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Thread: Rome AARisen - a Byzantine AAR

  1. #5201
    Programer armonistan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KlavoHunter View Post
    Yes, let's see more Scots-Komnenids!
    Can get a HELL YEAH!

  2. #5202
    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    Just a quick update on the update--It's about half done. I'm hoping to finish it sometime next week. It's American Thanksgiving next week, which is also the busiest part of the retail season (work has me slammed with hours), so we'll have to cross our fingers! I'll be working on it as much as I can, and worst comes to worst, I'll hopefully get a partial update posted...
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    My AARs:
    The Good One - Rome AARisen, a Byzantine AAR (Third map epilogue, 5-02-2012!)
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    The Funny One (In Theory): Vikan Vojislavljevic is a Fool (Dead)
    The HOI2 One (Dead): Two Alexanders: Greece in the Age of Conflict (HOI2-Doomsday)
    The Teenage Girl One: Dear Diary, by Helene Palialogos (NEW UPDATE 06-10-10!)

  3. #5203
    General_BT, allow me to say the following;

    you're bloody incredible.

    I've spent the last two weeks, after stumbling upon a reference to this AAR in Alfred Packer's Crovan adventures, going through all 261 pages.

    When it comes to describing just how incredible this project of yours is, I'm at a loss for words. Whether it be the era of raw glory and conquest under the Megas, the paranoia of Manuel, the 13 and a half oranges of Thomas II, and of course, Mehtar Delenda Est, it's all been uniquely incredible.

    As an amateur writer at best, I salute you, and am incredibly thankful I'm now caught up; I can now go back to the Crovan madness.

  4. #5204
    First Lieutenant
    Crusader Kings IIDeus VultEU3 CompleteDivine WindHeir to the Throne
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    Not to nitpick, but Mehtar Delenda Est was actually my line... 8)

  5. #5205
    I'm quite aware Archduke, but it was all part of the experience.

    That's the remarkable part about this; most AARs are just the work of the writers, but the people who've been following, commenting on and contributing to this piece of work have only improved the experience for someone like myself, catching the somewhat tail end of everything.

  6. #5206
    Clearly there is only one possible outcome to the fighting in Persia. Once the Empire as a whole intervenes and all sides have exhausted themselves in incessant warfare in Persia... then the true dark horse contender will make his move.

    Scots-Komnenids in Constantinople by Christmas!

    Emperor of Ethiopia, High King of Ceylon, Sultan of Arabia, Prince of Antioch and Damascus, Lord Protector of the Tamil Coast, Maharaja of Gujarat, Lord Protector of Java and Sumatra, Archduke of Australia, Autocrat from Carthage to the Cape, Sea Lord of the East Pacific, Caliph of Baghdad, and Defender of the Ark of the Covenant in Tyranny's Bloody Banner.

  7. #5207
    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    Irsh Faq - The Scots-Komnenoi coming back to their origin would be the comeback to beat all comebacks!

    MajorStoffer - First of all, welcome to the thread! I'm glad you've enjoyed the story, and I've as I've always said, the atmosphere other readers create (from Mehtar Delenda Est to the current clamor for more Scots-Komnenoi) helps make this story enjoyable for everyone--both you the reader, and me as the author! Peek in occasionally when you're taking breaks from the Crovans, hopefully we can be a good distraction once more.

    The_Archduke - It was so indelibly yours that when you disappeared for a bit everyone missed seeing it!

    Here it is... finally. I can't wait until Black Friday is done, and my work schedule goes back to something more sane...



    ”The hunt offers all manners of escape, but one must never forget the purpose of a hunt—the kill.” – attributed to Ioannis Angelos


    July 12th, 1272

    Antemios Syrenios fought the urge to grimace as the noise of the trumpeter’s fanfare receded.

    A cacophony of retainers, guards and general hangers-on, clad in the bright purple and gold of the court of Gabriel Komnenos, Emperor in Persia, seemed to cover the marble and mosaic floor of the Hall of Meeting in the Kosmodion Palace. The vast display of power—so many retainers and servants for a mere emissary—was deliciously ironic considering the precarious state of the Persian realm.

    Reports from Persia, despite the fastest of pigeons or ravens, usually a month or two old. The Kronokratoi had only found out about the disaster at the Caspian Gates only a two weeks before. Since then, Syrenios and his master, the Archeoikos, had been preparing for this day. Her army battered and the Mongols at the doorsteps of her capital, it was inevitable that Persia would come to Konstantinopolis to ask for aid. Syrenios had expected the Persians to refuse to crawl, but this display was nearly as mind-boggling as the Persian heir’s decision to leave the Persian capital.

    Maybe Prince Alexandros was craven. Maybe he was a genius—either way, Syrenios was not sure why the Mongols had delayed their final move on Isfahan. Yes, the Prince had harried their columns further north through raids on their supplies, but surely, Arghun himself would push his men forward—Isfahan was open for the taking, and with it, the heart of Persia proper!

    The only Mongol movement that Konstantinopolis knew of, however, was a force apparently under Altani Khatun that was moving towards the Zagros in force. Syrenios wasn’t a military man, but blocking the passes Gabriel Komnenos needed to take to reinforce his capital seemed obvious. Perhaps that was where Prince Alexandros had raced off towards?

    It really didn’t matter to Syrenios as he bowed politely to the latest emissary from the court of Gabriel Komnenos to Konstantinopolis. Great things were about—things that had taken years of thought, planning, and foresight. That alone would make most men smile, but Antemios Syrenios had another reason to enjoy seeing the Perso-Roman before him swallow hard and look around nervously—Ioannis Angelos himself had promised Syrenios that should all go according to plan, his son would become a Komes outside Samarkand…

    “Welcome to the Kosmodion, Lord Dadiani,” Syrenios said, cat-like eyes smiling sweetly at the confused mouse before him.

    Petros Dadiani was, by any measure, a mouse of a man. His father, the great Thomas Dadiani, brother-in-law of Emperor Thomas II, had been a small man too—but where Thomas Dadiani had been a great general and left to his sons the title Prince of Hamadan, Petros looked meek, and completely out of place. He peered into the world through a perpetual squint, and constantly slouched—almost as if he was prepared to duck at any moment. The gem-studded chain that hung around his neck seemed to at once outsparkle and dwarf him.



    “Thank you, Master Syrenios,” Dadiani murmured uncertainly, eyes looking about the halls of the largest palace in all the Known World. Throughout the official Great Meeting Hall immense frescoes of the Komnenoi of old—Demetrios Megas, Basil Megaloprepis—glared down at the pair from olympian heights. “This place… it is awe-inspiring…”

    Syrenios took a single look up at those gold inlaid faces and smirked. “Indeed. Come,” he gently motioned the awestruck ambassador towards a side door, “Let’s sit, have a drink, and discuss the reason for your visit, hmm?”

