The New World of the White Huns

First Post
The New World of the White Huns

I highly recommend first reading The Rise of the White Huns first, before reading this thread. This is the sequel thread, which picks up roughly in the year 1104, when the adventurer Bjorn Solva discovers the continent which will ultimately come to bear his name.

For those who are unaware what the White Huns story is, it's essentially the story of an alternate timeline wherein the Near East is wrecked by successive waves of nomadic invaders and India emerges more or less untouched and the Gupta Golden Age, from a certain perspective, never ends. Ultimately commercial interests gain substantial power and the era of universal Indian Empires comes to a crashing halt with the collapse of the fictional Maukhani dynasty. Europe remains in the shadow of Roman glory, with a Frankish dynasty descended from the Merovingians claiming the title of Augustus Imperator. China is divided between warring states in the south and a decadent "barbarian" dynasty in the north, called the Kitai Yaol. East Africa is a melting pot of Near East cultures, a series of trade cities clinging to the coast.

This is the continuation, where we follow the [Columbian] exchange and the Commercial Revolution to their (in some sense) inevitable conclusions.

As I said the first time, here goes nothing.

Prelude to the Flowering

When Roland of Rennes laid eyes upon the sprawling city of Colhuancan in 1213, he witnessed the climax of a mortally wounded civilization, gripped by the heady rush of collapse. When he returned in 1217, the antique city of pyramids and gardens was no more, overthrown by a tribe of the Nahua who called themselves the Mexica.

Vast and apocalyptic migrations of peoples, most notably the Nahua and Chichimecas, had begun several decades before, mixed with plagues which would seemingly strike and level whole nations. Scattered bands of European adventurers brought with them warfare and disease. In the south, the armies of Mansa Nfansou (Fanceau to his European rivals and federates) were carving out a nation from the backs of their swift horses, gathering allies and enemies in equal measure and turning the valley peoples to war.

Meanwhile, the people of Colhuacan and their settled counterparts, who were in the eyes of Nahua and European alike the “civilized ones” or “artisans” were building every greater works of art and culture, ever more intricate pieces of golden finery which were every bit as ephemeral as their civilization and painted art that would not long survive the plunder of migrating peoples. The past century had been one of environmental shifts that in another world might have simply been devastating. However, combined with Old World plagues and the arrival of adventuring conquerors, there was simply no chance.

Like Tula, a city which had once held a hundred thousand souls and was now little more than overthrown ruin, Colhuacan in time would succumb as well. A year later, the Emperor Nfansou and his Fula cavalrymen would ride into the Valley of Mexico triumphant. They would record their victories on stele in the varied tongues of the region and founded the city of Kafibaka on the backs of their supposed native allies. The Mexica would prostrate themselves in rows before the triumphant Mansa, who demanded the traditional submission of his Fula culture from the conquered tribes.

Later, Europeans and their Nahua subjects would pick through the stony rubbish of these cities and more. They would marvel for what was lost, but they would not understand. The Nahua kept records, but these were shrouded in myth. They spoke of the people who came before them as Tolteca, but little truth could be discerned from their reports – to them time was cyclical, governed by patterns that only the wise could see. The fall of the Tolteca was every bit as inevitable as the fall of the Franks and Fula.

In time, the Mexica claimed, a new round of disease and famine would purge the haughty nations across the sea.

They had no idea how right they were.

The New World and the Old

The Frankish Empire needed an outlet, and the New World was the perfect answer. Agriculturally, the Old World European populations were overburdened. They suffered from a surfeit of nobles in a world where Eastern conquests were becoming increasingly unpalatable. The 1128 conversion of the Polish King to Christianity marked the end of the Votive era in Europe, and the beginning of the end of German migration. Stealing land from coreligionists was hard to justify and far less palatable to the average migrant.

By and large, the Franks had come to terms with the state of affairs in the East. Xasar country was an armed camp, whose great fortresses had marked the end of more than one ambitious Marcher Lord with fanatic zeal and too few forces to make a difference. For the Germans, Slavic country was increasingly off limits, and quite simply there was nowhere to go.

Was it any wonder that so many chose to flee the swollen cities of Europe or forfeit their royal stipends to seek adventure in the new world? For the nobility, the cloistered misery of the monastic life was nothing compared to the opportunity to take up Votive arms for Christ in a new land. For the peasantry, the new world represented unprecedented social advancement in a land where supposedly even the meanest tenant could have slaves of his own. It meant a land of gold and adventure where anything was possible.

The New World was not what Europe wanted or needed in 1104.

The merchants of Italy and Ispana were far more concerned with the Near East than the Utter West. Preachers on their payroll still clamored for Votive War and the destruction of Iran.

They were not wrong to think in this way: the wealth of Asia far outpaced that of Solvia, and the luxury goods they wanted were all found in the Orient. Whatever bounty could be found overseas was difficult to extract and bring back. The overwhelming majority of those who set sail for the Utter West stayed there, never to return. Those who returned were more often than not recruiters, and were shunned by landholders who wanted to keep their farms staffed and merchants who thought this was all a vast distraction from the real war, the oldest war, between the deadly fanatics of Boddo and the warriors of Christ.

For groups such as the Mauri and Ispanians, however, one major boon did present itself. Sailing around Africa meant an alternative to Khardi tolls and the wartorn chaos of the Near East. It also meant opportunities to bring back vast cargos of salt in exchange for what the Ispanians considered a pittance. So while the Germans and Franks eagerly dreamed of Votive crusade and glory, the merchants of the south plotted how best to circumnavigate the vast continent to their south. It could be done – wise men all believed that much was obvious. Royal mathematicians in Ispanic courts bickered and disputed the distances involved, but by 1146, the first Italian-funded Ispanian voyage had reached Cape Watya.

