While waiting for the wedding, we hold a hunt. In his excitement, Spymaster Anastasios keeps calling our prey “deer,” but we don’t have deer here. We are hunting greater kudo. Turning while riding fast, I get distracted correcting him yet again and accidentally break my horse’s leg. Later a change has come over me. Perhaps this one more setback involving my horse, the latest of fortune’s many darts against me, has done something to my soul. After the hunt, I am seized by a slothful melancholy that I just cannot shake. Why bother going the extra mile? It will probably come to naught anyway.
I’m starting to get bad dreams.
What happened to that knuckle bone? I don’t think my people would murder me anymore, since they have gotten used to my foreign culture and heretic religion, even though they still despise me. And Nikodemos’ speech to the rebels about my protection from Basileus Michael must have leaked out to others as well. It can’t be lost on folks either that without my vassalage to Byzantium, the Shia Caliphate’s mamluks would soon storm in from the East. But it is still deeply unnerving to think that some of the more fanatical Monophysites out there might discover that my holy hostage is free. Some of them might not care what happens to their earthly self in order to get right with God.
I start to look at the people around me differently. Did one of them steal it? My sleep goes from bad to worse.
My son is now married to the beautiful Doux of Armenia Minor—I mean, married to the beautiful Sibylla, sister to the Doux of Armenia Minor. And we have our first (real) alliance, permissible to Basileus Michael as the Doux is also a vassal of the Basileus.
Our ally, Doux Iosephos II of Armenia Minor. His duchy and nearby county amount to six counties worth of levees in total.
Tyrus will be our first conquest. While the Catholic Crusaders raise hell a little to the south, distracting the Muslims, this tiny one-county infidel count will be helpless to resist us. My spies bring back reports of wonderful sophistication in their culture and economy. With this county behind us, we will be able to raise much more money and levees. Plus, if I move my court there, we will be able to negotiate and hire local bands of mercenaries to expand our fighting force even further. And finally, if the Caliphate does decide to attack Sennar, and “The Drunkard” is unable to stop him, I will be able to continue my reign unabated.
Finally someone with a good reason to hate me.
The impious and infamous ruler of Tyrus. With any luck all of his county’s holdings will soon be mine.
I call together my council and tell them that we need to declare a Holy War on Tyrus right away. I don’t explain my urgency to them, but I know that my new ally the Doux is now in grave danger. Given my unspeakably running bad luck, by allying himself to me, the Doux has made himself an enormous target to the cruelty of Fortune and her instruments of torture and destruction. Something horrible will happen to him soon, no doubt, and if we want to use his troops we need to do so at once.
The councilors all agree that this is the best course of action. Nikephorus does add the warning that other Sunnis will very likely rally to the defense of Sheikh Hakam of Tyrus. He wants more time to get intelligence on which Sunni rulers might help him, how many troops they might bring, how many Doux Iosephos could be expected to share with us, and several other considerations. Given his high martial ability, I yield to him, asking him to do all he can to conclude these considerations within a week’s time, which he assures me will be very easy.
Weeks stretch into months as Nikephorus argues that we should wait for this or that reason. He talks of military matters with such a high degree of sophistication that at first I am glad someone so knowledgeable is saving us from a rash attack that we would regret latter. But as time goes on, I begin to despair that we will ever be able to begin. There is always this dispatch we need to wait for, or that spy who needs to report in. If all rulers were this careful, there should be no wars in all Europe or Africa.
Finally caution suddenly gives way to desperation. Nikodemos tells me that he has learned that Basileus Michael himself has turned his eyes (momentarily away from his bottle) towards Tyrus. If we want it for ourselves, we must strike now. I immediately call the council together and issue a declaration of Holy War on Tyrus, hoping that we are able to get there first and that my ally will answer my call.