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Thread: Rome AARisen - a Byzantine AAR

  1. #6001
    My favorite would be Manuel as well, he was ruthless but not cruel, not afraid to take the field but not overly warlike either. Manuel also managed the difficult art of securing a peaceful succession, all in all Manuel comes the closest to being a perfect Emperor of any Romao/Byzantine Emperor since Octavian himself. My least favorit is Basil, yeah he was a good general, but his inability to make coldblooded ruthless, even cruel, decisions when the circumstances called for it ment that he crippled himself. Most dammingly though, was the God awefull mess he made of the succession. The current conflict is in a very real way Basils fault, because he couldnt handle his own children. So IMO Basil sucks because he was an Emperor who thought he was a General.

  2. #6002
    If we look at it that way, I think Mehtar created much of the mess that followed Basil's death by working so hard to place the Thomasine line on the throne.

  3. #6003
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  4. #6004
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    I think all people would chose the gardener emperor because he was balenced in all areas, while not pleasent to live with, he was the greatest. My favorite charector on the other hand was probably Nikephoros, the Gabriolid emperor. He was one of the few Kommenous not to try to kill his brother, and he sacrificed himstelf for Rhomanion. Sadly he didn't make alot of apperences .
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  5. #6005
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    Manuel and Basil must be my picks I think.
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  6. #6006
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    I have to say, I think the high points of the empire were Manuel and Basil. After that the empire just kinda coasted, leading to a slow decline until we reach the breaking point at which we are at

    Anywho, which Emperor were you LEAST favorite? (Let me guess Thomas I )

  7. #6007
    Manuel for least favourite.

    He was, to be honest, a bastard. Effective, and utterly neccessary to keep the nobility in line, but his willingness to wantonly murder whoever got in his way set a dangerous precedent that rulers since have been more than eager to follow. Without Manuel's trend setting, how likely would Mehtar have been?

    He did, however, have a fantastic retirement. The cold-blooded murdering psychopath hold up in an island monastery all by himself after he poisoned everyone else there was a fitting finale.

    I did rather like Basil however. It's true he more or less rode the coattails of his predecessors and was merely wise enough to use a favorable position, but it's hard not to like the idea of the classical Greco-Roman warrior-king off to conquer the world, even if his policies with conquered Spain were, to be frank, horrible.

    When push comes to shove, however, I don't think any of the Emperors would have succeeded without their lieutenants. Von Franken steered the ship of state through generations, the early Domestekoi were critical to the rebuilding of the Empire, and the ever present spymasters, from the infamous Mehtar to the more recent Oikoi leaders have been critical to stability (or destruction, as the case may be, anyone remember that business with the Hashashin?).

    Without their able supporters in the various branches of the Imperial administration, nobility and army, the Komnenoi, for all their merits, would be little better than the Crovans.

  8. #6008
    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    Hello everyone!

    First, I'd like to apologize for the delay in the latest update. First, writer's block hit. Then, a a tornado hit the city I live in. (We are all okay, no damage where we live, though we lost power for a while afterwards) Finally, Easter travels ate up time as well. But, finally, here it is!

    “The simplest solution is often the most correct. Unfortunately in matters of state the most corrupt and cruel solution is the one most often implemented.” – Guillaume d’Ockham

    April 15th, 1299

    “Cease drumming. Boys, you know the rhythm.”

    Droungarios Sostratos Meleniou glanced back at the crowded deck of his flagship Philomena, and sighed as the drummer next to him stopped. In the light of an April half-moon, he could barely see the scant few rowers on the deck—the sea splashing over their oars now kept the ship’s beat. The Droungarios leaned slightly over the ship’s side, one hand gripping her ropes, as he tried to see their destination in the darkness ahead. A dark hulk on the horizon marked land—and a distant twinkle in the midst of the blackness marked Sinope.

    “Go double-check the skiff,” Sostratos ordered the boy, before walking next to Philomena’s present kentarchos.

    “Better to be cautious, with the harbor coming and all,” the ship’s new master and former first mate, a Florentine named Dante Alighieri, nodded. “Wouldn’t want those Persians to know the gifts we’re about to send their way?” His teeth glinted white in the moonlight.

    “No, some gifts are best left a surprise,” Sostratos muttered, not smiling at the kentarchos’ joke. It wasn’t that Sostratos disapproved—the old Sostratos, the man who’d hunted pirates, he would have chuckled. Droungarios Sostratos knew more about the world, more about men, and more about his ship than even the rest of the crew.

