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HistoryDude

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So, I've had this idea for a while now, and I've finally decided to post it.

This will be a narrative AAR dealing with the exploits of the Julio-Argeads in the Despotate of Romania and the Eastern Roman Empire. I'm starting where the official LI timeline ends, in 1020 AD, so it might be a while before we actually reach gameplay.

Edit: I do appreciate comments and advice on my writing, by the way.
 
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Chapter 1

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Julian VII was worried. His father had just died, and the Empire was collapsing. He still controlled Constantinople, but how long could that last? The empire’s client kings and military governors alike were rejecting his authority. In addition, the Christians had called a Crusade for Judaea. These were dark times. If he wished to rule, he was going to have to cement his authority.

Where to start, though? Greece or Anatolia? He mulled over this for a short while. Finally, he decided that he was going to begin with Greece. Greece was the core of the Eastern Empire. That was where he would strike first. He smiled. He had a plan now, and that was good.

He was going to have to run this past his advisors. Of course, that meant that he would have to decide who his advisors were. The Senate still existed, but it was virtually powerless. He would not have the entire Senate as his advisors, anyways. The Senate could never agree on anything, so they would make terrible advisors. However, some Senators could be his advisors. He was going to have to check on the Senate, see which Senators would be good advisors…

“Yes,” he thought. “That was a good idea. When was the next Senate meeting?”

He decided to check. The information was not hard to find. Apparently, there was a Senate meeting very soon. He would attend this to see which Senators were reasonable.

The Senate meeting was a complete mess, as he had expected. The Senators spent most of the time arguing with each other instead of getting anything done. However, there were, thankfully, some voices of reason. These were drowned out by the arguers, but Julian VII had spotted them. He knew that they would make good advisors. Now, all he needed to do was contact them, and he did so by writing them letters.

The Senators that he wanted to be advised by were named Alexios and Leonidas. Leonidas was allegedly a representative of Sparta in the Senate, but Sparta was outside of current Imperial jurisdiction. Of course, very few of the governors that had seceded from the Empire had withdrawn their senators.

Alexios, by contrast, ostensibly served as Senator on behalf of Constantinople’s citizens. However, the various senators had long since ceased to serve their technical constituents’s interests. They had ceased to do so even before the Senate had lost its power.

Anyways, they would advise Emperor Julian VII on how to run the Empire. Julian, meanwhile, began to consider what his borders are. It seems that he only controls Constantinople itself, directly, and the only vassal to remain loyal is the Duke of Thrace. That was very bad news.

However, there was a good side to all of this. As Judaea no longer answered to Constantinople, Constantinople was not obligated to protect Judaea. This meant that the Crusade was no longer the Emperor’s concern. As such, he could focus all of his energies on beginning the Empire’s restoration.

He scheduled his first meeting with his two advisors for a week later. That gave him a week to make plans, and he wouldn’t waste that opportunity.

A week had passed, and Julian VII invited his new advisors into the Imperial Palace.

“So,” Julian VII began. “I would like advice on some of my plans for the restoration of our empire… Let’s begin, shall we?”

“Indeed, we should” a tall and clean-shaven man commented. This was Alexios.

“Agreed,” a man of average height and with a small beard said. This was Leonidas.

“Right,” Julian VII said. “So, we have the Catholics preparing for a giant invasion of Palestina. Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with that right now.”

“Why not?” Alexios asked. “The Catholics are saying that it is a holy war. Should we not aid our co-religionists?”

“They are,” Julian VII replied. “But they are disloyal. They are currently rebelling against us. If they wanted our protection so much, then they wouldn’t have seceded from us. They will get no aid, and that is final.”

“Very well,” Alexios demurred. “However, the Empire has almost completely collapsed already. Where will you begin its reclamation?”

“I plan to begin in Greece,” Julian VII began. “But I’m open to suggestions.”

“Greece sounds fine,” Leonidas commented. He was biased, of course, being from Sparta. However, he did have other reasons for why Greece was better than Anatolia. He promptly voiced these. “Greece is divided into many small states, whereas Anatolia, the other target for expansion, has a few larger states.”

“Indeed,” Alexios agreed. “Greece would provide us with troops from which to launch the reconquest of Anatolia after it has been conquered.”

“Very well, then,” Julian VII decided. “I shall begin reclaiming Greece. Rome will recover from this debacle.”

He left, and he began to plan for many wars...
 
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Chapter 2

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Emperor Julian VII had just finished a meeting with his new advisors. He had decided that Greece would be his first target for expansion. However, Julian VII wanted to give his men morale. As such, he would fight with them personally. He would accompany them on campaigns.

But campaigns to where? He needed a specific location than just “Greece”. There were many minor states in Greece. Of course there were. The numerous Greek cities all had self-identities. They had been either independent or Roman for ages.

However, that also presented a problem. The Greek cities enjoyed their newfound independence, and they were likely to fight hard to keep it. He was confident that he could defeat some of them, but that would take a lot of time.

On the other hand, he could begin by attacking Tylis. That would gain him much territory. In addition, Tylis was a state that was used to being a vassal to larger states. That meant that they would not fight as much as the Greek cities would. However, that also presented a problem. Tylis might submit to him easily, but, if its chiefs saw that he was weakening at someone else’s hands, they would be quick to defect. In short, he could take Tylis quite easily. It would be much harder to hold it.

Ergo, Tylis was out of the question for now. They’d probably fold soon enough once his campaigns started, anyways. To the Empire’s immediate west, Thessalonica had established its independence… and its authority over all of Thessaly. They would be a good first target. However, there were also various states in the Aegean. They would make a good base from which to strike across the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, if the Empire had scattered territories across the Mediterranean, it would be far too overextended, and it would lose territory at least as quickly as it gained territory. That was something Emperor Julian VII most definitely wanted to avoid.

He began to prepare his armies. The legions had been lost with the de-facto collapse of the Empire, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t create new ones. He then figured that he should probably double check his plan with his advisors.

He called both of them into his palace. Then, he began the meeting.

“Right,” Julian VII began. “I’ve called you here for advice. Here’s our situation. We plan to begin our Imperial restoration by attacking Greece. However, Greece is divided into many petty states. I wish to know which to attack first.”

