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Thread: Rome AARisen - a Byzantine AAR

  1. #5901
    First Lieutenant wolfcity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexanderPrimus View Post
    Basil's not a member of the club. He died a tragic death from leukemia. It was doubly tragic given the last thing he heard was his dear son Thomas cursing him and telling him to "rot."

    It's been so long that I don't remember the details of Demetrios' death. And I also don't recall if BT gave us the particulars of Alexios' passing.
    Youre right I was thinking of being murdered killed etc. But Basil's now that you mention it is a tragic. And for the others given the fact that BT didn't give us the details probaly means they died nice and happy deaths.

    EDIT
    Wow I've started two differnt pages in a row!
    Colonel Quantrill in the Presidents (and Proud Founder of Adolf Hitler was an Idiot club )

  2. #5902
    It would only be fitting to see Manuel and Nikephoros successfully navigate this entire bloody affair, just to have Manuel backstab him at the very end

  3. #5903
    I'm giddy with excitement.

  4. #5904
    I finally caught up and at the worst possible time it seems.
    Got millions of questions for course but for now I'm good with asking how much of Andronikos that is based on Justinian? There are striking similarites...

    Wellwell, on the current conflict its obvious that Nikephoros/Manuel are the ones to cheer for!

  5. #5905
    First Lieutenant Kirsch27's Avatar
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    I don't really expect von Franken to betray Nikephoros. He's besieging the Italians already, so throwing his lot in with them would be sort of ridiculous now. I'm sure he realizes he's better off with Nikephoros on the throne than Alexandros, or worse yet, chaos.

    Demetrios might manage to hold Italy for a while, but he's equally likely to be crushed by the two armies of Leo and von Franken.

    Spain is, as Nikephoros said, lost. However, I don't really see Spain expanding beyond Tunisia and France at best, but who knows?
    If the Spaniards move on the Hypatos in France, who is to say that "Roi de Angleterre" wouldn't commit their armies if they were promised the return of certain lost lands? And if an ambitious German or Burgundian king manages to reunite the 'Empire' once again, they could be another major player.

    Alexandros is the real problem here, aside from a possible Danish invasion, anyways. I can't really say who I think will win, but I support Nikephoros and Manuel. Were Nikephoros and Manuel to have a falling out, I'd support Manuel, but as of yet they're still allies.

    The Balkan Princes might be bought, or simply crushed by whoever wins the war in Anatolia, and I don't see them having any great success aside from perhaps loosening the Imperial reigns a bit.

    Theodoros is probably utterly doomed, but if he manages to meet up with the Spaniards in the vicinity of Tunisia, he might be able to throw his lot in with the Spaniards and come out on top. And who knows, maybe he'll stage a brilliant desert campaign and outlast his enemies with his 8,000 Bedouins?

    Arabia will either make a bid for independence, or be a thorn in the side of Alexandros' armies. If the King was going to support Alexandros' invasion, he would have done so already, but he has not. I wonder if the Mongols might come to save the day for Romanion once again...

    And what of the Turks? We heard mention of unruly Turks in the first update, and perhaps now with the weight of the Indian princes behind them, they could also be real trouble for the Persians while their Emperor is away. Perhaps an alliance of Turk and Mongol could crush the Persians, and eventually threaten the Empire proper.

    Very confusing times, and lots of factors that could influence this war.

  6. #5906
    As an aside, I was just playing through the most recent Assassin's Creed, and I had a rather amusing experience.

    I was out, traipsing around Rome, randomly killing things and such, and stumbled upon the Lateran Palace. I immediately thought to myself, "Hey, this is where Albrecht von Franken began his association with the Eastern Empire."

    Took me longer than I'd like to admit to remember that none of that actually happened. I did, however, retain the desire to toss a pope out a window; Thomas had the right idea there.

  7. #5907
    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    MajorStoffer - So Rome AARisen has invaded into Assassin's Creed? Excellent, excellent! *rubs hands together like Mr. Burns* I've thought about that too... so you're not alone!

    Kirsch27 – Well, von Franken’s got a lot of options, outright betrayal being one (though if the Italians are breaking free from the Komnenoi, how likely will they be to follow a von Franken?). There’s also building a power base and then basically seeing if anyone would “bid higher” than Nikephoros, or (*le gasp*) keeping his word…

    Demetrios is caught in a vice if he waits. He could focus all his efforts on Leo or von Franken, hoping to break them before the other can intervene, or he could try buying one off. If he has to face both at once, he’s got long odds.

    Spain is easily lost for the time being… even if all else turns out peachy in Konstantinopolis and the East, Demetrios would have to be dealt with before any effective campaign could be launched further west. So long as Alexios et al don’t do anything excessively foolish, they’re relatively secure.