    Syrenios led the man through a series of doors and corridors, to the precise room he and his master had agreed upon months before. It was a beautifully ordained meeting chamber, with fine mosaics and lush tapestries on the wall—one of the many rooms in the palace that was personally lavished on by the late Thomas III. Yet Syrenios didn’t want the finery to attract his counterpart’s eye—oh no.

    He wanted the man already standing in the room to do so—and by how quickly Lord Petros Dadiani’s eyes went wide, Syrenios knew the presence of a finely dressed Mongol, wearing the signet rings and torques of an ambassador, had done so.

    “I…” Dadiani started to stammer.

    “Please.” Syrenios motioned for the man to walk forward, then closed the door behind them. “Tell me what your master wishes to say to mine.”

    Dadiani’s mouth worked soundlessly for a few moments, his eyes locked on the man. Syrenios knew exactly what the poor emissary was thinking: A Mongol? Here, in Konstantinopolis?! Surely Andronikos couldn’t be contemplating…

    That’s exactly what Syrenios and his friend hoped Persians would think.

    As if on cue, the Mongol smiled, displaying a brilliant set of gold teeth. Dadiani visibly shivered.

    “I…um…” the Komes stumbled. “I a message I must deliver to His Imperial Majesty! It is of the most urgent business…” the ambassador’s throat jumped as he swallowed again.

    “Ah…” Syrenios looked down, feigned dismay on his face, “perhaps I can convey the message to…”

    “It…it must be delivered in person!” Dadiani’s eyes went back to the Mongol, then to Syrenios.

    “You are excused, as you have been travelling,” the Syrenios said, “but the Empress died in childbirth only three months before. His Imperial Majesty is still in mourning, and desires that no one disturb him from his hunts. If you would be inclined to give me your message, be it written or spoken,” he smiled thinly, “I would happily convey it to His Majesty at His Majesty’s earliest convenience.”



    “I…um…” the man stumbled, obviously confused. For a few seconds he looked about, before finally settling back on Syrenios. “I fear it is a private message,” Dadiani finally sputtered out, looking at the Mongol.

    “His Majesty has deemed that any message to be discussed is to be discussed in this room and this room only,” Syrenios sighed theatrically. He waved his hand. “A way of ensuring only the people His Majest intends to hear the message do so. And alas, Qabul here is an official ambassador, and to forcibly remove him from a room where he has been waiting patiently would be… diplomatically impolite…”

    Dadiani swallowed, as Syrenios smiled. The gauntlet had been thrown, and the poor Persian ambassador clearly understood what it meant. Dadiani seemed to shiver, visibly trying to marshal up his courage, before finally he spoke.

    “If I may be frank,” he said in a whisper.

    “Please,” Syrenios waved his hands openly. He was fairly sure he knew what was coming—he didn’t know the exact words Dadiani would choose, but he was sure of the predicament the man’s master faced.

    “My master faces numerous foes across a broad range of fronts,” Dadiani sighed. “While he has successfully pulled together those rebellious parts of his realm in the face of the new threat,” the man baldly lied—that made Syrenios smile a little inside—“the threat from Arghun Khan is grave. He has already invaded Persia with tens, if not hundreds of thousands! What is to say he shall stay his hand if we should fall?”



    “Hmmm,” Syrenios looked down, pretending to be in thought. “Your master,” Syrenios began slowly, “has committed many grievous offenses against mine, not the least of which,” Angelos crossed his arms, “was raising an army against my master in a false claim for his throne.”

    “My master…”

    “…was foolish,” Syrenios finished the man’s sentence for him. Dadiani’s nervous eyes flitted over yet again to the Mongol. Good. “It’s an insult and a threat that my master is not likely to forget.”

    “We are Roman!” Dadiani said plaintively.

    “Some of you,” Syrenios shot back without batting an eye. The ambassador blinked for a moment, clearly not sure how to respond.

    “My master is prepared to make a very generous offer to His Imperial Majesty…” he finally said.

    “Does that offer include bowing and scraping before the Throne of Caesars?” Syrenios let iron enter his voice as it rose to a loud hiss. Dadiani once again looked over his shoulder. Qabul smiled. “I fear my master would desire that above all else…”

    “My master offers to give up the title Autokrator,” Dadiani said, “as well as a payment of 20,000 gold solidii a year in tribute to…”



    “Ah,” Syrenios pointed a finger at the man. Dadiani’s voice stopped dead in its tracks. “You have committed a cardinal sin in negotiation, Lord Dadiani!”

    “I…what is that?” Dadiani fumbled.

    “You showed how desperate your master really is,” Syrenios said, nodding his head. “Thank you, Lord Dadiani. We shall talk more, I assure you, but for now, I unfortunately have another meeting,” Syrenios glanced over at the Mongol, “and I must bid you adieu.”

    “Master Syrenios, I trust…”

    “Have you been shown your apartments in the palace for your stay?” Syrenios talked over the sputtering, stunned man. “They are in the imperial wing, and they are the finest offered an ambassador in ages…”

    “…you surely don’t plan…”

    “We plan what we plan, Lord Dadiani!” Syrenios hissed sharply. “Now,” the Archekronokrateros smiled icily, “I will tell you that provisions are in place for my master to launch an expedition shortly, as soon as his hunts have finished.”

    Dadiani nervously looked at the Mongol again. “Where?”

    Syrenios smiled darkly and turned for the door, only to see none other than his master, Ioannis Angelos, striding towards him. While the Archeoikos’ face was all smiles, his stride was crisp and quick—Syrenios plastered a smile on his own face, despite the sinking feeling in his gut.

    “Lord Angelos, what a pleasant surprise!” Antemios said, along with a formal bow. Angelos nodded his head. “May I present Lord Petros Dadiani, an emissary from the court of Isfahan.”

    “Lord Dadiani,” Angelos nodded quickly, “You’ll excuse me a moment? I have some important matters to discuss with the Archekronokratos.” Before the ambassador could reply, Angelos had already turned—Syrenios shadowing behind. They quickly walked to the far side of the room— Angelos knew the acoustics the Kosmodion inside and out—there was no question they were beyond listening range.

    “The Emperor still refuses to move, despite the new information I found?” Syrenios raised an eyebrow.

    “Yes,” Ioannis glanced sideways at the two men on the opposite side of the hall. Both Mongol and Perso-Roman were warily eyeing each other. “Despite me personally presenting the reports to His Majesty, he is loathe to consider the third suitor for our arms.” The Archeoikos’ eyes narrowed as he gazed at the two others in the chambers. “Or any other suitors, for that matter.”

    Syrenios bit his lip. Years of research, effort and wrangling behind the furthest of closed doors were on the line, simply because the Emperor could not bear to walk the halls of the palace, or think of anything but his dead wife. There hadn’t been an opportunity like the one Andronikos now held just within his grasp, and such a chance would likely never come again. Syrenios bit his lip—more than potential lands and titles for his progeny were on the line.



