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Tufto

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House of Ivy

An Ottoman Narrative AAR for Europa Universalis IV

So, I'm going to write a narrative AAR as the Ottoman Empire. Expect mostly words, with a few screens here and there. I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I like writing stuff so I'm doing this. And I'll probably be making loads of mistakes, as this will be my 1st game, so hopefully the narrative will be a little less victory-after-victory, with plenty of lost battles and wars. I'll also be re-cycling several characters from my other, abandoned-or-on-indefinite-hold AARs (beginning in the prologue).

Hopefully I'll actually finish this one, unlike some of my previous attempts. Expect a proper update on Wednesday.

Contents:

Book One: Romans and Emperors (Sultan Mehmed II Fatih, reigned 1444-?, lived 1432-?, chronicling 1444-1452)
Prologue: Entry into Rome (below, The Whisperer)
The Fall of Albania (Cobalt).
The Glittering Ruin (The Whisperer)
The Morea (War)
The Fall of Constantinople, Part One (Cobalt)
The Fall of Constantinople, Part Two (Ivy)
The Fall of Constantinople, Part Three (The Whisperer)
The Fall of Constantinople, Part Four (Ivy)
The Fall of Constantinople, Aftermath (War)
The House of Ivy Creepers (Cobalt)
The First Rebellion of Akropolites (The Whisperer)
One Starlit Night in November (Ivy)
Laughter of Ivy, Part One (The Whisperer)
Laughter of Ivy, Part Two (Ivy)
An Interlude of Knives (Young Abbas)
Laughter of Ivy, Part Three (War)
The Disaster at Patras (Cobalt)
The Court of the Zealot-King (Young Abbas)
The City Slumbers (Ivy)
The City Roars (Ivy)
Warmarch (Cobalt)
The Fire and Fury (The Whisperer)
Cerberus (Ivy)
Epilogue: The Last Cinders (War)

Book Two: The Weeping Waves (Sultan Mehmed II Fatih, reigned 1444-?, lived 1432-?, chronicling 1452-?)(Coming Soon)
Prologue: Marmara (Ivy)

-----​
Book One: Romans and Emperors.
Prologue: Entry into Rome (from the Chronicle of the Whisperer).

"I only ever tried to do what was right. Can you say the same?"- last words of Isra El-Amin, called Ivy.

-----

Constantinople glittered in the sunlight. Even from a distance, and even after hundreds of years of neglect at the hands of the Romans, there was still an immensity, a broken but living glory about her. Here was where the Occident, with all its honour and fury, and the Orient, with its beauty and reflection, mixed and mingled. Here was where two hated rivals came together, in this one singular checkpoint, with the Church of Holy Wisdom towering above it all.

How could one not be intoxicated by it, coming as Ivy did from a land of scorching sands? She had seen many cities, but all of them were inferior copies. Paris was just a mush of poor dwellings in service of the few rich, safe in their stone halls. London was nothing but a village on a river, with pretensions of grandeur. Even sandy Cairo was full of disease and ruin. No, Constantinople disdained these lesser vessels of human interaction. Constantinople had attained greatness.

I remember, across the years, that Ivy took the water-skin out of the pouch on her waist, and drank deeply. She’d been conserving it, taking as little as possible for weeks now. Clean water was not exactly common in Europe; weak beer was the usual drink of choice. But we knew of many springs; it was fairly compulsory on our travels.

Behind her rode Cobalt. He was a strange, thin youth, with piercing black hair and a permanent look of melancholy on his face. Hailing as he did from Poland, and she from Egypt, the three of us had to communicate in Latin, being the only common tongue we all held. The mules we sat upon snorted and waved their tails, plodding along into the half-light; we were so close to our destination that we had ridden all night.

The roads were not safe for travellers at this time. The news was buzzing throughout the Turkish empire; the Crusaders, riding to the relief of this city, had been destroyed. The last effort to drive the Ottoman state out of Europe had failed. Islam had its foothold, and it would not be letting go quickly.

It was a curious fact that the now-increased threat of conquest of her beloved city did not dishearten my beloved Ivy. On the contrast, she was elated; she saw a vision of the future. Rome was dying; it could not be saved. She had an attachment to that ancient state, which her ignorant countrymen saw as nothing more than some dying Greek city-state with Imperial pretensions; she alone seemed to recognise that it had been, it was so much more. It was the last bastion of that vast, all-powerful empire which had been the cradle of the West.

But it was still dying. That much had to be accepted. And so, Ivy and Cobalt and I rode to the last bastion of Rome, there to watch it meet its fate. She had met Mehmet; she knew what was in his head. She knew of his plans for the City. She had encouraged him. “Take it. Take it and forge it anew. The Romans have been bloodied and shot. Put them out of their misery, and make it the most glorious metropolis in the world! Raise it up to the city of Justinian and Basil, and make it the centre of the world once more!”

She’d had to soften her words after that speech. It had made the young Sultan irate. She made some mention of his infidel faith, and all was well again. She was ready to see it change hands. It was time for a new City, a City of God and man, a city to rule to world.

