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Thread: Rome AARisen - a Byzantine AAR

  1. #5861
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    Schleswig-Holstein or Holschwig-Schliestein?

    Lovely maps!

    How can Austria be rich after the Roman rampage?

    And any estimate for the population of middle-Europe has been affected by these conflicts?

  2. #5862
    Ooooh, this is something I hadn't even been close to predicting; another Arpad branch in Hungary trying to force their own claim to the German throne! Seems that this King of Burgundy will have quite a fight on his hands.

  3. #5863
    Quote Originally Posted by vadermath View Post
    Ooooh, this is something I hadn't even been close to predicting; another Arpad branch in Hungary trying to force their own claim to the German throne! Seems that this King of Burgundy will have quite a fight on his hands.
    I agree, although I think a third power will trump them both!

  4. #5864
    Quote Originally Posted by Panjer View Post
    I agree, although I think a third power will trump them both!
    I very much doubt that, seeing as, aside from a soon-to-be-defunct Romanion, there is no great power left in Europe. The French on the mainland are under the Roman boot and leaderless, the Capets and the Scottish are nearly at each other's throats, and the Scandinavians are in a state of civil war. The newly formed Kingdom of the Rus probably doesn't care about affairs in Europe proper, seeing as they've got the Finnish Bohemians (Lord Almighty, how weird that sounds) to keep in check, and I don't think Sortmark has much to gain from interfering with German affairs.

  5. #5865
    Nerd Vesimir's Avatar
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    Alistair! Another favourite to my list of awesome people. Cailain was cooler but always something.

    Persia and Scotland of the Komnenoi world are simply awesome.
    Last edited by Vesimir; 01-04-2011 at 15:55.
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  6. #5866
    Will the Capet ever become English, or is England already French in culture?

  7. #5867
    First Lieutenant cezar87's Avatar

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    An excellent ending to an excellent side-story. To be honest, when Antemios was first introduced all that time ago, I NEVER expected anything good to come of him. I expected him to just fade out of the story. But instead (while still remaining a grumpy alcoholic ) he managed to build something amazing with all the tools a true roman possesses.

    @BT: This is just unbearable!!! I don't care how you do it, but you just have to Finnish off those Bohemians!

  8. #5868
    Slacker Extraordinaire Zzzzz...'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hannibal X View Post
    Will the Capet ever become English, or is England already French in culture?
    Good question. And is there any English-French culture conflict?
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  9. #5869
    Quote Originally Posted by vadermath View Post
    I very much doubt that, seeing as, aside from a soon-to-be-defunct Romanion, there is no great power left in Europe. The French on the mainland are under the Roman boot and leaderless, the Capets and the Scottish are nearly at each other's throats, and the Scandinavians are in a state of civil war. The newly formed Kingdom of the Rus probably doesn't care about affairs in Europe proper, seeing as they've got the Finnish Bohemians (Lord Almighty, how weird that sounds) to keep in check, and I don't think Sortmark has much to gain from interfering with German affairs.
    Point taken, though if both sides keep wearing themselves out maybe some of the German dukes might step up to the challenge. I don't think the war'll have a clear winner.

  10. #5870
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    Panjer – It’d take quite a power bloc to push out either the Arpads or the Grimaldis… both have huge crown lands to back their claims. However, if the wars continue another ten years or more, both could be weakened to the point where either a-someone like Bohemia, Saxony, or Bavaria takes center stage, or b-all sides agree to put a compromise (and thus weak) candidate on the throne.

    Zzzzz… – In game, parts of southern England had turned French culture by this point, while the other parts were still Norman. Game-wise I’m not sure how much of a clash there’d really be, considering the French king has been the feudal overlord for over a century, there’s been no Magna Carta, and the Norman nobility before the takeover was partly French to begin with… for the common folk, they’re still getting what they’d get from the feudal system (probably screwed), regardless of whether their lords speak Old English or Old French…

    cezar87 – If AP hadn’t taken up his standard, Antemios was probably destined to simply be written off, his descendants making funny cameos way later in the story. I agree, AP’s work did him far more justice… it’s ironic that of all the children of Thomas II, the drunken, depressed Antemios had the noblest ending of all…

    Hannibal X – Enough of England was French in culture already that the Capets never culture flipped back… so England as we know it no longer exists… hence Guillaume Shakespeare…

    Vesimir – I must agree on the Scots side, as well as the Persians!

    vadermath – I haven’t thought of it that way, but in many ways, Ravenscar would mark a huge turning point in European history. In the quarter century or so before that, Europe (at least southern, central and western) were moving towards unification—Sweden formed its Baltic empire, Germany consolidated again under the Arpads, the Roman Empire reunited after a period of disunity. Then, Ravenscar and the fallout broke Sweden, Germany descended into civil war, France was broken, and now Romanion teeters on the brink…

    Enewald – Austria still has its lands… most of the what the looters took was anything of value that was portable. Cattle and crops aren’t as portable as gold, silver, and other trade goods…

    viosin13 – Yup! Vive ‘Roi!

    Siind – I wasn’t actually aware that Oslo was the old name for the city… so I’ll pull out the old alt-historians best friend and claim it was a another town lol.

