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Thread: Rome AARisen - a Byzantine AAR

  1. #661
    Black Hound of Han Enewald's Avatar
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    Awwies.... an empire must be divided before it can be united....
    But so soon after the death of Demetrios Megos....

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  3. #663
    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    Nikolai - Far down the road, the empire suffers several disasters because of this (well, one disastrous century). But this is presented in the form of a college lecture, where centuries can easily get crushed into one or two week segments. So no, not immediately, but the Empire as you know it (and will know it) won't exist in the 15th century. Come to think of it, alot of the world as you know it from the 15th century is radically different...

    The only other thing I have to reveal on that subject is this:



    canonized - Thank you - Theodoros and Kosmas might be making cameos again (and it was a lucky coincidence that the real in game characters at the time.)

    Lord Valentine - See above for the description of the "fall" of the Byzantine Empire. Like the fall of the original Roman Empire, it'll be a misnomer.

    The process of the feudal contract starts with Manuel, and by the end of his reign, most princes have hereditary rights. Through the reigns of the following Emperors, more rights are given until about a hundred years after Manuel the themes are given control of their own military forces. This was because the Emperor at the time thought the Imperial tagmata was strong enough he could cow lords as he saw fit... he and his descendants were proven wrong (No, this Emperor isn't the Emperor Anastasios Sviatik referenced).

    English Patriot - It's a long, slippery slope, and yes, with the malcontents that make up the Byzantine aristocracy, in the long term the process is a bad move. Manuel is acting in the here and now though - that if he doesn't control the rebellion, it won't matter as there's a real chance he'll lose the throne - especially after Romanos managed to lose his whole army in the East.

    Fulcrumvale - Exactly. Byzantium is stretched, the bureaucracy hasn't caught up yet. Feudal contract provided a cheap way for the Emperor to maintain control over a large empire. Long term it caused major, serious issues.

    As for the Mongols... *whistles*

    Enewald - So soon after Demetrios, his descendants make a misstep, yes. I'll drop another tidbit. In 1453 (when the EU3 version of this will begin, hopefully), there are still Komnenids on thrones, many thrones. I won't say which ones or where.

    Alfred Packer - *whistles*
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  4. #664
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    Wooot, mongols destroying the golden city?
    And going for eu3, more wooots!

  5. #665
    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    Well, right now the next update is about 40% complete. In lieu of a teaser, I thought I would offer the following instead:








    The Imperial Campaign of the Great Rebellion. After his victories at Smyrna and Dorylaem, Manuel joined the remnants of Romanos' army and won a crushing victory over the eastern rebellious dynatoi at Lake Van. This was undone by the defeat of an aggressive attack by Kosmas Komnenos on the Prince of Ascalon at Joshua's Ford. The Emperor was forced to leave large garrisons as he marched south, joined with the Antioch Komnenids, and invaded Egypt.

    The Prince of Ascalon retreated before this great host, and joined with the Prince of Damietta who had raised all of Egypt outside of Alexandria into arms against Manuel. In the great Battle of the Sea of Reeds, the Emperor's archers and light infantry tore apart their heavier opponents, and by Christmas of 1153, Egypt and the East were secure.

    Yet much remained to be done. The Emperor dispatched Kosmas and his brother Demetrios to seize the islands of Cyprus, Crete, and the Aegean islands who were in revolt. Cyprus was taken, but disagreement between Kosmas and Demetrios led to disaster at Rhodes, where a mercenary fleet hired by the rebels crushed the Imperial armada, with the two imperial commanders barely making it out with their lives.

    The Emperor had meanwhile seized Cyrenaica, anointing his cousin the Prince of said province. Manuel regrouped his fleet, and tried again, this time defeating the mercenary fleet and taking Rhodes, before slowly taking each rebel island in turn. By August of 1155, only one target remained in the Emperor's sights - the origin of the rebellion itself... Taranto...
    Last edited by General_BT; 30-03-2009 at 01:47.
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  6. #666
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    Basileia could have had anything done during those 2 long years of civil war... or she could have been sleeping all the time....
    But who knows....

  7. #667
    The Tarentine rebels can expect no mercy from Manuel and Godfrey's days as a Duke are surely coming to an end.

  8. #668
    Wizzaard Estonianzulu's Avatar
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    Awh shucks, my hopes that Manuel would fall in a rather gloriously hideous fashion during this rebellion seems to be unfounded. Although I am very interested to find out what the tragedy of Apulia will be.
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  9. #669
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    Estonianzulu - Manuel survived this one, but he's the Emperor, which means there's no doubt more stuff will come his way...

    Chief Ragusa - No doubt of that...

