Shattered Eagle: Fall of an Empire (WIP) [105k words | Updated 05/07/2024]

I’ll be honest: our resident crime lord-turned-Tribune Ceto Verus didn’t interest much. In the planetary ocean that is Julia’s fanbase, and the subsequent smaller seas of Antoninus and Darius enjoyers, Consentia and Ceto islets are few and sparse. I doubt I need to go into much detail as to why the aforementioned characters enjoy such popularity to the detriment of the latter two. I will simply surmise a more complex discussion to the aphorism “they are bland”. (Also I’m a certified Julia follower and an Antoninus supporter so I’m biased)

Nonetheless, upon actively trying to get more Ceto and Consentia “lore” in-game, I found myself, if not captivated, intrigued by the characters. I will attempt to give them their due credit, starting with Ceto.

If one reflects upon Ceto’s story, it is quite impressive. Born into poverty in Kyro, she eventually managed to become the most powerful anti-social element in the empire (aka she became the greatest crime lord). So powerful she became, that even the unofficial leader of the Senate and richest not-purple-wearing person Consentia had need of Ceto’s resources, namely the people of Kyro and the illegal activities her gang undertook.

Even though Consentia characterises her partner as of “lower cunning”(great roast btw) and a piece on her board, it seems to me quite clear that Ceto has her own agenda. It is highly unlikely that after having accrued such power in Kyro through illicit means she would just, if not relinquish, at least neglect her powerbase in favour of the more prestigious-but-definitely-less-powerful office of Tribune, without looking farther afield.

Now, after laying the situation like that, why would she diminish her hard-gained position for a place in the Iudian establishment? I have two theories.

First, and the most obvious, is that she saw her criminal empire under threat by two enemies: first, the rival gangs of the Flavians and Slaga, and second the capital’s Watch, aka the police. It could be that she saw that she couldn’t handle the two-pronged attack through her own gang, the Verans, and so made an alliance of convenience with the Consul so she could receive political backing and a say in the decision-making with regards to the aforementioned threats. Hence, Consentia would help her through authorised means, and Ceto would give the Senator the support of Kyro’s plebeians that the Consul requires.

Second theory is a little less proof-based, but far more compelling story-wise and hence my main theory. What if Ceto is truly a populist? She could very well be, or consider herself, the champion of the (rather) voiceless masses against the tyranny of the Empress and the Senate. She has, after all, grown up in the lowest of the low slums in Kyro, where she experienced the ugly sides of Iudia that the rulling class doesn’t wish to acknowledge, modify or even touch. Consentia might talk about the “Plebeians” and the “Senate” as two founding stones of the Republic, but it is quite clear which rock is higher on the pyramid. It is perhaps resentment or at least dissatisfaction that she developed towards the latter, and from it sprang forth a desire to turn the tables in favour of the common citizenry.

As such, the only place where she could see the change she desires materialise would be in political office. Why she neglects her criminal empire, pursues an alliance with the most powerful of Senators and seeks a place at the Empresses’s Council (and so obtains her ear) would make a little more sense. In fact, it is not that “she fights for people’s rights” as a facade to further accrue power, but she actually fights for people’s rights in full honesty.

I truly don’t know how far she sees this “people’s rights” concept going. I really doubt she envisions something like the Athenian demokratia, which would of course entail the elimination of the office of Empress. But still, I would see her asking for a fairer share, and voice, in the system for your everyday woman (maybe also man?) in the Empire. Or, perhaps, she could go even farther in her demands, but this is something that we lack necessary information to ascertain.

Long story short, Ceto is actually an interesting character. Colour me surprised — in purple, preferably.

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I find it interesting how this game is misogynistic - not to women but men.

It’s a facet of the way I wrote this game that if you choose one faction to ally with, you’ll see a lot more of their personality and motivations vs the other characters. I hoped it would serve to provide an interesting experience for allying with a character (you see more of their human qualities) and give room for replayability to see what the other characters are like.

