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    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

HistoryDude

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@HistoryDude, you must have set the CK2 record for longest battle in number of chapters devoted to it. Thank you for updating and have a safe and joyous holiday season.
Thanks!

And, yes, this is probably a record. I'm not certain on that, but it's likely...
An ominous dream, the Sassanids are wily opponents!

Indeed they are. Of course, the dream has multiple interpretations...
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Albinus's Contingencies, Part 3

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A revelation of what, exactly? It was shockingly similar to his fears for a revelation. It didn’t really tell him anything that he didn’t already know… at least not at first glance.

He frowned. The image that he had seen had been a haunting image. It had showed him dead bodies that were stripped of their armor. Oh, he realized. Dead bodies stripped of armor. There was only one reason why the Sassanids would take Eastern Roman armor - if they needed it. And they would only need it if…

They would only need it if they were losing the battle overall - or if they were winning at an enormous cost. Either way, an attack might well break them.

Still, Albinus had misgivings about planning a battle around a dream. He especially had misgivings about planning a battle - or, indeed, doing anything - based on his own interpretation of a dream. After all, his interpretation of his dreams could easily be wrong… and, if he acted on them, that could lead to disaster.

Albinus was still annoyed at doing nothing. He had been doing nothing for weeks by this point, and it was really getting on his nerves.

For that matter, Anastasios and the Scythia should really have arrived here by now. What was taking them so long? He would have to ask once they finally did arrive.

Albinus really hoped that that moment was very soon, as his patience was wearing thin. Worryingly thin.

If they took much longer to arrive, Albinus figured that their arrival would likely be too late to affect the battle at all. The battle would, in effect, have been won or lost without them. In all honesty, that was probably fine. They weren’t strictly needed to win, but the extra men would be very helpful.

Perhaps he should send a small scouting force into the city of Hasakah? Sending one into the Sassanid camp was probably too risky, but sending one into the city would probably be fine. Albinus was certain that the battle would already be lost if Hasakah had fallen to the Sassanid army.

Unless the Sassanids were playing with the three legions, Hasakah was likely safe for a few scouts to enter. And Albinus highly doubted that the Sassanids were playing with the three legions - there was no good strategic reason why they should do so.

Still, better safe than sorry. For that matter, even if the Sassanids hadn’t taken Hasakah, it was still possible that the city had decided to be neutral until someone won the battle… which might lead them to execute possible soldiers from both sides. That wasn’t very likely, but Albinus had learned not to dismiss any possibility from Demetrius, who had the experience to back up his words.

He could still send scouts into the city though. He just had to make sure that the fact that they were scouts was kept… somewhat secret. That shouldn’t be that hard.

Of course, that raised the question of who he should send? He needed people that would make good scouts but also wouldn’t get caught if Hasakah had either fallen to the Sassanids or decided that risking neutrality (of any kind) was a good idea. So he needed scouts that could plausibly deny that they were scouts. Preferably scouts that could plausibly deny that they were associated with the three legions - or the Eastern Roman military - entirely.

That might not be that easy.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Albinus's Contingencies, Part 4

HistoryDude

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There weren't many people in his legion - or any of the three legions, for that matter - who could pull that off successfully. Those who could were probably needed far more elsewhere. Still, there had to be a few people who could pull it off, and even one could probably get Albinus the information he needed…

While Albinus was certain that he could get into Hasakah without being identified, he also knew that he was needed in the Eastern Roman camp far more. Clementius couldn’t manage the three legions very well… and whoever was in temporary command of the Legio I Armeniaca wouldn’t have much experience commanding anything, much less three legions. No, Albinus couldn’t go to the city himself…

He would have to send someone else. It would have to be someone that he trusted, and they had to be an effective spy.

Albinus frowned. Okay, so who fit that description? Actually, who had participated in Galerius’s Charge? If someone had done that, then they wouldn’t be available for this mission. Sadly, that meant he couldn’t ask Galerius himself to check on the Armeniaca, which was a real shame. Galerius was someone that he knew and trusted, and he led the Legio I Armeniaca. If he hadn’t charged, he would have been perfect for this mission.

Of course, if he hadn’t charged, this mission might not be necessary. Albinus really hoped that Galerius was still alive - he was excellent company. Still, that was irrelevant - Albinus couldn’t let his personal feelings get in the way of the greater good - that was the greater good for his plans, of course.

