Civilization 6 as Cyrus, Emperor difficulty, standard game speed on Large Island Plates.
Cyrus, king of nothing much at the moment, leader of a band of travelers, vagabonds, wanderings and the bored clapped his hand down in the mane of the donkey carrying most everything he had ever needed or wanted in the world on its back. The motion kicked up a cloud of flies, which he swatted at.
“Here.” Cyrus said, speaking from his chest to make the words carry through the forest. The men who had been tasked with the burdens of food, baskets of roots plucked from the ground and red fruits pulled down from trees, looked up around them again, eyes re-opened taking in the trees.
“It will – “. Another damned fly brushed his nose. Cyrus scrunched his face and swatted at the air with a cupped hand. He brought the closed fist up to his eyes and opened it.
Empty… Damn. Cyrus cleared his throat.
“It will be here.”
Pasargadae. Pasargadae was a good name. Smoke rose from a smoking hut over by the sea. Cyrus strode between the standing torches and looked out over the clay roofs of the huts he and his people had built, constructed in such a short time, it felt like, upward shields under the heavy presence of the cliffs and rocky hills that stuck out of the water to the south, tops battered white with sea salt and bird shit.
He was here, here was this. He ducked under a cloth awning, striped with blue dye, that tipped as it was being put into slots in a wall. A curse and a quick apology, followed again with much more emphatic cursing from a balding fellow with a fiercely jutting beard dressing down his apprentice. Cyrus moved over to the edge of the settlement, which came so quickly. He turned back and could stare through the buildings, the carts, through the waving arms of a cursing builder and the hung head of the hapless apprentice, and see the sea.
This was all here. This they had built. He turned forward again and let his feet carry him forward a few steps, coming to the field of wild sugar that grew nearby. A little further in the distance he saw men, a pack of his men, warriors – or, to put it more accurately, the brawniest among them who whacked only thumbs if given a hammer but could split a skull and end a conflict if given a club – cresting over the dunes and heading away from their town.
They had made this here, this thing that would continue growing, but Cyrus wanted to know what was out there. A gentle cough at his side alerted him that his advisor had been standing next to him. “The scouts, are we readying them?”
“They’re being provisioned now. The party should be ready to leave in a few days.”
Cyrus looked back over the dunes. The warrior party was gone.
“Kabul, my lord, it’s, or they,” his advisor coughed and absently rubbed his nose “are called Kabul.” Standing on the top of his palace, at the moment merely the largest clay structure in a city of clay structures, Cyrus looked at the builds, the settlement matching his own on the beach just through the rocky cliffs to their south.
“Did you speak to them?” Cyrus asked without turning. He was counting the building he could see and mentally trying to guess their size.
“Well,” Cyrus hopped down lightly from the lip of stone around the edges of the, his roof. “What did they say?”
Huts. Smoke and some shapes moving about the fires. And a smell. That smell. Cambyses let his eyes shut and titled his head back into the breeze carrying the wonderful odors of roasting animals spinning over the fires. As his gaze returned to look ahead, through the fields of orange with his men at the circle of huts they had spied ahead, his stomach growled audibly.
Over to his left, one of his men, Anses, one of the biggest, thumped the butt of his weapon into the dirt, the top of which he had but recently adorned with a newly sharped head of stone. Anses cocked his head at a beetle as it scurried out from the dirt from the vibrations, then brought the haft of his ax down to crush it. He looked up smugly and caught Anses gaze with a victorious smile.
Cambyses raised his eyebrows then gave a slight nod, allowing the corners of his mouth to lift into a smile. Darius, good lad, at his right crawled up lower than the ground then he needed to and whispered in a voice far quieter than caution required, “What do we do?” The last word ended louder into a break in the wind and Darius tensed and brought a hand to his side as he glanced worriedly ahead. Everything was fine.
Cambyses smiled and stood. “We go say ‘hello’.”
“The scouts have returned from the other side of the island, my lord.”
Cyrus looked down at the carving they had been assembling based off the recollections of their scouting parties and the stories of travelers ve, Pasargadae a star in the corner by the sea. The other side of the island a rough coastline broken by a river that fanned out across the sand before meeting waves.
“And?” Cyrus thumbed absently at an absurdly carved sea creature, a preposterously sized serpent raising its head out of the waves,
“They mentioned pigs, my lord.”
“Pigs.” Cyrus reached for a wood block and pulled one of his smaller carving knives from the folds of his tunic. He turned the thing over in his hand a few times, remembering the heft of it. It had been a while since he had made something.
“Also, sheep”. Cyrus pushed the blade into the wood, feeling the resistance and watching a simple shape form where before there had only been a flat surface, a blank slate. He pushed in again.
“Did they happen to find any more Kabul, Ansem?” Ansem looked up warily at his lord, now whittling.
“I believe there’s only one Kabul, my lord. It’s a place, not something that seems likely to scatter to the wind. Be found in pieces on the coastline among the shells.” Cyrus nodded thoughtfully, poorly hiding his smirk. “But to answer the question I believe you were really asking, no, my lord, there were no signs of anyone else.”
“Besides the pigs?”
“Yes, my lord, besides the pigs.”
“A code of laws,” Cyrus said. “A way of governing. My people.” Cyrus gesticulated outward with both hands. Pasargadae, their settlement by the sea, was growing fast. Already there were housing problems. Not enough building to house too many people. “Pasargadae need laws to govern the works of her hands, the lives of her people.”
Cyrus walked out onto the porch they had built to the side of his palace, a platform of wood that overlooked the eastern walls and out over the sugar fields towards the dunes.