And so it was that the corn-blonde maiden and her dark-haired friend rode to Constantinople, there to accomplish many great things; with my help, of course. Ah, yes, I seem to have forgotten myself somewhat; I have a habit of doing that when talking about my sweet Ivy. I was there, too, riding beside them, also on a mule; but I was a strange beast. I had lived in Samarkand for a time, and bearing great scars given to me by Ulugh Beg himself, my face was wrapped in black bandages. My throat was branded with a deep scar, which rendered my voice hoarse and faint.

I was born in the farthest East, upon the vast and barren Steppes, where I was raised to use a bow and ride a horse; but combat was never my forte. I was always more of a scholar, working in the libraries and treasuries of the Khans, Shahs and Sultans of the world. I have many names, but you, gentle reader, may call me Whisperer, for that is how most of the world remembers me; a man of secrets and lies. And even as I sit here, an old man, imprisoned and defeated at last in this high tower of Isfahan, I will recall the adventures of my youth, when I left the bitter East and all my glories to travel with my friends to Constantinople, at the tender age of thirty-five. Ivy, Cobalt and the Whisperer; how we three would change the face of the world, and help create that new City which Ivy dreamt of so desperately, that Empire of Constantinople which would spread from sea to shining sea…
 
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Gen. Marshall

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hopefully the narrative will be a little less victory-after-victory, with plenty of lost battles and wars
I hope so too, lost battles make for good narrative. I hope you'll succeed in keeping me interested in a mainly text-based AAR - something only DensleyBlair managed so far - but the introduction looks promising.
 

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Ah, the Whisperer - the same, or a variation of the one that frequented blasted Georgia (erm, I fell off the bandwagon with that AAR, didn't I? Sorry...)?

I like narrative AARs. This might not be the best time to launch one, from an attracting-readers perspective (I'm sure a lot of people will be anxious to see gameplay and learn the mechanisms of the new game), but hey! There's always at least a few narrative-loving folks around. :)

Premise sounds good, even if it does involve the demise of the much-lamented late Romans.
 

Tufto

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I hope so too, lost battles make for good narrative. I hope you'll succeed in keeping me interested in a mainly text-based AAR - something only DensleyBlair managed so far - but the introduction looks promising.
I hope you like it; though, on the subject of text-based AARs, read "Rome AARisen" in the old CK1 forum; it's a vast epic sprawling 350 pages. I guarantee that you'll be hooked.

Ah, the Whisperer - the same, or a variation of the one that frequented blasted Georgia (erm, I fell off the bandwagon with that AAR, didn't I? Sorry...)?

I like narrative AARs. This might not be the best time to launch one, from an attracting-readers perspective (I'm sure a lot of people will be anxious to see gameplay and learn the mechanisms of the new game), but hey! There's always at least a few narrative-loving folks around. :)

Premise sounds good, even if it does involve the demise of the much-lamented late Romans.
Good to see you here.

Haha, well, that AAR has been on hold for a very long time. And it had started to get a bit far-fetched anyway.

It's the same Whisperer, yes, but born into a different time. Lots of my old characters in the AARs I've abandoned or put on hold will be cropping up a lot, with a few being very important characters (at least that's my hope). It gives me a good excuse to bring Papa Rurikovich back, at least.

Always are a few narrative-lovers around, as you say, so hopefully this will interest one or two people amid the mass of gameplay AARs.

Destroying Rome is sad, but hey, it's Istanbul not Constantinople! :p

Promesing AAR, I must sub!
Thanks :) Hope you'll like it.

----

Update may have to be pushed back to Thursday, but we'll see. If it is Wednesday as originally planned, then it'll be late in the evening at the very earliest. I completely forgot that I'm not around tomorrow, so my apologies.
 

Tufto

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Right, here we are at last. Sorry for the delay. Won't happen again.

Book One: Romans and Emperors.
Chapter One: The Fall of Albania (from the Letters of Cobalt).

"Albania was where the curse of Christendom began. If I could move as our Father does, unimpeded by such human trivialities as the passage of time, that is where I would go, and I would strangle Cobalt and Ivy before they could do any harm to myself or to my faith"- Don Octavo de la Cruz.

----

My Dearest Pereyaslava,

It has been too long, dear sister. How many years have passed since your exile in Poland, since you were adopted by my father and became a part of our household? How many years since we ran, laughing, through the streets of Krakow, since we fought each other bitterly on the grounds of our estate, since we were carted off for ruining the banquet before the guests had even tasted a bite? It has been too long, too long. And now you are a queen! Wife of the Grand Duke of Muscovy! You have gone further than most of the denizens of this bright earth, and I salute you, as an old soldier is prone to do.

Forgive me if I am brief with these introductory words. Antoni is bringing the letters to you, and will delight in giving you news of our affairs, and I shall leave such business to him. I will relate to you, as you asked me in your last correspondence, to relate to you the tales of the rise of Mehmet, and of the adventures of myself, Ivy and the Whisperer. You said that you had read that tome of our Mongol friend, “The Memoir of Constantinople” as he has taken to calling it. I stumbled across a copy myself recently, and I must say that for all his many faults, my old friend has written an accurate summary of the events which took place. But allow me to provide my own perspective; and to begin before my cousin of Samarkand, who only joined us on the march towards the city. Let me tell you of Albania, and that villain Skanderbeg, and what transpired before it all took place.