    “We need to get him moving,” Antemios whispered half to himself. “The army would foul the whole thing up if the Emperor isn’t there to personally order them.”

    Angelos nodded. “That bunch of blockheads would have us at war with everyone from Paris to Samarkand if they were in charge,” the Archeoikos nodded. “It’d be a pity, when everything could be solved by a few small lines, a timely army, and a single, swift blow… wait…” Angelos’ voice drifted off as he looked over the great hall below.

    Syrenios followed his leader’s gaze… only to find his eyes falling on the graceful curves of Lady Safiya Angelos, as she made her way through the Kosmodion—no doubt to meet yet another of the lovers her husband let her almost openly keep, Syrenios looked up, expecting to see Ioannis Angelos frowning, at the very least for forms sake. Lady Safiya’s liasions were legendary, and while Syrenios doubted the Archeoikos truly cared on a personal level—Ioannis’ own escapades were frequent—it did not do wonders for the Archeoikos’ reputation when he was a known cuckold. Syrenios had oft heard his master mutter something had to be done about things.

    But now, instead of a frown, Syrenios found Angelos grinning.

    “Why are you smiling?” Syrenios looked uneasily between Angelos and his estranged wife.

    “I think,” the Archeoikos grinned like a schoolchild, “I know how to get the Emperor to want to go on campaign…”

    ==========*==========


    July 22nd, 1272

    Andronikos leaned back on his fur and silken cot and sighed. The world drifted slightly to the left and the right—a gentle rocking motion the Megas Komnenos had come to enjoy these past few months. As the light of torches danced around his tent, he reached for the bottle of grappa on the planked floor. Alcohol-addled fingers fumbled, and the bottle tumbled to the side—the fifth bottle in the past two days to spill across the floor.

    “Dammit!” Andronikos spat, sitting up. The world spun slightly, but he caught himself. On cue, a servant entered the tent with another bottle, set it next to the emperor, then quickly left. Andronikos smiled—they’d learned well. At first, the servants had offered to pour for their perpetually drunk master, but Andronikos had wanted nothing more than solitude. After a few had been berated, they left him alone.

    The hunt had started as his way to escape the memory of that horrible day—his pale, cold wife, the tiny, chilled body of his stillborn son, a future life of bliss snatched away in one cruel twist of fate. The halls of the palace reminded Andronikos of Cecilia’s laughter, his bed was an icy expanse without her warmth by his side. Yet even here, in the woods of Thrace, her voice echoed amongst the trees, her whispers rustled the leaves. Andronikos looked down—like the coward he was, he’d run again, this time, from hunting in the woods to his tent to the comforting arms of the bottle. Even that was not working as well as Andronikos had hoped—one of his churigeons had managed to procure a device from Arabia, a contraption that used water and the smoke of some weed to produce wonderous effects. Andronikos eyed the thing sitting in the corner, smoke still coming from it—its snake like arms seemed to wobble.

    The Emperor turned back to the tent entrance, and a familiar wash of emotions rushed through his mind as he looked at the ornate, wonderfully made bow propped against one of the poles of his imperial tent. It was sized for someone a few inches smaller than him—someone that had delicate hands but a surprising pull, the only person who could actually outshoot him. This time, his hands found the bottle of grappa, and the sting of harsh alcohol banished those thoughts, those memories. Instead, warmer memories came back—her touch, her smile. Andronikos blinked, looking down—the memory of some other things clearly affected parts of him below, alcohol or no. He took another swig.

    “Majesty?”

    The Emperor looked up—the world swayed slightly. The chief of his servants stood at the entrance to the tent. Andronikos frowned—Skaliates was always so stuffy. Why? Andronikos nodded his head to the man—the movement made his tent sway even more.

    “There is a woman here that claims she should see you,” Skaliates said, “but she won’t give her name. She bears the signet ring of Lord Angelos, however.”

    Ioannis’ signet ring? Oikos, Andronikos said—Ioannis wouldn’t disturb him unless he thought it was important. Sometimes, the emperor drunkenly thought, what Ioannis thought was important was stupid, but…

    “Send her in,” Andronikos slurred out. He turned, and took another swig of grappa. By the time he managed to turn around, she was already at the entrance of the tent.

    “Majesty…”

    Andronikos blinked, his vision hazy from wine. The woman that stood before him looked the part of sheer perfection—curves in the right places, full lips, an inviting smile. He knew who she was—he’d seen her before, but his wine in his head blocked every attempt he made at connecting the face with a name. She had blonde locks, almost like Cecilia’s… wait… was it...?

    He started to frown, but as he lowered his head she curtsied.

    An eyeful of cleavage broke his mind from the problem.


    ==========*==========


    Earlier that day…

    Zagros Mountains, Persia…


    The hot July sun peeked uneasily through the hazy sky. A bead of sweat trickled down Alexandros’ forehead, but still, like the men gathered around him, he dared not move.

    “They still don’t see us,” Alexandros the Younger, Prince of Persia, murmured. He squinted, clawing even closer to the rocky ground beneath him—even though the column of Mongols below clearly couldn’t see anything, instinct from several months around Rayy had taught him to clutch the earth like a toddler clinging to a parent. He glanced at the man next to him—by his weathered face and tired eyes, one might think he was in his forties, when in fact he was only ten years the prince’s senior. “You sure your men took down the scouts?”

    “Yes,” Andreas Kaukadenos grunted The chillarchos’ grim eyes then flashed back down to the long, black column of men crawling up through the Zagros passes once more. Alexandros grinned wolfishly at his second in command—Kaukadenos, by luck, had an unfortunate name, but he was distant enough from his more famous forbearer that his family managed to flee into Mesopotamia during the purges of Thomas II. The Kaukadenoi had been a large family then—it took a while for the vengeful Komnenoi to reach the third cousin of the man that attempted to usurp their throne, long enough that Andreas’ grandfather was able to escape. They’d lived on the rough since—Andreas had been little more than a palace guard till he befriended the young prince.



    Thereafter, he’d risen up the ranks rapidly.

    “Five scouts we counted, five bodies we have,” Kaukadenos added grimly. His own eyes then looked down at the long, snaking column, one fifth of the Mongol host intent on blocking the Zagros passes. The whole Mongol army in the region totaled some 40,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry, but there were many passes to cover. Gabriel Komnenos, the Mongols knew, was a wily general—it’d take only a small force to hold any pass, but he would simply back off and try yet another.