    “Maybe,” Alighieri said after an awkward moment, “if we live through this, they’ll write songs about us. Or poems.”

    “Maybe,” Sostratos grunted—he kept his eyes unfocused, the better to spot movement. On seeing none, the glanced back to his former first mate. “Maybe you’ll pen them?” he tried to smile—he didn’t need to see himself to know the grin was tense and stillborn.

    “Doubtful,” Alighieri sighed, looking out at Sinope as well. “I haven’t tried doing poetry in years.” For another moment, silence reigned between them. “How many Persians are there, sir?”

    “Fifty hulks under construction, another hundred or so ships requisitioned and waiting,” Sostratos grunted, almost relieved he could focus on being worried, and not on banter and pre-battle bravado. He felt a shiver run down his spine, the familiar caress of fear.

    He’d felt that cold touch before. His first battle. His first time with a woman—his last time with a woman as well, though the cause of that fear was completely different from the first. Even now, that night—the incense in the bedroom, the candlelight, it all intruded rudely into his mind.

    “Aren’t you frightened?” she’d asked in between their caresses. “Scared you’ll drown, or get killed by some pirate?”

    As he looked at the dark bulk of the Anatolian shoreline, he shuddered again. He had been afraid—he was sleeping with a sitting empress, playing a game of lust and power beyond his comprehension.

    “Yes,” he’d admitted to her. All sane men were afraid—the only thing truly separating heroes from cowards was the brave controlled their fear, the cowards let the fear control them. Fear was its own pull, however, and Meleniou had figured out long before that it wasn’t just Ioanna’s thighs that had pulled him into acts he would have never done out of loyalty and self-respect only months before. It was that siren call of fear, of danger, that made their liasions all the more potent.

    Yet now, in the face of a different kind of danger, Sostratos Meleniou felt no such pull, no such secret drive. Tonight was no normal attack, no normal battle.

    Uneasily, the Droungarios looked down at the wooden planks beneath his feet, at the monster that quietly slumbered in the hold of the old hulk. The few men that manned the oars, the skeleton crew that checked the rigging, they assumed their old ship was nothing more than a mere fireship, piled high with dry wood and kindling. They assumed if she caught alight before they were prepared, they’d have a few precious minutes to lower their skiffs and flee.

    Sostratos knew better.

    For inside Philomena lurked a demon far worse than a mere pile of tinder.

    It was said the original idea had been in the head of some Arab named al-Nafis years before, but it took a Roman named Gregorios to turn the diabolical scheme into reality. The center of Philomena’s hull was filled with enough powder to fire 300 pyrokaroi. Arrayed around this were all sorts of objects—gravestones, bricks from unused buildings, nails, timber, and all other manner of debris, as well as ten siphons worth of naptha stuffed into great vats. Finally, the inside of her hull was ringed with thin sheets of iron—Gregorios said this would make the coming calamity worse, by some explanation of physics that flew over Soostratos’ mind.

    The spithead at the entrance to Sinope slowly passed by in the light of the half-moon. Torches twinkled in the distant harbor, dancing feebly in the summer night. Sostratos whispered the proper orders. Philomena sluggishly turned into the harbor, the other regular fireships joining in the great arc. Further behind, Meleniou could only just barely see the dromons raise their oars. Anchor chains jingled in the night. After a moment, they disappeared in the dark murk of the sea, and Sostratos felt crushingly alone.

    “Aim for the fifth pier,” Sostratos said to Alighieri. He’d been stationed in Sinope five years before, and like the other great harbors of Anatolia, he knew it inside and out. The main facilities for building any large ships, be they dromons or bulk ships, were to the left of the fifth pier. The greatest docks—the places where the largest ships the Persians had seized—were to the right. If Philomena was as potent as Gregorios promised, placing here there would cause the maximum damage.

    And likely set the city ablaze, Sostratos heard the words he’d spoken months before to the Kaisar. Sinope was an occupied city—it’s residents likely didn’t want the Persians there! Why should they suffer because an army took their fortresses and demanded it house them and their shipbuilders at swordpoint?

    Sostratos shook his head—there was no time to think of such things, only time to finish what needed to be done.

