I never thought this would be my life.
I would have imagined a thousand thousand lives before this one. A life spent in the palace working alongside my esteemed uncle. A life out on campaign or quelling the typical court-intrigues - I wished nothing more than to be a loyal servant to the man who had given me so much.
I failed him on every count.
He was a man misjudged by so many. I am a testament to all his detractors of what a remarkable man he was, and now I am lost, and with it the truth...
...But it will not be lost to all. I stand here as a man possessed by the vices of anger and hate, but I will turn them into something beautiful - retribution. Those who need to suffer will suffer. That which needs to fall will fall.
All large things start with small things. My life is no different. One quick tumble with the milk-maid is all that was needed to bring down an empire [or so I hope]. Reason if reason was needed for the perfumed lords of Anatolia to pay heed to their incense-spraying priests when they call for piety!
I was the result of that indiscretion. My mother a harlot and my father a rutting cretin. He died green and as bloated as a toad, never knowing the name of his killer. I came into this world already a fatherless bastard, the matter should have ended there with mild embarrassment for his kin and undying shame for my mother. My uncle did the unthinkable and legitimised me - can you imagine the reaction! He was a man of importance, he had his own children - the presumption was that it was an act that was the manifestation of the grief he felt for his brother's death - he later told me that it was nothing of the sort. A man can have uses for those who the world is more than happy to ignore...
My uncle kept me at his side at all times, though this was under the pretext of doing menial chores that arose, he always reminded me to keep an ear open to all that was said, and an eye open for all that took place. He ensured that even from an early age, the inner-workings of power were known to me, and in time they became my second-nature.
Though you may not believe it, considering my position - be it political or geographical, my uncle was a Roman lord. A rather important one, truth be told. He was a general very much in demand. So much so that the widowed Empress wedded him in order to protect her son - little boys in purple robes cannot hold empires together - but strong men can.
Ah, I get the feeling you perhaps believe you know who my uncle was at this point? Is it the family resemblance? I'm told we have the same eyes...
...Anyway, he was not a man who played up to court whispers and intrigue. He felt that was a task for me. I was a boy of eighteen trying to unravel the plots of those who had been plotting long before my uncle was even born. Needless to say I failed miserably.
My uncle faced his problems head-on. He gathered his forces and marched against the Turks. 'Let the eunuchs have their games, they lack anything else to fiddle with' he told me as we headed out, he was sick of Constantinople and the endless charades put on by those who would happily see him dead.
All was well until Manzikert. Manzikert. That name. Manzikert. Manzikert. Manzikert. That cancer in me. Manzikert. He will go down in infamy for a defeat that was not his own. He will be called the incompetent snake who killed an empire.
It was not his doing. It was mine. I was so trusting. I believed that whatever happened in the capital meant nothing out here. I had reports the night before of dissent amongst some of our esteemed friends. Whispers of betrayal. I thought I knew it all. 'They would not attempt something out here!' I genuinely thought that with the Turk out in force, there would be no suicidal self-interest...
...And then came the battle. Half the army stays at camp, the other flees! This was the Imperial army! This was the raw will of the Roman Empire! They gave the emperor to the Turk and ran!
I had been wounded in the battle. I was looked after by the Turk's own staff - though it was serious, I would survive. My uncle and the Turk went into discussions. They got on well - it was around this time we stopped calling him 'the Turk' and started calling him Alp Arslan. I was to be left with Alp - firstly I was still too wounded to march, and time was of the essence. Secondly I was to be the link between these two men, the go-between to assure all was well. There was no interest in further conflict, far from it.
There were so many plans - so much had been agreed - the scope of it all was enough to make Alexander the Great shudder. This was to be an alliance that would change all.
But it was not to be.
Romanos IV was usurped and blinded by the same vipers who deserted him. He died alone and in the dark. The alliance was dust. Alp was furious. I was still at camp. It could barely be said I existed in Greek lands - I have existed thanks to and through what was now a dead man.
Alp gave me a choice.
I took his faith and I took his task. It was many years before I was ready, both in skill and in Alp's trust. Though he liked me, it was another thing entirely to give such a man a task of such magnitude... but in the end he felt he was right to think it could work.
I was, for a lack of a better word, rechristened. My name died with Romanos. Alp gave me the name Kilij. As a son of Rum, he felt it only appropriate that it be my name.
I was to head an autonomous region in Anatolia, the Rum-lands. I was to, with my inate knowledge, exploit the weaknesses of the Greeks, I was to convert their lands and I was to bring down that soft with rot 'Roman' Empire.
I am Kilij of Rum and I will avenge my uncle. If I cannot it will be my son's task. If they cannot it will be their son's task. But it will happen. The year is 1077 and this is the beginning of my campaign.