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Thread: Rome AARisen - a Byzantine AAR

  1. #1101
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    Rome was a city whose history was filled with grandeur, yet few could say anything surpassing the “Council of Seven Kings” had taken place in the city in the last thousand years. The remains of the Circus Maximus were hastily jury-rigged, and the public was entertained with horse races for the first time in hundreds of years. Each duke and monarch that arrived in the city attempted to outdo the other. The Duke of Poitou brought a show of trained bears with him, while the King of France brought a circus troupe to awe the populace. The German Emperor attempted to outdo them all by dumping a chest of silver into the center of the great circus for anyone to have their hands in.

    Yet the Eastern Emperor outshone them all.

    At the insistence of both Sophie and all the Logothetes in his council, Basil made sure he was the last to arrive in Rome, over two weeks after the last royal monarch reached the city. When he did set off, the Emperor brought with him the thousand strong corps of Hetaratoi, as well as over 20 chests of silver solidii, and hundreds of servants, retainers and aides. Sophie especially insisted on this as a minimum of splendor the Eastern Emperor needed when facing the Lords of the West. Basil himself thought the whole arrangement was rather ridiculous, preferring to travel to Rome in simple clothes. The Empress won out.

    On March 18th, 1170, the city of Rome was awakened to the sound of trumpets and drums, as an official herald rode into the city, followed by one hundred Hetaratoi shining from head to toe in burnished steel mail. At every cross street along the central streets of Rome, the herald stopped, pulled a scroll from a gilt case, and loudly proclaimed that the Most August Emperor of the Romans, King of Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Syria, Aleppo, Egypt, Jerusalem, Armenia and North Africa would arrive at the southern gates to the city at exactly ten in the morning the following day.

    Behind these heralds came men clad in the finest raiments, each throwing silver coins into the crowds, loudly proclaiming they were from the Eastern Emperor, as gifts to the people in the West. As can be expected, chaos ensued – all ensuring that early the next morning, immense crowds had gathered all along the route of the Emperor’s arrival, from the great kings of Europe themselves, to the lowliest of Roman citizens.

    As the bells of the city rang the tenth hour the next day, the great Appian Gate opened, and a scene seemingly straight from biblical or fairy tales cantered into the city. Over nine-hundred Hetaratoi, more heavily armored and armed than any European knight, rumbled down the streets of Rome. At their head was a figure encased in golden armor, a crown fixed with rubies and emeralds encircling his helm. Behind him billowed a purple cloak of the finest silk, and he rode a black stallion encased in gilded barding, great peacock feathers rising from its head. In his right had he clutched an immense lance, its head made of gold, an immense icon of Mary and Jesus hanging from its golden heft. As the figure swept by, the smell of cinnamon and spices wafted into the nose, cast into the air by the priests immediately behind him, their censers filling the air with sweet perfume.


    Basil dressed in state armor. While the people of Rome for years afterward told stories of the ‘Man Encased in Gold,’ Basil himself felt the armor foolish and hideously hot.


    Finally the immense parade made its way to the Lateran Palace, where Pope Boniface, as well as the royal and ducal heads of Europe were awaiting. Little did Basil know what a group of villains he was walking into. Eventually the great gate of the Palace Gardens he knew so well closed behind the Emperor, and with undo haste Basil tore off the gilt chainmail that covered his lower face, and yanked off his immense gilded helm. He’d told Sophie and Rodrigo it was foolishness – no one would ever wear this much armor, except in parades, yet both, as well as even the Treasury, had insisted the Emperor needed new ‘ceremonial tools of state.’ To Basil, they were all annoyances

    For Basil, to call the succeeding week painful would not do the entire arrangement justice. On one hand, the Emperor was able to meet with his old tutor, and Rimini proved eager to hear how his former pupil was doing. The nights the two were able to spend in conversation over chess and wine invigorated Basil’s mind. The Pope was duly impressed with Basil’s skill on the battlefield, but even more so with how the Emperor had treated his prisoners, both of high rank and common station.

    But that week also meant dealing with the endless balls, banquets, dinners and receptions that royalty always threw upon one another. Each gala was more extravagant than the last, and every banquet seemed to have less and less meaning other than watching Varangians, Englishmen and Germans gorge themselves, and Poles and Greeks alike spitting up food as they laughed at raucous jokes. Much merriment was to be had for those who wished for a party, but for those like Basil, eager to plan a military campaign, little was accomplished.

    The incessant ceremony was only the beginning of the reason little was done – the deep, personal rivalries between the rulers was an entirely darker and more vicious matter entirely. Richard was bawdy, and full of himself, with a keen dislike for the King of France. Heinrich reminded Basil of a less competent version of his father. Drogo was a spiteful man in the best of times, with an acidic tongue that lashed out at anyone. Knud was best described as an old, vicious little man, while Boleslav was a vengeful fool. Magnus said little and Basil expected the same from him.


    King Drogo not only is King of France, but titular overlord of the Crusader states in North Africa. With the defection of Constantine to the Eastern Empire, the French King is increasingly worried about his holdings and the encroachment of Romanion.


    Finally the Eastern Emperor grew annoyed enough that, with tacit Papal approval, he invited all of the great Kings to his personal chambers. Yet where they expected wine, or in Boleslav’s case, a debauched woman, they saw only Basil, and Rodrigo, lately functioning as his interpreter.

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



    “Ours is the world in small, Majesties” Basil continued his introductory spiel, to only moderate attention at best, “and should we decide we must act to save Christendom on the Iberian peninsula, it shall happen. So, my lords,” Basil motioned to the table, “let us begin?”

    “This table is round,” Boleslav needlessly observed. The Polish lord could be charitably described as dense.

    “Bah, means we can’t sit you at the end!” Knud hissed.

    Basil slipped into a random chair at the table, and promptly the English king sat down beside him. The arrangements fell out from there, Drogo opposite Richard, Heinrich on the other side of Basil, and Magnus and Knud flanking the French King. Boleslav stood around, until realizing there was merely one chair left between Heinrich and Knud, which he slipped into. The Danish King glared at his counterpart. There was no shortage of bad blood there.

    Basil looked around, evaluating his situation, and the known rivalries before him. While he never had his father’s audacity or deviousness, he recognized a situation that required a more delicate touch. Finally, he laid eyes on Richard, the most martial of those before him, and the man who hadn’t said anything edge-wise to Basil all week.

