In 600 BC, the flames of revolution took the Persian Despotate asunder. The fort-cities behind the Mountains of Babel, seeing their food stores shrink dangerously low as Immortals were amassed there. The Valleylands, now stretching to the lush Indus and the great salty reaches of the south, a scent of salt and sea and freedom. The great desert, dividing the Despotate in half, and the Farsi River, dividing the Despotate in half more - yet even there, the steppe culture of the Mongol tribes tore at the cohesion of Persia. In the west, Antioch found itself to be more Turkic than Persian, and Persians were indeed sighted joining the raiders of Edrine. It was a broken empire, old Persia. Long ago, Elamites and Medians and Parthians had come together under the banners of the great Kurus, Kurosh, Koresh - Cyrus, as the history books would note. The Farsi River had united the tribes, in commerce and trade and common purpose. The fertile riverbanks, the flood plains that kept the dry desert at bay, the wealthy farms of wheat - they had fuelled Persia, ushered her into a population boom, and had ensured that starvation was met by expansion, under the able guidance of the despots of Persia. Pasargadae, city of iron and gold, built into the mountains of the Caspi, who would go on to erect the famous Colossus in honour of glorious Cyrus and his glorious descendants. Gordium, first to find itself in dry lands, the gate to Farsi proper, as it held one of the only two only passes through the mountain range - yet faced with such dry lands, the Persians had taken up the challenge and created the world's largest irrigation network, straight from the Farsi River herself. The greatest granaries had been built, to keep food fresh and plenty, so much that even a bad harvest or a harsh winter could be survived with little loss of life. The Pyramidal Granaries were a true wonder. And it hadn't stopped there; south, trekking many days and nights through the mountain valley, the Valleylands had been colonised by Persia, with iron and sugar giving life to the dry desert, no rain penetrating the enclosing mountains. East, then, the gold of Bactra that lay at the very edge of the great desert, the very edge of human habitation. But it was not the edge of the world. The circular road, from Gordium to Pasargadae to Antioch, was the crowning achievement of a son of Cyrus, and the road from Arbela to Pasargadae, heading through the driest of desert wasteland, was a mighty undertaking too, but they would be nothing compared to future generations. The Persians showed their mettle once more, and twice, and thrice over indeed, as the north-south road and the east-west road were established, allowing trade to gradually find its way through the desert. The oasis became a beacon of commerce, and from Hamadan, even the far west was irrigated - like Gordium of old, but on a far larger scale. The fort-cities of Tyre, Dariush Kabir, and Herat, there to ward off the Babylonian peoples, could now be kept supplied from the banks of the Farsi herself, should the need arise. Persia was one, a land of and for Persians, with public works that boggled the minds of all those that surrounded her. It was in this time that the peoples of Persia devoted themselves to literature and philosophy, with starvation mostly being a thing of the past. Settlements threatened by such exiled many a son and daughter and adventurer, and thus it came to be that Persia would even reach the great salt sea of the south - and then east, to the lush Indus valley, named so for the Indians that dwelt there. In this prosperous time, the third-to-last son of Cyrus devoted himself to philosophy, establishing the greatest temple yet in the capital of Persepolis and sponsoring the construction of libraries everywhere. We know his name from the very histories he helped create; Cambyses in the modern dialect, Kambujiya as then favoured in the south, Kambuses in the west, and Kanbuzi in the north-east. The second-to-last son of Cyrus, Bardiya - Pirtiya in the south, Barziya in the west, and Smerdis in the north-east - devoted himself to iron working and sword crafting. He applied his father's philosophies and literature, his curiosity and his desire to know, to the practical arts of metal. Steel would be discovered thanks to his experiments. And he promised to raise an immortal army of iron and gold, in the image of Pasargadae, with commanders from Gordium and soldiers from all over the realm, and they would keep the greatest empire the world had ever seen in order and guard her vast borders against the peoples encroaching upon them. The last son of Cyrus, Artabanus, whose name needs not the honour of translation to different dialects, whose name is recognised in every corner of the world as the purest of evil, left a different sort of legacy. He plunged the empire into civil war. Millions died, and a million corpses rotted, and a dozen million carrion birds feasted upon the starving Persians, as brother ate sister and as even the Pyramids of Gordium threatened collapse. He called himself Xsyarsa, a true Gordian name, but his birth name was Khshayarsha, reminiscent of Merv or Bampur or another southern village. He became the legendary commander of the Immortal Army, he stylised himself as the Ruler of Heroes - and he was, he was - and he was beloved by all the men under his command and all the women under Persian rule. We know him as Xerxes, and we know Artabanus had him assassinated. "Ruler of heroes? Look upon ye words, ye mighty, and despair! I am the ruler of heroes! I am the ruler of a thousand-year long empire, four times over - and I have unveiled your treachery, Xerxes the Southerner! Born in the salt-blasted deserts, perhaps, assuming a fake identity to gain command of my Immortals - and what for? What, indeed, Xerxes? Who profits? The Indians, defiling Dakyanus overlooking 'their' river? It is ours by right of might, and the Indians will be subject to the Persians! The Mongols, of Ulaanbaatar and Almarikh - do we even see the Persian roots in our brothers of Ghulaman anymore? Have they gone astray so far, that they are now Mongols, and Persians no longer? Oh, but if it isn't the Indians to our south-east, nor the Mongols to our north-east, then perhaps you hail from Edrine to our north-west? For our brothers of Antioch have long been seen drinking and making merry with Ottoman and Turkic raiders! Or did you come from a more cultured place, the upstarts of Babylon, thinking they can rival us? Have you come to plunge your dagger into the heart of Persia? Have you come to turn the Immortals lose upon their brothers and sisters? Have you come to take my life, Xerxes? You forget, then, that I am Artabanus, son of Cyrus, ruler of heroes indeed - and if I rule the Immortals, pray tell, does that not make me immortal myself? Do I not bleed, when I am cut?" Artabanus, blasted from Cyrus' lineage, discovered to be a false son, an imposter, false and wrong and evil in every way, did bleed. He challenged Xerxes to a duel, and lost, and Xerxes did indeed plunge his dagger into the heart of Artabanus and into all of Persia. Into himself. For he was of Persia, and he saw the ruin that he had wrought with his deceptions. He took those Immortals that remained loyal to him, and set out to Babylon, to prove his worth to Persia. And behind him, in his footsteps, Persia burned. And with every step he took, new fires arose behind him. But Persia was like the phoenix, and would come out only stronger, only better.