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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Nikolai

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Few father-son relationships are this solid.
 
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HistoryDude

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Lois McMaster Bujold in one of her works puts the following perspective into the thoughts of one of her characters, which I will paraphrase

Many people envy the Emperor's throne, not many people envy the Emperor's inbox.
The Emperor is rather busy...

Few father-son relationships are this solid.

True, but, to be fair, it is a long-term dynastic plan, so sharing information is kind of necessary.
 
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HistoryDude

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Constantinople, November 491 AD

Alexander had returned to Constantinople. He needed to give the Emperor an update on his spying activities. He headed for the Imperial Palace, and he entered it. Then, he waited for the Emperor to acknowledge his presence.

“Well, you’re back early,” Emperor Longinus commented drily. “How is your mission going? Well, I would hope?”

Alexander sighed, “He believes that I am going to spy on you. He will allow me in on his meetings with his inner council, which is apparently loyal to him alone. He has not given me much information yet, but he does trust me a lot, so I believe this mission was very successful.”

“This is good news,” Emperor Longinus replied. “But, if he believes that you are spying on him, what information will you give him? You would make a poor spy if you gave no information to him, and he might realize that you have outlived your usefulness to him…”

“Yes, I have considered this,” Alexander answered. “I will give him some true information, but knowing this information will not be very useful to him, as it will be very unimportant. In addition, I will give him false information and tell him some half-truths…”

“Nice to know that you know how to be a decent spy,” Emperor Longinus commented. “What is Vicar Niketas of Pontus like?”

“Well,” Alexander began. “He is a schemer, as can be assumed from his likely planning of an enormous rebellion against you. However, he is also somewhat vain, and he seems to believe that his victory in said rebellion is almost certain. He has constructed a palace in Sinope that is somewhat ornate. It does not compare with this palace, of course, but its very existence implies that he views himself as the ruler of an independent state.”

“He is foolish, then,” Emperor Longinus declared. “It is a very foolish move to celebrate before you have won, much less before you have experienced any victories.”

“That is true,” Alexander murmured. “And also what I thought when I saw that palace. Vicar Niketas is vain, but he is good at scheming, to give credit where it is due.”

“True enough,” Emperor Longinus allowed. “His skill with scheming means that he probably has plans to root out spies. We cannot allow him to discover that you are spying on him, in particular.”

“How will we conceal that information though?,” Alexander asked.

“Good question,” Emperor Longinus said. “Vicar Niketas will likely have his own spies working for him. From now on, these meetings will be very private, known to only me, you, and my heir, Prince Justinian. We can trust nobody in the Empire, because everyone might be a spy. Most of all, everyone certainly has their own agenda, and I am only certain that the agendas of the people I mentioned before align. Moreover, many people could easily be bribed… In addition, this will keep our plans out of the knowledge of everybody, including the various factions in the shadows, and the alliances in the sun. These meetings will be completely private. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Alexander responded. “I will not share what occurs in these meetings with anybody other than you or your heir.”

“Good,” Emperor Longinus responded. “That ensures that knowledge of you being a spy will not get out to our opponents of any kind.”

“Yes,” Alexander said. “The best spy is one who never gets caught. Vicar Niketas might get suspicious if I stay longer, though, so I will go and spy on him…”
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Demetrius's plans

HistoryDude

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Somewhere in Epirus, November 491 AD

Demetrius mused on recent events within the Eastern Roman Empire. Near as he could figure, there was going to be an absolutely enormous revolt against Emperor Longinus. His technical liege, Despot Fridarik, was ambitious, as almost all men are, and would, therefore, be likely to side with those who were revolting against the Emperor. This was an opportunity for Demetrius, and he knew it.

Demetrius commanded the loyalty of most of the forces present in Epirus. This rebellion was unlikely to succeed, in Demetrius’s eyes, because Emperor Longinus was good at intrigue. Emperor Longinus’s heir, Prince Justinian, was also likely to be well versed in intrigue. The Isaurians seemed to have some long term plan, although Demetrius did not know what this plan was, or even whether it was benevolent or malevolent.