    Enewald - Basiliea did try a few things, revealed below...



    A visual representation of the extent of the rebellion, and the extent of the bureaucratic hole left in its wake. These are the shields of all of the themes who need new princes as of 1155, and none of the counties who need new comes are represented. They are, starting from the top row, left to right, Aegean Islands, Lykia, Istria, Cyprus, Azerbijian (conquered when Georgia fell at Lake Van), Varna, Vidin, Wallachia, Cyrenaica, Chaldea-Coloneia, Calabria, Butrinto, Aswan, Ascalon, Apulia and Al Jazira.








    August 6th, 1155


    Basilieos shot straight upright in bed, his hand grasping the large metal candlestick holder that sat on an endtable within reach.

    In the moonlight, his tall, thin form didn't shiver, didn't shake, and his eyes were wide. Like a cat, he held still, immensely still - Halfdan had taught him that at night, one sees movement far better than anything. Despite the haziness of everything around him, Basilieos kept his eyes alert. He waited, holding his breath.

    For several minutes, he'd been alarmed by something unseen, unknown, even as he lay under his covers. At first, the ten year old prince had cowered lower, but the prinkly, the unease, had only grown worse. He'd sliped out from under his covers, and that was when he caught the first movement. Something slight. So the prince had slid carefully to the side of his bed that was covered in darkness, and closest to the heavy candlestick now in his hand. Slowly, ever so slowly, the prince raised the candlestick above his head, as the movement drew closer.

    In the moonlight Basilieos made out the fuzzy shape of a short, squat man, with ugly lips and eyes that glinted. He edged close to the bed, and the sharp brightness of a dagger in the moonlight caught Basilieos' eyes.

    Halfdan Crovan had trained the prince well. Basilieos waited until the man was very very close, almost leaning over him, still not seeing the prince's face or ready hand in the dark. Then, with all the power his young form could muster, Basilieos brought the metal slashing down on the man's head.

    The blow was true, and Basilieos' ears were rewarded with the dull crack of metal breaking bone, and wetness suddenly covered his hand. The man crumpled beside the prince's bed with a dull thump, and to be sure, Basilieos smashed him several more times. Some part of Basilieos' mind registered the dull, wet smacks were not the noise he'd expected when killing a man, but he finished the work, before dropping the candlestick to the floor. His heart racing, he dashed over to the doorway, and peeked out.

    Both guards on either side of the door were dead, their necks split open. The Prince knew what he had to do. He dashed down the hall, peering around every corridor, until he made it to the cell of the priest von Kranke.

    From the moment they'd arrived in Taranto, Basilieos had not trusted his cousin Zeno. The man said too little, and looked around too much. After the brothers he had the most legitimate claim to the Imperial throne, and von Kranke had cautioned the prince to be careful. The priest had said should Zeno ever attempt any harm on him the priest would make sure the young prince had asylum in Rome. There, the Pope guaranteed that the young prince would remain safe, no matter what happened to his mother.

    Basilieos, naturally, had kept up to date on the war. Every traveller that came through was instantly peppered with questions from the young prince on what they knew. Every merchant that came to the villa to tell the Prince how the war progressed was given a gift of a hundred silver solidii. From all of this information, Basilieos had already pieced together what was happening - his mother was beaten on all fronts, her armies and fleets retreating. Taranto would shortly be under seige - and now this.

    Zeno had struck.

    The prince raced down the empty corridors, until finally he reached the small chambers of Helmuth von Kranke. He pounded insistently on the door. Finally it opened, revealing a tired Kranke only dressed in his sleeping shift.

    "What is this racket?" the priest complained. His hand was rummaging through his hair.

    The prince, without thinking, blurted out a description of what happened. How he'd been attacked in his room, how the man was dead, and how he'd run straight to the priest's quarters, as planned.

    "What should I do?"

    "Come in from the doorway first!" the priest grabbed the prince and pulled him into the room before quickly shutting and bolting the door. Then, he focused his attention on Basilieos, and his hand. "Are you hurt?"

    For the first time, Basilieos noticed his own right hand, covered in blood and bits of gore. He started to squeal, desperately trying to brush the bits off with his other hand. He only succeeded in spreading the gore. A split second after he shrieked, von Kranke's hand was over his mouth.

    "Hush child! Do you want to be caught?" the priest hissed.

    "My hands..." Basilieos cried into the priest's hands. He'd never killed anyone before. And the blood wouldn't come off... it wouldn't come off... Basilieos whimpered, and started to sob quietly. He felt the priest's enveloping grasp clasp him close.

    "Hush child... all will be well..." Kranke whispered quietly. "I'll take you to Rome. There you will be safe from all harm."