    “Aye sir,” Dante nodded, before repeating the orders. Sostratos felt Philomena turn slowly—a shuddering lurch, not the quick snap at the helm he was used to from her hull. He felt bad for her—in her life, she’d been a sleek, beautiful man of war. In her death, she’d be as slow as a fat cow. Aligheri walked to the ship’s stern, checking the darkened lantern that only cast a glow directly behind Philomena, grunted, then came back by Sostratos’ side. Meleniou looked to the left, then the right—in the darkness, he could make out the other fireships following, fanning out away from Philomena’s course.

    “Not long now,” Alighieri grunted. His eyes flashed over at Sostratos, a dark question about his ship, his men, going unspoken.

    “No, not long,” Sostratos said little, and much, at the same time. He nodded towards the skiffs—the way of escape for the skeleton crew that was still aboard Philomena. Alighieri nodded as well, and quietly orders went down the line—rowers pulled their oars in, and quietly the crew made their way to their salvation. For one last moment, as Sinope loomed closer and closer, there was just the lapping of waves, the gentle night breeze…

    …then, a bell rang onshore.

    “Into the water!” Meleniou barked. Another bell pealed from the shore, then another. Sostratos ignored them, reaching into his pocket. Flint met steel once, twice, three times, and a cord of rope on the stern of the Philomena caught alight just as the first skiff landed in the water.

    “Sir, it’s…”

    “Go!” Sostratos barked to Alighieri as the rope cord smoked. The man stared for a moment, before the droungarios shoved him towards the side of the ship. Someone had to stay behind a moment longer, to make sure the ropes caught alight, that Philomena would be on time in her appointment with history. With the eye of an expert and the trembling hands of a man who knew what slept beneath the ship’s deck, Sostratos went about lighting each of the long cords of rope that would be the fuse of the great bomb underfoot. After an eternity, they were all safely alight, all burning brightly. Then, and only then, did Sostratos leap into the water and swim out to the last waiting skiff filled with his men. Helping hands dragged the droungarios onboard.

    “Pull as if your lives depend on it!” Sostratos yelled as more alarm bells rose from the city. The men laughed and complied—they didn’t know the truth to their commander’s words. Alighieri, however, looked worriedly at Philomena as well—he knew something was wrong.

    Sostratos watched as the hulk of his old ship drifted onwards, her hull low in the water. Philomena was now in the hands of the onshore seabreeze, as well as the incoming tide. They, not any man, would pull her to her destiny, God willing. Twinkles of flame rose as other fireships were set alight, their ever-brightening forms falling into an unmanned, unholy formation alongside the larger Philomena. Alarm bells were now pealing across the city, and Meleniou could see figures running along the piers.

    Philomena lurched on. The flame finally licked up towards the first cord of dried wood on her deck, and as if new life had leapt into its soul, its tiny pops turned into a crackle, then a steady roar as the fire went from cord to cord. She was now well within the harbor, only moments from her destination. Sostratos could see men on the docks with great poles—they intended to at least keep the fireships away from their targets long enough skiffs could tow them away from the hulks and docked ships. Meleniou winced—if only they knew.

    “Pull!” he barked. The men looked at him quizzically, but pulled even harder. The men on the docks were pushing the other fireships away from moored vessels, and skiffs were already in the water. Sostratos could hear very distant yelling—he knew the orders already. Tie ropes to the fireships, use skiffs with oarsmen to keep them away from…

    And then it happened.

    The flash lit up the entire harbor, the entirety of Sinope, as well as the hills around the town even miles away. Sostratos blinked, blinded for a moment. The crew of the skiff went silent, watching with mouths agape as great rivulets of fiery debris arced through the sky, a ghostly white line rippling ahead of them before disappearing into the night. Meleniou had only a moment to hear the first of the muttered curses of his sailors before the ocean waves flattened as an enormous kra-KOOM thundered over the sea.

    Oaths rose from the throats of his men—some directed at God, some at Christ, some at no particular being in general.

    Meleniou squinted into the glare. The docks were gone. The ships moored next to the piers for a hundred yards in all directions were gone. The city-front itself was already a blaze of orange and yellow flame rising into the night. Sostratos swallowed grimly as his men pulled closer, to the safety of the waiting dromons.

    The church bells of Sinope pealed in agony, as flames leapt into the town.


