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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Doctor Baby

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Hello everyone! I've never done an AAR before but I was excited enough for my latest game to take screenshots just in case, and have been hammering away at the text ever since I started. It's been a blast and I hope you enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed it so far!The starting situation is that a tribe of Crimean Goths adopted Hellenism and, because of external pressures and a prophecy about the east, migrated sometime in the 7th century to Alania and became nomads. It sounds pretty ASB now but whatever, it was fun and it'll get us where I went to go. My inspiration was the Without Honor Khitan Megacampaign AAR by dragoon9105, which you should check out if you haven't already. Like that one I'm hoping to make this a megacampaign but we'll see how things go in CK2 first. I'm going to avoid becoming too powerful and will be helping the AI as needed to make clean borders / stronger competitors, and, if we get that far, probably breaking up big states before converting saves to make things more interesting from game to game. The first few parts are more narrative but I've tried to take more pictures and be less verbose about things as I go. Apologies if you prefer one or the other; the transition felt natural as I went.

Anyway, without further ado... enjoy!

Index

Reign of King Theodorikos (769 - 816)
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
World Update - 800 CE

Reign of King Hektorios (816 - 824 )
Part V
Part VI

Reign of King Theodoric II (824 - 850)
Part VII
Part IIX

Reign of King Alaricos (850 - 890)
Part IX
Part X

Reign of Emperor Ioannikos (890- 914)
Part XI
Part XII
World Update - 904 CE
Part XIII

Reign of Emperor Agateclaya (914-)
 
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Part I

Doctor Baby

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FIRES OF NEW OLYMPUS
A Crusader Kings 2 AAR



The People abandon Babylon as they were abandoned, and trade one coast for another. They subject one tribe, then another; the savage lords conceal their Gods-fated destiny. Megas Alexandros will carry them to the New Olympus.
-Prophecy of the Oracle at Doros, 681 CE

Few are the lands untainted by the terrible Goth. He shifts, changes, servile and sniveling until he has taken something worth burning! Did we not shelter the Goth when he fled the torments of Roman and Tatar? Did we not feed the Goth when he arrived, cold and broken, to our harsh kingdom? Did we not grant pastures to the Goth? Did we not share our horses, to improve his stock? Did we not look past his refusal of the Christ? We Alans have been friend to the Goth for generations, peaceful towards his transgressions as he trespassed, insulted, struck us for the crime of trust and friendship! And now the Goth drools and slavers to subjugate us utterly! To force his stolen tongue on us, his pilfered gods, and make us nothing! Take up your arms, Alans! So say I, your King: join with me and slay the Goth before he slays Alania!
-Call to arms of King Buriberdi of Alania, 768 CE


PROLOGUE:
Late 768

Under the crackling of the flames, at the foot of the Scythian Throne, the last King of the Alans fled his body to the refuge of chilly Hades. His craggy flesh made an odorous hearth below the King of the Goths, Alaricos III, or Alaric, who held court behind the veil of thinning smoke. The burning death of Buriberdi was one reserved for barbaroi, but the charred body served as a poignant reminder of Alaric’s power to the clan chiefs and courtiers in the room. If not even the Alans or their mighty king could hold back his ambitions, there was no hope for the schemers or doubters among them to sway Alaric from his vision.

“See how those who hold against our future perish! Burn away, traitors, cynics, enemies of the Goths! Zeus delivers me against every labor you invent, and with each task we are one step closer to the path of deliverance,” thundered Alaric. “We threw off the yoke of the Christian. We slew every agent of the Roman, who thought us his property. We swept aside the Hun and the Alan. There can be no doubt that the blood of Olympus courses through the Goths. And to any who doubt that we can overcome the barbaroi who defile the true Olympus, I ask you: which of them is mightier than Buriberdi?”

The body kept smoking until the evening, and continued as the last of the active audience left Alaric’s hall, most of them intending to return. In a few short hours, the empty floor was populated with tables and chairs, occupied by the chiefs and priests of their clans nearest to the king, the most honored warriors next-furthest, and the otherwise-notables just beyond them, nearest to the open doors. All the others who were present for the feast - which included nearly everyone who resided at Profiteia, the great tent-city of the Goths - were seated outside the hall.

While the other Goths celebrated, Alaric, seated with his council and chiefs, remained as focused as ever on the future. Ioulianos, his Augur, sat at his left hand, while Strategos Timotheos sat on his right. The time was nearly at hand to subjugate the Khazaroi, their neighbors to the north, who jealously guarded their vast grazing lands against the Goths. The horsemanship of the Khazaroi was feared by all Goths, who had lost every skirmish against the centuries-long rulers of the Pontic Steppe. But Alaric knew that they had grown weak. In the past, their horsemen rode as allies with the Alans in their uprisings, notable for their Hunnic features against the pale-skinned Alans. The Goths had only grown stronger since. Yet, in the battle of Maghas, where the last Christian Alans were killed or enslaved, there were no Khazaroi left to be seen. Traders and hunters from Khazaria spoke of their greedy Khagan, his cruel enforcers, and the massive tributes demanded from the clans. The clans wanted a change, and Alaric could promise them that.

The Khazaroi tribes formed a column which held up one part of the Gothic destiny. Another column was Theodoric, Alaric’s only son. As King, Alaric had little time to spare for matters of family, so it fell upon the council to educate Theodoric. Though his heart ached for his child, Alaric could rarely see his son, so he relied on his companions to learn of the progress of his heir. The boy was an accomplished warrior, having accompanied many raids into Abkhazia and Derbent. He had even slain the bodyguard of an Armenian lord in a skirmish near Tskhoumi. It filled Alaric with pride to hear of his son’s exploits, even the ones he had already been told. Someday Theodoric would lead the Goths in battle himself, and continue the line towards the Megas Alexandros. For now, though, he would have to satiate himself with the bodyguards of lordlings and the warriors of the barbaroi, and with the platonic comforts of women until a suitable wife could be found for him.

While Alaric thought fondly of his son, Theodoric thought his father distant, cold, and even cruel - to himself, anyway. Though only just an adult, Theodoric had long been ready to assume his place at the head of a war party. When the Alans had sent their declaration of war from Maghas, Theodoric was sure he would finally get to command a battle; after all, Timotheos had vouched for his abilities in combat, and had taught him nearly everything he knew about planning and leading a battle. But Alaric disagreed, and instead gave the command to Rosmeos, the turncoat. It was an affront to Theodoric. The glory of crushing the Alans belonged to the Goths, not an Alan, even if he feigned allegiance to the Goths and the Hellenic Gods!

Normally, Theodoric would have at least greeted his father at a celebration like this. But he was still bitter and instead sulked outside the Kappadoki Hall, searching among the revelers for his beloved, Eugenia. Carelessly, he walked past the table of the Soldaia clan women, who leered as he passed; rumors that Alaric intended for his son to marry the talented Adriane Soldaia circulated with great frequency the last few months. Now that Theodoric was blooded, and had matured physically such that most of the tribe saw him as a man, those rumors would only grow in intensity. Theodoric also feared that his father and Timotheos might mistake this gossip for the will of the people or the Gods. Just as likely, he might favor a familial bond with the powerful Soldaia clan to strengthen their own Kappadoki clan. Theodoric couldn’t see past Adriane’s plain looks, however, regardless of the boons her family could bestow on his own.

Theodoric never found Eugenia that night, nor did he see his father. He would never see Alaric again. The next day, the King caught a withering plague and forbid his son to see him in such a state. Two days later he was dead.


Death Mask of Alaric II
750-800 CE



PART I: King Theodoricos I
769 CE



Theodoric was named King Theodoricos I after a suitable period of mourning for Alaricos. In the first days of his reign, Theodoric’s council - the same that had served his father - attended to nearly all of his affairs according to Alaric’s plans.



Chief among the King’s Companion Council were his Strategos and Augur. Order among the clans was maintained by Spathia and Eusebia, lending a great deal of power and responsibility to the highest authorities on matters martial or religious. Of course, both deferred to the King, but in the case of Theodoric, much had to be delegated due to his inexperience. The first matter given to Theodoric’s discretion was that of his marriage. Ioulianos stressed to him the importance of taking a noble wife and siring an heir - for the realm, and for the prophecy. Against their advice, Theodoric sent a messenger to the father of Eugenia, Agrimundus the Elder, to ask for his daughter’s hand; the messenger was killed on his return journey when his horse threw him.

When the news of the messenger’s death made its way to Theodoric’s hall, the court erupted into despairing whispers. Even Theodoric couldn’t ignore this omen. The Gods had given their will as surely as Hermes himself had alighted on the Earth and spoken it. For all his youthful stubbornness, Theodoric could not defy them, for the sake of his people if not himself. A second messenger was sent out, this time to the Soldaia clan. Shortly, Theodoric and Adriane were married.



Despite having favored another woman, Theodoric warmed quickly to Adriane thanks to her silver tongue and her deep faith in the Gods. She was also exceedingly clever, maliciously so to her enemies. Theodoric could never shake his paranoia that she had somehow influenced the death of his messenger, but he could find no evidence that it was so. If she had tried to deceive him, it was by the pantheon in Olympus that she had succeeded. In any case, she made a better ally than a foe.

With a Queen by his side, Theodoric was finally a man in the eyes of his Council, who revealed to him Alaric’s planned conquest of Khazaria. It was risky to go to war so soon after succession, more so with a young king with no heir. But opportunity called. The Khazaroi clans wouldn’t wait for a Gothikoi to deliver them from the Khagan; when the last straw fell, the Khagan would be overthrown quickly, and a more popular Khazar put in his place. After that, they might turn their greedy eyes towards their neighbors’ lands. With the population of Gothikoi outpacing its resources, their would be war sooner or later. Better, then, to strike while the iron was hot.

On the eve of war, Ioulianos’ appointed diviner slaughtered the largest bull in all Gothikos and read its entrails from a makeshift dais for the assembled tribesmen. In quiet celebration, the crowd watched as he furtively dug through the bull’s entrails. Theodoric despaired at the diviner’s expression; he looked crazed, panting as he pulled out the heavy organs, tossing many of them to the crowd carelessly. The mood of the crowd, which had light-heartedly caught the organs and held them up like trophies, began to sour. Suddenly, the diviner stopped entirely, and a flock of birds flew north overhead. The priest pulled an enormous liver from the bull’s belly and examined it all over, his hands stained red with blood and dripping with fluids. Finally, he jumped up to his feet and broke the silence, crying, “Victory!” The Gothikoi erupted with cheers and war cries.