    "And what of my friends?" Basilieos asked quietly. He looked up and saw Kranke's face twist painfully - the old priest's lessons had drilled into the young prince's mind that a man's word was his bond, and that friendship and fellowship were to be cherished. For him to abandon his friends in an hour of woe...

    "I'll see what I can do," the priest said quietly.

    "And my brother?" Basilieos muttered, sobs still coming strong.

    The priest looked off in the distance for a moment, a silent sadness on his face. "He'll meet us in the Eternal City," the von Kranke said. In the darkness, the prince couldn't see the priest's saddened face, or the nervous eye twitch that came whenever the Cardinal lied. "Now come! We shouldn't delay any longer. If your cousin has designs on your life we must leave quickly." The priest pointed sharply to the shadows underneath his own bed. "Hide there, and stay quiet. I shall go make arrangements!"



    =============== ===============



    August 11th, 1155

    "So this is what the end feels like."

    Basiliea turned away from the windows of the Taranto Palace and pointed towards the door. Her maids bowed, and one by one filed out, leaving her alone to confront the mess she'd made. The plan that wasn't supposed to fail had - spectacularly.Manuel had survived her poisoning attempt, and marched back to restore order in the capital. Kappadokia and Samos had not united their armies in time, and were destroyed by the Emperor piecemeal. The list of blunders by the dynatoi was long, but Basiliea had already uttered a curse for each and every one of them over the last few weeks.

    In the distance she could see the walls of Taranto, and beyond that, her ex-husband's great host. She'd heard his bigamous marriage had netted him two sons already - Theodoros and Romanos. Both were bastards in Basiliea's eyes. No church council had decided their marriage was invalid - only the Ecumenical Patriarch, a known stooge of Manuel's designs.

    She uttered a curse for him as well.

    Basiliea closed her eyes, tears starting to flow as she looped her last request from her maidservants around a rafter high above. She climbed onto the stool they had left for her, and checked the knot while her mind raced over what could have been.

    She'd then made arrangements with the Franks and the Venetians in March of 1154 - the Franks were to provide an army to march into Greece, and the Venetians were to provide a fleet. From what she'd gathered, an enormous Frankish host, her sources stating over 60,000 strong, had gathered in the fields of Vermandois when the Regent Hugh was suddenly taken ill and died from the flux.

    Basiliea knew her husband's fingerprint when she saw it. Hugh had been a vivacious and strong young man - there was no way the bloody flux could have struck him down unless some potent herbs had assisted the spread of the disease. Yet the deed was done, and the regency passed to his younger brother Drogo, who dismissed the army on account of expense and pocketed the money sent by the Empress. The new Regent immediately used the money to crush all opposition to his rule, and promptly adopted the son of his dead brother as his own. England and France would be unified - without interposing themselves in the succession rebellion of the Greeks. Outmanuevered again.

    Only the Venetians had come.

    Even this seemed like it could be enough. That damnable Kosmas and the irascible Megos Domestikos had launched an island campaign, seizing Famagusta from the Prince of Cyprus - only to have their glories utterly demolished by the Venetian fleet of 44 galleys at Rhodes. Kosmas had wanted to sail north of the island to land, Demetrios south, and the two had split their fleet, letting the Venetians take it piecemeal. Manuel had taken the East, but if Basiliea pressed, and pressed quickly, she could take the West. So she pressed Prince Robert to do the thing she and her father had wanted to avoid.

    She pressed him to war.

    On August 8th, 1154, Robert de Hauteville, in concert with his cousin William, declared war on the Emperor, and marshaled their armies - 18,000 Normans, a healthy force. Coupled with the several thousand in Istria and Butrinto, it would have made a formidable force. As long as the Venetians held the sea, the Emperor would have to march many months from Egypt to get back to Konstantinopolis, while her fleet could transport her army across the Adriatic and be in Konstantinopolis months before her husband...

    But the Venetians did not hold the sea.

    In in the choppy waters of a December night, a second Imperial fleet, led by the same two warriors as before, silently moved into position outside the harbor of Rhodes. They set upon the Venetians with fireships while the latter peaceably rode at anchor, decimating the Venetian force. What galleys survived were boxed in and compelled to surrender the next day. December 19th, 1154 would be marked, by later historians as the beginning of the end of the rebellion.

    But Basiliea did not concern herself with this. Without a fleet, it was she who found her troops taken apart by piecemeal. Prince Michael of Bosnia took Istria, while Kosmas launched a lightning campaign across the Aegean islands and to Corfu. Slowing a storm had been gathering, and as the Empress looked out the window of her quarters one last time, she could see it breaking.

    It was now August 11th, 1155, and Basiliea knew the end when she saw it.

