Chapter 11 - Uniting the Kingdom (1052-1055)

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Chapter 11 - Uniting the Kingdom (1052-1055)

As the year 1052 drew to a close, King Gagik started to organize an invasion of the Kingdom of Georgia, hoping to punish the treacherous King Davit. With the devastation in Georgia following its war of succession, and the ability to draw men from the newly conquered provinces of Shirvan, a war with the Northern realm would be an easy task.

Despite the easy target that his relative's Kingdom would be, Gagik's forces marched South instead, toward the Byzantine holdings in Armenia. Connecting the far-flung province of Taron with the rest of the realm was long overdue, and if the Seljuks were to move unto Byzantine territory as it was rumored, Taron would be surrounded by the Turks and possibly lost.

Due to the war in Sicily against the Normans, the Imperial armies were depleted and failed to mobilize efficiently against the invading armies, leaving Gagik to exploit the lack of opposition for nearly a year. From February to November, the Armenian forces would lay siege to and conquer every Byzantine fortress near the vicinity of Armenia, including Manazkert, securing the roads from Taron to the capital.

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The Bloody Siege of Manazkert, July of 1053

With most Greek men fighting in the West against the Normans, the Byzantine garrisons in Armenia were composed of Armenian converts to Orthodoxy and Islam, as well as Arab and Turkic mercenaries, which greatly boosted the morale of the attacking forces of Gagik, for the radicalization of the Armenian Church in the past decade had ingrained most Armenians with a deep hatred of Muslims, leading to the indiscriminate massacre of the Byzantine defenders.

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The Imprisonment of Emperor Georgios, August of 1053

In a sudden turn of events, the Normans managed to capture Emperor Georgios, forcing his surrender and the recall of Byzantine troops from Southern Italy. While the event would greatly destabilize the Empire, planting the seeds for future rebellions from within the Empire, the end of the war meant that the Imperial Armies were once again available to defend against Gagik.

These forces would arrive in Manazkert by November of 1053, but the many defeats suffered at the hands of the Pechenegs and Normans had exhausted the armies of Georgios, leaving behind only a small fighting force incapable of fighting the Armenians head on.

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The imperial troops arrive in Manazkert, November of 1053

What followed next was a five month long chase and series of skirmishes as the armies of commander Katakalon of Thrace, leader of the Byzantine forces in Armenia, narrowly avoided the larger Armenian army numerous times as it tried to recapture their holdings in Armenia. Katakalon had only been avoiding the inevitable, hoping his strategy would buy some time for the Empire to assemble a larger force. Alas, in May of 1054 Gagik finally managed to engage the Greek forces near the fortress of Manazkert.

Many songs would be inspired that day, singing about the great Katakalon, known as "the Wall of Manzikert" by the Greeks for his unyielding leadership during the battle, and his reluctance to surrender even when defeat was clear.

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Commander Katakalon, legendary warrior who fought to the last man for the Empire

With Katakalon's defeat, Georgios capitulated to King Gagik, surrendering the province of Manazkert, connecting Taron with the rest of the realm, as well as the payment for the ransom of over thirty Byzantine nobles captured during the war, greatly enriching the coffers of the King.

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Armenia in June of 1054

With his armies already in the vicinity, Gagik would continue his campaign against the Greeks, declaring war on Doux Alusian of Upper Armenia the following month. The Doux's rump state was unable to field any significant number of troops, allowing Gagik to let his Naxarar's armies rest, only taking his personal levies to battle against Alusian.

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The Battle of Karin, September of 1054

With his forces defeated, Alusian retreated to his capital in Sper, where he had gathered enough supplies for a long, drawn-out siege. Despite his preparations, Alusian was eventually betrayed by his own men, fearing another massacre like the one in Manazkert, they prefered to surrender rather than avoid the wrath of the zealous Armenians.

For his service in capturing Alusian and opening the gates of Sper, Alusian's former leader of the guard Trdat as well as some of his men were granted lands in the former Doux's capital, with Trdat being granted lordship over Sper itself.

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Trdat Beskond, rewarded for saving hundreds of lives from a long siege by opening the gates of Sper, March of 1055

As the Armenian forces returned home following the conflict with Doux Alusian, a similar struggle was occurring in the Kingdom of Georgia, where some of King Davit's men had revolted against his rule and betrayal of King Gagik. They were swiftly defeated by Davit "the Georgian" as his Armenian subjects now called Davit for his open adoption of many Georgian costumes and traditions, leaving behind his Armenian heritage, but it showed that there was discontent to in the Northern kingdom. Bowing to make the treacherous Davit his next target, King Gagik sent his levies home, allowing his men to gather strength for yet another war.