The war party went on the march soon after, Theodoric and his Companions proudly at its head. They numbered some 2,500 at the start, gathering more riders as they approached Khazaria; they were 4,000 when they split into two parties to cross the Volga, marking their entrance to the Khazaroi steppes.



The Gothikoi chased away small parties of Khazaroi towards the last known encampment of the Khagan. The forward scouts located it within days; the Khagan had not moved in years, preferring the fertile land near the Volga river and Caspian Sea to a more defensible province in the interior. Theodoric rushed his party to Itil, where they were met with only token resistance from the Khazaroi.

As his Gothikoi warriors plundered the camp, taking ransoms and small valuables as they went, Theodoric was overcome by reverence. The encampment sat on a hill overlooking the Caspian in the eastern distance; something on the water caught Theodoric in a trance, pulling him past the fires and chaos in Itil. A small peak appeared on the wavering surface of the water. It grew, rising out of the sea, until its rocky surface loomed over Itil, and still it grew. All the world shrank before it, and at the top, just beneath its highest peak, a city of glittering marble shone. Theodoric felt a fire light in his soul as the prophecy of the Oracle of Doros echoed in his mind.



No sooner had the Khagan’s wife, daughter, and concubines been found by the Gothikoi than Theodoric set to work gathering the chiefs and his companions. The warriors would only be allowed a short plunder; at first light, they would take what they had gathered and go back across the Volga. The Caulita clan warriors protested, greedy to plunder the nearby encampment of the Karadukhu clan. But Theodoric knew that the Khazaroi would have heard that the Gothikoi were marching on Itil, and he knew that Baghatur’s host wasn’t in the eastern Pontic Steppe; that put them to the west, possibly near enough to the Don to threaten Profiteia. Timotheos agreed: because Baghatur wasn’t at Itil, he must be in the west, and whatever he was doing, he would have a war party with him.

The horde of the Gothikoi swarmed westwards on Theodoric’s orders, criss-crossing the steppes at full tilt. Small camps of Gothikoi peasants who had, a week before, waved on the brave cavalry, now ducked into their homes and watched the horsemen stampede past the other way. The horde split up again a ways north of Profiteia upon news of the Khazaroi position: Baghatur was making quickly for Theodoric’s camp to avenge himself. Theodoric would lead his party in a mad charge at the Khazaroi host to keep them from Profiteia, while the other party, lead by Timotheos, swung towards the Don to attack Baghatur’s northern flank.



The Gothikoi had underestimated the Khagan. A small rearguard of Khazaroi rushed to meet Timotheos’ forces then fled, skirmishing with incredible skill. Even the lightest Gothikoi cavalry couldn’t catch the speedy Khazaroi horses. After chasing them in a running skirmish for the better part of a day, Timotheos had finally dispersed the Khazaroi enough to turn his flank to them and march southeast against Baghatur; but he was far too late to join the battle.

Theodoric had little cause for strategy in his pursuit of the Khagan; when the great host of the Khazaroi came into view, he couldn’t have guessed that his own men just barely outnumbered them, especially as another party was coming from the west to reinforce them. Theodoric prayed to the Gods to protect his people, and to deliver Timotheos a swift victory in hopes he would interdict the Khagan’s reinforcements. He wished he could give his men a stirring speech, but, looking at his companion cavalry around him, he saw there was no need. What the Gothikoi lacked in steppe combat experience, they made up for in determination and fury. When the first volley of Khazaroi arrows came raining down over the Gothikoi host, they were already returning fire with a volley of their own. Baghatur had turned his horde to meet the Gothikoi charge with one of their own. The two forces met in a horrible clash. Men died by the hundreds.

The Gothikoi took first advantage thanks to their superiority in zeal and with close weapons. The momentum shifted after Baghatur’s reinforcements arrived, and the greater mass of the Khazaroi nearly surrounded Theodoric’s horsemen. But as the battle wore on, the superiority of the Gothikoi equipment won out. With nearly a quarter of their host dead, the Khazaroi finally broke.



Even after out-maneuvering the Gothikoi, Baghatur was defeated. He Khagan had narrowly avoided a disaster, but knew that it was unlikely he could do so a second time. In the unlikely event he won the next battle, the war was already lost. As he fled east, Baghatur sent an envoy to sue for peace with the Gothikoi: the eastern steppe was theirs, in exchange for the Khagan’s wife and daughter.



Rituals were held in Profiteia in honor of the fallen Gothikoi; over 200 had been killed and many more were wounded. The clans who had lost sons were rewarded in livestock, slaves, and valuables, especially those seized from Itil.

After the mourning, Theodoric declared a week of celebration in honor of the victory. In the span of a few weeks, the Gothikoi had usurped their greatest regional rival, took their most fertile grazing lands, and cut them off from their tributaries.



Greater still, they had achieved all this as relative strangers to the steppe and the nomadic life they now lead. When Philippos of Caffa first lead the Gothikoi to Alania in the late 7th century, he never could have dreamed the heights his people would reach in scant few generations.

Yet for all the revelling to be had, and, afterwards, the work to be done to relocate the Profiteia across the Volga river, Theodoric’s mind was elsewhere. He worked busily in the days, but at night, he pored over maps secured for him by his most trusted envoys; maps not Europe or the steppe, but the Far East. Of particular import was the route of Alexander the Great’s conquests, of which Theodoric acquired a Greek written account later in the year; Adriane acquired it from a sympathetic Hellene in Thessalia, eager to guard it against the Slavic adventurers who had taken vast swathes of Hellas for themselves in the preceding decades.

This accounting - though he suspected it was fictionalized - became Theodoric’s map key because of its author’s encyclopedic recounting of place names, even in the far wastes of Bactria and Ghandara. Soon Theodoric’s trusted envoys were traveling themselves to Nishapur, Samarkand, and the banks of the mighty Indus, in search of documents to satiate their King.

For over a year this went on, until one night, Theodoric unrolled a relatively contemporary cartographical drawing, called the “Terrain of the Hindu Kush”, depicting what Alexander had called the Caucasus Indicus.



It hit him like a bolt of lightning. The contours of the range, the rocky highlands, high over the Indus Valley where Alexander’s conquest ended: the Olympus of the East, the one he’d seen in the vision at Itil, was hidden somewhere amongst the mountains.
 
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slothinator

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This looks very promising! I look forward to the continuation!
 
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Part II

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PART II: Theodoric The Conqueror



With his destiny made clear to him, Theodoric was finally ready to focus on matters of the realm. First was the issue of succession. In spite of his youthful health, Theodoric recognized the importance of having an heir; life on the steppe was harsh, and could be cut short in an instant.


Theodoric felt more and more assured that the Gods were guiding him. All the more so when Ioulianos divined from the behavior of animals and the movement of the stars that Adriane carried a “true Olympian” in her womb.



He would be proven wrong in a few months’ time, though the signs had been correct. Adriane gave birth to twins: Hektor and Sophia. Theodoric was beside himself in joy, and declared a great feast to celebrate the birth of his first son and daughter.

Ioulianos, meanwhile, was concerned at the ambiguous nature of the twins as an omen. He chose not to trouble his King with his thoughts, though he feared that the birth suggested an uncertain future. The prophecy hinted at great triumph for the Gothikoi. Now he worried that the victory it forecast preceded a great disaster.

The next months were spent in peace as the Gothikoi continued to acclimate to their new grazing lands and multiply. A scheme was conceived to redistribute portions of the King’s tributes to families on the birth of a child, to incentivize a higher birth rate. Under Ioulianos’ supervision, great numbers of former barbaroi adopted the Hellenic faith and joined the people as Gothikoi. They brought horses with them, greatly expanding the livestock available to Theodoric to mount warriors.

By the start of 771, Theodoric felt the time had come. Somewhere in the distant East was his destiny; one obstacle between them was the Bakshir tribe, who claimed ownership of the steppe from the Ural river in the west to the surroundings of the southern Ural mountains in the east. The great span of territory had induced unrest in the Bashkirs, and their Khan was struggling against a powerful clan trying to overthrow him.




Before January was through, Theodoric had raised his host and marched into the Bakshir steppe, eager to exploit their weakness.

Theodoric’s host, nearing 2,000 men, met the Bashkir warriors near the Khan’s encampment at the foot of the Urals. Exhausted from years of infighting, the Bashkirs could only bring 1,500 men to bear. Their experience was greater than that of the Gothikoi, but this didn’t protect them from the withering arrow rain, which whittled down their numbers to such an extent that they were surrounded in the first charge.

In the midst of the battle, Theodoric was confronted by a great warrior of the Bashkirs. The two dismounted and dueled on foot. Teber lived to his reputation, fighting Theodoric to a stalemate with deft footwork, avoiding his attacks, and striking explosively when he saw an opening. Unfortunately for him, Theodoric’s stamina was greater than he hoped, and the two began to lose momentum at the same time. Sensing Teber’s strength leaving him, Theodoric baited another attack, and capitalized when the Bashkir had overextended himself.



Theodoric had killed a dozen men in combat now, but something about Teber’s death stuck in his mind. He was sluggish to mount his horse again and join his men in giving chase to the fleeing Bashkirs.



The Bashkir Khan had little choice but to take peace with the Gothikoi, who were quick to march on the encampment of Oshi, the Khan’s pretender, and burn it to the ground.

Theodoric didn’t return to Profiteia, as he had after the Khazar war. With his warriors raised and still prepared for battle, and himself in grips of a malaise he couldn’t shake, he turned his host south instead, to the dry plains between the Caspian and Aral seas.



The Oghuz were fewer than the Bashkirs, and tried to make their tent-city defensible against the Hellenes to give them an advantage. Their ferocity couldn’t make up for their numbers, however, and they were cut down by the dozens by the Gothikoi. Theodoric himself slew many of the Oghuz in a maddened trance which Timotheos called ‘the fury of Ares’. The women and children of the Oghuz suffered greatly from having the battle take place in the encampment that the tribe was effectively snuffed out in the span of a day, leaving few slaves to be taken by the Gothikoi.

Whatever bloodlust had taken Theodoric faded slowly on the long march back to Profiteia and his wife and children. Over a year had passed, and the tent-city was much smaller as clans moved to the new lands acquired from the Bakshirs and Oghuz; the quiet was a welcome respite for Theodoric, who spent many months afterwards with his family while the realm was surveyed and maps drawn up, and while the clans raised sons and daughters who could replace the fallen warriors in Theodoric’s host.