    The smell of smoke hung in the air, from the thousands of campfires that surrounded the battered city walls. Taranto had still not recovered from the last siege, ten years before - sections of the wall were still weak, and many of the towers remained unmanned. Since Roger's humiliating and disastrous defeat near Lecce the month before, there was no longer any doubt of what
    would happen - no doubt at all.

    Carefully Basiliea tugged on the rope, and found it was securely tied to the rafters.

    Zeno Komnenos had disappeared - Basiliea had no doubt the domestikos, carefully silent even while Robert went to war with his master, had now gone to his cousin's camp, laden with plans and promises of assistance. Niketas... tiny little Niketas... that had undoutedly been his doing as well. They'd found an assassin dead in Basilieos' room, a bloody candlestick beside his crushed skull. The Prince was gone, but Basiliea had no doubt.

    Her eldest son lived.

    Rimini had disappeared as well - Basilieos was in Rome. So be it. Let Manuel sire as many children as he could with that whore Ermisinde. Basilieos was the more legitimate heir - older, stronger, and more keen. He would survive her, and he would thrive. And he would make sure those bastards from that Greek woman never touched the throne. Ever.

    She looked out the window one last time, and inhaled deeply. Smoke stung her lungs, but she clung to the feeling. A million things went through her mind - how could she have done things better? How could she have turned Papal support and massive dynatoi backing into a victory? Her mind settled on one thing - the Franks. If they'd provided their legions, have been sitting in Konstantinopolis, not...

    She sighed, and looked at the noose one last time. It was well tied. It would hold. Gently she put it around her neck, and gave it one last tightening. There would be no Empress for them to parade before the crowds of burnt out Konstantinopolis - no prisoner to be tried and shackled and executed in shame. Only a body.

    She kicked the stool out from under her.




    =============== ===============



    August 15th, 1155

    Manuel Komnenos looked around the ruins of the Taranto palace, and sighed. Normally the great hall would have been covered in tapestries, banners from campaigns, gold and silver that remained after the original sack of the city - gifts from Manuel to then young Robert. Today, three days after the army entered the city, it was anything but glorious - tapestries were shredded, urns and expensive vases overturned, the smell of smoke heavy in the air. To teach all of Apulia a lesson, Manuel had allowed his army to run amok in Taranto for three days, and three days only. Now, on the fourth, he surveyed the ruins.

    Flanking him were the two Komnenos twins from Antioch, Kosmas and Theodoros, both of whom had proven instrumental to the Emperor's victory. Despite being fraternal twins, the two looked very different. Theodoros was shorter, with long locks of dark hair and piercing brown eyes. A consumate politician, it was he who had decided to march his army south to Jerusalem to
    surprise the Patriarch's allies at Hattin, and seize the old priest and, in effect, sell him to the highest bidder. Manuel immediately recognized a man after his own heart, and using the reasoning that a close enemy is a known enemy, had kept him involved in the war effort since, even after his expedition to Egypt met with disaster at Joshua's Ford.

    Kosmas, on the other hand, was taller, broader, and not nearly as handsome. His hair was cut short, and his manners and speech were as harsh as his looks. The consumate military man, it was Kosmas who commanded the brilliant ambush at Hattin, and who managed to save most of Antioch's army at Joshua's Ford. He also had an uncanny ability at sea, commanding brilliant imperial naval victories at Rhodes, Euboeia and Corfu.

    Both had earned rewards for their service. Theodoros had been awarded hereditary status to his title as Prince of Antioch, guaranteeing that it would remain in his family in perpetuity. Kosmas was shortly to be awarded the position of Megas Doux and commander in chief of the Imperial Navy, for his brilliant plan at Rhodes which destroyed the Venetian fleet hired by the rebels. Theirs were rising stars, and the Emperor reasoned keeping them in Konstantinopolis after the war was over would mean he could keep a close eye on them, rather than having them plot in the provinces.


    Kosmas and Theodoros in the midst of their march on Jerusalem. Kosmas wears the red cloak according to all domestikos within the Empire, while Theodoros wears the purple cloak allowed only to members of the extended imperial family.


    "What a waste," Manuel said quietly, looking at his two distant cousins. "I handed this to Robert, and..." The Emperor shrugged, before giving an already rickety remnant of a table a good kick. It tumbled to the floor, to his satisfaction.

    "Who will get Apulia?" Theodoros asked. Manuel made a note - the politician was already testy, and blood was still drying.

