• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

knppel

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Justin III.
From Ioustipedia, the dictated encyclopaedia

Justin III. of Thebes (Greek: Ἰουστῖνος Γʹ ὁ Θῆβαι , Ioustinos III. ho Θήβα, Latin: Justinus Augustus Magnus, 810-893), commonly known as Justin the Great (Greek: Ἰουστῖνος ὁ Μέγας, Ioustinos ho Mégas), was a king (Basileus) of the medieval Greek Kingdom of Thebes and a member of the Skleroid dynasty. He was born in Avlonas in 809 and succeeded his Aunt Queen Semiramis I. to the throne at the age of 14.
He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign throughout Asia, India and Northern Africa, and by the age of sixtyeight had created one of the largest empires of the virtual world, stretching from the Himalaya to the Atlas Mounts.
He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of this game's most succesfull military commanders.
His exploits mimiced those of Alexander the Great himself- except that he didn't die drunk at age 33 in Babylon.


_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

"Oh god, he's Brad Pitt in Troy with the moustache from Inglorious Basterds! He really is irresistible!"
-anonymous female ck player when seeing young Ioustinos, age 20


__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________​
Thanks for the attention at this point upfront, and welcome to my first AAR on the paradox-forums.
As a quick introduction: let me just say, I played this game quite a lot, I really do like it. I could tell countless funny stories about ck. But I've not had any character who deserves a chronicle like this guy.
Thus, I'll write one up.
As I'm jumpy and inconsistent, prepare for a weird mixture of styles, lengthy character dialogues, paraphrased wikipedia, drama, tragedy, comedy, ridiculousness, and parts where I mention how this or that worked out in the game mechanics for better understanding.

The journey starts with Leon Skleros, Count of Thebes, in 769.
Sadly there's not much contemporary coverage of his life and deeds, so he's just shown here dead.

Leon.jpg


Starting Character, Location and date: Leon Skleros, Count of Thebes, 769
Ironman: Active
Achievements: Active
Shattered retreat: Off
Immortality: Off
China: Off
Everything else: On



 
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Nikolai

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Well, that's huge. :D
 
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knppel

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Leo of Thebes
From Ioustipedia, the dictated encyclopaedia

Leo Skleros (Greek: Λέων Σκληρός , died 784), commonly known as Leo the Scholar, was Count of Thebes from 750 to his death and a member of the Skleroid dynasty.
He is most notably known for being the grandfather of Justin the Great.

Biography
Official court history mention Leo first in 774, attributed with the prestigious court office of Sakellarios and ruler of Thebes.
In an uprising against christian centralized rule, he revolted against Emperor Leo IV. alongside the slavic Chieftains of the Greek Peninsula.
For existing accounts, he was mostly responsible for financing the resistance and not actively partaking in the wars, ruling his capital of Thebes and promoting trade and learning.
Late in his rule, Leo marched his troops out to occupy the neighbouring county of Naupaktos, subject to the High Chief of Epirus, whose realm had been devastated by raids from the High Chief of Peleppones and a failed attempt to take Cephalonia from the Emperor.
While succesfull in this war, Leo suffered grieveous injuries in battle during the campaign, and died soon after, to be succeeded by his eldest son, Theodore.

Historical Revision
While Leo can be confirmed as ruler of Thebes as early as 769, where old documents confirmed he engaged in trade and scholarship, the prestigious court offices attributed to him are nowadays widely regarded as made up forgeries of his great-granddaughter, Semiramis of Thebes.
Similarly, critical revision is hindered by the fact his grandson Justin (the Great) downplayed his fathers' and grandfathers' influence in paving the way for his conquests.
Factually asserted can be that Leo was actively engaged in trade in the region (see below), served as Steward for High Chief Vukovic of Thessalonike in 779, wrote a now lost book about his research on stellar constellations, that he died of severe injuries sustained in the battle for Naupaktos and left Thebes to his older son Theodore, Naupaktos to his younger son Maurice.

Surviving Contemporary accounts of Leo's rule.
Above: Documents issued when expanding with trade routes not only in Thebes, but Thessalia
Below: Bill of a blacksmith, issued for a Spear crafted on behalf of "Leo Skleros, [Lord] of Thebes" (Λέων Σκληρός ὁ Θῆβαι )



Offspring
Leo had at least five children.

Theodore- succeeded his father as Lord of Thebes
Maurice- deprived of his inheritage by his older brother, later made Dux of Epirus by his grand-niece Semiramis
Innocent- Count of Avlonas, father of Justin the Great
Two daughters
 

knppel

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Prelude

How Destiny is made


Mount Olympus, ca. 809 A.D.
~About tea time~

"You have to admit, this is hilarious, Hera." Aphrodite laughed, pearling, immaculate. "Up with the cross, down with the cross. Must be hard to decide on mortal matters."
The two goddesses were currently spectating a local riot in a Thracian city. The Emperor was enforcing a policy of Iconoclasm, and the two were quite impressed by the effort the mortals recently put in ruining their own or their forfathers' hard work to decorate places of worship.
"I wonder what's next." Hera seemed not particularly amused by the spectacle. Granted, all the fires of Hades for the christian temples and their iconography, if it was for her, but it just too much reminded her of the just recent progroms and destruction of her and her siblings' altairs and temples on the orders of the great Christianisator of Rome and Greece.
"Still taking bets, I'll give you an amazing quote for the teachings of a man named Zoroaster, it's all about fire, people love it in the east, I heard."
"I don't bet with you. And you're old news. Those that follow the teachings of the desert-prophet and also preach a single god overran their country. Ask Apollo."
Without a word, the mentioned god had taken place next to the duo, viewing down on the miles away city alongside them, where the humans were busy tearing down and burning icons.