The King seemed to have finally settled into the quiet of ‘courtly’ life (such as it was on the steppe) until he finally saw the span of the Gothikoi realm according to the cartographers:



Ever since the flight of Caffa, no King of Gothika had ever dreamt that the people would reach such a height as this. Yet as the power of his warriors to sweep away the barbaroi was made clear, Theodoric was drawn ever more towards the prophecy. At his accession, he hoped his grandchildren might live to see the eastern Olympus; now he felt the Fates pushing him towards it, whispering to him to see it himself, at the head of the mightiest host in the world.

Invigorated to strike out again, Theodoric gathered his Council to help guide him forward. The obvious answer lay to the east; the Sultan of Bukhara controlled a span of dry plains and hills that reached all the way to the foot of the Hindu Kush range. In one war, Theodoric could do what the Gods had willed him; if only he could win it.



Bukhara alone was weak, its rulers content to collect tributes from the trade that passed through its cities. But it wasn’t alone. The mighty Abbasid Caliphate held Bukhara as a tributary, and would protect the Sultan from any war that threatened the free movement of trade on the silk road.



Someday, Bukhara, and, most likely, their allies in the Caliphate would need to be dealt with. But Gothika was too small to defeat them alone. As the only Greek-speaking people north of the Black Sea, and the only Hellenic realm in the world, no one was eager to sign treaties with the Gothikoi. The path forward would be a solitary one, but that left only one victor to collect the spoils.

If he would ever challenge the Caliph, Theodoric needed resources; gold would do, and there was much of it to be had in the Caucasus, where the great plundering empires had always faltered against rough terrain and fierce protectors. But Theodoric knew his own men were all the more ferocious, and further, he had a grudge against the Armenians; their merchants knew well the value of lumber to the Gothikoi, and took great pleasure in fleecing the people whenever they could. For their supposed civility, Theodoric thought them cruel and vindictive. It was past time they returned some of their ill-gotten wealth to the people.



Timotheos lead a raiding party into Circassia, while Theodoric himself took a second host into Derbent, whose young men had all been called up in the civil war between the Uqaylids. The towns made easy pickings for the Gothikoi raiders, who pillaged all along the Caspian coastline on the way to a prize greater than all the wealth they’d plundered so far…



As the Gothikoi tore through the countryside, they heard from captives and slaves that a great uprising had just begun in the Caliphate. The long-oppressed Shi’a had gathered in enormous numbers, occupied Baghdad, and declared their own Caliphate. Loyalist forces marched on them from every corner of the empire, but were each defeated in turn. Even altogether, they couldn’t have matched the Shi’a numbers, and one-by-one they were obliterated, allowing the Shi’a uprising to spread.



The Caliph fled as far from Baghdad as he could, relocating his court to Shirvan. What treasures he hadn’t saved from the Shi’a in Baghdad would be at Baku, so Theodoric set his sights there. He needed the Caliph’s wealth, but he also wanted to see what kind of strength they could put behind a reprisal.

It was early 773, a few months into the raiding expedition, that Theodoric’s forces arrived at Baku. They found the garrison small and stretched thin to protect the fortress, but their warriors fought with the ferocity of cornered animals. As few as they were, the Abbasid soldiers still bravely left the walls to raid the Gothikoi camps at night. They were great warriors, armed well and highly experienced from maintaining order over a vast empire. But, as with the Shi’a, their superiority at arms was outweighed by their inferiority in numbers; in October, the defenders sallied one last time, failed to break the encirclement, then surrendered.



The Caliph, as it happened, had escaped days earlier, narrowly avoiding capture and the hefty ransom he could have commanded for the Gothikoi. Enraged, Theodoric allowed his men to rampage through the streets, but there was little wealth to be stolen. If the Caliph had escaped Baghdad with a treasury, he had escaped Baku with it as well. Theodoric turned his gaze westwards. What he couldn’t get from the Caliph without risking an overwhelming reprisal, he would take from the Armenians instead.

In a brief visit back to Profiteia, Theodoric chanced upon some of the youths who had been too young to join the host before it had left for the raiding frontiers. In their spare time, they engaged in feats of strength and athleticism, hoping to hone their martial skills for when their turn at war came. It was an admirable pursuit, and Theodoric saw it would be to his benefit to spread it through the realm and beyond; young men could be kept from shiftlessness during times of peace, and barbaroi would learn to revere the Hellenic pantheon while matching their strength against the greatest warriors on the steppe.



As soon as a war plan had been drawn and coordinated with the Council of Companions, and a regent appointed to direct the resources flowing into Profiteia, Theodoric gathered his son and heir, Prince Hektor, and every warrior of age from the clans, and returned to the gathered host in Circassia. He didn’t wait for the eminent birth of his next child, whom Adriane named Alexandros in his absence.

Rhomaion had grown weak and decadent since the departure of the Hellenic Goths from Crimea in the 7th century; most of Hellas and Epirus had been had been subjugated by adventuring Serbians, and the Anatolian countryside was rife with religious tensions between Orthodox Christians and Iconoclasts, who counted the Emperor himself among their ranks.



Though they nominally protected Armenia, the Rhomaioi could spare precious few resources to defend their tributary in the east while Serbia and Bulgaria loomed in the west. Bulgaria, though wracked by ethnic unrest between Slavs and Bolghars, raised an army every few years and challenge the Romans for Adrianople or the crownlands around Constantinople, while the Serbians sat eager to pounce on any perceived weakness and take Rome for themselves, as they had taken Pannonia a few years before.

In March of 778, the Gothikoi horde advanced into Armenian Abkhazia, laying siege to every castle in the western half of the duchy.



The tiny army of Abkhazia folded before Theodoric’s horsemen, returning to their homes and praying for the Romans to save them. But the Romans never came.



Despite promising to aid the Armenians, the Romaioi didn’t spare a single soldier to the defense of Abkhazia. After two years and the occupation of nearly every town and castle in the country, the Armenians surrendered.



In his youth, Theodoric might have stopped there and returned his focus to the east. But, from the Abkhazian hills looking out across the coast of Trebizond, he felt a new ambition rising up in him, one more personal to him than fulfilling the Prophecy of Doros.



For centuries, the Crimean Goths had lived under the yoke of the Romaioi, sending tribute in exchange for the promise of protection; the Gothikoi had learned much earlier than the Armenians that that promise was empty. Whether Scythian, Magyar, or Khazaroi, the Romans sat by and counted their wealth while Goths were slaughtered wholesale, their towns razed, their lands burned by barbaroi to make more room for grazing horses and cattle. It was inevitable that the Romaioi would grow weak and decadent when they abandoned their own Gods for the dead god of the Christians, but to sit idly while their homeland languished under foreign barbarians shocked Theodoric. If there were any true Romaioi left in Rhomaion, Theodoric intended to shake them from their stupor.

The Romans were quick to raise their levies at the stat of the invasion, much to the chagrin of the helpless Armenians. The Gothikoi horde had swelled to over 6,000 horsemen in three hosts; when threatened, the fast-moving cavalry could quickly combine forces, but otherwise could spread out and take territory at a rapid pace. Arrayed against them were over 10,000 Romaioi, mostly made up of peasant levies, but with a sizable proportion of men-at-arms and trained cavalry thanks to the Varangian guard. These forces were well-composed for a battle, but not for maneuvering in the rough terrain of northern Anatolia, a fact that would come to haunt them.

The first battles of the war were the most precarious; at Amisos, Theodoric’s host was caught flat-footed by a rapid attack from the Duke of Charsianon, but was saved from defeat by the ferocity of Theodoric’s genera Bosporios, who forced back a charge from the Romans and turned it into a chaotic route.



At Rizaion, the Gothikoi baited a larger Roman army into attacking them in the foothills, where a second force sat ready to flank them with greater numbers. Though a group of skirmishers were surrounded and cut down by the Romans in the maneuver, the end result was catastrophic for the Romans, who lost ten men for each Gothikos they slew.



The lopsided losses at Rizaion shocked the Romans, who were never able to fully recover. Theodoric pressed his advantage, doggedly pursuing the scattered Roman forces and forcing them to continue retreating westward without fighting any decisive battles, except for a failed invasion of Armenia via the Black Sea. Poorly led and under-manned, the small marine force quickly alerted the Gothikoi to their presence and were annihilated by the first rearguard that came to meet them.



The rolling battles across the hills of northern Anatolia gave the aggressive Gothikoi many opportunities to capture fleeing Roman soldiers. The lucky ones would be ransomed back, but most would be sent marching east, ostensibly to keep them as prisoners, but realistically to keep the from being able to take up arms again before the war ended. The unlucky ones suffered far worse fates at the hands of their unaccountable captors.



The barbarity of ritual murder would have steeled the Romaioi against their invaders if they had any will left to fight. By the time the Gothikoi reached the Bosporos, there were no Roman soldiers left to try and thwart the crossing, and the local ferrymen and captains had little love for the Basileus but much love for the gold offered by Theodoric to see his army across the strait. Once they were on the other side, Theodoric’s army surrounded Constantinople and settled in for what would surely be a long siege.

What the Rhomaioi lacked in fighting spirit they made up for in fortification. The walls of Constantinople held against for three years against the makeshift siege weapons of the Gothikoi, until the defenders, starving, exhausted, and wracked by plague, opened the gates in surrender. Theodoric’s host swarmed over the city like locusts, stealing everything they could carry and destroying much of what they couldn’t.

Theodoric himself went straight to the palace, accompanied by his Companions Council and Guard. The storied Varangian Guard met him at the top of the palace steps and made way for him, recognizing that he would shortly be their new emperor.



Basileus Demetrios of house Bardouchos awaited him from the throne, a sneer on his face.

“That’s mine,” Theodoric said, gesturing in his general direction. The throne, the crown, the scepter, all were his.

“This will never be yours,” said Demetrios, rising from his throne. “All this belongs to Rhomaion. To Christ. You can take it from me, but it will never belong to a pagan defiler masquerading as a barbarian. When your sword arm fails you, someone will destroy your people as you’ve destroyed the people who came before you. That’s the way you’ve chosen. And as your people are being slaughtered and enslaved, Rhomaion will remain.”

“So be it,” said Theodoric, mounting the steps. “I enact the will of my Gods, as you yours.”