Demetrius did not create opportunities. He was, however, perfectly willing to exploit opportunities that others had already created. The rebellion was almost certainly doomed. Perhaps, if the Empire was in a more precarious position, a large rebellion against central Imperial authority could have succeeded.

Demetrius could, however, stay loyal to Emperor Longinus, and, if he did, he could be rewarded. He could be rewarded with more land, land that had previously been held by the anti-Imperial forces. Far more important for his long term plans, however, was the trust the Imperial family, indeed, the Imperial Throne itself, would give him and his descendants.

When the Eastern Roman Empire was in a precarious position, he, or, far more likely, his descendants, could take advantage of it to gain more land and more influence. Demetrius would not create opportunities, yes, but one did not need to create opportunities to manipulate people. It was not his time yet, but it would be eventually…

Until it was his time, however, he could be patient. The patient schemers succeeded because they did not need to create something out of nothing. All they had to do was wait for something to be born naturally and, then, to manipulate that. Patience was key, patience was always the key. It was the key to triumph… Strike at the wrong time, and one would fail, perhaps fatally… Timing was everything. It was all important, the only thing that mattered. This was a single fundamental truth that very few could understand. Those who did not understand this one key fact would fail, and it did not matter how much they planned or how much they accounted for.

He had patience, and that was all he needed. He might never see much of the fruit of his labor, but his labor would have fruit. Humans naturally schemed for power. Why would he need to make opportunities when he could simply wait for them? He had no reason to create things. Given time, they would fall into his lap…

A messenger walked into the room, delivered him a letter, and, then, he left. Demetrius opened and read the letter. Then, he began to compose his reply. The Emperor wanted the aid of him and the armies loyal to him? Very well.

After all, why would he change his strategy? It had always worked before. And as he thought about the past, he found himself remembering it...
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Demetrius's Memories, Part 1

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Demetrius remembered when he still longed for revenge. He remembered the days where the Huns ruled large portions of Europe, and he made it his goal to kill their leader. He remembered the complete and utter destruction that he had made. He remembered wars and schemes. He remembered when he was technically a mercenary.

He remembered schemes. He remembered war. Above all, he remembered a sack and a failure. He remembered a strategic success. He remembered Aquileia.

Aquileia, 452 AD

Demetrius smiled. The Huns were besieging the city, and he knew that it would fall. He did not care for that. He lived to take revenge and to take revenge alone. Anything that would help him in that was good. Anything that would hurt that cause was bad. It was that simple.

The fall of this city would lead to Hunnic incursions throughout Italia. They would grow overconfident. An overconfident opponent would be much easier to beat than a somewhat cautious one. Of course, Attila was never that cautious to begin with, but this would hopefully make him reckless. That would allow Demetrius to deal with him much easier…

He looked around. Aquileia was an administrative center of part of Italia. That was good. That would make the Romans that much more pissed at Attila, although they would not have the courage to do anything about it. Still, he could take comfort in the moral support they would give him later.

The Western Roman Empire was dying anyways. This would ensure that it would never turn to Attila once it got tired of the current Emperor and court struggles. He could have tried to prevent the sack of this city, but what good would that do? The sack served his goals at the moment. He could gain more troops who wanted revenge against the Huns in his private army, and he would not be risking his life in a pointless and almost certainly doomed endeavor.

At that moment, revenge was everything to Demetrius. He had tried to reassure himself that all of this scheming was simply to help him get revenge at the time. He was not scheming for scheming’s sake. Now, though, he knew the truth. Intentions never mattered. In time, he had grown to like scheming for scheming’s sake, and, perhaps, that was because he had done it before, and it had helped him achieve what he wanted. Or, perhaps, he simply always wanted to manipulate others… In the end, the “why” did not matter. It never mattered.

Regardless, he had done nothing, and Aquileia had been sacked. It was horrifying, but he had not been in the city of Aquileia, and so he had not seen the worst of it. As he had predicted and hoped for, many men joined his private army, hoping for revenge. Or that was what they said, anyways. Many had not left the army after their ultimate victory, so they might have simply joined because they wanted to fight… or, perhaps, they had grown to like the thrill of war? Again, their initial intentions did not matter. Demetrius led his new recruits back to where the rest of his private army was camped, the snow of the Alps. Soon, they would cross. Their revenge would come. That was what he had thought, and it was what had come to pass...
 