I came to the Great Turk when I was only twenty-one. The youngest child of a poor Polish nobleman, my options were limited in life. I had joined the Crusaders at Varna- not out of religious fervour, for as you well know, that is not my way. I joined because of a woman. Do you remember sweet Magdelena? The milkmaid with such piercingly black eyes? I was young, and foolish, and still believed in idealism and love and other quaint fancies. When she was abducted by Turkish soldiers, my only instinct was to follow her. This was after our father died, and when Dmitri had inherited his properties. He terrorised Antoni and myself, and so Antoni came with me, as he had nowhere else to go.

I joined late. I still remember the Battle of Varna. That was the first of the three lessons I learnt on the way to the city: there was no glory in war. The Turks were like nightmares, demons plucked from the lake of fire to hunt us down and set us alight. The sight of burnt flesh and blood, the fire and smoke and cries from hell itself… this was no place for boys. The first lesson was that war was not glorious. I would rather be a coward than a brave man any day. But my father had raised me to be a soldier, and so I fought to the bitter end, until the whole army turned tail and fled. Antoni escaped with them, but I was captured by the Turks.

Peace was signed. The army then began to turn and lumber its way to the West. At the time, I did not understand. But the Sultan, Mehmed, and his father, Murad, who had been brought out of abdication to aid in the battle, wished to rid themselves of Georgios Kastrioti, the Albanian who had plagued them for many months. I was in chains, forced to march with my destitute comrades across all of the Turkish lands.


Albania, 1444. Georgios Kastrioti, known as Skanderbeg, has organised the Albanian tribes against the Ottomans, and presented an immediate danger to the Sultan.
But I was lucky. Very lucky. It so happened that while rested near Salonika, the Sultan decided to inspect his new slaves. He was bold and young, and left his bodyguard behind. He strode up and down the lines, staring curiously into each of our faces; when the man next to me, from Pest, suddenly screamed an incomprehensible Magyar curse and assaulted the Sultan. Mehmet would have been choked to death had it not been for myself- I saw an opportunity to get out of my deplorable situation, and took it. I picked a rock from the floor and smashed my former comrade over the head, until he was dead. It was my first blood, and even after many years and many deaths, it still haunts me.

The Sultan rewarded me for that. He took me into his confidence. He gave me a new name, a Turkish name- Cobalt is the word in translation, on account of the pallour of that strange burn on my face- and from that day onward, I rode with the Sultan. That was the second lesson I learnt- when you see an opportunity, take it, no matter what torments will plague your mind. There is one direction- up- and the climb is the very purpose of life.

I dressed myself like a Turk, and applied myself to learning their ways and customs. I kept my faith, however- but the Sultan did not mind, for he had, in the past weeks, come to cavort with all sorts. A wily Greek, Andreas Rhangabe, also rode with us for a while- as did Ivy and the Whisperer.

I must take a moment to speak of these two. They were among the Sultan’s entourage when I first arrived, and were my bosom companions for years to come. The Whisperer came from the Mongol Plains, and I still know little of his life. Bagatur was what he was sometimes called, which I take to be his birthname. He was a curious creature, with a face covered either in black bandages, or with a black scarf in the Berber style. Often silent, when he did speak, it was often with a glimmer of trickery on his face. Much as I love him, I could never trust him.

Ivy, however, was a more curious figure. I am sure that you had heard of her before you read the account of the Whisperer. Her true name was Isra El-Amin, and she hailed from Cairo, the capital of Egypt- a fact which always made me curious about her bright blonde hair, which made her look a curious mix of Frank and Saracen. She was pretty in places, though the Whisperer’s chronicle makes her seem more beautiful, on account of the Mongol’s love for her- his one deep and wounding flaw, which would never quite heal. She was thin and scrawny, with her hair cut short, and had a certain wildness about her. I was curious what such a woman was doing in the Sultan’s caravan, but when I asked him, he simply smiled and carried on. I think now that it was because she was a curiosity; her name preceded her, and she was such an odd woman that one could not help but be interested in what had drove her to her fates. The Whisperer has a far better description of her, which I cannot match.

The three of us bonded quickly, as we were all outcasts and outsiders. And it was together than we rode into our first battle, outside Bitola, called Monastir. We had entered Albania, and had begun to harry and scorch the Albanian mountains. Half the army besieged Tirana, while the other half scoured the land, pillaging and plundering. I was with that half of the army, as I was eager for action. The Sultan had given me leave to go. It was here I learnt the third lesson. In a small town in the north of the country, I saw before me several ladies of the night- and there, dressed as a harlot in jewels and with a smile unbefitting of her name, was my dear Magdalena. There I learnt that love was a game, and has no more reality than did the Olympian deities of old. She recognised me not, seeing only a Turkish mercenary.