    The East is the crux of the whole situation. Everything rides on who wins, and how decisive their victory is. If either Nikephoros or Alexandros wins a decisive victory, look for them to move west in full force as soon as their hold is secured. If they win a narrow victory (or everything ends in a bloody stalemate), the fractured empire could conceivably continue for a very long time…

    BraidsMAmma – Hey, welcome to the story, and feel free to shoot away with your questions! There was some Justinian with Andronikos—I’d say there was some real-life Manuel Comnenus in him as well. There’s a definite parallel to how they’re remembered—the last glory before the fall—as well as the parallel that their pride and arrogance contributed to the fall that came soon after.

    ATTACK77 – I think you’re not alone.

    vadermath – If Manuel let Nikephoros solve the whole thing, then backstabbed him, it’d be definitely in line with his name… Manuel I did such a thing with his own brother Christophoros…

    And suicide-by-liege never gets old!

    wolfcity – Well, maybe not happy deaths, but more peaceful than many that were mentioned. And I like how Alexandros is getting support simply because of his lavender cape. Militarily a diversion could be useful… I’d assume though that the beacons would be lit only if the enemy showed up in force… would Alexandros split off that much of his cavalry to divert from a slower infantry force crossing elsewhere without support?

    Zzzzz… – Or he’ll do it the way he does it because it’s easier for him…

    Welshdude – They were posted with Gabriel’s reign summary:

    Martial: 15
    Diplomacy: 7
    Intrigue: 10
    Stewardship: 7

    And IIRC the link he mentioned (it was an interim revealing a scene from the 1340s or 1350s), the Persians threatened the Empire. That’s a pretty broad term that could go up to and include seizing the capital itself…

    Nehekara – Well, Manuel hasn’t done anything particularly bastardly yet… he and Nikephoros have supported each other more than most Komnenoi siblings so far (with the Persian duo of Alexandros I and Nikephoros an exception, perhaps Manuel I and his younger brother Demetrios as well).

    Leviathan07 - That gets an analogy award, if there is one!

    The-Archduke – Oh, how ironic it is that those two are getting mentioned together… I think people are drawn to Alexandros because he’s confident, bombastic, and doesn’t give a damn. It’s the same thing that drew people to Patton—minus the lavender cloak, liking men…

    AlexanderPrimus – Demetrios would be in that club… he died of old age, a few years after the triumph at Nineveh, surrounded by family and loved ones, and was glorified immediately after his death. You can’t really get better than that… and it was more I kept writing during the down time between interims, and what I got done happened to be about two updates in length…

    Deamon – Well, the Oikoi aren’t really psychos… they’re just…um… motivated. The whole “your pay and possibly existence rests on your employer staying in power” is a huge boost in job performance.

    4th Dimension – Nikolaios, technically could be considered a Megas Komnenos retroactively, I suppose…

    Nikolai – 156 years, to be exact.

    Qorten – Not quite. I left it more vague than that.

    Morrell8 – As a person, I’d probably be rooting for Nikephoros too, mostly since he’s the underdog at this point. As the author, though, I can’t promise that’s what’ll happen.

    Redrum323 – Welcome to the story, and thank you! What were some of the things you’ve liked, and disliked?

    asd21593 – I think I posted a teaser of that banner a few weeks ago… but yeah, the banner doesn’t bode well… there have been trick banners before though (Andreas, anyone?)

    von Sachsen – Theodoros is literally that… the CK count that rebels for no reason known who has no chance of anything happening except getting squashed. Suicide-by-liege.

    SplendidTuesday – Theodoros was the fourth oldest brother, and third eldest legitimate (after Alexios). You’ve heard of him before… he’s the one that stupidly called the Patriarch names during a sermon, and Thomas Aquinas proceeded to publicly embarrass the crap out of him—so much so Andronikos had little choice but to ‘promote’ him out of Konstantinopolis to become… you guessed it, Prince of Leptis Magna…

    The Despotate of Khazaria is my best explanation for how a Duchy of the Alans survived next door to me and the Blue Horde. Considering the Horde didn’t try to attack them, I’m playing it in game as if they were a client state (backstory created by me). The Finnish Bohemians are, quite simply, beyond explanation.

    A previous map interim I described a host of mercenaries from the German civil wars sailing up there and declaring themselves ‘Bohemia’ as an explanation about how that atrocity came about… other than that, I’ve got nothing.

    As for the settings… I don’t think I modified them much. It was likely all the defaults—this was one of my earlier CK games, before I started trying other difficulty settings.

    Siind – Manuel is in the classic position most of the Komnenoi who would wear the purple have found themselves in—thanks to people like Demetrios Megas and Basil, they need the army. Anyone who tries to become emperor without living up to the Komnenoi name and showing brilliance and bravery on the battlefield is doomed. If Manuel can prove that… perhaps the army would overlook his bastardness?