    July 1st, 1299

    Isabella de Bevere sighed, wiping her forehead as the midsummer’s heat of the Royal Garden beat down on her brow. Flies buzzed around her as she fanned herself, as flowers and trees drooped in the brutal temperature. For not the first time, Isabella cursed the name of the Kaisar, and how his machinations had forced her to end up here of all places.

    Isabella’s mistress had spoken fondly of her life in Havigraes, before Romanion—yes, it paled in comparison to the Queen of Cities, but it was a large city in its own right, with stone buildings and wide streets. The handmaiden’s eyes flashed to the great wood and stone bridge that crossed the Psel river, its waters sluggish in the July heat. The bridge marked the divide between the ‘Merchant’s City’ and the ‘King’s City,’ including the royal citadel as well as the few buildings that housed the Danish government. A few boys played on the banks, but aside from that, there was little noise aside from rough Danes hawking their wares in their equally harsh tongue, amidst cramped wooden buildings that stank of wet pine after a hard rain. There was no Hippodrome, only a clearing outside the city where young noblemen raced their horses. There was no Marmara to soothe the summer’s heat, or warm winter’s chill.

    It was times like this, when summer’s ire bore down in all its might, that she missed Konstantinopolis—it might have been a city of plots, but at least the weather was tolerable. That thought made her grimace as well, as memories of their treacherous and stormy passage north came to mind. Droungarios Hagioparis had purposefully eschewed following the coastline, instead opting for the riskier path, taking the dromon directly across the Pontic Sea to Azov. There, the Dowager Empress and her retinue, disguised as pilgrims, managed to slip past the less-than-astute guards of the local Prince, making their way up a series of rivers until they reached their destination: Havigraes, capital of the Kingdom of Sortmark, and Empress Sbyslava’s childhood home.

    Now, this city on the steppe was now Isabella’s home as well. She’d tried to grow used to it in the few months she’d spent here—the smell of wood and horses, even the lustful looks of the Sortish men who hadn’t realized her body, let alone her heart, was not for their taking. Try as she might, she couldn’t shake the sights, the sounds, the smells of Konstantinopolis—or the memory of the man she’d loved those months before.

    There was precious little to keep her attention in this town—Havigraes numbered 30,000 souls at most, and within a month, she’d explored most every part within the walls of both the King’s City as well as the Merchant’s City. She and the handmaidens might have sewn more attire—while they’d brought a trunk of clothes each, there was much more that had been left behind—but there was a distinct shortage of silk and other raw material suitable for court dress for a handmaiden to an Empress. So, in the absence of much sewing, and far less ceremony, she’d found new duties from her mistress.

    The chief of which currently held her attention.

    Prince Andronikos, eldest of Sbyslava’s two sons, was crouched in a most unprincely fashion over a stone section of the garden, clearly unperturbed by the heat. Beside his short figure, made all the smaller by his posture, was that of his friend, Guillaume d’Ockham. Both were clad in simple linen shifts and leather breeches—the appropriate attire, Isabella had determined, for when they chose to ‘investigate natural science’ as they called it.

    “Andronikos, what are you doing?” Isabella asked—the boy was always asking questions, sometimes to the point of causing trouble. He already had caused a bit of scandal by quzzing his mother’s personal chaplain and the Archbishop of Havigraes over differences between the Latin and Orthodox rites of the church.

    The boy looked up, a frown marring his pale face with its deep brown eyes. It wasn’t a frown of anger—more one of thought. He held up a piece of glass in his hand to de Bevere, before pointing at the tiny black lump on the brick below. Isabella leaned over—it was her turn to frown.

    “What is that?” she asked.

    “It was an ant,” Andronikos joined her in leaning close as well. He raised the curved glass above the creature. “If I hold the glass about here,” he said as a blinding white point of light appeared above the miniscule corpse, “it catches on fire. See!” A second later, it was smoking. “Guillaume discovered it!”

    Isabella glanced over at the other boy, who stared up at her with a positively cherubic face. Guillaume d’Ockham’s father had been minor gentry in Surrey, Angleterre. D’Ockham the elder had the bad luck to be amongst a rabble of English barons led by Simon de Montfort, Comte de Leicester, who rebelled against Charles I after his historic treaty with the Scots. De Montfort came out on the losing end and was exiled—the elder d’Ockham lost his life. His estates were seized, and Guillaume, as well as his sister, were a part of de Montfort’s retinue as they travelled from court to court, seeking money and arms to return to their homeland. Five years before de Montfort had finally settled in Sortmark, where the aged King Olaf made repeated noises he would help but did nothing.

