond those proletarian stereotypes. It looked like the revolution of people, for the people, by the people was not just a fire burning in the villages. It was ablaze all across the entire edifice of the old order. He always knew in his heart that his revolution was inevitable. Now he could see it with the same eyes as God.

Mid September, Addis Ababa

Sahle woke up, caressed by silk blankets, but he did not open his eyes. He didn't want to be awake. The room smelled like roses, strongly so, overpowering the musty scents of the bordello, though he still smelled hints of the girl in the sheets where she'd been. A record was playing, the sound grainy.

Listen to me, honey dear
Something's wrong with you I fear
It's getting harder to please you
Harder and harder each year

Somebody knocked on the door. Light rasps. He heard the girl say "Âllo" in her musical french. The record kept playing.

I don't want to make you blue
But you need a talking to

"It's Ruddy. Is he here?" said Rudolph's familiar voice on the other side of the door. Sahle closed his eyes harder as if that would banish care from the world.

Like a lot of people I know
Here's what's wrong with you...

There started the soft strum of bare feet against hardwood.

After you get what you want, you don't want it
If I gave you the moon, you'd grow tired of...

The record player stopped abruptly and the door was open. He felt what he knew was his clothes fall on him all at once. "Your majesty, they want you at the palace."

Sahle sat up. It was the same room he'd fallen asleep in: overbearingly French, with antique Empire furniture and thin blue fleur de lis wallpaper. He saw Rudolph standing there in beige Ethiopian robes and a fez. His face was unusually stern; not the way a school teacher might look stern, but nonetheless a noticeable shift in his otherwise placid attitude. Camille stood by the record player in a thin blue negligee, watching dumbly from the corner, her thick dark eyebrows arching. He climbed out of the sheets and began dressing. What had happened? What could happen?

Everything probably, he thought, grumbling to himself.

The walk out of the Vin Rouge was quiet. They went out the back where the Emperor's car waited for him. There were guards with plumed pith helmets standing watch. The air was cool after the storm of several days ago, but the sun was out now. It looked to be about noon. Rudolph opened the door for the Emperor and climbed in after him. Before the door shut, the knot of the tassel on Rudolph's fez caught the top of the door frame and knocked the hat sideways.

"I believe the battle in the north has been lost." Rudolph said, straightening his fez. He was affecting disinterest. Or was he really disinterested? Sahle's heart skipped a beat.

"Do we need to evacuate?"

"I haven't heard talk of it. But they don't tell me these things. I'm just an innocent bystander."

Sahle envied that, and envy made him offended at Rudolph's remark. How could he be so calm? They city seemed to echo this new fear. Were there fewer cars? Didn't it seem the people they passed were more anxious? The police in their booths more vigilant? Didn't this now feel like a city under siege? Even the light in the sky seemed muted, like a grey energy descended from the clouds. As they passed through the busier intersections in the center of town, confused with little cars and trucks and bicycles and burdened pack-animals, Sahle felt the eyes of everyone around. Did they know he was the passenger? A motorbike puttered past, two men riding on it. He imagined they would be soldiers soon. Perhaps they knew it. Perhaps they would die.

The Imperial Limousine climbed the hill above the city. The palace sat on top beneath the shady trees. Guards met them as they entered the drive. Were there more guards around the palace now? Sahle was beginning to feel like a General, and the feeling was all wrong. They led him in.

His mother met him at the door. Even though she was quite shorter than him, she felt taller, even menacing. "Thank you, Freiherr von Lettow-Vorbeck." She said coldly to Rudolph. He took the hint and went in another direction. Sahle noticed his mother was dressed in all black, her dress trailing on the stone tile.

"You need to replace Zekiros." she said.

"I do?" they went inside.

"This disaster is his fault. He did not listen to Desta."

"That is good."

"That is good? We are lost and that is good? We should not have opposed Hassan in that place."

"How bad is it?"

"It is very bad." she rubbed her cheek. "It happened yesterday. On Enkutatash, and your sister's birthday too. It is a bad omen."

"I will not put Desta in charge. If I give him the Army he will make himself Emperor."

"He only wants his money, he does not care about the office. That is a good servant. He does not puff himself up and make simple mistakes. That is what you have to watch out for. I trust Desta because I know he is good at his job, and that he wants the money, and that he doesn't want the government. He is not a threat like these military men, or the nobles. I trust him with your life." She said the last part slowly, trailing off.

They entered the scarlet throne room. Zekiros was there in a pressed tan uniform looking like he hadn't slept, leaning over a table papered in disheveled maps. Desta stood on the other side of the table affecting his patented mix of meek and triumphant. Zekiros' officers huddled by him. Most of his advisors were away, leaving his older doppelganger Telaye, the priest Sisay, and the large-headed Medebew. They looked confused. Sahle decided they wouldn't be helpful.

But like any moment where he felt like he needed to take command, Sahle's insides balked at the task. He wanted to leave this place. Instead of taking command, he said nothing. Things would be handed to him as they came. That's all he knew how to do.

"Your majesty" Desta saw him first and greeted. The others repeated the greeting and bowed.