I returned to the Sultan’s army as it moved east. For he had discovered where the bulk of Skanderbeg’s army had been lurking: Monastir was besieged. We descended upon them, and fought bitterly. Skanderbeg was a good general, fighting to the last, but even he was cut down amid the carnage. The army was routed, and we returned to Albania, where a small force had been left to keep up the siege.


A decisive Ottoman victory, Monastir was the second bitter disappointment in a month for Christendom.
The news of an uprising in Bulgaria made the Sultan furiously angry. The sight of his face, convulsed with rage, remains with me even today. I quickly volunteered to put it down, seeing a way to prove my loyalty. Ivy and the Whisperer came with me, all under the overall command of that strangest of figures, Savas Lala. I will talk more of him in my next letter, as he is someone the Whisperer did not speak of overmuch, for reasons which escape me.

We met the peasants in battle. My heart felt deeply sorry for them, as they were so terrified, so ill-equipped. But there can be no mercy in war. Once the deed was done, the battle was celebrated across the empire- six thousand men slain for fewer than five hundred of our troops. Those who know the truth know that most of those men slain were barely men at all; a ragtag army of little more than boys.

When we came back to the East, Albania had surrendered. It was then that Ivy approached the Sultan, and gave him an idea. To fell the City of World’s Desire itself, to give the Sultan a new capital, to destroy the ancient Empire of Rum. She got quite carried away, and offended the pious sensibilities of young Mehmet; but once she moderated herself, the idea was firmly implanted in the mind of that great Prince. We were sent ahead to Constantinople, to give our opinion on the defences of the City.


The stage was set for the last stand of the Romans against invaders from the East.

And that, my dearest Pereyaslava, was how it all began. I shall send you another letter at some point, to your resplendent palace in Moscow. For now, however, I wish you good health and good fortune, and urge you to remember that you are always close to my heart.

Jan Gorski, called Cobalt.

-----

(Wasn't Gjon Kastrioti dead in 1444? With Gjon Kastrioti II not to be born for 10 more years?)
 
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(Wasn't Gjon Kastrioti dead in 1444? With Gjon Kastrioti II not to be born for 10 more years?)
This is what you get for meddling with the forces of time and causality - insert a Whisperer her, an Ivy there, and all of a sudden the Kastrioti get misplaced in history. ;)

Interesting update. Unsurprisingly, I've not learned much (or anything) about the character's motivations yet, but it's still early. And, going by your earlier work, I might never divine the motives of the Whisperer or Ivy. Already, though, it's pretty clear that Cobalt is carrying some heavy guilt with him. We'll follow him on an interesting journey, but a happy one it won't be.
 

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Eagerly awaiting the next update =)
 

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This is what you get for meddling with the forces of time and causality - insert a Whisperer her, an Ivy there, and all of a sudden the Kastrioti get misplaced in history. ;)

Interesting update. Unsurprisingly, I've not learned much (or anything) about the character's motivations yet, but it's still early. And, going by your earlier work, I might never divine the motives of the Whisperer or Ivy. Already, though, it's pretty clear that Cobalt is carrying some heavy guilt with him. We'll follow him on an interesting journey, but a happy one it won't be.
Ah, 'tis the trouble with upsetting the nature of time. When I eventually add Goya in, a character from the future, who knows what strange things will occur? :p

Both Ivy and the Whisperer will be narrators, so hopefully they'll be a little less inscrutable... but as narrators, they will only reveal the information they want others to see. Cobalt will most definitely not have a happy journey; but even his motives will remain clouded by his own perceptions and sense of denial. He is harbouring a lot of guilt indeed...

Eagerly awaiting the next update =)
Ask and you shall receive! :) This one is a little shorter and slightly hurried, but that won't be the general trend (hopefully).
 

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Book One: Romans and Emperors.
Chapter Two: The Glittering Ruin (from the Chronicle of the Whisperer).

"Great empires are not maintained by timidity."- Tacitus.

-----

Dear reader, what must you think of me? I imagine you are either a believer from Persia, wishing to know as much about your enemy to the West as you can; an infidel from Europe, becoming sicker at each heathen word I spill upon this page; a Roman, wishing to harm me with my own words in revenge for my former actions; or a Turk, disgusted at my admiration for old Constantinople.

But Ivy was right, and I cannot deny it. As we passed through the city gates, a certain awe struck me. The half-ruined city still contained a great majesty, a great beauty. My beloved rode on ahead, wishing once again to see the great church of Ayasofya. In my mind, it was the one spark of Rome which remained great, a signal to the terror that this strain of infidel once instilled in the hearts of the faithful everywhere.


Constantinople, 1444.

We rode to the church, and marvelled at its domes and mosaics. I will make no secret of my dissatisfaction towards that barbarous policy of Mehmed; the destruction of the mosaics of the church, in the name of false piety. What is wrong with images? The old Sultan was always somewhat contrary with regards to religion. He would hiss and curse at many things, while freely cavorting with infidels, and indulging in wine and male concubines. He was an odd mixture of decadence and bigotry.

We were ordered there by Mehmed to survey the defences of the city; but Ivy had plans of her own. She did not simply want to see the city conquered; she wanted it preserved, for its monuments and citizens to be transformed into something great. She sought for us an audience with the Emperor; and that was a day I shall never forget.