Saying that, he reached the throne where Demetrios sat. Theodoric thought he saw fear in the Basileus’ eyes, hidden but unmistakable. He reached out to the crown on his head, grabbed the crucifix mounted on top of it and snapped it off with a flick of his wrist. The crown tilted from the movement and fell over Demetrios’ eyes, forcing him to adjust it back. He did so just in time to see the King of the Goths tossing the cross down the stairs, where it sat heavily on the stone. Demetrios came tumbling after it, thrown down the stairs unceremoniously by Theodoric as a means of literal dethronement.



Demetrios was ejected from the palace soon after, and the looting horde entered in his place. Theodoric remained in the capital only long enough to have his share of the riches sent back to Profiteia with a trusted Kappadoki retainer and to vet a group of turncoat Varangians who preferred joining the Companion Cavalry to being disbanded with the rest of the Guard. Satisfied with their professed loyalty, Theodoric gathered his host and continued west, leaving his trusted eunuch behind as magistrate of the Roman territories.

The historical enormity of the fall of the eastern Roman Empire was insignificant to Theodoric, but its repercussions would echo through history. Though many of the people of the former eastern Roman Empire would still consider themselves Roman for some time yet, it would be generally agreed upon by later historians that 782 CE was the year the Roman Empire ended. For the Gothikoi, the only meaning of it was that a path had been opened to the holy land.

Theodoric and his men arrived in Thessalia awe-stricken at the lands they had only heard of in myths and legends now made real before them, and they did battle with incredible ferocity against the Serbians. For all their victories, however, progressing into Hellas and Epirus was slow. The northerners had come with large armies, and had gained enough familiarity with the terrain to make campaigning difficult for the Gothikoi. The Goths were also limited by Theodoric in their raiding of the local communities to bare essentials; these were their “brother people”, after all, and lived in the sight of Mount Olympus itself. Any unnecessary cruelty they inflicted here was all the more likely to be visited back upon themselves later.

In 786, Theodoric declared the conquest complete. There were still some provinces of northern Macedonia in the hands of the Serbians, but his host had grown weary of campaigning so far from their families, or were eager to lay down their arms awhile and settle on the former Serbian holdings in Greece. Many of the boys Theodoric had brought with him from Profiteia were now in their mid-20’s. Those who hadn’t taken wives during the campaign were desperate to find ones back home, amongst their own people. Theodoric thought back to the example of Megas Alexandros, who had fought all the way to the Indus only to be turned back by his own men. As much as it pained him to return home as his army reached its zenith in experience and cohesion, there was too little to gain fighting for scraps in the homeland. When he next called up his host, he knew they would be ready to defeat the Abbasids, and the heart of their new empire would then lay open to them. For such a prize he could wait for as long as he needed.



Theodoric’s eunuch magistrate, Ioustinianos, administered as deftly as he could, but the former Rhomaion was a sprawling empire. Nominally, the Gothikoi now controlled Sicily, the southern tip of Italia, Sardinia, and the Baleares. In fact, they had little contact with these holdings, and received nothing from them except the prestige accompanying their vassalage. The Anatolian lords were incensed by their relative lack of autonomy, especially those in the south who hadn’t seen the rage of the Gothikoi first hand. Without the support of the north or the isles, rebellion was impossible, so they settled for insolence, ‘forgetting’ to send taxes to the King, openly gathering into discussions about which Imperial claimant should be enthroned, and fomenting radical Christian sentiment among the peasantry as a wedge against the Hellenic Gothikoi.

The latter method yielded fruit in 796, as the host was returning to the Volga plain. More than 10,000 peasants took up arms in Thrace and marched on Constantinople, demanding a restoration of Christian rulership. Theodoric put them down mercilessly with his seasoned horde on the way back to Gothika.





Following the Thracian uprising and the bloodbath it preceded, the last tensions between the Gothikoi and their Rhomaioi subjects gave way to fear and an uneasy peace.

Theodoric arrived in Profiteia to a hero’s welcome and much rejoicing, but something had changed in him. His eyes had lost their shine and he seemed lost when he wasn’t training, fighting, or at the bottom of a wine vessel. He kept just enough wits enough to divert the resources flowing into Profiteia into ambitious projects, gathering new livestock herds and expanding the clan’s cottage industries.



The peace weighed heavily on Theodoric, and he, in turn, weighed heavily on Queen Adriane. Their eldest children, twins Hektor and Sophia, had reached age of majority and were considered to be fully adults. Theodoric had no interest in finding his daughter a suitable marriage partner; he had thought little about her before, and felt no need to make alliances.



Sophia was married to the Serbian King of Pannonia, who promised to keep the Kingdom of Serbia in check against adventurers. Now that he could fight, Hektorios longed to return to the battlefield, and urged his father to gather a host and march west to destroy the Kingdom of Serbia once for all. Two years had passed. The riders from the old host would only find themselves more and more entangled at home the longer they stayed, now that they had been given enough time to sire children for their clans. It was time to ride again!

Theodoric agreed to gather the host, sending the call out to all able-bodied men of the Gothikoi to bring their spears and horses to Profiteia. They numbered over 8,000 now, and though other armies might outnumber them, none could stand against the withering fire of their archers and the vicious charge of the Companion Cavalry. Whoever they next fell upon couldn’t hope to survive.
 
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HistoryDude

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The Goths are doing well.

Subbed!

Are you planning on reforming Hellenism?
 
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Doctor Baby

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The Goths are doing well.

Subbed!

Are you planning on reforming Hellenism?
Thanks! I may have accidentally made them quite a bit OP here in the early game, but succession is going to be interesting.

As for Hellenism, reformation was the original plan, but I never intended on holding onto anything west of Persia so the plan changed quite a bit as it went. I'm a ways ahead now and just finished some light modding on a few different things, so suffice it to say things will get a bit weird. In a good way. Good to me, anyway :D
 
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The Number 9

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Subbed.
 
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slothinator

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That was a very speedy conquest! A different group of Goths has destroyed another Roman Empire.
Curious to see where this goes!
 
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Part III

Doctor Baby

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CHAPTER III: Theodoric the Despoiler



Theodoric had assembled the greatest horde his people could ever conceive of in Profiteia, the great mobile city of the Goths. Diviniations were performed. Augur Ioulianos, aged and wisened, had taken on a grim aspect from expecting calamity, but the omens he portended were almost always fortuitous. He had lost some faith in the Gods, and thought he must be part of a tale like Ikaros’ - one of great triumphs laid low by over-ambition. But he never lied about what he saw, nor did he trouble anyone else with his fears of celestial malfeasance. On the dais before the mighty host of the Gothikoi, he told the truth of what he saw in the entrails of a bull: Nike awaited the warriors with golden laurels.

Prince Hektor had long studied the Serbians and expected to march west to deliver upon them the oppressions they had cast over Hellas, which he had witnessed firsthand. During the years of peace, he had trained and planned for the eventual conquest of Serbia he foresaw, and he petitioned his father to name him Strategos to lead the effort. Now that the host was gathered, it seemed both cautious and righteous to punish the Serbian kingdom and blood the youngest warriors against a hated enemy.Theodoric granted Hektor the office, and allowed his and his father’s long-serving Strategos, Timotheos, to step down and retire.

With the omens in their favor and the wind at their backs, the host set off, not for the west, but for the east.

With the declaration of war, the Sogdians raised their forces and surrendered the entire western half of the country to the Gothikoi, hoping to concentrate their armies for a defense of Bukhara, the capital. They couldn’t hope to win alone against the horde, but the Abbasids were quick to declare their support, and their forces combined would at least outnumber the Goths.

They had underestimated their opponents; the Gothikoi raced to catch them, surrounding the bulk of the Sogdian forces before they could reach the city and decisively routing them.



The Abbasid armies had yet to materialize on the border into 789, even as Bukhara was sacked. The horde continued east, expecting at any moment the need to turn around to face the Caliph’s troops. But when the last of the Sogdian holdings had fallen, there was still nothing to be seen of the infamous Bedouin cavalry. Like the Rhomaioi before them, the supposedly mighty Abbasids had shirked from a fight with the Gothikoi, leaving their tributaries to the slaughter.

Profiteia was moved, for the first time in over a decade, to Bukhara. The Sogdian lords had grown fat off the wealth of the Silk Road for decades, and now the Gothikoi would profit from it. The clans attached to the capital were restive at moving from their verdant grazing territory into the dry plains of Sogdia, where they had to contend with local herdsmen of a different culture and religion, but the sack of Bukhara had displaced many of them, and those who were left were often desperate to sell their herds to the Gothikoi. Many Sogdians, especially in the nobility, fled Transoxiana for Abbasid Persia, fearing persecution.

Theodoric spent little time reflecting on the triumph; it was behind him now, and great conquests were still ahead.



The Caucasus of the East were finally within his reach. Taking them would be a Herculean feat, but even greater would be to carve out a kingdom here, where Alexandros himself had faltered and turned back. Ultimately it would mean leaving behind the way of the steppe that the Goths had been forced to take up a century ago for the sake of their survival.

Theodoric was more focused than he had ever been before. He still spoke to his soldiers but he stopped drinking and carousing with them, or with most others to be sure.



In the brief period of rest, a marriage was arranged between Prince Hektorios and a Soldaia princess, re-affirming the alliance between them and the Kappadoki, and ensuring the other clans remained in line. In the days after, rumors whirled around the court at Profiteia that Theodoric had been seen with a woman who wasn’t his wife.



By the time Viviana informed Theodoric of the fruit of their dalliance, he was already marching to war again, this time for the furthest edge of Persia, Kabul. The forces there were swept aside easily, so, leaving a segment of his horde to secure the province, he marched the rest into the Taid Sultanate, another tributary of the Abbasid paper tiger. They raced to the capital at Nishapur, expecting little resistance from the Persians or their Bedouin allies.



Viviana’s child was born in 790. She named him Theodoric and pleaded with the King to legitimize him. He stopped short of that and acknowledged the boy as his, pledging to grant him a fief when he came of age. Queen Adriane was incensed by this, but wouldn’t see her husband for a number of years yet.



As the Taid Sultanate was falling, Theodoric kept his men at war. Young warriors continued to answer the call of the east, streaming through Bukhara to join the horde, easily replacing any who fell. They next invaded the minor state of Udabhanda, which occupied the northernmost reach of the Indus valley. The Indians weren’t prepared for the might of the Gothikoi, but surrendered after the first field battle. The Gothikoi moved into Ghandara, then into the mountains, attacking Tibet to take the sprawling mountain lands of Kashmir.