    Mr. Capiatlist – Thank you! Which center tags are you referring to? I’m probably missing something, it tends to happen when I rush…

    Issac Wolfe – Once its complete I intend to release it as an independent mod… the key part is once its finished. Buh…

    RGB – Well, Hakon was extremely dense, even for a Norseman. Antemios’ little scheme was more like stealing candy from a baby than pulling off an international caper…

    Nikolai – AP and I discussed this. Clearly it mattered little to Antemios, but was something rather important to Andronikos… the Emperor dispatched someone all the way to Scotland to deliver the reward in person. Sometime in the future, I’ll reveal what it was, and if someone else took it up on the dying man’s behalf…

    Nehekara – AP is good for one-liners… he’s far better at them than I! As for the Scottish debate… I have no idea. Old Norse is one of the many languages I know NOTHING about…

    Welshdude – I didn’t… its why the AAR’s starting date was 1084, not 1066. I’d actually played the first 18 years as Alexios, gaining the Syrian lands and holding off the Turks as a prince with intentions of taking the purple… but then he died suddenly, and I decided it’d make a good story starting point… the rest is history!

    humancalculator – I agree 100%. I’m honored AP decided to take time to finish this for us! He’s an excellent authAAR, and I’m sure I’m not the only one waiting with baited breath for his AARs to resume once more!

    The_Archduke – All his life, Antemios had to frown. He earned that smile though!


    Well, there’s another treat for everyone! The next set of updates are done… yes, there’s a set. For the first time in easily two years, I’m actually going to be double-posting updates! I'm trying something new--usually with civil wars in this story I end up following a more history-book approach. This time, I'm going to try to convey the story of events happening far and wide while trying to keep things narrative. Consider it a test run, of sorts, for the EU portion once we reach there. We'll see how this goes...

    Enjoy everyone!




    “For every journey, there is an end. For every hill, there is a valley. What begins, must someday end.” – Unknown


    April 26th, 1298

    Napoli, Italy


    Reinaldo Jimenez sipped on his grappa, pleased pink despite the afternoon flies that hovered around his table.

    Napoli wasn’t the most pleasant place in late spring, by some regards. The Spaniard didn’t mind it this once, though—not with riches on his mind, and the chance to rise further in the Dandolo merchant family in his grasp. War was on the horizon, but Reinaldo Jimenez saw a sea of solidii that were his for the taking.

    “Pah!” the man across from his grunted, before smacking one of the flies with his palm. Enrique Dandolo glared at the squashed insect for a second, before wiping it on the underside of the table. Reinaldo was still puzzled how such a rough-hewn man had become the head of the family business in one of the greatest cities in the Empire. He’d be easy to replace—after Jimenez’s scheme succeeded, of course.



    “So are you here about silks?” Enrique asked—if one overlooked words such as ‘grumble’ or ‘growl’ to describe the noise. A big, fat thumb pointed behind his bulbous body towards the family storehouse. A servant came up to the rude table they’d set outside its entrance. Jimenez waved the poor oaf off.

    “No,” Reinaldo said. Enrique raised an eyebrow.

    “Why? Everyone comes to me wanting the Egyptian silks…” Dandalo said slowly.

    Reinaldo shook his head.

    News spread quickly across the Mediterranean, and news as important as armies mustering for war all across the Empire was already the talk of every man in every city. Arms were stacked, men deployed, and, most importantly to Reinaldo, grain requisitioned.

    Grain.

    Money might have been the sinew of war, but no army moved far without food. A year ago, in 1297, Reinaldo was the head of family business in Valencia, and no more. Reinaldo Jimenez, however, was shrewder than many others. While the other members of the family fretted, cancelling shipments and contracts, Reinaldo noticed the armies sat and waited. At first, he wondered why—he’d seen a stint in France during the wars, he knew when the campaign season began.

    Yet, the spring of 1297 stretched into summer, then fall, and the armies, mustered but dispersed, still did not move. Merchants’ anxiety grew to complacence, and soon everyone was trading as if it was business as usual—despite the professional soldiers in their barracks, prepared to march within a few weeks notice.

    As early as 1294, Reinaldo had been contracted out by the Prince of Murcia to requisition grain and other produce from the peasants to fill the theme granaries in preparation for a ‘lean harvest’ that never seemed to come. Of course, Reinaldo then took a tenth of the proceeds officially as his pay. When each year rolled by, Reinaldo sold his tenth in Cordoba for a good deal of coin, then took up his contract to requisition even more grain, dropping money into the coffers of an officer or bureaucrat here and there to speed up the process. From 1294 through the fall of 1297, he turned enough of a profit that the family heads in Napoli called him there—to advise, and possibly take over from dear cousin Enrique.



    “Silk won’t be profitable soon,” Reinaldo grunted out his advice. He’d seen Enrique’s stores—bolts of silk, reams of fine cloth and other baubles dotted the place. A nice store of goods for peaceful trade, but what was coming was anything but peaceful.

    “Silk’s always profitable,” Enrique countered. “Blaise left for Marseilles three weeks ago with two trunks worth of bolts, as well as masca and indigo cloth. Those Franks buy that stuff like…”

    “You can’t kill a man with silk!” Reinaldo snapped, tired of Enrique’s blathering. “This,” he pointed at the dagger fashionably hanging from his hip, “is something that can kill! War is coming, Enrique, and when it does, no one will want silk, they will want steel, and food!” Jimenez downed the rest of grappa. “Blasted silk will be plunder and little more.”