    Young Guillaume, meanwhile, grew up in the court of the Danes. Brown eyes stared over a long nose up at the handmaiden. Unlike his hosts, his hair was cropped short, still in the Norman fashion. Two years older than Prince Andronikos, he and his fellow exile were already fast friends—indeed the two had many similarities. Both were blessed with quick minds, and even quicker tongues. Guillaume already had a reputation for bamboozling slower tutors, while Andronikos took great joy in scolding his elders when he could prove them wrong.

    “Why?” the young English boy looked up. “Why does the glass make the ants light up, then catch fire?” He, too, was known for his penchant for asking too many questions.

    “I… do not know,” Isabella said frankly. “Perhaps that is a question you should ask your tutors?”

    “I doubt Master Bradwardine would know,” Prince Andronikos huffed. Like Guillaume, he had a low opinion of the man his mother had assigned to be his official tutor.

    “I bet it’s got something to do with sunlight hitting the glass, and making it very warm!” the young English boy went on.

    “Maybe,” the younger Prince said, before squinting at the dead ant again. “Look at its legs! They’re all curled up!”

    Isabella wrinkled her nose. Master Bradwardine had determined the best way for the two boys to learn about the natural world was to experience it beyond a simple hunt, and a burnt ant was certainly not the most disgusting thing the boys had found. Guillaume caught and kept alive a slug for a fortnight once—and Andronikos had caught a mouse and watched one of the castle cats eat it ‘just to see how it happens.’

    “They are,” Isabella pushed herself back up, satisfied the boys weren’t dirtying themselves outrageously. She rarely interfered in their ‘outings’ in the Kingsgarden—only to scold them when they’d dirtied their breeches, or to stop a tussle over this or that. As Andronikos yelled there was another ant and the boys scrambled accordingly, Isabella’s eyes drifted across the gardens—and she frowned. In the shadows, between sunlight and the shade of wooden columns, her mistress stood, talking with Prince Skjalm Knytling, heir to the throne of Sortmark.

    Skjalm Knytling was, all in all, a passably handsome man. His nose might have been a little too wide, his face proportioned to the wide side, and his teeth were slightly askew, but when he smiled, the sheer magnetism seemed to pull you in. Broad shouldered with a knight’s arms and legs, Isabella was sure he’d make some woman very happy—and soon. His own wife had passed three weeks before they arrived in Havigraes, taken during the pains of labor. He was Sbyslava’s shadow, it seemed, constantly calling on her, asking to see her.

    Isabella’s mistress only saw the Prince irregularly at best—she didn’t want the man “sniffing around too much.” As she glanced over, she saw Sbyslava’s arms were crossed, while Skjalm spoke. Her ears caught her mistress saying something, shaking her head, then Skjalm speaking as well, shaking his own. Both glanced over at the two boys, before saying more. She wasn’t sure what they were talking about—nor did she really want to know. The affairs of a Dowager Empress were above the concern of her handmaiden—if the handmaiden knew what was good for her health.

    Especially when such concerns had political, even imperial import.

    Sbyslava made no secret that she felt her sons were entitled to a share of the imperial pie. Considering their elder brothers were doing their best to tear it apart, Isabella herself wondered if maybe they should have a turn. Unfortunately for Andronikos, let alone Heraklios, they were seventh and eighth in line, exiled from the capital, with few friends and a nonexistent army. Who was going to put them on the throne? The Danes? Konstantinopolis wouldn’t stand an Emperor raised by a foreign army—and the last time the Danes had tangled with the Romans, the might of the entire Danish army was stymied in an afternoon by a Roman army of backwater troops and levies!

    Isabella was sure her mistress knew those things, and she was sure Sbyslava was trying to get around them. Eirene spoke of letters going to Poland, to the Rus, and to all other manner of places, but Isabella was sure nothing would come of any of it—those places all had their own problems, and even when splintered, any of the Roman princes could have squashed those realms with ease.

    So Isabella was stuck here, in Havigraes, maybe forever. She’d never get to see the Queen of Cities, or Roland, even again…

    “You’re doing it wrong!”

    Isabella’s attention snapped back from her mistresses words with the future King of the Danes to Prince Andronikos, unceremoniously snatching the magic glass from Guillaume’s hands. The older boy yelled, then roughly cuffed the Prince on the head. The glass sailed into the grass, forgotten as the another cuff was laid, and a brawl began.