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The problem with being consumed by revenge is that it tends to blind one.
 
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HistoryDude

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The problem with being consumed by revenge is that it tends to blind one.

Indeed, and one blinded by revenge is very easy to manipulate...
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Demetrius's Memories, Part 2

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But that was not all he remembered. He remembered his plots with the Germanic tribes that Attila had subjugated. He remembered attacking Attila, although very few remembered his campaigns. He remembered a battle along the Rhine. He remembered a slaughter. And, in the quiet darkness of the night, where there was no one to hear it, he admitted that he regretted it, but what was done was done.

Along the Rhine, late 452 AD

Demetrius smiled, but it was a cruel smile. It promised a world of pain to those that failed him. Demetrius had a plan here, and he had a private army. He didn’t want to win at the moment, no. He wanted to ensure that everybody in his army, or at least everybody alive, was loyal to the cause. He would get revenge for his brother, even if it was the last thing he did.

His army stood at the left bank of the Rhine, but they would not be there for long. This was, after all, an attack on the Hunnic Empire. It was mainly a distraction attack, to be fair, and that was probably why very few people remembered it. Nonetheless, he led his army across the Rhine. That action alone, however, was obviously not enough to get Attila the Hun’s attention. It was a border infraction, but Hunnic authority was loose here. Demetrius needed Attila’s attention for his plan to work.

In order to get it, therefore, he led his army across a vast stretch of land. He did nothing to antagonize anybody during his army’s vast trek. It was partially to test his army’s loyalty, and the less loyal abandoned the army, as he had hoped. Good. Now, he was going to cull all of the remaining people disloyal to the cause.

The army had reached the Elbe River, and that was far closer to the main Hunnic power base. He ordered his army to begin picking the locals’s crops. If they could not take the crops successfully, then they would burn them. Scorched earth tactics were to be used. As he had expected, those not completely loyal left in disgust, and the others obeyed. However, this was not enough to gain Hunnic attention, surprisingly. The local inhabitants, however, took up weaponry and drove his army away from their small villages.

That was not a problem. He had succeeded in getting his army supplies, and that was what mattered. He could, therefore, lead his army further east. He did so. He scourged much land for its crops. He even managed to take a base for his army on the left bank of the Vistula. That was, apparently, the final straw.

Until that moment, Attila had been fine with the army marching through his lands. His subject tribes were more than capable of protecting themselves. The army was little more than an organized group of raiders. It had had no center of operations to speak of. Now, however, it had gained a base of operations, and it was scourging his lands of their crops. He could not allow such a challenge to his authority to stand. He would destroy this army such that they would never be remembered.

Demetrius reflected that much of his army had been destroyed. Its remnants had retreated from their temporary base, and that had been burned to the ground. In time, everybody forgot about the incident, although Attila had wanted to take revenge on the Romans once more, according to rumor. Regardless, the entire campaign was quickly forgotten.

He managed to retreat back to the Rhenish banks with what remained. During the battle, however, he had gained a reputation. He had slaughtered many Huns, and at one point, he had even faced Attila himself.
 
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Along the Vistula, late 452 AD

Demetrius had slaughtered many of the opposing troops. He was doing extraordinarily well in this battle. It was highly doubtful, in his mind, that he could keep this level of personal victory up. Indeed, he could not…

He had been extremely successful until that moment. It was an unwritten law of the universe that good luck never lasts, if you asked Demetrius. Although, arguably, it had lasted, given what had happened. Regardless, what was done was done. If he could change the past, perhaps he would not have been so consumed by revenge, but ifs were a pointless exercise.

Demetrius had slaughtered so many Huns that he had gained the attention, indeed, the personal attention, of Attila. They had fought a long duel, and Demetrius had done very well. It was a lost cause, of course, although Demetrius had made Attila the Hun fear him, or, perhaps more precisely, fear his rage, that day. Nonetheless, he had lost.