The prison train of the host expanded with every new conquest, until well over a hundred hostages called it home. Escape attempts were frequent, and often successful. When a cousin of the Taid Sultan escaped during negotiations for his ransom, Theodoric finally turned his attention towards rectifying the situation.



Among the prisoners was a Hindu priest named Jayabhata who had attempted to escape by convincing a foolish guard that the local currency was extremely valuable, then bribing him with a few worthless coins. The guard was not wise enough to keep his bribe to himself, and discovered the deception when a fellow mocked him over it. The priest, far from his home town and without provisions, was easily recaptured.

Theodoric had Jayabhata chained in the saddle of a horse to be towed into battle with the Host, much to the priest’s terror. Theodoric also used him to try to understand the Punjabi people and their gods, believing them to be the gods of all the people in the Hindu Kush. Jayabhal explained that there were many faiths in the mountains and valleys around the Indus: Islam, of course, and Hinduism, as well as Buddhism and the faith of the Pashtuns, though he knew not what they called it.

Jayabhata was killed in his first battle when his horse was shot and collapsed with him underneath it. It was by pure luck that Theodoric cut his tether loose before he suffered the same fate.

The Tibetans fared no better than any westerners against the horde in early skirmishes, and reserved their field armies afterwards for the Gothikoi to exhaust their numbers over the winter. They had grown skilled in the meantime at breaching and assaulting the small keeps of the era, and the empire of Tibet, poor as it was, had no citadels to stop them. Within a year, all of Kashmir had fallen to the Gothikoi, who had shown no signs of weakness yet. The emperor forfeited the western mountains before the winter of 793, unwilling to sacrifice yet more men and territory waiting for the Kushan winter to do what his armies couldn’t.



Theodoric sent for Profiteia to be packed and brought over the mountains to Udabhanda. He sent his horde in every direction to expand control and clear more land for the future kingdom, while he organized the integration of Profiteia into the city at Udabhanda. When the caravan arrived, he saw Adriane for the first time since 789. Neither was eager to see the other.

Princes Hektorios and Alexandros lead hordes into Khorasan, where the Taid Sultanate still ruled, but now under a child Sultan, and without the nominal protection of the Abbasids. It was a great expanse to try and control from across the mountains, but Alexander had once ruled in Bactria and Sogdia, and Theodoric was intent upon his footsteps.

While his sons went and conquered, Theodoric retreated into his studies of the region from Udabandha, which was renamed Theodorion. He read deeply of the Hindu Vedas, the Buddhist Tripitaka, the Quran, and the Avesta of the Zoroastrians. Scholars and priests from every religion were brought before him to discuss the finer points of theology; all were impressed by the King’s desire to listen, study, and question without judgement. Ioulianos joined him in a number of these discussions, and came away with the same thoughts on the king’s demeanor, but the opposite feeling about it: the King was growing soft towards the barbaroi, and Ioulianos feared that it would be the end of Hellenism, which had survived only thanks to the Kappadoki rulers. Sympathy for Christianity was the first mistake that had led to the fall of Hellas, and now Theodoric spoke frequently of Zun, Surya, Buddha, and Ahura Mazda, as if they were as legitimate as Dionysos or Hermes.

Ioulianos wasn’t quiet with these concerns, which were no longer in the realm of simple omens. Theodoric had little time to hear them. He spent long hours corresponding with his sons, who were still fighting the forces of the Taid Sultan through 795, and making missives to the local Kings for alliances and favors. His daughter Helene was married to the Sultan of Sindh, the only other power in the Indus valley. Theodoric coveted his lands as part of Alexandros’ empire, but formed an alliance with the young Sultan anyway. A lavish marriage ceremony was performed in Hisam’s palace at Debul, which Theodoric attended to relieve himself of his distant Queen and over-zealous augur.



He lingered on the trip back, bringing in numerous retainers of different faiths and cultures to join his court at Theodorion, seeing Jain and Hindu temples and holy places. Some thought that his warrior spirit had finally begun to rest as his interest in theological matters grew; in truth, the King was beginning to foresee a new kind of battle ahead, and was simply studying the terrain.

Far to the west in Rhomaion, Ioustinianos had been out-maneuvered by the Anatolian lords, who had secured the support of the Medditerreanean provinces in declaring their independence. Theodoric and his hordes, engaged in wars halfway across the world, had little interest in sacrificing Gothikoi warriors for territories they didn’t intend to keep, instead opening them up to local vassals to conquer as they wished.



Ioustinianos was recalled shortly afterwards, while a sympathetic Byzantine lord was named King of Thrace (still subordinate to King Theodoric, in name if nothing else) and married to another of Theodoric’s daughters. The influence of the kingdom had a stabilizing effect, as the loyalist dukes installed across the Greek world jockeyed for influence in the hopes of being granted a kingdom themselves.


Hektorios and Alexandros had conquered Khorasan completely by late 796 and returned, victorious, to the court of Profiteia. Things had changed drastically since they had last seen their father. Many of the Gothikoi had salvaged their caravans and built new, permanent structures, or moved into old ones in the city following the lead of King Theodoric, who had moved into the old keep and adjoining noble estate, and set about securing the curtain wall and expanding the facilities inside. On their arrival, the brothers were brought to their father by their mother Adriane, the chief diplomat of the Gothikoi. For a brief moment, all four of them were together in Theodoric’s study, the largest gathering of their immediate family in many years. Queen Adriane quickly excused herself.

Hektor and Alexandros proudly shared their news with their father, and also presented him with a map they had commissioned during the campaign. It depicted the far-flung holdings of the Goths in Asia, including the conquest of Khorasan; they had commissioned it expecting victory, and the wager had paid off.



A great feast was prepared, and celebrations to last a week in honor of the princes. Yet until the feast began, Theodoric was in his study. Hektor and Alexandros soon learned that these days he hardly left it, receiving strange visitors at all hours- gurus, monks, warrior-priests, seers, musicians, theologians and historians of every stripe to be found on the Silk Road. A contingent of Taoists from Cathay had even arrived in the dead of night, were heard in excited discussion with the King, then left the way they came before the sun had risen. Some great change was coming. What it was, the King would not say.

 
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The Number 9

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Theodoric is becoming feudal. Modern times ahead for Gothia !
This will certainly help to stabilize the realm in the long run. But maybe, it won't be completely understood immediately.
 
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HistoryDude

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Is Theodoric getting ideas for Reformed Hellenism?

If so, when will the Abbasids be defeated to secure Antioch and Alexandria?

Let the Eastern Gothikoi rise! The situation in Greece will be interesting once the Goths have left it...
 
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slothinator

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I’m surprised that Theodoric would settle so soon. Those must have been some good prophecies.
mom curious to see what will happen to the lands in the west
 
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Doctor Baby

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Is Theodoric getting ideas for Reformed Hellenism?

If so, when will the Abbasids be defeated to secure Antioch and Alexandria?

Let the Eastern Gothikoi rise! The situation in Greece will be interesting once the Goths have left it...
I actually had reformed Hellenism by this point by securing the three holy sites currently held and then conquering a ton of individual counties to get us over 50 moral authority, but I wasn't satisfied with an in-universe explanation for doing that only to move halfway across the world. I'll go into a little detail about the state of the religion currently in the World Update coming in a couple posts to set us up for what's coming later.


I’m surprised that Theodoric would settle so soon. Those must have been some good prophecies.
mom curious to see what will happen to the lands in the west
Things were snowballing pretty quickly for the Gothikoi, and as much as strategically I should have gone back and killed off the Abbasids for good, narratively its been a good thing to not take too much advantage of the game engine's shortcomings. You're in luck on the western lands though, next chapter will have a bit on the former Roman Empire territory, and after that will be a World Update with even more :D
 
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Part IV

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(I tried to fit some info on the Hellenic reformation on this post a few different ways but none of them made me happy. Stay tuned for the info on that in the world update!)

Part IV: Finding Olympus



Indo-Goth coin depicting King Theodoricos ‘the Conqueror’
Circa 770 - 820 CE


The palace at Profiteia was a modest one by the standards of a king. The floors and walls were stone with few embellishments, and the gardens outside were spacious but not especially lavish. New, wooden construction was constantly being added to suit the king’s needs, most notably an expansion of the stables and an enormous guest wing opposite a courtyard from the king’s rooms, in order to house his growing retinue. A large number of courtiers resided there, but so did visitors from all over the Kingdom and beyond its borders. Perhaps the most important of them was Philomenes, a Greek storyteller and historian who had ingratiated himself with the King thanks to his familiarity with the stories of Megas Alexandros.

The accuracy of Philomenes’ stories was questionable in many cases - what recorded history Theodoric had at his disposal was often embellished in Philomene’s telling of the same events - but when Philomenes spoke to the common folk, which the king had observed on a few occasions, the people never doubted him. Alexander wasn’t just a conqueror, according to him, but also a unifier. His strategic mind was legendary, but his skill at diplomacy was unfairly misunderstood. Philomenes told a story wherein Alexander moved a lord in the Indus valley to join him, rather than simply conquering him by force, by convincing him that their gods were not so dissimilar: “I have many gods, and among them you would find the same qualities you honor in your own. We are enemies by circumstance, but what we hold dear makes us brothers.”

The most successful of the Macedonians in India was Menander, per Philomenes, though the locals had a more pronounceable name for him: Milinda. He embraced all the people of his empire, which stretched from Pataliputra in the east to Taxila in the north and the shores of Patalene (contemporary Gujarat) in the south. Supposedly he had even patronized the cult of a figure called ‘Buddha’, who was akin to a mythical hero such as Hercules but of much greater stature among his followers.

According to the scholar, Menander’s kingdom had been called ‘Yavana’. Theodoric took note of this, but thought it an improper name for the kingdom of the Goths; it wasn’t a Gothic name, nor a Greek one, as he saw it. But the territory of the Gothikoi had grown to encompass a number of the territories described by Alexander. One of the greatest of them was Bactria, a proud name with the weight of history behind it. Theodoric was all too happy to take it for himself.



A crown was cast for Bactria, and lesser ones for Parthia, Sogdia, and the Caucasus Indicus. Though perhaps justified in doing so, Theodoric stopped short of calling himself an Emperor. That seemed a Roman title to him, and too lofty for a mere mortal. Such titles were of little interest to him compared to the true loyalty of his people. For him, the authority of four crowns was enough.