Not too far away, others were watching the spectacle, too.
"You know, if they did that to my statue-" Poseidon angrily waved off with the hand holding the trident, accidentaly causing a storm to sink a Genoese fleet heading for Athens. Genoa would never recover.
"Just that you don't have any anymore." Hades smirked, deviously, as was his style.
"You got easy musing, never having being worshipped much anyway."
Hades apologetically showed his palms.
"Beg your pardon that someone has to do the dirty work, and the mortals naturally do not like to pray to death. We know best we wouldn't answer anyway, don't we!"
Hades leaned forward and gazed to the left. "Also, you just ruined Genoa for centuries to come. You might wanna think of a good excuse, in case the boss notices. Not sure if he had any plans with."
"If I have plans for what?" Zeus approached the two from behind, paid no mind to the dying genoese in the Dardanelles and focused on the riot in Traianopolis.
"Oh, nothing, dear brother! Absolutely nothing. We were just innocently spectating this tremendous artwork the mortals produce, and-"
He had nothing to hide currently, but being a notorious liar, Hades could obviously not just admit that. Not that Zeus would have believed him either way. Thus, pointing fingers at someone else was always best.
"-Poseidon just sank an Italian Fleet!"
Zeus was clearly not distracted by this news, and kept gazing at the turmoil the mortals were inflicting down in their realm. He briefly glanced over his shoulder, then lowered his voice a little and side-eyed Hades.
"Say, who's that?"

A godly finger pointed out a woman in the crowd, she was seated on a horse, surrounded by armed pillaging men, her hands tied together, the horse led by a rider. Happy he could be of service rather than to have to explain himself with no good answer, Hades right away answered.
"This, uh, this is the Count of Avlonas, dear brother, and his men. He's leading the pillagers of the King of Thebes, who sent his men to take his share in the turmoil."
Zeus rolled his eyes. While fallen to barbarian ways same as everybody, the Lords of Thebes worshipped the old gods and not the cross.
"I know that, idiot. No, not him, the woman on the horse there." He pointed her out more closely.
"Oh, that is Theognosia, granddaughter of the Emperor of Constantinople and King of Italy."
"Remarkable man, if he has such nice granddaughters." Zeus stroked his beard.
"Two men, actually, dear brother. One grandfather of hers, Leo by name, is Emperor in Constantine's city, while the other, Theobald-"
Zeus interrupted him with raising his hand and another sidegaze. "Too much information."
He looked to his left, over to where Aphrodite and Hera now both laughed over a joke Apollo had made, then back to Poseidon and Hades.
"Look, my brothers, I'll need your help, just distract me Hera for little while, will you?"

Poseidon facepalmed. This time it hit Pisa. "You do recall what happened the last time, do you?"
"I am a god, how could I forget." Zeus seemed not impressed.
Poseidon lowered his voice. "She'll find out." With a doubtful gaze he nodded to Hades. "I mean, he knows."
Hades again showed his trademark innocent pose with displayed palms. "What did I do this time!"
Zeus snorted, looking down on the marketplace in the small city again, where the woman was being taken along by the looting riders, home to Avlonas, where her captor resided. At least no one seemed to have taken notice he had incited the man's nephew, the King of Thebes, to urge his uncle to take the woman as concubine.
Zeus did not necessarily like women raped by douzens of men, specially not if he had laid an eye on them himself.
"Just tell me what you want."
Hades folded his hands and smiled appeasingly. "The same as we all, just some service, praise and worship and souls. How about, if there's offspring, the oldest male line will worship me primarily?"
"Deal."
Zeus quickly gazed over to the other group again, Hera and Aphrodite seemed decently distracted. Hades didn't need to know Apollo had been acquired for the scheme already. The less he knew, the less he could spill.
With a quick move, Zeus vanished, only to reappear on earth just a few months later, disguised as an ox grassing on the fields of Avlonas, near the residence of Count Innocentius.
 

HistoryDude

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Switching styles is fine!

This man seems like a great conqueror...

Also, you are a Hellene here... Interesting...
 