In time the trickle of adventurers would become a flood.

First Steps

The first contacts between the Old and New Worlds were a series of utter disasters. Would-be conquerors were time and again scattered to the winds or overrun by their own ignorance.

Navigation and nautical technology as a whole was still in its infancy. Whole fleets and voyages were swallowed up in the passage.

If iron and steel would give the invaders an advantage, as many later scholars have postulated, it was not readily apparent in the early post-contact days. The early decades post-contact passed without major incidents, and after 1104, a series of pitched battles between natives and newcomers would primarily end with the newcomers buried by sheer weight of numbers, slaughtered despite technological advantages they presumed would keep them safe.

Few accounts of these early battles survive, and what stories we do have tell of huddled, starving Franks surrounded and picked off one by one. However, these tales of atrocity are not necessarily representative of the majority of these early post-contact massacres. Later archeology indicates that pitched battles were more common than previously believed – that the usual pattern of contact was one of brutal open warfare. The attritional patterns of later conflicts only began after the natives were decimated by disease and forced back into the hinterlands. In general these early battles were disastrous for the lightly-equipped seafarers who almost universally underestimated their native foes time and again. Open hospitality gave way to distrust, and soon the Caribbean was inflamed against the voyagers from the west.

However these disasters did not mark the end, but rather the beginning. The Europeans learned from their mistakes, and benefitted from the collapse of native populations in their absence. Future conquests swept islands already depopulated by plague and incipient social collapse. Conquering lords set up cities under “the authority of the king” and built wooden castles and churches so as to proclaim themselves victors. The use of “theatrical violence” brought many cautious or outright hostile tribes to heel, and combined with the taking of (overwhelmingly female) hostages as “wives” these early colonies were able to survive.

One Hundred Ships

There is no more vivid image of the conquest of Tolteca in the popular imagination than that of Mansa Nfansou and his hundred ships setting sail from Fula country. Occurring a mere century after the initial contact, Mansa Nfansou and his adventures quickly took on the aspect of legend or myth, and few accurate chronicles of his voyage have survived. There is a gulf in the historical record – between the legendary hundred ships and scattered accounts from the petty “Duke” of Tahiti, who records no more than five ships limping into his harbor. The famed Mansa in his account is a proud and arrogant man, a warlord who refuses to acknowledge the disastrous storms that have ruined his fleet and left him “as a beggar in the Carib Sea” – a king reduced to eating his valuable warhorses.

From there, Nfansou’s next steps become difficult to trace, not for a want of accounts, but for the confusion of those royal historians and Norse chroniclers who travelled with him. He either landed near the city of “Cuetsala” or “Cuetseleuca” on the Gulf of Tolteca, the location of which is lost to history. Shortly thereafter he began involving himself in the affairs of native kings, and rode to the city of “Ohsakag” – where in a ceremony which rapidly became confused by issues of translation, he demanded the submission of the Ohsakagi King and his entourage.

The ensuing war was brutal chaos, but another wave of disease would fortuitously strike a year after his landfall, and Ohsakagi would be destroyed by a rival city state that has been identified to a large degree of certainty as Coyolapan. Shortly thereafter, a war with the Sabotegi would throw him back on the defensive, and Nfansou’s chaotic and tumultuous rise to the top would continue.

The Norse and Fula chroniclers who charted Nfansou’s ascension to power are broadly responsible for the legendary quality of his conquests and the pervasive misconceptions which endure to this day about his victories. The Norse in particular emphasized the individual heroism of a small band of conquering heroes holding back endless waves of chaotic barbarians. To them, Nfansou’s foes dressed in carnival motley. Each battle was a legion of unrestrained cannibal demons throwing themselves on the long-armed and stern warriors of the Fula, who kept disciplined ranks and repulsed their foes time and again. The native allies of the Fula feature not at all in their accounts. The savage chaos of warriors armed with stone clubs assailing the finely armored horsemen of the Fula made for a beautiful and romantic picture, but an inaccurate one. Equally fraudulent was the Fula depictions, which emphasized the pseudodivine glory of Nfansou, the heroics of the cavalry charge, and their enormous, incomprehensibly vast fleet and army which won submission after submission with a minimum of effort.

The truth, as ever, is a grimy thing. First, the Fula fleet was in no small part composed of Canary Norse, a people who had rapidly outbred the carrying capacity of their small island. Second, what sparse native accounts and oral histories remain do not focus on the cavalry at all, and given the Duke’s account of the Mansa forced to eat many of his horses, it is likely that the cavalry contingent was small to say the least. Third, the Fula would have been annihilated if it was not for the apocalyptic chaos gripping the whole of the region. Mass migrations, societal breakdown, and a rapid series of plagues all allowed Nfansou to carve out a state where otherwise he might have simply been killed along with the starving men who staggered ashore in 1208.

Still, Nfansou’s conquests were uncertain and ephemeral at best. Many of the native kings whose “submission” he attained saw him as little better than a particularly high quality mercenary. There were various Frankish and Norse mercenaries already in the New World by the time of Nfansou, and he would certainly not be the last Old World leader to cross the sea and engage in mercenary activity. The famed womanizer and mercenary Niccolo Cosca, who had passed away some four decades previously, was hailed as a hero by the Xicallanca of Cholula and his travelogues, widely disseminated in Italian vernacular, had proved wildly popular with the common people of his home country.