How must I describe the feeling of seeing the very last Emperor of Rome? The last of that brood whose Empire was as vast as the Qin, as powerful as all the Franks and Turks combined? His throne was but a faded relic from a bygone age, his court a shambolic and frightened mix of every possible aid to the Imperial cause, all staring at us with wide and terrified eyes upon learning that we were sent from Mehmed.

I have heard that in the glory days of the Greeks, there were magnificent contraptions in the throne-room of the Emperor, strange devices that would move as if alive, singing and roaring to demonstrate the might of the Emperor. I wondered what it would have been like to be there some four-hundred years before, among that splendour of Basil and Alexios.

But I was dragged back to reality by the figure before me. A middle aged man, with a tired, greying beard and hair, sitting with his head slumped back and a weary look upon his brow. The portraits of him are of a younger man, but that same tiredness pervades him. He rose when we came in, and when Ivy began to speak. She implored, begged him to surrender now. She warned him that the time would come when the Sultan would not be so lenient, and that by surrendering himself, he might be spared a most terrible fate.


Ioannes, the last Emperor of Rome. The barbarity of his eventual fate led to hundreds of years of Greek resentment towards the Sultan and the Ottomans.

The Emperor simply gazed at her coldly, before shaking his head. The guards were quite rough as they threw her out.

However, Cobalt spoke some words in Greek, and the two of us were allowed to stay. I approached the Emperor, and knelt to speak my piece. I shall record my words to the best of my recollection; but do not be surprised if I am incorrect in some small details.

“Rome was great, Majesty. Rome was great, and spanned half the world. For centuries, all the world was awed by the splendour of the Empire. But those times are past. Your city is crumbling, your vassals are dead. Venice robbed you of your strength, and now your empire is simply waiting for a mercy-blow, clinging to the last threads. I do not ask you to give up your Empire, but simply to know why. Why do you insist on putting off the inevitable?”

He leaned in close. I could see behind those eyes the Imperial purple, the vast Varangian horde, the cries of the enemies of Rome, the suffering, glory and misery all combined.

“I will never surrender. Do you hear me? Never. I would rather see all the world burning. I would rather suffer in the fires of Hell for all eternity. I care not for reason. I have a duty, and I will perform it to the last. And when that dark day comes, when the city dies and your heathen faith casts its shadow over Europe, I will throw myself into the fray of death with the battle-cries of history on my lips. I will tell you only once; you will never win. You will never, ever take us alive.”

There was nothing more to be said. Cobalt and I left, to find Ivy outside the palace, fuming.

We made our clandestine inspection of the walls with little enthusiasm. The Emperor’s guards had told Ivy to leave before sundown, but her wrath was great. As the dusk came, I saw her whispering to a group of Roman soldiers as we left the city via Blachernae. I knew in that moment that Ivy had true steel beneath her beauty; betrayal was second nature to her.

It also taught me a more disturbing truth; she was a slave to passion and fury. The rejection from the Emperor had made her determined to cause as much pain to him as possible. Only later did I learn what she whispered to those guards; that when the terrible time came, to make sure he wasn’t killed in battle, and was brought directly to Mehmed or herself…
 

Stuyvesant

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Hm. Ivy is not one to be trifled with (I shall refrain from making tedious references to a certain like-named Batman villainess). A brief update, to the point, barring the expected unreliability of the Whisperer's words. So John VIII is intending to do what his brother Constantine succeeded at - but Ivy will deny him that heroic death.

I like how you use the caption to the image to reveal John's fate in the story. And well done painting Constantinople as a decaying city, in a few quick brush strokes. Contrasting the throne room here with that fabled throne room of old (with its automatons - the birds, the lions) puts the (in-game) current situation in stark relief to the grand history of the Empire.
 

Tufto

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Hm. Ivy is not one to be trifled with (I shall refrain from making tedious references to a certain like-named Batman villainess). A brief update, to the point, barring the expected unreliability of the Whisperer's words. So John VIII is intending to do what his brother Constantine succeeded at - but Ivy will deny him that heroic death.

I like how you use the caption to the image to reveal John's fate in the story. And well done painting Constantinople as a decaying city, in a few quick brush strokes. Contrasting the throne room here with that fabled throne room of old (with its automatons - the birds, the lions) puts the (in-game) current situation in stark relief to the grand history of the Empire.
Thanks :)

\The Whisperer (and the other narrators) are not totally unreliable, but are still writing events as they see them, and as they want the world to know them. And no, Ivy is definitely not to be trifled with.

Book One: Romans and Emperors.
Chapter Three: The Morea (from the Recollections of War).

"It is every man's duty to serve Our Sultan. Any man who does not will be sent to the slave-mines of Morea. That is all you need to know about this war"- Savas Lala, addressing soldiers shortly after the outbreak of the Blacksheep War.

-----

Come, young one, and sit by the fire.