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The Armenian Uprising of Georgia, August of 1055

 
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Not sure "the Georgian" is the most wholesome of nicknames for this Armenian monarch
 
Chapter 12 - The Last of the Armenians (1055-1063)

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Chapter 12 - The Last of the Armenians (1055-1063)
As the year 1055 came to a close, Court Chaplain Manuel burst through the doors of Gagik's court, screaming about his unfaithful kin who had abandoned the Church and turned towards Rome. Sub-King Gagik-Abas of Vanand, always a conniving man, had married Maria off to the de Hauteville Normans of Southern Italy, hoping to form an alliance and wrestle the throne of Ani from King Gagik. His plans never amounted to much, for no one among the Naxarar dared revolt against the popular King Gagik II, even if they had grown weary of the constant warfare.

Spending over a decade in Sicily prior to her ascension to the throne of Vanand, Maria had adopted the faith of her Norman husband. With her new faith, Maria's allegiance was to Rome and her husband, always quick-witted, Chaplain Manuel wished to have her deposed, bringing down the hammer of the Inquisition upon Maria and her followers.

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The Catholic Sub-Queen of Vanand

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While her turn of faith and conspiring was unacceptable to the King, he hoped to avoid making new enemies, especially as his armies were on the way to Lori, capital of the treacherous King Davit. While the vast majority of Davit's subjects were now Georgian, the center of his power still remained in Lori and Gardman, by far the most populous of his provinces and populated by Armenians. If Gagik were to retake Lori, Davit would have to move his court from his capital to a more removed and safe province to the North, where the Georgian nobility was less fond of him, vastly weakening his authority and support from his Armenian followers.

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The Kings of the Caucasus, January of 1056

Despite the numeric superiority and vast difference of skill between Gagik and Davit, the Georgians proved resilient, enduring many losses to Gagik and his men. The mountainous terrain of Davit's Kingdom only complicated things further, giving Gagik a taste of his own medicine, for all his previous enemies had struggled trying to attack Armenia. Now he was in their place.

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Some of the battles that took place during the "War of Caucasian Hegemony" as it would come to be known by Historians
Lori fell quickly to the Armenians forces as its proximity to Ani made it easy to resupply the besiegers, leading to a rapid capture and re-establishment of Armenian rule. While the local nobles were avid supporters of Davit, the common folk adored Gagik and viewed him as their liberator. The following months however would follow an arduous campaign of guerrilla warfare as the Georgians entrenched themselves in their mountainous fortresses, autonomously defending their lands as Davit scrambled from city to city trying to reassert his already low legitimacy among them. He would ultimately surrender Lori to King Gagik in April of 1057, ending the 16 month-long war against Armenia.

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Armenia in April of 1057

The following years would be a tumultuous time for the Kingdom of Armenia, with Georgia in shambles following Gagik's triumph over Davit, there was little to stop the steppe warriors to make the trek down to the prosperous provinces of Armenia, where they would raid and pillage the many rural towns and villages dotting the landscape. Initially, these raids would be made by small raiding parties of less than five hundred men, allowing for easy retreats by these mounted warriors if they spotted Gagik's forces heading to defend.

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The first of many nomad incursions into Armenia

While they rarely ventured into Armenia proper at first due to the vast amount of fortifications and militancy of its people through the Church, the provinces of Shirvan were heavily targeted by these nomads, inciting many rebellions by the Muslim inhabitants who felt Gagik was not doing enough to protect them.

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Just one of many Muslim rebellions to occur as the nomads caused unrest across Shirvan

Despite the growing unrest across the Kingdom, Gagik refused to stop his campaigns, outright ignoring the counsel of his generals who advised him to first secure the stability and defense of the realm before attempting to expand, especially as the power of the Seljuks grew. In the event of an invasion by these Turks, Armenia would have to be stable and united if they hoped to defeat their onslaught.

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The pressures of ruling a vast realm were getting to Gagik...