It had been a clear day, and there would be no weather to impede the battle. Demetrius’s personal army had nothing to impede their retreat, if they so wished. By contrast, the Huns could not retreat without having to cross the River Vistula itself. In hindsight, that had not been a very good battle plan. He probably should have positioned his troops so that they could not so easily retreat. After all, a cornered bear fought so much better than a bear that could escape.

Regardless of such things, his army had, all things considered, begun the battle in an extremely well position. Unfortunately, Demetrius had created an army that primarily wanted one thing, revenge. He had also neglected to inform his army of his own private plans. That probably cost a few lives, but these people had literally lived for revenge - what would they have done if the battle was won? Or, at least, that was how Demetrius justified his actions then to his present self. He was not certain that his present self agreed, but it was already finished.

Attila and Demetrius had crossed blades, and Demetrius was actually winning, or at least forcing a stalemate. He fought like a rabid lion, consumed by his need for revenge. There was the backup plan, of course, but, if he could kill this murderer now, he would not need to resort to such tactics. Even if he couldn’t, he could still make him pay for his pain.

In his fanatical rage during his personal duel, Demetrius had originally not even noticed that his forces were being pushed back. He had not noticed that his army was being defeated. The most horrifying thing was that, even if he had noticed, it was likely that he wouldn’t have cared.

He was engaged in a bitter sword fight to the death with Attila, and he was wounding his enemy in multiple spots. He had suffered some wounds himself, of course, but those were minor. As he went in for another attack, Attila finally, finally flinched. He attempted to get away from the duel. Well, Demetrius was not letting him get away that easily. He would have to pay for his escape in blood…

As he fought, and, more precisely, when Attila had flinched, Demetrius thought that he was on dangerous ground. “Hmm,” he thought. “Of course I am on dangerous ground, but verily, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for the Shadow of Death shies away from me in fear”. He meant every part of that thought.

Unfortunately, his army had all but completely retreated now. This meant that the Huns could attack him in defense of their king, and that is what they did. Demetrius knew he was good, but he could not fight off an entire army. It seemed as if he was going to use the backup plan after all…

As he retreated, he looked over the battlefield. He saw thousands of dead bodies, but that didn’t matter to him. However, he figured that some of his army had managed to escape. He would meet with them at their rendezvous point, and, from there, he could begin his new plan. The Hunnic Empire had killed his brother, and, for that, he would destroy it utterly.
 
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I had to chuckle for a moment at Demetrius' realisation he could not take out an entire army by himself
 
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I had to chuckle for a moment at Demetrius' realisation he could not take out an entire army by himself

No, indeed, he cannot. But he was blinded by revenge... so he wasn't exactly thinking straight.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Pontus's Inner Council, Part 1

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Sinope, December 491 AD

Vicar Niketas of Pontus sighed. He figured that the war was about to kick into high gear. Oh, sure, technically no war had been declared yet, and it might not be declared for some time, but this was going to be, primarily, a war of intrigue, that is a war of spies. He wanted to be able to make the first move. He already had an alleged self-proclaimed sympathizer with his goals, and that man, Alexander, was a messenger for the Emperor. However, he might not get much information, and he could probably be blackmailed for the information that he did have.

As such, Vicar Niketas was going to have to send out more spies. In addition to the above reasons, he had multiple people that he needed to spy on. He needed spies on Emperor Longinus, yes, but he also needed spies on Despot Stephanos of Achaea who he knew had his own plan and his own goals. However, he also needed to keep an eye on potential enemies outside the Eastern Roman Empire, even if they were his allies at the moment. As such, he was going to need spies in the Sassanid Empire, as well. He would also need spies in Oriens, and spying on Epirus was a just in case measure.

He called a meeting of his Inner Council. He needed to a) bring them up to speed, and b) tell them of his plans for the future. His Inner Council shared his ideas, and they were good advisors. He would need their advice during the war to come.
The Inner Council meeting room was rather plain, all things considered. It was within the Vicarial Palace, which was ornate, but it was mainly to be used for governing. Vicar Niketas didn’t need to impress guests in this room, so there was no need for it to be fancy.