Now that the Goths had put down roots and integrated with the local communities, their huge numbers were made more obvious than they ever were on the step. The northern Indus valley came to be dominated by them, to the extent that the Punjabis in the mountains were quickly overwhelmed and outnumbered. Large numbers of Gothikoi had also settled in west Sogdia and northern Parthia, but the Kashmiris in the Caucasus Indicus were more resistant to allowing Gothikoi to move in, and the environment was far less hospitable to newcomers.



To the south, where Theodoric intended to finish what Alexander started, a few large kingdoms held hegemonic control over the continent. The greatest was Rashtrakuta, the largest kingdom in the world at the time, which presided over the entire Deccan plateau. Pratihara, once mighty, had been whittled down to a border territory to its northeast, separating Rashtrakuta from Rajputana, a middling power hemmed in by the Sultan of Sindh, Theodoric’s son-in-law and ally. The eastern region, called Bengal, was controlled by the powerful Pala dynasty, who were locked in a decades’ long race to overpower their neighbors faster than their rivals in Rashtrakuta. They controlled the delta of the sacred Ganges river, whose fertile valleys further up the river were owned by the Ayudha family, including some of the holiest sites in Buddhism and Hinduism, and some of the most heavily-populated regions in all of India. The old Indo-Greeks had viewed these lands as worthy of conquering, and Theodoric tended to agree.



At first glance, it seemed the status quo would be difficult to shake. But the mighty kingdoms of Bengal and the Deccan were more fragile than they seemed, and so focussed on maintaining their sprawling holdings that they had little attention to spare for events in the northeast, where a power vacuum was waiting to be filled.



The change to feudal life took its toll on Theodoric, who was forced to hold court far more than he ever had before. With his autonomous clan chiefs replaced by vassal lords, and disputes expected to be resolved by law and statecraft instead of by the blade and bow, the King was called on to be a judge more often than a general, a role he found did not suit him.

After the uprising in 795, Theodoric had realized he couldn’t hope to hold onto the western territories forever, especially with the intervening lands held by the Abbasids. The way north around the Caspian was far longer, and still required passage through the lands of hostile lords, albeit ones weaker than the Caliph. But thanks to the elevation of Theophanes over Thrace, many capable lords had presented themselves as potential rulers over Hellas. Epirus, Hellas, Thrace, and Anatolia were all granted independence under kings. Most notably, Theodoric’s son Andronikos expressed an interest to remain in the old world, and a capability for rulership. He was granted the troubled kingdom of Anatolia, where Theodoric was sure he could achieve greatness.



The steppe was also slipping from King Theodoric’s control now that his riders had taken houses and started families. Theodoric couldn’t hope to govern the wild steppe from Theodorion, and he had no intentions of turning around. Control of the land up to the border of Sogdia was given over to the Soldaia clan, a longtime ally of the Kappadoki. Liutva, their chief and brother of Queen Adriane, took the title Khagan, solidifying the notion that those Gothikoi who remained on the steppe had embraced the lifestyle of barbaroi.



Even if the Bactrian Goths had adopted a more ‘civilized’ lifestyle in India, Theodoric had no intentions of slowing down his conquests. The re-organization into Bactria had taken two years, and in that time his vassals were able to assert enough control over the land to provide him with levies to form a traditional feudal army. Theodoric called them up and marched east through the Indican mountains, circumventing Sindh to attack the Ayudha rulers of the central Ganges valley.


(I hadn’t finished modding in the Bactria title before declaring war and was using Parthia/Khorasan for the main title, hence our green colored territory)

At issue was glory for Bactria, but also the cities of Delhi and Mathura. Both were developed and wealthy, and also centers of religious thought for both Hindus and Buddhists. Many of the gurus and monks Theodoric had spoken to urged him to visit the temple at Krishnajanmaabhoomi, where Krishna himself was born. To see it was to believe in the provenance of the Hindu gods over India and the world, supposedly. The King had more in mind than a pilgrimage: if he was warden of their holy sites, the Hindu-believers would understand his mercy and bow to him more easily. They would also understand that threatening him was threatening the safety of their holy place. Further down the Ganges was Varanasi, sacred to Buddhists for Sarnath, the deer park where their ‘Buddha’ first spoke the ‘Dharma’. The intricacies of what that meant were lost to Theodoric, but he best understood it as something like Eusebia or Arete: a way of life and action that was pleasing to the Gods and beneficial to one’s soul. It was intriguing, but ultimately, the material usefulness of Sarnath vastly outweighed theological concerns. King Theodoric made it an objective.



In late 802, the province was fully occupied, and the Ayudha were too occupied with rebellious vassals to dispute Kappadoki rule in Vodamayutja. Though the landholding lords were expelled, Theodoric was careful to put in place nobles who were sympathetic to the Buddhists and Hindus.

When he returned to court, there was horrible news from the west:


The ringleader of the conspirators escaped and fled deep into Arabia, but the others were killed piecemeal by warriors dispatched from Profiteia, lead by Theodoric’s bastard with Viviana, who shared his name. No fewer than a hundred conspirators were killed by Theodoric the Bastard, culminating in a horrible battle between the Bastard and the Count of Smyrna, a chief supporter of the conspiracy.

Victorious, Theodoric returned to Profiteia and was granted a duchy by his father, who wanted to keep the ambitious bastard close at hand. A competent lord in Anatolia was set up as the new King, and Theodoric the Elder washed his hands of the west.



Andronikos had been the first of Theodoric’s children to die, and it affected him deeply. Crown Prince Hektor held court for him on many occasions when he was ‘too busy’ terrorizing his squires in explosive training sessions or riding out to war on a whim. More than ever, Theodoric had become a ghost of a man, only ever himself while in the throes of battle, cleaving his enemies apart. He dropped all pretense at theological study or of ruling his kingdom, leaving Prince Hektor to rule as regent in his stead.

Though not dissimilar to his father, Hektor was his own man, and was more suspicious of his father’s heretical retainers. Though Ioulianos had retired as Augur and replaced by the Hiereus of Oddiyana, Hektor sought his counsel often. For his part, Ioulianos had softened on the Hindus and Buddhists, who he had found to have much wisdom of their own. He understood Theodoric’s pursuit of their knowledge wasn’t evil or unvirtuous, but his desire to turn that esoteric knowledge into material power had corrupted him. What wisdom there was in the Dharma had passed through the King’s fingers like air, and he hadn’t noticed its passing.



Theodoric’s later conquests through to 810 brought Mathura and Delhi under Bactrian control, and Varanasi within sight. The passing of the Sindhi sultan and a rebellion for the throne prompted an invasion of the central Indus valley. Soon Theodoric would go further than Menander ever did, bringing the torch of Olympus all the way to Sarnath. But another opportunity would arise first.



Liuva of the Caulita Clan of Gothika had helped Theodoric formulate a plan to topple the fragile empire in Tibet with a small group of elite Olympian Champions. Lead by the legendary King Theodoric, and taking advantage of the ongoing rebellions across the Tibetan plateau, they could march all the way to the Emperor’s court at Lhasa, depose him, and open up a path to China. Even Alexander could scarcely have dreamed of conquering so much. For all its lofty dangers, King Theodoric believed such an adventure could succeed, especially with the foremost warriors in the known world willing to follow him on it.

Prince Hektor remained as regent in Profiteia, presiding over the funeral of Ioulianos in his father’s stead. He was relieved, in a way, that his father had left and would be distracted for a long time with his pursuits in Tibet. The levies of Bactria were exhausted and the vassals tired of fighting so many wars in so little a time. None dared challenge the legendary king who had led them from the steppe to the land prophesied to them so long before, but that could change.

King Theodoric and his expedition, less than a hundred men of whom most had come from the steppe, tore across the Tibetan plateau. Their horsemanship and small numbers gave them a great advantage in avoiding the forces of the Tibetan emperor, and breaking them with lightning strikes and ambushes when they couldn’t avoid them.

They were only a few miles out from Lhasa when they came upon the Emperor’s elite guard troop, who had been tipped off about the direction the expedition was taking. They were headed off at the end of a long pass, one too long to turn back without risking being trapped. Though outnumbered 3-to-1, Theodoric and his men prepared for battle.

In the night, the Gothikoi charged the Tibetans at a wooded area of the pass to inflict maximum chaos. Despite the rain of arrows and the bands of wild horsemen taking isolated troops in the night, the commander of the Tibetans, Baliraja, held firm. His men hadn’t sat idly waiting for the Goths; they had dug pits and put up spikes to delay or kill careless horsemen. When Baliraja and Theodoric caught sight of each other, they fought briefly before the Tibetan fled. Theodoric narrowly avoided a trap he was trying to lure him into, then continued after the man.

Because of the difficulty of the terrain, Baliraja could move faster than Theodoric’s horse. He abandoned it after a few minutes and gave chase on foot, narrowly avoiding a second attempt at trickery: Baliraja had clambered down an invisible descent by a cliff, thinking the King might sprint right over the ledge. He stopped just in time and saw the Tibetan at the bottom, his sword drawn, but facing away from the cliff. Barely visible in the moonlight before him was a tiger, its shoulders low, getting ready to pounce on the man!

It sprang forward, cutting a deep gash in Baliraja’s chest. At the same time, the man had shifted his weight to the side, narrowly avoiding a death blow while cutting across the tiger’s body from shoulder to haunch. It hit the ground and slumped there.

Theodoric had never seen anything like it. He knew to best such a skilled opponent, he would need every advantage he could take. Though difficult to spot in the dark, he found the footholds Baliraja had used and descended the sheer cliff quickly. From some ten feet up, he leaped down over the Tibetan’s head, landing with a deft roll behind him, his sword drawn and ready to deliver a killing blow.



The expedition fled after the battle at Jelep La with Theodoric’s body. The mauled corpse was given over to his son, the new King of Bactria, Hektorios I. A month of mourning commenced throughout Bactria and Sogdia-Parthia, now separate kingdoms under Hektor and Alexandros. Khan Liuta, Theodoric’s aide-de-camp, had found him just in time to pass on his last words to his sons:” Óles oi pyrkagiés pethaínoun.”



In addition to the two kings, Theodoric had left behind a half dozen bastard children, and no sooner was the King’s body cold than his vassals began to wonder about the authority of his sons in comparison to their younger, weaker half-siblings. At the coronation of Hektorios I in the fall of 816, no one could see what lay on the other side of the obvious turmoil ahead.
 