    “And how do you know war is coming?” Enrique raised an eyebrow. “Guiseppe said the same thing last year when the Megas Komnenos died, and look!” Dandolo waved his hands around mockingly. “No armies! No looting! No war!”

    “Yet,” Reinaldo shot back.

    Yes, things were quiet, but where others thought the tenseness is the air would pass, Reinaldo was certain it wouldn’t. The goliath of war had taken a deep breath, and the Known World, at least the Known World that mattered to Reinaldo, held its breath as well. Spring campaigning season turned to summer, as the scattered tagmata all mustered, but never formed into their banda or taxarchoi. Every merchant had a story why—some said the Princes in the West were afraid to move so long as the Emperor was in Konstantinopolis with his great armies. Some said the Persians hand was stymied by trouble with the Turks. Disease, dissention, the rumors that were passed around were endless. It was as if the Princes of the Empire had drawn their blades, then stared at each other, each uncertain of what to do. All the guests had been invited to what promised to be a bloody fete, but no one had cued the musicians to play the dance of war. Reinaldo realized, however, that some time during the long night to come, the music would begin—and when it did, he would be ready.



    “How do you know?” Enrique countered.

    “I have a ‘friend,’” Reinaldo smiled—the price of ‘friends’ was only 250 silver solidii, apparently—“…who is a page to one Prince Demetrios. Eldest son of the late Emperor?”

    “…and?” Enrique prodded.

    “He assured me a month ago that his master had issued orders for his armies to gather outside of Napoli,” Reinaldo’s smile grew wide.

    “I…how sure are you of this man?” Enrique frowned, crossing his arms. Reinaldo’s smile didn’t fade—he saw through the bluff. The merchant’s arms might have been crossed, but there was fear in his eyes.

    “I have other friends that confirm the tagma in Taranto, Bari, and Spoleto are on the move, as we speak. They’ll be here in a fortnight at the latest,” Reinaldo leaned back in triumph as Enrique’s eyes went wide. “Probably sooner,” he added.

    “Th..they’re coming here!?” Enrique spurted his qahwa onto the table. “Why? How?”

    “He’s finally going for the throne?” Reinaldo rolled his eyes as if he was speaking to a stupid child. Yes, Dandolo was clueless. That’s why Reinaldo was the money maker in the family, not stupid Enrique. “Napoli is an imperial city—to move the army into it would be an act of rebellion. My friend insists that Demetrios will take the city, by force if needbe, and announce he plans to topple his brother and claim his father’s throne.”

    “B…but? Take the city?” Reinaldo saw the fear of looting and pillaging flashing through Enrique’s eyes. “But our stocks! Wharves! Goods!” Enrique protested.

    “Are safe,” Reinaldo groaned. “You know of Gennadios Discourios, I hope?”

    “The Prince of Apulia, yes,” Enrique’s cud-filled mind milled behind Reinaldo’s thoughts. “What…”

    “You are an idiot, aren’t you?” Reinaldo groaned. “His people will arrive first. My friend’s made arrangements that our warehouses will not be touched, even if the city resists.” Jimenez sighed. “This could be the best thing to happen to the family in decades…”

    “H…how?”

    Reinaldo sighed once more—Enrique really didn’t understand it, did he? War was destructive, yes. Goods were stolen, property lost. But if one was shrewd, and cunning, war could be profitable, even desirable. Reinaldo could read a map—Italy was in the center, and obviously armies from across the Mediterranean would soon be marching across the peninsula. Armies that would strip the land, as well as all the local merchants, bare within months.



    Armies that would need weapons and food.

    Slowly, painstakingly, Reinaldo explained his plan to his dubious cousin. Helmets broke. Spears snapped. Arrows bent. Shields cracked. Money keep men happy and armies might march on their bellies, but with no arms, the greatest stratos was no more than a great mob armed with sticks.

    As the gloves finally came off and the Princes moved in the spring of 1298, Reinaldo would be in position. Jimenez had spent the previous three years scouting every smithy in and around Toledo and further south that was in difficulty, buying full or partial ownership. Toledo was known for the finest steel weapons west of Damascus—a reputation Reinaldo would milk to the fullest. His supplies were secured—all that needed to happen was transporting the goods to where they were needed.

    Here, in Italy.

    It was easy for Reinaldo to see. The Prince of Istria had been only recently raised to some high office or another—Reinaldo had mercenary friends who openly talked about the fat contracts they expected from von Franken. He was moving into northern Italy, that was no doubt—the north Italian states were greedy, and wanted trade monies and their independence. One didn’t need to know much history to think they’d try to their best to break free again, and von Franken was hiring his sellswords to do something. Go try to breach the unbreachable in Konstantinopolis, or loot and pillage far weaker northern Italy? Reinaldo didn’t need time to wonder on that one.

    Then there was Sicily, with the Emperor’s reportedly loyal brother Leo, who’d undoubtedly come marching north to suppress his elder brother’s rebellion. Then there was the troops in Africa, and even more in France, and that was all assuming yet another brother in Spain didn’t get involved. Jimenez was used to cutthroat deals amongst his family, but he wondered if the imperial lords of the empire wouldn’t have made excellent ‘legitimate businessmen’ themselves!



    There were contracts floating all around, ready to be snapped up—and Jimenez wanted his piece of the pie. If his predictions proved right, there’d be many a quartermaster willing to pay a pretty penny for the cargo of his ships…

    …once he had ships.