Zekiros spoke next. "Your majesty, the line protecting the passes at Marda and Chinaksen has failed. The army is falling back through the mountains. We are forming a new defensive line."

"It would not have been lost if our aircraft was in the sky." Desta said.

"The aircraft is deprived of fuel." Zekiros struck next. They were like men in single combat. "I have told you this. Our reserves are sitting in Djibouti, and Hamere won't release them."

"And what are the fuel reserves doing in Djibouti when the air force is located in Mek'ele? That is nearly three hundred miles difference by way of flight. For any craft that can fly that is, if it is given enough fuel."

"It is cheaper to store it in the port. I would have liked to bolster our reserves, but it seems like the money is never there." Zekiros said. He was fuming, his eyes accusing Desta.

"The civil war is out there, not in here!" Eleni said. Her eyes accused Zekiros.

Too much tension. Sahle was getting a headache. He wondered where Livy was. In her house, perhaps, writing another letter to her American mother.

"We will reorganize in Harar..."

"You haven't heard the best part of the latest battle, my Emperor." Desta said. Sahle disliked his tone, but his ears perked up. He noticed Zekiros redden. Desta continued. "Ras Hassan captured large portions of our armor."

"Armor? The big trucks?" Sahle asked.

"The tanks."

"That is a thing that can be done?"

"Ras Hassan did it. I heard the tanks moved forward from the rest of the army. They were boarded, by cavalry is what I hear. I don't know. It could be a rumor. But I know we have lost most of our armor in that battle none the less."

Sahle was astonished. He didn't say anything. They were really losing this war. And what could he do against an enemy that could steal armored trucks in live battle like they were unwatched horses?

"Ras Hassan is a genius, and we will have to watch out for that." Zekiros said. "His father was a genius. It is in his family's blood."

"Do not make him into a devil, my brothers." Sisay spoke up. The old priest was usually quiet, so hearing his voice was another astonishment for Sahle. Sisay continued. "He is just a man. Only a man. If you become scared of him, you will let his legend beat you."

"He has no legend." Sahle said, mindlessly, because it felt like something he should say. He saw the priest's wrinkled features fold as his face went back to its typical placid expression.

Nobody else said a thing.

"We will beat him." Sahle added.

Zekiros brooded over his map, his head sunk between his shoulders. "We will come together tonight when more is known." he said.

Desta looked up at him with predator eyes. "It is his majesty's right to convene or end a meeting of his Imperial Council." he said.

Zekiros looked alarmed. Sahle did too. "My apologies, your majesty." The old general bowed.

"It is okay." Sahle said. He didn't feel like he'd been offended. Should he have been? He looked at Desta's satisfied face and a light flickered on in his mind. He was watching politics. It made him tired.

"You were right to end this meeting, MeridazmachZekiros" Sahle replied, emphasizing the title. "I agree that it is ended, and I will retire to my apartments. Is there anything else I need to know before I go?"

"There is one thing." he heard his mother's voice and turned to her. He could tell by her face that she was unhappy, "The girl Carnahan is here. She arrived just after we did and came in uninvited."

Sahle stared dumbly. "I invited her." he lied. He left the room, his emotions in a cloud. All he knew is he felt tired, and he wished very much he was still at the Vin Rouge.


He found her in his room, sifting through his records, fully dressed. He'd given her leave of the palace, but he regretted that now, seeing that it might cause problems. She wore a canary yellow dress with matching hat, and her hair went to her shoulders like red waves. Her blue eyes were wet and distressed. "I heard you went to the brothel. I've heard them talk about it."

"I did this thing." he replied.

He could see that it hurt her. He knew why, but at the same time he didn't know why. He wasn't a regular man. Surely she knew this. But she turned away from him. "I am not jealous." she started, her voice searching, "I know that it isn't my place here. But I don't understand my place. I don't know what to expect."

"Only expect a little rock and roll." he said, trying a smile, making an attempt to sound American, even holding up his fingers as if to snap.

She ignored it and continued, facing him again. "I feel like I'm... like one of Henry the Eighth's wives." she said.

"I have heard the name." Sahle paused, trying to recall. "En-er-ree" he said, feeling the name on his tongue, "En-er-ree. I do not know. It sounds English, yes?"

She didn't say anything. She turned around again and tears started to roll down her cheeks. "Should I be here?" she asked. What was he supposed to do about this? He was an Emperor, not a mother, and he did not know what to do, so he just stared at the back of her head.

"And the war..." she said. Her voice wavered.

"The war!" he grabbed onto this, "The war is no big matter! I will finish the war soon, and you will have no reason to cry.

"I am a little girl. That's what I feel like." she said, sniffing, turning to face him. "There is war, you are a King. The boys at home I dated... all they had were boats..." The more she talked the more anguish played across her face. She turned away again and he could hear her sobbing.

He was still lost. This was a lesson in why to appreciate whores; they did not do this to him. But he had to make an effort, so he came to her and turned her toward him. Her face was half as red as her hair now. "You are a little girl, but this is no reason to cry. I am here and you will be protected. I will win the war for you. Does that sound good? I will be your En-er-ree."