    Jealousy was in the English King’s green eyes. If it hadn’t been for Basil’s Syrian campaign, Richard’s exploits would’ve been the toast of Europe. The fair haired English giant clearly resented that. Of those gathered, Basil wanted Richard’s support the most – if Richard commanded the Latin armies operating in Iberia…

    “So…” Richard looked Basil up and down.

    “So…” Basil looked right back. The Emperor knew Richard’s reputation, and was dearth to say anything to get the brash king started. He’d already witnessed both Heinrich and Drogo get an earful of expletives from Richard the moment they questioned his virility, his love of women, or his martial prowess. An awkward silence hung between the two, before finally, Basil coughed. He knew only one way to break the ice between them.

    “Um… so, how did you defeat the Scots at Flodden?” he asked.

    The King of England beamed. “Your Majesty really wishes to know?”

    “No, we really don’t,” Drogo grumbled.

    “I do,” Basil glanced at the French King. Drogo II Capet, Basil decided, was a lost cause. The man regarded the Western Med as his personal lake, and was highly resentful that the Romanoi were now inching closer and closer to his waters. Richard would counterbalance Drogo… Basil trusted Heinrich only as far as he could throw him.

    The King of England’s smile grew wider, and he launched into an intricate description of his plans. Basil played along, asking questions at pertinent points, though he refrained from offering his own critiques, even as the other monarchs all rolled their eyes, hissed, or in general made themselves a nuisance. As it turned out, Richard’s campaign was fairly common-sensical – the only true mark of brilliance Basil could find was in Richard’s pre-battle deployments. The Emperor refrained from saying such, and within the hour, Basil was sure he had a new, if loud, friend – the first, it seemed, he was able to gain amidst the tempestuous uproar of the past week.

    “So that’s when I put my sword to that damn Scotsman’s throat and told him if he didn’t surrender, I’d rip his head off and piss in the hole!” the King of England finished his bawdy rendition of the tale. Basil blinked, shook his head to clear his mind.


    Flodden Field, where Richard’s 14,000 man army crushed a force of 30,000 Scots. While the Scots had a numerical advantage, Richard’s troops were better equipped, better armored, and most importantly, better lead. The Scots easily marched into an ambush where their schiltrons were flanked by English knights and cut to pieces. The Scots also weren’t helped by the flight of their cavalry, including King Robert, as soon as the English knights charged.


    “Amazing,” he said as diplomatically as he could.

    “I don’t think the young pup left a young boy with his britches fixed in all of Normandie,” Drogo said sourly. The man was only thirty-eight, yet he looked ten years older, with shots of gray going through his beard and mustache. Basil thought his beady eyes looked like two small beetles stuck for his face. “Excellent conquests, Majesty.”

    Richard cast a positively ferocious look at the King of France. “And who are you to speak, old man?”

    Drogo merely smiled. “I have five sons, young pup. Even the Emperor of the Greeks had two sons of his own. Where is your brood to prove your virility? Your love of women?”

    “Gentlemen!” Heinrich cleared his throat. The tall, thin German could almost be described as airy, despite his thick black mane of hair and midnight dark mustache. Most of the week, the Emperor of the Germans had played the role of peacemaker, or kingmaker, depending on how one saw the argument, dispensing support in arguments here for gifts and support there. It was a role that Heinrich had always leapt to with relish, and Basil had no doubt the German had already milked the acidic rivalry of Boleslav and Knud for numerous concessions from both. “Gentlemen! I have no doubt, Good King Richard, that you have plenty of tales with which to regale us, but for now, we must put the finish touches on our plans!” Heinrich looked at Basil with a smile seeking approval – the Eastern Emperor merely nodded. Heinrich wouldn’t gain anything from him for something a minor sergeant with a sharp voice could have done.

    “England will send 15,000 men right down their throats – we propose landing in Navarre, taking on the northern part of Almeria, and cutting off any resistance in the Pyrenees passes so our noble French and German allies can march through,” Richard said with sufficient bluster. The plan was aggressive, nearly as aggressive as Basil’s own. Almeria was split into two – southern Almeria, with the capital, lay on the southeastern coast of the peninsula and included the Baleares. Northern Almeria was seated mostly in Navarre. With the two so widely split…

    Drogo raised an eyebrow. “And so the young pup moves to steal more of the glory again from us older men. How selfish of him – and on a holy crusade while he’s doing it!” the French king hissed. “He’ll probably leave our troops to starve in the Pyrenees passes!” Basil looked at Heinrich, and while the German Emperor wasn’t as blunt as his French compatriot, his eyes spoke of mistrust.

    Richard raised his hands. “I assure you all, the goals of the crusade are at my heart!” The King made a sign of the cross that Basil found only marginally convincing.

    “You’ll leave both Heinrich and I in the passes, and you’ll demand the Caen and Bruges from us as ransom! You lie like a Breton!” Drogo snapped. “And you fight like one as well!”

    Richard visibly sputtered in anger. “And I’ll ask you, Capet, where you were on Morhiban Field? Soiling your armor, like you did at Caen!?” For a second, it looked as if Drogo and Richard would both leap to their feet, and Basil was glad, for the first time this day, that no one had been allowed to bring arms to the meeting.

    “Majesties, please,” Basil tried to put a hand visually between them to break things up before it got out of hand. “So, Richard will land English forces in the north of Spain, while Drogo and Heinrich push over the passes?” Nods went around the table, with grumbling from the French and German monarchs.

    “So, where will the Eastern Empire go?” Drogo asked, raising an eyebrow to Basil. In that gaze the Emperor saw many things – the chief of which was the unspoken question of How much of MY domain will you threaten?

    Basil cleared his throat, then walked over to the map. “Our first objectives will be to cover the southern approaches, and provide a diversion for Your Majesties’ efforts. My fleet will set sail from Calabria, Taranto, and Messina on the first of the new year, and secure the Baleares as well as Almeria. We will also begin a diplomatic offensive as well, securing guarantees from the Moroccans to not interfere in Your Majesties efforts.”