    "I'm thinking of handing Apulia to Basilieos," Manuel muttered. "He's ten, he'll be malleable, and he won't be a Norman," the Emperor grumbled. "Niketas will get Kappadokia, Ismail will get Cyrenaica, and I'm holding Damietta, Mesopotamia, Galilee, etc. etc. in reserve. I'm going to hand them to my children by Ermisinde - family won't attack family, right Theodoros?" the Emperor asked pointedly. To Manuel's pleasure, the young Prince's face blanched.

    "Yes, of course Majesty," Theodors nodded.

    "For your service, I'm thinking of adding Baalbek to Antioch's holdings," Manuel answered Theodoros' actual unspoken question. "And Kosmas, on your retirement from Megas Doux I should hand you Al Jazira."

    "Thank you, Majesty," the normally taciturn Kosmas bowed.

    "And I need to reward Zeno - surrendering the city and castle so quickly," Manuel smiled grimly. He'd fully expected to have to lay siege to the city once again to get Basiliea and his sons. Instead he found a flag of truce, a pliant city garrison and a humble Zeno explaining that Robert had declared for the rebellion, so Zeno had taken it upon himself to arrest him, along with the Empress, who was now detained in her own quarters. Soldiers were already on their way to check. "Maybe he shall get Mesopotamia..."

    The Emperor's words died away as the sound of nailed boots on marble echoed up and down the corridors of the palace. Manuel turned in time to see the Megos Domestikos come out of one of the side corridors leading a squad of men, his face grimmer than that of death itself.

    "Majesty," Demetrios started to say. Manuel raised his eyebrow - his brother never used the formal 'Majesty' around Manuel unless he was about to deliver bad news.

    "What of that witch and my sons?" Manuel asked, keeping his voice even keel - something was wrong, the Emperor knew it.

    "Emp... I mean, Lady Basiliea was found in her quarters only twenty minutes ago. She'd hung herself, and her body has already been stripped," Demetrios said quietly. The Emperor could see his brother's hands were shaking slightly.

    "And?" Manuel braced himself. If Demetrios was upset after finding Basiliea dead, something was terribly wrong.

    "We found your son Niketas," Demetrios said, before stopping to collect himself. After a moment, the Megos Domestikos went on. "He was dead, lying in a pool of his own blood. His throat was slit, from ear to ear..."

    Manuel started to open his mouth, but nothing came out. Suspects ran through his mind, and immediately his mind settled on one. So - since she was defeated, she decided to deprive Manuel of the one thing he had from her - two strong, healthy, wholly legitimate children, something neither of his two sons from Ermisinde would ever be.

    "And Basilieos?" the Emperor asked, clenching and unclenching his fists in order to not strike anything or anyone. Manuel was amazed to hear his voice sound deadpan, almost calm... he could tell it was frightening his brother.

    "We... we do not know..."

    ================= =================



    So Manuel has cowed the rebellion, but the bureaucracy of the Empire is in tatters. Basilieos was taken to Rome, and evaded Zeno's clutches - as well as killed a man for the first time. Will the Emperor discover Zeno's actions? Will Basilieos make it back to Konstantinopolis? And with the weakened state of the Empire, will any of her neighbors take notice? More will be revealed next time on Rome AARisen!

    As a side note on the rebellion - no, they did not happen all at once. Narration wise, and given what is about to come, pasting them together into one large revolt will make sense, and considering Basiliea committed suicide, the story idea came together.

    It was also about this point in gameplay that I realized I wanted to do an AAR of the game and began RPing more instead of just conquering things - which will also make what is about to happen make more sense. Next update will see us in two places far removed from Constantinople, where decisions are made that will have an immense effect on the future of the Empire...
    Last edited by General_BT; 11-10-2009 at 18:21.
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  10. #670
    Wizzaard Estonianzulu's Avatar
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    A chilling scene. And the stage is set for the eventual return of the younger son. Im sure the Papacy will be more than happy to use him as a pawn against the Empire. But the real question is how, and when.

    With Rome so weakened, I'm surprised the HRE didn't use the opportunity to expand his own influence.
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  11. #671
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    A storm coming from the far east?
    Maybe the earth shall tremble as Temudzin of Mongolia is born?
    Well, the mongosl aren't coming in some 50 years, so it cna't be the mongols...

    Btw, what culture does the new wife of Manuel have? German?

  12. #672
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    And so ends another scheming empress in failure and death. Now that Basileios is in the clutches of the papacy all sorts of things could happen. Oh my god! I hope they won't turn him into a catholic!

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    Basileia's end was a lot quicker than Manuel would have made it. The Union of France and England is not good for the Empire. Venice is ripe for the picking. Manuel may as well take it now whilst the Imperial Guard is with him.he no longer has the strength to take North Africa and Spain. He should possess the strength too hold off the Cuman and Seljuks.

