- Aug 25, 2018
“And spend of your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction; but do good; for Allah loveth those who do good"Palace of Peacocks
Empire of Azraq
The Palace of Peacocks was perhaps the most grandiose of the Imperial properties in Jugol, built in the late 19th century as the First Azraqi Empire emerged. The complex merged a mix of architectural styles from across southern Toyou, the Implarian and northeastern Himyar as a symbol of the Empire's growing reach, influence and prosperity.
The building's name stems from the extensive gardens that are home to many to many a peacock and peafowl, who have since been joined by other exotic birds that made the vast estate their home. When the Emperor wasn't in residence and the palace not in use for official business, it proved popular with tourists keen to witness either Azraq's famous historical extravagance or listen to the birdsong and cries of the many avians that had made the gardens their home.
As one of the newer - and arguably more impressive - imperial properties, the Palace of Peacocks was frequently the first choice of host venue for foreign dignitaries.
The Palace of Mud, unusual for borrowing from termite nests in its architecture, was considered to be too outlandish and uncomfortable for overseas guests. Meanwhile, the Palace of Bones, named so after the extensive collection of animal skeletons and ivory tusks that filled its hallways and corridors, was reserved only ever for ceremonial purposes, such as coronations or formal addresses.
While the imperial capital of Azraq, ironically Jugol was perhaps the least Azraqi city of them all. The sprawling mass was mostly inhabited by refugees and migrants from Loago, Port Stanley and beyond, who were kept away from the official centre where the majority of imperial institutions were based, by being housed in vast shanty towns on the city's fringes. There was an unwritten agreement between the slums' inhabitants and the Azraqi state: agree to work as effectively slaves and your right to residency wouldn't be questioned by the authorities. So many worked doing informal jobs in the economic eco-system that had emerged in Jugol to feed the wants and desires of the Azraqi elite.
The city had long been an important place to meet and trade, being sandwiched between three lakes - a blessing in a landscape marked by mostly desert and scrubland.
Jugol's historic markets attracted traders from southern Himyar passing along the Seashell Route through Loago, as well as merchants from the Dawamali port cities bringing goods from the East, and caravans from the West bringing goods from Pelasgia and beyond. The discovery of early human remains there in the 20th century, including those believed to have been of important tribal chieftains, only seemed to underline its almost mythical place in Azraqi history.
The name Jugol stemmed an ancient Hasremotic word meaning walled city, a reference to the random remains of forts that had been built and destroyed there over time as the metropolis' rulers tried to defend - often unsuccessfully - its lucrative markets from outside raiders
The city had only been chosen as the imperial capital as a compromise between the Dawamali city states that had forged the first Empire. By then the city was a relative backwater, its fortunes gone with the changing patterns of trade. Even today it still lagged behind the Dawamali cities in wealth and key infrastructure, except for in the imperial and governmental districts.
These would be the only parts of Jugol the foreign delegations attending the mediation talks organised by Emperor Tiirka Illah personally would see.
The Emperor - and entire Azraqi establishment - was desperate to try and avert war between Justosia and a coalition of assembled states, fearing an upset in the Implarian balance of power.
Justosia was due to confirm participation any minute now after intense, private lobbying by the Emperor himself with his Justosian equal, who he had met last year in a trip to Avalon.
Ambrosia agreed to participate after Azraq said it was "open" to the idea of its fighter pilot being deliberately shot down by Justosian forces, while Pohjanmaa, which also had military assets near Justosia, was on the verge of formally requesting attendance as well, which would be quickly accepted by Jugol.
Sylvania, the other key protagonist, had been the first to agree to mediation talks when they were first proposed.
There was a lot riding on this summit for the Emperor.
First there was a lot of popular anger domestically over the monarch's dramatic political interventions, including dismissing Azraq's first leftwing Shamo-majority government before ordering three indecisive elections only to then to force the creation of a new single party - the Pan Hasremotic Peoples League - to take power. The League was widely seen as largely s a vehicle for the Emperor's personal agenda and little else and its reign a major blow to Azraq's nominally constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.
Second there was a growing perception in the Azraqi establishment the country was punching below its weight. Pelasgia, a long running historical rival, continued to be seen as Himyar's premier power while Natalia had quickly grown it's influence in eastern Himyar. And now Nedernesia was entangling itself in the Dune Sea Dominion.
A major foreign policy win could vindicate the Emperor's interference in electoral politics and his 'friendly relations with all' foreign policy, which had been criticised after state visits from Serenierre and Ostmark, two communist countries, and an imperial visit to Justosia, whose exclamatory diplomatic statements and obsession with shipbuilding were a continual source of tension with other nations.
Avoiding conflict in the Implarian would be a serious triumph, and undermine much of the previous criticism.
But peace was not guaranteed. The Justosians were a hot headed, proud people and the other nations serious in trying to teach Avalon a lesson.
Having pulled of a coup in all but name, could Emperor Tiirka Illah secure a settlement in the Implarian?