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A Helene? Boo! Hiss! :D
 

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I was just innocently planning to pick up a warrior lodge bloodline on the way, but then... ^^


~~~~~~~~~~~
Chapter One

Opportunity makes thieves

Thebes, ides of march, 781

Leo, Lord of Thebes, sat in his study and was occupied with is favourite task: Going through the accounts.
The city outside was quite busy and noisy- it was no secret the Count's son, Theodore, was preparing his army since months to march on his neighbours. Snow had melted early this season, which was a good omen. In the castle yard, a douzen gards were currently working on their aim with the shortbow, while the younger kids were being taken care of by his second wife, a young frankish woman.

A horse's loud clapping on the plastered yard, followed by shouting, took Leo's attention from the books- not that this would bother, he knew the numbers were in order, it was himself keeping them after all. Thebes was flourishing since several years, his efforts to establish a trade network together with High Chief Vuk's son- who by now was High Chief Vuk II, after his father had died last year, gods, how the time passes- had been more than just fruitful.
The past years Leo had spent more occupied with studying, in fact, as economy was already as booming as could be. This spring however, it was time for war.
The remarkably loud steps of his son coming down the hallway in a hurry alerted Leo of Theodore's approach, before the later could burst in the door.
This was his usual style, Leo was not too concerned about his safety. More about his son's manners. He heaved a sigh, which went under in the door slamming open.
His eldest went right his way to the study, a radiant smile on his face.

"Father." Theodore nodded and halted infront of his father, slammed the heels together and saluted. As usually, the Lord's son displayed a beaming grin, wider than usual actually, Leo noticed.
"My son!" Without much formalities, Leo gestured to one of the chairs near him. His son obviously had something to tell, he could tell it from his nosetip already.
"What's the urgency, Theodore? If it's about bigger barracks again, though, I told you we don't have money for such luxuries currently."
Theodore rolled his eyes innerly, but managed to maintain a straight face.
"No, father, it's not about new barracks for the men. Which they could really use well, but regardless, no. Better, father, much better."
Leo cocked an eyebrow, as his son paused, this was not his usual style. Theodore was heads-through-walls, always had been.
"Speak, then. Don't let me pull it out of your nose, young man." Leo softened down a little, as his son displayed he was quite well able to retort a jest. As much as Theodore's military skill stood out of doubt, he did at times lack the fine art of diplomacy. Not to mention that Leo really wished his son would read a little more. Like, read at all.

Theodore wipped back and forth on his toetips, arms behind his back, not concealing his excitement.
"I was out with the scouts the night, father."
Leon chuckled. Unlike his son, he knew a little more about etiquette, and most of all kindness, so he helped him along. After all, obviously this was an urgent matter. As so often Theodore, in all his eagerness, threw stones in his own path.
"And what did you see, son?"
"Chief Miroslav's soldiers were laying siege to Naupaktos, as you know, father."

Leo nodded and stroked his beard, briefly eyeing the map of the local area on his desk. The castle of Naupaktos was the neighbouring fortress to Thebes, laying a little to the northwest. In late fall, High Chief Miroslav of the Pellloponnes had crossed the water and arrived to lay siege to the castle with his band of raiders.
Naupaktos was vassal to Chief Dragija of Epirus, who had rallied his own men to confront them as a consequenze.
The third local independent magnate was Leo's own liege, High Chief Vuk of Thessalia. Athens and Thessalonike were held by governors of the Emperor in Constantinople.
"Of course I did. Any news of interest from our western neighbours?"
Theodore's smile widened further, as he nodded twice, quickly.
"Chief Dragija and his men attacked them the other morning, for what we gathered. What I know for sure is, the Epirotian army was routed, and Miroslav's men have retreated after looting the castle and surrounding villages."

Suddenly Leo was readily awake, and faster on his feet, than he thought he could still have been. After all, he was over fifty, and felt the back and knees more and more with every year. Regardless, he had not sat idle the past year, and studied logistics and the local geography, while his son trained the men.
"So this means-"
Theodore nodded again. "It does, father."

Without any further ado, father and son nodded once again to each other, and then right away left the study together.
This was the opportunity they had prepared for the past five years- a neighbouring castle lay ready to be occupied, and no army would be ready to fight them off when marching to occupy it.
"Ready my spear."
It was time for Thebes to rise.
 

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And what a rise it will prove to be.
 
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knppel

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Chapter two

All the might of Thebes

Thebes, 781, late march, sundawn

"How many men do you have?"
Theodore was mustering the men infront of the castle. To Leo's surprise, his young son had actually managed to raise more men than his castle yard had been able to host. Maybe the boy- by now far over twenty and a seasoned commander, respected by his men- was right, and new barracks were in order. He'd see to that after the war, though. If.
Thebes was flourishing, after all, and he had no intention to waste a fortune to build luxurious soldier housing, specially right now, as the soldiers would not even be home to use it.

Without to express his surprise and satisfaction, Leo marched down the row of soldiers, orderly lined up, armed with spears and shields and the rear row with javelins and bows in addition. On the command of his son, the soldiers stood still.

"Seven-hundred and ninety and eight."
His son beamed with pride, and Leo nodded approvingly. Almost eighthundred men? Where had the boy found all these? Amazing, it had certainly paid off to hire qualified military men to see to his education. Theodore was serving his father as Protostratorius since quite a while, and the army had significantly improved, both in disciplin and in size. Leo rubbed his hands- if the gods willed, it would all come together.

This thought made him glance at his son. Theodore, unlike himself, currently was in a Christian Sect- he and his soldier friends liked to tear down icons of Christ in the local churches. While the New Empress in Constantinople had banned the practice of Iconoclasm after murdering her father-in-law and husband, it was booming in Thebes since years, which heeded no mind to Constantinople's orders either way.


Leo himself paid no mind to this, as long as the rabble kept off the markets and did not disturb trade. While not making a big deal of praying, he had abandoned the belief in the word of the christian church years ago. He had studied theology not just a little, and ancient Greek mythology too, but he mostly found it confusing. He believed in numbers and organisation.
After all, the reason Theodore was an able and strong commander, was that he had received a profound military education, and aptly trained his body and swordarm all his life.
Not some stuff like, let's say, him bringing him to the Underworld to dip him into some river to make him strong. Ideas had the people of old, it was hilarious.
No, Leo strictly believed in numbers.