    Enewald – Well, a civil war… the Empire’s fate looks in doubt, though…

    Vesimir – Arabia is, to be honest, too far removed and too weak to really play in the ‘game of thrones’ with the other big boys. They’re on the very perimeter of the Komnenid world, they’ve got a hostile Yemen and other areas of Arabian all around them, and they don’t have many resources. It’s not likely they’ll become too entangled in many inter-imperial affairs…other than asking for help if their own situation goes downhill…


    Well, next update is about 25% done… was hoping to have more writing time but I got called into work tonight (buh). Hopefully this’ll be posted by this weekend, perhaps sooner! Alexandros, Nikephoros and Manuel will all see their time in the spotlight…
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  8. #5908
    First Lieutenant wolfcity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by General_BT View Post
    wolfcity – Well, maybe not happy deaths, but more peaceful than many that were mentioned. And I like how Alexandros is getting support simply because of his lavender cape. Militarily a diversion could be useful… I’d assume though that the beacons would be lit only if the enemy showed up in force… would Alexandros split off that much of his cavalry to divert from a slower infantry force crossing elsewhere without support?
    It is lavender . For the diversion it is so risky, reckless, and overconfident he has to do it . Hes just like that.
    Colonel Quantrill in the Presidents (and Proud Founder of Adolf Hitler was an Idiot club )

  9. #5909
    Lt. General WelshDude's Avatar
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    Found Gabriel's stats, surprisingly he's only 15 martial, one below his father. What actually happened ingame to him?

    On the What If thing, I've had an idea. Instead of you doing them, us readers could write the ones we want, and if we thought it was unrealistic could write another one, as many of us will have different slants on different issues.

    EDIT: Oh, you replied. That's what happens when you leave posting until the morning.
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  10. #5910
    Mare Ban al Olteniei Laur's Avatar

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    No need to worry about if Sortmark attacks: the walls of the city can hold for ages and the fleet can protect the Golden Horn preventing a 1204-like assault from the sea.

    I think Nikephoros should have allowed Alexandros to lay siege to Constantinopolis, harrass and even cut the latter's supply lines through the Anatolian passes and launch a lightning campaign towards the centre of Persia, in the style of his predecessor, Herakleios' campaign against the Sassanids. Now, the fate of the empire rests upon the upcoming battle and, in case of a defeat, Nikephoros stands to lose much more than Alexandros.
    "When I lead my army against Baghdad in anger, whether you hide in heaven or in earth, I will bring you down from the spinning spheres; I will toss you in the air like a lion. I will leave no one alive in your realm; I will burn your city, your land, your self.

    If you wish to spare yourself and your venerable family, give heed to my advice with the ear of intelligence. If you do not, you will see what God has willed."

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

  11. #5911
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laur View Post
    No need to worry about if Sortmark attacks: the walls of the city can hold for ages and the fleet can protect the Golden Horn preventing a 1204-like assault from the sea.

    I think Nikephoros should have allowed Alexandros to lay siege to Constantinopolis, harrass and even cut the latter's supply lines through the Anatolian passes and launch a lightning campaign towards the centre of Persia, in the style of his predecessor, Herakleios' campaign against the Sassanids. Now, the fate of the empire rests upon the upcoming battle and, in case of a defeat, Nikephoros stands to lose much more than Alexandros.
    But what if Leo joins the brothers and once Nikephoror dies, and Manuel coups power, the enemies become numerous.
    Everyone wants the throne of the Caesars.

  12. #5912
    I had a few questions, if you don't mind, BT.

    1. How did you keep all this mess organized? Several hundred years of history, uncountable characters... how did you do it?
    2. Once you cross into EU3, can you give any hints on how the story will be told? CK really does all the work for you with characters, and I am not saying that you couldn't create your own characters by any means, but both games are very different.
    3. Any change Columbus' first name will be Christophorus?
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  13. #5913
    Lt. General WelshDude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Issac Wolfe View Post
    2. Once you cross into EU3, can you give any hints on how the story will be told? CK really does all the work for you with characters, and I am not saying that you couldn't create your own characters by any means, but both games are very different.
    He intends to use a history book style, not a narrative, which won't be as fun but will hopefully be faster. On that note, do you intend to use HTTT or or the 1453 start?
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  14. #5914
    Quote Originally Posted by Laur View Post
    I think Nikephoros should have allowed Alexandros to lay siege to Constantinopolis, harrass and even cut the latter's supply lines through the Anatolian passes and launch a lightning campaign towards the centre of Persia, in the style of his predecessor, Herakleios' campaign against the Sassanids. Now, the fate of the empire rests upon the upcoming battle and, in case of a defeat, Nikephoros stands to lose much more than Alexandros.
    I dont think Nikephoros can afford to play the waiting game, he needs to show that he can act decisively or whats left of his support might just errode from under him. Also a siege is always risky, most are ended by treachery, and The City' walls wont protect it from that.
    With the Lavant and Egypt in open revolt against him, for Nikephoros to charge into Persia propper would be... dangerous! He wouldn't have any support, no lines of retreat and the logistical stiuation would be a nightmare, he'd have to forrage as he marched, which would slow him down, and prevent any siege from dragging out for more than a few days. In the end he'd propperly just find himself in the same sitiuation as Julian the Apostate did when he tried something like that.