Nfansou, in the eyes of many historians and contemporaries, was acting in the same tradition as the Cosca family, who were in the 1220’s represented in the new world by Stefano Cosca, a cousin of the famed adventurer, and his little brother who was called the Lesser Niccolo. But the story of the New World is not the story of great men or grand adventures.

The story of the New World is of vast impersonal forces. From the first meetings of sailors and Carib islanders, diseases leapt from mouth to mouth, from flea to flesh. From early beginnings and perilous voyages, the groundwork for a truly global economy was laid. The engine of global trade was even now being primed in the far East – when it reached the shores of the Americas, nothing would ever be the same.

The story of the New World is the story of an exchange of ideas. From the first contact, representations of Christ and the native gods of the Taino were painted on cliff-faces and pieces of stone and bark. Cultures long separated by the yawning gulf of the Atlantic Ocean struggled to understand and make sense of new worlds beyond their reckoning.

The story of the New World is one born in blood and fire. From the first meetings between Haitians and Franks, it is the story of unspeakable atrocities and the lowest depths of human degradation, of starving sailors butchering unprepared natives and being butchered in turn by vengeful war-parties. It is the story of arrogant conquering Princes who sought everlasting glory at sword point. It is the story of the New Votive Wars and the bloody religious revolution which would follow.

[These posts are meant to be more "teasers" than anything. Fear not, I'll be going into more detail shortly. However, there may be a bit more chronological jumping about in this part of the story, especially when it comes to discussing cultural themes and the various revolutionary changes taking place in Asia.

N.B. All guest posts set before 1104 should still be posted in the original White Huns thread. If I have any additional posts that discuss pre-1104 topics they will go there as well. ]
Nice! Loved the Rise of the White Huns, I think it's the best timeline on the forum right now. Definitely will be following.
Your Rise of the White Huns was fantastic and had me looking for the next installment relgiously, I expect the same will be true of this one. I look forward to seeing where you go with this.
Rise of the White Huns was amazing, I can't wait to see what new divergences you are going to poll up your sleeve.
Yay, fantastic, great that this grand saga continues and begins anew!

And what an excellent OP! A slower, less imbalanced yet nonetheless equally apocalyptic Atlantic exchange... and so many fascinating hints. Looking forward to the religious revolution... I love how this feels both new, with a new focus and style, yet also like a continuation of this board's best current timeline.
New Era in the East
A New Era in the East

Immanuel Laskaris was a man for an earlier age. He would have, perhaps, made a great Roman Emperor, but he was a poor match for the limited resources of the Asian State, a region whose heartland was pastoral at worst and feudal at best, a region whose few remaining great cities hugged the coastline and clung to the memory of ancient times. However, Immanuel was a poet and aspiring philosopher, few Emperors did so much to foster the growth of Asian cultural life, or wasted so much blood and treasure in their attempts to live up to the hoary legacy of Rome. His warring began at a young age, with an intricately planed three-pronged assault on the Xasar city of Konstantikert. Fed by the fields of the Dnieper, the city had grown into a true metropolis under the Xasar, and its walls and exterior fortifications were well-maintained. A seat of Buddhist scholarship, playing host to universities and temples and an opulent Xasar royal palace, the city was in the eyes of the Asian cities, an insult to everything that old Constantinople had once been. Accordingly, Immanuel had near total support from the powerful urban magistrates and the rural landlords alike.

His defeat was thus all the more humiliating. While the Xasar fleet was swept aside and ruined, the Asian army starved and suffered outside Constantinople, and as Xasar reinforcements poured in and encircled the besieging army, Immanuel was forced to lead a disastrous retreat back across the strait. If not for their distaste for ruling a large Christian population, the Xasar might have invaded and wreaked devastation upon Asia Minor. As it was, they contented themselves with an indemnity and hostages from the great cities of Asia.

Smarting from this blow, Immanuel turned East, towards the weakening Khardi Empire, embroiled in border wars and distracted with substantial economic problems. He raised many mercenaries and Votive soldiers with the promise of plunder for payment, and for some time it seemed that he could not be defeated. He swept as far south as Jerusalem, holding a victorious parade in the captured city and praising God for his victories. His troops hailed him as a savior and a conqueror, and, emboldened, he embarked on a campaign to rescue “our Assyrian brothers, who languish under the Boddo’s yoke.”

Mesopotamia was a bridge too far. The Khardi armies were ruined and unable to prevent his march down the Tigris, or the overthrow of the current Shah (and the subsequent “Susa Anarchy” which would last much of the following decade) but, bolstered by Arab and Bajinak mercenaries they were able to prevent the loss of Susa and wear down the limited resources of Immanuel’s army. While Immanuel was off playing the conqueror, his homelands were vulnerable, and the Ifthal wreaked havoc across Asia Minor in his absence, while the army slowly disintegrated. Soldiers, enriched by plunder, had almost no loyalty to Immanuel and within two years, he was no closer to taking Susa and his forces were all but gone. Encamped and eventually surrounded in the ruins of Tesifon, he was captured and ransomed back to Asia.

The Khardi would recover, but their prestige was shaken. A series of child Shahs only ensured that satraps would gain more and more power. The more successful local rulers were quick to begin calling themselves Shahs, and tax revenues continued to decline.