And those he had told him, that his levies and the mercenaries he'd hired in addition would be able to surround the garrison remaining in Naupaktos after the raid of the Pelloponneses, as well as defeat the remainder of the Epirotian army in open battle to put a swift end to any resistance in the area.

The men of Oghuz ibn Oghuz, son of the Khan Oghuz of Oghuz, was breaking tent infront the village this moment, Leo overheard, as Theodore's aide brought him word. The roughly seventy steppe riders were abit disorganized and chaotic for Leo's taste, but more importantly and in their favour, they were cheap, and just the supplement he thought his army might need in a battle. The steppe riders would be able to flank the enemy, while the soldiers of Thebes would hold the center.
So much at least for the theoretic battle plan he had drawn up with Theodore the past weeks for the eventuality.
Leo smirked to himself and nodded once more.
Battle plans rarely ever see the first hour of a fight- this he had learned not in theory, but in practice, when serving as young soldier in the Imperial army they earned nothing but shame and defeat, and Thebes was as a consequence currently paying its tribute to a serbian Chieftain, as most of Greece was in the hand of the slavs.
Not that Leo minded, he had been good with Vuk I. and was good with Vuk II. just alike.

He had requested a vacation from his job as steward the other month- he meant to personally guide his troops on the quickest paths he knew to Naupaktos, to arrive there before anyone else could make a move. News had brought it that the Chief of Epirus had succumbed to his injuries sustained in battle, and had left his infant son to inherit Epirus. Well, all the easier for us, that was Leo's opinion on this matter.
"Good work, son. You may move. Alright, we'll march before the hour, make sure the baggage train is ready, too."

 

knppel

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Chapter 3

Quarrell in the Neighbourhood

In the passes of Mount Parnassus, a few days later

"You was right, father. If nothing extraordinary comes across, we should be in Naupaktos in just three days. Using this mountain pass was a brilliant plan." Theodore, his usual smile on the lips, opened the dialogue during their scarce dinner.
The Theban host was moving rapidly through the mountains, which his father knew in detail like his saddlebag. Theodore considered himself a more than apt commander and able to move armies around without much delay, but the paths the old man had suggested had turned out safe, unguarded and quicker than those he had chosen, and he could not help but being impressed.
Leo chuckled amused and washed his bread down with water.
"Of course, I told you so." Leo picked up an olive. "Of course, it's too narrow and steep to move an army, but for our small troop, it's just what we need.. Shepards use this pass since centuries, and so do local forces, when trying to circumvent larger hostile armies."

Father and son were seated with their men at the fireplaces. It was not looking like rain, so Leo had ordered the men to just put up a quick camping site that could be swiftly broken in the morning. Morale was good so far- the men expected a victory, after all, and tidings had played their way before marching already.
Now the plan just had to be transported in practice.
"Any reports from the scouts yet?" Leo sticked the olive in his mouth and chewed slowly.
"None as of yet, but the next few way hours are clear, I was ahead myself with Prokopius this afternoon. And Philippos was told to check the path all the way to Epirus for resistance, should he not meet any he has to alert us of. So I don't urgently expect him tonight."
Theodore shook his head.
"For all I know, the Epirotians rallied their remaining men a few miles north of Naupaktos to deny us passage and entry to their capital."

After having been scattered by the raiders from Corinth and lost their Lord, the remaining forces of Epirus had been gathered by Rodislav, the Chief's Captain of the Guard. Both Theodore and Leo knew they had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grab hold of.
According to Theodore's reports- and those were usually reliable-, the Epirotians had lost not just their Lord, but almost half their army when battling with the raiders of the High of of the Pelloponnes, over six hundred men- which left their army at a size where the Thebans could overwhelm them and beat them in the field, hopefully.
And after that, occupying Naupaktos should be possible even with a few losses calculated in- the garrison there having been decimated by the succesful raid of the Serbs from Corinth.
To ease up the task of the army, Leo and Theodore had decided to move on the Epirotians immediately, rather than to allow them to regroup and replenish before giving battle. Leo's vast knowledge of the local mountains and his organisatoric talent had proven most useful for this, and Theodore was confident to catch the Epirotians at Naupaktos, before they could retreat to their capital.

"We'll pass by Delphi tomorrow noon, son. Have you ever visited the oracle?"
Theodore bursted in laughter, spitting some water, lacking fine wine. His father was cheap on luxuries, and while Theodore was not, Leo was the one in charge of the logistics and most of all, finances.
"No, I once had my fortune read by the seeress in Cassandra's Palace, father, that did for my part."
Where his father was simply not religious, Theodore actively disliked religion. His interests in theology were as low as could be. The one part he liked about religion was that the Iconoclast wave had given him and his friends regular excuses to wreak havoc drunk in the city and ravage churches for whatever they saw icons of christ in.
Cassandra's 'palace', the most famous brothel of Thebes, on the other hand, could count the young son of the Lord to its most reliable patrons.
Leo chuckled and nodded in agreement.

"We'll visit anyway. Call me superstitious and old schooled all you like, but I am curious just to see how this works."
"Cassandra says it's a drunk woman telling weird gibberish. That's why she just has her own oracle to spare people the journey."
Theodore was still fighting down his laughter. Leo rolled his eyes.
"Yeah yeah, I know how that works. Don't get ideas to profanize the place this badly."
"Don't look like that, father! Cassandra's oracle promised me I'd hav the time of my life and well, I usually do, but she was not wrong!"
"Seriously, there is more to that. I've read the old myths, Theo, you know it, and I told you them. It's all nonsense, sure, but it's not just alcohol either, it's about a deep cliff back in the cave and apparently a sort of gas the oracle-priestesses used to inhale-"
Shouting and the sound of horses in the night some distance away down the path interrupted Leo, father and son likewise turned their heads.
Not too long after, Philippos, one of Theodore's veteran scouts, was carried by by hurrying soldiers to the physician, who was wit hthe rearguard.
Theodore vaguely spotted what seemed to be an arrow sticking out of the man, his horse was being tended to by men down the path.
As he was rushed by, Philippos coughed and raised his arm in a salute to his Lords.
"We have to march immediately, Lord Leo! I caught one of their spies just half a mile down the pass from here, and another escaped me! They know we're coming, and retreating to Epirus!"
The man's arm sunk back down as the soldiers carried him further and he had passed by his Lord to deliver his report successfully.

Theodore angrily slammed his fist in the open left hand. "For god's sake! These cowards!" He swallowed the rest of his anger, it was up to his father to command the immediate break of camp, not him, but it was obvious he was boiling over the news.
Leo, being better controlled than his son, was calmer, but no less alerted.