  15. #5915
    Lt. General WelshDude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Siind View Post
    I dont think Nikephoros can afford to play the waiting game, he needs to show that he can act decisively or whats left of his support might just errode from under him. Also a siege is always risky, most are ended by treachery, and The City' walls wont protect it from that.
    With the Lavant and Egypt in open revolt against him, for Nikephoros to charge into Persia propper would be... dangerous! He wouldn't have any support, no lines of retreat and the logistical stiuation would be a nightmare, he'd have to forrage as he marched, which would slow him down, and prevent any siege from dragging out for more than a few days. In the end he'd propperly just find himself in the same sitiuation as Julian the Apostate did when he tried something like that.
    Not only that, he also has to handle the Egyptians, there's simply not enough room to circumvent Alexandros.
    My current AAR, A Welshman's Quest for Doritos. Fetch the doritos, and settle down to wathc my comedy of errors! On hiatus at the moment.

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  16. #5916
    First Lieutenant MarkusH's Avatar
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    I love this aar, discovered it three days ago and is only on page 17... reading this will take a while

    And what happened to your greek aar "Two Alexanders" in Hoi2?
    Last edited by MarkusH; 07-04-2011 at 21:53.

  17. #5917
    Quote Originally Posted by MarkusH View Post
    And what happened to your greek aar "Two Alexanders" in Hoi2?
    I believe it was completed.
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  18. #5918
    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    Issac Wolfe - Actually it was abandoned, like all the AARs I started on the side. RA simply took up too much time, and when push came to shove, I decided I wanted to finish this one first...

    1) It's organized by "recently modified" files in a giant folder. I tried making a more organized system for it, but it... failed. Multiple times.
    2) Eu3 is probably going to be history book with narrative sprinkled in... about the opposite of the present ratio.
    3) No idea yet.

    Welshdude - Well, there are tons of hostile armies around Anatolia. Circumvention would be difficult, but not impossible. The chief reason to not use such a move is that it's not the Komnenid Way--one of the greatest continuing weaknesses of the empire. Since the dynasty was built on a tradition of emperors who led from the front and actively sought battle, to do the opposite reduces ones legitimacy, and seriously curtails the strategic options of any would be Megas Komnenos...

    And the EU3 section starts in 1399.

    Siind - More reasons to try to tangle with Alexandros in Anatolia. It's closer to Nikephoros' bases, he has a place to retreat if things go bad (the Persians would need to build a fleet to cross the Bosphorus, that alone would give Nikephoros breathing room). Should things go south in Syria, or Mesopotamia, there's no where to run...

    Enewald - It's the story of the Empire, before the Komnenoi even. Everyone wants Constantinople...

    Laur - Konstantinopolis can hold for ages against a Sortmark assault... the bigger fear would be the destruction the Danes could wreak across the provinces they march through, and the trouble dynatoi anxious to protect their estates could wreak on the government...

    wolfcity - There's a little bit of explanation below as to why Alexandros has such... rash... propensities...



    “Il nous faut de l'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace,” – King Francois I Capet, citing Alexandros II Komnenos




    June 19th, 1298

    Near Gabras, Anatolia



    “Bah!”

    Alexandros Komnenos, High King of Persia wasn’t a large man by any means, but when the full fury of his kick met the tiny rock on the ground, the pebble didn’t stand a chance. It sailed through the air, disappearing into the night somewhere between him, the Halys River, and the twinkling campfires of his latest nemesis.

    “Why did they reinforce the south as well as the north?” the Persian asked no one, and everyone, as he undid his lavender cloak and handed it to a waiting manservant. There’d be no daring night crossing in the south probably, not if Makarios’ reports were accurate…

    “He suspects a trap?” Makarios murmured. The Spahbod’s face was long and grim—he’d spent the better part of the day and night trying to make Alexandros’ grand feint a reality. Now, it was all undone.

    Alexandros nodded. The cavalry in the north as a ruse for a day or two march to the south was now too obvious a ruse—his cousin had done well setting up the network of beacons along the river. While Nikephoros’ army was larger and more ponderous, he didn’t have to cross a river that threatened to split his men. Shirazi had reported the fords to the north were guarded stiffly. Now, if the south was watched too…

    “Buh,” the Persian Basilieus muttered to no one in particular. Why did Nikephoros have to be so cautious? Why wouldn’t he simply rise to the bait like a German?

    “Your orders?” Ioannoupoulos asked grimly.

    Alexandros grunted, tapping his foot on the ground. What to do? Nikephoros wouldn’t be able to stop him in the south, but he could delay him, long enough that Alexandros wouldn’t be able to cross with his whole army. The only thing more disastrous than trying to cross before the entire Imperial Army might be getting caught halfway across by the same…

    He blinked.

    The motion lasted only a moment, but when his eyes reopened, he saw it.

    Alone, on a small hill between his sprawling camps and the Halys, was a lone figure in white, on a stallion of the same. Its long cloak shimmered and flew in a nonexistent breeze, its armor snowy and bright despite the moonlight. The figure turned—its face was indistinct, but Alexandros knew immediately who it was that was about to speak.

    Hagios Basilieos.



    The same voice that guided him during his youth against the Mongols, and on countless fields since. His guide, his mentor, the idol he based himself on since he was a child…

    He blinked, as the white stallion halted. Slowly, the apparition raised its hand, a ghostly white salute stark in the black of the night. Alexandros raised his hand in reply.