    And therein laid the only problem with the plan—the only snag that prevented him from simply enacting the entire affair on his own, without Enrique or the other meddlesome Neapolitans. Reinaldo had only thirteen ships total, and only two that could be called great nao merchantmen. He needed more—by his own estimates, thirty at least, as well as a dromon or two to escort them. The Dandolos were the oldest branch of the merchant family—surely they could spare the money when the profits promised to be so great!

    “I’m going to need 20,000 solidii, however,” Reinaldo said, calmly dropping the astronomical sum.

    Enrique spat out his qahwa yet again.

    “For what?!” Dandolo coughed.

    “Ships, men to man them, capital to buy the raw iron and pay the smiths,” Jimenez listed off his expenses. “We’re talking about an entire smithing enterprise the likes the world hasn’t seen, Enrique!”

    “And you’re talking sums I haven’t seen since we lost five ships in storms last September!” Dandolo snapped. “Cousin Julio’s profits from the Alexandrian trip, lost, at the bottom of the sea! No,” Enrique wagged his finger, “we don’t have that kind of resources!”

    “Ah,” Jimenez steepled his fingers and sighed. “Well, perhaps you know several others who might be able to front some of the money, in exchange for a cut?”

    “The only lender in the city that has that kind of cash is Abd Yasu ibn Yusef!” Enrique hissed, “and as he’s a metatrapokoi, he charges outrageous interest… no!” Enrique waved his hand. “We can’t risk the family like that!”



    “What interest does he charge?” Reinaldo pressed calmly.

    “You aren’t serious! I said…” Enrique started to raise his voice, until Reinaldo grabbed his arm.

    “Do you want everyone in the entire city to know the deal I have!?” Jimenez hissed. “I can guarantee, it minimum, five to one returns, Enrique! Think on it!”

    “And ibn Yusef’s men break the skulls of the people who don’t repay him, if not worse!” Dandolo moaned—decidedly quieter than before.

    “Five to one, Enrique,” Reinaldo said, before waving to the barmaid. The Spaniard tossed a small bag of silver on the table—it was far more than the cost, but Reinaldo didn’t care. He wanted to make a point. “This will be small change to us after we make our fortune…”

    He could almost feel the solidii and gems that’d soon be between his fingertips…


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



    Isabella de Bevere trembled slightly. She didn’t shiver out of cold. It was not chilly, and regardless she wore the standard silks and cloths of a new handmaiden to the Dowager Empress. If that wasn’t enough, though, strong, warm arms held her close. Part of her chill was pleasant, but part of it was fear.

    She knew he shouldn’t be here. Not in the personal apartments of the Dowager Empress, a full half of the Kosmodion Palace. Not with his arms around her, mouth part open from a newly finished kiss, the secret door he’d used to sneak into the hallway outside her chambers wide open for anyone walking past to see. For not the first time in the last few hazy, pleasant minutes, she was glad it was late at night, and no one was nearby.

    She wasn’t a loose woman, not like a few of the ‘maidens’ serving the imperial family in the palace. She bore an illustrious family name from far away France, but some lost relative long ago squandered the family lands and fortune. It was her grandfather who took the de Bevere’s to Konstantinopolis, volunteering his services in the most merit-worthy fashion he could—joining the Roman army. He became a chillarchos, not august rank, but high enough his son had a chance in this new world. Guillaume de Bevere had taken the chance his father gave him, and risen slowly but steadily in the imperial bureaucracy—enough that his daughter qualified for the less-than-prestigious position of handmaiden to Empress Sbyslava, wife of the late Megas Komnenos.



    It was two months later, and Isabella still wasn’t sure why she was selected to join the Empress’ staff. Not that the thought occupied much of her mind—a pair of brown orbs staring down at her stole control. She sighed—she always got lost in those orbs—deep and dark, a hint of the Moor that was hidden somewhere deep in his Frankish past. It helped he was a head taller than anyone around, and that she could feel the muscle under his silken tunic.

    He’d been born the son of a nobody. Henri du Roche had spent what little money he had for passage to Konstantinopolis from Marseilles. The man was a stonemason, and good at his work—enough so that he bought a position for his young son as a kentarchos trainee in the Mousalmanoi tagma. From there, Roland’s own talents, born of fisticuffs and honed through the school of street brawls, came to their own. Now, he was a chillarchos in the Vestiaroi tagma of the Emperor’s Personal Guard, an important man despite his fresh face and scant years—quick with his blade, but even quicker with his mind.

    And, Isabella quietly thanked God, just as quick with his lips.



    “You can’t be here,” she murmured once her lips were free of his. It was a dangerous game they played—all the handmaidens of the court were supposed to be models of Christian virtue and chastity. She knew several who visited lovers at night, but never, ever, had one of their lovers come into the Dowager Empress’ apartments! To be caught risked imprisonment or worse, even for a strategos.

    Even more since Isabella de Bevere was also a soon to be betrothed woman.

    Her eyes flashed left and right—the corridor was still empty. Her mind told her she needed to go, to get away, before someone saw. His hands, and her heart, pulled stronger however.

    “Why shouldn’t I be next to the woman I love?” he whispered in her ear, an pleasant echo of the whispers he’d said almost a month before when they’d first met—and a pleasant echo of the whispers he’d said in her chambers only two days before…

    “Because,” she whispered, “I’m another man’s…” Her words died away as he kissed her ear.