And Ceto does actually mention the rights and status of men as one of her goals in one branch of the conversation with her at least.

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Misandry is the term for the hatred of men.

It really does give an incentive to explore different routes and talk to different characters. There’s depth to them that I didn’t suspect when I saw only the surface, I thought of Ceto only as a petty criminal trying to use the empress’ power to get herself and her gang out of a bad spot at first glance.

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I think Ceto is actually a populist. It’s not just an act; she’s genuine about her support for greater power for the people. She’s also the only female character who seems to actually support male enfranchisement at this stage. But is that her only motivation? You make the point yourself that allying with the Consul could be seen as a smart power play. How much of her actions is idealism, and how much is self-interest? If Shattered Eagle is ultimately about power, I think each main character has a certain question about them regarding their motivation for seeking power.

Antonius’ is whether his claim of loyalty and wanting to keep his men in line is genuine or a calculated front intended to get Iudia to entrust him with more power.

Darius’ is the question of his aims in Iudia; is he merely an ambassador trying to uncover archaeological secrets or is he trying to bring down the system?

Plinia’s is whether she truly believes in the old traditions or seeks more power for herself.

Ceto’s is how much this former mobster has reformed from her old ways. Does she seek for the Verans to rule the streets, or does she want a greater standard of living for the people? Does she see a difference between the two? Her suggestion in the post-riot meeting, coincidentally, does both; it increases popular favor and strengthens her gang. I think the story of her arc or our relationship with her, as with the other ROs, will be teasing out her exact motivations and the inner depths of her heart.

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At this point it’s a free-for-all. The Witch King might not even have to do much work by the time he arrives since Iudia might just implode from the amount of scheming taking place.

Ultimately, I believe, is a question of both. There is no reason for the two to be mutually exclusive. You can wish for people’s rights, re-establishment of the republic, equality of people and whatnot while at the same time wishing that you are the acclaimed hero, the one who will have the power to do implement said ideals.

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I’m aware, I’m using a commonly known term so others understand.

I think that’s a good idea, but it’s very susceptible to RO ‘lock’ of sorts. If one of the ROs is written in the initial reaction to be more compelling or personable, allying with one immediately slams shut the other, and discovering the humanity of the other character depends on making an initial choice in their favor, most people will pick the former option.

Consentia, for example, is a good character, and the sort that going into my first playlthrough, I thought I would favor. But especially in the first chapter, Antonius is just easier to be nice to. Not just from a personal standpoint, but in terms of his interpersonal relationships. He has his relations with the barbarian chiefs, for example. And he is almost obsequiously loyal to the Empress, which makes allying with him more palatable than Consentia, who immediately asks us to grant her approval powers over government posts and to move procedures to the Senate.

There are several ways to remedy this. For example, you could have the Empress send us to both the Castra and the Senate in Chapter I, have Consentia give us a sales pitch on the virtues of democracy while there, and not set her relationship to 0 as soon as one allies with the Legate. After all, we’re a big figure, and Consentia can’t just shut us out because we showed favor to the other side once. We could have personal alliances with both sides, with all the chaos that would entail later. It would mean that the symmetry between Antonius and Consentia is broken a little, but, like Julia, it takes a little effort to humanize someone who could uncharitably be described as a bigoted plutocrat enamored with oligarchy.

This is actually pretty similar to how Darius gets around this dilemma. He’s basically railroaded into the plot for you to explicitly either admit or reject, and allying with him does not stop you from forging other alliances.

Again, I don’t want to sound too critical here, because I think the characters are compelling as is, and there’s something to be said for the early, mutually exclusive branching. I just think that sort of explains the different levels of enthusiasm for the characters.

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Yes, I did respond to my own response to @Aeternitas 's response. Responseception.