"Alright, son, tell Prokopius to break camp and proceed on the planned route. He'll take the troops directly to Naupaktos on the path I instructed you to use. All of them."
Theodore blinked as he nodded, he was confused.
"Prokopius? But am I not- and what about you? Are you and me not leading the army to battle?"
Leo displayed a fine smile, he loved it when he could surprise his supposedly all knowing son, so studied in brawling and warfare and tearing down icons.
And the attention span of a goldfish.
"Oh, you and I, we will lead the army to battle, son. But first, we'll go to Delphi."
 
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HistoryDude

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Perhaps they will have a religious experience in Delphi.

Why does the screenshot say that a chief is Suomenusko? How’d that religion even make it to Greece from Finland?

It seems as if our good Count is an opportunist. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.
 
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knppel

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Why does the screenshot say that a chief is Suomenusko? How’d that religion even make it to Greece from Finland?

It seems as if our good Count is an opportunist. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.
I've just reviewed the chronicle last night, and spotted this there, thankfully, as it fits in just perfectly.
The question is more than just valid- and will be answered soon, including the finnish connection.

As for the opportunism, Leon rolled Thrifty Clerk, diligent and greedy to start with. Indeed he can hardly miss out on anything!

A Helene? Boo! Hiss!
Theology will prove to be.... interesting in this game, to say the least o_O:D
As you can see above, though, obviously it was no particularly planned hellenic start.
That visit in Delphi I totally retcon ;)
 

knppel

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Chapter four

Religious discussions

Mt. Parnassus, two days later

"How long is it yet?"
Since two days, Theodore and Leo were wandering around the heights of Mount Parnassus.
"You said you knew the way!"
"And I do. Just relax, it is not far anymore."
The two were on foot, leading their horses by the girdle, and separated from their men, which made hasty march on Naupaktos, hopefully. Theodore had lost his mood already yesterday. He had came for fights and glory, not to see old crones.
"Why again do we seek this ancient oracle out?"
"Scientific interest."
Leo knew this was not going to satisfy his son, but at least it deprived him of an immediate counter-argument, as Theo simply had no clue or interest for science, nor the will to pretend he had. It was Theodore's turn to roll his eyes.
"Cassandra says, their trick is to vaguely tell people what they want to hear without to go into detail."
"And you didn't get the idea Cassandra might be telling that just as she's worried about every single denarius you might spend somewhere besides her place, hm?"

Before Theodore, obviously offended, could reply and eventually get angry, Leo raised a hand, showing his palm, and continued, more appeasingly and less cynical.
"Don't get me wrong, son, but you know her way better than I do, and you'll not deny the woman does love gold and silver. But I know you too, and this is not about her, isn't it? Come on, is just you and me, we can openly talk anyway."
Leo enjoyed wandering the mountainous forests with his son, actually. It was the first time in years he really had taken a day off that was meant to spend on a personal interest, that was in no way related to governing the city or ruling over his people or assisting High Chief Vuk.
After all, prophecies and foretelling were no things that actually affected any events, thankfully.

Theodore bit his lips and looked down. As always when he was insecure and trying to conceal his feelings, his father read him like one his stupid books.
And of course he was also right, as usual. Theodore took a deep breath, before he spoke, looking past his father, along the path they were marching hill upwards.
"It's just that... Eremaios says, it's dangerous."
As expected, his father just chortled audibly over this. Theodore beat his anger down and quickly spoke on before his father could just smash his arguments with his typical rational approach.
"Not as in, going there to see it. I am not afraid of anything, father. You know that best. But he says, uh, how was this-"

Leo smiled gently, but amused to his son. The bishop, of course. Who but a clergyman could have put more serious flaws in the head of his son than the local brothel?
Eremaios was bishop of Thebes since almost twenty years, Leo was good friends with him, but the disregard of the Lord for the quarrels of the christian church were no secret.
"I know what Eremaios says about prophecies, son, I talk to him too. He says that knowing the future is dangerous for us humans. And with this silliness, is right in the tradition of those who worshipped the gods of old and actually believed all this nonsense."

He stopped as he noticed he got agitated, over religion- a discovery that made him chuckle over himself. No, not religion, he then realized, this was his son that was the problem, not some idiots fighting over how to call whom they kneel for, or which direction exactly to kneel.
Leo stopped for a moment, also taking the chance to rub and stretch his back briefly. He was still in decent shape and the walking was no bother, but he did feel his back out here in the wilds. He gave his son a glance. Theodore was tall and strong, every inch a warrior. Leo envied him for his youth, as he stood there in the sun setting over the mountain in the west.
"Let me try to explain it this way, Theo. Do you believe Cassandra's so-called oracle when she tells you, you've been the strongest and most handsome man she ever has seen?"
"Of course I know that's a phrase."
"See, that's exactly what I mean, my boy. A rational approach, not just taking every word for granted. But hearing it feels nice regardless, doesn't it?"
Theodore blushed and looked down, kicked a little stone aside, but could not conceal his grin.
"Yes, I guess so."
"I was young too long ago, son, no need to be ashamed." Leo patted his son's back as they kicked their legs back in motion, the horses following led on the girdles.

"Now let me explain you about religion. Eremaios is a good man and personal friend, I like him. But their teachings? I mean come on, even you by now must have grasped this is all completely arbitrary ridiculous and solely depends on what someone makes up to provoke someone else far away!"
While possibly biased, Leo's description was undoubtedly accurate for Thebes in the 770's.
It had started years ago, with the decrees from Constantinople to remove the iconography in everything religious- or generally at all, as some hardliners preached.
Eremaios, the good man, was a devoted follower of orders, and had subsequently supported the following destruction of the symbolics of Christ in his local church.
Only to rebuild them ten years later when order -and money for new icons- came from Constantinople that the icons had to be reinstalled after the official renouncing of Iconoclasm.

Leo saw the Iconoclast movement as what it was, a politically motivated interpretation of an old book to appease the rising powers in the east that followed the word of their prophet Muhammad, and also forbid icons in their holy book. Religion was all a big scheme, so Leo saw it.
Theodore, on the other hand, had been born in the midst of the heighth of the iconoclast movement. While not actively religious, his theologic proundness was indeed so low that he at times lacked the ability to question things, much to Leo's concern.
Leo, on his behalf, had his very own religious quarrel of other matters with his bishop. And Constantinople, or Rome, or the whole world basically.