The Khardi had swept the Near East like a storm in their heyday. Unlikely conquerors, the sons of nomads, they had forged an enduring state in the wake of Ifthal and Turkish anarchy by taking advantage of the agricultural and commercial wealth of the Tigris and Euphrates. But the very land which won them their fortune was a fickle mistress. The Khardi were compelled by fortune to travel far from their hard-won homeland, and as settler colonies became ubiquitous, those who remained landholders imported increasing numbers of slaves, weakening the once great base of Khardi manpower. From Susa, a city transformed by a singular ambition to ape the past, the Iranshahs looked out at their territory and realized how shaky great empires could be. Their kingdom was built on the backs of so many cities, so many nations, so many proud peoples once broken.

In a sense, they must have known it was all doomed to ruin.

The first stirrings of trouble came in the wake of Emperor Immanuel Laskaris’ disastrous campaigns. Afterwards, the border lords consolidated their power independent of the central state, and no group did more to unsettle Khardi power in the west than the sect or association of warriors who called themselves the Bakhtiyar, or the fortunate ones.

Throughout history, many great minds have conceived of time as cyclical. What is the passing of the seasons but a microcosm of grander patterns? As one ephemeral generation is born, and lives, and dies to be replaced by another, we see time in its ceaseless flow, but also rebirth. Nowhere is this pattern more obvious than among the nations of Iran, cursed to see Empires rise and fall around them. From the Arsakid Palhava to the Sasanians to the Ifthal to the Khardi to the Bakhtiyar, the pattern remains constant.

The contender to the title of Shah rose, as all great dynasties do, from humble beginnings. They were derisively called Tayzig (from the Iranian tazik) by the old and pure Eftal families, a word which derided them as Arabs and foreigners, despite their adoption of Persian culture. There was truth to the slur, however, that the Bakhityar were mixed Arab-Ifthal in origin. Their own name for themselves roughly meant “fortunate” and in no small sense, they were incredibly fortunate. Far from the decadent and vicious court of Susa, they were able to carve out a real state for themselves with minimal interference.

However, the Bakhtiyar had their origins not as nobility but as bandits, a group of allied clans ruling Tadmur under the dominion of an enigmatic warlord named Akhsau, who was called Mansar, from the Arabic Mansur, or Victorious. There were many legends about Mansar. Some said that he was born blind, that he did not gain the ability to see until he was a man. Others said that at the age of thirteen he wandered in the desert and spoke to God, either the Christian deity or Ohrmazd, depending on whom you spoke to. Still others said that he was a demon in human flesh, and that his words seized things in the hearts of men that should not be seized.

Most, however, simply acknowledged that he was a brilliant and capable tactician, the sort of figure who would usurp the King of Tadmur at the age of 21 and expand his dominion from there, conquering fortress after fortress and through force, charisma and guile bringing the house of Mihiragula in line and carving out a crude but effective state which paid only lip-service to the royal court in Susa.

Akhsau was a rare sort of figure, and the Bakhityar were a completely unanticipated event historically. Within a few decades, all history would be changed by their rise.

Arabia was undergoing a crisis of faith. Saihism, the Arabic world’s response to the great missionary religions, was on the decline. Nestorianism and Buddhism warred for the hearts and minds of the Arab world, and the Church of the East, exiled from many of its traditional seats, had found a fertile audience among the scattered desert tribes of Arabia. Buddhism was popular in the south, among the wealthy merchant cities whose culture and civilization were an example for the northern tribes.

Akhsau took all comers, and encouraged the mystical reputation he had gathered. As he moved from victory to victory, the Arabs of the interior flocked to his banner, transforming desert raiders and bandits into a disciplined fighting force of bow-armed light cavalry. If the Ifthal had forgotten their nomadic roots, this new whirlwind from the desert had not at all – they specialized in ambush and raiding warfare, and they excelled at starving the Ifthal fortresses into submission.

While the Bakhtiyar moved from strength to strength, they were able to do so because of anarchy in the East. By the time Akhsau was forty, the Khardi had lost much of the Iranian plateau to marauding Turko-Afghan warlords in what was a sort of repeat of the Eftal collapse. Asia never truly recovered from the disastrous rule of Immanuel Laskaris, a sort of twenty year false “Golden Age” that would lead to their doom. Swift Tayzig and Ifthal cavalrymen turned the peninsula of Asia Minor upside down, and by 1150 the whole region was under Tayzig control. By 1160, Akhsau, now an old man, would not even acknowledge the Shah in Susa. By 1183, there was no longer a Shah in Susa, and the Khardi were divided into warring petty states.

As we will see, the Bakhtiyar themselves struggled to create an enduring state or legacy. Perhaps because of their origins, they quickly allowed internal divisions to overcome them in the aftermath of Akhsau’s conquests. Their architectural and cultural legacy was more enduring, as was their grand project to rebuild the Canal of the Pharaohs, which became known as the Mansar Canal. For a brief time, a unified Bakhtiyar Empire seemed poised to overcome the Khardi and reunite the Near East, but ultimately no-one would do more to unseat the Khardi than themselves. As the Khardi lost their distinct provincial culture and ties of tribe and clan to the appeal of universal Empire, as they accepted the broader Indo-Iranian culture practiced by the Ifthal, they became indistinct from their many subjects and even began to identify as them. Latter-day laws to prevent intermarriage between Khardi and Turks were never strictly followed, and coupled with the economic decline of Mesopotamia (rapid salinization and the rise of unproductive slave estates) their fate was sealed long before the Bajinak conquered Mosil.

[Don’t worry, I’m gonna talk about the Near East more soon. I know that things moved fast in this overview, and that my focus was nowhere near complete. But I wanted to start somewhere and start laying the groundwork for the larger themes of the 12th century, which even beyond the New World promises to be one full of shocking twists. Egypt, Iran, and many other places deserve a more in-depth focus than I gave them in this segment.