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    A bittersweet victory for Manuel in all respects, losing the two things he cares most about; his children and power. It was so fitting for Basileia to lash out in vengeance even in defeat and death.

    It seems your Empire has reached the almost-inevitable tipping point into feudalism. At a certain size it becomes almost unmaneagable to hold on to the Empire with Royal Perogatory.

    And thank you, BT! I'm very flattered not only by your recommendation of my AAR but your use of Theodoros and Kosmas. It's fascinating to see their relationship played out somewhere other than in my head. I only wish that I managed to update my AAR half as often as you do.
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    An excellent chapter as always BT ! Very dramatic scenes all around - a fruit of such a crisis such as this ! Well done !
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  17. #677
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    A brilliant update! poor Manuel, to have come so far but then to have lost his sons in the final moment..
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    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    English Patriot - The big question is, when and will he find the one son he hasn't lost. He has plenty of other sons, its just Basilieos and Niketas weren't conceived under "bigamous" circumstances, and they weren't handicapped like Demetrios.

    AlexanderPrimus - Novel good? I don't know if its that good, but thank you for the compliment nonetheless!

    canonized - Once again, thank you for your kind words!

    VILenin - Yes, the Empire has reached that horrible point. In game the rebellions were solitary, but constant (usually one prince per year got it in his head to challenge the Empire). Since the rebellions were never large enough to be anything interesting, they were mostly an annoyance. Feudal Contract got rid of that.

    And Kosmas and Theodoros will return - I know of at least one more scene, likely more!

    Chief Ragusa - No, England and France under one crown is decidedly not good - suddenly there are now three 'empires' in Europe. Arpad Germany is strong but its more fragile than it looks, and right now they're Romanion's biggest friends in Europe from mutual dislike of the Pope. If they get distracted, or even worse fragment because of a war with England-France, it could spell bad things for Constantinople.

    As for Venice, they get their rightful due. Though don't be so quick to discount the Seljuks...

    Lord Valentine - If they turned him to Latin rites, there would likely be no way he would ever sit on the Imperial throne. Then suddenly the succession becomes a lot more murky...

    Enewald - Temujin won't be born for another 7 years... don't worry, we're slowly making our way to when the Mongols make their dramatic entrace!

    Estonianzulu - The chief reason the HRE has is because its not as powerful as it looks - a lot of rebellious nobles and troublemakers live within its borders. Coupled with the upcoming union of England and France, suddenly Hermann has too many things to juggle to consider striking against Romanion or taking all of Italy. If he tried, alot of German nobility would take his absence as an excuse to declare independence, etc. etc.

    And, I have a surprise for everyone - there's another update! (a short one, but its another one ) This took only about forty-five minutes to write... the time consuming part was learning how to make the animated gif at the end. Enjoy!





    July 14th, 1158 - Esfahan, Persia

    Sultan Sulieman Arslan closed his eyes, and for just a moment, basked in the sunshine of a new day. Through turmoil, civil war, and unrest, the Seljuk Empire had struggled, labored, and even laid on the brink of collapse. Yet now, in this new day, the Great Sultan could smile. This was the day that the Empire had dreamed of since the nightmare that began with the death of Malik Shah. Broad, perpetual peace, secured by a powerful army and a vigorous ruler. For today was the day that the last of the holdouts - the Emirs of Samarkhand and Bukhara, came to Esfahan to kiss the sole of the Sultan's sandals.

    What made this day even more special was that Sulieman was still a young man - only 31 years of age. Unlike the old Arslans, such as Malik Shah, the Sultan was blessed with more children than he knew what to do with - 6 sons, and Sulieman had no doubt his dutiful wife would continue that trend. He was hale and hearty, keen of mind in both military and political matters, and an expert on poisons and assassination. The hashashin had tried their luck with him three times - after the third, Sulieman's troops stormed their remote fortress at Alamut and butchered all inside. The sect had yet to raise its head again.

    The Great Turk, Great Sultan and Great Seljuk opened his eyes and took in the sights of a brilliant capital from his balcony window. A light breeze stirred his hair and kissed his plain, rugged face. Below, the city of Esfahan, City of Lights, City of Music, went about its daily business. Thousands thronged the great market, and the noise of blacksmiths, merchants and farmers filled the air. It was the noise of prosperity, something Sulieman had not heard in years.

    "Majesty."

    Sulieman smiled at the calm, patient voice of his Grand Vizier, Malik al-Najir. The man was old, positively ancient, with a white beard and a gaunt frame hidden by his flowing robes. He now only shuffled from place to place - walking was too much effort. He'd served as Sulieman's father's vizier when this branch of the Arslans were still Emirs of Esfahan, and through pointed and practical advice, guided them to the Sultan's throne, and Sulieman to the empire's full reunification.