    Isabella groaned as she rushed over to break the brawling children apart—yet another thing the young Prince had picked up from his Danish hosts! As tussling children were shoved apart, she prayed this torture might come to an end…


    December 12th, 1299


    Manuel Komnenos, Kaisar of the Roman Empire, looked up and smiled at the present hero-of-the-moment. Quickly the acting Lord of the Romans gestured towards a chair, and Sostratos Meleniou bowed awkwardly, before scuttling over to where the imperial hand indicated. The Kaisar nodded to his servants, but one nodded in return. Manuel sighed, reaching his hand out as the man delivered a letter. A glance showed where it came from—it bore the seal of Manuel’s brother Leo, still holding firm in Sicily. Without reading it, he already could guess its contents. Deftly, he slid the note into a sleeve of his tunic, before returning to the business at hand.

    “How do you find your new posting?” Manuel sat down opposite, a gulf of maps, parchments, and papers filling the table between them. He looked up, and instantly a jug of wine and two goblets materialized between the Kaisar and his new Megas Doux.

    “Um… trying, Highness,” Meleniou said haltingly. “I… am not used to as much of the…bureaucratic wrangling,” he half-smiled, “as I should be.”

    The Kaisar smiled thinly—perhaps his nervousness was because Sostratos had resumed sleeping with Empress Ioanna on his return. Perhaps it was the latest rumor of pregnancy—though those in Manuel’s pay confirmed that these, like the previous two dark mutterings, were nothing more than rumors. Perhaps, the Kaisar thought, Meleniou was so nervous because he’d figured out the Kaisar knew of his antics. [i]That[i/] made Manuel smile. Sostratos was bright, however, as well as wholly loyal. It was the latter quality Manuel prized most of all—he would have need of loyal men soon, and he wouldn’t throw a capable loyal man aside simply because he couldn’t keep his trousers up.

    Besides, Meleniou had done much to earn this final promotion, anyway. After all, he’d planned the navy’s response to the civil war from the start, as well as commanded the brilliantly successful attack on Sinope that crippled the nascent Persian fleet. Even if Manuel hadn’t counted him as a loyal man, it’d be hard for the Kaisar to not reward him. Long ago, Manuel had decided Sostratos would ride next to him in the triumph to celebrate the war’s end when that glorious day came.

    “You’ll get used to it,” the Kaisar leaned across the table, patting the former ship’s captain on the shoulder. “Think of meetings and planning as battles—avarice and slothfulness are the enemy,” Manuel grinned. It’s how he thought of the endless meetings and discussions that went into planning to retake his empire. Exciting? No. Necessary? Very.

    “I’ll try, Highness,” Sostratos nodded.

    “I won’t distract you from those battles for long,” the Kaisar started to pour Sostratos a cup before the Megas Doux raised his hand. Manuel nodded, and then poured one for himself. “I called you here for only a brief meeting to arrange something… bold. Bolder than Sinople, even.”

    The Megas Doux merely nodded, but Manuel caught Sostratos sitting up more in his chair, his eyes more alive. Yes, he was a true combat commander.

    “I need you to make the arrangements to transport an army in six month’s time to southern Italy,” Manuel said. “It’s time we finished off that miscreant Demetrios.”

    “Well,” Meleniou frowned slightly—he likely was going to be stuck behind a desk, planning the operation, instead of leading ships at sea—“We have transports free now that the fireship attack on Herakleia last month succeeded. Enough for perhaps…”

    “…50,000 men is what I need to move,” Manuel settled back in his chair, and sipped on his wine.

    “50,000 men?” Meleniou’s voice hitched slightly. The Kaisar grinned—he still enjoyed when he surprised Sostratos. The Megas Doux’s eyes spoke volumes.

    You don’t have 50,000 men to spare, if you want a capital come next summer!

    The new Megas Doux had made his reluctance plain, and Manuel couldn’t blame him—the military situation in the East was as dire as could be. Yes, a huge part of the Persian ships had burned at Sinope, and other attacks had further nipped the Persian efforts at building a navy, but the East was lost. The west was in revolt—von Franken had stopped his army’s southward advance at Orvieto, before calling his sellswords north. Manuel had on good authority he’d reached an agreement with Demetrios, sparing the latter for a hefty sum of gold and an additional 10,000 men. A prudent man would use the fleet to carry an army south to Egypt and attack the Egyptians and Syrians from the rear…

    ..but Manuel was no prudent man. He was a scheming man, a man who saw opportunities where others saw doom.