They named me War. “Savas” is the word in my language. But in your barbarous and heathen tongue, it means War. You Greeks! No poetry in your words. No heart, just mind…

The Empire is spread across the world. Our Sultan rules the East and the West. And here I am, in some backwater village in the Morea. I am nothing more than an exile, an old man wasting away, sitting around the fire in a hostile country which I myself ravaged and burnt.

As I said, I am called War. Others have a different name for me. My family is a curious mix, you see. There are Georgians in my ancestry, and there are Portuguese. I am the bastard child of a thousand races and tongues. In Georgian, I am called Zurab. It means “shining”, which I imagine is someone’s idea of a joke. In Portuguese, I am called Affonso; but everyone always called me “Amargo”.

But that is another place, and was another time. A different creed and code. No, I am called Savas, I am called War. And that has been my life. For many years I have served Our Sultan. Born in a brothel in Sicily, captured in a Turkish raid at the age of twelve… I have changed my faith many times. Never could decide on what was true or false.

But this is boring you, child. I’ll speak again, but differently. I’ll tell you of heroes and battles, of kings both good and evil, of the dark of night and the brightness of the morning. Because that’s what you should be told, child.

Morea, then. We crossed over at Patra, and entered the Despotate. The people weren’t welcoming. Why would they be? We were a foreigners in a strange land. They put their trust in the soldiers. Grotesque and terrible, they lined themselves up, jeering and taunting us as our battle began. Our men were good and brave, followers of both crescent and cross; they did their duty, ignoring the cries of the enemy. Their armour glistened, while the men of the false Romans bore cracked and worn out old rags.

Still awake? Good. Now, you know this country well. Its mountains are tall, but between them lie vast valleys, where we grow our crops and wait for winter’s breath. We saw them coming, and scrambled up the cliffs. I was cunning, back then, you see; I made sure that the men’s armour didn’t shine, and that it was coloured dull. The men were ordered to hide behind bushes, and to cover themselves with branches and leaves. Their swords were to be drawn already, so they didn’t make a noise as the assault began.

Eh? What’s that? I said that the armour was glistening? Well, I am old, child. My memory fades. I was right the second time; in battle, it was dulled. It did glisten on parade, though, I can tell you that much. All my soldiers had shining armour when it was needed!

Anyway. Have you ever seen a battle, boy? No? Good. It’s better to fight in one! We charged them down, we attacked and destroyed them. Descending from the mountain-sides, we fought bravely and mercifully. When the charge began and we descended, and their awful mocking screams began- that was when the cavalry, who had been leading their soldiers through the valley, turned around and charged. Oh, brave knights, such brave knights! Good men and true. They won the day for us, I have no trouble telling you.

There is a greatness about battle. When the bloodlust is up, when your sword ceases to be a mere metal object but becomes a vessel of righteous anger! One day, lad, you will fight, I have no doubt. You too will learn what it is like to be a hero! Because our cause was just, you see. Our Sultan told me so himself. He said that his emissary to the Romans, Isra El-Amin, had been insulted and thrust out of the City! Our Sultan’s truth is the only truth, boy. Learn that.

I remember the day when he summoned me to his palace. The armies of the Turk were to be split in two, he said. One to take the City, one to plunge south. I was given the honour of taking half of Our Sultan’s army! 13,000 men! I was honoured. I was determined to do my duty well. Our Sultan’s palace in Edirne was not as grand as his new one, in Constantinople. I knew that such a great monarch as he deserved the palace of the Rum! So Our Sultan, he said to me, “Go south, War. Hold of the Moreans so that I can take Constantinople, and give both the East and West to Allah himself. Go, so that I may further my empire’s glory!”

Ivy stood with him. She had an inscrutable look upon her thin face. Was it triumph? Satisfaction? Sadness? I don’t know, for sure. She was beautiful, and that distracted me. Ah, what a woman she was! But you’re too young to be told about such things, boy. Pull me closer to the fire. Ah, much better.

We won the day. The last of them fled to their towns and cities, which we besieged. We were heroes! Glorious heroes, in the service of Our…

Ah, you have fallen asleep at last, boy. I told you what you needed to hear. Because the truth is none of that. I once enjoyed revelling in the blood of the enemy. I once found happiness in death. You need to be told of glory and heroes. How can I tell you of the truth of Morea, of the stench of death? How can I tell you of the decadence of Our Sultan, of his flaws and follies? These are the burdens of age. War is not good. War is bad. War is the product of a life of sin. Of a thousand lives of sin.

I will be dead soon, little one. I will die, and Christ Jesus or Allah or someone will take my soul away. Maybe he will be kind. Maybe he will ignore the lives I lost. Maybe he’ll look into my mind, and see me as I stab and slash at those soldiers, spilling their blood as their faces convulse into unthinking hatred. Or their fear, at the last.

This world is too much for me, now. I shall sleep a while. But I will wake. It won’t be long before I go to sleep forever, but for now, I will simply sleep. There is much I need to tell you before my time is up.


Meanwhile, events were accelerating in the East...

----

(Sorry for the lack of screenshots- forgot to take any of the Morea).
 
