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knppel

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2nd Act: Theodore


So Thebes in the year of 784 saw the orderly succession of Count Theodore, following his father Leo, who died a maimed cripple at age 52.
At least this is how Theodore had it written down after seizing his brothers' county, too.

One might have noticed up to this point the author's reluctance to give Theodore a broader stage.
One reason for this is, once more, the dire lack of contemporary accounts of his reign.
Let's have a look on what the encyclopaedia tells about him first:

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Theodore of Thebes
From Ioustipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Theodore of Thebes (Greek Θεόδωρο ὁ Θῆβαι ), commonly known as Theodore the Festive (Lat. Theodorus Festus), was a greek general and tyrant and a member of the Skleroid dynasty.
He is most notably known for Initiating the Skleroid War for Hegemony over Greece (see there), and was the Uncle of Justin the Great.

Biography:

Born in Thebes in 760 as eldest son of Leo Skleros, Count of Thebes, he spent his life in constant warfare in an attempt to enforce his dynasty's rule over Greece and Epirus. In this he was partially succesfull, even if his aggressive scorched-earth tactics earned him the hatred of particularly the Epirotian and Achaean people.
Contemporary sources left aside battle reports and appointments of governors are lost, but by his death, he had a firm grasp on the Greek peninsula from Avlonas to Euboia.

Contemporary records exist displaying he participated in a feast in or around 800.

70ac006fdef0e09b8c105b6aab27d832.png


__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Doesn't sound like too much of a nice person, hm?
Truth be told, Theodore wasn't.
Wroth, Ambitious, Cruel, and diligent in all this, gifted with a decent enough martial education, he was more than ready to bring terror to his neighbours.
And finally, he could stop acting nice to appease his soft father and do things his way.
 

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Chapter nineteen

Paranoid

Theodore personally stormed the tower of Naupaktos with a handful of trusted men, Phillipos amongst them. On their way up, he could not fail to notice once more how effective it had been to strike right after a raid. A tragedy, that it was the Achaeans who had taken the loot.
The Achaeans, who had indirectly killed his father. And then gotten away as he had to went home to sort this first.

He'd deal with the Achaeans soon enough, and banished them from his mind for now. Other matters at hand were to deal with.
Just as expected, he found Lantsuinda in the former Lord's chambers, a single armed veteran guarding her, who put up no resistance when she ordered him to step aside.

"Put my brother down, harlot, at once!", Theodore yelled. He had more than enough reason to believe Lantsuinda might kill his little brothers, after all. Well, not her own. But Maurice, who was heir to Naupaktos.
Yes, killing him would not directly help her, Eremaios had argued, as Theodore as the elder would be heir, but it would bring Innocent closer. That was all the reason Lantsuinda would need to come up with the idea, so Theodore was convinced.
Should it matter, it was all the reason he would need, after all, even if he hoped it would not come to that.


He stood in the doorway, spear in hand, panting as a lot of stairs and a hill even bring bulky men out of breath a little.
It took several moments of Lantsuinda's accusing look until the adrenaline pumping through his body flowed down. She rolled her eyes, put little Innocent next to her on the bed, where Maurice was hiding under a blanket . At least Theodore had spotted him already, hiding was not Maurice's forte. Moving, thankfully.
Lantsuinda's sharp voice made him snap back into reality. He was occupying the keep right now, after all.

"So, Lord Theodore, what's the plan now? I gotta warn you, though, if you try to touch them I will have to try to stop you."
She casually raised from her stool, pulling up her dress orderly, ensuring Theodore got a good glance at her well rounded breast before, which was bare as she just had been feeding little Innocent.

The baby right away clutched to her foot after she put him down, she bent down and gently hushed him aside. "Not now, child."

Theodore got red, but cleared his throat. He was not going to fall for her schemes, not right here and now. There was time later for that.
"You'll hand over my brothers right away, alive and healthy, if you value your own life."

Despite just having done so, she could not help but roll her eyes once more. Oh, right. Theodore, the preserver of Justice. Poor, poor Hellas. But at least it sounded like he might be willing to not just smash their heads against a wall.
"What are you planning to do with them?" she once more inquired, herself still between Theodore at the door and the children, both her own son as well as Maurice, who by now was peeping from under the blanket. Just being four years old, he seemed to comprehend not much more of the situation than Innocent.

This question did catch Theodore unaware, as he had not actually thought as far as this. Lowering his spear, he pondered briefly. If she cared what he'd do with them, it might just so mean she was not planning to murder the boys at all!

In a rare moment of honesty, he said the first thing coming to his mind that made sense and seemed okay to say.
"They're my brothers. If it was for me, they'd lead armies into battle and conquer Greece with me, when they're old enough?"

Lowkey, Lantsuinda was amused by Theodore's cute attempt to do the right thing. Or maybe by his desire to still get parental approval for his deeds.
Well, that's never going to happen, but maybe I can make use of it.
This sounded good enough for her, she decided to take the intiative before he got other ideas.

"Alright, that sounds good enough. You've won. I'll go back to Thebes with the boys. Maurice, get out of there. Take your brother and pack up, we leave."
Maurice, apparently happy he could come out of hiding, grabbed Innocent by the hand, waddled over to Theodore and did the cutest bow a four year old could produce.
Before Theodore could resist, his brother also hugged his leg briefly. "Hello, Theo!"