She broke down and cried. Truly cried. And as she cried, he felt more awkward, and his feelings grew dark. He could not make this young woman happy. He could not control his counselors. He could not win a war. All he could do, all he could ever do, was just watch things happen around him.

"I will win this war myself." he said.

She still cried. Then she gathered herself, and spoke. "I shouldn't be here. Your people don't like me. I've heard rumors. What would they do..." she started crying.

He took her in his arms, but she did not feel right there. She seemed to withdraw from him, into herself, so she felt like holding a coiled rug. Inert.

He kissed her head. "I need to go." she said. She pulled away from him.

"What do you want?" he asked for her as she walked toward the door.

Her face was red. Her eyes were red. In the shadow of the room she looked sick. "I don't know. I came because you might know."

She left. He was alone in the room.


"I will command the army at Harar" Sahle told them. The throne room was dark and crimson like the inside of a heart. His advisors looked at him like he'd announced plans to kill himself.

"That will not be necessary..." Zekiros said.

"You are the talisman of Imperial power, your majesty. You will not be safe..." Desta said.

"You are not a soldier, you are my son." His mother said flatly. And then they all stared at him, waiting.

Sahle looked at Zekiros. "You wanted me on the front, to inspire the troops."

"That was before we were..." Zekiros stopped, swallowing his words.

"Before we were?" Sahle asked.

"The front is not stable." Zekiros stated, "I am willing to help you if you wish to command from the front, but it will not be an easy task. You must be guarded. And we must bring in the air force. That will be truer now than it was before."

"Do we have any plans to do this? To bring in the air force.?"

"We will try to get a hold of the Djibouti reserves. In the meantime, we had some reserved for the armor..." Zekiros cleared his throat, "The air force can use that."

"I am handing control of the civilian reserves to the military." Desta stated.

"We can do that?" Sahle asked.

"You can do that." Desta said stoicly, "You are the Emperor. And I act in your name."

"You are not a soldier!" Eleni shouted. She looked angry, and that childlike existential fear of an angry parent held Sahle's tongue. Eleni looked at the advisors. "Will none of you say anything about this? This is insanity. The boy should not lead troops into battle. It cannot be allowed!"

"The Emperor can do as he will." Desta said simply. His words were measured. Eleni's head pulled back so that she looked like a cobra ready to pounce. Desta didn't react to this, but kept speaking in the same tone he had been. "However, I advise the Emperor, in my capacity to do so, that he shouldn't do anything rash."

"I am not doing anything rash." Sahle said, "Old kings led mean into battle. All over the world this is true. In Ethiopia, In China, In Russia, In America (he quickly realized this was wrong but kept going), In England too. It has always been true."

"Was true, perhaps." Desta said, "But with all due respect, Kings commanded troops into battle with sword and lance. War has changed. Old kings did not contend with automatic guns and air fighters."

"I do not say I will lead charges." said Sahle, feeling rattled and slightly embarrassed, "But I will be near the action. And the men will see me. Like Zekiros sai..."

"Zekiros is not a competent man! Do not trust him for advice!" Eleni lashed out.

The room was silent. Dead silent. Eleni looked them over "You will not stop this? Is no man here brave enough to save their Emperor?"

Nothing. She retreated in an air of dignity, and left the room, and there was still silence for a time.

"You will need to be protected of course." Zekiros said.

"I have my guard. I will come with the planes. Is that a plan?" Sahle asked.

"It will be done." Zekiros said.

"I will stay in Addis Ababa." Desta added, his voice soft and assured. "Keeping normality is key. And an easy thing to perform."

"His Majesty will decide that." Zekiros barked. He stared straight at Desta, a hard stare. Desta looked like he'd just been goosed.

"I see no problem with the Minister of the Pen staying chained to his, er, pen." Sahle said.

"He ministers your pen, yes?" Zekiros asked. Sahle nodded, understanding. Zekiros continued. "Well, your pen goes with you. Let him Minister it near your feet, your Majesty. Your mother can handle the city."

"It seems the Meridazmach cannot handle being parted from my advice." Desta said icily. He turned to the Emperor. "The continuation of government requires..."

"Continuation?" Zekiros barked, more aggressive this time, and made a tumult. Everyone in the room was startled, but they seen immediately the mistake Desta had made, thought it might not have been a mistake if Zekiros hadn't jumped on it. But Desta was taken aback, and Zekiros pressed his advantage. "Continuation from what? Nothing will happen to his Majesty."

"I only meant the continuation while his majesty is..."

Zekiros turned to Sahle. "It is good to keep men like this close." Then he turned to Desta, "You are not the continuation of the government, Desta. If some deception were to befall his Majesty, the continuation of the government is his family."

"I did not mean continuation in the event..."

"Be quiet." Sahle commanded, and all was quiet. But Sahle did not feel firm on his feet. He was never a man to take the idea of danger to himself without fraying at the edges. He was rattled, and he knew he looked rattled.

"Your majesty..." Desta started.