    Fortunately for Alexandros, the Mongol need to split their forces meant his band had smaller chunks to contend with. After the Caspian Gates, the majority of his uncle’s army had streamed towards the walls of Isfahan, the nearest significant defensive fortifications. There was, however, no way the city could support 70,000 defenders on its walls, and its population. Alexandros had wanted to ride out and meet the Mongols again before the city—his blood was up, his uncle needed avenging—but Kaukadenos, and others, had talked him out of the move. Petros Antiochites, Megos Domestikos of Persia, would command the city defense, with 40,000 men. 25,000 would cover as many of the citizens that could flee further to the south. The heir to the Persian throne was simply too valuable to be holed up in a last ditch defense of the capital—especially since Alexandros had already shown a knack for command in the mountains outside of Rayy…

    So, the generals had reasoned with the prince—he belonged in the field, outside the city, in his element. So three weeks before Alexandros, with all the pack mules and ponies the defenders could spare, left Isfahan with a force of light infantry and cavalry and sent to the Zagros to keep at least one pass clear. The defenders of Isfahan would hold the Mongols in place as long as possible, while Alexandros cracked open a route through the Zagros for his grandfather’s army. Arghun had a massive army outside Isfahan, but maybe, just maybe, the defenders could sally as Gabriel and his army arrived behind the Mongols.

    Maybe, just maybe, that would be enough to save the Roman experiment in Persia.

    Alexandros looked across the gorge—even though he knew there were 1,500 Qashqayee tribesmen hidden amongst the rocks and trees, he could not see any of them. He smiled—if he couldn’t see them, neither could the Mongols. Bahram, their chieftain, was a smart, clever fellow, and the Prince had no doubt his people would open up on the Mongol column just in time.

    “They won’t know what hit them,” the Prince muttered to himself.

    ==========*==========


    Later that night…

    …the forests of Thrace…


    “Majesty,” the woman said, her voice melodic. To his sotted ears, it sounded like heavenly music.

    “Lady…” he said, trying his best to think. No, it couldn’t be Cecilia—but the looks, they were close enough his trousers were becoming uncomfortable. He blinked, hoping the woman would provide some clue as to her name, or why she was sent? A messenger? Another of Ioannis’ train of lovers bearing some news?

    “I heard Your Majesty was still on the hunt,” she said, denying him a name, “and I thought I should pay my respects to the Megas Komnenos.” She walked closer, then bowed again, giving him a much closer view of all her assets. “I hunt as well, Majesty, but a different prey than yourself. Perhaps,” she looked up, smile wide, inviting, “we could hunt together, Majesty?”

    “You hunt?” Andronikos laughed, throwing his head back. He was too drunk to realize how loud the noise was, but he managed to catch himself before the motion made him pitch over. Gentle hands immediately grabbed his shoulder, helping to prop him up. “Thank you, milady… what is your name?” he slurred.

    “I also play… instruments…” the woman said, smiling. Yes, Andronikos was sure he’d seen her before! Those long, delicate fingers slid down the side of his body. “Guitar, lyra, and…” He swallowed hard as she reached her destination “…the flute?”

    Part of the emperor’s drunken mind wondered how she undid his trousers so quickly. In a few moments, that question was forgotten.

    ==========*==========


    Earlier that morning…

    …the Zagros Mountains…


    Slowly the column of horsemen and infantry drew closer—their commander was cautious. No doubt he was cautiously pushing forward, hoping at any moment his now-dead scouts would ride back with news. With the patience of a leopard stalking its prey, Alexandros and his men waited, watching as they knew thousands of eyes looked at the surrounding hills with wary gazes.

    Finally, they drew close enough.

    It was time.

    Alexandros nodded to one of his men. The Prince reached up, and undid the dull, wooden clasp that kept the damnable woolen cape around his slender shoulders. Quickly, he felt something lighter brushing against the back of his leathers. He reached around, and found his bright golden clasp, and pulled the familiar lavender velvet across his shoulders. He didn’t need to look around to see the hungry look in his men’s eyes.

    They all knew what that lavender cloak meant, as clear as a trumpet to form charge line.

    “They see it,” Kaukadenos grunted. Below, some of the lead riders in the Mongol column reined up. One of them pointed directly at Alexandros’ position. The Prince smiled—yes, he had been seen. These were Altani’s men—they knew what a lavender cloak in the hills meant as well. As the pointing man yanked his mount around, he suddenly slumped forward—the Prince could just barely see the thin shaft of an arrow coming from his back. More men suddenly slumped or fell in the confused Mongol column as the Qashqayee archers opened fire.

    “Let’s go!” Alexandros yelled, drawing his sword and scrambling down the rocks in front of his men…



    ==========*==========


    July 27th, 1272

    Kosmodion Palace, Konstantinopolis


    “Ioannis!”

    The barking voice was loud, rumbling and echoing through the rafters of the Kosmodion palace, and instantly the Archeoikos recognized it’s source. The Emperor hadn’t been expected back in the city for another week. If Andronikos had already arrived…

    …Angelos smiled. So his plan had worked.

    “Yes, Majesty!” Ioannis turned, and bowed with a flourish. He had more than enough time to catch a glimpse of the emperor, still in hunting leggings, storming towards him across the tiled floors of the main reception hall. Servants and petitioners alike scattered at the unexpected presence of the Megas Komnenos, along with the long trail of guardsmen, barely able to keep up with their charge’s brisk walk.

    “I want out of this goddamned place!” Andronikos hissed, snapping his fingers, fire and fury in his eyes. Angelos fell in step beside his best friend as he stalked on, taking a left turn towards the wing of the palace that housed the meeting rooms of the state. “We have maps of Persia, yes?”

    “Andronikos, I thought you said…” Angelos said right on cue. It’d worked in spades!

    “I know what I said!” the Emperor growled, “and I’ve changed my mind! I need to get out of this damn place! We’re following through with Syrenios’ plan. You!” an imperial finger lashed out at a stunned majordomo as the Emperor stalked past, “send word to the strategoi of the Basilikon and Anatolikon Stratoi they are summoned to the Kosmodion, now!”

    “But Majesty, it is past the tenth hour of night! The strategoi will…” the poor man protested. Andronikos’ onward push halted—in a second the Emperor was in the sop’s face.

    “Then…wake… them!” he shouted each word directly in the man’s face. The imperial finger lashed out again, pointing towards the door. Perhaps knowing his life was hanging close to the balance, the majordomo scuttled off, hurriedly yelling at servants to make the arrangements. Andronikos glared after the man for a moment, before resuming his quick rush to the planning rooms.

    “May I ask what prompted the change?” Angelos asked politely.

    “Your wife is a whore!” Andronikos spat.. “Nothing more than a common whore!”

    “Majesty, I…” Ioannis fought to keep himself from laughing at how easily his plan had worked. “If she’s done you an offense Andronikos…”

    “A great offense!” the Emperor stopped, face thunderous, “she impersonated my Cecilia! She took advantage of me in my tent!” For a few seconds he stood, rooted in place, the fury boiling to the surface. Finally, the Emperor took a deep breath, the slapped his hands on Ioannis’ shoulders. “Ioannis,” he said quietly, “you are a good friend, and I know Safiya entertains you, but…” He shook his head. “She has gone too far this time. Too far!”