Sending somebody from the Legio I Armeniaca would probably be the wisest move. They would be able to recognize their comrades most easily, and they would be inclined to help them arrive safely at the Eastern Roman camp.

Unfortunately, Albinus knew very few people in the Legio I Armeniaca. Why would he? For one thing, it wasn’t his legion. He didn’t need to befriend or get to know anybody in it. He didn’t need the loyalty of the Armeniaca. Indeed, he couldn’t have predicted that he would have to serve alongside any other legion, and, even if he had considered that possibility, he had no way of knowing which legion he would have to serve alongside.

He didn’t actually know anybody in the Legio I Armeniaca personally except for Galerius. That meant that he was going to have to assign this mission to somebody from his own legion.

A part of him wanted to discuss this plan with someone that he trusted, but there was nobody that he trusted and knew where they were. That meant that he was just going to have to go with his instincts and hope that something didn’t go horribly wrong.

To be fair, he could wait for Anastasios, but that plan was far too risky. By the time Anastasios arrived, the vast majority of the Legio I Armeniaca might already be slaughtered. That outcome was far from acceptable.

The Legio I Armeniaca was an important part of his plan, after all. Their elimination from the scene might force him to have to drastically change his plans.
 
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Of course, his plans succeeding was also contingent on, well, his own survival, so he had to ensure that the Second Battle of Hasakah was won. Failing that, he had to ensure that he could pull off an ordered retreat. Also, he would need to ensure that he wasn’t killed for the loss, which is what would happen if anybody blamed him for not stopping Galerius’s Charge.

He did know many people in his own legion, and that meant that he could easily recruit one of them to check on the majority of the Legio I Armeniaca. Indeed, they would probably be honored by his personal trust in them… which meant that he needed to actually trust them.

Albinus wasn’t stupid. He knew that his legion had many spies. While most of them wanted the Eastern Romans to win this battle, there were a few that were indifferent… and even a few that wanted the Eastern Romans to lose this battle… and the war.

He could afford to send the spies that shared his immediate goals to Hasakah. Indeed, that was probably the best course of action. It would make them believe that he trusted them - which was true… to an extent.

Furthermore, however, sending people that were truly loyal to him would allow him to figure out the state of the Armeniaca, yes, but it wouldn’t help him in the long term. On the contrary, if he sent someone who was spying on him, but for a different faction in Eastern Roman politics, he would earn their trust… at least temporarily. He could then use them as a double agent.

Yes, that was an amazing plan. There were a few things that could go wrong with it, but there were not many of those. No plan was foolproof, but this plan came close.

Albinus still didn’t know who to send, though. It had to be someone within his legion, and that someone couldn’t be personally loyal to him. In addition, they couldn’t be inclined to sabotage the mission, which meant that they couldn’t be spying for a faction that wanted Eastern Rome to lose or for a faction that was plain indifferent. Indeed, any faction that was indifferent was likely an extreme threat to his plans. The only factions that didn’t care about the Second Battle of Hasakah’s result either didn’t care much about the Eastern Romans at all or had a plan for both results. The most dangerous people were those that could adapt.

Albinus figured that the Second Battle of Hasakah was one of those battles upon which wars hinged. Indeed, it might be one of those battles upon which history itself hinged. In those battles, even the smallest of actions had far-reaching consequences.

That meant that Albinus was desperately going to need to consult with someone about this plan. He needed a second opinion, and the occasions where that was strictly necessary were rare indeed. Still, the first part of his plan required a victory against the Sassanids in the short term. In the long term, it required the glory of Rome - or some part of it, at least - to be restored. Many plans hinged upon that. Albinus was sure of that much.

He was going to have to summon his close advisors within his legion. They would be able to give him a second opinion.
 
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Midnite Duke

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The number of layers of political intrigue in the Eastern Roman Army would make a large onion envious. Be safe and plan carefully, my general.
 

HistoryDude

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The number of layers of political intrigue in the Eastern Roman Army would make a large onion envious. Be safe and plan carefully, my general.

Of course. This is Byzantium! Intrigue is second nature to its inhabitants...