“Well,” Alexios responded. “What is your current plan?”

“I plan to attack Thessalonica first,” Julian VII answered. “Why?”

“Just curious,” Alexios responded. “That plan sounds fine.”

“Why Thessalonica and not the Aegean states?” Leonidas wondered. “You can seize control of much more of the Mediterranean Sea with the Aegean as a springboard.”

“That is true,” Julian VII acknowledged. “But, if we take over much of the Mediterranean, we become overextended - we can’t defend all of our borders.”

“Fair,” Leonidas began. “However, many of our former vassal realms and governors will acknowledge our authority once more if we take initiative.”

“Fair point,” Julian VII responded. “But they will only acknowledge my personal authority - and will revolt immediately after my death. My successors will have to continue proving their strength, and, once some people get a taste of freedom, they won’t be very inclined to give it up. In short, we can’t be everywhere at once, and, if we try to secure the entire Eastern Mediterranean at once, we will have to be.”

“Logical,” Alexios commented. “Although attacking many states in succession will cause other states to form alliances - this could be bad because it makes it harder to conquer them, or good because it means we don’t have to fight as many wars.”

Leonidas shrugged and said, “I’m not one for military strategy. I think in more political terms.”

“Okay,” Julian VII said. “I’m sticking with my current path.”

“Right,” Alexios said. “But, my liege, you are planning on beginning a restoration of the legions, right?”

“Yes,” Julian VII said. He didn’t know where Alexios was going with this, or even how he knew. After some thought, he figured that Alexios probably knew from recruitment posters.

As Julian deduced that, Alexios was speaking. All Julian VII caught was, “...will command the legions?” He figured that the full question was “who will command the legions?”. That was a good question that he hadn’t quite considered.

Julian VII sighed, and, then, he admitted the truth. “I don’t know,” he answered.

“You’re going to need to figure it out,” Alexios warned. “And you’re going to have to do so quickly.”

“Also,” Leonidas chimed in. “You must ensure that you don’t give them too much glory or power. If you do, their loyalty to you will decrease, and you might have a revolt on your hands.”

Julian VII considered both of their statements. They both had good points, and he said as much. Then, he dismissed the meeting and left.

The points mentioned in his private meeting with his advisors haunted Julian VII for days. So far, he had only managed to raise one legion. It still needed a commander, but that must be a loyal commander. Or, given that there was only one legion, he could command it himself. Yes, that was what he would do. After all, he wasn’t about to revolt against himself, now, was he?

Of course, that was a temporary solution. Eventually, he would have multiple legions, and they would need commanders of their own. Thankfully, he didn’t need to deal with that now. He could check for advice with his advisors later, when such a course became necessary.

He did have a loyal vassal. However, said loyal vassal already had his own troops that he was commanding. He couldn’t let the Duke of Thrace command a legion under any circumstances. If he did, then it was likely that he would lose his throne, at least at the current moment. Perhaps, in the fullness of time, local governors would be allowed to lead legions, but that time was not here yet.

He sighed. Soon, war would come. Thessalonica would fall. He would begin the Restoration of the World once more, but his descendants would have to finish the process. Rome was not dead yet, and it would rise like a phoenix once more!
 
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Chapter 3

HistoryDude

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Shorter update today. Also, sorry for the wait!

Emperor Julian VII left his palace. He went to where his legion had been raised. The legion was on the outskirts of Constantinople. Many of the troops were ready for war. He would lead them. He would conquer Thessalonica. In due time, the world would once more be Roman! And this legion was the beginning of that. Many members would have their names carved into the annals of history.

As the legion marched to Thessalonica, Emperor Julian VII pondered over how it had come to this. How had the Roman Empire come to this? He sighed. He knew that answer, as much as he wished he didn’t. His father, Emperor Julian VI, had been assassinated. In addition, he’d persecuted the Christians for murdering his father and Basil II - or that was his justification for the persecution, anyways. This pissed off the Catholic Church.

His father’s last words (“Father, forgive me”) had not helped. Many took them as confirmation that he had killed the two previous emperors. There were other explanations of them, thankfully. It could’ve been a religious thing or requesting forgiveness for the collapse of the Empire.

Everybody had taken the opportunity to seize independence. No matter how good a commander he was, he couldn’t fight the entirety of the Empire. Thankfully, many of the new states also had animosity with each other. This meant that he could use Divida et Impera - Divide and Conquer.

He sighed. He should focus on the upcoming battle. What was done was done. He couldn’t change the past. However, he could change the future, and he had every intention to try.

Thessalonica was still miles away. Julian VII figured that he might as well try to converse with the troops under his command. The Legio I Thrakia had been trained a little bit to work as a group before war had been declared. However, most of the Thrakia was composed of loyalists to the Empire from the other legions, all of which had revolted during the Collapse. They had been trained before, and so they didn’t need much more training. Still, it would be good to know some of the people serving under him.

Of course, he didn’t only do this to be nice. He did have more pragmatic reasons. If he knew what those serving under him were like, he could group them together. He could make a better legion.

Just then, he realized that they’d been marching for a few days. He did have stops on his march to Thessalonica. These were places where the army would rest, recuperate, and get to know each other better. Julian VII knew that people who knew their comrades were going to defend them much more. It was always easier to accept the death of a faceless name. In addition, this also ensured that the army would be in top shape when they actually did face their opponents.
 
Chapter 4

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Julian VII decided that he would need to get to know some of the troops he was leading. He especially needed to know those that commanded troops themselves. He needed to know where everybody’s loyalties lied. To do that, he was going to have to be somewhat social. Luckily, they were taking breaks on the way to Thessalonica, so he had time to do so.

The army arrived at one of their pit stops. All of these were very similar. They were all small camps. The houses were not very fancy, but they could be lived in temporarily. They had been set up across most of the Eastern Roman Emperor in days long past. It had been so long ago that nobody remembered exactly when it had been.

The Emperor sighed. He might as well get this over with. He decided to talk to his second in command first. He didn’t actually know the guy, but he had to be good if the troops within the legion followed him. His second in command was alone, at least, so this shouldn’t be too awkward.