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I think you make a good point here, based off what I’ve seen from the reactions thus far. I’m not sure if I’ll full stop change the structure of Chapter I, but one thing I could do is change the introductory scene around.

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Yooo, I love this game though I hope you can let Male MC to have a child with his late wife, that will be perfect if you would do it hehe

In my early draft the MC did have a child with their late spouse, but I ended up scrapping the idea. The MC can still have a child, however, depending on your choices.

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Oh, poor Consentia. If Consentia Plinia Doricus were to be a flavour, she would be vanilla. When compared with the likes of Julia, Darius, Antoninus and even Ceto she seems as plain as plain yogurt. I mean, she seems to be your usual rich lady that thinks “Oh, times were so much back then. Woe, woe” all the while gulping down grapes handed to her by her servants, reclined on a sofa in the most chic of mansions in Kyro.

What I intended to convey with this admitedly caricaturish portrayal is what I imagined her character to be during my first few readings of the IF, her being basically being your stereotypical aristocrat. However, after leaving my safe-zone (Julia hugs and Antoninus bromance) I have found a character that I hold a greater respect for and interest towards.

Instead of vanilla, hers is a more interesting flavour, that of noblesse oblige. One can, if they adventure beyond the Imperial Palace, found someone that embodies the mantra “With great power, comes great responsibility” (Don’t sue me Marvel, please). Yes, she is extremely rich. However, from my own reading of her, she believes that the nobility must put in the work to deserve wealth. This rather meritocratic philosophy of hers can be found in her life.

For one, she was the governor of Attika for around two decades, only for her to return to Kyro so she can pursue her life’s work, namely the return to Iudia’s foundations aka the return of the Republic. She states quite clearly that she rarely gets time to relax; only rarely she gets to play the lyre she so loves. The richest woman in Iudia besides the Imperial Family surely had no need to work so hard, especially at her rather advanced age of 55. Instead, she forgoes a peaceful retirement for a stressful life in the Senate, pitting herself against centuries of tradition that relegated the Senate to second fiddle. She also doesn’t seem to indulge into the vices of the rich, as did her late husband. Moreover, she doesn’t have too high of an opinion of her extended family, seeing them as…beggars to a degree. She recognises and appreciates talent, as seen by her freeing a gladiator and having the latter serve as her bodyguard.

On a more personal note Consentia is, dare I say, sympathetic. She, as I mentioned before, had a husband with a great appetite for sweets and that paid the price for it. Even though she didn’t like his craving she still loved him to a good degree, still remembering him rather fondly. Her two sons serve in the Iudian military and the bureaucracy and she is proud of them, wishing she had more opportunities to talk with them.

Ultimately, I believe Consentia to be a person with clear, defined ideals. She has a mission she tasked herself with and will carry it out to the end.

Now, this rosy picture I painted Consentia is contrasted by the natural end of her noblesse oblige character. Being the most Senator that ever Senated in the Senate, she represents the very best and the very worst the Iudian rulling class can bring forth. She, as everyone knows, has a really really really low opinion of the “barbarians”, considering them as “wild people”, savage and primitive. She talks high of the compact between the People and the Senate, but in truth she finds the former unsavoury and of “lower cunning” — the working ants to the Queens, so to speak.

And because she has such high ideals about the good-old Republic she falls into what I would like to call Cato’s Trap. She read and heard of the Great Iudian Republic of Yore, shining beacon of civilisation and whatnot and thinks of it as the best of political systems there can be — she genuinely believes that people can best thrive in a world the Senate and the People(less of them) are the only ones who call the shots. But, as Cicero said of Cato in one of his letters: “He speaks in the Senate as though he were living in Plato’s Republic instead of Romulus’ swamp”.

There is a reason there is no republic anymore. If it was the best system, then why didn’t the senators and the plebeians fight with all their might to bring it back? Could it be that, at the time of the republic’s collapse, it was so bad that the people wished for something new? If we draw parallels to IRL Late Roman Republic, we can easily figure out how the Iudian Senate could go down a spiral of corruption and conflict, maybe even civil war. Then, perhaps people were fed up with the chaos and wanted stability and, ta-da, we got ourselves an Empress.