Next update should hopefully be coming today, but it might come tomorrow. Sorry for the delay!
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Albinus's Contingencies, Part 6

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Well, he told them that they were his close advisors, and that was true - to an extent. In truth, though, he followed the truest advice of all - that the truth lied. Even despite that, he was relatively certain that these men would tell him what they thought of his plans as honestly as they could. They had never done anything less before.

Of course, he would need to check their loyalties a bit. Above all, they were supposed to be loyal to him. Their foremost loyalty was to be to Albinus - and no one else. Not the Emperor. Not any fellow army commanders. Not governors of the provinces. Not the Imperial Court. Not foreign rulers. Not ancient conspiracies (although he could never tell when those were available - they were good at covering their tracks). Just him.

He had done that before, of course, but this was the Eastern Roman Empire. Loyalties could change quickly, and men were driven by different things. Just because his council was loyal to him one day didn’t mean it had been loyal to him the previous day, or that it would continue being loyal to him the following day.

In addition to that, many men were good at concealing their loyalties. It was always good to ensure that he wasn't simply being watched by very good spies. The longer a man successfully spies on someone, the sloppier their spying gets. Also, they sometimes formed relationships with those that they were supposed to be spying on. Loyalty was fluid in the Eastern Roman Empire.

As such, he decided that he would go ask his advisors to come to his tent. He couldn’t do that in broad daylight, though, because that might be seen as favoritism. It was technically favoritism, but his soldiers didn’t need to know about that. They especially didn’t need to wonder why their council wasn’t asked for. All Albinus needed the soldiers under his command to do was serve him loyally.

Granted, it wasn’t entirely favoritism. He did need to keep an eye on his enemies, but he didn’t need to seek out their advice. Despite that, he often included both his enemies and his allies in his councils because it allowed them to believe that they were trusted. It made them consider themselves his trusted advisors - regardless of whether or not he actually trusted them or not.

After all, they were included in council with those who actually did trust. Why should that not mean that they were also trusted? Why should that not also mean that their advice was highly valued? If that was what they thought, then Albinus’s plan was succeeding. Albinus preferred to keep his friends close, yes, but he liked to keep his enemies closer.

In addition, it also gave him insight into the thoughts of his enemies. If a man could think like his enemies, then he would be able to easily defeat them, after all.

The sun was setting, and that meant that the time to get his council’s opinion was close at hand.

If their advice didn’t make his choice easier, and if he still had serious qualms about his choice, then he could call a meeting of everybody in all three legions. However, he preferred not to do that. Far too many people would offer their opinion there… and those that did speak intelligently might be drowned out by the voices of those that did not.
 
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Oh, right. Almost forgot.

This is the end of the year, so we have two sets of awAARds to vote for!

The first (and unique to the end of the year) is the 2020 Yearly AARland Year-end AwAARds. This AAR is eligible. Some viewers have already voted, but more votes are always appreciated. Even if you don't vote for this AAR, vote!

The second awAARd set is the Q4 ACAs. Vote there as well!
 
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Midnite Duke

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The TRUTH never lies, but each person only sees a small piece of the TRUTH at a particular moment in time. Thus what seems to be a lie is only a sliver of a grand mosaic. My General, please be careful, gather as many slivers as possible and may you have Sweet Dreams.
 
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The TRUTH never lies, but each person only sees a small piece of the TRUTH at a particular moment in time. Thus what seems to be a lie is only a sliver of a grand mosaic. My General, please be careful, gather as many slivers as possible and may you have Sweet Dreams.

Indeed. Individual "truths", as seen by humans, lie, but the full thing never does - but then, it also is never known.
 
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LMaquiel

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The TRUTH never lies, but each person only sees a small piece of the TRUTH at a particular moment in time. Thus what seems to be a lie is only a sliver of a grand mosaic. My General, please be careful, gather as many slivers as possible and may you have Sweet Dreams.
Indeed. Individual "truths", as seen by humans, lie, but the full thing never does - but then, it also is never known.
The dilemma between objectivity and subjectivity. If objectivity is unattainable, the only thing left is the pretension-to-objectivity.
 
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The dilemma between objectivity and subjectivity. If objectivity is unattainable, the only thing left is the pretension-to-objectivity.

Indeed. Of course, since this is an in-universe work as well, events will get very subjective.