The Inner Council gradually arrived and sat down in their predetermined spots. Vicar Niketas sat at the head of the table, of course, as the Vicar of Pontus and the hopeful Despot of Anatolia. He waited until everyone was comfortable, and, then, he called the meeting to order.

“I have begun to initiate our plan,” Vicar Niketas said. “I was visited by a man. He claimed that he agreed with our ideas and wondered how he could help. Apparently, he is currently a messenger for Emperor Longinus, and he can get us information that way.”

“How do we know we can trust him?,” a tall, clean-shaven man asked. He sat to the right of Vicar Niketas, and his name was Ioannis.

“We don’t,” Vicar Niketas responded. This caused the various members of the Inner Council to begin talking amongst themselves, so the Vicar Of Pontus held up his arm for silence. “I know that fully trusting him is downright idiotic, but he seemed as though he expected me to do that. Therefore, I let him believe that I did fully trust him. However, I am still suspicious of him.”

“So, what will we do with him?,” Ioannis asked.

“We will feed him some of the truth, but we will also tell him lies and half-truths. If he is a spy for Emperor Longinus, he will likely do the same to us. Of course, we cannot have someone who we don’t trust as our only spy, so I’m going to send out multiple other spies. I will report what I learn at these meetings of the Council. So, any suggestions on who should spy on our enemies?”
 
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So, the next update's out. It ends on a cliffhanger...

Also, I'm kind of surprised that nobody's commented on the cover yet. For the record, that's the Hagia Sophia partially burning down and splattered with blood, with a double-headed eagle in the sky. The image is at the top of the thread... the very top. :)
 
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“Yes,” Ioannis responded. “I will go spy on Despot Stephanos of Achaea. He is ambitious, but his ambition blinds him to many things. He thinks things are far more simple than they are.”

“And you know this how?,” Vicar Niketas asked suspiciously. He trusted his Inner Council, of course, but one could never be too careful. In addition, he wanted to use his allies as efficiently as he could. To that end, he didn’t need multiple sources in the same place, unless there were multiple people he could spy on in that place, and few cared about Achaea.

“Rumors and gossip,” Ioannis responded.

“Ok,” the Vicar of Pontus acknowledged. “But what kind of rumors and gossip? From whom? And how reliable how are they?”

“Oh,” Ioannis realized what Vicar Niketas really wanted to know. “General rumors from numerous people. However, rumors that are untrue rarely have many people agree with them. In addition, ambition often blinds people, and I have met him. He seemed very ambitious, but not very subtle then.”

“Ok,” Vicar Niketas noted this information for later. “You can spy on Despot Stephanos and report what you learn back to this Council. Given how unsubtle he apparently is, this shouldn’t be a very difficult job.”

“Very well,” Ioannis said. “But who will spy on the Eastern Roman Emperor himself? We need someone that we actually trust completely watching him. Also, who will spy on the Sassanids, in order to ensure that we are aware of attempted invasions from the east?”

“Any volunteers?,” the Vicar of Pontus wondered.

No one commented. All of them, except Vicar Niketas himself and Ioannis, were considering what they should do. They needed some time to think about what their next move was going to be. As such, the room was silent, deafeningly silent, for a long time.

Finally, somebody spoke. He sat to the left of Vicar Niketas, and he often interacted with the Imperial Court, and, therefore, had connections in Constantinople. He was about average height, and he had a short beard, but he was otherwise clean-shaven. His hair and his beard were both a light shade of black. His name was Alexios, but he had no relation to the Alexios who was killed at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains.

“I have connections in Constantinople,” Alexios offered. “This means I can get information from there, even if I don’t end up hearing the Eastern Roman Emperor’s personal plans, considering how secretive he is about those. In addition, I do miss the Queen of Cities.”

“Very well,” Vicar Niketas responded. “You will be a source of information for us in the Imperial Capital. Before we move on, what are the nature of your contacts in Constantinople?”

“I know some people in the Imperial Court,” Alexios began. “However, those men are not my only contacts in the Queen of Cities.”
“That could prove useful,” the Vicar of Pontus mused. “However, we need to move on. Any other volunteers? Preferably for spying on the Sassanids?”