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Stuyvesant

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"It is every man's duty to serve Our Sultan. Any man who does not will be sent to the slave-mines of Morea. That is all you need to know about this war"- Savas Lala, addressing soldiers shortly after the outbreak of the Blacksheep War.
Finding a winking LOTR reference here is unexpected. :)

Ah, the contrast between Savas telling the little boy about the heroism of war and Savas admitting to himself the ugliness of war, that is quite beautiful. A sad state, to see the Roman Empire reduced to ashes, and in such a brutal fashion. But then, as Savas says, war is bad.
 

Nikolai

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That story of Savas' was beautiful! :)
 

Saladin Osmanli

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I'm looking forward to the next update.

For the record, though, I'd like to note that the idea that Mehmed the Conqueror was inclined to certain depravities was largely to entirely based on accounts from Byzantine historians, who would have every reason to blackwash his image with lies and exaggerations.
 

Tufto

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I'm looking forward to the next update.

For the record, though, I'd like to note that the idea that Mehmed the Conqueror was inclined to certain depravities was largely to entirely based on accounts from Byzantine historians, who would have every reason to blackwash his image with lies and exaggerations.
Update is coming soon. Real life has gotten in the way a bit though :p.

I know about the Byzantine bias, don't worry :p None of these narrators are totally reliable, remember. Also, this Mehmet is going to end up somewhat different to the historical Mehmet, as his life takes a wildly different turn from the real Conqueror.
 

Storey

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I’m enjoying the story a great deal.

As for Mehmed since this is a combination of fact and fiction just about anything you write can be taken with a grain of salt and enjoyed for what it is.;)
 

Tufto

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Finding a winking LOTR reference here is unexpected. :)
I couldn't resist :p.

Ah, the contrast between Savas telling the little boy about the heroism of war and Savas admitting to himself the ugliness of war, that is quite beautiful. A sad state, to see the Roman Empire reduced to ashes, and in such a brutal fashion. But then, as Savas says, war is bad.
It is a pity, but a new and equally glorious empire is about to come to the fore...

That story of Savas' was beautiful! :)
Thank you! :)

I’m enjoying the story a great deal.

As for Mehmed since this is a combination of fact and fiction just about anything you write can be taken with a grain of salt and enjoyed for what it is.;)
Thanks! I'm trying to make Mehmed reasonably accurate (though my knowledge of him is miniscule), but someone changed by the differing events; but as you say, he is a combination of fact and fiction so I won't let that get in the way of the narrative :p.

Book One: Romans and Emperors.
Chapter Four: The Fall of Constantinople, Part One (from the Letters of Cobalt).


“All other cities are doomed, but I imagine that as long as people exist, Constantinople will exist”- Petrus Gyllius


-----

My Dearest Pereyaslava,

Thank you, oh thank you for your reply. Every letter from you is a blessing, when one is old and in need of the comfort of yesteryear. Again, I shall leave the niceties for Antoni to deal with. I am a stranger to cloying words and strange sentiment. But I am sure you know that you will always be the dearest and closest of sisters to me, even as I languish on this old estate while you rule as an Empress of the East.

I am glad, sweet queen, that you enjoyed my tales of the Turks. I shall of course oblige you, and tell of the Turkish time. If my memory serves me well, I had left off when I, Ivy and the Whisperer were about to be sent to Constantinople, to examine the walls of the City. Well, you have read the Whisperer’s chronicle of our trip, and there is little I can add to it. I never did see Ivy conversing with the guards, but it explains a great deal about the events which followed.


By 1446, Mehmet was utterly obsessed with the idea of taking the City

The Sultan, Mehmet, greeted us warmly on our return. He had already begun his march, and we camped a while on the outskirts of Thrace. The country down south is a strange and arid one compared to the winters we used to enjoy in childhood, and this night was warm and full of good cheer. I had thought the Sultan would have been angry with us, after our audience with the Emperor, but after a brief conversation with Ivy he relented. We ate well.

Morning came all too soon. I was still bleary-eyed when the Sultan informed me that I would ride with him to the city. Ivy was to leave, taking command of the fleet in the Marmara, while the Whisperer was (so we were told) to go south with Savas Lala to aid the conquest of Morea. This was truly a sign that we now held the confidence of the Sultan.

I will not talk of the Morea, but I feel a word about the character of Lala is needed here. Lala was a grim and upright man, a pious member of his own faith, and was a cold figure, with little pity in his heart. I think, in his old age, he was more forgiving and regretful of the excesses of cruelty he once enjoyed. His name in our tongue means “War”, and that was what he was called by most. I’m sure you have heard the stories of General War and his legions of rabid wolves. This was the man who inspired such fanciful stories.


The Sultan divided up his most trusted advisors, sending them on separate missions. No sign of the Whisperer was seen in the Morea, however...

We were packed up before lunch, and then went our separate ways. It would many months before I saw any of them again, and the tales of their exploits are a thrilling tale- but they can be found elsewhere. I will now relate the tale of the Siege, of the Sultan’s obsession, of the Cold Winter and the Great Cannon.