His second in command was a tall man. He had a Mediterranean complexion, and he looked exhausted. “Hmm,” Emperor Julian VII thought. “On second thought, maybe this isn’t the best idea. I should probably check the time.” He looked at the sky, and he saw that it was dark and that the stars were out. That meant it was nighttime, and he should probably rest.

The Emperor slept, but he didn’t dream. He awoke relatively late. He went to his second in command again now. Everybody was socializing, so this might be harder than he expected it to be, but it wouldn’t be impossible. It would also make his own socializing less suspicious. He studied his second in command again. He theorized that this man probably was originally from some sort of coast, as he had light skin. That also meant that it probably wasn’t a desert coast. That narrowed down where he came from, but not by much.

The Emperor sighed. He might as well just start the conversation. His second in command beckoned him over. He blinked. That was new. If he was completely honest, he kind of liked the change. It certainly made his current situation so much less awkward.

“Hey,” he said. “Why did you motion me over here?”

The man looked somewhat worried, but then he decided to speak, so Emperor Julian VII dismissed it. “I figured that you would want to talk to your second in command,” he commented. “The name is Georgios, by the way.”

“Okay,” Emperor Julian VII said. “You’re right, I did. Where are you from?” That was a loaded question, and both of them knew it. The implied question was why are you still loyal to the Empire, and both of them knew that.

As such, there was silence for a while. It was really awkward. Then, Georgios answered.

“I’m from Cyprus,” he said. He thought about how he should respond to the underlying question. “As for why I’m still loyal to the Eastern Roman Empire… well, that’s complicated.”

“Oh,” Emperor Julian VII leaned forward, “Do tell.”

“Okay,” Georgios said. He took a deep breath. “Your line of the Argeads comes from Cyprus, for one thing. That is mostly irrelevant nowadays, but it did influence my decision somewhat. Secondly, I knew that staying around the capital was my best chance of staying within the Empire, and I am still an Imperial loyalist above all else. Also, the capital was the safest place to be.”

“So, you’re loyal to the Empire,” Julian VII began. “And at least part of that has to do with where you are from and with where the Imperial dynasty is ultimately from. Also, what do you consider safe, exactly, considering that you’re currently on campaign?” Did the safety plan fall through, or…”

“No, it didn’t,” Georgios answered. “In my mind, this is relatively safe. War is what I know, but at least I don’t have to deal with the anarchy across most of the rest of the former Empire right now.”

“I see,” the Emperor said.

They sat in comfortable silence for a short while. Then, Georgios went back to socializing with the other troops. The Emperor thought that this was a good thing, although he didn’t have time to chat with everyone. He also thought that it was time to get marching again.

Soon enough, the army arrived near Thessalonica. Thessalonica did have an army defending it, so they couldn’t just take it in a siege. Of course, considering how new a state Thessalonica is, their army was probably minimally trained, so this battle would not be that difficult. That being said, the Thessalonicans did have better knowledge of the terrain, although the Emperor had had his troops scout out the terrain.

He needed to make a battle plan. Thankfully, he had all the information he needed in order to do so. Okay, so Thessalonica was a coastal city, and it had a mountain to its southeast. All he needed to do was to trap the Thessalonican army in between the mountain and the sea. “Hmm,” he thought. “How could I do that?”

Then, he realized it. He needed to make his army look like it was easy prey. If it did, the Thessalonican army would attack in the hope of forcing a quick end to the war. And they would get a quick end to the war - their defeat. He decided to put this plan into action.

It worked beautifully. The Thessalonicans attacked without considering where the battleground would be. His legion both outnumbered and outfought the Thessalonicans. The battle of Thessalonica was a massacre. The Legio I Thrakia suffered minimal casualties, while the Thessalonican army was almost completely annihilated. Emperor Julian VII received the Duke of Thessalonica’s surrender a week later. Now, he had to return to Constantinople to plan his next moves...
 
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Chapter 5

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Meanwhile, Leonidas and Alexios were suspicious. Some of their fellow senators were acting weird, and they didn’t know why. They were keeping an eye on the Queen of Cities while Emperor Julian VII was out on campaign.

It wasn’t the entire Senate that was acting weird, either. That meant that Alexios and Leonidas weren’t the only senators being kept out of the loop. In addition, it seemed that some senators knew more than others. They figured that there was probably a plot. But, if there was, what was its goal?

Something was going on, and Emperor Julian VII’s advisors were going to figure what.

Emperor Julian VII was returning to the capital. He would hold a triumph for his troops. That should help with his subjects' morale, especially so soon after the Eastern Roman Empire had almost completely collapsed.

However, he had recently gotten a letter. It was from Constantinople, but it didn’t specify who in the Queen of Cities it was from. He opened it. It was from his advisors, Alexios and Leonidas. They said that some of the Senate was acting weird, and they didn’t know why. The Emperor frowned. He did have a few ideas on why some Senators would act weird, but none of them were good. He decided that he would tell his advisors to keep an eye on the people who were acting weird. They would probably do that anyway, but it was better to be safe.

Alexios and Leonidas had, indeed, planned to keep an eye on the situation. They continued to attend Senate meetings, and they figured out exactly which Senators were acting weird. That would allow them to figure out what these Senators had in common, and, by extent, what they might be planning.

Alexios and Leonidas found that the Senators that were acting weird didn’t have a common goal at first glance. They were from many different factions. These factions weren’t obviously allies, either. Some of them were often at odds with each other. Emperor Julian VII’s two advisors frowned. They wondered what could get these factions working together.

Then, Leonidas realized the answer to that question. He quickly set up a meeting with Alexios to discuss their findings. Hopefully, Alexios had figured out some things on his own.

“So,” Alexios began. “What did you figure out?”

“All of the conspirators do have something in common,” Leonidas said.

Alexios leaned forward. “What?”

Leonidas sighed. “They all have some kind of grudge against the Emperor.”

“Well, that isn’t good,” Alexios said. “I’ve discovered that the Duke of Thrace is involved with the conspirators in some way.”

Leonidas’s eyes widened. “That is extremely bad news.”

“Yes, it is,” Alexios said. “The question is: what are we going to do about it?”

“Is there anything we can do about it?” Leonidas wondered. “It is likely that this is a plan to assassinate the Emperor. If it is, the best we could do is warn the Emperor. The problem is that the conspirators probably planned for the Emperor to be on guard. They aren’t stupid.”