    “Not yet,” du Roche whispered. The noise sounded like smooth silk in her mind.

    “He will be in a year,” she whispered back, wishing with all her heart it wasn’t true. Gennadios Tornikes might have been the Kephalos of Abydos, he might have been rather wealthy, but where he was fat, du Roche was fit. Where Tornikes was gross, du Roche was chivalrous. Where rumor said that Tornikes had the bedroom skill of a wounded seal, du Roche…

    “Don’t think about then,” the strategos whispered, reminding her of exactly what he could do, “think about us. Think about now. I have friends, we could get you released from your vows as a servant to the Dowager Empress, and…”

    Suddenly the noise of sweet promises of a future together died in the air, killed by the noise of doors opening, and a chorus of footfalls briskly moving up the hallway. For a precious moment, too long but too sweet, the two stood, eyes looking towards the distant figures moving closer in the torchlight.

    “Quickly!” Isabella shook of her surprise and terror, pointing towards the passageway du Roche had stepped out of only too briefly before. Roland blinked, the nodded. He couldn’t resist one last peck on the cheek before he disappeared into the darkness. As the footfalls drew close, Isabella hurriedly slammed her hand on the stone lever that closed the passageway. As the wooden panel clicked shut, the footfalls came to a sudden halt.



    Isabella slowly turned, her heart thundering. Her eyes caught the glint of jewels and fine silks in the dancing firelight, then the dark eyes of her mistress. Awkwardly, Isabella curtsied. For an eternity, it seemed, the Dowager Empress looked her up and down, as if she could peer into her soul. Finally, when it seemed like the torture could last no longer, Empress Sbyslava spoke.

    “Who was that man?”

    Isabella blanched—she had seen!

    “I…” A moment of indecision made her stutter. “Roland du Roche,” Isabella finished quietly with another bow. The game was up—lying to the Dowager Empress would only make the situation worse.

    “Ah, the strategos? A handsome young man,” Sbyslava smiled, looking straight at the hidden passageway Isabella’s love had disappeared behind only moments before. “He serves in the Vestiaroi cavalry, I believe, does he not?”



    “Yes,” Isabella said, before catching herself. “I do believe that is the case, Majesty,” she quickly added, stared at the ground, wincing, waiting.

    “Bah, you know so!” the Empress chuckled, the noise gentle as the tinkle of shattered glass, “You aren’t a fool who wouldn’t know her lover’s posting in the army. You’re far too intelligent for that!”

    “Majesty, it’s not that! I…” Isabella tried to protest. If the Empress found out! If there was a scandal…

    Her words skittered to a halt as the Empress waved her hand. De Bevere’s heart fell. She’d broken her vows as a handmaiden to the Empress, she’d embarrassed herself before the Dowager Empress herself! She’d be punished! Banished! He’d be imprisoned for entering the Empress’ apartments! Images of terror filled her mind as she felt her knees tremble under her dress.

    Her heart leapt into her throat as Sbyslava turned back to her, a smile still on her face.

    A smile?

    “Please, Isabella,” the Dowager Empress said slowly, as if carefully selecting each and every word, “continue your… relations…with du Roche. It would hurt my conscience if I… spoiled… young love.”

    “I…”

    “However,” the Empress’ eyes narrowed until they were sharp and venomous, her smile cold, “in return for my graciousness I expect you to perform a duty for your mistress.”

    “A duty?” Isabella swallowed. She’d heard stories of the ‘duties’ that her mistress assigned. Empress Sbyslava had a considerable purse and estates granted on her husband’s death. She had her own network of informants—some said this strange death or that untimely demise was due to her assassins…

    “Do not be afraid, child,” the Empress’ smile grew positively wicked, and at any moment Isabella expected a forked tongue to leap from between her lips. “I simply want to know more about this strategos. Who he speaks of, where he goes, who his friends are… anything he tells you.”

    “S…spy?”

    “Not spy. Report,” the Empress gently patted her cheek. “No harm will come to him, child…” the Empress’ voice dropped to a whisper, rasping through the air like the first touch of winter’s chill, “unless you keep secrets from me. Then…” the Empress’ lips still curled back in a smile, but Isabella felt the eyes of a lioness staring at her soul.



    “Of…of course, August Majesty,” she trembled as she curtsied before her mistress.

    “Thank you, Isabella,” the Empress said curtly, not giving de Bevere time to focus her thoughts. “You may go, and take care to not get pregnant.” Sbyslava smiled, her teeth glinting like fangs in the torchlight. “We wouldn’t want a scandal, would we?”
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  11. #5871
    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    June 17th, 1298

    Outside Gabras, Anatolia



    Nikephoros Komnenos, Megas Komnenos and Lord of the Known World, shivered as a cold night breeze blew through his silks. In Konstantinopolis, the Sea of Marmara warmed such breezes, but here, in the Anatolian hinterland, there was no such protection against nature’s extremes. By day, the temperature was pleasant, but a night, it grew downright chilly.

    There were other things that bothered him as well. Nikephoros had never felt home at Gabra—the town was small and dank, every house and store inside the small walls made of simple stone, rough-hewn and thick. The entire town during the dark days of the Empire had been a fortress against Arabic, then Turkish incursions into eastern Anatolia. It’d once been the seat of a theme, an important city that hosted princes and kings. Then the Komnenoi came—and Gabras lost its value as the Empire spread. For decades, centuries, the little fortress town dwindled, until fate and the maps of Anatolia thrust the Megas Komnenos within its walls.