The guardsman thankfully relieved Theodore swiftly while Lantsuinda chuckled in the back. "Com'on boys, we're going home!"
He lifted a cheering Innocent on his shoulder with the hand he had, and guided Maurice out with the stump, nodding respectfully to Theodore and Lantsuinda. "M'lord."

Before this was over Theodore had realized he was being played, but for this once, it was fine with him- his brothers were safe and sound under his guardianship, and he had secured hold of Naupaktos.
Lantsuinda, respectively, was packing the few things she had brought in a bag and ready to move.

"I hope you brought horses? The way on foot with the two kids was not as comfortable."
Smirking, Theodore slid his hand over her rear as she passed by. "I got something you can ride on anytime."

Nonchalantly, she slapped his hand off with her free left, and smirked back. "Only if you make me. And we both know that's not gonna happen."
She winked and passed by, shaking her hips teasingly.
Theodore pouted, but let her pass, before shouting "Hey, I actually might!" and hurrying after her. Not to take her by force, however. They both knew he wasn't going to after all.

It was just time to get out of this dirthole that had been conquered and raided a total of three times the past years now, and back to homely Thebes.

Ah yes, one thing was left to do before leaving.
"Phillipos!"
"Yes, Lord Theo?" Phillipos, being the old companion, was the one to combine the respectful title the friend now had earned with the intimate shortened first name.
"It's time to build up here again. At least the soldiers. I want the Marshal stationed here the next two years to retrain the levy as fast as possible!"
"It will be done."


Thus the Marshal was positioned in Naupaktos before the Skleroids and Lantsuinda headed back for Thebes.
Lord Theodore wanted war. And he wanted it soon.
 

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Revenge most be had on the Achaeans.

Theodore knows he’s being played but goes along with it anyway...

Shame about Leo’s death. He seemed more… morally upright than Theodore...

Not sure why I stopped getting notifications for this AAR...
 
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knppel

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In short: Yes, yes, yes and I don't know about that ^^

Indeed Leo, while no perfect man and certainly proud of his belly, was content, just and diligent. The later two traits Theodore shares, but that's really all they had in common.
Thus, their definition of what's just naturally differed.
 

knppel

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Chapter twenty

Wind of Change

Thebes, Summer 784

Theodore lost no time upon his ascension to the throne of Thebes to prepare his next war. Securing Naupaktos had been but the first step he had planned. And his father's untimely death certainly was not going to stop him.

First he called in the council again. It now consisted of Bishop Eremaios as Court Chaplain, Mayor Damianos as Chancellor- the man was not considered particularly able, but Theodore did not intend to actually use fabricated claims- and Lantsuinda, who had assumed her old office as mistress of spies which his father had appointed on her.
While Theodore trusted her not that little inch, she was not particularly hostile (not more than anyone else was to him, that is), capable, and he did certainly trust her more than his wife.

The finnish Marshal was absent as usual- while Theodore actually came along rather well with the man, his task was to drill the troops, not to tell the Lord what to do.
Specially as Theo, unlike his learned father, spoke no word finnish besides "Ukko".

"Where's the steward?" Theodore inquired, impatiently drumming on the desk in his father's study high up in the tower.
Damianos looked to Eremaios, than sighed and responded, looking to the floor.
"I am afraid Hershel died somewhere around the time your Lord father died, M'lord."

Theodore snorted and slammed his fist on the table. One last slight from his old man, taking the jewish steward with him. Or so it felt.
That's what you get for not in time transferring his vassalage to Chief Vuk, waging war and installing your own mayor.
"Well, find me a new one, someone that's capable. Someone greek, it's not just about squeezing more taxes out of the peasants, I want the building projects overseen and I want them in our traditional architecture. There's a budget for hiring someone."

Eremaios nodded obediently. "It shall be done. If I may remind your lordship, you, the yearly income is still incredibly low, with Naupaktos just having been conquered recently and land sold off to the burghers, even if we by now could properly establish the iconoclast doctrine in our peasant's heads. So we might better cut on the spending, as you don't plan to patronize businesses like your father did."

Theodore showed his supposedly mysterious smile, that meant nothing good.
"Oh, no worries, best Eremaios. I've personally went through the treasury and accounts father left, and it all seems in order. The new castle is paid for, but I also want walls in Naupaktos and bigger barracks."

Damianos and Eremaios gulped together, while Lantsuinda observed the chat from the side with her usual cocked eyebrow. She knew her stepson well enough to know he was capable of ... well, let's call it 'creative thinking', that sounds best.
Eremaios spoke up to defend the black numbers in the books.
"If I may insist once more, Lord Theodore- while we will be able to start such projects from the current coffers your father left, you should be aware that with such an investment, which bears no economic return in the foreseeable future, we'll be left without much money-"

Theodore raised his hand to stop him. "You may insist, thank you, Bishop. Now, Damianos, go and empty the treasury and start constructions of the projects I ordered at once. And recruit me both a skilled architect, and a siege engineer."