There was a long and drawn out silence once more. Finally, Ioannis made a suggestion. “My liege,” he began. “If nobody will volunteer, we are just going to need to give them assignments.”

“Very well,” Vicar Niketas said, sighing. He mulled over who would be best for what jobs, excluding the people who already had a job assigned to them, of course.
 
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The Vicar of Pontus had already assigned jobs to himself, Alexios, and Ioannis, so they were not available for any other jobs. There were many other jobs that could be done, but who should do them? Vicar Niketas trusted his Inner Council, but they all had their own strengths and weaknesses. He needed to assign them jobs that played to their strengths and avoided their weaknesses.

He mulled over his options for a few seconds. Silence fell, and not one soul dared speak unless they were spoken to. All of the members of the Inner Council respected Vicar Niketas, and they would honor his decisions, if only grudgingly.

Finally, after a few hours of deliberation, the Vicar of Pontus made his decision. Therefore, he broke the silence.

“I have decided on your new assignments,” Vicar Niketas said. “You will do these assignments, and we will all periodically meet back in this room to share what information we have learned and to make plans.”

“Georgios,” Vicar Niketas began. “You shall spy on the Sassanids.”

“Very well, my Vicar,” a clean-shaven man of about average height said. He also had a Mediterranean complexion and short light brown hair. “I shall do as you request.”

“Thank you,” the Vicar of Pontus said. “I also need a spy to report on events in Oriens. He shall watch our southern border. This man shall be Agammemnon.”

A tall man with a short beard answered these words, “I shall do as you command, my liege. Anatolia shall gain its independence from the tyrants in Constantinople. Constantinople shall fall as Rome did. Neither of those cities is eternal!” This man also had dark black hair and light skin. He was Agammemnon.
“Good,” Vicar Niketas replied. “Everybody knows what they must do?”

“Yes,” Ioannis answered. “We know what our jobs are.”

“Indeed,” Alexios, Agammemnon, and Georgios agreed.

“Very well, then,” the Vicar of Pontus said. “Council dismissed.”

“Quick question before we leave,” Alexios said. “Earlier, you mentioned a possible spy in the Queen of Cities? You said that he believes you trust him completely? Why does he think that? What did you tell him?”

“Good question,” Vicar Niketas answered. “I invited him to the meetings of our Inner Council and generally acted as if I completely trusted him. However, I do not do so. As such, he is only invited to certain Inner Council meetings where we will discuss things of minimal importance. Don’t give away that we are only discussing minimally important things, though. We must make him believe that they are extremely important. Also, try not to reveal that there are any Inner Council meetings that he wasn’t invited to. Am I clear?”

“Yes, my liege,” all four members of the Inner Council answered in unison.

“Good,” Vicar Niketas stated. “Now, anything else that we should discuss?” He sounded somewhat exasperated as he said the last part of that statement.

The room was blissfully silent. No one spoke, and no noise was heard in the room.

“Very well,” the Vicar of Pontus said. “Now, I dismiss this Council.”

The Inner Council left the Vicarial Palace of Pontus. Meanwhile, Vicar Niketas mulled over what his next move should be.
 
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Constantinople, December 491 AD

Emperor Longinus sighed. He had been planning his next moves against the coalition arrayed against him for most of the evening. He was tired, but his planning wasn’t yet done. He needed to take a break, though, or he couldn’t continue to plan anyways. He decided to look out the window and to give his mind a rest.

The streets of Constantinople were oddly silent, and the Eastern Roman Emperor realized that the residents of the Queen of Cities were all asleep. Had he really been up that long? He looked at the sky, more specifically at the moon, and he saw that it was high in the sky. Okay, apparently he had been thinking and planning much longer than he thought he had. It was not quite midnight, but it was extraordinarily close to then. He definitely needed to get to sleep if he’d lost track of time that much. He left his chair, and he slept. As he slept, however, he dreamed, and his dreams were never kind.