"Quiet." Sahle gathered himself, "You will go with me. It will be best that way. For the continuation of government... from the front line."

The air was still. Zekiros stood like a marshal statue in a city square, and his face was stony. "We adjourn." Sahle said. He left before they did. Two guards followed him.

"I will be needing a car." Sahle said. Outside it was dark, but it did not matter. He was not sleeping in his vault-like room, alone. He could not stand to visit Livy either, and see her tear-stricken face. But he knew somewhere to go, because this horrible day had began when he left that somewhere. And so he returned to the Vin Rouge.
September 11th: Jijiga, Adal Province, Ethiopia

She'd never seen a town so alive as sleepy Jijiga. The people hid, but the streets hummed with soldiers, desert warriors, and the cities worth of people they brought with them. Warriors came with their wives, their children, and their servants. Every manner of nomadic convenience appeared in the dusty camps east of town.

Jijiga was a large village, but not unlike the others that dotted Somalia. It was in a bowl of granite mountains, trees rare, the desert covered in thirsty thorn bushes and dead grass. The drabness of stone and adobe was not enough for people who lived here their entire lives. They white-washed the buildings, painting doors and windows bright colors, and they brought the town to life by their work. The center of Jijiga was an orderly grid. All of the roads were dirt.

Azima watched from in front of her tent as a horde of black-robed cavalry rode past, ululating and shouting praises to Allah, some holding glinting sabers aloft like they were charging to battle. One of them held the red banner of Oman.

The Sultan of Muscat rode past, followed by the beautiful young men of his guard. He saw her and hooted a war cry. "We will have tea in Harar!" he said, his eyes burning like those of a Jinn. There was no place for her to respond. He rode toward the lead of the thundering Omani. His robes billowed behind him. They were storm clouds on horseback, their swords flashing like lightning.

Those men were going north, to the village of Chinaksen, fifteen miles up the spine of mountains that protected the ascent toward Harar like a wall in the desert. Chinaksen pass, and the nearby Marda pass just west of Jijiga, were the only real gates in that wall. She knew all of this, the whole layout of the Somali war effort, because her father had brought her in to every meeting. She knew how their forces were dug in on the plains between the pass and the town. She knew the first trench was a half mile in front of the second, providing an open space. Hassan had meant that place to be dry. An unseasonal monsoon blew in from the northeast and drenched the desert so that the river bed between the trenches now trickled with a shallow stream pulling dust with it like syrup. She could see it all, the layout of the land, like she were a General in the field. She could imagine it all. And, though she hated to admit it, she loved it all.

When she was a child, she'd beaten a servant boy with a stick until he bled. Neither had been older than six, but she still remembered it vividly, and she could remember exactly how she felt. Her blood had been up. And though she'd felt bad for him afterwards, her father hadn't let her show it. He was proud. She had his blood. His warrior blood.

She felt like that now. The glint of steel, the sight of the dust and the guns, the knowledge that something great was going to happen here, she could feel it all. It was the feeling of being entirely alive, her heart beating with the heart of the universe. Her entire body reacted. She wanted to murder. She wanted to smell the flowers. She wanted to fuck in the open air. But it was all wrong. She could feel a part of herself fighting this feeling, a part like a child trying to hold onto leashed dogs. This wasn't her, was it, this feeling pulsing through her flesh? It was him.

Far to the west she could hear gunfire. It sent chills down her spine every time. There hadn't been a true battle yet, but the war bubbled out in places, like it was a force erupting from the earth. Men shot at each other in the hills. Nobody took land. The lines were not so obvious yet, because religion was playing a roll. Her father presented his war in the name of the faith. The Muslims of Ethiopia were put in a strange place, instantly suspected, having to uproot their lives and gamble on who would win. Some rebelled or came over to the Somali army and fought for the faith. Others stayed in their suspicious land and fought for their country.

The recent storm had brought life back to the desert. The acacias and thorny myrrh bloomed green and obscured the countryside. She walked toward the command tent, a long staff in hand as if she were training, her robes girded around her loins and a turban around her hair so she looked like a skinny goatherd boy. The men knew her, showed signs of respect, and tried to ignore her. Doorfarkas passed by, machine guns rattling on their mounts, loose chains hanging from support beams by big steel hooks.

She reached her Father's tent. Hassan's physical presence dominated everything around him. He was a block of a man, not unusually fat but none the less heavy, his body a lump beneath baggy fatigues.

"Do not engage the armor." he told an officer she did not recognize, though she knew he was an officer by his fatigues, standing out from the Bedouin-like dress of the common soldiers. Hassan did not notice her. He continued. "Tell your men to hide. Your trenches are skinny. They will pass right over them. Only come up again to hold back the enemy on foot."

The officer nodded. His eyes betrayed Azima's entrance. Hassan turned to her and greeted her with unusual warmth. "My daughter." he said, "I am told they are coming. This man is going back to report to his superiors." Hassan paused. The unfamiliar officer turned and left.

"They are coming." Azima repeated. Her heart thumped harder. "Where am I supposed to be?"