The mayor nodded obediently. In his hands, the project would at least benefit the local masons and carpenters from the guild, even if he shared Eremaios' concern. Who once again dared to raise his voice.
"Keep in mind, mylord, your Lord Father kept a generous sum at hand as backup, in case of emergencies of whatever, without additional money, we might not be able to defend ourselves should we come under attack-"

A sharp glance to Damianos, who hesitated in the door, reminded him he had been ordered to go. Then Theodore grabbed the bishop by his collar and pulled him up, and yelled right in his face.
"I'm damn curious who'll dare to come attack ME here!"

He pushed the startled bishop back on his chair, the man grabbed his throat and gasped for air, he clearly had not expected this. Lantsuinda too was suprised, but did not show it as much.
Theodore took a deep breath and clenched his fists, staring down on the man of the cloth infront of him.

Lantsuinda decided it was best to deescalate the situation.
"He just means well, Theo. He's worried about the state finances. Your state now, if I may remind his Lordship."

While she was used to being able to direct her stepson a little the right way, apparently she had found words more pleasing him than usually even.
"Oh, thank you for mentioning this, my Lady."
He developed the sly triumphant grin on his face again, nodded to Lantsuinda and sat down, next to Eremaios, putting a hand on his shoulder.

The man first flinched, but then realized his Lord's anger had, for now, cooled off. Theodore spoke.
"You see, Eremaios, my father's plan to make Thebes rich was good, but I have a plan too. And for that, I need the castle finished soon, and barracks. It's really simple. You won't have to worry for the finances, promise."

With this, he dismissed the Bishop. While he certainly would have to make up for something to chastise the man, this was not his primary concern.

Lantsuinda was not dismissed yet, and knew already what was coming next.
"I've heard rumours", he started, after closing the door behind Eremaios, displaying his sly smile to her.
Oh holy mother give me strength to deal with this fool.
She cocked an eyebrow in response.
"Rumours?"
"Rumours."
He stepped closer, shamelessly grinning down on her. Where she had to sneak up on her late husband, ideally when it was dark so he didn't get scared, Theodore would have held orgies in the middle of town if not for his little bit of etiquette forbidding that.

She decided to play along for now, not without shoving a hand behind her back to have the dagger at hand if needed.
"What kind of rumours, Theo?"
"Rumours that you are hiding important information on ongoing plots from me." While he did look her straight in the eyes, she knew her step-son well enough to spot him slightly licking his lips, a clear sign he was making up things, even if he could fool lesser men with his faccade of cruelty and justice.

She did not back off as he moved in closer, towering over her, but only raised the second eyebrow, as if surprised.
"Maybe I should search you for them!" he teased. She just rolled her eyes and smirked in response, turning her head to the side as he moved in.
"You're getting better at making up things, but work on it."

Slipping to the side, she evaded his attempt to kiss her, laughingly, and clapped the back of his head as raised back up, already behind him.
"When will you finally sleep with me!" he shouted after her as she left, a bit too loud to actually count as discreet and laughing along, even if being spurned again hurt a little too.
"When you make me Lady of Thebes again!"
"Hey, I actually might!"

Seriously, he needed to talk to Eremaios about this.
 
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Theodore's kind of an ass. Creepy about his stepmother. Will push his son hard. Will make a perfect Philip.
 
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knppel

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Sadly, his marriage was just so incredibly unlucky a match:
Leo had picked the one hellenic courtier from Monemvasia for his son. The woman named Leontia had very decent stats, and furthermore knew how to pronounce "Zeus" correctly .
Leo, the old scholarly schemer, thought that this knowledge might prove invaluable for Thebes eventually.

It did not though, as Leo was no schemer, nor very diplomatic, and Theodore and his wife just hated each other with passion.
The one thing they did besides plotting to kill each other was to make babies.
 

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Chapter twenty-one

Playing the waiting game

Thebes, somewhere in fall 784

Theodore had spent the past few months arranging his new projects. Work was progressing good- whatever else, his father did establish excellent infrastucture and working conditions in the city.

With the combined effort of the carpenter's guild and the masons from the stone quarry in the nearby mountains, work was going swift and easy- the new barracks were almost finished, and the castle would be finished by christmas thanks to his new court architect, a man named Gregoras, who had also assumed the position of steward on the council.

Theodore was accordingly proud- anywhere else in the world, it would take double the time or more to raise a castle. At least anywhere he knew.
The Athenians certainly would never be able to stem such a project in due time.

The Athenians. They were indeed getting a problem- the Stratigissa appointed by the current Basileus had sent her chancellor to fabricate claims in her name and spread her legacy in town.

Thankfully, Phillipos and his henchmen had been able to lure the man in a trap and get rid of him for good. To be rid of the man, and to show the Lady of Hellas two could play this game, he also sent his chancellor, the mayor Damianos, to fabricate claims in Athens.

Sooner or later he was going to take it anyway. Claim or not.


He was just about to do his usual daily inspection round- while not particularly studied in the topic, he found architecture interesting too, specially if it was meant to provide him better training and recruitment facilities for his soldiers- with Bishop Eremaios and Steward Gregoras, when a messenger on horse approached him on his way through the city.