Ignoring the objections by the High Council, his subjects, and even Queen Mara, the King declared war on Emperor Leon VII, who according to some rumors, had recently announced a new campaign to retake Armenia as his predecessors had attempted in the past. Leon, just like King Gagik, carried the blood of the legendary Bagrat, founder of the Bagratid dynasty, making him his kin in a distant way. As his paranoia and stress got the better of him, Gagik started seeing Leon as a danger to his reign, for Leon could easily stake a claim on the throne due to his blood. Not willing to wait for the Emperor to strike first, Gagik made his move, hoping to retake Vaspurakan to the South.

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Emperor Leon VII, May of 1059

These rumors were of course, largely false, as Emperor Leon was far more worried on keeping the stability of his realm and putting down the many rebellions that plagued it. King Gagik would face no opposition from the Greeks for over a year, allowing him to easily retake Vaspurakan. The armies of Leon would arrive in June of the following year, proving largely unsuccessful to obtain the support of the populace who felt "liberated" by Gagik.

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Emperor Leon arrives in Vaspurakan, June of 1060

It had been around that the Gagik's fortune took a turn for the worse, gravely falling ill of the Flu. Some claimed the constant battling of his had weakened his body, allowing the illness to invade his defenseless body, others said that it was the pressures of leaving Ani as the nobles and subjects grew restless, conspiring against his regime. Regardless, Gagik was far too weak to effectively lead his armies into battle, leaving the command of his armies to his generals, who in his paranoia he started to consider disloyal, even blaming them for his illness.

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Wanting to retake command of his troops as soon as possible, fearing they could grow loyal to their generals instead of him, Gagik brought over many physicians and doctors from across Vaspurakan to his tent. From leeches and potions, to cold showers and sunbaths, nothing proved effective. Always a cynic, the King even turned to God, visiting a nearby monastery hoping some prayer could aid him. Nothing seemed to work. It would take a strange man named Aboulgharib, a well-travelled Armenian physician who claimed to have worked for countless kings and monarchs of the far East for years, to cure his disease. Carrying with him a strange bag full of brightly colored powders said to have originated in the Indies, Aboulgharib brewed a remedy for Gagik on the innards of a rabid animal. While the other physicians urged Gagik to refuse the treatment by the strange man, he refused to listen to their counsel as they had failed to cure his illness.

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Aboulgharib's remedy was the work of miracles! Gagik was finally able to stand, getting up from his bed and marching into his camp. Feeling invigorated by the strange potion, Gagik once more took command of his armies and marched towards the Imperial forces near Bznunik. As his men clashed unto Leon's, King Gagik suddenly felt fatigued, unable to keep up with even the lowest skilled of his men. Out of breath and with his heart racing, he was spotted by one of the Emperor's commanders, Arngrimr of the Varangian Guard. King Gagik had never lost a battle, let a lone a duel, in his life, but he briefly saw his life flash before his eyes as the Northman stroke his face with the pommel of his sword. Had Gagik not been a second quicker, Arngrimir might not have slipped as his leg was sliced, able to slice Gagik's head instead.
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The King laid on the ground, exhausted from the duel. He had nearly been killed and it seemed the miracle potion was but a temporary measure, once again feeling the Flu spreading through his body, but this time with a vengeance. Shocked by the sight of their King on the ground, he was swiftly carried out of the battlefield by his men as they mounted a retreat back into Vaspurakan. Emperor Leon had brought about King Gagik's first defeat, bringing an end to the appearance of invincibility the Armenian King previously possessed.

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The Battle of Arceš, July of 1060

The defeat at Arceš sent shock waves throughout Armenia and the neighboring realms, forcing even his most staunch of supporters to turn his back on the King. The Naxarar rose up, refusing to send any more of their men to Vaspurakan, seizing the capital from Gagik's retinue. Queen Mara and the princess managed to escape the assault on Ani, but were captured a few months later as they attempted to hide in the mountainside.

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The rebel forces during the Sack of Ani, August of 1060

With his forces demoralized following the defeat, and no reinforcements on the way, many of Gagik's men started to desert the camp as the king fell further into decline as the sickness took a hold of his body. Despite this, the King refused to go home, hiring the services of foreign mercenaries for the first time, something he had loathed in the past and which his previous enemies were known for. A lot of firsts for Gagik and Armenia during these last few years.

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The Alan Riders join the fray

Led by the imposing Dzæræs of Alania, these Alan riders' mastery with the bow and arrow would greatly bolster the ranks of Gagik's army, allowing him to triumph over the Greeks in the subsequent Battle of Khlat as they had not expected the change of tactics the Alan mounted archers had brought to the Armenian army.