However, for the next update I think we're going to look at China and the changing East Asian economic scene, and perhaps also at Central Asia in the world of the Kitai and the Afsar. As ever, I welcome questions and comments. There's a lot of hints and references to events that need larger explanation in this segment, and I appreciate the chance to explain that stuff for those who are interested.]
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Was not expecting the "Bakhtiyar themselves struggled to create an enduring state or legacy" part. Everything about them screamed "alt-Islam" and then suddenly it... isn't?

EDIT: Also, is it time for Egypt to get a Round 2 with the Khardi governors still present there? :D
Its been a while since I commented on a TL.

The original thread was one of the best timelines I ever read. It was creative and had interesting cultural developments (I especially love the Buddhist Rus states and Heshanid Egypt), yet plausible and well researched. Keep up the amazing work!

Try this page.

sucks what happened to Christian Asia, but I guess that's to be expected from this TL.

keep up the good work.

Is it really the White Huns if I'm not constantly redrawing the map of the Near East over and over again? :D

Was not expecting the "Bakhtiyar themselves struggled to create an enduring state or legacy" part. Everything about them screamed "alt-Islam" and then suddenly it... isn't?

EDIT: Also, is it time for Egypt to get a Round 2 with the Khardi governors still present there? :D

The Bakhtiyar definitely have a legacy, but by struggled I guess I mean it's probably not the one they wanted or hoped for. Akhsau Mansar had great successes, but like Alexander the Great or perhaps Muhammad, he didn't have a clear line of succession. Thus the Empire he forges doesn't outlast his lifetime by very long.

I drew some inspiration from Islam, but there's some critical differences, the biggest of which is that Akhsau never really tried to make a coherent belief system so much as built off of the mystical propaganda in a style that's not unlike the Khardi claiming to be Chakravartin. Plus there's not nearly as many Bakhtiyar as there were Arabs during the early Caliphate, and thus the Bakhtiyar are more cautious and work more within the frame of the Khardi Empire. Partly because he himself is a pagan-buddhist in the old Eftal style, there's no real room in Akhsau's worldview for him to become a martial prophet figure.

The Khardi governor notionally submitted to Akhsau, but the governor at the time, Sepandiar, retained a good portion of his power and was able to pass on power to his nephew, Ormadata. Ormadata was dependent on the Bakhtiyar for the supply of foreign garrison troops that is instrumental to "Khardi" rule in Egypt. However, the Bakhtiyar, having the resources of a plundered empire at their disposal and a decent well of manpower (unlike the overstretched Khardi) were able to make some changes to cement their rule in Egypt better than the Khardi had. One of the major ones was repairing the Mansar Canal, a major engineering project which has allowed the Khardi to undercut the Egyptian-Arab run and operated overland camel caravan system in favor of a sea transport passage which the Bakhtiyar can administer directly.

Its been a while since I commented on a TL.

The original thread was one of the best timelines I ever read. It was creative and had interesting cultural developments (I especially love the Buddhist Rus states and Heshanid Egypt), yet plausible and well researched. Keep up the amazing work!

Glad you're still enjoying it!
Looking forward to the new thread! I really enjoyed the previous portion of the TL, and I assume things will continue at a similar level of quality here.

Quick thoughts-
Preview/Prologue: I like the hints given here. They provide a lot of information, but still leave enough gaps that I really want to know about. The fact that the Franks will, at first, falter and that the primary Old World-founded empire in the New World will be West African in nature opens up a lot of diverse cultural and national divergences.

Also of interest is something that I wish I had realized ahead of time. With contact occurring so early compared to OTL, we still haven't had a major plague in the vein of the Black Death yet, and a Western Europe that is more urban and more concentrated will suffer just as much and possibly more as OTL, slowing down colonization and allowing more time for the natives of the New World to adapt. On the other hand, the Black Death was almost gone entirely by the time of the OTL colonization, so potentially adding that or a similarly devastating disease to the cocktail of Old World diseases could be even more devastating to New World populations. I get the feeling one or more of the centuries will basically be summed up as "Pain and death. Lots of it. Everywhere." from the way things are shaping up.

First Update: And so dies Asia, alone and somewhat unmourned. The Near East is set for a long time of internal conflict again, but I wonder if this might not also be a time of recovery and consolidation? Not sure whether the Bakhityar will eventually just be another group in the vein of the Eftal and the Khardi in taking over the wider Persian world, or if they might be the first step away from that unity and the beginning of division into smaller states throughout the Middle East. Personally, I'm guessing the latter. This will be very interesting.
Cathay and India
Great Cathay

The twelfth century in Kitai China was one of political consolidation and economic expansion. On the military front, the half-Mongol half-Kitai general Chimtay advanced from victory to victory. The Wu state crumbled under the brunt of his invasion.

The Kitai Emperor might have retired into the sublime luxuries of his palace at Kaifeng, but the Kitai nobility still raised their sons on the steppe and taught them to fight. Unlike the Uighurs before them, they did not integrate with their subject populations to the same degree. Instead they utilized the Han bureaucracy and their Uighur federates as intermediaries between the larger populace and their own relatively austere world. If the Kitai idolized the broader Chinese culture, they were not immediately consumed by it. If they saw their Emperors become decadent and wealthy behind the cloistered walls of the Kaifeng Golden Palace, they did not rebel against it. Indeed, no sooner did the Emperor start to fear that his people were growing restless than he ordered the massive 1123 invasion of Wu.