The man apparently had a strong serbian accent, and Theodore vaguely recalled the coat of arms on his shield.
The man saluted and spoke.
"Hail, Theodore of Thebes! I bring message from Thessaly, from High Chief Vukasin!"

Without to await, he jumped off his horse, nodding to the men near Theodore, and approached the Lord, then bowed briefly.
Theodore nodded in response.
Oh, that was true, he had a liege. He had almost forgotten about that.
Now what did he want?

"Rumours of your battle prowess have spread far and wide, Lord Thebes! Chief Vukasin wishes you to serve as Marshal on his council, if it pleases."

Theodore stood startled for a moment, not knowing what to say right away, Eremaios quickly nudged him and whispered in his ear.
"You'd love to take this position and always wanted to serve his Lordship as Marshal, m'lord!"

Theodore straightened, cleared his throat and repeated the words slightly altering them to fit his mouth.
"It'd be an honour to serve on the council."

He then quickly decided he had indeed always wanted to be Marshal, before formally accepting the proposal. This would make him like his liege more, which could not hurt if he was to serve the man, and it would further raise his military expertise, which he could certainly use for his plans.


After accomodating the man for the night in Cassandra's palace, excusing himself to be unable to host guests due to the ongoing constructions in the city's castles and towers, Theodore went to consult Lantsuinda.
He needed to be aware of High Chief Vukasin's true intentions if going to his court, after all.
Her reply did not at all please him.

"You're simply more capable than his mayors and retinue soldiers," she said.
"He just wants you to do the job as you're the best in the realm for it," she said.

Theodore facepalmed. "Oh come on, don't take me for stupid! Or are you conspiring with him now?"
Lantsuinda crossed her arms and pouted. "I've seen the man exactly once in my life, when he came to our aid to safe the city from the Achaeans."

He triumphantly pointed at her with her finger.
"Ha! So you do know him, I knew it!"

It was her turn to facepalm, evidently.
"Theo, calm down. What are you so worried about?"

He bit his lips and looked down, sighing deeply, his face turned red as he realized he had been making up things. As so often.
"I'm just worried. I don't know him closer than you do either, hence I hoped you might know something. You know how it is. Our city is rich, and while he never tried, he has all reason to try to trick us to seize our land."

He sighed again and sat down on his chair, burying the face in his hands.
"And with me in his court, he'll have an easy time getting hold of me should he intend to."

Lantsuinda smiled friendly and shrugged.
"Or, it puts you in a very favourable position to act against him, should you intend to. If he is up to anything, you also have better chances of being made aware in time in Thessaly rather than here. Just me thinking."

He sighed relieved and nodded. That's was why he had kept the woman around, indeed. Even if for whatever reason she seemed resistant to his charms, she knew enough about court intrigue to get him on what he tought was the right track.

He smiled dangerously as he raised, pecking her o nthe forehead briefly, but leaving it with that for today.
"I am grateful for your council, my Lady. You are oh so right, as almost always. Be sure to keep an eye on Eremaios and the architect while I'm away. I think Eremaios is up to something."

She smirked up to him, not backing off from a gesture that was as amical and non-implying as it could get with Theodore.

"Or maybe you're just still sour he denied you a divorce."
"You'd be too in my stead, he denies me taking you instead of my behated wife, mind you!"

That caused her to laugh actually, he laughed along while heading to the door.
"Yeah yeah. Looks like you'd have to get in High Chief Vukasin's good graces, the man is a heathen and will most likely not deny you a concubine."
"Hey, I actually might!"
 

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Theodore and Lantsuinda are so going to end up together...

Also, why’s Lantsuinda care about her title?

I’m assuming Theo plans on doing some raiding?
 
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knppel

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Theodore and Lantsuinda are so going to end up together...
He definitely hasn't given up yet.

Also, why’s Lantsuinda care about her title?
That was a mere teasing jest- being smarter than him, she knew Eremaios would not grant him a divorce anyway, thus it was - at least at this point- not possible for him to do this.
Thus, she could safely suggest that to elegantly push him back without to say No.

As for caring for her title, while naturally things would be even better if she still was the ruling Lady, we can safely assume she was quite satisfied with her position regardless at this point-
she had a court office and four growing children to take care of (Leo had two daughters from his first wife, as well), own money from the gifts sent her way, and unlike her evenly lustful, but less lucky sister, was not confined to father's convent in Valais for lifetime, but lived the life of the happy widow of Thebes.

I’m assuming Theo plans on doing some raiding?
Yeeeah that is all he is up to. Or does he have even more vicious plans...?
 

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Chapter twenty-two

Plots, Pride and Purple

Thessalia/Constantinople, November 784

"Did she find out anything?"
Theodore was en route to High Chief Vukasin's castle in Thessaly, accompanied by his trusted aide, Phillipos. He sighed and shook his head in response.
"No. She says the reason he wants me as his Marshal is simply that I'm the best man for the job."

Phillipos chuckled and nudged him with the elbow. "Can't argue with that, eh?"
"Not that arguing with her ever had worked out well for you since she came here."

Laughing, Phillipos quickly pushed his heels into his horse's side to make it bolt forward so he evaded the inevitable physical response.
"Oh, shut up!" Theodore yelled, but then laughed along, his temper gone as soon as it had risen if he met no resistance, as so often.