    South Almeria was the ideal first target for the Romanoi – the ports of Majorca and Menorca would provide valuable naval bases with which to dominate the Western Mediterranean. Almeria proper would provide a lovely toehold on the southern end of Iberia, a base from which Basil could launch deeper campaigns. However, the Emperor knew Drogo especially would not like Romanion taking the Baleares – from there, a Romanoi fleet could interdict any traffic between France and Latin North Africa…

    “Our sources indicate that Almerians have only perhaps 10,000 troops altogether,” Rodrigo added. “We’ll bring some 20,000 and should easily overwhelm them.”


    The Almeria southern campaign. Imperial troops would be drawn from Sicily, as well as Basil’s personal thematakoi in Calabria. All told, 20,000 troops would be involved in the operation.


    “Well and good – so you plan on taking the Baleares first?” Richard asked.

    “No,” Basil shook his head, “We’re going to strike all of southern Almeria at once, take them as quickly as possible, and by surprise if possible.” The Emperor gestured. “Once Almeria has been taken, we can then use it as a springboard for campaigns the following year or two into Toledo as well.”

    The King of England nodded appreciatively. “I would concentrate all my forces and take continental Almeria first. Menorca you can always come back and gobble up after,” he offered.

    Basil gritted his teeth, but managed to nod his head. “Good counsel, Majesty, an idea I ran past my own generals before coming here. They all advised on seizing continental Almeria and Menorca at once. A simultaneous attack will leave them divided across both areas, making our effort easier.”

    In fact, the strategoi had been split on the issue. While they were appreciative of the benefits of catching the Almerians by surprise, many wanted the backbone of the attack to be focused on Almeria proper - fearful that a partial force landing near the Almerian capital could face a numerically equivalent number and suffer disaster. Basil had insisted on the surprise campaign, in part to net Menorca and Majorca before the French could.

    “How will we coordinate though?” Heinrich mused. “You’ll be coming from the east across the sea, while, assuming our dear friend Drogo allows my troops to march across his noble country,” the German smiled darkly at the French King, who merely glared, “while we’ll be fighting over the Pyrenees, a long, hard march. Should some of our forces join your effort?” The dark smile turned to Basil. “We wouldn’t want you stranded and cut off, now would we?”

    “I’ll send 15,000 men with your troops!” Boleslav boldly announced. Basil grimaced, Knud visibly sneered.

    “Majesty, that’d require more ships and more coordination,” Basil cautioned, backtracking. Latin troops in his contingent would mean trouble, and Basil had no doubt Drogo especially would ensure that numerous spies were within those battalions to keep an eye on Romanoi movements. “However, if you can muster and get 15,000 troops to my Adriatic ports by December, our fleet can provide the logistical transport,” Basil heard himself saying. While that would give Sophie’s agents time to ferret out most of Drogo’s spies in the expedition, personally he hoped Boleslav turned him down. Boleslav was notoriously lax on discipline, and Basil didn’t want 15,000 rampaging soldiers within his borders led by a King who did little, if anything to stop them.

    “What of our other northern brothers?” Heinrich asked, nodding towards Knud and Magnus.

    “150 longships leave Gotland,” Magnus grunted. Drogo visibly rolled his eyes, while the Dane grumbled something about Swedes and sheep – Basil couldn’t pick out the whole thing.

    “My armies are weak and tired,” Knud said with an empty sigh. “Instead of sending men, I shall send money Lord Boleslav’s way, to aid his movement to the south.” The Dane leaned back in his chair. “Money is the sinew of war, said a famous man… who was it?”

    Boleslav started to smile, before the grin grew stillborn. “Now wait a minute!” Boleslav’s face suddenly turned dark, before a deadly finger pointed at old Knud. “You want me to march my men south, so you can rape and pillage my borders as usual!”

    “Idiocy knows no bounds,” the Dane coolly replied. “I can’t think of the man that said that line.”

    “150 ships leave Gotland!” Magnus said once again in broken Latin, clearly frustrated he couldn’t express himself in the apparent langua franca of the room. He uttered some other harsh words that Basil couldn’t understand. The Emperor glanced at Rodrigo, who shrugged his shoulders – Magnus had spoken too quickly, and in the midst of the growing argument between Boleslav and Knud.

    “Danish wretch!” Boleslav spat. “Honestly, why should I trust the man that burned Gdansk to the ground!”

    “We didn’t burn it to the ground,” Knud rolled his eyes, “we stood around and just didn’t put out any of the fires.”

    “Lit by your men!”

    “Majesties!” Heinrich tried to intervene, no doubt to extract some more concessions and promises out of both. Basil kept himself from grinning when this time the German Emperor couldn’t douse the war of words.

    “Look at the barbarians squabble,” Drogo spat coolly a few minutes later as tempers ran high.

    “Look at yourself - I didn’t know they stacked dung that high in France!” Knud glared back at Drogo.

    “150 longships leave Gotland,” Magnus said again in broken Latin, gesturing fiercely towards said island.



    “Yes, we know you have 150 longships in Gotland, you Norse cretin!” Drogo hissed, shooting death glares at Knud. “Watch your tongue, Dane, or my troops might find a northward leg on their journey!”

    “All the better, for King Richard’s men need to go south anyways!” Knud shot back. “Leave it to a Capet to get thrashed by a 21 year old boy! Morhiban? Hah! You’d never see a Knytling get embarrassed like that!”

    “They go there,” Magnus said over the noise of the group, pointing towards Majorca, ignoring the argument around him. “Leave two months!” he smiled broadly, displaying a set of teeth far finer than anyone would have expected.

    “What does that mean?” Basil asked Rodrigo hurriedly. Drogo, Knud and Boleslav were back to their posturing, and angry words were flying yet again. The Spaniard managed to ask in broken Swedish, and Magnus began to laugh – great, rolling laughs that echoed over the room. Happily he blurted out a string of noises that grated Basil’s gentle Greek ears, and Rodrigo’s face paled.

    “He said!” Rodrigo shouted above the din. The arguing kings fell silent, unused to anyone shouting them down. By their glares, it was apparent they, especially Knud and Drogo, chalked it up to ‘eastern arrogance.’ “He said,” Rodrigo then said more quietly in Latin, for the benefit of all others present as well, “that his 150 longships left Gotland two months ago, and are headed for Majorca already!”

    Already?!” Basil’s eyes went wide. If the Swedes left two months ago, they would be nearing the coast of France… which would mean no surprise attack by the Romanoi on the Baleares…

    …It would also mean no matter what, Basil would have a friendly harbor in the Baleares, so long as he kept good relations with Magnus. Instantly, the unknown was suddenly a kingmaker in his own right.