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Dzæræs' victory over Emperor Leon, November of 1060

Shortly after the victory at Khlat, Gagik managed to defeat his battle against the Flu, fully recovering once more. His encounter with the Varangian had too healed, although it had left him scarred on the face.

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Emperor Leon had heard of the unrest occurring in Ani and initially thought victory had come to the Empire, for Gagik would be forced to return to withdraw from Vaspurakan to bring down the rebels. After his loss at Khlat these hopes were dashed as Gagik prepared to pursue his defeated army. Cursing the madman, Leon agreed to surrender the province of Vaspurakan to Gagik preferring to avoid any more bloodshed, saving his manpower for the wars that truly mattered in the Balkans. This proved to be a wise choice, for what little remained of Vaspurakan was in flames following the months of heavy campaigning by both parties.

Exhausted by the campaign against Leon, the Armenians were ready to return home to their wives and children. This of course would not be the case as they would have to retake Ani first. King Gagik dreaded of what would happen once his armies reached Ani, for his weathered soldiers would likely refuse to engage on his fellow Armenians who had taken the city. Thus he was relieved when he received an envoy announcing an invasion of Armenia by the Rawwadid Emirate.

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Emir Menûçihr of the Rawwadid Emirate

Some of Gagik's men that had deserted months earlier would once more march South hoping to rejoin Gagik's forces to fight off the invaders, for they knew only his leadership could beat them back. Initially reluctant to accept these "traitors," as he called them, Gagik eventually would allow them to join his forces once more.

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The Kingdom of Armenia and the Rawwadid Emirate (in red), July of 1061

With these new recruits Gagik moved to the outskirts of Arran, sending an envoy to his nephew Fezl asking for assistance. The envoy never returned, preferring to stay in the safety of Fezl's court after he refused his uncle's call to arms. Despite his nephew's betrayal, King Gagik was able to beat back an incursion into Arran by Menûçihr.

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The Battle of Barda'ah, September of 1061

The Armenians would then pursue the Emir's forces back to Tabriz, laying a successful siege to his capital, massacring the population. During the assault, Gagik managed to capture the Emir's brother and his daughter, which he hoped would bring Menûçihr to his knees.

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The Siege and Massacre of Tabriz, December of 1061

Knowing of the unrest in Ani, the Emir knew Gagik could not support his campaign for much longer, attacking him continuously to chip away at his forces. Cut off from his capital, it was only a matter of time before the Armenian army was depleted, while the Rawwadid coffers could afford to hire mercenaries to replenish his losses.

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Largely unsuccessful due to Gagik's prowess in combat, the Emir of Tabriz devised a new plan to defeat Gagik. He would send a few of his men to Ani, hoping to establish relations with the rebel forces whom they shared a common enemy with. If he could get the rebels to cooperate against Gagik in battle, both parties would achieve their goals. This diplomatic mission however was intercepted by Gagik near Vaspurakan, who swiftly defeated them, thwarting their attempts.
That same month, the Seljuk Sháhansháh Tughril-Beg, who Gagik had fostered friendly relations with, passed away, leaving behind the capable Baybars on the reigns of his vast empire. Some of his followers however, were unhappy with his ascension to the throne and supported his cousin Muhammad instead. Wanting to avoid a full-blown civil war, Baybars granted Muhammad control over a large portion of the Seljuk armies, asking him to instead of splitting the realm in half, he would go on to forge his own Empire as their predecessors had done.

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The new Seljuk Emperor and his ambitious cousin Muhammad

With the threat of his cousin appeased, Baybars would go on to launch an invasion of the Byzantine Empire, hoping to end Greek rule in the Levant. With the East being populated by Islamic Indian Kingdoms, and the Northern steppes a wasteland compared to the riches of the cities in Persia, Muhammad and his men marched toward Armenia, declaring war on the small sub-kingdom of Queen Maria.

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Muhammad's invasion of Vanand, December of 1062

Knowing full well the treacherous nature of Maria, as well as realizing that Vanand would only be a stepping stone on the conquest of Armenia by the Seljuk forces, agreed to her call of arms, hoping to stop Muhammad before he could enter the borders of Armenia. Shortly after the Seljuk invasion of Gagik's kingdom was announced, Menûçihr would withdraw his forces from Armenia, wishing to not upset Muhammad for attempting to conquer his soon-to-be lands.