    So he planned on. Alexios et all would never expect a huge imperial army to sail for Italy and North Africa—no doubt they’d assumed with Alexandros beating at Konstantinopolis’ door and the Megas Komnenos a prisoner, the Kaisar would be focused on preserving his own head. But assumptions were the mortar of the road to hell—and Manuel planned to turn all his enemies assumptions on their head shortly.

    To begin, he already knew of cracks on the Persian’s coalition. After the battle on the Halys, the Egyptian and Syrian contingents now made up nearly two-thirds of the forces under Alexandros’ control—and the Kaisar knew how to pry them from their master’s hands.

    The price of Egypt had been mournfully low—Manuel had promised that he’d lean hard on the Patriarch of Alexandria to appoint an unknown—one Ioannis de Normandie, a descendant of the ancient Norman families who long ago had ruled the region—as Patriarch of Alexandria. The Oikoi reported the man cared little for imperial politics, his main focus being ‘reforming the faith.’ So long as Ioannis avoided political matters altogether, Manuel would let him threaten to ban communion if he wanted. In return, Prince Aiguptokomnenos would retire with his men, as well as a handsome payment totaling 100,000 gold solidii. Gold was nothing—not when Manuel sensed the diadem.

    The price of Syria was no higher—merely an astute observation, no more. Prince Chrysokomnenos was richer than his nominal lord and the leader of their joint expedition, Prince Komnenoedessa. Both had legitimate claims to the overlordship of Syria—the original Despotes of the region had been a Prince of Antioch. It wasn’t until the ascension of Andronikos I that the Despotate had formally been given to Edessa. Given the freedom to act, and the lack of an outside threat, it was a matter of time before the two camps broke from each other. A little prodding, and a few pieces of planted evidence, and war between the sides was all but assured—neutralizing their threat as well.

    That, of course left the Persians themselves. While the destruction of the city of Sinope was regrettable, the 85 ships the Persians had lost in that single night also meant there was no way they could challenge the imperial fleet at sea for the next year, or more. Alexandros was suddenly in a tough position—he could hold Anatolia, yes. He could likely hold it as long as his treasury lasted, but with no fleet, and no help from allies, all he could do was stamp and snarl across the Marmara.

    But no, that wouldn’t be enough.

    “Perhaps 60,000 would be better,” Manuel nodded. Yes, it would be. “That’d be… 500 ships, with an escort?”

    “It’d… yes,” Meleniou stumbled. Yes, Manuel was casually tossing out numbers that’d mean merchant vessels up and down the Aegean would need to be requisitioned. It was only to cross the Adriatic! “That’d be sufficient, I suppose, but…”

    “See to it, Megas Doux,” the Kaisar ignored the coming storm of complaints he knew all too well was coming. Manuel was impressed as Meleniou’s mouth hung open only a moment before he bowed reluctantly.

    “Of course, Highness,” Sostratos stammered. “I…um… was there anything else, Highness?”

    “Obviously, this must be kept a secret as long as possible. That is all,” Manuel waved the man on.

    As his new naval commander rose and left the room, Manuel’s pulled out the letter closed by the familiar seal. Quickly his penknife sliced off the seal, and he scanned its contents:

    My dearest brother,

    I am writing to you in desperation, as the forces of our brother Alexios have cut Sicily off by sea. I pray this letter is able to reach you by the graces of Prince von Franken…”

    Manuel sighed as the door to his chambers closed, and slid Leo’s urgent plea to the side. His fingers dug into a secret pocket in the sleeve of his tunic—out came a tiny scrap of paper, just large enough to wind around the leg of a raven. The Kaisar flipped it open within a second, taking in the scant words on the miniscule parchment:

    Yes on all accounts.

    The Kaisar leaned back and smiled. Four words. Two years of plotting had been satisfied in just four words. Perhaps greater deeds had taken place with fewer, but Manuel couldn’t think of any. While Nikephoros was away, Manuel had stuffed the government full of his people. He’d promoted men loyal to him alone, and shuffled off those whose allegiance was questionable. The Konstantinopolis that buzzed around him was one of his making. In a few more months, perhaps a year at most, Manuel would be hailed as a savior, and wear the diadem of Megas Komnenos himself.