    “My, he’s eager!” Heinrich snarled, upset that the king he regarded as no more than a stupid Viking had upstaged him. “Leave it to a Viking to go pillaging! Knud, it appears you have a blood brother!”

    “Leave it to a German to whine about being pillaged!” Knud shot back, furious that the German Emperor, his ‘friend,’ would insult him so.

    “Leave it to a Dane to…not know the difference!” Boleslav’s insult fell flat. The Danish King responded with something harsh to Basil’s ears, but evidently understood by Boleslav. The Pole was immediately on his feet, and for the second time today, the Roman Emperor was thankful that no one had brought weapons into the Lateran Palace.

    “Majesties!”

    Immediately all eyes turned on Basil, whose military grade bellow was still echoing off the rafters of the ceiling. None of these princes had ever been spoken to in that manner before, all of them were wide eyed, incredulous, some even angry, but one by one, they returned to their seats as a chastised child would hide in the corner. Basil had no illusions that he had their obedience, he had their attention, likely only momentarily. So he made the best of his moment, and focused them back on their plans…

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


    Basil came out of his chambers long after the other kings had left. Only one person was waiting for him an Rodrigo – a respite from the long lines of people that had waited before.

    “So what are we looking at?” Alexandros Thrakesios asked impatiently.

    “Boleslav and Knud probably won’t send anything,” Basil sighed. “They say they will, but they’re going to be at each other’s throats in no time. I’d say it’ll be a month after they leave here before ‘troubles at home’ prevent from them sending their men. Once we’re in Spain, the war between them will start in earnest as soon as no one else is looking.”

    “And the others?”

    “That Varangian Magnus has longships on the way,” Basil said with no small amount of admiration. “I won’t expect much from him except a spirited few, but even that could be helpful,” Basil smiled. “Take this note down – Tomorrow I want to privately meet with Magnus, and have something suitable on hand as a gift to thank him for his…”

    “Resourcefulness?” Rodrigo offered.

    “Yes. Rodrigo, you’re in charge of that, and brush up on your Swedish.”

    “I hear there are some ladies from that northern land in some of the bordellos here in Rome!” Alexandros offered. Rodrigo glared at his friend, before deciding ignoring him was the best option.

    “And what of the three major princes?” Alexandros asked, falling in step behind Rodrigo and the Emperor.

    “Heinrich and Drogo almost have to send forces, though I’d expect only 5-10,000 from each,” Basil said quietly.

    “Any coordination between them?”

    “None whatsoever.”

    “So,” Alexandros crossed his arms and huffed, “you’re telling me all of Christendom is lumbering into this massive affair blindly flailing about, with little rhyme or reason as to why?”

    “Personal issues, would be the reason why,” Basil clarified. “I might have struck a chord with the King of England, I’d expect him to cooperate the most. If he holds to his word, we could have 15,000 men landing in northern Almeria as we attack the south. Drogo I expect to even hinder us – as a reminder, make sure that when we return the Megas Doux knows that our fleet’s line of scouting galleys should keep an eye out for French ships and take them into custody until we have safely landed.”

    “Yes, Majesty. And what of the Western Emperor?”

    Basil shrugged. “Heinrich will have both Boleslav and Knud playing war on his border any time, and he has little directly to gain from the Crusade. I’d expect him to offer to pay someone else’s way – coin is easier to come by than trained troops. But it’s no matter,” the Emperor waved them all off. “We don’t need an organized response from the West, or even hardly a response at all. As long as the West musters, and some Latins attack the north of Iberia, it will distract attention from us. Rodrigo?”

    “Yes Majesty, two more letters from Sophie,” Rodrigo handed over several scrolls to Basil.

    “They say?” Basil prompted.

    “The Office of Foreign Affairs under her supervision in my absence has made contact with the Sultan of Morocco, and in her words, we’ve ‘suitably persuaded’ him that our intentions are to merely establish a few trading posts in Almerian territory, and knock the upstart Sultanate of Toledo down a notch. She requests, no demands that you make sure that after Almeria falls, we do not aid the Crusaders overtly, else the ruse will end.”

    Basil closed his eyes and nodded. Running the Empire at times could be a truly dirty business.

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

    Muhammed ibn Yusuf, Emir of Almeria


    So, as Basil said, the Crusade begins, uncoordinated, with rivalries abounding. Yet, at least, it looks as if the Latins are moving. Will an uncoordinated strike be enough? Will they get their act together? Are Basil’s suspicions of Drogo accurate? More will come to light next Rome AARisen!

    As an OOC Note: This Crusade, seemingly all of Europe dogpiled on the more Emirate of Toledo (which I've elevated to a Sultanate, given its size and income) - and in game decision to invade Spain was more based on "Grab some now while its low BB muslims I have to declare war on, rather than later when its all Christian and I have to watch my BB carefully." This will get really bumpy really soon, so stay tuned!
    Last edited by General_BT; 06-06-2008 at 10:57.
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  2. #1102
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    That was a nice scene with bickering. Indeed, it's 1172 and they're all barbarians.

    Haha damn Magnus, snuck in with an early attack. I foresee a Mallorcan Kingdom that will last exactly as long as the Greeks stay friendly.
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    Those men sounded much more capable in the abstract than they do when we actually meet them. And I can’t imagine that their campaign performance will be much improving my opinion of them…
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  5. #1105
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  6. #1106
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    Thumbs up

    "150 longships leave Gotland!" Brilliant, just brilliant.

    It's the little things like this that are the reason I read this fabulous AAR. Keep up the good work.

  7. #1107
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexanderPrimus
    "150 longships leave Gotland!"
    Indeed. Grammatical irony can be hilarious
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  8. #1108
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    As expected, a contentious little meeting. The decision to split the Emperor's army was probably not the greatest, but I imagine the high level of training and coordination will overcome the defenses well enough. But lands so far away will be difficult to hold onto for long.
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  9. #1109
    "150 ships leave Gotland! Two months!"

    And Knud Knytling seems more cunning than he has any right to be. A self-serving little rat, but he comes across as a pretty clever one. Certainly brainier than the Pole he's spent years fighting.