After all, esse est percipi (to be is to be perceived).
 
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Albinus waited a few hours before he called upon his council. Secrecy must be preserved, after all. He didn’t want any of his legion to lose their trust in him.
As such, his council was gathered in his tent at around midnight.

“Well,” he began. “This battle has gone on for days. Still, it shows no signs of ending any time soon. That must be rectified, and I intend to rectify it. Currently, the vast majority of the Legio I Armeniaca is missing in action.”

“What does missing in action mean?” Julius asked. Julius was from Rome itself. He had fled that city when it fell to Odoacer, or so he claimed. Albinus didn’t believe that for a second. He had investigated his past, though, and he seemed to have been loyal to Demetrius. This loyalty had apparently not transferred to Anastasios, though, which meant that Albinus would have to figure out who he was loyal to now. Still, it was doubtful that he served either the barbarians in the West or the Sassanids from the East, which meant that he could be trusted to give good advice in regards to this war.

“In short?” Albinus rhetorically asked. “It means that we have no idea where the majority of the Legio I Armeniaca is. Worse, that was the veterans - only the new and recently trained men were left behind.”

That caused an uproar. Albinus had expected that - news of a missing legion tended to do that. Still, the sheer volume of the uproar shocked him, as his advisors normally kept relatively quiet during their meetings. That was required to keep secrecy, and Albinus had stressed that to them. The fact that they were willing to break it meant that they were even more worried about this than he was - which wasn’t reassuring in the slightest.

Still, the uproar eventually died down. When that happened, Julius stood up. “So, for all intents and purposes, we’re missing a legion?” he asked. “We’re missing an entire legion? And we have no clue where they are? Are we sure that the Armeniaca still exists? How long have they been missing?”

He sounded panicked, and, by the shouts of agreement throughout the room, many people were still panicked. Albinus couldn’t have that. “Calm down,” he snapped. “Yes, the situation is bad, but it isn’t hopeless. We aren’t sure that the Armeniaca still exists, but it is doubtful that such a mighty force would be so easily annihilated. I’m certain that they didn’t intend to be destroyed, at least, which means that we shouldn’t assume the worst.”

“If we’re not sure that the Armeniaca still exists,” Julius interjected. “Why haven’t we checked? Our legions are the pinnacle of armies - they aren’t easy to destroy.”

“I just realized how long they’ve been missing recently,” Albinus responded. “I have a plan on what to do myself, but I want a few other opinions. If we mess this up, we could easily lose the battle and even the war itself. The Armeniaca could’ve been captured, and that is what worries me. As such, I plan to send a few scouts to check Hasakah itself for their presence. If they aren’t in the Sassanid camp, then they’re probably in the city that we’re fighting the Sassanids for.”
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Albinus Gets a Second Opinion, Part 2

HistoryDude

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“And if they aren’t in Hasakah?” Julius asked. “What do we do if a legion has been lost? Admit it? That could lose the war - and a loss would be disastrous.”

“While a victory in this war would be preferable,” a man named Marcellus said. “A loss wouldn’t be the end of the world - or even the end of the Roman Empire. Our mighty empire has recovered from defeats before. It has even recovered from the loss of legions, and we wouldn’t have lost an entire legion even if we lost the majority of the Legio I Armeniaca. We were promised an empire without end, after all.”

Albinus paid close attention to that declaration. As far as he was aware, Marcellus had also been loyal to Demetrius. Unfortunately, Albinus had no clue who was loyal to now, and he needed that information. He knew that Marcellus had been offered something by Demetrius, and he agreed to work with Demetrius shortly after. Albinus assumed that that meant that Marcellus had been bribed, but he wasn’t certain.

The words that Marcellus had just said weren’t comforting Albinus at all. He felt the need to rebut them, though. “We have indeed recovered from losses before,” he declared. “However, the loss of a legion has never meant anything good. Rome lost legions against the predecessor of the Sassanids, and that had destroyed the Republic.”

Okay, so that wasn’t completely true, admittedly. The destruction of the Roman Republic had been coming for a while, but the loss of the legions had been the spark that eventually annihilated it. Albinus knew that the Eastern Roman Empire was in a similar state of collapse, even if most people didn’t.