"Eremaios just was against this from the start, Theo. If it was not the oracle, he'd see doom in the well we water our horses from. He's a good and loyal man- again, if anything happens to me in battle, find him first, not the mayor of the burghers, not the captain of the guards, and just to clarify, definitely not my wife- but he believes too much he is being told without to see it, if you ask me."
Leo took a deep breath.
"You see, his real reason for being against this is that we originally disputed about a valid claim on Naupaktos."

Theodore raised an eyebrow. This was new to him. Eremaios had criticized many things on the march and before, sure. But for all Theodore recalled from his bible classes, telling people what they did wrong was a priest's job after all.
"A claim?"
"A claim."
"Whatfor do we need a claim?"
"That's what I asked him."
"And what did he say?"
"He told me I should send message to Constantinople if I was seriously interested in asserting a legal claim on my neighbour's land."

Theodore's jaw almost dropped. He considered himself more worldy than his father or the local bishop, he had travelled to Constantinople before after all. With his father, admittedly, as a little boy. But regardless, this was ridiculous.
"We don't need a claim, father. Naupaktos is ripe for taking and our men are on the march, two months of time, that is what we need at most to starve them out, if-"
Leo interrupted his son's upcoming anger with a calm hand.
"That's what I told him, with the army in the yard."
"And what did he say?"
"He told me it was against the teachings of Christ, That Lord Alexandros might complain to the Holy See and I might be excommunicated for my deeds and rot in the deepest depths of hell."
Leo said it calmly. The typical fear of the afterlife many of his contemporaries tended to use as excuse for terrible deeds in the here and now was not his kind of thing. He did not show his anger like his son would have, but it was clear he had been offended a little by the priest's obvious threats, friendship aside.

It took Theodore a few moments to swallow that. He had vaguely heard the theory of heaven and hell as anybody, but indeed he was no avid church goer.
However, hearing his father calmly contemplate the possibility of roasting forever - now that was a thought even he felt uncomfortable with, and cowardness was nothing anybody who knew him attributed with Theodore Skleros.
"And what did you say?"
Leo grinned.
"I told him that my old friend far up north, you know him, Chief Usluk of Mari who yearly delivers us pelts, follows a god named Ukko that promises his followers wealth and prosperity for their lands, without being obliged to actually uphold this promise, as it's us mortals here on earth deciding our fortunes."
Leo spat out.
"And that we'd march on Naupaktos this spring, which we are doing.
Maybe I also told him that if he cared so much for the soldiers to march under Jesus Christ's blessing, he could accompany our army as planned, or write to Constantinople to complain about his uncomfortable cell in the dungeon while waiting for his execution for doubting our claims."

Theodore took a moment, then bursted in laughter. As so often, he had underestimated his father's cunning and ruthlessness.
However, his laughter immediately stopped, when he reached the top of the mountain pass they were walking up, and could gaze to the area below.
"Father, come quick and look! I think, this is it!"

 

knppel

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Interludium

Mt. Olympus- one of the cheap corners


"Now isn't this most gorgeous! It has been a while since mortals paid our place a visit."
"What is he doing there?"
"He wants to look at the stones, at least that's what he told his son."
"And what does he really do there?"
"He is looking for a sign. He's old, and you know how aging mortals get."
"A sign whatfor?"
"He does not know yet."
"He'd not be here if he did."
"Don't they have the teachings of their messiah who failed to safe the world to comfort them these days?"
"This one finds no comfort in the words of his priests."
"He'll find no comfort in his sign either."
"This is not our concern."
"It is not indeed."
"Then shall we proceed?"
"We shall."

"You will reach your goals, Lord Leo!"
"You will pay a price in blood and flesh!"
"Your son's son will conquer the world!"

"Wasn't the last one a bit over the top?"
"What did she tell him? I did not look."
"It just- came over me. You know how these work."
"His son's son? This man's offspring? No. His male line will die out in two generations, but that's even too harsh for me to pester an old man in his sleep with."
"I didn't say his first son's son."
"You mean- Oh help me, my eyes, my eyes...!"


Down on earth in the ruins of Delphi, Leo Skleros was thrown out of his sleep, wet of sweat, his heart rapidly beating in his chest. Had he screamed? He was not sure.
Theodore next to him seemed asleep at least, the horses were still there too.
Heaven, hell and science, what a terrible dream.
Leo sat up, and rubbed his aching back.
 
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knppel

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Chapter six

Not convinced

Leo was more than just glad when he and his son caught up to their troops the next afternoon.
While he was used to a lack of sleep- governing a busy city such as Thebes often left him no other choice than to work late- he certainly was not used to lack of sleep while having nothing but a horse blanket to rest on.
As so often, his research had confirmed his world view ultimately, but this once he could not be happy about it.
Not easy for Leo's rational spirit to comprehend, but it was a vague feeling that he should not have gone there that bothered him.
Leo, when reflecting, blamed this on Eremaios' words of warning and his own childhood indoctrinations he had received same as any of the idiots like his son, who enjoyed tearing down things when drunk and rioting.
He gave his son a glance from behind and sighed innerly.

What was worse, unlike him, for whatever reason Theodore seemed to have greatly enjoyed their little trip, at least that's what it looked like since this morning.
Had he not felt like broken on a wheel himself the other night, Leo might have mocked his son for this, but he lacked the energy to argue the flaws out of his son's head this day.
If anything, the fact Theo had dreamed so well he had to tell everyone about it showed, what Leo knew all along anyway:
If there were powers of fate, which he doubted, they had to be cruel, arbitrary and ignorant to the concerns of mere mortals.
The only upside was, his son's newfound confidence clearly affected the soldiers, too.

"Yes, Eremaios, so believe me, I tell the truth! I've seen it in a dream the other night, when father and I passed by the old oracle!"
Leo sat on his horse and observed his son's attempt to convince the Bishop of his visions. That was so Theodore. Any other man would have told his men he'd dreamed of a victory, cheered, praised their god or gods by chance mayhaps, and marched on.
Not so Theodore. After bringing the good news to Phillipos, he had to right away approach the Bishop.
Theodore had seen something, or so he believed, and what he saw was undoubtedly true for him. And thus should be for others, too.

"By all respect, Lord Theodore, 't was but a dream. 't happens when we fall asleep, and as your Lord Father can explain better than I could, is made up of our memories, expectations and subconsciousness, a fascinating matter in fact about which I understand not half as much as I'd like to, but in short, the probability of a dream being a message from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, that's highly unlikely."