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With only Muhammad to worry about now, Gagik left Tabriz toward the city of Salmas, where he hoped to defeat the Seljuk Horde. Being outnumbered nearly 6 to 1, the Armenians prepared for the battle of their lives. If they failed, the gates of Armenia would be open, and with the Kingdom in chaos following the sack of Ani, it would surely fall to the invaders. Even with Gagik's prowess for battle, the odds were not in their favor.

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The Battle of Salmas, January of 1063

As the ground shook beneath their feet, his men thought an earthquake was occurring, as if the gates of hell itself were opening. Then, came the thunderous scream of over ten thousand warriors, which some say could be heard all the way to Constantinople. As their eyes laid sight on Muhammad's army, the Alans deserted Gagik, but not before raiding his camp of supplies and what little gold he had remaining. The smells of vomit and urine would soon make their way to the King's nostrils as his men quivered with fear at the incoming riders. Some attempted to flee, but were reluctantly shot by Gagik's archers. Others refused to pick up their swords, instead kneeling to pray one last time before meeting with their maker. As the guttural sounds of the enemy riders grew closer, everything went dark as the Armenians drowned in a sea of death.

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Only the King would be spared, as he was quickly captured during the battle. Always cruel, Muhammad preferred him alive, wanting him to observe as his kingdom crumbled at the might of his ruthless horde, slowly seeing his life's work vanish right before his eyes.

Powerless to stop them, Gagik watched as Muhammad's horde disappeared on the horizon, riding North toward his Kingdom. He would be found an hour later, passed out and shivering uncontrollably. It seemed brewing remedies inside the corpses of rabid animals had not been a wise choice, for Gagik was diagnosed with rabies. His flu had also returned once more, destroying what little defenses his body could have against the new disease.

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He returned to Vaspurakan, demanding that Aboulgharib fixed what he had caused him. The physician attempted many experimental treatments, each one riskier than the last. The bees seemed to sedate the King enough to perform surgery on him. Gagik tried to refuse the madman's treatment, but was far too weak and could not fight back. Losing much of the tissue formerly known as his face, as well as one of his eyes, Gagik was left a broken mess of a man, dying three days later.

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stnylan

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And what a dispiriting end to a remarkably life.
 

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Truly winter has come for Armenia. The Kingdom has suffered terrible losses, the last of which was their king. At least you won't have any shortage of Bagratid relatives to mary, assuming the kingdom survives the next war. I personally would hold my nose and mary Davit's eldest son, if at all possible. A united Bagratid superstate like the one Tamar created would be able to hold off both the Turks and Greeks.
 

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Truly winter has come for Armenia. The Kingdom has suffered terrible losses, the last of which was their king. At least you won't have any shortage of Bagratid relatives to mary, assuming the kingdom survives the next war. I personally would hold my nose and mary Davit's eldest son, if at all possible. A united Bagratid superstate like the one Tamar created would be able to hold off both the Turks and Greeks.
Well, there are really no actual Bagratids left on the main line, although plenty of Davit's line. I did originally have aspirations to turn Mariyam into a Tamari "the Great" type of Queen, but her father and his kingdom's decline during his past years really complicated things.
I was hoping the hard times would not come so fast.
They get tougher in the next chapter. Mariyam has a few disasters coming her way.
And what a dispiriting end to a remarkably life.
Gagik really went from zero to a hundred and back to zero quick. In a test run I did before I started the AAR, Gagik actually managed to be crowned king of Georgia, Shirvan, and Alania, founding an Empire and even taking the fight to the Byzantines and Seljuks. What could've been...

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Armenia in an alternate timeline
 

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Your little small sessions and writing them up, as opposed to having finished the whole thing or even just being decades ahead.
Oh yeah, I guess I'm playing this by the seat of my pants :p. I'm usually about two chapters ahead, which can vary from two years to nearly a decade like in the last chapter, that way I keep things fresh in my mind and don't have to try and figure out what the hundreds of screenshots mean, especially since I'm trying to get in the head of my character, and trying to remember how multiple members of my dynasty act would be confusing for me.
 