Chimtay was a capable tactician and won many proud cities over by the extent of his legendary mercy. During his campaign against the Wu, cities such asTongzhouand Yangzhou surrendered without a fight, bringing vast sums of wealth into the Imperial coffers and bringing the country closer and closer to reunification under a single Imperial banner When, several years later, Chimtay was ordered to invade the Chu, the siege of Fangcheng was notably ended within mere months as opposed to the anticipated years. In 1130, the general was in command of three whole southern divisions, and had the de facto backing of many of the ministries. His field army was unmatched for the quantity and quality of his cavalry, and from the silk road had acquired the latest in firepowder formulas.

Chimtay authored many early experiments into firepowder. Fangcheng was subject to an immense rain of bolts tipped with explosive “grenades” and the Chinese variant of the firespear, perfected by Imperial technicians, proved to be an unmatched shock weapon even in the hands of unskilled peasantry.

It is unclear whether or not he had imperial authority to invader the South Kingdom of Tai, but he did so, and when yet another sweeping victory came to him in 1132, Chimtay seemed unstoppable. His fame and reputation had eclipsed the hidden Emperor’s by far. A year later, summoned back to the capital, he came in force, with a huge army at his back.

He walked directly into a trap. The Kitai Emperor had enlisted the help of the Naiman Yabgu, and had hired two thousand personally loyal imperial guard soldiers. He gave them the standards and equipment of Chimtay’s own personal soldiers, and during a celebration of the general’s achievements, had these soldiers turn on Chimtay. In the confusion the general was quickly killed by the imposters, and the rank-and-file quickly fell into line. Those suspected of involvement in Chimtay’s plotting were either executed or quietly reassigned to distant frontiers. The architect of this plot, however, was not the Emperor but his confidant, the rising scholar-bureaucrat Zhao Wei.

Zhao Wei, the Prime Minister from 1153-1161 advocated revolutionary changes in the economic system of the country. In his opinion “The state and the ministries must take on their back the whole management of commerce, industry, and agriculture, so as to ensure the prosperity of all. It is the degradation of the common farmer that turns him to banditry, and it is the suffering of the merchant that leads him to sympathize with esoteric preachers.” Perfect social order, he argued, could be generated by enhanced state involvement. A devout member of Exoteric Buddhism, he believed strongly that a perfected regime could be attained only by strenuous application of all the power of the state bureaucracy.

The unification of the Yangtze River by a single power and the restoration of degraded and silted parts of the Grand Canal allowed economic renovation on an unprecedented scale. The coastal cities patronized by the Wu and Tai benefitted immensely from uninterrupted contact with the interior. The Kitai devoted immense resources to pacifying banditry and restoring order, and these acts seem to have paid off. Zhao Wei’s policies took inspiration perhaps from the Tamil trading houses he knew of from his youth as a hostage among the Tai. He established a central banking system as part of the Ministry of Revenue, and gave it a broad purview to invest in promising commercial enterprises.

The Emperor Yaol Jelu (Muzong) ruled in splendid opulence, remote as all his people were from the day-to-day affair of governing the south. Accordingly, it was a vastly expanded northern bureaucracy which took on that responsibility, in concert with local magistrates. The exam system, atrophied since its Qi era height, was brought back as a universal institution. If the gentry idolized the life of the noble farmer, they nevertheless found great fortunes to be made in investing in trade.

One of the largest advantages the new Kitai state had was that its Han gentry were intimately connected to a vast foreign population. Many of those who had fled the Uighurs had distant relations back in their mother country, and the Chinese overseas did not necessarily associate the Yaol dynasty with the brutality of the Uighurs. The Yaol were distant foreign despots whose meritocratic attitude did much to endear them to their subjects. And yet despite this era of harmony and contentment, the Uighur garrison cities remained, a fist within the velvet glove of Kitai hegemony.

All under heaven was reunited. But the top-down imperium of the Kitai had its flaws. In the rivers and valleys of China, new and bold thinkers were authoring their own novel philosophies that would eventually come into conflict with imperial orthodoxy…

North India

The Kshatriya warrior guilds and their mercenary counterparts had by the twelfth century blurred so as to become indistinct from one another. However, a defining facet of warfare on the subcontinent was that combat was almost exclusively conducted either by these groups or by massed levies of relatively poor quality. Professional troops represented a small clique within the broader civilization, and one that was difficult to gain access to.

When the Afghani warlord Khingal Askunu and his Turkish allies swept through Gandhara and broke upon the plains of Panchala, their fellow Sahputi often turned and betrayed their supposed paymasters. The republics of the north were overwhelmed one by one. Their treasure was brought back to Shamibal, the seat of the Askunu before Khingal’s son resettled in Lohawar.

The battles that defined the century were brutal affairs. The Askunu and their retainers fought as heavily armed and armored cavalry, and unlike the guild warriors they had no sense of fairness or honor. Where guild combat had become regulated by codes of conduct and diplomacy both practical and ritual, the Afghans did not care to preserve the lives of the defeated or maintain the social structures of the subcontinent.

However, perhaps because of the moderating influence of the Sahputi, the great temples and universities of the region were preserved. The sangha and equal-kingdoms were broken but in their submission they were allowed to organize as they saw fit. In victory, to Askunu were merciful. However, their destruction of the old North Indian martial elite fundamentally changed the region, and brought them into direct conflict with Gurjars and their Chandratreya patrons.