  10. #1110
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    Another odd update.
    I wonder if there really was any meeting- and where was the pope?

    lingua franca... still latin eh... our lingua franca should also be latin, not english.

    Yay... where did the swedish king disappear?
    And scots are missing...

    But anyways, it was still a good update.
    Just because it was a update.

  11. #1111
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    I loved the way the other kings treated Magnus as a halfwit until he told them that he had already started the crusade
    And Bonifatce/Rimini is a pretty humane pope, definately a lot less aggressive towards christians and muslims alike than the likes of Urban and so on.
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  12. #1112
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    First of all, next update is about 25% done. I'm probably going to work on it more tomorrow, it should be up Friday or Saturday most likely. As a teaser, the title of the update is called Menorca, and it'll deal with Basil and about 5,000 Romanoi landing on the island as part of the immense invasion plan...

    Eams - Boniface is a man who has seen alot of sin in his capacity as one of the major nuncios for Papal policy, and to be frank, along with Innocent II he stared destruction in the face when Manuel came calling. As a consequence, he's far more... quiet... in his use of Papal authority than Urban was. Then again effective authority doesn't necessarily mean overt, extravagant power. Boniface's ability to influence the Eastern Emperor through pre-existing friendship is probably something almost as powerful as Urban issuing the call for the First Crusade.

    Enewald - The pope was in the city, but the main meeting mostly came out of Basil and Boniface's annoyance that more time was being spent on royal functions than planning. The Swedish King was there... Magnus sent his invasion force ahead of everyone else actually! The Scots never showed up... they weren't expected anyways - likely they're still licking their wounds from Richard's savaging them at Flodden.

    kalenderee - Well, the in game Knud had rather average ratings, but had traits such as 'proud' and 'hostile.' I also imagined that someone who had somehow gained disparate holdings from the Baltic to southern Russia needed some kind of cunning and deviousness. So I constructed him basically as an evil little man.

    Estonianzulu - True. Basil can afford to perform complex manuevers with his armies that the Latins can't hope to match. What Basil is hoping to do is gain a foothold as quick as possible - and considering Almeria's weakness, it's the logical starting place.

    RGB - I couldn't imagine a situation where this disparate group of Kings could have gotten together and agreed on anything. Drogo has dreams of a Western med that is surrounded by the fleur-des-lis or his vassals, Richard is a hothead, Heinrich is trying to be clever and manipulative, while Knud and Boleslav hate each other. Magnus alone had no strong personality, so I had some fun with him.

    AlexanderPrimus - I wanted Magnus, the one that everyone else considered a partial barbarian, to be the one that made the most sense, and was working towards the goal, just to underscore the childishness and discontent in the rest of more "civilized" Europe.

    canonized - They're trying their best. I doubt the Panzerkardinal would be pleased with the result, however...

    Fulcrumvale - Individually, in a military campaign any of the kings would be at least competent. The problem is that they are competing with each other, even as they march for a "common goal." In many ways, they're their own greatest enemy - much like the Christian states of Iberia during most of the real life Reconquista. Would one of them sink low enough to ally with the targets of the Crusade or engage in dastardly acts to undermine other Christians? We'll have to see!

    phargle - Thought you'd get a kick out of a rather grouchy Knud!
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  13. #1113
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    Ups... I mean norse?
    I thought it was sweden missing... but is Norway there?

  14. #1114
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    Well we couldn't have expected all those personalities to get along perfectly Lets just hope Basil manages to grab a good piece of the cake..
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  15. #1115
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    June 19th, 1172

    Basil III Komnenos, Emperor of Romanion, looked around the hills above him with quiet, growing nervousness.

    After the conference of Rome had ended, the Emperor had gone to Sicily to supervise the planning and equipping of the expedition. At the insistence of his wife, (who had given birth to a third son, Thomas), Basil had prepared another 10,000 of the Emperor’s personal troops from Sicily as reinforcements for the campaign, but as the fleet’s deployments had already begun, they could not be transported in the first wave.

    In April, word reached Basil that a month prior, Richard of England had landed an army of 18,000 men in the north of Spain, and immediately started marching for the Pyrenees. Rodrigo and Imperial intelligence were sure that Heinrich had an army of some 20,000 waiting to cross the Pyrenees, but they weren’t as sure about Drogo’s troops – some estimates said the French King was bringing 5,000 to the field, others said as much as 30,000 thousand. As expected, Boleslav and Knud sent nothing.

    On May 5th, Emperor Basil and an army of 20,000 men boarded ships in Messina, and began sailing west. Basil’s personal destination – Menorca.

    Menorca was a small but highly strategic island, with two major harbors, one at the town of Mao on the eastern end, and another at the far western end. Should the Romanoi take the island before the other Crusaders, it would give Romanion a centrally located naval base in the middle of the Western Med, and thus immense leverage in any political situation in either Iberia, North Africa, or southern France.

    With the success of Magnus’ assault on Majorca, the Roman Emperor had reapportioned his forces, much to his strategos’ satisfaction. The 5,000 Romanoi that would have assaulted Majorca were instead reassigned to accompany the Megas Doux and his invasion of Almeria proper. Normally an operation as small as Menorca would have required only two strategoi, the Basil had decided to come along to expedite the building of the naval base once the island was occupied.

    Yet now, he was filled with nervousness.


    The strategically situated island of Menorca, with two natural harbors, either of which could serve as a naval base, one on the eastern and one on the western sides of the island.


    A central mountainous spine split the island in half. On paper, a large force could hide there without being spotted, so the Romanoi used other means to see if the island’s garrison was larger than normal. A large garrison would need lots of food imported by sea, so the Romanoi fleet scoured the surrounding waters for Moorish ships in the weeks before the invasion. They found only a couple Moorish ships – not nearly enough to have supplied or reinforced anything more than the tiny local garrison. Indeed, the only ships the Romanoi had seen at sea was a fleet of French vessels sailing for Majorca to reinforce the Swedish garrison.

    Basil still had a sense of foreboding, but despite that, with all the intelligence he had at his fingertips, he reasoned it was nothing. The garrison of the island was likely less than a thousand men, so Basil split his 5,000 evenly into two columns, Alexandros Thrakesios and one column marching on the north of the island, while Basil and Ioannis Vataczes marched on the south. Between them, the two should have found and destroyed the local garrison, which apparently had given up Mao and taken to the hills.