“That’s bad,” Alexios said. “However, Thessalonica surrendered to the Emperor and his heirs.”

“Yeah,” Leonidas said. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Even if Emperor Julian VII was killed,” Alexios said. “His son would still be the rightful ruler of Thessalonica. This means the Julio-Argeads will have a base from which to continue their restoration of the Roman Empire, even if they lose Constantinople itself.”

“That is good news,” Leonidas replied. “But that means that many people will have to choose who they’re loyal to.”

A few years passed. Nothing happened. Briefly, Emperor Julian VII’s advisors wondered if they were wrong about the attempted coup. Then, the conspirators struck. They killed Emperor Julian VII, and they declared that an extremely distant relative of the Julio-Argeads was the new emperor. Indeed, this relative was so distant that they didn’t have any Argead blood.

Thessaly quickly reaffirmed its loyalty to Emperor Julian VII’s son. The Duke of Thrace, meanwhile, declared his loyalty to the man who was declared emperor. The Senate was split, and the Senators loyal to the Julio-Argeads, including Alexios and Leonidas, went to Thessalonica. The new Julio-Argead territory came to be known as the Despotate of Romania, although the Julio-Argeads continued to proclaim that they were the rightful Eastern Roman Emperors.

Alexios and Leonidas began to plan for their new situation...
 
Chapter 6

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Sorry for the delay...


Leonidas had considered their new position. He knew that Thrace was almost certainly lost - and, by extent, so was Constantinople. At least for now. The greatest threat to their continued existence was actually not the new Eastern Roman Emperor. He had even less troops with which to launch a reconquest than Julian VII did when his reign began.

Leonidas knew that Alexios probably knew some things that he didn’t, and he probably knew some things that Alexios didn’t. They should probably share information with each other. He wrote a letter to Alexios suggesting this.

Alexios agreed. They decided to meet in Leonidas’s villa in Thessalonica. This ensured that no one could eavesdrop on their conversation. Everyone would assume that they were simply two friends having a conversation, which was true, but they would actually be talking about the state of the Empire - or the Despotate, as it was now known.

“You wanted to chat about the state of our realm,” Alexios asked, as he entered Leonidas’s residence.

“Yes, but not here,” Leonidas replied. “Do you want a drink while we do that? We’re probably going to be talking at my table anyway.”

“Sure,” Alexios replied. Leonidas shut the door, and the two friends made their way to the kitchen table. Alexios decided to start the information sharing.

“The entirety of the newly formed Legio I Thrakia remains loyal to the Julio-Argeads,” he said. “This is good news, as it means that we still have an army with which to reclaim our former lands. It also means that there are no legions loyal to the usurper who has taken the Queen of Cities.”

“That is amazing news, indeed,” Leonidas responded. “On the matter of the usurper Emperor, Thrace - and, by extent, Constantinople, is most likely lost to us. Not permanently, mind you, but until we’re more powerful.”

“Why?” Alexios asked. “We have the military might to pull that off.”

Leonidas sighed. “Yes, we could take Thrace and Constantinople,” he conceded. “But we couldn’t hold them. The Duke of Thrace seems to be loyal to whoever seems to have the best claim to the Empire, so he’d surrendered to us quickly - if we could hold Constantinople. However, almost all of the people loyal to the Julio-Argeads fled with them to here. We’d have an instant revolt on our hands.”

“If we can’t reclaim Thrace and the Queen of Cities, where should we attack?” Alexios asked.

“We’re going to attack Athens,” Leonidas replied. “They control all of Boeotia and Attica. That makes them a threat - but it also makes them a target. Once we rule there, we can begin attacks against the other Greek states.”

“And once Athens is conquered?” Alexios asked.

“We make sure that it stays conquered,” Leonidas said.

“We make sure that its residents don’t revolt,” Alexios realized. “And, once that is done? I’m assuming that we don’t know which Greek state to attack next?”

“You assume correctly,” Leonidas began. “Much could change while we’re fighting Athens. Many things could change.”

“I’ve already got the new Emperor’s approval for the attack of Athens,” he added, almost as an afterthought.

“Oh,” Alexios mused. “When does the Legio I Thrakia attack, then?”

Leonidas smiled. “They attack at dawn. Our new Emperor has decided that he’s going to lead them, as his father had.”
 
Chapter 6, Part 2

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Emperor Cassander II sighed. His father had been killed, and Constantinople and Thrace were lost. However, the Empire was far from lost. He still had Thessalonica, and that meant that he had a base of operations. All was not lost.

He didn’t have Constantinople, yes, but he still had land. He had an army, and he could use that to conquer. Yet conquest wasn’t the only way expansion was possible, nor was it always the most feasible. Negotiations could be more effective, and they led to far less bloodshed. Of course, war was sometimes inevitable, but Cassander liked to think of it as a last resort.

He needed to make a few decisions. He decided to read his mail. There wasn’t much, but that wasn’t surprising - nobody really knew what he was like. They were probably erring on the safe side. However, he did have some letters, and one, in particular, was really important.

This was a letter from his father’s advisors. Cassander knew that his father’s judgements were not often wrong, but he wanted to check over their competence anyway. Better safe than sorry.

The letter asked where he was planning to continue his father’s conquests. The answer to that question was obvious: yes. Yes, he was. He was the rightful emperor of the entire Eastern Roman Empire, and he would begin to reclaim that empire - his descendants should be able to rule an empire comparable to Eastern Rome at its height - or even larger.

The letter then went on to suggest Athens as a target. The Athenians had somewhat reverted to their old ways. A democratic state had been set up there in the city itself, although its decisions were still under the ultimate control of the Prince of Attica. If the idea of democracy or republicanism was allowed to spread, the letter theorized that the results for monarchies would be disastrous.

Emperor Cassander II paused and stopped to consider this. The author of the letter made a good point here. Democracy - or true republicanism - could be extremely dangerous if it was allowed to exist. Also, the Athenians wouldn’t surrender peacefully, either. They’d managed to restore their democracy - they weren’t going to give it up without a fight.