    “I understand,” Ioannis said, with a sigh of triumph. “She will be taken care of, Andronikos,” he smiled darkly. “She has gone too far! In the meantime, Majesty, shall I have some servants find maps of Sogdiana and Bactria as well?”

    “Yes, and Khazaria,” Andronikos growled without hesitation. “You’ll be in charge of the government in my absence as Regent,” the Emperor went on without losing a breath. “Full power of life and death, and you’ll get a copy of my seal. Understood?”

    “Yes, Majesty,” Angelos replied as they finally reached one of the great meeting chambers in the palace…

    ==========*==========



    So Angelos manages to convince an unwilling Andronikos to move through our favorite former imperial wife. But who is this ‘third party’ that is involved in Persian affairs? Why does Andronikos want maps of places beyond Persia? Did Alexandros keep the passes open? Will Gabriel be able to defend Persia before Andronikos moves—whatever his intentions? Hopefully, the next update will come more quickly on Rome AARisen!

    And for my fellow Americans, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
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  9. #5209
    Mare Ban al Olteniei Laur's Avatar

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    What would be the chances of Andronikos suffering the same fate as his ancestor Valerian at the Battle of Edessa, with Alexandros playing the part of Shapur? Slim, I know, but I still hope for that to happen... I kind of grew fond of the Roman Persian kingdom.
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    If you wish to spare yourself and your venerable family, give heed to my advice with the ear of intelligence. If you do not, you will see what God has willed."

    Hulagu Khan (letter to the last Caliph of Baghdad 1258)

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    Send the whore to Samarqand!
    Hmm, new forms of warfare, or just another advance in guerilla-warfare?
    Muskets? Crossbows with longer ranges?
    Do not stop until you reach the land of the rising sun!

  11. #5211
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    Haha! That was a nice reappearance of our so beloved Safiya

    I wonder though what Angelos will do to the poor girl... please don't let it be anything overly harsh...

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    oh c'mon!!! The update is long yet it was so short. MOAR!

    The "third-party" must be the other Mongols. Maybe the Mongol ambassador with grills must be a Chinese Mongol from Kublai (or whoever rules China & Mongolia right now) not a Central Asian Mongol from Arghun. oh the suspense!
    Finally! The Romans are going to Persia!
    Yes! Safiya has gone too far, indeed! She must be "punished"!
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    Now that I am full of turkey and pie I can finally read this update! I got interupted three times! But now there is nothing but me and RomeARRisen Happy Thanksgiving BT and my fellow Americans! Time to wake up early for everyones favorite Friday!!!

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    Very nice update. I got a Faramir killing Haradrims vibe from the Alexandros parts. I can't believe Gabriel is that desperate... I just hope Alexandros manages to keep Persia fully independent, even if it was to be smaller and less powerful.

    Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to you. Not american but that doesn't mean I can't wish you happy holidays.
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  16. #5216
    Quote Originally Posted by Zzzzz... View Post
    Finally! The Romans are going to Persia!
    The Romans are already in Persia

    @Enewald: "Send the whore to Samarqand!" sounded ridiculously epic to me, for some reason.

    The update itself was awesome, that was some pretty creative thinking by Angelos I'm not particularly worried about the Persians, we know from a recent interim that they'll be independent again, and battling a future occupant of the Konstantinopolis throne. The question is, will that future Persia be led by the Gabrielids, or someone else? I certainly hope not, I've grown quite attached to Gabriel and his descendants.

  17. #5217
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    Quite a 'unique' way of dragging the Emperor back on his feet.

    Guess the kind of guerilla Alexandros wages is his best bet to slow an army the size of Arghuns down. Hit-and-run in a unhospitable country as Persia will cause heavy supply problems.
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    Quote Originally Posted by vadermath View Post
    The Romans are already in Persia
    D'oh! Roman-Romans then or maybe Greek-Romans
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  19. #5219
    Another fantastic update. Time for the Roman wrecking ball to go on its middle-eastern tour.
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    Sergei Meranov - Tours often have missed stops and cancellations--how far will the wrecking ball go?

    FlyingDutchie - Considering the disaster at Caspian Gates, it is probably the Perso-Roman's best hope. It worked once before (Gabriel whittled Hulagu down for five years before finally taking on the weakened Mongol army at Amol). As for Andronikos, we'll have to see if he rises to the occasion.

    vadermath - Angelos' modus operandi is "the ends justify the means." In his book, he was tired of Safiya anyway. Why not make her useful while throwing her to the wolves?

    Vesimir - Thank you for the good wishes! Alexandros is smart enough to know he can't beat the Mongols at their game, so he plays his own. We'll have to see if he gets to keep playing it, as guerilla warfare isn't his grandfather's tune normally (even Hulagu's invasion ended with a climactic encounter).

    armorstian - Not my favorite Friday--I work retail, which means I got to deal with all the angry/selfish/bitter/lunatic shoppers mobbing my store, knocking things over, getting into fights (we had to call the police last year)... Black Friday, in my opinion, tends to bring out the absolute worst in people (then again, I work at a big box retailer, which invites the bedlam openly...).

    /soapbox

    asd21593 - Pretty much.

    Zzzzz... - Maybe...

    Leviathan07 - I'd love to reassure you, but this is Ioannis Angelos we're talking about, the man who thinks killing people is a great rush...

    Enewald - I think somewhere down the line, that quote is going to be used in the story!

    Laur - It'd require the Persians knowing Andronikos was coming to invade and destroy, and being able to marshal the troops to stop him. If Andronikos is intent on attacking Persia, there's a decent chance the Persians would figure it out. However, half of the Persian army was destroyed at Caspian Gates--the other half is busy with the Mongols...

    Nikolai - There's a slew of people the third party could be--Kublai's Mongols in China, dissenters within Arghun's own realm (He did conquer both the Chagatai and Blue Horde recently), the Sortmarkers, Altani...


    Well, without further ado, here's the next update!



    “The Hepdomon is a unique place—far enough from Konstantinopolis to be unimportant, yet close enough to be carefully watched. I shan’t ever visit that drafty hole.” – Andronikos Komnenos


    October 18th, 1272

    Isfahan, Persia


    “We have them.”

    Gabriel Komnenos sighed in the all-too-bright morning sun, and turned. The old Emperor could feel his bones creak as he moved on the hard stones of the gatehouse battlements—he was 57 years old, and not an easy 57.

    “Both tunnels?” he asked his grandson, eyes turning back across the plains to the north of Isfahan. As far as the eye could see, in all directions around the city, lay thousands of tents, fires, ballistae, catapults, and other machines of war—the teeth of a vast, monstrous army that wanted him and his capital.

    It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Gabriel’s grandson broke open the southernmost pass through the Zagros in July, and the old Emperor had goaded his remaining men into yet another glorious feat of arms in his name—a forced march across the mountains. They’d made record time, uniting with a detachment that brought their numbers to nearly 80,000 men. Gabriel then had swung north, force marching again, hoping to catch the Mongol divided, unawares.