Hassan picked up a coiled hook and chain, like something made to fish leviathans out of the sea. He put it over his shoulder liked it weighed nothing. "You will command the reserves. That is your place. When I call for them, you will send them."

"I have no place in the battle?" she felt both relieved and disappointed. Her mind and her feelings pulled in separate directions.

"The reserves is a place. Not everybody brings out their swords. The washer women and doctors are warriors of a kind."

"Not the kind I practice to be."

"I will be on the battlefield." Hassan said. They were walking toward a doofarka now, men already sitting inside. Soldiers saluted as they passed. Hassan ignored them. His attention was for her alone. "Being in the field means I might die. And if I die, what then? My struggle becomes yours. We are making a home for our people and a legacy for our names, my daughter. You are the promise that my legacy can continue. If I die, you need to live."

"If you die the struggle is lost."

Some light went out of his eyes. Hassan lost his warmth then. "That's not true." he said, voice wavering "Tell me this is not true. You will always struggle."

She felt he'd said more truth than he realized. "I will."

He smiled and patted her cheek. Doorfarka engines rattled. The air smelled of dust and gasoline. She saw horsemen riding out, armed with swords and hook-chains. "Today is the beginning of greatness. You will see." He climbed in the back of the sputtering buggy. It took off, speeding in the direction the horsemen had went. She went the other way.

Gunfire was picking up. She heard big booms that sounded like holes being made in the universe. The ground shook. There were slimy sand-laced puddles in places, and she could see the water ripple.

It was the Ethiopian New Year: Enkutatash. A year of shattering promises gave way to a year of blood. Hassan picked this day because he thought the enemy might be drunk. She thought about these things. About the forward trench. About the Omani in the north. All these things woven together. It was beautiful, and her mind wanted to stay there, to forget about her fears and disappointments.

She found where the reserves were camping. Guards and officers came to her like flies on camel dung. Soldiers sat in the dust and mingled. There were few dervishes here, but most of these men were conscripts, called from their villages to serve in the war, not adjusted to such things. Hassan required all men to undertake a certain amount of drilling, but that only went so far. These peasant men, hard-faced and anxious, were no true warriors.

The smell of smoke filled the air. Machine guns rattled in the distance. She listened and time passed. The first wounded came on patchy trucks, old things made of spare parts and thrown together by men who specialized in makeshift automobile construction. Azima went to attend to them. Women surrounded the trucks, making it difficult for the orderlies to unload them. A Red Crescent station, lonely and understaffed, tried their best to cope. Azima helped to clear a path as wounded men were unloaded, her entourage making themselves useful. Flies buzzed. The crowding women shouted at the men, asking about their own. The wounded and dying were brought into the safety of the field hospital. Azima helped stand guard. A white-robed soldier was put on a cot next to the door. His chest was bloody. He looked horrified, his eyes bugged out, his hands shaking unnaturally. The doctors were alarmed at his heart beat. All that from a wound? Azima felt sick. The smell of blood grew overpowering.

Time rolled on. Men died or were moved. A second ambulance came up. Azima made herself known to the driver.

"What is the battle like?" she asked.

"Their armored attack was broken. Our warriors have made off with many of their tanks. But our first line has broken, and the enemy is trying to overtake the second." he reported, taking on the countenance of a man being held for questioning by a magistrate.

"You know all this?"

"I have heard it."

"What have you seen?"

"Haze. It is hard to see in the places where the gunfire is."

When would she get the call? That was the way she would see it. Night was coming. Had they thrown the enemy back? There was no news, even as more wounded poured in. Night came, the desert cold crept in, and she was forced to find a warm place to sleep. There would be no call. She went to her tent. Her entourage stayed outside, but now she was in the company of her handmaids. They dressed her for sleep.

She tried to sleep for a long time but struggled to keep her eyes closed. When they were open, she would see the fabric of her tent, the moonlight creeping through, the universe of battle still echoing somewhere far away.

But she did, eventually, sleep.

She woke before sunrise, the desert still cold, the first pale crown of sunlight appearing in the east. She dressed in the same uniform before, though her clothes had been washed. Outside, A man came to her with a message from the north. Battle was met at Chinaksen. The Omani met stiffer resistance than anticipated. They could not take the pass.

Fears crept into Azima's thinking. "Forward this message to the Emir. You'll find him on the front." she ordered. The messenger scurried off.

Hassan went into this war thinking himself invincible. He didn't say it, but she could feel it all around him when he spoke. They were going after a better armed foe. A modern military, essentially. They went after it with armies unchanged since the colonial wars of the Mad Mullah and her grandfather Khalid al-Himyari. The stars were just starting to fade when a lone bi-plane passed over, its wings colored like desert dust and painted with the flag of Oman. It puttered. She could still hear the nearest fighting.

Tanks rolled through. They were scraped and battered. She saw Ethiopian flags painted on them and grew alarmed, but her fears were negated when she saw who manned them. Dervishes sat all around their surfaces. They seemed to have trouble, the machines starting and stopping awkwardly, the dervishes holding like men on bucking horses. But these were her men. The machines were taken from the enemy.