Chapter 13 - The Bleeding Years (1063-1073)

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Chapter 13 - The Bleeding Years (1063-1073)

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The late King Gagik II of Armenia

The death of King Gagik II was both a blessing and a curse for Armenia. With the dreaded king dead, the Naxarar rebellion in Ani finally ended, with the rebels ceding the city to Grigor Pahlavuni who had recently been appointed Regent of Armenia by the High Council, with the blessing of the Apostolic Church.

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Regent Grigor Pahlavuni and his wife, Mara, sister of the late Gagik II

Grigor had recently married Gagik's sister Mara, the previous wife of the Emir of Dvin, cementing Grigor's right to be Regent through his marital ties to the dynasty of Queen Mariyam. A competent administrator with good diplomatic sense, Grigor would convince the nobles of Armenia to unite once more behind the new Queen and her regency council.

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The first Queen of Armenia, Mariyam Bagratuni

As Grigor organized the release of Queen Mariyam and her mother Mara from the rebel forces, the armies of Muhammad easily deposed sub-Queen Maria of Vanand, taking the fortified city of Kars as his capital, from where he would organize his conquest of Armenia.

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The Kingdom of Armenia in June of 1063

After nearly three years captive by the rebels, the young Queen Mariyam and her mother Mara were finally released from her house arrest as the rebels abandoned the capital of Ani. She never felt much love toward her father, for he was away from home most of the time, leaving her mother in charge of the city. Thus when the news about Gagik's passing reached her ears, not much changed for her. It was her mother that did not take the news well, falling into a deep depression, forcing the young Queen to support her as she struggled to remain composed.

Only ten years of age, there was still much to learn if she hoped to take the throne. Grigor took it upon himself to tutor the young monarch, providing the father figure she had been lacking her whole life. They quickly grew close, for she was always with him, even passing judgement to petty criminals, instilling in her a sense of justice.

Among those she passed judgement, the most notorious would be Aboulgharib, the man responsible for her father's death. Despite the lack of love toward her dead father, she new his crimes could not go unpunished, and under the advise of Court Chaplain Manuel, she ordered the physician to burn at the stake.

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The death of Aboulgharib

The relative peace Mariyam and Armenia had enjoyed while Muhammad planned his invasion finally ended in October of 1063, when Baybars of the Seljuk Empire started marching his armies toward Shirvan, with the plan of splitting the kingdom in two, with Muhammad getting the Armenian provinces, while the Albanian provinces would be annexed into the Seljuk Empire. The news of the invasion also brought about a new wave of raiders from the North, who now aware of Gagik's passing and Armenia's instability saw its prosperous cities as easy targets.

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Regent Grigor decreed that all nobles of the Kingdom donated a large portion of their coffers to fund the hiring of a large mercenary army that could fend off the invaders. Reluctant to do so at first, tales of the Battle of Salmas soon made them reconsider and comply with Grigor's request.

Nearly bankrupting the crown to hire their services, a large coalition of Turkic mercenaries arrived from the Northern steppes, led by an Orthodox Turk named Kutalmish, who had formerly served as commander for Baybars' father but left his realm upon his death. His experience while serving under the Seljuks would be an effective resource in the defense of Armenia, for he knew of their tactics and how to counter them.

Their first challenge was a Kipchak camp in Ani, cutting off the capital from the rest of the Kingdom. They easily defeated their leader Kutan with minimal losses. Grigor would ride with the few remaining Armenian soldiers left the following morning.

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The Battle of Erazgewors, February

Grigor knew he was not the man Gagik was. His prowess in battle was minimal, and his skills as a commander were dubious. Regardless, he had to be the man leading the armies against the Seljuks, for no one else could be trusted to do so. If Mariyam was to have a kingdom to rule when the regency was over, it would rest on his shoulders.

Quite nervous about the whole ordeal, Grigor entered Mariyam's quarters, asking her to be strong during his absence, explaining he'd return once this was all over, for there was still much to learn about ruling. While she did not understand the full gravity of the situation just yet, she did notice his somber appearance, as if he knew something he wasn't telling her, perhaps that he'd never actually come back.

Feeling restless, Grigor could not sleep and headed to the balcony, hoping to clear his mind by breathing some fresh air and staring at the stars. The noise awakened the young Queen, who noticed his sad look. Wanting to cheer him up, she grabbed the wooden horse he had carved for her and started galloping toward him as she was oft to do, for they often played and practiced swordsmanship and horse-riding. Regent Grigor would not live to lead the armies, for the impact of Mariyam against the unaware Grigor was enough to push him off the rails, plunging him to his death.