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HistoryDude

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Bactria and Sogdia-Parthia are now separate kingdoms...

Let’s see how successful Bactria can be in India - and if they can get revenge on Tibet eventually...
 
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slothinator

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And so the empire splinters like that of Alexandros...
That was a fun final duel, one should always keep an eye out for tigers.
I have sensed some hints of syncretism early on. I’m curious about your chapter on religion!
 
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World Update #1 - 800 CE

Doctor Baby

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Let's roll back the clock a few years to see what was going on at the turn of the century...

World Update - 800 CE

The latter half of the 8th century was a time of great upheaval and conflict in every corner of Europe, from the religious conflicts in Iberia and India to the perpetual war between Greeks and Serbians over dominance of the southern Balkans.



Among the most consequential shifts was the centralization of the Hellenic faith into the hands of Theodoric of Bactria, and the subsequent change in the foundational aspect of the faith. Proselytization of the faith before Theodoric’s reforms mostly took the form of retelling the myths of ancient Hellas, which was ineffective at conversion, and the lack of a church hierarchy made the enforcement of doctrine impossible. Old Hellenism was whatever its practitioners wanted it to be, which made it easy prey for the more organized religions that arose after it.

By formalizing the canon of the Hellenic faith into To Chronikó ton Thrýlon (more commonly called the Legends) in 799 and creating a hereditary title for himself as head of the church - Diafotistis - King Theodoric and his descendants would transform the religion. The hierarchy of the church was established, and all of its Hierei were subordinated or made lay clergy. All temples and temple grounds were made contractually the property of the Gods, held in trust by the Diafotistis and administered by the Arkhierei, their Hierei in turn, and so on. At the turn of the century, the newly-formalized Hellenism, called Olympianism (or Olimpya Dharma in India, which would inform the common exonym for the religion - Olimpyan ) was easily recognizable to those who studied the classics, though King Theodoric had incorporated a mythologized history of Alexander the Great into the Legends that suggested he was the demigod son of Athena.

The Gothikoi Kings would work tirelessly to spread the faith, entrenching it in Parthia, Sogdia, and the western Hindu Kush by 800 CE. The Silk Road and the movement of steppe Goth mercenaries brought these reforms back to the west, past the Volga and Bosporus. If any of these new ideas were considered outlandish, there was no one to provide a counter authority to the Diafotistis, who was also the most powerful Hellenic ruler in the world in the first decades that such a title existed. His vision for the Temple, for better or worse, would be enacted from Delhi to Thessalonike.



Bactria, centered at Theodorion, was at a crossroads of faith, culture, and intercontinental trade. The Gothikoi had settled in the Indicus mountains in large numbers, squeezing out many of the Punjabi Buddhists, who then integrated with the Hindus in the valley. Sunni Islam had also spread along the banks of the Indus thanks to the patronage of Sindh, but failed to penetrate into the dry country. On the western slope of the Indicus mountains, the Buddhist Sogdians and Pashtuns had resisted the Gothikoi more fiercely. In the central region of what the Bactrians called Arachosia, some of the Pashto-speakers still worshipped Zun, a solar deity associated with the once-ruling Zunbil dynasty. These Zunists had also resisted any settling of Gothikoi in their lands, and were reluctant subjects to their new overlords.




Bactria was the undisputed power in the region, having just bested its closest competitor, the Abbasid Caliphate, in order to pry Parthia from its control. None of the Indian Rajas nor the Tibetan lords could summon a force of comparable numbers to the Bactrians, let alone the question of quality - Gothikoi horsemen were among the most skilled in the world, and Bactria still had many of them at her command.




The Abbasid Caliphate had recovered somewhat from the Shia uprising, but was still weak relative to its size. Most of its land was actually held by the Muhallabid Sultan of Egypt and Arabia, who controlled all of the Caliphate’s territory outside of Syria and the Levant, and was not always eager to help his liege lord in times of war given his outsize power. With diplomatic marriages being secured in Ifriqiya as well, it was the Muhallabids, and not the Abbasids, who truly threatened the Gothikoi.



Iberia and Africa remained stable under Muslim rule. Unable to secure aid from their neighbors due to chaos in France and Britain, the Christian kingdom of Asturias in the north of Iberia was being driven into the sea by the unrelenting assault of the Umayyads.



The wars of the Karlings had taken their toll on the rest of mainland western Europe, which had fractured between Agilolfing Lombardy, Karling Saxony, and France under a resurgent Merovingian dynasty. Despite the northwards march of the Umayyads, which seemed likely to spill over the Pyrenees into Aquitaine, the Frankswere consumed with their own struggles against one another for dominance.


In the Balkans, Serbia had reined in its adventuring lords, as promised, and channeled them into expanding the Kingdom itself. Wallachia was completely absorbed, as was most of Bulgaria, and the westen tip of the Pontic Steppe. The Serbiand had assumed an expansionist posture, and their energies seemed to be focused squarely on the steppes, perhaps out of fear of another Theodoric rising up and looking West again.

In neighboring Pannonia, Queen Desislava, Theodoric’s granddaughter, struggled to keep her realm together through a regency council. The rebellious Duke of Nitra had already broken free, robbing Pannonia of a large portion of its territory and wealth. The remaining vassals schemed behind the Regent’s back to depose the Queen and install an adult to the throne for the good of the realm. If that weren’t enough, the population of Pannonia was composed mostly of Tengri Avars with no respect for their Pagan Serbian overlords. From his throne in Profiteya, there was little Theodoric could do to help Desislava, and no others around were inclined to pick up the slack.


Religions


Cultures

Independent Realms
 
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Nice to know what’s happening!

Does Reformed Hellenism prefer Homer or Hesiod, I wonder?

The Goths seem pretty obsessed with Alexander...
 
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Part V

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Interlude on the Enlightenment of Hektor

King Hektorios looked out from the royal balcony over Profiteya with a feeling of anguish. It wasn’t supposed to have happened like this. To think that his father, a legend in the flesh, could come so close to his greatest victory only to be cut down by a low animal gave Hektor many doubts. Had the Gods betrayed him? Or had Theodoric forgotten them in that blighted land of godless heathens, where he most needed the light of Helias? Maybe it was something more chaotic, and disconcerting: perhaps the Fates had simply willed the random and unseemly death of their Gods’ greatest champion without a reason.

The door behind him opened softly, and the aching footsteps of an aged man echoed against the bannister. It was Ioulianos, every minute of his venerable age showing in his posture, his wrinkles, and his careful gait. His full hair and beard had retreated, abandoning his scalp to baldness and his jaw to a thin covering of dark grey threads. He respectfully muttered his presence to the new King, who looked over his shoulder at the former High Augur. Ioulianos had retired a short time before Theodoric’s Tibetan excursion, an event of some note because of the Augur’s long service to the Kappdokis. Rumors emerged that the Augur and the King had fallen out, but to see him now, Hektor thought it was more likely that Ioulianos had simply gotten too old to manage the spiritual affairs of the realm.

“Hektor, your highness, I am glad to see you,” he said, his little voice a shell of its former grandiose self.

“And I, you, Ioulianos. You look healthy,” said Hektor.

“Thank you, your highness. I’ve been blessed with longevity, ‘tis true, but my mobility has, ah, suffered a bit.”

“I see that as well,” said Hektor, smirking. “You can stay here awhile, and you’ll have no need of it.”

Hektor summoned a servant who fetched the two men chairs and a table, with bread and spiced tea. It was morning and the sun was finally beginning to peak over the mountains, long-heralded by the light peeking out from between and around them. Ioulianos didn’t say so, but seemed very grateful to be able to sit down.

“Did you and my father argue before he left?” asked Hektor.

“Ah, yes,” said Ioulianos. “His majesty and I had many disagreements these last years. I’ve come to agree with his thinking more than I did when he was alive to appreciate it.”

“In what way?”

“I was too rigid about our ways not becoming theirs. The Hindus, the Buddhists, I saw no brotherhood with them. Their ways and gods seemed so alien to me. I was, ah, offended, when his majesty named himself the ‘Enlightened One’, Diafotistis. He wondered if Megas Alexandros could be a ‘Buddha’ to those who believe in such things. He compared the aspects of Helios and a Hindu god, ah, Sourios I think, and drew parallels. But I speak out of turn, your highness. Your father was devout, as am I. We obey our Gods.”

“Speak freely, Ioulianos,” said Hektor. “You have served Olympus your entire life. None could question your devotion.”

Ioulianos took a long drink, finishing his cup of tea despite having barely sipped it before. It reminded Hektor of a nervous man gulping wine before doing something foolish, though Ioulianos was not easily accused of foolishness. He said, after clearing his throat, “Before the Exodos, our faith was nearly extinct. The Oracle at Douros gave her prophecy to less than a hundred men on a barren hilltop, all apostates to our Christian brothers. It seemed hopeless then to all but Vitigis, your ancestor, who organized the families into clans, saw them all outfitted, and marched them across sea and steppe to a new homeland. They kept the faith alive because of their discipline, and their devotion to preserving the old legends exactly as they knew them. Any deviation could cause a thousand years’ wisdom to be lost.

“I held to this as the best way, and I advised his majesty, ah, as such. But the further we grew from Gothia, the further I thought we were from our Gods, and from Godly people. Of course, there is a New Olympos somewhere in the Indicus, but you can’t see it. The people who live by it have never heard of the Gods who reside there. His majesty saw things I couldn’t. We know the stories of Zeus and his travels on Earth. But do we know all of them? Who are we mortals to say he isn’t ‘Indros’? I worried that His majesty would declare it so, as Diafotistis. But he saw no need to. This was just an idea to him, one I refused to even consider before, because I had no answer for it.

“It is the least I can do, out of respect for his majesty, to consider it. I, ah, must acknowledge that I have no power over the Gods, nor over you, to declare what is and isn’t, or what can or can not be. Perhaps we had ‘Buddhas’ long ago, and lost that wisdom over the eons. Perhaps we already worship the same Gods in different ways. I am not sure anymore, and I don’t have enough time to worry about it. You will though, and you must. Now you are ‘the Enlightened One’, as your father was before you.”

Hektorios had more questions for Ioulianos, but waited awhile to ask them. The sun was over the mountains now, and the view of Profiteya in the morning light gave a viewer much to observe.