With his hands clasped behind his back, Cyrus motioned with his chin toward the drifting sands to the east. “We need to expand. That way.” Ansem looked nonplussed, and Cyrus moved back to stand beside him, put a hand on his shoulder and gestured outward. “Over there, Ansem.” He turned swiftly and walked back inside his palace.
“And bring me the astrologer.” Cyrus called over his shoulder. “I have words that represent things I would like to discuss with him.” Cyrus waved his hands in the air over his head evocatively. He stopped and turned back around, looking at Ansem, gaze direct and piercing. “And I have a plan.”
Cyrus spun back around toward the doorway out into Pasargadae. As he walked past the table where they had been assembling figures of wood bundled to represent trees, stones for mountains, a figure of a person resting on his knees to represent the tribal village they had found up to the north who had become such able scouts for them, Cyrus pulled from the folds of his robe a whittled pig and placed it over by the edge that represented the eastern coast.
“This, my lord, they are calling Cimmeria.” Ansem gestured at the land mass acruing painted stones and sticks corded together into trees on the table. The world as it was expanding around Persia. “There’s another tribal village found up here. Shepards, mostly, it would seem.”
Ansem rounded the table and dropped a new star onto their diorama. “Tushpa has been founded based on your orders, my lord.” Cyrus smiled at the new city, an extension of his Persia, the hand of his arm reaching across to embrace the far coast of the island, his kingdom, their little civilization.
“By the pigs, I see!”
Ansem sighed. “Yes, my lord, by the pigs.”
Cyrus smiled and sat on the edge of the table, regarding Ansem thoughtfully.
“How are they, Ansem.” He clasped his hands in front. “The pigs, I’m trust you’ve taken care of my people in Tushpa well.”
“The pigs are good, sire. They’re adept, actually, at finding these little truffles, I believe we’re calling them,” Ansem revealed a mushroom, a light brown color with little flecks of dirt still clinging to its steam. “The people seem to be actually quite fond of them. They’re finding some creative ways to include them into dishes that, actually…” Ansem shifted, suddenly self-conscious to find he had turned the conversation to himself. “Actually, I think they’re quite good, my lord. I like them very much.” Ansem rolled the mushroom in his hand, then tucked it away and turned back to business. “It may be a commodity we might find use for in trade.”
“Excellent,” Cyrus smiled as he tented his fingers below his chin. “Excellent.” He looked up at Ansem. “What else?”
“Your astrologer, sire. He has returned. He found,” Ansem paused, considering his words. “Cliffs, my lord. White cliffs to the north that inspired him. He’s returned with plans for your holy site. We have builders clearing space already and setting aside resources to begin the work shortly.”
“And the workers, what about the orange stones we found to the north?”
“Mined, my lord. Hunters have set up camp to the south and are returning with game. We are cultivating your sugar fields, as well, sire.” Ansem looked up allowing himself a smile. “Everything is proceeding quite aptly.” He coughed and quickly added, “My lord.”
Anses growled – the man actually growled, like he were not just the size of a bear but carried the spirit of one inside of him – and hefted his ax, swinging the stone head around by his sides, in arcing practice swings.
The smoke that came from the fires up ahead was black smoke and didn’t carry the whiff of any cooking animal meat or the calming odor of burning herbs. It was just the smell of fire. The crackling of the wood came with clatter of spears, stone points rising among the sharpened logs placed in a ring around the encampment that seemed to have sprung up in the overnight with the first cracks of the light from the moon that was waxing overhead in its cycle.
Cambyses felt the weight of his mace in his hands, the points wrought in Pasargadae as he waded, one afternoon, in the waters south of the city, hunting crabs and laughing with his fellow Persians on the beach.
There was no mistaking the intention of the barbarians that they had stumbled across here, no confusion to be found in the purpose of their spears.
“They must never reach Pasargadae.”
Anses growl took on a timbre of pleasure as he flexed back his shoulders and let the head of his ax thump on the ground. Around him, Cambyses felt the other men stand from the brush, felt the air around them harden with their souls.
“Never to Pasargadae. Never to Tushpa.” Cambyses took a step forward. “For Cyrus. For Persia.”
“Vandals!” Cyrus roared, hands gripping the side of his table. Everyone in the room heard the wood creak. Cyrus lifted the corner off the ground and let it crash, his hands coming up in fists by his face. “Scavengers! Thieves!”
“My lord!” A man ran in, partly inside the palace door before remembering where he was place and bringing himself up abruptly to stand at the entrance. He was flushed completely red in the face. There was sweat and dirt staining all down the front of his clothes. And maybe, there, at the hem of one of his pant legs, a little blood.
“In, man! Now! Speak! What is it?”
“The barbarians, sire. They… One of the scouting parties… They’ve been…” The man stopped, dropped his head and then brought it up somberly. He shook his head back and forth, a message received by Cyrus’ burning gaze.
Cyrus stood silently for a moment, then turned to Ansem, his voice lowered but with more intensity now then he had managed his in shout.
“Call up more men. Raise me more soldiers. Pay them now, in advance, if you have to.”
Cyrus walked toward the man in the doorway, regarding him for a moment. He rested a hand on the man’s shoulder. Ansem could see now only the faintest bits of stubble grew yet on the scout’s chin. He was young.
“Thank you, son.” Cyrus said. “You did well.” Then he left the palace to walk out into the sun as it settled into the afternoon sky above Pasargadae.
For a moment, Ansem stood quietly alone, then slowly walked over to the table that held all of their increasing elaborate models of scenery, of places, painted stones now with different colored dyes to represent resources – what Cyrus had taken to calling, my little civilization. He picked up the carved pig, which had fallen onto the floor and set it carefully back next to Tushpa on its feet.