"Hey, I just mean well, and you know it. You could just stop burning your fingers on her. There's plenty of women in town who would more than happily warm your bed, you know. What's so special about her besides her having been your father's wife?"

"I don't know, it's just- she's educated, she's smart, and damn, she is such a tease!"
"Sounds just like your wife then."
"Hm. Good point there, now that I look at it this way."
"I heard High Chief Vukasin's step-mother is over thirty, but still a tease too." Phillippos winked to Theodore.

Theodore could not help but grin at the thought. "You think I should-?"
Phillipos shrugged innocently. "Well, having allies at his court could not hurt our case in any circumstances, right?"

"Good thinking, Phil, this is why I like your company, eh. Speaking of which. We'll need to hire a scribe and a messenger to our service once we're in Thessaly. I will need you there as my personal man, in case things go south!"


Empress Anthousa 'the Terrible', one of three or four claimants to the throne in the war raging since over ten years, was meanwhile having an argument with her brother Christophoros.

While Anthousa was all but safe in the saddle, she managed to clinge onto Constantinople since over a decade now, relying on its strong walls and her marriage alliance with Karl, the mighty King of the Franks, as well as her alliance with the Lombards, cemented by marriage of her brother Christophoros to Princess Desiderata.

60c4408e8f7239463ee1611064677093.png

All this careful diplomacy had turned out useless though when in 779, Karl had invaded Lombardy, as well as occupying himself with a war in Spain, thus depriving the Empress of both her allies.
Since then, the rebel factions had gotten strong footholds, while Anthousa occupied herself with executing or blinding everyone she could get hold of, and drifting off into madness.
Hence her nickname.

"I do not care" she yelled at her brother, "You're not reigning emperor, so your kid won't get a special status. The purple chamber is reserved for me! And that is my last word!"

With this she stormed out. "Someone slam the door after me!"
Someone did so.

Christophoros sighed deeply and stuffed another chicken leg in his mouth. Jesus, his sister really was terrible.
Someone should do something.


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Actually, some people were doing something. One of the factions even campaigned in his own name to put him on the throne.
Just that he certainly wasn't going to lift a finger, except to grab more chicken.

If it hadn't been for his ambitious wife, he would not even have bothered. Too much effort, first of all, not to mention risking angering his sister.

Princess Desiderata had insisted, however: Her third child, which she expected soon, apparently was to throw a torch into the world that set it on fire, or something.

At least that she had told him during dinner all the time when talking about the strange dreams she had ever since she got pregnant.
Dinner, that was his favourite time of the day, right before breakfast and lunch and the snacks.
So she usually caught him there.

While he did not mind his wife sharing her dreams with him- he too had shared his dream about involving chicken legs in certain erotic acts, and she had not taken too much offense by it, after all- unlike chicken, what she wanted meant work.

Convinced her child would be born to a great destiny, Desiderata, Princess of the Lombards, had requested she would be allowed to use the purple chambers of the palace she lived in with her husband.
Anthousa, enviously defending her own offspring's priviledges, had refused though.

Over more chicken- did we mention he usually had chicken nearby to snack on already?- Christophoros pondered over how to solve the situation with the least resistance, and diplomatically decided it would be in his best interest to let either of them have their way.

Thankfully, his court education and connections and the simple fact Anthousa as liege was hated, allowed him to easily bribe some of the guards to look away and slip his wife inside. Anthousa herself had already taken command of her army again after coming down with her fourth child in late summer.

If he wasn't going to make a fuzz over it and managed to keep his wife from bragging, he might even get away with it in the end.
Satisfied by this plan, and convinced it should work out, Prince Christophoros reached for more chicken.
 
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That is so not going to work.

Well, Lord Save the Rhomaioi from their Empress...

Anthousa sounds delightful...
 

knppel

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That is so not going to work.

Well, Lord Save the Rhomaioi from their Empress...

Anthousa sounds delightful...

Ah, Christophoros got this. At least so he thinks. Why would one of Desiderata's marital affaires ever cause any fuzz, after all!
That tiny bit with being her brother-in-law's ex, oh please.

As for the second part, while there was big revolts ongoing to press her brother's claims all the time, as well as orthodox uprisings in her part of the realm and iconoclast uprisings in the orthodox led faction, Anthousa did, as mentioned, possess an army at this point and kept the capital safe and the rebels in check to not advance too much from their respective bases in Sicily and Armenia.

The number of fronts she was fighting at prevented her from enforcing peace, but at the same time, her army travelling through her demesne once a year when headed east or west to deal with other rebels ensured it never depleted.

At the current point she's Empress for eleven years already. Can say what one wants, that's not that short actually.
 

knppel

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Chapter twenty-three

Day-to-day affaires, marital bruises bliss and a noble birth

Thebes/Thessaly/Constantinople, Winter 784

Theodore spent christmas 784 in Thebes for various reasons, accompanied by High Chief Vukasin. While the High Chief was a staunt pagan and gave nothing for mother Mary or Jesus, he liked feasting and had expressed his curiousity to see Thebes' newly buildt castle.

Not willing to spurn or refuse his liege for obvious reasons, Theodore thus had invited him for christmas.
The two travelled to Thebes in mid of december, High Chief Vukasin was bringing a well fed cow along, his contribution to the feast.