The letter continued that it wasn’t sure if the Prince of Attica would interfere in favor of the Athenians. On one hand, the Athenians were a threat to Attica just as much as they were a threat to Cassander and his Empire. On the other hand, Cassander might be viewed as a larger threat to Attican sovereignty - he did wish to reunite the former Eastern Roman Empire.

Cassander correctly figured that that was where the letter ended. He sighed. He was going to need to take some time to mull over this.

After a few hours of thinking over the content of the letter, Emperor Cassander II decided that he was going to attack the city of Athens. He would assume that Attica would interfere with his war, just in case that actually happened.

In addition, he would lead the Legio I Thrakia. Soon, he would have to choose someone to command a legion. Thankfully, that time hadn’t come yet. After all, allowing military generals more military power than himself would be a surefire way to get overthrown. Of course, he didn’t particularly enjoy war - but it was sometimes necessary.
 
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I missed the start of this. I really like your story so far.

So now, it's war for Cassander. A necessary evil to end this democratic nonsense.
 
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I miss the start of this. I really like your story so far.

So now, it's war for Cassander. A necessary evil to end this democratic nonsense.

Indeed.

Thanks for following!
 
Chapter 6, Part 3

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Alexios sighed. Athens would fall soon enough - which would ensure that it wasn’t a threat to the monarchies of the world. Still, Athens’s reconquest would take a while - that was how war worked. And that was assuming that everything went well. If things went badly… well, Alexios didn’t want to think about that. If things went badly, the Julio-Argeads could be dethroned - this time permanently.

Alexios would take command of an army if Emperor Cassander asked him to. Indeed, if things looked to be going badly, he would take command even if the Emperor didn’t ask him to. He was not about to let a dynasty that ruled for almost a millennia fall. The Julio-Argeads had been chosen by Sol to rule the world in ancient times, and, despite what many said, they would retake control of the world in time. Sol had decreed it.

Inwardly, however, Alexios questioned this belief. He never consciously questioned it - but his faith was tested. After all, the Julio-Argeads had been reduced to reigning over just Thessaly - why was Sol so mad at them as to take even the eternal city itself from them?

Alexios sighed. Emperor Cassander was going to lead the Legio I Thrakia. That had been decided. Personally, Alexios thought that this decision was a little risky, but he could also see the advantages of it, so he didn’t complain. Without some risk, there was never a reward.

That somewhat assuaged his reservations. Deep down, he was still somewhat worried about having the Emperor lead his troops. If Emperor Cassander II died… well, he didn’t want to think about that. There was no obvious heir to the Julio-Argead line right now. If the Emperor - or, as most of the world called him, the Despot of Rhomanion - died, the best case scenario was the annexation of his lands by one of the neighboring realms. A far more likely outcome was a succession war. Both of those outcomes would be disastrous.

The reason why Alexios was assuaged was that the chance of Emperor Cassander actually dying wasn’t that high. In addition, having the Emperor lead the troops increased morale. The most likely outcome was that Athens - and, most likely, Attica - would fall.

Alexios frowned. Surprisingly, neither the faction of the Eastern Roman Empire that actually controlled Constantinople nor any other Greek state was actively expanding. That was weird. The new “Eastern Roman Emperor” was probably consolidating his hold on Constantinople. The fact that no other Greek state was expanding was really weird, though. Also, nobody seemed the least bit concerned about the expansion of the Julio-Argeads.

That last part was extremely unlikely to remain the case. However, the fact that no one was expanding probably would - at least until what was preventing their expansion was dealt with. Of course, Alexios knew of Cassander’s want to solve some problems by negotiation. That might even work - at least sometimes.

Alexios got up and headed to his house. He’d contemplated the strategic situation of the Athenian War for long enough. He’d write a letter with advice about it to the Emperor later.
 
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Chapter 7

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Emperor Cassander II moved towards the edge of Thessalonica, where the Legio I Thrakia was temporarily camped. Athens needed to be subjugated, and he was going to achieve that goal. Democracy was foolish! And if the Prince of Attica defended his nominal subjects, then he would be conquered with them! The Emperor had no sympathy for traitors.

As he decided that, though, there was something else on his mind. It seemed as if Sol had, at least temporarily, abandoned the Julio-Argeads. That couldn’t be allowed to continue. One couldn’t fight a god, so Cassander would need to appease Sol’s wrath. That would be far easier if he knew why Sol was mad at his descendants.

He arrived at the camp outside of Thessalonica - where the Legio I Thrakia was staying - at early dawn. He needed to get the campaign started as soon as possible. It was late spring, and he needed to have the campaign done by winter. That was when campaign season ended.

Now, the camp looked very haphazard, but the Emperor had expected that. These were Romans, and Romans were excellent builders, but they can’t build cities or towns in a few days. Besides, military camps weren’t meant to be comfortable. The only requirement they had was to be easy to move.

Emperor Cassander knew that he needed to get going as soon as possible, but, as he looked around himself, he realized that it was night. He shrugged. He could use some sleep, but this legion was embarking to Athens when morning arrived.

He fell asleep quickly. He would awake around dawn, and he was instantly ready to lead his subjects against Athens.

However, there were some things that needed to be taken care of first. He needed to ensure that his troops were loyal to him and his dynasty. They were obviously loyal enough to have fled to Thessalonica instead of staying in Constantinople. However, that didn’t necessarily mean that they were loyal to the Julio-Argeads. It meant that they were more loyal to the Julio-Argeads than to extremely distant cousins, but that didn’t mean that they would stick with the Julio-Argeads no matter what.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have nearly enough time to check the loyalties of each individual soldier in his army - he needed to fight the Athenians as soon as possible. Thankfully, he didn’t need to do that. Individual soldiers had the potential to change the course of battles, of course, but their actions were often irrelevant to the overall course of history. In addition, soldiers - especially in the Eastern Roman Empire - would often follow the orders of their commanders. Indeed, many commanders made sure that the armies that they commanded were personally loyal to them and only them.

That was extremely bad for stability, but most of his predecessors had merely seen an opportunity to not need to do as much work. Their lack of foresight almost completely destroyed the Empire forever.

However, there was an upside to that situation. It meant that ensuring the loyalty of his commanders would ensure the loyalty of almost all of his troops. Obviously, there were probably spies in his army, but he could trust his loyal commanders to root them out… or, better yet, ensure that they had no information to bring back to their true masters but not kick them out of the legion - that would ensure that their military skills could be put to use… indefinitely.