Afghanistan itself was a place in turmoil. It had never quite reconciled its glorious past with its new status as a frontier. The country of the Afghans was the home of great empires! Did not the Eftal come from Balkh, and the Johiyava come from their valley kingdoms? They sat at the crossroads of civilization, and they had no desire to be mere subjects of a distant monarch in Susa. No sooner did the Mitradharmids begin crumbling on itself than much of Afghanistan rose in open rebellion. The garrison cities were massacred. The tribes of the mountains, of whom the Askunu were but one of many, rose up openly and besieged Balkh, cutting off the Khardi Satrap from his lines of communication.

By the time the Khardi might have considered a counter-attack, the Afsar Turks were ranging freely across the Iranian plateau, and the Bajinak were besieging Mosil. There were higher priorities. Afghanistan was distant and inconsequential to the new Khardi policy, which was focused on maintaining its ever-weakening hold on the fertile crescent.

[Again, things will continue to be filled out as time goes on. I have a massive post on the fall of the Khardi in the works, but it's proving frustratingly difficult. Rest assured these posts will make more sense with that added context.

To those of you saying India was overdue for an invasion... yeah, you were right. And as soon as the Khardi began cracking, as soon as there wasn't a monolithic empire in the Near East... I think it was pretty much inevitable. However, its an open question whether or not the Afghans will reach the real centers of the Indian revolution. The warrior guilds of the Ganges have far greater numbers than the guilds of the north, and if nothing else economically that region has been less embroiled in the unproductive border wars that the Khardi and Gandharans faced off in time and again, or the relative power vacuum along the Indus.]
Heretics and Votive Warriors
In the broad compass of history, it can be easy to neglect the small scale. Certainly when telling the story of the all mankind, from the first city states along the banks of flooding rivers to mankind united in a global era of information and space exploration, it can be easy to forget the lesser moments that change the world.

And yet these moments happen constantly. If a different merchant had traveled to Ethiopia and not brushed against a rat, humanity might have avoided what would become the worst pandemic in human history, the first global plague which touched every continent. If a soldier had not brought down his cudgel on the head of a Sassanian Shah, the Eftal might never have risen to power. If a herder’s son hadn’t traveled to Constantinople and joined their army as a mercenary, the Roman Empire might never have fallen.

When dealing with an event as vast as the Ragnarssen exchange, when so many disparate peoples began massive oceanic migrations, it is especially easy to forget. One of the long term goals of this second iteration of Rise of the White Huns will be to capture as much of that as possible while still overlaying the broad trends and themes of each era. Suggestions as to how best to achieve this are always welcome.

Heretics and Votivists – the Troubles of Europe go West

The culture of Ispana was unique within the Frankish Empire. With its own royal court, it was a proper kingdom where the rest of the “nations” were duchies and marches with nothing but shared culture to unite them. Culturally, Ispana was nevertheless considered a backwater. Her poetry, the courtly elites of Aachen said, was pastoral and vulgar at best, and crude and blasphemous at worst. Her scholarship had nothing on the heady grandeur of Italy, where great minds discussed the nature of angels and matter along platonic lines. Her architecture was infused with barbarian models taken from the unique Mauri sensibility which permeated the southern Mediterranean and had little in common with the delicate arches and spires of the north.

Accordingly, the religious movements Ispana spawned were unique as well. One common heresy, called Autotheism, held that the perfect soul and the Godhead were indistinguishable from each other. Believed to be inspired by the movement of peoples and ideas from the East, Autotheism found fertile ground in Spain, Sicily, and other areas where local rulers had little incentive to directly combat heresy. In time it would come to influence the paganism of the Berber peoples as well. Another, the Josefite cult, was classically gnostic – its followers refrained from vaginal heterosexual intercourse so as to not bring new souls into the damned world. Accordingly, it died out within in a generation. Its legacy was preserved in church tracts which condemned the cult as a “a den of the most perverse sodomites, a cellar of inequity at the root of the Christian world.”

As Christian missionaries found their way to the New World, so too did a small but growing number of Autotheists. The lawlessness of Fanceau’s regime appealed to those who could at a moment’s notice find themselves persecuted. Unlike the Tinanian heresy, which had secular wealth and importance, Autotheists by contrast generally were all too well aware that they survived by the dint of their local lord’s whim, and accordingly were more encouraged than any other group to flee. The desire to found a “New Jerusalem to the Perfection of the Soul” as one later Autotheist writer put it, was strong. Accordingly of all the various groups who would risk their lives on the great transatlantic journey, few were more fanatical in their hopes than the Autotheists. If they were only a small number, on a virgin island whose inhabitants were slaughtered by disease, the Autotheists had a critical advantage – alone of the Frankish colonists they had brought a significant number of women, and their towns were able to sustain their numbers far more efficiently than the scattered Frankish trading posts and waystations.

The Duke of Haiti himself was an Ispanian, and while undoubtedly familiar with the sect, he declared that his “city” would not become another seat for the “false men and sodomites” who came ashore after the great journey. Where he gave shelter to heathens, adventurers, and brigands, and tolerated the varied forms of “vice” and “immortality” that accompanied any colonial settlement, heretics, it seemed, were a bridge too far in the mind of Duke Rodrigo Meles. Autotheists quickly established their own safe haven not so far away, on the Isle of Aravacia.