"Praised be our ancestors for leaving us such rich lands, Lord Thebes!" Vukasin was in a splendid mood recently. He usually was, as whereas his father, same as Theodore's, had left him a city bustling with business activity, High Chief Vukasin prefered to spend his time feasting and carousing.

Theodore nodded in agreement. "Amen to that."
They were traversing through the mountains, and despite winter season, work in the stone quarry had not halted.


He, in fact, had decided to pass by to give explicit new orders to the masons, and to boast with his quarry infront of High Chief Vukasin.


Home in Thebes, he first met with some local jews to take a loan and with this started expanding the new castle's castle town. The steward was also reassigned to collect taxes now simultaneously. Theodore was in need of money.

Then he met up with Bishop Eremaios, who had to report that there had been less religious squabble in town, though no apostates had been found all year long to Theodore's disliking.

"Come on now, find some! First you say I am not pious enough and hence can't just renounce the Christian Faith to attack my neighbours legally without a claim, as no one will take me seriously, then you find me no one to burn so I become a more pious man faster? Get out of my sight and keep hunting apostates, I need that 250 piety!"

Next he met up with his wife.


Leontia was from the county of Monemvasia, and publicly worshipped the old gods. Under their true names, Zeus, Hera and Aphrodite, not some uncivilized tribe faith.
Naturally, rumour thus had it in town she was a witch and what not else, even if she a hundred times explained she could impossibly be one as her currently unreformed faith obviously offered no demon-worshipping society.

To make up for this lack, Leontia featured a personality befitting a nasty witch, did have confirmed affaires and was usually plotting to kill her husband.
The reason she got away with this is that she also usually was pregnant with a child of Theodore's, regardless.

And that he had absolutely no hopes of finding a woman with more stewardship, and could certainly not afford the prestige hit to marry another lowborn woman if he wanted to mark his name in this world.


leontia.jpg

Obviously at the current point she was not yet as old and alive still.


The exact reasons for the rivalry between the two are obscure, as it already happened to be this way upon Theodore's ascension.
Given even the chaste Leo at one point thought she might fancy him however, we can safely assume she was sleeping around, and being more successful in this than him did naturally not make Theodore any happier about it.

After their usual greeting ritual (Him telling her to stop to plot to kill him, followed by hot hate-sex conceiving another child), a refreshment and dressing up again the couple met with their guest, to show him around the castle and Leo's high tower*.

"A lovely balcony you have there, Lord Thebes!" High Chief Vukasin grinned, the nobles and a little entourage were observing the carpenters' works on the balcony from below, currently replacing the sabotaged planks Leontia had set up hoping Theodore might fall down.
"And ideal for tragic accidents, too!"

The High Chief laughed, Theodore looked annoyed, Leontia pouted and rolled her eyes. "That's what I said too, but he told me to stop!"

Later at the feast, she also beat Theodore up for telling her to stop eating so much. He was more than happy to leave her in Thebes again to travel back to Thessaly with High Chief Vukasin as fast as he could.


And that was it already from christmas in Thebes. The year 784 was getting to its end.

On the 21st of December, a healthy little girl was born in the Imperial Palace of Constantinople, not acknowledgly in the purple, but with all required background destined for greatness.
Or to be a pawn in other's games all her life.


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* While Theodore had no actual benefits from the tower, it being a modifier applied to the character that vanished on Leo's death, it's obviously still there, and makes the core of the palace of Thebes now!
 

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So that’s how Theodore has heirs. Hate sex!

Theodore breaking the Fourth Wall was hilarious.
 

knppel

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So that’s how Theodore has heirs. Hate sex!

Theodore breaking the Fourth Wall was hilarious.

1.:
At least that is how I'd explain they still had kids together. For all I know (no console, obviously) all kids are Theodore's, despite Leontia having at least one confirmed affaire with an npc (which will be mentioned) and being definitely flirty (That I learned already as Leon).

Speaking of Leon by the way: Finding out upon his death that his match for his son had been that ridiculously bad was in retrospective by far his biggest failure as a dad- obviously two matching traits (lustful+wroth at the time of their marriage) do not necessarily make a match.

2.:
I obviously couldn't resist.
He's had a quite tough time in his first year as ruler for someone as ambitious- no possibility to wage war, no success in seduction, and his wife not directly giving him a nice time at home either, even if a lot of kids came out of the relationship somehow.

Then again, maximum failure early on (Just wait for it! Taking a whole 14 years for the first county already gives an indicator) is what set the prequisites for what will happen on later, in retrospective.
Thus I also had to fail hard at seducing a lustful character with a protagonist down the road, I guess :D
 

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Chapter twenty-four

Strange serpents, bipartisan brothers and adulterous affaires

Thebes, Spring 785

Theodore returned to Thebes for Easter. High Chief Vukasin was hosting a "small" private feast that more or less lasted from March to late August for mysterious reasons, and both the High Chief's brother, Blaz, as well as Theodore, and the respective wives were on board.

The Lords had left there retinues at home and moved to Thebes for Easter, as Theodore, being christian in name, had a christian bishop (still the aging, but already known Eremaios) under his service and thus promised a fancy ceremony.