    Alexandros had warned him—that thought made Gabriel’s mouth go sour. He’d dismissed his grandson’s words. After all, Gabriel had been the one that had been campaigning for four decades! Alexandros had won some brilliant victories, but they were in skirmishes, not real battles. The boy had hit detachments, ambushed supplies, run down foragers, but he hadn’t defeated the Mongols in the field—not like Gabriel had. The ghosts of Rayy and Amol had clouded his mind, Gabriel now admitted. Arghun’s men had to be stretched thin, Gabriel had thought—the time was right, Gabriel had thought.

    But Arghun had been trickier than even the Desert Lion.

    Somehow, he’d received word of Gabriel slipping through the cordon Altani had laid across the mountains, and he’d called her and her men back to him. Altani had once again proven a thorn in Gabriel’s side—instead of fighting him in a battle, her cavalry raided his baggage, and slashed down his foragers. Her main column slipped behind his men, blocking them from returning to Mesopotamia. She clearly wanted to battle Gabriel’s men in the open only once they were tired, hungry, and broken. Instead of the Mongols on the short end of supplies like two and a half decades before, it was the Old Emperor himself.

    “Both,” Alexandros nodded.

    “Good,” Gabriel said quietly. He hadn’t wanted to come to Isfahan, but the besieged city was the only major stockpile of food for miles. It’d been a desperate fight to break in, but instead of cracking Arghun’s main army, the Desert Lion had merely ensnarled himself in the city itself, added tens of thousands of mouths to the already substantial garrison. Arghun had been content to merely reestablish his cordon around the city. Apart from a few efforts to mine some of the outer walls, the Mongol shrewdly stayed put…



    …till a few weeks before.

    Gabriel drummed his gnarled, withered fingers on the parapet, staring at the black smudge crawling in the distance. To the untrained eye, it looked like just another part of the vast host gathered around the Persian capital, but Gabriel’s ancient eyes could see men moving. Yes, he decided, they were moving away—five more banners worth, mostly cavalry. These weren’t headed the same direction as the others—they were headed northeast. He frowned—why? Rumors had abounded—several merchants had been unfortunate enough to be hemmed inside the city when Gabriel’s battered force entered, and the Emperor had picked their memories for as much information as possible.

    Some had heard rumors that the Khan of the Blue Horde had sensed a chance to buck his new master and rebelled. Others spoke of trouble in Kashgar, or even in far off India. The rumor that made Gabriel most curious, however, came from an Arab from Basra. The man and his caravan had arrived in Isfahan one day before Gabriel’s armies—the Emperor suspected the merchant assumed he could make a fortune selling dates and food to a starving army. He’d heard merchants in Basra say they were headed north with food caravans as well, claiming there were Roman armies in that direction.

    “And how many did you keep alive?” Gabriel turned back to Alexandros. There was a day when he would’ve sighed at his grandson—he’d detested how his daughters-in-law had made him wear eyeshadow, learn cosmetics and perfumes like he was a harem girl. All in the name of a pointless succession for a child that was never born! Then, Gabriel had cursed them for making the boy nothing more than a woman.

    Now, his pint-sized grandson stood before him, reeking of sweat. Blood dripped from a cut above his eye, dirt marked his soft face. Yet, as always, his purple cloak—that damned bright thing that made Gabriel wince the first time he saw it—was spotless. No mere boy-woman could’ve led a contingent into the counter-mine and butchered the Mongol miners under the northwest wall. No boy-woman would’ve then stayed behind to personally make sure the tunnel fully collapsed behind them, blocking the Mongol counterassault.

    Just a man. A damned fine one.



    “Four,” Alexandros limped next to his grandfather. “We’ll torture one or two—hopefully the other two will talk—at the very least about these strange Mongol deployments.”

    “A ruse of some kind?” Gabriel leaned forward, feeling the weight of years on his elbows.

    “No,” Alexandros said quickly. “Why march away when the city is already invested, when the leadership of Persia is inside? Those columns were too many to be foragers—no,” the prince shook his head, “something else is going on, I’m not sure wh…”

    Gabriel’s words slid to a halt, his eyes riveted on that mass of Mongol banners as they suddenly stopped a fair distance from their parent host. As his grandson also looked, the aged Emperor could see single dots moving quickly towards the main Mongol camp—riders.

    “Something’s happening,” Alexandros said quietly. Gabriel looked at the boy—Alexandros raised his eyebrow. “Garrison to the parapets, ballista to the ready?”

    Gabriel nodded—maybe there was some truth to those rumors, and Arghun was going to try to force a decision. Gabriel couldn’t fathom how marching men away would be useful in launching an assault, unless it was a lazy ruse to try to get the Romans to relax and post fewer men on the parapets. As if Gabriel would let that happen. Trumpets began to sound, drums thudded the call to the parapets, and Alexandros’ voice rose above the din, barking orders. Gabriel stood, riveted, until a gentle touch told him his groom had arrived, with the imperial armor in toe. Gabriel might have been 57, but by God he was still going to lead his army in what could be its final battle!

    “Cuirass,” Gabriel said steadily, time and practice honing his ability to keep excitement out of his voice as the groom strapped him into his gold trimmed lamellar and chain. The Desert Lion didn’t flinch—neither did he whoop and prance and yell like his grandson. Those were the deeds that marked a young man at work—and old man needed to approach it with dignity, if only because his tired legs wouldn’t let him prance, and his old lungs wouldn’t let him whoop like he wanted to.

    “Majesty!”

    Gabriel unregally snapped his head around. The groom cursed as he lost the strap he’d been tying into place. On the closest tower, a soldier was pointing out towards the Mongol host. Gabriel followed the finger to the Mongol army, then up, past it…

    Behind the five Mongol banners in the distance, there was a much larger smudge now spoiling the horizon. It seemed to quiver and shake, like a monstrous snake slowly breathing—a vast host, and by the breadth of its march, coming in full battle array.

    But whose men were they?

    For a few worrisome minutes, Gabriel stared just like his men as the monstrous black line slowly turned into dots, men, banners, horses, wagons. The dead wind now teased the Romans—the new arrivals banners lay flat on their poles. Several soldiers began venturing guesses—the idle talk of men simultaneously hoping for salvation and fearful they were staring at death.

    “You,” Gabriel pointed to the eagle eye who originally saw the host, what banners are those?” Gabriel snapped. He squinted, but all the force of will in the world couldn’t make his aged eyes make out more detail than several flags shimmering dejectedly against their flagpoles. Was it Altani’s men returning? Another vassal of Arghun providing reinforcements? Was it…

    …no, it couldn’t be Roman, or Persian…

    “I…” the guardsman craned, “I think I see the labarum, Majesty!”

    Gabriel blinked. “Don’t toy with me,” he warned.

    “I see it too!” another soldier yelled. A few more joined in, and soon a chorus of calls echoed up and down the line.

