Andronikos the Cretan
Andronikos the Cretan
With every step his horse took, Andronikos could feel the air grow drier and the sun grow hotter. The familiar scent of the ocean was far behind them. Unseasonably early, the summer heat tormented the long, thin column of armored men. Andronikos groaned and buried his face in his hands. He really needed a drink.
He turned to his vassal and traveling companion, “Isaak, remind me why we have to do this.”
“Come on, if every Strategos thought like that there'd be no one to defend the Empire, would there?” Isaakios spoke slowly and deliberately. Most of his will was focused on not looking as miserable and whiny as his liege.
“'Strategos of Crete' isn't a title, Isaak, it's a joke. Cretans are good for nothing but liars, beasts and gluttons. The Scriptures themselves say so. Four hundred Cretans aren't going to turn the battle. Four hundred Cretans aren't even worth the galleys that brought us here.”
Isaakios looked around at the rest of the army. Four hundred Cretans, give or take a few. And a few hundred from Serdica, and another hundred from Samos, and so on, until it added up to thousands. There must be twenty different commanders, each with his own train of dogged, miserable conscripts, all dragging themselves across the arid Syrian plains because someone, somewhere had looked at a map and decided the quickest way to get to Armenia was across this infidel desert. This was no way to fight the Turks.
“Less whining, more marching, Andy. There'll be a battle, and a treaty, and we go back to life as we know it.”
And so the sun-burnt soldiers continued their long march.
Finally, Andronikos slid off his horse and fell exhausted to the ground. A servant quickly escorted the tired animal away, while the tired man was left to fend for himself. Dinner, if there was any, would have to wait for everyone to get settled in. In the meantime, he leaned against one of the supply carts and reveled in the luxury of perfect stillness and uselessness, watching the rest of the army hurry to and fro setting up camp. One girl in particular caught his eye, a small, dark-haired woman who looked like she could easily be half his age. As he tried to explain to himself what it was about this one that fascinated him so, he was only half aware that she was heading straight for him.
“I suppose where you come from it's polite to stare.”
Andronikos snapped to attention and tried to get out a reply. Actually he got out four or five replies, depending on one's definition of a reply, and they all ended up coming out at the same time.
Then, as soon as it had come, the girl's expression of disapproval melted away. “Don't worry. I think it's a compliment. It's not every day a noble embarrasses himself on my account.” With a single, quick, graceful motion she was sitting uncomfortably, or tantalizingly, close next to him to him. “My name's Euphrosyne, and you don't need to introduce yourself. I already know you're Strategos Andronikos Petraliphas of Krete. See, that's the privilege of being a noble. You haven't even said a word and we've already introduced ourselves.”
Andronikos finally caught his breath. “You've told me you're Euphrosyne, but you haven't told me who Euphrosyne is.”
“Euphrosyne is the wife of Ioannes Apukaukos, a commander serving the count of Teluch. And she's here because said Apukaukos didn't think it proper to leave his young bride behind when duty called.
A lump formed in Andronikos's throat. “I'll be sure to look this Ioannes up when I get the chance.”
“Don't bother. If I start telling you more about him, I'll feel obliged to even the score by telling him about you, and I don't really want to know his reaction to this.”
“No, really, it isn't a good idea for you to be here...”
She smiled sweetly and stood up. “Ok, until next time, then.”
Andronikos watched her as she disappeared into the crowd. So much for being able to sleep tonight.
My knowledge of history is radically, drastically less than that of some people on this forum. You probably won't learn any history from this AAR. For example, the preceding entry makes the following assumptions that very likely aren't true, and which, if false, would probably render this AAR unreadable by a serious student of history:
The theme system was still in place in 1066.
Strategos is roughly equivalent to the CK title of Duke/Prince. (which I doubt it really is)
Crete was important enough to warrant its own theme. (ditto here)
The title of Strategos was hereditary, leaving an opening for someone as inept as Andronikos to inherit the title.
But I really don't think Prince would be a good title either as I haven't seen any non-CK references to principalities as a Byzantine administrative unit. Feel free to correct me if you know what his title should really be.