Praise Allah it worked. She couldn't believe it. If her father could pull that off, what other miracles might come of this day?

She walked to the north of the camp and looked across the plains. If the Omani were beaten, would the enemy come across this field? If she needed to mount a defense, where would it be? A single line of shallow trenches defended the camp from this direction.

It was not enough. She ordered more.

Men of the reserves went to work with spades. They dug overlooking a river bed already drying up, no longer flowing, holding only puddles now which would be gone in the summer light.

She hadn't eaten. That hadn't crossed her mind until now. She hadn't eaten in a day. But she didn't feel hungry. Still, she forced herself to have a bite of hard flat-bread.

At noon, the call came.

Had things went wrong? She kept part of the reserves in their newly forming trenches. The rest would come with her. She knew she wasn't supposed to go; Hassan didn't want her at the front. But she would go, she would see it, and maybe she would fight.

The regiments came together haphazard and marched in rough columns. Hassan had, over the years, turned the Somali army into an heir of Prussian efficiency. They entered Jijiga. The white-washed walls were chipped with stray bullets and marred by the rare stray artillery crater. The Ethiopians had brought artillery, but they did not sound to Azima like the stories of Verdun, or even the long guns over Paris near the end of that war before Europe burned. Too scarce.

The people hid, and were replaced by stragglers and the wounded. Azima brought a pistol, but besides that, all she had was her staff. A half-dozen dervishes had joined her when she gave orders, becoming her personal body guard, and now they followed her silently, all big men who dwarfed her. She gave her orders silently, self conscious of her shrill womanly voice when she yelled. Hand gestures was enough. The men around her would make sure they were carried out.

They came closer. There were manned barricades in the town. Men ululated as they passed, but there was no sign anybody had fought here.

The dead began to appear. A bled-out body was slumped in a doorway. Had the man fled to this spot like a wounded animal, or had he been dumped?

Five tanks passed, jolting forward as awkwardly as the first she'd seen that day. They had Ethiopian flags painted on them, but they were scratched out. She heard the men in the barricade ululate the coming of the captured tanks behind them. Azima's men marched steady toward the doom. Her heart beat faster. The sound of battle was closer.

The trenches spread out like a disaster had been visited upon the earth. They moved according to the terrain, zigging and zagging in both directions. The buildings directly behind were shot away. Everything looked like it was subjected to a wind of knives. And they'd only fought for one day.

Azima watched her soldiers march, standing stoic. Their orderly lines had mostly fallen apart. The parapets were made from random things, bricks and bags and scrap. There was a car scoured to shiny steel, and a dead camel flayed to the bone. It smelled like smoke and body odor... and guts. Guts had a smell. More than just blood. It was blood that'd went to rot.

Axmed Haji Siad commanded here, a native Somali rather than one of the al-Himyari clique. He had a pointed tuft of hair on his chin, but he kept his hair clipped short in the way Hassan preferred. He met Azima like a grave-digger returning to his shovel.

"These are the men he sent for?" Axmed asked.

"Where is he?"

"I am not sure. He wants them in the forward trench. We have no fighting for them here."

"I see. Is there fighting there?"

"We have taken it, but there is still fighting."

She turned to her Aides. "We are advancing." she motioned with her staff over the top. They nodded and turned to rely the orders. Was this a time for a speech? She saw the men holding this trench, their faces and clothes the color of the dirt, their eyes peering out like haunted jewels. It didn't feel right. She climbed over the parapet, her hand grasping what felt like a piece of fence. A voice in her head told her to hide. Her blood told her to go on.

The first layer of soil was scraped from no-mans land. They'd only fought for one day. There were bodies, bloodied and ruined. At first glance dead horses looked more numerous than the people. What ridiculous thing had happened here? Was this how battle looked? It looked like a military disaster, a bloody folly that'd ruin the war for somebody. There were blackened tanks and Doofarkas like tangled piles of wire. She heard sobbing. But she could only move, ignoring the smell, leading her solemn army through the haze.

There was gunfire. Flashes of red, but no bullets. They approached the forward trench. The gunfire intensified. She jogged forward, and her soldiers followed. They flung themselves in.

It was a different kind of trench, barely wider than a standing man, so that it was hard to move through. The firesteps, though present, were only enough for a man to stand on his toes. There were bodies buried in dust. Living soldiers looked at her with relief, and pointed her way. She went.

She did not meet Ras Hassan, but the Arab Shakir bin Musa. He was young for his position commanding men on the front. She knew him, like all her father's top officers, and he recognized her on sight. His eyes widened and he pointed. "What is this!?"


He smacked her staff. "This! This!"

"It's my staff."

"Are you training children? Are we dancing? There is fighting. You will die with that thing!"

"I have a pistol!"

"No!" Shakir pulled his sword. "This! Use this! Take it from me!"

"And what will happen to you?"

"I will live if Allah wills it. You need this! Things are not done!"