    “I’m growing worried,” Basil said quietly after a few minutes as the column trudged onwards. The Emperor had slowed his usual hectic marching pace to give the men a breather. Menorca was small, the garrison couldn’t have run far. “We haven’t heard from Alexandros’ column for over five hours. We should have heard something by now…”

    “The information my boys got was top notch,” Vataczes replied. “‘Effin brilliant people, you know. They said there were only five ships in both of the harbors, five total. That’s not nearly enough to convey any reinforcements to the town garrisons. They’ve probably run to the ‘effin other end of the island – cowardly slobs.”

    Basil nodded, reassured. Yet the hours continued to tick by, and afternoon led to evening, and the column made camp. Still, there was no word from Alexandros, nor his 2,500 men. As the night wore on the Emperor became increasingly impatient and anxious, sending off courier after courier. When the midnight hour finally came, Basil called together his council of war.

    Many things could have happened. Couriers that attempted to ride up over the spine could have run into the garrison itself. Couriers that rode back through Mao could have done the same. It was vexing to no end. Yet, all the numbers, all the information, assured Basil that he was only dealing with a small, mobile unit, and nothing more.

    The march would continue the next morning, with couriers this time riding ahead of the army to try to round the island to make contact with Alexandros. The march continued, slightly faster now, as Basil’s impatience grew. Around noon, however, this impatience changed to something else.

    The Emperor was riding with a small contingent of the Hetaratoi, the elite of the elite cavalry, the training ground for young noblemen who would serve the Empire. Two new members of the unit were loudly discussing sword methods, and the Emperor intervened to help with his own expertise. As he was explaining the Varangian defense, his eyes caught something up on the hillside.

    It was a small barrage of rocks and pebbles sliding down the mountainside. It was then, and only then, that Basil and his column heard the drums.

    Deep, rumbling drums, seemingly echoing off of the mountains and hills that ran down the center of the island.



    “Ambush!” Basil bellowed, drawing his sword. Desperately, the Emperor’s eyes scanned the mountains to their right, hoping to spot some sign of the enemy. Instead of enemy soldiers, his ears heard a distinct, frightening whistle.

    “Shields!” The scream echoed up and down the Romanoi, as soldiers desperately raised their shields upward. Basil’s horse, that brilliant black stallion that impressed so many crowds in Rome, screamed in pain as the dull thud of arrows piercing flesh assaulted the Emperor’s ears. The horse reared, and Basil found himself tumbling, landing on the ground with a thud.

    “Up, Majesty!” someone shouted, and friendly hands shoved Basil underneath the protective canopy of skoutatoi and menalavoi shields. The sounds of arrow strikes were louder, more apparent here – as were the arrow points sticking through the shields, like angry demons upset they couldn’t reach their quarry. Soldiers screamed, officers bellowed – pure chaos.

    “Hedgehog!” Orders were shouted up and down the line, as the Romanoi contingent functioned exactly as Basil had hoped even without him shouting the orders. Soldiers bunched up, forming lines, walls of spears and shields flashing outward, as the first sounds of the distinctive, warbling, high pitched Moorish battle scream came tumbling down the mountainside.

    Basil was on his feet. The Moors wouldn’t shoot if their men were down here. His horse was no where to be seen. A cavalryman rode up, and leapt off his mount, shoving the reins towards the Emperor. Basil quickly leapt back into the saddle.

    “Your name, young man?!” he shouted, sword in hand again, watching as the skoutatoi braced for the oncoming wave of humanity.

    “Georgios Donauri!” the young man shouted back.

    “God bless you, Georgios!” the Emperor called, as the Moorish screams hit a crescendo, the noises of men yelling their battle cries mingling now with the sounds of weapons striking steel, wood, and flesh. The Romanoi archers were already loosing volleys over the heads of the skoutatoi into the Moorish masses, backed up by their fighting comrades. All around him, the Emperor heard only the noise of utter slaughter – Moors were running down the hills from behind the Romanoi, alongside them, and a few even ahead of them.

    The Emperor looked to their left, towards the sea. The fleet would be their salvation, but to the left, the Emperor saw rocky outcroppings rising from the ocean just off-shore. No Romanoi ship could get close enough to evacuate them, and the rocky beach was too narrow for an orderly withdrawl.

    We have to break through! Basil realized. Ahead, at the western tip of the island, was a beach, as well as the other natural harbor on the island. From his new mount, the Emperor took in his opponents – clad in loose linens. Wicker shields. Spears, scimitars, but he noticed one thing was lacking.

    Armor.

    “Vataczes!” the Emperor bellowed, until he caught sight of the burly Greek screaming his lungs out at a wavering band of skoutatoi. “Vataczes! We have to move west! Get the skoutatoi in the western line to open up! We’ll charge their lines!”

    Vataczes nodded, before turning towards the proper group of soldiers and bellowing a few words of command between his strings of swear words.

    Hetaratoi!” Basil barked, grabbing a spear handed to him from below. Around him gathered the hundred or so men of his bodyguard, their faces, whether brave or fearful, hidden by masks of mail. “Wedge!” Basil yelled again, and a glance behind him saw the cavalry form into a thick spearpoint of horses and steel, the Emperor as its point. The noise of battle now too loud to yell commands, the Emperor raised his spear, glanced back to see the command lift their lances in answer, before he spurred his horse to a trot.

    As Vataczes spat, and shouted, the skoutatoi parted as planned, and Basil’s horsemen cantered through, before the Emperor raised his lance again. The group seemed trembled with thunder as the Hetaratoi broke into a gallop, and their lances lowered, reaching for the oncoming Moorish infantry.

    Like a scythe reaping a harvest of blood, the Hetaratoi and their horses cut a bloody swath through the Moorish ranks, breaking through. No sooner had the Emperor reached the other side than he drew his sword, and with a scream of “Hagios Demetrios!” lead the cavalry in a second charge into the rear of the Moorish lines. Blood ran freely, as Basil swung his sword again and again. The western Moorish lines broke, then ran up the mountain, away from the demon horsemen.

    “Vataczes!” the Emperor galloped up to the harried skoutatoi, “Forward! Forward in formation! Go! Go! Go!”

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

    The salvation the Romans were desperately making for, the natural harbor on the western end of the island.