    "Almost full," Sulieman said to himself, his face darkening for a second.

    "Majesty," Malik said again, "Are you thinking about Armenia and Mosul?"

    "Yes," Sulieman admitted. The only lands missing from the Seljuk crown jewels were the Anatolian conquests of Arp Aslan - who had ruled deep into Roman territory and had nothing to fear from any Christian Emperor. Allah willing, Sulieman hoped to make that a reality once more.

    He had the means to it. He ruled a land that stretched from the Caspian to the Persian Gulf, and from Mesopotamia to the waters of the Indus. His eastern flank was secure - he'd conquered Qarakhanid, Samarkand and Herat. He'd crushed the Ghazavids across the Hindu Kush, securing a crushing annual tribute from their Sultan. He'd even annihilated three tumen from the dreaded Kara Kitai hordes, driving them back nearly to Kashgar. His armies were immense, his resources seemingly limitless. He had nothing to fear there - and by Malik's continued reports, he had little to fear to his West either, despite the behemoth size of the Roman state, brought so low by civil war.


    Soldiers of the Suliemanian Seljuk Army. In light of the bad experience at the hands of the heavily armored Romanoi, the Seljuks by 1158 had several new heavily armored cavalry units, specifically to counter heavy cavalry like those fielded by Khwarizm and Romanion.


    "My spies say that the Roman Emperor has minted a great deal of new coin to pay off his debts," Malik shuffled forward and smiled. His mouth looked like a cage, the few teeth the aged man had left acting as the bars. "He offers titles and honors aplenty in effort to keep his nobles in line."

    Sulieman snorted. The emirs loved him, and feared him. He did not need to offer any titles to them, or any lands. He led them through sheer will alone. Even the Caliph in Baghdad bowed to his will whenever he spoke - at a mere word, the mighty Turkish armies that kept the Romans at bay could leave, making the Caliph exposed...

    "We should strike them while they are down," Sulieman thought aloud.

    "Majesty, when has your realm known a year of peace?" Malik asked, and Sulieman frowned. The Vizier had a point. Since 1144 Esfahan, then the Empire, had been in a continuous state of war, as one miscreant emir after another was brought to heel and executed. His armies had marched thousands of miles, fought in over a hundred engagements and countless sieges. Everyone needed a rest - even the Sultan.

    "You've made your point, Malik," Sulieman sighed, then smiled. "You've always keep my rasher instincts in check, haven't you?"

    "As I did with your father," the aged man added. "Now Majesty, come. The court awaits you in the Audience Hall."

    Sulieman groaned. He hated audiences. Audiences meant having to done the ridiculous crown and robes of state, and listening to droning words from droning men for hours on end. The only thing that made this audience worth it was the fact that two Emirs would have to kiss the sole of his sandals.

    "Which sandals have been laid out?" Sulieman asked, pulling his light robes over his head to dress in the more sumptuous attire of state. Since the last assassin attempt, the Sultan dressed himself. Ostentatiousness never came easy to him in the first place - it felt more natural to dress himself.

    "Your servants selected the most worn and ugly," Malik grinned. Sulieman broke into laughter.

    "Excellent!" the Sultan already had most of his undergarments on and some of the finer out clothes. Years on campaign had taught him to dress quickly. "I wouldn't mind rubbing it in a little more. Both of them knew they should have surrendered three years ago, but they dragged things out!"

    "Of course, Majesty."

    "Oh, and Malik?" Sulieman stopped. For a split second he looked at the options in his wardrobe, then grabbed his armor instead of his robes of state. It would make his point even more obvious. "What preparations do you think we would need to take over the next three years to take on the Romans?"


    Sultan Sulieman Arslan, Great Seljuk, Great Sultan of the Seljuk Empire


    To Sulieman's surprise, the Vizier actually smiled.

    "You're giving us three years to recover?" the old man said tartly. "Amazing, Majesty."

    Sulieman rolled his eyes. "What preparations? What forces?" He clanked on his banded mail breastplate. He'd always thought the steel peacock in relief on its front was a little over the top, but it let his soldiers know where their Sultan was - not to mention in the Audience Hall the rubies and sapphires on it would shine brilliantly.

    "Emperor Manuel has lost a great deal of men in his civil war - and his succession is in doubt," Malik began. "Both of his most legitimate sons have been lost to him. He has others, but the nobility do not respect their rights as much. The Romans have a vast army, but most of it is made up of ill-equipped local garrisons, good for manning fortresses and little else. In terms of a field army, my sources estimate they have perhaps 100,000 to 150,000 total."