    “Majesty?” the Persian king heard Makarios ask.

    Alexandros blinked, watching where Hagios Basilieos would point. The wraith’s snowy hand wavered in the slight breeze, before pointing west. Alexandros followed the phantom fingers, until his eyes caught the distant twinkle of thousands of campfires in the distance.

    Why swing south? a voice whispered in his ear. They will be marching north, towards the Marzban’s cavalry. It will take them time to move. There are fords north and south of Gabras—strike before they gather. They wouldn’t expect that!

    “No, Hagios Baseilieos,” Alexandros murmured, “they wouldn’t.”

    You have pyrokaroi, and you have your plans on how they could be used. Do that… it’ll free up some of your baggage train…Remember my campaign in Spain?

    “Majesty? What are you thinking?” Makarios’ voice echoed distantly, as if there was a shimmering wall between them.

    Victory goes to the one who marches the quickest, and attacks where he’s not expected. the voice went on. If you cross, Nikephoros will be on you in a day, two at most. Desperate times call for desperate measures—and an army that knows it must fight or die is an army that will fight hard.

    “True…” Alexandros murmured to himself. “We could leave everything more than three days worth of supplies on this side of the river—substitute tagma for wagons. That’d speed up the crossing…and give them something to fight for…”

    Yes! When hasn’t my advice worked? the apparition asked. Have I ever told you to attack and it failed?

    “No, you’ve never lied,” Alexandros whispered. Versus the Mongols, then the Aionite rebels, then the Germans… Attack, attack, always the attack. It’d carried the day countless times before—now that the ruse was up, it’d carry the day once more!



    “Makarios,” Alexandros spoke aloud for the first time in several minutes. “I need every Marzban here in ten minutes. Orders will leave in twenty, and I want the army moving within the hour.”

    “Where are we going, Majesty?” Ioannopoulos asked. In the light of the moon, Alexandros thought he saw the Spahbod’s eyebrow raise.

    “Straight down their throat,” The Basilieus said, teeth shining bright in the pale light. “And get me the pyrokaroi commanders. I have some special orders for them…”


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


    June 21st, 1298

    Gabras, Anatolia


    “Majesty!”

    “Report?” Nikephoros V, Emperor of the Romans asked, trying to hide the concern in his voice. His leg had been hurting all day—while his generals and armies fought for their lives, the scarred warrior was forced to sit outside his tent, his leg propped up on a pillow. He would’ve much rather greeted a messenger from the battlelines on horseback—or been there himself—but the disease and decided otherwise. In the distance, there was a trumpet call—Nikephoros couldn’t make it out past the first two notes.

    “The Angeloi have broken!” the panicked messenger yelled. He was no more than a boy… a page?

    Nikephoros flashed a look over to his Megas Domestikos. Harold Godwinson’s eyes spoke of someone who wanted to be in the thick of the fighting as well, but someone had to stay in the center, manage affairs, and coordinate the imperial armies. His face stayed calm, but the Emperor saw how the Varangian’s knuckles went white gripping his sword hilt.

    So, the Angeloi were in a critical position.

    They were one of the four tagmata Nikephoros had left to guard Gabras itself while his armies moved to block a northern or southern crossing. They’d had plenty of support—thematakoi from Kappadokia and other regions bolstering their ranks. Yet that force hadn’t been enough to stall the Persians from crossing directly before Gabras two days before. Though, to be honest, neither Nikephoros nor his generals had planned on the enemy unleashing a forty minute, continuous pyrokaroi barrage across the river.

    He’d never heard of a pyrokaroi attack lasting so long—usually the barrages lasted only minutes at most before the carts were emptied. But the Persian barrage went on and on, from what the survivors said. They murmured whispers of sorcery and deals the Persian must have cut with the devil. All Nikephoros knew for sure is that under that hail of bolts, the Persian vanguard forded the river, gained a foothold, then broke out. The tagmata pulled back to the north to inform their emperor.



    Nikephoros had hurried south with the backbone of his army, making it back to Gabras in two days with the combined might of the Basilikon and Anatolikon—110,000 men. Yes, the Persians had forced a foothold, but surely their army couldn’t have crossed! 80,000 men would take quite a while to cross, not counting supplies, equipment, horses, fodder—yes the Gabras ford was large, yes the river was low, but Godwinson still guessed that, at most, the Persians could’ve brought over 40,000 men with supplies. If they hurried, they could possibly wipe out half the Persian army while the other half watched hopelessly from the far side of the river.

    Yet when he arrived, there was the Persian host, drawn up in lines of battle.

    How’d they done it? For an hour as his men formed opposite the Persian host, formed in a semi-circle stretching from the river to several miles inland, Nikephoros and his [i]strategoi wondered. Quickly, the Emperor, as well as his commanders realized every minute they spent wondering was another minute the Persians reinforced. They were across. Something needed to be done—now.