    “The labarum! It’s Roman!”



    “Praise be to God,” Gabriel whispered, looking up at the blue sky overhead. Despite all he’d done, all the affronts against God, somewhere, someone was smiling down on him. He looked back at his grandson—Alexandros was staring, mouth agape at the sight before him.

    “Close your mouth,” the old commander gently advised the young, “you’re a Komnenos, not a peasant from Kurdistan.”

    Alexandros looked at his grandfather, and quickly complied.

    “Prepare the men to sally,” Gabriel went on. Alexandros nodded, swallowed, and was off again, bellowing the appropriate orders as the walls became a nest of activity.

    “How many banners?” Gabriel asked someone, anyone as he testily putting on gauntlets that chafed and hurt his hands. It had to be Andronikos—there was no other Roman force that large. If it was some small force or something foolhardy—Gabriel shook his head. Andronikos would not have come this far into Persia with a tiny force, would he? No, it had to be a large host—large enough to serve as a nice anvil while the defenders of Isfahan formed a powerful hammer…

    “I count the banners of twelve tagmata,” one of the soldiers called.

    “Fourteen!” another corrected. “I can see Ierusaleyma Fylakas, Asiatikoi,. the Varangoi…”

    The names rattled in Gabriel’s mind—yes, those were tagmata he knew were in Andronikos’ Anatolikon and Basilikon Stratoi. That meant Andronikos’ force wasn’t simply large, it was potentially huge. If both stratoi were present in full force, that’d be on the order of 180,000 men… assuming all the reports Gabriel had been acquiring before the Mongol invasion were accurate.

    That many men was simply overkill—it would be unwieldy, and completely unnecessary if the goal was to unite with Gabriel to drive the Mongols out. The Emperor frowned—what was his imperial cousin up to?

    “It’s Andronikos!”

    Gabriel turned around to see his grandson beside him once more, beaming with relief.

    “Some of the boys saw the imperial standard, there!” Alexandros pointed. Gabriel followed his grandson’s finger—yes, there was the purple and gold Komnenid double eagle, clear as day. “Andronikos came!” the Prince gleefully laughed.

    “He did,” Gabriel smiled thinly. He turned to his smaller shadow. “Hold on the attack orders—no immediate sally.”

    Alexandros’ smile dimmed into a look of confusion, but he nodded and started barking the appropriate orders as Gabriel leaned over the parapet, as if staring at the distant new arrivals might reveal what their purpose was. No, Andronikos hadn’t come with the entirety of both armies—now that the host was closer, Gabriel could clearly make out its formation and flanks. If 180,000 men had come, it would’ve stretched from horizon to horizon and then some. No, this was a smaller force—maybe a third of that, but a well placed third. They’d caught Arghun’s force in camp, and…

    As suddenly as the force had appeared, it stopped its advance, still hundreds of yards from the Mongol camp. Gabriel frowned as riders came from the Roman army galloping into the Mongol array under a flag of truce. Others soon rode on, through the Mongol force, until they reached the walls of Isfahan.

    “Lord Gabriel?” the man below called. Gabriel winced—even now, Andronikos had to slight him through the herald not using the proper imperial form of address.

    “I am he,” Gabriel called down.

    “My master begs you come and treat with him!” the herald bellowed. “He has also asked Lord Arghun to come treat with him as well!”

    “He wishes to treat with me and Arghun?” Gabriel frowned. “Why?”



    ==========*==========


    Some hours later…

    Gabriel sighed uneasily amidst the splendor all around him. He’d campaigned as emperor in the field countless times, but never had he planned and slept in a tent like this. Silk and golden threads let in a dazzling array of colors, as banners and tapestries hung from the rafters, and thick furs covered the ground underfoot. The middle of the tent was dominated by a ornately carved throne made of cherry, its velvet cushions sitting empty while its occupant was elsewhere—somewhere amidst this vast host.

    Fifteen tagmata—not at single thematakoi that Gabriel could see. Part of the old lion’s mind wondered if some of these troops were part of the new ‘line thematakoi he’d heard rumors about—it’d certainly explain why Andronikos mustered his force so suddenly. But Gabriel had never seen levies acting in such cohesion with regular line troops. No—they couldn’t be levies. Andronikos must’ve called up the entirety of the Basilikon and Anatolikon Stratoi—simple as that.



    The Emperor of the Persians looked down at his side at his empty scabbard for the fifth time in the two hours he’d been waiting. He felt naked without his sword, but the usurper’s grooms had insisted. Gabriel hadn’t questioned—it’d make no sense for Andronikos to march to Persia to simply murder Gabriel, not when the young man took great pride in using his agents to do his dirty work.

    “Where is he?” Gabriel growled to no one in particular. Apart from the Persian lord, the emperor’s tent was empty. Servants said at first the Megas Komnenos was readying himself, then they said he was meeting with the strategoi. For the past half hour, there’d be only silence—not even an offer of food or drink. Gabriel was about to stand and start pacing once more, when he heard a suddenly flurry of activity outside the tent. The flap suddenly flew open, and in strode Andronikos, glad in a tunic and cloak that were ten times as brilliant as Gabriel’s armor.

    “Stay seated,” the Megas Komnenos waved, insultingly ignoring protocol. Gabriel stiffened, as his rival quickly signed several papers proffered by servants, before finally looking at him. “Gabriel,” Andronikos finally spoke to him directly.

    Megas Komnenos,” Gabriel nodded his head briefly and rose—he would take insults this day, if only because Andronikos was saving Roman Persia, but no man would tell him he needed to stay in his seat. “I presume you are ready to discuss on the terms offered by Lord Dadiani during his visit to…”

    Andronikos grabbed another paper offered by a servant, reading it and mumbling for a second, before looking up once again. He waved his servants off, then seated himself on his throne.

    “I regret to inform you that I do not agreed to those terms,” he said.

    “Do not… but why?” Gabriel asked, confusion addling his brain. Why march all the way to Persia if those terms were insufficient? Why was Andronikos here then?

    “Those terms are no longer sufficient. For you see, Arghun, too, has offered terms,” Andronikos said with a taunting smile.

    “He…”

    “He notes that you and I are not on the best of terms,” the Megas Komnenos said sardonically, “and that he would be willing to split Persia—I would get Mesopotamia, he would get Persia proper. Clearly,” Andronikos smiled slightly, “that has changed the equation slightly.”



    “You… you wouldn’t…” Gabriel stammered.

    “Destroy Roman Persia?” Andronikos arched his eyebrow. “To be frank, I think Persia is quite useful, but if you and your kin continue to be a thorn in my side, well,” he shrugged with a smile, “the interests of state dictate I consider all offers. And right now, the offer from Arghun Khan is most tempting…”

    “You would kill your firstborn if it gave you something in return,” Gabriel spat.