    June 20th, 1172

    Five blood filled hours later, the skoutatoi and the rest of the column managed to force their way further into a natural defile that left only the way forward and the way back. In this safer place, Basil finally allowed the army to stop, with a rotation between sleeping and watch.

    The Moors had bunched most of their army on the flank and behind the Roman line of march, clearly attempting to prevent them from retreating back to the fleet at Mao. Time and again, the Roman cavalry charged westerwards, cutting through the Moorish lines, allowing the infantry to move a little closer to the western beachhead, and possible salvation.

    Save, someone had to tell the fleet to go there.
    As Basil looked over the tattered remnants of the column, now standing minus some 500 of his men, he spotted a face that looked familiar. With a smile, the blood-stained Emperor hugged an equally gore covered Donauri.

    “You made it through!”

    “I did, Majesty,” the young cavalryman said, before showing the Emperor his sword. It was pitted and dented, and in desperate need of cleaning. “Many Moors fell under my blade, and my shoulders are tired.”

    “Come then, I have a job for you that should strain your shoulders less,” the Emperor took the young man’s hand, and led him back towards his impromptu headquarters, one fire amidst many in this armed refugee camp.

    “…’effin bastards,” Vataczes was saying as the two reached the camp. “Majesty,” the burly peasant was on his feet, “Just tellin’ the kentarchos about how we fared on the right – lost five senior officers, three kentarchoi…”

    “Donauri,” the Emperor said, gesturing to Vataczes, “this is strategos Ioannis Vataczes. Vataczes, this man saved my life earlier today – got me up and kept me from getting trampled.”

    “Good!” Vataczes laughed harshly, “I can’t always keep an ‘effin eye on His Majesty!”

    “H…how many Moors are up there,” Donauri pointed to the mountains hefting themselves upward into the darkness, “and behind us?”

    “More than you could piss on,” Vataczes said sourly.

    “Perhaps six or seven thousand are left. We killed many, many today, and yet they kept coming,” Basil said glumly.

    “Yer assumin’ they didn’t have more than ten thousand to start with!” Vataczes reminded. “The big question is, how the ‘effin hell did they get so many men on this island?”

    Donauri shrugged, even shriveled slightly in his illustrious company. Basil motioned for him to sit, then the Emperor sat down in the sand and rock beside him.

    “I don’t know… the only other force in the area was the fleet of French ships that hailed us two weeks ago, said they were on their way to reinforce Magnus’ men in Majorca,” Basil mused… before suddenly his eyes narrowed. Would Drogo have been that afraid of Romanoi in the Western Med that he…?

    “There’s an idea poppin’ in ‘is head,” Vataczes pointed at the Emperor. “Look, he’s getting’ all slack-jawed even.”

    A nervous laugh went around this small cluster of men, Donauri joining in. Basil looked at Vataczes, trying to put on a harsh face, but he couldn’t. They were getting at ease – relaxing, resting… all of which would restore them for the trials on the morrow.

    Or in Donauri’s case, the trial of tonight.

    “Donauri,” the Emperor spoke, “how good are you at staying awake all night?”

    The young man smiled nervously. “My mother used to curse us children for staying up late and harassing the servants,” the young man said cautiously. “I can go help man the watches, if that is Your Majesty’s wish, that is no…”

    “Donauri, take your horse back,” Basil said simply, pointing towards the bay standing just outside of the light of the campfire. “Ride east, ride hard. On your life, tell Admiral Kourzos that he needs to get the fleet to the western beaches as quickly as possible. Here,” the Emperor rummaged through his personal effects, tossed on the ground, until he found a parchment. He handed it quickly to his aide. “Write to such effect, in case young Donauri is not able to speak when he arrives.”

    “Yes Majesty,” the young man nodded, his eyes wide, his breathing hard.

    “This is a difficult task, I know, but one man could slip through their lines behind us… if they came out of the mountain passes, that means they likely were on the other side of the island. They’re unlikely to be there now. Ride ahead of us until you find a pass over, then turn around. Ride hard, ride fast. The fate of the army rests on your shoulders, now go!”

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


    June 21st, 1172

    Basil Komnenos, called the living reincarnation of the Megos, watched, tired and weary, as the Moors reformed their lines to assault the Romanoi yet again.

    Since the sun started peeking over the horizon, the Moors had restarted their incessant assaults. Volleys of arrow fire followed by screeching, warbling charges, the men crying out their battlecries in lilting, frightening Arabic. Slowly the imperial column fought its way onward, the Moors nipping at its heels.

    Finally, at noon, they had reached the Western harbor and beaches. Distantly, on the horizon, the Emperor could see the sails of the massed Byzantine fleet – so Donauri had gotten through. However, as quickly as they were making for the harbor, Basil didn’t know if they’d last that long.

    His tired, worn column was worn down to less than half the number that landed at Mao four days earlier. The skoutatoi line was tiring, and it was obvious both cavalrymen and horses were near their limit. The Romanoi line, stretching in an immense semi-circle around the beach, could last only so long.

    Finally the fleet drew close enough that its could launch boats, and one by one, a sea of rowboats arrived on the beach. Yet the Moors remained, constantly attacking, their pressure preventing the skoutatoi or other Roman units from breaking ranks to retreat to the boats, while preventing the catapults of the Romanoi galleys from providing cover for the retreat.

    Hetaratoi!” Basil barked, mounted now on his third horse, a fiery bay whose master had been gutted by a Moorish axe, “Form wedge!”

    Yet again the heavy Roman cavalry formed up, and the skoutatoi parted as trained. Once, twice, three times the Hetaratoi charged in and back out of the Moorish ranks, cutting swaths of blood and gore. Once, twice, three times the Moors vast superiority in numbers meant they could fill in the gap and merely press their assault more. When they were attacking, they showered the Roman lines with arrows, taking down the tired, the weary, those that could not hold up their shields any longer.

    Finally, as Basil led the Hetaratoi through the Moorish lines back to the skoutatoi during a fourth charge, the inevitable happened – a Moorish spear found the Emperor’s third mount in as many days, and Basil found himself pitched to the ground. He felt a hand grabbing him, pulling him up, and saw Vataczes grabbing him as the Hetaratoi desperately formed a circle of steeds and steel around their Emperor. Once Basil was up on the back of Vataczes’ beleaguered horse, the remains of the Hetaratoi thundered back to the Roman lines.