While he did play along, Theodore did not like it, not that little bit.
While not generally apalled by schemes, he prefered the people around him being honest to him and reserve the priviledge of lying for everyone's best to himself.

This was not what happened at this party.

Chief Blaz, the High Chief's younger brother, who just recently had reached maturity, was enthusiastically toasting to his brother and his alleged accomplishments, but whenever the elder looked the other way, tried to complain to Theodore how he, the younger, would be the much better High Chief.

This went so far Theodore would have considered telling High Chief Vukasin of his little brother's annoying attempts to get his support as ruler of the High Chiefdom of Thessaly.

He would have, had it not been for the High Chief being much busier not just flirting around with Theodore's wife.
"He's our liege lord, so what." That was all she had to say as excuse. And "I am pregnant anyway, so let me have some fun!"

Theodore, standing on the balcony with Chief Blaz, gazed from afar, while she unwrapped various pieces of cloth, revealing more and more of her body, to High Cief Vuk in the salon (which had formerly been a study, but Theodore had by now redecorated as he was not as much into studying).

"You know, if I was to be High Chief, I'd let you deal with your private affaires, Lord Thebes, trust me on that!"
Once more Chief Blaz inquired, trying to use Theodore's interest for his own. Theodore snorted.
"Do I look like I care?"

Truth be told, he was furious on the inside. But he didn't quite have the guts to cause a scene during the feast. Or the mood. He was not sure what it was.
Maybe it was the one enlightening thing in his days that kept him from it.

And this was, that after what seemed ages of begging, trying with fancy gifts and lewd comments, Lantsuinda had finally agreed to sleep with him.
Truth be told, everyone knew it was more because she felt sorry for him, and she too loved to mock him for that.

But it was affection and care, regardless- thus a thousand times better than the hatred he received in his marriage.
And while his wife in her conduct to him was nastier than ever, she didn't dare to mess with Lantsuinda. Or was too lazy stuffing herself all day, who knows. So it was a bargain that paid off all in all for Theodore.

Lantsuinda knew him well enough to await him down in the stable when he excused himself to 'inspect ongoing work'.
While he was more than pleased first of all, he also knew this meant nothing good- their date had been arranged for after sunset, once the feast had been officialy dismissed, and his wife safley distracted by the High Chief, and his brother down in town looking for hired bowmen to arrange suspicious accidents.

"No, it's not her planning to kill you again", she said to him, when they lay in the hay after, panting and wheezing. "I mean, she was, but I told her to stop it. No, it's a different problem. I know from her, actually."

He leaned up on his elbow and looked at her.
"And you can't solve it regardless? You're my spymistress. Fix it."

She bit her lips. "Well, I'd love to, but the problem is beyond my reach. You know of Chief Blaz' plot to kill his brother?"

Theodore sighed, he knew all too well. "Yeah, he asked me to help him. I said I'd think about it."
Truth be told, he was seriously considering helping Blaz. Hatred or not, the man was openly hitting on his wife, and succeeding in that!

Lantsuinda nodded slowly.
"She's promised to help him. You know her, I don't expect much effort from her. But that's not the only problem."

Theodore looked surprised for a moment. "What?"
Lantsuinda cocked an accusing eyebrow. "Do you actually talk to her, too?"

As little as possible. "I am trying, but she's hateful!"
Lantsuinda rolled her eyes. "Or maybe you are cruel and violent."
"Hey, those are the sides about me she likes!"

Lantsuinda double-facepalmed before reaching for her dress.

"Oh and, talk to the steward. The peasants complained about the snakes again."
"Wait, what snakes?"


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It might have been a rather uneventful year, if not for the plotting, partying and adultery of our protagonists, and the author's effort to over-dramatize these







 

HistoryDude

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Theodore is a schemer, but he wants exclusive dibs on scheming.

Lantsuinda actually agreed to sleep with Theodore? Interesting...

Wow, Theodore's wife is really double (triple?) crossing people.
 

knppel

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Theodore is a schemer, but he wants exclusive dibs on scheming.
By now he's downright appaled by all the schemes going on around him. Don't people realize they are supposed to be discreet?

Lantsuinda actually agreed to sleep with Theodore? Interesting...
By simple game maths you'd thought she'd done so years ago already. Being his sad tragic existence, however, all Theo got for this time was a maidservant lover.
And well, the additional fertility did help in the marriage bed surprisingly, if it failed elsewhere.

Wow, Theodore's wife is really double (triple?) crossing people.
Closely watching her for two decades, I've failed to spot an actual agenda besides the part where early on, she'd have became regent for her infant son, had she succeeded in killing Theodore.
Eventually, she turned out to be willing to help anyone to plot as she seemed to hated most people equally.
 

knppel

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Chapter twenty-five

Breakfast at Belisarios'


Thebes, summer 787

In what in hindsight can only be described as brief case of utter madness predicting later lunacies evolving in the family, Theodore had decided to pick his (spy-) mistress up on her advice, and actually talk to his wife. This had obviously needed careful precautions, hence why it took over two years.