Emperor Cassander smiled. That would be a beautiful irony if it ever happened. He would call his commanders into his tent, where he would subtly interrogate them to ensure their loyalty.

As he was thinking this, a messenger arrived at his tent. This messenger handed him a letter and then left. That was weird, but it probably meant that the letter was important. He looked at the front of the letter and saw that it was from Alexios. Hmm, Alexios was one of his father’s advisors, the senator from Constantinople. Surprisingly, he was well versed in military strategy, and his fellow advisor, Leonidas, was well-versed in politics, despite being from Sparta. That still didn’t explain why Alexios was writing to Emperor Cassander.

The Emperor’s first thought was that something was happening in the city itself. Then, he considered that, and he realized that, if that was the case, the messenger would probably be a lot more panicked. What was in the letter, then?

Emperor Cassander was very curious about that, so he opened the letter. It contained advice on how to defeat Athens. He decided that he would look at this advice and consider it fairly. After all, for all of his faults, he wasn’t vain. He knew that his military strategy wasn’t the best - he much preferred negotiation and intrigue.

The letter began with pleasantries, so Emperor Cassander skipped that part. However, it quickly advised him to destroy the army of Athens - and Attica, if they tried to defend their nominal vassals - and then besiege the city. The Emperor blinked. That was good advice, but there was a problem with it. Where was the Athenian army? He couldn’t preemptively attack it if he didn’t know where it was. For that matter, what if the Athenian army had decided to defend Athens itself? Would a siege even be necessary in that case?

He decided to read on. Perhaps Alexios had answers to these questions, and, if he didn’t, well, Emperor Cassander could always use his own tactics. Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary. Alexios thought that a defeat of the Athenian army outside of Athens itself would lead to a total Athenian surrender - the Athenians would be afraid, and their defenses would’ve been destroyed in the battle… The Emperor agreed with this logic, and that meant that he wanted to engage the Athenians at the gates of Athens itself. That would ensure that the war was very quick and allow him time to gain control of the other Greek states… one way or another.

Unfortunately, fate wasn’t that kind to Emperor Cassander. Alexios and Leonidas had apparently been friends even before the Empire had almost collapsed. This meant that they had worked together to create a rather extensive network of contacts. These contacts had apparently told them that the Athenian army was marching towards Thessalonica. However, they would still be in Attica, so it would be a while until they reached their goal. Alexios advised him to intercept the Athenian army before it reached Thessalonica, but he didn’t say where he should do that.

Emperor Cassander took that to mean that he could go through with his plan of checking the loyalty of his commanders to him before engaging the Athenians in battle.
 
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Athens must be crushed !
 

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Chapter 7 - Questionable Loyalties

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He frowned. His plan had been almost completely foolproof, but he had forgotten one crucial fact. His father had also been worried about the possibility that someone could use the support of the military to stage a coup. He was ultimately overthrown anyway, of course, but the military remained loyal to the Julio-Argeads.

Emperor Cassander blinked. Ideally, that would mean that all of his troops were completely loyal, but it was highly unlikely that that was the case. Some of his soldiers might be spying on him for the realms that split off from Roman Empire during the Great Revolt. He needed to be sure that he wasn’t being spied on by those who should be his vassals.

This wasn’t solely due to paranoia, either. Given that the entire Legio I Thrakia was recruited from the few remaining loyal citizens, these citizens were from all over what was once the Roman Empire. That meant that spies were a possibility that couldn’t be denied. In addition, the coup in Constantinople meant that even the soldiers from the Queen of Cities had questionable loyalties to him.
They could be spying on him for his very distant cousin, the new emperor. Even if they weren’t, they might have friends who had stayed in Constantinople. That meant that any move against the crowned Eastern Roman Emperor was a terrible idea. It would be relatively easy for the current ruler of Constantinople - he was not the Roman Emperor or even the Eastern Roman Emperor, regardless of what he claimed - to seize Thessalonica and end Julio-Argead authority forever.

Well, that was true hypothetically. Thankfully, the chances of that happening were next to impossible - that could occur when all of Constantinople and Thrace were united under a strong ruler who had loyal subjects, like his father, but it couldn’t occur when the new ruler’s position was so precarious.

Even despite that fact, he needed to root out any spies loyal to Constantinople’s current ruler. If he got intelligence on what Emperor Cassander was doing, the results were unlikely to be pretty. The best case scenario was that the intelligent didn’t affect the coming war between them at all.

The Emperor wasn’t stupid. He knew that a war was coming. He had no intention of letting a usurper continue ruling in Constantinople, but he needed to shore up his position. He couldn’t afford to be attacked by any other state while he was at war with the ruler of Constantinople. He desperately needed to shore up his diplomatic position. Seizing control of Athens (and probably Attica) would help with that.

Okay, back to the matter at hand - the loyalty of his legion. Interrogating every single one of them was still ridiculously impractical, but he still needed to ensure their loyalty somehow. How exactly was he supposed to do that? And what was he going to do if he did discover spies in his legion? Hmm, that could work…

If he only ensured the loyalty of the most influential men in the Legio I Thrakia, then he should be fine. Those men who weren’t influential probably couldn’t harm his war efforts much anyway. Furthermore, he wouldn’t trust them with highly confidential information, so even if they were spying on him, it wouldn’t matter. And if he knew who was trying to spy on him, he could always feed them false information…

Who was influential in the army, though? He would need to figure that out, and, once he had done so, he would need to ensure their loyalty - that is, to interrogate them subtly. If they knew that they were being interrogated, it would be much harder to get information out of them, if they would even talk at all. Therefore, he would need to make sure that they weren’t away that they were being interrogated. Subtlety was key.

He smiled. Thankfully, his father had left him a list of people who were influential in the new legion. He blinked. That was helpful, but why would his father have done that? The only way Emperor Cassander could think of was that his predecessor had been expecting to get assassinated. If that was true, what else might he have left to his heir?