    The strategoi sensed blood. Alexandros couldn’t have gotten his supply trains across the river, not yet, and not on that short of notice. He had to have force marched his men, they had to be tired. His pyrokaroi had to be empty, while the imperial carts were still unused. The time for the attack was now, while the Imperial Army had everything in its favor. Nikephoros listened… and now…

    “The [i]Angeloi[i/] broke?” Nikephoros sighed. More trumpet calls from the right… Nikephoros recognized the Basilikon’s light horse call, but none of the others. Were the Persians around his flank already?

    “Yes, Majesty,” the messenger nodded. “The Persian horse came out of nowhere! Strategos Valentinios fell, along with most of his men. The Persians are rolling up the flank and hitting us from all sides!”

    Nikephoros said nothing, but looked over towards the towering Varangian that was his Megas Domestikos. Godwinson was chewing his lip, his eyes looking off to the right, towards the dust and noise. Suddenly, in three strides he’d stalked over to his horse and started to mount.

    “Majesty, with your permission!” he called gruffly, a little late, “I’ll take the Hetaratoi and…”



    “With all due respect!” the messenger interrupted. Nikephoros normally would’ve chided the man for interrupting his superiors. Now though… “There’s no time! There’s Persian horse already past Gabras! They’re coming from behind!”

    Godwinson stopped in mid sentence, casting a single glance to the rear of the army. Were there Persians there too?

    “Majesty,” the Varangian rumbled, his voice even and steady, “I would suggest we leave this place. Make for Herakleia’s walls, and wait for…”

    “…rescue?” Nikephoros laughed emptily. So yes, there were Persians there even. A part of Nikephoros’ mind wondered how the devil his cousin had done that, and wanted to congratulate the Persian for utterly bamboozling him. The rest was simply tired… far too tired. The Megas Komnenos looked to the rear too… he thought he could see dust, but perhaps it was his eyes tricking him.

    “I think not,” Nikephoros said quietly. Nikephoros pushed himself to his feet—he swayed for a second, but caught his balance.

    “Majesty!” Several pages dashed over to help him, but the Emperor waved them off. No, he needed to stand for himself this one last time.

    “An Emperor…” he started to say, before a cough robbed him of his voice. So instead he shuffled, first one step, then another, towards the richly caparisoned charger outside his tent.

    “Majesty?” Godwinson asked, worry on his face.

    “An emperor…should never be captured,” Nikephoros finished his sentence.

    “You surely…”

    “I will,” Nikephoros shot back. In his mind it was a great shout, the kind he’d given in France not many years before. What he heard came out weak, sickly. With effort, he managed to put one foot in the stirrup. Helpful hands pushed, and the Emperor of the Known World grunted as he lifted his other leg over his horse.

    “Majesty, I must…” Godwinson started to protest once again.

    Nikephoros ignored him, instead looking to the front. The pall of dust broke open like a theatrical curtain, a sea of banners and mail greeting the Emperor’s eyes. Banners fluttered in the wind. Nikephoros didn’t need to see them to know who they belonged to.

    “Godwinson, it’s too late to call a retreat,” Nikephoros breathed in. He was surprised—he should have felt fear! The Persians were advancing directly on his position, there were Persians clearly to the rear, the flank of his army was gone, the rest was retreating God know’s where, yet he felt no fear! Only a sagging, heavy weight—emptiness, almost—that filled his soul.

    So, it’d come to this.

    “Majesty, if you donned a disguise…” one of the pages offered.

    “Messenger,” Nikephoros ignored the suggestion. He would not sully his title by hiding as a laborer or some other low ranking person and sneak away! Not that a disguise wouldn’t be easily seen through anyway! “Ride north, inform the strategoi to retreat with all speed for the fleet at Nikomedia. Tell the Megas Doux he is to ferry the army across the Bosphorus at all speed.”



    “What should I tell them of Your Majesty?” the messenger asked.

    “Whatever you like,” Nikephoros shot back, “Just go!” he waved. The messenger nodded, and put his spurs into his horse. In an instant, he disappeared in the gathering pall of armies on the move. The curtain momentarily hid the oncoming Persians, before the pall dissipated, revealing the oncoming nightmare once more. Nikephoros trotted over to Godwinson, as well as Psellos.

    “We’ll try to break out. Their army has to be spread thin,” the Emperor reasoned—how else could a smaller force have enveloped his own larger one? He looked behind himself—the blood red sun blotted out everything in its glare. Godwinson followed his gaze, then looked at the oncoming Persians, and nodded.

    Hetaratoi!” Nikephoros tried to shout. His voice cracked—his arms felt strangely light and numb. Behind him, he heard and felt the rumble of the famous Hetaratoi tagma forming charge line, pennants fluttering in the wind. He’d led the same tagma in France—he knew many of the men, they’d seen him in his prime, before the disease and mask robbed him of his strength. Their faces were grim, hard in the setting sun.

    He turned back around. Ahead, the Persian lines came forward, an unstoppable mass, banners of Arabic, Greek and Farsi shimmering in the evening light.

    So it came to this.