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The body was discovered the following day, no one suspected Mariyam, who never was quite the same following his death. There was much chatter around court about why he had taken his life, which was the assumed cause of his death, suicide. Mariyam's cousin Fezl, claimed Grigor to be a fool who could not handle the pressures of ruling and staked his claim to the regency as the nephew of King Gagik II.

Despite some objections by the nobles due to his Muslim Kurdish heritage, Chaplain Manuel vouched for him, declaring him a righteous warrior of Christianity who was an avid supporter of the Inquisition in his lands of Arran.

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Queen Mariyam's cousin, Fezl II Shaddadid

Regent Fezl quickly assumed command of the Armenian armies, planning an ambitious campaign that would leave behind only a skeleton crew of men to garrison the fortresses of Armenia, while he led the mercenaries on a glorious crusade in Persia, hoping to oust Baybars from his capital of Isfahan.

His first target was the city of Tabriz, still recovering from its attack by Gagik a few years prior. Fezl planned to make Tabriz his base of operations in Persia, hoping to establish a supply route to it from Ani, for he could not rely on the local populace to support his campaign. The city quickly fell, only facing minimal resisting from the local Emir near Maragheh.

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The Siege of Tabriz and subsequent Battle of Maragheh, June of 1064

Unfortunately for Fezl, his supply route was quickly cut short by the invading Seljuk armies, who retook Tabriz just a month after his departure into the heart of Persia. Unable to afford the payments and supplies promised to them, one of Kutalmish's commanders decided to betray Fezl and his men, claiming they would get their payment one way or another.

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They were defeated by Fezl's remaining forces, but retreated North, planning to attack Armenia, fully aware of its lack of defenses knowing its armies were preoccupied trying to invade Persia.

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The Battle of Luristan against the treacherous mercenaries, August of 1064

Fezl and what remained of his army finally arrived in Isfahan on November of 1064, exhausted by the long trek and many skirmishes they faced along the way. Far from home and with no allies in the region, the lack of supplies became a serious issues, with starvation taking many of his men with every passing day.

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Fezl arrives in Isfahan, November of 1064

As Fezl and his mercenary forces laid siege to the Seljuk capital, Armenia descended into chaos. With disease plaguing the Western provinces, Turkic mercenaries ravaging Vaspurakan, and the Seljuk armies taking Arran, seat of Fezl's power, Armenia quickly fell into disarray.

The only saving grace was the sudden death of Muhammad in Vanand, who succumbed to slow fever before he could set in motion his invasion. Leaving no heir behind, his ten thousand men army quickly dissolved and joined the ranks of his cousin in his invasion of Shirvan.

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The Kingdom of Armenia in 1064

Despite enjoying some modicum of success in his siege of Isfahan, his luck would quickly run out as another army of Seljuk riders assembled on the outskirts of the city, destroying what remained of Fezl's army, putting and end to his ambitious campaign.

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The Battle of Isfahan, April of 1065

Having received no news of Fezl in weeks, Queen Mother Mara prepared to once more leave the city and retreat to the mountainside, maybe heading toward Constantinople, hoping the Greeks would take pity on her young daughter. She was even ready to give up the crown to the Emperor as the Bagratids of Taron had done a century ago as long as they could guarantee her safety.

Despite her preparations, they were intercepted by the Turkic mercenaries outside of Ani, who captured Queen Mara and most of their courtiers. Queen Mariyam managed to escape with the help of the Kamaterina family, who used what little of the foreign language she knew to pass her off as an Albanian peasant girl.

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Queen Mariyam would spend the next five years hiding in a remote town near the Byzantine border, living a simple life devoid of luxuries. Not being used to the life of a commoner, and quite shocked by the loss of Grigor, her mother Mara, and even their palace in Ani, Mariyam grew to resent the Kamaterinas, taking advantage of the fact they were still their subjects to torment their younger daughters Aghavni and Eliz, who could only take the cruel treatment of their Queen.

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Being of humble origins, the Kamaterinas understood the struggles of Mariyam, and despite her angst, in true Christian fashion they would turn the other cheek. Their kind treatment would eventually soften Mariyam, who in time came to seem them as her own family, preferring their Albanian tongue over Armenian.

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A famous painting depicting Queen Mariyam during her years with the Kamaterina family.