Consentia read what her Senatorial predecessors wrote and said, and took it at face value. Combine the strong republican tradition that runs in the Plinii family and you get someone who dreams of something that probably never truly existed, at least by the time the first Empress showed up. And so, Consentia is a pragmatic idealist, shrewd and dreaming, selfishly selfless, the hero the Senate wanted but Iudia didn’t need.

Her motivations are, compared to the other ROs, rather more clear. She wants the Republic back, that’s clear as day. If she can’t get it, then at least something akin to a constitutional monarchy. She will hold her nose as she collaborates with the slums if need be. Perhaps she might even see in the chaos of the Witch King’s arrival a path towards the Republic. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her backstab the Empress if the opportunity presents itself.

TLDR: I love vanilla and yogurt.

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Me playing through the conversation about Consentia’s husband dying from sweets while eating very chocolate-drizzled ice cream:

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Amalrik/Antonius bromance is worth the logistics hell my prefect is about to create!

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For the love of Gaia, please stop! Think about poor Augusta! What would she do without you? Stay with…(gasp) Titus?!

No amount of logistics can stand in the way of the power of bromance, my friend.

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“Eventually, you reach the Old City itself. Through the blinds of the carriage you spy the buildings of strange, impossibly shaped metal that populate the district. There is nothing like it in the entirety of the world that you have seen, and no explanation for how these could possibly have come to be other than the work of ancient magicians.“

Wait a freaking minute…
is it talking about these things?
IMG_7837

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Been a while since i’ve commented on a thread but i just wanted to let you know that you’ve created a bloody brilliant work here. It really entranced me and im excited for more

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I don’t think so, if you get closer and touch you csn feel something. It’s 3 in the morning so I’m not going to go to the demo and take a screenshot, but apparently it’s some kind of tube that passes hot liquid, or I think so.

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I’d put Consentia’s thinking as far closer to Cicero’s ideas than to those of Cato, personally. Cato didn’t have much respect for the Republic’s institutions (despite his talk) unless those institutions involved oligarchy. He was also (and here’s where Cicero’s critique really comes in) far more interested in philosophy than actual governance, which is why Cato never even ascended to the consulship.

He was the most intransigent do-nothing of them all – Consentia, in contrast, definitely wants to do things.

The people, in general, didn’t miss the republic. At least not in the same way the Senate did – the Julio-Claudian emperors (well, the Julians anyway) were immensely popular. But I would not necessarily draw too fine a point from it, as the people didn’t seem to be interested in absolute monarchy either. What they seemed to want was responsive and accountable government, and a way to make their concerns known. It’s telling that by late antiquity, when emperors got more despotic (which is the era this game seems to be framed), the emperors outright avoided the city of Rome because they did not enjoy the freedom of speech that the plebs Romana traditionally enjoyed and they very much did not enjoy being presented with the people’s demands. The emperors left that to the Senate to handle.

Julia doesn’t seem particularly interested in what the people need or what. She’d cut the imperial grain subsidy in order to divert money to the military – in historical Rome, the grain supply was a political third rail and one that the Senate spent considerable capital ensuring the emperors did not let falter. Here we see the likes of Ceto (through Consentia’s reluctant offices) asking for the grain supply to be reinstituted.

So it’s not clear to me how much the people are truly behind Julia, nor is it clear to me that Consentia’s idea of renewing the compact between Senate and People is actually wishful thinking. Sounds a lot like Cicero’s notion of concordia ordinum.

I remind all and sundry that actual vanilla bean is a rare and costly luxury ingredient, and should not be confused with artificial flavoring. There are many cheap imitations, but those who know can always tell the real thing apart. I imagine Consentia would agree with such a sentiment.

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