    “We have the sun at our backs,” Nikephoros reassured himself. “They can’t look at us as we come at them. They’ll lift their spears…”

    Horses whinnied, and the rumble steeds coming into place was replaced once more by the blare of trumpets and the thunder of drums. The call to retreat echoed shrill and loud over the hills and dales of Anatolia.

    “If we break through, head south, then around Daras before heading north!” Nikephoros called his directions. “We’ll meet the army at Nikomedia, reform, and defeat them another day! Follow my lead, like at Versailles and Orleans!”

    Shouts and replies went up and down the cavalry line as Nikephoros slowly turned his horse around to face the oncoming Persians. His fingers fought wrapping around the hilt of his sword, as if the motion taught to him since childhood was something alien, unknown. He closed his eyes, focused, and one by one, they obeyed. With a grunt, Storm glinted in the morning light. The movement itself drained him—he suddenly realized he was breathing hard already.

    “Hagios Demetrios, watch my sword, Hagios Basilieos, keep me safe,” he prayed, hoisting Storm aloft. Beside him, Godwinson’s blade was also in the air, as was Psellos’. The Emperor looked left, then right, up and down the line of shining steel and vicious lances.

    It was time. Quietly, the words came out, a whisper against the storm of history.

    Kataphraktoi…

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


    July 31st, 1298

    Gates of Trajan, Bulgaria


    “…Ready kontos!

    The call was sharp, echoing off the narrow mountain defiles of the Trajan Gates.

    Roland du Roche grinned fiercely as his old unit, the Vestiaroi, lowered their lances. A part of him longed to go with them as they charged the harried and tired lines of the Balkan lords—he remembered the smell of horse and sweat, his rushing pulse as the horses went from a trot to a canter, and the crash and thunder as they broke into a gallop just before the enemy lines. As the Vestiaroi lumbered forward, their assault building momentum like an avalanche, du Roche could barely see the thematakoi and mercenaries of the hapless Balkan lords. There were shouts, the hurried blare of frantic trumpet calls, the noise of an army surprised and afraid.

    As they should have been.



    From somewhere down below came the first crash of lances breaking through shields and armor, the panicked cries of an army flanked, then an army breaking. Whoops and screams filled the air, as the other cavalry present—4,000 Mongols hired by Manuel from the Volga—came from further up the pass, cutting off the Balkan retreat.

    Just as planned.

    Kaisar Manuel might have been Archeoikos and in titular command of the operation, but in practice it was chillarchos Roland du Roche who had forged the imperial field response to the unorganized challenge of the Balkan dynatoi, even as his master crafted the more ‘delicate’ responses to the threat. On paper, the Balkan lords could field a formidable host—20,000 from their personal thematakoi, more if they dug deep into their pockets and fielded mercenaries too.

    From the beginning, however, the Balkan lords were not united by purpose, nor by intent. The Prince of Athens had declared his intent to support the claim of Alexandros of Persia on the Roman throne, while the Prince of Epieros had declared he, linked to the Komnenoi by his mother’s blood, should be on the throne. Many, such as the Prince of Dioclea, were simply ‘tagging along’ in the hopes of gaining concessions, loot, or autonomy. Both the Kaisar and his aide made full use of this disunity.

    To the lords whose resolve was weak, Manuel immediately sent offers—come to our side, your words will be forgotten, and you’ll receive a pension. Du Roche had seen the subsequent orders for once the fighting was over—the assassins of the Oikoi would be busy for several months. Du Roche, meanwhile, planned to wait in Konstantinopolis, letting the two principal Balkan armies unite—the Kaisar insisted there be an engagement, even after du Roche pointed out a few forced marches would negate the need for a pitched battle against them all. Du Roche wondered, but wasn’t surprised when five weeks before word arrived the remaining lords in the field—Dyracchion, Athens, Achaia, Thessalia, Epieros, and Turnovo—had announced common cause demanding the removal of Kaisar Manuel and the installation of Alexandros of Persia on the imperial throne, with Epieros as his Kaisar.



    On paper, the new constellation of forces against the Kaisar was even more formidable. Dyrrachion, Achaia and Thessalia had deep pockets filled with loot from the wars in Germany, and had spent it freely augmenting their forces with sellswords. Through the spring of 1298, their armies had grown. Combined, the host approached 30,000 now, nearly double the battlefield strength of the Oikoi.

    Du Roche had used the time as well—most notably to recruit several units of Mongols as mercenaries. His plan called for them to ride ahead, harassing and luring the combined rebel army to ground of his choosing—ground with a very special history. Battles had been fought here before—the Trajan Gates was where the Bulgars defeated Basil Bulgarontocus the first time he campaigned against them. The pass wasn’t especially high, but it was narrow, the rough ground on either side making good ground for an ambush…

    “They didn’t expect it at all…” Manuel Komnenos grumbled next to du Roche. Unlike the chillarchos, the Kaisar did not wear the new model of armor and breastplate, in favor of an older chain hauberk with a black tunic over it. As usual he went without a helm—the cloth undergarments of a warhelm irritated his bald head and the scar he’d earned during a surprise skirmish a few weeks before.