The Emperor quickly dismissed that thought. Even if there was more information from his father in the command tent at Thessalonica, it wasn’t immediately relevant. Ensuring the loyalty of his legion was.
The most influential men in the Legio I Thrakia were apparently Georgios (who his father thought was loyal, but he recommended that his heir double-check that information anyway), Alexandros (who his father had never met), and Constantine (who his father was friends with before the Roman Empire totally collapsed, but he noted that that particular fact meant absolutely nothing).

Emperor Cassander sighed. He had a lot of work to do, and, to top all of that off, he also needed to ensure that Athens was defeated. Unfortunately, even defeating Athens completely and annexing them wasn’t enough. The Emperor wouldn’t have cared about Athens at all if they weren’t the main source of dangerous ideas.

Democracy couldn’t be allowed to spread. If it did, then all monarchies everywhere would be in danger from people who thought they would be better off under democratic rule. At the moment, Athens could support these democratic insurrections, and that would lead to a mess of democratic states. Anarchy would rule everything.

Still, even if Athens was defeated and annexed - which the Emperor was planning on doing - democracy might still be appealing to some people. Destroying Athenian independence was absolutely useless if democracy wasn’t also totally discredited. Sure, it would improve the Eastern Roman Empire’s (or the Despotate of Romania’s) position, but the main reason why Athens had to be destroyed was because it was a semi-functional democratic state.

As such, Emperor Cassander needed to figure out a way to end Athenian independence that also completely discredited democracy. That wouldn’t be easy, but it would be possible. He smiled. Oh, yes, that plan could work beautifully.

Emperor Cassander blinked. He had gotten somewhat distracted. He needed to ensure the loyalty of his own army before doing anything else. If his legion was disloyal, then every bit of planning that he - or his ancestors - had ever done would be for nought.
 
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Chapter 7 - Reminiscing

HistoryDude

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The Emperor waited. He had decided that simply calling the most influential men in the Legio I Thrakia to his command tent would be the best course of action. Georgios was first, and, despite his father being almost sure of his loyalty, his father had apparently not thought to write down why he believed that, so Emperor Cassander had nothing to go off of.

Georgios was a fair-skinned man, and he had been the second-in-command of the Thrakia when Emperor Julian VII was still alive - which was another reason why Emperor Cassander wasn’t completely trusting his father’s opinion on the man - he was clearly biased. Given his father was still somewhat weary (but nowhere weary enough - as his death proved), he had to have a reason to trust his second-in-command. Nevertheless, it couldn’t hurt to be absolutely sure.

“Why did you call me here?” Georgios asked him. This jolted him out of his thought process.

“I have a few questions for you,” the Emperor replied. “You’re welcome to sit down, by the way.”

Georgios promptly. “Wasn’t sure if I could,” he commented. “Tradition, you understand. Anyways, back to the matter at hand. You wanted to ask me questions? Go ahead. Is paranoia a common trait of all Emperors of Rome?”

“It hasn’t always been,” Emperor Cassander pointed out. “And can you really blame us nowadays? We have recently lost most of the Empire, and the scheming of others has even lost the Queen of Cities herself. Granted, I have no intention of allowing that to be permanent, but still…”

“Good point,” Georgios conceded. “What did you want to ask me?”

“First of all,” the Emperor began. “Why are you still loyal to me - and to my dynasty? And, far more importantly, why have you chosen to serve us in the legion - to lead the legion, knowing that you may eventually have to fight against those you once called your friends?”

“Your father asked me a similar question once,” Georgios replied. “Perhaps that was why he trusted me. However, his question wasn’t as… complete as what you just asked me. Anyway, I remained loyal to your dynasty because I’m from Cyprus - where your branch of the Argeads was originally from. That means that I am loyal to your dynasty - not necessarily the Roman Empire, but your dynasty specifically. During the anarchy that was the collapse of the Empire, I stayed in the Queen of Cities because it was the safest place to be, as well.”

Emperor Cassander blinked. “Most of that makes sense,” he began. “But some of it doesn’t. First of all, if you originally stayed in Constantinople because that was where it was safest, why didn’t you move to another city, such as Adrianople? Many members of what used to be the Roman Empire still hold claims on parts that aren’t under their de facto control, and the Queen of Cities was a rich prize. We managed to retain control of it for a while, of course, but I doubt you could see the future. Why did you believe that it was safe?”

Georgios smiled. “I am originally from Cyprus,” he noted. “But that doesn’t mean that I lived there for a long time.” He leaned towards the Emperor and whispered conspiratorially, “I ruled Cyprus once”.

Emperor Cassander was shocked at this. “Then why don’t you rule it right now?” he wondered. “If you are as loyal to our dynasty as you claim, then we would have no reason to take your lands.”

Your dynasty wouldn’t,” he said, smiling sadly. “But your dynasty’s power rises and falls. You are always existent, and you’ve technically been the Emperors for around a millennium, but that doesn’t mean all of your ancestors had actual power. I ruled much of Cyprus when I was born, but it has been years since then. We were the governors of all of Cyprus by right, but many people don’t care about what is right.”

“I see,” the Emperor said. “We can talk more about that later. What are your answers to my other questions. You’ve told me why you are loyal, but what about my other question?”

“Why do I fight in the legion?” Georgios mused. “I fight because I must. After all, my family were hereditary rulers of Cyprus, and most rulers in the Roman Empire needed to fight. Especially those that are somewhat close to wherever the Imperial Borders are.”

Emperor Cassander considered this. Everything Georgios had just said was correct - to some extent. However, some of it was… interesting. He had the information that he had wanted now, but he wanted more.

“True enough,” he admitted. At Georgios’s blank look, he said, “my father made me Strategos of Thessalonica to prepare me for the throne.”

Georgios raised an eyebrow. “He did?” he wondered. “Who, exactly, was aware of this? Also, how did nowhere in this entire legion - which was camped outside of Thessalonica - notice? It’s not like that’s an easy thing to hide.”

The Emperor smiled. “My father was wiser than many people give him credit for,” he said. “Of course, he wasn’t smart enough to prevent his own demise, but he knew that information is a powerful weapon. Also, the new Theme of Thessalonica didn’t actually include the city of Thessalonica, or the army camp that we’re in right now.”

“Why didn’t a theme include the city it was literally named after?” Georgios wondered. “That makes no sense. Also, how does giving someone recently conquered territory help them gain military experience?”