“Later,” he continued. “Three legions were lost at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. As a result of that defeat, we had to abandon Germania Magna. In time, the tribes that lived in Germania Magna would seize control of the western half of our empire. If we have lost most of a legion, it probably isn’t good news - but that doesn’t mean that we should panic.”

“Fine,” Julius said. “I was just wondering whether or not we should tell anybody about the fact that a legion might’ve gotten destroyed. If we don’t, and the other members of our legion - or, for that matter, the other Isaurian Legion - knew, we might have to deal with internal strife.”

“Losing a legion will become far worse if it becomes widely known,” Marcellus snapped at Julius. “Just because we don’t believe in bad omens doesn’t mean other people don’t. Many will believe that a missing legion is a bad omen. Telling them might cause panic. Panic that might not even be necessary if the Legio I Armeniaca is merely missing and not destroyed or captured.”

Albinus decided to let this argument go on. Normally, he would have intervened by now, but it didn’t seem as if the argument was causing serious strife. In addition, and far more importantly, it was giving him information about the goals and possible allegiances of both Marcellus and Julius - neither of which he knew. Information was more important than peace or unity.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Albinus Gets a Second Opinion, Part 3

HistoryDude

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“Yes, but what do we do if the Legio I Armeniaca actually has been destroyed or captured?” Julius asked. “It won’t matter as long as nobody else knows that we did know. How would we hide our knowledge, though? Do we really need our legion’s mistrust? For potentially no reason at all?”

“Our legion’s mistrust is something that we must risk,” Marcellus snapped back. “Even if it is not merely our legion - it could easily be three legions, and that doesn’t mean that we should allow panic to spread. Panic is the worst enemy of any force. Panic could easily annihilate our army far more thoroughly than the Sassanids. Panic can bring down empires!”

Hmm, so Marcellus was worried about the other soldiers making a lot of noise over nothing. That was a concern that Albinus shared, but it seemed contradictory to his previous statement of the loss of a legion not being the end of the world. Albinus idly wondered whether Marcellus was attempting reverse psychology on him. It was possible that Marcellus was sabotaging the legion from the inside while appearing loyal.

Albinus frowned. There was no way he could directly question Marcellus’s loyalties without appearing suspicious. He couldn’t do with his council sharing his paranoia, except directed at him. He needed to maintain the loyalty of his men while still gathering information. He could indirectly interrogate his men, of course, but they might catch on.

It was a risk that he would have to take.

“Marcellus,” he said. “If panic can bring down empires, why shouldn’t we treat a loss here as a worst case scenario? Why shouldn’t we assume that a loss would be the end of the empire and do our absolute best to avert it?”

To Albinus’s annoyance, Marcellus didn’t look like a deer caught in headlights at that question. Indeed, he didn’t even look shocked at all. “My commander, I don’t know why you believe that I was advocating for such a thing,” he began. “I just believe that, if the worst does happen, we shouldn’t panic. We know that many of the people serving in this army who aren’t here will panic if they hear this news, which is why I believe it should remain a secret. We should still aim to rescue as much as the Armeniaca as possible. They can be useful in the future. After all, the Sassanids have fought us for eons. Shouldn’t they be dealt with?”

That seemed like a somewhat planned response. Albinus let out a very quiet curse under his breath. If one of his soldiers had a pre-prepared response to being subtly interrogated by him, that meant that he was losing his touch, or that it wasn’t as subtle as he would’ve liked it to be.

Still, Marcellus had given him what he wanted. It seemed as if Marcellus heavily disliked the Sassanids. He likely wanted them destroyed. Albinus could work with that. Personally, as long as his legion survived - and, more importantly, as long as his legion’s loyalty to him survived - he would be fine with any outcome.

Albinus was so occupied noting this information that he failed to notice that Julius and Marcellus had resumed their debate. Thankfully, it seemed as if he hadn’t missed much. They were still debating over whether or not it was a good idea to reveal the Armeniaca’s status to their comrades. He decided to continue listening to their conversation. This was one of the things he wanted a second opinion, after all, and the debate might give him more information about either Marcellus, Julius, or both.
 
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Midnite Duke

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The more information that you have, the better the chance of success for your decisions, but do not collect to the point of inaction. Please be safe, my General.
 

Nikolai

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