With Grigor dead, Fezl missing in Persia, Queen Mother Mara captive, and Queen Mariyam on the run, Armenia was leaderless. In the vacuum of power that followed, Court Chaplain Manuel recruited the aid of the Russians, fellow brothers in faith. Captain Rodislav arrived in Ani with over three thousand men, but he had other plans.

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The Russians arrive in Armenia, February of 1068
By the time of their arrival, Shirvan had already fallen to the Seljuk forces under Baybars, but the mercenary company that had betrayed Fezl, as well as some bordering petty lords under the Seljuks were still ravaging the kingdom. Rodislav retook a few fortresses, heading West toward the Byzantine border, instead of relieving the lands in the East. The reason of this was unknown at the time, but it all was part of a greater plan by the Rurikids in Kiev.

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Armenia in March of 1068

As the Russians orchestrated their plans, Mariyam was growing into a fine queen under the tutelage of the Kamaterinas, being humbled by the simple life of a commoner, repenting for her wrongdoings and mistreatment of them during the early part of her exile. She would work most days tending their fields, occasionally engaging in friendly sparring with some of the boys in town, practicing her swordsmanship.

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It was later found out that Doux Samuil, son of the late Doux Alusian, had married with Anna Rurikovich, sister of the King in Kiev. With the help of Rodislav and his mercenaries they planned to invade and conquer Armenia in the name of their King, establishing a new Russian principality in the Caucasus.

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The Alusian-Russian alliance

Rodislav met with Manuel in Ani, who claimed Rodislav wasn't meeting his part of the agreement, rarely engaging the invading armies or relieving sieges. The Russian, whose actual plan was the conquest of Armenia, argued that Manuel hadn't paid him appropriately, demanding over three times what he had originally asked for. Manuel cursed the heavens, proclaiming Rodislav to be a false Christian, a traitor, a heathen lover. Those were his last spoken words, as the mercenary captain smashed his skull against the walls of his church.

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Rodislav's betrayal of Manuel and the Armenians, June of 1068

By September of 1070, the Caucasus region was a very different place than when she took the throne. Georgia had fallen to the Pecheneg nomads, while a new Muslim Emirate had emerged in Khaketi. Doux Samuil had retaken his father's long-lost lands of Upper Armenia, while the Seljuks conquered Shirvan and the Byzantine provinces of Armenia. Rodislav and his men established a new principality in what remained, establishing their capital in Dvin.

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The Kingdom of Armenia ceased to exist, with its former lands razed and pillaged by the invaders. Mariyam would return to Ani shortly after Rodislav established his new realm. She laid low, still pretending to be of the Kamaterinas, but soon word of her return to Armenia would spread across the land.

This Russian principality would be short lived however, for the following three years were once more plagued by warfare with the Seljuks. The last Russian stronghold would be conquered by September of 1073 and Rodislav would be put to the sword by Baybars.

Baybars understood the intricacies of ruling a vast empire. Keep the local governments intact and they'll be loyal to you. When his armies arrived in Ani, they found Queen Mariyam on the old throne of Ani. Wanting to avoid a rebellion by the recently conquered populace, he allowed her to reign over Ani and the nearby provinces, hoping the rule of a Bagratid would appease the population.

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The Seljuk Empire in September of 1073

The ten year period from Gagik's death and Muhammad's invasion, to the final expulsion of the Russians by Baybars would be known as the Bleeding Years by future historians, aptly named for the utter destruction of the Armenian kingdom. Most of the great cities at the time, like Dvin, Ani, or Vaspurakan, were left in ruins, a former shadow of their prosperous past. What little cities remained were vastly depopulated as the many invasions left over half the population dead or enslaved. The Kingdom of Armenia was no more.
 

Crimson Lionheart

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A depressing end to Armenia
 

Werson

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A depressing end to Armenia
It sure was. I have to be honest, when the Host of Muhammad spawned out of nowhere I freaked out, I savescummed for a bit in order to trigger the duel event against him. I eventually got it, killing Muhammad and thus dissolving his 12 thousand strong horde but it didn't feel right so I went back to the save where my army got annihilated. I honestly thought about ending the run there, allowing y'all to see the rise and fall of Armenia, but I think I'll keep playing since I still hold land. Maybe I can still come back ;).
 

stnylan

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And thus Armenia passes, having had one last gasp before the rising Crescent tide.