Prologue: Part I
Prologue Part IA rider approached the gate of the fortress, covered in mud and slumped forward in the saddle. He appeared to be very young, with not even a hint of a beard on his face. His clothes were well worn, but marked him out as a nobleman. Sentries on the walls accosted him, and after a short exchange of words the gate was opened.
The rider was helped from his horse while another man went to fetch food and drink. The guards kept the man moving despite his desperate need for rest. Together, they passed through the main hall of the keep before entering a side room. Inside, there were several men huddled around a sprawling map of the eastern regions of the empire. They had clearly been in a heated debate, but had fallen silent as the guards opened the door.
"My lords, I present Nikephoros Phokas, bearing urgent news." At this announcement, the weary men at the table were visibly intrigued.
"Sit, son, you have obviously journeyed a long way. I am Iosephos Tarchaneiotes, commander of this keep," said the gray-haired man at the head of the table. He gestured to his right, "This is Phrangopoulos, leader of our Frankish mercenaries." Phrangopoulos was fairly tall and clearly practiced in the arts of war. He had a full head of blond hair, but a hint of gray betrayed his age. "I presume your message comes from our dear Emperor? I have sent many messengers reporting our success here, but I had not received any word from him," said Iosephos.
The messenger's face became dark; "The messengers did not reach the emperor because he has fallen in battle, my lords! We attempted to engage the Turks in battle at Manzikert, taking their camp before nightfall. The Emperor wished to withdraw back to our camp before dark and reengage the Turkmen in the morn. The army did not understand the order, and the Turks fell upon us in the confusion. I had been with the Emperor in the center, and he ordered me to ride for your forces here in Khliat with haste. As I slipped away, I saw his Varangian guard forming about him, prepared to hold the savage riders off. On my way here, I encountered stragglers from the battle, and one man swore he saw the Emperor felled by a Turkic warrior!"
"What of the rest of the army? I understand Andronikos Doukas commanded the provincial levies in reserve, and surely he is still in the field?"
"He withdrew from the battle before the Turks had even attacked, and he refused to turn back to save the Emperor. Instead, Andronikos intends to proclaim his nephew, Michael, the new emperor due to Romanos' death at Manzikert."
Iosephos replied, "Are the Turks marching on us now? We can withstand a siege, but if no one comes to relieve us, there is no point."
"The Turkmen did not pursue our withdrawal aggressively; they seemed content to plunder the Emperor's baggage train and raid the countryside," Nikephoros replied.
Iosephos dismissed the man, saying, "Thank you for your message. A room has been prepared for you, as well as food and drink. Go now and rest, you have done your duty." The young messenger was led from the room, leaving the army's commanders to consider their course of action.
"It seems our war against the Turkmen is over. There is nothing to gain here with the Emperor's defeat, and I do not wish to join him in death. I am no friend of Andronikos, and I know he will punish all supporters of Romanos. I plan to head for Cilicia; the mountains will provide a fearsome redoubt, and I can secure myself before dealing with this usurper. There shall be coin if you join me, for I will need your knights' assistance," Iosephos reasoned.
"What coin do you have to pay me with?" Phrangopoulos asked. "Romanos promised to pay us handsomely, as well as loot from the cities we took. With his death, I doubt Michael will pay what we are owed."
"Once we take Cilicia, I will make you one of my lords, my friend. No longer will you have to travel the east, risking your life for a little coin! All you must do is keep your knights with my army and join us in subduing the Armenians in Cilicia."
With that, Phrangopoulos, better known as Roussel de Bailleul in the west, decided to accompany Iosephos Tarchaneiotes to Cilicia. Iosephos had made a tempting proposal, and Anatolia was certainly full of opportunities with the Turkish victory at Manzikert. All that was necessary was for a man of action and skill to take a chance and change history...
Note: This is my first attempt at a narrative AAR. I'm essentially using this prologue and part II as practice. I also wanted to use these to characterize some of the important people in the region and develop their personalities a bit. Please feel free to give feedback. I greatly appreciate any pointers that can make this more engaging to read and improve my writing abilities.