Part V - King Hektorios I
816 CE


Buddha statue created during the first Indo-Greek Kingdom, 1st–2nd century CE; with paint traces dated to 8th-9th century CE





Theodoric’s death split his realm in two. Hektor held Bactria and Indicus, the two Kingdoms most-integrated by the Goths, but the loss of Parthia and Sogdia was difficult to simply accept. West of the mountains, everything but Zabulistan went to Alexandros, whose control was tenuous due to the resistance of the Muslims to Gothikoi rule.



Like his brother in Bactria, Alexandros was a warrior, not a negotiator, and rumors swirled that he had issued a challenge to his belligerent subjects: if any appointed champion of the Muslims could best him in single combat, both Kingdoms would be his. If it was true, no one was excited to face the son of Theodoric the Conqueror, himself a great warrior and veteran of many battles.

There were other, more nefarious rumors as well. In the early months of his reign, a courtier whispered in King Hektor’s ear that his brother had dispatched agents to undermine his rule in any way possible. Not even murder was off-limits. This sounded outlandish to the King at first, but the rumors continued, and expanded in scope to include Hektor’s family. When Queen Mother Adriane came to Hektor and warned him about a concrete plan to assassinate Theodoric, his son and heir, he could deny the threat no more.




It was early 817, and Hektor had not held the throne for a full year yet, but he had already made plans to continue his father’s conquests. He had understood the Legends and the Prophecy of Doros as a call to conquer as much as he could, just like the Megas Alexandros. His father's efforts to emulate and surpass Alexander only reinforced this idea. To his dying day, King Theodoric had worked to spread the light of the Gods to every dark corner of the world. Hektor would do no different.

The riders were summoned, and the call went out to the vassals: assemble in Delhi with every man who can fight and a spear for each of them. Theodoric rode out at the head of the Army of Bactria, only a few months ahead of schedule. Behind him, in secret, his family followed, with a circle of trusted courtiers and retainers all sworn to secrecy. Hektor’s family took up residence with the courtiers in the keep of the lord of Delhi, which had been vacant except for a skeleton garrison since Theodoric took the province in 809. Delhi effectively became the secret capital of Bactria, though the secret wouldn't last for long.



There was little time to hold court in the new keep. The army hadn’t been called upon to sit idle outside the city. No sooner had King Hektor and his commanders arrived in Delhi than did they leave again, marching their army east.



Tibet had fallen on hard times since their loss of Kashmir to the Gothikoi. The Zhangzhung people of the western plateau had declared themselves independent of the empire, and had the manpower to force the issue. The Tibetan emperor had turned his gaze south, to the weaker lords of north India, and had managed to conquer a large swathe of territory that crossed the Ganges at Varanasi. Within this territory was one of the holiest places in all of Buddhism, the deer park at Sarnath, where the Buddha was said to have first taught the Dharma to his followers.

The eastern religions were of great interest to Hektor, especially after he took the throne and became acquainted with his father’s menagerie of ‘bikkhus’ and ‘swamis’. Though none of them succeeded in converting him to their ways, he was fascinated with the ways the Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains all intertwined themselves and their history. From a strategic point of view, it seemed that the true way of the eastern faiths was to acknowledge some universal truth together, and vie for supremacy on that common ground. Regardless of how he intended to handle the other religions in the continent, taking Sarnath would be a great boon to Olympus, and the kingdom. And it would be easy, relatively; the conquest of Ayudha had only weakened the Tibetan Empire as it struggled to contain its new, rebellious subjects.

After the army had finished departing from Delhi, Hektor’s regent, Herakleios of Kuma, noted that their presence had greatly altered the makeup of the city.



By the thousands, the Hindus of Delhi had been called up to join the levies, or else fled the city with their families. At the same time, the Gothikoi families of men in the army, as well as the families of courtiers and vassals in the know about the King moving his court, had followed him to Delhi and found much of the city and its supporting towns lightly populated or abandoned. This spurred on further movement of Gothikoi to the region to take the abandoned property of the Hindus, incidentally turning Delhi into a majority Gothikoi region. This was somewhat to the chagrin of King Hektor, who had hoped escaping his countrymen would also escape their scheming, but he wouldn’t realize what had happened until he returned from the war.



While the Gothikoi were marching on Ayudha, a rebellion throughout the Tibetan empire had broken what little strength the defenders could have theoretically mustered. After his father’s example, Hektor barred his men from pillaging the countryside due to the immiseration the peasants there were already suffering. He also hoped a kindness now might be repaid later, as he intended to make the Ayudha lands around the Ganges his own at some future point.

The army of Bactria met what remained of the Tibetan forces to the far southeast of Varanasi, in the province of Rothas, and defeated them soundly with few losses. Hopeless in the face of the invasion the Tibetan Emperor sued for peace soon after.



The adherents of the eastern religions didn’t take this conquest lightly. Despite the light hand Hektor had shown to the people of Ayudha and Varanasi in particular, the Jains, Buddhists, and Hindus each each began to form militant orders devoted to the protection of their holy sites against the Olympians. King Hektorios regarded this as less of a theological reaction than a material one: Bactria wasn’t a threat to Buddhism, or to Buddhists, but the centralized power of the Diafotistis made Olympianism flexible and powerful in the long term.

During the long march back to the new court at Delhi, Hektor began to plan for a response to the aggression of the Sarmanes. While he had been at war, matters through the kingdom had been stable, and he felt more secure in his rule with a victory attributable to himself as king. Next he would assert himself as the Diafotistis, as soon as the opportunity arose.

Back at court, Hektor scoured the knowledge of the eastern religions and the history of the Greeks in India for items of interest. Menander was a frequent reference. In his reign, he had attempted to resolve the conflict between Hellenic ideals and Buddhist ones by adopting Buddhism, or some aspects of it at least. Hektor would never abandon the Gods or elevate a dead philosopher’s memory over them, but he wondered if Dharma and Karma were really that different from Arete and Eusebeia.

The emperor Ashoka, who had once ruled a realm at least as large as Bactria, had followed a similar path to Menander and converted to Buddhism. The evidence for this was much more concrete than in Menander’s case: his edicts survived as inscribed on pillars, of which Hektor controlled 5, and described his conversion and his desire to spread the Dharma through his empire. The realm saw relative peace in this time as Hektor focused his efforts on development, and his vassals’ wars were small in scale.



In 819, while inspecting the aftermath of an earthquake in a town near Delhi, the King was approached by a peasant named Hari, who led him to his farm and showed him a great crevice that had opened in the Earth. The smell of sulfur wafted from it. Looking down the hole, one could see the light of flames reflected on the walls, though neither the fires nor the bottom were visible.

The King and his retainers made camp, and the wisest advisors to the court were called from Delhi. Among them were Philomenes, the storyteller much-respected by the late King Theodoric, who advised a sacrifice be made to Hades, king of the underworld, who must have been displeased. Cows were sent for, despite the offense this caused the Hindus in particular, who preached non-violence against all animals. For all the similarities he had searched for between the Goths and the Hindus, this was one Hektor had never managed to reckon with; sacrifice of animals was an ancient, venerated practice among the Goths, something that pleased the Gods of Olympus.

There was further debate during the second day on what should be done with the cattle that were brought in. Hektor favored Philomene’s suggestion to sacrifice a tenth of them in the traditional manner of a Cthonian sacrifice, where the blood was made to drain down into a cavern or crevice for the underworld Gods. After a day, if the tenth of cattle hadn’t made any change, more should be sacrificed, and so on, up to the entire herd. Failure at that point would require another divination as to the nature of the crevice.

The Hindu faction, among whom the priest Rishaan had emerged as leader, argued vociferously against harming the cattle. Instead, they said dairy cows should be brought in and their milk given to the demon in the ground to satiate it; otherwise, a great amount of ghee should be sacrificed to ask the god Vishnu for protection from the demon. Philomenes and the Olympians disagreed that it was a ‘demon’ in the ground, or at least an evil one.

On the second night, Hari the peasant came to King Hektor and asked him to come and look at the crevice again, claiming he had seen something inside it. Hektor went and peered down into the otherworldly glow. He couldn’t see anything at first, so he knelt down to see closer. He leaned dangerously over the edge, where the smallest push would have sent him plummeting down into it.

There was something there after all. Something small at first. A point of darkness where the wall should have been. Hektor tried to make it out, and perceived it as larger than before, though it hadn’t really grown. It was both there and not there. It was further and further in the foreground of his vision, ethereal and solid at the same time. Finally he could make out eyes, coal black, themselves containing an infinite abyssal depth. For a nose, it had a disgusting snout above a mouth of twisted, yellow teeth. Heaps of jewelry were hung around its muscular neck, which connected its bestial visage to the body of a large man, whose dress was that of a warrior of no clan or state. Hektor had never seen anything like it, but the name came to him in an instant: Kali, the root of all evil, the father of Fear and Hell. Hektor felt himself being pulled into the chasm by this dark and evil spirit. A coldness came over him even as he sweat and panted and screamed, and his soul began to slip out of his body.

Hari grabbed the king and pulled him away from the pit in a panic. Hektor shot up as if from a nightmare. The Royal cataphracts came running at the sound, their weapons drawn on Hari, until Hektor gestured for them to leave him. He explained what he had seen to Hari, who suggested he follow the advice of the Hindu priests if he had seen a Hindu demon. But Hektor didn’t listen to him. A terror had settled in his heart, and Hektor felt that the hunger of Kali had to be sated immediately. There was no time for milk or butter.

As calmly as he could, the king ordered the soldiers bring the cattle to the crevice and push them in, and to do so quickly before the pujanis could object.



The cows let out agonizing cries as they fell into the pit one-by-one, disappearing into the ghostly light down below. About three dozen had been thrown in when the ground began to violently shake, and the crevice closed.

Hektor didn’t speak to any of the priests, Olympian or otherwise, about what had happened. He gathered the cataphracts and left that very night for Delhi, frequently looking over his shoulder. He told no one what he had seen in the chasm, but all who knew him thought he looked and acted strangely on his return, shutting himself away, speaking to few people, and exploding into panicked gibbering or retreating to his chambers whenever pressured.



While the king’s mental state was declining, his Companion Council conspired behind his back to manage the realm’s affairs. By 822, vassals openly spoke of the king’s “illness”, and began to look to Sogdia, where King Alexandros was faced with the third successive wave of revolts against his rule to install one of Theodoric’s bastards. Drastic action would be necessary to secure Bactria against similar unrest. Like the Dukes and Lords, the Companion council looked to Sogdia...

 
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