    The campaign of Nikephoros’ life couldn’t have started worse. Manuel’s agents reported on the 18th of September the previous year, the Egyptian armies finally reached Antioch—and halted. None of the musikoi or other Oikoi operatives were at the meeting between Prince Theokyriarchos of Edessa and Prince Isaakios of Egypt, but the results were plain. Instead of the Egyptians falling on the treacherous Syrians, the two armies joined.



    At once, Nikephoros was stuck in a terrible vice. Manuel, along with the crack Oikoistoli of the Imperial Bodyguard, were in Konstantinopolis and could not be moved—the Balkan lords were finally gathering their men, and Manuel had already called on the Komnenoi lords on Pereschen, Karvuna and Moldau to send what they could to help him. But the combined Basilikon and Anatolikon, totaling a monumental 140,000 men spread from Herakleia to Smyrna, were now facing 80,000 Persians moving through Armenia and Trebizond, and 90,000 Syrian and Egyptian forces moving into Cilicia.

    As a soldier began to lower the cross and crescent on blue that marked the empty tent of the Prince of Azov, Nikephoros tried his best to shake off his doubts. Calling Prince Bataczes and his army from Cherson left Roman lands across the Black Sea open to invasion, but as the Megas Domestikos had pointed out in that turbulent meeting two months before, they had little choice. They needed the aging Bataczes, as much as they needed his 25,000 men. Not only would Nikephoros now have near parity with the invaders, he would have a good general skilled in independent command who could stymie, if not stop, the Syrian-Egyptian juggernaught to the south. His absence in the north would be noted—it would be nigh impossible to hide 25,000 men boarding every ship that could be grabbed in the Black Sea.



    All Nikephoros could do was pray the Danes didn’t move.

    The Persians would notice, however. As the soldier carefully wrapped the flag for storage until the morrow, the Emperor smiled thinly. Another Godwinson rule—all the flags of Azov were kept with the main camp around Gabras, flown each day, in the hopes that Persian scouts and agents would think Bataczes was still with the main army, not in Ikonion organizing the Anatolikon and thematakoi forces there into a force of 50,000 to try to block the Army of Traitors from moving north and adding its weight to the already hefty Persian punch.

    That left Nikephoros and Godwinson with 115,000 to face the Persian horde to the north. The north was where the entire campaign would be decided. Central Anatolia was more sparsely populated, more mountainous—the Egyptian columns were advancing slowly over the broken, treacherous ground. There was little food, even less fodder—the Egyptian cavalry was forced to forage far and wide, and the food for its food had to be hauled behind in wagons and carts. No—there was barely enough to support that army, let alone the Persian hordes.

    Alexandros would have to take the northern route, and if Bataczes could simply delay the Syrians and Egyptians, the Persians would be alone. In hostile territory with dwindling forage, they would have to advance or retire. And if Alexandros chose to advance, he would have to cross this river.

    Here, on the Halys, the Emperor would make his stand. The river formed a natural boundary separating western Anatolia from the east. In the high waters of spring, there were a few bridges and fords available. Godwinson hadn’t been sure where Alexandros would cross, but he’d stationed detachments at each crossing. The wily old Varangian had borrowed from the annals of the past, ordering his men to dig pits and other traps as well, to slow the Persians down.

    Meanwhile, the Emperor, as well as the backbone of the joint armies, deployed his forces centered around this dilapidated fortress town—a remnant from the days when Anatolia was a frontier, and not the beating heart of the empire. Scouts with beacons lined the far shore, ready to warn their comrades which crossing the Persians would use.



    The Emperor sighed, staring off towards the east, and the waters that’d be his shield till he knew where the Persians were coming. The Halys barely shimmered in the distance. For a moment, Nikephoros was caught in the beauty of the sight—twinkling campfires, the shimmering river in the light of a rising moon. It was breath-taking enough that, just for a second, the war, his leprosy…it all didn’t matter.

    For a second.

    The Emperor sighed. There wasn’t time for beauty, or quiet. Not when the work of government had followed his armies and all awaited his eye. Slowly the sickly ruler of the Known World walked back into his tent, the bright glare of torches revealing the piles of notes and letters that demanded his attention.

    The first few were cursory—a request from his mother-in-law to promote some Guillaume de Bevere to City Grain Monitor, another from the priory of Hagias Andreas asking if he still intended to make his yearly votive donation. However, the moment he saw the seal of an eye on the next letter, he swallowed slightly.

    Only one man bore such a seal—his brother Manuel, Archeoikos, head of both the Imperial Bodyguard still protecting Konstantinopolis, and also chief of the Oikoi agency of spies and assassins. Manuel, as Kaisar, had a full plate before him—planning to defend the capital from the Balkan lords, as well as being de facto Regent—yet he still managed to produce daily reports to be sent by the fastest courier to the Emperor.



    Nikephoros sighed with a smile. If only more men were that industrious.