He told what had happened. In the beginning, it was how Hassan had planned. The tanks came. Hassan's Dervishes came to meet them. The forward trench held back the Ethiopian infantry, but the Ethiopian armor charged forward, greedy to destroy the bigger prey they saw in Hassan's Doofarkas and cavalry. And then Hassan took their tanks. But the Ethiopians did not give up. They launched assault after assault, bloody and destructive, until Shakir and his men were forced across the field. Many died. They'd only recently taken by the Forward trench, but the Ethiopians were still trying. They'd been fighting all night with the help of the chemicals Hassan had distributed to them.

"They won't accept they have lost?" she summed it up for him.

"Or they know something we do not know. This will be a horrible thing if it is always like this."

"Why did we not use the tanks?"

"We don't have men who know how to use them!" Shakir laughed as he said this. That made her feel better somehow.

There was gunfire. It picked up like a light shower becoming a monsoon. Shakir held tightly to her staff. She pulled the sword and felt unbalanced by the weight in her hand.

"Allahu ackbar!" she heard men shouting all around. But she heard something else too.

God commands thy strength,
Strengthen, O God, what you wrought,

It was in Amharic, the language of the Ethiopians, coming ghost-like from in front of them. The Somalians tried to shout over them, "Allahu ackbar! Allahu ackbar!". Guns barked.

At Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee

It was a hymn. The cacophony grew madder. It was digging into her brain. Why was she here? Why was she here!

Rebuke the company of spearmen,
The multitude of the bulls

And then it stopped. The Ethiopians poured into the trench, and she met combat in the face for the first time.

There was hardly room to fight in the trench. Men sprang up on the parapets and fought there. She was in a battle, and men were dying. She held tightly to her sword. All she could feel was her hand gripping the hilt, her pounding heart, and a numbness where her mind should be. A man jumped in, wearing a European style uniform no Somali soldier wore, along with a pot-like helmet. She swung her sword and took off his fingers. He dropped the rifle. That's when she first noticed he had the rifle. He drew back, his hand red with blood. She swung again and opened his neck. The warmth went out of his eyes and flowed as blood.

She'd killed. He died. She didn't think she could kill again. She'd spent herself. It was her turn.

But it was over. There was ululating and praises to Allah. Blood dripped from her sword like oil. She wanted to vomit, or hide, or cease to exist. But as she woke up to who she was and what she'd done, her feelings changed. She felt powerful. Had any woman felt this powerful before?

This fight was over. She'd conquered the world.
Early September, Addis Ababa

The bathroom smelled like soap and bitter smoke. They were beneath the foam, Livy's body slick and soft laying against his. Her portable record player rendered a slow instrumental. Sahle smiled wide as he watched her, her head barely above the foam, sucking on the joint like it were a nipple. This was exactly where he wanted to be.

"I can't believe you've never smoked." Sahle said.

She coughed and passed it to him. "I really haven't. The... musicians, they smoke. Their kind do. But... you shouldn't be smoking this stuff, actually." she slapped him playfully, "You're the elected of Jesus!" She giggled.

Sahle looked wistfully ahead, through the smoke and at the fogged mirror. "I've heard the prophets used hashish. I think that is true. They were wise men. I should follow their wisdom."

Livy giggled.

The record player skipped. They both giggled.

It was perfect. So absolutely perfect. The marble bathroom felt like a womb, holding in his world and everything he wanted in it, safe from his advisors and their politics. Safe from Ras Hassan's war.

"I don't know that I want to get married." she said causally.

"That is a problem for another time." he said. He pulled her closer. The water sloshed. He felt her head against his shoulder, her body moving steadily with her breathing. He closed his eyes. The future could wait.

But the future wouldn't wait. It knocked on the door.

"Your Imperial Majesty." called a voice from the other side.

Sahle exhaled, holding his lungs deflated, feeling deflated, hoping whoever wanted him would go away.

"Your Imperial Majesty! There is news from the front."

There was no avoiding it. He stood up. Water and foam dripped from him. He stepped onto the slick floor and went for the door. When he opened it, the air chilled his skin.

The Paige looked surprised and worried.

"Your Imperial majesty." he said, bowing. "The Meridazmach begs the honor of..."

"I'll be there." Sahle waved. The Paige left the room at a trot. Sahle looked back in, at Livy's pale head and shoulders above the foam, auburn hair soaked so it was now brown, a look like disappointment or concern on her face. The warmth of the bathroom hugged and beckoned him back in. He wanted to return, but his high was gone, and he had to do his duty. "I cannot avoid this one. But I want to see you tonight."

She nodded. He dried off, put on robes, and left.

The entire palace was cold to him. Paiges and guards watched stonily, statues without personalities. He hadn't put shoes on, and his bare feet felt like they were walking on ice. Only the sunlight, coming through windows in some places, seemed to bring any warmth. He was stuck. Was there any worse prison than royalty? Sometimes he dreamed of traveling like a gypsy. He could make music. He'd practice the Krar off and on, like he were working on his impossible dream. But it would never happen. He was stuck.

He met them in the velvet trappings of the throne room. It seemed like most of his cabinet was there. Even chubby Bejirond Medebew Fek-Yebelu, the Minister of Finance, wore a crisp white general's uniform like he were about to command troops any minute.