    Basil dismounted, and surveyed the situation.



    Despite the furious charges, the Moors kept coming. An unending wave of screaming humanity. The night before Basil had guessed there were some six or seven thousand left. Now, he saw, there were far more. On the distant hilltop, he could make out one man in particular, riding a large white mare, clad in silk.

    The Emir.

    He would motion to several immense trumpeters next to him, their horns would blow, and the attacks would come anew. As the battle raged, Basil noticed something else – every time he led the Hetaratoi into the midst of the enemy, the attacks would suddenly shift to him. The reason for the sheer ferocity of the Moorish attack became apparent…

    The Moors wanted to kill him. His armor was plain, save for the gilt circlet that went around his helm, so his men could know where their emperor was. Clearly, that alone was enough. Killing Basil would instantly stop the Romanoi attack. Konstantinopolis’ politics were well known, even infamous, across the Mediterranean basin. If the Emir could kill the Emperor, he’d gain time to mobilize his resources, and fight off the Crusaders – even if he paid a high price here.

    All of this went through Basil’s head as he saw the Moors swiftly form for another monstrous attack. The boats were here, but so long as the Moors kept their incessant assaults going, the skoutatoi wouldn’t be able to leave the line for fear of being run down.

    The Hetaratoi would have to charge, one last time. As more of the Moorish soldiers poured into the front ranks, it was apparent to even the dimmest of eyes that if the horribly thinned ranks of the Hetaratoi charged once more, they would not make it out alive.

    Basil closed his eyes, preparing his soul. So this is how it would end – on some minute Mediterranean island, thousands of miles from Konstantinopolis. He’d lived through his father’s murderous reign, attacks by the Turks, and the intrigues of Zeno, only to be trapped by Moors on Menorca.

    So be it.

    “Vataczes!” Basil barked, “Form the Hetaratoi! I’ll lead the wedge into the Moors, and buy our infantry some time to retreat!” The Emperor started looking desperately for a free mount. Horses were running amok as more and more skoutatoi broke from the line, running as quickly as they could for the safety of the beached boats.

    Vataczes reined up his horse right next to Basil, incredulous. “What?”

    “Get me a mount!” Basil bellowed. “I’ll form the Hetaratoi! We’ll charge them headlong, kick them into the teeth and give the infantry time to get on the boats!”

    “Majesty, I’m not going to get you an ‘effin horse, you moron!” Vataczes barked. “Hetaratoi will form on me!” the gruff general barked.

    “You will find me a horse, Vataczes, that is an order from your Emperor!

    Vataczes looked at Basil, his eyes wide with battle fury peering from beneath his helm. “With all due respect, ‘eff that, Majesty! Get your ass to the boat! You!” He pointed at two men.

    Basil found himself roughly shoved into grasping hands, and despite his shouts, and his struggle, handed off to yet more sets of hands that pushed and pulled him away from the fighting. As he shouted and screamed, he saw Vataczes take off his helm and toss it away before drawing his sword. Even this far away, the Emperor could hear his strategos’ frightening bellow.

    “C’mon, you ‘effin runts! You wear a bunch of pretty armor, time to put it to ‘effin use!”


    The death charge of Ioannis Vataczes


    The strategos put his spurs into his steed, and the hundred strong contingent of Hetaratoi thundered forward, lances fixed, directly into the heart of the Moorish infantry. Bodies flew, horses screamed, and within seconds the maelstrom of combat had disappeared into a thickening could of dust.

    It was a hopeless fight. Every single martial sinew in Basil’s body knew that, and screamed that he needed to join them, to fight alongside them, to try to save as many as possible. Vataczes rode to his doom. If Basil had to charge as well to save his scattered, broken men, he would. Desperately, he tried to fight free, but the hands that held him were fast and strong. He struggled in vain.

    “Onto the boats, Majesty!” a particularly burly kentarchos now had a hold of Basil and roughly pushed him towards a waiting rowboat. The Emperor spun to try to escape their grasp, to charge into the fray, save his men, but other hands grabbed him and pulled. He fell into the boat with an ignominous thump.

    By the time he could scramble up, the thick armed Greek at the oars had pulled them far enough out that Basil knew he couldn’t jump into water and swim. The dull rumble of the fleet’s catapults turned into a roar, as the surviving skoutatoi finally got the breathing room they needed to break ranks for the boats. The most powerful man in Christendom was forced to listen to the receding noise of a massacre, as the gentle lapping of the ocean rocked his tiny rowboat.

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


    The Roman golden boy has suffered an immense disaster, some 4,426 out of the 5,000 troops that invaded Menorca were lost. Moorish casualties were unknown at this time… though by all likelihoods they were heavy. Does this mean the end of the Spanish experiment? And did the King of France have anything to do with the disaster? All this and more when Rome AARisen continues!

    EDIT - fixed Vataczes picture.
    Last edited by General_BT; 15-01-2009 at 22:33.
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  16. #1116
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    Crap, I fear the worst for Vataczes, and 4000 men is a hefty dent in the invasion forces, not a good start by any means.
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  17. #1117
    Honourable Saxon Thegn AlexanderPrimus's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Wow, what a horrendous battle!

    I believe congratulations are in order -- you've successfully written something that most authAARs seem utterly incapable of producing: a spectacular defeat.

    Most well-written and well-done. Keep up the great work, friend.

  18. #1118
    Strategos ton Exkoubitores Fulcrumvale's Avatar
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    Vataczes is dead. Thrakesios is missing, probably dead. The elite cavalry tagmata of the expedition are mostly dead. The French king is conspiring with the Muslims to kill Basil. The smart move would probably be for Basil to cut his losses and retreat, but this is a man who fancies himself Hagios Demetrios reborn. He’ll go back for reinforcements and fight it out again and again and again until he’s certain that vengeance is his.

    Edit:
    Quote Originally Posted by AlexanderPrimus

    I believe congratulations are in order -- you've successfully written something that most authAARs seem utterly incapable of producing: a spectacular defeat.

    Most well-written and well-done. Keep up the great work, friend.
    Absolutely agree.
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  19. #1119
    The Fuehrer of the Dance Mettermrck's Avatar
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    Whew that was a glorious description even if it was a horrific setback. I could picture the action and really enjoyed the descriptions of each particular maneuver. Well done!

  20. #1120
    That was epic! Very inspiring.

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