“If Thessaly was recently conquered, it wouldn’t,” Emperor Cassander admitted. “But Thessaly wasn’t conquered. It was initially under the control of the governor of Thessalonica, but just because the official ruler surrendered to us didn’t mean it was pacified. Many local officials simply refused to acknowledge the surrender, so my father gave me a title and a small army and instructed me to pacify them. It took a few years.”

“And nobody noticed this?” Georgios wondered. “That seems weird.”

“Everybody assumed that the governor of Thessalonica had full control of his lands,” the Emperor responded. “Which would be a reasonable assumption. It just wasn’t a true one. Also, my father was smarter than anyone gave him credit for. He deliberately kept it secret.”
 

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I think Georgios could be trusted. At least for the time being.
 

HistoryDude

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I think Georgios could be trusted. At least for the time being.

Their interests align... for now. That doesn't mean that they agree on everything.

Also, thanks for the likes @WeeLittleSpoon. Nice to know I have more than one reader for this AAR.
 
Chapter 7 - A Chat and a Dream

HistoryDude

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"How did he manage to pull that off?” Georgios asked. “Constantinople is the Queen of Cities… and the City of Intrigue. How did he manage to hide from everybody?”

“As far as I’m aware,” the Emperor began. “He told nobody except those who absolutely needed to know. He told me, of course, but he had never trusted the Senate. Of course, that ‘esteemed body’ was powerless, and they were often left out of decision-making.”

“Wise move,” Georgios commented. “Although the Senate doesn’t really need to be mistrusted, given how much they argue.”

Emperor Cassander rolled his eyes. “While it is true that the Senate - of the East, at least, - is extremely prone to disagreement, they really shouldn’t be underestimated. If they could ever pursue a common agenda, then they would be very dangerous. Also, Senators never play fair.”

“Almost nobody plays fair,” Georgios replied. “That’s just how it is. If they played fair, the Empire wouldn’t be on the verge of destruction right now. The game must always be played.”

“I’m perfectly aware of that,” Emperor Cassander said. “If there’s anything I learned from my time ruling the Theme of Thessalonica, it’s that. My father had… a somewhat inflated view of man’s goodness. That proved to be his doom.”

“And everybody knows it,” Georgios muttered. “Although why did he not trust the Senate that much?”

Emperor Cassander heard Georgios’s mutterings and considered them. “I suppose that it may soon be forgotten, actually,” he said. “It will be forgotten when he was forgotten - and no one will remember his mistakes. They will be cast into almost total oblivion.”

“Which might end up a kindness,” Georgios said sadly. “And what does that say about the state of the world right now? More specifically, what does it say about the state of the Empire?”

“It says a lot of things,” the Emperor murmured. “None of them are good. If being forgotten is a kindness…” He didn’t have to finish. He knew that Georgios got his point. The world wasn’t a very kind place.

“Sol help us all,” Georgios whispered. “May have Sol have mercy on us all.”

Emperor Cassander put his head in his hands. “But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? The Roman Empire is on the verge of death, and I do not feel divine. Sol aided the Julio-Argeads - Sol aided my family - because we were powerful. He helps those who help themselves, so that is what we will do.”

“Fair enough,” Georgios said. “Why do you not trust the Senate, anyway? And how are you going to deal with it - or at least what remains of it?”

Emperor Cassander considered that question. He didn’t trust the Senate because trusting the Senate would be absolute folly. They cared only for themselves. Sure, all of the Senators who were in Thessalonica fled with him, but that meant next to nothing.

“The only thing fleeing to Thessalonica with me proves is that I am considered better than the alternative - my very distant cousin, who dares to claim my rightful throne… I can no more trust than I can trust a pack of vultures,” he finally responded. “As for how I will deal with it… well, I have allies in the Senate. I know how to play both the games of intrigue and war. In the end, those two things are not so different.”

“No,” Georgios said. “They truly aren’t. We have common interests at the moment. I will not betray you.”

After he said those words, Georgios turned and left the royal tent. Emperor Cassander knew that Georgios could be counted on to help bring down Athens. He also seemed legitimately loyal to the Julio-Argeads due to where he was from. He would never realize that Georgios mentioned nothing about his descendants.

Emperor Cassander decided that that single interview had lasted long enough. Oh, it had given him very useful information, but it was long, or at least it felt long.

He decided to exit his tent. He could check the time and get a breath of fresh air at the same time if he did that.

It was dark outside, which confirmed the Emperor’s intuition. There were many small tents in the area, but nobody was present around them. The Emperor figured that his army was asleep. He yawned.

Going to sleep was probably a good idea at this late hour. After all, he was probably going to have a long day tomorrow. He did still need to ensure the loyalty of two other men - one way or another.

He went back to the royal tent. He quickly fell asleep.

His dreams were strange, to say the least. He saw a shadow eclipsing the sun. A voice cried out in pain, but Emperor Cassander didn’t hear what it said. Emperor Cassander saw this, so he looked away. The moon and the stars remained, but the darkness that had consumed the sun moved towards them.

The Emperor decided to look at the ground. He saw dimly lit plains. In the distance, a mountain towered above everything else. In the opposite direction, a river flowed past. Despite all of that, the Emperor saw no other humans there. Sighing, he turned his attention back to the sky.

The darkness approached the moon, and the Emperor felt a profound sense of wrongness. Why wasn’t anybody else here? And why was all light being snuffed out?

Soon, the moon was swallowed by the darkness, which then moved towards the stars. Just as the stars were about to be snuffed out, Emperor Cassander woke with a start.

What was that dream supposed to mean? And who was it from? Was it from Sol or another, forgotten, god? He quickly dismissed the idea that it was from any deity other than Sol. Sol was the one true god, although he only favored the strong. If he had to give a warning, then things must be truly dire.

If it was a warning, though, what was it warning of? The Emperor knew that eternal darkness didn’t literally threaten the world. That would be absurd. Still, it was most likely symbolic.

Regardless, he had better things to do right now. He needed to ensure the loyalty of the Legio I Thrakia - the full loyalty of the Thracian Legion - still. He could deal with this dream once Athens was defeated.
 

HistoryDude

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I'm going to be putting this AAR on temporary hiatus until next week. Sorry!
 
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