    The first of the letters from his brother and ally bore no suprises. Alexios, as expected, had declared himself co-Emperor in far away Spain—no doubt prodded by his father-in-law. The notice was cloaked in official deference to his ‘natural co-Emperor and lord,’ but the intent was plain as a shining dagger—Alexios wanted the diadem for himself, and no other. His declaration, Nikephoros had to admit, made the most sense. He was far removed from Konstantinopolis with a powerful base. If he was smart, he would consolidate Spain, and simply wait for the dust to settle further East. But he didn’t…and Nikephoros sensed the Exarch’s hand in the reports that the parts of the Spanish Armies were moving over the Pyrenees.

    “So, you’re that ambitious?” Nikephoros murmured to himself as he finished the letter. The reports were over four months old and sketchy at best, but they were all consistent on one fact—the force crossing was no where near the full might of the entire Hispanikon. 20,000, maybe 30,000 at most. Soon Hypatos Syrenios in France would have his hands full—but not as full as the few loyal tagmata left around Valenica. They numbered only four tagmata, no more, but those would be useful in reinforcing Sicily. Spain was lost—logistics, numbers made that obvious long before the first muster rolls went out. Better to save those men and make them useful than sacrifice them pointlessly. Nikephoros thanked God that his Megas Domestikos had sent those orders to the four tagmata in question the winter before so they could be saved and used somewhere else.

    Italy was where they could be useful. As Manuel had warned, Nikephoros’ eldest brother Demetrios had declared himself sole Emperor, without any guile or tact. His letter was downright insulting, demanding his younger brother respect the rights of the elder, despite Nikephoros having imperial status since their father’s death. The miscreant had the Discouroi and Skazioi princes on his side, however—neither family had been noted for loyalty, or intelligence, in imperial politics. By himself, Demetrios was a nuisance—his Italikon armies numbered 40,000 if everyone possible mustered, and could easily be overwhelmed through judicious bribes and dear Leo in Sicily launching a few appropriate attacks.

    Nikephoros sighed as his eyes reached the next report, discussing the northern Italian city states.

    Since their conquest by Thomas I at the end of the 12th century, northern Italy had almost perpetually been a problem for Konstantinopolis. No less than three major rebellions had their base in the region, and the city states were notorious for pushing imperial law to the very limit. Now, they had dropped all pretext whatsoever, and not only declared their independence, but also formed a cutthroat’s alliance to defend their spoils. An Italian League, they were calling it.

    “Nothing more than a pack of thieves,” Nikephoros thought as he started to cut the letter open. It was the same tune they had sung in the first part of the 13th century, then Kaukadenos’ Civil War, then Bardas’ Rebellion. They wanted all the riches of trading in the Roman world, without paying any of the taxes, scutage and other dues that paid for the fleets that protected their trade, or the armies that kept the marauding French and Germans at bay.

    Nikephoros finally tore through the seal, and gloved hands opened the parchment. He blinked—it wasn’t an Oikoi report at all, it was an official dispatch from the Prince of Istria. As his eyes read over the words, the Megas Komnenos’ heart lifted. Von Franken had surprisingly been good to his word—the Nikephoros had expected a half-effort at best, but the old man had spent the previous year gathering his mercenaries and telling the nervous Italian cities it was for a push on Konstantinopolis. The latest news said two months before, his army, far larger than any expected, was laying siege to Verona and Padua, after several sharp skirmishes made the Italians skittish about truly facing him in the field.



    The Emperor breathed a little easier—if von Franken had been at Verona for the past few months, that would leave Demetrios in a bind—the Prince could either come to terms, or sit and wait out von Franken’s campaign to see what his even younger brother Leo in Sicily would do. Nikephoros had no doubt Leo would take his own tagmata as Hypatos northwards if von Franken even sent some detachments south. Demetrios would be caught between them in a vice.

    The Emperor set the letter down, pinching the bridge of his nose. No, Demetrios wouldn’t come to terms, even if von Franken secured northern Italy and came south with his full might. Nikephoros would protect his throne and the Empire. He was not, though, in a mood to kill his siblings. If Demetrios would just kneel, he’d be tonsured and sent to a monastery. Stupid, proud Demetrios though… he’d never accept that. For a second Nikephoros’ mind wandered down that dark road, frightened by the sights it saw, before he reined it back to the present.

    He was the Emperor. He had to think of the Empire, not his brothers, and not his conscience. Slowly, he slid the letter away—Leo and von Franken would do what needed to be done. He opened the next—it had the same formula, listing agents, sources, and information compiled, with it’s conclusion at…

    …Nikephoros blinked. No! That couldn’t be right? He reread from the beginning with trembling hands, following as Manuel laid out piece by piece the damning information his agents had collected. Despite Nikephoros’ wishing, they flowed towards the same conclusion as they had when he first read the letter.

    Theodoros?



    That insolent, foolish!—disease might have sapped some of his strength, but the Megas Komnenos managed to fling the crumpled letter across the tent.

    Why?

    Nikephoros knew how many men Theodoros could possibly get if he called up every single man capable of bearing arms without bankrupting his little realm. A few thousand, no more! Why!?

    “You goddamned fool, you’ve just made your death sentence!” he cursed. What for? Spite? Gall? He couldn’t take the throne! He couldn’t do anything other than annoy one of his other brother’s into squashing him! He…

    “Majesty?”