For once, their day-to-day life was perfectly set up to allow them to avoid each other as much as possible, except for dedicated occasions to make babies, tell her to stop plotting to kill him again, and her occasionaly complaining he should get out of the damn castle and conquer or plunder something.
For a second, she might be up to kill him so to talk to her seriously he needed a safe environment.

Thus, to have neutral ground and hopefully appease her on this occasion, he had decided to take her out to the most expensive restaurant of all of Thebes for the famous sunday brunch.

Tables at Belisarios' were hard to get, but Theodore had the advantage of being the tavern keep's liege lord. Sending Phillipos and two more henchmen ahead was always a safe way to get a table.

Leontia had restructured the household of the Skleroids the past years to accomodate to her family's needs (and own desires) better. What had been a modest court under Leo, now had a proper team of guards in new uniforms, and servants tended the noble family at all times.
Not because Leontia would have spent more on the household than Leo and Lantsuinda, she prefered to keep gold where she could- but she simply made people do it, or made her husband do them where they might refuse.

On the way she opened conversation by complaining how much weight she had put on over the winter, once again. Theodore swallowed the fitting reply- that if she insisted on being carried around town in a sedan chair by slaves, and snacking on the way to a restaurant all the time, would certainly not make her lose any weight over summer either- he did not want to start right by getting her angry.

And most certainly, he didn't intend to provoke her in public.

"Are you even listening?" Her sharp voice made him snap back, he nodded quickly.
"Of course, darling."
"Then what did I just say, hm?"
He sighed deeply, rubbed his temple and looked to the side.
"That you want the maid punished as she shrunk your clothes, again."
She smiled and nodded agreeingly. "See, why can't we always get along like this. Now what do you want from me- oh wait, we are here!"

The couple descended from the sedan, and entered Belisarios' Tavern, located on one of the older buildings of the city, a generously laid out building complex with a garden in the center and antique fresques depicting the greek god Dyonisos and the local myth of his alleged birth here in Thebes.

While the iconoclasts had damaged many depiction of anything as much as allegedly divine (and thus human, as god formed us after his image), Belisarios was a rich business owner that employed own guardsmen, if there was need, thus his immobile treasure had stayed untouched the past decades.
That the iconoclast bishop Eremaios himself was a well-liked patron of the house might have helped, too.

As they approached, she put up her most friendly face (thus, the same usual bored fat expression, fat faces often lack much expression).
Theodore was grateful, at least she seemed to be willing to have for now to actually have a conversation with him while eating, opposed to as usual make a show out of her disdain for him.

For what was four and felt like a douzen courses, she lethim wait at first, focusing on enjoying the exotic foods and conversing with the waiters and Theodore about their origin. He knew he'd have to play along, or elsewise she'd make a scene, pour some wine over him, leave in her sedan, make him look like an idiot and still not have what he needed.
Being married was tricky at times.

"How comes you don't treat me like this every day, hm?" she asked while studying the plates briefly to ponder what to eat next.
He was about to say something that it had been her starting with trying to kill him, but she was faster.
"Oh right, it's because our land's income is so ridiculously low and you don't have your father's mind for business."

She smirked to him teasingly, but at the same time disarmed him by slipping over to his bench, removing the physical distance, as she placed a grape between her lips. He rolled his eyes, but reached for the grapes and put his other arm around her. briefly also checking her hands for eventual daggers.
She pouted, feinting offense, then squeezed the grape with her lips and teeth, the juice suqeezing right in Theodore's face.

"Oh come on can you please! We're in public!"
"You're their Lord, what are they gonna do? Maybe I should order the curtains lifted..."
She laughed, chewing on her grape, and leaned in on him, eyeing the opening of their separated dining room to the public buffet area.

He could not help but laugh along briefly. As much as they usually hated each other, some things they had in common. Such as their regard for the common man.
"No darling, seriously. I'm grateful for this today. It tastes even better eating too much knowing there was a tough harvest for the peasants. But you are their Lord, and I am their Lady, and it is my rightful due."


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He rolled his eyes and pinched her a little. "Yeah we could argue about that."
She raised her head a little to snatch a grape. "Or you send Phil to Naupaktos, I demand bread from there for breakfast tomorrow."
Theodore understood the hint, and having checked her personally for daggers and poison rings before, he dismissed Phillipos with a nod.

"Or you finally make your promises true and conquer me a lot of treasures and plunder and rich lands!"
She pouted up to him, laying on the side now with half of her draped over his lap, eating grapes.

"You promised it when we married, and all I get to do is sit here, complain about me getting fatter from carrying your kids, being hit on by your liege and not protected- oh, Vukasin plots to revoke the county of Naupaktos, did Lantsuinda tell you? I told him I'd help, he bribed me with sweets, Lantsuinda told me to stop, but I am more than willing to help again should he ask!"

She did have the courtesy to at least blush over this.
Theodore facepalmed.
"WHAT? I should-"
"You should kill him, if you ask me. He slept with your wife, too, mind you."
She used her voluptous curves for a most impressive shrug, displaying she had absolutely no part in this if one asked her, and snatched another grape.
"I'd help, and Chief Blaz certainly too. Just my opinion. But most of all you should go and plunder Athens."

Theodore contemplated a moment and spanked her rear, causing her to flinch a little.
"Fine, whatever you say, honey."



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