Back home, the lords of Ispana were happy. Whatever worries of land overcrowded by a surfeit of hungry tenants or heretics they might have held were assuaged by the promise of a vast new world which would conveniently serve as a dumping ground. Furthermore, they were beginning to see the profits of their overseas voyages. With each new expedition, men such as Fernanti Dias de Vivar brought back ships laden with treasure. Regular lines of trade and communication were slowly being established with the Fula and the scattered southern coastal tribes. In 1157, the Ukwu sent an embassy to the Frankish court, to much wonder and amazement. The Ukwu Embassy, whose name is recorded only as “John”, was more than happy to embrace Christ and be baptized. In all probability, the language barrier was far too great for such things to be clear, and the Ukwu concept of divinity was utterly alien to the European mind, but it was a propaganda coup nonetheless for the reigning Emperor, Aloysius the Blond.

Marcel de Amiens was another such man whose character and individual actions would set the course of history along a different path. He was a man of famed humility and piety, but also extraordinary charm and persuasiveness. Where his contemporaries, such as the decadent and notorious Niccolo Cosca, were unscrupulous aspiring warlords, Marcel de Amiens was a loyal servant of the Frankish crown. What he did in the New World, he did for God and Emperor alike. When he conquered, he read royal writs out loud to the people, blithely ignoring the fact that they did not understand the language, and accepting that his duties were done. He was the first Votivist of the New World.

Arriving in the New World, he learned while in Haiti of a famed kingdom far to the north, where great cities of gold rose out of mounds in the earth. Gathering a motley crew of adventurers and a few native translators, he would embark up the Great River that divided Northern Solvia. He would never return, but his influence would live on.

Liuqiu and the rise of Chola hegemony

The decline of Srivijaya left a power vacuum. It was the Chola dynasty that found themselves most positioned to exploit that vacuum. They already had connections in every great trading city across the Malay islands. They already had immense wealth and a navy more than capable of asserting its dominance across the ocean.

They only needed a cause to expand their power even further afield. Fortunately, fate would give one to them.

Besides the aboriginals, who claimed they had always lived on the island since the dawn of time, the first settlers of Liuqiu[1] were exiles and refugees from the Qi state. Merchants made sporadic contact with Liuqiu, and in the Liang dynasty era there had even been a plan proposed to colonize the island make it into a colony or a tributary, but that plan was quickly dismissed when it was realized by visiting emissaries that the island had no particular value. There was nothing to be found in Liuqiu that could not be found in the Rivers and Valleys of China.

It was only with the rise of the Kitai that the first permanent settlement of Chinese people was established on the island. A rough and disordered community of exiles, their communities quickly became a haven for pirates, particularly the notorious Zheng Li. From sheltered bases on Liuqiu, they were able to raid the sea lanes with impunity, and several attempts by the Wu Kingdom navy to defeat the pirate bases were ineffectual at best – the Wu would arrive, but by then the pirates would have taken shelter with the aboriginal peoples, and their only prize would be burning empty villages and towns.

Part of this had to do with the gradual atrophy of the Wu navy. As the Kitai grew stronger, the Wu pulled money from their fleet and put more money into ultimately hopeless attempts to defend their northern border. As more and more ships were abandoned and left to rot, the Wu lost their capacity to project power. Zheng Li and his pirates became ever bolder, building a fleet which could rival anything the Wu had in their arsenal.

In 1116, a group of Chola backed “sreni men” would arrive on Liuqiu, seeking a lost convoy which they believed to have been taken by the pirates. Their main purpose, as it always was, was to negotiate a ransom for the lost cargo of silks and perhaps any high-ranking sailors whose lives were particularly valuable. These sorts of negotiations had occurred before. They were usually conducted with relative peace. For whatever reason however, this time negotiations broke down.

It would not be until two years later that even one of their number would return. He had seemingly aged many years, and he had clearly been brutalized. He could barely speak, but one name was on his lips: Zheng Li.

This was a bridge too far for the Chola. Pirates were an acceptable cost of business – sometimes you found yourself attacked by them, but usually they could be bribed or threatened and overall they only took a small cut of the profits. This was different. Pirates who did not negotiate were pirates that couldn’t be accounted for. Aligning themselves with several Champa and Malay cities who had a grievance against Zheng Li and his marauders, the Chola built a massive naval coalition to not only raid the coasts, as so many had done before, but indeed to conquer the island outright and establish a friendly state there.

In 1119, a not insubstantial Chola fleet arrived in Liuqiu after a several month long tour of the region. The campaign was swift – after the pirates retreated into the highland, they were shocked to find an army, including several war elephants, disembark after them and give chase. They were even more shocked when the Chola did not immediately attack but rather met with the head of a lesser coastal tribe, the Siraya.

The Chola Admiral, speaking through an interpreter, made a simple declaration, the exact text of which is apocryphal. The Siraya were granted the island to rule as a proxy of the Chola Maharaja and were to work to prevent piracy. In exchange they would receive arms, goods, and support from the Chola. However, none of it was as easy as it sounded. It would be a long, bloody, three year campaign to subdue the highland tribes and bring “order” to the island. Even then, disease and poor supply had sapped the effectiveness of the Chola army. Their allies had largely pulled out of the fighting and morale was low. The war only ended with the Siraya signing the Datu Compact, an agreement which limited their territory to the western lowlands and allowed the other tribes to maintain their independence and pay a token tribute to the Siraya.

In 1126, a joint Chola-Champa venture organized by the Golden Bull Nakara Sreni had established a city called Soulang (Sian) on the western coast of the island. They brought in red brick from Java and raised a fortress and temple to Visnu Narayana some ten miles from the Siraya capital of Chali (Kalipura). Instead of a pirate haven, the Siraya kingdom was a friendly waystation for ships on their way north, and kingdom’s small landholding class provided a captive market for Chola goods.

[1] Taiwan, a name which unless I’m wrong about the etymology I couldn’t really justify using.
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