Eremaios rubbed his beard and sighed while conversing with Theodore. Being one of the young Lord's tutors and expecting to be subject to him one day his father, may the Lord in Heaven ensure this day's yet far, should leave this world. Technically, he had wished the past twenty years the Lord's son would get that little bit more invested in theologic questions.
However, the circumstances made this tricky to interpret for Eremaios.
Why by all means could spending a night underthe free sky in some ruins achieve what years of sunday masses could not?

"For a start, Eremaios, listen closely. I told you already, it was three women in the dream, no sign of Jesus or anyone."
Theodore was a bit offended. For once in his life he meant to had seen more than there was obvious to the eye, as Eremaios had so often insisted there was, only to be criticized for this by Lord Leo.
But still, this didn't make the priest happy either?
"And for a second, as you said before, it does not matter either way, as if we win, we would have anyway in this case through our careful planning and the favour of god."
Theodore grinned witty, the priest slammed his palm on his face.

"That was not what I said, I said having weird dreams was no supplement for either of these, and should we win, it's due to this, not due to what you dreamt last night-"
Theodore for once did not get angry, but just smiled and waved off dismissively.
"We will win, Eremaios. Trust me, I've seen it."

The bishop gave up arguing on this, and Theodore was grateful for it, as he wished to speak to the men and motivate them for a faster march and the upcoming battle.
While he was by all means no particularly emphatic person, he could not have failed to notice his father's brooding mood since last night.
It bothered Theodore a little, but comforting his learned father was also not his strength, not to mention that just approaching him infront the men like this forbade itself.
Thus, Theodore did his task, which was to ensure the men's morale was kept up.
Theodore urged his men to speed up the marching pace, there was a little grumble, but no disobedience- his word was command for the men.

He was adamant to catch the Epirotians at Naupaktos- he knew he'd beat them there, if he'd had the chance.
 

knppel

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On a sidenote for those wanting screenshots:
Obviously, I could not have expected that the campaign of Leo and Theodore with their 700 men might turn out to be the rise of such a thing at that point, so I direly lack detailed coverage of this very early game period.
With the safe being ironman, what I can do is check the chronicle for the lolz, like to find out when exactly Leo converted.

As hinted above, this mostly happened to enable the county conquest cb and be able to claim neighbour's lands. The friendship with Finland came through the trade route event chain. Slavis from the liege would have been the obvious pick, but I first had to get some piety.
Once Leo had that, he also had a finnish friend, so the old cynic of course had to pick the odd, not the obvious choice.
This is how some of his descendants became sumoesnko, too.

Shameless teaser here, for apparent reasons I started to document things much more closely once Ioustinos took power ;)
So there's more to expect on this end after the five generations of prologue, hehe.
 
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Nikolai

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Visions, dreams...they can be tricky to interpret. But this man knows his interpretation and sticks to it. Will he become a zealot, though, when the dream is fulfilled?
 
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knppel

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Visions, dreams...they can be tricky to interpret. But this man knows his interpretation and sticks to it. Will he become a zealot, though, when the dream is fulfilled?
Theodore's talent to hear only what he wants to hear is one not even his father or Bishop Eremaios would doubt. ^^
He does share the further's pragmatic approach, usually. His dreaming being fulfilled would mean one thing first of all:
It'd make his father- and thus him afterwards- Lord of Naupaktos, increasing the family's power and influence.


Chapter seven

Naupaktos

Theodore found himself in his element.
It was his first real battle- hunting cattle thieves and people who refused to hand over their icons of the blessed virgin rarely didn't really count.
Not anymore after this.
"Hold the line! Archers, draw!"
His commands bellowed down the line of his soldiers,. It was loud and noisy, and men screamed here as well as across the valley, where the Epirotians had rallied, but Theodore had good confidence his orders were heard where it matters, and Phillipos, commanding the right of the line, would pass them on properly.

Just as he and his father had hoped, they had been able to catch the Epirotian army just in time before retreating to the mountain passes of their capital.
It was crucial to defeat their army in the field, to deprive them of any chance to relieve the castle of Naupaktos once it was occupied or, worse, during the expected siege where they'd be able to fall in the back of the Thebans.
Having cut off their retreat and forcing them to fight had achieved Theodore just this.
He loved it, when a plan worked out. Now all they had to do was act it out consequently.
For this purpose, Theodore was holding the line, even if he was tempted to charge since hours-
But he knew his father and Captain Oghuz' men, as well as a small detachement under Bishop Eremaios, were currently encircling the enemy army in their defense position.
The plan was to launch the first assault in their rear, cause disarray on their flanks and thus allow Theodore to do a deceisive advance with his infantry.

Until this moment- which Theodore expected eagerly, in fact he had dispatched no less than three men to hold watch for Lord Leo's arrival, not daring to risk his part in the whole plan- he played his part, which was, engaging, but not advancing in force on the Epirotians yet.
As eager as he was to launch his assault, Theodore had enough strategic understanding to grasp his father's idea simply was smart.
While he was confident he'd be able to prevail in attacking the Epirotians on the full line right away, he would take serious losses doing so.
With his father and the riders encircling them first and launching the attack from the rear, he'd be able to advance without danger and butcher them.
"Aim!"

Phillipos, one of the few men on horseback besides Theodore himself that had stayed with the main bulk of the army, approach him speedily, Theodore saluted.
"Lord Leo's a mile and a half east, we had word. They'll be in position when the sun stands over this cliff, so they intend."
Philippos pointed the cliff out, Theodore only glanced to the side vaguely, keeping his gaze on the Epirotian position, as if it was his own aim.
"Lose!" he barked loudly, the nodded to Phillipos.
The archers let go off their strings, and a wave of arrows flew towards the Epirots. Not to much effect, their commander used mostly the same tactic Theodore did, keeping up a shield wall while using the bowmen to prevent the other from advancing.
"Good. So another hour at best, hopefully."
"So god wills."
"He does, I told you I know already."
The two men laughed heartily. Mocking religion was a common hobby they pursued.
"Seriously speaking, Phil, rally twenty and five on the left in the trees, we'll make another sortie to keep them busy. I'd not want them to get ideas to run away before we got them all in the bag!"
"Aye, aye!"
Phillipos saluted and reared his horse around to gather a handful of men for another attack.
To efficiently hold a line, it was definitely favourable if one took the initiative to throw the enemie's in disarray, this was Theodore's philosphy.
And that he was out for personal glory and hoped to fight some Epirotians himself he had not kept a secret all along anyway.