    Nikephoros’ stopped in mid-mental rant, looking towards the tent entrance. He half-expected to find a worried page standing there—Nikephoros wasn’t known for his cursing, or his anger. Instead of a single boy worried about his master, imperial eyes found the aging Megas Domestikos standing just inside the tent entrance. Behind the hulking form of Harold Godwinson, plumes barely peeked into view alongside glints of burnished mail.


    “Yes, Highness?” Nikephoros slowly rose. The action seemed to make every inch of his body hurt, as sores rubbed clothing. He bit his lip to cut off the hiss of pain before anyone heard it.

    “Majesty,” Godwinson’s white mustache bristled, “beacons have been lit, on a ford about thirty miles to the north. Bataczes’ scouts made contact with a large force of Persian cavalry just before sunset.”

    Nikephoros looked over at his Megas Domestikos, then the train of worried, tired faces trailing behind. It wouldn’t do for the army to be tired and hungry—not when they faced the greatest threat Romanion had seen since the Mongols…

    “We’ll march north at first dawn,” the Megas Komnenos said, before repeating his logic aloud. The strategoi and other officers bobbed their heads in agreement—if the army caught Alexandros in mid-crossing, it could be even better than catching him before he tried to ford the river. Scouts were dispatched, orders relayed to commanders to be carried out several hours before dawn. The machinery of a vast army groaned into action, as its emperor remembered one final thing.

    “Reward the courier well,” Nikephoros added after the orders had been relayed.. The poor man had probably galloped down an unlit road at night to make sure word got to Gangra so quickly. He deserved food and rest at the least—his words might have saved the throne.

    As kentarchoi were awoken and told they were to rouse their men two hours before dawn, a silent shape sailed above the host, cloaked by darkness. A raven circled the vast sea of tents, latrines and posts that marked the Combined Imperial Army, before gracefully arcing back to the west…

    …towards Konstantinopolis…



    ==========*==========
    Last edited by General_BT; 02-04-2011 at 14:14.
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  12. #5872
    Nerd Vesimir's Avatar
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    Go Alexandros! It's really nice to see the entire Middle East uniting under the leadership of the Persians. Except Arabia that is. What's their game? I'd hate to see them make trouble when the Persian alliance has all its armies in Anatolia.

    So I presume Manuel will eventually betray Nikephoros in the worst moment possible. I'm hoping for it.

    And don't you underestimate the power of Leptis Magna! The world shall tremble when the dreaded Imperial Camel Corps will ride down the streets of Constantinople!
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  13. #5873
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    Nice!
    Took very long to read all this!
    But I like it!

    The fall of an Empire... finally!

  14. #5874
    The Lord of the Rings? Yeah, that was cute. A Song of Ice and Fire? Yeah, it was pretty awesome. But this, this is just bloody epic! We've all been waiting for this for ages now, and the gears of war are finally in motion! I've gotta say though, I've been reading through the updates, and I was all "Oh, interesting, oh, how intriguing, oh, let me study the possible outcomes", and I was dead serious about it, and then I came to the Theodoros bit, and I just laughed like a crazy person, that bit really relieved the tension

  15. #5875
    Slacker Extraordinaire Zzzzz...'s Avatar
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    The Persians and her allies will be crushed again! Then we will have Manuel II, Oikoi Emperor!

    I lol'd at Theodoros.
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  16. #5876
    This is looking good, Nikephoros is gonna die someday soon, and the rest of the brothers are all too young or too traitorous to wear the purple. Now Manuel just have to show himself to be a great general, and He will be in a perfect position to "save" The Empire. Time to live up to your name Manny me lad!

  17. #5877
    Hahahaha, oh Theodoros. I recognize the name vaguely, but this funny little bit makes me want to remember him more. Who is he? I hope that I get to play as Leptis Magna in the EU3 mod, or at least that Theodoros is more successful that it seems he's going to be.

    I do like the massive amounts of intrigue from all parts of the empire; nobles, merchants, Dowager Empresses, Princes, etc. It's quite fun to watch.

    Also, reposting this as you did not respond to this.
    Quote Originally Posted by SplendidTuesday View Post
    The Mali Caliphate looks awesome. I'd totally play that in an EU3 mod if they survive that long. Or Sortmark. Either one would be great. One thing though, you didn't mention anything about the Despotate of Khazaria, and to my knowledge, you've never mentioned them in any updates. What's going on with them? Even though they probably aren't the Jewish Khazars I really like, surely a Byzantine-influence Khazar state has some interesting stuff going on.

    Oh, and I'd be interested in knowing more about the Bohemian-Finnish Grand Duchy in the north. They could be a fun nation to play.

    Finally, I know you haven't really followed all the rules of Crusader Kings, even when you were playing through it, but I'm curious, do you remember what difficulty, AI aggressiveness, and mods you used to start up Rome AARisen?

  18. #5878
    Lt. General von Sachsen's Avatar
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    As has been said EPIC. And yes, Theodoros, the classic CK rebellious count.
    And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it." Amen.

  19. #5879
    The stage is set and the roles have been cast. I would sputter all of my predictions, but I don't know what to expect anymore. However, what I do expect, is a rapid succession of emperors like the 3rd Century Crisis back in Ancient Rome. I wonder if the Imperial Kommenid dynasty will be dethroned...

    I can't wait to see more! Keep up the awesome, BT!
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  20. #5880
    Romanorum Imperator Augustus asd21593's Avatar
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    I actually said "o shit" when I saw the new banner for this chapter.
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