    “No, Highness,” du Roche shook his head, watching the unfolding chaos. The two infantry tagma of the Oikoi, previously simply pinning the much larger Balkan army in place, now advanced to administer the coup de grace. The broken infantry of Epieros and Dyrrachion was already pressing into the cavalry of Thessalia and Athens, blocking their progress even as the Mongol mercenaries came up from behind. There was no doubt now. Apparently the Princes and their men saw it as well. Almost as a ripple amongst the mass, men began throwing down their arms. What had only minutes before been a blood battle suddenly spasmed into silence as one army abruptly sought the mercy of the other.

    “They’re surrounded, Highness!” du Roche yelled, his horse shying slightly. For a moment the Oikoi were almost shocked by the speed of their success, before men began adroitly picking up the loose arms, throwing them behind their own lines, away from foes who could quickly pick the weapons up again.



    “I see,” the Kaisar smiled fiercely. “Your plan worked… I owe you my thanks, chillarchos!

    “Thank you, Highness,” du Roche nodded his head. For a few minutes, silence reined as the two watched an army be disarmed and lined up as prisoners of war.

    “Well, that was the hard part!” Manuel chuckled as the Oikoi below began stripping the armor off living men and piling weapons high. “du Roche, I have another task for you, now that this is finished.”

    “Highness?”

    “This letter,” the Kaisar reached into a bag strapped to his horse, pulled out a letter and placed it gently in du Roche’s hands, “I’d like you to personally give to Skoteinos. Strategos Diasorenos did well this campaign, and we’re going to need new bandarches probably.” Manuel smiled broadly. “Skoteinos will get you your red cape as soon as possible.”

    “I’m to become a general?” someone squeaked. It took a moment before Roland realized the awkward noise was his own.

    “Commander of the Vestiaroi,” Manuel nodded. “You planned this military portion of this campaign well, and the idea of using Mongol mercenaries… brilliant. Perhaps,” the Kaisar added, patting du Roche’s back as they walked, “one day, when I’ve inherited the purple, you’ll replace Skoteinos as Bandarches of the entire Oikoi Bodyguard?”

    “I’d… be honored, Highness!” du Roche stammered. Bandarches? Commander of the Oikoi tagmata? Roland’s head swam—the thoughts were simply dizzying.

    “Excellent. There’s one more thing. There’s also this second letter,” the Kaisar handed over a similarly sealed envelope, “also to Skoteinos. The details are… minor,” Manuel waved his hand dismissively. “Some…small changes…are to be made in the Dowager Empresses’ household. Several reassignments, at the express request of myself, and approved by His Majesty.”



    Du Roche’s blood went cold. Whenever the Archeoikos spoke of ‘minor changes’ the end result was usually someone’s arrest on treason, if not worse. ‘Minor changes’ in the Dowager Empresses’ household?

    Isabella?

    “I trust Skoteinos will receive these letters promptly?”

    The Kaisar’s voice shook du Roche from his worried thoughts.

    “Of course, Highness!” Roland nodded. “I…”

    “Lord Manuel!” A messenger on a dark roan thundered up, his horse fresh with sweat, his armor stained with blood. “Lord Manuel! Strategos Diasorenos reports all the prisoners are being disarmed, and the Princes leading the army are now in our power! Begging Highness’ pardon,” the messenger bowed, gasping for air, “Strategos Diasorennos asks what are your orders regarding the prisoners?”

    Manuel looked out the tent at the scene below—a confused mob of people, frightened, tiny faces staring up at him high above, the bright twinkle of the Oikoi and their unsheathed blades all around.

    “Invite the princes to my tent,” the Kaisar smiled thinly, “and send for the Athloutakoi on staff to arrive ten minutes later.” The smile grew.

    “And what of their army?”

    The Prince looked down at the horde below, then up at the surrounding mountains. The smile suddenly grew dark. “Hmmm. Get them separated into manageable groups for the night, well apart from each other. We shall take a page from the late great Basil tonight. Blind every tenth of the others… officers, men, and sellswords alike.” He nodded, smile growing. “Send the others on their way with supplies. Caesar’s justice is fearful, but Caesar’s mercy is bountiful. The lesson won’t be lost on them…”



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


    So Alexandros takes a desperate gamble that seems to pay off—Nikephoros takes one to avoid a trap, but does his pay off as well? Meanwhile Manuel has dispatched the Balkan rebellion easily—but why did he want the Balkan lords to gather before he struck? And what is the meaning of the ‘reassignments’ that he is planning for the Empresses household? Did Nikephoros escape? What is the Kaisar up to? The civil war continues next time in Rome AARisen!
    Last edited by General_BT; 09-04-2011 at 17:28.
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  20. #5920
    Nerd Vesimir's Avatar
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    So I guess Nikephoros survived. Damn! I hope that he was, at least captured by the persians. Manuel refusing to come to the table would make sense seeing as he's got the rebellious tendencies going on.

    Also, Manuel the Emperor of Greece?
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