    SUlieman stopped snapping his shoulder plates into place. "150,000? That is quite a bit larger than I expected."

    "Keep in mind, Majesty, that the Roman must mind the Cuman frontier, Italy, and European Greece. The Emperor has made many enemies among the Franks. He might be able to spare 50,000 against us in field armies."

    "That's a number I can deal with," Sulieman smiled, and began buckling again. "Malik? I've been meaning to ask you this - did you ever fight the Romans back in the last war?"

    "Both," the old man replied grimly. "I was a standard bearer, no older than 15, when I nearly died on Mount Tabor under the sword of a Frank. I commanded a unit of ghulams for your father at Nineveh."

    The Sultan stopped again. "So you fought twice against the great Demetrius?" The armor and audience were immediately forgotten. "Fascinating. Tell me more."

    The old man shuffled over, and shaky hands began finishing the last of the Sultan's buckles for him. "There isn't much to tell, I'm afraid. I was too junior to know much of the planning in either event. Though I can say that considering the man's name is spoken in awe twenty years after his death, he must have been a great man."

    Sulieman smiled. "Indeed. Malik, I was thinking - wouldn't Malik Shah's plan against the Romanoi work again? Demetrius was a great general and saw the trap he'd been lured into. But this Emperor is not the general his father was - he is good, to be sure," Sulieman finished his professional assessment, "but not as inspiring. His father had something about him that motivated men to fight beyond all means."

    "Like yourself?" Malik finished the last buckle and backed away from his Sultan.

    Sulieman sighed again, then chuckled. "Why do you toss flattery my way? You have already gained the highest position in the land!"

    "Is it flattery when it is the truth?" the Grand Vizier asked. Sulieman stood for a second, before deciding the best response was just to pat the old man's shoulder and grin.

    "Fine. Say what you will," he said, before donning the selected sandals. "Come, I want you to witness this. And you never said how many forces we would need."

    "Your Majesty didn't let me," the old man croaked.

    "Well, speak!"

    "If you plan on using Malik's strategy, I would recommend that we begin building supply depots in Baghdad and Tabriz. You will likely put 150,000 in the field. I would recommend 30,000 in the north through Armenia towards Trebizond, while 30,000 head south towards Jerusalem, Damascus and Palmyra. The Emperor will be forced to deal with both threats - he cannot let any of those cities fall or risk losing face to his own nobility. Once he commits, you will then lead the remainder of your armies, all 90,000 towards Anatolia, with the goal of marching towards the City of Emperors itself."

    Sulieman stopped as he put the other shoe on. "150,000 men," he said quietly.

    Malik nodded. "I know that is only half of your Majesty's vast forces, but I believe it is all that is sufficient."

    "And you think this will be more than enough to force the Romans to heel?"

    Malik nodded again.

    "Very well. Malik," the Sultan was up on his feet again, "you won't get to see the audience today, I'm afraid. I want you to start immediately on preparations for 200,000 to invade the Roman lands in three years time. I want ambassadors sent to all the nations that border the Romans, to ascertain what offers need to be made to launch a coordinated attack," Sulieman started walking down the hall, and Malik had no choice but to shuffle quickly afterwards. "I trust your logic, but if anything, we have to plan for the unexpected - if Manuel is kept busy on other fronts he'll only commit what he can. If he's not busy on other fronts, if we bring 50,000 extra it should help make up the difference. Oh, and finally," the Sultan stopped and spun around. Malik almost ran into him. "I want this done as quietly as possible. The Romans are spiders, and hear anything that comes near their web. If you must take an extra year in order for this to be done quietly, then do so. The more we catch them by surprise, the better we'll be!"

    "Yes, Great Sultan!" the Vizier started to turn to see to the Sultan's requests.

    "And Malik?"

    "Yes Great Sultan?" Malik turned, to see the young Sultan beaming.

    "Thank you for your years of service. After the Roman's have been brought properly to heel, I'm going to make you retire to some rich estate somewhere, with women galore to see you through your twilight!"

    "Majesty, that's not really necess..."

    "Oh hush and just say yes!" Sulieman beamed before turning and disappearing down the hall.

    ================ ================



    And so the Turk once again stirs...
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  19. #679
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    Good lord, the Turks have expanded! This is a grave threat to Romanion.

    And as for Manuel's sons, I know only too well how important a strong son is to an Emperor, especially in Romanion, the succession must be without a hitch, somehow I doubt his lesser offspring could manage the task..
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  20. #680
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    Nice intrigue...

    The only question in my mind is who will really succeed Manuel when he's got a Turkish lance through his throat?

    Can anyone say succession crisis? Again?

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