He dreamed of the Queen of Cities burning. Churches in Constantinople were covered in blood. The blood of thousands was in the streets. Constantinople burned, and blood flowed freely in her. Emperor Longinus was horrified by that. A voice whispered to him, “Is this really, truly what you want?”. The worst thing was that he didn’t know the answer to that question. It should’ve been obvious - it should’ve been a clear no. Unfortunately, he had no context, and he needed context to answer that question. And then, almost as if his subconscious had answered his unspoken request, his dream changed.

He saw hundreds of battlefields, all covered in blood. Many rivers ran red with blood. And yet… The rebellion against the Eastern Roman Empire was defeated. The rebels had come uncomfortably close to success, yes, but they had not succeeded. The Queen of Cities had burned, and blood had run through her streets, but the Empire had stood. And if that was the cost of victory. Finally, the same voice from earlier spoke once more, and it said, “Is this a price you are willing to pay?”. For a long while, the Eastern Roman Emperor was silent. Then, Emperor Longinus replied by simply saying, “No cost is too great to pay…”.

“Very well, then,” the voice (the Emperor suspected it was his subconscious, or perhaps his morality) responded. “If that is what you believe, truly, then I shall not attempt to convince you otherwise. Just remember one thing, Emperor… you shall reap what you sow.”

On that note, Emperor Longinus woke up from his slumber. He frowned, for he didn’t know how to interpret that cryptic dream, or, perhaps more accurately, he didn’t know how to interpret the cryptic message the dream had ended with. Regardless, it was a new day, but he still needed to finish planning his next moves.

He went and ate breakfast. He looked out the window, and he saw that the sun was high in the sky. Hmm, it must be close to noon, then. He still had plenty of time to plan his next moves. He sent a letter to Demetrius, requesting that Demetrius meet him in the Queen of Cities. In the meantime, he waited for Alexander to get back with his information. That could prove extraordinarily useful. He needed to defend the different ways to Constantinople, at the very least. He knew, however, that sometimes you needed to lose a hand to win the game. If he had to let Constantinople herself burn, he would, but only as a last resort…

Perhaps the stress of the upcoming rebellion was getting to him. Still, it was better to plan ahead than to walk into a war blind. Despite knowing that fact, deep down, he was still very worried. He needed to clear his mind. None of his meetings were that soon, so he could afford to take a walk to clear his mind. He would need to enjoy peace while he still could, for war was coming...
 
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Spy and counter-spy, plot and counter-plot.
Bring a sword, dagger, or axe
So we can untie this Gordian knot.
 
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Spy and counter-spy, plot and counter-plot.
Bring a sword, dagger, or axe
So we can untie this Gordian knot.

Killing everybody would resolve the ridiculous amount of intrigue that goes with this war, but it would also be way too anticlimactic. There will be a resolution to this eventually. Probably won't be soon, though, because the chapter (Chapter 3) is currency at 25,000 words and the war hasn't technically started yet...
 
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Emperor Longinus had finished up his walk. His mind was decently clear, although he was now planning his next move. He had a meeting with Demetrius to discuss events in Epirus in about a month, and Alexander was due to report on what information he’d gotten, also in about a month.

However, with war, especially a war against his vassals, fast approaching, he needed to have more troops to fight it with. Many of the legions had been disbanded throughout the tumultuous times that had ultimately led to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. In addition, Vicar Niketas of Pontus had managed to gain the full loyalty of the legion stationed in Pontus, so he would have that to call on.

The point was that Emperor Longinus needed more troops, and what better way to get them than recreating numerous legions. He had two legions to call on at the moment, and that, along with the armies of his loyalist vassals should be enough to defeat the Emperor’s internal foes, even if they revolted.

However, the Eastern Roman Emperor knew that the coalition didn’t consist of idiots, or else it wouldn’t exist. If it consisted of idiots, he could try to negotiate a false peace and just get all of the coalition members assassinated. Unfortunately for him, they weren’t idiots. Their intelligence, however, probably meant that they were getting allies from outside of the Eastern Roman Empire to join their coalition, especially given that it was allegedly a coalition against him. It wasn’t a coalition against the Eastern Roman Empire, just against him personally, or, perhaps, against his dynasty. All of that probably meant that his foreign enemies had joined or were helping it in some way. A civil war was coming, yes, but numerous foreign wars would probably either follow it or occur concurrently with it. They would be more likely to follow it, honestly. If his foreign enemies were to try to fight him concurrently with his domestic ones, they might accidentally invade their own allies. He knew that they were not that stupid. It was highly doubtful that they would take backstab their allies, either, while he was still alive as a common enemy. It wasn’t impossible, technically, but it was extremely unlikely.