    “I would let him have Persia, yes,” Andronikos walked back to his wooden throne and sat down. “I would—for I know he would move East, and once he left,” the Megas Komnenos waved his hand dismissively, “I’d march into Persia and remake it as I saw fit.”

    Gabriel crossed his arms, fuming. Andronikos had spoken it, plain as day—he was working with Arghun, against fellow Romans! “And how, exactly, do you know so much of what Arghun will do, dear cousin?”

    “Tell me,” Andronikos snapped his fingers, and a servant materialized with a cup of wine. Gabriel felt his face heat as none was offered to him—another slap in the face. “Cousin,” Andronikos smiled slightly, “did you ever offer terms to Arghun?”

    “T…terms?!” Gabriel snapped. “I am a Roman! I offer no terms to no M…”

    “You are a fool.”

    “What?” The Persian emperor’s rage ground to a confused halt.

    Andronikos suddenly rose, and in an instant was only inches from Gabriel’s face.

    “You…are…a…fool,” the Megas Komnenos said simply, directly. “Arghun doesn’t want to conquer Persia. It was never his goal—he needed the prestige of beating you, the only man who’s bested the Mongols twice and lived to tell the tale!”

    “He…what?”

    “His main goal has always been to be seen as the true heir to Genghis Khan,” Andronikos said as if he was speaking to a schoolchild. “Since you didn’t make any effort to treat with him, he simply decided to also take what he could grab while he was at it. He assumed you would be too stubborn to agree to a slight loss of territory and face. And he was right. Mongols do not always come to conquer.”

    “Hulagu did!” Gabriel replied.

    “But Genghis did not after Neapolis,” Andronikos riposted with a smile. “He and Arghun are much alike—sometimes it is necessary to defeat someone to accomplish your goals, not destroy them, for destroying them takes more energy, more resources, more time—things Arghun could use further East, wresting control from his cousin.”

    “So you communicated with Arghun?” Gabriel gritted his teeth. The betrayal of being a Roman!

    “Of course!” Andronikos laughed.

    “You… are... scum,” Gabriel slowly annunciated each word at his rival.



    “Am I?” Andronikos’ lip twitched slightly, but otherwise the his face stayed as empty as the desert. “I am merely ensuring my interests, and the interests of my throne—the same thing you did when you made war on me?”

    Harsh, venomous words entered Gabriel’s mouth, even as his aged fingers flashed to his hip—only to find that his sword was not at his side. Hastily, the old emperor turned the action into an awkward scratch as he bit his tongue. Persia, his progeny—he kept their names in his mind as he spoke.

    “We are not here to debate that, are we?” Gabriel finally said tersely.

    “No, we are not,” Andronikos agreed, walking away. “I have you, Gabriel Komnenos—no brilliant winter march, no last minute display of daring, no great deed can bring you out of the trap you are in. So, will you accept the terms I offer you?” He slithered back onto his throne. “Or, will your pride at being the Desert Lion doom you, your family, and your kingdom.”

    “I…” Gabriel started to speak, before his words choked off. He looked around the palatial tent—hanging overhead, he caught sight of a tagmata banner, the crossed swords of the Gond hanging limply above him. Silently, he cursed his luck, looked down, and swallowed hard.

    “I will accept terms you offer,” he said, barely above a whisper.

    “I couldn’t hear you,” his tormentor said, sipping on his wine.

    “I said…” Gabriel started to speak.

    “You will abdicate your throne,” Andronikos suddenly set the goblet down and glared. Gabriel blinked—even staring into the younger man’s eyes, he could see nothing—no spark of anger, hate, intelligence, stupidity… a brown wall, solid as brick, and piercing straight into the old Emperor’s soul.

    “I…” Gabriel stammered in confusion.

    “You will abdicate your throne, in favor of your surviving son, Alexandros,” Andronikos slowly folded his hands and leaned forward. “You’ll come with me to Konstantinopolis, where we will arrange for you to stay at the Hepdomon, outside the city. All your needs will be cared for, that I assure you.” The Megas Komnenos smiled—his teeth shone like daggers. “Your son will surrender the title Autokrator, as it implies a contest of authority with the Megas Komnenos,” Andronikos went on. “He’ll be known as the Basilieus ton Persion, and be a client to Konstantinopolis, much as the Rigas ton Arabikon. Romanion will pledge to eternally defend Persia, in return for Persia’s obeisance and a yearly scutage of 5,000 pounds of gold, or equivalent silver for the next ten years.”



    “But…”

    “Persia will also be required to send troops when Romanion calls,” Andronikos spoke onward, heedless of Gabriel’s attempt to speak, “to the tune of four tagmata at minimum.”

    “…religious matters?” Gabriel finished his question guardedly, bewildered by the barrage of demands tumbling out of his nemesis. He didn’t like the agreement forged between the Caliph and his grandson, but it was the tenuous thing that was holding Persia together against the Mongol—in fact, it was one of the few things Persia had left.

    “Persia can see to her own matters of faith,” Andronikos disdainfully waved his hand. “I don’t want to soil my hands with any of that swill—it’s the only reason your family will be left alive,” Andronikos bared his fangs again. “All domestic matters will be left in your son’s hands, but all matters of foreign policy will be in my hands.” The Megas Komnenos cocked his head to the side slightly—the movement made Gabriel think of a vulture.

    “Do you still accept these terms?” the vulture asked.

    There was a day long before when Gabriel Komnenos would have faced his foe, back ramrod straight, sword in hand, ready to face death before dishonor. Age and life had stripped that boy away—a husk was left, one that was wiser. The older, wiser Gabriel bowed his head.

    “I do,” Gabriel said softly.

    “Good!” the Megas Komnenos beamed, “I shouldn’t need to tell you that if you betray me before we return to Konstantinopolis, I will wreck your kingdom and kill everyone within three generations of you. Now, to more pleasant things,” the smile returned just as suddenly, “I’ll have couriers inform Arghun Khan that his offer was rejected, and our joint armies will escort him to the borders of Persia…”

    “Won’t he fight?” Gabriel asked quietly.

    “Oh my, you have been cut off!” Andronikos laughed. “Arghun’s facing revolts in both Sarai and Kashgar—neither of the other Khanates were happy to be under his rule. You at his front, my force at his back? He’d lose far too much of his army fighting both of us here to justify the risk. He’s… eager… to go settle affairs at home, now that he can claim he’s bested ‘Gabriel the Mongol-Slayer.’ Oh, and by the way,” Andronikos had his cup again, “I want you to come with my armies as we escort Arghun home.” He gave that deadly smile once more. “There’s a surprise in it for you.”

    ==========*==========


    So Andronikos’ plan that nearly got derailed was to use Arghun as a way to force Gabriel Komnenos to heel—but what is Andronikos’ surprise? Will Arghun act as Andronikos predicted, or does he have a surprise in store? Everything is revealed in Betrayal at Mashad, next time on Rome AARisen!
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