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The Thousand Nations - The Persian Empire

The Seal of the Shah-an-Shah

Land of a Thousand Nations, Mesopotamia, the Land Between Two Rivers. The land where any man who claims the loyalty of a handful of people can rightfully call himself a king.

Persia is a nation born of the forging of countless kingdoms into an empire too large to be ruled effectively by one sovereign. Each country is ruled by a number of lords, who in turn are ruled by their satrap, king or shah, who in turn must pay tribute to the Shah-an-Shah, the King of Kings.

Once, before Alexander’s conquest, the many kingdoms of Persia would make war upon one another, Persian would fight Persian for the sake of an insult to a lord. Shah-an-Shahs who could actually exert control were few and far between; most controlled at best half of the Thousand Nations. But the common enemy found in Alexander put a stop to such overt hostilities.

Instead, Persia’s internal battles take place in the court of the Shah-an-Shah, the most dangerous place in all of Persia. Words spoken at court carry a heavy weight and those who find themselves unable to outwit an opponent on the political field often resort to subtly applied poisons or a well-placed dagger. Cunning and charisma are the skills a courtier needs to survive.

In the court, a wild man from the hills of Tajikistan can gain more favour than the overlord of Elymais if he looks the part and puts on a skilled display of courtly manners. In Persia, appearances do not just matter; they are everything.

The invasion by Alexander and the fierce battles and bloodshed that came with it have shaken the empire. Persia had become, perhaps, a little complacent and lazy, confident of its dominance over Egypt and Greece. The invasion destroyed all the old certainties and created a generation for whom the invaders were objects of hatred. Persians cannot speak the name Alexander without spitting immediately afterward. Persia nowadays is full of angry young people seeking to rekindle national pride. It has been thirteen years since Persia’s Shah-an-Shah, Darius the Great, was slain at the battle of Gaugamela by Alexander’s elite cavalry force. Three years later, the gods willed that Darius return from Irkalla and rise to live again full of the light of the Good God, Ohrmazd. Darius led the great army of the gods against Alexander at the fields of Babylon; some say it was his hand that struck the mortal blow that laid Alexander low. Darius ruled Persia still as Shah-an-Shah, King of Kings, but his resurrection changed both him and Persia in ways that no-one could have predicted. He finally ascended at the Fourth Annual – and since then, Shah-an-Shah Bahadur I has been and gone and Shah-an-Shah Cyrus the Golden rules now from Babylon.

The Peacock Throne and the Shah-an-Shah's War

Shah-an-Shah Cyrus ascended the throne at the Fifth Annual, following the murder of Shah-an-Shah Bahadur I. Nearly his first act was, on the advice of magi of the Old Gods, to outlaw the worship of the Good Religion throughout Persia, and to order the temples of Zoroaster and his faith torn down. Before even this proclamation had been announced he was challenged by Shah Hadib of the Azad, a noted follower of Sraosha. The Shah-an-Shah himself cut down Shah Hadib, and many claim that for this act of bloodshed, Shah-an-Shah Cyrus’ reign will be cursed likewise with bloodshed and strife.

Though popular with those at the Annual, this edict has proven less so in the more remote parts of the nation. The Good Religion was very popular among the common people and the complex, theological arguments of the magi do not seem to make sense to the man who toils in the field. Of course, among the old kingdoms of Babylon, Assyria and Elam, this has been greeted with rejoicing and the temples of the Old Gods bedecked with flowers and sacrifice. Ishtar and Marduk both blessed their temples with bounty and many say the re-emergence of gods like Sin and Shamash is because this war gives them the strength that was one taken by the followers of Ahura Mazda.

In the Temples of Amitra, the magi have struggled to make themselves heard; Amitra was the foremost of the Old Gods who supported the Good Religion, and Shah-an-Shah Cyrus’ actions have placed his temples in serious jeopardy. Amitra thunders that Cyrus has broken an oath – anathema to Amitra – and that the Magi’s attempts to freeze him out like the other Messengers will doom them in the end. In the run-up to the Sixth Annual, those nations where worship of Sraosha, Amitra and the Light are strongest have expressed extreme reluctance to attend – Shah-an-Shah Cyrus’ word is no good, they say, and cannot be trusted to maintain a truce. They remain at home, and they keep their tribute with them. Soon, this will become a civil war, and Persian blood will once more be on Persian blades.

Already religious persecution is breaking out – in Edessa, Babylon and Assur, the priests of Marduk and Nergal are driving worshippers of the Good religion from the cities, and further north and east in Rhagae and Zadracarta, the opposite occurs as priests of Ishtar and Anu are stoned in the streets and their gods declared daevas.

Supplementary Briefs

The Olympic Champion, Jamsheed - Photo by Charlotte Moss

There is further information on each of these path choices available. This information is aimed only for those who are playing characters and wider knowledge could spoil your enjoyment of the game.