~~~~~~~~~


Leo Skleros and Oghuz, Captain of the ninety mercenaries Leo had hired for this campaign, Were advancing through the forests.
"I was told you're a trader and bookworm, Lord Thebes." the Turkish Rider mused once again.
"Got to admit though, this plan has cunning. I received word from Attila and Sebesh, also, they've more or less made it all the way to the Epirotian camp, as far as that they could have poached on their rabbits, had they any in the camp. Your son is keeping up the fight, and holding out as instructed, waiting for our arrival."
Leo nodded.
Lacking the company of his known men and not wishing for another sermon of Eremaios' about how morally questionable it was to take Naupaktos, he had spent the past day mostly conversing with the leader of his mercenaries.
Discussing battle plans and shares of spoils was, to no big surprise, a topic the man could find fancy in.

"Be sure to tell your men to water the horses, Theo's impatient, and I do not wish to delay the attack by any means."
The Steppe Nomad laughed jovially and slammed his hand on Leo's shoulder, riding next to him.
"Ah, you're too harsh on your son, Lord Thebes. He's a good commander, trust him with his task."
Leo could not help but smile too, and nodded again.
"You're probably right, yes."
"My father trusted me with hundred riders to make my fortune, too. And he'll not regret it, assuming you pay as arranged."
Both men laughed now.
While reknown as shrewd and mean with money, Leo also was known as a man who pays his bills.

~~~~~~~~~~

Under the cheers of his men, Theodore and his small band stormed back behind the rows of soldiers under their own banner, which quickly closed the ranks and raised the shields to deflect the arrows following their young commander.
Theodore, full of adrenaline, jumped off his horse, a boy quickly grabbed the girdle to hold it, and ripped his helmet off to wave air to his heated head.
Phillipos next to him did similar, just that he secured his own horse to one of the waggons rather than to have a squire do it for him.
The men smiled to each other and shouted and laughed loud.
"That'll teach the bastards a thing or two!"
"They shouldn't have messed with the might of Thebes!"
"I wish it was night and Lord Leo came with the ours, so we could finally attack."
"Oh, so do I, brother, so do I."
The two had not yet rid themselves off their breastplates, dusty and in Theodore's case, who could not resist to engage in hand to hand combat when given the chance, already bloodied, when their prayers were answered.

Three horn blows in short succession. The arranged signal.
Theodore, who just had poured some water over his head to cool himself off, jumped right up again, shook his head quickly and yelled.
"To arms, to arms! Thebes marches, my brothers my friends! Attack!"
Already dashing for his horse, he received his helmet back from the squire, hastily stomped it over his head as he jumped on, and set out to lead the men to charge, without to bother to first fix it properly.


The nomad's small horses thundered down the pass under loud yelling and the sound of horns and a drum, Leo, Oghuz and Eremaios in the first row.
Obscurity and discretion were over- now the task was to deceive as many of the Epirotians as possible to think this was the actual assault on their location, and thorw them into disarray.
This should allow Theodore to march up the pass with is men and utterly crush the Epirotians.
In the distance, Leo spotted movement in the Theban camp, and Oghuz spotted it too.
"See, what did I say! He's coming, Lord Thebes. Your son might not have a hand for women, but for fighting, he sure does!"
Not wanting to leave all the glory to his employer's son, Oghuz drove his men to charge even faster.
Leo did not reply- it was one thing to move men through a pass as fast as possible, and another one to charge into battle at full speed.
Oh, why did his bones have to be so old!


Same as Oghuz on the other side of the Epirots in the woods, Theodore drove his soldiers to advance as fast as possible.
For what he could see hillupwards, then plan seemed to be working out so far. "Hurry up, men, my father our Lord is up there and requires our aid!"
He saw the shining helmets and colourful wimples on the lances of the Mercenaries, as they advanced downhill on the Epirots, who clearly got confused by the attack in their rear. At least the disorder in their formation and the scarcer rain of arrows indicated such.
And it was not really his to worry anyway. His father and the mercenaries would do their part, or die trying. And so would he and his men.
Being just a few hundred feet from the Epirots, who had reformed and were now fending off the attack in their rear, Theodore was as close as he could get while reasonably keeping his men in defensive formation.
"Chaaaaarge!"
He slammed his heels in his horse's flanks and followed his own command first and fastest. He did not look back, but his roar being picked up by sevenhundred souls, the faster trampling of feet and the clacking of spears on shields ensured him his command was not given in vain.
Spearheading the attack with Philipos by his side, Theodore, followed by his infantry, clashed in the Epirotian position, who was still engaged on its sides.
 

Nikolai

Basileus Romaion
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Jun 17, 2001
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With so small army numbers, the difference between victory and defeat is surely close.