All of that meant that a restoration of many of the disbanded legions was probably a good idea. Not yet, however. They would be more useful in a war against foreign enemies, where it was very unlikely that they would have conflicts of interest, where it was extremely unlikely that they knew their enemies. They would be far more willing to fight if they didn’t know their enemies than if they did.

Besides, he did have two legions already organized that were loyal to him and him alone. The Legio I Italica and the Legio IV Armeniaca could fight against his domestic enemies just fine, and there were always the smaller, more private armies that could be hired. Some of the smaller armies might even serve him out of personal loyalty or their own self interest. Yes, he was prepared to deal with his domestic enemies. He was not yet ready to face his foreign ones. But he would be soon, very soon...
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Demetrius's Plans

HistoryDude

Emperor of Greece and Rome and Holy Roman Emperor
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Epirus, December 491 AD
Demetrius planned. Yes, he was loyal to Emperor Longinus, but he had his own plans and his own ambitions. An alliance with the Eastern Roman Emperor was best for his plans now, but there was likely to come a time when it was not. He needed to plan what he would do during the inevitable rebellion that was on the verge of occurring.

Emperor Longinus probably would’ve liked to have that kept secret, honestly. However, almost everybody with any ambition knew it was coming. It was basically an open secret. Everybody was planning under the assumption that it would happen. Demetrius needed to structure his own plans regarding the rebellion, however. He had made many plans, and a few did incorporate a possible revolt. All he needed to do was figure out how to get more information about the scale of the revolt. He quickly deduced that it must be very large indeed if almost all Imperial nobles knew of it. Good. That was amazing for his plans.

He needed to get in the good books of the reigning Imperial dynasty, which was, in this case, the Isaurians. In addition, it seemed that it would stay that way for quite some time. He had already done that, to some extent, thanks to his successes against the rebellious Egyptians and Italy. Aiding the Emperor in crushing this new rebellion would cement his loyalty in the Imperial Throne’s eyes. The current dynasty ruling over the Eastern Roman Empire, and, by extent, the Imperial Throne itself, was very strong. They would not be weak for quite some time. Of course, eventually time claims the lives and even the memory of all men. From dust we came, and to dust we must return, indeed. Demetrius’s dynasty would have their chance eventually, but it was not yet their time, and it could not be their time. Not yet.

Therefore, Demetrius would get in the Imperial Throne’s good graces. Perhaps he could gain more than just trust and prestige with the revolt. Perhaps he could also gain more land - and, by extent, a larger powerbase for his dynasty to take the Imperial Throne when the Isaurians were finally weak…

Demetrius didn’t like to create opportunities, but that was only because creating opportunities took a lot of work. Why would he waste so much energy on creating opportunities? He could easily take advantage of opportunities that others had created. Let others do the work of creating the opportunities. All he had to do was take advantage of opportunities that already existed. That was much less work than manipulating people to create an opportunity. After all, many, many people were working on manipulating people to create opportunities. The shadows were filled with the plots of thousands of people, and the manipulations that those plots need in order to work.

No, it was far easier and, perhaps more importantly less time consuming, to find opportunities that others had already made for you. Was that any less manipulative or even any less moral? No, but manipulation was the currency of the shadows, and the shadows had no room for things like morality. Morality would only hold one back.

Besides, he had tried to create opportunities before. It was extremely tiring, and, ultimately, it wasn’t more effective than taking advantage of opportunities that others had created, so Demetrius had switched to taking advantage of existing opportunities. Taking advantage of existing opportunities was arguably more manipulative than creating ones, but that didn’t matter to Demetrius. Effectiveness mattered above all. As he thought about what strategies he had used in the past, Demetrius remembered those times. The times when he was still after revenge...
 
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