    The Kaisar gave one last look at the small note, before the incriminating little parchment was flicked into the fire. He pulled out a parchment, and started his second letter to the Patriarch this day, offering his apologies for the actions of some…

    …the letter from his brother slid out of his sleeve, and onto the table, ruining his writing. Manuel scowled at the interrupting note for only a moment.

    Then it, too, joined the flames.


    Lots of introductions, and lots of things happening! Sbyslava et al have made it to Havigraes, while our favorite captain hamstrung the Persian naval plans and got himself promoted. Meanwhile, Manuel is up to some machination he is sure will land him the diadem shortly? Who agreed to what with Manuel? What were Sbyslava and Skjalm discussing? And how much more will William…*ahem* I mean Guillaume d’Ockham and Dante Alighieri reappear in the tale? More to come when Rome AARisen continues!
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  9. #6009
    Lt. General WelshDude's Avatar
    Crusader Kings IISengokuVictoria 2Victoria II: A House Divided

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    Colwyn Bay
    Uhhh... a certain three people are unlikely to like Manuel's plan... you get the feeling he's just a little bit cocky. Especially when one of them is Alexandros Megas...

    Will Gulliaume's real name matter at all? Sbyslava is probably plotting a Danish invasion, and it looks like Manuel's made a big mistake with the new Patriarch...
    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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  10. #6010
    Sortmark will seize the Crimea and the lands all the way to Georgia.

  11. #6011
    The Avatar of Time 4th Dimension's Avatar
    Crusader Kings II

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    United Serb Tribes, Holy Slavic Empire
    Manuel is definitly trying to live up to the name of his ancsestor
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  12. #6012
    What ever happened to Nikephorus? I can definitely see Sbyslava attempting to grab the throne for her son... and I don't think Alexandros will ever cross the Mamara. I doubt that he has enough money to wait an entire year to pay for the massive armies he has amassed.

  13. #6013
    Lt. General WelshDude's Avatar
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    Colwyn Bay
    Can we have Alexandros in the next update? I'd love to see how he's handling his allies.
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  14. #6014
    Enewald Enewald's Avatar
    54 games registered


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    Well, Nikephoros is still alive?
    Demetrios sits back and Alexios attacks Sicily.
    No attack over the Alps against von Franken?

    And the Arab tribes? Armenians? Turks? Berbers? Nubians?
    Everyone must smell blood

  15. #6015
    Lt. General WelshDude's Avatar
    Crusader Kings IISengokuVictoria 2Victoria II: A House Divided

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    Colwyn Bay
    Yeah, what is Demetrois doing? Didn't he move at the same time as 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.

    The President's 1836-1936: Potentially with more zombies.

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    Formerly Eldud Walsh, former President in The Presidents. Then George Walsh, Democratic Senator for Virginia.

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  16. #6016
    Obviously Theodoros and his camel armies will crush all the usurpers and rebels. The 8,000 of his warrior shall wreak a devastating war of conquest across the entire Empire. The Persians shall be humbled! The churlish Manuel shall acknowledge his inferiority! All hail the Prince of Leptis Magna!

  17. #6017

  18. #6018
    Field Marshal
    Crusader Kings IIDeus VultEU3 CompleteHeir to the ThroneVictoria: Revolutions
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    Quote Originally Posted by SplendidTuesday View Post
    Obviously Theodoros and his camel armies will crush all the usurpers and rebels. The 8,000 of his warrior shall wreak a devastating war of conquest across the entire Empire. The Persians shall be humbled! The churlish Manuel shall acknowledge his inferiority! All hail the Prince of Leptis Magna!
    Hehehe... obviously, Theodoros must be the Muad'dib

  19. #6019
    Romanorum Imperator Augustus asd21593's Avatar
    Europa Universalis 3EU3 CompleteVictoria: Revolutions

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    So you pretty much A-bombed Sinope....awesome.
    My AAR Library
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  20. #6020
    Holy crap, that Sinope move was brilliant.

    I think the most interesting characters in this update were Andronikos (II?, perhaps) and Guillaume d’Ockham. It would be very awesome to see Andie on the throne of...well, something, with Ockham () as the power behind the throne. Though, seeing as the two boys seem almost equally intelligent, I'd say Ockham would be more of an Ioannis to Andie, rather than a Mehtar (or Von Franken) to Thomas.

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