We arrived at the City in the late summer- August, if I remember correctly. The army we had assembled was thirteen-thousand strong, fighting against a mere three-thousand enemies- most of whom were Greek rabble and Venetian mercenaries, unfit to fight against our battle-hardened troops. But nonetheless, we were not enough to take the city by storm. Constantinople was still a powerful fort, even in the age of gunpowder.

I have been told that to stand upon the walls, and see the assembled host of Islam, was a terrifying sight for the Greeks. Banners of the crescent moon, ghazis from Anatolia and Arabia, Magyar mercenaries, Persian adventurers, scribes from Samarkand eager to earn glory through record-keeping. There were baggage trains of Greek slaves, Janissaries marching in strict formation. The Emperor was said to have broken down and wept at the sight.

I rode at the right hand of the Sultan. Whatever flaws he may have had in other spheres, he was a monstrosity of competency on the battlefield. Roaring orders left and right, he was in total command, his eyes scanning the walls and looking for every little weakness. Eventually, the cannon were set up and the battle began.

The cannon fired into the weak point of the walls- vast cannon, created by the master engineer Orban, a Magyar who had turned to aid the Turks when the Greeks could not meet his extravagant fees. The area near Blachernae had been rebuilt, and was not quite as strong as the original wall had been; it was here that the Sultan focused his assault. But he would not yet attack en masse- he was said to be waiting for “the right moment”, something which none of us yet knew the meaning of.

The camp was awe-inspiring to ride through. As the constant fire and smoke and yells reached through the air during every small assault on the wall, the camp behind was often quiet and calm. But as I wandered through it, as I was prone to do, I could see that each man was alert and ready, and even as they played cards and dice, their eyes would dart towards the wall or towards their commander, waiting for a sign.

Summer turned to autumn, and autumn turned to winter. And it was a cold and bitter winter. This was the very darkest hour of the siege. Despite our efforts, the walls stayed firm, and the Greeks began to taunt us in our misery. Morale began to sap away- had it not been for the Sultan’s near-obsessive encouragement, I think we should have perished, and ran off home.

On Christmas Morn, however, the Sultan was in a furious mood. The city was supposed to have been distracted, allowing the guards to open the gates to let us in. None of us knew of this plot at this time of course, so it was a shock when the Sultan ripped open his tent and let a torrent of abuse hurtle towards us, his inner circle. The guards had been caught, the plan was ruined, and the siege would have to be finished the old-fashioned way. This would also explain Ivy's fury when she found out, as she had been counting on those guards to deliver the Emperor straight to her.


At the height of the Cold Winter, the Ottoman military situation was dire. It seemed as though the Romans would yet survive.

From then on, the siege became a haunted battleground. Every day was a battle to yield one inch of the wall. The Sultan had turned half-mad, throwing his troops against the wall, using his navy to fire cannon after cannon at the sea-wall, waiting and waiting for some breakthrough, or for Ivy to turn up. But Ivy didn’t. News had filtered through to us that the Roman fleet had blocked off the Straits, and that it was taking her a while to blast her way through. Reinforcements from the Crimea were supposed to come, but they did not. Even worse, we heard reports of a militia army loyal to the Byzantines marching north to besiege Burgas, on the Black Sea coast.


Roman militiamen had fled north to Burgas, in a last-ditch effort to draw attention away from the City.

Life was grim. A permanent cloud of smoke was on the horizon. The games of chance had ceased, and those soldiers not being thrown into the fray to fight tooth-and-nail for another chance to live were always on their guard, staring at the walls, hoping that it was not one of their friends or relatives who was being torn apart. I like to think that those detachments I commanded performed well- the Sultan seemed to think so- but it was a grim time.

If it was bad for us, it must have been ten times worse for the Greeks. Behind their walls, praying constantly in the Cathedral of Holy Wisdom- I am told that on one particularly bloody day, half the populace of the City stood either in or before the Church, raising candles in silent prayer, for the living and the dead. The Emperor was occasionally seen striding the walls, though he always ducked down before any shot could hit him.

It was in early February, on a snow-covered day, our breath steaming up in our mouths, when someone saw a glint of white. At first we thought it nothing, but then, slowly, the shape of a sail appeared. Then more sails, and more- until we could see half of the fleet sailing to surround the golden horn, captured Roman vessels towed behind them. And standing astride the leading vessel was Ivy, resplendent in golden armour, as well as the Whisperer, a Berber scarf pulled over his face, wearing robes of sombre black.


With the arrival of Ivy, Bagatur and the fleet, events began to come to a head...

Ah, I grow weary, dear Pereyaslava. I must cease here, though I deplore leaving this tale half-finished. Antoni leaves tomorrow, so the rest of this thrilling tale will have to be told another day, in another correspondence. I need now only remind you that I am eternally faithful to you, and eagerly await your next letter.

As ever, with love,

Jan Gorski (called Cobalt).
 
Last edited:

Stuyvesant

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The Romans held out admirably (that's what, six months?), but in the end they can't escape their ultimate fate. The City will fall, sooner or later. A grim tale, with no heroism in it.
 

Storey

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The end draws near.

In game I’ve only seen the Ottomans defeated by the human player by blocking off the sea lane between Asia and the Balkans. In real life the Ottomans were just too powerful to stop.