"Your majesty." they all greeted. He waved his hand and walked silently across the room. They all surrounded a table covered in maps and charts. Sahle thought they looked like grown men playing a game in a coffeehouse.

"We know where Ras Hassan plans to strike." said Meridazmach Zekiros Argaw. He was a little thin man, but he seemed to puff up with confidence when he said this. Sahle didn't look him in the eye. He begrudged these men his lost comfort. "Where?" he said in a low tone.

"Here." Zekiros pointed at the map, "He has amassed the bulk of his forces in Jijiga. I believe he plans to move on Dire Dawa."

"It makes sense." Aleme Menigedi broke in. The Minister of Transportation was excited to be relevant in the war room. "Dire Dawa is the rail-hub that connects us to the coast. In many ways it is more important than the capital."

A voice from across the room spoke up. "We are not forgetting the rest of the country, are we?" It was Desta. He walked in with the Queen Mother at his side. "If we send everything to the north, we will lose the south. Muslims in that area are already siding with the enemy."

"We are sending Aleme with the Army of Transportation and Public Works." Zekiros said. Aleme made himself look particularly important. "Lawgaw and the Army of the Posts, Telegraphs, and Telephones are already there, organizing the local militias."

"Lawgaw is not a military man, is he?" Desta insisted. "Ministry Employees versus a native rebellion and Somali warriors? Losing the south will lose the war."

"We cannot defend everything at once." Zekiros replied. Desta bristled. Zekiros continued, "He who defends everything defends nothing. Hassan has massed his forces in the north. We will fight him there."

"On ground he wants to fight on? Hassan is a clever warrior. Isn't it better to act..."

"I know what you are going to say, Desta. No no. Do we bring the battle to him, across the Ogaden? Hundreds of miles of empty desert? I will put it in terms you understand. Your business will be damaged just as much if we lose connection to the sea."

Desta said nothing. Sahle took sick pleasure in watching his ministers fight. Everyone else looked nervous. Desta finally spoke. "I do not think your tone is..."

"This is war. It is my business. I will talk in whatever way gets my point across."

Zekiros turned back to the map. "The terrain will protect us. I have gathered the professional army and they are coming, bit by bit, to defend those places. We have the air power too. Hector is putting his Airmen on a war footing. They will not be ready for the first battle, but they will be ready soon after, and we will bring power against the enemy they cannot contest."

It was so neat and tidy. What was there to worry about? Sahle felt safe. "I approve this plan." he said.

Zekiros looked up at him. "Do you want to lead this army, my Emperor?"

"No!" Eleni spoke up, "My son is not a warrior. It will not be good for him."

"Seeing him will be good for the soldiers. They want to know who they fight for."

"They don't have to see him to do that! He does not have to stand in front of a machine gun..."

"I did not suggest..."

"It does not matter." Sahle interrupted. His frustration was bubbling into anger. Everyone looked at him with anxious eyes, except for Desta, smouldering on his own. Sahle spoke. "I will not go. I do not plan on playing little soldiers with you. I know my abilities and that is not one of them." Eleni looked thankful.

"It is no matter." Zekiros replied "We have the things we need to win. I am bringing the great weapons of modern war to the field."


Sahle did not want to see them. He did not care. But the rest of his cabinet insisted. They went out to the yard, to the edge of the fence beneath the whispering eucalyptuses where they could see down the hill. Big motorized beasts rumbled down the paved streets, bewildering the people of Addis Ababa. They did not come all at once, or in a steady line, but piece meal in little groups, accompanied by soldiers. No two of the armored tanks looked alike, so many bought from different places or at different times, and modified by their proud operators. Men streamed in groups equally haphazard. Most carried guns. Some were barefoot. A few had swords or spears.

"There are proud professional soldiers marching with them." Zekiros announced. "Those men you see down there are mostly retainers sent by the northern Makwanent, or shiftas coming out of the hills to fight infidels."

"Daniel Gablogian lent me a book on military doctrine." Desta said creamily, "I didn't know war was so complicated. I wonder, do the shiftas understand modern warfare? Do they know how to fight alongside tanks?"

"Doctrine is good." Zekiros said, "I have read up on it. I keep up on all modern doctrine. No, it is not perfectly implemented, but why should it be? Do you think a Somali fisherman swinging a sword above his head will know what to do when faced with a tank? I would like to better prepare our armies, but it is not such a simple thing. War will prepare them."

Another tank rolled by. Extra pieces of scrap metal were welded to it, making it look like it had been built in a garbage heap. But it was absolutely monstrous. Seeing it convinced Sahle of Zekiros' argument. Who could face down such a thing?

Zekiros leaned in. "You will not command the armies, my Emperor?" he whispered.

"No." Sahle replied bluntly. A column of soldiers walked by, wearing metal helmets with wide brims like steel pith helms. They all had shoes, held their guns correctly, and looked absolutely wonderful. Zekiros motioned to them like a proud father. Nobody said a thing.
© 2007-2017
BBCode Cheatsheet